Active NAtion

In 1930 this wooded area of Lordswood was known as Red Lodge Farm. The two cottages on the road at the edge of the Golf Course occupy the site of the original farmhouses.

Although the original site was quite boggy and in a poor state, Alderman Sir Sidney Kimber planned to purchase the site of up to 293 acres for recreational purposes in September 1930. Despite the original proposal being rejected, a second similar one was approved on May 3rd 1933. The then Borough Council purchased over 250 acres of land for just under £50,000 and developed the site with a further £138,000 from a Department of Health loan.

The Sports Centre, christened “Happy Valley” in view of both its picturesque setting and compact nature was officially opened on the 25th May 1938 by the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

The Sports Centre was requisitioned for military occupation after World War II broke out in September 1939. Despite the site becoming scarred by bombs, barbed wire, trenches and fortifications, the area was also used as a temporary base ahead of the great assault of D-Day.

After the evacuation of Dunkirk, His Majesty the King ordered a day of Prayer and Intercession throughout the country. In Southampton, a great open air service was planned for the Sports Centre during the evening. The Sports Centre thronged with people and a platform was erected close to the trees behind Block 1 and this was draped with the Union Flag. The service was a dignified event, occurring in the soft summer sunshine.

During the war three bombs fell on the Sports Centre itself and as many as 20 other bombs within a radius of 400 yards of the centre. During the “Blitz” the Sports Centre became a place of nightly refuge , with Southampton given the title of the “City of Dreadful Nights”. The Sports Centre provided a military store for food and vegetables, especially just before D-Day.

With the end of the War and Victory in Europe celebrations, the Sports Centre could justifiably claim to have affected, in a small way, the great military events of the Second World War.

Jack’s Corner Play Area is named in Honour of Acting Leading Seaman Jack Mantle who is Southampton’s only Victoria Cross holder of World War II. He died, aged 23, from bomb damage whilst manning a “pom pom” gun on HMS Foylebank in Portland Harbour in 1940. Although Jack’s left leg was shattered by enemy aircraft fire, he stayed with his gun and even continued to fire with a hand mechanism when the ship’s power failed, despite being mortally wounded. His VC was awarded posthumously for his courageous actions. His parents considered that the play area would represent a fitting memorial because Jack had enjoyed wonderful times at play at the Sports Centre as a boy.

In September 2010, Active Nation entered into a contract with Southampton City Council to manage several leisure facilities, including the Outdoor Sports Centre, on their behalf.

We're a charity on a misson: 
‘To persuade the nation to be active’

Through: physical activity, exercise and sport
Why: because physical activity improves health and well being and reduces the risk of incidence of chronic major disease
How: by encouraging 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times per week.

Active Nation’s cause led mission is a
challenge; physical inactivity is responsible
for 1 in 6 deaths, and costs the NHS nearly
£2bn per annum (PHE figures 2018) .
We want to disrupt the epidemic of inactivity
and help our team and supporters to be
more active, healthier and happier.