It had looked as if Herne Hill Velodrome, which was built in 1891 and is the last remaining finals venue from the 1948 Olympic Games, might be forced to close this year. The Southwark track is regularly used by hundreds of people, including elite cyclists, keen amateurs, schools, Cyclo-Cross and local families. However, over the years the venue has been deteriorating and is in desperate need of refurbishment. It was unable to get financial backing as long as landlords Dulwich Estate refused to sign a long-term lease.
So local parent Hillary Peachey set up the Save Herne Hill Velodrome campaign because, as she put it :
“It seems shameful that, with 2012 approaching, London cannot even sustain the facilities it has.”
The campaign brought together politicians, including Dulwich MP Tessa Jowell, local celebrities such as comedian Jenny Eclair and actor James Nesbitt, families, bike shops, cyclists and schools. As Bill Wright of British Cycling put it:
“There just isn’t anywhere else where we can do cycling with the proper facilities in south London. It’s a brilliant, traffic-free venue for kids to cycle.”
British Cycling will now foot the £30,000 bill for resurfacing the track. It is hoped that further funds will now be found to renovate the rest of the site.
The Southwark branch of the London Cycling Campaign has actively supported the campaign including raising a donation of £1,000. Spokesperson Barry Mason told Londonist that he was “absolutely delighted” about Dulwich Estate’s change of heart, but emphasised what now matters is to ensure that the new track remains an inclusive community resource, accessible not only to top athletes, but to all cyclists, young and old, whatever their ability.
It is hoped the velodrome will become a ‘feeder’ venue for the Stratford Olympic track. With questions continuing over the legacy of the 2012 Games, Herne Hill Velodrome could represent the perfect legacy of Britain’s 1948 Games. It was here, after all, that Reg Harris won the silver medal in the 1,000m sprint in 1948. It is also where triple Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins, cut his teeth as a competitor. Maybe among the 500 local children who use the track every weekend are the Harrises and Wigginses of the future.
Herne Hill Velodrome has an open day on Good Friday, 22 April with free taster courses, demonstrations and talks.