A case study on Stokeinteignhead Fencers, part of the Active Villages Programme
Budding sword fighters in Stokeinteignhead have given their support to a Devon project that has helped thousands of people in rural communities across the county get involved in sport.
Fencing coach Ute Scholl runs popular classes in the village hall and local primary school, made possible with funding from Devon’s Active Villages programme.
The scheme is now up for a national award and Stokeinteignhead’s fencers are backing the bid to make Devon No 1.
“I have told everyone in my classes to vote for Active Villages. It’s an absolutely fantastic project. Devon has vast rural areas and to get people involved in activities close to where they live is essential,” said Ute.
Twenty people from six-years-old to seventy plus take part in her fencing classes. It is one of many success stories for the Devon Active Villages project, which has helped more than 12,000 people take part in sport on their doorstep.
The scheme was launched in 2010 by Active Devon with a National Lottery grant and funding from Devon County Council.
Active Villages was the only regional project in England nominated for a 2013 National Lottery Sports Award.
Overall around 155 villages will benefit from the backing of Devon Active Villages.
Ute, a Level 2 coach who first learnt to fence in her native Germany, was keen to make her sport available to villagers in Stokeinteignhead. She gives her time and expertise for free but needed some help with the £1,800 bill for equipment and hall hire.
It costs around £240 for one set of kit – a specialist mask, jacket, gloves, under-jacket and weapon. Ute paid for equipment for the seven children in her school class out of her own pocket. With help of Active Villages and local government funding she was able to kit out her adult group.
“Without Active Devon it wouldn’t have been possible. I was able to offer sessions for free and the response has been amazing,” said Ute. “People use the classes for both fitness and as a social activity, which is important in rural communities.
“The children really love it. It teaches them so many things – discipline, physical and mental agility, stamina, hand-eye co-ordination, how to take care of other people and a respect for rules and regulations.”
Ute didn’t have trouble finding recruits – “Who hasn’t wanted to be Zorro at some time in their lives!”
Ben Ayres is development co-ordinator for Active Villages in Teignbridge. He said: “This programme has been really successful so far. We have got lots of communities on board and many people are getting involved in new sports all the time which helps improve health and fitness and provides people with opportunities to get involved with a new activity in their community.”