New sports and recreational facilities were opened in Upper Wensleydale on Saturday at a fun day held by Hawes United Football Club.
Retired British Army Lieutenant Colonel John Walker MBE cut a blue ribbon to open the Johnny Walker Laithe in memory of his father, a former Hawes United striker.
The barn conversion will serve as a pavilion on Hawes Community Fields, eight acres of playing fields and amenity grounds near the town centre.
Men’s football teams from Swaledale and Askrigg competed with five Hawes teams in a five-a-side tournament to mark the opening of a facility which includes mains water and power, toilets, community rooms and storage.
Hawes Juniors players also held a tournament, with the day’s outstanding player award going to Ewan Ward.
In addition to Johnny Walker Laithe, a ‘match hatch’ kitchen facility in a converted small stone shed was unveiled.
The community also saw for the first time how one of the fields has been enlarged to make it big enough for a full-size pitch.
Everyone who supported the improving facilities project was thanked by the chairman of the charity which runs Hawes Community Fields.
In a speech, Upper Wensleydale Sports and Recreational Association chairman Gordon Sleightholm recalled a chance meeting in 2018 with Mr Walker when putting out a wheelie bin.
During that meeting Mr Walker pledged to donate £50,000 towards a pavilion on Hawes Community Fields.
Mr Sleightholm said: “The £50,00 John donated was a wonderful start to our fundraising. It was a great idea to name the laithe after his father who was a renowned Hawes United footballer and the town’s fish and chip provider.”
Richmondshire District Council chairman Cllr Lorraine Hodgson attended the opening event along with health and community engagement officer Jo-Anne Scott.
The council awarded £50,000 to the project through its community investment fund award.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which granted £6,000, was represented by member champion for cultural heritage Derek Twine.
Hawes United Juniors Football Club, which donated £5,000, was represented by chair Nick Prince.
Cllr Lorraine Hodgson said: “I was delighted to attend the official opening of the Johnny Walker Laithe on Hawes Community Fields – a huge thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this happen.
“The improvements will benefit hugely all who use the fields now and in the future.”
Derek Twine, who was representing the national park authority’s sustainable development fund, said: ““The National Park Authority was delighted to offer support for the project which combined conservation and modern use of an iconic laithe with sustainable volunteer community engagement. Bravo to the vision and delivery from all involved.”
Hawes United Juniors Football Club chair Nick Prince said the new facilities were a great addition and would benefit the more than 40 junior players on the club’s books who attended training and played in league matches at Hawes Community Fields.
Refreshments served during the fun day from the new ‘match hatch’ kitchen facility raised in the region of £2,000 and there was also a fundraising raffle with local businesses providing prizes.
As well as the football, Alison Wade organised welly whanging, egg throwing and tug of war alongside her DJing.
Hawes United FC manager Kevin Hulley thanked everyone for putting on the fun day and thanked people from Askrigg and Swaledale for their support.
He congratulated the winners of the tournament and handed Hawes United’s 2021/22 Wensleydale League Players’ Player award to Jordan Iveson.