Active Communities in Bridgwater is a Sport England funded project which aims to offer opportunities for more people to become active in certain areas of Bridgwater, Somerset. This is being achieved by developing activities to encourage and support people within those communities to become more active, making use of the facilities and green spaces in the area and offering training to ensure sustainability. It is hoped by offering free or low cost activities for the duration of the project, will help to change habits and so activity will become a way of life to a large number of people in the community.
The project is focused on Sydenham and Bower Housing Estates which are an area of high deprivation and significant health inequalities resulting in people living there likely to die on average 5 years earlier than other areas of Somerset. Sydenham is the most deprived ward in Somerset and nationally ranks in the bottom 5% (IMD). Sydenham has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy, self-harm and young Mums in Somerset. Unemployment rates are significantly above county, regional and national averages (locally 10.6% compared to nationally 8.1%) meaning that finance for sport and activity is often not prioritised hence the need to increase activity through using the natural environment at low or no cost as well as providing affordable solutions to enable families to use local sports facilities. The adult and childhood obesity levels (at Year 6) are as follows 73.4% locally compared with 63.8% nationally and 62.7% regionally.
The partnership driving the project forward is with Sedgemoor District Council, Bridgwater College Academy, Bridgwater Sports Centre, Rollercoaster Youth Club and Redgate Medical Centre. Other partners involved in this project are Bridgwater YMCA, Get Set Children’s Services, Sustrans and Bridgwater Together Team that include the local councils, Knightstone Housing Association, Police,
Fire and Rescue, health and education providers and advice and support services. Most importantly is working in partnership with the residents in the locality. Somerset Activity & Sports Partnership are at the centre of all these partnerships and have a role in leading the management steering group, pushing objectives forward with stakeholders, setting up new partnerships but also delivering many of the physical activity sessions.
Sessions are free, take place at various venues and are for all ages. Sessions have been provided for children as young as 2 to activities for those in their 80’s. These are some of the activities that take place,
- Buggy Walks – Fresh air, exercise and chat with like-minded mums!
- Cheeky Monkeys – Fun activities and song to get your little one active.
- Walking Football - For those who used to play but can't get around like they used to,
- Ladies Running – Fun, safe and supportive group for complete beginners to get in to running.
- Mums and Daughters Rounder’s – Social rounder’s for mums. daughters, aunties, nans etc.
- Boccia – A seated game, similar to Bowls or French Boule.
- Pilates – A gentle introduction to Pilates.
- Play in the Park – Fun activities and games for all the family to get involved in.
- Somerset Bounce – Girls only dance class with a twist, you’re on springs!
- Multi-Sport Youth Club – Fun activities, no coaching for 11 – 16 year olds
Much consultation was undertaken with partners and residents to determine how to approach this community, what activities to be offered and the key influencers among residents. There were many ‘meet and greet’ evenings, meetings in the local McDonalds where the young peopled hung out and also organised walks with young people, so they could show us there ‘hang out’ places in the park, why they avoid certain areas and their attitudes towards physical activity. This then allowed us to plan our programme and activities. Throughout the programme we constantly gathered data on resident’s thoughts and feelings towards activities and reacted to the demand.
This particular project has had a profound impact on Abigail, and who we are focusing our project nomination on. The draw of buggy walks then turned into the use of outdoor gym equipment and fitness circuits.
I am a mum of four young boys so time for myself has never been a priority for me. I used to be active as a child but as I got older and had children this fell beside the wayside and other things became more important in my life. After having the boys I put on quite a bit of weight, which coupled with being away from work knocked my confidence.
I saw a flyer in the school newsletter for buggy walks but wasn't confident enough to go on my own. I begged my friend to come with me and she did. The first walk was very gentle which I enjoyed and for the next week I persuaded another friend to come along.
Over the weeks other mums joined us and I started building a nice group of friends who I met once a week for a walk and to socialise with.
I started to look forward to a Friday morning and as the confidence of myself and the other mums grew, Laura the walk leader suggested we have a go on the gym equipment at the park at the beginning of the sessions. I felt comfortable with the group and Laura to give it a go - before long we were doing this as a weekly part of the session and also a little circuit of exercises around the park while the kids played. For the first time in my life I could do pull ups and it felt great!
I looked forward to our weekly meets not just for the social side but also for the exercise - to try and challenge myself a bit more. In February I was diagnosed with a milk allergy- this and the confidence I had gained gave me the kick up the bum to look after myself and take time for me- I wanted to exercise more, I wanted to think about what I ate and choose healthier options - I was feeling good. Since starting buggy walks I have lost 21lbs in weight and have recently started thinking I would like to try running- and would love to aim to complete a 5k run.
Laura let us know about a buggy walk leader course that was coming up and encouraged me to go on it, I thought why not! I am now a qualified health walk/buggy leader and from January I will be the new lead of the buggy walk group in Sydenham. I am busy chatting to mums and meeting new people trying to recruit them - something I would never have had the confidence to do before.
I have also enrolled back at college and start a fitness instructor course in March which I can't wait to start.
Thanks to buggy walks I have made some great friends and have gained the confidence to invest in myself again - it feels great!