Wellow Valley Tennis Club, one of Team Bath Tennis’ satellite centres, is in contention for a national award – just two years after it was officially opened.
It is on the national shortlist for Community Venue of the Year at the Aegon British Tennis Awards after winning regional awards from both Avon County LTA and LTA South West.
Wellow Valley’s courts were opened in July 2015 and, within a year, more than 400 members had joined the village club, located five miles south of Bath. It receives support from Team Bath, with Tom Ellis – Head of Club Coaching at the University of Bath – organising regular coaching sessions and playing opportunities.
The two floodlit tennis courts are the main focus of a larger Wellow Sports facility built on a disused football pitch in the village. It now also boasts an outdoor gym, jogging track, seven-a-side football pitch, two full-sized cricket nets, a boules court and a completely refurbished playing field.
Barry Scollo, Director of Tennis at Team Bath, was an early supporter of the scheme in 2012 and helped to secure £120,000 of funding from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and Sport England, which grew to around £260,000 thanks to further grants, donations and fundraising activities.
Both the Avon County and LTA South West Community Venue awards were presented to Andy Smith, Chairman of Wellow Valley Tennis, and former Chairman Debbie Clarkson on Saturday as the club hosted a popular Great British Tennis Weekend event.
Avon County Secretary Clive Sampson, who presented the awards, said they were won against a very strong field and added it was an incredible achievement for a club that only started two years ago.
“It is a great honour and delight to receive these regional awards and to progress to the national finals,” said Smith.
“Avon County, LTA South West and the University of Bath have been huge supporters of the club. Avon County has been involved from day one and donated a vital £8,000 to the initial project just when funds were running dry.
“One thing so special about the club is the organic growth achieved by networking and in no small measure the influence of Team Bath Tennis. They put the word out about Wellow Valley and now 35 per cent of our members are drawn from 25 small communities in the area.
“If it hadn’t been for the faith and commitment of Barry and his team, Wellow Valley wouldn’t have had that network to grow.”
Wellow Sports continues to thrive and fundraisers are now closing in on £80,000 for a new pavilion, which will be located next to the tennis courts.
“The pavilion will be built by the Parish Council, serving the whole community and run by Wellow Valley Tennis to stimulate even greater sporting activity on the playing field,” said Smith.
“In its first year the playing field had more than 13,000 users which was a massive boost from a field only previously used for walking dogs and kicking a ball around.”