In 1994 a project was started in Wickhamford to replace the existing children’s play area with a new, safer, set of equipment. The existing site, on the recreation ground/sports field at the bottom of Sandys Avenue, consisted of just a large earth mound with some large pipes for crawling through, a steep slide and a climbing frame.
Wickhamford Play Area Association
The Association was formed as a registered charity on 1st August 1994 with the aim of buying new equipment and fencing off the play area from the main part of the field, enabling children up to the age of 13 to play safely. For youths of 14 years and older, a ‘Sports Wall’ was to be built to provide practice facilities for ball games. The land on which the play area is located was owned by Wychavon District Council and leased to Wickhamford Parish Council and Wickhamford Sports Club.
The total cost of the work was put at approximately £50,000. When William Henry (‘Bill’) Ford died on 25th February 1994 his friends raised £816 in his memory and this was donated to improve the children’s play area. This started the fund-raising exercise that was to last for the next seven years.
The first officials of the Committee were Nigel Milward (Chairman), Mike Butters (Vice-Chairman), Jean Ford (Treasurer) and Kim Beauchamp (Secretary). Numerous other villagers served on the Committee at various times and Mike Butters later became Chairman, with his wife Denise as secretary.
The Association applied for and were granted Charitable status. The first project to raise funds was the sale of a tea towel depicting sites in the village. The artist who did the artwork and the design consultant both donated their work for free and over 400 tea towels were sold at £3.50.
Flower Shows were organised in the village from 1996 until 2000, the first being opened by one-time Wickhamford resident Bamber Gascoigne. The Association accounts show that other funds were raised from raffles, stalls at various events, auctions of donated goods, a donkey derby, sponsored walk and a children’s disco.
There were also grants from the Parish and District Councils and donations from business sponsors. The Foundation for Sport and the Arts made a grant of £14, 325.
The peak year for fund-raising was 1995/96 when almost £18,000 was raised. In the six and a half years that the Association was running a total of £45,798 was raised.
Work on the playground began in February 1996 with the removal of the large earth mound that had been at the centre of the old play area. The Evesham Journal of 29th February had a report of the project, together with a photograph of some of the local children who were helping with the work during their half-term holiday.
Equipment for the new play area
The ‘Harlem’ Sports Wall was ready for opening at a fete on 29th June 1996. Equipment for the main play area was bought from 1996 onwards and consisted of a roundabout, parallel bars, a spring dog, slide, climbing frame, swings etc, as can be seen in the photographs below. A fence was erected around the whole area.
Towards the end of the life of the Wickhamford Play Area Association Neil Jones took over as Chairman, Jean Ford became Secretary and Sherry Webb was Treasurer.
The Association was wound up on 31st March 2001, coincidentally the date that would have been Bill Ford’s 68th birthday. The play equipment was then donated by the Association to the Parish of Wickhamford. The remaining small amount of cash in hand was donated to the Wickhamford Youth Club.
Tom Locke and Jean Ford – February 2015