A WILTSHIRE Community Foundation grant will help a nursery transform two muddy gardens into a safe and fun outdoor play area that will improve children’s learning.

The YMCA Brunel Group, which runs the Little Ducklings nursery in Lyneham, has been awarded £5,000 from the organisation's new community fund, which supports grass roots groups and charities who make life better for people in their area. The fund’s first round of grants has awarded more than £106,000 to 11 groups in Wiltshire and Swindon.

The nursery, which is run on a charitable basis offering low-cost childcare, is based in two converted military houses. Sarah Clover, who runs the group’s special projects, said the gardens flood in winter and are badly in need of improvement.

“We’ve always been outdoors but it is really important now to be outdoors as much as possible. But with climate change we are finding our garden areas are much wetter. Everything is looking badly worn and needed upgrading quite urgently.”

Work begins next month on laying hard standing and patios. After that the nursery will create a secure area for under twos, a reading corner under a tree, a bike track, lawns, a maths space and a bat and ball area.

“The children will be able to be outside all year round because it won’t be water-logged and muddy, they will have better quality provision and it will feel and look better for them,” said Mrs Clover.

“We need to be ready for climate change and also to give the children the best opportunities that we can.”

Around 85 per cent of the parents who use the nursery are from military families. “They are seen as a vulnerable group because they are moving frequently and they don’t have extended family support."

“Many of them went through the Covid period being very isolated and they suffered because of that. Some of the parents were zooming off to do various tasks, like delivering vaccines. Often one of the parents is deployed somewhere so the other is living in isolation on the patch, it can be very difficult for them.”

She said children in military families may experience mental health issues themselves if their parents are under stress due to pressure from deployment, parent separation or from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We have children who present as anxious and others who have missed seeing their extended families over the last year.We have a higher than usual incidence of parental anxiety and this affects the children that we care for.”

Brunel YMCA, which also runs Green Shoots Nursery in Trowbridge, will be looking for more grant funding to complete the £11,000 project at the nursery, which will have up to 60 children over the next year. Although the majority of families are from the military there are also many from Royal Wootton Bassett and surrounding villages.

She said: “We wouldn’t be able to do this work without the grant from Wiltshire Community Foundation, it has helped us kick off this project and give the garden a ten-year life, which is really important.”

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “Nurseries that run on a charitable basis like those of the YMCA are often at the heart of communities and not only provide hugely important education for children, but vital support for parents who may be struggling on their own. This is true of all nurseries but more so in a military area like Lyneham."

“We are delighted our Community Grant has helped kick-start this work and look forward to seeing the children enjoying the results.”

Applications are open for the next round of Community Fund grants, which offer up to £5,000 for a maximum of three years. To find out more eligibility and how to apply, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk/grants-and-support/groups.