PM recognises efforts of locals and volunteers to keep open las remaining 1948 Olympic venue

Local residents and volunteers who saved the famous open-air Herne Hill Velodrome in south east London were recognised yesterday by Prime Minister David Cameron with a Big Society Award.

Herne Hill Velodrome was the last venue from the 1948 Olympics still operating and today is used by a wide range of cyclists from racers to school children learning to ride.

Three years ago local residents and volunteers got together with British Cycling to save the velodrome, which was facing closure due to resurfacing work required for the track. Led by local resident Hillary Peachey with a group of friends and Velo Club Londres, the ‘Save the Velodrome Campaign’ began in 2010.

A year later, more than 750 people attended a public meeting at Dulwich College to show their support, pledging time, money and commitment. Thanks to the contributions of The Dulwich Estate and British Cycling the resurfacing of the track was completed in 2011. Further improvements to the facilities, including track lighting, were completed in 2013 with funding from Southwark Council’s Olympic Legacy Programme.

The velodrome is now full to capacity with holiday clubs, open race meetings, sessions for local schools and sessions for the disabled - due to the efforts of volunteers from VCL and the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust, the charity set up to steward the full regeneration of the Herne Hill Velodrome site.

Herne Hill Velodrome has a sunny future thanks to the efforts of local people to save the 1948 Olympic venue (CC licensed by Yersinia/Flickr)

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “It is great that there is still a legacy from the 1948 Games in South London.

“Thanks to the hard work of local people and a bit of help from inspirational cycling heroes, cyclists of all ages and abilities can now enjoy using Herne Hill velodrome and maybe one day follow in the footsteps of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Chris Froome.

“Herne Hill velodrome is a fantastic london landmark and an excellent example of the Big Society.”

Hillary Peachey, Chair of the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust, the charity set up to help save the historic site, said:

“Thanks to all our partners, volunteers and supporters, we have completed two phases of the project. It is great for us all to be recognised by the Prime Minister for our efforts. We will launch a fundraising campaign in September for the third phase, the development of a new pavilion on the site. We desperately need new indoor facilities - space for specialised training sessions, for clubs and user groups, for showers and toilets, for changing rooms and for a cafe .

“The track itself is thriving and we want to inspire a greater range and ability of cyclists, from toddlers on balance bikes, women and disabled riders on hand bikes. What better 125th birthday celebrations could we have in 2016 than to celebrate the opening of a new pavilion?”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.