Fryern Park has been my park since I was seven years old, and since my school was next door (Fryern School), I pretty much dragged my Mum there every day.
During the holidays it was used even more, and as I became older my friends and I would choose to meet up and sit on the grass hill and chat, sometimes for hours!
My favourite piece of play equipment had always been the zip wire that once ran down the side of the hill.
It was a real shame when it was removed, but the hill was still used as a natural piece of play equipment and was always fun to roll or sledge down (in the winter) or run around playing a good old game of Hide and Seek.
Fryern Park: my childhood memories
On hot sunny days many families take picnics to the park, and I’ve met up with parents and children on many occasions for a buffet tea. My two children, Samuel aged 8 and Thomas aged 3 love the park now as much as I used to as a child, and in the way of some kind of karma I now stand there for an hour or so, in all weathers, freezing cold or sopping wet as my children run around having a fantastic time, as I used to.
Last year I stood with a group of parents who were complaining about the state of our park, and as I looked around I had to agree. The swings were rusting in many places, the concrete was pot-holed, the safety surface that is placed around the play equipment was torn and uneven, the equipment in general had seen far better days and the paint markings were so faded that they are now barely visible.
Ridge Rider at Fryern Park: suitable for playground?
The glaringly obvious main concern of all the parents was that of the Ridge Rider. This is the newest piece of play equipment in the park, having only been added a few years ago and I remember when it was installed. I and another Mum, whom I didn’t know, took a sharp intake of breath and both commented that it looked ‘lethal’. It seemed we weren’t the only ones who thought so. It was the talk of the park, but unfortunately not in a positive sense.
About the Ridge Rider
The Ridge Rider to look at would be better suited in a theme park than a children’s play ground.
The aim of the ride is to push the seat to the top of the ride whilst climbing up the small mound, then climb onto the seat and hold on (by placing your hands in the little gaps in the seat, located either side) whilst the seat then flies down the metal runway and jolts around a sharp bend. I’ve never seen the seat make it back up the other side, therefore allowing the child to exit back on top of the little hill, as the jolt at the bottom would normally throw the child off, or if they were lucky they’d just stop and have to jump down.
Many parents told their children not to play on it, as I told my own. Unfortunately children didn’t have to play on the ride to succumb to injury.
The ride isn’t fenced in, and is also positioned next to the toddler climbing frame. Young children would run past or crawl under just as the seat came flying down the metal track, or they’d simply watch the bigger children playing on the ride and would naturally place their hands on the runway as they were watching! This obviously became a recipe for absolute disaster.
Contacting Jackie Porter our local Councillior
I decided to contact Jackie Porter, our local Liberal Democrat Councillior, and expressed all my concerns and wishes for our park. She phoned me back in minutes and together we decided to meet at the park with other parents and councilors and fully discuss all the issues.
As word spread that we were taking action, many parents came to me with stories of broken bones caused by the Ridge Rider. One concerned Merdon School mother contacted me with a deeply upsetting story regarding her daughter Kerry.
Kerry was over 7 years old (the minimum age for use of the ride) and she had been playing sensibly on it when she fell. She badly broke her arm and still suffers as a result. Kerry’s mother Carolyn contacted the Parish Council regarding her daughter’s accident and her concerns for the ride, but the council seemed to deem the ride safe.
Voice of the Merdon pupils about the Ridge Rider ride
After hearing of broken arms, legs and noses I decided to ask Fryern School and Kerry’s school, Merdon Junior School, to vote, either for or against the removal of the Ridge Rider ride.
150 people voted for the ride to be removed, and only 1 vote came back for it to stay.
I’m pleased to say that after several (sometimes rather heated) council meeting discussions, the Ridge Rider is now going to be removed. It will remain (minus the seat) until a new suitable piece of play equipment is purchased to replace it with.
What about a wooden pirate ship?
After quizzing the children of Fryern School as to what they wanted, the most popular choice seems to be that of a large wooden pirate ship, one that can be used by all ages and can spark the natural imagination of all our children.
We have since been given a budget and have discussed other pieces of equipment that could be purchased for other sections of the park.
We are therefore in the throws of organising a pirate themed fun afternoon at the Fryern Recreation Ground, where all the children from our local area will be invited to attend in fancy pirate dress, where outdoor games will be on offer along with some refreshments.
We will also have an ideas board and questionnaires so we are able to do our very best to fulfil the children’s wishes with regards to their park.
My sense of pride in Chandler’s Ford
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a huge sense of pride in the community we live in.
Our children are polite, well behaved kids, and I think there is nothing quite so nice as to hear the laughter of lots of children playing outside all together on a bright sunny day. So with a bit of luck our much loved park will get the makeover it really deserves, and here’s to that happening very soon.