Lottery-funded ping pong sessions have been officially launched in Christchurch.

The free sessions will take place on Mondays from noon to 3pm at Druitt Hall, with the first official session attracting a crowd of people keen to show off their skills.

Transition Town Christchurch who is organising the sessions, won a Sport England grant last year to provide free tennis under “Ping”, a scheme which runs nationwide.

And although the popular hall is due to close on March 31, council bosses have allowed the scheme to take place at the community facility until then, after a petition was handed to councillors in December urging them to allow the use of the hall for the sessions.

The mayor of Christchurch, Cllr Peter Hall, helped to launch the event on Monday taking on the council’s strategic director Neil Farmer in a game on the new wheelchair friendly table.

Cllr Hall said: “It is lovely to see so many people here to enjoy playing ping pong.

“It’s good to see Druitt Hall being used for this purpose.

“I can see people getting a lot of enjoyment from it,” he added.

Elliot Marx, from Transition Town Christchurch, added: “This is a sport which is inclusive and completely affordable for everyone.

“There are already some fantastic players and until the hall shuts on March 31 we can continue here.

“We are calling it ping pong because it sounds a lot more fun than table tennis.”

Youngsters Trisha Mason, 17, from Twynham School and Christchurch number one table tennis player Zac Dowling were also on hand to show the crowd their game.

James Lewis, Dorset development coach for the English Table Tennis Association, said: “This is a fantastic scheme and I’m really pleased to see so many people getting involved.

“It’s great for everyone and will hopefully encourage the elderly people in Christchurch to come out for a game.

“It’s really sociable and everyone is really friendly, which is a great incentive to get people through the doors,” he added.