FEATURE: Is this Derbyshire's most '˜forgotten' village?
It's a cold, drizzly Thursday morning.
I’m visiting a tranquil village in the north east of Derbyshire.
Situated on the boundary of South Yorkshire, the small village of Marsh Lane is made up of a population of just 900 people.
I’m here because this is where I grew up, and I’m curious to find out what’s been happening.
I’m stood outside the Green Lawns Community Centre scanning the public notice board, and I can see the village marked Remembrance Sunday with a special service, that lunch clubs are held regularly for the elderly and a mobile hairdresser is looking for custom.
“Are you interested in the community centre?”, says a friendly voice from over my shoulder.
It’s Christine Gare, a resident of Marsh Lane for 15 years and the chairman of Marsh Lane Tenants and Residents Association.
I explain the reason for my visit and she very kindly informs me of recent events.
She tells me about the community centre’s festive plans, the Remembrance Parade, visits from Hathersage Brass Brand and Eckington Youth Club.
“There are things going on here,” Christine assures me.
When I was growing up in the area, there was a Post Office, a small convenience shop, a chip shop and three pubs on the main road.
Before I moved away, the Post Office was fighting to stay open and there was only two pubs - The Fox & Hounds and the Butchers Arms - which changed ownership on a frequent basis.
I carry on my walk around the village and discover the Post office is no more, that none of the shops have since been replaced and that The Fox & Hounds is currently closed.
‘How can this once bustling little village be forgotten like this?’ I thought.
Determined to find out what the people who live here think, I get chatting to a woman who has lived in Marsh Lane for 27 years.
“When I first moved to Marsh Lane in 1989 there was a chip shop, a Post Office with a shop inside and there was a corner shop,” Janet Cook, aged 56, of Woodnook Grove, said.
“But now there are no shops. We have had no shops up here since 2011 when the Post Office closed.
“The nearest place to get some milk now is the petrol station across from Eckington School which is a 15 minute walk. That is okay if you are fit and healthy but if you are an older person they can’t possibly walk down and back.”
The dwindling bus service was no surprise to me, I had experienced the same problem myself.
Three years ago the determination of the community helped save the only bus running to Sheffield, the 252 service. However, it appears once again that it is under-threat.
“The last bus from Chesterfield back to Marsh Lane on a weekday and on a Saturday is 5.45pm,” Janet said.
“If you do not have a car then you are stranded or you have to pay for taxis which not everybody can afford to do.”
She adds: “Some people have said to me ‘why don’t you move’ but this is my home and I have lived here for 27 years. All my neighbours are very nice and I feel safe here.
“It is as if we are the forgotten community.”
Marsh Lane is by no means on its own with these problems, neighbouring villages and communities all over Derbyshire would also probably say they have been “forgotten”.
And it’s certainly not all doom and gloom.
The village has never really had a problem with crime, and the majority of people say they feel safe here.
As well as that, the village has its ‘jewel in the crown’ in the primary school and nursery, which were both rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted in their last inspections.
Jane Laycock, manager of Marsh Lane Under Fives Playgroup on Main Road, said: “The playgroup is very important to the community.
“We have got a good relationship with the primary school and we do a lot of work with them.
“It is good for the community and for the children as it prepares them for going to school.”
Independent parish councillor for Marsh Lane, Andy Dye, who was elected in 2003, said that he has seen a number of changes for the village over the years.
He explained: “Marsh Lane is still such a strong community who look out for each other.
“The school continues to go from strength to strength. However, the nursery is an essential part of the community and needs more support.”
On public transport, Councillor Dye, said: “At the moment we are looking at a possibility of losing the 252 bus altogether which you can appreciate is not going down very well with residents not just from Marsh Lane but also Ridgeway and Eckington.”
And on the lack of a village shop, Councillor Dye, told me: “There is a lack of village shops and therefore a need. When I was going to Marsh Lane Primary School back in the late sixties there were seven village shops which included; Post Office, butchers; newsagents; groceries and even a fuel pump.”
Before my short visit comes to an end, I’m invited into the home of Philip Lowe, a 74-year-old former lorry driver who has lived on Main Road in the village all his life.
“It used to be a really busy village,” he said.
“It is a bit sad that everything has moved away - but you have got to move with the times.”