Going Higher: A sporting chance for all-comers

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The serious sportsman will want to join the athletic elite

at Swansea or Exeter while those who simply enjoy

keeping fit or the odd social game are spoiled

for choice. Most universities have excellent facilities plus

access to mountains and sea, writes Simon Midgley

Traditionally sport has been one of the strong points at the University of Wales, Swansea. This year its 1st XV rugby union team won the British Universities Sports Association championship. The university's male sports teams are collectively rated the third best of all British university teams and the women's teams 11th.

The university's athletic union has 3,000 members and the university has three rugby teams and four soccer teams.

Its modern sports centre is a short walk from the main campus and includes a multi-purpose sports hall with a maple strip floor, five squash courts, a weight training room and a climbing wall. The university has two playing field areas. The Sketty Lane site incorporates a 1st XV rugby pitch, a 1st XI soccer pitch, a 400-metre cinder athletics track with jumping and throwing areas, six tennis courts and two netball courts.

Fairwood playing fields, some four miles away, include rugby, soccer, lacrosse and cricket pitches, as well as a rifle range and a fishing lake. Sailing takes place at Margam and rowing on the River Tawe.

There is surfing and canoeing from the beaches of the Gower Peninsula.

The university's traditionally strong sports are rugby, football, cricket, hockey and swimming. Outstandingly talented students may be eligible for an undergraduate sporting entrance scholarship, worth some pounds 700 per annum. There are also bursaries worth up to pounds 350.

The University of Wales, Bangor, is undertaking a pounds 1.65m project to update its 20-year-old sports centre in Friddoedd Road.

The development, which is expected to be completed and in operation by October, will consist of a new sports hall with a new weights room, a cardio-vascular exercise room, a multi-purpose room and new changing rooms.

Adjacent to the centre will be a floodlit, artificial turf, and an all- weather pitch for soccer, hockey and training.

Bangor offers exceptional opportunities for rowing, sailing, canoeing, walking and mountaineering in nearby Snowdonia and on the Menai Strait. The Plas Menai National Watersports Centre at Llanfairisgaer is just five miles away and the Plas-y-Brenin - the National Mountaineering Centre - is 18 miles away.

The University of Exeter has traditionally been strong in sport. Sports range from aikido to ultimate frisbee.

There are the major field sports, such as rugby, hockey, cricket and tennis, as well as the martial arts, rowing, sailing and canoeing and non-competitive outdoor sports.

Next to the sports hall on the Streatham campus is a large playing field with a cricket net practice area and two all weather pitches, one of which is floodlit. There are a further 60 acres of playing fields close to the campus.

There are more than 20 tennis courts located around the campuses. The sailing club keeps a fleet of six Lark dinghies at Starcross on the estuary, and the boat club has a well-equipped boathouse on the Exeter Canal at Countess weir. The university recently submitted a planning application to redevelop its sports facilities.

The pounds 3m-plus project involves selling its existing nine-acre sports grounds at Gras Lawn for housing development and re-investing the proceeds in a 23-acre site for sports fields off Topsham Road. This would provide one cricket pitch to minor counties standard, two football pitches to Devon and Exeter premier league standard, two rugby pitches to the same standard, and a further smaller cricket pitch with an all-weather square.

The university is also planning to create a floodlit, water-based synthetic hockey pitch at the Streatham campus, a second synthetic pitch, a new cricket square and new floodlit hard-play surfaces for netball and tennis.

Sports scholarships are available for students of outstanding sporting ability who show evidence of achievement or potential at national level. Sports scholars are provided with free university residential accommodation and are given pounds 1,000 a year to cover sporting expenses. Each scholar has a mentor with whom an annual programme of training and competition is agreed.

The scholarships are awarded for one year initially, but may be renewed for up to two further years, subject to satisfactory sporting progress, academic achievement and conduct.

At the University of Plymouth, water-based activities - canoeing, board sailing, lifesaving, sailing, surfing, swimming and water-skiing - are extremely popular. The diving and sailing centre on the waterfront is a Royal Yachting Association-approved centre.

The main sporting facilities at the University of Wales College, Newport, are located at the Caerleon campus. These consist of gymnasiums, rugby pitch, health and fitness suite and tennis courts. A new sports complex will include a new sports hall, badminton courts, additional gymnasiums and fitness suites.

Facilities for sailing, wind-surfing, dry-slope skiing, caving, canoeing, mountain biking, rock climbing, orienteering and hill-walking are within easy reach.

At Cardiff there are four sports centres, 33 acres of playing fields and a small athletics track.

There is also a floodlit artificial pitch, tennis and squash courts.

The Talybont Sports Centre, about one-and-a-half miles from the main campus, has two sports halls, a fitness studio, free weights room and five-a-side soccer pitch.

Aberystwyth has 52 acres of playing fields on the outskirts of town. These include an athletics field, a floodlit all-weather pitch, 10 tennis courts, four squash courts, two sports halls, a swimming pool, multi-gym and weights room.

Watersports take place on the River Rheidol and the Irish Sea.

The University of Glamorgan has 30 acres of playing fields, an all-weather pitch, sports hall, four squash courts, climbing wall, multi-gym, sauna, two gyms, an archery range and a tennis court.

Lampeter has a sports hall, five acres of playing fields, squash and tennis courts, an all-weather pitch, swimming pool, multi-gym and croquet lawn.

Rambling, hill walking, climbing, mountaineering and hang gliding take place in the nearby mountains.