Pride in Our Parish

Six years ago Wendy and I became aware of how neglected the grounds of St Alkelda’s Church were becoming and enquired about helping to tidy them up. We were allocated a triangular flowerbed near the lych gate. A fir tree had recently been removed and we set about clearing the bed of weeds and spread the sawdust created from the tree felling.

This complete we looked round further and found the ivy growing over, through and on top of the south wall. It was around four feet higher than the wall and projected about three feet into the road causing problems for cyclists and other road users. We cautiously started cutting back the ivy and were immediately approached by a neighbour in Church Street. Instead of “What do you think you’re doing?” she said “Can I help you?” This was to be the start of Giggleswick Gardening Group. This chance meeting resulted in several like minded parishioners turning out to remove the ivy over a few days and filling a skip. Next we discovered that ivy was growing over the wall, over the pavement and into the gutter of the B6480! Our team, including the vicar; and with road safety provided by the police, we were able to reveal the pavement and wall! The policeman exclaimed “I didn’t know there was a pavement there!”

Ivy Cottage, as we now refer to the stone building in the New Churchyard, was indeed covered with ivy, the roof leaked and all the tool handles, wooden beams etc. were riddled with woodworm! Members rescued what tools we could but soon realized we were in need of a new supply of tools. We had a meeting to establish the Giggleswick Gardening Group. Having a constitution enabled us to enter a national competition ‘Grassroots Giving’ sponsored by the Skipton Building Society. We won the regional section and soon acquired some shiny new tools. By now our numbers were beginning to grow and we became more and more venturesome. Flowerbeds on the south side were becoming better tended, snowdrops and foxgloves were transplanted, the Memorial Garden became transformed, the adjacent former flowerbed was cleared of overgrown bushes and weeds, a drystone wall was rebuilt and the wildflower area, much admired by people venturing into area, was established.

The lawns on the south and west of the church were now being cut regularly, taking five hours with a push mower! Eventually a motor mower appeared and another was gifted to the group enabling the job to take two hours! The Church P.C.C. kindly provide the fuel.

But still there was a problem of the rapid growth of grass in the churchyards. One of the parishioners recommended a young man who had recently started a gardening and horticultural business who could grass trim the churchyards.

When approached, he offered to do the whole job free of charge! All we had to do was to rake up the hay and provide some fuel! A ‘Rake up call’ was organized from within the local community. We were heartened by the numbers of people that turned out! A large mound of hay was collected and was removed for animal feed. This happened for the next couple of years when the Church paid for the grass trimming and the ‘Annual Rake Call’ attracted even more volunteers.

Members of the Giggleswick gardening group

During this time one of the local clergy recommended that, as we were hoping to develop more wildflower areas, we should seek help and advice from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust. This we did and a whole new aspect of our volunteering work evolved. The officer was most helpful in carrying out soil tests, providing a small grant for tools, seed and plug plants for the development of the east side of the Church under the Meadow Links scheme. The scheme’s aim is to develop wildflower corridors throughout the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In the meantime we had established small wildflower plots which are now beginning to mature. It was great that the YDMT officer and her husband joined us for the ‘Rake up call!’ and enjoyed the ‘coffee and cakes’. This ‘coffee, cake and chat’ has now become a regular weekly mid-session event!

As the GGG has continued to grow, so has the diversity of jobs and activities within the Village. The Parish Council invited us to clear part of the Ribble Way route of vegetation from the path. To enable us to do the work safely Craven District Council, through a Ward Councillor’s grant for tools, a wheelbarrow, high viz. jackets and notices were purchased. This year, while clearing the track from the village to the Memorial Bridge, a comment was made to a passer-by that some daffodils amongst the trees would be attractive. The next day that person gave us £100 to buy bulbs! The Parish Council were in full support but an objection was made by a member of a local conservation group because daffodils are not beneficial to wildlife! Settle Swimming Pool committee requested help to fill and plant up decorative flowerpots by the entrance to the building. The flowerbeds at St Alkelda’s Church are lovingly tended by members of the community who provide plants, small trees and bushes to plant in ‘their’ flowerbeds and other places. The result being an attractive approach to the entrance and other parts of the Church grounds. Many visitors come to chat with us and marvel at St Alkelda’s Church and grounds. We are heartened to see the Primary School using the grounds as part of their science lessons.

Such is the enthusiasm and dedication to enhancing the appearance of the Church Grounds that one member of the team undertook the mammoth task of grass trimming both the Old and New Churchyards. He was able to use an old heavy-duty mower, gifted by Giggleswick School, to cut the grass to a level that he can now use one of the two petrol mowers to keep the grass at a manageable height. He also keeps small areas of grass cut in the village.

All the grass cuttings and leaves are composted. Weeds etc. are bagged and very kindly removed to be recycled by a ‘man with a van’. Giggleswick School kindly provided a trailer for taking away some dead branches and wood.

Ivy Cottage roof has been repaired having a replacement beam fitted by a member of St Alkelda’s and battens and hooks attached to the walls to hang up tools etc.

The ‘Pride in our Parish’ slogan includes our Litter Picking section which operates on the first Monday of each month. Grant aid for tools, rings and high viz. jackets were provided by Craven District Council who also arranges to collect the litter sacks that are filled during the ten set routes we cover in the Parish. Between 140 and 150 sacks, plus reporting fly tipping, are collected each year by the average number of 10 + members who turn out in all weathers!

The GGG team now consists of more than ten regulars from the local community and beyond; they have their favourite jobs, be it mowing, tending flowerbeds, cutting back, developing wildflower areas, collecting leaves and clearing paths.

While keeping the grounds as tidy as we can; we encourage wildlife by keeping ‘wild’ areas round the walls and at the east of the grounds, wooded parts, wildflowers for insects and bird boxes for nesting birds. However, people do complain about the rabbits eating bunches of flowers they put on memorials!

All these activities are co-ordinated through a weekly email newsletter outlining ‘What we did last week’ and ‘Jobs and tasks for next week.’

Tony Carroll