Where's Marlborough's space for small children?

Written by Jo Carroll.

In my last column I suggested that the young people of Marlborough have a hard time trying to find a place where they can 'hang out'.  It's a dreadful phrase, I know - but it's what I did forty years ago and it's what young people would like to do today.

But what about the little ones - the under twelves?

There are some great organisations working very hard to provide for children.  We have play groups and nurseries.  We have Cubs and Brownies.  There are opportunities at the leisure centre.  The football and rugby clubs have children's teams.  Faux Arts offers sessions for creative children and the White Horse Bookshop makes sure the little ones are welcome and comfortable there.

And I know this list is far from exhaustive - my children are adult now and so I no longer keep up with facilities for children.

But where can they go to run around, in that apparently aimless, joyful way that children do?

There is one, small playground in the middle of town - it's got swings and a roundabout and slide, but no one can call it exciting. It is next to the water meadow - preserved by ARK and no doubt important ecologically, but fenced off to keep children out.

The only other place in the town centre is the Priory Gardens - and I'm not sure I know why, but there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule that there can be no ball games or even a quick game of tag that might disturb people wanting to smell the roses.

And so our children must find free space towards the edges of the town: the playgrounds in Salisbury Road and Rogers Meadow.  Although there are green spaces in Barton Park and College Fields I've never seen children playing there.

So where can they go?  Some parts of town are within walking distance of the forest;  many must get in their cars.  On wet days children who need to let off steam can be driven to soft play facilities in Swindon.

But all of this makes our lovely town centre unbalanced.  Those of us with a bus pass can easily find places to rest, to chatter, to pass the time of day.  But families have to look further afield.

Which means we are all losers:  children, young people and families should, surely, feel welcomed in the centre of town.  And those of use who are older miss out on the stimulation and sheer sense of fun that children bring.

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