Nature reserve’s £1m plan to encourage children to enjoy the great outdoors
- Credit: IAN BURT
The owner of a popular Norfolk nature reserve said she hopes a new £1m outdoor play area will help ignite childrens' passion for the great outdoors.
The 7,000 square-metre play area, called WildRootz, opened at Pensthorpe Wildlife and Gardens, near Fakenham, on Thursday.
Pensthorpe say it is larger than the Canopy Walk at Kew Gardens and the outdoor play area at Chatsworth House combined.
Pensthorpe owner Deb Jordan said: 'Studies show that people are now spending less time outdoors than they used to.
'Parents are now, sometimes understandably, more reluctant to let their children go off exploring than when I grew up.
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'At Pensthorpe we've been working for years to get children passionate about nature but we appreciate, in these times, a lot of kids are not going to pester their parents to do something like pond dipping, but they might do to come to Wildrootz.'
WildRootz encourages children to play in natural habitats such as woods, fields and streams.
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It is set at the edge of Pensthorpe's existing woodland and park and has become an extension of its gardens, wetlands, conservation centre, wildflower meadows, farmland and woodland.
It consists of more than 30 individual items of play equipment including hills, tunnels and burrows, a giant 11m high winding slide tower called The Worm and The Flyway zip wire.
There are also trees to climb, shallow streams to wade through and more gentle areas for younger children including a sandpit and, coming in autumn, an Arty Party Barn for indoor parties.
Mrs Jordan said: 'There are activities to make children have to use their initiative and we will soon have information boards up educating children about nature.
'It is set in some of the finest natural environment in Norfolk and Wildrootz fits in perfectly and doesn't look out of place.
'We hope it will encourage people to go on to explore the rest of what we have at Pensthorpe and get into the habit of exploring the great outdoors.'