Councillor appeals for funding and charity help to spruce up Margate’s Secret Jungle

The security gate at the Secret Jungle in Northdown Park is in need of repair after part of it was broken by someone breaking in by climbing over the top.

The damage means the area, which is a specialist playground with sensory areas and outdoor learning aimed at children both with and without disabilities, is no longer secure.

Families going into the Secret Jungle would usually use a special fob key but the damage means the gate can now be pushed open.

Labour councillor Jenny Matterface says more funding is needed for the site, not just for repairs but also maintenance.

Photo Jenny Matterface

She said families feel the play area is inaccessible because of long grass and weeds despite the efforts of a part time gardener and volunteers.

She added: “It looks neglected, meaning some families won’t go in there. The site needs funding because I understand the money to keep it going comes from key fobs to open the now vandalised gate. If the gates are vandalised no-one will pay for a fob.

“There are some lovely pieces of equipment but they are hardly accessible.”

The ‘jungle, which is looked after by Your Leisure, had been funded by The Children’s Society and then the Big Lottery but cash ran out some 18 months ago, spelling the end of special family events.

But Ian Barker, Your Leisure Community and Funding Manager, said the play site is open and although the grass is longer than usual in some areas it does not hamper wheelchair access.

He said: “Unfortunately, we did suffer some vandalism, where someone got in to the Secret Jungle by climbing over the electric security gate. In so doing they broke the metal arm that opens and closes the gate.

“We are currently waiting for quotes to come in for the repair work. In the meantime, the Secret Jungle is still open for use, between 10am and 4pm – locked shut outside of these times- but is not a secure area now, as the gate can be opened manually.

“Within the Jungle some areas of grass have grown longer but it doesn’t stop wheelchair access.We will get in there to cut it  but in some parts longer grass adds to the effect of being a jungle. It isn’t causing a problem.

“We are very fortunate to have a group of wonderful volunteers and a part time colleague that carry out maintenance once a week.”

Cllr Matterface says further funding and more volunteers would help the upkeep of the valuable sensory play area and perhaps fix the ‘talking’ bins that she says no longer speak when youngsters put their rubbish in.

She added: “ It is such a shame the lottery funding stopped and no other money seems to be available. Perhaps a charity could help restore the gardens to their former glory because The Dell gardens on the other side are well-maintained.”

Mr Barker said funding is being sought. He said: “We are currently working with TDC and some potential partners to ensure this excellent space continues to be enjoyed.

“It really is a fantastic space which many disabled and non-disabled children, families, young adults and schools use on a regular basis.”

The Big Lottery grant of £350,000 was made in 2010 and ran until 2016. The funds not only paid for maintenance but also activities  for children of all abilities, such as an after school nature club, and events for the community.