A WHITCHURCH fitness trainer who saw his business destroyed by a fire has opened new premises in the town.

John Ruffell’s, pictured, previous gym was damaged by a van fire in Church Street on July 1, 2017, after it had been open for less than two months.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said John. “I got a call just as I left saying it was up flames, and it took the whole building out really.”

Now John has opened Hampshire Fitness Centre, a much larger facility, at Southfield Farm Barn, in Micheldever Road.

“It will be the first one of its kind in Whitchurch, with a fitness class area and an actual gym.

“The previous gym was small and old, but this is a proper fitness centre. It’s not a porta-cabin, it’s not a shed - it’s a real establishment.”

John’s new fitness centre offers flexible membership to the gymnasium as well as a regular timetable of fitness classes, with kettlebells, boot camp and yoga on the schedule and more planned for the coming year.

Half of the facility is dedicated to gym equipment, the other dedicated to fitness classes.

It is set-up to allow its users — whatever their fitness needs — to enjoy the space together.

“It’s more like an American-style gym in that in it’s all open plan.

“You can walk in whenever you like and use the gym, and you get the hype from the classes that are going on.

“If you come in one day and don’t fancy the gym, that hype can give you a bit of a pick-me-up.”

The facility began operating on Monday following a welcome day on Saturday.

More than 100 people attended throughout the welcome day, with one lucky gym-goer winning a competition for a free one-month gym membership at the facility.

“It was good, really good actually. We didn’t stop — we were busy all day, talking to people, answering questions and we’ve been doing inductions all week since.”

John hopes his gym will help to bring the town together, much like the community did for him after the fire.

A 2017 fundraiser sought to generate £500 to replace equipment that was damaged in the blaze, which ended up smashing that target, raising £1,285 in total.

He added: “I’ve spent my life trying to help others and it came back around to me thanks to the community. They can support you at the time you need it most.

“Sometimes you don’t realise how many people are behind you.”