Fields in Trust Award nominees

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Next week will see the Fields in Trust Awards where England Athletics and parkrun are sponsoring a category.  The 'Best Athletics Project on a Fields in Trust site' award will be made to a project that has increased participation in running or athletics over the last year or so on its site. Fields In Trust are also seeking people to take up their fundraising places at the 2017 London Marathon.

The three shortlisted nominees are East Harling Recreation Ground with Harling Athletics Club (Norfolk), Hilly Fields (Colchester, Essex), and Witton Country Park (Lancashire).  This year's awards ceremony takes place at Lord's Cricket Ground on Wednesday 30th November. Shortlisted nominations have been invited to be there on the night. We wish all the projects the best!

East Harling Recreation Ground

In 2014 a local volunteer Athletics Coach set up a Saturday morning running club with 6 children and 3 parents. From that small beginning, a village athletics club was formed, run by a voluntary committee. Since then the club has grown rapidly, reaching a membership of 170, with 10 volunteer coaches and is now affiliated to England Athletics as Harling Athletic Club.

Initially starting with just running activities, the enthusiastic and dedicated team of volunteer coaches soon expanded the club's offer to track and field activities, funding and purchasing new equipment along the way. In their first year the club entered the prestigious East Anglian League.  They also partnered with the village's Harling 10k race committee to help build and develop this relatively new event.

Harnessing so much enthusiasm, desire and talent, the club now wants to plan for the future. Their membership train on a relatively poor grass surface - far from ideal - and they need something better, something they deserve. Their challenge is two-fold - to vastly improve their athletics training and coaching facilities, as well as developing first class provision for football, rugby, netball and hockey - something for everyone.

The club has garnered a growing high level of local support, bringing children, young people and families together, by encouraging fitness, community spirit and outdoor activities.

Hilly Fields

Hilly Fields parkrun has had an enormous impact on local participation in sport, particularly running. The parkrun started in September 2012, averaging 40 runners per parkrun; now they average 235 runners. Many runners had never participated in regular exercise before, let alone walked or run the 5k parkrun distance. Not only have many runners improved in their fitness, as shown by continuous new personal best times, they have also gone on to join the local running club, Kent AC.. Hilly Fields parkrun now also provides a regular volunteer team for the baggage trucks at the Virgin London Marathon.

Hilly Fields is situated in Lewisham, one of the most culturally diverse areas of the U.K., and this is reflected in the participants, who come from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds and running for different reasons; some running with their children, some with a baby or toddler in a buggy, some with their dog. Every runner, regardless of ability, is cheered around the course and through the finish funnel.  The feedback from runners, volunteers and supporters overwhelmingly focuses on how friendly and inclusive the parkrun is - it offers something for everyone. Some of the volunteers cannot run for health reasons but they still enjoy volunteering because of the great positive atmosphere.

A defibrillator has been acquired a for Hilly Fields park, accessible by every park-user and located centrally in the park cafe.  The London Ambulance Service provided free CPR training to parkrunners and café staff.

Witton Country Park

Witton Country Park covers some 480 acres of open space and woodland together with a brand new indoor and outdoor athletics track and floodlights funded by UK Athletics. The new facilities have significantly increased the profile of the park attracting a wide range of sporting events making use of the track and wider park. This year the park has hosted the Northern Athletics Cross Country, the Lancashire Schools' Cross Country and numerous Police and college cross country events and championships.  Dozens of people volunteer each week at Witton - from Athletics Club coaches, Run Leaders, and Green Gym volunteers who attend on a Thursday to keep fit and help with maintenance projects.

The track is used by all the schools in the town on an almost daily basis delivering the national curriculum for lessons and events, including using the new orienteering routes on offer. The park is booming with people not only participating in competitive events but coming to enjoy the new cycle routes, parkrunners, Couch 2 5k participants, family walks routes and utilisiation of the Weavers Way walks routes, with many fun runs and charity events taking place at the park including Race for Life, and Mental ELF. People attending sporting events now feel comfortable to come to the park at the weekends to enjoy informal activities and exercise.

The overall feedback is that the park it is well managed, easy to book and the jewel in the crown of Blackburn with Darwen Parks.

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