Just about on the road coming down from the ‘heeds into Sinderhope, the High Forest Community Centre has become rather a busy hall over the past few years.
Rescued from its near-derelict state by a combination of significant and timely grants, initiated by Fawside, and spearheaded by Anne Grieve (the Parish Clerk throughout the grantsmanship exercises) and chairman Robert Philipson, with administrative assistance throughout from Fawside, the old schoolhouse now boasts a working fireplace at its gable end to supplement the ground-source heating it derives from buried pipes in the parking lot. Naturally the toilets are in fine shape now too.
It’s the venue today for a friendly ChristmasTable-Top Sale, which will bring a few more shekels into the centre’s coffers, but at only a fiver per table, not that many, perhaps. Never mind, it’s the small but regular events that keep the hall alive, and since the heating bill is so dramatically reduced, its financial resources can grow with consistency. And this year, as in previous years, so many individual charities are supported as well.
Long ago, the hall up at East Allenheads Estates was generally available to the public of the High Forest, but that time has long since passed away so that you have to be beyond a certain age to remember. Catch most locals though, and they will suck their teeth and comment on the private pool-house and spa that now occupies that space. Without a village hall over the whole High Forest patch, the community felt adrift, so renovation of the premises at Sinderhope promised to create the community facility that was so needed.
The old school was originally divided into two rooms, each with a separate entrance. I so well remember my first schoolhouse, back in southern Ontario, with its Boys entrance on one side, Girls on the other, just like Sinderhope School. So the renovation, to create a large room capable of seating about 50, with room at the front for a choir of 30 (the Dale Singers usually hold their summer concert there, these days), was more than felicitous. Additionally, the open kitchen at the rear is well appointed for small catered events. Though the annual, and complimentary, Christmas dinner for the elderly residents of the patch is probably not that small! We’ve been invited, but hadn’t felt quite so elderly yet as to be able to accept. Soon, no doubt.
Additionally, the hall hosts a weekly Art Class, a Circle Dance session, as well as Bingo evenings. I’m sure the ping pong (err, table tennis) tables are brought out regularly too. I’ve been to several art gallery shows there, some samples of which have even found a way into our home. Since its renovation, a variety of intimate music evenings have featured at the community centre too. The Allen Valleys Wildlife Group makes it a point to hold some of their monthly talks at Sinderhope too.
Outside, in the old school playground, Natural Ability has a small polytunnel, and a variety of stone walling courses have been laid on beside the community centre over the years. Just at the entrance to the parking lot, a fibre optic hub/cabinet has been installed. I’ve never been able to figure out what looks like a signpost there was meant to be for (I’d thought the site might also have been prepared for an Electric Vehicle charging point, but apparently not). So diversification has contributed, in a variety of ways, to enhancement of the life of the renovated centre. It’s taken over as a polling place for the patch too!
We’ll probably stop off at the centre later this morning to admire all the lovely table top displays, to get some Christmas gift ideas, and even to capture a photo or two of all the activity. The parking lot will probably be quite full, so I’ll drop Carrie off (being careful not to block the traffic coming down the hill — drop-offs straight from the road at the entrance can elicit some gnashing of teeth by irate motorists, though the traffic is very light indeed) before a couple of errands in Allendale, and return promptly for a quick foray myself.
The High Forest Community Centre is a special place, much valued by the community it supports.