The Peak village of Tideswell
11:16 24 November 2010
The chocolate-box set piece at the heart of Tideswell comprises a medieval parish church which is so magnificent in proportions and detail that its known as the Cathedral of the Peak, and an adjacent Georgian coaching inn whose distinctive faade is decorated with no fewer than eight deep-set Venetian windows. This quintessentially English composition of ancient church and welcoming inn is sufficient to whet the appetite of any visitor to the large Peakland village, but it is about to be supplemented by a tasty attraction that is nearing completion in the gabled building on the other side of the inn.
The new facility is the result of an ambitious community project spearheaded by Pete Hawkins, the chairman of a group of bed and breakfast and self catering providers who meet regularly to share ideas on ways of developing their businesses and encouraging visitors to explore the village as well as the great church. During the process of obtaining funding for the publication of a village trail, members of the group learned of the Big Lotterys Village SOS scheme, a nationwide undertaking designed to promote village economies. Sensing this was an opportunity not to be missed, they called a public meeting in the hope of generating a Big Idea that would form the basis of a bid for Tideswells inclusion in the scheme.
Sifting through the large number of responses that emanated from the meeting, Pete and Carrie Warr, who run a holiday let, saw the emergence of a Big Idea based on Tideswells reputation for creating and selling quality food products three of the local food producers won Taste Awards last year. The Big Idea was refined at further meetings and christened Taste Tideswell. Its essential ingredients are a community vegetable garden, a commercial kitchen where the villagers will be able to convert what they have grown into produce, either for their own consumption or for sale under the Taste Tideswell label, and a cookery school where classes will be provided for villagers, local schoolchildren and also outsiders attracted by the possibility of culinary tuition in a beautiful Peak District village.
The headteacher of Bishop Pursglove Primary School, Jacqueline Menzies- Conacher, has given the bid her enthusiastic support by submitting plans for using the Taste Tideswell facilities to deliver a unit of work called Going Green? which she has written with Claire Fisher, the headteacher of Hayfield Primary School. She is also suggesting that her pupils could plan, resource, cook and serve community lunches for different generations in the village. In fact, pupils are already asking people at the local senior citizens club for their favourite soup recipes.
Six of the primary school pupils joined Pete Hawkins and other villagers in the final audition for inclusion in the Village SOS scheme. After playing their part, the youngsters dashed back into school with the great news that Tideswell had been chosen from over 200 entries around the country to be one of six villages that would each receive a very generous grant of 400,000 and a place in Sarah Beeneys six-part television series about Village SOS, which is scheduled for screening next year.
The reward for all the hard work that has gone into the bid also includes the appointment of Tim Nicol as Tideswells Village Champion. Tim, who spent many years working for Masterfoods, is known as the man who introduced the pasta sauce Dolmio to this country. He now runs a company called Make Innovation Happen and has moved from his home in Easton on the Hill, near Stamford, in order to take up a one-year residency in Tideswell so that he can help the villagers make their innovation happen.
The Parochial Church Council has played its part by offering a plot of land behind the church for use as a site for the community garden. A dozen volunteers have taken up the challenge to convert a steep, weed-infested embankment into a functioning vegetable plot, which has already produced pumpkins in readiness for Halloween, and Ben Twelves, a teacher at the primary school, is planning to get pupils involved in vegetable production by organising lunchtime gardening activities.
When the directors of Markovitz, the well-known builders and plumbers merchants, offered to lease their former stove and cooker showroom to Taste Tideswell, Pete Hawkins knew that it would be a perfect venue for the commercial kitchen and cookery school. As well as being close to the primary school and centrally placed in the village, its location on the perimeter of a picturesque courtyard within the building that stands next to that wonderful set piece of church and inn would be an obvious draw for outsiders wanting to improve their cookery skills whist enjoying a break in the Peak District.
The architect for the conversion of the former showroom is Peter Koyander, who lives locally, and the construction work is being carried out by Graham Stuart Construction Ltd of Sheffield, who are modifying the interior to accommodate a commercial kitchen and reception area on the ground floor and a cookery school on the first floor, where there will also be a conference suite and a nanobrewery.
Their professional input is being supplemented by voluntary help. For example, churchwarden Juliet Waugh has been accompanying Tim Nicol on visits to cookery schools in Ashburton and Halifax to gather ideas on kitchen layout and she is working with another volunteer, Rod Baraona, to implement them.
The launch of the commercial kitchen and cookery school, scheduled for December, will see the creation of several new jobs. It should also lead to an increase in visitor numbers, which will almost certainly help to maintain the villages excellent range of shops, and with more local people being encouraged to grow it, cook it, make it, sell it and share it, it might even be possible to treble local food production in the long term and make the village self-sufficient.
Tim Nicol and Steve Hawkins are great evangelists for the Taste Tideswell crusade, but they are fully aware that its success will depend on the villagers sharing their vision. Both men are working hard to involve as many people as possible in the planning process and they already have a band of committed supporters, including Audrey Hopkins, who is president of the Tideswell and District Community Association. As Audrey points out on a promotional video made by the founding group, Tideswell was known as the Kings Larder during the Middle Ages. If the current community effort succeeds, the village might soon be known as the Peoples Larde
Carol Cox - Carol Cox, the manager of Tindalls of Tideswell, is keeping an open mind on Taste Tideswell at the moment, because she realises that the boost to the local economy could possibly be counterbalanced by a negative effect on trade if local people produce more of their own food. However, her bakery and delicatessen is an obvious outlet for Taste Tideswell products because it is already well known for selling delicious food that is locally-sourced and based on Derbyshire recipes, not least famous pork pies made according to a 50-year-old recipe. Carol has volunteered for the marketing committee, which is looking at ways to promote the cookery school
Chris Flint - Chris Flint, the manager of the popular Horse and Jockey, is Tideswell born and bred. Over the years he has seen the closure of two pubs in the village and a number of local shops. He has volunteered for the marketing committee because he believes that Taste Tideswell will help to prevent any further closures in a village where people are still so well served by local suppliers that they have no need to shop outside Tideswell for their food.
Audrey Hopkins - Audrey Hopkins, who is president of the Tideswell and District Community Association, remembers that the village was virtually self-sufficient when it was completely cut off during the severe snowfalls of 1947 and she backs any scheme that is designed to maintain the current number of village shops for future generations. If Taste Tideswell succeeds, she believes that it will enable the village to set an example and give heart to other places. Audrey volunteered to take part in the video for Taste Tideswell and the organizing committee returned her favour by planting two apple trees in the community garden to commemorate her golden wedding anniversary.
Robert Walker - Robert Walker, who was raised on a Tideswell farm, is the enterprising manager of Peak District Dairy, an award-winning farm shop and caf. As a volunteer for the marketing committee, he is already convinced that Taste Tideswell will be a win, win, win scheme, because he sees three advantages: more visitors to the village and hence more people in his shop; the chance for his business to supply some of the needs of the cookery school; and the opportunity to sell more products made by local people.