AMID the gloom of day centres closing across Oxfordshire, one group of residents have put their foot down and simply said 'no'.

After being told their beloved Maple Tree Children's Centre was closing because of council cuts last year, residents in Wheatley refused to accept the news.

Instead, they formed their own registered charity, raised funds, and set up their own centre, in many ways identical to the council-funded service.

The Maple Tree mark 2 started offering services in July and has slowly built its offering up, but last month the founders finally held an official opening ceremony.

Among them was Anne Purse, who was formerly a member of the county council which was making controversial cuts to its children's centre budget.

Now she is chairwoman of the trustees at the new Maple Tree.

She said: "We are celebrating the fact that the centre is up and running and full of children.

"When you think that a year ago we were all very sad and the centre was closing down and now here we are a year later with two members of staff, nearly 100 families attending and something happening every day of the week and it’s still growing... it’s fantastic."

Also at the official opening was Zoe Patrick – current chairwoman of Oxfordshire County Council.

She commented: "I think it is inspirational to see people working so hard for their community, in particular when you think you are going to lose something as important as a children’s centre which is so valuable to children and families."

Speaking to the Maple Tree's managers she said: "I think you can be a flagship for other centres.’

The charity is specifically registered to offer early education activities for children 0-5 years.

Nearly 100 families now join the regular sessions including baby and toddler group, once upon a rhymetime and expectant mothers' group.

The group are also launching a new 'Saturdads' session focusing on fatherhood and planning more outreach to other villages.

However all of this depends on finding thousands of pounds of funding, and the challenge is about to get harder: in April, the charity's rent-free period from the county council will run out and it will have to find another £10,000 each year to cover the lease.

That makes the budgeted expenditure for 2018/ 19 just shy of £60,000.

Ms Purse said: "It is an enormous challenge. We are grateful for grants from the county, Wheatley Parish Council and other parishes, but we are only half way there and still have to raise many more thousands."

For more information, email Maple Tree centre co-ordinator Hayley Hayle on or call 01865 236700.