A VOLUNTEER who devised a novel idea to save one of the town’s libraries will be remembered after a community orchard was planted in his memory.

Dad-of-two John Ashby, who died from cancer in September 2016 aged 69, was instrumental in securing the future of Grappenhall Library, on Albert Road, which marks its sixth anniversary this month.

An orchard has been planted at the library in his honour after he spent countless hours fighting to save the community hub.

His wife Jan, who was married to John for 47 years, said: “It all started when Warrington Borough Council decided to close the library in March 2011.

“There was a small group of us who wanted to save it. It was John’s initiative to try to keep it open.

“We went to various meeting with the borough council and parish council and we put in an asset transfer bid and we were successful. We were given permission to open a lending library.

“We inherited an empty room apart from the shelves. We had to build it from the ground up.”

John, a former lawyer, set up the library as a charitable company.

The group relies on donations and fundraisers to keep it open.

“We had two big public meetings that were well attended,” said Jan.

“Initially there was a group of 40 volunteers and they were involved in the planning and gathering of lots of books donated by the community.

“We had to store them in our house and garage and the church down the road provided us with some space.”

The library opened with 3,000 books but now has around 8,000 pieces of literature with more than 1,500 people using the facility.

“It’s been wonderful but it’s not just a library,” said Jan, who is a retired librarian. 

“We now have community coffee mornings, reading groups and children’s story time. It has grown organically.”

Jan now hopes John’s love of reading will be his lasting legacy as the couple spent many hours reading to their growing family with six grandchildren. 

“He has always loved books,” said Jan.

“That’s why we have both always been keen to promote reading from an early age.”

If you would like to help as a volunteer call 268077.