In the early 1980’s, most playgrounds were not fenced and some of the equipment was potentially dangerous, outdated and unimaginative. In 1983 two Caterham mothers asked local parents what they thought about their playgrounds and when many agreed that the playgrounds could be much improved. Questionnaire results were sent to Tandridge District Council’s Health and Safety Committee.
A small, hopeful group of parents got together with the aim of working towards the provision of an up-to-date, inclusive, challenging yet safer playground for Caterham’s children. They formed a committee, chose the name Play Safely and the fundraising began. Fundraising events included numerous craft parties, sales, mini-markets, a sponsored darts match and a painting competition.
Mike Halward, a playground consultant, advised with the design and research. He was a well established playground designer who helped local groups start their ventures.
The Play Safely Committee compiled a list of accident statistics which enforced their mantra that a playground should be a place for challenge and experiment, where children can go out to play without risking their lives. Fundraising continued and larger establishments such as the BBC’s Children in Need donated to the project. Dame Judi Dench, who has a home in Tandridge became a patron and both she and her husband, Michael Williams, put on a concert at Caterham School reading love poetry which raised further money for the fund.
Play Safely included equipment which would benefit children with special needs. In August 1988, after the group had raised £60,000, Queen’s Park Flagship Playground was finally opened. The original equipment which was installed was both exciting and challenging for children who used it but most importantly it was a safer area for children to play in.
Martin Askey, a local tree enthusiast, created an educational ‘wild orchard’ consisting of non-poisonous trees and wild flowers encompassing the playground. In October 1991 Dame Judi Dench came to Queen’s Park and ceremonially planted the first tree.
In 2020 we thought it prudent that the charity should be wound up as it had achieved its goals and maintenance rests with Tandridge District Council. Since the opening in 1988 we have kept a watching brief over the playground and periodically fund-raised for replacement equipment. The money from a successful Lottery Bid in 2008 was used to replace most of the safety surfacing. The Play Safely committee is indebted to the many individuals, organisations and companies who provided practical and financial support over the years. By agreeing to be our Patron, Dame Judi endorsed our project and played a significant role in supporting us. We would like to thank everyone else who has helped: too many to mention the names! Our shared goal gave us a sense of purpose. It was simply to provide a playground for children which was safer and yet fun and challenging. 30 years later we are still delighted that the playground is well used and enjoyed by so many children.
A history of Play Safely and the Queen’s Park Playground can be found at: