Julie Andrews visits an incredible, accessible and inclusive playground where much of the equipment is wheelchair friendly. Most importantly, this barrier-free fun zone, guarantees every child the freedom to let their imaginations soar.
Arriving with a bundle of excited children who’d recently been cooped up in a car, you can imagine the explosion of energy that hit the playpark. Watching our crazy munchkins fly off with wild abandon across the open spaces left us adults grinning like Cheshire cats. I use the term ‘adults’ lightly, since it didn’t take long before every one of us biggies, were off seeking a little fun of our own.
Spying the seesaw, I couldn’t wait to have a go. This amazing, wheelchair accessible piece of apparatus allows plenty of room for legs and wheels to ride alongside each other. Quickly whizzing my wheels up the ramp, I sat and waited for lift-off. Obviously, a little lacking in the common sense department that day, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might take more than one person to get it going. Fortunately, my friend spotted me and with all enthusiastic six foot of him, he gleefully jumped on board and became the see to my saw. We were soon joined by my godchildren, who got so much pleasure out of giving me the bumps, they could barely stand for laughing.
Thrills and spills
Just as it was time for us all to get off, my hubby decided to leap on at the exact moment when I had reached the edge of the seesaw. Up went the seesaw, off flew me, landing with a thump on the floor. Immediately imploring my hubby to get me up before anyone saw me, with lightning speed I scrambled back into my seat.
Dusting myself off, skipping quickly to the next play area with the kids, I thought I had gotten away with it. Then, I spied a row of wide-eyed mums who had clearly witnessed my aerial antics. Reassuring them quickly with a theatrical bow, I thankfully left these ladies in stitches.
Next on the agenda was a three-person ride suitable for children of all abilities. The specially developed mirage seats make them strong enough for adults to use. So, whizzing at full speed with the aid of our pushers, little Flo, Cris and I, had a ball.
Eventually, Flo got off to let another girl ride and the girl’s mum started to push, fast. So there we stayed, two big kids, riding with a shy little girl. It didn’t take long before this previously silent child was tickled by our deliberate frolics: and what a joy to see a girl who couldn’t talk, find a voice through jubilant laughter.
Always one to seek the thrill of a regular swing, even though I find balancing a challenge, I was initially reluctant to ride on the big metal contraption that I assumed would hold little excitement. However, when four little cuties pleaded with me to share it with them, I felt obliged to give it a go.
As the swing started to move I was surprised at the great speed and secretly enjoyed not having to balance. The higher we went, the more thrilling it got as the children kept screaming to go higher. I am embarrassed to confess that it was wonderful to sit in the safety of my own chair, experiencing the same thrill as a regular swing – and with the wind in my hair and gleeful kiddies all around me, I swung to my heart’s content. Towards the end, our loud squeals grew dramatically wild as Cris decided to jump on. Shouting excitedly as we rode ever higher, I am certain you could have heard us for miles. The children had to practically be pulled off the swing by the end; they could quite happily have swung on for hours. Not me though, I was feeling decidedly queasy.
Then I was dragged over to the roundabout. With space for two wheelchairs, and two people standing, we got to share in this space side-by-side. Normally this would have been lovely, but by now it was a very fuzzy-headed woman who allowed herself to be whizzed and whooshed until everyone was tired. When I was finally released from the roundabout, my face had turned a mild shade of ‘frog’.
There was still so much to see and do but sadly it was nearly time to leave. Lexie and I sneaked one more venture around the climbing area. Rolling my wheels over a wobbly bridge as Lexie walked, was so special – and whizzing high up the wheelchair ramp side-by-side and sitting on top of the world together, absolutely priceless.
Up on high, I had a view of the whole park and as far as the eye could see, children were playing in harmonious merriment.
Playgrounds, are the ideal places to allow children to really lose themselves in free play. This is not always possible for everyone in traditional playparks. This one in Exeter however, includes a wide range of clever structures and stimulating spaces so that every child gets to interact safely and freely and play to their own delight.
Why not pop over to this all-season park in Exeter and experience this unique play space for yourself?
The park is free to enjoy, has free parking and has accessible toilets. Open seven days a week.
King George V Playing Fields, Exeter, EX2 6HE