Much passion in Much Hoole - Community spirit runs high in this Lancashire village

PUBLISHED: 17:36 11 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:50 20 February 2013

Much passion in Much Hoole - Community spirit runs high in this Lancashire village

Much passion in Much Hoole - Community spirit runs high in this Lancashire village

Community spirits starts at a young age in the village of Much Hoole. Amanda Griffiths reports<br/>Photography by John Cocks

Its no wonder community spirit is high in Much Hoole - its drummed into them at an early age. Teachers and parents at Hoole St Michael CE Primary School are keen to develop a sharing, caring trait in the youngsters but they have taken it one step further.

The Guardian Angel scheme set up by headteacher Kathryn Melling is a rpime example. Its not a new idea, as she admits. Other schools have similar buddy systems where the older children look after the younger ones, especially the new intake.

But Kathryn, who has been head of this small primary school with just 110 children for the last six and a half years, is extremely proud of how her pupils have embraced it:

Our children have taken this scheme further than I ever imagined, she says. The older ones look out for the younger ones in the playground and sit with them in assemblies, which is great because the younger ones, who could be a bit fidgety, look up to their guardians and model their behaviour. Its not just in school either; theyve been invited to each others birthday parties and speak in the streets.

The major strength of this school is the relationship the children have with each other - theyre really caring and its the children themselves who have made this scheme so successful, theyve taken the idea and made it their own.

School and community spirit doesnt just stop in the classroom. For the last 12 months Kathryn and the site supervisor have been concentrating on developing the schools outdoor space.

A new boardwalk has been built across the playing field to the childrens outdoor classroom, a wooden band-stand like construction where the children can enjoy lessons such as art, science and rehearse plays. It is also used during the schools summer fete and as a bandstand for church events.

The boardwalk cost 2,800 to build, which might sound expensive, but it now means that we can use the outside classroom, within reason, in all weathers. This part of the field was basically covered in water a lot of the time which meant to be able to access the outdoor classroom you had to wade through calf-high water. The result was we couldnt use the classroom for much of the year, she says.

Were also hoping it can be used as a viewing platform for a wildlife area were developing at the side of it.

Were lucky weve got an amazing space, not many schools have an outside area like this. Weve planted trees for a woodland area to develop and have held a number of ground force days where parents have come along and helped our site supervisor build and prepare the new vegetable beds which were just planting now.

Its been a real community effort. Even a local business, Broomfield Aquatics, got involved and helped us refurbish our pond. Sadly for Much Hoole, Kathryn is due to leave the school at the end of the term to take up a new headship in Leyland.

Im leaving with mixed feelings. I will miss the children, theyre fantastic. Its been much more than a job here, but I know Im leaving the school in safe hands.

Doreen Lloyd has been the lollipop lady in Much Hoole for 25 years and she agrees about the spirit of the village - in particular the children. I became a lollipop lady when my daughter went to High School, she says. I enjoy it. I get on with the parents and the children and have never had any trouble with them in 25 years. Im now crossing children of parents I used to cross when they were at school.

The village has changed, the A59 is a lot busier than it was, but then theres more traffic on the road generally than there was when I started.
She says there was a time when everyone knew everyone else. That has changed with the advent of new housing in the village Mind you, crossing the kids everyday means they all know me, she laughs.

Weve really only got one little shop now and the one pub. We used to have a butcher and a hardware shop but theyve gone and theres lots of new houses. But I dont think thats really changed the atmosphere of the village; people are still friendly.

There may only be one shop left in the true village centre but theres a big retail area featuring places to eat and drink along with other businesses just off the A59 opposite the entrance to the village as well as car showrooms and of course, Embleys Nurseries, owned by Mark and Gillian Thompson who know just how important community spirit is for villages.

We took over the business two years ago. My background is in growing garden plants, Ive been doing that for 30 years, says Mark.

Were changing the business. Were more focused on selling to the public than ever before. Its about customer care and being able to advise people what plants are best for their gardens.

I think thats why people come to their local nursery rather than a big garden centre chain, says Gillian. Were getting lots of positive feedback and getting to know peoples names as they come back. That customer care is something that Embleys was known for before. Were just building on it.

Likewise we know its important to continue to support the community when we can. Weve just recently donated plants to the school to sell at their summer fete and provide the church with a Christmas tree each year.

Weve just had a letter back from one of the ladies church groups saying thank you for the donation of two raffle prizes for a recent event. Its nice to know its appreciated and that were supporting the community who I do believe are also supporting us, she says.

Angie Grogan is another newcomer to the village having recently taken on the lease at The Smithy Arms pub, so she knows all about community spirit and intends to do her bit to boost it. Angie, originally from Southport, has managed a number of other pubs and has decided the time is right to step out on her own.

I really wanted to be in a locals pub, she says. I came here temporarily in February because the pub had been closed for six weeks and got on well with the locals, who made me feel so welcome. I decided I wanted to give it my all and give it a go.

I think I got the response because the locals were keen that it didnt shut permanently. Its the only pub left, the other two have been turned into restaurants. I think they were desperate for someone to take it on and show a bit of passion for it.

The locals have been fantastic, really welcoming, Ive never met people like them!

Where is it? Much Hoole is in South Ribble, just off the A59. Programme PR4 4GB into your satnav and you should find it.

What can I do there? This area is a mix of rural and residential but there are some fine walks nearby and there is coarse fishing locally. For the green-fingered, there are several nurseries in the locality.

Are there refreshments?
Not over-endowed with eating establishments but there are some restaurant and the Old Smithy has been described as Much Hooles greatest pub. Sadly, its also Much Hooles only pub.

The print version of this article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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