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New £30k nursery playground helps girl with cerebral palsy develop 'I can' attitude

Article By: Michaela Mildenhall

A little girl with cerebral palsy who had life-changing surgery to help her walk without a wheelchair, is now able to develop her physical skills because of a nursery's new ‘super-playground’.

The outside area of the Clockwork Nursery in Mount Pleasant, Audenshaw, which runs an after-school club attended by 10-year-old Ria Stonehouse, has been transformed with a new sail shade, sandbox, mound tunnels, crawling tube, tower system, water feature, playhouse, secret fairy garden and hobbit house.

Ria Stonehouse and Nursery Owner Lorna Meredith

Ria Stonehouse, a St Mary’s Primary School pupil from Dukinfield, was a special guest at the opening of the nursery's £30,000 playground, along with radio DJ Chelsea Norris, her daughter, Minnie, and Ashton-under-Lyne’s Labour MP Angela Rayner- the Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Ria said of the play area: “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 mother, Michelle Stonehouse, who was once told by doctors that her daughter would never walk again, is the nursery manager at the Clockwork Nursery and explained Ria’s incredible progress to date.

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

“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."

Michelle Stonehouse hopes the playground “will really help Ria’s progression”.

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

“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 called the playground, which was designed and built by Creative Play, the “icing on the cake”. She said: “We opened the nursery in September last year after spending £400,000 renovating the building, which was a former church.”

The outdoor play area will be a “real asset to all the children at the nursery”, Labour MP Angela Rayner said. She added: “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.”


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