Copy deadline is 9 April for May 2021 printed editions.
Let local people know you are open and working. We will be delivering our May editions of The Pioneer Magazines and Great Barr Gazette to 42,000 homes. Our magazines are hand delivered free to local people in Walsall and the surrounding areas.
People read our magazines from cover to cover and keep them for an average of two months.
We were one of the very few publications that managed to print during the first phase of the current Coronavirus crisis. We are determined to deliver news and information to local people when they need it most, and to support our local business community.
See our Bounce Back leaflet below or follow this link to see where we deliver. You can advertise with us from as little as £25 plus VAT.
Aldridge based Knight & Doyle Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning has teamed up with St Giles Hospice to help fund its vital care services for local families.
Knight & Doyle are now corporate supporters of St Giles pledging to donate more than £2,500 to the hospice each year.
The business is also offering St Giles Hospice lottery players a 10% discount through the charity’s Promise Card scheme.
Knight & Doyle, which offers residential and commercial carpet cleaning services across Lichfield, Aldridge and Walsall has rebranded its vans to promote their support of St Giles and will feature its logo in marketing materials to further raise awareness of the hospice.
Rich Doyle, partner in Knight & Doyle, said: “We wanted to support a local charity and when we looked at St Giles Hospice and the work that it does, we knew we had found the right cause. When we heard about the support patients get in the community and bereavement services on offer to patients’ families, we realised that St Giles is not just a place where people go to die – it’s so much more than that. By helping a vital local charity like St Giles, we can give a little back to support local people.”
Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles, said “In a tough year which has been so hard for everyone, it’s absolutely wonderful to receive this support from Knight & Doyle, businesses and charities alike have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic so their generosity is particularly welcome and inspiring right now, and our message to all of our supporters is that we’ve never needed you more than we need you today.”
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is urging Great Barr residents to sign a petition which aims to protect local Green Belt and open spaces from being developed.
Mr Street, who leads the West Midlands Combined Authority, is campaigning to ensure that derelict and disused ‘brownfield’ sites are targeted for development before cherished Green Belt.
“We all understand that we need more houses, but I passionately believe we need to be careful where we allow them to be built,” he said.
“Meeting the needs of local people and families in Great Barr and the wider region is a major challenge, but progress is being made with record regional housebuilding and 784 being built in Sandwell last year.
“However, this should not be at the expense of our open spaces, and we are now seeing planning applications targeting the beauty spots that are so important to us. That’s why I am campaigning with local MP Nicola Richards to protect the Green Belt and promote ‘brownfield first’.”
Mr Street has championed the region’s “brownfield first” approach to housing and is making it happen, winning £350 million of Government funding to clean up derelict sites – funding topped up with another £84 million this Summer to keep up the pace.
He said: “The fact is there are enough of these old brownfield sites in Sandwell and the wider Black Country to ensure we don’t have to build on the Green Belt between now and 2031.
“I would urge local people to sign this petition, to add their voice to the campaign to protect our open spaces.”
Mr Street has also pressed to see 20% of new homes built as affordable and changed the definition of “affordable” locally to be linked to local pay – bringing new homes within reach of more people.
In Sandwell, Mr Street is working with Nicola Richards and fellow MPs Shaun Bailey and James Morris to promote ‘brownfield first’ – with regional funding to enable 750 homes to be built on the former Friar Park sewage works and also to bring housing into town centres like West Bromwich – reducing the pressure on prized green spaces.
Church services may be subject to change in line with national and local restrictions, so you will need to contact individual churches before attending in order to book your space. Many of our churches were unable to provide details before we went to press.
Aldridge Methodist Church
Anchor Rd, Aldridge WS9 8PT
Christmas Day 10.30am: Christmas Day service
Our carol service will be via Zoom and we are exploring the possibility of a Christingle service.
Please call or check our facebook page for updated details.
Tynings Lane Church
Tynings Lane, Aldridge WS9 0AS
Sat 19th Dec 4-8pm: Church is open to drop in for a carol and prayer experience (no need to book, spend as much or as little time as you like).
Sun 20th Dec 4pm: All Age Christmas experience. Come dressed up and explore Christmas as a family.
Christmas Eve 6pm: Christingle on Zoom. Get in touch for your Christingle in a bag and a zoom invite to join in Christingle wherever you are.
Christmas Eve 9:30pm: Midnight in Bethlehem. A communion service.
Christmas Eve 11:30pm: Midnight Communion
Christmas Day 9:30am: Christmas morning Communion for all ages
The Calvary Pentecostal Church
Brickiln Street, Brownhills, WS8 6AU
Christmas Day, Communion Service 11am-12noon
Sunday 27th December, Communion Service, 10.30am
Clayhanger Methodist Church
Clayhanger Lane, Clayhanger WS8 7DS
Sunday Services have recommenced fortnightly at 4pm.
1st & 3rd Sundays in the month
Contact for details of Christmas services.
Pelsall Evangelical Church
Old Town Lane, Pelsall WS3 4NJ
Sun 13th Dec 6pm: Carol Services
Sun 20th Dec 6pm: Carol Service
Christmas Day 10am: Christmas Morning Family Service
Sun 20th Dec Carol Service: A pre-recorded version available to view online via our Facebook page
Christmas Eve 6pm: A pre-recorded children’s Christmas bedtime story which will go online via our Facebook page
Christmas Eve 10pm & 11.30pm: Midnight Mass services
Christmas Day 10am: Holy Communion service
Please note that due to COVID-19 restrictions on numbers, places will need to be booked at these services by ringing the church office on 0121 357 8941 or emailing email@example.com and social distancing must be observed, face coverings worn and sanitising guidelines followed.
St Matthew’s Church
Aldridge Road/Birdbrook Road, Perry Beeches, B44 8RA
For these services you will need to ‘book a pew’ by phoning the office on 0121 360 6964
Sun 20th Dec 6pm: Carol Service
Christmas Eve 6pm: Crib Service for all ages
11.30pm: Midnight Mass
You can join in our phone-in worship now and over the Christmas period. All you need is your phone, and it’s a free number from most phones (if in doubt check with your provider.) Every Tue. and Thur. at 8pm, and Sundays at 10.30am. Just phone 0333 011 0616, and then when asked enter the code 1499 488#. For regular updates please visit www.stmatthewsperrybeeches.org.uk
Beacon Evangelical Church
Sandwell Road, Handsworth, B21 8NH
Our Christmas services should be available online on our YouTube channel, Beacon Evangelical Church Handsworth:
Sun 20th Dec 11am: live streaming of our Christmas Family Outreach Service (Those who wish to attend in person should contact the church in advance to access our booking system).
Christmas Day service will premiere at 10.30am on YouTube.
Perry Hall Methodist Church
Rocky Lane, Perry Barr, B42 1QF
At the time of writing we are unsure how we will celebrate Christmas this year, but we will be celebrating! If you would like to join us, please look at the latest information on our website https://www.perryhallmethodist.org.uk/
Nestled at the foot of Barr Beacon is a place that could be described as Aldridge’s ‘best kept secret’ – but it is a hidden treasure that more and more people are discovering.
Beacon Farm, off Beacon Road, has been in the Lilwall family for generations, rearing cattle, breeding pigs and growing produce for local people. Peter Lilwall first took over the farm 35 years ago, after his uncle passed away.
“The buildings were derelict, but Peter spent three months living in a caravan on the site, repairing and rebuilding the place and getting it up and running,” says his wife, Pauline.
“We’ve spent the last 22 years extending and improving the farm to create what it is now.”
The result is a thriving working farm that also supports a number of businesses on the site, selling everything from restored furniture to bicycles – but it’s the farm’s own butcher’s shop that has developed a following of loyal customers who are willing to travel miles to buy quality, farm-reared meat.
“We rear cattle on the farm and breed pigs too – all fed on grain that we mill ourselves – which means that the meat we sell in our butcher’s shop is incredibly high quality,” Pauline said.
“Most of our trade comes from word-of-mouth, and people keep coming back once they have tried our produce.”
The butcher’s shop sells meat products, black pudding, bacon, pork pies, fresh eggs and pork to die for.
The farm also has a popular grocery business, selling vegetables grown on the site alongside fresh produce brought in daily from wholesalers.
The COVID pandemic has had a positive effect on the farm’s trade, bringing new interest in quality food.
“During lockdown our trade in the butcher’s shop trebled,” Pauline said, “and now we find we have retained a lot of those new people.
“I think a lot of people didn’t want to queue in supermarkets to buy their food and, if you compare our meat to what you might buy in a large supermarket it really is superior. So I think the lockdown changed people’s shopping habits in a good way.”
Those changing habits have also introduced a new kind of customer to the delights of Beacon Farm.
“We have always had a lot of older customers – some have been coming here or 20 years – but we are now seeing a lot more younger people coming here too,” Pauline said.
“Young people these days care so much about what they eat, and I think they can see that the food we sell here is high quality.”
Throughout the pandemic, the farm has stuck to all the strict guidelines laid down by the Government, following hygiene rules, restricting the numbers of people in the shops at any time and practising social distancing.
All of this has been carefully overseen by staff who pride themselves on friendly, welcoming and homely customer service.
“People have been very understanding,” Pauline said, “they have been amazingly supportive.”
Perhaps the most unusual thing about Beacon Farm is its location – a slice of rural life right on the doorstep of the urban West Midlands.
The couple’s two sons live in Sutton, while their daughter lives in Little Aston.
“I think we get the best of both worlds living here,” Pauline said. “If I look out of any of our windows, the view is trees and countryside, but at the same time we are just a short drive away from Aldridge, Walsall, Sutton and Birmingham.
“I suppose that’s why people are often so surprised when they first discover us. We quite often get a new customer who says: ‘you know, I’ve lived around here all my life, and I had no idea this farm was here!’”
Thanks to the quality food they produce and the recommendations of loyal customers, it seems more and more people are discovering the secret of Beacon Farm.
Aldridge based Knight & Doyle Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning have helped two local community organisations with free carpet cleaning at the Stan Ball Centre in Bloxwich and donating a fogging machine and solutions to Pelsall Community Centre.
Both organisations were working very hard to re-open their services whilst making their premises Covid safe. Pelsall Councillor Garry Perry told us these activities have been given the name ‘reset opportunities’ because organisations have to reset their offer to service users. He explained that the key issue surrounding re-opening is one of confidence. Not confidence in organisations but giving people the confidence that they are coming into a Covid secure environment. This has put cleanliness and hygiene at the forefront of welcoming people back.
The Stan Ball Centre contacted Knight & Doyle for a quote to clean the carpets in the daycare room for the elderly. They had already received some quotes so were amazed when Knight & Doyle said they would do this for free! They cleaned a 60sqm room and also donated bottles of sanitiser. Chief Executive Eleanor said, “They arrived as planned, worked hard and we are really pleased with the results, our carpets look like new.” She continued “We are a charity and really appreciate when companies share our vision of supporting the local community and help us out along the way.”
The Stan Ball Centre is run by the local charity Bloxwich Community Partnership and provides adult care and support for adults of all ages.
When Knight & Doyle director, Rich Doyle, saw his local community centre were fundraising for a fogging machine, the business stepped up. They contacted Keir Pedley, Chair of the centre and not only donated the fogging machine, but also donated the solutions needed to run the machine and trained centre volunteers and cleaners on how to use it.
The fogging machine will be used to sanitise smaller meeting rooms between uses, and can be used by centre staff, volunteers and people hiring the rooms. This will allow for deep yet timely cleansing of the rooms so more people can use them. Pelsall Community Centre is used by a diverse range of people from youth and disabled groups to charities and the Townswomen’s Guild for all kinds of activities and sports.
Garry Perry said “Throughout the Covid pandemic I’ve seen countless local acts of kindness from both individuals and businesses. This is just one example of a business providing help to a local volunteer led organisation to add value to reset opportunities as we all learn to live with Covid. Without people like Knight & Doyle Pelsall Community Centre would be dipping into charitable funds. The rising stars of Covid are people doing things not for their own personal gain but to support local organisations.”
Knight & Doyle’s Rich Doyle said, “We are just pleased that we’ve been able to help out two centres in our local area that do so much for local people. Since the start of the Covid situation we’ve also sanitised the cars of NHS workers free of charge and this is something we continue to offer, as our time allows.”
A seven-year-old Streetly girl has donated her hair to a charity that makes wigs for youngsters with cancer – and raised more than £1200 in the process.
Kimran Bhathal decided to get her hair cut after growing it long during lockdown earlier this year – and when a schoolfriend told her she had donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust, Kimran was keen to do the same.
Her mum Neeta, aged 35, said: “She’d already asked me why some little children have to wear wigs and when I told her why she wanted to do something to help.
We found out from the Little Princess Trust that it costs about £550 for each wig to be made and Kimran asked if we could raise some money as well.
We set up a JustGiving page and expected just family and a few close friends to donate some money, but once I mentioned it on a parents’ WhatsApp group, she raised £557 in just two hours.”
Buoyed by her success, Kimran redoubled her efforts and set her targets at £1200, which would buy two wigs at the Little Princess Trust.
After posting the charity page link on to a Streetly neighbourhood Facebook page, the Blackwood Primary School pupil reached her fundraising goal in just two weeks.
Kimran donated an impressive 14 inches of hair when she had her hair cut at BU Salon in Solihull, which is owned by a friend of her mother.
“I’m so proud of what she has done,” said Neeta, who lives with her husband Suki and four-year-old son Kyran. “We’ve had people we don’t even know donating to the fundraiser, which is really touching, too. It just shows how kind children are and how a community can pull together to make a better place.”
Tackling lonliness locally is difficult in a normal year. The onset of winter, dark evenings and Christmas are when many people, especially the elderly, feel loneliness and isolation most acutely. Before the Covid pandemic research was already showing that loneliness and isolation was on the rise. Now as we enter another national lockdown the impact on the health and well-being of the elderly is incalculable.
Two of the main findings were firstly, there will be a predicted 49% increase in the number of over 50s suffering from loneliness by 2025/2026. Mostly because people are living longer. Secondly, the research found the risk of being ‘often lonely’ is much higher among people who are widowed, do not have someone to open up to, or are in poor health.
A couple of years ago Walsall Council held a meeting for local residents. The over-reliance on the internet as a source of information was identified as an issue. At The Pioneer and Great Barr Gazette we agree. If you are not on the internet or IT savvy, this can lead to feeling isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. Yes, we do have our website, but we are passionate about our printed community magazines. We know our magazines provide a life-line of information for many of the elderly residents of Aldridge, Walsall and across our area.
Covid-19 has made 2020 a horrible year. The cancellation of clubs and events. The day care services provided by organisations such as the Stan Ball Centre in Bloxwich, disrupted. Many of which have only just re-opened, has been a grave cause for concern. People, especially the elderly and those caring for others, rely on these activities for companionship and support.
Help Is At Hand
We believe it is our mission to inform and involve everyone of all ages, but especially the elderly, in what is going on in our local community. Throughout the Covid pandemic we have published articles on many local support groups. Such as Linking Lives Aldridge and Making Connections Walsall and how they have adapted to deliver their services either on the phone or in Covid-safe ways. We’ve also promoted community groups such as the Anvil Chorus in Great Barr and The Aldridge Shed to name but two.
The Community Support organisations in our local area have been outstanding in reaching out the vulnerable and elderly. Here are a few organisations you can contact for help. You can always phone us on 01922 660022 and we will signpost you to someone who can help you.
Linking Lives Aldridge – a befriending service offering friendship and support across Aldridge. Email Aldridge@linkinglives.uk or call 07307 865973
Making Connections Walsall – aiming to address loneliness and social isolation and other issues you may be facing. To discuss or make a referral ring 0121 380 6690
The Stan Ball Centre – a community centre for older and vulnerable adults operated by the local charity Bloxwich Community Partnership. Call 01922 403351
The Aldridge Shed – a UK initiative for people from all walks of life to come together to pursue their interests and hobbies. www.aldridgeshed.co.uk or contact Barrie on 07985 188256
If you are feeling lonely please do not suffer in silence, reach out to any of the organisations above and the many others in our area, some are listed on our Communities Directory. And to all local residents look out for each other and especially the elderly at this challenging time.