ONE of the most influential figures in Forest sport is retiring after nearly 50 years of helping generations of gymnasts develop their talents.

Lynn Hammersley has stepped down as the director and head coach of the Forest of Dean Gymnastics Club which is based at Five Acres.

She coached her last session last Wednesday (March 27) and officially retired on Thursday, March 28.

Lynn established the Forest of Dean Gymnastics Club at Berry Hill Primary School in 1976 and since then thousands of Forest children have enjoyed learning the sport recreationally.

Many have also gone on to become elite gymnasts representing the club, Gloucestershire and the South West at national competitions.

The club has hosted national and international competitions at the centre and taken its gymnasts all over Britain and abroad.

One of the highlights came in 2009 when a group from the club travelled to Romania to train at the gym of Nadia Comaneci, the gymnast who stunned the world when, competing at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, she became the first to be awarded a perfect 10.

The following year, members of the Forest of Dean Gymnastics Club crossed the Atlantic to compete in the Magical Classic competition in Florida and three years after that the club was represented at a men’s competition in the Russian city of Voronezh.

From being based at Berry Hill in the 1970s, a long run at Five Acres Leisure centre followed in the 1980s with brief spells at Whitecross School in Lydney in the early 1990s.

The club marked its 20th anniversary when the state-of-the-art regional gymnastics facility, fitness gym and centre of excellence opened on its current home at the Five Acres High School site.

It took 11 years of fund-raising for the dream of a purpose-built gymnastics centre for the Forest to become a reality and, since then, extensive by club members and their families and support from local councils and the National lottery support has enabled the not-for-profit organisation to develop over the subsequent two decades.

With constant growth and development, the centre has retained its status as a national-standard facility and has been commercial stable throughout. 

Lynn’s guidance and huge personal efforts week-in-week-out have been supported by long-standing trustees, club parents and her husband, Chris.

Lynn’s role in developing the community club and providing high-quality facilities for the Forest was recognised when she was inducted into the British Gymnastics Hall of Fame alongside Olympic gymnast Louis Smith.

The following year she was awarded an MBE which was presented to her by Prince William at Windsor Castle after being nominated by a gymnast from the early years of the club.

Gloucestershire Amateur Gymnastics recognised her 30 years as Chair of the country association last week and her final moment of recognition came from centre staff who hosted a farewell dinner at the club’s local, The Dog & Muffler, Joyford.

A club spokesperson said: “Together they could reflect and celebrate nearly five decades of leadership and service. 

“The club is in excellent shape, with a thriving membership and enthusiastic staff ready to continue the work to give many more young gymnasts and fitness members across the Forest a positive and healthy experience.”

Lynn plans to enjoy retirement gardening, travelling and seeing more of her children and grandchildren as well as writing a memoir and history of the club and would welcome memories from past gymnasts and parents.

Writing on social media, Lynn said: “I just want to say a huge thank you to all my wonderful staff friends, gymnasts, parents and fitness members for making my retirement week so special.”