The official opening of the new Exodus Travels Pavilion at the end of March marked the final step in securing the future of the Herne Hill Velodrome. It’s over 125 years since the site first opened as the London County Cycling and Athletic Ground and there were concerns in the early 2000s that it might be redeveloped for a commercial sports club. Luckily a group of like-minded supporters came together and fought hard to keep it for cycling. The Velodrome Trust, set up to run it, now has a 99-year lease from the Dulwich Estate.
The completion of the new pavilion completes the third stage of the Save the Velodrome campaign following three previous initiatives, the first, to resurface of the track, which was in such a bad state that the insurance company would not cover the risks; the second was to install trackside lighting, with special consideration to avoid visual intrusion for local residents; lastly, the construction of a junior track and multi-use games area in the central space within the main track. The new pavilion cost about £1.8 million. This was funded by Sport England (through the National Lottery), The London Marathon Trust, The Mayor of London and Southwark Council. A recent crowdfunding campaign organized by the Friends of the Velodrome to fit out the new pavilion raised £89,000 in just two weeks.
Dulwich and Herne Hill’s current and former MPs, Helen Hayes and Baroness Tessa Jowell, were joined at the event by London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross, representatives of the major funding organisations, local supporters, residents and cycling celebrities. Hillary Peachey, Chairman of the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust and the driving force behind the project, expressed her gratitude to all those who had helped make it happen. “It has been a long journey, but I am immensely proud of how the community came together, matched by the generosity of our funders, the project team, and the local residents.”
Oversight of the whole refurbishment programme was done voluntarily by a charitable trust, with trustees drawn from cycling activists and from the locality. The Dulwich Society helped kickstart the process by contributing £5,000 to meet the legal costs of setting up the trust and other preliminary expenses.
The Velodrome now caters for about a thousand users each week. It is a great example of local voluntary action, beginning with small meetings of a few volunteers and then a large meeting in the main hall of Dulwich College.
The new building, designed by Hopkins Architects, the architects of the 2012 Olympic Velodrome, is similar in scale to its predecessor. The new building has a load bearing timber structure but retains a sense of historical continuity by utilising six of the original 1890’s grandstand’s decorated cast iron columns to support its roof. At ground-floor level accommodation includes changing rooms, first aid room, toilets and a coaches’ office. The first floor is accessed from the top of the grandstand and provides panoramic views around the track. There is a generously sized club room and a meeting room which can be hired out by the local community. Tensile fabric canopies between the bike storage units located behind the pavilion create a flexible year-round covered space for outdoor activities.