I celebrated my 80th birthday at Christmas, and have been thinking of the changes in my home village of Arkholme in that time.

Before the war the majority of the working men lived within walking distance of their employment. There were at least sixteen working farms within two miles of the crossroads, most of them employing one or two farm workers who lived with the farmer’s family. They milked between ten and thirty cows by hand, morning and night, with the milk to be ready for collection on the milk-stand by 8am each morning. Each farm also had a flock of sheep, fifty or sixty hens, two pigs that were killed for eating in the home, a flock of geese with all but three of them killed at Christmas – the three left to produce the next years flock – and two or three heavy horses for the heavy farm work: ploughing, pulling the mowing machine, hay-making and all the other daily jobs around the farm.

Kit Bibby was the blacksmith. The Metcalfe’s were landlords at the Bay Horse. The Swindells family had the garage, Albert Ireland the post office, and next door Tom Williamson had a cobblers shop. He lived at Ferrocrete with his brother Jack, who was the local joiner, and his two sisters Alice and Agnes. The Irelands lived at Willow Cottage Charlie, the last basket maker, was an absolute artist, and made all sorts of lovely designs from willow. Bob Robinson was a stone-mason, and lived at Poole House. He had a concrete block making press that produced stone faced blocks. Ferrocrete the house that was demolished when the Herb Garden was built) was erected using these blocks. The Holmes family used to live at Rose Cottage. They had been the village joiners and had a small steam engine in the garden behind the house to drive the woodworking machinery. They supplied a lot of the woodwork when the Church was restored. More next month!

There are two dances at Whittington this month: the annual charity dance on the fifth, and Lupton Church dance on the twelfth, when Bill Johnston will provide the music.

Gressingham Bridge Update

We are grateful to Neil Read, Chairman of Gressingham Parish Council, for this report on his questions to Lancashire County Council:

Here is the (edited) response to some points I put recently (11th February) to the Principal Engineer, Bridges Design and Construction, Lancashire County Council:

Question. What is preventing you starting work immediately?

Answer. We need to obtain consent from the Environment Agency, who will scrutinise our proposals and issue consent in due course. We have had a meeting with them and they have responded positively to our proposals. I anticipate we will have the consent before the 24 February 2016.

We also need to obtain consent from Historic England as the structure is a Scheduled Monument. We have met with them on site and they have no objections in principle and we expect their consent in due course.

Generally the weather is still not favourable, and we would be remiss in our duties if we removed the stone protection that is currently in place when the risk of further damage being caused, within the window of repair, is significant. I appreciate that the river levels vary significantly all through the year and that we could have the same problem 24 February 2016. I cannot however authorise works to commence without the legally required consents which I am sure will be dealt with expediently. The issue is perhaps also whether we the people of Lancashire are prepared to take the risk of carrying out works and having to abandon as a result of another storm (i.e. further delay and cost) or worse still see the collapse of the structure.

In 2010-11 works to protect the stone apron around the west pier had to be abandoned due to the installed protection being washed away. Eventually we managed to complete the works in 2012. In 2015, due to the continued erosion of the banks leading up to the bridge, we protected the structure with soft landscaping works to the west bank. We currently have a consent from the Environment Agency in place for carrying out specific soft landscaping works to the east side as well. However the works rely on land owners consent and the seasonally appropriate timing of planting willow and thus have yet to be carried out. Hopefully we will be able to do this as part of the package of works now required.

Question. There is growing frustration that there appears to be no work ongoing towards solving this problem. This is understandable, as it is a 30-mile round trip between Gressingham and Hornby!

Answer. Due to the load path of traversing vehicles affecting the damaged area, and the vibration caused by vehicles as they cross, the bridge necessarily stays closed until a structural repair has been implemented. I do understand the frustrations of the locals and can assure you that we are wanting to progress with works as soon as possible so that the bridge can be re-opened.

Additionally, a press release gives this information:

Indicative dates for repairs 24 February to 20 May.   Hope to get on site later this month, weather permitting, and work will take around 12 weeks.

In addition to the obvious damage to the bridge piers, there is also some damage around the foundations of the bridge underwater, where the water has scoured holes which need to be filled with stone.

Reconstruction of the piers and repairs to foundations repaired will take 3-4 weeks, and we’ll be able to reopen the bridge once this is done. Further work to protect the bridge will follow on immediately and take another 8 weeks or so. This involves removing a build-up of 30-40mm gravel which is banked up before the bridge and which over time will erode the river bank and bridge foundations if not removed. There will also be work to protect the bank from erosion (work to protect the bank on one side was carried out last year and we now have EA permission to protect the other bank).

Neil Read
Gressingham Parish Council

Stagecoach Response

I am grateful to Simon Raistrick for sharing with us the response he has recently had from Stagecoach regarding the 81 serving both sides of the valley.

“Good evening John,

Unfortunately I bring bad news.

I have had a telephone call from a Mr Michael Sanderson at Stagecoach in response to my email of  last week.   He informed me that we had raised some interesting points and he accepts more people live on our side of the river but the sad fact remains we do not use the bus as much as those fewer people on the other side of the valley.

I raised the possibility of fewer buses but still both sides of the river but he was resolute, they  have taken the view that if they can’t make the route viable with the number of buses that we have been used to then it will not by running a reduced service.

He informed me that the cost of the route (not sure if that’s 81A&81B) is £700.00 per day which is a lot to make up I suppose.

Disappointed but not surprised.

Simon Raistirck”

I would like to thank Simon for his efforts on our beha;f.

Lancaster Bus User Group

Lancaster District Bus Users Group have put a proposal to County, for funding additional services from the the £2m they have reserved for this purpose. Personally I am astounded, no – fuming – at the impertinence of the suggestions that the LDBUG have put forward.
They have made no suggestions regarding the Gressingham, Arkholme and Whittington Service. However they have suggested the reinstatement of a bus, every hour between Lancaster and Hornby, ON SUNDAYS.
So – we loose everything and Hornby are reward with a Sunday service of 11 buses.
In addition there will be one 81 bus every day (which would normally come to Kirkby via Melling, going instead only to Wennington, so that people getting the train back to Manchester have a bus from Lancaster to catch it.

The Village Blog