A review of the past year by the AudlemOnline editor:
The year started and ended with adult social care a big local issue. Age Concern's plan to close the Tuesday Day Care lunch at Thornton House, Audlem was met resoundingly with the formation of Audlem District Community Action (ADCA) to take over responsibility for this important service.
It's a new charity run by trustees from the village and, with a team of volunteers, now provides Tuesday lunches and Friday coffee mornings for elderly residents and is a major success.
Audlem saw a doubling of its retail provision in late 2009 and 2010 with eight new shops opening. With villages, towns and cities across the country seeing shops close, this was a remarkable achievement. The question was, could it be sustained in 2011?
The answer has been positive with all the shops still open, albeit several have changed hands. The Bridge Inn also has new licensees who took over in the Autumn. And the village saw the opening of a Physiotherapy clinic in Cheshire Street at the start of 2011.
The reopening of the Audlem Charity Shop was welcomed by all and its team of volunteers have been busy since raising money for St Lukes' Hospice this year.
Major projects saw the towpath northwards towards the Overwater marina attract £50,000 worth of work so it could be used in all weathers, a joint project between the Audlem Parish Plan team and British Waterways.
The work involved 720m of towpath from Audlem Locks to Bridge 80 near the marina, a massive project involving three barges and 300 tonnes of hardcore carried out by contractors appointed by British Waterways.
The installation of touchscreen computers at both ends of the towpath, at the marina and in the Mill Shop on Audlem Wharf was linked to the towpath project. Computer programs featuring six locally produced short videos and a mass of illustrated information on the life and works of the canal's engineer, Thomas Telford, the canal itself and Audlem's attractions and facilities were created.
Local RNLI supporter, Rod Cottrell, decided that a boat service on the canal plying between the Audlem Locks and the Overwater Marina would be an important new attraction. Donations would be sought from passengers and given to the lifeboat charity.
He bought a whaler hull, sufficient to accommodate 12 passengers plus crew and recruited eight volunteer coxswains. The Audlem Parish Plan team bid for £4,000 to fit out the boat from Visit Chester & Cheshire, were successful, and the boat, called Audlem Lass, went into service on Good Friday 2011.
It has been a tremendous success with a regular service every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday and has carried 4,114 passengers during the season with passengers donating an average of almost £1 each to the RNLI. – a total of £4,078.82.
The rough footpath from Audlem's car park and playing field down to Audlem Wharf has been a source of dissatisfaction for many years. Audlem Parish Council funded and managed the project which was carried out by a local contractor.
The gradient has been improved, steps installed and the final touch of painting the steps down to the Shroppie Fly car park was provided by a team from Cheshire Probation Service.
In March 2011, Cheshire East council closed the public toilets in Audlem. As these were considered vital for local tourism, Audlem Parish Council took over the toilets and negotiated with Cheshire East for a sufficient sum to fully refurbish the facility which was in a very poor state of repair.
That work, carried out by a local contractor, CMS, is now complete and the project, in contrast to public toilets being closed all over the country because of funding cutbacks, even attracted national attention on BBC1's The One Show.
The toilets are now fully operational and proving very popular. They carry external Audlem designs by local artist Jo Halden and are described on a plaque as "The first (or last) public toilets as you arrive in (or leave) the North of England".
Successful major events were laid on by Audlem groups such as ASET, the Audlem Special Events Team, ADAS, the Audlem District Amenities Society and the Festival committee.
Their events bring very large numbers of visitors with this year's Audlem Music Festival in May considered the best ever, and the Audlem Transport Festival in July, also a huge success with, in addition a gathering organised by Audlem Mill of 24 historic narrow boats on the canal.
Highfields also hosted a Gala in May which raised funds for the Scout & Guide Hall.
2011 saw the return of the Audlem Beer Festival in late August – this event only started in 2010 – while massive crowds attended the Fireworks display in November. ASET organised the highly praised 11/11/11 Exhibition attended by many school children as well as adults.
The Big Switch On – now firmly established in the village calendar – and possibly the best-ever attended Carols in the Square proved extremely popular.
The village has looked a treat throughout December with over forty Christmas trees and other large trees festooned with lights by a team of ADAS volunteers making the village one of the best illuminated for many miles around.
The year began with Audlem in Medical Limbo – politically in Cheshire East, medically in Western Cheshire. This is nearing resolution – more on this on AudlemOnline in January – with the Medical Practice about to be joining the new South Cheshire GP Consortium as part of the national Health Service reforms.
The village school had a difficult year with a change of governance and, at the end of the year, of head teacher. We are sure all will be striving for a better year in 2012.
Ambulance response times have improved very significantly in the past year – 95% of emergency calls have been met in 19 minutes compared with just 45% when the campaign to improve times started – while the Audlem First Responders group has attracted regional recognition.
The year ended with the splendid news that Audlem was to be amongst the first communities to receive Superfast Broadband. It's due, we have been told, by the summer of 2012. We will be keeping a close eye on this as it's a service that could be important to many local businesses.
Cheshire East adult social care costs hit the national news headlines on the last days of the year, reportedly the most expensive in the country.
Janice Spibey was a very popular winner of the ADAS Citizen of the Year award in October for her work raising money for St Luke's Hospice.
Finally, Audlem triumphed yet again in awards ceremonies, winning the Community Spirit award for the whole of Cheshire and picking up a major Britain in Bloom prize too.
The wall in the Square will soon run out of space as new award plaques are added each year all recognising Audlem's continuing success.
Here's to another successful year in 2012. Happy New Year.
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