Group is forced to close

NBENSCHLM110414B1 - Anne Kettlewell, centre, retires from Heage Methodist church playgroup
NBENSCHLM110414B1 - Anne Kettlewell, centre, retires from Heage Methodist church playgroup
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A HEAGE playgroup has been forced to close down because there are just not enough young children left in the village.

But founder Anne Kettlewell, 64, from Tenter Lane, in the village, said the timing was right.

After 38 years running the popular playgroup at Heage Methodist Church five days a week, she is retiring shortly before her 65th birthday. She said soaring insurance costs and having just one new child registered to join in September would have meant the playgroup would have had to close down in July any way.

Anne said: “With just one intake from school in September we thought that Heage has probably finished expanding now. There aren’t as many little ones as there were.

“There was a lady from Belper that went on running a playgroup until she was 70 and I thought there’s no way I am going to be doing that.”

Anne began the playgroup, which caters for ten children on week days, in January 1973 when the village was in a period of growth, she said.

The recent shortage of young children has meant a colleague would not have been able to take it over from her on Anne’s retirement.

On April 14, the group shut its doors to the public for the last time with a surprise party held for Anne.

“There was nothing like that in Heage,” she said. “The nearest were Belper and Ripley.

“The parents said, ‘can we start something over this way’ as I was already running a playgroup in Belper at the time. There was a need for it then.”

Mother-of-two and grandmother-of-four Anne ran the playgroup for so long, some of the early toddlers she looked after are now grandparents themselves.

Friend and colleague Tracey Anable, 36, from Oak Tree Close, in Swanwick, said: “I have been there for nearly two years now. She is so lovely and she could not do enough for me or the kids.

“She gave me some great advice and support over the years.”

Youngsters will now have opt to go to other groups in surrounding areas.