VILLAGE children have been given a safe place to play in a £250,000 community park they helped to design.

Two years ago, on the same site in Coundon Grange, near Bishop Auckland, a six-year-old girl was injured when she was dragged along the ground after becoming entangled in a chain tethering a horse left to graze illegally.

Now the Dene Valley Community Park has been fenced and there are swings, roundabouts and a ball park, with plans to add a nature trail, a maze and a youth shelter.

The Dene Valley Community Partnership joined forces with Wear Valley District Council and Groundwork West Durham for the project, which was launched on Saturday.

The honour of performing the opening ceremony went to seven-year-old Nyomi Ridley and Abbie Beckham, nine, who won a competition for the best designs.

Margaret Ingledew, chairwoman of the Dene Valley Community Partnership, said: "The project, though not yet fully complete, has already improved the lives of all age groups in our villages.

"Our children and residents have been involved in all of the phases. Workshops and public meetings were all a great success and now we can finally see our dreams happening.''

The project is one of 200 Doorstep Greens being created in the country under a Countryside Agency initiative, which has been backed by over £12m of National Lottery money.

Funding for the Dene Valley project has come from the European Regional Development Fund, Wear Valley District Council and Barclays Site Savers.

Sally Rogers, from the Countryside Agency, said: "Many people in Dene Valley have worked really hard to get the community park built. I'm glad our Doorstep Greens programme was able to help them achieve their goal.''