A FORMER Paralympic athlete who inspired thousands at the 2012 London games has told of her new life running a farm shop in her native Dorset.

Bethany Woodward was 19 when she took the silver and bronze in the women’s T37 200 metres in a packed Olympic stadium.

But she quit Team GB four years later, claiming the sport had “lost its moral bearings” and that athletes with lower levels of disabilities were being wrongly classified in order to boost the medal tally.

Bethany, who is known as Bethy and now takes her husband’s surname of Doran, runs Gullivers Farm Shop at West Moors. It is part of the Sturts Community Trust, which provides meaningful activities and work opportunities for adults with learning disabilities or other needs.

On Wednesday, November 27, the shop is collaborating with the Old Thatch in Wimborne to offer an event called Farm to Fork, featuring tasting, live music and a keynote speech by Bethy.

“When I left the sport, I came back to my parents’ house which is in West Moors. They are part of a co-housing community – a group of professional people that want to live together like a community again,” Bethy told the Daily Echo.

Sturts Farm has spent 30 years offering land-based work opportunities and support for adults with a learning disability.

“The farm shop was opened about four years ago. Before, we were quite cut off from the wider community. We just grew and ate our own produce,” said Bethy.

“It became apparent to us that we really needed to branch out to the community and create options for the people we support and be part of the community.”

Bethy was described by Sunday Times sports writer David Walsh as the “bravest, most principled athlete I’ve ever interviewed” after her decision to leave sport. She had dreamed of competing in the Paralympics since childhood and had quit higher education to train for the 2012 games.

But in the drive to win gold medals, she said sporting bodies had “brought in people who are not like me in terms of disability”. She has given evidence to a parliamentary committee whose report on the sisue has not yet been published.

“The last race I did was in the Olympic stadium,” she told the Daily Echo.

“The girl that won, she was probably 60 metres ahead of me. Behind me were four girls that had cerebral palsy. It was just horrible.

“You could see all these people behind me pushing their bodies and me pushing my body to its complete limits for everyone to see – and when we crossed the line, the fireworks had already happened and the race was already over.”

She hopes her work in Dorset helps people to feel confident about their disability. “It’s just about tapping into a person’s strengths,” she said.

The farm shop is managed by Simon Burger, who has Down’s syndrome, and who collected the award for Best Independent Retailer, which the business won at the recent Dorset Food, Drink and Farming Awards.

“He was meant to retire and he came into a meeting and said ‘I want to work Monday to Friday and work in a shop’. He’s completely and utterly devoted to the shop and his customers and staff. It was right he got up and received that award. It was really different because it was such a corporate event,” said Bethy.

“There isn’t room for people with disabilities in society, so they feel they have to push their disability aside or they feel that disability is a barrier or boundary and they have to overcome it,” she says.

Instead, she wants people to “have this sense of pride about your disability”, she adds.

n The Farm to Fork event on November 27 includes a four-course tasting menu and takes place at the Old Thatch on Wimborne Road West, Wimborne. Places cost £45. Ring 01202 406779 or 01202 619891.