Everyone welcome at New Mills club aiming to rid tennis of its elitist tag

ANYONE FOR TENNIS? -- members enjoying a social tennis session at New Mills Tennis Club.
ANYONE FOR TENNIS? -- members enjoying a social tennis session at New Mills Tennis Club.

Wimbledon or no Wimbledon, Andy Murray or no Andy Murray, the sport of tennis in the UK can still give a good impression of a private, exclusive club available only to those who can afford it and only when the sun shines.

But not at New Mills Tennis Club. Like a breath of fresh tennis air, here is a club where they are actively encouraging inclusivity and integration.

A club where they want the local community to become involved -- at a very affordable cost.

A club where they have just improved their all-weather courts, so they can be played on every day of the year.

And a club where they have just launched a drive to recruit new members, to take advantage not just of the Murray-winning-Wimbledon-again factor but also of the school holidays when youngsters often find themselves at a loose end.

“There are simply not enough people in the UK playing tennis, compared to countries such as France and Spain” says Chris Morton, who is on the tennis committee at New Mills. “For instance, France has one million registered tennis players.

“The sport can be perceived as being elitist, and there tends to be a cost barrier.

“But our aim is to make it more accessible, and for people within the local community. With the school holidays under way, we want to focus on families and juniors.

“We want the people of New Mills to be playing tennis, and we want to attract people who are new to the area too. People who have never tried tennis before can come along for coaching. We are also building links with local schools, who use our courts for their PE lessons.

“Hopefully, with Andy Murray getting up to his high level again and Great Britain doing so well in the Davis Cup, more people will want to try tennis.

“It is a sport that you can play as a family or into old age. It is very good for fitness and exercise. It is an ideal sport to start taking up.”

Game, set and match then to Chris for his sales pitch. But with genuine justification because New Mills is also the ideal venue to take up that sport. A bit of a hidden jewel in fact, nestled on High Peak land off Church Road that it shares with the town’s bowls and cricket clubs.

Indeed the club was originally founded as New Mills and Newtown Cricket and Athletic Club fully 116 years ago. Tennis was annexed after the Second World War, and now the sport shares with cricket and bowls excellent facilities that include a clubhouse with kitchen and licensed bar.

“The clubhouse has been recently upgraded and is a really nice environment in which to relax after a hard day on court,” says Chris, whose dad Andrew ran the club as coach and secretary for many years but has now retired to Llandudno with his wife and Chris’s mum Caroline, who played an active role at New Mills too.

That upgrading has also extended to the club’s three all-weather tennis courts, which have just been powerwashed and re-sprayed in a modification project that has turned them into the envy of the area. Coated with a plastic resin, they are now hard-wearing, durable and free-draining.

“The courts were last resurfaced in 1998, with the help of National Lottery funding, so we’re lucky they have lasted so long,” say Chris, who has retained his passion for the club even though he now lives in Switzerland. “But this respray with porous Macadam will make them playable all the time, even in wet weather. The traction is now really good, and there is a better bounce.

“The Peak District has such high levels of humidity. It rains on two-thirds of days every year, and in the autumn, because there is so little sun, we have a problem with moss eroding the surface.

“Therefore, it was essential to make the courts playable all year round, and they are fantastic now.”

The courts were successfully tested last Saturday in a men’s open singles tournament, which was won by the club’s head coach, 23-year-old Alex Graver.

Once New Mills’s strongest junior player, Graver is now responsible for harnessing the talent of the next generation of players. He is also a respected, high-level coach at one of the Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) performance centres.

About half of New Mills’s current roll of 60 members are juniors, aged from five upwards. They no longer field a specific team for U18s, but prefer to integrate the youngsters into the club’s two adult teams -- a men’s side who hold their own at a strong standard in Division Two of the North-East Cheshire League, and a mixed doubles team in the Fourth Division of the East Cheshire Winter League.

But New Mills is not all about competitive tennis. Social tennis sessions, ideal for all the family, are held every Sunday morning and Friday evening. And when you consider the membership fees -- £90 a year for seniors, £40 for juniors and senior citizens, and £140 per year for a family of two adults and two children -- it is clear the price of joining the club is far from exorbitant.

Interested? Then go to the club’s website at newmillstennisclub.co.uk, take a look at their Facebook page or e-mail Chris at chrismorton99@btopenworld.com