16 Aug Keely Bunton, Project Officer at Hadleigh Park, talks about living the Olympic Legacy…
With Rio 2016 in full flow, I’m reflecting on London 2012 as a stepping stone in my personal journey.
While that phrase can be a cliché, for me it has real meaning as it put me on the road to a career here at Hadleigh Park, a job I find incredibly fulfilling and one that is really helping deliver the 2012 Olympic legacy.
I was already a Junior Cycling National Time Trial Champion over 25 miles and a coach for the Under 12’s Essex initiated ‘Mud Sweat and Gears’ series when I decided to become one of London’s 2012 Games Makers.
The experience – exhilarating and exhausting at the same time – made me realise I wanted a career in sport.
I already had contact with Hadleigh Park while I was a British Cycling ‘Go-ride’ coach, so when the opportunity arose to get involved further with the Olympic mountain bike venue, I jumped at the chance.
In the three years since 2012, the park continues to be a world class venue for elite sport, but has now been re-invented as a family leisure destination.
Cycling still has a central role to play, but has been repacked to appeal to all through an academy style club. We invite mums to join up their children aged two and over to start on a Balance Bike programme that develops fundamental biking skills all beginners need like agility and co-ordination. Children progress through the ‘Go-ride’ skills programme that builds confidence so they can ride without stabilisers and join the rest of the family. The park now boasts nearly 20km of unique family trails suitable for all abilities.
My role within the team is increasingly focused on developing Hadleigh as a great day out for non-cyclists. We have play areas with special provisions for the under 5’s, buggy trails for mums to enjoy, picnic areas, Parkour for slightly older children, archery, kayaking, sailing and orienteering. We even have an Iron Age roundhouse that’s great for indoor learning and outdoor action!
The highlight of my year so far has been managing the Hadleigh International event; the first International mountain biking event in the UK since London 2012 and staged just prior to Rio. It attracted over 3,500 people including riders and their teams, family, friends and the local community.
I see the park as leaving a living legacy for people in Essex and the challenge now is to put Hadleigh Park on the map, not just for the cycling community, but as a great way for families across the county to get motivated and active with all the benefits that brings to our health and wellbeing. Hadleigh, as part of Active Essex and in partnership with ECC and Sport England, is committed to getting people moving. I’m really looking forward to being part of that…