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Finding the venue was easy. Moving was not ...

When Canine Sports, a flourishing dog agility club, suddenly found itself without a venue, owner Estelle Lankester was shocked - and worried. Instead of giving up, she saw the challenge as an opportunity and found a perfect alternative right under her nose.

In the middle of 2012, the owners of the Sedgeway Equestrian Centre, the premises Estelle had been using for her Canine Sports Agility Club, gave notice that they wanted the space for themselves, in order to bring their equestrian business under cover for the winter.

‘I knew the owner well, but his business was growing and he needed to make more use of the indoor school. We'd been using it two nights of a week for several years so it was a major issue,' said Cambridgeshire-based Estelle.

Though he tried to help us find an alternative site within the equestrian centres grounds, there was nothing else suitable. Estelle wanted somewhere indoors, so that they could use it all year round. She was absolutely determined to find somewhere.

Then, while out walking her dogs, she took another look at a vacant barn near her home village of Stuntney, a mile south of Ely.

'I'd known about it for years. It had been used in the past and so I'd never really given it a second thought. It was only when we needed a new venue that I saw it in a different light.  It was piled high with straw on first viewing so I couldn't really see how big it was. I was delighted when its true size was revealed,' she said.

It was then that the hard work really started
The surface was under several feet of straw and almost as many cobwebs. The farmer took care of clearing out all the straw and put me in the cherry picker to clean the lights, replace bulbs and so on.

When the venue was cleared, it turned to be a really good size and bigger than previously thought. Not all of the barn had a brick surround so Estelle's husband Terry took care of the shuttering at the bottom to hold in the sand along the exposed end.

Club members then pulled together, helping the pair clean, paint and finish off the dog proofing.  They had two evening 'raking parties' to level out the sand that was delivered - something which would have taken weeks to do single-handed.  The new surface was laid, levelled and the equipment moved in.  It took two vans and a very full trailer load of equipment to move all the gear from the old to the new venue.

Of course, there were teething problems. For instance, they had to wait longer than expected for a water supply and meanwhile the surface became very dusty, but once it had been dampened down it started to firm up nicely.

But it was worth it...
Canine Sports have now settled into their new venue which has its own private car park and use of a small field for clients to exercise their dogs in. Agility training at Canine Sports caters for all levels from beginners to Grade 7 as well as those who just want to have fun.  As a result of having a new venue, the club has expanded to three nights a week - Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

'The extra space we've now got means we have plenty of capacity for new members –although we keep individual class sizes small so that everybody gets plenty of quality time for practice and training,' said Estelle. Private tuition is also available for those looking for that special bit of extra 'TLC'.

'It was a lot of very hard work, but to have an indoor venue to ourselves where we don't have to set up or take down each training session is wonderful.  Experienced members can also come along to use the arena by themselves regardless of the weather as an extra to their weekly training,' said Estelle.

Help please...
Now Estelle is looking for a bit of advice. 'The surface is continuing to improve but if anyone can suggest something to mix in with the sand to help keep in moisture and or bind it together to lessen the need for constant watering I'd be very interested as we always keen to keep improving the venue.'

If you think you can help, and for further details of the centre and its training facilities, please email

About the authors...
Estelle Lankester lives in Cambridgeshire and currently competes at G6 with her rescue WSD. She runs Canine Sports Agility Club as well as giving private agility tuition.

Her other passion is making fused glass which she sells in galleries as well as providing many shows with glass trophies'

John Spencer has been a journalist for more than 30 years, 13 of them as Managing Editor of the Press Association, the national news agency for Britain and Ireland. He is now a freelance travel writer and media consultant.

First published 11 March 2013


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