TIME is running out to apply for a share of this year's Gannett Foundation grant.

Applications must be in by Monday if groups want to grab a funding boost of up to £10,000 from the Oxford's Mail's parent company Gannett Media.

Last year's crop of five Oxfordshire winners, who each took a share of £30,000, have done everything from installing new kitchen facilities in Witney to modernising a DIY workshop in Blackbird Leys.

A £4,300 cash injection has also helped St Peter’s Playgroup in Wolvercote finally transform their ‘mud swamp’ outdoor play area.

Last month turf, regularly too wet to use in winter, was finally replaced with artificial grass to the delight of children and staff.

Playgroup committee member Megan Carberry said: "The kids absolutely love it and it will mean as the weather gets wetter they won't have to come inside because the ground has flooded.

"It's so important that the kids get outdoor play as part of their development."

Meanwhile, those who won in previous years are still benefitting from the cash boost.

In 2015, assisted reading charity ARCh, which is based in Bicester, was awarded a £3,900 grant to purchase new books.

The organisation works one-to-one with around 700 disadvantaged primary school children in more than 100 schools across Oxfordshire each year, to help them learn to love reading.

Development manager Jane Rendle said: "With the grant we were able to buy a whole selection of new interactive books that we thought would really engage with the young people and be something different from the books they usually read in school."

She added: "The key to fostering a love of reading in children is finding the right book, so the wider the choice the better.

"They have been a great success and are a brilliant resource that we can use again and again with new children each year."

The charity has more than 260 volunteers who work with children every year during two individual half-hour sessions each week during term-time.

Ms Rendle urged other groups to apply for the grant, adding: "I would say to other charities thinking about it to just go for it and that's it's not too late. I know all charities are really busy and filling out a lot of forms can be off-putting but the application process for Gannett wasn't difficult at all.

"Most of our funding ends up being applied for last minute and I'm almost certain we were the same with the Gannett Foundation as well.

"It didn't matter though as we had a clear project and the money has made a tremendous amount of difference to us."

She added another benefit to the grant was gaining increased publicity for the charity, which helped attract volunteers and subsequent funding.

In the same year Abingdon Riding for the Disabled received the life-changing sum of £,5000 to pay for two new shelters to shield their ponies and horses from the cold.

The riding group teaches disabled children and adults from across the county and further to ride horses and ponies as an alternative type of physiotherapy.

Chairman of Abingdon RDA Ann Barlow said: "The money has been absolutely fantastic and we used it to build sturdy shelters, which have worked really well at keeping the animals warm and protected in the fields for the past two years."

When the group acquired the fields there was no natural shelter for the horses and ponies.

As the disabled riding school costs £90,000 a year to run, without any extras like the field shelters, Ms Barlow said grants were 'vital'.

She added: "I don't know how we would have afforded to have them built without the grant as they are so expensive."

The group, which is made up of more than 160 staff and volunteers, currently works with 95 riders each week teach them to ride horses and in turn offering a fun alternative to traditional physiotherapy.

Ms Barlow also encouraged other groups to put themselves forward for funding, saying: "I'm always on the look out for people to recommend the scheme to."

In the last 10 years alone, the Gannett Foundation has made grants in the UK alone totalling around £4 million.

Previous winners have included groups ranging from Oxford Food Bank and Oxtalk talking newspaper to Katharine House Hospice and autism charity Children in Touch