Campaigning is at the heart of the community in Broughton-in-Furness

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 December 2016

Picturesque Broughton-in-Furness

Picturesque Broughton-in-Furness

Sandy Kitching

The people in this northerly outpost of old Lancashire are used to a fight - and this time the area’s natural beauty is at stake.

Jane Rousseau, Louize Speakman, Caroline Munday, Sally Bamber and John RousseauJane Rousseau, Louize Speakman, Caroline Munday, Sally Bamber and John Rousseau

The feisty folk of traditional Lancashire’s northern outposts battle hard to preserve their special communities. And in Broughton-in-Furness one campaign may have ended successfully, but there are always a couple of others on the go.

Although smaller than many villages – the last census put the population at just over 1,700 – Broughton punches well above its weight with an impressive array of businesses, entrepreneurs and services. It is also a Charter Town, permitting them to hold a market since the reign of Elizabeth I.

The Broughton Community Plan of 2016 makes the point that Broughton serves a large rural community where farming is still the mainstay of the economy, and the landscape is what makes it special.

Surrounding hamlets of Ulpha, Dunnerdale, Seathwaite, Cockly Beck, Broughton Mills, Woodland, Angerton and Foxfield each retain their own character and amenities such as churches, community halls, a post office and pubs.

Roger Holland, the vice-chairman of Broughton Auction MartRoger Holland, the vice-chairman of Broughton Auction Mart

It was the Post Office in Broughton which this year galvanised community action, when the Post Office proposed changes which would have removed its subsidy.

‘In small rural communities like Broughton the amount of money from retail sales is not going to be sufficient for supporting the Post Office service,’ said Annette Carmichael, who led the campaign to save it.

The sub-postmaster and his wife, Alan and Diane Bath, appealed and Mrs Carmichael raised a petition of 375 signatures. Barrow MP John Woodcock and Age UK also joined the fight and within a couple of months the Post Office relented.

The campaign was helped by the closure of the last bank which meant there was nowhere else to get cash, said the Baths’ daughter Carly who along with her brother, Scott, help run the PO as a family business.

‘A lot of people came forward to help us. Without their intervention, who knows what would have happened?’ said Carly, who is married to local chef Steven Holland.

Among the other facilities enjoyed by the village are the award-winning bakery, started by the Dawsons family in the 1920s and recently taken over by Mike and Alison Harvey, and the grocer’s and butcher’s run by the family of Melville Tyson.

It also has a dispensing doctor’s surgery, a dentist, a veterinary practice, solicitors, accountants and a retained fire station. Broughton Information Centre is an important link between visitors and local businesses and attractions. Four pubs survive and there are two petrol stations. ‘All these services are vulnerable and the need to protect them is important. The whole community needs to pull together,’ added Mrs Carmichael.

And pull together they do.

One campaign has been to reduce speed of motorists who save a minute or less by using Broughton as a rat run to avoid the bends around Foxfield on the A595. Around half of the 2000 vehicles a day passing through Broughton are thought to be commuters to other centres.

But the big subject on the day Lancashire Life visited was the proposal by the National Grid to put up 50-metre high pylons across the Duddon Valley, to connect the proposed Moorside Nuclear Station, near Sellafield, to the grid at Heysham.

When the National Grid announced its plans on October 24, most people were pleased that the cables would be going underground through the Lake District National Park north of Duddon and under the sea across Morecambe Bay.

But the proposals met a storm of protest from communities just outside the national park boundaries, where 50-metre high pylons – the size of Nelson’s Column – will replace those half their size.

Duddon is one of 15 parishes who have united against the proposals. David Savage from the Parish Councils Coordination Group said: ‘Over ground pylons are fundamentally unacceptable to the beautiful places of Cumbria in which we live.

‘We are particularly concerned at the effect of these proposals on the Duddon Estuary. There is no mitigation in the plan for the beauty of the valley.’

The Duddon Valley is mentioned in sonnets by romantic poets William Wordsworth, and is overlooked by walker Alfred Wainwright’s favourite fell, Black Combe.

National Grid spokesperson Jeanette Unsworth said: ‘We have had to make some difficult decisions about the landscape in West Cumbria. Although the Duddon Valley is treasured, it is not designated.

‘We have had to find a balance between the landscape and the affordability of fuel bills. Everything we do goes through to the bottom line in what people pay for their electricity. We believe we have found the right balance.’

But Mr Savage added: ‘The fight goes on. This is a call for action for all the communities affected to get involved in saving this unique landscape.’

Landscape photographer John Rousseau agreed. ‘160 foot is twice as high as the current ones, but eight times the volume, each with four conductors and each conductor with six insulators. The wires will slice up the sky in what is a world famous landscape.

‘The power lines must be put underground or out to sea. Our grandchildren will curse us if we get this wrong.’

John was speaking at the Square Cafe run by his daughter Jane Rousseau, who after a 20-year career as a film and television camera operator, came back to Broughton.

She has turned the former bikers’ cafe into a family-friendly facility overlooking the obelisk put up in 1810 to mark the golden jubilee of George III.

It certainly attracts local artists, the number of which seems to be growing fast. Jane herself is a fine ink and pencil drawer. She was joined by Louize Speakman, artist and designer, and painter, print-maker and photographer Caroline Munday. Both also had family connections to the area and decided to return to Broughton for its blend of peace, quiet and plentiful services.

Another locally based artist and graphic designer is Sally Bamber, who also chairs Ulverston’s famous PrintFest, which will return in 2017 after a year’s break.

She and her husband Keith run a design business from the former Lodge House for Duddon Hall, moving from London 11 years ago. Why is Broughton so attractive to artists?

‘It is such a beautiful area, within easy walking distance of the countryside, views of the Duddon estuary, with its steam trains and geese flying across. You just need to turn down the path to the church and it could be 100 years ago,’ said Mrs Bamber.

It remains to be seen whether that special view will be tarnished by giant pylons. Given the community’s track record, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them in this fight.

Plenty in stock

EARLY December sees the end of the seasonal sales which keep Broughton in tune with the farming industry.

The auction mart has been running since 1880s and is still run as an independent business by a consortium of local farmers.

Chairman Bill Johnson said the spring (April and May) and autumn (October and November) seasons reflected the demands of the farmers who mainly sell sheep and suckling calves, with up to 1,200 cattle and 40,000 sheep sold in a year.

‘It is good for the farmers to have an auction there to keep up contacts and it is good for the town bring in extra revenue for the businesses,’ he said.

It is particularly popular for its sale of Herdwick sheep, with BBC TV’s Adam Henson an occasional visitor.

Vice-chair Roger Holland (yes father-in-law of Carly at the Post Office) said hundreds of farmers attend the weekly or fortnightly sales, with many from Lancashire, especially the Clitheroe area.

‘The farmers are keen to keep the auction mart going. We all put in a lot of time and effort to make it happen.’

Although the normal Tuesday sales, which see Broughton’s streets full of livestock trucks, end in November, there are special pre-Christmas sales on Monday evening, December 6 and a late sale on Saturday December 10, followed by a charity event.

Although smaller than many villages, Broughton is a Charter Town – the charter to hold markets being granted in the reign of Elizabeth I. At one time it was an important centre for reading wool and cattle. It also retains its ancient stocks once used for local miscreants.

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