International field hockey player Giselle Ansley, who will be opening Ottery St Mary's new synthetic sports pitch

District council welcomes delivery of much valued local community facility

In fitting style, Ottery St Mary’s new all-weather synthetic pitch will be opened on Saturday 2 September 2017 by none other than International British field hockey player Giselle Ansley.

Giselle, who is from Kingsbridge, Devon, will cut a ribbon to open the pitch at 12pm. The opening will be followed by the Sidmouth and Ottery Hockey Club HockeyFest Event, which runs from 12pm – 2pm.

Giselle Ansley made her international debut in 2013 and competed for England in the women's hockey tournament at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where she won a silver medal.  She competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, winning a gold medal in a penalty shootout against the defending champions Netherlands.

After watching her mum play hockey from a pitch-side pushchair, it was just a few short years before Giselle started playing hockey at Paignton Junior Hockey Club in Devon. That wasn't her only sport though, as she also played cricket to a regional level before deciding to focus on hockey, making her debut against South Africa in February 2013.

When she's not playing hockey, Giselle coaches with Living Hockey at her club in Surbiton, as well as with her old club Plymouth Marjon whenever she can when she's back in Devon. Outside of hockey Giselle loves baking and supporting other sports like cricket and kayaking. She gained a Sport and Exercise Science degree from Loughborough University and was an integral part of the England side who won gold at the EuroHockey Championships in London in 2015.

The main users of the pitch, which is owned by East Devon District Council and run by operators LED Leisure Management Ltd, are pupils of The King’s School Ottery St Mary, the local community and Sidmouth & Ottery Hockey Club.

Thanks to a £113,000 grant from Sport England, together with funding from East Devon, LED and The King’s School, the new pitch features many improvements including better drainage, a new shock pad and back boards and increased height fences. There is now plenty of additional off-pitch storage, as well as new hockey goals and football goals, with wheels to make them easier to move. The dugouts for managers and subs have also been relocated and improved.

The pitch itself has been upgraded to a much higher standard, particularly for hockey, and can now be divided into three football pitches and two mini hockey pitches, making it much more versatile for school use.