Great Eccleston - Small Place, Big Ideas

PUBLISHED: 15:49 15 March 2011 | UPDATED: 01:54 10 February 2013

Great Eccleston - Small Place, Big Ideas

Great Eccleston - Small Place, Big Ideas

Great Eccleston is a place packed with characters and great charm. Emma Mayoh reports<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Eric Wood is a determined man. Since he was a boy hes loved art, but going into the family business meant he couldnt follow his dream. However, he got there in the end.

It took a traumatic event to make Eric re-evaluate his life. In 1971 he was knocked down by a lorry in Blackpool. His right leg and left hands were broken, several muscles had been severed and his shoulder had been dislocated and twisted.

He said: I was in a bad way. I had to learn to walk again. It took me a while to get back on track and I used to spend all day every day doing exercises. When I have got something to do I get it done. Im quite positive about that.

The accident resulted in Eric losing any desire to make money. It just didnt interest me any more. I had always promised myself I would go back to art school so I decided to go for it.

Eric, now 80, did a foundation course in sculpture and then a degree in fine art at college in Blackpool, where he lived before moving to Great Eccleston 23 years ago.

He worked as a joiner before his accident, in this country and in Canada, as well as running his own DIY business and a cafe in Little Bispham. His former profession as well as his passion for art has helped him in his career.

Today, he spends most of his time in his workshop creating modern art, crafted mainly from wood, before displaying it in his studio in his
back garden.

This month he will take up post as the president of the Blackpool Art Society and he also teaches at The Village Centre in Great Eccleston where he enjoys nurturing talent from beginners to more experienced artists. Their work is also exhibited in his studio.

Eric, also a former design teacher at Palatine School in St Annes, said: There are some artists who really are rather good and I really enjoy that they are so passionate about it and want to improve their work.

There is an awful lot more to art than a beautiful landscape painting. You can make art out of anything and its nice to expand your brain. Im a modern artist and I hope that I help to pass that on in the sessions.

Great Eccleston may be small but its certainly not short on history or local characters. It was first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Eglestun.

Known as Little London during the 18th century, owing to its importance as a market centre, the population has grown significantly from just a few hundred to a few thousand, but it has not lost its charm. Village life still reigns in Great Eccleston, which can be seen in the abundance of independent shops along the main High Street. Activities like tractor pulling and the increasingly successful Great Eccleston Show attract big crowds.

At the heart of everything is The Village Centre, run as a charity by a band of volunteers. The building, an old bank, was converted and opened in 2000 by Princess Anne. It serves Great Eccleston and many of the outlying villages with a packed calendar of events.

Martin Faulkner, a volunteer at the centre, said: Great Eccleston is a fantastic place. There is so much going on and the people who live here really support the village and get involved.

Also helping put Great Eccleston on the map are the pupils and staff at Copp CE School. In 2002 it was named one of the first European Eco Schools and there is an eco team at the school. The children, along with help from the staff, take part in lots of environmental activities including recycling, growing their own vegetables on school grounds and the building has eco-friendly features like solar panels which feed back into the National Grid.

The school, which received a Gold Award from Wyre in Bloom, is also fundraising to build new outdoor spaces for the children including a wildflower meadow. They are twinned with Kabanana School in Zambia and teachers Norma Tempan and Dorothy Jones visited it recently.

The school is now hoping to get celebrity chef Jamie Oliver involved
in their plans to create their own cook book, as part of a healthy
schools initiative.

Head teacher Beverley Melvin, whose mother Ann Spencer once held the same post, said: It was one of the parents who had the idea for the cook book. The pupils will put it together for people to buy but we would really like to have the support of Jamie Oliver because of his campaigning for better food for schoolchildren.

We have sent a request to him and are waiting to hear back. To have someone like that involved would be fantastic for the children and
really inspiring for them. I love being back here where my mum used to
be and I feel proud to be at this school and to be a part of village life
in Great Eccleston.

A Great Place

Where is it? Great Eccleston is located in the heart of rural Wyre between Poulton-le-Fylde and Bilsborrow. Type PR3 0YB in your sat nav to get you there.

Where can I park? There are designated free parking areas in front of the shops in High Street, the main road through the village.

What can I do? Browse the local shops and then stretch your legs with
a walk in the countryside that surrounds the village.

Are there refreshments? Yes, there are a surprising number of places to eat and drink given the size of the village. There is everything from a local caf selling traditional home baked goods, a local chip shop, several local pubs and a village bakery.

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