A TENNIS club has celebrated being named one of the best park clubs in the country.

Branksome Park Tennis Club came second in the park venue award by the Lawn Tennis Association, after winning the Dorset award for the third time, and the regional south and south west award.

Head coach at the club Aaron Russell said he was ‘proud’ to reach the national shortlist, just six years after taking over the club.

“I don’t feel that it’s an award for me, it’s my name on the banner but really it’s my team and more importantly the members, the people that actually come. Without them, we wouldn’t be here,” Aaron said.

“I’m just a tennis coach, I just run the club. It’s you guys that come that have got us this award. It’s quite nice to share it with them.”

When Aaron took over, the club had ‘lumpy courts and falling down nets’. But, following investment from BCP Council for new courts and floodlights, the club has transformed.

It was recognised for its welcoming atmosphere, inclusivity and cheap membership costs at £2.40 a month for families, something which can cost hundreds of pounds a year at other clubs.

“BCP Council have been instrumental in that. We’re technically a partnership, the council owns the courts, I then run the site,” Aaron said.

“They’ve come in with this membership price, so that’s all them. The council have done an amazing job there.

“It’s just opening the door to literally any person that wants to play tennis, has the opportunity. That is the main drive of what we do here.”

Aaron invested £50,000 into opening a café at the club, something he says helps to contribute to the community feel.

“There’s a lot of hard work from a lot of people to have gone into this, and it makes coming to work really enjoyable when you can see the effect it’s having on people,” Aaron said.

“I’m very fortunate in that I get not only to teach tennis but I get to run this community club.”

When he took the club on, it had around 1,000 bookings a year. This has grown to 6,000, with 800 active members and 2,000 people on the club’s coaching database.

“I’m in contact with all the other coaches and none of them can believe the numbers that we’re pumping out,” Aaron said.

“It’s insane. On a Saturday morning, every table is taken, all the kids are on court, the parents are having a coffee and a chinwag. It’s that atmosphere and that feel of that community.”

The 33-year-old coach said he has ‘big plans’ for the future, including buying court covers to tackle the issue of ice in the winter, and to introduce pickleball.

“I’m very proud and happy where we’ve come,” he said. “I’ve got the lease here for another 15 years, I’ve got a lot more work to do yet.”