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Hatton - The village with a big community spirit

PUBLISHED: 09:39 26 January 2017

Hatton village rersidents; Judith Godley, Jinny Lansbury, Liz Wareing, Margaret Winstanley, Toby Smith, Pam Hatton, Roger Dickin, Stuart Hatton, John Done and David Jones

Hatton village rersidents; Judith Godley, Jinny Lansbury, Liz Wareing, Margaret Winstanley, Toby Smith, Pam Hatton, Roger Dickin, Stuart Hatton, John Done and David Jones

Archant

With services to rural areas being pared to the bone, Hatton villagers decided to take action themselves, writes Martin Pilkington.

Margaret Winstanley (left) and Liz Wareing in the village phonebox libraryMargaret Winstanley (left) and Liz Wareing in the village phonebox library

Three years ago, with services to rural areas being seriously diminished, the villagers of Hatton decided that when the going gets tough the tough get going, and transformed their community by their own efforts.

Recognition of what they have achieved came at the October 2016 Cheshire Community Action Awards: ‘We were fortunate enough to come away with a highly commended in the community spirit section, and we won both the best website, which is amazing as it was only launched in January 2016, and the best kept village in the under 400 residents category,’ says Roger Dickin, who chairs Hatton Village Plan Group.

It all started in May 2013 when the Parish Council mooted the idea of a plan for the village; an open meeting was arranged and attended by over 60 residents; a working group developed a questionnaire to discover what locals felt needed doing; and the key areas of transport, road safety, community social affairs, communications and the environment were identified. Too often such plans stay on paper, but not in Hatton. ‘We now have 50 or more people in the village who take part in activities related to the aims of the plan, which when you consider the population is 350 is quite a high percentage to be actively involved,’ says Margaret Winstanley, chairman of the Parish Council.

That commitment is all the more laudable given the geography of the village: ‘Hatton has a small village centre, and houses around the outskirts and over quite a wide area,’ says Liz Wareing, who heads the plan’s communications side. Her home is at the edge of the area, and the activities that have come out of the plan have made a difference to her sense of belonging: ‘We feel more part of the village, it hasn’t got that division that maybe was there a few years ago. It has brought everybody together.’

Around the village there’s plenty of visible evidence that the plan is making a difference. A dozen or more planters bring year-round colour, and provide a fine example of how activity across the generations has become a part of the plan, pensioner John Done sharing his plantsman’s expertise with teenager Toby Smith, passing on skills and knowledge that will benefit Hatton for years to come.

It’s easy to see why that best-kept-village gong came their way. Campaigns by teams of litter-pickers and verge-mowers mean the place is neat and tidy. Bat and bird boxes make it welcoming to wildlife. And quirkily, the village phone box, now a listed building, acts as a library: ‘Lots of people in Hatton use it, but so do plenty who pass through, taking and dropping off books. In a very small way that phone box is our community building,’ says Margaret.

By that phone box is the village notice-board, now able to advertise a host of events that bring the villagers together: every month there’s a free film night in the village pub (with an interval for the thirsty), and a luncheon club; at Christmas there’s carol singing and a panto visit; coach and rail trips to Liverpool, York and Edinburgh have been well-attended.

Their achievement, however, goes well beyond those events and the tangible signs of their activity. ‘It is just a general feeling, an atmosphere within the village now,’ says Margaret: ‘People like to be proud of where they live. It has made a huge difference to life here.’

Judith Godley, who looks after matters environmental for the Plan Group says that what they’re doing is not just important in building a community in the present, but for the future too: ‘We’re talking about making memories here, things children won’t forget. Halloween is a big one of course, and carol singing. But 12 months ago we planted over 1,000 spring bulbs on The Common, and children took part in that. It was fantastic for them to see the daffodils come through. When they grow up if they move away they’ll always have that memory - and if they come back to the village they may see those bulbs flowering again.’

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