History of the Grounds
In 1977 a group of residents formed a committee to arrange a celebration for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. There was no public open space in Little Aston and even the school did not have a playing field. Arthur Rushton of Home Farm, Forge Lane agreed to hold the event on his land. The committee did not have any funds and it was just hoped that the event would break even. A wonderful event took place with children in fancy dress being transported from the Blake Street crossroads to the venue by flatback lorry where a parade was held and winners chosen. Children’s sports were held along with many stalls. In the evening a Barn Dance was held in the barn at the farm. At the end of the day a profit had been made and several local donations were made. The committee decided to keep some of the profit in a bank account to try and repeat the event the next year – although several doubters thought it would not be successful without the catalyst of the Silver Jubilee. Needless to say it was again a huge success and the Annual Village Fete was born.
The organising committee decided to form a Community Association.
The first task they undertook was to try and get a playing field for the local school. They found out that Staffordshire Education Authority had, several years earlier, bought land for a playing field but had no funds to fence it. The Community Association discovered that £1,500 was needed for the fencing and set about raising this by many different events. Shenstone Parish Council gave £750 and the Community Association raised the rest. It was agreed with the Education Authority that the playing field would be available for community use out of school hours and a legal agreement was signed. For the next few years the Village Fete was held on this site.
Below you can see the development on the grounds over the years.
In 1981Lichfield District Council published their Southern Area District Plan which stated that Little Aston had no public open space and that, per capita of population, we should have 11.5acres. Immediately a steering committee was formed and public meetings were held to decide where it would be best to site such open space. The original site (of 3.8.acres), adjacent to the school, was chosen and Shenstone Parish Council agreed to buy the land. The owners, Peacocks Stores of Cardiff, would not sell but Lichfield District Council agreed to take out a Compulsory Purchase Order. As soon as this was announced the owners agreed to negotiate and the land was purchased. Shenstone Parish Council fenced off the land and set up a management committee – L.A.R.G.A. – who then set about raising funds to get the land seeded. The site was never level . As money was raised several pieces of play equipment were installed, trees were planted and a trim trail was installed. The big event was the installation of the aerial slide (this piece of equipment stood in the extended ground for a good few years before being replaced). The Village Fete was now held for many years on this site.
The original piece of the Recreation ground was open to the public in 1991 although it was officially opened on 15th May 1993 at the Village Fete. The Village Bonfire and fireworks took place there in November 1993.
In 1994 a Lichfield District Plan identified a continuing shortfall of public open space in Little Aston. A consultation process for an extension was undertaken by Lichfield District Council. No objections were received and so the go ahead was given for Shenstone Parish Council to start negotiations to purchase the land that adjoined the existing recreation ground and went through to Little Aston Lane.
Peacocks owned the land that was needed to extend and they would not sell. Eventually they agreed to lease the site but only for five years. This was not viable as grant funders would only donate with at least a 25 year lease. Shenstone Parish Council negotiated for 4 years and eventually in October 2005 a 30 year lease was agreed.
L.A.R.G.A. realised that an 8 acre site needed expert landscape planning and so employed Groundwork, Birmingham. 3 plans were drawn up by their landscape architect and a public consultation was held at Little Aston School on 13th October 2005. There were many objections from local residents to any extension. From the consultation a final plan was agreed and went on show to the public. Lichfield District Council gave planning consent on 2nd May 2006.
The Parish Council fenced the area. L.A.R.G.A. set about raising funds to do the work with many hours of form filling being done by committee members. Eventually £300,000 was promised and on 17th September 2007 work commenced. The whole site was closed for ten months.
In November 2007 the Rangers in Sutton Park cut down an area of heathers for us to transplant onto the field. Schoolchildren from Little Aston School, along with their teacher, committee members and volunteers, spent a day bagging up over 100 bags of heather brashings. These were stored at Home Farm until the ground was ready. In December the same group spent another day spreading the heathers. It took a few years to see that they had actually taken. This is now the Wildlife Area.
In June 2008 Playdale installed the play equipment and on 26th July 2008 the Recreation Ground was opened to the public although the main grassed area was fenced off, for a while, until the grass had become firmly established. The Official Opening was performed by the local Member of Parliament (Christopher Pincher) on 12th June 2010 at the Village Fete. A Sponsor Day was held in October 2009 when all who had contributed were given a tour of the ground and then a buffet lunch in the Church Room where they were officially thanked for their support.
In February 2010 South Staffordshire Water needed to upgrade a sewer pipe which ran under the drive and part of the car park. The car park had to be closed but it was possible to keep the field open to the public.
The drive and car park were in a bad state of repair and the committee managed to raise funds to have them properly resurfaced and footpaths installed at a cost of over £50,000.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration was organised by a group of local residents and was held on the Recreation Ground in June 2012. The evening event was a ‘Party in the Park’. This was an extremely popular occasion and has been repeated annually (Little Astonbury!). This is now organised by a sub-committee of L.A.R.G.A. consisting of some L.A.R.G.A. committee members and supporters who wish to contribute to the upkeep of the Recreation Ground. The money raised has promoted many projects e.g. play equipment, storage containers, water supply etc.
In January 2012 Peacocks Stores went into administration and the leased piece of land came up for sale. Shenstone Parish Council purchased this.
In January 2013 as Shenstone Parish Council now owned the whole of the land it was possible for them to register it as a ‘Field in Trust’. This means that the site will be held in perpetuity as an open space for recreational purposes. In December 2015 L.A.R.G.A. was given an award as ‘Most improved Fields in Trust site’.
L.A.R.G.A. introduced a ‘Gift a Tree’ scheme and now have a wonderful group of volunteer gardeners. A paid groundsman also works two day a week. The trees, shrubs and flowers planted now give colour all the year round and receive many favourable comments. Shenstone Parish Council pay for the grass cutting and of emptying of the litterbins. Apart from this L.A.R.G.A. are their appointed management committee and they have full control of the maintenance and development of the site.
Compiled by Jean Wilson M.B.E. March 2016