Brighter exterior adds spark to playgroup

Landscaper Mark Allan  who has done a lot of work at Bright Sparks in Bonnyrigg in their newly opened outdoor area with (left) Louisa Gough (Chair) and Kirstie Thomson (Vice Chair).
Landscaper Mark Allan who has done a lot of work at Bright Sparks in Bonnyrigg in their newly opened outdoor area with (left) Louisa Gough (Chair) and Kirstie Thomson (Vice Chair).

A playgroup for children with additional needs has opened its outdoor area, completing the charity’s dream home a year after moving in.

Bright Sparks moved into the former Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre building at King George V Park in April 2016 after securing a 30 year lease from Midlothian Council, following years with no permanent or suitable home to care for the many children who use the much valued service.

What the exterior used to look like at Bright Sparks.

What the exterior used to look like at Bright Sparks.

However, until now the children have been unable to access the outside area of the centre which was mainly wasteland following the renovation of the building.

Now, thanks to Scottish roads partnership AMEY building a concrete pathway through the outdoor area and local landscaper Mark Allan dealing with garden work, those who attend Bright Sparks can now get outside, with plans to improve the area going forward in the pipeline.

The charity’s chairman Louise Gough is delighted.

She said: “It’s realising the full dream of what we had presented all those years ago to the council.

‘‘ Having the outdoor area now completes our vision of being able to offer a centre for families who can’t actually fully support themselves.

“Now, it’s all set-up outside it’s like having a very secure park for the children.

“It’s about having somewhere in Midlothian on a par with The Yard in Edinburgh.

‘‘That was was our vision – a place where parents could drop in whenever they want; one that was safe, secure and stimulating for the children in Midlothian and their families, where parents can still get a cup of tea and support.

“And their siblings have got things in the park they can use, so the whole family can make a day of it.

“This marks mission complete, I’m very proud of the Bright Sparks team, for it has been a long haul and it still continues to be.”

Louise explained more about the improvements: “The pathway makes it more accessible for wheelchair users, splitting the garden into four areas.

“We have a sensory garden in the small area at the front which will be completed in time for the summer holidays.

“It’s fantastic for going out to play ball games etc, but it wasn’t wheelchair accessible which made it quite a challenge.

‘‘Having the pathway to open up that area will be huge. One of the quarters is going to be used for a sunken trampoline whichwill be wheelchair accessible.

“For the other areas we have been able to get multi activity equipment from Loanhead After School Club.”

Louise added that the charity will fundraise to further improve the outdoor area of the centre.

She said: “We will definitely have something to offer families this summer, some great outdoor space, but give us another year and we should have it fully completed.

‘‘That’s because we are much more realistic. We just can’t get the grants for a high-end adventure playground.

“It’s sustaining what we have built up.

‘‘We are lucky, we have got a fantastic facility, I can see the end in sight.

‘‘It was just a pipe dream to start with but we felt it was a dream worth chasing and trying to achieve for Midlothian families.

‘‘That’s what keeps us motivated.

“I would just like to thank the community for really embracing Bright Sparks.

‘‘We have been welcomed in the park and the community has been very supportive.”

Louise thanked AMEY for building the pathway for free, adding: “We put an appeal out just before Easter on the Bonnyrigg Residents Forum Facebook page and Mark got in touch.

‘‘He has been really good, he did the sensory garden. ‘‘