PICTURE GALLERY: Historic Great Yarmouth sports ground awarded special protection

AN IMPORTANT green lung in Great Yarmouth has been given an environmental safeguard after it was awarded special protection by a national charity.

As part of a scheme launched by eco-friendly group Fields In Trust, Wellesley Recreation Ground has now been named as a Queen Elizabeth II Field, which bolsters its armour against development.

Fields In Trust, established in 1925 by King George V, is aiming to protect 2,012 open spaces with the award throughout the UK to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

And Wellesley rec - home to Great Yarmouth Town Football Club - has become one of the first in the borough to be awarded the special accolade, after ticking all the boxes of the stringent criteria, which included size and availability to the public.

John Barden, vice chair of the club, said the extra protection was good news for sports teams that use the field as well as residents.

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'It's great for the community and it's also great for the athletics club and football club,' he added. 'We can look to the future and plan the future, it's a great initiative.'

The Fields In Trust accolade will also boost the club's historical importance, as it houses the oldest wooden football grandstand still in use in the world.

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The club was today presented with a plaque by the charity commemorating its Queen Elizabeth Field status, during a sports and fun day that launched its new youth development programme.

Members of the athletics and football club teamed up to organise the day of activities to celebrate the formation of a new youth division, that hopes to get more children involved in both sports.

Mr Barden said new youth football teams are being formed as a result of the division and hoped more could be added next year.

He added: 'We have a responsibility not just to safeguard the football club but a community responsibility. The club has been a bit sleepy over the last five - 10 years you could say, and this is all part of rebuilding the club and taking the community with us.

'We need the community and we feel they need us.'

As part of the initiative, and with funding from Community First, the club is also opening up its social hall as a youth club twice a week from August and has plans to make the fun day an annual event.

Youngsters and parents enjoyed activities including Kwick cricket, Zumba, martial arts, a beat the goalie contest and rugby, as well as football and athletics sessions.

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