Green pioneers call it a day
Jul 30 2008 by Andrew Baldwin, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Green pioneers call it a day
After more than 35 years a pioneering “green” organisation in the Colne Valley has had to shut up shop ... blaming the reluctance of younger people to get involved. ANDREW BALDWIN reports
IT started in a flourish and with noble aims. The founders of the Colne Valley Society were determined back in 1972 to take practical action to improve the surroundings of the area where they lived.
Projects such as path clearing and clean-ups were to be their thing.
They would not, in their words, become a “wine and cheese society”.
More than 35 years on the society has decided to call it a day, bedeviled by a phenomenon which has become all too common; a lack of younger members.
Glenda Oldroyd, the first and last woman chairman of the society, said it was a shame but you had to be realistic.
She added: “A lot of our people have reached the age where they are not as active as they used to be and unfortunately no-one has come up to replace them.”
It’s a problem affecting many clubs, organisations and events which have long been the lifeblood of towns and villages.
Organisers of Elland’s annual carnival, for instance, warned just a few weeks ago that they might not be able to carry on because of a lack of support.
Most of the nine committee members are over 60 and struggling to keep up with the organisation required for such an event.
Elland’s carnival will go ahead on August 16, but it may be the last unless townspeople rally to keep it alive.
For the Colne Valley Society it has gone beyond that point.
Members took the sad decision to call it a day at a meeting in Slaithwaite Civic Hall attended by 25 people.
Three times that number of letters were sent out telling of the meeting and why it was being held.
Mrs Oldroyd said it had been a sad response and showed why the decision to wind up the society had to be taken.
“It came to the stage where we knew it had to end,” she says. “We’ve lost a lot of people due to age and illness and nobody younger has replaced them.
“We’ve done it with great regret. But you’ve got to know when to give up.”
A lot has been achieved in the last three decades since the group’s inception.
In a way, in an age when we think we’re just latching on to green issues, the society was a bit of a pioneer.
Its early supporters proclaimed that they wanted to enhance natural beauty in an area which still bore the scars of the Industrial Revolution.
Early projects included landscaping on the site of the former Co-op at the junction of Bank Gate and Nabbs Lane, Slaithwaite.
Time was spent fishing rubbish out of the River Colne, when cycles, cookers, washing machines and prams were hauled out during three weekend sessions.
Going forward, there was the cutting-back of undergrowth at a pinfold at Wilberlee, near Slaithwaite, tree planting and even rebuilding dry stone walls.
Officers also always made sure to comment on planning applications which they thought would be harmful. Not to forget the benches and litter bins installed at strategic points.
All the hard physical work, as well as campaigning words, has certainly left the valley a lot greener than it was at the beginning of the 1970s.
The committee remains in place for a while to disperse the remaining funds.
Some £2,000 has already gone to Marsden History Group and £1,000 to the Colne Valley Museum at Cliffe Ash, Golcar.
There are hopes that a stock of maps and guides published by the society will be taken by Kirklees Council.
Mrs Oldroyd, a Slaithwaiter who lives in Linthwaite, says: “We’re very grateful for all the support we have received over the years.
“I think we have made the Colne Valley a more attractive place.”
The legacy is a host of other societies striving to maintain the environment; groups such as the Colne Valley Tree-Planting Society, for one, and the River Colne Project.
They may well eventually face the same problem of attracting new blood to replace ageing supporters.
Mrs Oldroyd hopes not.
“It’s hard to say why it is like it is.
“Perhaps it’s because there are so many other things going on to keep people occupied,” she says.