Award winning sports broadcaster Clare Balding made a surprise appearance last week at the opening of Ursuline High School’s first playing fields since the school opened 125 years ago.
Ursuline playing fields were originally part of the former Atkinson Morley Hospital grounds, purchased by developer Berkeley Homes for housing. Part of the grounds renamed Morley Park will be leased to the Ursuline for 99 years by the council who will be the freeholder of the land.
The new playing fields include pitches and a pavilion including modern changing rooms and an indoor space for wet weather conditions.
Cabinet Member for Education, Cllr Caroline Cooper Marbiah said; “Ursuline High School is one of the borough’s oldest as well as one of Merton’s top performing schools. It is excellent to see the school benefit from these modern sport facilities, encouraging participation in sports for future generations of Ursuline pupils.”
Cllr Nick Draper, Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Community and Culture, added: “The Ursuline Playing Fields is an excellent example of partnership working between the private and public sector. Merton’s business-like approach meant we were able to negotiate for the school to receive part of the land as playing fields following the generosity of Berkeley homes who passed the site on to the local authority as part of the planning agreement.
He concluded: “A huge congratulations and our heartfelt thanks goes to Councillor Andrew Judge, who over the last six years played a lead role in this project, bringing all the partners together and ensuring the land was secured for the enjoyment and benefit of future generation of Ursuline pupils.”
Ursuline High School head teacher, Julia Waters said: “This is a big step forward for girls sports at the Ursuline. We are delighted that girls will finally be able to play football regularly and host fixtures. Thank you to the local authority and Berkeley homes for all they have done to secure this provision.”
At the official opening TV sports presenter Clare Balding highlighted the importance of sport in life including commitment, perseverance and the ability to pick yourself up after a loss and come back stronger.
She said: “I wasn’t good at sport and spent more than my fair share of time on the bench. But it never stopped me enjoying it. Women’s success in sport is now overtaking the men’s teams as we have seen with recent performances in cricket hockey and football.”