Going for gold in Grange Over Sands
PUBLISHED: 13:20 08 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:31 20 February 2013
It's hard work and community spirit that makes this north Lancashire coastal town so special, as Amanda Griffiths discovers Photography by John Cocks
David Cameron can talk all he likes about community spirit and the Big Society but if he wants to see it in action, all he needs to do is head to the charming town of Grange-over-Sands. Volunteering is a part of everyday life.
In fact, there seems to be a group of volunteers for just about everything in this Lancashire coastal town - from gardening to locking the towns public toilets every evening.
This community spirit should see the town, which boasts its own micro-climate and has views of the Morecambe Bay estuary to one side and the Lakeland fells behind it, as strong contenders in this years Britain in Bloom.
The town is entered in the Small Coastal Town Category, after winning its group in Cumbria in Bloom last year. They and are up against the likes of the east coast towns of Saltburn and Whitby, Rothesay in Scotland, the Welsh port of Tenby and Hunstanton in Norfolk.
But Granges entry is a little bit different as Mike Hornung, chairman of Granges Britain in Bloom committee explains.
Most of these entries are looked after by the towns council, they organise it all. But were different in that ours is built on the work of a whole series of volunteers all year round.
We do have some funding from the council, but largely the work is done by dedicated volunteers, he says.
We have a group that looks after the promenade gardens, the University of the Third Age has its own area and Grange in Bloom also organise open garden days and competitions so residents and businesses keep it looking nice.
Mike points out that many people mistakenly thing the competition is just about flowers. But there are three sections - horticulture covers the gardens and flowers; environment covers things like conservation, recycling and litter and theres community involvement - something Grange has in spades.
Margaret Robinson is one of the members of the Friends of Park Road Gardens, a volunteers group that looks after the elegant gardens which house the beautiful Edwardian bandstand, where summer concerts are held as well as the towns famous Edwardian Festival held this year on June 11. Its certainly a special part of town, well loved and well used.
Were obviously joining in with the Britain in Bloom entry but were also hard at work all year round to make sure we retain our national Green Flag award, says Margaret. Were very proud to have won it, weve had it for four years and Im confident we should get it again this year.
Last year we also applied for a Green Heritage award, we were eligible to apply because of the band stand and we were very proud to be one of only eight to receive it in the whole of the north west.
The Edwardian Festival also brings out the volunteers with one group
acting as stewards and another making tea and cakes. The money they make goes to charity.
Volunteers hold the key not only to keeping Grange looking good but also keeping it running smoothly for tourists, as another group runs the Tourist Information Office.
Alix Jagger, from Grange Town Council explains: The centre was going to be closed by the district council so last September we took it over. They only employ one part time member of staff the rest of the time its manned by 30, volunteers. We even have a waiting list now!
We might have struggled to staff it with volunteers before but as soon as it was threatened people were falling over themselves to help.
Whats the reason for this strong sense of duty? I think its partly because we have a large number of retired people here, but just because theyve stopped working doesnt mean they dont want to keep busy, says Alix.
Were lucky that we attract people who want to put something back into society.
However, people shouldnt get the wrong idea about Grange. Theres a myth about it being sleepy and full of old people, says Dorothy Stubley, the proprietor of Hazelmere Caf and Bakery. Yes, there are retired people here but there are also a lot of young families Ive been here since 1984, weve seen the business change, in terms of what people want to eat, but thats great, its really exciting for me, she says.
Grange has a certain charm about it that a lot of places have lost, or never had in the first place. We have a fantastic promenade, the gardens and individual shops - you can get everything you could possibly want in Grange.
Its also an idea location. We have the sea on one side and the fells on
the other, weve got the best of both worlds. Its also extremely accessible with the railway station and a great bus service.
Its also a very supportive community as I found out when I lost my husband, she says. I think we have the balance right between traditional values but also a lively and vibrant community.
Grange also has its own community newspaper. The town has everything you could want, says Mary Ann Best, editor of Grange Now and acting president of the chamber of trade.
Weve just got our bridge back; I got a letter just the other day from a Grange Now reader, saying thank you to the paper for all the work weve done in campaigning for its return.
You certainly dont come to Grange to party, but I like it, she says. We do have a lot of off-comers here but its not like some other places, off-comers are welcomed into the community. Mary Ann counts herself among their number having grown up in Coniston.
Grange is a small place, its only got a population of about 5,000. Its an idyllic place, we still retain our traditional values that sometimes makes it feel like youre back in the 1950s but I think thats what people like, she says.
The fact that little seems to change here is another great draw as Nick and Shirley Jenkinson who own and run The Chocolate Shop sum up.
People often tell us how they came to Grange as children, says Nick. Now theyre bringing their grandchildren here and say how Grange hasnt changed a bit, he says.
How to get there: Take junction 36 off the M6 and follow the A590. Grange-over-Sands is well signposted.
Where to park: There are pay and display car parks which dont cost the earth - just make sure you have change.
What to do here: If youre visiting Grange this month you really need to coincide your visit with the Edwardian Festival on Saturday June 11. Held in Park Road Gardens more than 40 local traders take stalls and dress up in Edwardian costume; theres also plenty of entertainment with music in the bandstand, Punch and Judy and plenty of other entertainment for children. Theres plenty to do the rest of the year too. Visit the gardens, take a stroll down the promenade, or browse the local independent shops.
Where to eat and drink: There are plenty of places to eat and drink whether you want a light bite, cream tea or full meal. The Hazlemere Caf and Bakery has just won another award for excellence. Meanwhile, you can find locally sourced food at The Netherwood Hotel. This stunning Victorian mansion, built in 1893, has Grade II listed status. Support from the Victorian Society has ensured that the original architecture remains untouched.