Community focus: Aston and Swallownest

Stop HS2 banners outside Parklands Equestrian Centre.
Stop HS2 banners outside Parklands Equestrian Centre.
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The strength of a community can often be measured by how those who live there pull together in times of need.

When heavy snow left Aston pretty much cut off from the rest of South Yorkshire in 2010, the village's problems worsened when a tree fell onto and blocked Worksop Road - the main route in and out.

The welcome to Aston sign on Worksop Road.

The welcome to Aston sign on Worksop Road.

It completely blocked access to the M1 and A57 and meant emergency services, including firefighters at Aston Park station, couldn't use the road.

But, such is the strength of community in Aston, those living on Worksop Road donned their woolly hats, braved the freezing temperatures and almost as quick as the tree fell, they moved it off the road.

Jenny Shimwell, of Worksop Road, recalled: "Everybody came out and helped each other out and moved the tree.

"That's the sort of people they are around here. If there is an issue, everyone comes together."

Richard Sampson, of Parklands Equestrian Centre.

Richard Sampson, of Parklands Equestrian Centre.

But Aston, and more importantly those living there, now have a much bigger fight on their hands.

And it's one that really well test their togetherness and strength.

The village was left shocked when the re-think on the route of the high-speed rail link HS2 meant it would plough straight through Aston.

The Sheffield city centre route, which is now the preferred option, meant businesses, homes and those who own and live in them would be affected.

Under current proposals, the line would come into the village on a viaduct near Aston Bypass and cross through Aston Hall Cricket Club, Parklands Equestrian Centre and across Worksop Road.

Ms Shimwell, who helped set up the Stop HS2 Aston campaign group, said it would be 'devastating' for the village, as well as in neighbouring Aughton, Ulley and Swallownest, which all come together under the parish of Aston-cum-Aughton.

She said: "I honestly think there are people in the village who don't realise what the impact is going to be.

"I think people in Swallownest just think: 'thank goodness it's not me'.

" I have had a lot of people say it's not going to affect them but is because where is all the extra traffic going to go?"

As you approach the village from the M1, placards mark the spot where the line will cross as well as 'Stop HS2' banners on the entrance to Parklands.

Ms Shimwell claimed she'd been told by HS2 officials Worksop Road would become a dead-end if HS2 was built.

Richard Sampson runs Parklands with his dad Sammy.

The family business, which hosted the Special Olympics last year, is located between Sammy's house and that of dad-of-one Richard, who has spent thousands renovating it.

Both homes and the 41-year-old business would be bulldozed under HS2's proposals

Richard said: "The first we heard about HS2 was when campaigners visited us to tell us we were on the new route.

"We were only sent an official letter from HS2 Ltd three days later.

"We had a meeting with HS2 which was a complete waste of time. Every question we asked them - they had an answer which gave no information."

The business employs around 20 people and includes a riding school and an indoor arena that allows it to operate throughout the year.

He said HS2 told them that because the route decision was yet to be finalised, there was a limit on what information could be provided.

Richard, 30, added: "We pretty much speak about it every day and that's because everyone wants to know what's happening but we don't know because HS2 don't know.

"They say they can't give us any more information because it hasn't had royal approval yet but everyone talks about it all the time and the problem we're getting is people are now coming in and saying: 'You're shutting aren't you?' which is really damaging.

"We need people to come in and support us. We are busy so I'm not saying it's had a big effect at the minute but we don't want the word going round that we're shutting because we're not - we're just carrying on as usual."

Coun Lyndsay Pitchley, Aston-cum-Aughton Parish Council chairperson, has lived in the village all her life and said the council would act as its 'voice' on HS2.

"We've had a lot of discussions about HS2 and there is obviously the campaign group so we are trying our best to make the most out of a bad situation," she said.

"We don't it, we have said that but if we are going to have it we need to make the best out of it. We have asked for a cricket club if the other one goes.

"When I grew up in the village we used to spend loads of time there. It's a lovely cricket club providing great facilities for the community. The land was actually left to the parish for commuinity use."

Drive down Worksop Road into Swallownest and there is already something new on the landscape.

Swallownest Football Club are currently enjoying their first season as a semi-professional set-up having had floodlights installed at the Miners' Welfare ground.

They currently sit mid-table in the Northern Counties East Football League Division One.

Glenn Watts, co-chairman, said: "This area has been deprived of this standard of football and we have had some good crowds this season.

"We have got more involved with the community too and Aston Juniors too and next season we'll have our own women's team."

Aston also hit the headlines in 2007 when flash flooding forced people to evacuate from their homes.

The world's media descended on Ulley Reservoir, which was only prevented from overflowing by the heroic efforts of the emergency services.

Aston - and its neighbouring villages of Ulley, Aughton and Swallownest - certainly know how to stand together but its unity could well be tested to the limit over the next few years.

Answering claims that Worksop Road could become a dead-end to make way for HS2, a spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd said: "We are at the very early stages of design for the route as it crosses the Worksop Road in Aston.

"Impacts to road users and the local community will be assessed as part of the Environmental impact Assessment (EIA).

"A working draft of the EIA will be subjected to formal consultation in the autumn, responses to which play a crucial part in our design decisions.

“We are working closely with Aston Parish Council and local residents’ groups, and are committed to continuing that engagement to identify appropriate solutions to further reduce impacts."