Parbold families proving commuting and community can mix

PUBLISHED: 11:57 09 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:23 20 February 2013

Parbold families proving commuting and community can mix

Parbold families proving commuting and community can mix

The residents of Parbold are proof that commuting and community can work, writes Amanda Griffiths Photography by Kirsty Thompson

We hear lots about dormitory villages having no soul but after visiting Parbold I now know that a large population of commuters doesnt mean you cant have a strong community. This rural settlement is just minutes from the M6 and this, combined with good rail links, make it popular with people who want to live in a village but work in a town or city.

You would expect to find a place that only comes to life at weekends, but you would be wrong. Community spirit takes on a whole new aspect in Parbold, with residents of all ages not just fundraising to improve facilities but actually getting their hands dirty and building them, too.

Take the Hut on the Hill. It is the result of a joint fundraising effort to transform an old scout hut into a facility that many community groups could use.

We have had tremendous support from people in the village and the surrounding areas, who have given everything from a fiver to 5,000, says Sandy Smith, one of the fundraisers and local Rainbow and Brownie leader.

Parents and leaders have done a huge amount of the work themselves, Scout leader Graham Downhill has spearheaded working groups getting dads to lay concrete and bricks and others have given their skills in things like electrics, all donating their time for free. Most of the painting has been done by the parents and the children, its really been tremendous, were just so pleased to have it up and running.

With two halls for activities, a small office, a meeting room and a fully equipped kitchen, the Hut on the Hill is used every night of the week but Sandy and Graham and the rest of the team are confident its a venue that will also be used by the rest of the village.

Mervyn Saunders is chairman of Parbold, Newburgh and District U3A, the University of the Third Age, one of the newest groups in the area hoping to use this new facility on a regular basis during daylight hours
I have been in the Lions for 35 years and believe you have got to support your local community and charities, he says. Were not short of things to do in this village and there are a lot of retired people who want to keep their minds stimulated. We estimate between 120 and 130 people came to our first meeting with 100 signing up and paying their membership fee.

Sandy Smith said over five years they raised almost 120,000 for the building but decided to take out a 40,000 loan to be able to start work. We are very proud of what we have achieved. Its been a long hard road and now, of course, we need to pay back the loan.

The Hut on the Hill isnt the only venture which has proved to be a hands-on community project.

Tim Cornah is chief executive of Coffee Etc, a not-for-profit community interest company which helps support the village youth centre. Previously a disused gym, it was created partly thanks to a donation from a local businessman.

I have been a youth leader in my spare time for over 25 years, says Tim. We started a youth club here in 2005, and pretty much from day one it was successful. We found it hard to find suitable premises to use because the village hall and WI hall were already fully used so we started using a media bus parked outside the halls on a Friday night.

It probably would have stayed that way, but in 2007 a 17-year-old local boy decided life wasnt worth living and died on the railway line. The whole village was in turmoil and I decided that just doing something for young people on a Friday night was not enough.

We tried to find somewhere to convert to a youth club. We discovered this place and it had an understanding landlord whose father had himself worked with young people and wanted to give something back.

So, we started the planning process and decided that because grants are hard to get hold of we would have to try to raise funds for the youth centre and the idea of running a caf was born.

With the help of a couple of small grants and another community group, Brighter Futures in Salford, 20 young people from the village ranging from 13 to 25 filled five skips with rubbish and managed to convert the building, tiling the kitchen, moving the toilets and painting until The Pear Tree Caf opened in 2009.

The kids did a fantastic job on a shoestring budget of 7,500 but after limping along for 12 months it became clear Pear Tree wasnt going to pay its way, says Tim.

However a local businessman whod already donated a new heating system to us offered a complete refurbishment for the caf and in 2010, Coffee Etc was born.

All the profits go to the youth centre or other local youth related activities and since the re-launch it has been phenomenal. Weve been very humbled by the support the village has given us.

Staffed by a mix of full and part time employees and volunteers Coffee Etc is more than just a coffee shop. Behind the scenes is the youth centre, a computer room and soon-to-be crafts centre, a chill out area and upstairs a functioning training suite to help youngsters find jobs. In fact, their first trainee has just started work as an IT consultant thanks to their help.

The caf too has become a bit of a local hub for entertainment with open mic nights and exhibitions.

What has impressed me is how dedicated, how professional and how trustworthy the young people have been, says Tim. It just goes to show when you give them a chance they rise to it.

The young people who use this place very much see it as their own, because they built it, the challenge now for me is getting the next generation through, how to involve them in the same way.

Where is it? Parbold lies in the valley of the River Douglas at the bottom of Parbold Hill, about three miles from the M6 motorway.

Where can I park? There is a small car park outside the row of shops but otherwise limited parking facilities.

What can I do?
Take a walk along the canal or on numerous walking routes across Parbold Hill. Visit James Bartholomew in his Windmill Gallery or take a look in some of the small independent shops

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