Our community, sport and recreation club has steadily grown since it was formed more than 20 years ago to become one of the most influential and successful archery clubs in the UK!
As one of the original members I am privileged still to be an active part of our amazing volunteer workforce. Our successes are charted throughout our history but perhaps the magnitude of our achievements was best illustrated when we became the Sport and Recreation Alliance National Sports Club of the Year in 2011.
Since that moment we have gone on to be recognised outside our sport for green policies, volunteer management, coach development, work in the community and for our archery performances. Our Governing Body, Archery GB, have awarded us the title 'Club of the Year' (twice) and we have received many Special Commendations for our continued contribution to our sport, our community, our numerous innovative programmes and our engagement of young people.
In true Deer Park Archers fashion we raised the bar in 2013 when we became homeless and needed to find a new ground to accommodate a fast growing and active club. Working together, organizing amazing fundraising events and with some luck to identify an affordable plot of land, just one year later we were the proud owners of our own field and woodland on a derelict reclaimed inert material landfill site - we had the vision to see its full potential!
During subsequent years we fund raised tirelessly to develop our facilities and we improved our environment planting thousands of trees and turning an unused swamp into a beautiful home for our club.
Our vision of being much more than just a venue and more than just a group of enthusiasts shooting arrows was becoming a reality!
As our role in the community grew so did our membership. We have become one of the biggest archery clubs in the UK and seen our ‘on the field of play’ performances gaining international recognition for many of our archers and coaches.
However, throughout our history we have never stopped maintaining our values of being affordable, inclusive, developing the whole person not just the archer and helping everyone to achieve their potential regardless of what that is!
We have remained at the forefront of being inclusive and 18% of our membership have some form of disability. Thanks to our sponsors 'The Worshipful Company of Fletchers' we have organised inclusive shoots for many years.
Our field course
Included in our original land purchase was an area of woodland with our boundary being a stream, this area was mirrored by a similar area of woodland on the other side of the stream. Combining these two areas offered potential to develop our own field course, the local farmer was approached and he generously allowed us to ‘treat it as our own’.
So paths were cleared, steps made, bridges built, the course has become special in so many ways, technically challenging in a well maintained setting that is very sensitive to our flora and fauna. Importantly our Archers and those from other clubs in the county have been given an alternative to Target Archery not to mention all those volunteers who just like working outdoors.
Five years of complimentary use has given us the opportunity to develop the course and prove its worth. But time moves on and now the farmer wants to sell the surrounding land and has offered us the chance to buy his area of the woodland that we use, plus crucially, the adjacent access lane.
The impact of COVID
So 18 months ago we began the process of raising the money. Things were going well and then the COVID crisis hit us hard. To secure our immediate future we needed to ensure that we could offer our members (and those from other clubs in difficulty) somewhere to shoot in the winter six months, we could no longer rely on using indoor facilities. We needed urgently to make our facilities functional all-year round, to make an all-weather, floodlit shooting area. We took the difficult decision to prioritise this project over the land purchase and reallocate our savings and 2 months later we have done it! Our all-weather floodlit shooting area has exceeded our expectations, confirming that we made the correct decision.
Prior to the COVID crisis we submitted grant applications to help us fund the purchase of the land and the all-weather floodlit facilities but in this very difficult environment, despite being highly praised for the quality and validity of our applications, we were unsuccessful.
That's why we had to use our savings. The new COVID enabling all-weather floodlit facilities cost us £13,800 together with very generous practical support from Elliott’s (Cheltenham) Ltd and an amazing number of volunteer workforce hours. We managed to find this money with the help of a grant of £4,000 given two years ago by The Worshipful Company of Fletchers which we had saved up.
The money we need
Cancelled and postponed events because of the COVID crisis have impacted on our ability to raise income. The cost of the all-weather floodlit facilities and being unsuccessful with the recent grant applications has left us short on funds to buy the new land which will cost £17,000 including legal costs.
Using the remainder of our savings, we believe we can cover up to £7,000 of the required amount.
Our crowdfunding project is therefore aimed at raising £10,000 which will allow us to achieve our vision.
Return to Archery
The improvements we have made to our procedures and facilities have allowed us to return, we were one of the first sports to restart and one of the first archery clubs back!
The steps we have taken have allowed us to increase our membership and accommodate other clubs' members to use our facilities. These improvements have also dramatically improved the accessibility and independence for those members with restricted mobility.
This successful return has also been mirrored by our short-mat-bowls and Men-in-Sheds sections.
Throughout the first lockdown we supported those on Shielding Programmes, both members and non-members, to use our facilities. The second lockdown has made things even more challenging, needless to say we fully support the latest measures however frustrating this is.
We have an amazing team of volunteers, supporting all aspects of our day to day running of the club. General maintenance and development of the outdoor facilities including, the field course, is led by a combination of our own Men-in-Sheds team and our general volunteering group that both meet regularly. These groups have grown in strength with outdoor activities being far more acceptable in the current climate.
Our site was previously an inert material landfill site. We have almost eradicated the Japanese Knot Weed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed we inherited in 2014 and have replanted many native species, literally thousands of trees and hedging plants. We have six species of bats, our own badger set and resident deer. We are currently working with the Wildlife Trust to operate in harmony with our environment. We are a registered member of the Environmental Trust.
Loss of the land we currently loan would render our field course useless and call into question the viability of maintaining and improving the woodland area we do own in the way we currently do.
We are hosting national field archery selection events, county championships, holding summer and winter field leagues and have just become part of the national field league competition.
Field Archery is showing our biggest increase in membership participation and several of our members have already been selected to represent Great Britain at international events.
We are actually in a strong position if we can secure this land, current use has established its worth, it is generating valuable income and we have an established process for maintaining it. We will incur only minor field course operational costs going forward, as we have the archery equipment we need and now more support from Elliott’s to provide recycled working materials for building steps and bridges.
All of this will cease if we lose this plot of land.
Please consider how you can help, either directly by donating, or by actively supporting and promoting this appeal.