An iconic piece of playground equipment which featured in parks across Britain is being enjoyed again by children for the first time in 30 years thanks to a unique heritage project.
The Ocean Wave – nicknamed the Witch’s Hat because of its cone-shaped appearance – was invented almost 100 years ago by Charles Wicksteed, the creator of swings and slides as we know them today.
He installed his creations at Wicksteed Park, Kettering, the park he founded in 1921 as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.
The Witch’s Hat gradually disappeared from playgrounds across the UK as increasingly stringent health and safety rules were introduced and what was believed to be the last one in Britain was removed from the playground at Wicksteed Park in the mid-1980s.
But now a modern-day version has been installed at the park as part of its Heritage Lottery-funded @Play project to recreate and restore the Wicksteed attractions which graced the world’s first playgrounds.
The 12ft high attraction, which allows children to spin and swing from side to side at the same time, can hold up to 16 people.
The new Witch’s Hat has been created by Wicksteed Playgrounds, the manufacturing business set up by Charles, which is also in Kettering.
Its experts have used modern design and construction methods to comply with current safety rules without taking away the thrills and enjoyment the attraction creates.
Charlie Howard, vice chairman of Wicksteed Playgrounds, said: “As part of our celebrations to commemorate 100 years of building playgrounds we decided to bring back one of the most iconic pieces created by our founder Charles Wicksteed.
“The Witch’s Hat as it was fondly known by the general public has been brought into the 21st century with advanced engineering making it as safe a structure as it is exciting.
“I am extremely happy that the first one to be produced is ending up exactly where Charles would have wanted it to be.”
Oliver Wicksteed, Chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, which owns the park, and Charles’ great grandson, said: “The Witch’s Hat disappeared from the playgrounds of Britain more than a generation ago but is remembered fondly by so many people.
“Now a new generation has the chance to enjoy an old playground favourite. All the exciting work we have planned for the park builds on the extraordinary legacy of Charles Wicksteed.
“The play equipment that he devised and created has been enjoyed by children across the world for generations and bringing back the Witch’s Hat is all about giving children the chance to enjoy good, old-fashioned thrills and spills and have fun. The new version is a great piece of British engineering and is typical of the play equipment invented by Charles to encourage sharing and social play. Whenever you talk to people they all have fond memories of playing in playgrounds when they were younger and the chances are the things they were playing on were made by Wicksteed.”
Before Charles Wicksteed, public parks were very formal places, where children were warned to keep off the grass.
But he envisaged a place to thrill young people and families and encourage them to enjoy unrestricted outdoor play.
Wicksteed Park is keen for people with any heritage pieces of Wicksteed play equipment to get in touch.
The park’s Heritage Play Area already boasts a replica of the park’s first wooden slide and an old playground rocking horse, which was restored to its former glory after being rescued from a ditch near Margate where it had been abandoned and left to rust.
Learn more about Wicksteed Playgrounds visit: www.wicksteed.co.uk
Learn more about Wicksteed Park, Andrew Turner – Andrew Turner Public Relations, 07961-556391 [email protected]
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow HLF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported.