The wheels on the bus go round and round ...all day long for 20 years and counting
- Credit: Archant
Toddlers and their parents celebrated the 20th birthday of Uttlesford’s only playbus, by getting on board last Thursday with Buffy balloons and the eating of a blue, vehicular cake.
Buffy Bus was founded by councillor Jan Menell in 1994 to improve play opportunities for pre-school children in rural areas across Uttlesford.
The double-decker now travels to 15 communities in the district.
Speaking to the Reporter about reaching the milestone, Cllr Menell said: “I had a great sense of achievement after all that time, as it’s been such a struggle at times to finance the whole Playbus.
“We started it 20 years ago with a £5,000 bus, and it’s just gone on from there.
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“It’s a vital service and it’s providing a lot of fun and play and opportunities for children who might not have had them otherwise.”
She added: “The support I’ve had from play leaders for that bus has been enormous. It’s been great for parents to socialise too, as they have to stay on the bus with their children, and our bus is very relaxed.
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“It’s not just for young mothers, it’s also fathers, grandparents, carers and nannies.”
Two hundred and forty families are registered with the bus, and cooking activities recently introduced were made possible by the support of Saffron Building Society and its partnership with Essex Community Foundation.
Cllr Menell added: “The play leaders always have new ideas – they don’t stand still, they come up with new ideas themselves and they recently started these wonderful cooking lessons, with plans for music sessions too – if we can get the funding.”
Project manager Rosie Yuhl said: “This week we have had about 80 children cooking with us – we’ve been making gingerbread people on the bus. It’s been a great success, and if we could do it every week we would.”
In 2013, Buffy received £164,774 Lottery funding, which is to be spent over the next five years and will be used to develop play sessions, visit more communities, and extend the cooking activities already on offer.
“The bus costs more than £1000 a week to run, so even though the Lottery money’s a great help, we still need funding to cover our running costs,” Rosie added.
The bus takes small donations from visiting families, and also receives funding from Essex Community Foundation – but always needs more to keep its wheels turning.
To find out more about the bus and activities over the winter, go to buffybus.com.