At the end of last year, I moved “back home” to Kent, where I grew up, after
17, er quite a few um… “some” years away.
It’s been strange to drive around the areas in which I lived and went to school. Familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time.
And so it was with a mixture of nostalgia (for Folkestone of the 90s) and excitement (for Folkestone’s future) that I went along to the grand opening of the Three Hills Sports Park, just a short drive from my house. As you drive through the entrance, there on the right-hand side is the old cricket pavilion, the site of many a sixth-form “free period”. It was adjacent to the boys’ school and a supermarket, you see. Win/win.
If sitting on the clapped-out old pavilion and arguing the merits of Oasis vs Blur represent the past of the Three Hills site, the grand opening made very clear that its future is full of opportunity.
Entirely funded by a donation from the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust (with the land provided on a 125 year lease from Shepway District Council), the £7.8m facility is owned and run by The Cheriton Road Sports Ground Trust, a registered charity comprising volunteers from Folkestone Cricket Club and Optimist Hockey Club. The result is a centre of excellence for cricket, hockey and netball, with some of the best sporting facilities of their type in the country.
It will be home to Folkestone Cricket Club, Folkestone Optimists hockey, Folkestone Running Club, Folkestone netball and Folkestone Dynamos youth football teams. But Three Hills is also – in fact primarily – a community facility, available to anyone in the area who needs indoor or outdoor space to practice or play sport.
Rt Hon Hugh Robertson MP, Minister for Sport and Tourism, opened the facility, congratulating the designers for “a cutting-edge design that not only looks fantastic but really works well.” The Three Hills project began back in 2005, when we won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. In his speech, Hugh Robertson said that Three Hills embodies the Olympic Legacy – a term we often hear overused and misused, but don’t often see put into bricks and mortar. “I think taking sport to young people and helping them achieve their ambitions is exactly what the Olympic Legacy should mean,” he said. “Three Hills Sports Park brings a fantastic opportunity to young people in Folkestone that simply didn’t exist beforehand.”
I loved going on a tour of the brand-new facility, which includes a pavilion, sports hall, small gym, outdoor pitches, a function room (with great views) and facilities for disability sport. There were more than 300 primary school children there on the day, playing hockey, football and cricket indoors and outdoors. The place was buzzing and it was clear that every inch of the space will be a huge boost to grass-roots community sport in the area.
Freedom Leisure will manage the outdoor pitches at Three Hills, which are designed for national standard hockey, county and club cricket and regional netball. Freedom will also manage the indoor facilities (a first-class indoor sports hall supporting cricket, hockey, netball and other sports, a gym and a dedicated youth area). Three Hills is Freedom Leisure’s 34th site (its third in Kent).
Jeff Hart, Managing Director of Freedom Leisure said, “We are delighted to be working with The Cheriton Road Sports Ground Trust to operate the Three Hills Sports Park. It offers first class sporting facilities for the local community, nearby schools and sports clubs as well as national and international athletes. It is an exciting development and we are looking forward to fulfilling its many objectives.”
If you work with kids or have kids of your own and live in Shepway or nearby, take a look at Three Hills Sports Park’s website, Three Hills Sports Park on Twitter and Three Hills Sports Park on Facebook. It’s a great facility and we’re lucky to have it.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.