Nottingham Sport: A Home of Sport Weekend
While Nottingham’s sporting history is inescapably linked to archery, there are plenty of other sports on land and water to entertain a family who haven’t done their target practice. Some of these are world class as we found out when we enjoyed an active long weekend of Nottingham Sport in a city recently designated VisitEngland’s Home of Sport….
In the hands of an Olympian
It’s not often you get taught a sport by a former Olympic competitor. I feel a little unworthy of my coaching as ten year olds in tight buns and white skates glide and twirl around me. I wonder if my ice shuffle is unique to me; I notice my kids have no such move as they pick up speed quickly. But my coach Amanda Worth, known to just about everyone as Mandy, says I’ve have demonstrated some balance, and some bottle for letting go of the side. And so I have potential as a skater. I hear her; mostly because I’m clinging on to her arm like a lonely limpet.
In the tracks of Team GB
Mandy has taught quite a few limpets like me. Her job at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre is to train young skaters up to represent their county and country in sporting events. She’s pretty qualified to do this; Mandy has been a short track speed skating teacher for 30 years and competed in the 1980 Olympics. Her eldest son skated from the age of 11 months, made the Vancouver Olympics and now coaches the GB skating team. Her husband has experience as an Olympic referee and her daughter in law was a competitive figure skater.
Nottingham ice rink also has a history with the Olympics. It is currently home for the GB short track speed skating team and it’s where Torville and Dean began their skating career. Although neither skater lives or works in the city they still come occasionally for special events.
“They are still massive in Nottingham; legendary,” says Mandy. “They visited a couple of years back when the Olympic flame came through and did a routine and worked with all the skaters performing in the gala. They were most recently back to film the TV programme Ice Rink on the Estate, working with children in Nottingham, trying to inspire them through sport.”
Just a question of practice
The costumes for Torville and Dean’s many international successes are exhibited high in the air in the foyer, and despite the centre being home to a very famous ice hockey team (the Nottingham Panthers will tonight meet the Sheffield city team for a battle of the titans) more graceful pursuits still rule here. On a second ice rink I watch the upcoming Torville and Deans practice their spinning and jumping high into the air as they train for the British Championships. Amanda says if she had a full hour of coaching with me I would have enough knowledge to work on my skills without her. I reckon it would only take me a couple of lifetimes to be as good as these guys.
From Ice to White Water
Rafting, on the other hand, is something I can master by the end of the hour. Or that’s the illusion our instructor at Nottingham’s National Water Sports Centre creates as he hands us a paddle and pushes us off downstream. Moment by moment commands are shouted as we wedge crossed feet under the boat like experienced yoga instructors, giving ourselves the best chance to stay in the boat. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, at certain points the nose of the raft is completely submerged and we are tossed around in the waves. Still it’s exhilarating riding if you don’t stop to think about it, or drink it.
Dunking not drinking
“You really don’t want to swallow any of the water,” our instructor warns us.
He’s right. We don’t. Because this is the River Trent. The centre has the only man made naturally flowing river course in the UK with the Trent feeding directly into it. It’s the home of the British Canoeing head office and the base for Canoe Team GB; the course is used for Olympic and Paralympic programmes and training. We won’t see any of the team today as they are off competing in events in training for Rio.
“It’s exciting. We work closely and keep an eye out for the athletes when they are competing,” says Becca Tuttle who works as the Marketing Executive for the centre.
You might be surprised that a landlocked city like Nottingham is home to an Olympic canoe team but the centre has a reputation and a history of water sport excellence; soon it will celebrate its 30th birthday and its facilities include wakeboarding, sailing and rowing.
Not just watersports
Hannah and Cameron are too young to have a go at rafting and settle for a go on the Sky Trail High Ropes course, some mini golf and a chillout in the cafe. Out on the water our raft is full of teen boys like Matthew who joins us for the challenge. Anyone over 14 can have a go and if your family members aren’t the most confident of swimmers the raft guide will tailor the session accordingly. Ours seems to be tailored for dunking. We handle this in different ways; some practice their paddling skills, others scream, and one guy goes in. Twice. For me it can’t compete with the scale or icy atmosphere of our rafting experience in the wilds of Iceland, but it is great fun and I’m not in my comfort zone at any point.
Batting and battling
If you prefer to stay dry there are lots of other Nottingham sport options whether you want to wield a bat, ball or bow and arrow. Various activity providers offer archery in Sherwood Forest and you can visit manufactures KG Archery near Ollerton to see traditional longbows being made. You can also engage in some world class spectator sport by catching some football (three professional teams including Notts Forest) or watching some cricket at Trent Bridge.
And if you’re feeling all sported out but still fancy one last bat or a battle you can head to the National Videogame Arcade for a retro video game, a bucking bronco ride or a bash at random objects. (More on that here) By the end of the day, you’re bound to have found a talent for something sporty as well as understanding why the city has been voted VisitEngland’s Home of Sport. And if not, well at least you’ll sleep tight when it’s all over. And perhaps dream you are the star of those closing moments of Bolero.
Nottingham Sport Practical Information
The National Ice Centre is based in the city centre. Check the website for times and prices. You can hire a coach as a family or an individual. Minimum age for coaching is two and there is no upper limit. You can have some fun at the ice discos which happen at weekends or watch the Panthers play ice hockey. Check the Panthers site for fixtures and tickets.
Ropes, rafting and other watersports
The National Water Sports Centre is about 10 minutes drive from the city at Holme Pierrepont Country Park. Rafting is available all year round and minimum age is 14. Height and weight restrictions apply. White Water Rafting prices range between £30 and £50 pp depending on time of day and season. Westsuits and all gear is provided although you will need a change of clothes and shoes. There are also opportunities to try or learn other water sports including wakeboarding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and power boating. The Family Fun Park can entertain kids under 14 with a high ropes course, mini golf and a café.
Video Game Play
Entrance to the National Videogame Arcade centre is £8.50 for adults and £6.50 for kids with kids under 5 going free. You can buy a family ticket for the centre for £25. There is no age limit for admissions but children under 12 years need to be accompanied by an adult. In October it hosts the GameCity festival.
Various providers offer archery for families. Nottingham will be the host city for the 24th European Archery Championship in May 2016. The finals of the Championships will be held in a purpose built arena in Nottingham’s Old Market Square. Tournament dates 23 – 29 May 2016.
Trent Bridge is within easy reach of the city centre. Check the website for details of county and other matches. If you want a bigger international event then Trent Bridge will will host two of England’s Royal London One-Day Internationals in 2016, against Sri Lanka on Tuesday 21 June and Pakistan on Tuesday 30 August.
If you’re feeling hungry after all that Nottingham sport action, or even just from reading about it, then check out this post on some great places to fuel up on food in Nottingham.
Making a base
For our long weekend in Nottingham we based ourselves in the city centre at Birchover Residences boutique apartments. Our luxury two bedroom apartment was on Victoria Street, a short walk from the Ice Rink, the Castle and the National Videogame Arcade, with easy access for the tram. We had full cooking facilities but I have to admit I snuck out to Delilah delicatessen and coffee bar next door for a morning coffee and a wind down glass of wine.
Disclosure Note: We visited Nottingham in a collaboration with VisitEngland and Experience Nottinghamshire who arranged for us to check out the Nottingham sport action at the National Ice Centre and National Watersports Centre. Our thanks to and the coaches and instructors who looked after us and spent time talk to us about sport in Nottingham. The falling over, falling in, experience, opinions, photography and bruises are, as ever, entirely our own.