Birchwood Leisure Centre Clinches Welwyn Hatfield Times’ “Your Favourite Gym” Award

A group of Birchwood Leisure Centre fitness members display the Your Favourite Gym winners banner and trophy

Apr 15, 2024 | Fitness, Gym, News

The team here at Birchwood Leisure Centre are absolutely thrilled to reveal that we are the winners of Welwyn Hatfield Times Your Favourite Gym award 2024! Voted by an enthusiastic community of hundreds of dedicated members, Birchwood stood out among a formidable shortlist of facilities in the area. This triumph not only celebrates the exceptional offerings of Birchwood but also underscores the strong bond between our centre and the community – so with that, we’d like to express a huge thank you to everybody who passes through our doors every day to make use of our facilities.

The Centre

At the heart of Birchwood Leisure Centre’s appeal lies its diverse array of classes and facilities tailored to cater to the varied fitness needs and interests of its members. The staff here take great pride in providing a space for people of all abilities, ages, sizes, gender, or confidence level, and work to nurture a sense of progress, no matter what journey they are on. The Strength Boutique gym, in particular, stands as a testament to Birchwood’s commitment to providing top-notch amenities in a friendly and welcoming environment. Following its rejuvenation in 2023, our gym space boasts all-new, modern equipment, inviting users to embark on their fitness journey with state-of-the-art tools at their disposal. But Birchwood’s offerings extend far beyond its gym The centre plays host to a range of classes designed to invigorate both body and mind; from the serene stretches of pilates to the rhythm of aerobics, Birchwood caters to all fitness preferences. Sports enthusiasts can also indulge in activities like basketball, pick up a racket in our No Strings Badminton sessions, or even hit the 3G pitch for some walking football. For those seeking a unique experience, Birchwood also offers pickleball—a sport rapidly gaining popularity for its fusion of tennis, badminton, and table tennis elements. It doesn’t stop there, because Birchwood Leisure Centre also promotes holistic well-being for our younger ones through play. The ever-popular Hatfield Kids Funzone serves as a vibrant place where young minds are nurtured and bodies are engaged, serving as a hotspot for children to come along and explore for over 30 years. A hub that has been used across generations, Funzone not only fosters physical fitness but also cultivates creativity and social interaction among the youth of the community.

For Ralph

Staff at Hatfield Town Council, who operate the centre, chose to dedicate Birchwood’s victory to a beloved member of the gym, Ralph Hentall, who sadly passed away earlier in the year. Ralph’s remarkable life journey demonstrated an unwavering dedication to public service and a love for his town, from his roles as a council worker in nearby Barnet, working as prison officer, to his three-decade tenure as a firefighter, Ralph’s commitment to his community left an indelible mark. While living in Hatfield, he was a part of the response team on the scene at the rail crash behind Steam Woods in 2000, as well as the fire that occurred at Hatfield House. He even took the mantle of the famous Hatfield Santa for a time!

Beyond his professional roles, Ralph engaged in many creative pursuits, which included crafting love spoons, writing a book, and participating in craft fairs nationwide. He even made appearances on television, notably on the 1970s show Magpie, and formed a close friendship with actress Jenny Hanley, known for her role as a Bond Girl. His love for nature and education shone through his work at Commonswood Nature Reserve and his talks on folklore, often engaging with schools and universities and even organising competitions for children to design love spoons, which he’d then carve for them.

Despite his myriad accomplishments, Ralph still found time to make use of Birchwood Leisure Centre and was known to staff as a dedicated, highly-disciplined, yet extremely friendly and approachable member of our community. An active participant in classes and a regular at the Strength Boutique gym, Ralph kept fit and maintained his long-time love of power lifting. No stranger to the world of weightlifting, Ralph competed in the World Masters Power Lifting Competition, winning the event in 1992 at the age of 57.

Ralph’s legacy serves as a reminder of the transformative power of community and the immeasurable impact of pursuing one’s passions. He embodied the spirit of perseverance and vitality and as we celebrate his life, we also honour the memory of a cherished member whose spirit continues to inspire. Birchwood Leisure Centre’s triumph in clinching the “Your Favourite Gym” award is not just a testament to our facilities and programs but also a celebration of the vibrant community that we serve. As members continue to flock to Birchwood in pursuit of their fitness goals, Ralph’s legacy serves as an inspiration to embrace life’s challenges with unwavering determination and passion.

Find Out More

To learn more about Birchwood Leisure Centre’s fitness membership options, please click here. To explore the classes that we offer for both adults and under 18s, click here.


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