By CHRIS HILL
Monday, December 10, 2012
In the second part of our series on the winners of this year’s EDP Pride in Norfolk Awards, CHRIS HILL visits the always-active village of Hethersett.
With a growing population already standing at 6,000, there’s no doubt that Hethersett is a sizeable community.
But anyone suggesting this is a dormitory town or sleepy suburb is likely to get short shrift from the village’s active inhabitants, who are fiercely proud of its close-knit rural “feel” – despite its close proximity to Norwich.
And it was that, along with the extraordinary array of sports, leisure and cultural groups keeping the place constantly alive, which singled out Hethersett as the winner of the over-5,000 category at this year’s EDP Pride in Norfolk Awards.
The kaleidoscope of clubs, societies and committees promoting wellbeing and social inclusion are far too numerous to list, but include athletics, football, cricket, cycle speedway, social clubs, fitness groups, scouts, guides, dance and drama societies.
Many of the sporting groups, all well-supported, fall under the banner of the Hethersett and Meltons Sports Association which was founded in 2011 to improve the facilities, and is hoping to set up tennis, family rounders and youth netball teams next year.
This year has seen a huge number of events included a special Pledge to Fitness day in January, the opening of a new children’s play area on the Memorial Playing Field, a 24-hour charity swimathon and a ladies five-a-side football tournament,
New events included the inaugural Hethersett 30/60 cycle ride which saw more than 300 riders setting off from the village for a fitness ride throughout South Norfolk.
With such evident sporting passion, it is no surprise that the fervour surrounding the 2012 Olympics was harnessed in Hethersett more completely than, arguably, anywhere else outside London.
For the last three years, the village has organised more Olympic-themed sporting and cultural events per head of population than anywhere else in the UK. This achievement was honoured with a visit by the deputy chairman of London 2012, Sir Keith Mills, and a unique off-route visit by the Olympic Flame during the torch relay.
Peter Steward, chairman of the sports association and football club, said: “It recognises the willingness of so many people to get involved on two levels: There are the people who are prepared to put in the effort to organise events, and the huge number of people in the village who turn up and support them.
“We are trying to get all the community groups working together for all the residents.
“The best comment we had from the Pride in Norfolk judges was that we are a village with a ‘yes we can’ attitude, because we don’t want anyone in our village saying there is nothing to do. If someone says that, we always have an answer for them. We say: ‘What do you want?’ and if it does not exist here, then there is a willingness to provide it.”
Aside from its sporting prowess, the village also boasts the Hethersett Environmental Action Team (HEAT), which organises regular litter picks, promotional walking, and energy conservation initiatives. The group also carried out a comprehensive biodiversity survey, published in a book called Wild About Hethersett.
The all-inclusive ethos of the social offerings ranges from bouncing baby sessions to a pensioners’ association.
Parish council vice-chairman Gary Wyatt said: “We are a village, not a suburb and not a dormitory.
“It is not a ‘pretty pretty’ village. It is a large community with 6,000 people but is still has that ‘village feel’ about it.
“Some dormitory villages can seem like soulless places, but here we have all these sports groups, horticultural societies, churches, the village hall... all these traditional village things, but set in the middle of a very large community.
“There are so many people who don’t get praised, yet are all the time working in the background. The Olympic committee got a lot of recognition, but the village hall and the playing field are run by trustees who take on that responsibility of running these important facilities.”