A very Happy, but somewhat belated, New Year to everyone.  Although of course it was Chinese New Year yesterday on 25th January, so I can claim that I was waiting for that before writing the new year newsletter.  We are now officially in the year of the Rat!

The weather has not been kind to us over the last couple of months, with what felt like several times the annual rainfall falling on the village.  This has made the grass very wet and restricted access to many parts of the churchyard. However, that does not mean that the Friends have not been active.  We had our second working party on 30th November and successfully completed the gravel path between the car park by the village hall to the steps into Church Lane.  I think we can safely say that this has been a success as, despite the large amount of rain we have had very little ‘washout’ of the gravel onto the steps at the eastern end of the path.  Prior to the upgrade the path acted as a drain for much of the eastern side of the churchyard and it was consequently very slippery, with the path at times looking more like a stream.  Replacing the V shaped path with a flat base and gravel has reduced the water runoff significantly.

The work party also managed to cut back the verges along Chapel Lane on the southern side of the church, and we have exposed much of the wall and historic path up to the gate, its work in progress, but a significant improvement.

Our team didn’t stop there!  We also trimmed much of the vegetation that was overhanging the bus stop and layby along the northern boundary of the main churchyard and cut back some of the lower branches from the trees overhanging Chapel Lane.  More work will be required there if we are to ensure safe access for all vehicles along the lane, but this will require discussions with an appropriately qualified tree surgeon.  Indeed a review of all the trees in the area needs to be planned so that they can be managed in an environmentally sound way.

As always, the work was followed by a very enjoyable pint and sandwich at the New Inn.

The day would have been perfect but for the late delivery of a note from Island Roads about the hedge along the northern boundary of the new churchyard and the main road.  The letter had been sent to the church but had been delivered to someone else in the village; thank goodness we are a small community, so it was eventually delivered successfully.  Apparently, the hedge was overhanging the road and was becoming a danger to the busses and large vehicles using the road; if we did not cut it then island Roads would cut it on our behalf and charge us for the work.  Trimming the hedge is a specialised task as it is clearly not possible for us to work along the main road, so a specialist contractor was called in.  Jamie cut the hedge back successfully after a smaller work party had removed some of the thicker branches that would could have damaged his flail.  However, it is clear that more work is needed to try and restore the shrubs and small trees along this boundary to a more manageable hedge.  This will be part of the Churchyard Management Plan. Although if the weather improves, we may be able to do some preliminary work along the inside of the boundary in February.

The weather has not been in our favour, so we did not manage a full working party during January, but I’m hoping to get one off the ground at the end of February, possibly 22nd or 29th.  If people could let me know their preference, I’d be grateful.  I haven’t worked out a detailed plan yet, but I hope that we will be able to carry on the excellent work along Church Lane, and possibly start cutting back the inside of the hedge on the north side of the new churchyard.  The other good news is that we have obtained some sponsorship to help us buy a mower and petrol strimmer.  This will mean that we can cut down the number of cuts carried out by contractors in the summer.  Ideally, I would like to see if we can get some sort of rota together so that we can carry out this at any convenient time.  I feel an informal meeting coming on, in the New Inn of course.  Perhaps this is something that we could arrange anyway, an informal social evening once a month to share ideas and plan how we can keep the impetus going on the church grounds and surroundings.  Again, please let me know what you feel would be appropriate.

Finally, another piece of good (and less good) news.  The winter storms have finally passed and allowed Southern Lights and Wight Stonemasonry to start the planned work on the church’s East window.  The stained glass was removed successfully between 20th and 25th January, not without some difficulty as closer inspection of the stone and glass showed that there had been some less than ideal work done in the past and bits of the glass had been held in place with modern cement mortar, which has resulted in significant damage to the stonework.  Closer inspection of the stone arches showed significant stress cracking which requires urgent work.  We had initially only costed for replacement of the mullions and quatrefoils, but it is clear that we will need to replace considerably more stone.  We have requested a quote for this and will review how we will go about raising the funds.

I look forward to working with you all again in 2020 and hopefully develop our very successful start into a longer ongoing care programme for our beautiful church and grounds.  Thank you all for your excellent work to date.  Don’t forget to spread the word about the Friends of Shalfleet Church, the more people that we can involve, and hopefully sign up to be a Friend, the more work we can do towards giving us a church and churchyard that everyone can be proud of.


Rhod Powell ()

26th January 2020.