An end of an era for Norwich badminton club

A Norwich badminton club is looking for a new home. Derek James reports.

Once they brought babies in buggies, today it's more likely to be a bus pass, because some of this group of badminton players have been meeting since the 1970s.

The smiles in this picture are tinged with sadness as it marks the end of an era. The group must find somewhere else to play badminton after being forced to leave the Wensum Lodge sports hall.

'It's very sad to be leaving,' said Sheila Edwards.

'I have only been coming for 25 years. Some of them started when they had children in pushchairs and some of us are in our 70s now.'

The group began when people who had taken adult education badminton classes at Wensum Lodge stayed on to form a weekly group.

And they have been playing in the sports hall every Tuesday morning ever since.

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'It's very sociable,' said Sheila. 'It keeps us fit in mind and body. People come and people go but some of us have been playing for a long time.'

There are no leagues or competitions, just countless well-fought, fun matches over the decades. 'Badminton is a very crafty game. People think it's easy but it can be fast and furious,' said Sheila, who also works as a Norwich tourist guide and volunteers for the Citizens' Advice Bureau. The sports hall is part of the adult education centre at Wensum Lodge, on King Street, Norwich.

It is one of the first victims of council cutbacks, following the coalition government's spending review.

Norfolk County Council initially said it would need to spend around half a million pounds on repairs to the 1960s-built hall.

Earlier this month the Evening News revealed that the cost had been over-estimated by �120,000, but the county council insisted the hall would still have to close before Christmas.

'It's the end of an era but we took crackers and party poppers for our last session and we are hoping that we have found somewhere else,' said Sheila.

The group plan to meet at the University of East Anglia for a few weeks, but hope to return to continue playing badminton in a city centre venue early in the New Year.