Brownsea Island unveils its new natural play area

By Jim Durkin of Bournemouth Echo

BROWNSEA Island will open throughout the February half term for the first time this year.

The National Trust-owned island in Poole Harbour, managed in partnership with Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), has only ever opened to the public at weekends during February.

Over the past few months a host of conservation work has taken place, including a new natural play area which is being unveiled at half term.

Visitor experience and volunteering manager Olivia Gruitt: “It is such a special time of year.

“The island is a hive of activity with the last of the over-wintering birds feeding on the lagoon, and red squirrels starting to venture out again – digging up their winter stores.

“We’re really keen to share all this activity with more people, which is why we are increasing the opportunity for people to visit over winter.

“We decided to also open for half term week this year as it coincided with the scouts’ Founder’s Day and the guides’ World Thinking Day.

“As the birthplace of the scouting and guiding movements, we wanted to mark the occasion and celebrate this heritage with the rest of our visitors.”

The island’s new play area is the first part of a series of ongoing improvements.

Young explorers can collect a scouting skills booklet from the tents which will be set up on Church Field and try their hand at some outdoor activities, testing out their tracking and observation skills. There will be activities to help visitors learn a bit more about scouting life, including dressing up, and a chance for visitors to share their scouting and guiding memories.

There will also be marshmallow toasting over the campfire at the Outdoor Centre between 12noon and 2pm during half-term weekends.

The woodland playground replaces the old natural play area in a new location to help with regeneration of the land.

It includes a range of play equipment made from natural resources and is designed so that children can try their hand at some of the balancing, climbing and jumping that the island’s resident red squirrels can often be seen doing. It includes balancing beams, see-saws, climbing frames, obstacle courses and den-building.

Olivia said: “We’re really excited to be able to share the new natural play area with visitors for the first time.

“We’re inviting children to swing and soar like a squirrel – get outdoors and have a real adventure in the woods.

“The play area is just one of a whole series of improvements we have planned for Brownsea Island in 2020. There’s never been a better time to visit.”