Girl who overcame life-changing surgery to gain skills from new £30,000 nursery playground

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A LITTLE girl with cerebral palsy who doctors said would never walk is now able to “push her boundaries” at a new £30,000 nursery playground after having life-changing surgery in America.

Ten-year-old Ria Stonehouse has overcome obstacles since she was born, and five years ago became the focus of a massive fundraising drive to send her to the States for a pioneering operation to allow her to walk without using a frame.

Now her Mum Michelle says she will be able to continue developing her physical skills in the new playground installed by outdoor fun experts Creative Play at Clockwork Nursery in Mount Pleasant, Audenshaw, where Ria attends the after school club.

It completes a significant investment in the nursery by owner, Lorna Meredith, who has already spent in excess of £400,000 on the building itself.

Ria, a St Mary’s Primary School pupil from Dukinfield, was the young VIP guest at the official opening of the £30,000 facility, which boasts a Hobbit house and a secret fairy garden. She was joined by high profile radio DJ Chelsea Norris and her daughter, Minnie, and Ashton-under-Lyne’s MP Angela Rayner for the special event.

Creative Play Design Director, Tom Biggs, said the facility has been developed to include a range of early years playground equipment and features an outdoor sail shade, sandbox, mound tunnels, crawling tube, tower system, custom made water feature and playhouse.

The new play facility has transformed the outdoor area to provide a space for outdoor learning and physical activity.

He said: “The nursery owner, Lorna Meredith had a very specific idea in mind and we worked very closely to bring it to life.

“It’s unusual to have such a grand project for a private nursery but it proves Lorna’s passion for her business and is in a great location.

“We hope Ria and the other children have lots of fun playing in it.”

Ria, who was one of the first to try it out said: “I love the playground, it’s really good.

“It was exciting to see it being built because we all couldn’t wait to play in it.

“I think the garden is my favourite part.”

Ria’s mum Michelle, who is also manager at the nursery said the playground will help build up her daughter’s muscle strength and encourage her to try new challenges.

“Ria was born prematurely and as a result, was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy,” she said.

“When she was five, the community helped us raise £50,000 for her to have a special operation on her spine, called a selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), at the St Louis children’s hospital in Missouri, which gave the ability to walk without relying on a wheelchair.

“Since then, she’s had intense physio and still uses walking sticks but we are trying to get her down to one before she starts high school.

“The playground is fantastic and will really help Ria’s progression.

“She’s come a long way in the five years since her operation but it will help her push her boundaries.”

The 38-year-old added: “Ria can access all areas of the playground but there are areas that will test her.

“We make sure Ria doesn’t have an ‘I can’t’ attitude, the playground has some good challenges for her – some she can do with ease and some she will want to achieve.”

Nursery owner, Lorna Meredith said the playground is the “icing on the cake.”

She added: “We opened the nursery in September last year after spending £400,000 renovating the building, which was a former church.

“We had a large garden area with a lot of potential so I spoke to a few designers to see what we could come up with.

“Creative Play were fantastic from the design and planning stages right through to execution.

“The team worked through all weather to create and safety check the playground.

“It just finishes everything off and looks amazing.”

Labour MP Angela Rayner, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: “I was delighted to be invited to Clockwork Nursery to celebrate the completion of the new purpose built outdoor area.

“Since my last visit in September 2016, the outdoor play area has been completed and is an amazing facility, which will be a real asset to all the children at the nursery, especially for Ria Stonehouse who has cerebral palsy.

“The play area will enhance Ria’s development, muscle strength and physical skills.  It is a fantastic facility for all children of all ages and abilities.”

Each Creative Play playground is designed to suit the client’s specifications, depending on their budget and location.

All of Creative Play’s equipment is designed and manufactured in Chester by the company’s in house teams, who use state of the art equipment and each specialise in timber, plastic or metal.

Creative Play’s own teams install all of the equipment and surfacing to meet the requirements of the client and their own rigorous quality standards.

For more information visit: or call 01244 375627. Facebook and Twitter @CreativePlayUK

For more information about Clockwork Nursery call Clockwork Day Nursery: Audenshaw 0161 339 5001  Ashton Under Lyne: 0161 343 4500

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