Rossendale Free Press
Lockdown heroes, charity champs and stormy visitor
AS 2020 comes to an end we look back on a year like no other.
With the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns bringing normal life to a standstill, it ensured that this year will be one for the history books.
So let’s take a look at the stories that caught the eye across the Valley from the first six months of 2020 - from lockdown heroes, fundraising champions and VE Day, it’s been a busy year.
The year began with a story about the Valley’s own Coronation Street star Sam Aston, who plays Chesney. He dropped in to support a new RSPCA charity shop. The new charity shop, at 83 Bank Street, Rawtenstall replaced the previous store across the road. Volunteers said it had been fully transformed by the refit, giving a taste of trend and vintage inside.
Also in January a number of pupils were left stranded after a Rossendale bus took them to the wrong school. Bus bosses apologised after the Rosso Bus 8 service carrying pupils to The Valley Leadership Academy in Bacup ended up travelling along a different route on Tuesday, January 7, ending in Todmorden.
We also reported that empty businesses in Rossendale were costing taxpayers an average of £730,000 in lost rates each year as part of a national relief scheme. Over the past five years, almost £40m of potential business rates income had been lost due to empty premises across East Lancashire.
Finally, a group of young Rossendale footballers met one of the game’s biggest personalities as they did the borough proud in a countywide competition. St Anne’s Church of England Primary School competed for Rossendale at the Lancashire Youth Games, going all the way to the last four. The event was held at the official training ground of Fleetwood Town FC, whose manager, former Manchester City and Burnley star Joey Barton, was on hand to dispense encouragement and a few tips.
To kick off February Rossendale MP Jake Berry hailed ‘Independence Day’ as Brexit was finally delivered. The country formally left the EU at 11pm on January 31. Mr Berry posted a message on his Facebook page, saying: “I just want to say have a brilliant Independence Day everyone.
February also saw the Valley hit by severe flooding. Residents and businesses were left picking up the pieces after the region was battered by hurricane force winds and six weeks’ worth of rainfall in 24 hours as Storm Ciara wreaked havoc. There were extraordinary scenes as parts of our town centres were left submerged. However, following the devastation of Boxing Day 2015 and Storm Brian in October 2017, many were left pondering if this is now little more than a biennial dose of flood misery.
To round off the shortest month of the year Pre-school children were
“overwhelmed” when they were visited by their favourite Frozen characters. Good as Gold nursery in Waterfoot had been learning all about Winter, including making their own ice palace. The topic culminated in a “Frozen Day”, with many of the children being big fans.
March will be remembered as the month where the coronavirus pandemic really took hold. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered people to stay home and only leave the house in a few circumstances on March 23 which left Rossendale’s busy spring and summer events calendar in tatters. Like the rest of the country March saw an influx of shoppers panic-buying in supermarkets across the borough, leaving shelves empty and some stores struggling to keep up with the pressure. Supermarkets had to crack down on shoppers who have been stockpiling in-demand items such as loo roll, hand gel, anti-bacterial spray, pasta and tinned goods.
In happier March news a former Irish Guard war hero was “overwhelmed” to receive a guard of honour on his 100th birthday. Ernest Norbury, who lives at Hewlett Court retirement home in Holcombe Brook, served throughout the Second World War from the age of 20 and was wounded twice in the service of his country.
April saw communities in Rossendale pulling together in incredible ways, especially when it came to supporting the most vulnerable and incredible NHS workers. This included two kindhearted sisters, EbonaeRose, 7, and Summer, 5, who hand made 200 to 300 spiritual ‘keepsakes’ which were sent out to nurses, police, ambulance services, firefighters, and nursing homes. They packed the individual creations into envelopes along with reassuring goodwill messages underpinned by the hashtags #LOVE #HOPE and #POSITIVITY.
There was also the story of Chris Haworth, a watercolour artist who created a striking painting of a nurse cradling the country in her arms, which struck a chord with
Newchurch artist Chris Haworth with his painting of a nurse cradling the country in her arms local residents. His vision of the UK - symbolised by a Union flag wrapped in a nurse’s protective arms - evokes the feelings of vulnerability, indebtedness and of immense gratitude currently felt by many and is reminiscent of examples of wartime iconography.
● Also in April was the clap for carers, but a key worker from the Valley added her own twist to the tribute. Emma Jackson, who runs a small working farm in Stacksteads, led her sheep to baa for the NHS, and even decorated their coats with colourful rainbows.
The charitable gestures continued into May, with Haslingden High School manufacturing 1,400 safety face visors for frontline NHS and care home staff. The Design and Technology faculty responded to the national call and staff members began making deliveries across the region in the school minibus. Teachers from all the departments - from PE to languages, science to ICT along with the senior leadership team, worked alongside students to create the visors.
Emma Jackson and Miles the sheep with their NHS tribute at the family farm in Stacksteads
May also saw the Valley celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. The Veterans in Communities centre in Haslingden was one of many buildings and streets across the Valley which was dressed in patriotic red, white and blue to mark the special occasion. The charity had planned to join in a street party in the town, which had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, so instead they decorated the building with a Union flag and bunting and played the Last Post before observing the silence; 1940s music was then played to entertain passers by.
To round off May we reported on a much-loved great-grandmother who was given a 90th birthday to remember, after defeating coronavirus. Jean Cormack, who is Rossendale born and bred before relocating to Cumbria four years ago, had been unable to see any family or friends for six weeks. However, she was delighted to receive a surprise family visit to a balcony near her Royal Lancaster Infirmary ward on her big day.
In June a Valley dad
Staff at Broadway Pharmacy in Haslingden with visors made by their local high school
Celebrating VE Day’s 75th anniversary were Sonja Helm with husband Barry, eldest daughter Trudy, son Alex and youngest daughter Hermione described by a hospital employee as ‘her keyworker’ was saluted for keeping people going with his lockdown radio station. David Reader, of New Line, Bacup, broadcast a live streaming marathon DJ feeds up to 10 hours long to up to 100 listeners. Filling the void of his normal part-time pub DJ work, Rossendale-born David, 47, entertained work colleagues, friends and loved ones far and wide during lockdown via Facebook Live and Twitch.
A Valley schoolgirl led her squad of Manchester United young footballers on a fundraising mission to thank their much-loved coach. Captain and centre back Dixie Thirde, from Crawshawbooth, and her teammates took on a virtual 200-mile round trip to raise funds for Emma Fletcher, their head of girls football development. Each member of the United Girls’ Regional Talent Club, Under-11s, ran, walked or cycled at least 15 miles each over the space of two weeks, to raise over £4,000.
Finally, in more fundraising news nearly 600 people laced up their trainers to take part in the virtual mile health challenge. The two-week challenge asked people to simply get out of the house and either run or walk a mile. The challenge was organised by Rossendale Schools Sports Partnership and Rossendale Leisure Trust, with people of all ages and abilities encouraged to take part. Everyone that entered the challenge received a certificate. Rossendale school games organiser Nathan Bibby said that the event - which was inspired because the primary school cross country championships had not been able to go ahead - was a “huge success”, with 597 entries.