As we reflect on last year, I think it is remarkable to realise that we are about to embark on our 10th year as an organisation. I am very pleased that we are continuing to make a positive and visual impact on our little community and have also inspired other villages to take on the challenge. However, there is no doubt too that the core group of active participants is dwindling, and we are all getting older and I hate admit it, a bit slower! This particularly impacts on the physical jobs that we do, planting, spreading soil, cleaning, clearing, lifting tables and moving cones. When we were planting and clearing up in the centre of the village last summer (in the pouring rain!) I worked out that the average age of the volunteers was 78. I have also found it harder to keep on top of administrative tasks. We have never had a secretary and I am finding being Chair and secretary is becoming onerous. It means that things like the Newsletter don’t get done and this is missed by many.
Strange as it may seem, one of our problems is our enthusiasm and vision to do ever more things. Obviously the more we take on the more there is to do, and this is true in terms of activities as well as the physical environment.
I hope this isn’t sounding negative. I think it is true to say that our volunteers are just as keen to make a difference. Perhaps it’s keeping us all young. Seriously though, a big issue must be how we plan for succession. How do we keep the momentum going?
We have the commitment, we have the creativity, we just need more people.
Looking back at last year should make us all feel proud.
In last year’s report I said that the planting in 2017 was the best ever, but once again led by Lesley the summer planting was amazing. Lots of residents and visitors to the village commented on how beautiful the place looked. It was an absolute joy. Thank you to everyone that made a contribution. I think you will agree that it was worth all the effort and was a lot of fun. The watering system at the Parish Hall for the hanging baskets, installed by David Brierley did the trick and once again added a riot of colour. For several weeks, watering generally became a big worry. A prolonged spell of hot, dry weather meant that Lesley, Andy, Ian and Margaret were watering twice a day. A big commitment of time and energy as well as a cost too. Thank you for all your hard work.
Kath and Jack continued to take charge of the raised bed and Eric’s box and helped us with the long bed too.
This spring they have barrowed literal tons of compost and soil improver to both sites. Well done and thank you. Thank you too, to Gill and Chris Bolshaw who cleaned out Seneca well, no easy task seeing how deep it is and how close to the busy road.
We thought that we would have to abandon the planters on the railings at the cross roads but the commitment of Howard Grady, (whose office is on the corner) to dead head and water meant we could keep them. It is this willingness to get involved and support our projects that keeps us all feeling positive about Love Lydgate.
Although we were not involved with Oldham for the In Bloom competitions we have continued to work closely with them We value their expertise and guidance and we were able to buy plants from them directly, so being assured of good quality at reasonable prices.
Unfortunately, the planned work in St Anne’s graveyard will not be completed until March 16th, over 12 months since funding was pledged and the plans drawn up. Eventually I contacted the Diocese myself and their aboriculturist visited to assess the situation, giving the go ahead and including the felling of an extra tree. This will incur an extra cost which Love Lydgate have once again promised to cover. He has stipulated that one tree must be planted on the site where the 3 have been felled but this cost will be met by church.
The Church is an integral part of our village and there is a huge desire from Love Lydgate to work with this organization despite perceived difficulties and frustrations. To help create a better working relationship I met with Canon Sharon Jones on July 12th to discuss a way forward. She was extremely supportive and asked to be kept in the loop on village issues that impact on the church and vice voce. Unfortunately, her commitment across all churches in Saddleworth reduces the time she can allocate to St Anne’s. Brian and Joyce Devenport have also been supportive, and it has been encouraging that the Rev Pat Gillian has been more involved with village activities.
In August I was approached to help support improvement in the Parish Hall. This is something that we agreed to do in 2010 but progress was blocked by some members of the PCC and the project never got off the ground. Since then the maintenance and management of the hall has become patchy and lacking in rigour. As with our organization volunteers are not forthcoming, especially those with the skill or time to take on the tasks properly.
There is a lot of enthusiasm from the wider community to support this project but there are worries too. The major concern is that people would give time, money, take on tasks at reduced rates, give it their all but there is no guarantee that the PCC would not sell the property, grant a long-term lease to an organization as has happened in the past or fail to run it efficiently. We are in discussion to try to find a satisfactory agreement to prevent this from happening, otherwise we cannot commit.
The special Remembrance service this year, led by Angela Bryan showed how well things can go when we do work together. The poppies and name cards outside church set the scene. We were indebted to all who helped, particularly John and Brian who came up with ingenious plans to stop everything blowing away. The service was both moving but hopeful and involved all ages and all groups.
Other activities included the September Song Concert, where Lydgate Larks had equal billing with the marvelous Saddleworth Male Voice Choir and harpist Sarah Davies. It was, along with the Plant Sale Home Bake our biggest fund raiser and lots of fun. The Love Lydgate Lunch went well and once again in December the Christmas Lights Switch on saw an amazing turn out, with the lovely choir from St Anne’s school…..always stars of the night, as well as Father Christmas of course. Once again, we were generously supported by Saddleworth Rotary, both financially and by their wonderful volunteers.
In June with the White Hart and Saddleworth Round Table we once again put on the Great Get Together. This is a truly ‘across the community’ event and there was a lot of support for it. Although not planned as a fund raiser, money was raised, the £1080 total matched by Charles so that we could donate £2,000 to Saddleworth Mountain Rescue, who had played a significant part in helping to contain the dreadful moorland fires. A donation of £60 was also given to the Lydgate Stitchers who had made the gingham ribbon badges sold on the day.
People matter as much as events and we do all we can to encourage a caring and supportive atmosphere in the village. To some extent this helped us to deal with the shock and sadness at the death of Paul Collins in September.
Making contact with residents who have suffered a loss or illness, who have moved into the village, or are celebrating a significant birthday is something we try to do. We are still using the cards painted by Richard Darlington and we have commissioned more to include the beautiful summer planting of last year and the work done by the Stitchers. So that people are treated fairly we have devised a protocol for card and present giving.
Our regular Coffee Mornings at the White Hart and our Monthly Talks in the Parish Hall continue and provide a focus for people to get together.
We have also continued to run the fortnightly exercise class, made possible as I was successful in applying for a grant of £500 to put towards the cost of the trainer and the rent of the Parish Hall.
Looking out of the village and seeing ourselves as others see us, is important. We want to be seen as welcoming, caring and inclusive. We want others to Love Lydgate as we do. Information from and contact with OMBC, District Partnership, Rotary and Round Table, Action Together, GMP and my fellow Community Association Chairs, keeps us up to date and supported and others turn to us for our expertise and experience. One concern in how we are viewed and how we keep our residents informed, is the lack of our Newsletter and the fact that our website isn’t being kept up to date. I think these should be priorities for the year ahead, as well as making use of social media safely and appropriately.
So, all in all a good year, one that sees us financially sound and with lots of plans and enthusiasm for the year ahead. Although the purpose of this report is to reflect on the last 12 months, I think we should remember where we started from 10 years ago. Lydgate has a long and lively history and a record of people working together and getting the job done. Over the last 10 years it has been our turn to make a difference, to bring out the best in the place and we’ve done it! We don’t know what lies ahead and that possible won’t be our problem. But before we start looking forward to our celebratory year lets just give ourselves and each other a pat on the back and a big well done!
Thank you to you all. It’s been quite a journey there have been ups and downs and certainly plenty of those in the country right now but thinking back to Jo Cox and the Great Get Together, in our community ‘There is far more that we have in common than that which divides us’.