Fresh thinking on the Alcoa Fitness Trail for Barton Fields

An exciting new fitness trail is set to be installed in Cowick Barton Playing Fields. 

The trail will aim to encourage local people to become more active in order to improve their levels of health, and will incorporate standard exercise challenges, fruit trees, and some outdoor fitness equipment.

The project has been made possible thanks to a £41,620 grant from the Alcoa Foundation, and local company Alcoa Howmet.

Active Devon and Active Exeter, in partnership with Exeter City Council, will work with local communities in designing and installing the trail, which is scheduled to be ready next summer.

As part of the development of the project, community organiser Laura Robinson has been carrying out a series of community consultation events to improve Barton Fields as a community space.

In April 2015, Laura carried out a survey of local residents and communities in the surrounding area of Cowick Barton Playing Fields to understand their views, and how the Playing Fields current meets the needs of individuals and the community.

The information collected from this survey will be used to influence the shaping of the future of Barton Fields, and ensure any changes are reflective of what the local community feels would benefit them.

And the next stages of the community consultation are due over the coming week.

On Saturday 11 July 2015, Laura is running a community consultation and picnic in Barton Fields, near the Scout Hut, between 10:00 and 14:00


Working with Wild Zones, t his event will be an opportunity for all ages, to explore and express ideas,  to begin to further develop the ideas for the trail and to encourage fresh thinking by creating imaginative play spaces with natural materials.

A follow-up consultation will take the form of a Free Thinking cafe taking place on Wednesday 15th at the Air Cadets  between 19:00 and 20:30.

The idea of this will be to build on Saturday’s community consultation and the conversations will form the basis of the next steps in Barton Fields becoming a thriving community hub, and so  both organisations and residents who would like to further support the project development will have the opportunity to have a deeper and more meaningful conversation to surface some heartfelt ideas.

Do join us is in these creative conversations

For more information, contact Laura Robinson at:

Alcoa Fitness Trail – Cowick Barton Playing Fields

The “Alcoa Fitness Trail” is the working title of the Alcoa funded project at Cowick Barton Playing Field to encourage local people to become more active in order to improve their levels of health.

This has been made possible thanks to a £41,620 grant from the Alcoa Foundation, and local company Alcoa Howmet. We are working with Active Exeter, Alcoa and the local community to deliver the project.

A survey undertaken in April indicates that the project will meet demand and have community acceptance. We are now planning a community consultation on Saturday 11 July and a follow-up in the evening on Wednesday 15July

We are looking to use Wild Zones, who have previous experience at Wonford in community consultation, with the following goals:

  • increase the community’s involvement, use and enjoyment of the space
  • increase the levels of outdoor physical activity for all ages
  • increase the community’s ongoing engagement in the planning, care, maintenance and management of Barton Field
  • reduce levels of obesity in all sectors of the community
  • promote the health and well-being of all sectors of the community
  • contribute to the goal of making Exeter the most physically active city in the South West by 2018
  • be a catalyst for people to develop a lifelong pattern of enjoyment of outdoor physical activity

There are some working assumptions for the Fitness Trail:

  • If we want to decrease the levels of obesity in 11-year-olds, we must start with increasing the range of outdoor activities that are enjoyable for 6,7 and 8 year-olds and their parents, as well as developing a diverse range of enjoyable activities for older children, adolescents and adults.
  • Physical activity is an important factor in reducing levels of obesity.
  • Extensive research shows that other crucial factors in combating obesity include a sense of connection and community, reduced stress, experiencing one’s own competence and creativity, and overall levels of happiness and wellbeing.
  • Activities that address more of these underlying factors will have greater impact on achieving the stated goals.

The consultation will need to:

  • manage expectations about what’s possible within the constraints of budget, safety, existing structures, and the needs of multiple stakeholders;
  • create a context for people to express their underlying needs, aspirations and concerns; and
  • establish a creative process in which fresh possibilities for activities, events and equipment can emerge.

The information gained at the consultation will enable the project plan to be developed and a timetable of construction, development and delivery commencing late summer through into 2016.

Options and opportunities could well include further funding streams being captured, assisting in sustaining a broader community ownership.

The key issue is to involve the community so that it is the community who, in the long term, are able to provide a sustainable future for the playing field.

Express & Echo covered this in Fitness trail in St Thomas will help improve Exeter residents fitness levels [17 June 2015]

Update on Alcoa Fitness Trail

Express and Echo

Thursday 29 January 2015

Community News | St Thomas

A recently announced in the Echo, Exeter City Council was awarded funding of some £46,000 by the Alcoa Foundation, who own Howmet, to install a fitness trail in the city.

Cowick Barton playing fields were chosen to benefit, with the support of local councillor Rob Hannaford, after consultation with the city council’s portfolio holder for environment and leisure, Cllr Keith Owen.

This was done after a mapping exercise of facilities, and an assessment that indicated it as a suitable site , due to pockets of socio-economic deprivation levels in the vicinity, and the scope to have a direct influence on the fitness of the very large numbers of school age children in the area.

The city council is now working with Active Devon and Alcoa to deliver this project over the next two years. Amongst the first things required is for the council to establish as far as practicable, reasons for people not achieving a healthy lifestyle, local issues and interests, contact with community groups and others, such as the local schools, who would become directly involved, as one of the criteria is involving young people in the design.

Cllr Hannaford said: “ I am really pleased that one of our local open spaces has been chosen for this exciting project. “To progress the project we will be utilising, through Active Devon, the services of Ms Laura Robinson, to continue and expand on the community liaison work she has undertaken in Wonford.

“I have received excellent reports from the local councillors in Wonford about Laura’s work in the community, so I am sure that she will be a real asset to the project.

“Over the next few weeks she will be gathering information from people in West Exe, so that we can set up the next phases of the project.

“I am sure that all this should excite some interest across the wider community, so please come forward with your input.”

Cllr Hannaford added: “ This is very much an information gathering exercise at present, we are in the don’t know phase, and it likely that the eventual design will no doubt bear little relation to the old style fitness trails that we had 20 years ago. “However we do want ideas and features that actually get people, especially children, involved, fit and active. That will be the legacy of the project.

“Once all the ideas and suggestions have come in and been analysed, I hope that we will have a public engagement event with residents, schools, local sports groups, and businesses, and set up a steering group to do the development work.”

Alcoa Fitness Trail


MEDIA RELEASE | 10 December 2014

An exciting new fitness trail is set to be installed in an Exeter park.

The trail, which will incorporate outdoor fitness equipment as well as standard exercise challenges, will be installed at Cowick Barton playing fields. The project has been made possible thanks to a £41,620 grant from Alcoa Foundation, and local company Alcoa Howmet.

Active Exeter in partnership with Exeter City Council will work with local communities in designing and installing the trail, which is scheduled to be ready for action early next Summer. A key part of the community involvement will be with local teenagers.

Exeter’s Health and Wellbeing Board has been instrumental in driving forward the project to increase physical activity and sports participation within the city. The Board’s number one priority is to make Exeter the most physically active city in the South West by 2018.
The aim of the fitness trail is to increase visitor numbers to the park by 50% by October 2016, with around 100 people using the Trail on a weekly basis and gaining benefits to their health.

Cllr Keith Owen, Lead Councillor for Environment, Health and Wellbeing, said: “The Fitness Trail will be an enjoyable way for people to stay fit and active while having fun. Twenty per cent of 11-year-olds in the UK are currently obese. In Exeter we’re doing our bit to buck this trend.”

“Nicola Acton, of Alcoa Howmett, said: “Alcoa Howmet has been focusing on Well Being activities for over 12 months to help keep their workforce fit and healthy, and the new Fitness Trial was an excellent Project which the local community and our employees could all benefit from.

“We look forward to the works commencing and working alongside the Council,” she added.