Debbie King, a member of the BHS Merseyside committee has been awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Health and Wellbeing through Leisure and Culture Award by Knowsley Council, as part of this year’s Sports and Cultural Awards.
The awards were set up by Knowsley Council to recognise the borough’s outstanding achievers who have made a difference and enriched the lives of others. Debbie was nominated for the award under the criteria ‘An individual (of any age) who has had a significant impact on the lives of others, helping and supporting others to engage in leisure and culture activities that help to improve their health and wellbeing, and enrich people’s lives. All leisure, culture and heritage activities are eligible (e.g. arts and crafts).’
Debbie, who has lived in the borough of Knowsley all her life, runs the successful Lodge Riding School with her family which has been established since 1973. The school offers programmes in jumping, dressage and flatwork although due to the urban, ‘land locked’ location of the school, off-road hacking was something that was missing from the schools repertoire – until recently that is.
Debbie, unhappy with the inability to take riders out on open countryside, joined the BHS Merseyside committee after attending one of their annual meetings to enquire about the possibility of opening up access on the unused Cronton Colliery Site which neighbours her riding school.
For years the site had been a hot-spot for anti-social crime and the unauthorised use of off-road vehicles such as scrambler and quad bikes posed a large problem, threatening trade for the Lodge Riding School and other local riding establishments. Over the course of four years there had been more than 116 incidents logged with the police regarding the site.
The BHS Merseyside committee supported Debbie in her daily efforts to report any anti-social crimes occurring, and funding was secured via the Merseyside Police Authority and Olympic Legacy Funds to safeguard the site, and create new off-road riding around 120 acres of the land.
In May 2013, the BHS was given a license to use the Cronton Colliery site as a centre for equestrian off-road hacking, enabling Debbie to lead rides around this site. Around 150 riders have already ridden there since May, with two-thirds of those being riders from the Lodge Riding School (mainly young women who had never before had the opportunity to ride outside of the arena.) Not only is the site available for riders from Debbie’s school, but also the 400-plus riders that come from the wider Tarbock, Whiston and Halewood areas.
Not only has Debbie been instrumental in gaining access to the Cronton site, she also remains one of three BHS key holders, and acts a volunteer warden. This year Debbie has reported the four instances of anti-social behaviour and crime that have taken place on Cronton – a huge decrease from previous years where the average was closer to 30, meaning what was once a huge problem for Merseyside Police has now been almost completely solved by the relentless hard work of Debbie and her family.
Debbie was nominated by the Merseyside committee due to her efforts as an instructor at the Lodge covering a 30-year period, demonstrating a strong commitment to sport development, and also her unrelenting efforts to create a safe and secure place where people can experience off-road riding, who may never have had the chance otherwise.
The awards ceremony took place on Friday 11 October at Knowsley Leisure and Culture Centre.