Nursery-age children of Royal Navy families have celebrated the launch of a near-£1million refurbishment project, to include an outdoor play area and garden, thanks to charitable funding from series of local and national organisations.

Staff and children from the Woodentots nursery gathered at their HMS Collingwood recreation area on Friday 15 July to thank those who have pledged contributions toward an ambitious programme of redevelopment works, which will start this autumn and be completed mid-2017 (subject to final funding).

At Woodentots’ ‘graduation’ ceremony, 11 children expressed their gratitude by singing songs and presenting gifts to a number of special guests, who included the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock OBE and his wife Joanna, who was presented with flowers.

Mrs Woodcock, who greeted the newly qualified graduates, said: “The children were a delight. We very much enjoyed hearing about what they wanted to be when they grew up in their ‘leaving song’. It’s been a pleasure to be here and learn about the exciting future developments that are coming to Woodentots, made possible by naval charities.”

Beginning of something special

The children posed with some of the contributing organisations with cheques while a presentation, delivered by the Woodentots Parent Staff Association (WPSA), took place.

Lieutenant Commander Caroline Thomas-Hoefsmit, Royal Netherlands Navy and WPSA Chairman said: “Today marks the start of something really special. As a nursery community, and as parents who serve in –or work alongside – the Royal Navy, we see first-hand the importance of looking after our own.

“What makes Woodentots unique is the innate understanding of the particular needs of military personnel, particularly during deployments, which provides a huge boost to the ability to cope with the demands of being away from home safe in the knowledge that your child is receiving the best possible attention; this is the essence of Woodentots Nursery.”

Charitable support

The transformation of the well-loved, but tired, outdoor space is only possible thanks a grant of £50,000 from The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), based in Portsmouth, and £23,000 from the Annington Trust, which sponsors community activities and projects for the benefit of families living in Services' communities.

Improvements to the garden, which is anticipated to be open in spring 2017, include all-new paving, artificial lawns, climbing frames, benches, landscaping, a play bark area, large sand pit, water play area and a play house. The groundworks will begin following the construction of an all-new play building, which represents the project’s greatest expenditure.

Mandy Lindley, Director of Relationships and Funding, Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, said: “From the moment the application came in to us, we could clearly see its potential to promote the nursery children’s physical health, emotional well-being and cognitive development.

“This project is a perfect demonstration of our commitment to supporting naval service personnel and their families.”

Anna Wright, on behalf of the Annington Trust, said: “We’re delighted to contribute toward this project. The Annington Trust is committed to supporting service families, particularly spouses, who work so hard looking after their children while a parent may be away from home.”

Computer suite and sponsors

The wider Woodentots refurbishment project also welcomes charitable support from Greenwich Hospital Trust, which is providing an ICT suite upon the completion of the main play building.

Other noteworthy supporters and sponsors on the day included Reading Chest, who sponsored farewell book vouchers for the children. Meanwhile, a vintage crepe van from the Winchester Vintage Van company was on hand to provide catering for all the hungry guests and little graduates alike.