Ravenglass's rebuilt children's playground was opened on 6 May 2011 by Josie Lomas. Muncaster Parish Council agreed to invite a local child to open the playground and her name was drawn out of a hat at a coffee morning by the vicar, the Rev. Anne Baker.
The ceremony marked the success of a long struggle to raise funds for the new playground. The old playground was popular with the children of visitors and with local children, who do not all have gardens large enough for play equipment. In the playground local children enjoy meeting other children from all over the world who have come to see the village and ride on the Ratty. But the old equipment was at the end of its life and in 2009 it failed a RoSPA safety inspection. The cost of complete renewal was in excess of £50,000, far beyond the Parish Council's means, but without it the playground would have to close.
Many charities do not give grants to local government bodies for facilities that they may wish to provide, such as playgrounds. The Parish Council therefore asked the Ravenglass Village Forum for help in October 2009. The Forum has worked with the Parish Council before to raise money for improvements to the village and, as an independent community association, it is eligible to apply to charities for funding.
Village Forum chairman Stuart Robb and Parish Councillor Leo Saldanha began work on applications together. It was not an easy task. In November 2009 Leo reported to the Parish Council that they were having great difficulty in finding the right routes for applications. There was better news a month later. Through the Cumbria Community Foundation the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency donated £5,000 and nearly £6,000 was raised in pledges from local businesses including the Ratty, the Ratty Arms, Holly House and Rose Garth. The first application to the Parks and Play Spaces section of the National Lottery failed but the Lottery must have recognised its merit because it came back with advice on how to submit a new application for consideration in 2010. The application was made in the name of Ravenglass Village Forum but the Lottery agreed that Muncaster Parish Council, as a publicly accountable statutory body, should be the actual recipient of any award.
Rachel Graham with Stuart Robb and Leo Saldanha
In 2010 Rachel Graham, Community Development Worker with the Copeland Community Fund, entered the story. With her considerable experience of dealing with such applications, she was able to guide Stuart and Leo through a minefield of bureaucratic requirements. On September 16 four shortlisted suppliers of playground equipment were invited to display their designs in Muncaster Parish Hall. They all received the same brief but they were free to develop their own themes for providing enjoyable physical and mental challenges for children of all ages up to 15. The displays included adventure activities, swings, roundabouts and, not surprisingly, trains. The children of the village were invited to vote for the theme that they liked best and the tender from Wicksteeds, an old-established manufacturer, was eventually accepted.
In October 2010 the Lottery application entered Phase 2, in which it was no longer in competition but the applicants had to show that they had the necessary professional supervision in place. Groundwork UK provided a Lead Professional and a Project Manager to oversee the project. The Lottery grant of £49,999 was confirmed in December so that the order for equipment could be placed. The Ratty provided labour for clearing the site and Wicksteeds began installing the new equipment in February 2011.
Stuart Robb and Leo Saldanha both paid tribute to Rachel Graham for her patience and skill in guiding them through the application process. “She was vital,” said Leo at the opening ceremony. “We couldn't have done it without her.”
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