ELHAP is a magical and unique charity, providing adventure play opportunities to disabled and disadvantaged children, young people and adults. Since 1976, we have supported tens of thousands of disabled children. Each year, ELHAP attracts over 8,000 visits from across North East London and Essex.

Our Values

In asserting children, young people and adults right to accessible, free and real adventure play opportunities, ELHAP believes in:

  • respecting the dignity and self-worth of each young person
  • respecting and valuing individual differences
  • recognising the growing autonomy of each person
  • respecting every person’s right to make choices regarding their lives
  • recognise the potential of each person.Our Vision
Through adventure play and its binding principles of respect, choice and trust all people, regardless of ability or dis-ability, are equal and free to develop to their full potential.

Our Mission
To provide inclusive, natural and stimulating adventure play and related recreation to all children, young people and adults who are disadvantaged through disability, adversity or difficult life experience through the provision of accessible, user led and friendly services to families in need.

Our History
Whilst working with local playgroups in the early 1970’s, Mrs Diana Casswell first had the idea that certain children she was working with would benefit from adventure play. From this idea Diana Casswell, along with her husband Reverend Peter Casswell, set about starting the first adventure playground for children with disabilities outside of inner London.

From the beginning, a group of committed and experienced people joined the management committee to see the creation of ELHAP. The first major hurdle was to find a suitable site for an adventure playground and by 1976 negotiations had been completed with the charity Barnardo’s for use of this site. Work to adapt it began immediately. A workable area had to be fenced off, structures and play facilities built and pathways laid. Indoor adaptations also had to be made including additional toilet accommodation together with provision for wet weather activities. In 1976 ELHAP opened, being well used from the start and as facilities and awareness grew the playground became increasingly popular.

ELHAP was the third adventure playground specially built for children and young people with disabilities. It remains one of only eight specialist adventure playgrounds in the UK.  Drummond Abernethy, with his wealth of adventure play experience, used to describe ELHAP as the “very best adventure playground for children with special needs”.


Q&A with Rachel Joseph

1.  Tell O2e supporters about ELHAP
ELHAP supports children and young people with disabilities and their families in East London. We are based in Woodford in a 2-acre site that includes a vast adventure playground and woodland reserve.We provide a space where disabled children and young people are given the freedom to explore their ideas, their abilities, and their connection to the wider world — through physical play in our adventure playground and woodland reserve as well as through art, music, drama, horticulture and regular outings around London.We believe that these experiences of personal exploration and risk taking, so often denied to disabled children and young people, are vital to establishing the confidence and resilience needed for life.We receive over 8500 visits a year and work with over 600 disabled children and young people from across East London. As well as offering direct support to our service users, we also provide crucial respite to 1000’s of family members.

2.  What are the main challenges the charity faces?
The financial down-turn has put real pressure on disabled children and young people and their families. The closure of services has meant that we have more families than ever wanting to send their children to ELHAP. We urgently need to secure more funds, so that we can meet the growing demand for support.
Also, years of under-funding have meant that our building is in a state of disrepair and is too small for the number of service users we now deal with. We need to refurbish the building and create additional space as soon as possible. We are currently confirming the budget, but total costs will be in the region of £500,000- £1,000,000

3.  How can the O2e community help?
The O2E community can help us by raising funds, raising awareness of our work and joining one of our volunteer days to help with gardening and painting our massive play structures.

4.  What benefits will there be for the children SSDS supports from the funds donated by O2e?
Our funding from Local Authorities does not come close to covering our real costs. We
currently need to raise an additional £5/visit to enable each visit to go ahead. For every £5 you raise, you will enable a disabled children or young person to spend a day at our adventure playground and nature reserve.
Most of the children and young people at ELHAP have severe autism, often with other conditions (epilepsy, OCD etc.) Many have little access to the outdoors, as parents/carers may feel concerned that they could harm themselves or other children. They can feel like virtual prisoners in their own homes.
By providing more funding for more visits, you will enable 100’s of disabled children to experience freedom in the outdoors – often for the first time in their lives. They can experience the thrill of climbing trees in our tree house; fly through the air on our zip wire; learn how to build and cook over a campfire; observe wild-life on our infra-red cameras and enjoy our range of workshops from yoga, dance and art to horticulture and den-building.

5.  From the perspective of a supported charity, what does O2e look and feel like?
From the contact I have had so far, O2E feels like a very supportive, committed, nurturing and fun community of people. We are so grateful that you have decided to support us!