50 years without a hall – now Cocking has new lease of life
It had been 50 years since the old hall had been closed and villagers were sorely in need of a public meeting place.
A parish council-led project was masterminded by the then chairman Frances Russell and opened in April, 2010 by Lady Cowdray. It is now home to a wide range of activities, from the luncheon club to pilates and keep-fit.
The village hall committee themselves organise several community functions each year, including the annual camping weekend, fireworks and a children’s party.
David Imlach, who is a member of the committee as well as a parish councillor and a member of the parochial church council, said: “It’s been a great addition. It has enabled the luncheon club which moved from the rectory, to grow because there is far more car parking available and it has great facilities for villagers to use for their own parties and family events.”
The luncheon club, started by the church, recently celebrated its 12th anniversary and thanked Diana Griffiths, who has prepared all the meals over the years.
The new hall is not the only achievement for which the village has to thank Frances Russell.
She took a strong line over the new development at The Croft now taking place – to ensure the village got the best deal, and most villagers are delighted with the new homes taking shape.
The dilapidated old block of flats is making way for 18 new homes – six flats, 11 houses and a bungalow – which are due to be completed next June.
The parish council, it’s fair to say, has had a rocky 18 months which has led to several resignations.
But, said David, with a new chairman, Richard Marks who farms in Cocking, and the return of former clerk Gwen Miles, this time as a councillor, he believes it should be back on track.
The village shop and post office has been a good friend to villagers since the arrival of Paul and Linda Henshaw in 2008, not least because of the irresistible Cocking Crunch home-cooked by Linda which has put Cocking on the gastronomic map.
“I have to make it every day now, because it has become so popular,” said Linda. “And in the eight weeks leading up to Christmas, I make and sell 2,500 mince pies, which isn’t bad for a small village like this.”
“The shop and post office has been a tremendous success story,” said David, “Paul is so helpful, taking people’s provisions to them if they can’t get to the shop, and when it snows we get together and deliver people’s bread and papers if they can’t get out.”
At the other end of the village, the Moonlight Tearooms, a bed and breakfast business and the tearooms themselves, have been run by Steve and Sue Redshaw since 2007.
Across the road the Cowdray Estate refurbished The Malthouse in 2010 which is now home to the Redshaw family and where they have another three bed and breakfast rooms. And in between is the Milestone Garage. Founded by Bill Hauffe more than 65 years ago, it is still going strong.
Today the business is run by his son Michael, carrying on the family tradition with his sons Jonathan and Paul and daughter Suzanne. Across the road is the Bluebell, the bar, pub and restaurant with rooms.
The 11th-century parish church of St Catherine of Siena plays an important role in village life. Canon Colin Bradley has been priest in charge, also taking in Bepton and West Lavington for the past 11 years.
“We have a children’s service once a month with a congregation of about 50 every time.
“The church also runs the annual fete at the rectory, the luncheon club and a community car service to help those without transport,” said David.
“It’s a close-knit place with a lot of activity going on,” he added, “but there are still things to do.”
The parish council is in the process of revitalising the playground and is providing allotments at the bottom of the sports field.
In addition it is tackling speeding along the A286 which divides the village in half.