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Lesnes Abbey Park, Bexley, Southeast London


A brand new Freemove Parkour site was recently unveiled in the Southeast London Borough of Bexley. Located in the heart of Lesnes Abbey Woods within the recreation ground which includes a Multi-Use Games Area, children’s playground and climbing rocks, the new facility welcomes practitioners of all ages and levels.

Bexley Council has been able to embark on a large-scale regeneration scheme to improve the Park’s facilities thanks to a £3.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The £45,000 parkour site is part of an initiative to provide teenagers with modern sports facilities. Other site improvements include a new bicycle pump track, pathways and signage.

An active group of local enthusiasts had expressed a desire to have a designated space to practice without being seen as a nuisance by the residents, and they helped the Parks and Open Spaces team to bring the project to life. Luisa Baker, project manager for the council, says: “We invited the practitioners to a series of five consultation sessions to gather their opinions and involve them in the design process. Up to 25 youngsters aged from 16 to 25 years old turned up at one meeting. The project was really important for them as they are tired of being seen as troublemakers by some members of the community. They are keen to show people that Parkour is about positive lifestyle and has nothing to do with anti-social behaviour.”

Freemove business manager Leon Wilson also attended the consultation sessions. “We made sure to come up with a design that would meet their expectations, so we created distinct zones with varying levels of difficulty to make the training facility accessible to beginners as well as challenging enough for experienced practitioners. The site offers a good balance between low-level units, precision jump features and underbar elements.”

A lot of freerunners showed impressive moves during a demonstration event staged at one of the Council’s regular community engagement sessions and we took the opportunity to ask them what their first impression was. Hayden, who came all the way from Gravesend in Kent, commented: “It’s a good site, very geared towards bars and height training, with plenty of possibilities to do things on. It would be good in the future to add some wall blocks and ground level rails for people who are less adept with bars and rails.”

Hayden believes that the park will have a great impact on the local community’s lifestyle. “It’s definitely going to inspire young people in the neighbourhood and give them something to look up to. And it will keep them busy.” Another Parkour expert concurred: “It’s really important to give a proper space for freerunners, where kids can start with the right equipment and get help from more experienced traceurs. Parkour is about self-progression and mentoring others, so it really sets youth on the right path.”

Leon added: “The training session organised by our partner Parkour Generation illustrated that point, with coaches James and Juwad teaching a crowd of children how to swing under a bar and master a cat leap at ground level. Local mums even joined the warm-up session, but had yet to jump over a wall when we left the party!"

www.bexley.gov.uk



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