Welcome to our December 2020 newsletter. A very Happy Christmas to your families and best wishes for 2021, let’s hope it will be an improvement on this year! I have no idea what we are to expect after such an unusual and challenging year. One likes to hope that, with the arrival of a vaccine, the situation will change and we will be able to get back to some degree of normality. Despite the restrictions on meeting and the difficulty in organising formal working parties, both the Friends Group and our Contractors working on our windows have made some progress.
The best news is that Wight Stonemasonry and Southern Lights have both managed to work around the lockdowns and carried on with the renovation work on the East Window in the church. The stonemasons started the installation of the prepared stone into the east wall in September and despite some difficulties due to the lateral movement of the church over the last few hundred years, managed to complete the installations just before the last lockdown in November.

Completed stonework showing the combination of new and reclaimed stone. Each stone was
formed of an inside and an outside section.

There was then a pause, but finally the first panes of renovated glass arrived at the church on December 7th. The first thing that I noticed was how clean and bright they looked. The glass was installed gradually over the following two weeks, with the final piece being fixed on 18th December. There is still a little bit of work to be done finishing off the sill, but hopefully that will be done next week, sadly I suspect that we will not get the scaffolding down before Christmas, but you can still get a splendid view of the window. The project has been rather extended due to the weather and the restrictions due to the virus, but we can see light at the end of the tunnel. I have yet to receive the final invoices from the stonemasons and stained glass people, but we know already that the work will be over budget due to the difficulties encountered during the project. It goes without saying that any further contributions to the cost will be gratefully received. Unfortunately I can’t include a full picture of the entire stained glass window here as the scaffolding is still in place, but I hope that as many of you as possible will take the opportunity to visit the church over the next few weeks to view the window and admire the quality of the workmanship. In the meantime, this is just a taster, the images look so bright!

We have also managed to achieve a few small, socially distanced, working parties over the last few months, but we have had to keep numbers low so that we could keep our volunteers safe. A special mention here to Steve Sallis who has done spectacular work regularly mowing the access paths to the new graveyard, the main churchyard and the new path round the field in front of the village hall. Steve Wharf and Henry have also been working independently and have kept the verges down Church Lane and the main area to the north of the church well tended. My sincere thanks to all who have volunteered to routinely tend parts of the area round the church. When we have mustered small working parties, we have continued with clearing areas of the churchyard which have become significantly overgrown. The main tasks that we have completed are summarised below:
The wall along the western boundary of the churchyard that borders the car park. We have started trimming back some of the bay trees that have grown up there and are starting to damage the wall and have created new ‘windows’ to view the church. We have also cut back some of the ivy and brambles on the walls and started to clear the wall behind the memorial garden. Clearing the lower branches and suckers from the bay trees mean that we now getting back to the views of the church from the west that was enjoyed in the past. I couldn’t resist the old photo of the view of the church with the children and donkey taken during the fete, probably in the 1960’s or 1970’s.

The large overgrown bush to the west of the church. This had many damaged and dead branches and had likely just developed from a small bush that had been planted on a grave.

We have also cleared the gutter round the church, tidied up the area to the north of the wall behind the compost heaps, trimmed back the hedge along the boundary to the main road, exposing several graves that had been lost in the undergrowth as the hedge spread out, as well as clearing the pile of waste and trimming bushes in the NE corner of the churchyard so that it is now possible to see the church from the junction of the main road and Church Lane.

Finally, we managed to carry out some maintenance on the drainage down Church Lane, not our direct responsibility of course, but a quick investigation showed that the pipe from the drain outside the entrance to the car park was completely blocked. It took more than a few tentative prods, but finally a squashed coke can and a lot of leaf mould and soil was removed from the pipe and the water in the drain started to flow freely onto the verge. Of course, the ditch down the side of the road had silted up whilst the drain was blocked…

A satisfying achievement for a lockdown year, but the projects had resulted in ever increasing piles of brambles and clippings. Many of these had already been packed into the base of the hedges to rot down and provide a habitat for insects, but we were still left with brambles and large quantities of other material to be disposed of. We discussed options, but with November 5th fast approaching we hatched a plan. Of course in a normal year it would have been a wonderful opportunity to have a village celebration, but this wasn’t possible so we restricted ourselves to a team of 6 working in different parts of the churchyard and field to collect the material for a bonfire. And what a bonfire it was! It was lit just after lunch and was kept fed with a seemingly endless stream of combustables by our willing team until darkness fell. The last remnants of the team watched the glowing embers slowly subside well into the evening, fortified by a few glasses of local beer donated by The New Inn which had been forced to close due to lockdown, but didn’t want to waste a half full keg! By the following morning we were left with a gently smoking pile of ash that was still hot enough to cook potatoes and it was another day before the wood ash could be added to compost heaps to balance the tendency for the compost to be acidic and help to provide better conditions for composting worms.

Many, many thanks to all that have helped us this year, I think that we have made a big difference to the church and I have had many comments saying how nice it was to see the churchyard being cared for again. Perhaps the nicest comments that I had were from the local undertaker responsible for the burials. We were chatting one evening when he was coming to prepare a plot and he said what a pleasure it was to come to a church which looked cared for but not manicured, and he didn’t have to spend hours fighting the undergrowth to get to the plots. I think that this summarised what I think we would like to achieve; a cared for space that is managed both for the benefit of the parish and for our wildlife. Finding this balance is often difficult as we are never able to please everyone, but I believe that we are generally on the right track. Comments are of course are always welcome.
Finally, make sure you keep safe over Christmas and New Year and let’s hope that 2021 brings us more freedom and a greater opportunity to socialise and enjoy the company of others in the churchyard.
Rhod Powell
Fabric Trust Treasurer (20th December 2020)