Gallery: The judges will decide if Great Barton is worthy of the Village of the Year title this Saturday
PUBLISHED: 14:09 08 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:12 08 August 2013
An active village community is hoping to scoop the title of Suffolk Village of the Year.
Facts about Great Barton
The population of the village is just over 2,000.
Great Barton won the Village Hall of the Year competition run by Suffolk ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) in 2007.
The village won a Creating the Greenest County Award in 2011 for community, building, energy and water.
The energy cost for the village hall is less than £500 a year.
Barton Hall, on the Bunbury estate, burnt down in 1914.
On Saturday, judges Lesley Dolphin and Rob Dunger from BBC Radio Suffolk will be visiting Great Barton, as well as the other finalists, Brantham and Wickham Market.
Focusing on community spirit, general appearance of the village and activities, the judges will make their decision on the winner.
Recognisable by the round house along the main road, Great Barton boasts more than 30 different community groups, an environmentally-friendly village hall which is the “focal point of the community” and other amenities such as a post office, pub – the Bunbury Arms – and primary school.
Mick Brabrook, Great Barton co-ordinator for the Village of the Year competition, described the enormous contribution many in Great Barton make to village life.
He said: “It is a special place to live, and it’s special because of the people who live in it.
“There’s a significant number of people to actually lead the community and organise things and they have got the time and expertise and energy to do it. And that provides the cohesion; the glue to stick it all together.
“Some people feel empowered to just go ahead and do it for the benefit of the community.”
Peter Turner, project manager for the works at the village hall, said £470,000 had been spent on improvements to the hall to date.
The cost of the works – including renewable energy schemes – has been met through fundraising and grants.
And the community feel it was money well-spent, with Mr Turner claiming that the village hall “brings people together”.
“If you go back 10 years the number of activities here was a handful and now there are regular groups that use the village hall. The problem we have got is accommodating people. The only complaint is ‘we cannot book your hall’.”
With an older population than average in Great Barton, the luncheon club at the village hall is a popular event.
Taking place about once a month, it gives older people – some of whom may not get out that often – the chance to socialise. And parish councillor Kate Trevitt, who helps run the group, said it was thanks to many volunteers, from cooks to waitresses, that the much-valued lunches went ahead.
Mr Turner said the whole village “functions on volunteering”.
He said: “If we had to pay people to run the village hall we would just about break even. We don’t have a caretaker – we are all volunteers. And that applies to all the groups.”
Peter Brindley gives up his time to help run the village’s computer club, which arranges workshops, with those in their 30s up to their 90s taking advantage of the classes, but there is also a social scene among members.
Computer club member Pauline Haxforth, who has lived in Great Barton for nine years, described how welcome she had been made to feel in the village. “Really, I couldn’t have chosen by chance a better village to make you immediately feel like home.”
The village – with its wide-range of offers including churches, a playing field, amateur dramatic club, Scouts group, pre-school, football teams and newsletter – even has a plan in the event of a major disaster.
There are 42 volunteer co-ordinators prepared to help in an emergency.
Villagers can be rest assured – Great Barton is prepared for almost anything.
The Suffolk Village of the Year contest is organised by the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC) and sponsored by the East Anglian Daily Times, the Suffolk Magazine and UK Power Networks.
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