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Fakenham Millennium Park playground new equipment & multi-use games area plans – Wensum column

Jim Harding's Wensum column

I used to spend a lot of time in Fakenham playgrounds when our boys were small and full of energy. I guess the favourite one was on Millennium Park just down from the Junior school.

When I think back to those days it’s with a degree of amazement that between us we somehow avoided any injuries. Safety factors were not a high priority then and I reckon it was more by luck than judgement that we emerged unscathed.

Millennium Park, the new playground equipment.
Millennium Park, the new playground equipment.

There was the usual selection of swings, see-saw, roundabout and a slide to play on but little attention had been paid to the landing areas on which they were set.

The surface texture was rough and there were plenty of tiny stones on which to slip.

I guess I accepted this as ‘the norm’ at the time, recalling my own mishaps as a child in my Woking park playground, the worst of which was when I had fallen off what was described as a ‘monkey puzzle’ climbing frame.

Down the years Fakenham town council has increasingly prioritized safety factors in its playgrounds, particularly with regard to the surface materials used.

Most recently it has unveiled a range of new play equipment for Millennium Park which, during this holiday period, has attracted a lot of family attention.

To my delight it has appealed to the climbing instincts of just about every youngster, inviting them to work their way up and down rope frames and puzzle out balancing challenges.

When I jumped on the landing surfaces they had plenty of give in them. Excellent. Costs for these items of equipment is considerable and I learnt that it totalled somewhere around £25,000.

Funds were derived from the Fakenham Recreation Ground charity, of which the town council is the sole trustee. Hats off to all those who pushed successfully for this.

As a former P.E. teacher at Fakenham High school, I welcome the news that planning permission for a multi-use games area (MUGA) is being sought through the district council.

The school is now Fakenham Academy and whilst its indoor facilities have become much improved since my day – including access to the adjacent Sports Centre facilities – the winter months have always been a challenge for both teachers and students.

There are spacious fields for major activities such as football, rugby and hockey but too often they become unusable during periods of wet weather.

The provision of a sizeable all-weather MUGA behind the main building would go some way towards solving this dilemma and enable a variety of sports to be taught and played on a firm surface.

This would primarily benefit the demands of the school’s PE curriculum and whilst school use would always take priority the space might well become available to bookings from local sports groups over weekends and bank holidays. This happened when a smaller MUGA was installed some 20 years ago, with plenty taking regular advantage of the facility.

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