Play facilities at Whisby Nature Park near Lincoln are receiving a £250,000 makeover, with a new otters-style adventure zone kicking off the first phase of improvements.
Three refurbishment projects, steered by North Kesteven District Council, are taking place during the spring and summer months at the park in Thorpe on the Hill.
First is the creation of an indoor play area inspired by the success of Little Darters to provide an all-weather experience and educational resource for smaller tots.
Work on the new Otter’s Reach indoor adventure play is underway now and due to be completed mid-April.
Flights of Fantasy, a company that makes bespoke play elements using stripped chestnut, is pursuing a concept that takes a journey through Whisby – from its origins as Whisby Pits to the attraction and wildlife haven of today.
The area will allow younger visitors to explore and experience the park’s history through imaginative play and will include a gravel plant with hands on features, bullrush stilt posts, spiders web climb, raptors’ nest and more.
Outdoors, the award-winning Little Darters Wildlife Adventure Area is being transformed to feature an assault course with balance ropes and a new lookout tower.
This aspect of the makeover is financed through accumulated on-site car parking charges, in order to enhance the attraction and the physical activity offer for visitors.
Drawn up by Little Darters’ original creator Daniel Houghton, and with input from Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Reserve Director Dave Bromich, the new design will feature a mini assault course, with ramp and rope ascent, balance rope traverse and climbing net.
The development has evolved from work carried out by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust who transformed an island into a wetland habitat for visiting waterfowl. It has been so successful that another island is to be developed in the same way.
To enable visitors to view both island habitats, a key part of the design will be to relocate the Little Darters’ bird hide and the pontoon.
A new octagonal tower will be installed where the pontoon is currently located near the cave, to provide a lookout over the island and the start of the mini assault course – designed for younger children to increase activity with a safety flooring that gives the appearance of bark.
In the final phase of improvements, the centre’s basement will be remodelled to provide a conference and exhibition gallery and a separate meeting room.
Works on this are are due to start in May and be completed in time for the summer holidays.
Repeatedly awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, the Natural World Centre remains popular with approximately 200,000 visitors each year.
Councillor Marion Brighton, Leader of NKDC, said: “The Natural World Centre is a fantastic place to visit and these refurbishment projects will provide a new, exciting offer for the hundreds of thousands of people who explore the attraction each year.
“Little Darters continues to be popular and the new interactive elements are designed to encourage and inspire children and young people to be more active more often, while the complementary indoor area means there will be something for families to enjoy whatever the weather.
“I am sure the improvements being made will ensure the facility continues to be an excellent destination for visitors for many years to come.”