Minutes of the Annual Stewkley Parish Meeting held on
Monday 9th May 2022 at 7pm at the Stewkley Village Hall
Cllr Keith Higgins (Chair), Cllr Gill Morgan (Vice-Chair), Cllr Margaret Burgess, Cllr Henry Hunt, Cllr
Andrew Pryke, Joanna Simonds, Clerk & RFO, and 15 members of the public during Open Forum
1) To receive apologies for absence
Cllr Phil Delafield and Cllr Andrew Arthur
2) To approve the minutes of the 2021 Annual Parish Meeting held on 5th May 2021
The draft minutes were approved and signed as a true record by the Chairman.
Proposed: Cllr Gill Morgan / Seconded: Cllr Andrew Pryke / Agreed unanimously
3) To receive reports and matters arising:
Report of the Chairman of the Parish Council
The past twelve months, the second year since the start of the pandemic, began with most meetings
still being held by Zoom except for the APM last May, with the first normal meeting finally being held
in August. The current members of the Parish Council took office in May 2021, following the local
elections in that month and despite the constraints of working through lockdown, I would like to thank
them all, volunteers as always, for their contributions to the work of the Council and to the rest of
There was a major change at County Council level with the new unitary council elected for the first
time last May and with Cllr Phil Gomm assuming responsibility for Stewkley Parish amongst his group
of parishes within the Great Brickhill Ward. We would like to thank Cllr Gomm for his regular
attendance at our meetings and his considerable efforts on our behalf.
Another significant change for the PC last Spring and Summer was the decision of our previous Clerk,
Rob Mann, to step down following his house move to Newton Longville. Rob saw us through some
challenging times with the problems of Red Brick Farm and the first year of lockdown with the virtual
operation of the PC.
However, in August we were delighted to be able to appoint Joanna Simonds as our new part-time
Clerk and RFO to complement her existing role in a similar position at Stoke Hamond PC. It has
worked out very well and her contribution is much appreciated by all councillors.
The major achievement during the past twelve months was the successful conclusion to the “making”
of Stewkley’s Neighbourhood Plan with a more than 90% YES vote in the October Referendum. After
five years of considerable effort by so many parishioners lead by the Steering Group chaired by Neil
Dickens, the final document is a credit to the village and will serve both as a framework for planners
to evaluate new developments and a guide to the Parish Council and our residents on the vison for
Planning is a traditional statutory responsibility which occupies much of a PC’s time. So it has been
for us, lockdown or not. And even before our Neighbourhood Plan was “Made”, it had started to carry
weight in planning decisions, as we found with the Soulbury Road development. Since then, planners
regularly refer to its policies. During the past 12 months the council has considered 34 applications
and, with the Soulbury Road development having been approved early 2021, the longer discussions
have usually centred around the Wing Road East development’s proposals, which are continuing.
The other side of planning is Enforcement and the PC has been busy with that too, whether in making
sure developers follow their own rules to respect residents during construction, informing the County
Enforcement team of major breaches by landowners or in trying to get action on flagrant disregard for
planning conditions. It has been an under-resourced activity for many years and we thank Cllr Gomm
for his assistance in this area. Still much to do!
Another regular topic is street lighting where, after several years of effective operation the LEDs lights
are now demanding more frequent repair or replacement. We have struggled so far to identify a
reasonable cost contractor for repairs and new equipment, though we are hopeful that an initiative in
cooperation of other local PCs will bear fruit. We have also identified a major programme of work of
renovation and extension of the lighting network, also awaiting a suitable contractor.
For a number of years, Stewkley has benefitted from the work of the Stewkley Enterprise Agency in
fulfilling its responsibilities under Buckinghamshire Council’s Devolved Services agreement. Following
a review during the Autumn, the future of the SEA seems stronger, with wider participation in the day-
to-day management and closer cooperation with the Best Kept Village Coordinator. Rewilding areas in different parts of the village are better defined and will become a visible feature along some of our
The Best Kept Village competition returns this Summer after the Covid enforced break, and as current
holder for our category, we will be competing in Best of the Winners category for the Tindall Cup.
Following the serious investment in some of Stewkley’s streets in 2020, Dunton Road finally received
some long-deserved attention in 2021, within the built-up area at least and we are hopeful of
improvements further out in the next 3-year programme. Meanwhile we continue to highlight the poor
state of our pavements for prioritisation.
Speeding traffic remains a blight and the PCs traffic sub-committee has continued with the trial “20’s
Plenty” campaign, supported by the acquisition of a second Speed Indicating Device to remind drivers,
as well as a current poster campaign. The PC is also working closely with our Unitary councillor on
As well as the speeding issue, the PC actively participates in the Bucks Council Community Board for
our area, and we have submitted several grant applications to the Board to support various
improvements to our local infrastructure. Other village groups have also worked with the Community
Board and several awards have already been made.
I’ll finish this report with mention of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the village celebrations in three
weeks’ time. Following a launch meeting hosted by the PC in late November, a coordinating group
lead by Janette Eustace, has developed an impressive programme of events for the 4 day
celebrations, involving St Michael’s School, and other village organisations. The costs for these events
will be funded with contributions from the PC, donations from local sponsors and businesses and a
grant award from the Lottery Fund.
To commemorate the Jubilee on a longer term basis, the PC is engaged in developing a Jubilee
memorial garden in the school grounds bordering the High St and there is another project supporting
the Queen’s Green Canopy vision, looking to reinstate the trees in the hedgerows approaching the
Stewkley is fortunate to have so many active clubs, societies and other interest groups which all
depends on the effort and commitment of volunteers for their success. Some of them will be giving
their own reports later. On behalf of the Parish Council, I would like to record our thanks and
appreciation for your contribution to Stewkley being such a welcoming and rewarding community to
live in. That said, their future success depends on more members and volunteers joining them.
So it’s a been a busy past 12 months and we expect more of the same in the coming year.
Reports from community organisations:
Bowls Club – Sandy Flewin
Stewkley Short Mat Bowls meet in the Village Hall each Thursday evening from 7pm.
We were pleased to be able to start playing again in the Autumn after the lockdowns due to Covid 19.
During this time we were sad to lose several of our regular members and were concerned that we
would not be able to continue in the same way. Julia Corkett took over the role of Chairperson after
the death of her mother Joan Wood who had been a founder member of the Club. Also, we have been
fortunate to welcome several new members which has enabled the Club to be represented in the
Aylesbury Vale Friendly Short Mat League.
Many of our members travel from outside the Village and we would welcome more new members from
Stewkley. We manage the costs which are mainly the Village Hall Hiring fees by a playing fee by the
playing members. We appreciated the help from the Parish Council contribution for the purchase of
new mats several years ago that are still in good condition.
Cricket Club – Alan Hardings
After the trials and tribulations of the Covid-impacted 2020 season, it’s a relief to be writing to you after
a full 2021 season, looking forward to a similar 2022 (fingers crossed!). 2021 started off with a cold
April and then a wet May, but the rest of the season thankfully was relatively kind.
The health of sports clubs generally reflects the efforts of its volunteers and to that end I think we are
in good shape. We’ve also successful in securing some grant funding from the ECB during 2021,
which has enabled the club to significantly update our junior equipment.
In the League, the 1st XI started the season strongly and continued broadly in that vein. Unfortunately
we lost a few matches to cancellation through the rain in May and were on the wrong side of a couple
of tight matches. All in all the lads finished 5th which was only a brace of wins off top spot.
It was pleasing to have strong availability pretty much all season, to have a team where the average
age was always far lower than our opposition and to be very competitive, however availability remains
a key challenge for village clubs like ourselves.
Our Sunday XI remains an excellent means for developing our younger cricketers alongside more
experienced players in the club, where the culture is focused on being competitive, inclusive and
enjoying cricket in a friendly environment.
The Last Man Stands midweek cricket squad now tends to reflect the demographic in the other sides,
with our squad being younger than most others in the league. That hasn’t really been reflected in
results, as whilst we are a young side, we are fairly experienced in the format. The boys did
fantastically well again, finishing 3rd in the division and losing out in the play-off semi to the eventual
I should also note that again we rented the ground to the LMS franchise in 2021, which results in a
significant additional revenue stream for the club for little extra work as the cricket is played on the
artificial wicket, however in this day and age it does emphasise the ‘snugness’ of our ground and the
health and safety issues it brings. We currently have a planning application with the Council to install
some more permanent protective fencing along the Soulbury Road side of the ground, which is
required to mitigate the danger from the modern day predicament of hitting sixes rather than fours!
On the junior front, again we have seen some positive results across the age groups.
The U11s topped their division and both the U15s and U13s finished second in theirs. Their were
many strong individual performances across all the teams, but just to reference a couple……
Across the younger age groups, U9 and below, we were lucky to have had significant numbers of
children enjoying the training sessions on Monday evenings and Saturday mornings. Its pleasing to
see as many girls as boys in the groups, and also seeing some of the parents and children at the Rec
on Saturdays when home matches was being played.
For the 2022 season we have entered to field teams at U9, U13, U15 and U17 level, in what is an
unprecedented overall entry for SVCC in junior cricket.
Ground and Maintenance
Continued thanks go to Tony Roadnight and Alan Dickens for their unstinting work on maintaining the
ground, and now also Alan Winsor our President who has invested significant time and energy over
the last couple of seasons. Obviously the more the ground gets used, the more maintenance is
In terms of facilities, we’re pretty well placed with the artificial pitch, nets, electronic scoreboard and
new sightscreens. Our next purchase has been focused on refreshing the club’s mowing equipment
for the square and specifically the match pitches. We have also benefitted from the Rec Committee
and Parish Council acquiring some new mowers for the outfield and general mowing around the
perimeter of the playing area to replace the old equipment which had seen better days.
Stewkley Singers – Julia Simms
Stewkley singers found the pandemic difficult to negotiate as did every music organisation and in the
end we had no rehearsals for18 months. We tried zoom rehearsals for a while but it’s not very
satisfactory singing to yourself at home. So in September 2021 we resumed rehearsals and managed
to perform two concerts at Christmas with carols old and new at Stewkley Village Hall and North
Marston Church. We all enjoyed a rendition of Santa Claus is Covid Secure, one of the many songs
and videos which came out of Covid. It was so good to be singing together once again in front of an
audience, all in masks of course and covid restrictions in place. The Christmas hampers, which get
better every year, were raffled off with 4 very happy winners.
We have over 40 members at present from Stewkley and surrounding villages and we always welcome
new voices to our friendly choir. Rehearsals have again been disrupted since Christmas due to
Omicron, and yes choirs are super spreaders, but despite this we have our first Spring concert coming
up on Saturday, May 14th in All Saints Church, Leighton Buzzard. This will be a celebration of the
Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a full orchestra and professional soloists. We shall be proud to open
the concert with A Prayer for Ukraine set to music and sung in Ukrainian, followed by Haydn’s rousing
Nelson Mass. The second half will be ‘last night of the proms’ with flag waving and audience
participation. So come along and join us in the celebrations.
We hope like everyone else to have a more settled year from now on and look forward to a new
programme in September after our summer break.
Finally, thanks to the Parish Council for all that you do for the village and for giving us this opportunity
to share our news with other village groups.
Stewkley Players – Chris Mills
Stewkley Players have been performing plays in the village since 1955 – with the odd hiatus – and
are still going strong!
Our productions are usually on in March and November (though in 2023 we will creep into panto
territory in December) but we also contribute to village life in other ways.
You will see us with a stall at the village show; you may have read in the last edition of the Grapevine
that we are one of a tiny minority of the original groups who volunteered to pick up litter around the
village still doing this as a regular activity; and we have created a brand new traditional curtain-raising
breakfast at the start of rehearsals for each new show. This year – October 9th (all welcome!)
In addition to productions, we also hold theme evenings and a barbecue for members in the Spring
and Summer months and I expect you’ll see some of us doing silly things in and around the Jubilee
We were closed during covid and audience numbers for our two shows since returning to the stage
have been – unsurprisingly – lower than in earlier years.
This has a knock-on effect financially but we have been delighted to receive support from the Rec
committee and two local businesses for our most recent productions.
We returned to the stage last November with our epic production of Ben Hur and most recently could
be seen in Waiting For God in March. Some people may feel they saw rather too much of the author
of this report in the hospital scene!
We are always looking for new members – especially younger people and those who are interested
in backstage and technical roles
Do please come and speak to me or any committee member – see our website or facebook page or
pop along to our AGM and casting early in September
Recreation Ground – Julie Dawson
Once again, the Recreation Ground Association Committee has continued to work hard to maintain
the facility and thanks go to all of the volunteers, not least with thanks to Alan Dickens for all his time
and efforts to maintain the grounds to such a high standard, Robert Goss for cutting the hedges, and
the bar volunteers.
The Playground area benefited from a new surface and the addition of some picnic tables and a local
family funded the refurbishment of the seat in this area in memory of their baby. We have invested in
new mowers to help keep the facility looking at it’s best.
The bar [Stewkley Community Recreation Sports Club] has continued to be well supported when
national restrictions have allowed, and is still run as a private members club. We have changed our
subscription collection method and no longer collect subs via the sports clubs. This allows us better
control and knowledge of our membership database without impinging on the GDPR of the clubs.
Any Villager is entitled to apply for membership. We now have a flourishing band of volunteers to help
run the bar on a regular basis. The bar is open every Saturday from 4.00-8.00pm, and continues to
be an affiliated members club. Subscriptions remain at £5 per year and are now paid direct to the
committee when the bar is open.
Although active fundraising has been impacted by Covid 19 but we are slowly seeing an increase in
functions and the number of people willing to attend. We held outdoor functions such as the Scarecrow
Trail in July and in August 2021 we held the first Stewkley Classic Car Rally which was a great success
and will hopefully be repeated at some point, but this summer sees the return of Recfest after a two
year absence. We are hoping for the same fantastic weather as previous years and hope the whole
village will support us and have a great day of entertainment. A Christmas Fayre proved popular and
profitable once again, and we supported St Michaels School to help Santa with his travels through the
village one evening.
Most of the local clubs and societies have returned on a regular basis, with the notable exception that
the Youth Club was unable to return due to a lack of volunteers.
The large project for the coming year is to help the Cricket Club replace the protective nets along the
Soulbury Road boundary to minimise issues with wayward cricket balls. We look forward to a year of
more normal activity and would welcome any new members onto the committee to help ensure the
facility continues to meet the needs of the village and it’s residents.
Stewkley Walkers – Neil Shefferd
Stewkley Walkers resumed activities in March 2021 following the easing of some coronavirus
restrictions. Initially, walks were limited to the Rule of Six, with places having to be booked and a
requirement for social distancing to be maintained.
From July last year, when restrictions were lifted there was no limit to numbers on walks and no need
to pre-book places.
Stewkley Walkers have been well supported since restrictions on numbers were lifted, with an average
of 17 on walks during the winter months, and a high of 25 on one walk.
Mystery walks have been a good addition to the group’s programme over the past 12 months, and the
group has been pleased to welcome new members to help it continue to thrive.
Stewkley Walkers has obtained copies of the updated map of parish footpaths from Buckinghamshire
Council, which have been laminated and placed on village noticeboards, and hopefully these are a
useful addition for anyone looking to find out more information about the parish’s footpath network.
Stewkley Walkers are looking forward to playing their part in the planned weekend of activities for the
Queen’s Jubilee and will be offering a walk on village footpaths on the morning of Friday June 3 – all
are welcome to join this walk.
New members are always welcome – the group aims to offer a walk each week, and these take place
both in the parish and further afield, at an average distance of between three and five miles.
Details are published each month in the Stewkley Grapevine, and visitors are welcome to join us on
any walk, which will hopefully provide good exercise and health benefits as part of a friendly and
Grapevine – Andy
This is the first report from Grapevine for a few years so whilst attempting to keep things brief, I will
cover things from the pandemic onwards.
Rachael Webb stood down as team leader early in 2020 and then just after I took over the role of
editor we were heading into lockdown pt1. This was a challenge for the team as when it was
announced we were finalising the issue ready for print, but were getting a number of calls and emails
to advise that yet another forthcoming event had to be postponed or cancelled.
On pages 2 and 3 of the April 2020 issue the word ‘cancelled’ appeared 41 times. Sufficient content
was found to complete the issue as we started to contemplate the real prospect that the following
month could see the withdrawal of all the adverts which pay for the cost of producing the magazine.
Fortunately, only a handful of people withdrew, meaning we could continue and over the last 2 years
advertising has remained steady, with the usual few losses being replaced by new advertisers. During
the pandemic the pages were filled with a variety of different content from peoples memoirs of past
residents and life in the village, to fitness advice, quizzes and cooking suggestions.
Grapevine never dropped below 20 pages of content with around 6 pages of adverts. The savings in
production costs has enabled us to make occasional donations to not for profit organisations in the
village and we are pleased to also be able to contribute toward the Queens Platinum Jubilee events.
As a small number of events started to take place in 2021 we were able to return to the more normal
format of reporting on activity in the village and give information on upcoming events. Our efforts are
only worthwhile because there is a loyal band of 20 regular deliverers who like it or not, poke the Grapevine through your letterbox 11 times a year.
During the pandemic the deliverers were all supplied with gloves to meet the ever changing advice on
how to not catch ‘the bug’ and given the option to opt out of delivering should they wish to do so.
Some needed to stop as they were self-isolating, while others had to withdraw to take on the role of
carer for a family member. The vacant slots for deliverers were immediately filled with other
There was no disruption in the delivery process and we received thanks from a number of people for
continuing to deliver Grapevine and keep them in touch with the village life from which we had all
Looking ahead, we have had to find a new way to deal with obituaries following John Flewin’s
retirement from the role. We will unfortunately be losing the Thorogoods as they retire from the role
of packers, and we are also working on a way to relieve the Smiths from delivering to the deliverers,
which they would like to retire from.
As the size of the village expands, with the first houses in St Michael’s Park already occupied, so to
must the Grapevine increase its print run, which we have already increased by 5% to 920 copies per
month. We will also need to find a deliverer for the new houses.
We are now back to 24 pages monthly with around 8 pages of adverts, and to go alongside the subtle
changes made over the last couple of years, such as a more modern typeface and occasional colour
highlight, we are working on some new ideas for content.
And as it returns to being a thriving and very active village, the Grapevine team look forward to keeping
you all informed about the past, present and future of life in Stewkley.
Brownies – Sally Shefferd
After more than a year of email newsletters and Zoom meetings, the Brownie Leaders were delighted
to meet face to face with the Brownies at the Airport Memorial Spinney in Dunton Road last Summer.
Thanks to the hard work of Tim and Pauline Knowler and the Parish Council, the area was in excellent
condition so the girls were able to explore the petals. Over the Summer, the girls were able to learn
the names of wildflowers, make natural sculptures, build dens from fallen wood and learn to light fires.
The only downside occasionally was the weather.
It was at this time we were pleased to meet Amanda who was interested in becoming a leader and
who has now started her training with us.
After some girls helped with the teas at the Stewkley Scarecrow Trail in July, the church kindly gave
us a donation to help our finances.
Then at the end of term, the brownies laid on refreshments for the Stewkley car show on 1st August in
the recreation ground.
Come September, the unit was pleased to be able to meet back at the recreation ground Pavilion and
thanks to the Pavilion committee for keeping our booking open. We had seven new girls start with us.
A visiting leader from Quainton brought various of her animals to meet the girls on a couple of evenings
– her corn snake was a great hit as were the turtles and terrapins. The girls started working toward
their communication badge which included non-verbal forms of communication then with Christmas
approaching made their own cards and decorations.
During the first part of the spring term, the girls gained their first aid badges. They also all had a
chance to make cookies which were very much enjoyed. Their second half term involves several craft
evenings, including making pencil cases, lavender bags for Mother’s Day and various Easter crafts
including cards and chocolate nests.
Cygnets Pre-School – Chris Mills
The Pre School dates from 1969 but we have been on site next to the School since 2007. We are
not part of the school but run as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation by a board of trustees made
up of parents and other interested parties.
The setting is regarded as a major amenity for the village, offering places for 2 to 4 year olds and
providing many benefits both within our environment and as a smooth transition to ‘big school’ at St
A recent informal survey conducted by the Trustees was very complimentary about the standard of
care and educational content provided at the setting. We are currently rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted and we
have a plan in place to get back to ‘Outstanding’ which we were prior to COVID.
We are committed to village life and residents may be aware of our ‘extra-curricular’ events such as
the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Rec and the much-missed Safari Supper, which we hope will make
a welcome return soon.
We know that we are not open on as many days or for as many hours as some people would like and
the Trustees are committed to addressing this, as well as to being more responsive to the needs of
parents and families in general.
We are currently open Mon-Thurs mornings (9 till 12 or 1) and Thurs afternoons, (1 to 3.15) but we
are planning to be open 5 days and 2 afternoons from September. However, we need to be sure
We welcome enquiries from all prospective parents – and you may have seen our feature in the recent
Grapevine, highlighting the setting and our willingness to be flexible to meet individual requirements
if at all possible.
We are also looking for additional staff to add to the rota and crucially for more trustees with time to
spare to add to our range of skills on the management team and to extend our reach
Best Kept Village & Stewkley Enterprise Agency – John Flewin
This year’s Buckinghamshire Best Kept Village Competition is the first since 2019 when Stewkley won
in its category, that for communities with a population of between 1500 and 3000. We received the
DeFraine Cup in the process. And because there has been no competition since then we’ve proudly
hung onto the Best Kept Village sign.
Having said all that, this year’s re-launch of the competition sees the winners of all five categories last
time pitched against each other vying for the Tindall Cup. So the challenge this time is a big one.
Via the Parish Clerk I submitted our formal entry into the competition in early April. It was accompanied
by maps to help the judges find the items they specify in their judging criteria. They plan an
unannounced visit during June, or the first two weeks of July.
A number of schemes that prepare the village are underway, some as previously, others new
Stewkley Parish Council was the first in the county to take responsibility from the local authority for
grass cutting and contracted the not-for-profit Stewkley Enterprise Agency to do the job. David Lett
has been heading up the Agency for more than ten years and this year there has been a slight
reorganization. Volunteer supervisors are now overseeing the three areas of the village that are each
assigned to two mowers. (Incidentally, the third of this year’s ten mowing sessions should begin next
week). The mowers have other duties too – including cleaning all the street and directional signs in
the village, a task that should be completed by the end of the month.
Weed killing in gutters and pavements is taking pace, and the Bucks Council roadsweeper should be
in action each side of the last weekend of this month.
For the first time there are two “wilding” areas where nature is allowed to take its course, each being
looked after by villagers. The three “islands” in High Street North have been getting special attention
as two of them have looked scruffy in the past.
The Grapevine is to be thanked for funding floral hanging baskets that should go up on bus shelters
at the end of the month, as will the Women’s Institute’s floral troughs at the Jubilee Pump.
Noticeboards will get special treatment, new elements to the audio tour of the village have been added.
A competition for the best red, white and blue floral display will be judged mid June.
A lot of people will need thanking if we land the cup this year. But if there’s one person the village
should be thanking for keeping things looking good it is David Lett who has headed the Stewkley
Enterprise Agency for near on a dozen years, and at the same time given the youngsters he has
employed a sense of pride in our village.
Tennis Club – Jeremy Gibbs
Membership remains solid as we enter the 2022/23 season, and we now have three teams competing
in local leagues – two mens’ teams and one womens’. Our head coach Matt has re-established regular
coaching for youngsters on Thursday evenings. With recent COVID grants, we aim to replace the
aging club hut/shed and resurface the court in the coming year or two – and are looking for further
grant and sponsorship opportunities. Regular Wednesday, Thursday night and Saturday sessions
remain well attended. Our new online booking system now allows non-members to pay-and-play. We
remain committed to getting as many people as possible enjoying the sport in a fun and welcoming
environment – there a few better things to do on a sunny day in Stewkley – and encourage anyone
with an interest to visit www.stewkleytennisclub.com
Church – Donald Peebles
Worship: as with so many areas of our lives this past year has been heavily coloured by the Covid
pandemic. However, despite ongoing challenges church worship has been a sure source of support
and comfort with the regular reminder that God is there always and cares for us all. It has been truly
wonderful to be back in church for regular worship on Sundays and to resume the singing of hymns
accompanied by uplifting organ playing. As the worship life of the church continues to return slowly
towards a pre-pandemic state it is noticeable that other aspects of church life such as post service
socialising are well attended and appreciated. Our recently returned mission statement shows that
we have welcomed new members to the congregation as well as said farewell to others.
Another welcome aspect to our worship life has been the Sunday School, run by Lillie Jenkins and
Tracy Scott as well as the regular lay led service, run by Lillie, with a strong focus on family and
children. There is now a feel of spiritual resilience evidenced when, at short notice we had to lead a
service for ourselves, with Tracy stepping ably into the gap.
Church Maintenance: On October 18th there was the first meeting of the Vestry Committee whose aim
is to resolve the issue of the vestry that is increasingly not fit for purpose and in danger of collapse.
As a first step a Statement of Need has been shared with the Diocese Advisory Committee. The
membership of the committee includes Howard Robson, Andrew Krauss, Donald Peebles, Juliet
Murray, Neil Dickens, John Sheldon, Paul Collins and Maeve Fox. I am grateful to many for helping
with the multiple actions that keep the church and its environs looking so good.
Food bank: Peter Wade co-coordinates our giving to the local Food Bank with many contributing
Social Events: The Scarecrow Trail – this Stewkley event took place on Saturday and Sunday 3/4th
July. Thanks are due to a terrific team of volunteers who made sure that trail participants received a
warm welcome and tea and cake as they passed the church. Coffee Stops recommenced in
September. Neil and Pam Dickens hosted a BBQ in September (postponed from earlier due to Covid
Restrictions) to mark Neil and Judy’s retirement as Churchwardens. A very successful Quiz night was
held with the Methodists with Andrew Krauss acting as knowledgeable and able quizmaster.
Our Clergy: we are extremely fortunate to be led by a fabulous team of Howard, Andrew and Annie.
Despite a punishing schedule they manage to nurture the parish, providing uplifting spiritual guidance,
an abundance of common sense and friendship. They also do much pastoral work behind the scenes
and I know their work in our local schools is much appreciated. Thank you!
Wildlife Reserve – Alan Dickens
The Wildlife Reserve fields continue to make progress in their primary purpose to attain increasing
wildflower richness in their sward. This was confirmed by another botanical survey carried out in June
2021 by Irina Tatarenko senior botanist with the Open University and the Floodplain Meadows
Partnership (F.M.P.) with whom our site has been involved since 2018.
In 2018 Irina surveyed only Old Churchfurlong using a recognised procedure of counting the number
of species within a square metre of turf i.e. a quadrat. This established that within the five quadrats
randomly chosen in the field an average of 19.5 different species existed of grasses and herbs.
In 2021 Irina took similar measurements in all three fields involving five quadrats in each. This time
the fields averaged over twenty species per quadrat, a figure indicative of a species-rich meadow.
Irina also determined a compatibility of over 60% our fields had with M.G.4 grasslands i.e. a
mesotrophic or modestly-fertile damp meadow with diverse botanical content. Another benchmark
indicator of success.
Irina attributes this improvement to “very careful and thoughtful tending of plants, sowing of seeds and
managing of the meadows”. This management has involved, most importantly, the cutting and
clearance of the hay crop each year, annual aftermath grazing of the autumn regrowth plus the sowing
of seeds including scattering “green hay”, planting of wildflower plugs and even exchanging too fertile
soil for some less rich.
The F.M.P. Project has found that of the 177 sites with which they are involved nationwide the most
successful have “consistent” and “sufficient” management as the most productive way to increase the
wildflower component in meadows by the means stated above. We are carrying out all those
recommended on an annual basis. With the very best M.G.4 meadows attaining a species richness
of 40+ within a square metre we clearly have a long way to go and wet fields are more difficult to
diversify than dry ones.
The highlight of 2021 was the proliferation of Common Spotted Orchid with over 500 flowers counted,
the vast majority in Old Churchfurlong but found in the other two fields also. The very dry, cold April
2021 delayed grass growth but the parasitic Yellow Rattle, despite a late germination, was ubiquitous
and kept the grasses under control even when more favourable growing weather ensued.
It was also a good year for the flowering of Tufted Vetch, Ox Eye Daisy, Cowslips, Lady’s Bedstraw
and Red Bartsia and for Meadow Vetchling in New Churchfurlong. Increasing the flowering of Ragged
Robin and Bugle remains a challenge.
The pond, full to overflowing even in early April, retained some water throughout the year and provided
a good flower display by Meadowsweet and Purple Loosestrife on its banks. There was a healthy
newt population, dragonflies overhead but again no frog spawn. Devil-bit Scabious flowered well in
the grass patch to the rear.
Purchases of wildflower seed was less than normal due to a lack of supply because of widespread
public demand. We helped to make up our own shortfall by gathering seed from local sources
including 1lb of Cowslip and 4lb of Agrimony which would have cost £500 to buy. Smaller quantities
of Rough Hawkbit, Meadow Cranesbill, Ox Eye Daisy, Burnet Saxifrage and Common Spotted,
Pyramidal, Bee and Green Winged Orchids were also gathered locally and spread on the fields in the
Over 650 plants were put in the meadows, grown on from plugs and seedlings (via 3” pots) to make
their establishment more likely within the existing, competitive sward. These included 150
Meadowsweet (which should complete the project to install them along the deepest, wettest furrows),
180 Great Burnet, 120 Pepper Saxifrage and 190 Field Scabious.
Other works carried out in the past year included the usual mowing of paths around and through the
fields (for ease of public access without trampling the flowers), cutting and laying of more hedgerow,
this time near the junction of New Churchfurlong and Jackdaw Field and also adjacent to the pond,
this to make thicker habitat to conceal bird nests. More spoil from the Burial Ground was exchanged
with the very fertile soil at the north-east corner of Old Churchfurlong, the site of a former dung heap,
to create a nutrient poor area suitable for sowing wildflowers rather that it growing rank grasses, nettles
and cow parsley that crave nitrogen. This means of reducing fertility is recognized as a last resort
owing to the amount of work required.
The Open University/F.M.P. Report stresses a need for us to achieve a better balance between more
common plants and those less easy to establish e.g. Cowslips, Orchids, Ragged Robin etc. Irina said
that our efforts to improve set an example to others and was one of their better projects. This shows
that Martin Scrivener’s annual hay work (the most important feature of maintenance i.e. cutting and
clearing the herbage) and the aftermath grazing provided by Mary Hunt’s sheep (“a key element in
promoting re-creation of species-rich meadows”) are contributions on which we are tremendously
dependent. We are very grateful for their continued willing co-operation and thank them sincerely for
their help in 2021.
The Chairman thanked everybody for their contributions and declared the meeting closed at 19:56