Atherington is shortlisted in ITV Westcountry’s People’s Millions competition

A TINY North Devon village is in line to win a massive cash prize to help it complete a community playing field project that has been 40 years in the making.

Atherington Children’s Playing Field Committee is one of only eight South West community groups shortlisted to win up to £50,000 of Big Lottery funding as part of this year’s People’s Millions competition.

The committee’s Pavilion Project will go head to head with Sedgemoor’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau on ITV Westcountry on Tuesday night (November 23) and villagers are calling on North Devon folk to support them by phoning in their votes.

“There are only around 500 people in the village and it’s a real achievement for us to have got this far; we really hope viewers will get behind us next Tuesday and vote for our project,” said committee member Jenny Boyce.

“The telephone number will be published on the People’s Millions website on Tuesday and will be broadcast on the 6pm regional news that day. People can vote up to ten times between 9am and 12midnight and calls cost just 10p from a BT landline.

“We’re the smallest finalist in this year’s competition – and the only one in North Devon – but if we win, it’ll be a real boost for our village.”

The committee has applied to the fund for £26,000, which would be used to equip, furnish and decorate the brand new pavilion the community is currently building on the village playing field.

The money would pay for the toilets, central heating, flooring and kitchen, as well as indoor games equipment, tables and chairs.

It is hoped the finished building will provide a welcoming indoor area for young and old and will become a regular venue for coffee mornings, the village youth club, playgroup and mother and toddler group, as well as the WI and short mat bowls club.

The project is the latest chapter in a remarkable story that began in 1970 with the widening of the B3227 at the expense of a children’s play area.

Villagers sought a new area for their children to play, and in 1971, a local benefactor bought a suitable plot of land and sold it back to the parish council at a reduced rate.

A playing field committee was formed and various play equipment was bought and improvements made over the years.

In 2005, the Gazette reported how villagers joined forces to shift thousands of tonnes of earth to level the football pitch and clear the way for a multi-sports hard court. In 2008, the committee replaced some of the original play equipment, while in 2009, planning permission was granted for the new pavilion.

Committee chairman Maureen Beauchamp said local builders, farmers, architects, accountants and an ever-willing labour force of children and adults from the village had helped turn a former farmer’s field into the fantastic village resource it is today.

“Every single bit of the project had been done by volunteers from the village,” she said.

“There is no village hall in Atherington and the church hall was condemned for use three years ago,” she said.

“When you lose something like that it is very hard to get it back and when the pavilion project is completed we will have achieved our ultimate goal of putting the heart back into Atherington.”

>> Vote for us! <<

The telephone number will be published on the People’s Millions website on Tuesday (November 23) and will be broadcast on the 6pm regional news that day. People can vote up to ten times between 9am and 12midnight and calls cost just 10p from a BT landline