playgroup outside at Waterbeach

Playgroup moves into transformed building at Waterbeach Barracks

playgroup outside at Waterbeach
Exciting times lie ahead for Herons’ Preschool (formerly Waterbeach Toddler Playgroup) as it settles into its new home in a re-purposed building at the entrance of Waterbeach Barracks.

Despite a few Covid-related delays, the transformation of the old ‘short arms’ shooting range into a bright and dynamic space for the preschool was completed in the autumn. With Ofsted registration in place, and a hectic Christmas break moving the last bits of equipment and adding the finishing touches, Herons’ Preschool was able to open in its new premises on 5 January 2021. A great start for the New Year!

Space to grow

This redevelopment project has provided the preschool with a fantastic opportunity to create the space they have been longing for and provide for further expansion, potentially doubling the capacity from its previous premises. The preschool now takes children from 2years old and currently has 28 children on the roll and is looking forward to welcoming more children soon.

The move follows a challenging time for the preschool as their previous premises was no longer fit for purpose but, working with Cambridgeshire County Council’s Education Capital Team and Waterbeach Barrack’s developer Urban&Civic, the move now heralds a bright future supporting both the existing village and the future development coming forward.

“bright modern and inspiring space”

The new building provides flexible space, with two playrooms for the children as well as an office, a reception area and a large outdoor play space.

Wayne Badcock, Preschool Manager, said: “It has been fascinating to watch this old, windowless building be completely revamped and given a new lease of life. It is now a bright, modern and inspiring place that the children, parents and staff are all enjoying very much. There is lots of space for the children to play, learn and be creative as they prepare for future school life.

“We are particularly excited about the outdoor space and are very grateful to our committee members and parents who have helped turned it into a lovely big garden. We can’t wait for the weather to warm up a bit so the children can start planting seeds and watching the saplings grow in four large planters purchased through previous fundraising efforts. I’d also like to take this opportunity to extend a special thanks to Vikki Ashcroft and Gina Clark for all their hard work, time with the planning and helping us to make the dream a reality.”

A fantastic start to learning

Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children and Young People’s Committee, said: “It is brilliant to see how well the building has been renovated and how much the children are enjoying the playgroup’s new home. We believe these new premises will help give the children a fantastic start to their learning experience and enable Herons’ Pre School to grow to meet the additional needs for early years provision in Waterbeach – now and in the future.”

playgroup garden at waterbeach barracks

Working in partnership

In recent years, families and friends of the children going to the preschool have supported many fundraising activities including the popular Waterbeach Running Festival, which takes place at Waterbeach Barracks each year. Due to the pandemic, the event took place virtually last year and may need to do so again this year.

Rebecca Britton, Communications, Communities and Partnerships for Urban&Civic, said: “It’s great to see Herons’ Preschool now up and running in their new home at Waterbeach Barracks. This marks the culmination of huge effort, time and commitment from all of the partners and is an exciting next chapter for the inspiring team at the preschool. For us also it is the start of a new chapter with the transformation of the Barracks into the future development, and this important building – at the gateway between the village and the development – a part of our continued commitment to work with local communities to ensure the development brings benefits and facilities for all. We hope to see the annual Waterbeach Running Festival return to Waterbeach Barracks when Covid-19 guidelines allow.”

James Ryley, Principal Estate Surveyor at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), said: “As with many aspects of the Waterbeach development, this has been a true partnership between DIO and Urban&Civic, the local community and local authorities. It is a testament to the passion and commitment on all sides, that we have been able to take this old military building, used for practising short arms firing skills, and transformed it into an inspiring space for young children to take their first steps into education and the wider community, supporting both the County Council to deliver much needed pre-school spaces, and support a village institution such as Waterbeach Toddler Playgroup. It is great to see the old building re-energised, as – working with Urban&Civic – we also start to progress the new buildings coming forward with the first homes and Primary School now getting into detailed design.”

To find out more about the preschool and future events, go to or visit their Facebook page.

We are particularly excited about the outdoor space and are very grateful to our committee members and parents who have helped turned it into a lovely big garden.