VILLAGERS honoured a community stalwart whose tireless work has led to the opening of a new park.
John Dixon, 62, known as Beck – though not even he knows how his nickname originates – spearheaded a campaign over 16 years to convert derelict land into sports fields and a play area at Crookhall, a former mining village on the edge of Consett, County Durham.
Despite suffering a serious illness, Beck was present yesterday to see all his hard work come to fruition when he stood proudly alongside Durham County Councillor Bob Young who opened what is to be known officially as The Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Field.
But what Beck did not know was that a second plaque was then to be unveiled, proclaiming the area Beck’s Park in recognition of his hard work for the village in which he was born.
The plaque was the work of residents grateful for his efforts towards their community.
Coun Young paid tribute to Beck as a “true inspiration” who had cajoled county councillors and Groundwork Trust for funds in a bid to see his dream come true.
For the first time in decades Crookhall cricket club will be able to play fixtures in their home village – they currently play at nearby Leadgate – when the field is properly laid.
Coun Young and fellow ward member Coun Jane Brown donated £50,000 from their Neighbourhood budgets to kick-start the scheme which also includes two new football pitches, a multi-use games area, improved footpaths and upgraded seats and benches.
Other money from The Big Lottery Fund’s Community Spaces programme, Durham County Council’s Urban Rural Renaissance Initiative and the County Durham Environmental Trust, has brought the total to £120,000.
Grace Wallace, programme co-ordinator, Groundwork North East, said: “Local people now have a brilliant sports facility which will be protected for years to come. It is great to see and it has been a privilege to have supported members of The Crookhall Foundation, who are so passionate about their fields and have worked tirelessly to drive this project forward.”
Beck, who was also the driving force behind a successful campaign to conserve two old Crookhall Miners’ Banners and create a new one to march behind at the annual Durham Miners’ Gala, said: “Today is an immensely proud day for me. I had no idea about the plaque, it is a complete surprise.
“Crookhall is a wonderful, friendly community and its youngsters deserve a decent park.
“It will also be great to see the village cricket team back ‘home’ after so many years playing out of the village.”