Staff and volunteers from Plastic Free Woolacombe, Plastic Free North Devon, and Woolacombe TIC with the newly built toy library - Credit: Plastic Free North Devon

'Protect Our Playground' toy library launches in Woolacombe

Joseph Bulmer

The bespoke hand-built shed, featuring designs by Woolacombe Primary School children and brought to life by local artist Jo Allum, is the latest toy library to be installed as part of local environmental charity Plastic Free North Devon’s Visitor Campaign.

The aim of the toy libraries is to provide a resource for families to be part of a ‘circular economy’ when it comes to beach toys - rather than families buying buckets, spades, and polystyrene bodyboards for their holidays and them being abandoned on our beaches, sent to landfill, or just sitting unused at the back of cupboards, families can borrow beach toys for their holiday and then bring them back at the end of their stay, ready for another family to use.

Following the success of last year’s prototype toy library at nearby Croyde, the charity secured funding from the Welcome Back Fund through North Devon Council to build a further six toy libraries at North Devon beachside locations for the benefit of visitors and locals, and to protect our coastline.

Anne-Marie Eveleigh, Operations Director Plastic Free North Devon, explained how the toy library took shape: "The Woolacombe Toy Library has been a true community effort, with Year 6 pupils from Woolacombe School providing the initial designs, local artist Jo Allum bringing their designs to life, Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre hosting the shed, and local volunteer group Plastic Free Woolacombe acting as its guardians - making sure it is stocked and looked after."

Vicky Murray from Plastic Free Woolacombe explained more: "We're thrilled to have a toy library for our village. It is a fantastic and fun new opportunity to encourage a culture of reuse in Woolacombe. A huge thanks to our friends at Plastic Free North Devon for the hut, the kids at Woolacombe school for the fab door design, and to Jo Allum for recreating it so beautifully.

"We often find toys on our regular beach cleans - we can now take them to the library so that they can be used and loved again!

"We hope it can also help prevent buckets, spades, bodyboards, wind breaks and other beach toys from becoming single use plastic items - by leaving clean and unbroken toys in the library instead of putting them in the bin they can be used again and again by happy visitors to our beautiful beaches.

"We hope it's something everyone will use and enjoy."

Anne-Marie Eveleigh, PFND, added: "With the climate crisis and the rising cost of living at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds right now, we’re really grateful for the opportunity to work with our local communities to make a positive difference where we can, one small step at a time. Our sincerest thanks to all involved, and to North Devon Council who were able to fund the expansion of this project through the Welcome Back Fund."

The toy libraries are just one way that Plastic Free North Devon’s Visitor Campaign seeks to harness the collective power of local businesses and community to educate and empower visitors to protect and care for the amazing nature right here on our doorstep.

The campaign includes resources and ideas for businesses to use to inspire behavioural change, a newly released Sustainable Housekeeping Toolkit: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c9a5dc165019f1ece9d4acf/t/62d92b32b9dee26a9d95a12c/1658399555152/sustainablehousekeeping-toolkit-210722.pdf for cleaners, property managers and business owners, and a discount on the Protect our Playground sustainable wooden bellyboards for all Visitor Campaign sign ups.

Visit www.plasticfreenorthdevon.org/plastic-free-holidays for more information.

And if you live further afield and would like to build your own shed, the original design by PFND trustee Andy Clee is available open source here: https://plasticfreenorthdevon.org/blog/protect-our-playground-toy-library-launches-in-croyde.

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