A COMMUNITY’S iconic Remembrance Day service is facing cancellation because of the pandemic restrictions.

Hundreds of villagers traditionally make the annual pilgrimage up Saddleworth hillsides to the landmark memorial at Pots and Pans which overlooks the villages.

It is a ritual that has grown over the years when whole families trek across high moorlands to join a the poignant service with hymns accompanied by a brass band and the laying of wreaths.

But Rev Canon Sharon Jones, the Saddleworth team rector, said: “Our understanding is Pots and Pans is cancelled.

“Instead, I will be leading an act of remembrance at the war memorial in Uppermill for no more than 30 people on Sunday, November 8 and similarly on Wednesday, November 11, with both services commencing at 11am.”

The service on Remembrance Sunday will be live-streamed by Oldham Council to enable people witness the proceedings and pay their respects. But there are no plans to livestream from the smaller war memorials, including Austerlands, Dobcross and Waterhead.

Alison Clowes, vice chairman of the Royal British Legion Saddleworth Branch, said: “Although we cannot stop people from visiting the Pots and Pans memorial, we would strongly discourage them to avoid large numbers and reduce risk of incidents.

“We can only do our best to make sure we can still remember the fallen,” she added.

And there are new arrangements to mark the remembrance at Austerlands, home of Oldham’s first war memorial, which marks its 100th anniversary this year.

David Needham, the event organiser, said: “Sadly, we will not be holding a Remembrance Service at Austerlands this year because of the coronavirus 'rule of six' restrictions and because Oldham Council have advised us there must be only 'closed events' with no attendees.

"Unfortunately, because of the confined space around the monument and its close proximity to a very busy public highway, it makes it very difficult to manage the social distancing.

"It is disappointing because last year around 200 people paid tribute at the Austerlands War Memorial and this year marks the centenary of its unveiling, which took place on August 7, 1920.

“It is the oldest Great War memorial in Saddleworth (and Oldham) and the only one, to my knowledge, which was funded by public subscription.

"What we expect to see on the day, is a small socially distanced laying of wreathes by the usual organisations and the usual facilities will be available for the placing of commemorative poppy crosses by individuals.

“This will help keep the promise made at the 1920 unveiling… to keep the memory of the fallen, green and unfading, forever."

And across the community villagers are considering making and placing pictures of poppies in house windows, similar to the rainbow pictures supporting the NHS.

In Lees, there will be a small, short, closed service at 11am at the war memorial in the cemetery on Remembrance Sunday but no procession to ensure the events are in line with restrictions.

And the Parochial Church Council of Holy Trinity Dobcross Church has decided the Remembrance Sunday Service will be pre-recorded and then broadcast on Sunday, November 8 at 10:45am. There will not be a service in church on Remembrance Sunday this year.

Everyone is welcome to join in this service by visiting the Facebook page (@DobcrossChurch) or the website www.cofeinsaddleworth.co.uk.

And in Oldham a council spokesperson said: “Currently, all Remembrance Sunday services will operate as ‘closed events’ and will have no attendees. This is in line with the current Government guidance and ‘rule of six’.

“To ensure the public can participate and show their respect, we will be live-streaming a short service from each location via the Council’s social media channels.

“There will be no parade or brass bands etc at any Remembrance Sunday events.

“Each service must have a robust risk assessment and Covid-19 secure risk assessment in place and adhere to current Government advice.”

Saddleworty RBL’s Poppy Appeal is taking place in altered format with poppies being sent to Tesco’s Greenfield to purchase directly from the store between October 22 to November 11.

The churches across the villages will also have poppies and wooden crosses available and school packs will be sent to primary schools.

There is a limited number of 2020/VE day/ Manchester Bee pin badges available on a first come first served basis – please contact Alison: Saddleworth.ViceChairman@rbl.community