News Archive 2011

December 2011

Consultation on affordable housing gets going

Consultation with villagers on the new proposed affordable housing site on Fenway got under way with an exhibition of the draft plans on 10th November. To see the plans please click here.

This is to be followed by a new survey of interest to be completed by villagers and others with a connection to the village who might be interested in moving to the new houses when they are built. The survey will be delivered to every house in the village, but you can download it from the website and print it if you want to. To download a copy of the survey, please click here.

The closing date for the survey is December 7th. Once the result of the survey and comments at the exhibition have been analysed, the plans will be revised if necessary to meet current local needs. They should be submitted for planning permission to Cherwell District Council early in the New Year.

At the exhibition in the Village Hall committee room, villagers were able to meet with representatives of all those involved in the proposed development: the Parish Council, the developers Sovereign Housing, Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire Rural Community Council.

Sovereign’s in-house architect Toby Drake was there to explain his plans which are similar to those for the previous site on Sixtyfoot that had to be abandoned in the face of local objections.

The new site is on Fenway, on about a third of the field next to the existing affordable housing on Shepherds Hill. The draft plans show 12 homes: 2 two-bedroomed bungalows, 5 two-bedroomed houses, 4 three-bedroom houses and 1 four-bedroom house. It is expected that most houses will be available for rent below market price, but there will be opportunities for shared ownership as well.

These plans will be changed if the consultation shows the requirement for a different mix of houses. For example, at the exhibition it was stressed that some of the residents of Shepherds Hill are keen to move out of their two-bedroomed home in to a larger house. So building more three- and four-bedroomed houses on the new site might free up the smaller houses on Shepherds Hill.

The houses will be built to very high standard of insulation, and two of them are likely to have in- built flexibility, for example by putting in the necessary infrastructure for future development of the roof space. The design of the site aims to reduce the impact of this extra housing as much as possible, with only two houses visible from the existing by-way and most out of sight of the road.

Some people at the exhibition were concerned about the siting of the entrance to the site on Fenway, but Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways Department have already indicated that they are unlikely to have objections. A new footpath is proposed to run from the site to Shepherd Hill so that walkers are kept well away from the road.

Please note that it is important that everyone who wants to apply for social housing in Steeple Aston or elsewhere is registered with Cherwell District Council. To find out more about registering and download an application form, please go to www.cherwell.gov.uk/housingregister


Villagers dress up for a gala evening

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Steeple Aston villagers donned their dinner jackets and evening dresses for a special Gala Dinner in the Village Hall. Between courses they enjoyed the world premieres of two short plays by local authors, and after dinner they danced to the music of a well-known jazz singer.

The Black Tie event, held to raise funds for the Village Hall, was attended by 49 enthusiastic diners on Saturday, November 19th. They enjoyed a three-course meal provided by Croxfords and efficiently served by Barbara Brewer and her team of helpers. Candles, flowers and soft lights transformed the hall into a restaurant.

In between courses, diners were entertained by two 10 minute plays both written by residents of Steeple Aston – Tina Ferguson and Paul Ekert. They were performed by members of the Steeple Aston Players with lighting arranged by William Gardner. This was the first public performance for both these works which were applauded by an appreciative audience.

Towards the end of the meal, Cate Cody and her Jazz Quartet took diners on a journey of nostalgic American songs from the 1930s to the 1950s – irresistible for those diners who still had enough energy to get up and dance.

Cate is known as one of the UK’s finest jazz singers with critically acclaimed albums and an appearance at the BAFTA awards under her belt. For more information, see her website www.jazzcats.co.uk.


SAVA’s photography exhibition attracts admirers

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More than 100 people visited the exhibition “Steeple Aston through the Lens” and enjoyed a feast of local photographs from the 1850s to the present day. The show was held in the Village Hall over the weekend of 12th/13th November and was organised by Steeple Aston Village Archive.

Dave Jarratt reports: “What separates an ambrotype of Ann Wadham and a digital photograph of Simon, our splendid postman? The answer is (a) 149 years of technological change and (b) just a few feet in “Steeple Aston through the Lens”. Collected together were examples of local photography from virtually every period, charting the technological advances, changing styles and approaches to the medium that have taken place over that time.

“The portrait of Mrs Wadham, taken on the 21st October 1852, was printed onto the reverse of a piece of glass known as an ambrotype and mounted in wood by “Gilbert Price, Cabinet Maker, Steeple Aston”, inscribed on the reverse. The digital portrait of Simon was taken a few days before the exhibition when he broke off from his round to pose at the side of his van. His picture featured alongside those of long gone postal workers outside the old post office on South Side around the time of World War 1 in a thematic section of images of “People at Work.”

“Other themes included Teams, Events and Fairs, Portraits, Transport and House and Garden. The many visitors to the exhibition revelled in putting names to old faces of men standing outside the White Lion in 1945, identifying vintage cars and lorries, noting the changes to houses and cottages over the decades and spotting the fashions of the twenties and thirties.

“When it came to individual and group portraits, the subjects of the photographs seem to visibly relax with each passing decade as being photographed became less of an ordeal and more a pleasurable means of projecting a self-image. Smiling in a photograph was not encouraged much in the Victorian and Edwardian eras not because, as many think, it was hard to hold a smile for the long exposure time required, but because it would mark you out as a frivolous person who was not to be taken seriously. Much of the change was due to the introduction of the hand held Kodak camera around the turn of the 20th century when ordinary people were able to take “snapshots” for themselves without the need for professional studio photographers. A section of the exhibition illustrated these social and technological changes.

“Thanks are due to all the people who allowed their family photographs to be copied for the SAVA vaults and then used for the exhibition. The Preston/Wadham collection was well represented, as were photos of the Franks family. Of particular note was the extensive Bradshaw contribution. The Bradshaws inhabited the Grange for part of the last century and took many early pictures not only of their family but also of village life, especially fetes and flower shows. Their descendants have been generous in allowing access to a wonderful source of village history that might otherwise have been lost. SAVA is always keen to acquire copies of local photographs to keep in the archive.

Sales of SAVA publications were brisk and it is expected that there will be a good demand for the book which will follow the exhibition. This will be on sale shortly. SAVA’s website www.steepleastonarchive.org.uk is the place to keep abreast of news and to purchase books or CDs.”

SAVA’s latest book has just been published. It is based on last year’s exhibition and is called, “The development of Steeple Aston and Middle Aston: Understanding our houses through five centuries.” For more information, please click here.


Village Christmas cards go on sale

Christmas cards showing Steeple Aston in the snow are now on sale in the village shop.

There is a choice of packs: each pack contains eight cards (four each of two designs) with the message: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. Packs cost £5.00 each.

One pack shows a view up Paines Hill to the church and a pair of snowmen sitting on a bench.

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The other pack has a view of the Eyecatcher and sheep grazing in a local field.

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The cards will also be on sale at some Christmas events in the village or you can email editor@steepleaston.org.uk with your order. If you particularly want to buy only one of the designs, not a mixed pack, send an email or phone Jenny Bell on 01869 347714.

The cards have been produced by the website committee. Money raised will as usual be donated to village projects, mainly this year the Jubilee Bell Appeal.


Disappointment as green energy bid fails

Steeple Aston’s recent attempt to get a grant to bring free electricity to the Village Hall and other community buildings in Fir Lane has failed. Now the search is on to find alternative ways to fund the project.

The project was selected to be in the last hundred in the running to receive a grant from Energyshare, but failed to make it into the final ten. The ten projects selected will be put to a public vote in November. For more details go to www.energyshare.com

Margaret Mason, who led the bid, announced the outcome on Friday, October 28th. She said “I’m really sorry to let you know that we heard today Steeple Aston has not been successful in the second round of the Energyshare grant funding bid.

“I hope that we may, in the future, find some alternative way of carrying out the project which would have had so many benefits for the community buildings.

“We had over ten per cent of the village population signed up and, as this could only be adults with computers, who could battle through the Energyshare website, I think it was pretty good going.

“Thank you all for your support for the bid and for spreading the word, it was hugely encouraging seeing the numbers grow. Such a pity that we were not successful.”

If they can find funding for the scheme elsewhere, the community buildings in Fir Lane – the Village Hall, the Sport and Recreation Centre and the Pre-School – could all benefit from the generation of solar electricity from photo voltaic panels installed on their south facing roofs.

The bid to Energyshare included the stripping of the roof of the Sport and Recreation Centre and installing high quality insulation before re-battenning and re-tiling. At present this building’s roof is not insulated so that will be a major improvement in the heat loss and this building’s carbon footprint. The next stage, would be to install photo voltaic panels on this roof and of the roofs of the Village Hall and Pre-School.

Margaret said: “We have had quotes for the installation of photo voltaic panels from a well recommended company and the total for the three buildings, making the most of the potential, would be around £62,000, so a grant would be vital!

“There would be many benefits, should we be able to carry out this project. Firstly a sustainable electricity supply for these three community buildings, which then would also benefit considerably in the longer term through the feed-in tariff from the revenue from surplus energy exported to the National Grid. This would be a real financial help towards the upkeep of the buildings. We will also have the satisfaction that we are considerably lessening the commercial energy usage of the buildings, used and supported by the village, by generating local energy for local use.”


November 2011

Jubilee Bell Appeal reaches the halfway point

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Steeple Aston’s Jubilee Bell Appeal has raised £6,500 in just a few months. The appeal committee chairman Graham Clifton said, “It has been a fantastic start to have raised this amount in only four months and we are most grateful to the many people who have given so generously. This is about half the total required.”

The appeal committee have been very energetic in organising a series of events to raise enough money to buy a new tenor bell for the church to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year. They have been keen to place an order for the bell as soon as possible because of the volatility of world markets. Now they have half the cash required , they can put in their order which will guarantee the price of the metal.

The most recent fundraising events were a second Car Boot Sale in the Village Hall car park and a Handbell Concert the same evening. Despite a gloomy weather forecast for the Car Boot Sale, the rain held off until the end.

Graham said,” Seventeen people had booked a pitch in advance. On the day four did not turn up but four that had not booked did so we still had 17. A steady flow of people came and went throughout the morning and kept the refreshment ladies busy. Kimberly’s cakes were especially sort after and soon sold out. At one minute past twelve when we closed the rain started, it could not have been better timed. The total raised was £648.67.

Later that day they had the Wallingford Handbell Ringers performing in the Village Hall. They put on a very varied programme which also included Gay and Alan Cooper (pictured) playing their pieces from “Britain’s got Talent”. This went down especially well with the large audience.

The evening was interspersed with poetry readings and singing from Catherine Cooper and Charlotte Burgess. One of the poems had been especially written for the event. The amount raised from the evening was £625.50.


Surgery bus service comes under threat

The Dial-a-Ride bus service which takes villagers to the doctors’ surgery in Deddington is unlikely to continue in its present form after March 2012.

The service which also provides transport to Bicester for shopping for elderly and disabled passengers is under threat because Cherwell District Council thinks it is too expensive to fund.

The surgery bus is funded by contributions from both Steeple Aston Parish Council and Deddington Health Centre, and they are looking in to providing alternative transport for patients who need it.

The surgery practice manager, Sue Johnson explains: “For quite a long time now there has been a bus service that is provided from many of the rural villages around Deddington to the surgery. The idea behind this scheme was to enable those patients without their own transport to get to the surgery. This has been funded by money from the surgery and those Parish Councils whose patients use the bus.

“The number of patients who actually use this bus service has been declining, from nearly 400 in 2006-7 to just over 200 in 2010-11, nevertheless it provides a valuable service to those people who are not otherwise easily able to get to the surgery. For the last five years this bus has been provided by the charity, Dial-a-Ride.

“We have been advised that from April 2012, the funding from Cherwell Council that helps to run Dial-a-Ride may cease and that would mean that the bus in its current form may stop. We have been thinking about other methods of providing transport for patients without cars. Currently, people who have a National Bus Pass are able to travel for free on our bus. Anyone else using the bus has to pay £3 per journey.

“So far a couple of alternative options are being discussed. Firstly, there is a possibility that even without funding from Cherwell Council, Dial-a-Ride could continue to provide the bus service. It would cost the surgery a bit more and all the people using it would be asked to pay for their journey even those who have National Bus passes.

“Alternatively, there is a CCVS/VB (Cherwell Community & Voluntary Service) (VB = Volunteer Bureau) who run a volunteer car service, based in Banbury at the Horsefair surgery, that covers Deddington and they regularly take people to the Oxford hospitals and the Horton, as well as shorter trips.

“They have volunteer drivers who live in the Deddington area, and are planning to expand their operation. They charge 45p per mile for the driver plus 2p for the administration. Someone needing a lift to the surgery would phone their number a few days in advance and request a car to fit in with the time of their appointment. This service can be used already for anyone without their own transport needing a lift somewhere. The phone number to ring is 01295 759126. It’s an ansaphone, you leave a message of your requirements and a phone number and someone will get back to you.

“Since we do not as yet know what is actually happening about Dial-a-Ride we have not discussed which option may work best.”

At its September meeting Steeple Aston Parish Council heard that there are five regular users of the surgery bus in the village. The Parish Council thought there would be all sorts of insurance and bureaucratic problems with setting up their own community transport system similar to the one that already exists in Tackley. So the Parish Clerk is going to investigate the cost of providing a weekly minibus to the surgery. It is thought this may not cost much more than the current contribution towards the surgery bus.


Ann steps up when Pre-School manager fails to show

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Staff at Steeple Aston Pre-School had to pull out all the stops when their newly appointed manager withdrew just before the start of term. Fortunately, her deputy Ann Buswell was willing to take on the leadership role at short notice, and her team put in extra hours to make sure the school could open on time.

Karina Faulkner, who was due to take over as Pre-School Manager, unexpectedly resigned from her post the weekend before term started, citing personal reasons.

The Committee Chair, Nicky Elliot said she was surprised and shocked to receive an email from Karina, who had been paid to spend time in the Pre-School for induction in the summer term and had been in touch with her during the summer holidays.

In a letter to parents she said, “It is with great regret and disappointment that I am writing on the first day of the Pre-School term to inform you that our new manager due to start this week has decided she is unable to take up her position…

“Despite this, the remaining staff have decided that the experience, qualifications and passion that they share will be enough to keep the Pre-School running as usual while decisions are made regarding the way forward. I am sure our children won’t notice any difference at all.

“I am very thankful for the huge commitment the staff (and their family members!) have already shown.. coming in for long hours to prepare the setting, complete the planning from scratch and have the Pre-School ready to open for the start of term. Not every team would have been able to achieve this in just two days.

“As a village Pre-School, we rely on the enthusiasm and dedication of the staff and the involvement and commitment of parents to keep everything running smoothly. Although you may have concerns, many preschools do not have a manager. Instead they rely on the supervisor and staff, working with the management committee to oversee its running. While we don’t believe this is the long term solution for Steeple Aston Pre-School, it is the way we will be working in the short term. I am grateful that Ann has agreed to lead our committed team for now.”

It has been agreed that Ann will run the school as supervisor for this term on a trial basis, then there will be a reassessment by both sides at Christmas. The former manager Louise Mohajeri has been able to come in once a week to provide Ann with help and support, particularly with administrative tasks that were unfamiliar to her.

Nicky said “All the staff have been doing brilliantly, they have all taken work home to help out. They’ve just done fantastically.”

In a second letter to parents she wrote:” As I’m sure you have been aware, the Pre-School has been running as smoothly as ever, with all the staff working well as a team to ensure no glitches.

“The committee have met and decided that as Ann and the team have managed the situation so well, there is currently no need for us to appoint a new manager. Instead, we are going to have a trial period, until Christmas, with Ann running the Pre-School as Supervisor and Angi as acting deputy supervisor.”

Steeple Aston Pre-School in Fir Lane has 60 children aged two and above on its books. For more information, please click here.


First Steeple Aston Brownies launched

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Young girls in Steeple Aston can get involved with the country’s largest youth organization, right here in the village with the establishment of a new pack of Brownies, the junior division of the Girl Guides.

The new unit has been set up by Fiona McLoone, Kim Phipps, and Kelly Clinkard, all mothers of girls at Dr Radcliffe’s School. Their daughters were keen to become Brownies but due to its great popularity, the local pack in Deddington had a long waiting list.

Fiona explains, “We decided, with the encouragement and enthusiasm of Marian Trinder of Deddington Guides to start a new unit in the village to deal with the very obvious demand from girls in our village. Invaluable support and advice has also come from the local unit in Deddington and from Steeple Aston Scouts, for which we are very grateful.

“Brownies are for girls aged from seven to ten, and provides an opportunity to get together with other girls of a similar age, try new activities and make some friends while developing confidence and life-skills — all while having fun!

“Activities include arts, crafts, outdoor activities, cooking, singing, games and team challenges. Brownies can also earn badges for doing their best to meet special challenges across a wide variety of interests including “artist”, “stargazer”, “wildlife explorer” and “world culture”, to name but a few.”

Meetings are every Wednesday during school term time at the Sport and Recreation Centre between 6.00 and 7.30pm

Spaces are still available for girls aged seven to ten to join now (even mid-term) and younger girls can put their names on the waiting list by contacting Fiona McLoone at aston.brownies@yahoo.co.uk or by calling 01869 340132.


New site found for affordable housing

After a long and frustrating wait, Steeple Aston Parish Council has identified a new site for affordable housing in the village.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said: “At last we can report that an agreement has been reached on a new exception site for affordable housing. It is next to Shepherds Hill on Fenway.

“Sovereign Housing Group will again be the developer and Cherwell District Council and the Parish Council are delighted that a new site has been agreed which appears to find favour with Oxfordshire County Council’s highways department.”

There will be an Open Day on Thursday, 10th November when villagers will be able to see the draft plans and be able to talk to representatives from the Sovereign Housing and Home Ownership teams and Cherwell District Council’s Planning, Housing and Economy team as well as members of the Parish Council. It will be held from 3.30pm to 7.30pm in the Village Hall Committee Room.

Mrs Mason added, “We are all very anxious to be sure we have the right mix of houses, both in size and rented or part ownership before the plans are finalised so please, if you are in housing need, interested in a house, need to know about the allocation policy or want to talk about planning matters, please come along.”

A survey of Steeple Aston residents as long ago as February 2008 suggested there is a significant need for more affordable housing in the village – and strong support in the community for the building of such homes. But the Parish Council has been struggling to find a suitable site.

At Christmas time last year the council had to abandon plans to build 12 affordable houses on Sixtyfoot following opposition from some villagers and road safety objections from OCC’s highways department.

At the time the council promised to continue their search for a suitable site, but were not confident they would succeed. Reaching agreement on this new site is a great relief, and the fact that it is next to Steeple Aston’s original affordable housing development may make it more acceptable to all.


October 2011

White Lion for sale, but still open

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The owners of the White Lion pub have put it up for sale, but new tenants are keeping it going as best they can until it’s sold.

Mark Foster, his wife Lorraine Caspall and their three children moved in to the pub on August 19th, the day that the previous tenants moved out. They re-opened the following day, but say business has been very slow, partly because many people had heard the pub was to close.

They are holding an Open Day on Saturday, 17th September offering free food – burgers, chips, sausage rolls etc – from 6.00pm. Mark says the food they will serve on a daily basis is traditional wholesome pub grub such as steak and kidney pie.

The previous tenants Karen Richardson and Dave Bacon were surprised to hear from the pub’s owners Admiral Taverns that they’d decided to put it on the market. They had been at the pub for just under a year, and had made an effort to get involved in village life, for example supporting the Whit Races.

They said they were sad to leave but as the brewery had decided to sell, there was nothing they could do. Karen has managed to find a job working as a troubleshooter for a catering firm in Cambridgeshire, and Dave is going back to working in property maintenance.

The White Lion is on the market at a price of £300,000 plus VAT and there have already been viewings by at least three prospective purchasers. It could be sold as a pub, or could be turned into another business such as a shop, or a restaurant. It could also be turned in to a private home, but this would require planning permission and could take some time.

Admiral Taverns is the UK’s largest independent tenanted and leased pub company but it has been selling off pubs for the last couple of years. It currently has nearly 200 pubs for sale.

Mark said, “Villagers won’t be very happy if the pub is closed. But they must understand you have to use it or will lose it.”

Mark and his family moved to Steeple Aston from nearby Bicester so their children are still able to stay at school there. Mark had recently sold a car valeting business, but has plenty of experience in the trade as he spent five years running a bar and restaurant in Spain. He says he and his family will stay in the pub until it’s sold – whether it takes two months or two years.


Spectacular exhibits in popular Flower Show

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Steeple Aston’s 120th annual flower show and fun dog show attracted an estimated 800 visitors to Robinsons Close on Bank Holiday Monday. And there were 860 entries in the 141 classes, one of the highest numbers in the society’s history.

The marquee contained some spectacular exhibits including cabbages one metre across and a carrot which looked at least 24″ long. There were massive marrows and huge dahlias among the exhibits of vegetables, flowers and soft fruit from this year’s bumper crop.

Visitors admired the range of homemade cakes and jams and also enjoyed displays of photographs and limericks beginning: ‘There once was a girl in Grange Park.’. The children’s sections showed great inventiveness such as the prizewinning ‘vegetable vehicle’ which was a sailing ship constructed of a marrow, courgettes, cabbage leaves and beans.

Julia Whybrew was Show Champion winning the Walker Cup and Alice Owen-Lloyd won the Senior Children’s Cup for the second year running. Hannah McLoone was the junior cupwinner. Multiple class winners included Brian Badby (Hayter and Lee Cups, Doug Walton Trophy and Banksian Medal), Richard Preston (Robson and Rousham Cups) and Daphne Preston (Wadham, Scott, Fothergills and George Alder Memorial Cups).

The Fun Dog Show took place outside the marquee and attracted 46 entrants and they provided lots of entertainment. The Edwards family organised it this year and Julia Joyce was the judge.

Daisy Spencer and her dog Chewy won Dog of the Day as well as Best Child Handler, the Veteran Dog class. Chewy is a Yorkshire terrier cross who is 10 years old, the same age as Daisy.

More entertainment such as bowling, a coconut shy, jousting, shooting and miniature horse racing were placed around Robinsons Close and there were stalls selling everything from clothes to candy floss. Inside the Village Hall, the usual delicious teas were served surrounded by floral arrangements.

Horticultural Society Chairman Richard Preston said: “At first glance it looks like we have covered the £2,500 it cost to stage the show thanks to the generosity of all those people who came to Robinsons Close on a dry but autumn-like afternoon.

“I think Steeple Aston has proved yet again what a tremendous community spirit it has and the support demonstrated by all entrants goes to show this village is the best. Like any other event it does not happen without considerable hard work by a few people and this show is no different.

“The Steeple and Middle Aston Horticultural Society has a small but exceptional committee dedicated to staging what can only be described as the biggest and best traditional flower show in North Oxfordshire and it is thanks to them and the support of the local community that the show is the success it is.

“If anyone would like to join this small but happy band then they can come along to the AGM on Wednesday 21st September in the Village Hall committee room at 8.00pm.”

To see more photos, please click here.

For the full results, please click here.


September 2011

Jubilee Bell appeal gains momentum

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The efforts of fundraisers for the Jubilee Bell appeal are starting to show fruit as this new “bell” outside Steeple Aston Church shows.

A series of fundraising events have already been held, and there are plenty more planned for the next few months to raise enough money to buy a new tenor bell for the church to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year.

Cathy Fleet, treasurer of the jubilee fund said “We have raised nearly £4,000 so far and the target is over £10,000. We are hoping to raise more than half by the end of the year so that we can place an order with the foundry so they can buy the metal required at a competitive price.”

The most recent event was an Aunt Sally and BBQ, which raised £358 for the appeal. It was held on Sunday, 24th July outside the Sport and Recreation Centre. The organiser Sally Cooper described it as a great success.

She said, “Not only did we have a wonderful hot sunny afternoon, but a good turnout of people and some delicious food. There was a very lovely atmosphere with teams competing keenly, urged on by their supporters, and families playing happily in the play area.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Lawrence White for organising the Aunt Sally and Bowling and to Pat Armitage for keeping score. Also to Diana Gardner and Graham Clifton for their help with the BBQ and lastly to Chris Cooper for running the bar.

The winners of the Aunt Sally were Lawrence’s team which consisted of himself, David Armitage and Dave and Adrian Thomas. The winner of the Bowling Competition was a lovely young lady called Louisa who comes from Columbia and the winner of the £1 Raffle was Adam Peckham.”

The next fundraising event will be a second Car Boot Sale in the Village Hall car park on Saturday 10th September, also organised by Sally. She said, “If anyone’s hoarding lots of clutter in their loft or attic and they want to make some money from it, they can book a car pitch by ringing me on 01869 347173.”

Other events in the offing include a handbell concert, a barn dance, a pudding evening and an open gardens day. For more information, please click here.


Cow Lane plan withdrawn while developer reconsiders

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A planning application for the redevelopment of the Wincote site in Cow Lane has been formally withdrawn following protests from villagers.

The site owner, City architect Michael Squire, will now review the plan and is likely to submit a revised application in the autumn.

Mr Squire told a packed public meeting on 19th July that he was mortified and had made “an enormous mistake” in not consulting villagers before submitting his plans to the local council.

Nearly 100 people were in the Village Hall at the meeting hastily arranged by the Parish Council. Council Chairman, Margaret Mason commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people at a public meeting here. Perhaps it is an indication of the depth of feeling about this issue.”

Mrs Mason explained that the Parish Council had no prior knowledge of the plans for Wincote. She had asked the district council for an extension to the three-week consultation period and had organised the meeting so that villagers could comment before the next Parish Council meeting. She thought it only fair that the Squire family should also be allowed to explain their plans.

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Michael Squire, gave a presentation on his proposals explaining that his father bought Wincote in 1973. He and the family had always wanted to build a house at the top of the garden with a view to the Eyecatcher.

He said that his proposal “will be very beautiful and beautifully made”. He said it would be a family home, but not in use all the time, and he guaranteed that it was absolutely not a commercial proposition. He said he would be prepared to enter in to a legally binding agreement to prevent it being used commercially.

He accepted that revisions would need to be made, and came up with several suggestions including a reduction in the size of the footprint and/or the height of the buildings, a reduction in the number of car parking spaces, retention of more of the existing house and the use of more stone and less timber in the proposed building.

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David Palmer, pictured, who has led the protests through his website www.savewincote.org said he thought the proposed building was very beautiful but not suitable for this site. It was seeking to dominate the landscape between the Eyecatcher and the Church.

Many villagers were also concerned about the size and appearance of the building and the change to the views from Cow Lane particularly in the winter when summer foliage was absent. There was much surprise that such a major change could be contemplated in a Conservation Area and that the Conservation Officer didn’t appear to have been consulted.

Villagers were also worried about the extra traffic generated at the junction of Cow Lane and Paines Hill, as well as down the very narrow lane, particularly during the construction period which could last as long as two years. Houses in the lane would be blighted during the planning process and then during construction.

A handful of people at the meeting said they didn’t object to the plans, but over 80 objections were lodged with Cherwell District Council.

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Also at the meeting was District Councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes, pictured here, who is a member of the planning committee which will consider any proposal. He explained the planning process and said that he and the other district councillor James Macnamara, who is also on the committee, were not allowed to express any view on the proposals before a committee meeting but were very happy to hear from villagers on the subject by email or personally. He was at the meeting to listen to all sides.

Two days after the public meeting, Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason, said she had been contacted by the developer’s son. “I heard last night from the applicant, Henry Squire, that they have formally withdrawn the application for Wincote. I have not yet spoken to the Planning Officer to further confirm this but it seems definite.

“The applicants do wish to re-consider and probably put forward a new application in the autumn. They will be taking into account local objections and have promised that they will come back to the village with their new application before it is lodged with Cherwell District Council.

“As the application has been withdrawn it will not be discussed at the Parish Council meeting on Monday, other than to acknowledge the withdrawal.”

The leader of the protest group, David Palmer, said: “The owners of Lockhall Cottage, which backs onto Wincote, today received a message from Mr Henry Squire, promising to look at new ideas, consult with the neighbours, and resubmit in October.

“Whilst we welcome the withdrawal of this application, the future remains uncertain. We may have won ’round one’, but we will need to remain vigilant and continue to monitor proceedings.

“In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone for their excellent support in what has been a genuine community project: localism in action.”


More Community Responders and defibrillators for Steeple Aston

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Seven volunteers have now been trained as Community First Responders for the village and provided with defibrillators and other equipment so they can deal with medical emergencies before an ambulance arrives.

Pictured here are five of the community responders. They are (l to r) Susi Tyler, Alan Brewer, Lawrence White, Karen Richardson and John Fortin. In the background is Dave England, Trainer, South Central Ambulance Service. The other two volunteers not pictured are Cathy Fleet and Josie Cassidy.

Parish Councillor Clare McKinley writes: “Thanks to the efforts and generosity of groups and individuals in the village, we now have seven fully trained and equipped Community First Responders in Steeple and we own one of the three defibrillators in the village.

“The seven volunteers completed their training with the South Central Ambulance Service in June and will also attend regular refresher courses in future to keep their training up to date. They have now been issued with three First Response kits which each include a defibrillator, an oxygen cylinder, dressings and a phone linked to the 999 Call Centre. The defibrillators, which deliver a controlled shock to the heart, are used in cases of cardiac arrest and can make the vital difference between survival or permanent heart damage, and a full recovery.

“What does this mean for the village? If anyone has a life threatening emergency, you dial 999 as usual. The Call Centre immediately alerts the Community First Responders on duty who will be with you in a matter of minutes before the ambulance arrives. They will provide you with initial assessment and care before handing over to the paramedics. The minutes saved can make a crucial difference.

“Thank you to the seven volunteers who have come forward. At the June meeting of the Parish Council, councillors thanked the volunteers on behalf of the village for their ‘massive commitment’ of time and for their teamwork.

“Finally, thanks to all those who raised funds for this project: the Valentine Club who made the substantial first contribution, Steeple Aston Website, the Film Club, the Sport and Recreation, the Whit Races in 2010 and the Book Club. Also to all those individuals who contributed through direct fundraising or through the collecting boxes at the White Lion and the Red Lion. Special thanks to the White Lion and all those who took part in the Whit Races in May this year for donating the proceeds from the day – it was a phenomenal effort in appalling weather and made all the difference.”

For more information, visit www.scas.nhs.uk

Clare McKinley

Parish Council


Green energy bid wins through to second stage

Steeple Aston is through to the next round in its green energy bid for a grant to bring free electricity to the Village Hall and other buildings in Fir Lane. Over 80 people have already supported the bid, now even more are needed to ensure success in the second round. Only 100 bids, one in ten, have been chosen to go through to the second stage. Now the Steeple Aston group must prepare its case for the next stage of the process, and it needs more supporters to help it on its way. Margaret Mason, who is leading the bid said: “This is entirely due to village support and thank you all who have battled with the website to join up. We will need even more support to get through the next round but it is a really worthwhile effort.” The community bid by Steeple Aston to the Energyshare Fund was prepared in just six weeks. To support Steeple Aston’s group, go to www.energyshare.com/steeple-aston and click on Support this Group. Margaret Mason said, “Energyshare’s founding partners, River Cottage and British Gas have pledged up to £500K in the launch round of the Energyshare fund, and are committed to finding more funding. British Gas are distributing a further £3m to community renewable energy projects through the Energyshare fund over the next three years, so we need to put in a really good second round bid, and to ask you all to encourage people to support it. If this bid has lots of support we really are in with a chance to do something very positive for the village, and for the environment, and that has to be worthwhile!” If the bid is successful, the community buildings in Fir Lane – the Village Hall, the Sport and Recreation Centre and the Pre-School – could all benefit from the generation of solar electricity from photo voltaic panels installed on their south facing roofs. The bid to Energyshare includes the stripping of the roof of the Sport and Recreation Centre and installing high quality insulation before re-battenning and re-tiling. At present this building’s roof is not insulated so that will be a major improvement in the heat lost and this building’s carbon footprint. The next stage, would be to install photo voltaic panels on this roof and of the roofs of the Village Hall and Pre-School. Margaret explains: “We have had quotes for the installation of photo voltaic panels from a well recommended company and the total for the three buildings, making the most of the potential, would be around £62,000, so a grant would be vital! “There would be many benefits, should we be able to carry out this project. Firstly a sustainable electricity supply for these three community buildings, which then would also benefit considerably in the longer term through the feed-in tariff from the revenue from surplus energy exported to the National Grid. This would be a real financial help towards the upkeep of the buildings. We will also have the satisfaction that we are considerably lessening the commercial energy usage of the buildings, used and supported by the village, by generating local energy for local use.” The Steeple Aston group will now be asked to submit a full and detailed application. The energyshare fund panel, which includes representatives from energyshare, British Gas, River Cottage and Friends of the Earth, will then assess the applications. They will shortlist ten projects which will be put to a public vote to decide which will receive funding.


 

Pre-School says farewell to Louise, welcome to Karina

preschoolsignLouise Mohajeri, the manager of Steeple Aston Pre School for the last eight years, says a final farewell to the children and staff at the end of this term. In September, Karina Faulkner will take over the manager’s job. Louise has written a note to the villagers of Steeple Aston, which she’s asked us to put on the website. It says: “Just a little note to say farewell, as some of you may know I have been the manager of the preschool for the last eight years and have seen many changes within this time. The most recent one obviously the new build which has bought the preschool into the 21st century. This couldn’t have happened without the support of the Dr Radcliffe Trust and many other community members who have helped us in this venture. “The preschool is very much a community preschool and over the years with the support of the staff members has flourished into a well recognised early years setting. “When Ann, myself and Carol plus other members started there was only 15 children on the books we operated just mornings while taking simply children at 3 years old who were toilet trained! “Now we have 60 children on the books, 25 children on each session operating 5 days a week full time. We have had two outstanding/good Ofsted reports which as you may know is no easy feat as we have no warning at all they just turn up! “Preschool is all about the people that work there and the staff are fantastic and loyal to the preschool so this gives me the opportunity to say a BIG thank you to them, preschool just wouldn’t be as good as it is without them. “So what about me -Well Mehdi [my husband] and I now operate four Kumon maths and English study centres and it needs me full time. “I will miss the children, the staff and the community so so much and thank you all for the last eight years.” Pre-School Committee Chair, Nicky Elliot said in a letter to parents: “We are very pleased to announce that Karina Faulkner has accepted the offer of the manager position and will officially start in September, although you may meet her in the final weeks of the summer term during her induction. “Karina has eight years experience working in a pre-school setting as a supervisor and before that as a parent helper. Recently, following the setting up of a successful foundation stage unit, Karina decided to take some time to complete her foundation degree in Early Years education and is currently working towards her Early Years Professional Status while working as a childminder from home. “I am sure you will all join with me to welcome Karina, and it won’t be long before she settles into what she already knows is a great preschool. We are certain that Karina will be able to build on the fantastic job Louise has done during her time here, to maintain the outstanding contribution the preschool makes to the start of our children’s education. To introduce herself, Karina writes: “Driving up to the preschool through the village filled me with thoughts of how beautiful Steeple Aston was and what a lovely place it would be to visit more often. From September 2011 I will have the pleasure of making that journey, from Aston, every day when I take over from Louise as the village preschool manager. “I have always been passionate about the principles of good early childhood practice which has driven my professional development. I have been fortunate to be able to work with children for the last ten years and over this time have also worked with some wonderful practitioners. “Early childhood has been high on recent political agendas and as practitioners we are regularly expected to respond to new initiatives. I see part of my role as the manager to not only lead the strong team of dedicated practitioners through such obstacles but to also ensure that the highest level of care and education is on offer for the children of Steeple Aston. “Over the past few years I have been juggling studying towards a degree in early years at Oxford Brookes University along with working full time, looking after my ten year old daughter and our two ponies. As you can imagine, life has been busy! I am really looking forward to becoming part of the team at the preschool and I look forward to meeting all of the families.”


 

Bishop installs Mark Clavier as Rector

rector2 The Rev’d Dr Mark Clavier was installed as Rector in Steeple Aston Church by the Bishop of Dorchester on Thursday, July 16th. Father Mark, as he will be known, now takes over responsibility for the United Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Aston and Tackley. He moved in to the Rectory at the beginning of June with his 11-year-old son Paul, who is enjoying a short time making new friends at Dr Radcliffe’s School before starting at The Warriner in September. His wife Diane, a management accountant, will join them shortly when she finishes work in County Durham where they lived previously. The household is completed by an energetic Springer Spaniel puppy called Cuthbert. Although born in the USA, Father Mark has dual nationality because his father originally came from Yorkshire. He and his family left their home in Asheville, North Carolina to move to the UK three years ago so he could do a PhD at the University of Durham, which has the best theology department in the country. He is hoping that his PhD thesis, on “the medieval role of delight and our relationship with God” will soon be turned in to a book. His academic interest in the medieval church attracted him to Steeple Aston, which has the added advantage of proximity to Oxford where he will be able to pursue his academic interests when time allows. In Durham Father Mark also taught at the university and assisted a vicar in the local pit villages. The family lived in a pit village themselves and experienced first-hand the problems caused by long-term unemployment after the closure of the coal mines. Now he is keen to return to full-time ministry in Steeple Aston. He enjoyed being interviewed for the job, especially the session with a group of children from Dr Radcliffe’s, and says that people have been extraordinarily friendly and welcoming since he arrived. He’s already had plenty of people calling in to the Rectory to say hello, some of them bringing gifts of fresh vegetables. He hopes his interests in gardening and cooking will mean he has plenty in common with local people. The whole family are very keen on the quality of life in Britain, but Father Mark is aware that there are cultural and organisational differences between the English and American churches. He says the laity plays a greater part in the running of church affairs here, so the Rector plays a more collegiate and diplomatic role than he’s used to. Also he will be much more involved in the community, not just working with his own church members as in the US. He is looking forward to this and both positive and optimistic about his new role. He says: “Central to my own approach to ministry is my belief that we live in a world that imprisons many in lives of isolation and artificiality where we never get to know our neighbours, plumb the depths of our own souls or stand still long enough to hear God’s still, small voice. Hence, despite our many advances, we are by and large an unhappy people. “One of my hopes is that I may be able to help show at least some an abundant life in which hope dispels despair, trust leads to a deeper sense of place and fellowship, and love is grounded in the deep delight of God and each other.” Father Mark has already met lots of villagers, and is looking forward to meeting plenty more over the next few weeks. If you haven’t met him already, you will have a chance to do so when he opens the Church Fete on Saturday 25th June at 2.00pm.


 

Villagers urged to join call for faster broadband

Organisers of a project to bring faster broadband and better mobile phone coverage to rural Oxfordshire needs villagers to sign up to their campaign. Their immediate aim is to get government funding to help pay for the deployment of superfast broadband in the area. Oxfordshire County Council is appealing to villagers to take part in their online residential broadband demand survey so it can prove there is a real need for government funding for superfast broadband in the county. You can take part in the survey by clicking here. Letters have already gone from the Parish Council, the Parish Plan coordinator and the website committee outlining the need for faster broadband and better mobile phone coverage in the village. They explain that although we lost out in the recent BT Race to Infinity but there is considerable support from the Parish Council and from residents in Steeple Aston for installing faster broadband as soon as possible. The County Council has appointed deputy leader David Robertson as its broadband champion. He is leading the project with the immediate aim of submitting a bid to government for extra funding. They are collecting evidence of need from residents to do this. Their website says “Let us know if you want faster broadband where you live to help our bid for funding. We need to prove that families and communities in rural areas want faster broadband and are willing to pay a one-off connection charge and the monthly charge. By signing up to this campaign, you will help our efforts to ensure that rural communities can access a similar level of broadband service that most people in towns and cities already enjoy.” If you’re unable to complete the survey online please contact the broadband project manager, Dawn Pettis on 01865 816082 or email dawn.pettis@oxfordshire.gov.uk. Dawn reports that 350 Oxfordshire residents have completed the survey so far, but says that many, many more are needed. She explains that the commercial market is not delivering superfast broadband in rural areas, so they need a government grant to help lever in private sector funding. The council will submit its bid in the summer. For more information about the project and to complete the survey, go to www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/broadband .  


August 2011

“Very serious” situation makes Scouts’ future uncertain

scoutslogo 1st Aston Scouts have suspended their June meetings, and activities for September are in doubt as so many members have left recently. The Executive Committee is appealing for more boys, girls and adults to get involved. John Curtis, the Chair of the Executive Committee writes: “1st Astons held their AGM on Tuesday 10th May. The finances are healthy but we need to recruit more boys and girls into the scouts to create the “buzz” that young people need to keep them keen and enthusiastic. “Quite a few older boys and girls have just moved on and we need to bring more scouts in to replace them. Indeed the situation is currently very serious as more than half the troop left at the end of last term and meetings have had to be suspended for June; that means that the activities planned for September are now in real doubt. “Part of the challenge is to make people aware of what is available to them through Steeple Aston Scouts: being a member of the scouts gives boys and girls from 10-15 access to a huge amount of resources including camping and cook-out equipment, canoeing, climbing, hiking, archery and shooting as well as support for work on craft and other skills that lead to scout badges. And all the activities are usually free. The scouts really do offer a huge amount in return for a very small commitment from the boys and girls (the scouts meet on Tuesday evenings throughout term time). “Steeple Aston scouts are lucky to have strong finances and two enthusiastic leaders but to do some of the activities we are planning for September we need help. Unfortunately, expanding the range of activities is not as straightforward as you might think. Increases in controls and legislation mean that for most activities our Leaders need to gain and maintain certification. This is time consuming for any one activity, rather like a Pilot’s Licence: you not only have to make the grade, but have to put in the hours to retain the ticket. Multiply this up by several activities, and problem becomes clear. “The solution is to have multiple Leaders, not to run every meeting/activity, but to enable us to run specific activities when needed. For example, we need a female Leader if we want to do a Camp involving the Girl Scouts – We currently don’t have one. We cannot put these changes into place overnight, hence the temporary suspension of Formal Meetings: we need time to restructure the Group to meet these challenges. “The Astons have a long association with Scouting; we have sent our Scouts to Jamborees around the World. The skills that Scouts acquire are not only specific to Scouting: teamwork, leadership, and self-reliance are life- skills that have helped and continue to help those who have taken advantage of what Scouting offers in The Astons. Should these opportunities be lost through lack of support? “As a resident of one of the villages, I am sure that you value the benefits of village life: of being part of a small community. Those benefits and the sense of community (of which Scouting is a vital part) depend upon your support. “Any help that you can give to keep Scouting as a thriving part of that community is welcome. I am sure you will know at least one the contacts listed below, and be comfortable discussing with them how you can help or, if you prefer, e-mail the committee on steeple.aston.scouts@hotmail.co.uk and we will send you details of our June open-evening.” The committee members are: John Curtis, Sally Brown, Colin Cassford, John Chick, Bryn Jones and Torquil Mclusky.  


 July 2011

Cow Lane plan to be revised after protest meeting

Plans for the redevelopment of the Wincote site in Cow Lane are to be revised following protests from villagers to the planning authorities and at a packed meeting in the Village Hall. The site owner, City architect Michael Squire, admitted to the meeting that he was mortified and had made “an enormous mistake” in not consulting villagers before submitting his plans to the local council. And he offered to put them on hold while they are revised in the light of objections from the village. Mr Squire and his son Henry said they would bring their revised plans to another public meeting in the village before submitting them to Cherwell District Council. Mr Squire said that he did not wish to “go to war” with villagers and hoped to find an accommodation with them. But he made it clear that if there was no agreement, he would go ahead with his application to the district council. Nearly 100 people were in the Village Hall at the meeting hastily arranged by the Parish Council. Council Chairman, Margaret Mason commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people at a public meeting here. Perhaps it is an indication of the depth of feeling about this issue.” Mrs Mason explained that the Parish Council had no prior knowledge of the plans for Wincote. She had asked the district council for an extension to the three-week consultation period and had organised the meeting so that villagers could comment before the next Parish Council meeting. She thought it only fair that the Squire family should also be allowed to explain their plans. Michael Squire gave a presentation on his proposals explaining that his father bought Wincote in 1973. He and the family had always wanted to build a house at the top of the garden with a view to the Eyecatcher. He said that his proposal “will be very beautiful and beautifully made”. He said it would be a family home, but not in use all the time, and he guaranteed that it was absolutely not a commercial proposition. He said he would be prepared to enter in to a legally binding agreement to prevent it being used commercially. He accepted that revisions would need to be made, and came up with several suggestions including a reduction in the size of the footprint and/or the height of the buildings, a reduction in the number of car parking spaces, retention of more of the existing house and the use of more stone and less timber in the proposed building. David Palmer, pictured, who has led the protests through his website www.savewincote.org said he thought the proposed building was very beautiful but not suitable for this site. It was seeking to dominate the landscape between the Eyecatcher and the Church. Many villagers were also concerned about the size and appearance of the building and the change to the views from Cow Lane particularly in the winter when summer foliage was absent. There was much surprise that such a major change could be contemplated in a Conservation Area and that the Conservation Officer didn’t appear to have been consulted. Villagers were also worried about the extra traffic generated at the junction of Cow Lane and Paines Hill, as well as down the very narrow lane, particularly during the construction period which could last as long as two years. Houses in the lane would be blighted during the planning process and then during construction. A handful of people at the meeting said they didn’t object to the plans, but over 80 objections have now been lodged with Cherwell District Council, and more have been submitted since the meeting and the Squires’ offer to revise their proposals. Also at the meeting was District Councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes, pictured here, who will be on the planning committee which will consider the proposal. He explained the planning process and said that he and the other district councillor James Macnamara who is also on the committee were not allowed to express any view on the proposals before the planning meeting but were very happy to hear from villagers on the subject by email or personally. He was at the meeting to listen to all sides. The proposal will be discussed by the Parish Council at its meeting on Monday, 25th July starting at 7.30pm in the Committee Room of the Village Hall. Members of the public are welcome, although space is limited. . Below is the architect’s model of the proposed development.  architectsmodel


 Public meeting to hear protests over Cow Lane development plan

wincotenow A group of Steeple Aston residents have formed an action group to protest against a dramatic redevelopment proposed on the site of Wincote in Cow Lane. And they will soon get the chance to air their views at a public meeting being hastily arranged by the Parish Council. The Wincote site owner, City architect Michael Squire, has applied for planning permission to demolish most of the existing house and build six garden bedroom apartments each with their own contemplation pool, a spa complex and parking for 12 cars. The meeting will take place in the Village Hall on Tuesday, 19th July starting at 7.30pm. The developer will be there to explain the plans, and there will be a chance for villagers to give their views to the Parish Council. The Save Wincote Action Group has been set up by residents living close by and others with an interest in the area. They have created a website (www.savewincote.org) which gives all the details of the application and their reasons for opposing it. It also explains how to go about registering a formal objection to the plans with Cherwell District Council. They are also leafleting villagers and contacting the local media to draw attention to their objections. The protesters say the plan would mean replacing a traditional family home with a “vast structure” five times the size of the next-biggest property in the neighbourhood. They suspect the development is really intended as a commercial venture. The redevelopment is the brainchild of architects Squire and Partners, whose current projects include Chelsea Barracks. The owner’s son, Henry Squire, explained the project to parish councillors and a group of concerned local residents at a recent on-site meeting. The property, pictured above, has been owned by the Squire family for nearly 40 years but has been rented out to tenants for some years wincoteproposed In planning documents submitted to the District Council, the architects say the development, pictured here, would be for private use by the Squire family and, though of modern design, would be suitable for inclusion within a conservation area. “For the last eight years, Wincote has been let to private individuals as the family were no longer able to occupy the existing house,” says the planning application. “With five grown-up children there are not enough bedrooms and the living accommodation is very small. This proposal will allow the family the return to Oxfordshire with their children. “The proposal is clearly a distinct and modern addition to the village. However it has been located and designed to be unobtrusive and to respect local spaces, public realm and the landscape. Indeed, the retention of the existing walls of Wincote has been included within the scheme in order to preserve those elements of the existing building that make the positivecontribution to the conservation area.” The Save Wincote website was set up by David Palmer, who lived in Wincote for four years. He and his wife Shirley loved the house and offered to buy it. Previous tenants include the broadcaster Anne Robinson and the Marquess of Blandford. Other villagers involved in the action group include Jon and Nicola Silversides, who live in Oak Ridge on Cow Lane directly opposite the entrance to Wincote. Nicola said, “We just can’t believe the scale of this development and its appearance. It’s completely out of character for the village, and for such a beautiful site. “And we are concerned about the traffic implications during the long construction period and afterwards. I’m not sure how Cow Lane would cope with it. We’re objecting to the District Council and want as many people as possible to do the same.” Objections from a number of nearby residents have already appeared on the District Council’s website, including one from Peter Higgins, of Canterbury House, who says: “I have never seen any development that is so disgusting and so completely out of keeping with the village of Steeple Aston. My sons play with a friend on Cow Lane. Increasing the number of parking spaces to 12 and hence 12 cars will be a danger to them and any of the many hundreds of people who walk down there. The architectural design is as far from being right for this village as it is possible to be. Why was there no consultation on this development? It all smacks of deals behind closed doors.” Most upset of all are Abigail Boisot and Matthew Butcher who moved in to Lockhall Cottage on Cow Lane with their 16-month-old daughter Maisie just a few weeks ago. They were looking forward to the peace and quiet of the Steeple Aston countryside after problems with planning blight in their previous homes. They had been assured by their solicitors that no developments were planned close to their new home, and within a week of their arrival saw the notice of the planning application. Abigail said: “Matt and I are very upset. We came here to get away from it all and to give our daughter a better life. We are still in shock and cannot believe this is happening. The only good thing to come out of this is that everyone in the village has been so welcoming and supportive.” Steeple Aston Parish Council will consider the redevelopment at their next meeting on July 25th. Then in September it will go to the planning committee of Cherwell District Council. In the meantime, the Parish Council is hoping to organise a public meeting to discuss the proposals on Tuesday, July 19th. Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said, “We only found out about the proposed development ourselves a couple of weeks ago. We have persuaded Cherwell District Council to delay their decision so it can be considered by the Parish Council. “We think it’s essential that everyone has a chance to hear about the proposals and have their say at a public meeting. Henry Squire will be there to answer questions from the villagers. “We think there are a lot of misconceptions about this which can be corrected. For example, there is no intention for this to become a commercial venture, and we can ensure that conditions are imposed to prevent that happening in future.” The action group’s website is www.savewincote.org Details of the architects’ proposal can be downloaded here:


 

Rain fails to dampen Whit Races spirits

whit2011 The day was less than dry and the brollies were out in force! Children and parents still managed to enjoy a fun day despite the soggy conditions – and over £700 was raised for the village defibrillator fund. The Whit Races on Bank Holiday Monday were hosted by the White Lion and organised by the Whit Races committee. Karen Richardson, landlady of the White Lion, wants to thank the other members of the committee for all their hard work. They are Steve Boote, Damien Cassidy, Susan Tyler, Anna Whybrew and Karen Adriaanse. She writes: “Special thanks also to: • Admiral Taverns for their donation of Beer • The New Fire Chief Michel (recently moved into the village) and his crew from Deddington who brought the local Fire Engine and for taking part in the races! The Oxfordshire Ambulance Service for the Ambulance Colin Cassford and the 1st Aston Scout Troop “There are too many people to thank individually so I would like to thank you all for helping with the stalls, activities and your generous donations. All the events contributed to the village’s collection for its second defibrillator. This is because the nearest ambulance station is at least 12 minutes away from Steeple Aston and the first 10 minutes in a cardiac arrest are crucial. The first defibrillator has already proved invaluable and the second would make sure that crucial help would be available to everyone in the village. “We had a good turnout of people who helped raise a staggering £702.60 towards this worthwhile cause. This was made up from: Raffle 103.00 Plant stall 63.60 White Lion Beer sales 139.00 Candy Floss 50.30 Ice cream 14.00 Entry Fees 51.60 Vintage Cars 2.00 Roundabout 5.00 Face Painting 9.00 Brownies 4.00 Cakes 136.75 White Lion Collection Jar 60.00 Coffee and Chat 30.00 Aunt Sally 15.00 Scouts Tombola 124.36 Costs for the day were 105.00 “Half of the sales from the Brownies was retained by them to start their new group £4.00. The scouts raised money for their group and retained the proceeds from the burgers and hot dogs £235.00 with costs to be deducted and 50% of the Tombola proceeds, £124.36. There are still unclaimed raffle prizes, numbers 13 332 28 16 98 464.” To see the full results, please click here. And for lots more photos, please click here.


 

Allotments hooked up to water main at last

connecting Allotments holders in Steeple Aston have struggled to garden for around 100 years without a connection to the water main. Now at last their patience has been rewarded and for the first time this month they have running water on their site at Fir Lane. Pictured here are the men from Thames Water making the connection. Jenny Hallam, Chairperson of Steeple Aston Church Allotment Association writes: “On Wednesday 18th May 2011, the allotment site was finally connected up to the mains water supply. After the dryest spring for decades this was indeed good news. “The Allotment Association has spent a long time working towards this day, and at last it had arrived. No more struggling to carry water from home in dry spells. Of course it was bound to happen that once the water was connected it would rain – and it has, but so far not enough to do much good. “The Association is grateful to everyone who has helped to make this possible, Margaret Mason and Richard Preston, the Parish Council and the Horticultural Society. Thanks also go to the two granting bodies that awarded us grants – Grassroots Grants, at the Oxfordshire Community Foundation and Awards for All, at the Big Lottery. We could not have completed this project without their generous contributions.” Allotment holders had to grow their fruit, flowers and vegetables on the church allotments for the last 100 years without access to the mains. The Allotment Association was formed in April 2009 to try and get a grant to enable them to bring water to the site at last. watertrough Last year, they won a grant of £2,600 from the Grassroots Grants distributed by Oxfordshire Community Foundation and £1,855 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. They also received financial help from the Steeple and Middle Aston Horticultural Society. In order to receive the grants they had to prove they had a secure tenancy. The site is owned by the Oxford Diocese, but there had never been a formal lease. Negotiations to formalise the arrangement took much longer than expected. But agreement was reached just in time for the site to be connected to the water main in time for the growing season. Allotment holders will no doubt continue to collect rainwater when they can, but they will now have the benefit of three self-filling water troughs, one of which is pictured here, to top up their supplies.


 

Support needed for green energy bid now

Villagers are being urged to support Steeple Aston’s green energy bid before the end of June. The Sport and Recreation Centre, the Village Hall and nearby buildings in Fir Lane could have free electricity, and even make money through the use of solar energy. All it needs is for enough villagers to support a grant application so the right equipment can be installed.

Margaret Mason, who is leading the bid, said on 17th June, “We would be generating electricity and also achieving a very useful income stream from the pay back tariff to help towards the other costs of keeping facilities up and running for the community – and making a big step towards being a more ‘sustainable’ village.

“We have 14 days left before the bid goes in and the bids with the most support will be the lucky ones. We have 60 supporters so far but some areas have many more!”

It’s easy to show your support for the bid. You just have to register, providing a user name (not your real name) and password, your email address and postcode.

For more details, go to www.energyshare.com/steeple-aston and to register your support, click on Support this Group.

A group, called STASTON -1, has been registered with energyshare to apply for a grant to generate solar energy from photo voltaic panels in the south-facing roof of the Sport and Recreation Centre. The aim is to provide electricity for the centre and the other community buildings nearby – the Village Hall, the Pre-School and possibly Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School.

Grants will be allocated on the basis of the volume of community support for the project. The first selection of projects to compete for a grant is at the end of June so everyone who uses these buildings is being urged to sign up immediately.

Margaret Mason, who set up the group explains: “The project will include the stripping of the roof of the Sport and Recreation Centre and installing high quality insulation before re-battenning and re-tiling. It is intended to re-use the existing tiles in so far as this is possible.

“At present this building’s roof is not insulated so that will be a major improvement in the heat lost and this building’s carbon footprint. The next stage is to install photo voltaic panels on the roof and link into the power supplies to the buildings.

“There will be many benefits should we be able to carry out this project – a sustainable electricity supply for the group of community buildings, which will also benefit in the longer term through the feed-in tariff from the revenue from surplus energy exported to the National Grid. We will also have the satisfaction that we are considerably lessening the commercial energy usage of the buildings used and supported by the village by generating local energy for local use.

Many people regularly use these buildings, indeed the whole surrounding complex. Parents and children, clubs and societies, and this would benefit them all. If everyone joined up to support this bid we would be in with a chance to do something very positive for the village, and for the environment, and that has to be worthwhile.”

Energyshare has £500,000 donated by British Gas to distribute this year, with a further £3 million to be distributed over the next three years. A registered community group can apply for up to £100,000. Projects must have the objective of saving or generating energy locally; be supported by their local community; benefit the local community and have a tangible and lasting impact. They must also show that some aspect of the project is realistically achievable within one year and will inspire even more community renewable projects.

The communities who apply will be selected in rounds. Those who have pre-applied and have drummed up the most support on the site will be selected by energyshare at the end of May to progress to the next round. The judging will be done by energyshare, its two founding partners, British Gas and River Cottage, along with representatives from the Friends of the Earth.

To support the bid, go to www.energyshare.com/steeple-aston and click on Support this Group.


Theft on Northside adds to village crime figures

A purse was stolen from a car parked on Northside while the owner was doing the school pickup on the afternoon of Friday 13th May.

Sophie Spires explained, “I unfortunately had my purse stolen out of the glove box of my car on Northside. I stupidly hadn’t locked the car but the purse wasn’t on show and I had other larger items of value in there, which makes me think it was someone on foot therefore it could have been someone who lives in the village.

I have reported it to the police who said they were unable to do much about it, which is a great shame as these people will probably get away with this crime!”

Sophie, who lives on Southside said she thought it would be a good idea to make people aware of what had happened as a lot of people park on Northside at school pick up time.

She says the purse is a light tan colour with an H on the front, it had her driving licence in as well as several cards. If you find the purse, please contact Sophie on 07801 225200.

This is just the latest in a series of crimes that have occurred in the village recently. Two arrests were made in April for burglary from a garage in February. But since then police have reported a theft of a phone and credit cards from a house, criminal damage to a car and to the bus stop by The Crescent and a theft of phone and credit cards from a car parked outside the Village Hall.

Police have appealed to villagers to report anything suspicious as soon as possible. If you have any information about this crime or any other, please contact the local police on 0845 8 505505 or email: BicesterRuralNHPT@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk. In an emergency always dial 999.


June 2011

Villagers urged to support green energy bid

Steeple Aston’s Sport and Recreation Centre, the Village Hall and nearby buildings could have free electricity, and even make money through the use of solar energy. All it needs is for enough villagers to support a grant application so the right equipment can be installed.

It’s easy to show your support for the bid. You just have to register, providing a user name (not your real name) and password, your email address and postcode.

For more details, go to www.energyshare.com/steeple-aston and to register your support, click on Support this Group.

Villagers are being urged to support the bid for funds to provide sustainable energy and revenue for the group of community buildings clustered together at Fir Lane as soon as possible.

A new group has been set up to bid for the funds from energyshare, an organisation which provides grants of up to £100,000 to community groups for renewable energy projects.

The group, called STASTON -1, has been registered with energyshare to apply for a grant to generate solar energy from photo voltaic panels in the south-facing roof of the Sport and Recreation Centre. The aim is to provide electricity for the centre and the other community buildings nearby – the Village Hall, the Pre-School and possibly Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School.

Grants will be allocated on the basis of the volume of community support for the project. The first selection of projects to compete for a grant is at the end of June, so everyone who uses these buildings is being urged to sign up immediately.

Margaret Mason, who set up the group explains: “The project will include the stripping of the roof of the Sport and Recreation Centre and installing high quality insulation before re-battenning and re-tiling. It is intended to re-use the existing tiles in so far as this is possible.

“At present this building’s roof is not insulated so that will be a major improvement in the heat lost and this building’s carbon footprint. The next stage is to install photo voltaic panels on the roof and link into the power supplies to the buildings.

“There will be many benefits should we be able to carry out this project – a sustainable electricity supply for the group of community buildings, which will also benefit in the longer term through the feed-in tariff from the revenue from surplus energy exported to the National Grid. We will also have the satisfaction that we are considerably lessening the commercial energy usage of the buildings used and supported by the village by generating local energy for local use.

Many people regularly use these buildings, indeed the whole surrounding complex. Parents and children, clubs and societies, and this would benefit them all. If everyone joined up to support this bid we would be in with a chance to do something very positive for the village, and for the environment, and that has to be worthwhile.”

Energyshare has £500,000 donated by British Gas to distribute this year, with a further £3 million to be distributed over the next three years. A registered community group can apply for up to £100,000. Projects must have the objective of saving or generating energy locally; be supported by their local community; benefit the local community and have a tangible and lasting impact. They must also show that some aspect of the project is realistically achievable within one year and will inspire even more community renewable projects.

The communities who apply will be selected in rounds. Those who have pre-applied and have drummed up the most support on the site will be selected by energyshare at the end of May to progress to the next round. The judging will be done by energyshare, its two founding partners, British Gas and River Cottage, along with representatives from the Friends of the Earth.

To see a poster advertising the scheme, please click here.

To support the bid, go to www.energyshare.com/steeple-aston and click on Support this Group.


Seven new volunteers will train to save lives

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Seven villagers have volunteered to train as Community First Responders to provide vital initial care for those suffering a life-threatening emergency before the ambulance arrives. Their training will start in June and they should be fully operational by mid-July.

Parish Councillor Clare McKinley explains, “For anyone who suffers a life threatening emergency, for example a heart attack, stroke, diabetic coma or epileptic fit, their chances of full recovery decrease by ten per cent with every minute. The Ambulance Service has a target to reach emergencies in eight minutes, but our nearest ambulances come from Adderbury or Kidlington, if they are available. Rural areas such as ours are most likely to suffer delays in the arrival of an ambulance.

“We are fortunate that we now have seven new volunteers in the village who have come forward to train to be Community First Responders to fill this gap. South Central Ambulance Service provide the training and equipment to enable these volunteers to be with you in around three minutes of your 999 call. Until the ambulance arrives, the CFR volunteer will provide you with vital initial care and reassurance using the equipment and uniform provided by the Ambulance Service which they have been trained to use. The equipment also includes a defibrillator – essential in cases of cardiac arrest.

“A full set of CFR kit costs around £1,700. We already have two kits on loan from the Ambulance Service and we need to raise the funds for just one more which will belong to Steeple Aston. During the coming months, there are plenty of fundraising opportunities for you to join in: the proceeds from the Whit Races on May 30th will be donated and there are collecting boxes in both the White Lion and the Red Lion. Funds have already been donated by the Valentine Club and several individuals. If you’d like to find out how you can help, contact David England, South Central Ambulance Service on 07970 490519, david.england@scas.nhs.org

If you are faced with a life threatening emergency, dial 999 as usual. The operator will then contact a local Responder who may be with you even before you have finished making the call! The ambulance will follow as soon as possible.


Jubilee Bell appeal gets under way

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Fund-raising for the Steeple Aston Jubilee Bell is getting under way with a car boot sale in June. And there are plans for many other events to raise the £14,000 needed to pay for the bell which will be cast to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

A committee has been formed to take on the fund-raising, and has already met twice. Committee member Dorothy Clifton reports: “Plans are being laid for raising the money to buy our new bell. Many Trust funds are being approached and the first cheques have been received.

“We are delighted to introduce our new logo – designed for us by Karen Gardner of the Warwickshire design company Raise Creative. Many ideas for fund raising are being explored. Our earnest hope is that everyone will enjoy the events.

“The first fund raising event is a Car Boot Sale on Saturday 11th June in the Village Hall car park from 9.00 am. to 1.00pm. Contact Sally Cooper on 01869 347173 to book a pitch (cars £6, vans/trailers £8 or a table in the village hall £2). Refreshments will be available. Clear out your attic, your garden shed, your garage and make some money for yourself while making money for the Jubilee Bell.”

The committee members are Graham Clifton, Chairman, Cathy Fleet, Treasurer, Marion Trinder, Secretary and Sally Cooper, Diana Gardner, Lawrence White and Dorothy Clifton.

Other fund-raising ideas under consideration are a “Jubilee Pudding” evening, supper evenings, open gardens and a hand bell concert. The Handbell Ringers will donate the proceeds of their Christmas collection this year, which should be around £1,000.

The new tenor bell will be heavier at 12.5cwt but the same size as the current bell. The extra metal will give a richer tone and more resonance. When it is installed, the clock will strike on the new bell so villagers can appreciate the sound every day.


Storm fails to dampen street party spirits

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The unexpected arrival of some very large hailstones added drama and excitement to Steeple Aston’s Royal Wedding street party – but failed to deter the revellers from enjoying themselves.

When it hailed and then rained very hard in the middle of the party, the adults sensibly stayed under cover indoors or under the gazebos for the duration of the storm. But the children largely took no notice of the rain, went on playing outside and got cheerfully soaked.

The party, which was held in Bradshaw Close on the afternoon of the Royal Wedding, was organised by the Wilkins and Thatcher families. Bob Wilkins masterminded roasting the pig and Sarah and Anna Wilkins made the cup cakes and served the food. Anna Whybrew was in charge of preparation and cooking, while Simon Thatcher manned the chocolate fountain, made the popcorn and later helped serve the food.

Andrew and Sharon Peace made candy floss and Marcus James worked tirelessly blowing up balloons and making sabres for the children to rush round harmlessly hitting each other. There were lots of other helpers and all the revellers seemed to have a very enjoyable time.

One good thing about the storm was that the rain helped to wash chocolate from the chocolate fountain off the kids’ faces. The only downside was that one of the gazebos could not stand the strain and collapsed.

For more photos, please click here.


New loo is opened for Easter

VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100

VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100

The long awaited toilet in the play area at Robinsons Close was finally opened on Good Friday. Pictured here performing the opening ceremony are Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason and Vice Chairman Richard Preston with Julia Joyce who will be looking after the toilet and keeping it clean and tidy.

The unisex toilet, which adjoins the Sport and Recreation Centre includes a baby changing facility. It will be open from 8.00am to 8.00pm in the summer months and will close earlier in the winter. A new drinking water fountain has also been installed.

The toilet was built following a petition signed by over 140 people. The success of the new play area which opened at the end of 2009 means that families now come from miles away to visit Steeple Aston. Until now, there was no toilet available for adults or children, and nowhere to change babies’ nappies unless either the Village Hall or the Sport and Recreation building happened to be open.

Concerns about vandalism and the difficulty of keeping a public toilet clean were raised, but the Parish Council eventually decided to go ahead over a year ago.

Richard Preston said,” The work has been completed on time and hopefully will be appreciated by all those youngsters and adults that are making such good use of the area. It will be cleaned and inspected on a daily basis. The Parish Council would like to acknowledge the support from Oxfordshire County Council’s “Children, Young People and Families” department for their support in providing all the funding required to build and install the new facility which also includes a water fountain for those thirsty youngsters.

“The recently completed play-space has proved to be such a success and enjoyed by families from the Astons and further afield and the provision of a unisex toilet and baby changing facility will make their stay at the play area much more enjoyable. Steeple Aston Parish Council is very proud of the recreational facilities it is able to provide and leads the way in the provision outdoor play activities in North Oxfordshire.”


Two arrested for village burglary

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Police have arrested a man and a woman in connection with the burglary from a garage in Steeple Aston in February. They are currently on police bail. And local police say they are working hard to deal with other recent crimes in the village.

Parish Councillors were delighted to hear this news at their April meeting. They congratulated the police but were concerned that the Neighbourhood Specialist Officer WPC Caroline Brown had been “saddened and upset” by comments made at their previous meeting.

In March, the council was told of a spate of burglaries and vandalism in the village. WPC Brown has now confirmed that there were several incidents. She reported in her monthly police update, “In Steeple Aston there was a theft of a phone and credit cards from a house where enquiries are ongoing to identify the offender. There was also a criminal damage where a car was scratched and also there has been damage to the bus stop by The Crescent and a theft of phone and credit cards from a parked vehicle.”

At the March meeting Chairman Margaret Mason had said she would ‘put a bomb’ under the police and ask for more patrols. The first police response to this was to say that several of the crimes mentioned had not been reported to them. They asked villagers to make sure they reported anything suspicious. After further investigation, and after reading the report of the discussion at the Parish Council meeting in Steeple Aston Life, WPC Brown has responded as follows:

“I make regular checks about crimes reported to the police and it would appear that lots of things are not getting reported to us. We direct our patrols to the areas where they are most needed and if crimes are not getting reported then we are lead to believe all is well. The police make regular patrols of the village, often during the hours of darkness as half our patrols are in the evening and therefore unless people are looking out then they don’t see us.

“In relation to the three attempt burglaries to the White Lion pub, this has not been confirmed as there is no evidence of any burglary other than the alarm being activated, and this was only reported on one occasion to the police when we attended within five minutes of getting the call which I think is an acceptable response considering the vast area we cover.

“As you can see from this month’s report two arrests have been made into the burglary to the garage in the village in February. I hope this clarifies the point and shows that Steeple Aston is well policed and that we are out there doing our job. We work together with the Parish Council to resolve issues in the village and are saddened and upset at the above comment made at the recent meeting.”

For WPC Brown’s full report, please click here.


May 2011

Old photos on show at SAVA talk

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Villagers brought their oldest photographs to the Village Hall for this year’s Steeple Aston Village Archive Spring Talk, which was on photography around 1900.

The talk was given by photographic historian Audrey Linkman, who had brought a wide variety of old photographs to illustrate photographic methodology and to pinpoint what the photographer was trying to convey and the conventions used to achieve this.

Villagers were encouraged to bring in their own photos and many did so, including Richard Preston who produced this picture of one of his ancestors, Mrs Ann Wadham. The photo is dated on the back as being taken in 1852, which was the year in which a new process, the collodion positive, was invented. Therefore the photo must have been one of the very first taken using this technique.

There were many more photographs of Steeple Aston because SAVA had borrowed three books of Bradshaw family photographs which covered the period from 1899 to 1901. The Bradshaws were living in The Grange at the time. Martin Lipson, chairman of SAVA, thanked the Bradshaws for the loan of their albums.

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Ms Linkman explained that photography was invented in 1839 and by the 1850s most large towns would have had a photographic studio. However at this date, despite some changes in the process, photography was only for the professionals and the results were expensive and carefully produced on heavy card.

Then in the 1880s a cheap alternative was devised using a ‘dry plate negative’. This invention allowed photographs to be cheaply printed on thin card and the postcard was born. Kodak sold a camera for amateurs, but it was still very expensive at five guineas, plus two guineas to develop a film of 100 pictures. The real expansion in photography came in around 1900 with the production of the five shilling Brownie camera. The loaned Bradshaw family albums were of this date and taken with a Brownie.

The typical Victorian photographs show men looking severe and the women demure. Apparently the Victorian ideal was to represent the men as ‘thoughtful’ and women as ‘merely tranquil’. It was not until about 1900 that the unnatural looking poses were relaxed and sitters might even show a hint of a smile.

SAVA has copies of the images in the Bradshaw family albums and anyone who wishes to see these should contact them. See their website www.steepleastonarchive.org.uk


Allotment holders hopeful of water at last

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After several months of delay, setbacks and frustration it looks as if Steeple Aston allotment holders will get a piped water supply just in time for the vegetable growing season.

During last year Steeple Aston Church Allotment Association won two grants to enable them to install a permanent water supply on their site for the first time. The allotments have been in existence for at least 100 years, and throughout that time allotment holders have had to manage without running water on site.

But in order to receive the grants the allotment holders had to prove they had a secure tenancy. The site is owned by the Oxford Diocese, but there has never been a formal lease. So negotiations got under way to formalise the arrangement.

Steeple Aston Parish Council was involved in helping with the negotiations and the grant applications. It was hoped that the diocese would lease the land to the Parish Council, who in turn would lease it to the allotment holders. The plan was to get it all signed off by the end of last year.

But the lease proposed by the Diocese was for only 20 years with a provision that the tenants could be required to leave at 12 months’ notice. This did not provide an acceptable security of tenure for the grant providing bodies, so it looked as if the whole project would fall by the wayside.

Now, after much negotiation it seems as if agreement has been reached at the very last minute. The new lease will be for 25 years with the first 10 years secured before notice to leave can be given.

This lease needs to be signed quickly as one of the grants will have to be returned if the work isn’t done by the end of March. The Parish Council has given a “letter of comfort” saying that it will sign the lease so that work can start this month to lay a pipe to the road for connection by Thames Water.

The lease still needs to be checked by solicitors for all the parties involved, and a sub-lease agreed between the Parish Council and the Allotment Association. But the plan is to get all this done by 1st April.

The Allotments Association’s Chairperson Jennifer Hallam said, “We hope the grant providers will be happy with the letter and the work can go ahead. Our contractor has been waiting since last July.

After waiting all this time it will be a big relief when everything comes together and just in time for the growing season.”


New Rector comes from the US

The new Rector of Steeple Aston is American born and bred, but he will come here in June after recent experience working in the UK. Revd Dr Mark Clavier will take up his post at a time when the church is facing a major funding challenge, so there will be plenty to keep him busy after an interregnum of nearly a year.

The announcement of his appointment by the Parochial Church Council said, “It is with great pleasure that the PCC can now announce the appointment of Revd Dr Mark Clavier as the new Rector and Priest-in-Charge of the Benefice of Steeple Aston, Tackley and North Aston.

Mark was born, educated and theologically trained in the United States where he served thirteen years as a Rector. His last appointment was as Associate Vicar in the parishes of Langley Park, Esh, Waterhouses and Hamsteels in County Durham, affording him much experience of Anglican parish life.

He is 39, married to Diane and has one son, Paul (11). His Licensing Service by the Bishop will be in Steeple Aston on Thursday June 16. Please remember him and his future ministry here in your prayers.”

The Benefice has been without a Rector since the Revd Stephen M’Caw took his last service at the end of July. It has kept going throughout the interregnum with help from a number of clergy and lay people.

But now it faces financial difficulties and it is currently having to draw on its reserves to make ends meet. So a fundraising campaign is under way, with leaflets distributed throughout the village asking parishioners to join a Planned Giving scheme to ensure a regular income for the Church.

The leaflet says that running the church costs around £600 a week, and an extra £70 a week is needed just to break even this year. This amount excludes money needed to maintain the building and funds raised for the many causes supported by the parish such as disaster funds and Christian Aid.

For more information on giving to the church, please contact the Churchwarden Malcolm Hensher on 01869 340873 or the Church Treasurer Graham Clifton on 01869 347273.


Veggie car wins the children’s prize at Show

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A vegetable vehicle made out of an aubergine with Brussels sprouts for wheels was the most original prizewinner at this year’s Spring Show.

The unusual car, pictured here, won Yolanda Martin the Bedding Family Trophy for the children’s classes. She also did very well to win the Under 16s and the Under 12s Easter egg prizes.

A warm and sunny end to the month meant there were also plenty of beautiful flowers on display at the Show, which is run by the Astons Horticultural Society and was held in the Village Hall on Sunday 27th March.

Entries were up to 107 in the horticultural classes compared to 86, 85 and 64 in the last three years. The photography and handicraft classes and the classes for children all had more entries than last year.

As always, Daphne Preston won the Mead Vase for the most points in the Show, as well as the Duncan Cup for the Horticultural Classes. Other winners included Vicky Clifton who received the WI Cup for Cookery classes and Sheila Ballard, who won all of the floral art classes as well as the prize for the most charming flower arrangement as judged by the visitors. She received the Flower Club Silver Trophy and won the Handicraft Cup.

Show Secretary, Julia Whybrew said, “The Show was a great success. The weather was kind for the daffodils and other bulbs so there was a marvellous display of them. There were also lots of sweetly smelling flowers and dramatic amaryllis.

“This year there were considerably more entries in the horticultural, children’s and photography classes than there have been for the last few years. The teas, as ever, were popular and delicious. Thanks to Barbara Brewer and her team.

“The only down side of this year’s Show was that the number of entries in the handicraft and cookery classes were down on last year, but the quality of the entries was excellent, especially in the classes for vegetable vehicles, limericks and photos.

“The Show couldn’t take place without a huge effort from the contestants, the judges and the committee and their families. So a huge thank you to everybody, and we hope to see you all at the Summer Show.”

More people entered the class for a limerick than for anything else. The Horticultural Society have been collecting the best limericks over the years and it is hoped that a booklet of them will be published soon. Here are this year’s three winning entries:

Tony Clifton wrote the winning limerick:

There once was a lady called Kate
Won a pig by guessing its weight
But the pig became shaken
When she mentioned fresh bacon
And bolted straight out of the gate

Roderick Nicholson was second :

There once was a lady called Kate
Who married a prince for her mate.
‘Twas a magic affair
But the abbey was bare
‘Cos they sent out the invites too late.

Julia Whybrew was third:

There once was lady called Kate
Who tried very hard with her weight.
She ate little food
And thought it was rude
To be ask’d to empty her plate.

For the full results of the show, please click here.
And for more photos, please click here.


New bell to celebrate Diamond Jubilee

Funds are to be raised to buy a new tenor bell for Steeple Aston Church to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The current tenor bell has long been regarded as unsatisfactory. The bell, which makes the lowest sound, dates back to 1879 and weighs 10.5cwt. But the ringers and others have long been disappointed by its dull sound. In 1986 when the bells were rehung, attempts were made to improve it but to no avail.

At the recent Bellringers’ AGM it was agreed that there should be a new bell cast to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year. The plan has the support of the Parish Council and the Parochial Church Council.

The new bell will be heavier at 12.5cwt but the same size as the current bell. The extra metal will give a richer tone and more resonance. When it is installed, the clock will strike on the new bell so villagers can appreciate the sound every day.

The cost of the bell is difficult to predict as metal prices are very unstable. But at today’s prices the cost would be around £20,000. About £6,000 would be available from the scrap metal value of the old bell, but money will have to be raised for the balance either from grants or from the village. The Handbell Ringers will donate the proceeds of their Christmas collection this year, which should be around £1,000 and there will be other fund-raising projects.

At the March meeting of the Parish Council, it was agreed to support this as the village’s project for the Jubilee. Chairman Margaret Mason said, “The bells are appreciated by people throughout the village, not just those who go to church.”

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated on the first weekend of June 2012. There will be a nationwide celebration to mark her 60 years on the throne with an extra bank holiday on Tuesday, June 5th.


April 2011

Campaign to save Deddington Library

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An energetic campaign to save Deddington Library from closure is now well under way, with over 400 leaflets distributed at the Farmers’ Market at the end of February and more than 200 signatures to an e-petition by early March.

Following a well-attended public meeting on 15th Febru¬ary, Deddington Parish Council voted unanimously to fight the proposals to close the library. They believe that a very strong and persuasive argument can be built as to why the library should not be on the list of those set to close, and that a huge weight can be put behind the case, not only from people living within their parish but also neighbouring parishes. They say that Deddington is an important “hub” library serving 23 neighbouring villages, including Steeple and Middle Aston.

The campaign is called “Book a Future for Deddington Library”. They say “We strongly believe that Oxfordshire County Council’s proposal to close 20 out of 43 libraries, including that of Deddington, is not only misconceived but also in breach of its statutory obligation to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service.”

Supporters are asked to sign the Save Deddington Library ePetition on the Oxfordshire County Council website at http://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx.

The petition, which was started by Bryn Williams, reads: “We the undersigned are opposed to the proposal to close the Deddington village library and wish to make our feelings known.

A number of initiatives and correspondence is planned for the coming months which will illustrate the depth of our conviction and resolve. As one of the busiest libraries per capita within the county we feel there are other ways of reducing expenditure without harming the future education of our children.”

The ePetition was started on 23rd February, and will run until the end of June. By March 11th there were already 216 signatures.

Supporters of the campaign are also asked to send to Judith Heathcoat, the OCC Councillor in charge of library closures a polite and concise email stating what the closure of the library will mean to them and their family. Her email address is Judith.heathcoat@oxfordshire.gov.uk.

The progress of the campaign can be followed by joining the Save the Deddington Library Facebook group. Just go to www.facebook.com and enter Save Deddington Library in the search box. You have to be registered on Facebook for this.

For much more detail and to download special postcards you can send to councillors and MPs to make your views known, visit Deddington News Online at www.deddingtonnews.co.uk


Please tell us about crimes, say police

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Local police say they haven’t been informed about a recent spate of burglaries and vandalism in the village.

Karen Richardson, landlady of the White Lion, told a recent Parish Council meeting that there had been a high level of burglaries and vandalism in the village in recent weeks. She said there had been three attempted burglaries at the White Lion, a burglary at Chapel Hill and Westfield Stables, cars damaged at both the White Lion and Red Lion and graffiti at the shop. Most incidents have occurred on Sunday nights or the early hours of Monday morning and it is thought that more than one individual was involved.

Margaret Mason, the Chairman explained that the Parish Council had no powers over issues of vandalism, though they could alert the police. Until recently the village had been a particularly calm place to live so it was natural that the police presence here was limited. However the Parish Council would now ‘put a bomb’ under the police and ask for more patrols.

They also wondered if there was any way of getting clear proof of who the offenders are. The Chairman said she would ask if similar problems had occurred in the Red Lion and at the Holt and whether anyone there knew who was responsible. She said she was ‘truly sorry’ about what had happened and saddened that it could be perceived as lack of community spirit.

But as if to underline the problem, while the Parish Council was discussing this another theft occurred almost under their noses. A rear window was broken and a handbag stolen from a car parked right outside the Village Hall.

Mrs Richardson reported that the police have been involved and Neighbourhood Watch alerted, but Neighbourhood Specialist Officer PC Caroline Brown said later that she had discussed the reports with Margaret Mason and Karen Richardson and it appeared that things are not getting reported to the police.

She said, “I have checked our records for the last eight weeks and there is one burglary that happened over a six-day period and this was to a garage and one car damaged on a Sunday night.

“It’s the same old argument if people don’t report incidents to us then how can we deal and respond to them. Is it not unique to your village this happens all across the area.

“The villagers can help by firstly reporting such incidents and also reporting anything suspicious they see and that way we have a chance of catching the people responsible. Quite often we are frustrated as following a crime our door to door enquiries reveal that a neighbour saw or heard something but didn’t bother ringing us and went back to bed and only share this information with us when we knock on their door. If they had called us at the time we could have sent a car to check it out and maybe catch the offenders.”


Much more information on SAVA’s website

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Steeple Aston Village Archive’s new-look website is now being regularly updated, and has lots of interesting new information. The site was completely redesigned last November, using technology which allows the committee to update the site without expert help.

Among the recent additions are a gazeteer of every house in the villages of Steeple and Middle Aston, and a map showing the location of wells and pumps in the village in 1900.

They have also uploaded 16 of the articles previously published in Steeple Aston Life, which cover a range of historical topics about the village. And there is a catalogue of many of the items that are held in the village archive.

Steeple Aston Village Archive is a village community project run by unpaid volunteers. It was inaugurated in January 2000 and relates to the two villages of Steeple Aston and Middle Aston. The function of the archive is to collect and preserve documents and material reflecting the life and times of the villages and their heritage. The physical archive is housed in the Village Hall and includes many photographs and documents donated by villagers. .

SAVA produces an annual exhibition each November, drawing on material collected in the archive and also carrying out original research on the chosen theme. For the last few years, a booklet has also been produced on the theme of the last exhibition. These themes have included “Business and Trade”, “Steeple Aston at War” and “Village Personalities”.

Another annual event is the Spring Talk, at which an invited expert speaks and answers questions on a topic of local interest. This year’s SAVA Spring Talk will be on the subject of “Photography around 1900”. It will be held in the Village Hall on Sunday April 17th at 4.00pm

For more information, go to their website www.steepleastonarchive.org.uk.


Village Hall packed for wartime musical

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Expectations were high for the February production from the Steeple Aston Players, Wind in the Roses. Three out of the four performances were packed out and 10 people had to be turned away from the Wednesday matinee.

Julia Whybrew writes:
Wind in the Roses is a new musical play that recalls life in Bethnal Green during the last World War. It includes a lot of contemporary wartime songs, the words for many of which were in the programme.

The singing of the actors was of a consistent high quality and the audience was encouraged to join in with some of the old songs. The matinee audience, which had the oldest participants, seemed particularly to enjoy singing the songs they had first sung in their youth.

Stephen Nash, on whose ideas the play is based, wanted to remind us if we were old enough, or to explain if not, about both the wartime suffering and the spirit it created. He wanted those who are too young to remember and especially children to understand. The play itself had a lot of young actors, all of whom seemed very professional, while still enjoying themselves.

The set was excellent and commented on specifically by all those to whom I spoke. It very cleverly used the stage for a shop and outside scenes, and the floor of the hall, just in front of the stage as the inside of a pub. Despite this quite large space there were so many actors that it was impressive how they all worked together to avoid giving a crowded impression.

Middle Barton resident Stephen Nash developed the idea for the play when he was living in London, and when he met Jan Lester George from Steeple Aston she understood his concept and between them they developed his ideas for the play. It tells the story of how Londoners responded to the war in general and to the bombing in particular, with the ‘wind’ in the title being from bombs. Stephen is now considering how to continue with the play.

The play is dedicated to the people of Bethnal Green who were involved in the awful Tube Disaster in 1943. There was a rush for shelter in the Underground Station during an air raid. A woman carrying a child tripped on the stairs, others tripped over her and many of those following fell on top of those who had already fallen. In total 173 people died.

There was a collection after the play towards a permanent memorial to the victims and £245 was raised. Thanks to all who donated and many thanks also to the landlords of the White Lion who donated the refreshments.

For more photos of the show, please click here.


March 2011

Public toilet to be built for play area

Funding for a much-needed public toilet near the popular children’s play area in Steeple Aston has been obtained following a petition signed by more than 140 people, and building is due to start immediately.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said, “Dr Radcliffe’s Trustees have approved the Parish Council’s request to build a small public toilet by the Sport and Recreation Building for the use of all who play at the Millennium Park.

“The Parish Council has felt that this would be necessary for a while, and was supported in that by over 140 signatures in favour gathered for the initial grant application. The icing on the cake is that we also have a grant approved which will pay for the project and enable us to start right away.

“We have researched carefully before committing ourselves to this. There certainly is a need which cannot be met by the use of the Village Hall or the Sport and Recreation Building’s facilities. We have a good plan with high quality fittings specified by our architect that will be suitable for unsupervised use, and we will put together a daily cleaning programme.”

The grant of £15,000 has come from an Oxfordshire County Council administered fund. The project should be under way very soon with completion expected by the end of March. The Parish Council is advertising for a cleaner on this website. To see the advert, please click here.


Affordable housing plan stymied by road safety issues

Controversial plans to build 12 “affordable” homes on Sixtyfoot in Steeple Aston look likely to be abandoned after two years of work as no solution can be found to the road safety issues that arose.

The Parish Council had hoped that there could be a footpath alongside the Red Lion pub, but the owners, Hook Norton Brewery, were unwilling to sell the hedge site to the developers. In a final attempt to save the project, the county council’s highways department was asked to consider putting traffic lights on the road. Just before Christmas, parish councillors heard that this suggestion had been rejected.

Now it looks as if the plans, which have divided opinion in the village, will not go ahead. Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason says the search for a suitable alternative site will continue in view of the clear need for more affordable housing locally. But she acknowledges that this may be unrealistic.

She writes: “The Parish Council has at last heard the reply from Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department, to Cherwell District Council’s request to consider putting traffic lights on Sixtyfoot in Steeple Aston in a bid to save the planned affordable housing there. This follows the decision by Hook Norton Brewery not to sell the hedge strip beside the Red Lion car park to the developers to make a footpath possible.

“For all of those who are waiting for good news and hoping that the Affordable Housing project will go forward the reply will come as a great disappointment. OCC Highways are unhappy with either the footpath around the back of the adjacent house (they consider it is unlikely to be used) or the traffic light proposal. After two years of working and planning towards a second site in Steeple Aston it looks as if the Sixtyfoot project will not now go forward.

“I imagine that there will be some who will be celebrating when they hear this, as the scheme did not please a small number of people and some have vehemently opposed it. Equally there will be those whose future in the village looks uncertain now and who were relying on this project to make it possible for them to stay.

“The Parish Council are determined, with Sovereign Homes and Cherwell District Council, to explore other possibilities, though to hope to find a site which is suitable, in planning terms, and a landowner who is prepared to sell may be unrealistic. We know that the village needs more affordable housing and we want to see it stay as a mixed and vibrant community. To those who have been waiting and hoping for the new homes we can only say how sorry we are that these homes cannot now be built.”


Councillors give their verdict on the snow

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Parish Councillors in Steeple Aston have agreed that the village managed very well after the recent heavy snowfall, and much better than some other villages. They also agreed that they’d never seen snow like it in all the years they’d lived here.

At their meeting in January they gave particular thanks to local farmer Tim Taylor who used his JCB and digger to clear the roads and also to Raj and his colleagues at the village shop who managed to keep essential supplies going.

Some heroic stories were told including that of two Southern Electric workers who came to mend someone’s heating on the morning of Saturday 18th December, found they couldn’t get home and so walked all the way back to Witney through the snow!

Councillors heard that problems were caused by additional cars parked on South Side, understandably by residents of Jubilee and Bradshaw and those with long drives. However, parking on both sides of South Side made it impossible for traffic to get through, including Tim Taylor trying to clear the road.

Also, the council was told that a few people had used the grit from the council bins on their own drives. Some bins now have labels saying grit is for use on public roads only. More such labels will be requested. Villagers are advised that they can get grit and salt for their own use from builders’ merchants, DIY shops and some supermarkets. Dishwasher salt was particularly recommended for effectiveness and low cost.

Councillors were unhappy that the grit bins recently purchased from Oxfordshire County Council are large, yellow and incorrectly sited. It was agreed that the Parish Clerk should try and arrange their replacement with green bins sunk into the ground and more sensitively located.

The council is to ask for a larger grit bin for outside the shop and a new bin for the eastern end of Grange Park. The village already has two snow shovels which can be borrowed. Two more will be ordered. These will be kept in individual households around the village and can be borrowed. The locations will be publicised once the shovels have been purchased.

James Macnamara, the Cherwell District Councillor, explained that the snow had prevented rubbish bins being emptied. His advice was that in these circumstances householders should leave their bins out because it was impossible to guess when the rescheduled collections would be made.

It should be noted that although this advice applies when it was snowy, the council normally encourages householders, wherever possible, not to leave their wheelie bins on the pavement.

The meeting was informed that a resident of Lower Heyford, Mr Darren Osborne-MacKay (01869 340476), has purchased a snow plough attachment for his Land Rover and offers to provide a snow clearance service for £60 per hour.


Handbell Ringers brave snow for charity

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Steeple Aston’s Handbell Ringers had to brave the unaccustomed snow and ice this year as they travelled round the village ringing their Christmas carols to raise more than £1,000 for charity.

Their annual pre-Christmas outing is often a chilly affair, but after the heavy snowfall this year they had to battle through slippery ice and deep snow in the dark to get to many village houses.

Pictured here are the intrepid ringers (from left to right) Yolanda Martin (just), Nick Powell, Catherine Cooper, Sammi Powell and the Handbell Captain Sally Cooper.

The ringers raised £1,015 in all, and this will be divided between the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the British Heart Foundation and the Steeple Aston Church Fund. They will decide how to split it at their AGM on 8th February.


February 2011

New parish councillor gets down to work

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Steeple Aston’s new parish councillor David Kewley admits he’s on a steep learning curve when it comes to local council matters. But he’s full of enthusiasm for the village and impressed by the achievements of his fellow councillors.

David, who was coopted on to the council in the Autumn following the resignation of Dorothy Willatt, is determined to play his part in helping the village develop and thrive.

He explains, “I am interested by the current movement towards greater decentralisation and making society more responsible and accountable at a local level. I admire Steeple Aston as a community (and for the range and vigour of its activities) and very much like it as a place to live.”

He’s particularly keen that more affordable housing is provided locally and believes that the development at Shepherds Hill has been a real success. He says, “We owe it to the young and the old to enable them to rent or buy a home at an affordable price. It is really important that the village continues to have a varied social mix, otherwise it will die.”

David and his wife Jan Maulden moved in to Cedar Lodge on Northside in September 1993 with their two daughters Kate, now 25, and Georgia 22. They moved from Kentish Town as David’s work meant he had to spend time in Witney and Leamington Spa as well as London.

His career was in book publishing, and the last company for which he was responsible, Scholastic Ltd, had Book Club and Book Fair businesses which promoted and sold books to children at school and their parents, so helping to promote reading and literacy and also to raise school funds. He left there in 2002, and since then has been working as a consultant and non-executive director in the publishing business. He’s also studied history of art and enjoyed a six-month break with his wife living in Perugia in Italy.

Cedar Lodge is of course famous as the home of the novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband Professor John Bayley. David and Jan have spent much of their time renovating and improving both the house and the garden – a task he describes as an “enormous labour of love”. But there are still a few reminders of Iris around such as her “wallow pond” in the garden. These days thankfully there are fewer callers wanting to see where she lived, but an American crew recently filmed there.

David is an enthusiast for Dr Radcliffe’s School where both his children studied and Jan is still a governor. “Dr Radcliffe’s is one of the best things about Steeple Aston,” he says. “It’s a great school with a wonderful atmosphere”.

While Jan has been involved in lots of village projects over the years, David was too busy working and travelling. Now he’s semi- retired and feels he has time to give something back to the village through his work on the parish council.

One thing he won’t be doing though is running another marathon. David ran the London Marathon in 2004 and raised over £4,000 for the church along with a similar amount for the Book Trade Benevolent Society. He can see the fruits of his efforts in the restored church stonework, but these days he runs rather shorter distances. He recommends the six villages course – Steeple, Middle and North Aston, Somerton and the Heyfords – about eight miles in all.


Final push in the race for fast broadband

Residents in Steeple Aston and surrounding villages have only a few days left to vote for faster broadband in BT’s Race to Infinity – and there’s still a long way to go to be in with a chance.

Poster, fliers and postcards have all been distributed around the villages to try and persuade residents to go to www.racetoinfinity.com and cast their vote. Over 1,000 votes out of a potential 1,650 are needed for the Steeple Aston exchange to have a chance of upgrading to superfast broadband soon.

Over the next five years BT is rolling out superfast broadband across the UK. Many people complain about the slow speed of their broadband across our area, so an upgrade would be much appreciated.

Local businesses and homeworkers would benefit hugely from a faster broadband connection as well as the elderly and disabled. Possible applications include homeworking, remote health monitoring, tele-consultations with doctors and home study initiatives. And, of course, everyone will benefit from faster video streaming, online TV, faster gaming and much more.

BT are holding a competition to give people the opportunity to fast track their area if they’re not on the announced roll out plan – and Steeple Aston isn’t! That means we won’t get the upgrade until 2015 at the earliest.

The five areas with the largest percentage of votes by December 31st 2010 will win the chance to bring superfast broadband to their area in 2012. BT will also donate £5,000 of computer equipment to a local community project. The Oxfordshire exchange of Blewbury has been leading the race for some time with over 85 per cent of households voting.

Steeple Aston had only 25 per cent of possible votes in the middle of December. But a last ditch campaign is under way to get people to vote. Villages connected to the exchange are Steeple Aston, Middle Aston, North Aston, Lower Heyford, Steeple Barton, Middle Barton, Westcote Barton, Duns Tew and Rousham.

Voting is very simple, all you have to do is enter your postcode and your telephone number on the Race to Infinity website, www.racetoinfinity.com. You don’t even need to have a computer to be able to vote, just a BT telephone line.

So if you know people who haven’t got a computer, you can ask their permission to vote on their behalf using their postcode and phone number. Or, if you don’t have a computer, you can ring the website editor, Jenny Bell on 01869 347714 and she will do it for you.

But if you can, go to www.racetoinfinity.com and do it yourself! Voting ends on 31st December, so please do it soon.


Police appeal for witnesses to village burglary

Thames Valley police are appealing for information after a burglary in Steeple Aston.

They say that a burglary occurred on the morning of Wednesday, 1st December in Steeple Aston at 8.30am.

A male entered a property via a side door and was disturbed. Unfortunately jewellery, a handbag and purse was stolen.

The male was described as very tall and very thin, quite young with a scarf around his face and woolly hat on.

Villagers are advised to alert their neighbours, remain extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

If you live in the village and saw anything suspicious on Wednesday morning, or have any other useful information, please telephone the Cherwell Priority Crime Team on 08458 505 505 or ring 999 for immediate police attention.


January 2011

Allotment Association wins grants for water

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Steeple Aston Church Allotment Association has won two grants which will enable them to install a permanent water supply on their site for the first time.

The grants are £2,600 from the Grassroots Grants distributed by Oxfordshire Community Foundation and £1,855 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. They will pay for the installation of three self-filling water troughs for the allotments off Fir Lane.

The Association’s Chairperson Jennifer Hallam said, “This will make a real difference to us, last year’s dry spell really affected our crops and six years ago when there was a very dry summer we had no crops at all.”

The allotments have been in existence for at least 100 years, and throughout that time allotment holders have had to manage without a water supply. Some allotment holders have sheds so can collect rainwater in butts, but others have had to carry water to the site or rely on rainfall.

The allotment holders decided to form an association in April last year with the specific aim of providing a water supply to the site. But in order to apply for grants they had to prove they had a secure tenancy. The site is owned by the Oxford Diocese, but there has never been a formal lease. So negotiations have been under way to formalise the arrangement.

Steeple Aston Parish Council has been involved in helping with the negotiations and the grant applications. It is hoped that the diocese will lease the land to the parish council, who in turn will lease it to the allotment holders. The plan is to get the lease signed by the end of this year, and for work to start on the water supply as soon as the lease is signed, weather permitting.

A formal lease will also make it clear where the site boundaries are. At the moment nobody really knows, and there may be additional land which could be cleared to give more allotment space in future.

The formation of the allotment association has had other benefits as well. Members now get together for barbecues several times during the summer. They have had a stall at recent Horticultural Society shows and members have become more involved in exhibiting their produce. They also published a recipe book for sale at the last Summer Show and in July opened the allotments to the public for the first time.

The Steeple and Middle Aston Horticultural Society provided financial help to the new association by funding the initial survey by Thames Water. They have put aside up to £500 for a further contribution in the coming year. Once the water supply is installed the allotment holders hope to improve the area further by clearing some of the neglected areas and by installing a rabbit-proof fence. They also have a plan for a communal shed, so those allotment holders who don’t have a shed can store their equipment

Jennifer Hallam said, “The Association is still very keen that people collect water when they can, and a large communal shed would give us the opportunity to do this.”


Heavy snowfall causes chaos again

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It became very difficult to escape the village for the second time this year following a very heavy snowfall on Saturday 18th December. Tim Taylor of Rectory Farm came to the rescue once again with a big bucket attached to his JCB. By Monday it was possible to get in and out of the village with care, and by Tuesday Tim had cleared most roads.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said, “Tim has done a wonderful job going around the village and removing snow. But it would be helpful if people were careful where they parked. For example if they park on both sides of the road on Southside it is very difficult for Tim to get through and for drivers to negotiate safely.

Also people have been abandoning cars very close to the junction of Sixtyfoot and the Banbury Road, which makes it very difficult not to slide in to them as you turn the corner.”

The Parish Council had been discussing with Tim the purchase of a secondhand snow plough, but this year’s early snow took everyone by surprise. Tim also has new calves to look after and is having to use blow torches to melt the water for them. He reports that the temperature in the cowshed has dropped as low as -19°C.

Oxfordshire County Council Highways department said that there is a gritter lorry in the area, working on the main highways. Steeple Aston is on the list for snowploughing and gritting, prioritising Sixtyfoot, Southside, Heyford Road, the Beeches and Paines Hill. We are also on the list for grit bins to be refilled, but the village is regarded as a low priority.

Following the heavy snowfall back in January four new grit bins were installed in the village, and residents have made plenty of use of them, working manfully to clear drives and grit corners. Bradshaw Close, for example, was made viable on Sunday morning in four hours by an eight- person team. Nizewell Head was also cleared by an energetic team on Sunday morning.

If you still have large quantities of snow to shift, Richard Preston has two snow shovels which you can borrow. Call him on 01869 340512.

In these circumstances the village shop becomes a lifeline and Raj is working hard to arrange deliveries of supplies. Milk was delivered on Monday morning and both bread and milk were available on Tuesday. Postal deliveries started again on Wednesday.

Trains were still running from Heyford Station, but it is difficult to drive down there due to the snow and abandoned vehicles. There are no buses running through the village, but on Tuesday the 59 bus was running between Banbury to Oxford just using the A4260 Banbury Road.

To see more snowy photos, please click here


Villagers learn of history through housing

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Nearly 200 people visited an exhibition by Steeple Aston Village Archive which told the story of the development of Steeple and Middle Aston through a historical survey of village houses.

The annual SAVA exhibition took place in the Village Hall over the weekend of November 13/14th. It showed how the villages had developed over the centuries from the earliest records to the present.

The exhibition started with examples of the type of houses that might have been here before records began. The earliest records show that the number of dwellings in Steeple Aston was probably only four or five in the 11th century. Today in the 21st century there are nearly 400.

With maps, plans and photographs the exhibition showed the development of housing in the villages through the centuries from the 1600s onward. Particularly notable were the increase in building in Victorian times and then the development of small estates on the village fringes in the 20th century.

The exhibition also documented the building of new village houses and the many conversions which have taken place in recent years. It concluded with a look to the future, showing the proposals for new affordable housing on Sixtyfoot.

There were two detailed case studies: one of Manor Farm, built in the 18th century and the subject of a modern conversion in 2005;. the other of some of the oldest buildings near the church, Rectory Farm and Manor Court Cottage.

SAVA has compiled a gazetteer of every house in the two villages and their date of origin when known. Villagers visiting the exhibition were asked to correct or add information if they could.

Members of SAVA worked on this project with the help of Paul Clark of Oxfordshire Buildings Record and previously his colleague David Clarke. They visited several houses in the villages taking detailed photographs and looking for clues as to their origins and development.

As with previous exhibitions, a booklet will be produced based on the exhibition and including a lot more information there wasn’t room to show. It will go on sale early in 2011.

Some of the information from the exhibition, including the gazetteer of every house in Steeple and Middle Aston will also go on SAVA’s newly revamped website www.steepleastonarchive.org.uk.