A MESSY outdoors playgroup is looking for a grassy field in Essex to call home.

Natural Foundations, which claims to be the only year-round outdoors playgroup in Essex, are being evicted from their current field at Sandford Mill in Chelmsford.

The city’s council has told them they have to leave by the end of this month.

Director of the group, Emma Syndercombe, 48, from Ingatestone, has been scouting around for green spaces in Basildon and Brentwood in the hopes of finding a new base.

Natural Foundations is a social enterprise that provides the opportunity for under-fives to get messy in sand, mud and water.

It also allows children to play using old-fashioned wooden toys and equipment.

“This group has become a real lifeline for Essex mums, and we have a lot of parents using the group who come from as far away as Southend and Rayleigh.” said Mrs Syndercombe.

“Since we were given our notice a few months ago, we’ve realised that this group is not just a playgroup but a real community.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had.

“I’ve had moments of feelling very down and thinking do we really want to carry on with the group?

“And then I come to the group and the mums, dads and grandparents that come, and all the children we’ve got to know and see grow up, they’ve given us the impetus to keep going in trying to find somewhere.”

One of the mums using the group, Jo Cope, organised a petition with more than a thousand signatures asking Chelmsford City Council to reconsider their decision.

The group is now crowd funding to raise cash to put towards paying for a new home.

The playgroup is open on Friday mornings come rain or shine, as shelter is provided in the form of a dome, a yurt and a colourful gypsy caravan housing a library for the children to enjoy.

“Its incredibly important for children to have the physical benefits of playing outside and more importantly there are also the mental health benefits,” explains Mrs Syndercombe.

“If you listen, it’s pretty calm at this playgroup even when its really busy, because being outside has that calming affect on children.”

Mrs Syndercombe says she has already researched “every possible green space within the boundaries of Chelmsford” and has been unable to find a suitable space that includes an area for parking cars.

So now they are taking their search further afield.

“There is so much building work going on in this part of Essex that there just aren’t many green spaces available to groups anymore,” she said.

And other mums have spoken out in support of the playgroup.

Dawn Miller, 45, lives on Orchard Street in Chelmsford, said: “I’ve been coming for five years, since my boy Kit was nine months and he started school in September.

“Still come here in the holidays and help out as a volunteer.

“He’d make the most of anything – each week there is something new to engage with – a ball going down guttering – simple ideas he could relate to.

“Same as my childhood that I had in rural village – and you can’t find that anywhere else except at forest schools.

“It was water, mud, sand, simple ideas at first. And if he’s happy, I’m happy.”

Youngsters currently come from across the county to attend the play group.

The play group is looking for a new home, anywhere in Essex, but ideally looking for a base in Chelmsford, Basildon or Brentwood.