The Secret Jungle play area at Northdown Park has been returned to Thanet council control

The Secret Jungle play area is now overgrown Photo Friends of Northdown Park

The Secret Jungle play area in Northdown Park has been taken back under the control of Thanet council.

The all-inclusive play area designed to allow disabled and able-bodied children to play alongside each other has been shut since Summer 2018 since Your Leisure announced it would no longer be responsible for the site and Manor House Nursery would be the operator from September 2018.

The Secret Jungle was an inclusive play and activity area

Several other groups also made enquiries, including the team behind the Thanet Forest School and Tamara Rattigan of The Little Art Cart community interest company, who questioned why there was not a public tender process.

The Secret Jungle was closed in July 2018 following a spate of vandalism at the park and still remains closed.

The prolonged closure has prompted questions over public access from former interested parties and parents who previously had fob entry for their children had to play in the area.

Photo Friends of Northdown Park

However, Thanet council says it has been handed back to the authority and work to clear and make repairs will now begin.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Due to ongoing vandalism issues, the operators of the Secret Garden in Northdown Park have now handed responsibility of the site back to the council.

“The council will be starting a period of clearing and repair work at the site in due course. Future options for the site will then be explored to ensure it remains a community space.”

Photo Friends of Northdown Park

The Secret Jungle play area had been funded by The Children’s Society and then the Big Lottery but cash ran out, spelling the end of special family events.

The Big Lottery grant of £350,000 was made in 2010 and ran until the end of 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.

Your Leisure, which suffered a £350,000 cut in funding from Thanet council in 2019, had notified families who used the area, accessed with a special fob key, of the decision to cease as operators.

Manor Nursery boss Sean Sheerin had previously pledged to keep the site open for the public, saying:  “As far as the public is concerned they won’t see any real differences, they will still be able to come and go but on a more controlled basis. It is a community asset.”

However, he said repeated vandalism had forced the closure of the site.


  1. Hello
    Could you please tell me how I get a key for the Secret garden. As my daughter has ADHD another needs and won’t go to a normal park because of overcrowding

    • Hi Beckie, I think you will need to wait until Thanet council has sorted out the grounds and found a new operator

  2. It will be good to see it open again. Vandalism has been a big issue in Margate for many years now. I find it really saddening that children’s play areas and other public spaces and amenities are so often the targets for these mindless morons.

    • Not really, tdc were only too happy to shift responsibility for upkeep to someone else, then once the freebies run out it all goes wrong. Ramsgate museum is another case in point, the Oval looks as though it’ll become a more business oriented venture so hopefully will be self supporting once the grant money is gone, though it then becomes less of a community area. Then there is the newgate gap shelter. All very well handing things over to enthusiastic amateurs but if they go wrong the council tax payer picks up the tab.

  3. with TDC in charge this will be another area destroyed, trees cut down and anything to do with nature will be gone, shame will the children of Thanet ever be allowed to know what nature is?

    • Don’t be so negative. There are plenty of trees in town parks and along streets in Thanet, even if one doesn’t go for country walks.

      • So I take it Marva you are in favour of cutting down trees and madam I will be negative as I do not have your rose tinted glasses that stops you from seeing Thanet as it really is a grey, miserable, thug ridden isle you do not know Thanet at all my area has no open spaces no parks with or without trees no tree lined roads there is nothing here that is available for people to enjoy and using a bus or car to get to a park is not an option

  4. It might be ironic, that everybody has walked away from this Playground and left it in a state. But the thousands of pounds this will cost to make good, or even just safe. Will all come out of your Council Tax. Meaning even less spent on other play and sports facility in Thanet. If it is constantly vandalised maybe it should go. You will never be able to keep the vandals out.

    • Surely proper/adequate security arrangements, that lead to prosecution and conviction of those responsible, will keep vandals out.

  5. It should never have been handed over to the group who just left it to get in a state and locked the gate so nobody could come and tidy up the garden there. An excuse of vandalism was made so it could be locked up instead of allowing volunteers to maintain it. What a waste it has been the past 3 years. A shameful experience.
    TDC please do not hand it over to another group who keep it locked away. This is supposed to be a community and sensory garden for all.

  6. We had a key before and it was a lovely safe space to take our daughter. It’s a real shame that it’s been closed so long.

    I can’t see it ever coming back in the same way it was. It will be a free for all and for many families with disabled children that just makes it a no go zone. People seem to begrudge anything that is for anyone with “special needs” or “disability” as we are all apparently trying it on… and I often read “how is it fair my Tarquin isn’t allowed in/isn’t allowed a fob”

    How is it fair my daughter can walk or talk…. And suffers horrible seizures…. Maybe having 1 little area for children with complex needs isn’t asking too much?!?!?

    Society has fallen and empathy isn’t a thing…

    As you were anyway…


    • It’s a great shame that this wonderful little treasure has become no longer viable to run for the people that really need it ! As for the toe rags that find it amusing to vandalise & and ruin it so that others cannot benefit from its tranquil setting , which is vitally important for their well-being , please stop & try to think about what you are doing ? All it does is shows how much disrespect you have for your own surroundings, maybe one day when you own something you are proud of – & somebody else smashes it up – then maybe you’ll understand? So here’s hoping it can be opened up again for everyone to enjoy 🙏

      • Yes Mr Gunn you have it right this site should be put back to how it was before, but then the ABLE BODIED toe rags would destroy it again that seems to be the level of intelligence level of some youngsters today,

    • No its not fair, but society does a huge amount to help support those with disabilities and their families, but as ever its never enough and ever more is wanted/demanded. Wanting the taxpayer to provide open space designated purely for the disabled is hardly an attitude of inclusivity, would result in places being used by very few people and be disproportionately expensive. The pot of cash is finite and best value is needed.

      • LC – you are talking nonsense. You read the Mail? Express? A lot of support is not given.

        Spend a day with a family with a disabled child and then let’s talk.

        You have no idea.

        Your little Tarquin has a park on every corner.

        Your ignorant and confused. I’m used to dealing with people like you unfortunately.

        The education system has failed you and honestly that was the real waste of money.

        • So you do not have the opportunity to receive disability benefits, motability, respite care, specialist medical care and therapy, to name but a few?
          If Tarquin has a park on every corner then so do you, wether you choose to use it is upto to you.
          As for ignorance and education your/ you’re?
          I’ve not made any attempt to say your families life is easy , but it is most certainly less difficult than it would have been 50 years ago.
          Wanting a designated park solely for the disabled is never going to be a good use of current resources, i’m sure there are many who’d rather have household adaptions higher on their priority list.

          • LC you are truly an odious human being we are not living 50 years ago so it is hardly comparable you really do begrudge disabled people claiming benefits to help them through life don’t you? you have a serious problem there I hope you or yours are never in the position where yo need to claim benefits although if any of you do at least your taxes would be paying for yourself or family member and not some other person you sir are the sort of person who would like to see disable people excluded from society this is 2021 not the late 19th and this is Britain not a third world country where those less able are shut away out of sight as much as you’d like us to and I have crossed swords on this before and I will not back down from people like you and your nasty views

          • LC – To try and correct my grammar and spelling is laughable when your post is then full of mistakes.

            I have always had a good full time job that pays very well. I can assure you any money that any “ benefits” we have or have not claimed do not in anyway match the taxes we have paid in.

            You are buying a Daily Mailesque narrative that all disabled people do is take take take.

            You are ignorant and the education system had failed you. You regurgitate things you’ve read without knowing. You’ve also judged me when I can assure you with some ease I’ve paid more into society than you.

            Disabled people and parents of children don’t want freebies… they want a healthcare system that understand complex needs… ours doesn’t… we want to be able to take our daughter to an event a sit as a family and not have a wheelchair “and one carer” we don’t want it free. We want to pay for the tickets. We want to be able to have the space for our child to use a playground safely without your ignorant offspring putting ours in danger.

            Again you have no clue what it’s like so do us all a favour and take your ableist nonsense to the Mail comments section.

  7. Hate kids.

    Save the money and bin this park. People have made do without it so why spend more money which will ultimately be cut from services everyone need.

    The area would make an ideal space for a block of flats with plenty of parking space too.

  8. Oh ok Realist – So just because you dislike kids , you believe that they shouldn’t have the use of this amenity & a blocks of flats would be more beneficial to an already over crowded area , that hardly being Realistic now is it ? & if you were that real , you’d use your own name instead of hiding behind a dopey tag ??

  9. I’m sure there would be enough volunteers willing to turn this space back into a useable area again without costing taxpayers’ money.

    What baffles me is where the £350,000 over six years went. £58K a year for maintaining a garden!

    • Management, administration – likely including a whole new tier of management and administration hired to decide how to spend the 350 Grand…

  10. I don’t see what my nationality has to do with anything. Surely comments are enabled in order that people can put forward various opinions?

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