Young urban acrobats are head over heels with the opening of the second largest training park of its kind in the country in Ellesmere Port.
Twelve months ago the construction of the parkour circuit in Whitby Park was made possible by the award of £66,780 from not for profit business WREN.
The feature is the first training park of its kind in the area and the largest outside London.
The sport, which originated in France in the 1980s, is described as a form of urban acrobatics in which participants use the landscape to perform acrobatic movements in order to get from one place to another involving vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping.
It is also known as free-running.
Equipment includes structures and obstacles designed to improve strength through pull-ups, balance beams, climbing blocks and overhead bars all with appropriate safety surfacing.
There are more than 40 different moves and significant strength and physical training is required in order to stay safe.
The grant was the result of three years hard work by the Parkour Collective, a 12-strong group of local free running enthusiasts aged between 15-23.
The group helped develop the project with the borough council’s Our Place team and Groundwork Cheshire with support from The Friends of Whitby Park.
David Tai, senior manager in the Our Place team said at the time: “I’m extremely proud of the Parkour Collective for the effort they’ve put in to make this project a reality. Projects like this give young people in the area a safe way to have fun and keep fit.”
Stefan Green, 22, a member of the collective said: “When I found out that we’d got the funding from WREN and the project was going ahead I was very happy. We’ve waited a long time and done everything we can to make the facility happen.”
He explained: “We originally got into parkour through videos on YouTube and decided to give it a go. Parkour gives us something fun and active to do, better than being stuck inside on the computer or getting into trouble.”
The parkour area is located adjacent to the BMX /skate park in Whitby Park.
Mr Tai added: “As an area which has historically lacked investment in facilities like this, there is now a real opportunity to drive things forward in Ellesmere Port.
“We hope the project will have an impact in raising the profile of and interest in parkour and that more local young people can get involved in this brilliant activity.”
Free to use
Now officially open the ground-breaking parkour training area, which is free to use, is providing yet another attraction in the popular Green Flag park.
The council says it provides an innovative way for people of all ages to keep fit, build strength and stamina or simply watch the more experienced negotiate the obstacles.
Costing £104,000 overall, it has been funded through the borough council, WREN’s FCC Community Action Fund and Britvic and has been supported by Groundwork.
Mayor of Ellesmere Port Lynn Clare, who performed the sod-cutting ceremony to mark the start of construction, said: “This project has been in the pipeline for a couple of years following concerns raised by members of the public about free running in the town centre.
“Since then, we have been working with the Ellesmere Port and Cheshire Parkour Collective to provide a place where experienced free-runners and those new to the discipline can train in relative safety.
“The Collective have built a positive reputation for themselves and the discipline in Ellesmere Port and, with the support of Groundwork, have led on the consultation and design phases of the project.”
Richard Smith, senior grant manager for WREN, said: “We were delighted to support such a ground-breaking project in Ellesmere Port. This is the £200 millionth project funded by WREN so we are particularly pleased to mark this milestone with an investment in something so unique and innovative.”
He added: “WREN is always happy to consider grant applications for projects that make a real difference to local communities and having fantastic facilities in such great locations as Whitby Park is really important to people’s health, wellbeing and happiness”.
Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders (Lab), who was at the opening, took to social media to comment: “Good to be at the opening of the new parkour area at Whitby Park. Apparently it is the biggest free parkour area outside London so a real feather in the cap for Ellesmere Port!”