New play area gives children freedom to explore nature

The Steyning Downland Scheme has nearly finished its work creating a play area with a difference.

Volunteers planted the willow dome in the wild nature area on the Steyning Downland Scheme last Saturday
Volunteers planted the willow dome in the wild nature area on the Steyning Downland Scheme last Saturday

Nestled in the foot of the South Downs in Steyning and surrounded by nature, the wild nature area has been specially designed for families.

Everything in it has been sourced from the natural landscape and features include the new willow dome, a wooden xylophone, stepping stumps and balancing logs.

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Eleanor Gloster, events and community fundraising manager, said: “The idea for a wild nature area started in 2013, after we began our Steyning Saplings Forest School.

“We needed a focal place where young children could explore and enjoy nature, thereby encouraging more families to get out on to the Downs.

“We’ve been lucky to join forces with the Steyning Community Orchard group, which will really bear fruit in years to come.”

English fruit trees have also been planted to create a Steyning Downland Orchard, so families can play among the blossom in the spring and pick apples in the autumn.

The play area, on the Rifle Range field at the end of Nightingale Lane, was made possible thanks to funding from the Co-Op Local Community Fund.

It has been created by volunteers from the Steyning Downland Scheme, a wildlife charity, and Steyning Community Orchard.

It has been sympathetically fenced with help from the South Downs National Park, to protect it from dogs and the friendly Dexter cattle which graze on the Downs.

On Saturday from 10am, people are invited to take along a spade and help plant a native hedgerow around the area, which will provide a habitat for local wildlife.

There are 1,300 trees to plant, including wild cherry, maple, crab apple and blackthorn.

There is no vehicle access to the site, so those driving should park in Steyning town centre and walk along Mouse Lane, then follow the track on the left, behind Mouse Cottage. No experience is necessary, just warm clothes and good shoes.

More details can be found on the Steyning Downland Scheme Facebook page and at