Our Sporting Life - A travelling exhibition for September and October

From Olympic hopefuls and unsung heroes to sporting community champions, an exhibition at Dorset County Museum explores the many faces of sport within the county

Our Sporting Life 

From Olympic hopefuls and unsung heroes to sporting community champions, an exhibition at Dorset County Museum explores the many faces of sport within the county 

Planned to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Our Sporting Life is a celebration of British sport and its history. Designed to recognise sporting achievements from grass roots to Olympic podia across the country, the project has been rolled out through a programme of nationwide community exhibitions bringing together objects, stories and photographs from all over the UK telling the story of British sport. Our Sporting Life is running in 12 museums across Dorset throughout 2012, including Dorset County Museum and Poole Museum, where they will celebrate their communities own local sporting heroes.

The Local StarPeter Wilson: Shooting OlympianWinner of World Cup Gold and Silver in 2011, 25-year-old Peter Wilson has just won Olympic Gold in the Double Trap at London 2012. Peter, who grew up on a farm at Glanvilles Wootton just outside Sherborne, took up shooting as a youngster. He was a keen sports player at school, playing cricket and squash, but aged 16, after a snowboarding accident damaged his shoulder, he started shooting seriously.Peter joined the National Shooting Centre at Bisley where he took up the Double Trap, becoming the European Junior Champion within four months in 2006. Double Trap, along with Skeet and Trap, are the three Olympic shotgun disciplines. With two targets thrown simultaneously into the air, high scores are more difficult to achieve in Double Trap.At the Shotgun World Cup in Arizona in March 2012, Peter set a new Double Trap world record, scoring 198 out of 200, beating the score of 196 set in 2009.Peter trains at Southern Counties Shooting in Dorset.

The Unsung HeroMervyn Sharp:Channel ChampionMervyn Sharp first swan the Channel in 1967 and completed his seventh crossing in 1974.  His achievements are recorded in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA and the Channel Swimming Association in Dover.Mervyn’s boyhood dream was to swim the English Channel.  He joined his local swimming club aged seven and took up water polo as a young teenager, playing in goal for Weymouth and Dorset. In early 1966 he started training to swim the Channel, following a routine that included rugby, football and circuit training.  When the sea warmed up he trained before and after work with swims of up to 12 hours on Saturdays.Aged 18 he entered the water at Cape Griz-Nez in France on 27 August 1967, completing the swim to St Margaret’s Bay near Dover in 18 hours 34 minutes. Challenged to swim in the other direction, Mervyn completed the crossing from England to France in 17 hours 52 minutes the following year.In 1974 Mervyn set the number for the greatest number of crossings with his seventh swim and for this achievement he was the first person to be crowned ‘King of the Channel’. Mervyn has represented England in open water swimming at Lake Windemere and also in Canada. For 25 years he worked as a supervisor at Weymouth Swimming Pool.

Will Lawrence:Outdoor Adventurer, WeymouthWeymouth Outdoor Education Centre (WOEC), part of Dorset County Council’s Outdoor Education Service, began life as a Youth Activities Centre in the mid 1960s. WOEC was established in response to a concern that young people didn’t have enough positive and exciting things to do. For over 50 years it has been a specialised provider of adventurous activities such as sailing, climbing and canoeing.

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“Seeing people take the chance, ‘have a go’ and succeed, is very rewarding.” 

During the day WOEC fills with school pupils eager to use the first class facilities and take part in adventurous activities. During evening and weekend courses thousands of local residents have been challenged on the waters of Weymouth Bay, or the cliffs of Portland.  Some, inspired by their own enjoyment, are now qualified coaches themselves. This year is Will’s 30th anniversary year as an instructor at WOEC. He joined as a youngster, later working there in the summer seasons. Taking his Senior Instructor qualification in kayaking allowed Will to become a full-time instructor in 1992. Will also teaches sailing, orienteering, climbing and abseiling. Thousands of children, young people and adults have been taught by Will over the years and he continues to give them the same opportunities that influenced his own life: “Seeing people take the chance, ‘have a go’ and succeed, is very rewarding.”

Community PassionsCerne Valley: Cricketing GiantsCricket has been played in the Cerne Valley from the early 1850s, with teams playing at various venues in Godmanstone, Cerne Abbas and Up Cerne. The Sherborne Mercury reported on many of these early games and, in September 1854, when the “Cerne Gentlemen” lost for the first time since the club had been formed, the Mercury noted that “their temper did not succumb and they appeared more like winners than losers.”In the Sherborne Mercury of July 1856 the sportsmanship of the Cerne team is again evident “…play commenced and was much the same as the last time the two clubs contested”, with Stalbridge victorious. However both teams “with their friends retired to the Hind Inn where the evening was spent in a most friendly manner, being enlivened with many good songs” and the Cerne team did not leave to return home until 11pm.In 2012 Cerne Valley is still very active, with three adult teams and youth teams from under11 to under18. The home ground has moved around over the years, but since the 1970s they have played at Simsay in Alton Lane, probably one of the loveliest cricket grounds in England.

Steve Gordon:Dorset Rough Riders Mountain Bike ClubMountain biking is one of the best ways to explore the Dorset countryside. Steve Gordon, a member of the Dorset Rough Riders Mountain Bike Club, has four different bikes, all designed for different aspects of the sport. These bikes have carbon fibre and aluminium frames for strength and lightness, advanced gearing and suspension and good brakes to ensure high quality performance.Dorset Rough Riders was formed in 1989 and in the early 90s was the largest MTB club in the country. Members range from early teens to early sixties; Dorset Rough Riders believe that mountain biking keeps you young. They offer a wide range of routes to suit all abilities, starting from many locations throughout the area, thus enabling members to find something that suits them close to where they live.

“There is nothing like starting the day cycling through Wareham Forest in the early morning with the mist drifting through the trees” 

Steve enjoys not only the physical challenge of mountain biking but also the fitness and mental wellbeing it brings; he says there is nothing like starting the day cycling through Wareham Forest in the early morning with the mist drifting through the trees. He also takes pleasure in riding in the evening; looking down on the towns of shiny lights, and being outside whilst people inside are being entertained by their TVs. Steve savours the freedom of riding on his own but groups like the Dorset Rough Riders allow him to enjoy the companionship of riding with friends.

Where to see Our Sporting Life

Our Sporting Life is on at Dorset County Museum until 15 September. Our Sporting Life exhibitions are also running at the following Dorset museums:

Gold Hill Museum and Garden, Shaftesbury (until 31 October 2012)Portland Museum (until 31 August 2012)Poole Museum (until Spring 2013)Sherborne Museum (until 12 October 2012)Sturminster Newton Museum & Mill (until 30 September 2012)Blandford Fashion Museum (until 1 December 2012)Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre (until 12 October 2012)Wareham Town Museum (until 12 October 2012)Gillingham Museum (until 12 October 2012)Beaminster Museum (until 28 October 2012)Blandford Museum (until 9 September 2012) 

For listings of all Our Sporting Life exhibitions across the country visit oursportinglife.co.uk

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