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Birstall Post january 2021 (450)

Cedars have a ball with show

WOULD COVID-19 put a stop to the Cedars Academy’s Christmas pantomime? Oh no it wouldn’t!

Pics: Students and staff performing in the Cedars’ production of Cinderella

Cinderella did make it to the ball, albeit a virtual one at the Cedars’ Christmas show, which saw 50 students tell the popular story of Cinderella, but with a modern-day twist.

The production was devised and led by Ema Carpenter, performing arts teacher, who auditioned students via online video submissions in October.

Rehearsals then began remotely with all the characters filmed individually using a green screen, backgrounds were inserted digitally and the scenes edited to create the finished film.

Staff also featured in the production which was shown to all students on the last day of term before Christmas.

Ema said: “It has been great working with our young people and staff to make sure we can have some sort of end of year performance, even if it’s different to what we would normally do. Everyone has displayed the positive culture we nurture at the Cedars Academy and shown what wonderful performers they are. I can’t thank everyone enough and hope everyone who watches it enjoys it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.”

Laura Sanchez, Executive Headteacher at The Cedars Academy, said: “It has been a challenging year for everyone and our pupils and staff have been phenomenal in supporting each other and our local community. Everyone has been focused on being kind and to be able to finally celebrate Christmas with a traditional, albeit virtual, pantomime, will end this term on a real high.”

Birstall cycle scheme

PLANS FOR the provision of a new cycle scheme to replace the temporary pop-up cycle lanes on the A6 in Birstall have been delayed.

Leicestershire County Council submitted a bid for £1.2 million of the Government’s Active Travel Fund to pay for schemes that included a dedicated cycling route across Red Hill Island and off-road cycle lanes on the A6.

The amount awarded was £900,000. Nottinghamshire County Council received £2.17 million and Leicester City Council £1.37 million.

Councillor Trevor Pendleton, County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We’re in the process of reviewing all the temporary Tranche 1 schemes, including the one on the A6 at Birstall.

“One of the proposals which we are currently considering, in relation to the A6 at Birstall, is removing the temporary cycle lanes, re-instating right-turning facilities and upgrading the original traffic islands to new pedestrian-friendly refuges to create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This follows a carefully-considered decision not to further develop the schemes as the Tranche 2 award allocation we received simply wasn’t sufficient to deliver the proposed schemes. Instead, we are proposing to use the match funding associated with the Tranche 2 bid to prepare for larger, future funding announcements so we can move forward the walking and cycling agenda positively and collaboratively, making us of all our recent experience and feedback.”

The council says it will develop its wider walking and cycling strategy through increasing the pace of local infrastructure plans for county towns, collecting data around future schemes from developers and seeking other funding opportunities as well as expanding small schemes and behavioural change programmes to support schools, businesses and residents. The council will also be providing regular updates on the progress of funding bids as it develops its plans over the coming months.

The tranche 1 scheme, which included Birstall’s pop-up cycle lanes, was awarded £335,000 from the government’s Active Travel Fund. As of October 31, 2020, £174,507 of this had been spent.

Birstall recognised at Charnwood awards

A BIRSTALL group, set up to support people throughout the village in the Covid-19 pandemic, was recognised at Charnwood Community Heroes award in December.

Pic: Rosie Rollings
Pic: Julie from Watermead Swans
Pic: Susie Mason

The annual awards, organised by the Borough Council, aim to celebrate the positive contributions made by people, businesses and groups in the borough.

The Helping Our Community LE4 group was set up at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, and within three days it had organised everyone in Birstall receiving a note through their door giving the details of a contact in the street who could help with shopping, prescriptions, a chat or anything else they needed.

The group’s Facebook page has passed on useful information and also forged links between individuals, groups and businesses - by working together, they have carried out dozens of projects and activities, adapting to local needs.

These have included making scrubs for local hospitals, quilts, bags, soft toys, poppies for Remembrance, and providing flour and eggs when there were shortages.

They have also given thank you gifts to key workers, including refuse collectors and postal delivery workers.

Birstall’s Susie Mason was another award winner, in the Green Hero category.

Susie set up a litter picking group after seeing litter build-up while out walking her dog. Now a group of volunteers led by Susie meet monthly to pick up litter in the Watermead area and other litter hotspots in Birstall, liaising with the council to arrange collection of the bags.

Julie from Watermead Swans won an award for the work she does caring for the swans at Watermead Country Park.

She can be seen in the park come rain or shine monitoring the swans’ welfare and rescuing injured swans, having formed links with local veterinary practices.

Parish Council notes

A FULL meeting of Birstall Parish Council was held on December 14.

Councillors considered the precept for 2021/22.

It was reported that the slide on the School Lane playing field has been condemned for health and safety reasons and must be removed. It will cost £60,000 to replace and install safety surfacing. Grant aid will be sought.

The 2020/21 precept was £423,325. The Parish Council component of the council tax for a band D property in Birstall in 2020/21 was £95.16.

The council’s Management and Policy committee has recommended an in principle increase in the precept of 5%, to £453,868 or £99.91 for a band D property for 2021/22.

Councillors considered the financial position for the year ahead. Covid-19 has resulted in a loss of income due to, for example, reduced hire of council buildings.

Income has fallen from £82,258 (2020/21) to £66,281 (2021/22).

Councillor Julian Howe commented that the precept amounts to about 90% of the council’s income and that it would be worth investigating how the council could generate more than £66,000 in income, considering it has £3million in assets.

He said he had always opposed increases in the precept as, in his view, the council did not do enough financial forward planning or monitor if it was getting value for money.

Councillor Keith Hampton said councillors only ever saw financial planning for one year ahead and that it would be useful to have a forecast of expenditure for two or three years ahead.

Clerk Sue Coulson said a recent briefing from the Leicestershire and Rutland Association of Local Councils had mentioned three-year planning and she would be happy to investigate this further.

Councillor Tony Abbey recommended that the Parish Council should review its budget six months into the next financial year.

The council agreed to an in-principle increase of 5% in the precept fro 2021/22. The final precept amount will be determined at the January 2021 meeting of the council.

Chair Ann Marshall reported that positive responses have been received regarding the delivery of Christmas hampers to elderly residents and about the council’s Christmas tree on the Sibson Road car park.

Broadnook to start this year

WORK ON site at the 1950 home Broadnook Garden suburb north of Birstall is expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2021, say the developers.

Pic: the location of Broadnook

Planning permission was granted in November 2020 for the development, which will include a 630 place primary school, a local centre with shops, supermarket, restaurant and takeaways, an assisted living retirement village, a 70-bed care home, a community centre with healthcare facilities, a sports pavilion, sports pitches, allotments and parkland.

Detailed planning permission has been granted for phase 1, this includes 193 dwellings, the sports facilities, parkland, internal access roads and the creation of the primary access from the A6.

The primary school must be ready to accommodate 300 pupils before the occupation of no more than 300 dwellings.

The developers are the Palmer-Tomkinson Trust, the Cooper family, Barwood homes and Davidson’s homes. Their land agent, Will Antill of WDA Planning, told the Birstall Post: “Work is underway on the design and specification of the Broadnook primary school and the community resource centre ‘Broadnook Hall’, in line with the approved Broadnook centre planning brief. It is hoped to hold some community consultation on these proposals in the spring, mindful of course of where we might be with the Covid-19 background and circumstances.”

He added: “The broad knock consent includes a commitment to the pre-commencement establishment of a liaison group to be known as the Broadnook Foundation, which will include an invitation to the Parish Councils of Wanlip, Rothley, Birstall and Thurcaston & Cropston Parish Councils, to nominate representatives.”

The developers intend Broadnook to be managed on the garden suburb model; it will be a new community looked after by the Broadnook Garden suburb trust.

The planning application reference is P/16/1660/2

Business& covid rules

LOCAL SHOPS and businesses need support from their communities to remain solvent during the Covid-19 pandemic but have to comply with safety regulations to protect both customers and staff.

Readers have contacted the paper to report instances of non-compliance with Covid-19 rules.

Anyone with concerns can report them to Charnwood Borough Council’s Regulatory Services, Food Hygiene & Safety team who, together with Leicestershire police, are responsible for enforcing the rules.

A spokesman said: “We have issued warning letters and prohibition notices where we have found businesses who are not following the regulations.”

He added: “Please be aware that there are some exemptions on the wearing of face coverings for the public and certain staff.”

Shop staff are not required to wear a mask if they are behind a perspex screen. Face covering rules in shops are enforced by the police.

Anyone with concerns about Covid-19 rules at business premises can report it at www.charnwood.gov.uk and search for coronavirus complaint.

The types of issue you can report include: social distancing, queue management, toilet facilities, hygiene of premises, other (you will be asked to specify).

The police website also has a report section.

The Charnwood team have also offered advice and guidance to businesses in the borough, helping them to be Covid-19 compliant.

• Police and council officials visited 64 businesses in Leicester and Beaumont Leys between December 9–11, to monitor compliance with Covid-19 rules.

25 people were warned for not wearing face coverings correctly and 45 premises needed additional posters about face coverings.

At the 26 food outlets visited, there were 18 cases of staff not wearing face coverings correctly, and seven customers.

No fines were issued during the operation, but the police can take action against people who do not comply with the law without a valid exemption, including fines of up to £200 for the first offence.

Local GP practice looks back at 2020

STAFF AT Greengate Medical Centre are preparing for busy weeks ahead and anticipating being called up to help deliver the Covid-19 vaccination programme from the mass vaccination centre at Loughborough.

Dr Thomas Edwards

Dr Thomas Edwards is a partner at the practice – he reflects on the challenges of 2020:

Last January the world welcomed 2020, a new decade full of hope for what was to come.

But no one expected what actually came - the stuff that children will learn in history lessons in the future, perhaps the biggest global challenge of our lifetime: Covid-19. Such a small word for such a big problem. A challenge for everyone, including the NHS.

The medical profession had to revolutionise the way it worked, and here at Greengate Medical Centre, it was no different. How could we make sure we continued to provide great patient care during a pandemic with a national lockdown? We had to think laterally while following guidance from NHS England.

Pics: Staff at Greengate Medical Centre celebrated Christmas jumper day on December 11; some of the reception and nursing team

We trained the team to build their skills with telephone consultations, and we implemented software programmes to allow patients to communicate with us via different forms of technology. We saw those patients who needed to be seen for a physical examination at the practice, and we made sure people weren’t left feeling alone and worried about their health.

Pic: Doctors by the tree are Dr Gokani and Dr Goddard

We all had to adapt rapidly to serve our population, and our patients joined us readily on this journey. Our team rallied together to work and support each other during unprecedented and uncertain times. With guidelines changing all the time at the peak of the pandemic, we kept each other’s spirits up and boosted morale by creating a positive atmosphere at work.

Behind the masks – of our doctors, nurses, receptionists, admin and management team – there were kind faces and encouraging words, as we worked hard to ensure our patients were cared for. And whilst there were challenges, we faced them head-on with the help of our dedicated team and our understanding patients. We have gotten to know our patients even better, and we have maintained our usual GP system throughout for continuity of care. In the autumn, we redesigned our flu vaccination clinics to adhere to the guidelines, and it was a great success.

Clapping for the NHS and key-workers brought the nation together - it reignited a sense of community and looking after each other. Covid-19 has reminded us of what a great institution the NHS is and not to take it for granted. We would like to remind our patients that we are here for them, and we will continue to be.

Going forwards, we will be working to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine to help conquer this virus that has caused worldwide disruption, and the advances in developing this vaccine so rapidly are awe-inspiring. Some of our patients aged over 80 have already been invited for the vaccination, which is fantastic in getting the ball rolling. Although we have fought to be able to vaccinate against Covid-19 from our practice as well, at present, our patients will continue to be asked to go to the Council Offices at Southfields in Loughborough.

My colleagues and I are proud to work for the NHS. We are humbled by the resilience of our patients and we will continue to strive to provide the best care come what may. We will keep calm and carry on.

Sound of Christmas

A MINI BRASS band toured Birstall just before Christmas, playing Christmas carols at various outdoor locations in the village.

Pic: the band play outside Watermead Court

With musicians from the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army, the group brought the sound of Christmas to the Gates estate, Allington Drive, Watermead Court, Riversdale Court, St James Court and the Hannah Clarke flats on Park Road.

They concluded their tour playing for 45 minutes outside the Methodist Church, where a small audience had gathered for hot punch and mince pies.

Donated kit latest boost for gym

THE DONATION OF dozens of items of sporting kit from a former world boxing champion has been welcomed by Carl Gunns from Gunns’ Gym.

Pic: Sarah Poyser & Carl Gunns with some of the items donated by George Groves

“It’s a wonderful gesture and came with a message of good luck for the gym,” said Carl, after receiving the items from British boxer George Groves, who was WBA Super Middleweight titleholder in 2017/18.

Sarah and her brother Dean Poyser, who have children that come to the Birstall Road boxing gym, contacted George Groves to tell him about the gym, after the boxer posted on Instagram that he had lots of items to give away to a good cause.

Pic: on a sponsored bike ride for the gym: Harrison, Nathan, Ellis, Nancy, Layton, Jensen and Rowan with Carl

Sarah said: “We love the gym, it’s really chilled, there is no pressure on the kids and everyone is really friendly. My son has made so many friends and really looks forward to coming.”

A fundraising drive late last year has saved the gym, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in February.

Pic: Ruby (11), Isla (9) & Georgia (5) completed a 5 mile sponsored walk for the gym

Carl said: “I feel very optimistic now about the future of the gym, and overwhelmed by all the support I’ve had.”

Funds were raised from a Gofundme page, spontaneous donations and sponsored events such as a walk that raised £550 and a bike ride £1600.

Branches of Tesco in Birstall and Sileby raised another £400.

Carl says he is setting up a trust so that the gym can keep going even after he can no longer be involved.

Bradgate park parking

THE OVERFLOW areas of the Newtown Linford car park at Bradgate Park are to be made available all year round.

The grass parking areas are currently only opened in summer. Increased visitor numbers this winter has seen parking overflowing onto nearby roads.

The Bradgate Park Trust plan on making the 370 spaces available all year by providing gravel roads to assist vehicle movements and wooden bollards to identify the grass parking bays.

The green and paddock feel of the area will be retained. No additional car parking spaces will be created.

Food hub praises village’s response

AT A time when there isn't a family in the country unaffected by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is reassuring to know that organisations like the Birstall Food Hub are here to help and support those in need.

Pic: some of the items donated this year

The Birstall Food Hub provides additional temporary support for those families struggling to make ends meet or who find themselves in a crisis situation. They can also point people in the direction of other agencies that can help and support them. The distribution of household essentials and food is as a result of direct donations into trolleys by the checkouts at the Co-op and One Stop Shop on Hallam Fields, or food items purchased directly with monetary donations.

“It has been so heart warming to see the response from the community and we would like to extend a sincere thank you from both our volunteers and our recipients," said Birstall Food Hub’s new chair, Gail Gordon.

She added: “We would also like to say a very special thank you to Gill Chester who this month steps down as chairperson and committee member after years of dedicated service.

“Gill was one of the first people to recognise the need for a food hub in Birstall and as a founding member has worked tirelessly with the local schools, businesses and churches to provide safe referral routes and strong enduring relationships. For nearly three years the food hub has been delivering to local families and for most of that time Gill has led the committee as chairperson. In large part the success of this year's donations and contributions are testament to the foundations laid by Gill and others like her to ensure the food hub can continue to provide much needed support.

“As the new chairperson I want to say a special thank you to Gill on behalf of the committee and members and those who have benefited from her hard work and dedication. I also want to say thank you to all those who have supported the food hub; you have made a difference and will continue to make a difference by your contributions and understanding.”

Gail said: “The response from the community at this special time of year has been overwhelming and the volume and breadth of gifts has been astonishing. These range from individual monetary contributions, all our local Birstall schools collecting gifts for our clients' children and special luxury toiletry items, to schools conducting a reverse advent calendar collecting festive foods. One individual has been particularly generous in purchasing Christmas food ingredients. Additionally the Lambourne café has provided cooked Christmas dinners to be delivered on Christmas Eve for those that wished to take advantage of this very kind offer.

“This has meant our clients in Birstall will all have a significantly better Christmas than they expected with seasonal food, blankets, toiletries, wrapping paper, vouchers, toys and of course Christmas crackers.”

She added: “One final request I would like to make is that the important work of the food hub needs your support all year round so please don’t forget us in January when the festivities end.”

Phone or text 0730 509 3791 or email birstallfoodhub@gmail.com

Group’s busy Christmas

THE HELPING Our Community group and NHS scrubs group were busy in the run-up to Christmas.

Group co-founder Rosie Rollings reports:

The scrubs group have been making Christmas quilts for the CICU and CHDU also knitted toys. We hope they bring some cheer to those who are hospitalised over the Christmas period.

Pic: gift packs for dementia patients

We have made and gifted over 80 trauma Teds. These have gone to the emergency services and therapy groups.

Paul Clarke made to order monkeys in wheelchairs to be used in therapeutic environments with disabled children.

The scrubs team have been making items to sell to raise funds for Jade’s Retreat, a total of £1386 was raised. We would like to thank Boots the Chemist, Birstall Pet Supplies and Silly Prices. They all gave up valuable space to display items made by Luke Rames, who we supported in raising funds for an expedition to Ecuador and who wanted to give back to the community. Luke and his family made reindeer hot chocolate cones that raised over £160 towards Jades. Many people were very touched that the whole family wanted to give back. Thank you to the Rames family.

The community group have collected toiletries for the hospitals' covid wards. The community again were so generous.

We provided 18 hampers to members of the community that have been shielding since March. We did this with Mary Downs who runs the Thursday lunch group. Mary identified recipients and they were overwhelmed by the generosity of the community in what has been a lonely year. We received so many donations that the members of the WI who have been unable to meet received a small bag of goodies. These were well received.

Together with the help of Lambourne Café and the Food Hub, we have offered a free three-course meal to the elderly, lonely or those in need. These meals were paid for by members of the community donating the price of a meal. Ruth’s cafe has always been pivotal in any crisis in the community and she was only too willing to close the cafe in order to meet the demand. Ruth and her staff delivered over 150 meals on Christmas Eve. We extended the offer to cover Boxing Day as the covid advice changed, leaving more unable to be with family. Thanks to Ruth and her staff and also Gail from the Food Hub. Working with the Food Hub, Ruth’s cafe and the community we have some ideas we are looking into.

Massive thanks to Maxylin Geary and Julie Tinley for making up the beautiful hampers, and Mary Downs for distribution. Also Beverley Blackburn and Karen Moon who have produced items to order for Jade’s Retreat often at very short notice. Maxylin has helped on a daily basis with anything and everything and so much has been achieved thanks to her continued support.

A massive thank you to our amazing community, we are going from strength to strength.

YOUR SAY...

I find myself feeling the need to write regarding the local plan for Leicester.

All your letters seem to suggest that if you object to them, the Leicester City Council will listen to objections.

We all know that Soulsby will do what Soulsby wants to do regardless of the impact on other people. So what on earth is the point of objecting? Please advise any scheme he has put forward that was objected to by the public that actually did not take place?

My concern is that he will use the close proximity of the new development as an excuse to incorporate Birstall into the City of Leicester. This is something we do not want. We do not want to be ruled by a council that does not adhere to the rules that the rest of us have to (regarding Covid 19). After all, he broke the rules I understand five times and seems to have got away with it. Along with other council members that are not intelligent enough to understand the rules and have a BBQ in the back garden and attend a religious ceremony that at times contravened the rules.

The only saving grace is that we least we have the train track as some sort of a boundary.

God keep us safe from the City of Leicester.

Sue Hitchcock

. . .

In the December edition, there were four letters mentioning cycling, so I thought I’d comment based on my experience of cycling to work every day before I retired and also being a car owner.

Whilst supporting the Governments push to encourage cycling I feel the way this has been imposed locally on the A6 has caused a great deal of disruption for very little benefit, and I’m glad to hear the measures are being removed.

Over many years because there has been no clear plan, Birstall has become a large community with very poor access from outside.

If you look at a map, you soon realise that The Great Central Railway, the A46 and the River Soar block our access and that all traffic has to either go round two roundabouts or Greengate Lane / Wanilp Lane which are basically country lanes.

Some time ago I did ask the Parish Council to support my proposal for two footpaths/cycle routes one across Harrowgate Park and another from Hallam Fields Primary School over the Great Central Railway through the proposed Ashton Green Estate to the existing footpaths and cycle routes in Leicester.

As I drew a blank as a member of the public, I approached Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council about the Ashton Green route and received some positive feedback culminating in a site visit.

If this route is constructed, and because of the new pedestrian footbridge over the a6 near the park & ride, it will form a final link in a traffic-free route from Syston to Fosse Park and will have many other advantages including access to the new 1200 place secondary school.

Since becoming a Borough Councillor, I have raised concerns about the Broadnook development because I feel it’s unreasonable that pedestrians and cyclists heading to and from Leicester have to cross a busy traffic island where vehicles frequently spin off, and I am looking at an idea to have a safe traffic-free route linking Birstall, Broadnook and Rothley.

I support Jex Woods suggestion about a pedestrian bridge over the GCR on Greengate, and I feel a similar bridge over the River Soar towards Thurmaston would also be of benefit.

I know these ideas cost money, but there is grant aid available plus S106 money. After all, in the last few years, Leicester City Council has managed to construct three new bridges (with a fourth in the pipeline) over the canal and River Soar in Leicester, plus they have made big improvements to paths in the Loughborough Road /Belgrave area so it is possible.

I have the support of my fellow Borough Councillors, our County Councillor and our MP Ed Argar.

If anyone wants any more details, please contact me.

cllr.julian.howe@charnwood.gov.uk

Cllr Julian Howe

. . .

I just wanted to say a big thank you for the lovely band of people that came to Highgate Avenue on Monday December 14 to play Christmas songs and carols. It was lovely to see and hear them especially as we cannot get to a Christmas carol service this year. They brightened us up no end. As the little girl (who lives next to us) shouted to them as they left: "Thank you and we loved your songs". She had been singing and dancing in the street (now there's a good title for a song). The band then went onto Harrowgate Drive to cheer them up as well.

Thank you.

Sue Hitchcock

. . .

A request to all Birstall residents: due to Covid-19 many Birstall residents have lost their employment or/are relocated to Leicester or Loughborough. There are new jobs in Leicester, Loughborough, Amazon in Kegworth and East Midland Airport. Most of the advertised jobs require applicants to work shift works and weekends. I have started the petition "Request SKYLINK buses to pick up/drop off passengers at Redhill Circle Birstall". Already 76 residents have signed the petition. I wanted to request more Birstall residents to support the petition by adding their name too. Any residents over 18 years old, living in Birstall or their family and friends visiting them are eligible to sign this petition. Please type the following link in your browser to support the petition.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/skylinkredhillstoprequest

SkyLink bus service is the only bus service which runs through Birstall, every 20 minutes, seven days a week which can provide adequate service every day. It has three stops in Leicester, six stops in Loughborough and five stops in Kegworth and surrounding area including at East Midland Airport. Birstall residents living at around Redhill Circle are discriminated by Sky Link/Trent Barton company for providing only ONE stop at A6/Sibson Road. The provision of providing an additional stop to Birstall residents living at the lower end of Birstall will NOT cost any additional financing to company and it will benefit to residents, as there will be more passengers travelling on this route.

Ramesh Kotecha

. . .

You can help Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland spread some warmth this winter by donating your Winter Fuel Allowance. If you feel that you don't need your winter fuel payment to keep warm this winter, you can spread the warmth to local older people who will not get through this winter without it.

Last winter, there were 31,800 excess winter deaths among the over 65s from cold-related illnesses. Winter is always a tough time for older people; the dark nights, short days, and cold, wet and icy weather make it hard to get outside. These challenges combined with Leicestershire’s pandemic restrictions mean that many older people are on their own, feeling lonely and isolated, and with nowhere to turn when their pension does not stretch to cover basic necessities.

Whilst spending time at home in the warm is preferable at this time of year, many older people struggle to pay the bills through the colder months and will already be having to choose between turning on the heating or putting food on their table.

Your donation will ensure that they do not have to make that choice.

Many thousands of older people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland receive a winter fuel payment of between £100 and £300. For some, the payment is critical to keeping warm and well through winter but, for many, this benefit is less essential to their winter wellbeing.

Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland is encouraging anyone who does not need their winter fuel allowance to donate it to make winter warmer, safer and manageable for the very many older people already struggling to get by this year.

It has been such a hard year, please let them know they are not forgotten this winter.

Please make your donation – of all or part of your winter fuel allowance - online at Virgin Money Giving: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com and search for: not forgotten this winter.

Or send your cheque made payable to Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland. Please send for the attention of Tracey Pollard, Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland, Lansdowne House, 113 Princess Road East, Leicester. LE1 7LA, and reference “spread your warmth” on the back of the cheque.

Nikky Miles

Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland

. . .

“Our responsibility is to protect our environment for future generations” – this from Peter Soulsby, the man who wanted to cut down all the trees on New Walk, the trees in the churchyard opposite Curve (itself built over heritage buildings), who cut down many trees in Victoria Park and also created the wasteland known as Jubilee Square, and decimated Town Hall Square. He also oversaw the demolition of the Bow Bridge among other notable buildings.

“Protect”? He wouldn’t protect a bunch of daffs.

L Reid

. . .

Christmas story at St James

Pic: Annette Marshall dressed as a Roman Centurion

VISITORS FOLLOWED the star and were led through the Christmas story, helped by volunteers dressed as characters including a Roman Centurion and a shepherd, at a family event at St James Church, Birstall on December 21.

Pic: (l-r) Emily, Harry & Scarlett Suffolk with Rita Richards

Donation to Toys on the Table

DOZENS OF needy children received much-needed Christmas presents this year thanks to t

Pic: (l/r) Florence Bamford, Boo Hurst and Tallulah Hurst hand the presents and donations to Mac Clarke from ‘Toys on the Table’

he generosity of supporters and members of Birstall Methodist Church.

For many years they have donated toys to the charity ‘Toys on the Table’ and handed them over at a special ‘Toy Service’ in early December.

This year Covid-19 restrictions meant that the service itself could not be held – but that didn’t stop the church making sure the needy children still got their toys.

It asked its supporters to make donations of toys or money, and they responded in style.

As a result, the church was able to hand over a huge pile of toys and £550 in donations to the charity, which offers support to children referred to it via Social Services.

Receiving the donations on behalf of ‘Toys on the Table’, Mac Clarke said the donations were welcome in a difficult year.

The financial donations will be used to buy other toys for which there is a need or to buy educational materials for some of the older children it supports.

The charity received 3,515 referrals last year, a significant number on behalf of refugees.

“Words fail you when you see how generous people have been. These toys and the money will go a long way to ensure many children have a happy Christmas,” said Mac.

The staff of the charity had been apprehensive about how many toys it would receive this year because, for the first time in 20 years, many of their normal collection channels were closed off.

On behalf of the church, Rev Paula Hunt, said: “Our members and supporters are delighted to be able to support this wonderful charity at a time when such support is needed more than ever.

“It shows how much the people of Birstall care for others, even when they are dealing with the lockdown and challenging conditions”.

Schools on the front line

2020 WAS a challenging year for Birstall’s schools and as the new term starts, adapting to an ever-changing situation is set to continue.

Shreekant Raivadera, Chair of Governors at the Cedars Academy, reports:

Here we are, at the end of the longest term of the year in the most complex year many schools have ever experienced.

I’m writing this just before Christmas, and the situation seems to be changing on an almost daily basis, so I’ll try to give an update as best I can!

With hours to spare before the end of term, the Department for Education announced that only secondary exam years and primaries should return on January 4, with everyone else being taught at home for the first week – apart from the children of key workers in the non-exam years.

At the same time, they’ve asked all schools to set up testing in-school for:

a. teachers once a week whether or not they show symptoms;

b. any secondary students who would otherwise be sent home when there’s a case in a bubble.

Both of these are by consent.

The benefits of being in the Lionheart Trust family of schools came to the fore again with all of these new expectations. Senior trust leaders pulled out all the stops to put together a plan to manage this situation so that schools could simply send out letters and finish the term knowing that behind the scenes everything was being put in place ready for the New Year. Inevitably heads are needing to touch base once in the second week of the holiday, but otherwise, we are really keen for staff to relax and unwind after such an incredibly demanding year.

Testing Centres

Across the trust, we plan to have five testing centres up and running within schools early in the new term to test using the large cotton bud on the throat and nose, with results in 30 minutes. The DfE has suggested we should ask volunteers to staff these and any existing staff who may have capacity, but then to take on additional staff to cover gaps. The documentation says that ‘reasonable costs’ will be covered. We have concluded that to reduce risk and ensure that we have the authority to clearly direct those involved, we will hire in additional staff. A letter was sent to all parents in the trust with the relevant information.

The stated rationale behind the additional week at home for most secondary pupils is to free up time for schools to train the staff involved in testing, but it seems very likely that this is also to ensure that any Covid cases developing as a result of the Christmas mixing of families and friends have come to light and been managed before students return. On this basis, it should protect children and families.

Lettings and Enterprise Strategy

Even with all the madness of the pandemic raging, the regular running of schools and development of the trust must continue as best it can. With that in mind, the Lionheart trust is putting together a new lettings and enterprise strategy. We’re looking for business sponsorship and offering packages of rewards for sponsorship on a bronze, silver, gold basis, and planning ahead for a much more cohesive and extensive approach to lettings with a particular focus on hiring our bigger buildings for weddings. Any profit generated in this way will remain with the individual school.

SEMH Unit

In September, Cedars will be opening a Social Emotional Mental Health (SEMH) unit for 10 pupils in response to a request from the local authority as part of expanding its SEND capacity for high needs students. The centre will run in the former Youth Centre and will bring expertise and skill into the wider school and trust team.

Christmas celebrations across the trust

Staff have been wonderfully creative in finding ways to celebrate Christmas as a community. If you don’t yet follow the schools on Twitter and Facebook it’s well worth doing this, to give a flavour of what’s happening. For example, Cedars Cinderella, which was reported in the Mercury: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyOshIw1RcM

Students across the schools got involved with Children in Need, collecting donations for the homeless, Christmas Jumper Day and a fundraising Bake Off, so we’ve really tried to make it as positive and happy as we can in the circumstances.

Estates Update

Cedars site development continued last term with the oldest block now being demolished to make way for more external space for our pupils to use. We will be sharing a film hopefully at the end of January of the demolition. It will certainly transform the space!

At the Cedars, we have finally received planning permission to build a large, covered dining area on the lower site. We are also getting very close to a planning application for a 3G pitch.

At Highcliffe, moving the underground meter installation gave us the opportunity to expand the car park and make the Greengate entrance much tidier. A new trim trail has also been installed.

At Riverside, the outside play areas and canopy are now completed and work to complete a major refurbishment of all of the toilets started.

At Hallam Fields work is now underway to install more outside play areas for the children.

Cedars Martin Sixth Form

Applications for Cedars Martin Sixth Form places will close on February 12 so we encourage you to visit https://www.thecedarsacademy.org.uk/prospective-students/post-16/cedars-martin-sixth-form-introduction/

There we have it, the end of 2020. On behalf of the Lionheart Academies Trust, I hope you have had a joyful Christmas and a good start to the New Year. As ever in these strange times, stay safe. And thank you, as ever, for all your continued support of our local schools.

Driver banned

A BIRSTALL man was detained by off duty police officers when he fled with a bag of cannabis after crashing his car outside their home.

Azan Kara (28) of Queensgate Drive, Birstall, drove his car into a stationary vehicle in the early hours of Saturday, May 9, 2020.

The two of duty officers were woken by the sound, went outside to investigate, and found Kara under the influence of drugs or alcohol – his speech was slurred, and he appeared to be injured.

While they waited for an ambulance, Kara returned to his car, retrieved a blue holdall bag, and then tried to run away.

He was chased and detained by the officers, and when police arrived, he was handcuffed and taken to hospital.

Kara had 147 mg of alcohol in his blood – the legal limit is 80 mg. His bag contained cannabis.

Kara pleaded guilty to drink-driving and possession of cannabis at Leicester Magistrates court.

The court was told Kara was of “essentially good character” who had lost his job and was under financial strain.

Kara was banned from driving for 17 months, although this will be reduced by 17 weeks if he pays for and completes a drink-driving awareness course. He was fined £69 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £34.

NHW news & crime report

New Year Hopes

At the time of writing there is news of an alarming rise in the Covid-19 infection-rate nationally, despite the November lockdown. In Charnwood, the rate is a bit lower than average, but we all have to be very careful to avoid the sort of worrying rise being experienced elsewhere in the country.

At the same time, we have the beginning of the vaccination programme that offers hope that the risk of infection will be reduced and that we may be able to return to our previous pattern of life. It will be some months yet, however, before we will have a clear picture of how that will unfold.

In the autumn, we were looking at whether the Watch could resume some of the activities interrupted last March but the second surge of infections quickly answered that question.

We have continued to publish our newsletter ‘Village Watch News’ but, initially, only on our website. Thanks to the cooperation of the Birstall Post, we were, fortunately, soon able to resume publishing a printed version. From this month, we have reduced it to one page to keep the cost down and plan to continue in this way for the time being.

The newsletter has previously been delivered to Members’ letterboxes by our much-appreciated Coordinators, who remain your local scheme contacts. They are the backbone of our Neighbourhood Watch, providing a network of volunteers committed to keeping our villages safer places in which to live.

So, for the moment, some of our activities remain in a state of suspended animation, but we hope that it will not be very long before they can be re-vitalised.

Meanwhile, please keep to the rules, get the jab when you are eligible and stay safe to enjoy a much better 2021.

Ed Chambers, Watch Committee Chairman

Priorities

During December we will continue to focus on patrolling School Lane Park and Meadow Lane following complaints about large groups gathering at the former and reports of people engaging in drug dealing/drug use at the latter. If you are in these areas and witness any behaviour that causes you concern, please contact us on 101 or via our website (www.leics.police.co.uk) to report it so that we can follow up any complaints.

Please also ensure that you are up to date with the latest government guidance regarding the coronavirus rules to make sure you are adhering to the regulations. Full information can be found at: www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Crime Update

In November we had a total of 40 crimes reported to us, which is up from just 16 offences last month.

We had 16 reports of assault (the vast majority of these occurred in domestic settings), 6 thefts from vehicles, 5 ‘other’ thefts, 4 Public Order offences, 3 reports of criminal damage, 3 drugs offences, 2 sexual offences and 1 non-dwelling burglary.

I am pleased to report that we had no house burglaries reported to us in November which is obviously good news, and we also had a good arrest in the early hours of the 22/11 when a member of the public saw a male acting suspiciously in the Loughborough Road area, looking into vehicles. This male was later charged and remanded to Court & has subsequently been sent to prison.

For further crime information please visit: www.police.uk/leicestershire/NL60/

Events

Over the next few months, we will be conducting beat surgeries on various dates. These will be held at the Birstall Beat office on Sibson Rd on the following dates and allow you to discuss any concerns you have with a local Police Officer.

Fri Jan 15, 2pm-4pm.

Sat Jan 23, 10am -12midday.

Wed Feb 10, 10am-12midday.

Fri Feb 19, 10am-12midday.

Please keep an eye on our Twitter site @CharnwoodPolice for further details.

Remember, you can also stay in touch with your beat team by contacting us via phone, email or through the Leicestershire Police website. Neighbourhood Link is also a free and easy way of finding out what is happening on the beat and what the Police are doing in your area. It is free and only takes a few minutes to sign up.

Sign up now at:www.neighbourhoodlink.co.uk

Sgt Mistry

Hi, my name is Rakhi Mistry and I am the beat Sgt for Birstall. I look forward to meeting local residents and tackling any concerns or issues you may have to keep Birstall a safe place, along-side the dedicated beat officers who have been working hard to resolve any local issues.

Please feel free to contact me directly and also follow us on social media: @CharnwoodPolice

PC Jaeckels

This month the beat team have been paying extra attention to School Lane park following complaints about groups of people gathering at the location and breaking Social distancing rules. I am pleased to report that the majority of people we have seen do appear to be sticking to the rules, however, we will continue to patrol this area to ensure they continue to do so.

I have also assisted officers from other areas on a knife crime operation—checking local parks and open spaces for any discarded weapons as part of knife crime week.

As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, we are also adopting a more robust approach when dealing with incidents where people are ignoring the Coronavirus rules. Please ensure you are familiar with the regulations so you do not end up being fined.

PC 1759 Jaeckels, PCSO 6611 Butler, PCSO 6128 Taylor

Support refugees

PEOPLE ACROSS the East Midlands are being invited to attend a virtual information event and find out how they can help offer refugees a new start in life.

Led by Leicestershire County Council, Place to Call Home is a partnership between councils across the East Midlands which works to recruit foster carers and supported lodgings providers for young people arriving in the region without their parents, or a trusted adult.

The event will take place at 10am on Wednesday, January 6, on the project’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/homeeastmidlands) and is for anyone considering helping by becoming a foster carer or supported lodgings provider. The video will remain available to view.

The event will include details of the rewarding nature of fostering, the application process and the training and support available, as well as the payments and allowances carers receive.

Regis (17) arrived in the East Midlands from Albania when he was 15 years old and was placed with a foster carer. He features in the virtual event talking about the difference fostering has made to him and his desire to be part of a happy family, just like his foster carers, when he grows up.

Pat (65) is a foster carer for unaccompanied young refugees and currently has two young people staying with her. She said: “It’s opened up a whole different world to me. There are challenges but nothing is impossible to overcome, and we get by.

“Through getting involved in the local refugee forum with the first young person I fostered, I’m now a volunteer there with the youth group and have had fantastic times with all these young people from all over the world who come along, and you just see them settle and blossom. It’s just great, it really is.”

Deborah Taylor, Leicestershire County Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “It’s incredibly important that we find kind-hearted individuals and families to support these young people, provide safety, security and a much-needed family environment to help them settle into a new life and improve their lives and futures.

“I would encourage anyone who feels they have the necessary skills or experience to foster to register an interest and attend the virtual event in January or get in touch with the team to find out more.”

For more information about fostering young refugees, visit www.placetocallhome.org.uk, call 0116 305 5898 or email info@placetocallhome.org.uk

New St Margaret’s station built

ST MARGARET’S bus station in Leicester was closed to the public in late December to prepare it for demolition, as work begins on a major £13.5million redevelopment.

Pic: how the new bus station will look

Leicester City Council is planning to rebuild the existing bus station and revamp surrounding streets as part of a scheme to regenerate this part of the city centre.

The bus station closed to the public on December 31, but National Express coach services will continue to operate from St Margaret’s, with temporary offices and stops in place.

County bus services will also continue to operate from temporary stops located on Gravel Street, close to its junction with Church Gate, Charles Street and Abbey Street. All changes will be signposted. The temporary changes will be in place from Friday 1 January 2021.

The works will require the closure of Gravel Street, between its junctions with Sandacre Street and Abbey Street. Clearly signed diversions will be in place. Access for pedestrians will be unaffected.

Demolition work will be carried out on behalf of the city council by DSM Demolition – the same company that carried the demolition of New Walk Centre. Work is expected to take around four months, with construction on the new building due to begin by late-spring 2021.

The new bus station building will be glazed from floor to ceiling and feature a curved aluminium roof that appears to float above the main concourse hall.

Bus passengers will benefit from a completely redesigned and improved internal layout with a new café, better seating and real-time digital passenger information. There will also be increased capacity for national and regional bus services, with the number of bays increased from 18 to 24.

A series of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures will help make the new bus station a carbon-neutral building. The City Council say that this will be the first bus station to be built to net-zero carbon standards in the UK.

Electric bus charging points will be installed, and the new building will feature secure storage for up to 150 bikes.

Improvements to footpaths and roads immediately surrounding the bus station are also proposed, with better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, new landscaping and tree planting, and better and safer crossings to soften the impact of the ring road. This will help strengthen and improve links between key development sites and the city centre, including the new Savoy Street which will link the new St Margaret’s and Haymarket bus stations.

Deputy city mayor for environment and transportation Cllr Adam Clarke said: “These exciting plans to replace St Margaret’s Bus Station with a striking, new and carbon-neutral building will signal the beginning of a revival of this part of the city.

“The award of over £10million of government cash is a huge endorsement of the importance of this scheme. It will provide a huge boost for sustainable transport, help regenerate a run-down but important gateway into Leicester and attract further private investment into the city.

“I’m confident that the necessary short-term disruption for bus users will be more than worth it in the long run.”

Headstone restored

A HEADSTONE in Belgrave cemetery has been restored.

Walter Stone died on June 1, 1928, and the headstone on his grave was leaning.

Supported by local councillors, the Friends of Belgrave Cemetery successfully applied for an Abbey Ward grant for the repair of the Walter Stone memorial.

Carved in white Carrera marble in the style of a 6ft scroll depicting ‘A Life Unfolding’, with the lily as a sign of purity and lead lettering, the work involved a new foundation. It was completed in July.

News from HATS

WE ARE so sorry we were not able to perform our traditional yearly panto.

Pic: Sally Jackson

I am afraid the legislation regarding Covid prevented this from taking place. We fully accepted the need for everyone to stay as safe as possible.

The situation is ever-changing, and at this particular time we are not in a position to confirm whether we will be able to perform our next Spring Play, but we will let you know as soon as the government guidelines are clearer.

The annual Pantomime Alliance Awards had to be postponed earlier this year, but they worked hard and managed to arrange a virtual award night on Saturday, November 28.

HATS are so proud to inform you that a member of our cast, Sally Jackson, was nominated in the Cameo role category for her wonderful portrayal of Major Domo/footman.

I am sure you would all like to join us in offering our congratulations to Sally.

In addition, we would like to thank you all for being so patient with us, we have missed you all and can't wait to see you all again.

Take care, and stay safe.

From Highcliffe Amateur Theatrical Society

Birstall sleigh ride

SANTA IN a sleigh pulled by Rudolph made a tour of Birstall in the days before Christmas, accompanied by staff from Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service.

Pic: Santa leaves the Birstall HQ of the Fire & Rescue Services for a tour around Hallam Fields

Rudolph has become a popular figure in Leicester since he made his first appearance in 1949. He has gone on to help raise more than £300,000 over the years for several charities, with the help of volunteers and firefighters.

A spokesman said: “During his time he has had a few makeovers to keep him going and now, he is looking better than he ever has.”

Last year, the good causes that benefitted were:

Adapt

Friends of Sycamore Court

Leicester and Leicestershire Animal Aid Association

Leicestershire Down’s Syndrome Group

Leicester Children’s Holidays

Vista

When You Wish Upon a Star

GCR’s festive trains

THE GREAT Central Railway’s Christmas services proved popular with visitors, even getting reviewed in the Sun newspaper.

The GCR’s Santa express was described as “brilliant” by the Prince family from the West Midlands, who said they were really in the Christmas mood after the trip.

The children met Santa, received a gift, spotted reindeers from the carriage windows and had mince pies at a model village.

The Winter Wonderlight service has also run to Leicester North Station with the loco and carriages wrapped in colourful Christmas lights.

GCR spokesman Michael Stokes said: “We worked with Charnwood Borough Council to make sure the events could happen, they have been very helpful, inspected us twice and were pleased with the way we covid controlled visitors from arrival until departure.

“As you can imagine, Santa and Winter Wonderlights are a major source of income to the railway and it has been an absolute blessing we were allowed to continue.”

The GCR launched an emergency appeal to keep them going until spring 2021 – to find out more go to www.gcrailway.co.uk

Tree lined walk in country park

VOLUNTEERS, PARK rangers and tree wardens are supporting Leicestershire County Council and Leicester City Council’s proposals for a tree-lined memorial walk that would link the city side of Watermead Park with the county side.

Pic: Members of Leicester City Council’s trees and woodland team plant a hornbeam in Watermead Park to launch the Memorial Walk project and to mark National Tree Week

Subject to funding being secured by 31 January 2021, some 58 new trees would be planted, creating a linear walk from the north to the south of the park and featuring species including hornbeam, elm, oak, aspen and birch.

Interpretation boards would be placed at each end of the walk, while benches would be installed at regular intervals to encourage people to use the space to relax and reflect.

People across the city and the county are now being invited to help create the memorial walk by supporting the project via its dedicated crowdfunding page and helping to raise the £61,078 required.

Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: “This year has been, and continues to be, difficult and challenging. The strength of public services, innovation from businesses and the spirits of millions have been truly tested.

“This project aims to create an environmentally-conscious space that will continue to bring people together. In doing so, we will not only look back on 2020 as a difficult year but as a year we pulled through by working together and supporting our communities.

“Our fundraising target of £61,078 may seem like an ambitious goal for our proposed memorial walk in Leicester and Leicestershire, but the city and county councils have already pledged to meet ongoing maintenance costs of £29,000 – while a business, The Art Department, has made a generous pledge of £3,528.

‘If we are to complete the first phase of our proposals by the end of January 2021, we need to call on our communities and businesses to help make this plan a reality. All pledges of support, however large or small, will be gratefully received – and will contribute to creating something really positive for the community at the end of what has been a very difficult year.”

There’s also been support for the project from Leicester’s tree wardens. Volunteer co-ordinator Penny Brown said: “The tree wardens are looking forward to supporting the project with promotion and tree planting, in the hope that the new memorial walk will bring comfort to those who have been directly affected by the pandemic.”

More information about the Watermead Memorial Walk can be found on its fundraising page at www.spacehive.com/watermead-memorial-walk

The new trees would be planted in February and March 2021, with the interpretation boards expected to be installed in the spring.

People are being asked to pledge their donations now, although no money will be taken until February 2021.

The minimum pledge that can be made is £2.

Donations will only be taken, if the campaign reaches its target by 31 January 2021.

Fundraising knitters

A BIRSTALL couple knitted 140 Santa hat decorations for charity.

Jean and Brian Allen of Blenheim Road started in March 2020, with Jean knitting the hats and Brian making the pom-poms.

The proceeds from the sale went to the County Air Ambulance.

“It’s a charity that is very close to my heart,” said Jean.

Humps

THREE SETS of speed cushions are to be installed on Birstall Road on January 11/12.

They will be located outside numbers 25, 237 and 255 Birstall Road.

The speed cushions will be the same size as those removed in the autumn of 2020.

Help with technology provided by charity

SINCE JUNE 2020, Volunteer Digital Champions from Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland have supported over 160 residents over the age of 50 with their technology needs via the phone, online and with extra support by post.

If you got a technology gift for Christmas, they can also help you gain confidence in using the equipment.

After the success of the recent Tablet Loan Scheme, they also have a limited amount of tablets with connectivity left to allocate. Spokesperson Jeanette Silver said: “We appreciate many do not have the equipment or even broadband and need some support to get started with technology. So let us know if this is something you are interested in, as we have found it is beginning to dawn on most people that this topic is not going to go away.”

Feedback from participants has included: “I can’t believe what I have done in such a short time, considering I knew nothing in July of this year"; “I was on a bit of a desert island before all this”, and “It has built my confidence to such a degree that I no longer feel I have been left behind in my IT knowledge and could now really consider going to a group. Before this, I would not have been able to go to a class or even a library to learn how to do the things I have learned. It has been life-changing. I’m really grateful to the Volunteer Digital Champions who helped me.”

Supporting you on a one-to-one basis with smartphones (both Android and iPhones) Android tablets, iPads, laptops and desktops – from “How do I switch this thing on?” to problem-solving - all it takes is a call to their dedicated phone line: 0116 223 7371 or email them on thinkdigital@ageukleics.org.uk and they will do their very best to help. Please make sure to leave your name and contact number clearly.

News from the churches

AFTER THE locking in, up and down, we find ourselves in tiers, (and possibly tears), once in tier 2, then into tier 3 for a very limited opportunity to meet with family and friends for Christmas day only.

The joy and spirit of celebrating the birth of Christ shone through the misery of 2020, and our homes and churches were decorated and lit in defiance of the pandemic.

Our churches were filled with prayer and music and readings from the scriptures. Music spilled over from the churches in the shape of small groups singing carols around the village. Despite the sudden increase in the spread of the virus declared at the end of the year, we were able, after rapid rethinking and re-examining our risk assessments, to offer special Christmas events at both Birstall and Wanlip.

We had the traditional services on Christmas Eve, and also on Christmas morning, at both churches.

We were wonderfully assisted in managing the ongoing work of the church through the presence of the Rev Rosie Homer, during November and December. She was a bundle of energy that buzzed around the Parish, bringing freshness and light to us all. She also brought the technical know-how that has enabled us to put our services online. Rosie left us at Christmas, and with thanks, we bid her farewell and every good wish as she looks to serve in a parish of her own soon.

As for filling the vacancy for a Rector in this Parish, we have now moved the process to the point where the position is being advertised this month. The method of selecting clergy in the C of E to fill a vacancy is normally quite long, and in our case fulfilling all the necessary steps has been hampered by working with the limitations of Covid-19, but we now pray that God will bring the right person to us who will strengthen our mission in this place.

The ladies of the Monday Group have continued their fundraising for Dementia UK/Admiral Nurses, and the Wanlip community has produced a lovely 2021 Calendar for £6.50, with beautiful photographs of Wanlip and Watermead Park. It’s not too late to get a copy, just call Debbie 07860 951116, or Julie 0116 267 7600.

As we go forward into a new year, we hope and pray that 2021 will be better for us all, we wish you a happy and safe New Year.

From the parish churches, St James the Great, Birstall, and Our Lady & St Nicolas, Wanlip

Are You In Touch With Birstall Methodist?

In these difficult times, every effort has been made to keep in touch with the community of Birstall Methodist Church. This is normally done by email or delivered on paper for those who lack email facilities. Sometimes there are up to five sets of information, including; informative weekly notices, articles, poems, and a weekly letter from our Rev Paula Hunt our Minister. We also include the full details of the upcoming Sunday service for use at home, including; hymns, readings and prayers, and a written time for reflection. This can also be used during the Zoom online worship. Before Christmas, there were similar details for the Advent Reflections on Sunday evenings, and even some pictures to decorate & display.

However, we are concerned that there may be some friends who we may have overlooked. If you have any connection with Birstall Methodist and have not seen the weekly information, please do let us know. Perhaps you only visit the Coffee Shop, or you attend one of the weekly groups that normally meet, or you only worship with us on a very occasional basis. Do get in touch with us so that we can include you in our email/letter box posting. You can use email tonyrailmoore@gmail.com, or phone 0116 2676207. It may take a week or two, but we will do our best to ‘keep you in touch’.

New Year Greetings To Birstall

The community at Birstall Methodist Church on Wanlip Lane wish all Birstall residents a Happy and Hopeful new year.

From Birstall Methodist Church

New Year

We are all hoping that 2021 will be a better year but none of us knows what the future holds, which is why it is important to know the One who holds us in the palm of His hands. When we can say with the psalmist, ‘I will go in the strength of the Lord God’ (Psalm 71:16), then we can go forward with assurance and in safety.

This outlook is also found in the words of the two hymns we are considering this month.

The first hymn, ‘Great God, we sing that guiding hand, by which supported still we stand’, reflects on the past year and seeks God’s guidance for the unknown future. It was written by Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) who has a local connection, studying at Kibworth Harcourt’s Dissenting Academy before serving as pastor there for seven years prior to moving to Market Harborough and then Northampton.

Philip was more or less an invalid all his life and at the age of 48, when he developed TB, his friends financed a trip to Portugal where he died. He wrote over 400 hymns and his best known is ‘O Happy Day’.

The second hymn is ‘Standing at the portal of the opening year, words of comfort meet us, hushing every fear’ and it goes on to repeat God’s promises to His children, concluding that: ‘God is all-sufficient for the coming year.’ It is by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), who lived in Worcestershire.

She was unusually gifted as a child, being able to read the Bible aged four, memorise the New Testament and part of the Old; she was a linguist, learning Italian, French, German, Latin, Hebrew and Greek besides being an accomplished musician. She did not enjoy good health but from her conversion aged 14, she served her Lord diligently. She died at the early age of 42 near Swansea. She described her feelings when writing hymns in a letter to a friend, when she said: ‘Writing is praying for me, for I never seem to write even a verse by myself.’ If you would like to know more about the ‘God who is all-sufficient’, then please contact us.

All at BIBC wish you a very Happy New Year and we hope that you will know the Lord’s blessings throughout 2021.

Please check with our website (http://www.birstallbaptistchurch.org.uk) or phone us on 0116 2214883 for up-to-date information on when we will be able to resume Sunday services at The Cedars.

From Birstall Independent Baptist Church

Birstall BAG’s cancer corner

Cancer and Your Emotions

The festive holidays and new year are times that create many emotions for all of us. Add to this, the year we have had and not surprisingly many people are struggling with their mental health or feeling overwhelmed with emotions not previously considered troublesome. For people with cancer, past or present, they may already be living with emotional or mental health difficulties that they try to keep hidden or that spill over into their everyday life. Birstall BAGs hope that putting in print what these emotions might be, listing and explaining a little about them, might help people to open up, to reach out and talk things through. We think some of the hints and tips here are not exclusive to cancer, they can help regardless of what is causing your change in emotions.

There are lots of different reactions to cancer. You might experience all or none of the emotions we talk about here. There is no right or wrong way to feel. You will cope with things in your own way. Common emotional responses include:

Shock and denial

You may find it hard to believe, but it is common to feel shocked and numb. Some people can’t talk about the cancer and others can’t talk about anything else. These reactions are both normal and will get easier over time.

Fear

You may be anxious or frightened, perhaps about how effective treatment will be or how you are going to be in the future. It helps to focus on things you can control, exercise, your diet, a project at home perhaps. Sometimes finding out more about your cancer and the treatments and talking about your feelings can help. Try to keep doing things that are important to you and that you enjoy.

Sadness

Having to change your plans, immediate ones or more distant because of the cancer can make you feel very sad. Sadness is a natural reaction to loss, and these feeling may come and go during and after treatment. For most people, the sadness improves over time for others, it can continue or get worse. The sadness can persist and turn to depression - you may need to seek professional support and treatment if this happens.

Avoidance

Some people cope because they try not to find out too much about the cancer or they avoid talking about it. It is ok to tell friends and family that you don’t want to talk about it right now. It is also acceptable to tell your cancer team (doctors and nurses) that you don’t want to talk about certain issues related to your cancer.

Anger

You may feel angry about your diagnosis. You may also resent other people for being well. These are normal reactions. They are more likely when you feel frightened, stressed or unwell.

Guilt and blame

You may feel guilty or blame yourself for the cancer, feel regret you have brought a cancer journey into your family’s life, not that you can help of this. You may want to find reasons for why it has happened to you. Most of the time, it is impossible to know exactly what causes a cancer.

Feeling alone

You may feel alone or isolated. This could be because you do not think you have support or because you feel the need to withdraw and think it is better to try and deal with this alone. It may be because family and friends live far away, are busy or feel uncomfortable talking about the cancer. There is always someone you can talk too, and many find comfort talking to people not previously known to them.

All of these emotions are perfectly normal, but if you feel they are persisting, getting worse or if you think they are turning into depression or anxiety seek help. Talk to your GP, ring your cancer key worker/specialist nurse or reach out to a cancer charity telephone service, there is always someone to talk to, and there is always something that can be done.

For local support and information about cancer services, please contact:-

University Hospitals of Leicester Cancer Information Centre on 0116 258 6189

For more information on the funds Birstall BAGs have raised, the projects we support and forthcoming events see www.birstallbags.co.uk or look us up on Facebook or email birstallbags@hotmail.co.uk

Learn something new in 2021

WITH A new year starting, there’s no better time to think about learning new skills, improving job prospects or developing a new interest.

Hundreds of part-time day, evening and weekend courses, which start in early 2021, are now open for enrolment from GoLearn - Leicestershire County Council’s Adult Learning Service.

They cover a wide range of subjects and take place in venues across the county. Courses are delivered online, in the classroom and a mixture of both, making it more convenient than ever for learners to join in.

With 2021 on the way, a lot of people will be thinking about learning a new skill or taking up a new interest, particularly after the challenges of 2020. These adult learning courses offer the ideal opportunity to turn that resolution into reality and can really make a difference to people’s lives.

Richard Blunt, Leicestershire County Council cabinet member for heritage, leisure, and arts, said: “We have taken all possible precautions to ensure that our classroom-based courses are safe for learners and all centres will adhere to Covid-secure procedures. There may be many changes because of the ongoing restrictions, but we won’t let them get in the way of people achieving their learning ambitions.”

Enrol online or call freephone 0800 988 0308 (lines open Monday- Friday, 8am to 7pm).

Anyone who enrols on a course before 29 January 2021 will receive a 10% New Year discount on fee-paying courses.

The courses on offer range from one-off two-hour sessions to 15-week courses and full 30-week programmes including modern languages, British Sign Language, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), digital skills, astronomy, seated yoga, fabric reuse, Aboriginal art, cartooning, drawing & painting and Learning for Confidence.

GoLearn is also offering the new Essential Digital Skills Qualification for spring 2021. This is a free course which is aimed at complete IT beginners and offers a stepping stone to more advanced IT courses and qualifications.

There are also free Employability courses for people seeking work or looking to gain basic skills, including planning first steps towards employment, increasing confidence, help with job search, CV writing and interview skills. GoLearn also offers flexible English and maths GCSE and functional skills courses aimed at giving learners the tools they need to progress in life and work.

People in receipt of certain benefits, or on a low income, can get a 70% discount on tuition fees or may be entitled to attend for free.

Birstall youth café closes

BIRSTALL’S YOUTH Café, located in the sports pavilion in the School Lane playing field and run by Birstall Parish Council, has been closed due to Covid-19.

A parish Council spokesperson said: “The cafe, which has provided a well-used and popular service to the young people of Birstall, has not been able to open its doors since March 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions which are still in place today some nine months later.

“During this time the youth workers have moved onto pastures new, and the Parish Council take this opportunity of thanking them for their hard work and dedication to the young people of varying age groups in Birstall over the last twelve years.

“At the Council meeting on December 14, 2020, councillors accepted that it is currently not feasible to recruit and interview for new youth workers as the facility is unlikely to be able to reopen for the foreseeable future.

“It was with sadness and regret that the Parish Councillors took the decision to officially close the Youth Cafe and not to make any budget provision for the next financial year.”