Poisonous plant found growing in play area

By Steve Peacock in Environment

Part of a £95,000 new play park has run into problems after its planned nature adventure area turned out to be infested with the most poisonous plant in the UK.

The main section of the Parkers Way play area in Bridgetown, with its wooden play structures, has been completed and will be formally opened on Friday, July 21.

But opening the nature section, which includes a stream and a wild area, will be delayed for around two months following the discovery of hemlock water dropwort plants.

While the most toxic part of the plant is the tuberous root, which gives rise to the alternative name dead man’s fingers, all parts of the plant are poisonous and only a small amount of plant material can be fatal.

Now the area is fenced off and the dangerous plants will be removed, said Bridgetown Alive! chairman Richard Mitchell.

“Hemlock water dropwort and children do not go together. We are eradicating it but it will take a few months,” he said.

“When the dropwort is removed Earth Wrights Ltd will go back and finish the job to create a beach area and put in boardwalks and all sorts of exciting things.”

According to Wild Food UK: “Hemlock water dropwort is the most poisonous plant in the UK and all parts of it are poisonous, it is reported that death can occur in as little as a couple of hours after ingestion.”

Dartington-based Earth Wrights Ltd – which recently completed the new play area in Totnes’s Leechwell Garden – was given the job of designing and building the new play space with a play tower, a climbing ramp and slide; living willow tunnels; balancing log bridges;grassy mounds for younger children; and a hill-top lookout tower accessed via a web of ropes and crossing a log structure for the older youngsters.

The project ended up a month behind schedule because of a waterlogging problem, which has been a feature of the play area for decades.

The stream, which is the main feature of the Chicken Run path alongside, has been culverted under the play area.

Mr Mitchell said that while digging was going on a manhole cover “oozing” water had been discovered and he said the waterlogged area would probably be fenced off.

Meanwhile, the official opening on the play equipment section will be going ahead on Friday, July 21 – the last day of the school term – at 5pm.

Schools are currently involved in a competition to come up with a new name for the play area. The youngsters whose submission is chosen will be cutting the ribbon to officially open the playground.

“Calling it the Parkers Way Play Park seemed a bit long winded and we are having a competition among the primary schools for the children to invent a suitable name for it,” said Mr Mitchell.

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