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Wickham Market: Father’s tragedy inspires children’s play centre project

PUBLISHED: 15:39 16 May 2014 | UPDATED: 15:39 16 May 2014

Guy Hayward of Bridge Farm is creating a playbarn in Wickham Market as a tribute to two of the children he lost at an early age.

Guy Hayward of Bridge Farm is creating a playbarn in Wickham Market as a tribute to two of the children he lost at an early age.

Sarah Lucy brown

The tragic death of two young children has inspired their father to create a play barn in memoriam, for other youngsters to enjoy.

Guy Hayward, a 42-year-old farmer from Wickham Market, hopes the new facility will serve as a lasting tribute to his children while giving the village a “much-needed boost”.

The idea first arose as a way of remembering Mr Hayward’s 15-month-old son Oliver, who died in his cot in 2001. After suffering a second loss in similar circumstances in 2011, with the death of his 28-day-old daughter Star, Mr Hayward became even more determined to develop the plans and work began last year.

“My drive for this project is born out of personal tragedy as opposed to just starting a business and so I have very strong feelings about it – the most important reason is to keep Oliver and Star very much in the present and future,” he said. “It has also been very positive for me as I have had some low points myself through the bereavement process over the years.”

The Oliver Hayward Centre, as it has been named, will offer a soft play area accommodating around 15 children up to the age of seven at any one time. A cafe serving hot drinks and locally-made cakes and cookies will also feature wifi and printing facilities so that parents can work while their child plays.

Mr Hayward, who has three other children aged 22-months to 16 years, said the response to the proposal had been “really positive”.

“Wickham needs something to get excited about and I think parents will appreciate the fact they can come somewhere locally in a comfortable, intimate setting, without having to drive too far,” he said.

Once opened, Mr Hayward may explore other uses themed around children’s wellbeing and charitable fundraising, however he is “keeping it simple to begin with”.

The centre, located on Mr Hayward’s land at Bridge Farm in Ash Road, was expected to open this year, however some planning alterations mean it is more likely to be late 2014 or early 2015.

“It’s taken a bit of a backward step but we are picking it up again and hopefully it will be open by the end of the year,” Mr Hayward said. “I think the opening day will be quite special.”

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