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Heaven & Hell: Heidi Franklin and Denise Winder, co-founders of Wild Play.

PUBLISHED: 21:18 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 21:18 17 July 2020

Heidi Franklin and Denise Winder, co-founders of Wild Play Picture: Beckie Eagan

Heidi Franklin and Denise Winder, co-founders of Wild Play Picture: Beckie Eagan

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Gina Long chats with the charity fundraisers and co-founders of Wild Play

What’s the impact of COVID-19 on you and how are you adapting?

DW: Business-wise COVID-19 has affected us hugely, as we had to cease all of our face-to-face sessions, and many of the events we were due to be involved in over the spring and summer are no longer going ahead. Therefore, like many businesses, we had to pivot and take ourselves online. We focused on helping the local community, providing goody bags, online challenges and activity packs to help keep children busy during as an alternative to home school. We took our small business networking online too – meeting via Zoom to share experiences and help each other through the many challenges that we were all facing.

Personally, it gave me that precious commodity, TIME. Spending time with my husband and children, enjoying walks and bike rides, catching up on well overdue household jobs and time to reflect on our business. I remain thankful that my family and friends have remained safe and well throughout.

HF: I am incredibly grateful that our family and friends have kept safe and well during the crisis. The greatest impact for us has been on the business. Like many small businesses we were not eligible for any Government funding, so it’s been especially difficult. We turned our focus to the local community and have been supporting them. The response has been really positive. Working with our community is something we are passionate about.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

DW: I was born in Colchester and grew up living near the seaside in Essex. I had a fantastic childhood so wanted to return to the area once my husband and I decided to start our family.

HF: I’ve lived in Suffolk for as long as I can remember, although I was born in Lincolnshire. I went to Thurston Upper School and then on to the University of Brighton to carry out my teaching degree. I absolutely loved living in Brighton. We certainly worked hard and played hard in those days! My husband took me back to Brighton when he proposed. I never thought I’d come back to Suffolk after university but I’m so pleased I did. I love it here and it’s a great part of the country for our children to grow up in.

What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

DW: The weather, the friendly people and the slower pace of life.

HF: For me it’s the coastline. North Norfolk is a favourite destination for us and for quick trips to the beach it has to be Felixstowe and Aldeburgh. I really love our beautiful market town of Bury St Edmunds, packed full of history, the Abbey Gardens (which is always lovely for a stroll) and the independent shops. I really do hope our local high street can recover.

What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?

DW: The roads (A12 and A14) that just keep getting busier and busier and the amount of traffic. The quieter roads were definitely a huge positive of early lockdown.

HF: It has to be the traffic. The A12 and A14 have become so busy. During the early weeks of lockdown it was just lovely to have such empty roads.

What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

DW: I love the ICE café near Bury St Edmunds for their amazing brunches and sweet treats. Italian food is my favourite so anywhere that serves great Italian food.

HF: Our wedding reception was held at The Oaksmere, or the Cornwallis as it was known then. We enjoyed the best steak I’ve ever eaten there just a few years ago cooked by Nick Claxton-Webb. I also love a visit to ICE Café near Bury St Edmunds. The sourdough breakfast cooked by Jon Jackaman and his team is just delicious and we enjoyed a truly fantastic Date Night there last year with a group of friends, which was so much fun.

What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

DW: Cooking and eating outside on a summer’s evening with family and friends or a long walk along the beach.

HF: Walking our dogs in the fields and enjoying the countryside views. Our house backs onto open fields and I can’t wait for our summer house to be built so we can spend the evenings down the bottom of our garden under the stars.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

DW: Dedham Vale – we used to visit there all the time when I was a child and it’s just so beautiful.

The Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds is always a family favourite too.

HF: Suffolk’s big skies! There is something so incredibly beautiful about the sunrise, sunset, seeing the storms coming in and the swirling clouds. My husband has taken some incredible photography over the years capturing all the seasons. I love it.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

DW: The Suffolk Show, such an amazing event that really highlights everything Suffolk. We felt extremely privileged to be invited to take part in The Farm Discovery Zone there last year and meet such fantastic people.

HF: The Suffolk Show definitely has to be up there as a favourite. I remember going every year as a child, as my dad was always working in the agricultural machinery section. When we set up Wild Play in 2018 Denise and I chatted about how great it would be to have a stand at the show one year. It was such a pleasure to be invited to be part of the Farm Discovery Zone at the Show in 2019; meeting so many wonderful people and being part of this iconic event that symbolises Suffolk in so many ways.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?

DW: Star Wars movies.

HF: Professional juggler of home, business and family! Keeping all the balls in the air and trying not to drop them too often! I’m all about keeping it real.

What is always in your fridge?

DW: Cheese! I absolutely love cheese, it is my real weakness. My absolute favourites are French cheeses.

HF: Salad, chilli sauce and mayonnaise. I’ve got some homemade lemon curd in there too.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

DW: Treat people how you would like to be treated, in short be kind.

HF: Trust your journey. Tricky roads often lead to beautiful destinations. I honestly believe that we meet people for a reason and we learn something from every one of them.

Never take anything for granted. Appreciate what you have. Be grateful. Surround yourself with people who are good for your mental wellness.

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What’s your favourite film?

DW: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it’s an absolute classic, I admire Holly Golightly because she is a strong, determined woman who wants to create a better life for herself and her younger brother and does it all with style and class.

HF: It’s very rare that I sit down to watch a film these days. Feelgood films like Ratatouille, Sing and Trolls are good family viewing and there’s always a bit of adult humour thrown in there somewhere.

What is your most treasured possession?

DW: My children’s memory boxes.

HF: My reading glasses. I’m stuffed without them.

Who do you admire most?

DW: All the amazing mums out there who put their children first from the moment they are born. And my mum especially, for always being there for me whenever I have needed her.

HF: My dad. He’s a wise old boy! He’s supported our family in so many ways over the past few years and I will always be grateful for that.

What is your biggest indulgence?

DW: Our holiday home in South Africa - our own special place that my husband and I have created together.

HF: It’s a rare treat but I do love a spa. Having the time to stop, relax, look after myself and have a few treatments is such a luxury.

What do you like about yourself most?

DW: I think I’m a good listener and try to help people out. I always try to find a positive in every situation.

HF: I always help people wherever I can and always want to make a difference. I always aim to be optimistic and find a solution to things. Respect, integrity and honesty are really important to me.

What’s your worst character trait?

DW: Leaving everything until the last minute. Even if I start something in plenty of time, I just can’t bring myself to finish it until the deadline.

HF: My husband would say it’s when I leave the keys locked in the front door and he can’t get in the house.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

DW: South Africa for lots of reasons. I met my husband there whilst I was travelling. Years later we married on the beach and we have so many wonderful memories both as a couple and with our children. The South African people are amazing, always so cheerful and welcoming; the food is delicious, particularly the ostrich and seafood; the wineries are just stunning (so is the wine) and the scenery is breath taking. I love it.

HF: Right now, anywhere would be nice. Snow-capped mountains in Switzerland, scorching temperatures in Turkey and the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon are all favourites. Last year we had a short ‘staycation’ in Devon and it was so beautiful. I’d like to go back. I love visiting new places.

Best day of your life?

DW: Obviously, when my children were born and my wedding day.

HF: There’s a few that really stand out...

Obviously the day both of my children were born. It’s only then that you realise how precious life is.

The day a close family friend, who was just 12, called me on his way home from Addenbrookes, to say his cancer had gone. I will never ever forget that phone call.

I’m also immensely proud of the business awards that we have won, the positive feedback we receive from people. The acknowledgement that our hard work and commitment is recognised means so much to me and Denise.

What’s your earliest memory?

DW: Stepping backwards into a bowl of water with my shoes and socks on. I think I was about three.

HF: Coming home from playgroup, when I was probably three-years-old and having pilchards on toast for lunch. I can’t stand pilchards now.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

DW: I lived in France and South Africa.

HF: Both of my children were born on the same day, three years apart, on St Georges Day. Also, aged 46 and I don’t have any fillings.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

DW: There have been so many positives to come out of this crisis, spending more time with family, showing kindness to others, reconnecting with nature, slowing down and not worrying as much about the small stuff. My hope is people continue to value what is truly important. Family, their health and looking after our world. During lockdown, more people have spent time outdoors and reconnecting with nature, at Wild Play we promote the health and wellness benefits of being outdoors. We hope to help more people of all ages to enjoy these benefits in the coming months.

HF: This extraordinary pandemic has changed many peoples outlook on life, mine included. My hope is that people will really value what’s truly important. There has been so much kindness over the past three months and we have seen this support first hand in our business and amongst our local community. We’ve recently re-launched our business. From day one we’ve seen the significant benefits of spending time in the great outdoors and supporting mental wellbeing. Being amongst nature is one of the best forms of therapy and it is such a pleasure to be able to help people of all ages to ‘feel good’. Please take a look at how we may be able to help you https://wildplayltd.co.uk

Are you or your business doing something special during Covid-19 times? If you are living in Suffolk or Norfolk and have a great story to tell, please do email me at gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: ginalongmbe


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