July 2023: All the associated reports and surveys have been collated and the final plans drawn based on those findings and the feedback from the consultation in 2022
February 2023: We have now finished installation of new benches around the recently completed and popular play features. The new benches will allow parents, grandparents, and other carers to take a seat and watch their children enjoy playing in the new play areas. The benches, which are made of recycled plastic that requires much less maintenance and should last longer than wooden ones, have been funded by the Friends of Hinchingbrooke Country Park. There’s also a new picnic table with space for a wheelchair that has been funded by Field Lodge Care Home of St Ives.
October/November 2022: We held several stakeholder and resident sessions at the Countryside Centre to exhibit the proposals for the wider investment in the park. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive for the future of the park, with residents and stakeholders contributing some excellent suggestions and recommendations to be considered.
These plans are available on our Public Exhibition page and were also available in Pathfinder House, Huntingdon.
September/October 2022: Specialist accessibility equipment was delivered and installed as the final pieces for the new play areas. The new specialist accessibility equipment includes: a wheelchair swing, integrated roundabout, climbing frame and integrated seesaw.
June 2022: We're delighted to announce that following safety checks, the first phase of work to install four new play areas within the park is now complete!
May 2022: Work began on the installation of four brand new, nature themed play areas. Positioned around the park and able to accommodate up to 120 children, the existing play area, cafe and footpaths will be unaffected by the construction work and remain open.
Funded by Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and designed to complement the park's own range of different habitats, together the new play areas will increase the opportunities for active, physical play as part of a healthier lifestyle for local children.
Designed to be truly accessible, children of all ages ‐ from toddlers to early teens ‐ will be able to enjoy a wealth of interactive and imaginative play, social interaction, while exploring the natural world.
Introducing the four new play areas
Featuring a huge duck play sculpture!
Low level, wooden equipment for younger children
A multi‐sensory and fully inclusive zone
A large "Hinchingbrooke Hideaway" wooden structure will encourage physical activity across all ages
How were the play areas funded?
The extension of the play facilities at the park were funded by Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
How will they benefit the park's users?
These four new areas were designed to complement the park's own range of different habitats. Each new zone will encourage social interaction, imaginative play, and exploration of the natural world alongside physical activity in children of all ages.
Is the new equipment made from sustainable materials?
Yes! Much of the new equipment is made from sustainably sourced hardwood and carefully chosen recycled and natural materials. With a natural lifespan of 50 years, the timber is strong, durable and fully recyclable after usage.
How were the new locations chosen and will there be any impact on existing habitats?
The four areas were selected on the basis that this was where children were naturally already playing. By spacing out the new sites, we hope to encourage more movement and further exploration of the park. The impact on existing habits will be minimal.
When will the play areas open?
The play areas are now completed and open. To follow up on the completion of the new play provision at the park, new benches are scheduled to be installed towards the end of 2022 with new and improved pathways scheduled as part of the wider investment project.
Are there more changes planned for Hinchingbrooke Country Park?
Installation of the new play areas is part of a wider project, announced in March 2022, that will see £3 million invested in enhancing facilities within the park. Details of the proposed enhancements to parking, the visitor centre and cafe facilities, pathways, and cycle routes will be shared in a public exhibition in Summer 2022.
How inclusive and accessible will the new play areas be?
Play area design has evolved significantly since the existing play equipment was installed in the park. Research now shows that supporting all children to play together – those with and without additional needs – benefits all areas of childhood development. This is best achieved by providing play space and play material that doesn’t hinder, but promotes inclusive play situations.
As a district council, we have made a commitment to developing an “Everyone Welcome standard to ensure people of all ages and abilities can access parks, open spaces and play areas”. This sits as part of our focus on shaping the future of our parks, open spaces and play, and is included within the 10-year action plan driving our Healthy Open Spaces Strategy.
With inclusivity and accessibility at the forefront of our design brief, some specialist play equipment will arrive during the initial installation period, with further, fully wheelchair accessible equipment arriving in the summer. Temporary pathways will provide access to the new play areas, before being formalised as part of wider improvement works within the park.
How does this work impact the current car parking provision?
We understand that at peak times, areas within and around the car park can be extremely busy. Therefore we will continue to work with community leaders to encourage responsible parking from visitors of Hinchingbrooke Country Park, supporting residents with advisory notices on the approach to the park itself.
We continue to work with Hinchingbrooke Hospital who are kind enough to allow us to promote the use of their car park for peak times. The current parking provision is identified as an area of enhancement for the wider investment project. Whilst finalising this, we will work with local police and community leaders to reinforce our responsible parking message and request that dangerous parking is addressed.