Welcome to The Leek Log, an opportunity to share news and views on business, leisure and community activities in Leek and the Staffordshire Moorlands.
If you have something to tell others about, let me know either by commenting on the blog or emailing me at david@davidcliffe.com

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

From trainee to Leek Post editor in 3 years

The Sentinel has appointed one of the country's youngest editors to head up its Post & Times titles in Leek, Cheadle and Uttoxeter.

This is how the trade press announced Hayley Parker's remarkable achievement:

A young journalist who joined a weekly title as a trainee reporter less than three years ago has been made its editor.

Hayley Parker has been appointed as editor of the Post and Times Series, in Staffordshire, and officially took up her new role today (November 30).

The job encompasses the editorship of the Leek Post and Times, Uttoxeter Post and Times and the Cheadle Post and Times and includes responsibility for five reporters and a sports editor.

Hayley takes over from Rob Cotterill, who has returned to daily sister title The Sentinel, where he was previously news editor, to take on another senior role.

Said Hayley: "I was delighted to be chosen for the job. It's a massive step up for me but it's gone well so far."

After joining the Uttoxeter Post and Times as a trainee in early 2007, she qualified as a senior reporter this time last year after passing her NCE exam.

Sentinel editor-in-chief Mike Sassi said: "Hayley is an excellent young journalist who has worked hard to achieve this promotion. I'm certain the P&T will prosper under her leadership."

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Charity shops prove how 'green' we are

On seeing the new Donna Louise shop when we were walking in town today, my companion commented that Leek must have more charity shops per head of population than any other town in the country.
And yes, quite a few folk have been moaning on about the number of prime locations which charities are taking in the middle of town.
But surely isn't this overload of cast-offs a good thing? Doesn't all this recycling and re-use prove just how green we all are in Leek?
By filling our shops with secondhand stuff - clothes, paperbacks, whatever - rather than new imports shipped across the globe, aren't we showing that here in the Moorlands we're not a throwaway society and care that little bit more about the future of the planet.
OK, few of us have actually asked for any more charity shops, but they certainly seem to be well patronised, showing that there are plenty of us who are quite prepared to choose used as well as new.
Taking it a step further, a new retro boutique, The Closet, has opened above The Passion Pit salon in St Edward Street and they certainly have no shortage of cast-offs to plough through. (Those folk have made an excellent job of using that fine building - congratulations).
And round at Leek College, art & design students have just finished a project transforming secondhand stuff from the Dougie Mac shop - it's called upcycling amongst the fashion-conscious (such as myself) and Vivienne Westwood is mad about it, apparently.
So charity shops are cool after all.
Leek's long been famed as a mecca for antiques (recycling,restoring,re-using) - perhaps we should be proud to be the capital of charity shops, too.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Canal burst photos

For anyone who has not seen the dramatic results of the Caldon Canal bursting its banks on the edge of Leek ten days agoe, there are some superb pix on this blog by Brett Trafford - plus many more excellent ones of Leek and the Moorlands


Helpers needed to make older people’s lives less lonely

An award-winning local charity which helps older housebound people in the Staffordshire Moorlands keep their independence is looking for more helpers.

Home Link, which began in Cheadle in 1986, provides contact and support for people who want to remain in their own homes for as long as is practical. And the organisation needs more volunteers to befriend its elderly members on a one-to-one basis now that it has expanded its services into Leek.

Befriending Co-ordinator Diane Sellers explained: “We have a superb network of helpers who give up an hour or so of their time each week to call in on our members for a cup of tea and a chat.

“Many members are housebound and have no family living nearby and our volunteers provide vital friendship and support but, quite simply, there aren’t enough of them to go round.

“Befrienders are not expected to carry out domestic tasks or caring duties – the aim is purely social contact – and we provide lots of support.”

Volunteer Jane Keeling, a retired office manager, has been visiting 83-year-old Marjorie Mayer in her home town of Cheadle for the past twelve months. Jane said: “I really enjoy my visits to Marjorie and we sometimes go out for lunch or visit a garden centre. I feel as though I am bringing a bit of normality back into her life and we both get enjoyment from the visits.”

Miss Mayer, who herself puts something back into Home Link by phoning other lonely members for a regular chat via the Phone Link service, said: “Jane is a very good friend to me and I feel as though we hit it off from the start. We both speak the same language and we are interested in similar things. It’s great to have someone call in for a natter about what’s going on in the world.”

Volunteer Pam Piggins, aged 72, from Cheadle, said: “I get a lot of pleasure from helping Home Link as a befriender. I think it’s a two-way thing and I really enjoy visiting members to bring them a bit of company as well as helping out at the Christmas parties held in the church hall in Cheadle. There is always a really lovely atmosphere. I can recommend volunteering to anyone.”

Helpers are needed in all areas including Leek, Cheadle and the surrounding villages. For more information on the befriending scheme, contact Home Link manager Helen Wainwright on 01538 750511.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Derby Street - eyesores or what?

How pleasing to see Derby Street today, unblemished by the burger van and its accompanying chairs, table, motorbikes, dogs - oh, and customers.

Am I alone in thinking that mobile food wagons like this have no place in the middle of an allegedly protected and much-loved historic street? I suppose they provide a useful service for those burger-munchers who prefer the outdoor life so they can smoke unimpeded. But does this really add anything to our town - it certainly detracts from its appearance Lord knows what the neighbouring teashop owners think about it.

Even though the burger van was blessedly out of sight on a quiet Thursday afternoon, Home & Colonial still managed to litter the pavement with assorted pallets, trolleys, boxes and the occasional box of East European-branded food teetering on the edge of its use-by date.

I know they've become a local 'treasure', but how the heck do they get away with it?

And don't get me onto the subject of those artistic 'bollards' that no-one has been able to fathom for years. Firewood, perhaps?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

How to beat the planning system

Members of the Moorlands Council Planning Applications Committee were furious yesterday afternoon when they admitted defeat to a Rudyard couple who, councillors said, have 'beaten the system'.

The couple bought a set of farm buildings down a track off the main Macclesfield Road back in 2003 and moved into what was effectively half of a portal-framed livestock building. Their side of the shed was gradually converted into a one-bedroom home, while the farm animals continued in residence on the other side of a partition wall. The only problem was that no-one bothered to tell the council.

When SMDC eventually found out some months ago, officials took a very dim very, because converting the 'barn' to house stood no chance of gaining planning permission.

However the couple were able to produce documentary evidence that they had lived there for more than four years - thus establishing a legal right for their humble abode to remain. Through gritted teeth, councillors had to give in, but are going to press for a change in the law, raising the time limit to ten years.

In the meantime, councillors are worried that the case may tempt owners of other suitably remote 'barns' in the Moorlands to chance their luck and set up a home ...as long as no-one notices for four years.

Railway dream could be nightmare to achieve

News that large stretches of neglected railway line could be brought back into use in the Moorlands is a promising prospect for the district.

Moorland and City Railways Ltd (MCR), a private venture launched by some of the people who have been involved in the Churnet Valley Railway success story, has agreed to take over the disused line between Leekbrook and Cauldon Lowe and there's talk of linking Leek back up with Stoke station and even providing an alternative means of reaching Alton Towers by extending the Churnet Valley operation as far as Alton Station.

It's a hugely ambitious plan that would deliver real benefits to the Moorlands, both from a visitor attraction point of view and the prospect of a 'greener' transport option.

But before we rush to book our season tickets to the Potteries, let's not forget the considerable challenges along the way - and not just the vegetation that buries the unused line.

Restoring a regular link with Stoke will involve major safety issues along a route which hasn't seen a train for a couple of decades, not least at least two points where the line crosses a road - the former automatic crossing at Station Road, Endon is completely vandalised.

The company will also have to win over many residents who don't particularly want trains back on the line. At Oakamoor villagers are already protesting about the plan to link up with neighbouring Alton - that stretch of track is now a well-used footpath and bridleway and there's no way trains, ramblers and horses could co-exist on the narrow strip.

And only a couple of weeks ago, pupils from Endon High School won a £1,000 prize for their idea of using part of the disused line as a footpath.

Best of luck MCR - you're certainly going to need it!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Will the bells ring again?

It's good news that there's a campaign to get the carillon at St.Edward's Parish Church working again. This excellent device would ring out traditional tunes at regular intervals, but has been silent for a few years.

I gather it has suffered from 'lack of regular maintenance'. I'd heard that, in fact, the Victorian equipment currently lies in many pieces - a previous attempt to repair it having been halted in mid-dismantlement when it was realised the work had not been sanctioned by the proper authorities.

Let's hope that the eventual repairers can put the bits back together again.

The mystery bugler

Hearing the bugles sound at The Monument on Sunday reminds me of the mystery bugler who plays within earshot of my normally peaceful office (shed).

A couple of years ago it became a daily occurrence, regular as clockwork, that someone played a few rousing notes on the bugle every lunchtime. The first few times I thought it was one of the neighbour's chickens clearing its throat - intrigued I started to wander round garden at the appointed time, trying to see where the sound was coming from.

Eventually I became convinced that it was a musically-inclined worker at Kerrygold (over the fence from the office) who was rousing his workmates for the afternoon shift.

A while ago the daily fanfare fell silent - perhaps the bugler had given up, perhaps I had changed my routine, or it may have coincided with the rebuild of the Kerrygold factory.

Imagine my delight a few days ago when, at around half past one, I heard the trumpeter's jaunty tones wafting across the garden again. Welcome back old friend.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Travel students taste the high seas

STUDENTS from Leek College got a taste of life on the high seas when they toured one of P and O’s newest cruise ships this term.

A party of 20 studying for their BTEC National Diploma in Travel and Tourism left Leek in the early hours and travelled by coach down to Southampton for a guided tour of the Ventura, launched last year by Helen Mirren.

P and O pulled out all the stops to ensure the party, joined by students from Moorlands Sixth Form College, got a proper feel for life aboard a luxury cruise ship and they were joined by staff from the company’s HR department to hear about opportunities working with P and O.

Course tutor Penny Meakin explained: “It’s all very well showing students videos but you can only realise the enormity of these cruise ships by actually going aboard. The Ventura is half a mile long and it simply blew our students away.

“We toured the restaurants, cabins and entertainment facilities and our group learned all about opportunities for work as pursers and entertainers aboard the ship as well as on shore careers with P and O. We had a great morning but, unfortunately, we had to disembark by noon to make way for passengers who were due to set sail that afternoon bound for St Lucia in the Caribbean.

“One or two members of the party were looking for places to hide as stowaways but, on a more serious note, now they’ve sampled life aboard, they are all keen on taking a mini cruise for our next trip abroad.

“With Caribbean cruises costing around £1,200 minimum that won’t be possible but we might try one of the taster cruises offering a couple of nights on board for around £300.”

Travel and Tourism courses at Leek College offer vocational training with lots of opportunities to go and experience opportunities for working in the travel industry.

Last orders at the Churnet Valley

Bulldozers are closing in the on the old Churnet Valley pub in Newcastle Road, so this may be your last chance to see the now forlorn building. The pub served its last pint nearly a decade ago and was subsequently bought by Industrial and Agricultural Engineers (Kluznik's to local folk) who used the car park as additional storage for their neighbouring works. At least they made the building safe from vandals who had targeted the pub almost as soon as it closed.

Now the site belongs to Morrison's who are going to create extra car parking and a new access onto Newcastle Road as part of their expansions plans for what must be the busiest store in the town.

The pub owes it's name not to the River Churnet - which is about a quarter of a mile away - but to the Churnet valley railway line which passed through Leek Station (where Morrison's now stands). As the nearest pub to the railway station, the Churnet Valley must have been a real hive of activity in years gone by. As a reminder of the old days, there's also a postcard of what it looked like in the early 20th Century. Note the covered walkway which sheltered customers going to and from the station.

It remains to be seen whether the additional Morrison's access improves conditions at the Junction Road/Broad Street mini-roundabout, or simply makes another hazard on an already busy section of Newcastle Road.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


An excellent crowd gathered around the Nicholson Memorial for this morning's Remembrance ceremony, the town centre falling almost silent as the clock tower bells struck eleven o'clock and the bugles sounded.
There seemed to be more organisations than ever taking part - how good to see our twin town friends from Este present (the Mayor laid a wreath and a uniformed contingent joined in the parade), and how heartening to see so many town schools represented.
With the current heart-searching over our role in Afghanistan and the loss of life over there - is it really worth it for the safety of our nation? - the occasion was as much an opportunity to think about the present as well as a time reflect of the sacrifice on past conflicts. The Monument's meaning in town life is just as strong, ninety years after the Great War battles that are recorded on its Portland Stone.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Charity shops in Leek

Charity shops are now a fixed part of our High Streets and no doubt perform a valuable role in raising funds for some worthy causes. But are we reaching a tipping point where the charities outnumber the real traders? That's the worry in Leek, where there's news of yet another charity shop opening - this time in the former Goldstraw's jewellers premises in the heart of Derby Street. This makes around a dozen in the middle of town.

There had been hopes of a quality retailer taking on this prime position, but it turns out it's not to be - at least not in the short term. Any views on this thorny issue? My good friends in Leek Chamber of Trade are concerned about it and have issued the following comment on behalf of their members:

“As retailers, we always welcome a new store opening, particularly when they take possession of vacant premises. At the end of the day, new shops enhance the overall shopping experience, providing more choice for local people and being a more attractive prospect for visitors to the town. What is particularly disappointing on this occasion is that yet another charity shop is opening. In our opinion, this is not particularly good news; neither for local people or for us as retailers. It’s not that we are being uncharitable; we recognise that such shops have their place within any town and do good work for their individual cause. In the case of Leek, however, it seems that prime locations are being taken and a concentration of similar shops is starting to form.

Unfortunately as an organisation, the Chamber of Trade has no influence over the type of store that opens. We are solely reliant upon the landlord to negotiate and agree the terms. Once again, a landlord, who does not reside in the town, has chosen to lease their premises to a charity shop. What heightens our disappointment is that we are aware of three alternative legitimate business offers for the former Goldstraws shop. In our opinion it was not necessary to lease the building to another charity shop and it is regrettable that the landlord would not even enter conversations with these three alternative businesses. We assume that the landlord was attracted by the prospect of a long term lease that a charity shop typically undertakes.

As independent retailers we have to pay business rates. Charity shops however receive 80% relief irrespective of the fact that more and more now sell new goods. We appreciate that this is a government policy and that is why Anne Morris, Chairman of the Chamber is taking this issue to Charlotte Atkins MP. It is not a case of sour grapes on our part, we simply feel that it is unfair trading.

We wholeheartedly welcome more new businesses to open in the town and appreciate that the local council and town centre co-ordinator work hard behind the scenes promoting Leek to suitable companies looking to relocate. We sincerely hope that in the future landlords do not follow a similar path to the one that we have recently experienced.”

My first blog

This is my first blog, aimed at sharing a few views on what's happening in and around Leek in the splendid Staffordshire Moorlands on this misty autumnal morning. It's effectively a test.