Retired Army lieutenant colonel offers £50,000 towards Hawes pavilion

An artist's impression of the proposed pavilion.

A retired British Army Lieutenant Colonel has offered to give £50,000 to the Upper Wensleydale Sports and Recreation Association (UWSRA) charity, to help pay for the building of a pavilion on Hawes Community Fields.

John Walker MBE, who grew up in Hawes and regularly visits his hometown, is making the donation in honour of his late father, Johnny Walker, who ran Hawes Chippie in the 1950s.

The proposal to build a sports and recreation pavilion on Hawes Community Fields, along with associated outdoor facilities, emerged at an UWSRA public meeting – billed ‘What Next For The Community Fields?’ – held in July.

If the project goes ahead, the pavilion will be named in memory of Johnny Walker.

John Walker MBE said: “’Father John’, as my late wife Unni used to call him, adopted me when I was two years old.

“If it hadn’t been for my grandparents and him I could well have finished up in Australia along with thousands of other ‘war babies’.

“Father John was a firm but fair disciplinarian, then again he needed to be as I was a bit of a tearaway as a kid.

“Father John, like myself, did not have any particular claim to fame.

“But he did score more than a 100 goals for Hawes United in a season in the 1950s. I can’t think of a better way to thank him, and at the same time give back something to a place that holds many happy memories, than to make this donation.”

Hawes Community Fields – which lie to the north and east of the Dales Countryside Museum at town foot – are used by a variety of groups and organisations, including stalwarts of the Wensleydale League, Hawes United FC; the relatively newly reformed Hawes United Juniors FC, which has 57 children on its books; the Gala; Midsummer Bash; Bonfire; Cubs; Bike Club; Hawes Youth Club and Hawes Primary School.

However, facilities at the fields – which were bought after a huge community fundraising effort in the mid-1990s, and a significant Lottery grant, and placed for safekeeping in perpetuity in the ownership of the UWSRA charity – are currently minimal, with a barn with no electricity or water serving all the different groups.

Following the public meeting in the summer, the UWSRA set up a working committee to fully develop ideas for improving facilities at the fields.

The committee has ten members, who have been busy visiting pavilions down Dale to learn lessons and gathering all the views and ideas of the Hawes community.

The committee circulated a four-page leaflet, entitled A community pavilion for the community fields?, around the town in the autumn, with printing costs being paid by the Upper Wensleydale Newsletter and Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council.

A total of 21 local groups, representing hundreds of residents, responded with their ideas, as well as a further 27 individuals.

Local councillor John Blackie, who is one of the three trustees of the UWSRA charity, said:  “What a wonderfully public-spirited donation to be offered by John Walker, whom I know well, as I did Father John, who was a great stalwart for Hawes and a dedicated supporter of the local community here.”

He added: “On the back of John’s fabulous generosity the Hawes Community Fields can look forward with confidence to their next phase of development, with the pavilion and other facilities in our plans delivering a range of community, sport and recreational use opportunities in the future for us all to enjoy”.

Formal plans have yet to be drawn up for the pavilion, but indicative drawings have been submitted to the local planning authority.

In a pre-application planning advice report, the planning authority said it supported the proposals in principle.

This report, along with all the original responses to the ‘A community pavilion for the community fields?’ leaflets, is available for public inspection in Hawes Community Office.

The USWRA working committee is currently using all the responses to draw up an architect’s brief.

A total of £2,000 has so far been raised to pay for architect and planning fees.

This has come from Richmondshire District Council Upper Dales Area Partnership Grant (£935); the North Yorkshire County Council Upper Dales Locality Budget Funding (£480); Hawes & High Abbotside Parish Council (£300) and the UWSRA charity (£285).

An on-going programme of fundraising is being planned for 2019.

Background information, including minutes of UWSRA working committee meetings, can be found on the UWSRA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/uwsra/