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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Moor Row: It’s not the ninth, it’s number one!

Driving into Moor Row on a Tuesday afternoon, the first thing that strikes you is how quiet it is.

Lindsey Jolly photo
Lindsey Jolly

There’s not a soul around on the main street, which is lined with modest terraced houses and small, manicured front gardens. A Union Jack flag rises from one while “for sale” boards have been erected in others. Signs of both proud residents and those planning their escape?

It’s the people that make a place, of course, and I manage to track some down in the busy bakery on Scalegill Road.

Su Ellen’s is family-run; father John Sharpe, sisters Sue Shilton and Helen Davison, and Sue’s daughters Stacey and Shelley were all born and bred here, and have never seen a reason to leave.

“It’s always been a friendly little village. We used to know everyone, my dad was a farmer and we delivered milk to everybody. We all went to the same school – it’s a good, safe school,” says Sue.

“It’s always been a good village, if it hadn’t been I would have moved!” smiles John. “But we’ve never known any other. It’s our home, our roots are here.”

The village has seen big changes over the years. Its mines once produced 250,000 tons a year and employed about 1,000 people, and Moor Row was west Cumbria’s most important junction and goods yard before motorways replaced the railways.

It’s now best known for being on the Coast to Coast walking and cycle route, and the largest employers are Sellafield and Westlakes Science and Technology Park.

New housing has been built – there are now around 400 homes – but the local post office and grocery store have long gone.

“I knew this place when there were eight shops,” says John. “The supermarkets have done away with them but that’s the same everywhere.”

In fact, there wasn’t a single shop in Moor Row until Sue and Helen opened their bakery in May.

Bread and pies are the bestseller but they also stock milk, newspapers and groceries, and a steady stream of schoolchildren call in for pick‘n’mix sweets.

That their village has made the top 10 has been a talking point all week.

“We were doing school dinners but I always wanted to have my own shop,” says Sue.

“We didn’t know everyone who’s moved into the newer housing but that’s changing, we’re getting to know them.

“The thing I’ve enjoyed most about it is meeting Coast to Coast walkers. People from all over the world pass through our little village, from San Francisco, Tasmania, Australia, Florida... everywhere. I love listening to them, about where they are going and where they have been.”

Elsewhere Moor Row gets the seal of approval. Pat Graves has lived here for 54 years. “The village has a fantastic community spirit. Everyone is friendly and it was a great place to bring up my children. There was always plenty going on,’’ she says.

She says the village remains a friendly place to live with different generations taking care of each other.

“When my husband, Lawrence, fell two young men who are our neighbours came around to see if they could help. It is all about treating each other well.’’

Pat ran Moor Row’s sub post office for 10 years until 1978. She is now treasurer of the Moor Row Jubilee Club.

“We have 60 members at the club and offer lunches, trips, bingo and talks,’’ she adds. “We like to keep an eye on each other.’’

Crime and vandalism are low, and the Phoenix Youth Project has been running a youth club for 18 months in the village’s Emmanuel Church.

Paul Rowe is the project’s youth development officer. He says: “We have more volunteers that support our youth work delivery than our other two youth centres. We have around a dozen alone in Moor Row who are very dedicated.

“Without this community support the youth club would not be open and this highlights the real sense of community that exists in the village.’’

At the school gates at Moor Row Primary, parents say they greeted the news with a mixture of surprise and glee. Lindsey Jolly is mum to Ben, seven, and six-year-old Beth, and a governor at the school.

“We were delighted to make the top 10, I think it’s to do to with the fact the locals are all so friendly and there’s a community spirit. We have a great little school, well-supported by parents, with good staff and a hard-working and popular head-teacher.’’

Rachael Law is mum to Jackson, nine, Millie, four, and four-year-old Elliot. “I was surprised but then why shouldn’t it be rated highly? It’s on the Coast to Coast route, near the cycle path, near the sea and the Lake District hills and close to Sellafield.

“There’s not big groups of kids knocking about drinking beer. We feel safe here. It’s a nice little community.”

Jackson can reel off a long list of what he likes about Moor Row. “It’s good here because whenever you need something it’s in the bakery. And when walkers are tired they can stop in the cafe for a cup of coffee.

“The cycle path is close, we play football and there’s a youth club and you can collect stars after tasks and once you collect enough you get to go on a trip to places like Blackpool.”

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