Dorset's Thriving Walking Netball Scene

Posted November 1, 2023 by Poppy O'Reilly

Each week we bring you a good news story from across the South West as part of our WedNEWSday articles.

Tucked away behind the busy A31 dual carriageway in Dorset, is the St Leonards and St Ives Village Hall, home to the Ashley Heath WI and their newly formed Walking Netball group. This has all come about thanks to the energy of the WI Walking Netball Ambassador, Gaynor Waring, and Ashley Heath WI Chair, Sue Coleman. Between them they promoted the idea of Walking Netball to the WI and the wider Ashley Heath community and worked with the St Leonards and St Ives Parish Council who have provided netball posts and access to the village hall.

The initiative is an incredible success with over 50 ladies participating throughout the first 15 sessions and each week there are over 20 attendees with many ladies in their late 70s/early 80s. Most have not played netball since school and came along for their first session out of curiosity, yet they are now hooked, and netball Tuesdays have become the highlight of the week.

Sarah Clark, Dorset Netball Development Officer, has been running the sessions and she commented that “Tuesday afternoons make my heart sing, hearing the laughter and chatter and seeing the improvement week by week is just unbelievable”.

The group do a warm up, then work on basic ball skills and movements as well as defending and shooting activities. Each week they do some match play and participants are encouraged to join in with as much or as little as they want to. The group have noticed improvement in their fitness, their balance, their coordination and most importantly in their wellbeing. There is a family feel to the group and mum and daughter June and Heather Laird attend together most weeks and June’s granddaughters Annabelle Laird and Charlotte Court have also attended.

Although this is a WI group, it is also open to the St Leonards and St Ives Community and this has led to new friendships and also new members of the WI. The group are keen to continue, and Jenny Elliot, Catriona Johnson and Susan Carter attended the England Netball Walking Netball Host course in October and will take over the group with the support of Sarah Clark.

If you have a good news story that you would like to share please send your story and a picture to the South West Regional Officer (

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