Dorset pre-school Leaping Frogs hop onto transformed site
DETERMINED staff at a local preschool have converted on overgrown plot into a thriving learning space in just two months.
Leaping Frogs Kindergarten took on what was a derelict picnic site off the old A303 in Zeals after reading the parish council's appeal for suitable tenants in the Blackmore Vale Magazine earlier this year.
Zeals Parish Council acquired the 1.5-acre New Road plot in 2003 to provide a new venue for a local bowls club. But the deal fell through and the council was left with an unused site that quickly became a liability and an eyesore.
Becky Davies and Victoria Oram, co-managers at Leaping Frogs saw the potential of the plot as a new base for their established day nursery. They struck a deal with the council and have since spent the summer working round the clock with friends and family to construct a building with three classrooms.
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After a marathon effort, and with funding support from South West Wiltshire Area Board, section 106 development funds available through the parish council and a generous local donation, Leaping Frogs opened its doors for the new term on Monday. As well as three classrooms for different age groups, the complex includes extensive outdoor play facilities with pets including miniature Shetland ponies Blossom and Bluebell, guinea pigs, chickens and ducks.
The new base has enabled Leaping Frogs to increase its provision to care for children aged from three months to five years. Another building, to be completed soon, will be used for after-school groups and holiday clubs from October half-term.
Friends, supporters and prospective clients joined the Leaping Frogs team for an open day last weekend to mark the opening.
"We had lots of great feedback and people seemed blown away by what we have achieved in such a short time. They were very keen on the outdoor classroom element - we do as much as we can outside," Becky said.
"We'd like to thank Zeals Parish Council and David Corbin, who was a great help in terms of accessing funds. A lot of people have also given their time for free to help us and we are very grateful."
Victoria added: "We feel very proud of what we have achieved, and very relieved to have delivered it when we said we would. It has been a lot of hard work but it has been worth it."
John Wigg of Zeals Parish Council described Leaping Frogs Kindergarten as a "perfect tenant".
"It has become a very attractive site, and absolutely ideal as a pre-school. It's a credit to Becky and Victoria – and superb for our village. It is good news for Zeals, Whitesheet School, Leaping Frogs, local parents and their children."
Report and picture by Mathew Manning