Senior Forum – Bob’s Blog 12

Bob’s Blog 12 – Appears first in the Congleton Chronicle 

Bob's Blog Senior Forum

The eve of another new year! I wonder how many New Year resolutions will be made tomorrow, and how many will soon be broken?  As the saying goes, “The spirit’s willing but the flesh is weak!”  Not easy to eat less, drink less, spend less!!  I want to try and save for a good holiday in 2016, but I’m not very disciplined at putting a bit aside every week.   My resolution will be saving for a holiday – I’m going to start saving with Congleton Credit Union.  You just go along to Congleton Library on a Saturday morning between 10.00 and 11.00 and the folk there will sort you out.    I really like the idea of the Credit Union. – a trustworthy, not for profit organisation that offers a range of savings accounts and affordable loans to families and individuals. They promote effective money management, and work within the community – a brilliant solution to the costly’ payday lenders’ and loan sharks that prey on vulnerable people nowadays.


I was also thinking about ways I can help someone else this year – a bit of the feel good factor.   Volunteering not only does good to others, but makes you feel good about yourself too!   I’m backing the CVS Cheshire East Give5 campaign – I’ve pledged to give 5 sessions of volunteering in the New Year.    Something I fancy doing is encouraging a young person to make the most of life.   I think I have plenty of experience and knowledge to pass on to someone just starting their adult life.  So this caught my eye….” Are you enthusiastic, dedicated and have a passion for working with young people?”    The ad goes on to say that in January,  Eaton Bank School will be running their Twista Connect programmes, which are all about helping a young person on their journey through school, raising their aspirations and creating opportunities for them to grow and develop.  They are now looking to recruit Volunteer mentors. The people leading these programmes describe mentoring as, “…providing a unique opportunity to contribute to the personal development of a young person, from giving access to information and experience in a particular profession, to supporting them within the exciting program of various activities in the programme.


If this sounds interesting give Deb Lindop, Community Engagement Officer, a ring at Cheshire East Council 0300 123 5500 or if you want   more volunteering ideas or want to know more about the Give5 campaign visit the CVS Cheshire East website or ring 01270 763100



Maybe for you 2016 is the year that you decide you want to get more out of life –perhaps life has become a bit ‘samey’ – and at our age excitement doesn’t come to us we have to make it happen!

The Jubilee Club at New Life Church, Congleton has been running since May 2011 and has over 350 people on the register, with a weekly attendance of 30 to 40 people. The club is free and is great for anyone who is; struggling a bit with life; needs a place where they can belong feel safe and accepted; wanting to make wholesome friendships, wanting to learn new skills or be helped into employment.   The club has an allotment where members can have the harvested crops for free.   They have a craft group, cooking group, and life skills sessions covering things like assertiveness and money management.   They have regular social meetings and an annual coach trip and picnic out each year. For more information visit the New Life Church website or ring the office on 01260 297961


But, for some of us we do need the world to come to us.  Royal Voluntary Service volunteers are there to help (WRVS has now become the RVS so that men can be part of the great work that they do) Volunteers are available in our area who are part of the Home Bound Book Service.    A volunteer will visit you and find out what sort of books you like.   Then they collect the books ( large print if necessary) from the library and drop them off to you, and pick them up when you’ve finished with them.     And, the library makes allowances for a longer time to read the books, and doesn’t charge a late fee.  The RVS also provides what it calls ‘ Extended Library services’  – if you have a computer,  a volunteer can come to the house and help with things like online shopping and skyping friends and family.    If you are interested, give Gillian Taylor a ring at the RVS on  07714 898 678

Just one last bit of information that I came across that might be of interest to some of you – £1m has been allocated to a new rapid response service called STAIRRS (Short Term Assessment , Intervention, Recovery and Rehabilitation Service).   Health and social care services are working together to agree how this will start to work – a single telephone number for professionals such as GPs, social workers and community nurses to get through to quick assessment and urgent care for people with complex needs (that’s often us oldies!) so that …..and this is the really GOOD bit – they can continue to live at home and avoid unnecessary trips to hospital or A&E.

Well, that’s all from me for 2015 – Happy New Year Everyone

Bob bear signing out till next week……





Senior Forum – Bob’s Blog Part 11

Bob’s Blog Part 11 – Appears first in the Congleton Chronicle.

Bob's Blog Senior Forum


“Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the house not a creature was stirring

Not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there”

That famous poem by Clement Moore!  I loved it as a child, and used to read it to my children on Christmas Eve. Then they read it to their children….. and so the tradition goes on!  The hustle and bustle of the night before Christmas – preparing the veg, getting out the best dinner plates, finding extra chairs, last minute present wrapping – and when all’s quiet arranging them under the tree for morning.   First out of bed and the cry would go up, “He’s been!”  Grand memories!

I’ll be off to my daughter’s tomorrow – my contribution to the festive meal is par –boiling the spuds for the roasties! – so I’ll soon be rolling up my sleeves and peeling spuds for six, accompanied by a glass of Baileys and Bing Crosbie singing White Christmas.

I’ve got some lovely festive news to share with you.   Do you remember I mentioned the Christmas Toy Appeal run by CVS Cheshire East?  It all started when Astra Zeneca asked for help with their annual appeal –(every Christmas staff would take a gift for a child to their Christmas parties)   CVS Cheshire East got involved with sorting and distributing, and this year have been raising extra funds at events, like a recent footy game at Crewe Alex.   Sally at CVS was looking for a local toy shop where she could spend some of the money raised, and asked me if I knew of any.  Hmmm not many small local toy shops around these , but as it happened I had been out for a Sunday jaunt with my neighbours and called in at Glebe Farm – a lovely little shop there!   I mentioned it to Sally and she had no trouble spending a few hundred pounds on more than 50 toys ! – but the best bit – Sally commented, “…although I only spoke to the shop last week, they got in touch with their suppliers and managed to source free toys for the appeal worth £252 with more to come!”  Isn’t that great.   Have to say that one of the BIG names was not at all interested in supporting the appeal.    It really paid off to SHOP LOCAL  


Got some not so nice stuff to pass on too this week –  I get news alerts from Cheshire Police – one of the PCSOs sent me this message, so just to remind you,
“Christmas is a time for happiness but history shows that Crime increases at Christmas, Please keep all windows, doors and vehicles secure at this time of celebration.”

It’s a shame we have to think about crime at Christmas – but for starters never leave a load of presents on view in your car – make sure they are in the boot!

I noticed in last week’s Chron, there was a warning about not being taken in by CONMEN who prey on older people.   It’s horrible really – they make out that you have been a victim of fraud and ask for your bank card details and personal ID numbers.   Reading this you think , I’ d never be taken in,”  but these people can come across as very believable !    So remember – don’t let them in  – always ask for identification first  (you can check out if it really is police ID by calling 101) –    and the police will NEVER ask for PIN numbers or passwords or for you to withdraw or transfer any money.  Well that’s all from me – off to start the spuds….

Keep safe, keep well, and have a peaceful and happy Christmas

Bob Bear signing out until next week……

Havannah Micro-hydro Project, Congleton, Cheshire:

Dane Valley Community Energy Limited has secured a grant of £16,800 to conduct a feasibility study to construct micro-hydro power generating equipment on Havannah Weir in Congleton. The contract for the study has been awarded to Derwent Hydro, based in Duffield, Derbyshire who have 20 years’ experience in design and installation of hydro schemes.

The feasibility study will establish the water flow over the weir and calculate the potential for electricity generation, together with the costs of the civil engineering work to build the scheme, the permissions from the Environment Agency to use the river and initial views on Planning Permission from Cheshire East Council.

The grant has been awarded from the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). RCEF is a £15 million programme, delivered by WRAP and jointly funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC). It supports rural communities in England to develop renewable energy projects which provide economic and social benefits to the community. For more information on RCEF, visit

To be awarded the grant Congleton Sustainability Group formed Dane Valley Community Energy Limited to manage the project with Paul Guymer, Mervyn Sara and Peter Aston as voluntary directors.

The feasibility study started during November and is expected to be completed by April next year. If the report concludes that generating electricity from the River Dane at Havannah creates sufficient income, then a community share scheme to raise the capital will be launched in the town. Shareholders will then receive a regular dividend from the generating income and it is intended that sufficient funds will be available after paying for maintenance of the equipment to fund projects focused on improving the local environment and its sustainability. As one of the first community based generation schemes in the Cheshire East region, the project will provide an ideal vehicle for involvement by local companies and institutions which care about their environmental credentials.

Paul Guymer who led the project to investigate micro-hydro power generation on the Town Weir in Congleton Park in 2012 said that “It would be wonderful if this scheme proves to be feasible. The Park scheme may not have generated sufficient power to pay for itself whereas the Havannah Weir at 4 metres high is almost twice the height and therefore offers much better prospects of being feasible.”

For further information, contact Peter Aston on 07971 805372, or check out updates about Dane Valley Community Energy Limited at

Notes for editors: First established in 2000, WRAP is a registered charity. WRAP works with UK Governments and other funders to help deliver their policies on waste prevention and resource efficiency.

Congleton Partnership Executive Meeting Minutes 8.12.15

The latest meeting of Congleton Partnerships Executive took place recently, please download the full  minutes HERE.

Highlights included:

Town Centre Report – J. MacArthur.


  1. Occupancy Update

Occupancy has increased slightly – we are now at 86% occupied (or 91% without Capitol Walk). Changes since the last meeting include:


Gather – High Street

Town Hall Bathrooms  –  High Street

Eduardo’s Leather Shop in the Pedestrian Area

Shared Treasures  – Antrobus Street

Olivia’s Nails – Market Street (outside of Capitol Walk)

Habitat 8 Soul Food Café – above Simply Retro – Bridge Street


Simply Retro – from Lawton Street to Bridge Street (Pedestrian Area)

Butters John Bee – from High Street to the Pedestrian area


Chatwins in the Pedestrian area (due to re-open on the 9th December)


Cost-Cutter – Pedestrian Area

Life After Services – Capitol Walk

I understand that Capitol Walk Shopping Centre will be closing its doors to the walkway as soon as CT Mobiles (the only functioning shop inside the unit) moves into an outside unit. This will mean all the Capitol Walk shops can be accessed from the outside and the walk through will be closed. Clowes has confirmed that they are looking to minimize their losses after a year of marketing has not resulted in new tenants.
There has been no further information from Scarborough Development or Cheshire East re any movement on the plans to develop Mill Street/Princess Street area.

  1. Christmas Lights Switch on

Massive thank you to everyone from the Partnership for your help and support during the Christmas Lights Switch on. It was our wettest one ever – but still good to see so many people turn up to support the event. The lantern parade was stunning and a huge thank you to Community Projects for the hours of work they invested into the public workshops.

  1. Congleton Artisan Market

In November this was moved to the Fairground Car Park to accommodate the Remembrance Sunday Parade. The trader’s preferred the site and so the December Market will also be held in the Fairground Carpark. There will not be a market in January, February and March and during which time the markets will reassessed as they are not breaking even or having the initial desired effect of increasing footfall for the shops.

  1. Public Realm

Early design ideas have been approved in principle by the Town Council which include some work at either end of the pedestrian area as well as new pavements, deep clean, new street furniture and lighting along the length of the pedestrian area.  A small group which includes Steve Foster from the Partnership, a number of town councillors and Jackie MacArthur will be considering a number of options for street furniture and lighting to include in the proposals that will be presented to the public for consideration in the early part of the New Year. Public Realm work will take place next year – but after the completion of the National Grid gas works. There is not date for the start of this work.


  1. Town Centre Map

We are working with Silver Maze to develop some display maps identifying key areas, roads, attractions and services for Congleton. There are a number of sites being discussed including Fairground Carpark or the bus station, West Street Car Park, Antrobus Street Car Park, Back Park Street Car Park, Railway Station, incorporated into pedestrian area (new Public Realm). One the map is produced other uses and areas will no doubt follow.

  1. Dog Fouling

Three new dog bag dispensers have been put out in the town centre to help out with the amount of fouling in the pedestrian area and Lawton Street. Bins can be found in front of the community garden, B&M side wall, and the walk way at the side of Weatherspoon’s through to Antrobus St car park.


  1. Neighbourhood Plan

The second questionnaire will go out to the public in December. The questionnaire is more detailed than the first one – hence the desire to get people to answer it on-line. Due to the delay in getting this out a new deadline will be set of mid-January or at least 4-5 weeks after the questionnaire is made public and advertised. It would be a great help if people associated with the partnership could fill in the forms – Mike will send a link via email.

Once the results are known this will be assimilated into the various groups work and assist in production of the draft plan which we are aiming to produce before the end of the first quarter of 2016.


Please see the full minutes for the rest of the news from the Partnership!

The next meeting is Tuesday 1st March, Congleton Town Hall, Main Hall, 5.30pm

Congleton Sustainability Group Meeting Minutes 7.12.2015

Congleton Sustainability Group met recently, please download the full minutes HERE.

Highlights included:

“Congleton Co-operative” – S.Halliday.


Stewart took us through a presentation entitled “Congleton Co-operative”.

This is a scheme to build on the success Apple Juice /Cider/ Preservatives and increase the usage of abundant produce which would lead to a reduction in food wastage.

He looked at the reason for this project, possible siting (in town)of the Community Bistro/ Juicing Plant, timing (ready Mar 2016), the people organisations he would envisage being involved and type of products that could initially be produced.

There are a number of challenges that need to be overcome, Stewart who would lead the project is going to put together a full blown business plan which will be put before CSG at the next meeting ( 11th January 2016).

Copy of the presentation is held on file.

CSG supported the project in principal but reserve judgement waiting the Business Plan presentation in January.

Olga advised the meeting that Suma Wholefoods may provide a possible link to the Bistro/Shop arm.

Vale Allotments.

As this project had now fallen through PA advised the meeting that any monies received had now been returned to the people who had made donations.

Next Meeting:-

Monday 11th January 2016 at Plus Dane.

Senior Forum – Bob’s Blog Part 10

Bob’s Blog part 10 – Appears first in the Congleton Chronicle.

Bob's Blog Senior Forum

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” as the song goes.  I’ve had some nice comments about my Christmas pullover – hope you are getting into the spirit of things and wearing yours!    D’you know I love Congleton – Christmas Lights Switch On could have been a real washout (literally) but in spite of the torrential rain loads of folk turned out and it was business as usual!  Christmas- time.

Last week’s Blog got me thinking and reminiscing about my childhood days  – Winter days; thick snow;  frozen pipes; coal fires; smoking chimneys.   Best of all, my sledge, lovingly made from old planking and bits of roofing felt for the runners !  Quick as lightning down festival Hill!   And what about liberty bodices?  My sisters wore them as soon as it turned cold – sort of thick fluffy stuff with seams – probably something Madonna would be happy to wear now – but my sisters were always rebellious when Mother got them out for Winter!  Goose fat – not for cooking with but for rubbing on your chest!   Or olive oil warmed on a spoon over the fire and rubbed in your chest and back after you’d had your weekly bath.  None of your Vicks vapour rub in those days!   And we never wasted water –on bath night the littlest had the bath water first, it progressing chronologically up the family – Dad got in last but the benefit was there was nobody in a queue telling him to get a move on!  We were always told how lucky we were to have real presents at Christmas – Dad kept up the tradition from his childhood – in our stockings we each had an apple and an orange, and a sugar mouse –and a shiny new penny !”    Christmas puddings were on the hob for hours and hours – the house windows dripping with condensation.   Mum used pieces of old sheets to cover the puddings- I used to have to put my finger on the knot as Mum tied the covers on with string.

I like family tradition, and Congleton is a great place for Christmas traditions.   There always the carol singing opposite Argos, Santa and his sleigh doing the rounds, and as usual  lots going on in town.   Pop into the Tourist Information Centre and pick up a free copy of ‘Christmas in Congleton 2015’ – everything ‘s in there.   Well not quite everything – Lyndon Murgatroyd from St James Church said that somehow their church events had been missed out, and  could I let you know that on Saturday 12th December  they are holding a coffee morning at Congleton Library.  On Christmas Eve their carol service is aimed at families and children, and you can help to build the crib, Midnight Mass is 11.30 and their Christmas Day  service at 10.00am.   Details of all the other church events are in the booklet.

I’ve made a note on my calendar of some not-to-be-missed  events … tonight 17th December Carols with Rode hall Silver Band  at St Peter’s Church 7.30pm.

Saturday 19th December Congleton Choral Society at Congleton Town Hall – tickets from Tourist Information Centre

Sunday 20th December Foden’s Band in the Town Centre round the Christmas tree 11.30am-1.30pm

Christmas  all sounds so jolly!  But I know I’ve had some tough ones!!  Sometimes  Christmas can all seems a bit too much – too many sad memories- makes you feel alone and isolated.    I keep some numbers in my phone book  so I’ll pass them on in case a listening ear….

Silverline is  a confidential helpline – information, friendship and advice for older people- open 24/7 every day of the year including Christmas Day  – 0800 4708090

Samaritans are there 24/7 as well 08457 909090

The Royal Voluntary Service Cheshire has a Good Neighbours Scheme, they provide company if you’re on your own, and also help with small practical things like shopping or picking up your pension.  Ring them on 0845 600 5885

And don’t forget Royal British Legion– they particularly want to help isolated, older  people in Congleton who have connection with the armed forces – ring Gillian McKinnon on 0808 802 8080. Or email her at

That’s it from me – Bob Bear signing out till next week….




Youth Forum Meeting Minutes 01.12.2015

The latest meeting of the Youth Forum took place recently, read the full meeting minutes HERE.

Highlights included:

Review of the ‘Uth’Festival.

Glen thanked both the subgroups and everyone who had helped to make the Festival the success it was. He commented on the number of members /partners that got involved in delivering the event , over 500+ young people plus families attended throughout the day and he was not aware of any negative comments.

CH felt that although it was a good event she did not feel that we had not quite reached the target audience we would have like, that is despite social media, leaflet, handouts in the street, school visits and the like.

JM commented that she had come across an opportunity with one of her projects to be able to get into secondary schools and meet virtually all the six formers during a morning and this may be an opportunity for informing them and recruiting some members / volunteers.

On the plus side GW commented that the event had helped encourage new members the The Bromley Farm Youth Centre.

JM felt that the music element created a nice atmosphere and some of the bands names had been passed to Vince Cutcliffe who is organising the Congleton ‘Unplugged’ next spring.

It was suggested that we made the ‘Uth’ Festival a bi-annual event and perhaps have some involvement with The Congleton Carnival (Youth Zone) in the alternative years.

GW to raise the ‘Youth Zone’ idea with the Carnival Committee at its next meeting.

Basketball Hoops (Budget set aside £1000)

GW to go to the next Town Council Youth Committee meeting to discuss their involvement in this project.


Congleton Youth In Bloom (Budget set aside £1000)

3 Organisations got involved in this project CHS, EBA and Bromley Farm.

One invoice still to come in, any surplus will then be returned to The Partnership main fund.


Chav Fashion Show (Budget £500)


GW to discuss with both of the secondary Schools and CTC Youth Committee and try get buy in to the project before Xmas.


If indications are that there is real interest in the project by the young people then a subgroup will be set up in the new year to steer the project through. This may feature at The Carnival.


Skateboard Park (Budget £500)

Initially part of the ‘Uth’ Fest, but could not find local coaches to support this.

Leohna France believes she may be able to help with a contact here, she will send information to Mike Smith.



GW to raise the issue with Lee Malkin / Everybody Sports & Leisure


Bridleway Maps.(budget £500)


Once we know exactly what The Partnership is doing regarding Walking/ Heritage and Cycling Maps then we will approach young people for their input.

Senior Forum – Bob’s Blog Part 9

Bob’s Blog Part 9 – Appears first in the Congleton Chronicle Bob's Blog Senior Forum

Well Winter is here good and proper! Old folk used to say they knew it was Winter when their chilblains started to play up!  I can remember when our windows were frozen up on the inside and the kids would draw pictures in the frost! ( That’s only 50 years ago)   Before we got central , we would all want to be in the room where the fire was, and then make a dash for bed – mounds of real wool blankets and feather eiderdowns – only the end of your nose felt the cold!!  It’s funny (funny peculiar that is not funny Ha Ha!) how for some of us, it’s back to keeping the one room warm because fuel really is NOT cheap!

But if you are older, and particularly if you aren’t very mobile any more, it’s real important to keep warm.   Easier said than done you might be saying.   But there is some good advice out there and also some practical help when you know where to find it.  Read on……..

If you can’t afford to heat the whole house, keep your living room warm – that means 21C and your bedroom at 18C.  And make sure you know how your heating controls work – if you’re not sure, get a friend or neighbour to suss it out and explain it to you over a cuppa.

Don’t just wear your biggest chunkiest jumper, it’s best to wear several layers of clothes – it traps the heat better and keeps you warmer.

Get cosy under a blanket or shawl if you’re just sitting and not moving around. Try to put your feet up too! The air is colder near the floor.

Try to have at least one good hot meal every day.

If you can, get up and move around, a few laps around the house will get the blood moving!

Now, If the worst happens and your heating breaks down and you just don’t know what you are going to do next, it’s really worth knowing about the Care and Repair Team at Cheshire East Council.  For example, throughout Winter they have heaters available for short term loans if your heating breaks down, or if you just can’t get your house warm enough.  If you own your own home and need urgent help with heating repairs but can’t afford it, Care & Repair can sometimes help with that too– it’s well worth asking- they have access to fast-track funds to help to put the problem right quickly, and can help you to look for a longer term solution. Help is available for low income households and people with certain health conditions –  a grant of up to £1,000.  You can contact the Care and Repair Team on 0300 123 5017 (select option 3).

One thing I know I need to do is to get my son-in-law to rid out my loft!  It’s mostly junk up there but it’s stopping me getting my insulation sorted.   I know there’s only a thin layer of fibre- glass up there – put it down myself many moons ago – togged up like a mountaineer with just my eyes showing as  I’m so allergic to the fibre glass stuff!   The ‘Energy Saving Advice Service (0300 123 1234) can tell me where I can get low cost or even no cost deals to upgrade my insulation.

And don’t miss out on your Winter Fuel payment .  If you were born on or before 5 July 1952 you should receive a payment automatically. To find out more, contact 0845 915 1515 or go to the website Gov.UK

So lastly, and I feel passionate about this, it shouldn’t have to be a choice for older people to ‘Eat or Heat’.   I bet there are thousands of Cheshire East residents  missing out on extra financial support that they’re entitled to. Make sure you are getting what you should be getting –  and keep well and warm this Winter .  Here’s a few places that can help :

So keep warm, keep well, and keep clogging on!

Bob Bear signing out till next week……..