Wiltshire Community Foundation logoWiltshire Community Foundation solar park fund is a ray of light for eco projects

A UK-FIRST eco playground, a beauty spot and a parish hall will all benefit from more than £57,000 in community grants generated by a solar park in Wroughton.

Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Science Museums Group Wroughton Solar Park Community Benefit Fund, which distributes income from the solar park there, has awarded the money to three projects near the park.

Chiseldon Primary and Nursery School has been awarded almost £26,000 towards building what is believed to be the UK’s first renewable energy playground. It is designed to teach youngsters about sustainable power and will feature a wind turbine and two solar panels to show the impact of the weather.

Chairman of Governor Emily Gravestock said: “We want the playground to encourage the children to be more active but it will also teach them STEM subjects at the same time, which is something the school is passionate about. It’s a way of sparking children’s interest in something that will make a real difference to their future.

“The grant will make a phenomenal difference because we would simply not be able to do this with standard school funds. The fact that the bulk of what we need has been provided for us means we can actually achieve something which has been a dream of the school for a while.”

The playground will also have a see-saw with a solar panel on top that glows either when it is powered by the sun or by pupils using it, and a human ‘hamster-wheel’ that displays how much energy is being expended.

The school has yet to decide on a domestic-sized turbine that wouldn’t need planning permission or something bigger. “There will be an added benefit if we can pull some of the renewable energy to the school to help with bills but that isn’t the primary focus of this activity, so it is still under discussion,” said Mrs Gravestock. “If we don’t need planning permission, we would hope to have the playground built over the summer.”

The Washpool Area Restoration Project in Chiseldon has been awarded £10,700 to carry out major improvements to pathways to allow a popular part of the beauty spot to stay open.

The Washpoool, an historic pool at the bottom of a deep valley, created by farmers to wash livestock in medieval times, has been looked after by the community group since 2006. Volunteers have cleared rubbish and overgrown bushes and installed fencing, hedging, gates, wildlife ponds and boardwalks.

The grant will be used to replace the rotting boardwalks with landscaping and gravel paths. “Failure to replace the boardwalks soon would have meant mean roping off a large area of the site from the public,” said the group’s chairman Hilary Howe. ”I was really wondering what on earth we would do if we couldn’t find the funding to replace it because to take the stretches of boardwalk out would knock such a hole in the whole project, so this grant is pretty vital.”

The group will also improve signage and an access track to the site and create an inflow from the nearby stream into a children’s dipping pond to allow hands-on nature lessons.

The beauty spot is becoming increasingly popular, especially since the lockdowns. “We are getting a lot more people coming from Swindon because it is easy to get to the Washpool along the Sustrans cycle route 45 and it is very satisfying to see that” said Mrs Howe.

Wroughton and Wichelstowe Parochial Church Council has been awarded £20,000 to carry out essential repairs to Wroughton Parish Hall so that it remains economic to run and usable for Wroughton Pre-School, which books it five days a week.

The council plans to add solar panels to the roof of the former infants school, parts of which date back to 1875, and add insulation between the roof and ceiling to reduce its energy costs by £500 a year.
Treasurer Nick Orman said the council will also add new drainage so that rainwater runs off into the nearby River Ray. He said access to the site is regularly affected by surface water flooding on Priors Hill and has suffered overspill from the sewer system when it has become overloaded with extra rainwater. “Following an incident this summer the pre-school was forced to close for a day due to health risks from the after-effects of sewer flooding on the site,” he said.

“Our parish needs people and organisations to take a lead in reducing their own emissions of greenhouse gases and their discharges of surface water to the combined sewer system. In doing so the PCC seeks to demonstrate to others what can be achieved sensitively to limit the environmental impact of heritage buildings.”

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are very proud to work in partnership with Science Museums Group Wroughton to fund local projects which focus on STEM subjects as well as habitat conservation, health or play. The brilliant projects awarded grants this year will not only bring great benefit to the community but also the environment.”

To find out more about the community foundation go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.