Oxenhope lies in the heart of Bronte Country and is probably best known for its railway station where The Railway Children was filmed. The Methodist minister Rev David McAloon and the Vicar Rev Cat Thatcher both realised that, compared to nearby Howarth, Oxenhope didn’t have many places where folk could come together apart from the local pubs. The Methodist Church sits in the heart of the village opposite the local primary school and it was here that they decided to set up a weekly café for a couple of hours in the afternoon, in the hope that it would reach out to the mums and dads waiting at the school gate as well as locals of all ages. ‘We just opened the Church and waited to see what happened!’ said David. With seed money from the Arthur Rank Centre and the support of the village Coop who donated £10 of goods fortnightly they serve tea, coffee, biscuits, cake and ice creams in the summer, allowing the café to run on a ‘donations only if able and wish to’ basis.
Sam Mawer, a volunteer at the Café talked to me about its success, ‘Today for example, we had 24 adults and two toddlers attend with ages through to 90+. It included two people who had not attended before, one of whom has recently been bereaved. People volunteer to help serve, appear spontaneously with home baking and assist in setting up and tidying away all amongst the development of new friendship. Looking outward we have been able to donate a small but reasonable sum to three charities – agreed with the guests – which has brought added community spirit to the cafe.’
David and Cat describe the café as more than a place where folk can come and get tea and coffee, ‘it’s a safe environment where people can come and chat and know that they will find someone they can talk to. There are folk who come regularly and those who drop in once a month,’ said Cat. It is also a place that has been beneficial for their ministry, ‘people know that we will be here on a Wednesday afternoon and its provided a space and opportunity for folk to come and talk if they want to.’ Caroline a volunteer, summed up the feeling of the success of the café, ‘We didn’t realise we needed it, until we did it!’ she exclaimed.
In October 2019 the Cafe celebrated it’s first birthday and all ages gathered to celebrate the day! It was clear that the cafe is has made a difference to the lives of many people in Oxenhope.
The Keighley News covered the story of the birthday party!