(Haslington Conservation Volunteers 1994 – 2016 – Continued)
My recollection is that we had the initial idea when we were looking at upgrading the PROWs in the parish as part of the Circular Walk leaflet for Haslington. In the summer of 1990 Julie attended a meeting with the Parish Council to inform them about the Haslington Walk leaflet and made an initial suggestion to see if there was any support for the setting up of such a group. That was supported with a suggestion that we attend the Haslington By-pass open day in the August to promote both ourselves and to see how much public support there might be. Julie attended that and came back with the names of some possible potential volunteers. We then held an open meeting in the Hawk for people to come along and find out more (early September) to which 14 people came to. Even the Needlework Circle expressed an interest in making a parish map! From that we organised a series of Sunday tasks for the Autumn with the group meeting 6 times, two of which were without us! The state of all the parish footpaths were surveyed by the group as well as some practical path improvements. Names I remember from those early tasks were Chris, Lee and the Allenby twins, Ken and Ray.
Over that first winter the group continued to meet monthly on a Sunday with an occasional indoor meeting. The focus of this early work was very much on improving the rights of way within the parish. The first grant application by the group was submitted for the purchase of several hundred trees around the parish with the group successfully receiving £408. These trees were planted on the County Council’s small holdings to help improve some of the long neglected woodlands in the parish. Some fencing was also carried out by the group to help protect the woodlands from grazing.
The winter of 1992/3 saw the group sowing a small wildflower meadow in the corner of the Cricket Club field and planting some shrubs along the boundary fence. The seed and shrubs were all paid for by the Cricket Club who also provided huge platefuls of sandwiches and biscuits. Needless to say the Cricket Club proved a popular task venue for the group. Weeding around the trees planted the previous winter was undertaken and a further 100 trees, donated by Stapeley Water Gardens, were planted during National Tree Week. Routine footpath improvement works by the volunteers continued to upgrade the parish network, pushing out further to the boundary of the parish. The Group also received a grant of £800 from Manweb’s Environmental Initiatives Fund which was used to buy further trees and wildflowers for the parish. By the end of that winter the Haslington Volunteers boasted 12 regular members, had planted a total of 1000 trees, installed many fingerposts, stiles and waymarks and cleared many metres of vegetation.
In April 1993 the more intrepid members of the group decamped to a cottage in the Brecon Beacons for a weekend away. Despite the assurances of Julie that she would lead an “easy” walk on the Saturday, most people wanted to watch the Grand National. Memorably that was the year it was abandoned after two false starts!
The Conservation Volunteers branched out into a new line, constructing 20 bird boxes which were installed in the Church Yard, the Old Peoples’ Home and the grounds of the Village Hall.
The Golf Club purchased £300 of native pond plants and meadow seed which the volunteers duly planted. Ray Allenby, an original member of the group, started work on producing an illustrated footpath map for Haslington. The group were successful with a grant of £600 from Cheshire County Council’s Seedcorn Fund towards the production of the map.
In early 1994 Haslington Parish Council signed up to the Parish Paths Partnership operated by the County Council, with some of the volunteers joining the PROW sub-committee formed by the Parish Council. The Parish Paths Partnership also offered the group the opportunity to be paid for the rights of way work they were undertaking. The long awaited parish footpath map was finally printed with the Parish Council donating the remaining amount to top up the Seedcorn grant.
Work on improving the footpath network continued as underpinning of the group’s activities with the installation of 4 stiles, 1 bridge repair and 4 finger posts in second quarter alone. Volunteers were interviewed by Crewe Community Radio to publicize their sterling efforts.
Later that year Haslington won the inaugural award for the Conservation and Wildlife Section of the Cheshire’s Best Kept Village Award; no little part played by the Haslington Conservation Volunteers. It was fitting that John Ellis, Chairman of the Group, accepted the Award on behalf of the parish.
And that, unfortunately, is as about as far as my memory and records go!
Footpaths, Hedging and Fencing