All clear for a busy year!
Following surgery to remove a bowel tumour in November 2021, this year began with some trepidation as I underwent a "sweep-up" course of chemotherapy to make sure I was clear of cancer. This wasn't much fun but I was feeling a lot better by the middle of the year and have since been given the all clear. With this year being a very special anniversary for Marple Memorial Park, I was pleased to be well enough to do all the things we had planned. Loosing a large part of your bowel can be a ongoing pain in the arse but it's much better than the alternative, so do get any symptoms checked!
A year topped and tailed with awards
I was honoured to join Kevin Murray, Phil Cooke and John Tyers as the recipient of a Stockport Mayoral Award in March. My nomination said "In recognition of his outstanding community spirit, exemplified, amongst other things, in his leadership of the Friends of Marple Memorial Park." It's encouraging to have your efforts recognised and it came at a great time to boost moral too.
Mark receives his award from the Mayor of Stockport in March 2022
At the time I said: "Although I was nominated for the award, I must share any accolades with my wife Gill, who is head gardener at Friends of the Park and my inspiration to keep going. The way the flowerbeds have improved since we adopted them in 2011 to stop the council grassing them over is down to her hard work and vision, plus our wonderful volunteers of course, some who've worked with us for as long as 18 years."
So it was great to make sure that Gill was there at the end of the year, when Friends of the Park received an Award from Fields in Trust via the Council for our park being voted one of the 14 most popular in the Northwest in the UK's Favourite Parks 2022 poll.
Friends of the Park receive UK's Favourite Parks Award in November 2022
Website Banner Adverts helping the Marple Community
For a few years I've expressed concerns that it may not be possible to maintain previous levels of support for local causes. Good progress has been made running down the business side of my activities and there has been a slow but steady decline in web site sponsorship too.
Despite these changes a record breaking £1,250 has been donated to local causes in 2022. Although this is actually the highest annual amount ever, it's unlikely to be repeatable. You will see further down the page that traffic to the web site is in decline and I do think it will be a growing challenge to sustain this going forward. But never say never, let's see what 2023 brings.
£1,250 donated to local causes by The Marple Website in 2022!
This has only been possible thanks to the web site's wonderful advertising sponsors. The majority of these brilliant local businesses have supported the site for many years and I've been delighted that most have continued to do so despite the ongoing hard times. The following longest supporting sponsors deserve special mention. Can your business support The Marple Website too?
Marple Stationery Supplies - Everything for the home, school and office
Call High Lane Garage for a polite, fast response on low mileage cars
Consulting Structural & Civil Engineers in Marple
Marple Drama - Drama Classes for Children and Young People in Marple
2022 contributions and donations...
This year a donation of £500 was made to Brabyns BMX Bike Track - a new community initiative to refurbish the existing track in Brabyns Park. £152 was donated to Marple Swimming Club boosting their own fund-raising success to £1,000; £100 was donated to the Marple Platinum Jubilee Party - helping put on a big party on Market Street and Derby Way in the summer; £170 was used to pay for the limited edition Dedication and Historical Pageant Booklet to help Friends of Marple Memorial Park commemorate the park's 100th anniversary - sales have so far raised £450 for the park. £50 was donated to the Marple Poppy Appeal; Marple Scouts Adventure Film Festival was sponsored again for £50; £128 was donated to Friends of the Park towards Outdoor Exercise Equipment and a donation of £100 was made to Marple Youth Project to help purchase sports equipment.
A very big thank you to The Marple Website's Sponsors for enabling this to continue!
Please consider becoming a Marple Website Sponsor
This level of community support can only be sustained in the future if local business support for the Marple Website continues. If you would like to help please look at becoming a Marple Website Sponsor and taking out a banner advert on the sites. It's currently great to be able to say:
An average of over £1,000 donated to local causes each year for the last 16 years!
How many other community web sites or Social Media platforms can say that!
The Marple Website's news and projects supported
The Marple Website always does its best to support local community groups and local projects in as many different ways as it can. Here are some of the highlights of 2022:
Helping Stationery Supplies create 2023 Marple Vintage Calendar
It's been a long time since The Marple Website Calendar was last produced but I was delighted to be able to help Sarah Laker at Marple Stationery Supplies to create her new 2023 charity calendar using vintage images from the Virtual History Tour of Marple. It was a pleasure to help out but the big bonus is we agreed Friends of Marple Memorial Park would be the beneficiary of £1 per calendar sold too. Sarah has been doing this for several years now, raising funds for New Horizons, Mellor Country House and Friends of the Park but this is the first vintage one and it seems to be going well. It's produced and printed by HB Printing too, so is a truly local product supporting the local community.
Marple Poppy Appeal 2022 raises £23,523
It's been brilliant to support the reinvigorated Marple Poppy Appeal Team since 2017 and to follow their success in thinking up fantastic new ideas to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal each year.
In 2022 the Team decided to repeat the Ride of Remembrance, which was such a success in 2021, and also added "Marple Pals" guided walks led by local expert Andy Cook. They also pushed their fund-raising since rebooting through the £100k barrier with considerable room to spare! From 2017 to 2022 the Marple Team has raised an astounding total of £118,406 for the Royal British Legion.
Marple's historic Iron Bridge still at at risk
It's been another year of disappointment, delay and frustration as far as the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park is concerned. There has been some progress in that remedial works have been defined and a contract awarded to repair cracks in the cast iron, and to blast-clean and repaint the bridge. This was belatedly due to commence in October - frankly not a great time to repaint anything - but works are now stalled until at least January due to scaffolding challenges.
Council engineers declined for many months to engage in any technical conversations about the bridge and when they did eventually agree, after the matter was raised at Marple Area Committee, there was a complete communication failure for several months by the council officer who was supposed to pass the details on. I hope those conversations can still take place when the works are underway to clarify what may have caused cracks to appear after 200 years without a problem.
The good news is that it has recently been possible to share a CGI film originally created by Take 27 Ltd back in 2007/8 in the Iron Bridge Restoration Project Diaries. It was too large to use online back in the day but sharing it now is a timely reminder of how the bridge should still look today!
100th Birthday of Marple Memorial Park!
As most visitors will know, The Marple Website has strong links with Friends of Marple Memorial Park and it's been great to be involved with and promote so many of their great projects in the park.
2022 had been in our minds for a while as the 100th anniversary since the park was dedicated to the community on 22nd July 1922. I'm grateful I was able to set health concerns to one side and achieve most of the things we'd been planning.
Pavilion Art Project Phase II
The idea of creating a large mural under the canopy of the former Bowling Pavilion first occurred to Friends of the Park way back in April 2018. At that time the 100th anniversary of the park's dedication wasn't on our radar and we never made the link.
Due to Covid we concentrated on the Pavilion Art Roundels Project first, which delayed deciding the theme for the artwork under the canopy until the approaching centenary came into focus. The concept crystallised sharply after discussing the amazing photographs taken during the park's dedication with Art Stop's Pete Kelly (above) - we simply had to use them and so glad we did!
Dedication and Historical Pageant Commemorative Booklet
While working with Pete on the artwork for the pavilion I was reminded that there was a programme covering the event in 1922 that lists many of the names of those who were in the pageant. I mentioned this to our volunteers and one of them suggested making a booklet that combined this with the photographs from the day. This was a wonderful idea that quickly grew legs and I was able to compile a booklet pretty quickly. A limited edition print run of 100 copies was funded by The Marple Website and printed by HB Printing. The booklet was sold for £5 a copy online and at various events and has so far raised £450 for Friends of Memorial Park with only 8 copies now remaining.
Park Centenary Family Treasure Hunt
Following a 2 year gap due to the pandemic Friends of the Park relaunched their Family Treasure Hunt to celebrate and commemorate 100 years since the park was dedicated to the community.
The event was a huge success, raising an amazing £4,000 for the park. For a full report on the day and details of all the fabulous businesses who sponsored and supported it, visit the 100th Birthday Family Treasure Hunt page on the Friends of the Park web site.
Marple School Gardens Project
Two local Primary Schools, All Saints' Marple and St. Mary's in Marple Bridge, helped Friends of Marple Memorial Park commemorate the park's centenary by each designing and building a school garden in the park to celebrate its importance to the community. It was great to work with volunteer Sarah Braide, who had the original idea and did all the coordination and liaison with the two schools.
The Marple School Gardens Project was funded by a Magic Little Grant from Local Giving and the People's Postcode Lottery, plus an award from Stockport Hydro's Environmental Challenge. We had great support from both schools and also from Cheshire Wildlife Trust. The gardens were displayed in the park all summer and were a big feature of the Family Treasure Hunt too.
Park Centenary Exhibition by Marple Local History Society
The History Society put on an exhibition with the theme '100 Years of Memorial Park at the Heart of our Community’ to help celebrate the park’s special centenary milestone. The exhibition opened exactly 100 years after the dedication of the park on 22 July 1922. The displays illustrated the role of the park in the community over the last 100 years and how much this has changed. Marple Library staff and the Brass Bands of Marple contributed to the exhibition displays too.
100th Birthday Picnic in the Park
The weather didn't play ball for the Brass Bands of Marple Picnic in the Park on Sunday 24 July but it didn't stop Marple and Hawk Green Bands putting on a great show in the Senior Citizens' Hall instead.
You can see more of the exhibition, the brass bands and the other activities and events described above in this brilliant short film put together by Friends of the Park volunteer Anne Frazer:
It's become a tradition to look back at the web site stats...
This version of the site was launched at Christmas 2017 and is now 5 years old, but the Marple Website has been around for much longer than that and celebrated 24 years online in October 2022. Visitor numbers are still far higher than 2017 and earlier but it's a concern that they have fallen steadily for two years since the high of 2020. Does this decline herald the start of the end?
2.0 Million visitors to the Marple Website
The vintage web counter shows traffic remains significantly higher since the site was relaunched in December 2017. Page views have decreased from 174,185 last year to 144,519 so far in 2022. Unique visits have fallen from 131,863 to 111,518 in the same period. The counter has been running since October 1998, when the original site was launched, and has just passed an incredible 2,000,560.
Note: figures shown include up to 22 December 2022 only.
Nearly 5.2 Million image views on the Marple Website Virtual Tour!
As I write, the counter on the Virtual History Tour of Marple has reached 5,191,942 image views and there are now 15,097 local photos shared. 414 images have been added in the last 12 months and the image views have increased by 142,708, which is nearly 100k less than last year.
The numbers suggest the Virtual Tour may also be in decline, and its has software challenges too, but the viewing figures are still substantial and more photos should be added in 2023.
Community Forum archived in 2022
There has certainly been a long-term decline in use of the Community Forum, which has succumbed to the dominance of main-stream social media and Facebook in particular. In October this year most of the boards and topics were archived and unused accounts are being purged. It's being used purely for events and announcements now but I suspect it may be gone this time next year.
Challenges in 2023
The platform that the Marple Website runs on requires migration to a new version next year. That will be a technical challenge, not least because the existing site template will no longer work and a new one will have to be created. An alternative to the the key component used for the Community Directory will need to be found too, along with several other lesser software issues to resolve.
Hopefully these issues can be overcome but are certainly one pain in the arse I could do without!
Much better news is that The Marple Website will be hosting the pages for Open Gardens in Marple once again in 2023, so watch this space for more news on that in the New Year.
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Mark Whittaker - The Marple Website
Thank you to Arthur Procter for this Christmas Card dedicated to Marple Website Visitors: