Reddish Vale Country Park
The question of the fate of the land had been quietly mentioned at Area Committee around November of 1987. At any mention of the Vale, Pat was on alert. He followed developments carefully for the six weeks leading up to January 1988. Christmas time and the bleak weather that usually follows is the prime time for hatching plots that are not in the interests of local people, and Pat knew this.
Pat made sure that Eileen Payne, the Stockport Express reporter who covered this area was ready to announce the news as soon as the plot thickened.
When the news broke in Febrary that Christopher Chope, then Secretary of State, had decreed that the land be sold at auction, it was time to mobilise the people of Reddish and Brinnington into the Save the Vale campaign.
They needed a well-known figure to help publicise the campaign and they hoped to have Brian Redhead because he had recently devoted a whole programme to the Tame Valley. However, the more flamboyant David Bellamy became the celebrity champion for local people.
By March the campaign was well under way.
So, 20 years ago in January 1988, the fate of the Vale was firmly weighted in favour of development. One councillor who loved The Vale made sure that all the people who would be affected knew what was going on and planned to give them the opportunity to oppose the Secretary of State.
Let us go back another 17yrs to 1973. The land within the Vale was then in private ownership and large developing companies had aquired it. The big idea for development that year was a Safari Park. Local people were appalled at this idea. They would no longer be able to roam the valley. One of the owners of the land was FPA Falcovant. They had bought about 115 acres. Conservationists were becoming alarmed at the threatened loss of open land. Again it was up to the people of the area to bring pressure to bear. In August 1974 a grand development plan was lodged at Stockport.
There were to be 500 houses, a Recreation and Leisure Complex with Restaurants and Squash courts, and parking for 750 cars on the site that is now the Butterfly Park and the Visitor Centre.
The next six months saw a massive public rallying to protect the Vale. Some of the groups involved were: Reddish Community Council, Longford Road Tenants Association, Reddish Road Tenants Association, and South Reddish Action Committee.
Everyone pulled together. There were numerous fund-raising events to fight the proposals. One was a fete on the field above Nicky's pond and behind the allotments. There were the usual stalls and a gypsy fortune-teller played by the mother of a local hairdresser.
A 3,000-signature petition was produced and planning permission was denied in April 1975.
In October 1975, the land was offered to Stockport Council by the developers. Stockport did not have the funds available and so Manchester GMC was approached. They bought it. It was still under their control in 1988 when the modest proposal came to develop the Vale piece by piece starting with the fields west of Mill Lane.
The future looked very bleak for local people. The Vale was under threat of being developed and the campaign seemed to have come to a standstill. It had been agreed that the auction of the fields (along Mill Lane facing the Nature Reserve) originally planned for the end of April would be delayed until a meeting requested by the council with Mr Chope (then Secretary of State, who had decreed that land should be sold for housing) had taken place.
Stockport Express 26 May 1988
The whole battle has now stalled because of Mr Chope's failure to reply to the Council's letter requesting a meeting. This was sent almost seven weeks ago on April 8. Another one, asking for a reply to the first one went off from Director of Administration Stuart Dobson's office two weeks ago but to no avail.
People did not give up. I am looking at a hand-written letter to the Murray family from David Bellamy, which was posted on 5th May 1998. It reads:
To the Murray family
I am already in contact with the organisers of the Campaign to save Reddish Vale.
Please let me know if there is any more I can do.
D J Bellamy
It was reported in the Express on 28th April
"David (Bellamy) would like to see all land transferred to Stockport Council to ensure it does not fall into the hands of developers."
In the meantime, there were floats in the carnival parades to publicise the struggle and a great deal of hard work.
Did it pay off?
Of course it did in the end.
Photographs of the campaign from the Stockport Express
Top right, carnival float, 8,5,88
Other photos from a duck race to publicise the campaign,15,5,88
After a struggle lasting almost a year, the final decision was made. The government would not press ahead with the plan to auction the land for housing. Local people, together with their councillors had used every means they could to keep the campaign active and the payoff finally came.
The colour photographs show the press coverage of the champagne celebration by the committee members at the ponds and at the picnic tables behind the Visitor Centre.
Councillor Pat Halliday is pouring the champagne with his wife Glynis.
Jean Murray, who donated the cost of the Rescue Boat, is standing dead centre. The only others I can name are Gladys and Alec Holehouse.
It is interesting to see how little the ponds have changed. We now have a safety rail at the duck-feeding area, and a safety rail on the footbridge over the overflow.
What is interesting to me is how many of the original committee are no longer with us but wealthy or not, on that day they were celebrating the communal legacy that was intended for future generations to enjoy.
Save The Vale
By Pat Ruaune
In March 1988, negotiations were taking place that could eventually have robbed us of our Vale but for the vigilance of one of North Reddish's councillors, Pat Halliday.
The Greater Manchester Council, who had control of the land, in particular the fields west of Mill Lane, was being dissolved and had formed a residuary body to dispose of the land.
Stockport Council were negotiating to take control of the land to keep the Vale intact but government had stepped in and declared that the land was to be put on the open market. Developers were keen to build houses in the Vale and there seemed to be little hope of stopping this from happening.
It's barely half a mile or so from busy dusty street,
To take a walk in Reddish Vale where town and country meet.
A quiet transition down Mill Lane, from traffic, rush, and noise,
To find beyond the railway bridge a wealth of nature's joys.
So easily accessible, so worth the effort made,
To find such peace and solitude beneath the willows shade,
Come walk the gently curving lane with fields on either side,
Betwixt the tangled hawthorn hedge where wild flowers hide.
A place of peace and quiet content where cattle graze the lea.
And birds above the paddocks rise where ponies canter free,
The slow meandering River Tame flows 'neath the reservoir,
Where bare foot children, net in hand, catch tiddlers by the jar.
Come, find a bench and sit for a while, forget your troubled day,
Take pleasure in this beauty spot to sit and think, or pray,
Think well of those who wander here in search of calm and peace,
Enjoin with them in praying that this place will never cease.
For bear in mind that overhead the hand of commerce hangs,
With those who'd see this land laid waste by trucks and builders gangs,
They see no beauty in God's gift, their eyes will only glow,
At how much money they will make with house row on row.
They care not for angler, the bullrush tall and rank,
They're only mindful of the money pouring in the bank,
Oh would some power make them see, through eyes so dimmed with greed,
There are less worthy places that would fill the housing need.
Stand fast all those who hold the Vale in fond and deep regard,
Stand fast and make your voices heard, we'll fight them long and hard,
It is our trust, defend the Vale, and never count the cost,
'Lest our descendants heritage for evermore be lost.
Sadly Tony, and a number of other people died on September 30th 1999 attempting to rescue swimmers in difficulties in Majorca.
A memorial stone to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Save The Vale Campaign has been placed near the Visitor Centre. The stone is the result of the joint effort by, The Tame Valley Defence Group, Stockport Parks And Recreation and the Tame Valley Area Committee.