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Years ago, Churchfield was a buttercup meadow. Horses kept the grass short and the edges tidy.
When grazing stopped the field gradually became overgrown and untidy. Something had to be done!
The Friends of Churchfield group, with the support of the local council, began to tidy up the land.
One of our first volunteer days was spent rediscovering the old flagstone path which can still be seen running between the allotments.
Whilst clearing the public right of way path through the field we unearthed the original edgings in natural stone, running the full length of the path exactly five old feet (1.5m) apart.
Flexipave, made of gravel, tyres, porous and frost resistant, is an ideal surface, eco-friendly and long-lasting. The new path is a huge improvement, very popular with older residents passing through Churchfield on the way to and from the village.
The Walkers Are Welcome Group had some surplus benches that they were happy to donate to our group. We decided we needed about eight to take advantage of the views and provide relief for people needing a breather having climbed the hill from the village centre. In the end we settled for six.
Irresponsible dog owners allowing their animals to foul the field is an ongoing concern. We installed two dog waste bag dispensers and the Parish Council have provided a rubbish bin on Barnsley Road, which has made a difference, but not to persistent offenders. We invited the local Dog Wardens to have a look at the field and help us to tackle the problem.
Our original plan was to establish a community garden in Churchfield, but after speaking to local people who had tried this and knew the pitfalls, we adjusted our expectations and decided on a few planters instead.
The planters were made by a local craftsman from the fencing which was previously used to protect the “new” Ash trees.
We took advice on how to increase the range of plants to encourage bird and insect life. We involved local children, and volunteers from Cummins Turbo Technologies, in the wildflower planting, and we hope to encourage other groups to get involved as time goes on.
The Northern Fruit Association helped us to select and plant eight heritage fruit trees in a corner of the field by Kenyon Bank.
Repairing the boundary walls of Churchfield was a task which required grants from the Environment Trust and the Parish Council to complete. Anita Faherty, a local professional stone waller, did the tricky bits and ran day courses to train volunteers.
The training has been a great success, and participants have already used their skills to help rebuild parts of the walls.
Local children helped us to decorate and install bird and bat boxes and a bug hotel on the field.
What better way to have bespoke nest-boxes, than to ask local children to decorate them. Essential ingredients were: water based paints, leaf shaped stencils, some sponges and brushes, and a whole load of enthusiasm. We had plenty of all.
We ended up with some pretty cool looking homes for our little birds. A lovely job, and really well done.
Of course, the fitting of nest boxes had to be done by adults. But we did have the necessary supervision from one child, just to ensure all the necessary safety precautions had been carried out correctly.
Well the results speak for themselves. The first year produced a family of blue tits, and the second year a family of great tits. That has to be a success!
“Of course we need disabled access” was the unanimous opinion of the Friends’ Committee planning the improvements to the field. We also wanted to enable people with buggies to use the path through Churchfield to reach the village rather than negotiating Bank Lane, which has no footway.
The ramp work adjacent to Barnsley Road has been the most challenging aspect of the whole project. A retired builder, Billy Jewitt, then Chair of Denby Dale Parish Council, offered to take on the job, unpaid.
Kirklees’ original Countryside Officer, Andy Wickham, had access to corporate volunteers and the Ten Villages Volunteers scheme, and some beautiful local stone was donated by Z Hinchliffe and Sons. The Lottery grant financed breeze blocks, sand and cement. We were good to go.
Our intrepid volunteers selected, collected and transported stone from Hinchliffe’s to Churchfield and slowly, the ramp walls took shape.
We used rubble from the site to fill the ramp, along with some Crush & Run not needed in the allotments, and a professionally laid flexipave surface completed the construction.
Four great minds and some strong pairs of hands overcame several practical difficulties over several hours.
And the gates were installed, at top…
…and bottom of the field, again with a flexipaved area to facilitate access. Job done!
Sometimes we have a day on the field which really stands out. This was the day we installed the dog waste bag dispensers. It was one of those traditional Yorkshire can’t make its mind up days with mixed weather. As we were working, a local businessman turned up on his bike and asked if we were looking for any sponsorship. This was in the days before the Lottery grant and we had very little in the coffers. He wanted to buy us some trees but we were more desperate to get the grass cut. “Joe” (he wants to remain anonymous!) has since financed three or four mowings, and now that the council have taken over the mowing regime, will continue to sponsor…. Trees?! Watch this space.
The rainbow appeared mid afternoon and seemed a beautifully appropriate conclusion to a very special day.