Relying heavily on volunteer helpers, the Fernheath Association runs as a charity and provides play opportunities after school, on summer weekends and during the holidays to some 300 (sometimes 120/day) local children aged between 5 and 14. The Inclusive Play Centre started life as an adventure play ground set up by a local parents committee in 1976. The first indoor shelter was built in 1981 but this could not cater for the large number of children that turned up and in 2006, a grant from the Big Lottery fund and donations from local trusts funded an extension.
The second phase built with money donated by Wooden Spoon has transformed a small building into a vital wet weather facility for children and a relaxing sensory room.
Chair of the Association, Paddy Williamson said: "We're absolutely thrilled with the new facilities. In the winter we never had enough space for all the children and we had to control numbers. Now we can take more children and we can also take children with a wide range of disabilities."
Spoon Chairman, Robin Haycock said "Fernheath play centre is now bigger and better than ever following the opening of an extension and sensory room and it is fantastic that Spoon was able to help fund an area that can be used by all children including those with disabilities.
At the end of the month, Junior Paramore, New Zealand 7's and Samoa officially unveiled the new Therapy Pool at Portfield School, Christchurch, Dorset. Also assisting was Karen Legg, who represented Great Britain on the Olympic Swimming Team in Sydney 2000.
Portfield School, opened in the Seventies by The Wessex Autistic Society, operated, until last year, in four unsuitable buildings in Christchurch . Its new site, close to Bournemouth International Airport, is the first school in the UK purpose-built for autistic children and was opened by The Princess Royal in 2003. With a catchment area comprising not just Wessex but also London and the South of England, it can take a maximum of 64 pupils aged 2-15. Up to 18 more in the 16-19 age range are taught in one of its original buildings. Pupils' difficulties embrace most or all of the Autistic Spectrum.
The Hydrotherapy Pool is seen as an essential part of the educational and therapeutic facilities available to the pupils. The extension accommodating the pool, in addition to changing facilities, houses a further dining area, a small office and a laundry. The pool is also expected to be used out of school hours by the parents and siblings of autistic children, many of whom do not take their children swimming because of the stresses associated the experience. This facility will offer a rare opportunity for a family-wide leisure activity away from home.
After the officially unveiling of the plaque, Karen participated in the 'inaugural swim' in the pool.
It was a wonderful day for everyone and it is hoped that the facilities will provide much needed relaxation for all the swimmers.
Company No 1847860 Registered in England 115-117 Fleet Road, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 3PD.
Reg Charity in England and Wales No: 326691, Scotland No: SC039247