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Children’s play area in Basildon gets Virgin Care makeover after frolicking foxes decide it’s the only play in Essex

An outdoor children’s play area in Essex is being rebuilt after foxes took a little bit too much of a liking to its toys during lockdown.

The furry family of fun-seekers sneaked into the recreation area under the cover of darkness at the All About Family Hub in Laindon, Basildon.

But their excessive use of the leisure equipment in the centre’s garden caused considerable damage and it had to be closed.

During their sly night-time soirees, the animals broke sand and water trays, bikes, scooters, push along cars, balls, a basketball hoop and a mud kitchen.

They also dug a fox hole to allow quick access to the play area – and presumably a means of escape if caught in the act.

Workers at the centre – run by our Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service – were, of course, foxed when they first discovered what had happened.

But they applied to our Feel the Difference Fund to replace and improve on the play items destroyed.

Our Feel the Difference grant is a £100,000 fund and its employees can bid for a share of it to make possible ideas they have to create a better experience for patients and services users.

The play area has now been secured and the foxes can no longer get into the garden. Work will soon start renovating it and putting in exciting new toys for the children.

These will include a new sand and water table, a mud pie kitchen, a balance footbridge and a giant obstacle course.

Before lockdown, the popular play area and hub were used by between 80 and 100 families a week who attended a range of activities there. The garden was put in place for all local children including those whose homes may not have any outside space.

A mother of two who uses the hub said: “I have attended the All About Centre since my first child was born. We spent as much time out in the garden as possible. Some of us mums even helped out with the gardening and growing vegetables.

“I cannot express how great it is that the centre has obtained new funding and facilities for the play area. The children and parents will all benefit greatly.”

Louise Syed, Healthy Family Team Lead at the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service, added, “We applied for the Feel the Difference grant because we know children and families value the opportunity to play outside.

“It was a shame when we had to close the garden after the foxes came along, but the funding from Virgin Care has meant we can rebuild it in a way that was better than before.

“We know that this play area is greatly valued so it’s important for us to provide these improved play opportunities for our families.”

Richard Comerford, Managing Director of the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service, added: “Playgrounds are a valuable asset that provide children with a stimulating and engaging experience to exercise and learn through play. It’s important to us that these opportunities are made available to our families.

Mr Comerford added that once the renovation work has taken place a full risk assessment will be carried out to ensure the play area is Covid safe.

The All About Centre is run by Virgin Care’s Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service in partnership with Barnardo’s on behalf of Essex County Council and the NHS.

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