Paralympic tennis player Louise Hunt from Wanborough took some time off from training and competing in tournaments around the world to open some new sections of pathway in Stanton Park woodlands to the east of Swindon.
The upgrading of these paths, together with replacement of several bridges have been made possible with lottery funding from Ecominds that was awarded to LEAVES in partnership with Swindon Borough Council.
LEAVES provides meaningful work for people recovering from mental illness, with employment opportunities ranging from the collection of recycling materials and bulky waste items together with delivery of wheelie bins and recycling boxes for Swindon Commercial Services through to sales of compost and woodchip, garden maintenance and woodland conservation projects.
Improved access for wheelchairs and pushchairs
LEAVES manager, Bob Astbury, explained “This project has provided continuity of employment for our gardening teams during the winter months for the last two years and also given us the opportunity to develop new skills. We have already taken on similar work elsewhere in the town and it has been great to also leave a legacy that improves access for wheelchairs and pushchairs for future generations. ”
Louise has just returned from Switzerland where she won the doubles title and was narrowly beaten in the singles final. She gave an inspirational talk to invited guests and LEAVES members before embarking on a tour of the woodland that would not have been possible prior to completion of this work.
This was her first visit to Stanton Park in her home town and she is looking forward to returning. She said: “I will be able to come back with my family who enjoy walking but have had to stick to pavements and roads in the past.
"This would also be a good place for other wheelchair users to bring their dogs for a good exercise run”
Hunt lands Swiss doubles title on 2013 debut
Louise Hunt bids to make it three titles from two tournaments this weekend when she contests the Sheffield Wheelchair Tennis Tournament, Britain’s third world ranking event of the year on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, after celebrating her 2013 debut last week at the Biel-Bienne Indoors in Switzerland by winning the women’s doubles.
Hunt partnered Italy’s Marianna Lauro to victory after the top seeds defeated Annabelle Ribeaud of Switzerland and Micha Spaanstra-de-Vos of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-3, but Hunt narrowly missed out on lifting a brace of title as she faced her doubles partner in the women’s singles final.
After a bye into the quarter-finals second seed Hunt was due to face Swiss player Gabriela Buehler in her first match. But with Buehler subsequently having to withdraw from the tournament Hunt was awarded a walkover and eventually made her seasonal bow against Belgium’s Sofie Cox, who the Wiltshire player dominated for a 6-1, 6-0 semi-final victory.
However, top seed Lauro proved to be a tougher proposition and the Italian eventually edged out Hunt 6-3, 6-4.
Louise is number 22 in the women’s singles world rankings
Nevertheless, Hunt has moved up one place to No.22 in this week’s women’s singles world rankings and was satisfied with her performance at her first tournament since November.
“It was great to be back into competition, but it was a strange situation to not be playing a match until the semi-finals,” said Hunt, one of four Brits on the Tennis Foundation’s Wheelchair Tennis Performance Programme who contested the Swiss tournament. “I then only lost one game to reach the final and if I’ve had the quarter-final I would have had extra match practice before plying Marianna. That said, I was pleased with the way I played and although I lost it was because she was the better player on the day and not because I didn’t play well, because I did.”
Top seed at Sheffield tournament
Hunt will be top seed for this weekend’s Sheffield tournament, which is a new addition to the roster of British-based world ranking events. Her main opposition in an all-British field is likely to come from world No. 1 ranked junior Lauren Jones. Hunt and Jones will also pair up for the women’s doubles as they bid to add to back-to-back doubles titles at another of Britain’s ITF Futures Series events in Cardiff.