Bringing some playground fun to the great outdoors

A COUNTY attraction has a new feature that is a nod to the jolly capers of childhood in the 18th century.

The playground at Kirkharle Lake and Courtyard, suitable for children aged between three and nine, has been built in the lead-up to the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s birth at Kirkharle.

Capability Brown with Cambo First School pupils Emma Cowie, Charlotte Davidson, Lucie Coulson, Jack Johnson, Jack Anderson and Matthew Anderson on the see saw at the opening of Capability Playground at Kirkharle.

Capability Brown with Cambo First School pupils Emma Cowie, Charlotte Davidson, Lucie Coulson, Jack Johnson, Jack Anderson and Matthew Anderson on the see saw at the opening of Capability Playground at Kirkharle.

Surrounded by summer meadows and fields, it has some of the best places for children to engage with nature.

Equipment for this area has been chosen with gardening, education and history in mind – focusing on natural play and the experiences of childhood in Capability’s day, when the outside was somewhere to escape to freedom.

He ran free in the grounds and surrounding countryside as a boy and Kirkharle helped inspire him to create some of England’s most famous country parks using natural landscape features.

A sandpit has been made in a serpentine shape, echoing Brown’s naturalistic style of lake. Gardening tools are available for children to learn about digging and planting.

Climbing apparatus makes use of a fallen tree, a high house with slide offers hours of fun and a basket swing gives children of all abilities access to the equipment.

Kitty Anderson, project coordinator at Kirkharle, said: “Outdoor play in a stunning countryside setting is a great way for young people to stay active.

“In three years’ time, we will be celebrating the tercentenary of Brown’s birth and we would like our young visitors to learn more about what it was like to be a child of his time through play and fun.”

In addition, interpretation panels and historic games have been placed around the courtyard.

Funding for the play area came via a grant from the Northumberland Uplands Leader. It allocates money from the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.

It was opened on Mondaywhen pupils from several schools, including Belsay First School and Cambo First School, joined Capability to test each section of the playground.

Michael Nixon, chairman of the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group, said: “Kirkharle is a great example of the kind of innovation and enterprise in rural areas that the European Leader fund is intended to encourage.

“It is excellent that we have been able to support such a venture for the benefit of families and children.”

Mrs Anderson thanked the group for providing the funding for the play area.