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Exciting times for Wymondham Rugby Club as they prepare for big move

PUBLISHED: 16:20 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:20 11 October 2018

Wymondham Rugby Club members of all ages line up for a photograph at Barnard Fields Picture: BILL SMITH

Wymondham Rugby Club members of all ages line up for a photograph at Barnard Fields Picture: BILL SMITH

Archant

The option of playing towards the deep end or the shallow end will be a thing of the past when Wymondham RFC’s new £4.5m home on the outskirts of town is officially opened on Saturday week.

Wymondham's new clubhouse looks a picture in the autumn sunshine Picture: DENISE BRADLEYWymondham's new clubhouse looks a picture in the autumn sunshine Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Red and Blacks’ traditional base at Tuttles Lane, which they are leaving after more than 40 years, will always be fondly remembered – but drainage issues meant it wasn’t always the best place to run out for a game of rugby.

Ploughing through deep mud often made the game a battle of attrition rather than one that could be fully enjoyed, a fact not lost on press officer Andy Thomson who, like all the club’s 1,200 plus members, is excited at the impending switch to brand new facilities just down the road.

“Unfortunately pitches laid on clay get waterlogged most seasons and the joke used to be that the visiting teams were offered the choice of the deep end or the shallow end,” he explained.

“In the past the club has had to rent extra pitches at Browick Park in Wymondham so we’ve been operating on split sites.

“A fortune has been spent at our new base on preparing the pitches and installing drainage so hopefully there will be no more mud!”

The 30-acre site includes four full pitches for the club’s three senior sides and the successful Wymondham Wasps Ladies plus smaller playing areas for the strong Minis and Youth sections.

The striking two storey clubhouse boasts state-of-the-art changing rooms and physio facilities, meeting rooms, function areas and bars on both floors while there is also a full-length balcony for spectators to watch games on the first team pitch.

With Wymondham pressing for promotion from London Three Eastern Counties, and preparing to welcome leaders Holt for their first game at the new ground – which will be known as Barnard Fields – club captain Josh Wright says these are exciting times.

“I started playing at the club when I was five and I am nearly 30 now so I have been waiting for this day for a long time!” he said.

“I have had a lot of happy times at Tuttles Lane and I will be sad to see it go, but basically it was a case of outgrowing the purpose. If we wanted to fully develop as a club we needed to find a new home - and I am sure the ground we have now will help us move forward.

“It has been done properly and really is impressive. It’s a great place to play rugby, and enjoy yourselves afterwards, and I am sure it will help attract new players.”

Wymondham RFC was founded in 1972 by friends in a pub and they played their first games in borrowed shirts on the town’s High School pitches.

A big step forward came when enough land for a single pitch off Tuttles Lane was acquired, named the Foster Harrison Memorial Ground, and it wasn’t long before a second pitch was added on a neighbouring field.

With the current clubhouse being added in the early 1980s the club was truly up and running but as membership grew, and more and players ran out on pitches that were susceptible to waterlogging, it gradually became clear that a move would be in the best interests of all concerned.

“Relocation plans began at least 15 years ago but we were never able to get enough value out of the old 10 acre site,” explained Thomson.

“It gets complicated but essentially the need for more homes in the greater Norwich area meant we could team up with a local farmer, who is a big supporter of the club, to put in a joint development application for our site and some of his land.

“That generated the cash for the move and the farmer - Robert Barnard and his dad Alan - gave us the land so we are ever so slightly in their debt! Hence Barnard Fields.”

Next Saturday’s official opening will be carried out by former England hooker Tom Youngs, who has strong links with Wymondham’s opponents Holt.

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