Staveley - The village that grows on you
PUBLISHED: 00:16 11 March 2011 | UPDATED: 18:59 20 February 2013
From refugees to Lancastrian exiles, this Lakeland community has a story around every corner. Roger Borrell reports Photography by John Cocks
Leaving the big city and settling in a small rural community can be a real shock to the system, but life-changing moves were nothing new for the village chemist in Staveley. When he arrived there from Liverpool, it was the end of a very long and extraordinary journey.
Anothai Chareunsy has a soft-spoken Scouse accent but as soon as you meet him you know his roots are thousands of miles from here. He and his parents came to Britain in the 1970s as refugees from Laos, a beautiful country torn apart by an intolerant communist regime.
He can remember, as a six-year-old, being carried on board a boat and rowed across the mighty Mekong River as he and his parents and their three other children fled to neighbouring Thailand.
It was a frightening time, says Anothai. The communist troops would shoot at the people in the boats and many went overboard and were never seen again.
By good fortune, they made it to a refugee camp. I can remember the long queues for food and I especially recall the day I got to the front and was handed the biggest fish Id ever seen. It was almost as big as me and I ran home very excited.
They were allowed to settle in Britain and the family ended up in Liverpool and Anothai qualified as a pharmacist. But when you ask him if his parents are proud of him, his response is surprising. It is me who is proud of them. They fled their homeland and came to a strange country where they knew no one and could not speak a word of English. Life must have been very difficult for them, but they did it.
Anothai laughs when he recounts taking over the business from the former chemist some five years ago. I asked him how people would respond to me - Im obviously different to the locals. He replied that I shouldnt worry because there were quite a few Scousers in Staveley! I liked that - he thought of me as British.
Anothai, married with two young children, has taken a keen interest in village life. When he arrived there were some posters around seeking first responders providing on-the-spot aid to people suffering heart attacks
It never got off the ground and then, one day, a man had a heart attack in the pharmacy, he says. We did what we could while waiting for the ambulance but we all felt so helpless. It was then that we decided to set up the group.
Happily, the man survived but Anothai was determined to help set up a team of trained villagers armed with pagers, defribulators and oxygen to treat patients prior to medics arriving.
This is a vibrant little village and there are always activities, he says. We have a St Valentines Day masked ball as a fundraiser for the first responders and there are coffee mornings every Saturday. After living for so long in Liverpool, its great to have these nice village social events.
Staveley is just a short hop from Windermere but its a million miles from the Lake District honeypots. Its a working village, which has managed to keep the essentials such as a pub, post office, shop and village school.
The primary school has been running for more than 250 years and is thought to be the oldest in the county. Its still going strong. While many in education seem disenchanted, a short visit to Staveley Primary restores your faith in the system.
The school has 150 pupils between four and 11. The head is Mike Prince, who confesses that he enjoys returning to work even after the long summer break.
I am blessed with a set of governors who agree with me that children should enjoy their time at school and leave with a positive attitude. We do well by all the external measures but we are not driven by them. If you asked me for the figures in our assessments, I know they are good but I dont know them off by heart. I dont really care what they are.
When school inspectors asked him why he allowed a Polish girl with little English to take her SATs, knowing it would bring down the schools average, he replied: Because she wanted to. Her friends were taking it and she didnt want to be left out.
The Ofsted report concluded: We dont entirely understand your school but clearly it works. Mike adds: What a great place to be! It restored some of my faith in the system.
Dont get the impression this is another trendy school where the children are allowed to do what they want and lessons take a back seat. Education is not a spectator sport here, says Mike. The children know it can be hard work but we are not here to simply pump facts into them. Our aim is to produce children we all want to share the world with.
The hub of Staveley is the mill yard and the original buildings which formed the bobbin factory remain. It no longer functions as a mill, but David Brockbank, the third generation of his family to own it, has created a fascinating complex of businesses which are now major employers.
Its an eclectic mix ranging from award-winners such as the Hawkshead Brewery and the Artisan Bakery to talented furniture makers like Waters
One of the first businesses was Lucy Cooks, a stylish and well-equipped school owned by the legendry Lakeland restaurateur Lucy Nicholson.
Running the schools front-of-house is Helen Frain-Kaye, who was born in Bury and was a high-flier in human resources with Marks & Spencer before retiring. I stumbled over Lucy Cooks soon after it opened and emailed Lucy to ask if she needed any help, says Helen. Ive been here ever since.
The school holds classes throughout the year and its open to people of all levels of ability, from novices to families up to budding masterchefs.
The thing weve notice is that its now OK for men to cook, she says. There was a time when it wasnt seen as a masculine thing to do. But now
we are getting more and more men here and Ive been quite surprised by the standard.
The school does many corporate events, demo and dine nights and even caters for the more genteel end of the hen night market, events which normally involve a lot of chocolate and cupcakes.
If the lads from the bobbin mill could see the old place now!