Carving out Crostons future

PUBLISHED: 22:25 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013

St Michael and All Angels Church and Church Street

St Michael and All Angels Church and Church Street

This pretty Lancashire village has plenty of history with ancient buildings around every corner. We meet the people safeguarding its future. Emma Mayoh reports

A FLEETING glance down Church Street in Croston and the history is obvious. The cobbled street, the smithy and the picture postcard St Michael's and All Angels Church all give clues to this pretty Lancashire village's ancient roots.

The old police station, former farm barns and the old Methodist primary school may now have been converted into homes but these buildings still hint at the Croston of yesteryear.

A group of creative residents has been making history of their own with a series of stone carvings cataloguing the village's achievements. Croston Carvers have already produced intricate designs of a bee hive, a clog and a date stone as well as a stone for Chorley's Astley Park for the Queen's Golden Jubilee, a huge stone in Bretherton to mark the Transit of Venus in 2004 and a commemorative stone for Derian House Children's Hospice.

They are now hoping their work will serve as a date line and permanent reminder of Croston's past for future residents and visitors.

One member, Kath Almond, said: 'We want to remind people and show them what used to be. We've put carvings at the entrance to former mills or farms that are now housing developments and a clog outside one estate agent's because there used to be a cobbler's there.

'Hopefully visitors to the village in years to come will be able to come to Croston and see some of that history. There is lots of it and it's really important we take note of that.'

The group formed when retired artist Charlie Holt came up with the idea of making a Millennium Stone in 1999. He arranged for a stone carver to give lessons for interested residents and hours of fun and practice later this stone now stands in pride of place on the village green.

Charlie may now have moved to Portugal but a handful of enthusiastic carvers decided to continue the hobby. They are buzzing with new ideas but they are struggling to practice their craft because of a lack of premises.

Kath, who has lived in Croston all her life, said: 'The places we used to work in have now been developed into new houses.We have so many ideas for other stones but at the moment we are homeless.We need an old shed or garage. We want to be able to produce many more for the village.'

Kath is also a member of the Friends of the River Yarrow, who are nearing completion on a scheme to encourage more salmon upstream to spawn. They plan to finish and celebrate the end of the project at Croston Raft Race, an annual event that attracts hundreds of people.

'It is a fabulous day,' explained Kath, who is also a member of the team of people responsible for cleaning up Croston railway station. 'It is really popular and is held every year before our famous Coffee Day when there is a huge parade through the village. The rules for the race are that the raft must be handmade and you can only have five people on it. Everyone gets involved, has a great time and Town Road is always packed with people.'

There is no doubting the residents of Croston are a dedicated bunch. This filters all the way down to the young children. Ballet dancer Molly Ann Griffiths may only be six-years-old but she has already performed at large theatres and venues in the North West and this month she will be on stage at London's Royal Albert Hall with fellow dancers from the Carol May School of Dance and Performing Arts in Preston.

Molly, who has been dancing since she was two, will perform to songs from hit musical Mamma Mia at The Stars in the Round event along with 20 other dance schools.

'I'm really excited about it,' said Molly. 'I love dancing a lot. I was in a show last year and I was the youngest dancer there. I do modern and tap dancing as well but ballet is my favourite. My mum said I could choose my little sister's name when she was born. I called her Darcey after Darcey Bussell.

'I want to be a ballet dancer when I grow up and think it would be brilliant to go to the Royal Ballet.' The achievements of Croston villagers are widespread. They are now hoping to get the one thing that has eluded them for more than a decade. For each of the past 13 years, bar one, they have come either second or third in the North West in Bloom competition.

But this year they are determined to take the top prize. Anne Peet, chairman of Croston Parish Council and a member of organising committee for the competition, said: 'We do tend to have the same people getting involved with it each year.We've put up posters in the village asking for ideas on how we can make Croston even better in the hope that people may come up with some new, fresh ideas for the competition.

'We've had a very generous donation from an anonymous resident and we're going to do a beautiful display at the war memorial.We're also having some improvement works done to the village green where there will be seating areas and it will be easier to access for wheelchair users.'

When I visited the village it was hard to believe they've never won. The competition was still months away but colourful blooms were springing up all around and there were packed to bursting displays in dozens of flower pots that would wow the judges even now. It was easy to see why they have earned such a haul of prizes from Lancashire Best Kept village competition

For Anne, whether they win or they don't, it is about bringing the community together. She said: 'We're hoping with just a little bit more effort we can win in the large village category.We work really hard every year so it would be wonderful for all of that hard work to be recognised.

Croston is a lovely place, with nice people and I love being here.'

The benefit of living in such a delightful setting certainly comes with a high price tag; a short peek into a nearby estate agent window proved that. But what is of more worth is the unerring pride the villagers have in Croston.

Their commitment and dedication to keeping it the beautiful place it is is tantamount to their passion for the place in which they live.With the help of Kath and her fellow stone carvers, long may this continue.

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