PARKOUR is the art of moving from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible using nothing but the body.

Reporter DAN KEEL met up with Ultimate Freedom, Dartford's very own team of gravity-defying youngsters.

Members of Ultimate Freedom who practise parkour on the railings, steps, ramps and bridges of Dartford are quick to point out they are responsible dedicated athletes and not just a bunch of troublesome kids.

As traceurs, the phrase used to describe such artists, they jump, run, vault and, at times, appear to fly over obstacles with incredible ease.

But they always consider the safety of both the team and general public and are keen to defend their art from critics.

The group's leader, 17-year-old Louis Findlay, whose parkour name is Brake, explained: "I find it gives me that certain freedom.

"A few people think we are just being childish, and don't understand that it's taken a lot of dedication to reach our level."

He added: "Sometimes people say If you want to get from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible, why don't you just get a bus?'.

"We always point out that getting a bus is not efficient at all. And that there is no such thing as a parkour footprint!"

The six Dartford traceurs and their two trainees, all aged 15 to 17, practise in the area surrounding Dartford train station.

Commuters who pile off the train at rush hour pause from their hurried journeys and watch the team effortlessly hurdle railings and jump walls nearly double their height.

A few even stop to applaud the group which formed in 2004 after a Channel 4 documentary about traceurs called Jump Britain.

Louis and 16-year-old Daniel Denim' Powsey watched the programme and phoned their friend, 15-year-old Kevin 'Kash' Morris to form a team.

Four years on, Ultimate Freedom now has three more members along with two trainees who approached them for lessons.

Louis added: "As long as you have the right attitude and are prepared to take it seriously, we are happy to teach anybody.

"In fact last year we helped teach a 70-year-old man who had seen us practising. We gave him an A for effort but urged him not to try anything too ambitious."

Indeed safety appears to be of paramount importance to the team in its quest to spread the word of parkour.

While watching the team go through their vigorous warm-up routine, Louis said: "Parkour is safe as long as you check that your surfaces are stable and don't attempt anything too ambitious too early.

"We act professionally and I think we have only had two serious injuries."

Sixteen-year-old Harry 'H' Ward explained: "I severely sprained my ankle when jumping off a 15ft wall."

Trainee Lewis Everest, 17, chipped in by saying: "I broke my ankle when vaulting a railing, and funnily enough, two days after coming out of my cast I sprained it when I was just walking along a path."

A teacher at Leigh Technology Academy, in Green Street Green Road, Dartford, recently approached Louis about starting up an after-school parkour club.