Our brand NEW – Manor Park Playground

After 4 years of hard work, the NEW Manor Park Playground opened to the public on Sunday 14th August. (Read all about the opening event).

The new playground is arguably now one of the best in the borough. It has been busy with children and parents from the moment it launched. It’s also become an immediate destination playground. We’re now hearing of local residents inviting their friends to come and spend time in our playground. Build it and they will come.

Bigger and better

The new playground sits in a much larger footprint than before. It now has dedicated junior and infant playspaces, along with lots of seating and a picnic area. The quality of the play equipment takes the playground into a league of its own.

Playgrounds of this standard don’t just happen. To get to where it is today has involved the community, the Friends of Manor Park, the council, local councillors, local businesses, and even the Mayor of London. We knew to get to a playground that could become a destination, not just another ordinary playground, would take a big effort.

The story of your playground

The Friends of Manor Park team started looking at the possibility of funding a revamp to the existing playground back in 2017. We’d heard that there was the possibility of council funding as part of their Community Playground Scheme.

This project was led by Fiona Sowell on behalf of the Friends of Manor Park Team. She’s been a stalwart of FoMP since it was set up. Her persistence and professionalism has really paid dividends.

We approached the Mayor of London as part of their Crowdfund London programme in 2018 to see if we could use it to help raise additional funds for our playground. We were advised to take a step back and create a Masterplan for Manor Park.

With funding from you the community, local businesses, local councillors (both what was Old Malden and St. James’ Wards), and the Mayor of London, we employed a team of landscape designers in 2019 to do just this. The community were fantastic, attending workshops, filling in surveys, and providing so much valuable input.

Useful link – Community Masterplan

This Masterplan, as well as setting out an overall vision for our park, specifically outlined high-level plans for our new playground, based on a mixture of community input and design expertise from Outerspace, our landscape architects.

The high-level direction set by these community driven plans included:

  • Wooden type adventure play equipment
  • An infant play zone and an older play area
  • A dog-free picnic area
  • To relocate the playground into a new fenced area on the field around the existing hall building (the reasons for doing this were to open up the front and the back of the park both visually and physically, to encourage more use of the entire park. The old playground cut the park in half. We also wanted to site the playground closer to the hall building. We’d like to see the hall becoming more integral to the community’s experience of a trip to our park, with at very least a café, possibly a community hub.)
  • To landscape the playground with trees, planting and mounding to help create shading, more visual interest, and a more welcoming, less intimidating space.

Overall, the community feedback was for something more inspiring from its playground, less old-fashioned, and less municipal in style. Something uplifting and surprising from a local park.

So what happened next?

The council was very involved in these Masterplans – in fact they’d recommended the landscape architects we ended up using. They let us know that they’d agreed the funding for our playground. It was £140,000, so we set about trying to arrange extra funding through the Mayor’s Crowdfund London Scheme to help supplement this, as £140,000 doesn’t go that far.

Our fundraising efforts were delayed by the arrival of COVID in 2020, but we kept going and by the end of July that year we were in a position to add an additional £20,000 raised from the community, local councillors, local businesses and our own work to the playground fund.

The Friends of Manor Park created a parent group to engage with the project, and to adopt the new playground once delivered, helping to develop a parent/child community around our new facility. We also planned to involve the community with the tree planting around the new playground.

Then in October 2020 we heard that the playground had been put out to tender by the council, but we discovered that the specification did not include the new playground location. We were very concerned that the first main deliverable of the Community Masterplan, which is the playground, would not follow the design direction of these plans. This would then have a cascading impact on a number of other deliverables within the Masterplan.

We were very pleased that Cllr Simon Edwards and the Community Team at the Council worked closely with the Community Playground Team to ensure that the new playground will work within the ambitions of the Community Masterplan.

Back on track

We met with the Community Playground Team at the end of March 2021 with Cllr Simon Edwards. They agreed to support the playground being built as per the masterplans.

Cllr Simon Edwards then decided to seek approval to add £50,000 in additional funds to the project from the Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy. This was approved by the Malden and Coombes Neighbourhood Committee meeting in June. This extra funding has clearly had a very positive impact on the project, so combined with the community money – £20,000, the original council allocation of £140,000, brings the total budget to £210,000.

Building the new playground

The playground tender was won by a supplier called Kompan. They’d built a couple of playgrounds in Chessington and are one of the country’s largest playground suppliers. We’ve been very impressed by Kompan.

The Community and the Friends team reviewed the new plans, and were all very happy with what we saw.

Kompan hired a local contractor to decommission the old playground, and build the new one. Work started in June 2022 and was complete by the middle of August 2022.

And so we are where we are today, with an amazing new playground.

What next and can you be involved?

We’d now like to see the playground planted up with trees to help add interest and shading to the space. We’d also like to see local parents really taking ownership of this new play-space.

If you see rubbish please pick it up and put it in the bins. In the winter, perhaps come down with an old towel and give the equipment a wipe over. Please report any issues or incidents. Make it yours!

What next for the park?

The council has put the adult gym out to tender – we hope to see a new one installed at some point in the autumn.

We will be focusing on getting funding in place for new pathways.

We are also in dialogue with the council about the future of the hall. We’d like to see it continue as a function space, but as part of a more vibrant buzzy community hub, which might include a café, quality toilets, and other local amenities.

Get Involved

If you like to support our work, volunteer, get more involved with the playground, voice an opinion just drop Simeon or Fiona a line at team@ourmanorpark.org.uk