Olympic gold for Winnersh MeadowsBy Jon Nurse
May 25, 2012
An Olympic gold medallist opened a community recreation spot that was being wasted as a “hidden space”.
Winnersh Meadows was officially opened on Saturday by rower Zac Purchase and Wokingham borough mayor Councillor Dianne King.
The meadows has undergone a £100,000 transformation, thanks to years of work from Winnersh Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG).
A free afternoon of activities was laid on to celebrate the opening.
Project manager Henrietta Simpson said: “It was just an open space before used by dog owners – and that was about it. I thought it was such a lovely space the first time I saw it and it looks so nice now.”
The area has had 1,400 metres of footpath installed, as well as a basketball area, goal post, outdoor gym, picnic tables and benches, bins and signs.
A wildflower meadow has been planted together with a community orchard with English apple and pear varieties.
Winnersh NAG member Roberta Tweedy said: “This used to be a hidden space. A couple turned up today that have lived here for 35 years before they knew this existed – now they walk here every day.”
The family fun day included archery, a penalty shoot out, a large climbing frame, demolition ball game, rowing machines, dog show and barbecue cooked by the 1st Winnersh Scouts.
Olympian Zac Purchase set a time on the rowing machines for passers-by to try to beat.
The rower said: “I’m glad I was able to move my training around to make it – it’s been a fantastic day. It’s good to see people enjoying this open space that will be here for a long time.”
The rower, hoping for success at this summer’s games in London, brought his gold medal from Beijing to the opening.
“It’s going down very well,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to share it and my experiences with people.”
James Sutton brought his family across from Barkham for the celebration.
“There’s more here than I expected,” he said. “Everyone’s made a real effort today and it looks great. The archery is great fun.”
Mark Skellend, of Jersey Drive, said: “It’s good here. I’ve only really come over with my family since it’s been done. They’re enjoying the day. I can see the children are happy and we’ve entered our dog into the dog show."
The transformation of the Winnersh Meadows came about through a £50,000 lottery grant, matched by £50,000 from Wokingham Borough Council and £9,000 from Winnersh Parish Council.
Cllr King said: “Lots of people have been working together to get this to happen and it now looks like a really interesting place for Winnersh to have. It’s nice to see so many people out today and I hope it continues to be well used in the future.”
Improvements will continue in the meadows too, with more than 300 trees to be planted and a trim trail assault course set to arrive later this year.
Pat Rowell, chairman of Winnersh NAG, said: “It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been worth it.”