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Family life and community spirit in Burton in Kendal

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 January 2016

Matthew, Hannah, Stuart, Kirstie, Cameron of The Family Adventure Project

Matthew, Hannah, Stuart, Kirstie, Cameron of The Family Adventure Project

© Stuart Wickes/The Family Adventure Project

Sue Riley meets some of the characters who make this small Westmorland community tick

Moira Rowley with her children Aidan, 13, Josie, five and Keira, 16Moira Rowley with her children Aidan, 13, Josie, five and Keira, 16

EXPLORING the world with their three young children has turned into a business for the Wickes family, of Burton in Kendal.

When Kirstie Pelling and Stuart Wickes first met they wanted an adventurous life and, as two became five, they didn’t want the fun to stop just because they’d started a family.

When the couple decided to blog about a year-long cycling adventure in New Zealand with their two young children (a third quickly followed) their enterprise, the Family Adventure Project, was born.

They’ve turned their adventures into a part-time job with Kirstie writing the features and Stuart taking pictures for their blog and they also write about family issues for a range of commercial organisations as well as giving practical advice to others with a sense of adventure.

Members of Burton in Kendal Art and Craft Society; (Back row) Betty Scott, Ann Barnes, Eric Parrott, Ann Rigby, Kath Hayhurst, Hazel Parker, Margaret Hayton
(front row) Molly Sheriff, Paula Firth and Audrey FrostMembers of Burton in Kendal Art and Craft Society; (Back row) Betty Scott, Ann Barnes, Eric Parrott, Ann Rigby, Kath Hayhurst, Hazel Parker, Margaret Hayton (front row) Molly Sheriff, Paula Firth and Audrey Frost

Now two of their children are teenagers and the youngest is ten (Kirstie realised she was pregnant six weeks into the NZ venture which slightly changed their plans) it’s harder to get them motivated but most summer holidays they are still being intrepid.

Since 2000 they’ve been cycling, sailing, canoeing, camper-vanning, eco-touring, road-tripping, railroading and backpacking in New Zealand, Samoa, Japan, the Philippines, the USA, Canada, Sweden, France, Spain, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, the Aland islands off Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and at home in the UK. As keen cyclists they have clocked up over 12,000 family bike miles.

‘Stuart and I planned to keep adventure in our lives and by extension be a family with a sense of adventure. I do not think we realised how much we would bond on these trips, our lives are disconnected at home and it helps us become a family again …and they will be gone in a few years’ time,’ said Kirstie, who is 48.

The couple settled in Burton in Kendal 15 years ago after realising London life was no longer for them. They’re just one of many ‘offcomers’ in the village. Moira Rowley is another. She’s a mum, wife, parish councillor, member of Burton Children’s Sports Committee and is also on the Recreation Trust.

When she and husband Julian arrived in the village, five miles north east of Carnforth, a decade ago she got a few other mums together to fundraise for play area improvements. Within months they had £29,000 and had created a playground complete with zipwire.

Now mum-of-three Moira is fundraising to purchase a see-saw for the area but her major plan is to raise up to £40,000 to resurface the village’s tennis courts and multi-use games area. ‘It will be wonderful for the village and for encouraging health and getting people out doing sports,’ she said. Supporters are planning a dog show and cycle race to raise the cash.

She’s also involved in the Big Kids’ Days Out where every April the sports committee pays for all the village’s teenagers to have a new experience. Previous trips include outings to the Chill Factore in Manchester, ice skating and paint-balling. Then on the second Bank Holiday in May it’s the Village Sports Day where residents make floats to parade around the area, before the games take place ending in a prize-giving and disco in the memorial hall. ‘It’s a really long day but really good fun,’ she says.

She also mentions Burton Onion Show – all the villagers tend to refer to this event which marks its 40th anniversary this year - saying last October’s event raised more than £5,000 which was shared between organisations in the village. ‘Everyone tries to support everyone else,’ she says, then mentions her husband who manages to juggle work as an artificial inseminator with being the village’s bingo caller. 
It seems this is a village where everyone pitches in.

Gill Chilvers echoes that view. She and Akis have run the community shop and post office since 2007. She was a physics teacher and Akis was in hotel management and they met while Gill was on a school trip in Athens and was bemoaning the quality of Greek wine. Akis, who was sitting behind her in the restaurant, took her to task.

Romance blossomed but, unlike Shirley Valentine, Gill came home and brought Akis with her. Now they’re an integral part of daily life in Burton with Akis becoming famous for making cakes to raise money for the village. ‘I bake three to four cakes a month, it’s been going for quite a few years. I never thought it would last that long!’ Gill added: ‘It’s a very friendly and busy village for its size. It still has a good community spirit and that reflects in the fundraising.’

One man who doesn’t have so much time to take part in many village activities is naturalist Bryan Yorke, 67, who goes up to Hutton Roof ever day to report on the flora and fauna. Since he moved from Haslingden to the village six years ago his work has been in demand, with appearances on BBC’s Autumnwatch and he’s also rediscovered the Holly Fern which hadn’t been seen (or at least recognised) for 57 years and was thought to be extinct. He captures his excursions in beautiful notebooks in which he writes notes, draws maps and paints images of the flowers and wildlife.

Bryan and a group of residents are also part of the Burton Swift Study Group which monitors when the birds arrive in the village and leave every year.

He watches other bird migration too and sends his reports to a variety of organisations across Europe and also updates his own blog. ‘People keep asking me to go looking over the other side but I say why bother when there’s so much going on here,’ he says. His work earned him a prestigious Golden Paw Badger Award from Cumbria Wildlife Trust last year for his ‘outstanding contribution to Cumbria conservation.’

On the edge of the village is Deerslet, a farm with a herd of 300 pedigree Holsteins. For non-farming types it’s the place where artist Cally Lawson has set up a studio in a former tearoom on the farm she runs with her husband Steven. She started concentrating on her paintings – sometimes inspired by the cattle and donkeys in the field she can see from her studio with Dalton Crag in the distance – when her children left for university. Now her pictures, prints and greetings cards sell at a couple of local galleries, but whenever she gets the chance she attends the Friday art class in the memorial hall. This is a village where community matters.


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