The Villager’s Beginnings
Like John, in the last edition, I can get quite misty-eyed when thinking about those early days of the Villager. Indeed, in my editorial interest with the local magazine here in Herefordshire, I’ve been known to refer to it as The Villager! Which says everything, I suppose.
I’m not much good at dates either, so it came as a surprise to learn that it’s almost forty years ago that Fred Heyworth and I felt that a village magazine was needed so much that we’d have a go. There had been a hesitant run of church-based magazines, all of which we then regarded, collectively, as “Volume 1" so the first issue started at Vol 2. Why was it produced every other month, and not every month like everybody else? I’m not quite sure, but that’s what Fred decided. Other decisions, made over that glass of beer, were that, not only that it should be free and go to every household (whether they wanted it or not) but that it should be independent of, and not a financial burden on, the Parish Council. Thus we needed to sell space to advertisers – and it’s a particular pleasure to find that so many of them are still there. But what John didn’t mention was that, at one time, when both he and I were drumming up the advertising, we were finding advertisers playing “Biggs” against “Griggs”, saying to each of us that they’d done a deal with the other. Even so, the income never seemed quite enough and so the additional contribution from the Community Association was always most gladly received. Eric Dore designed the lovely cover. I’m looking at it now, unchanged for all those years – as is the general design, typography and layout.
I’m also looking at my album of photographs, showing the team putting the thing together. What a laborious business! As we trudged round the table, Fred would be in the lead, because he was the slowest, followed – somewhat demurely and at a respectful distance – by the rest of us (including Joan Everex and Joy) – rather reminiscent, I always thought, of a kind of slow-bicycle race. Percy (Smith) was in charge of the bonker (alias the long-arm stapler, fully charged) with Bess and Betty (Johnston) folding, “boning down”, and checking that nothing was missing or upside down. It seems to me, on reflection, that nothing ran smoothly for very long; every ten minutes or so we’d have to stop because someone had found something wrong with the piles of sheets – upside down, wrongly backed up, badly printed, or simply missing. Then we’d all have to stop for another tea break whilst I sorted things out – usually requiring yet another trip next door to the office to run off some more copies. And John was right: in those days printing was a filthy business.
From time to time, we’d have to discuss whether this or that should be included. Although Fred was known for his left-wing inclination, he couldn’t bear to see anything included that was remotely political – party or otherwise. And, to his credit, he stuck to his guns. The other contentious matter that sticks in my mind was a long-running exchange of letters on how long the grass was on the cricket outfield.
Looking back, I think the pleasure stems from helping to make something which was not just tangible but useful, and which, clearly, had a part to play in the ebb and flow of parochial village life.
Brightwell cum Sotwell Environment Group
There was a good attendance at the Annual meeting on 26 February in the Village Hall, and we were pleased to welcome several new faces in addition to our regular supporters. In his annual report the Chairman, John Rodda, gave an account of the Group’s activities. These included work on the ongoing projects such as St James’ Churchyard and the management of the Millennium Wood and a new project to record species of moths in the village. The Committee had been working also on the preparation of the 2nd edition of a Parish Conservation Plan which will include the various surveys and projects carried out by the Group since 1998 when the 1st Parish Conservation Plan appeared. It is hoped that the Plan will be published soon and copies will be delivered to every household in the Parish.
The officers and committee were elected : John Rodda (Chairman), Betty Price (Secretary), Trevor Wintle (Treasurer) Alison Bloomfield, Paul Chilton, David Evans-Roberts, Josie McCarthy, Annabel Rodda, Peter Varley.
The main part of the evening was a talk by Angus Dart on Farming in Brightwell. We learned how his father came to farm in Mackney developing the pedigree dairy herd and the contrast of farming in the early 1960s with the high tech farming today. Every cow now has a passport and is recognised and recorded by computer in the milking parlour. Angus also referred to the wet weather over the past year and its effect on the crops and the need for improved drainage in the Mill Brook area. We are now more aware of the issues in modern dairy farming and the crops we see in the fields around the village. The interest of the audience was shown by the many questions on aspects of farming today and discussion continued informally after the talk with a glass of wine.
St Agatha’s Church
As I write this piece in Lent, I hope you are given the chance to look back through Easter with ‘resurrection eyes’. I have just discovered that ‘Mardi Gras’ literally means ‘Fat Tuesday’ – it was the day you were supposed to finish up all the leftovers or scraps in your larder/fridge before the fasting of Lent began. Well I still seem to be carbo-loading at an alarming rate, but there’s something quite appealing about being creative with the ‘scraps’, especially when physically, emotionally & spiritually too, we find ourselves low on resources in this deep recession.
We all have wilderness experiences in our lives. Lent and Easter come around to remind us that these experiences are not alien to us but are rather there to be mined for the future. There was a recent piece of good news about a young backpacker found barely alive three days after getting lost on a jog only a few miles from the cattle station he was working on in the Australian outback. That experience will doubtless stay with him for the rest of his life and, if he’s careful, he’ll be able to use it for good. Stanley Spencer the artist who spent most of his life painting in and around the Berkshire village of Cookham was also well acquainted with the wilderness. Between 1939 and 1954, a turbulent period for him and for the world, he produced a series of paintings of Christ in the Wilderness. Spencer had originally intended to produce 40 pictures, one for each day Christ spent in the desert, but in the end he produced only 8 which are no less powerful for that. Two bear special mention; one is called ‘Consider the Lillies’ and reminds us of the sheer beauty around us; another is called ‘The Scorpion’ and portrays the danger which can approach us in life, and how we may confront it. We can face our ‘demons’ on our own, but Spencer’s vision was much larger than that; he was trying to portray Christ as ‘everyman/woman’, all with our own journeys to make, all with our own routes through the parched lands and out the other side. - We all need to know that we, too, can have access to the ‘Patience of Angels’.
Our churches are for private and congregational prayer and praise. We need to know that we can be alone sometimes and survive in ‘the wilderness’ but we also need the friendship of fellow-travellers and companions along the way. Whatever your journeys as Easter unfurls, may you be granted patience, pardon and peace.
What a busy couple of months we’ve just had...by the time you read this we will have recently visited Highlands Farm to see their lambs - a huge thank you to David and Rosemary Greasby for welcoming us. In pre-school itself recently there has been a huge amount going on: celebrating World Book day by sharing our favourite stories and dressing up as our favourite book characters; preparing some lovely treats for Mothers’ Day; creating parrots, butterflies and worms; making butterfly cakes as well as our own sandwiches for snack time; constructing a pond and planting hedges. This gives a good idea of the eclectic range of activities!
We have done our bit for Comic Relief by having a smiley day - wearing clothes with smiles on and having a special visit from a kind villager who is also a dental hygienist Ali Zalinski to teach us about brushing our teeth really well so we have lovely white smiles. Parents gave a contribution to the Comic Relief fund.
We’ve also been raising money for preschool too recently - lots of it! We had a cake sale at the beginning of March which raised almost £50, which was good work for 30 minutes of hard selling! We plan to run these cake sales every first Tuesday of the month during term time. You may have seen us wandering the village on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago - we were doing our sponsored welly-walk, which was brilliantly masterminded and organised by Paula Marsh and raised well over £300. Champion welly throwers were Keira and Will S, Freddie B and Theo, and Dylan and Will B. Thanks to all who contributed by providing cakes, sponsoring the children or putting coins in the welly boots around the village. Thank you to Mark in the pub for contributing the “bonus ball” money. Next up you will soon be seeing some large coloured eggs around the village - our annual Easter egg hunt, please do join in - see our website for more details http://www.allsortspreschool.org/.
Another really exciting preschool venture is our taking on the “Brightwell cum Sotwell 4th plinth - the empty red phone box by the pub. We are planning to fill this with some of the wonderful art work and ideas which the children have had this term, and transform this space into an aquarium. Please do have a look, all artwork should be installed ready for viewing and possibly an official opening (!) by Easter weekend.
Our coffee morning at the end of February was well attended with friends of the preschool old and new - thanks so much to all those who came along. A great result from that is that the WI have very kindly agreed to reprise their sensory garden role and help us out significantly with getting our garden back on track to make it more appealing to the children. A huge thank you to Mais and Helen for mobilising a crack team of gardeners!
Spring finally feels like it’s in the air so hopefully you’ll see even more of our children round the village over the coming months as they get out and about to enjoy the environment they are so fortunate to grow up in.
Community Led Parish Plan
Door step challenge
By now, many of you will have received a visit from one of the Parish Plan volunteers asking what it is you like and dislike about living in Brightwell cum Sotwell. If you haven’t – don’t worry we will be round soon. The information you have given us, will help us to identify any gaps in our research as we start to investigate in more detail the aspects of parish life that you have identified as important.
As we continue to develop the new Parish Plan we hope to stage a series of community events. Look out for these on posters round the village and at our website http://
Jason Debney, Chairman
Beating of the Bounds - Sunday 12 May
On Sunday 12 May we will be organising an event to mark our parish boundaries. This is called ‘beating of the bounds’ and is an ancient custom dating back many centuries. Our bounds have been beat several times over the last couple of decades notably in 2004 when the previous Parish Plan was complied. This year we have gone back through some of the old parish records to find out what we used to get up to in the past as each area had its own little traditions. We discovered that the traditional date to beat our bounds was Ascension Day and that the journey around our outer limits usually took place after a short blessing by the vicar. Likewise, it also seemed to be traditional to finish at the Red Lion – so in the spirit of historic accuracy we shall leave from St Agatha’s at 9.30am and finish many hours later at the pub. All in all, the walk is just over 13 miles long – much of it over rough ground and un-marked fields. For this reason, we have broken the day down into shorter sections so walkers can meet us on the way at given times. There will
be one or two sections suitable for families. So if you fancy learning a little more about our parish and take part in this historic custom pop the date in your diary – Sunday 12th May.
Easter Monday Egg Hunt – Monday 1 April
You are invited to enter a grand Easter Monday Egg Hunt, with cryptic clues scattered throughout the parish. The fun will start at 11 am at the Village Hall, finishing at the Red Lion by 12.30.
The event is aimed at families and groups of friends of all ages. Clues will be at 10 locations within walking distance of the pub and village hall. Mini Easter eggs will be given to all team members, and the overall winner will be the team who finds all locations in the shortest time.
Brightwell Indoor Rowing Competition for 12-18 Year Olds
On Friday 12 April at 7pm in the Village Hall, Brightwell’s first indoor rowing competition for all 12 to 18 year olds will be held. Run by James Stephenson, the event will use high-tech rowing machines linked to a big screen, so you’ll be able to see your boat move and track its racing progress. There will be a special guest appearance by an Olympic rower. No previous rowing experience is necessary - come and join us for a great evening on the water!
Re-planting the Haddon Thorn
Have you ever wondered why part of Sires Hill is in Brightwell parish? Well, it dates back to Saxon times when a large estate was split into smaller units. The ancient boundaries of these between Brightwell and North Moreton and Little Wittenham follow lines similar to their current parish boundaries, which all meet at the top of Sires Hill. However, the boundary coming up form North Moreton had to make a sharp westward turn to do so as did the one coming the other way up from Little Wittenham and the Thames, and it is not known exactly why they did this. Was it because the top of the hill had some special significance as a meeting place where four parishes, three Saxon hundreds and the major route from London to Gloucester coincide? Clearly, it was the highest point round about so good views in all directions and we know also that ancient ‘lay lines’ cross here too. Interestingly, there was a thorn tree located at the site, which is mentioned as the Haddon Thorn in several charters so clearly must have been a significant feature on the landscape at the time. Did it mark an important meeting place? or commemorate an ancient event or a burial place ? We don’t know but it stood for many years. We have recently re-planted a native hawthorn tree to mark the historic site. The Haddon Thorn will be used as a way marker on 13 May at the Beating of the Bounds – and there might be a refreshment tent there too!
South Sudan: Africa’s Youngest Nation
Anthony Poggo, Bishop of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan, preached at St. Agatha’s church on 3 March to a congregation double the usual size. He gave us a glimpse into another world in which the church has a broad ministry to a very needy community, focused on three “E”s: Evangelism, Education and Empowerment. Anthony is the former director of ACROSS, a major church-related charity in South Sudan. Since 2007, he has been the Bishop of the Diocese of Kajo-Keji, close to the Uganda border..
The Anglican church in South Sudan has grown exponentially in the past thirty years from just 3 dioceses to 26, with churches full to overflowing – the cathedral in the next diocese has five services on a Sunday each with over 700. The church has a direct role in running schools to supplement what the government can do in a country where more than half the population is illiterate. Anthony’s visit provides an opportunity to link with one of these schools.
Anthony spoke with feeling about the legacy of conflict and displacement which had created a mindset of dependency. The former Sudan split into two countries in 2011, Sudan and South Sudan, with 98% of the South Sudanese having voted in a referendum in 2005 for independence. Such an overwhelming vote to separate from north Sudan reflects the fact that black Southerners were marginalised and treated as second class citizens in their own country by an “Arabic” government seeking to impose Islamic law and religion. Exploitation of the oil in South Sudan is still creating serious tensions with neighbouring Sudan, whose government is attacking its own citizens in Darfur, Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile State, forcing many to flee to South Sudan as refugees.
In spite of the huge challenges they face the people of South Sudan relish their new independence and are investing in the education and skills of their people and promoting economic and social development. There is growth in the farming sector and the first tarmacked highway was built recently between the capital Juba and the Uganda border.
Anthony’s link with Brightwell is through the Windle Trust which has trained many leaders in Africa including Anthony himself. For a number of years St Agatha’s church has supported the Anglican Archbishop’s education fund for South Sudanese orphans in partnership with the Windle Trust. Some of those trained through support from St Agatha’s are now progressing to senior posts in South Sudan. Anyone who would like to support the ministry of Bishop Anthony or the wider work of the Windle Trust in South Sudan can do so through St Agatha’s or directly through the Windle Trust by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org Involvement with one of the neediest communities in the world is a reminder to us all of the privilege we have of living in our peaceful and prosperous community.
Lambing 2013 at Highlands Farm is over, thank goodness! We always start off fired with enthusiasm but the 18 hour shift is tiring and it’s good to resort to a degree of normality. That said, attention to detail is the mainstay of this operation and I can report a very successful lambing with no trace of the dreaded Schmallenberg virus. With so many triplets this time, including quads and a quintuplet, the demands on management and bottle feeding have been high, exacerbated by the corresponding lack of single births to allow any fostering. On the technical side our new crossbred Oxford Down lambs are looking good, demanding a little more attention during lambing with higher birth weights and lamb size. With minimal grass growth and the continuing cold spell, everything will need to stay inside until spring has well and truly sprung.
Our arable enterprise has been slowly pegging on, but spring wheat planting is now picking up pace as the ground continues to dry out on the hill. Occasionally the tractor disappears into a wet hole in the field but, as yet, has always managed to clamber out! Undoubtedly the farm will be a patchwork of cropping this year as some areas are replanted or receive a different crop type around the field margins. We will get there in the end!
Without exception, everyone I meet is looking for some brighter weather and that elusive sun – we’ve done with greyness so roll on spring!
[This is an extract from Rosemary Greasby’s blog – At the Farm Gate - which can be viewed at http://www.