National award joy leaves volunteers ‘flabbergasted’ as Hingham Tennis is named LTA Club of the Year
- Credit: Ian Burt
After being named as LTA Club of the Year winners, David Freezer went along to Hingham Tennis to speak to the local volunteers who have made the village a hidden success story of British tennis
Tucked away among the leafy flatlands and big skies of mid-Norfolk is one of the most remarkable success stories in British tennis during recent years – a story which will be recognised at Wimbledon next month.
Hingham Tennis have won the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) Highland Spring Club of the Year award for 2016 after an impressive redevelopment of their village facilities.
Local parents Lindsey Read, Emily Cary and Simon Underhill got together to raise a huge £91,000 to redevelop the two dilapidated outdoor hard courts at the sports hall in Watton Road.
Their hard work and the financial and technical support of friends and local business, as well as a crowd-funding account which saw over £2,000 raised by local residents, has seen the club flourish.
You may also want to watch:
Its refurbished outdoor courts – floodlit, with two hard courts surfaced with non-slip porous macadam and a new club-house – have attracted over 230 members as part of a remarkable turnaround for a village with around 1,000 homes.
Head coach, Sam Howlett, said: 'It's an amazing effort from the committee to get the club up and running in such a short space of time and all the money they raised through the funding and things.
- 1 7 places to avoid the crowds in Norfolk this summer
- 2 What it is like to be registered at Norfolk's busiest GP
- 3 Head chef whose kitchen burned down leaves restaurant
- 4 'I'd be utterly lost without it' - Family told to dig up vegetable patch
- 5 Thunderstorms and heavy rain warning for Norfolk
- 6 Man abducted girl, 14, and tried to hide her under bench
- 7 Elderly people furious as crumbling church wall closure blocks walkway
- 8 'He spread joy': Tributes to sports-mad UEA lecturer after sudden death
- 9 Lidl announces date for new Norwich store opening
- 10 Sharp-eyed police spot wanted man at Norwich Market
'Once we got going it was a real snowball effect from there and came together so fast, it was brilliant.'
Hingham Tennis firstly won the Norfolk club award and then claimed the regional award as well to be put forward for the national award.
They will receive that award, as well as an LTA grant of £5,000, at the 2016 Aegon British Tennis Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, July 4, during the first week of Wimbledon.
'It's huge,' Howlett added. 'You would generally think it would be one of the bigger clubs that are producing international players, that kind of thing, but for a club of our size, two courts in a small village, is just amazing and I feel really privileged to be a part of it.'
The work of the volunteers began back in 2013 after Hingham resident Mr Underhill, 40, a teacher at Wicklewood Primary School with two children – six-year-old Amos and Toby, eight – had spent time with family in a Cambridgeshire village, Needingworth, and been impressed by the facilities they had.
Teaming up with Mrs Read, 40, who also lives in the village, works in the energy business and has three children – Louie, three, Henry, six and Elodie, nine – and Mrs Cary, who lives in nearby Reymerston, works as a GP and has two children – Rufus, seven and George, nine – the trio started working towards an application to Sport England.
That proved successful and the £75,000 grant formed the backbone of the project, with a further £16,000 generated locally, Mrs Cary explaining: 'We were very lucky to have such great support and we can only thank the community for their support.
'We also had a lot of practical support, we had a local surveyor who helped us and a local business leant us a cherry picker for use during the work and a lot of the work was done at 'mate's rates'.'
Mrs Read added: 'The crowd-funding raised just over £2,000 as well and that gave local people the chance to pitch in and give little bits of money which has made everyone feel a part of it all.'
Mrs Cary added they were 'flabbergasted' to earn the national recognition but admitted they were all really pleased with the way the project had come together, attracting 85 members before the work on the courts had even started.
The success of the project has helped improve tennis provision in the area, with the nearest other courts in Wymondham, Watton or Hardingham, as well as the impressive facilities at Easton Tennis Centre around 11 miles away, where there are eight indoor and four outdoor courts.
Head coach Howlett added: 'Lots of rural areas don't have much and the children always have to travel for activities, whereas now (in Hingham) they can come here and it's a real community hub, it's the same for the adults as well, who have taken to it and kind of made it theirs.
'I think it's brilliant and the community feel brings everyone together. The facilities at Easton are fantastic and hopefully everybody can access those as well and they put on events that we attend as well.
'So it's good to have those kind of central hubs but you also need those outside spokes in the wheel as well to really make it work.'
For more details about the club, and the full list of thanks to over 20 businesses for their support, go to clubspark.lta.org.uk/HinghamTennis