A WOMAN described as a “powerhouse” is stepping down as chair of a thriving community group.

Joan Sykes helped launch Scouthead and Austerlands Community Group six years ago and quickly established monthly meetings at Austerlands Cricket Club and regular coffee mornings at The Spinners at Woodbrook Road Springhead.

After organising lunches and trips for a growing membership three years ago, backed by her husband Paul and a dedicated committee, they launched a Fun Day which has become a big annual hit with locals at Dawson’s Field.

And the team have transformed local roadsides by planting 15,000 bulbs at key locations with flower tubs changed seasonally to underpin the community’s identity.

But Joan confesses: “Christmas causes me stress watching three of our brave members dressing our tree outside The Three Crowns pub.

“We’ve used battery operated lights which are not really suitable. But we’ve set up a fund to get electricity at the site and up to date have raised £800.

“And local businesses were very generous with their donations for our raffle on the Fun Day. Over the years Paul and I have made many new friends through this group but now is the time to stand back and let others carry on the good work.

“I would recommend all to get involve local volunteering,” she added.

Incoming chair Robert Knotts praised Joan saying: “Since its inaugural meeting she has worked tirelessly and organising events, arranging speakers, outings and visits, the annual Christmas dinner and the annual summer Fun Day.

“Under her charge tulips and daffodils have been planted in open spaces in both communities, Dawson’s Field has been transformed into a picnic and sitting out area, benches have been fitted in the two stone bus shelters in Austerlands and periodic litter collections have been organised.

“These are just some of the things achieved by Joan’s leadership. We offer a big thanks and wish her well.”

Joan and Andrea Jakeman, the group’s loyal treasurer who is also standing down, received presents from the group which, under Mr Knotts, will have Geoffrey Fielding as deputy chair and Eleanor Nuttall as new treasurer.