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Rainford serves up community spirit

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 September 2018

Rainford Village Hall

Rainford Village Hall

Archant

Is it a village? Is it a town? Who cares when the locals take such a pride in making this such a lovely place to visit

Eagle and Child InnEagle and Child Inn

Rainford near St Helens has shops, leisure facilities and a rather imposing council building that would be the envy of many more substantial towns, and unlike plenty of them is lucky enough to have retained a railway station.

But it is officially and spiritually a village – everyone seems to know everyone else, people want to be involved, and there are annual events around which community life happily revolves.

Such cohesion is perhaps surprising given Rainford’s geography – the least populous of St Helens’ districts and with the largest area, not a new situation. ‘Rainford was first mentioned in writing in 1189,’ says Ray Waring, chairman of the village’s heritage society. ‘It didn’t feature in Domesday because it was just a few farms spread over the Moss.’

The society’s displays of local artefacts are soon to move from their home on one current farm to another where larger premises are available to house an ever-expanding collection. Most fascinating among these are the clay-pipes whose cottage-industry production lasted until the 1950s. ‘They continued making pipes here even when the local clay supply was exhausted,’ says Ray.

The Derby ArmsThe Derby Arms

A large barn on Bridge Farm, the other side of the village from the current location, is where Ray and his colleagues will relocate the pipes, bottles, agricultural implements and field-finds that tell the story of Rainford.

It’s typical of the village’s interconnections and support networks that Janette Cockayne, whose family owns the farm, made the offer; and that Ray Waring, a family friend, was the one asked to perform the official opening of the new cafe facilities there last month.

Bridge Farm, owned by Janette’s family since Victorian times, is a case-study of how villages and their businesses evolve. She and her husband John returned to help her grandparents maintain it, adding John’s landscaping business to the portfolio, then a thriving plants operation followed by a 20-pitch campsite and now a very smart café.

Plants grown by the Cockaynes appear in Rainford’s annual Britain in Bloom push, one of the events that bring its inhabitants together.

Another core event on the calendar here is the Christmas Fayre, the stalls, rides, activities and reputedly the mulled wine, in particular, enjoyable in themselves, but also providing an amazingly successful way of raising funds. Sue Black, one of the organisers, says: ‘Last year’s fayre raised about £6000 which allowed us to make donations to the heritage society, guides, scouts, cricket and football clubs, tennis… about 20 organisations in total received some funds.’

Fundraising is close to the heart of the Rainford Band, currently in the Championship Section, the Premier League of brass bands. ‘Competing at the highest level is expensive,’ says Geoff Hunter, its chairman and formerly one of its musicians. ‘With transport and accommodation every time we travel to a concert or competition, music, and paying for instruments, we’d love to find a major sponsor.’ One way the band generates the cash to pay its way is via another of those key village events, The Summer Pops, held in a barn at White House Farm that’s transformed for two nights in mid-July into a cosily buzzing concert venue, thanks in no small part to the support of local business Mahood Marquees.

Geoff has been part of the set-up since the band was formed in 1976 by players who’d started out in the Boys’ Brigade, as has the band’s librarian, Martin Rigby. Martin is also one of the leading lights in Rainford’s annual Walking Day, surely the central village event. ‘People who have moved away come back specially to be at Walking Day,’ says councillor Allan Jones. ‘They meet up with old friends and family members, it’s a big part of what the village is about.’

Adds councillor Diane Wesley added that there were about 300 people in the parade itself, and 7,000 watching.

‘Along the route you’ll see barbecues going, and people develop their own unique traditions over the years. The children who march in the parade absolutely love it,’ says councillor Linda Mussell.

Rob Reynolds, chairman of the Parish Council, has helped launch a newer event, Rainford’s beer festival, and is quick to point out that the long-established Rainford Show, held in early September, is yet another gathering that brings villagers together. ‘But Walking Day is the best day of the year here,’ he concludes. ‘It’s just a special part of the village, an amazing event.’

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