Photograph: Littleborough across the fields from Pikehouse

Littleborough across the fields from Pikehouse

A Letter from the Chairman



Calder Cottage,
Hare Hill Road,
OL15 9 HG

29 August 2001


Dear Member,


We are writing to you because the Littleborough Civic Trust's initiative to create a Town Design Statement for Littleborough has just received grant approval for the project, which will be carried out in the area over the next two years.

We are letting you know immediately, as it is a pioneering opportunity for everyone interested in our town to be involved. The project is controlled by the Countryside Agency on behalf of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (the governing body of the Heritage Lottery Fund). These bodies have awarded the undertaking, in round figures, £18,000. This is to implement the scheme where the community contribution 'in kind' (costed activity of the community) has been agreed to represent £48,000.

The project is split into two phases wherein the first phase must be completed by the end of 2002. The content of this phase is described as follows:

  • Development of a Town Design Statement for Littleborough.
  • Research into the town's existing Pennine Heritage via meetings, consultations and workshops
  • Creation of booklets and other documents and give everyone guidance to ensure that the area's Pennine heritage is protected for the enjoyment of the people of Littleborough and visitors: while allowing for development and growth.
  • A plan to indicate the community opinion today and provide guidance for further projects in the future related to all the above issues.

The reason for contacting you so quickly is that the Civic Trust had an event booked at the Coach House for Sunday the 23rd. of September 2001 from 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., which was supporting a related initiative of the Urban Design Alliance week. Our topic was a general talk about our view of design in a community such as Littleborough: but we now have the chance to launch the project.

Littleborough now has an exciting situation where the Environment Agency is doing a major press release on this project nationally and sees the project as doing something that is new and innovative. With confirmed funding we can talk about the real problems with examples that exist in our locality and discuss how to start. Thus the meeting should allow discussion on how you might contribute and benefit from the activity in the framework of a lively and interesting session.

We would like to give you a warm invitation to come to the open afternoon. To help with the administration of refreshments we would appreciate a note or telephone call to our Secretary, Iain Gerrard, about who and how many will attend. His telephone number is 01706 377829 and his address is 2, Pikehouse Cottages, Lightowlers Lane, Littleborough, OL15 0LW.

Yours sincerely,


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In the last issue of the newsletter I referred to Littleborough’s long tradition of tree planting. One group that flourished nearly 100 years ago was the Littleborough Tree Planting Society. Reading the accounts of their activities in the contemporary editions of the Rochdale Times, it is surprising how similar their aims were to ours today. In 1903 permission had been granted by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company to ‘adorn’ the Station Approach. At the Tree Planting Ceremony in April of that year, there were several speakers all faithfully recorded in the Times*.

Gordon Harvey, mill owner and early environmentalist, said, “the idea was to render, if possible, their district rather pleasanter to look upon.” The reporter records cheers - ‘Hear, hear’ in brackets. Mr. Bamford said that he hoped that his tree might be a pleasure and joy to the inhabitants and to the passers by. Mr. Molesworth hoped that his tree would teach the people to admire the works of nature and the headmaster said that the children should be trained to “become real lovers of nature”. (‘Hear hear’ from the present members of the Civic Trust.) All the local worthies planted a tree each: the Vicar, Dr Salts; the mistress of the Infants School, Miss Howorth; the principal of the Local Board School, Mr. J. R. Wilkinson, the solicitor to the Littleborough Urban District Council; Mr. F. N. Molesworth; the chairman of the Council and many more. There were, apparently, hundreds at the ceremony. Perhaps such affairs were a pleasant diversion from the grind in the mills – or were the ‘operatives’ obliged to come??

That the Littleborough people thought of themselves pioneers in the venture is revealed in the final paragraph: when Alderman Heape of Rochdale said that he hoped the movement would spread to surrounding towns. It appears to have been the Society’s first public activity. 35 trees were planted – no mean achievement. If you go to look round at the station I think the members of the Society would be pleased to see so many surviving, even though the line of poplars went some years ago. I think it must be because the trees, as was urged by the assembled dignitaries, had been “well and truly laid”!

Two years later, in February 1905, the enthusiastic tree planters were off again this time with two separate ceremonies for the school children: one for the newly opened Board School (now demolished) and one for the children of the ‘Parish Church School’. Again they were not stingy. The Board School children, one boy and one girl from each class, planted 20 trees, including ash, lime and sycamore. And all their names were listed in the Rochdale Times. The children from the Parish School planted their trees at Bent House Meadows to which they ‘marched in procession’. But as it was on Saturday, the small ‘scholars’, as they were always called, sadly wouldn’t have had any time off school. The Board School children planted their trees at New Platt. The author of this article does not know where this is – could any reader help her?

If anyone has any handed down oral memories or photos of the officers of the Tree Planting Society, we would be delighted to know.

Those mentioned are:

The President: Captain C. R. N. B. Royds
The Treasurer: Mr. John Bamford
The Secretary: Mr. J. H. Whipp

Rae Street

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Rochdale Times extract from 1903

*The article referred to in the above article. Extract from the Rochdale Times dated the 1st of April 1903. Courtesy of Rochdale Libraries.

Extract from the Rochdale Times Extract from the Rochdale Times

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Progress on the Current Tree Project

We had a very agreeable and useful evening for the launch of the project in July. Terry Costigan, RMBC Countryside Officer, who works at Hopwood Hall Nature Reserve, showed slides to illustrate his talk on ‘tree management’. After the talk there was a lively discussion with both Terry and Rob Burnell, RMBC Arboricultural Officer, answering questions on all aspects of trees. Since the launch we are pleased to say that several members have come forward to discuss the project and suggest sites for trees. But, of course, we can’t have too many! This is the Civic Trust’s 30th Anniversary year, so we ourselves expect to plant a commemorative tree in a central position.

Silhoutte of man planting a tree

We are getting full cooperation from the Council for plantings on Council land, but if the Civic Trust want to plant trees on private land it will of course cost some money. So if you wish to help by donations, please send cheques addressed to Littleborough Civic Trust, to the Treasurer, Peter Jackson, 8 Chelburn View, Summit, Littleborough Lancs.

And watch for the announcement of our Autumn Tree Planting.

Rae Street

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Talking Points

Iain Gerrard reports on topics discussed at Committee Meetings and other relevant issues.

Coal Clough Wind Turbines

The appeal of Renewable Energy Systems has been withdrawn! This means the death knell for this particular application. The Inspectorate had decided that the appeal should be conducted as a 2-day enquiry, to be held in late September. Renewable Energy Systems apparently decided that the cost of such an event was more than they were prepared to consider. Read what you will into this. We will continue to back any and all objections to wind turbines in the South Pennine area, which as we have said many times before, is too important to be despoiled by such alien structures.

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The Harvey Project

The latest news on this is that, while we still have not had an official response to our application for a grant from the Mersey Basin Trust, John Street is to meet in September with members of the Mersey Basin Trust and the North West Environment Agency, on the site, to discuss the matter in detail. Although the Environment Agency have said to us that the waterway on the land is too small to be dealt with by them officially, they have indicated that they are very interested in what we are trying to achieve. Proffered help from them so far could result in the provision of a shallow pond, a play area with some fencing for the nearby school, as well as advice on the cost of repairing the waterway. Funding for the rest of the necessary landscaping work will become clearer following John's meeting.

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Bus Station Seat

Our application for funding to repair this seat has been forwarded to the Pennine Township and has been acknowledged. The application will be considered at the next meeting on the 20th of September. We asked three local firms to tender for this work, but only one replied and the quoted price of this was so high that we felt it beyond reasonable consideration. The other two firms, while giving out interested noises when first approached, didn't reply despite telephone calls from me to remind them of our deadline. The result of this is that we made our own enquiries for the cost of materials and, with the painting and assembly work being done by some members for free, have placed a more reasonable bid before the Pennine Township. At least we hope they will think so!

Iain Gerrard

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Town Centre & West View Traffic Calming Proposals.

We must all be concerned at the continuing growth of traffic and the poor performance of a small but significant number of motorists. I reported in the last newsletter on our alternative proposals to those outlined by the Council's engineers. We subsequently heard of similar proposals for West View and wrote to the Council on these in similar vein to our first letter. We have now received replies to both letters, meanwhile the promised details of the Town Centre proposals have been published and the townspeople have indeed been consulted.

We did not find the replies encouraging. They included the inevitable excuse of lack of money, but also seemed to show an inability to see beyond the prescribed solutions put out from central government. Briefly we did not object in principle to the objectives of the proposals but did have differing views on the methods. The proposals essentially rely on road bumps to slow traffic and multi-coloured tarmacadam to differentiate the usage of areas of roadway. Some of us consider the road bumps to be potentially dangerous in themselves and distinctly unpleasant to drive over. Clearly this is the objective; but most of us are motorists as well as pedestrians, and many fail to see why driving should be made unpleasant even for law-abiding citizens! Some residents also object to the cartoon colours of road surface because of the disturbing visual impact that these will have, particularly in and adjacent to Littleborough Square which is in a conservation area. We have suggested that, in the case of West View, a much pleasanter and effective solution would be to introduce chicanes into the line of the roadway along with the use of modern setts.

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Littleborough Town Design Statement

The stupendous news that we have the go-ahead for this undertaking is reported elsewhere in the newsletter so there is no point in me discussing it further here. This is the best chance for the people of Littleborough to influence the future of their town.

This is one matter you should not let slide by! Attend the meeting on the 23rd September.

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Coronation Walk


Well, I've been frankly amazed at the number of local people who claim never to have heard of this. It is in fact an old public footpath which runs from Todmorden Road to the railway bridge now leading to Greenvale Mill. It is at least 150 years old and appears on the Ordnance Survey maps produced in the 1840's. It didn't get named Coronation Walk until Gordon Harvey planted cherry and laburnum trees along either side of it along with hedgerows of hawthorn trees to create a pleasant country walk from what was presumably a utilitarian footpath. Even we don't know which Coronation it is meant to commemorate but we are pursuing it.

Sketch of Coronation Walk

It has, unfortunately become the southern boundary to the new housing on the old Grove Works site. I say unfortunately because the builders have erected their boundary fence close to the actual pathway itself, enclosing the mature cherry trees which were planted on the northern side of the pathway, into what will become the back gardens of the new houses. They have also uprooted the mature hawthorn hedge which existed below the trees and replaced this with little twigs which may grow back into what existed there before in twenty or thirty years! The enclosure of the trees not only destroys the symmetry of the path but also places the trees into the ownership of individuals who may not want them and could cut them down at any time. We have approached the Council Planners in this matter and they have agreed to see if they can effect an improvement from the builders, although their own concerns are more with the utilitarian nature of the fence than its position. We have also written to the builders, Brierstone Properties, but they have not bothered to even acknowledge our letter. We still hope to achieve a solution to this problem. We will have new developments for the foreseeable future and it is important that these fit in.

Iain S Gerrard

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Picture of a running badger

Yes, Old Brock! One of Britain's best loved, yet much maligned, wild mammals which is happy to live amongst other animals, including us. Often sharing his sett with a fox's family, the badger will nevertheless fight any threat to his life and family to the death. Unhappily this tendency makes him a target for those sub-humans who get a thrill from seeing animals fight for their lives for a bet.

The word 'broc' is old Celtic and means 'grey or grizzled', aptly describing his appearance. The coarse coat of guard hairs is white at the base and black towards the tip giving an overall grey colour. (Hands up all those who thought his coat was black and white. These colours are only on the head). He weighs in at about 24lbs. but, like us, can be much bigger. Large claws give him an enviable digging ability (if you like to dig, that is).

Where a fox will dig a hole for itself and its family just sufficient to offer reasonable protection from the elements and his enemies, the badger will dig deep.

Families tend to stick together and a sett will be expanded to accommodate a growing population, sometimes of twenty or thirty individuals, and can often contain well over a hundred metres of tunnels and go to a depth of 3 metres or more. Chambers, broadening of the tunnels at intervals, are created for breeding and raising the cubs in the first eight to ten weeks of their lives. When these chambers have been opened up, for whatever reason, toys have been found in them: an old mop head, an old ball, scrubbing brush or plastic bag rolled up into a ball, for the cubs to play with.

Protected by law only for the last five years or so, it is unusual to find the law allowing the disturbance or destruction of a sett, but it sometimes happens. On one occasion where this was done, the developer of the land on which the badgers lived had first to build a brand new sett for them. This, on the advice of badger experts, was done about 80 metres away, using some of the soil from the old sett, to create a new home. The badgers were then enticed towards the new sett with trails of peanuts over a period of a week or so. Although the old sett was known to be occupied, no badger was actually seen to go to the new one. When the old sett, which was known to have been in existence for 40 years, was carefully sliced open it was found to contain over 275 metres of tunnels, on three separate levels going down into the ground for over three metres------but no badgers!

A few days later some 22 extra badgers were seen to be occupying an old sett some one and a quarter miles away.

So much for the experts!

A shy, night time creature, it would probably surprise most people to learn that there are occupied setts in practically every valley in the Littleborough area: a dozen or more separate setts in all. In one instance a lady feeds them on cakes she prepares of oatmeal and peanuts bound together with fat. Watching from her bedroom window she sees not only badgers but also foxes. At the appropriate time of year both bring their cubs with them to enjoy the free meal. Unhappily the only time the badger is seen by you and me is when they have got in the way of a car and been knocked over. If they are not killed and are reported in good time they are often treated and returned to their patch after recovery. On one occasion a lady returning home late at night saw the still form of a badger on the roadway in her headlights. She stopped and, finding it to be still alive, she picked it up and transported it to the police station where she was met by a veterinary surgeon for treatment (freely given!), afterward taking it home for safety. It was only when a local badger expert, alerted to the situation by the veterinary, called on her to see how the badger was that it was discovered that she had transported the concussed creature on her knees while driving! Had it come round in this situation she could have been seriously injured, the badger, being presumably in pain and confused, might have reacted savagely in its own defence.

The animal was fully recovered and was already working hard on its escape plan from the barn in which it had been placed for the night - digging under the wall! The lady wanted to keep it as a pet and had to have the situation explained to her that this was not only illegal but also inappropriate for such a wild creature. It was only at this point that she innocently gave out the information that when she had found the comatose animal it had had two cubs playing around its body!

The badger was returned to the spot it had been found in. Two or three nights later the badger man checked on the site and saw a female with two cubs - a success story?

Regrettably the car is not the only danger Brock has to face from man. There are over twenty individuals in the Littleborough area, known to the police, that indulge in the 'sport' of badger baiting. They can of course be severely prosecuted nowadays, facing fines of up to £5000 or six months in prison - if they are caught! Anyone seeing or suspecting anybody of interfering with a badger sett should immediately ring the local police and ask that they attend the scene (Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111 - the call is free).

This inoffensive creature is also blamed for carrying tuberculosis and transmitting the disease to other animals including farm animals. While understanding the concern of farmers that this may happen, the disease is hardly endemic in the population and it is hard to see the need for the sort of culling that some farmers and even Government seem to call for. A study of 1000 badgers, culled 5 years ago in the Kent/Sussex area revealed only 29 of them to be carrying the disease.

Another worry the farmer might have is the loss of farm animals to a hungry, foraging Brock. A powerful animal for his size it is undeniable that he could break into a poorly constructed hen house and he is partial to chicken, aren't we all? But his main fare comprises of earthworms although supplemented by insects, voles, mice, carrion, young rabbits, wasps nests (yes!), fruit and fungi. Cereals are taken during a time of drought and more preferred morsels are hard to find.

It should go without saying that if we live in the countryside then we should live with the countryside: after all, man is the largest polluter and desecrater of our environment.


Thanks are given to the Lancashire Badger Group (0524 848509) for some of the factual information in this article.

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Hands up all those who have never heard of PPG3 (i.e.: Planning Policy Guidance No. 3). Well you're not alone because a number of Councillors and Planning Officers haven't either. It is, without a doubt, the most encouraging bit of planning legislation for donkey's years. It covers the allocation of land for housing and should be used to decide the provisions of the District Plan.

Photograph: New housing at Durn

We were told by John Prescott in March 1999 when the latest Planning Guidance Rules became operative that PPG3 would alter completely the way land is allocated for housing and provide great opportunities for protecting green land. Local planning policies should be influenced now by the new guidance. If they are not, decisions can be overturned at Local District Planning Inquiries because of non-compliance with PPG3.

It has been every Council's housing policy in the past to "predict & provide" what they or developers say they need. This has gone. They should now plan for far fewer houses here in the north of England where industry and populations are not increasing and these plans should be constantly monitored.

Urban renaissance has top priority and this means using up all available urban sites before applying to build on green fields. You'll notice it says 'urban' and not 'brown field' sites which must be used up first. Many old factory sites are set in lovely green valleys like Cheesden and Healey dell. These are not the sites to be developed at all and the District Plan should put them into the Green Belt to safeguard them.

Past wrongs can now be righted by withdrawing existing green field allocations without any fear of having to pay compensation to disappointed developers.

Better building should reduce the waste of open space and better design should produce the houses we need - i.e. smaller, affordable houses or to use the catch phrase: sustainable development.

Cartoon of a planner

Many of the reasons some Councillors have advanced in the past for not doing what was right are wiped out by these new policies. The main remaining problem is when a Council 'makes the rules up as they go along' and forbids Councillors to represent local causes because they are considered to "have an interest" in them. Who knows local residents and their concerns better than the Councillor who live in their area? They are the Councillors who must represent the local concerns.

Common sense should show the difference between having a direct financial interest in making money out of a planning application and simply saying why it will not benefit local people. Of course you can't represent the opposition if the developer is your son/mother/best friend or vice versa but those are extreme cases and luckily they are few and far between.

In general many applications have been given permission to develop without any check being made afterwards to see if the developer sticks to the rules. Anyone breaking the conditions attached to the permission should be considered to have broken his contract and cancelled the permission.

PPG3 has been operating since March 2000. Let's take full advantage of our best chance to protect our towns and countryside from destruction.

Betty Taylor

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Getting to Grips with 'HERITAGE'

Cartoon of a dilapidated house

Elsewhere in this newsletter you will find the announcement of a new project which the Littleborough Civic Trust will be working on for the next two years. There are five stages in the enterprise and we will produce a general summary of the content of each of the stages at the appropriate time. The undertaking is supported by the Local Heritage Fund, so you can immediately assume the project will focus on Littleborough, with the idea of heritage playing a big part in the content.

This being the case what quite do we mean by 'heritage'?

A dictionary will talk about something 'inherited at birth'; so we can ask what have we inherited? Each person can come up with their list but probably most would include the Pennines, which surround us on three sides and dominate the view from any high ground in Littleborough. The second thought is of the built heritage with our distinctive gritstone architecture, dating from many years ago, but primarily from the 18th. and 19th. centuries. There are other aspects that relate to social, economic and environmental factors. Put all these issues together and your are approaching a definition of our heritage and, you may agree, that much the same definition would say 'why you like to live here'.

At this stage doubts rise about how we can retain the heritage while developing all the new things we will need: houses, schools, roads and railways, employment opportunities and leisure facilities.

Faced with the problem of clearly identifying their heritage and the problems of achieving vital development of the town in an appropriate way Littleborough people are not alone. There are similar communities both within and all around the edges of the South Pennines, which lead to the broader concept of a 'South Pennine Heritage'.

The idea of an extensive geographical area with common characteristics is further bound together by geology, climate and the key part the whole area played in the world's biggest revolution - The Industrial Revolution.

It is a fair question to ask 'Why should we care about all this, why not just get on with things as they develop?

The answer lies in a number of facts:

There is no single South Pennine planning authority. Notwithstanding the existence of the Standing Conference Of South Pennine Authorities (S.C.O.S.P.A.) few can doubt that sandwiched between two major National Parks our area has been seriously neglected despite its obvious importance.

Pressure for the use of land means we are losing green open spaces; unique environments such as the peat are being eroded and destroyed, we are losing important stretches of water which will be irreplaceable, the dual economy which has supported farming for centuries has been undermined. Lack of consistent protection has led to frequent 'short cuts to profit' which have left a disfigured landscape or worse, barren pollution over extensive tracts of land. We have lost much of the plant and indigenous wild life that the area supported and some of the building has been inappropriate and sometimes quite inadequate in the face of the severe weather the Pennines can experience.

Finally all heritage is subject to decay and change. Caring for and developing the area and looking after the visitors who will visit from the huge urban areas which surround the South Pennines, must be not only enjoyable for both local people and visitors it must be economically viable. These are the conditions that will ensure those who live in the South Pennines will give time and effort to maintain and develop their area.

In addition to the Government Agencies and Local Authorities, a number of new arrangements are being put in place. In total they are able to mount a variety of approaches to tackle the problems outlined in this article. These are very serious issues but we are delighted that Littleborough is being supported with money and resource to share in the plan to tackle them. In subsequent articles we will explain the steps in the plans. At the same time we will arrange meetings to allow a discussion on the content of each stage. Our aim is to carry the project through on an agreed agenda.

We hope everyone will enjoy the opportunity to 'get to grips with our heritage'.

John Street

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I Noticed this...

Photograph: Co-op carving

I noticed this carving while wandering aimlessly around Littleborough.
Anyone know where it is and what the initials stand for?






Cartoon: Teacher with wall-map

The teacher asked the little girl with blonde hair sat near the front of the class: “Mary, please come to the front and show me where America is on the wall map”.

Mary did so.

“Very good,” said the teacher. She then turned to Ned on the back row and said: “Ned can you tell me who discovered America?”

“Mary did,” said Ned.



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Editor: Iain Spencer Gerrard