Festivals and flowers in the Cheshire village of Lymm
- Credit: Archant
Community spirit and hard work create a transport day, an 11-day festival and a host of local groups in Lymm.
It started only five years ago, but already Lymm Historic Transport Day has become an eagerly awaited fixture in the local calendar.
‘We have people asking long in advance for the exact time that the registration for cars taking part will be opening,’ said chair, Alan Williams. ‘We have slots for 400 cars filled up in two days. I remember the first year, I was visiting classic car clubs and trying to persuade people to take part!’
The one-day event, taking place this year on June 24th, is a celebration of all things transport. From the drive-in parade to the historic sail-past of working boats on the Bridgewater Canal running through the village, to model railways and even a Spitfire fly-past, it’s an exciting day. There’s also live music, a world food court and children’s entertainment making it a very family-friendly event.
‘Some of the historic boats take three days to get here and some of the engines take hours to get ‘steamed up’ to drive down. People put a huge amount of effort in that visitors don’t often realise,’ said Alan, who founded the event after feeling that Lymm didn’t make much use of its canal. The idea snowballed from there.
In its first five years the event, which is organised entirely by volunteers, has generated a surplus of around £42,000; £9,500 of that has been contributed to Lymm Festival, £8,500 to the charity which created Lymm Heritage Centre and £24,000 has been used to establish a working capital reserve for running Transport Day – which costs approximately £18,000-£20,000 to put on each year. Various charities also have stalls on the day, generating money for local causes.
‘This year we have two key sponsors, MKM Building Supplies and Central Self Drive, which helps so much,’ said Alan. The group receive no funding from the council, borough or parish but rely entirely on admission money, sponsors and traders to host the event.
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‘Hopefully the village is proud of it. This isn’t a commercial operation, it’s a community event and people comment on the volunteers as much as the cars and exhibitors!’
For the exhibitors themselves it’s a thrilling day, as steam wagon owner Bruce Thomas tells me. By day he is a pilot for Virgin Atlantic, but when he’s at home with his family in Lymm he’s working on his 3/4 size 1928 replica steam lorry.
‘I love everything about engineering so I came to the first event when there were only two steam engines,’ said Bruce, who became part of a crew involved in steam before joining in with the organisation of the day.
‘Before I knew it I was an engine owner myself! Fortunately the family love it and it fits into the garage with two inches either side. We go to 12 rallies a year. When you’re on parade and see that sea of faces, all generations smiling, it’s something else.’
The Historic Transport Day started off as part of the annual Lymm Festival, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary (June 21st-July 1st). Due to its popularity, it soon became too much for the committee to manage and become its own entity.
‘It’s a similar story for the Lymm Festival,’ explained chairman Ian Marks, who has been involved since it started. The event started after Lymm Parish Council set up an organising committee to put into effect the wishes of many who wanted a festival.
‘It then floated out into its own thing. I never imagined we would be reaching this point 20 years later.’
Now a registered charity, the event is organised by a team working with a voluntary committee and an invaluable army of local volunteers. The 11-day festival showcases local and national talent and celebrates everything from the visual and performing arts to local history, gardens, food and much more.
‘There’s a mix of new and traditional events, we keep it varied so there are fresh ideas and events each year. ‘However if we ever got rid of the food festival we would be lynched!’ laughed Ian.
The festival is planned all year round, with the main programme buttoned down by January. The committee organise around 15-20 events such as the headliner, food festival and garden party, but the other events are put on by local groups, such as libraries, churches and charities.
‘Although we are a charity, the festival enables a lot of money to be raised by other charities organising events as part of it,’ said David Smith, deputy chair and marketing co-ordinator.
‘There is a real community benefit and we can also reinvest back into the community by indirectly donating to use spaces such as church halls and sporting clubs.
‘Lymm is such a nice village. I moved here in 1979 from Scotland and one of the first things I did was to get involved with the community, joining the school’s PTA’ said Ann Johnstone, a committee member and trustee who organises Foodfest and the family garden party.
‘Community is really important here and even if it’s pouring down people will still turn out for the festival.’
‘Lymm has grown but it’s still a village at its heart,’ added David. ‘That community spirit is why so many events, organisations and groups have such history and will continue for a long time.’
He’s served Lymm for 24 years as their town crier, and he shows no signs of stopping. For Peter Powell it all started off as a one off for the village’s Dickensian Festival, but when the council made him official it was a job that stuck for life.
‘You couldn’t do it if you didn’t enjoy it and have the passion. When children smile back at you, it’s just great. I visit schools, residential homes and luncheons, as well as being there for carols around the Cross and the Dickensian festival at Christmas,’ said Peter, who has made it into the British Town Crier Championships for yet another year.
In 2015 he was honoured by his peers and presented with the Loyal Company of Town Criers Fred Ferris Trophy, an award which can only be presented once and is given to the town crier felt to be most deserving who didn’t win the British Championship.
It certainly is a busy job, and by the start of May Peter had already been out on 57 official jobs. If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he’s also on the volunteer committee of Lymm in Bloom, who have been running for five years.
‘Ben Selwood, our chairman, has some really creative ideas and we won a gold medal last year which was amazing. We meet once a month to plant out, weed and water flower beds as well as helping to litter pick and look after local spaces– it really makes a difference to the village.’
Trying something new
After realising that a lot of residents within the Lymm and Thelwall area were travelling to neighbouring towns and villages to join U3A groups, a decision was made for the village to create their own. There was obviously a clear demand for the group, as after launching in April 2018, Lymm and Thelwall U3A now have 229 members.
‘On the launch meeting 160 people turned up at Thelwall Parish Hall, there was a minor traffic jam due to the amount,’ said chair Hannah Chellaswamy. Together she and other volunteers formed a small committee and began to organise their U3A.
‘It’s a massive movement across the UK. The main thing is to show the retired and semi-retired that it’s never too late to try something new. The U3A promotes education and learning in a social fun way.’
Teachers and tutors are not paid, but rather groups are lead by volunteers who may have a particular skill or experiences and will share that with the members, who pay a small annual membership fee. Already Lymm and Thelwall U3A have a wide range of social groups, including monthly members’ meetings and stitch ‘n’ natter, outdoor activities such as cycling and canoeing, and educational programmes like philosophy, French and IT.
‘There’s been such a demand for groups and people joining,’ said vice chair, John Bower. ‘People set up their own and it just grows from there. The latest one we are trying to get off the ground is crown green bowling and we would like to start doing outings and eventually trips abroad – but we don’t want to run before we can walk!’
We have dropped by an art group, which is held every Friday morning at St Mary’s Church Hall. The group is led by Jenn Stanley, who decided to set it up after an art club she had previously been a member of closed.
‘It was a really nice group to set up; a lot of people here have differently abilities. We’re all self starters, there’s no teacher you can just get on with your own work and choose whatever you want to create. It obviously also has a great social element to it,’ said Jenn.
For member Sharon Griffiths of Grapenhall, it’s this social side she enjoys: ‘I had finished work and just thought I would join to see what was going on. We needed it in the area, it just brings people together. I’ve been a member a couple of weeks and I now go to flower arranging and art club – it’s nice to meet people and if you’re doing it wrong, then it doesn’t matter as it’s all about having a go.’