When families moved into Wester Hailes after it was first built, it did not take them long to realise that there was nowhere for children to play. As early as 1976, local people from Murrayburn were putting together plans for a playground. Land was leased from the Social Work Department and planning permission was given for an Adventure Playground. It quickly became known as The Venchie. After a couple of years of hard work fundraising, the main structures were in place. In 1980 grants from the Scottish Development Agency, Lothian Regional Council and Central Government meant that playworkers could be employed. In 1983, the Sentinel reported on developments at The Venchie. You can read the report by clicking here on Sentinel May 1983.
The success of The Venchie encouraged other neighbourhoods to set up similar playgrounds. In 1977, a group from the Calders worked together to try and establish supervised play facilities. They faced similar funding issues and had to wait until 1980 when funding was secured through the Youth Opportunities Programme.
Local residents from Hailesland, Dumbryden, Kingsknowe and Longstone formed a group to set up a playground for their children. They built the Quarrie Venchie during 1980 and 1981. Clovenstone residents were also looking for land for a playground and when a lease came up for some land on the edge of Clovenstone, they were able to have a playground built there. In April 1981, the Wester Hailes Play Forum was set up to manage all four adventure playgrounds and to co-ordinate their activities.
The four Venchies were very popular and gave local children somewhere they could call their own. Play was supervised and children were encouraged to take an active role in deciding what the playgrounds should have in them and what changes needed to be made over the years. The report, “Wester Hailes Ten Years On” makes the point that the Venchies were built and adapted over the years to reflect what children were asking for rather than being an adult’s idea of what children wanted.