The Marple Website goes Silver!
It's difficult to believe I've been doing this for 25 years and even harder to believe how much things have changed, not least my youthful appearance! This year's annual review is led by the adaptation of an article entitled "The Marple Website Goes Silver" written by local journalist Anne Frazer and published in the Winter 2023 edition of the Marple Review Newspaper:
The go-to website for all things Marple, is celebrating its 25th anniversary
Mark Whittaker launched The Marple Website back in 1998, never imagining how big a part of his life it would become. It has blossomed from just a few simple pages into a vast community resource packed with information on the town’s past, present and future.
Among its many achievements it has led community campaigns, helped save heritage sites, amassed an immense local history archive and donated thousands of pounds to local charities.
It all began as a simple hobby for Mark when he was tempted to tinker with the free webspace offered with his first Compuserve email account. Promoting Marple presented itself as a project with lots of potential, so in he plunged.
An early contribution of quality content from retired printer Gordon Mills set things off to a flying start. In fact “Guided Walks Number 3 - Marple Locks & Brabyns Park,” remains the most popular page on the whole site. All six walks are there to view.
For a time, retired firefighter Peter Clarke was also heavily involved. His input included research for an extensive pub guide and he created the original “Virtual Tour” of Marple. Since 2010, with support from Marple Local History Society, this has grown to a huge archive of over 15,000 images. Many are historical but others are by contemporary local photographers, notably David Brindley and Arthur Procter. Marple has been recorded for posterity!
A mixture of past and present
Preserving our heritage and enhancing the present and future have always been central to the website’s aims. “We had an important victory when we spearheaded the campaign to save and restore the beautiful iron bridge in Brabyns Park,” Mark recalled. “The website was also instrumental in forming the Friends of Marple Memorial Park whose subsequent successes over the last 20 years have included the new skatepark and many other projects of all shapes and sizes.”
Mark knows the value of online presence for groups and businesses and that not everyone has the know-how to create it. That’s why he provides so many community groups with space on The Marple Website. Some of these, including Marple Carnival, Marple Local History Society and Mellor Archaeological Trust, grew so much that he created independent websites for them.
Mark also provided these website services for several businesses on a commercial basis. Proceeds from these and from sponsorship have enabled The Marple Website to make donations of £17,000 to local charities over the last 17 years. It is this ability to help out in the community that Mark has found the most rewarding.
But what does the future hold?
Mark is uncertain but remains positive.
“I had cancer two years ago and I can’t do quite as much these days,” he said. “I’ve wound down the ‘business websites’ work to focus on my community interests. This will inevitably impact the charity donation side of things - unless I can encourage more sponsors to come on board.
“Social media has pretty much replaced the Community Forum area of the site and that is mostly archived. On the other hand, it's currently used in collaboration with the Marple Community Hub Facebook Group as a Community Calendar and is increasingly popular. Unlike scattered social posts, it is a rolling diary of the wide range of events always in the same place and always being updated.
“So long as The Marple Website continues contributing to the great community spirit in our town, I’m happy doing it. Collaborations on things like Marple Area Committee and Community Toilets, along with support given to the Poppy Appeal, Romiley & Marple Lions and both Mellor and Marple Open Gardens, all show there are still ways for the website to remain relevant in this modern age!”
Thank you to Anne Frazer and The Marple Review Newspaper!
Website Banner Adverts helping the Marple Community
£17,000 donated to local causes over the last 17 years!
The website's income has dropped off sigificantly, as explained above, but thanks to last year's record-breaking total the annual average remains at £1,000. That can't be sustained without a pickup in sponsorship but never say never, let's see what 2024 brings.
£750 donated to local causes in 2023:
This has only been possible thanks to the web site's wonderful advertising sponsors. Several sponsors didn't renew this year but thankfully the majority of the brilliant local businesses who've supported the site for many years are still doing so, despite ongoing hard times. The following longest supporting sponsors deserve special mention. Can your business support The Marple Website too?
2023 contributions and donations...
Marple Dementia Drop-In was supported with a donation of £125 towards the great work that they do and the brilliant Marple Scouts Adventure Film Festival was sponsored for £100. Donations of £100 each were also made to New Horizons, Marple Youth Project, Marple Fest's appeal for Festoon Lighting on Market Street and Derby Way and, last but not least, to Oliver's Army to help his family build a Lasting Legacy to a Beautiful Boy. Additionally, donations of £50 were made to Plastic Free Marple towards sustainable festival cups and to students shooting a short film called Heavy Head in Marple. 2023 contributions to local causes were rounded off with a donation of £25 to support Mr. Chips after the fire there earlier in the year, bringing that running total to £17,000 in 17 years.
Please consider becoming a sponsor
This level of community support can only be sustained if local business support for the Marple Website grows. If you would like to help please look at becoming a Marple Website Sponsor and taking out a banner advert on the sites. It's currently great to be able to say that an average of £1,000 has been donated to local causes each year for the last 17 years.
How many other community web sites or Social Media platforms can say that!
News and projects supported during the last 12 months
The Marple Website always does its best to support local community groups and local projects in as many different ways as it can.
Here are some of the highlights of 2023:
Brabyns Iron Bridge gets a fresh coat of paint at last!
It was an unbelievably long time in coming but after raising the issue of flaking paint on the bridge with the council in 2020, followed by more than 2 years of industrial strength nagging, the bridge finally got the topcoat of fresh paint it deserved in April 2023.
More importantly, cracks in the cast iron identified in the 2021 inspection were successfully repaired. There is yet more work to be done next year to repair the effects of scouring, which has removed at least one large masonry block from one of the stone abutments.
It's been 22 years since the campaign to restore Marple's unique Iron Bridge began, and 16 years since it was successfully completed. It's likely that someone else will need to take up the baton to protect it in another 15 to 20 years. If anyone does decide to do that, you'll get a head start from the material on this web site and documentation now stored in Marple Local History Society Archives.
Open Gardens in Marple 2023 for Cancer Research UK
£16,352 raised for CRUK by Open Gardens in Marple 2023
Congratulations to the organising committee, garden owners and everyone else involved in Open Gardens in Marple 2023 for raising the amazing sum of £16,352 for Cancer Research UK. That makes a running total of £29,352 over the two events to date in 2018 and 2023.
The Marple Website was pleased to support the organisation and promotion of Open Gardens in Marple 2023 online.
Marple Community Toilet Scheme
Thanks to the kindness of our amazing local business owners, and the coordination skills of the Marple Vision Team, the "Marple Community Toilet Scheme" was launched in August 2023. The scheme means that the businesses listed here have given you permission to use their toilet facilities when they are open without the need to make a purchase.
The Marple Website was delighted to work with the Marple Community Hub Facebook Group to promote this and other initiatives.
Advice on cold calling from GMP and Trading Standards
Following a spate of cold calling in Marple during January and February 2023 that resulted in many people being significantly overcharged for work done, the Marple Community Hub Facebook Group Admins put in a lot of effort to get the right advice for the community from GMP and Trading Standards. The Marple Website was pleased to provide a page to share the results of their hard work.
2023 Marple Poppy Appeal raises £22,224!
Final update from the Marple Poppy Appeal Team
Once again the Marple Poppy Appeal Team achieved remarkable success by raising £22,223.96 with the 2023 Appeal. That's an incredible achievement in the current financial climate, so a huge congratulations to Kevin Murray and his dedicated support team.
It's been brilliant to support the reinvigorated Marple Poppy Appeal Team since 2017 and to follow their success in thinking up fantastic new ideas to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal each year.
Support for Marple Santa Dash new route in 2023
Another organisation The Marple Website loves to support is the Romiley and Marple Lions and their annual Santa Dash. This year they needed a little extra help and guidance after changing their route to start and finish in Marple Memorial Park.
Below the certifcate is what lead organiser Terry Harding had to say about the help provided.
Many thanks for helping to "save" the Marple Santa Dash!
Without your invaluable and much appreciated help and guidance, I think we could have run into serious trouble with our new route.
Firstly, you highlighted the fact that we had not applied for permission to use the park and then Jonathan Headlam very kindly guided me through the application procedure and recommended that approval be given for the event to go ahead. The words teamwork, friendship and communication immediately spring to mind. We are greatly indebted to you both. In addition, you have again provided some wonderful publicity and helped to raise our profile in the community. Against all the odds on a freezing cold day, the Santa Dash was a great success. 136 people registered and "dashed" round a considerably shortened route, before returning to the Scout Hut for a very welcome warm drink and a mince pie. The Varivocals Choir also braved the elements and treated us to some lovely festive musical entertainment. The ATC were on hand to assist with marshalling the route. As usual, there was a Sara Lee Fitness session to prepare everyone for the Dash and Sarah (Coffee Bean Dream) kindly provided the coffee making facilities.
Once again, teamwork, friendship and communication. A great community event. I shall give you a further update when we have completed our Christmas activities. I wish you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.
Friends of Marple Memorial Park
As regular visitors will know, The Marple Website has strong links with Friends of Marple Memorial Park - still going strong 20 years after their formation - and it's great to be involved with and promote so many of the group's activities and projects in the park.
Volunteer Team of the Year
In 2023 volunteers again spent over 1,000 hours maintaining and improving the park and were pleased to have those ongoing efforts acknowledged with the presentation of a Proud of Marple Award in March this year.
The citation was as follows:
- Friends of Marple Memorial Park were instrumental last year in making the park’s centenary year a spectacular success.
- They received a 2022 "Favourite Park in the Northwest" Award from Fields in Trust and the skate park they worked so hard to extend and refurbish was listed as one of the Top 15 in England.
- Last year they raised almost £15,000 of funding for park projects too!
- Friends of the Park commissioned artwork on the former bowling pavilion using photographs from 1922.
- They also worked with a local resident to erect two School Gardens near to the library with All Saints' and St. Mary's Primary Schools.
- The 100th Birthday Family Treasure Hunt raised almost £4,000 for outdoor exercise equipment.
- Other events included the Brass Bands of Marple playing a Concert in the Park.
- Among many other accomplishments they funded Skatepark Art Workshops with Marple Youth Project, relocated the canal frogs Rose and Bud and contributed over 1,000 hours of volunteer labour.
- Quite a year – would you not agree?
This year was another productive one for park projects, with a Skatepark Art Project led by Helen Middleton Studio being completed, a new sign at the Skatepark explaining its history being added and Basketball Court Hoops changed so that nets can be fitted.
Volunteers also created new Allotment Beds, refurbished the Stocks, played a key role in the design and construction of a new COVID-19 Flagpole and Memorial and our Outdoor Exercise Equipment Project is nearing completion, albeit with a great deal of frustation over installation cock-ups, outstanding snagging issues and unmerited final payment demands from Stockport Council thrown into the mix too.
It's become a tradition to look back at the web site stats...
This version of the site was launched at Christmas 2017 and is now 6 years old, but the Marple Website has been around for much longer than that and celebrated 25 years online in October 2023. Visitor numbers are still far higher than 2017 and earlier but have fallen since peaking in 2020. Last year I wondered if this heralded the start of the end but the 2023 figures offer some encouragement.
2.15 Million visitors to the Marple Website
Page views of 147,982 so far in 2023 look on track to match last year's figure of 149,849. The counter has been running since October 1998, when the original site was launched, and has just passed an incredible 2,153,928.
Note: figures shown include up to 21 December 2023 only.
5.34 Million image views on the Marple Website Virtual Tour!
As I write, the counter on the Virtual History Tour of Marple has reached 5,340,648 image views and there are 15,149 local photos shared. Few photos have been added in the last 12 months but the image views have increased by 148,706, which is slightly higher than last year. I now have Ann Hearle's postcard collection back on my desk and look forward to finding those we don't have online already.
Challenges in 2024
The 2023 technical challenge was to migrate the platform that the web site runs on to the latest version and this has consumed countless hours but is substantially complete. Work to migrate the Community Directory is underway too but remains an ongoing challenge because every page has to be manually recreated and checked. So it looks like keeping me busy for a good while yet!
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Mark Whittaker - The Marple Website
Thank you to Arthur Procter for this Christmas Card dedicated to Marple Website Visitors: