Lydiate Abbey/St. Catherine’s Chapel

www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9zESWl5C1c

Have a look at this You Tube video of one of Merseyside’s historic sites.

St Catherine’s Chapel or Lydiate Abbey. It was built c. 1500 for the private worship of the Ireland family, who held the Lydiate Lordship 1410—1673. Its use as a private chapel probably ceased c. 1550, following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. A small cemetery remained in use until the latter 19th century.
The Chapel is a ruin, and is situated on Southport Road adjacent to the Scotch Piper Inn. It is a Grade 2* Listed Building.
In recent years, outdoor performances of plays have been held each summer in the grounds and Lydiate’s Civic Day is also held on the site each year.
The grounds are maintained by Lydiate Parish Council.

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Free Schools – A great idea but they do need qualified teachers!

Free schools are a very Liberal idea; no one should have a monopoly in providing education, including the state and local authorities, but it should always be of a high standard.

We Lib Dems welcomed the opening of Hawthorne’s Free (High) School in Bootle because it offers a real opportunity to turn around the increasing numbers of families who are sending their youngsters out of Bootle each day to high schools in Maghull and Crosby. We wish the School well, whilst realising they have taken on a monumental task which by and large Labour has ignored and certainly hope will go away as soon as possible.

But what about the fuss over the free school in Derby which has hit the buffers due to Ofsted saying it is failing in every way? Of course that is unacceptable, of course it has to shape up or be closed down. Yet Tories oppose seemingly any form of regulation of Free Schools, I assume this is on the basis that market forces will decide whether it sinks or swims. This is falsehood though because whilst a school fails its children are being let down and they don’t have another childhood to make up for one that an education system has failed.

It is because of such concerns that Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg has called for changes and some necessary regulation. For my part I can’t see how a school can work effectively without qualified teachers and whilst I am not sold on the rigid (tractor factory) National Curriculum there does have to be a clear standard for education wherever it is delivered.

Personally, I would not have the Government fund Free Schools that are set up for religious purposes. But then again I don’t think it is the job of the state to teach religion at all. Surely, taking on board a religion should be a decision of the individual not something predetermined by a decision of your family?

But back to Free Schools, they are a good thing and can be a force for change and excellence in education but they can’t just take money from the Government and pretty much do with as they wish! The Derby experience should not be a call to close all Free Schools as some in the Labour Party seem to think it. Then again where do Labour stand on Free Schools? Utterly opposed? Well they used to be. Supporting them? Well that was their surprising recent announcement pre-Derby. Moving back to opposing them? Well their utterances post-Derby would lead you to think they are doing another U turn!

The objective is quality education and Free Schools can deliver that but regulation of them must be brought in so to stop a minority of them damaging the education of our young people. I wonder what Labour’s policy on them will be next week?

Another Visit to Kennet Prison

I have posted about Melling’s Prison that is tucked away to the side of Ashworth Hospital a number of times before and I am a fan of what they are trying to achieve.

By the way there is no connection between Ashworth Hospital and Kennet Prison, they just happen to sit next to each other.

The Prison is now predominately Category D i.e. the lowest level of offenders and the majority of them are reaching the end of the sentences and will be released in due course.

What the Prison is trying to do is to find useful work for the offenders so that when they are released there is far less chance of them re-offending. Maghull in Bloom has been working with the Prison to find horticultural work for the offenders to do and some excellent results have flowed from this initiative.

Our most recent meeting was all about how the Prison can help the Canal & River Trust maintain and manage the Leeds Liverpool Canal through the East Parishes part of Sefton and, as an extension of such thinking, whether it can also assist the environmental charity Sustrans in maintaining the Cheshire Lines Long Distance Footpath.

The idea is to enable offenders to gain skills and qualifications before they are released by doing useful things for local communities. There are presently only two other prisons in England working in this way and they are in Kent and the North East.

The Police, Sefton Council Officers, a couple of us local councillors (Steve Kermode and I), The Canal and River Trust and of course Kennet Prison were all in attendance and a useful meeting it was too. I hope that more projects will flow from this kind of partnership.

Retail Stress – Bootle Strand is at the sharp end!

We often hear of the stress that high street retail is going through because of out of town supermarkets/retail parks, the recession and on-line buying but here in Sefton we really do have an example of what happens when all these things (plus the advent of Liverpool One?) happen together.

The Strand is really suffering and a walk around it shows just how many empty units there are; I would guess it must be above 35% now. In February the national average for retail vacancies was just over 14% and back then Bootle was being recorded as being at over 25%.

The Strand was a 1960’s build shopping Centre some 4 miles or so north of Liverpool City Centre and it was enlarged and refurbished in the 1980’s if I recall correctly. But the last few years have not been kind to it and I hear that even WH Smith is about to pull out as its lease comes to an end.

The rear of the shopping centre has empty unit after empty unit and I have thought back to comments made by the now retired Planning Director of Sefton Council when he warned that the expansion of retail parks in Aintree, the rebuilding of Kirkby shopping centre and the advent of Liverpool One may have detrimental effects on Bootle’s Strand. It seems he could well have been right and we have also had a recession and a big take up of internet shopping since then.

I took the three shots below in the shopping centre recently. One shows units around the once busy but now closed T J Hughes Department Store, whilst the other two show how innovative use of vacant shop windows is being taken up to advertise Bootle’s new Free School.

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What future Bootle Strand? As someone who works in Bootle and have done all my working life this is a sad situation and one from which I really do hope that shopping centre can recover from, but it is clearly going to be an uphill struggle.

Aintree Village Parish Council – It seems that relations with the Labour-run Borough Council are not what what they were under the previous Lib Dem-led Council

I was interested to pick up such concerns that Aintree Village Parish Council seem to have because what it illustrates, in my opinion, is that the now Labour-led Borough Council does not have the same level of commitment to keeping the Parish Council updated and included in matters that the previously Lib Dem-led Borough Council had.

When I represented Molyneux ward with 2 fellow Lib Dem colleagues our aim was to try to keep Melling and Aintree Village Parish Councils in the loop about things affecting their Parishes which crossed our desks/came to our attention. We did that as we always wanted to know how the Parish Council felt about things and whenever possible we would take the views from the Parish Council as being the community view because Parish Councillors are closest to the residents of their Parish. This was a natural thing to do for us Lib Dems because we know that Parish Councils are the bedrock of effective local democracy.

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Things started to go wrong, certainly in Aintree Village, when the ruling Labour Group on Sefton Council voted to close Aintree Library. It’s taken the Parish Council to come up with a plan to try to save the library despite the actions of Sefton’s Labour Council! No wonder things are a little strained and the Labour Borough is getting reminded to keep the Parish Council informed over community matters.

Religious teaching row

The Church of England has recently criticised the government over limited resources being devoted to training religious education teachers, branding it as a scandal that is affecting “an essential part” of every child’s studies. The criticism comes as a Ofsted report finds that more than half of all schools have been failing pupils in their religious education, a subject which the watchdog claims is increasingly important “in an ever more globalised and multicultural 21st century” because of the way it promotes respect and empathy. Ofsted added that children are leaving school with a “very limited understanding” of Christianity.

I picked this up from a Local Government Information Unit briefing and it made me think about my religious education at school. To be honest I can’t really recall any of it at all! What I knew about religions on leaving school I had picked up from my C of E church going (St Andrews – Maghull & St Helens – Sefton Village) and things I had read myself. On that basis the criticism above goes back around 40 years and probably more! Evan as an atheist I can see the value of youngsters gaining some insight into major world religions as what you may call ‘useful information for life’.

By now you will have realised that I walked away from religion, many years ago I would add, but I guess that I did so not because of what I did or did not learn about it all at school but because of my own reading and discussion with friends.

The big test for our society is not what religion we follow (or not) but how tolerant we are of those with differing views and beliefs, how we embrace the diversity of differing views and whether as free thinking individuals we close to take up a religion or not. Other than providing useful information about the value systems of various major religions I see no other need for this to be a part of a youngster’s education; it certainly was not a part of mine but maybe religious readers of this posting would say that contributed towards me becoming an atheist. Now there’s a thought……….