Newsletter 9                                                                          January 2022

A very happy albeit delayed New Year to you all.  The Covid pandemic has certainly lasted far longer than any of us expected and has affected all our lives.  I would love to say that my tardiness in getting this Newsletter out is a direct consequence of the restrictions, but unfortunately it is more due to my poor time management, and our extended stay in Canada at the end of last year for our son’s wedding.  We are now well into 2022 and there are certainly signs that Covid will have a diminishing effect on our lives, but there are still worries ahead for us with the impending increases in fuel costs and the possibility that the standoff in Ukraine will develop.  We need to look to our own community in these challenging times and make sure that the vulnerable members of our parish are well supported.

Maybe it’s too early to say that Spring is in the air, but our working parties have been very busy over the Autumn and Winter and have achieved much.  Perhaps the most noticeable change in the churchyard is the approach to the church from the gate to the main road.  You may recall that we had commissioned a local tree surgeon to do some work; coming through the gate and up the path you can now see the north wall and church tower in all its glory.  The jury is still out on what we should do with the bay tree stumps as they are too big to dig out.

We also removed the leaning yew; we hope that this has stabilised the stump so that regrowth will occur and allow the tree to be rejuvenated.  The small elm trees along Church Lane have been removed and we will be watching to make sure that there is no regrowth and trust that this will be sufficient to reduce the pressure on the bulging stone wall.  I have seen slow worms living in the cracks of the wall over the years and rebuilding the wall would be terribly disruptive for them.

Following on from the success of our small renovation of the wall in Church Lane opposite the south side of St Michael’s, our team of amateur stonemasons have tackled a second area of the same wall that had partially collapsed.  The retaining wall on the right hand side of the gate from Church Lane was also in need of attention and has been rebuilt.  Our ‘stonemasons’ are now considering doing some preventative maintenance on the bulging wall near the corner by ‘Willows’ in Church Lane. Watch this space.

Maintenance of the church and church grounds has always been the responsibility of the parishioners and whilst many of us do not have as much expertise in the country crafts of our forebears, it is both satisfying and useful to make a contribution to the upkeep of our beautiful church and its environment.  We are always on the lookout for volunteers who have expertise that could be beneficial to long term management of the area.  As always, we are aiming to maintain the area in an environmentally friendly way whilst retaining a neat appearance that allows relatives and descendants to visit and maintain the graves in the area.

Over the winter our small work parties have been concentrating on the ‘hedge’ running along the north and west sides of the new churchyard.  We have made some progress despite the very wet weather, and I hope that the selection of photos that I have included over the page give you some idea of what we have achieved.  We have uncovered several graves that were previously covered in brambles and scrub, and were very gratified to see some of these now now being tended. 

Once we had cut back the brambles and scrub we were hoping to try to rejuvenate the hedge. Unfortunately there are less good quality hedging plants than we had hoped, so we will probably have to do some replanting to try to thicken out the lower levels.  There are also quite a few small elm trees in the hedge and it is likely that these will succumb to Dutch Elm disease at some point, although I understand that this may be averted if they are kept short as hedging rather than being allowed to grow into trees.  We are taking advice on this.

Apart from the work in the new churchyard there has been little to do; we are hoping to have a major clearance of the longer grass that was allowed to grow up last year.  Unfortunately this was not possible over the late autumn and winter due to the excessive amount of rain that fell, but we are hopeful that the drier weather that we have experienced over the last week or so will continue and we will be able to undertake this work.  We also hope to organise a social/planning meeting with all ‘Friends’ who are interested in taking part in work parties in the coming year – the snowdrops in front of the church are flowering, so maybe Spring is just round the corner after all!  The local pub would be an ideal venue, but sadly The New Inn has suffered through the pandemic and is only open as an occasional ‘pop-up’ until the lease expires in March.  We really hope that it will be taken up by a new tenant in the near future.

Within the church itself I can report that the organ has been repaired after the suspected ingress of water, we have inspected the roof and found no indication that there had been a leak, but are keeping a close watch on this.  I have also noted that the brasswork in the church is looking particularly good.  Well done and many thanks to the phantom brass rubber!

Unfortunately, we also had to delay the renovation of the second east window due to illness.  The window itself needs to be removed, cleaned and rebuilt to better match the slightly skewed stonework.  To use a nautical anology, parts of the glass are currently looking like a developing storm rather than a placid lagoon.  Some movement of the walls has buckled the window and cracked a couple of panes. We hope that this will not develop into the ‘storm’, but the concensus from the experts was that this should be addressed.  The work is expected to take between six and eight weeks and will require scaffolding both on the inside and outside of the building.  We have discussed the project with the stonemasons and glass specialists who did such excellent work on the Wyndham Cottle window and they believe that the stonework is largely sound, so the majority of the work will be carried out by Southern Lights.  The quotes that we have received to date suggest that we will need to find around £25,000 to complete the project.  Donations or ideas for fundraising are always welcome of course.

The only other issue that I have to report on are the church lights. These are truly spectacular in the evening, especially when viewed from the altar.  The floodlights in the roof and the spotlights directed to key areas in the church are highly atmospheric.  Sadly the circuits put in to control these are rather complex and we have been experiencing some problems with lights not turning on or off.  We have had some electricians in to look at the system and they have replaced a couple of the units and some bulbs, but the intracacies of the four power drivers and the Wi-Fi connections still have some secrets to yield!  We are hopeful that no more major work will be called for over the coming months, but we will of course keep a watching brief on this.  I hope that you enjoy the evening photos of the church with all lights operational!

Finally, don’t forget that we are continuing to provide services in the church; it may be cold on occasions, but blankets and hot sausage rolls are usually on hand to improve the situation.  It is a beautiful building with a long history and you can be sure of a warm welcome; a trip to see the church to admire the building or attend a service is always a pleasure, especially if you are there with other people to share it with.

We are looking forward to 2022 with ‘great expectations’!

Best Wishes

Rhod Powell

Fabric Trust Treasurer (25th January 2022)