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Croston's success is down to the growing support of the local community

00:16 09 January 2012

The Lord Nelson at Out Lane

The Lord Nelson at Out Lane

Croston's success is down to the growing support of the local community, as Emma Mayoh discovered PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

There is no doubting the appeal of Croston village. A brief walk around its streets reveals picture postcard cottages, historic homes, a church that dates back to William the Conqueror and a cobbled packhorse bridge, erected in the 15th century, which crosses the River Yarrow.

It would be easy for the community, given the villages chocolate box image, to become stuck in the past. But it is through the locals commitment and dedication that Croston continues to go from strength-to-strength.

One local resident, Tim Blythe, is now hoping to get enough support to help it grow. The 48-year-old, who also works for Lancashire County Councils environment projects team, is working to launch a year-long Tree Spree project to help safeguard the future look of Croston.

Assuming they receive a 10,000 lottery grant in a few months, Tim and a group of volunteers will plant 150 trees in residents front gardens, establish three or four new mini-woodlands on local farms, plant six new community areas as well as putting trees on the main highway and in the villages picturesque areas, including the church grounds and Grape Lane.

He said: It is about protecting Croston for the future. A lot of trees here are of a similar age and they will disappear at the same time. We also have a lot of horse chestnut trees which are currently being attacked by a bacterial infection called Bleeding Canker. All of this, including the bad weather last winter that took its toll, could potentially wipe out a lot of our trees.

We need to make sure this doesnt happen, for the environments sake but also for the experience people have when they are walking around the village. I want the next generations to enjoy looking at lots of different trees.

The one-year project, due to be launched in April, will also include a programme of events including educational activities and after school sessions, tree-themed family fun days and a series of walks and talks. It has already got the support of many locals, and the backing of the Lancashire Woodland Project and Lancashire County Council.

Tim also hopes to extend the project across other towns and villages in the county.

He said: Croston has a track record of community led activity so Im hoping the it will draw even more residents in and get involved. Im confident the Tree Spree will go ahead because of the passion and interest people have shown and the good it will do for the village.

Making the most of green space is already a big part of village life with many groups doing their bit to keep Croston at its best. At Trinity St Michaels School they have recently improved the outdoor play areas using money raised by parents and governors, and pupils are also being encouraged to be more green-fingered.

They have already been working on several projects and have established their own vegetable plot in the school grounds. Some of the produce has already been used by the schools chef Lorraine Wickstead who last year was named Lancashire School Chef of the Year. But in 2012 the pupils want to be able to grow even more food for their classmates to enjoy.

And work is due to start this month to create a new community wildlife area on land behind the school.

Headteacher Kay Beaty said: It will really help the pupils to connect more with the wildlife but also help with their development. We want to make it quite a hilly terrain so it helps our younger pupils with their co-ordination. We may do things like pond dipping as well but it most of all it gives the children a chance to explore the outdoors and to learn.

We also want it to be a place used by the community and were hoping people will come and help us build this area. Theres a lot of potential and we feel we need to have this land for the local people as well as the pupils.

When youre a village primary school you are at the heart of the community. You are the thing that brings families together. We want to be more involved with the village than ever and hopefully a project like this will help us to achieve that.

Another small group of dedicated volunteers also do their bit and keep Croston blooming. Every year, they fill the village with beautiful flowers, plants and shrubs to keep it looking beautiful. And their efforts have been rewarded as Croston was named Best Kept Large Village in Lancashire and the war memorial took the top spot in the War Memorial Category at the Lancashire Best Kept Village Competition.

The village also received a silver medal in the Large Village category of the North West in Bloom competition.

Anne Peet, the chairman of Croston Parish Council, said: What an achievement that was! We were so pleased with the results and it was testament to all the hard work that a relatively small group of dedicated volunteers put in.

We are all very proud of our village and for us to be officially recognised with awards like this is fantastic. Croston is a beautiful place and I couldnt think of anywhere better I would like to be.

An Olympic effort

Croston will be one of many towns, villages and cities in the spotlight next year as the Olympic Torch is carried through its streets. People across the borough are expected to line the streets on June 1st to watch the official London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Route travel through Croston, as well as Euxton and Chorley. The event will make a weekend of celebrations to coincide with the Queens Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

It has been a long wait for the Friends of Croston Station group. For several years the volunteers have campaigned to get access to a disused, run down platform to improve its look. They have now got that permission and will spend the next two years doing the work needed to get it back up to scratch.Group member Kath Almond said: This horrible space is the first thing people saw when they got off the train and it doesnt give you an accurate impression of Croston.

There is a lot of work to be done and weve already been out every Sunday clearing tree roots and no end of brambles. It will be worth it.

Croston is twinned with Azay-le-Rideau, a town in the Loire Valley, France. Bastille Day celebrations are held to mark the occasion in Croston and the village also has a boules league, a direct result of the twinning arrangement.

One Croston group that is helping rural communities is Villages in Partnership, based in Croston Community Centre. The charitys aim is to improve the quality of life for people in rural villages in south Lancashire. They have donated money and have helped local groups obtain funding for several projects in Croston, including almost 700 to set up VIP coffee mornings at the centre.


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