Ash is a small rural village, surrounded by farmland, and lying on a ridge on the edge of the Shropshire plain with views of the Shropshire hills and Welsh mountains to the south and west. It has around 75 houses and 250 people and is one and a half miles from Whitchurch, the nearest small market town. The village has been there for at least one millennium already and decided to celebrate the beginning of another. This is a record of how Ash celebrated the year 2000.
The programme was as follows:
- The New Year's Eve bonfire party
- Millennium Parish Walk - Part One
- Millennium Potato Competition
- Millennium Fun Run
- Millennium Tree Planting
- Millennium Bingo
- Millennium Fête and Tug of War
- Millennium Ceilidh and Hog Roast
- Millennium Parish Walk - Part Two
- Ash Roots and the Millennium Book
This Is How it Went
The New Year's Eve Party
A bonfire was lit in the early evening, in Gregorys' field, at the highest point of the village. Half of Ash turned out to watch the flames, flying 30 feet into the night, and the fireworks. Thousands of starlings roosting in the village took to the sky, becoming black shadows in the smoke.
The New Year's Eve party which followed was a 'bring your own food, drink and guests' to the village hall sort of do. The hall was decorated with a Christmas tree, millennium bunting, streamers and candles, with a candle on each table. Around 80 people came, in family groups with bags full of food and drink, and had a great time. Someone brought a CD player and there were barn dances, acid house, kids' party games, disco, rock and roll... Eventually the conga started, everyone conga'ed round and out the hall and down the road towards the pub, in the rain. That's when the police patrol turned up. They said it looked as if everyone was having a good time and took themselves off again. Back in the hall, at midnight, a couple of hundred party poppers were set off and everyone joined hands in a circle for 'Auld Lang Syne'. Then it was back to Gregorys' field, the rain having stopped, to set off the midnight rockets, the biggest ones of the evening saved till last. All around, in the distance and on the skyline, fireworks lit up the sky.
Parish Walk - Part One
Walking the parish boundary was divided into three parts. On a beautiful spring day around 30 walkers set off from the village going west along the road to Whitchurch, turning south through Brown Moss, along the edge of the old Prees Heath airfield, and after some discussion about the route of the invisible footpath, north across fields to join the footpath back into Ash Parva. Half the walkers gave up here and took the road straight back to the pub. The other half continued north along Back Ash lane until reaching the footpath to the church. After wading knee deep through mud at a field gate, leaving one shoe buried there to mark the occasion, the walk reached the church and returned along Church Lane back to the village where it dispersed, mainly into the pub.
All entrants were given five potatoes, all the same variety, to plant and grow for prizes for the biggest potato, the heaviest crop and the oddest shaped potato. During the summer there was some criticism of the variety chosen, with rumours of potatoes competing with the runner beans for height.
The plan was to dig up the potatoes under supervision, but as time went on, and on, wire worms attacked, the rains fell, and fell, attitudes relaxed and in the end everyone dug up and weighed their own(those who hadn't eaten them already that is). The winning crop topped 40lbs. The winner was presented with a trophy which could grace anyone's mantlepiece; a six-inch model of a gold potato on a stand. It will inspire future generations.
The fun run was a great success. 30-odd runners and walkers and two dogs entered. Because the rain had turned part of the planned cross country run into deep bog, the run was re-routed from Gregory's field along the road to Whitchurch, and part way down Cateralls Lane and back. First home was the organiser's brother-in-law, followed by the organiser's son. But with the farthest checkpoint being manned by a solicitor there could be no complaints that it was a fix. First dog was Bruno Evans. All runners got a chocolate medal and a certificate recording their time.
Ash should not be short of trees in 20 years time. Various native species were planted including quite a few Ash trees - for obvious reasons.
Attendance at this wasn't high, possibly due to an incident at a recent WI (Women's Institute) meeting involving some teenagers from the village in which one of the WI tablecloths, left unattended in the hall, met with some squashed tomatoes. The exact details are not known - just the results - but it led to a temporary boycott of the village hall by WI members in their frustration at not being able to get to the real culprits.
Fête and Tug of War
This took place as planned on 3 September. The sun shone all day and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately, the rugby club, pub and Young Farmers wimped out of putting teams up for the Tug of War. However, the two volunteer teams made up of folk attending the fête enjoyed it, as did the kids. The live music didn't show either, but with sunshine, ice creams, burgers, tombolas, plant and white elephant stalls, games and star of the day - Charlie the Heavy Horse - who needed the music? The winning guess for Charlie's weight was 853kg. He's a lot of horse.
Ceilidh and Hog Roast
The roast hog never materialised, which was regretted, but which left something to plan for in 2001. However, the Christmas Ceilidh was a great success for those who came. Numbers were low again, maybe leftover tomato fallout, but that left more room for dancing, and everyone danced. Mulled wine and mince pies were served, carols sung to the accordions and fiddles of the Morris dancers. The Morris men demonstrated how to knock seven bells out of sticks, trowels and the floor while leaving the hall lights intact. The Morris ladies demonstrated some very neat, very intricate footwork in a much more civilised manner. Everyone else demonstrated how to create havoc.
Parish Walk - Part Two
Part Two of the Parish Walk just made it into the millennium year, taking place in the snow between Christmas and New Year. This completed a circuit roughly following the parish boundaries barring a small section in the north on the far side of the Whitchurch/Nantwich road. This last part was left for Easter 2001. Due to the foot and mouth outbreak, all footpaths were closed. So this last part did not happen as planned.
Ash Roots and the Millennium Book
The Ash Roots project collected photographs of Ash from everyone and anyone living in the parish or with Ash connections. New pictures of Ash as it is in 2000 were taken. These were displayed in the village hall before being published in a book. Ash's retired Post Office keeper was easily identified as an eight-year-old in his school photo by his attitude! Arms crossed, chest stuck out and chin in the air... No change there then. Not in 70-plus years.
And That Was it
In a village with little other than the pub and the village hall to bring people together, events like these create and maintain a community. The village hall committee gave up their usual concentration on fund raising for the year to organise the having of a good time. The original idea was an event every month. Nine out of twelve wasn't too bad an achievement. And some funds did get raised, particularly by the joint fête with the Church, so the hall survived the year as well1.
Ash Roots was a separate committee, setting out to make an historical record of the occasion. A lot of community spirit was generated in 2000. It was a good way to begin the third millennium.