WHAT do you call a sport which is a cross between tennis, badminton and table tennis?

Mix up the key elements of each, and the result is pickleball, which has got nothing to do with cheese sandwiches.

The fascinating game, which was invented in America in 1965, has finally made a breakthrough at Hexham’s Wentworth Leisure Centre.

Pickleball is played on a badminton court with a lower net, with either two or four participants using short handled bats, and a ball containing air holes, which is harder than those used for tennis.

Nick Walker was keen to raise awareness of pickleball in West Northumberland after attending sessions at Newcastle Badminton Centre.

And after witnessing a surge in popularity, he has started to run taster sessions at Wentworth.

Active Northumberland’s sport development manager Kathie Keady said: “When Nick contacted me about setting it up in Hexham I jumped at the opportunity to support it, seeing its potential as a new opportunity.

“The game is different enough to appeal to anyone interested in variation of a racket sport, yet familiar enough for people to pick it up easily, and secretly I couldn’t wait to try it out for myself, which I did and loved.”

Kathie said Active Northumberland is always looking at ways of getting people more active, and recent variations of traditional sports have seen huge increases in people taking up walking football, while many adults have returned to hockey and netball for the first time since their school days.

Kathie said pickleball can be likened to short tennis.

“The air holes in the ball allow it to be hit hard, but it will not fly off the court in the way a soft tennis ball will,” she explained. “The ball is easier to hit than a shuttle cock, yet it appeals to badminton players as well as squash and tennis players.

“Pickleball will interest people seeking a gentler version of a racket sport, as well as those wanting to have a more energetic, competitive game.

“It is also great for kids. Nick has done a fantastic job in getting equipment and volunteers to run these taster sessions and is keen to see them become self sufficient in the future.”

Facilities are currently closed at Wentworth, and pickleball sessions are suspended until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.