A NEW playground was officially opened by Hillingdon Council yesterday (30) as part of a £4.6 restoration of its Cranford Park heritage site.

The playground is themed around the historical figure of Mary Cole, the Countess of Berkeley, with features that reflect her intriguing story.

It is located behind the new café, which is nearing completion, and its play features are made entirely of timber, to be sympathetic to the woodland surroundings.

Equipment includes a climbing net trail, tower unit with slide and fireman’s pole, and a nest swing, as well as an ‘ice house’ shelter and tunnel.

For 300 years from 1618, Cranford Park was owned by the Earls of Berkeley, and Mary Cole became the Countess of Berkeley in 1796 after marrying the 5th Earl, Frederick Augustus Berkeley.

Following her husband’s death, Mary Cole feared for her life, so she had a trapdoor in her bedroom floor, leading down to a tunnel, where she could escape on horseback.

Young visitors emulate her actions by shooting down the slide and scampering through the wicker tunnel before ‘escaping’ on a wooden horse.

The restoration project is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with work on the main stable building and cellars already complete.