December 2007

Table tennis table to arrive in January

Get out those table tennis bats and start practising!

An outdoor table tennis table will arrive in the village early in 2008 and will be sited alongside the teenage facilities in Robinsons Close. The Parish Council has now authorised the purchase of the table, which is expected to be delivered during January.

Hoping for a net gain

The table, pictured here, is made by a French company called Balia. The Steeple Aston one will have a slightly different ‘net’, with a triangular structure, which is though to be more vandal proof.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason got the idea for the table when she saw one in France. She hopes it will complement the MUGA (multi-use games area), and be popular with the teenagers.

But it will be available for all villagers to use. You’ll just need to bring along your own bats and ball.

The Parish Council earmarked £1,000 for the project. The table, which is made of fibreglass, will be placed on a grass matting base and fixed in position with sand ballast.

Children help with planting around teenage facilities


Local schoolchildren have been helping with the planting of bulbs in the area around the new teenage facilities at Robinsons Close. Up till now it has mainly been the teenagers of the village involved in helping out on the site. But this time it was the turn of their younger brothers and sisters.

Members of the Nature Club at Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School joined parish councillors in planting 200 English bluebells and 200 narcissi after school. Younger members of the team particularly enjoyed finding lots of worms as they dug.

As the school is just across the road, the children will be able to visit the area frequently to see the results of their hard work. It is hoped that the bluebells will spread rapidly and carpet the area.

The children planted their bulbs in amongst shrubs that are already in place. But there’s plenty more to do over the next few weeks. As well as more bulbs, there are several trees to be planted, along with climbers and more shrubs. This heavier work will be left to the professionals.

The parish council has been liaising with Cherwell District Council on the planting plan for the area. Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason, who was down on her knees planting the bulbs with the children, said she hoped all the planting would be completed before Christmas.

A seating area and BMX track are already in use on the site. Fencing has also been erected and a new path created. The multi-use-games-area or MUGA is expected to be finished soon, so the whole project should be completed by the end of the year.

The overall project will have cost nearly £70,000. It has been funded by a variety of grants, including most recently awards from a lottery fund, Awards for All, from the Comma Fund, which is supported by DEFRA, the Local Network Fund, a government initiative supporting small voluntary and community groups working with children and young people and from Oxfordshire County Council’s Youth Support Services.

For more photos of the children’s planting party, please click here

Anyone for table tennis?

Plans to install an outdoor table tennis table alongside the teenage facilities in Robinsons Close are under consideration by the Parish Council.

The table, pictured here, is made by a French company called Balia. The Steeple Aston one will have a slightly different “net”, with a triangular structure, which is though to be more vandal proof.

Hoping for a net gain

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason got the idea for the table when she saw one in France. She hopes it will complement the MUGA (multi-use games area), and be popular with the teenagers. But it will also be available for other villagers to use. All you’ll need to do is bring along your own bats and ball.

Margaret is still looking in to the costs and safety considerations but the Parish Council has earmarked £1,000 for the project. There also needs to be a decision about the location of the table. The current suggestion is that it should be between the play area and the BMX track. There are no plans for lighting of the site at present but this could be reviewed in the future.

The Parish Council would also like some feedback from villagers, and especially the teenagers, on the proposal. If you have an opinion either for or against, you can contact Margaret Mason on 01869 340485 or email with your views.

It’s official! Steeple Aston is the best village in the county!

The Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Hugo Brunner, presented the award to Steeple Aston for winning the 2007 Calor Oxfordshire Villages of the Year competition at the AGM of Oxfordshire Rural Community Council on Wednesday, 3rd October.


Four village representatives went along to receive the £500 prize for winning the competition, and a further £125 communication award for the website. Pictured here with their framed certificates are (l to r) Richard Preston, the Vice Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish Council, Chelsy Brown from Steeple Aston Youth Club, Margaret Mason, the Chairman of the Parish Council and Jenny Bell, the website editor.

Margaret and Richard gave a short presentation to the meeting about Steeple Aston and recent developments in the village, especially the provision of teenage facilities.

The two certificates will be hung in the entrance to the village hall. The Parish Council and the website committee will now consider how best to spend their prizes.

Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC), which organised the county competition, said they were delighted that Steeple Aston will now go on to represent Oxfordshire in the Calor National Village of the Year Competition. This will give us the opportunity to gain national recognition as well as a share of a prize fund totalling more than £36,000.

The next stages of the competition will involve considerable work preparing for a visit to the village in the Spring by the regional judging panel. The final results will be announced next October.

Steeple Aston beat 16 other villages in the finals of the Oxfordshire competition, which took place in August. The judges said they were very impressed with the progress Steeple Aston has made and the caring nature of the community, particularly with young residents. They felt that the village excelled in many of the areas of the competition and decided unanimously that Steeple Aston should be the nominated village for Oxfordshire.

Scouts and Guides target village youngsters

Both the Scouts and the Guides are appealing for new members and adult helpers in an attempt to revitalise their activities in Steeple Aston.

There is no Girlguiding in the village at all, but Deddington & District Guides are looking for volunteers aged 18 and over to bring Guiding back to the Astons.

They would like to open a Rainbow Unit for girls aged five to seven as a priority. There are Brownies and Guides in Deddington and Middle Barton; the nearest Rainbow group is in Barford St Michael.

While there is an active Scouts group in the village for boys aged 10 to 15, the Cubs group for eight to 10-year-olds recently folded due to lack of members. There are no Beavers for the youngest age group either. Children have to go to Heyford for Beavers and Cubs.

Akela Chris Elliott would love to re-start the Steeple Aston Cub group, but she needs at least eight children to join. “Girls as well as boys are welcome,” she says, “In the past we’ve had lots of fun.” The group would probably meet between 6.00 to 7.30pm on a Monday evening at the Sport and Recreation building.

If you are interested in sending your child to any of these groups, or in volunteering as a helper, do get in touch.

For contact details and to read the full appeal from the Guides, please click here.
For contact details and to read the full appeal from the Scouts, please click here.

Local performers give us an Autumn Serenade

A large and enthusiastic audience gathered in Steeple Aston church on Saturday, 3rd November for a concert entitled “Autumn Serenade”.


The Steeple Aston Singers were joined for the evening by local soloists Dorothy Willatt and Heather Cleobury, and flautist Colin Chambers. The musical director was Nicholas Cleobury.

The first half of the evening had a Baroque theme with music by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. After the interval the audience were treated to some madrigals, and Nicholas Cleobury played Elgar’s Nimrod on the organ. This was a particularly appropriate choice as it is always played at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday.

The concert raised over £900 for church funds.

For more photos, please click here.

Lower Heyford bridge closure may be shorter than expected


The road bridge over the railway at Lower Heyford may be closed for three months rather than five, as originally expected.

Oxfordshire County Council says the latest plans suggest the bridge will be closed to road traffic from 2nd January to 31st March 2008. Earlier forecasts estimated the closure could last until the end of May.

The bridge currently has a weight limit of 7.5 tons because of its age and the extentof corrosion. It is being replaced by Network Rail so that it’s capable of carrying a full range of vehicles, including heavy lorries.

A spokesman for the County Council said: “We’re still waiting to see the contractor’s detailed programme, so it’s too early to say for certain how long the road will be closed, but at this stage three months looks a reasonable period.”

Between now and Christmas, a temporary footbridge will be constructed to allowpedestrians to cross the railway throughout the closure period without having to use the station bridge.

This footbridge will also be used to allow services such as gas and water to be diverted while the bridge is rebuilt.

“While this preliminary work is carried out, there will be temporary traffic lights in operation at the bridge and the road will sometimes be reduced to a single lane,” said the spokesman. “The actual demolition of the bridge is scheduled for the second or third week of January.”

The closure will particularly affect villagers wanting to travel to Bicester and the M40. Notices suggesting alternative routes will be put up before the work begins.

Access from Steeple Aston to the railway station will continue as normal and the station will remain open, as will the car park. Alternative access for the disabled will be in place by January.

However, there will be no parking allowed on the road from the station entrance as far as The Lane, Lower Heyford to allow access for the contractors’ vehicles during these months. The County Council will have powers to remove any offending vehicles.

If you have any queries, please contact Martin Brain in the OCC Bridges Section on 01865 815832.

Booklet to welcome village newcomers

A new booklet called “Welcome to Steeple Aston” has been assembled by the Parish Council. It contains details of clubs and societies in the village, as well as information about the Parish Council itself, Steeple Aston Life and this website.

Parish Councillor John Coley compiled the booklet, and plans to deliver it personally to new arrivals. He said “The Parish Council would like a copy to go to all new villagers – one of the bonuses is that I will take the pack and use it to talk to newcomers about the village.”

A welcome leaflet from the Church is already in existence, and this may be distributed at the same time. The booklet will also be available in the village shop, and you can download it from the website if you click here.

If you know of any new arrivals in the village, please contact John Coley and he will arrange to visit them. His phone number is 01869 347882, and his email address is

This booklet is in pdf format and requires Adobe reader, if you do not have Adobe reader it can be downloaded from Adobe by clicking here

November 2007

Villagers invited to meeting on Dickredge footpath extension

There will be a site meeting to discuss the proposed extension of the footpath at the Dickredge on Tuesday 20th November at 2:15pm.

Gordon Johnstone (Area highways engineer) and James Drew (Travel Plans manager) from Oxfordshire County Council, will be attending to discuss the extension with representatives from the school, the parish council and local residents.

Interested parties, for example, parents whose children use the route to walk to school, and residents who live on or near the Dickredge are invited to attend the meeting to find out more and discuss any concerns.

If you are interested but not able to attend, please contact the Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason on 01869 340485.

To see a copy of the site plan, please click here.

Playing field hit by killer grub


Emergency action has been taken to safeguard the condition of the playing fieldat Robinson’s Close.

Round white patches began to appear on the grass soon after the Summer Show, in the area where the dog show had taken place.

The culprits were identified by groundsman Chris Buswell as chafer grubs, creatures dreaded by gardeners and capable of causing extensive damage.

The chairman of the Sports and Recreation Committee, Chris Des Forges, said:”At first we just assumed it was the dogs who’d caused the problem. But the groundsman stuck his fingers in the grass and hoiked out three or four of these grubs. They’re enormous things – about the size of your thumb.”

The damaged areas have now been sprayed and it’s hoped the problem has been brought under control.

According to grass experts, Green Thumb: “Chafers can have a devastating effecton a lawn, surviving by munching through healthy turf roots. Once the roots have been eaten, the turf becomes detached from the ground and can be lifted like a carpet.”

October 2007

Shop reconstruction nears completion


Reconstruction work at Steeple Aston’s village shop should be completed by early November.

In addition to refurbishing the shop itself, the work was designed to separate the store and Post Office from the adjoining Old Manor House.

According to the owners, Andrew and Sharon Peace, the separation will make thebusiness “a more affordable purchase for a younger family to take into the next decade”.

The layout of the shop has been extensively altered and has a new entrance. It is spread across two rooms instead of four, with quieter refrigeration equipment and an air-conditioning unit in the chilled foods area. The attached accommodation now consists of a two-bedroom flat with self-contained kitchen and bathroom.

In a leaflet distributed to village residents, Andrew and Sharon thanked their customers for their support during the reconstruction.

“We are working to give good value and long-term continuity of service to our community,” they said. “We source from local Oxfordshire suppliers wherever practical. We hope that this will in turn attract our community to do a little more of their shopping here to provide the revenues that the business needs in order to survive and prosper.”

Grand Jumble Sale raises £560

Plenty of people came to Steeple Aston from Banbury, Bicester and the surrounding villages looking for bargains at the Valentine Club’s Grand Jumble Sale. And they must have found a fair few, as the sale made an overall profit of £560.

This annual event, which was held in the village hall on Saturday, 27th October, raises money for the club’s Christmas dinner. The cost of providing the meal is just short of £1,000, so the success of the jumble sale is vital in making sure that members can enjoy their traditional feast, to be held on 11th December.


The Valentine Club, one of the most active in the village, is the “seniors” club for Steeple Aston and surrounding villages. It currently has more than 60 members, some of whom are in their 90s.

Richard Preston, the club chairman, said, “I would like to express our thanks to all those who supported us either by donating items for the sale or by purchasing what we hope they will consider a bargain. On a personal viewpoint, I would like to thank all those who worked so hard on the day to make this event the successful and enjoyable day that it was.”

For more photos of the jumble sale, please click here.
For more information about the Valentine Club, please click here.

You can say no to “trick or treaters” at Halloween say police

Thames Valley Police are asking trick or treaters to respect householders’ wishes this Halloween, and are providing special posters for those who don’t want them to call.The police say that Halloween can be harmless fun, but sometimes members of the community become distressed by unexpected callers. They also warn that the behaviour of some trick or treaters has been intimidating and even criminal in the past with incidents of vandalism, broken property and graffiti reported.


They have provided householders with some posters to put in their windows if they don’t want to be visited by trick or treaters. If they see one of these posters, trick or treaters are asked to show respect and move on.

They have also designed a separate poster for shop owners saying that they will not sell eggs or flour to anyone under 18 until after 31st October.

In addition, the police have issued advice and guidance to parents and young people on how to behave at Halloween, and police officers have been visiting local schools to spread the word.

Further information and advice is available from their website, and you can also download the posters and flyers to print out at home. Go to:

Free copies of the flyers and posters are also available at all police stations.

Local organisations on show at “Meet the Village”

The village hall was buzzing with interest when local organisations got together to put on an impressive display for “Meet the Village” on the afternoon of Sunday, October 7th.


The initiative for the event came from the Village Hall Committee who had decided that it was time for villagers to be updated on the many interests and opportunities catered for locally. Every household in the village had received an individual invitation, and 26 organisations in all were represented.

All the organisations present on the day had clearly put a great deal of effort into their exhibition; photographs, newspaper articles, poster displays and artefacts all gave a strong sense of what is available to everyone in Steeple Aston. Visitors could pause on their way round and ask questions of the exhibitors and find out how they might get involved.

Tea and coffee, with home-made cakes, provided by the exhibitors, were available for all. The bar was also open in the Sport and Recreation building for those who wanted to take a break to watch the Rugby World Cup.

The following groups were represented: Village Hall, Parish Council, Recreation Trust, Steeple Aston Players, Guides and Brownies, Scouts, Cubs and Beavers, Meals on Wheels, the Village Website, Steeple Aston Life, Choral Society, Womens’ Institute, Steeple Aston Village Archive Trust (SAVA), Tennis Club, Bellringers, Handbell Ringers and the Church, the Golf Society, Garden Club, Horticultural Society, Valentine Club, and the Football, Badminton and Youth Clubs.
Click here for photographs of the event.

Royal Mail ends Sunday and Bank Holiday collections


Letters posted in Steeple Aston will no longer be collected on Sundays and Bank Holidays from 28th October.

The post box outside the village shop is the only one in Steeple Aston where Sunday and Bank Holiday collections have previously been available, along with 18,000 others around the country from a total of 115,000. In future there will be none.

The decision to drop the service was approved by Royal Mail’s regulator, Postcomm.

The move will cut costs and, according to Royal Mail, will reduce carbon emissions by 10,000 tonnes a year.

A statement from Postcomm recognises there will be “adverse effects” for a minority of customers if their letters are not collected on Sundays and Bank Holidays, but adds: “Conversely there is a clear benefit in removing a service that has little demand from consumers when this removal will reduce Royal Mail’s overall operating costs and increase the assurance that the universal service can be delivered at an affordable price.”

Funding completed for teenage facilities


Two further grants announced in August mean that funding for the teenage facilities in Robinsons Close is now complete. An award of £10,000 from a lottery fund, Awards for All and a further £18,000 from the Comma Fund, which is supported by DEFRA, mean that the planned multi-use games area (MUGA) and the landscaping of the surrounding area will be finished before the end of the year. The overall project will have cost nearly £70,000.

Richard Preston, who has been working hard to raise funds for the project is delighted, he said: “This is wonderful news for all the youngsters in and around our village as it will enable us to install the MUGA giving them somewhere to play ball games and socialise in ‘their own space’. With the help of Steeple Aston Parish Council, the new facility will be available for all to use by the autumn.”

Earlier this summer, he was pleased to report a grant of £7,000 from the Local Network Fund, a government initiative supporting small voluntary and community groups working with children and young people. A second grant of £5,000 came from Oxfordshire County Council Youth Support Services. The application for this was submitted by Isobell Howe on behalf of the Steeple Aston Youth Club.

The scheme originated when a group of teenagers asked the Parish Council for help in finding them somewhere to “hang-out” and play ball games without causing a nuisance to others. The members of the youth club have been closely involved in the design of the project and in the raising of funds.

Some of the teenagers have also been helping out with the work involved. A seating area and BMX track have already been installed. Fencing will be erected and a new pathway will be created. There is a lot of planting to be done in the autumn, and the Parish Council is currently liaising with Cherwell District Council on the final design.

It is hoped that involvement by interested groups in the community will make this a much-improved environment for all to enjoy.

If you would like to know more or offer your help, contact Richard Preston on 340512.

September 2007

Steeple Aston wins Village of the Year competition


Steeple Aston has been chosen as the Oxfordshire Village of the Year for 2007. We beat 16 other villages in the final to win a £500 prize. There was also a communications award of £125 for the website.

The judges said they were very impressed with the progress Steeple Aston has made and the caring nature of the community, particularly with young residents. They felt that the village excelled in many of the areas of the competition and decided unanimously that Steeple Aston should be the nominated village for Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, which organised the county competition say they are delighted that Steeple Aston will now go on to represent Oxfordshire in the Calor National Village of the Year Competition. This will give us the opportunity to gain national recognition as well as a share of a prize fund totalling more than £36,000.

The final of the judging was on Saturday 18th August at Kennington Village Hall.

The three village representatives were Margaret Mason, the Chairman of the Parish Council, Jenny Bell, the website editor and Chelsy Brown from Steeple Aston Youth Club. They took along a display of photos and information about the village and were keen to tell the judges about recent developments – in particular the provision of the new teenage facilities and the launch of our website.

The prizes will be presented on 3rd October at the Annual General Meeting of ORCC.

Summer Show was “the most successful ever”


The organisers of this year’s Summer Show estimate that more than 750 visitors came to enjoy themselves in the Bank Holiday sunshine. Horticultural Society Chairman Richard Preston said, “This must have been the most successful show ever, with so many smiling faces around.”

One of the biggest smiles was that of Julia Whybrew, the Show Champion, pictured here, with her prize-winning Walker Cup as well as the Hayter Cup for her fruit and vegetables.

Julia and her husband Ted are retiring as joint Show Secretaries, a task they have carried out for the past six years. Warm tributes were paid to the energetic and efficient way they have carried out their duties.

The takings on the day reflect the extra numbers attending. The raffle and the teas for example made more than ever before. Altogether the takings are expected to be around £2,500, which will more than cover the show’s costs.

With more publicity than ever this year, visitors came from far and wide. There were even some visitors from London who said they just came to see what a real country flower show was like.

Entries for the show were also up, particularly in the children’s classes. This year there were 125 entries from children, whereas in 2006 there were only 46. Also there was a large increase in the vegetable entries in the division confined to those who live in local villages.

In addition to the traditional horticultural show, there were plenty of other attractions and sideshows. The stilt-walking, balloon modelling magician was quite a favourite, and both owls and huskies had plenty of admirers.

The teas, organised by Katy Kilpatrick and Janet Coley, have never been so popular. Over 40 large cakes, 54 meringues and at least 50 small individual cakes decorated for children disappeared in record time. The ice creams sold out long before the end of the show.

And at the end of the afternoon there was a very successful auction of fruit and vegetables, energetically conducted by Richard Preston who had already spent the whole afternoon compering the Fun Dog Show.

For photos of the flower show, click here.
For photos of other attractions, click here.
For flower show results, click here.
For the story and photos of the Fun Dog Show, click here.

The Horticultural Society is always looking for new committee members to come up with fresh ideas for future shows. If you are interested in helping out, call Richard Preston on 01869 340512.

Record entry for Dog Show


More dogs than ever before came to Steeple Aston on Bank Holiday Monday to take part in the Fun Dog Show on Robinsons Close. There were 67 dogs in all competing in five classes. They came from all around the county with entries from Oxford, Yarnton, Bicester and Cropredy.

Pictured here is the overall winner, the “Dog of the Day”, a Staffordshire bull terrier called Mason. With him is his owner Billy Dugdale from Blackbird Leys and the competition judge Malcolm Butler.

Malcolm, who lives in Steeple Aston, has previously stewarded at the show, but this was his first time judging. He said “It was very difficult as all the dogs were of an extremely high quality. Fortunately, they were also very well behaved.”

The show, which runs alongside the Flower Show, is sponsored by The Hart Veterinary Centre in Bicester. They provided rosettes for the winners and runners up and a trophy for the Dog of the Day, who is selected from the winners of the five classes.

The five classes were:

  • Agility (over the jumps)
  • Best six legs (dog and handler)
  • Best child handler
  • Veterans
  • Dog in best condition.

For more photos of the show and the five class winners, please click here.

Turner prize winner draws a blank


This year’s Steeple Aston Turner Prize was won by Yoni Kinory. In the best tradition of the Turner prize, he intrigued the judge with what appeared to be a framed picture of nothing at all.

The theme of the competition was “1,000 years of Oxfordshire” to mark the county’s millennium. There were 12 entries altogether from 11 competitors. The arduous task of judging the entries was undertaken by the new village curate Revd Sarah Parkinson.

Yoni won the £30 first prize with a framed picture of an all-white scene, which has the following caption:

“Deep Snow under Pale Sky Between Steeple Aston and Middle Aston, 11 in the Forenoon, 8 February 1257

Facsimile of a 16th century copper engraving after a tapestry (now lost) by Emma, Abbess of Godstow”.

Second prize went to Colin Relton and third to Ted Whybrew, they won £20 and £10 respectively..

Colin’s entry depicted a wire man whose head is being eaten by a tulip and had the following caption:

In Memory of


Oxford Professor of Plant Biology

(1804 – 186?)

Lost while searching for the reputed

Flesh-eating plant

Tulipa Carnivora

“Who the Hunter, Who the Hunted?”



Ted submitted two entries. The one that got third prize was the shape of Oxfordshire cut out of a piece of paper densely printed with 1,000 years of Oxfordshire.

It was the first time that the Steeple Aston Turner Prize has been included in the Summer Show. Funding for the competition this year was provided by a special grant from Oxfordshire County Council to celebrate 1,000 years of Oxfordshire.

Village history booklet launched at Summer Show


“A Century of Changes”, a new booklet on the history of Steeple Aston in the 20th century has now been published.

It was launched at the Summer Show on Monday, August 27th. The author, village resident Jean Stone was on hand to sign copies on the day. She sold nearly 60 booklets at the show. The remainder are now on sale in the village shop, price £5.

Nearly 100 pages long, the booklet describes life in Steeple Aston at the beginning of the 20th century – a very different place from today with no running water, no electricity and no motor cars. It then goes on to chronicle the changes and events that took place over the next 100 years both in the village and in the wider world.

Jean gathered much of her information from interviews with village residents of long-standing, and has collected lots of photographs showing familiar people and places over the years. There are happy photos to bring back memories of village shows and celebrations, football and cricket teams, but also sad stories about the impact of the two World Wars on the village.

Changes over the years have always been marked by the ringing of the Steeple Aston church bells. Most importantly, they rang out the old century and rang in the new. So the story of the bells and their ringers over the years is a prominent theme, with an illustrated epilogue telling the story of the improvements to the bells in the mid-1980s.

Once the printing costs have been covered, the proceeds will go to the village hall.

Invitations issued to “Meet The Village”

Invitations to come to the village hall and “Meet the Village” are being delivered to every house in Steeple Aston and Middle Aston. The event will take place on Sunday, 7 October from 2.00 to 6.00pm.

This initiative by the Village Hall Committee is designed to encourage villagers to meet each other and find out about all the activities going on locally. The Village Hall will be full of information from local organisations and free tea, coffee and delicious home made cakes will also be on offer.

There will be representatives from many clubs and societies such as the bell ringers, the choral society, the youth club, mothers and toddlers, the gardening and horticultural societies, several sports clubs, the Valentine Club, the Players, the WI, the Scouts in all their forms and the Village Archive. Others represented will be the Parish Council, Steeple Aston Life, the website, the Recreational Trust, who manage Robinson Close, Meals on Wheels and the church.

August 2007

Summer holiday activities for children of all ages

With the Baby and Toddler group open throughout the school holidays for the first time this year, and a strong programme of holiday activities arranged by Cherwell District Council, there’s plenty for children of all ages to look forward to in Steeple Aston and the surrounding area this summer.

In Steeple Aston

For the very youngest, the Baby and Toddler Group is staying open throughout the summer. It meets at the Sport and Recreation building every Thursday from 9.30 to11.30am. Membership is open to anyone with a “bump”, or bringing along a baby or toddler. The cost is £1 per session. All you need to do is turn up on the day and you will be very welcome. For information, contact Emily Robinson on 01869 347194.

For children aged five to 11, there will be a weekly Sports Roadshow on Wednesdays throughout August in the Village Hall. Activities include relays, team and skill games, soft ball, parachute games and more.

The sessions run from 10.00am to12.00 noon and cost £3.50 each. There is no need to book, just turn up on the day. Wear suitable clothing and bring water or a non-fizzy soft drink with you. For more information, call 01295 221719.

There will also be an Arts Roadshow on Friday, 25th August at the Village Hall. The Double Decker Bus will be visiting to offer art workshops where you can paint, design sculpture and much more. This session is for children aged five to 12 and will also run from 10.00am to 12.00noon. Places are limited, so please book early by calling 01295 266763. The cost is £3.50 per child.

At Banbury, Bicester and other nearby venues

Activities at Banbury Museum including drawing and making mobiles. For more information telephone 01295 259855 or go to :

For children aged 9 and over there are lots of workshops at the Animation Station in the basement of Banbury Town Hall. For more information call 01295 221730 or go to:

There is a great variety of sporting opportunities in the area for children of all ages. There is a Try a Sport day for ages 8 to eleven on Wednesday, 1st August at Bicester. There are also athletics coaching courses in Banbury and Bicester for children aged 8 to fifteen; tennis coaching in Deddington and Banbury; cricket coaching at Horley Cricket Club; golf coaching at Banbury Golf Club and sailing classes on Banbury Reservoir. For information on all of these, call 01295 221719. To book, call 01295 221803.

There is a four-day tennis coaching course in Banbury for 6 to 15-year-olds. Details and booking form are on:

For information on Summer Rugby Camps in August at Chipping Norton call Bethan Dennick on 01295 721687; for Witney courses call Pat Hall on 01993 704599.

Wade Gymnastic Club in Banbury will be running sessions for children from age three over the summer holidays. Call 01295 710107 for further information.

Banbury and Bicester Hockey Clubs are looking for new junior members. Go to: or

Urban Energize is a sports roadshow for children aged eight to 16 with street style sports activities and interactive days in Bicester and Banbury. For those aged 11 and above, there are also animation and graffiti workshops in Kidlington. For information on all these, call 01295 221803.

There are arts, sculpture and photography days for those aged 13 and above in Bicester and Banbury Also on offer is a DJ Skills workshop for 13 to 19-year-olds. Call 01869 602555 for more information these.

Local Sports Centres also run their own programmes throughout the summer holidays. To find out more call the following:

Bicester & Ploughley Sports Centre: 01869 253914

Kidlington & Gosford Sports Centre: 01865 376368

Woodgreen Leisure Centre, Banbury: 01295 262742

Spiceball Park Sports Centre in Banbury is currently flooded. Some activities have been diverted to Woodgreen Leisure Centre. For more information call 0125 257522 or go to the Cherwell District Council website:

A warm welcome for the new curate


Parishioners of the Church of St Peter and St Paul have given a warm welcome to their new curate. Revd Sarah Parkinson started work at the beginning of July, helping Revd Stephen M’Caw to cover the United Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Aston and Tackley. “My first month has been great,” she said, “I’ve had a lovely welcome, the bellringers even rang a quarter peel for me.”

Sarah joins the parish fresh from her ordination, which took place on July 1st at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. For the first year after ordination, you are a deacon rather than a priest. So for the time being Sarah can conduct funerals and baptisms on her own, but not weddings or communion services.

Originally from North Yorkshire, Sarah is no stranger to Oxfordshire. Having gained her maths degree at Oxford University, she returned in 2004 to begin her theological training at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Before this Sarah lived in Lancaster where she managed a night shelter and became prison chaplain, a ministry that she still holds today.

Whilst in Lancaster, Sarah also met and married her husband, Andrew. The couple now live with their three cats in Yarnton where Andrew is team vicar of the Blenheim Benefice.

Sarah’s inaugural service in Steeple Aston was on the evening of her ordination when she helped to celebrate the Church’s Patronal Festival. She will be working part-time in the Benefice averaging two days per week on a fortnightly rota.

“I’m very much looking forward to getting to know all of the villagers within the United Benefice,” says Sarah. “I’m sure you’ll see me around sporting a dog-collar, so do say hello and introduce yourselves!”

If you haven’t met her already, you will be able to see Sarah at the Annual Flower Show on Monday, 27th August where she has bravely agreed to judge the Turner Prize.

Steeple Aston escapes worst effects of floods


Householders in Steeple Aston seem to have escaped the worst effects of the floodingthat caused extensive damage in other parts of Oxfordshire.

There were spectacular scenes in the Cherwell Valley as the river burst its banks, but in the village itself there were no reports of damage to homes. The Parish Council was told the drainage system in the village had generally coped well.

The floodwater is, however, causing serious problems for farmers. Tim Taylor, of Rectory Farm, said: “At his time of year, we’d normally have harvested 600 acres. Right now, we’re struggling to reach 100. And my cattle are on full winter rations.”

“The last time I can remember flooding on anything like this scale at this time of year was way back in 1968 – and this time it’s been far worse.”

Click here for more of Tim Taylor’s photos of the floods.

If you have a story to tell about the effects of the dreadful weather in Steeple Aston – or photographs of the flooding to share – send an email to

Huskies booked for Summer Show


These Siberian Huskies are the latest attractions to be booked for the Annual Flower Show on Bank Holiday Monday, 27th August. In their natural habitat, Huskies are used to pulling sleds in sub-zero temperatures. But this group live on an Oxfordshire farm. They are friendly and gentle dogs and are used to attending big events. Visitors to the show will be able to have their photos taken “hugging a husky”.

This is the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society”s 116th Annual Show, and it takes place in the Village Hall and Robinson”s Close, starting at 2.00pm.

As well as meeting the Huskies, there will be plenty for all to see and do. The Flower Show itself has 131 classes for adults and children ranging from the usual flower, fruit and vegetable classes (including, of course, the most mis-shapen vegetable), cookery, wine, handicrafts and art.

For the first time this year, winners of the photographic competition, “Village Views of Steeple Aston”, will have their photos shown on this website.

One of the highlights of this year”s show will be the re-introduction of Steeple Aston”s very own Turner Prize. This year’s theme is “One Thousand Years of Oxfordshire”, and the competition is open to all comers using any medium. Show Chairman Richard Preston says, “A sense of humour will probably help.” The prize will be judged by Revd Sarah Parkinson, the village”s new curate.

The Fun Dog Show starting at 2.30pm is always a popular event, and there will be plenty of sideshows and stalls to explore. There will also be children”s entertainers, a bouncy castle and lots of other fun and games.

At 4.30pm, an auction of produce donated by the exhibitors will be followed by the prizegiving.

For a copy of the Show schedule, please Click Here.

For more information about the Siberian Huskies, go to:

July 2007

Work has started on the teenage facilities


The work on the teenage facilities has begun and the new youth shelter is in place. The first thing is cutting back some of the trees below the Village Hall and this has started already. The wood will be chipped and used as mulch later on.

Margaret Mason, on behalf of the Parish Council, has said about felling the trees “When the plans were being prepared for the Teenage Facilities the Parish Council had an arboriculturalist and CDC’s Tree Officer to look at the trees on the site. We knew that no maintenance had been done to the trees on the site for probably 40-50 years. As it would be the Parish Council’s responsibility, we needed to be sure that the area would be safe for the purpose, as an area used by children and young people. The Parish Council has to have insurance covering that use.


It became evident, on inspection that many of the trees were at the end of their lives and not safe to leave. Both chestnuts had evidence of disease, which makes them liable to drop branches, the Robinias were over mature, twisted and splitting. Many trees were self seeded and crowded. Even the multi stemmed sycamore behind the Youth Building, which we had hoped to keep, we were advised to fell last week, whilst the work was going on, as there was evidence of rot and weakness in the trunks.

The area does look bare now, which is sad, but the risk of accident was not one the PC could take. It does mean though that we have an opportunity to plant the area with new trees, and some fairly large specimens, when the new facilities are complete and the next planting season arrives.

Final details of the planting / landscaping plans have still to be agreed with the District Council but we hope we can involve people with the new planting. We want the area to look good and be safe for many years to come, as I am sure you do too, with young trees to take the place of the old growing to provide pleasure for the future.”

Some work has to be done on the drains and then the fun begins. So far there is enough money to pay for the BMX track and seats under a shelter.

The multi use games area (MUGA) will follow as soon as the rest of the money has been found and grant applications are either in, or in the process of preparation. The youth of the village have already raised a lot towards the cost and Richard Preston is continuing with his sterling work on grant applications. We should know about the grants by September.

The exciting part of the project at the moment is the detailed design of the BMX track by the users themselves. Some keen BMXers have already offered their services and if anyone feels they can assist please contact Richard Preston (01869 340512) for more details. Construction of the track should happen during the summer holidays so if you feel like joining the track designers and builders don’t hesitate to ring Richard.

To view the progress visit gallery, Click here

Parish Council rejects “pay-for-policing” proposal

The Parish Council have rejected a suggestion by Thames Valley Police that the village should contribute to the funding of a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO). The police say they do not have the manpower to police rural communities in the way the villages would like, so they suggested that local communities might wish to contribute to a PCSO who would be dedicated to the community for the proportion of his or her time that the community had paid for.

The Parish Council heard from the neighbourhood policeman, Sgt Neville Clayton, about what a PCSO can do, and what they are not meant to do. Briefly, for example they can give fixed penalty notices, seize alcohol from under aged people and remove cars and cycles from pavements etc. But they cannot arrest anyone, though they can detain someone for half an hour and radio for help, and they cannot join in, for example, to stop a punch up. However their uniform is very similar to a standard police uniform, they spend 80% of their time on the beat, they can get to know the most frequent miscreants and their presence may be sufficient by itself to prevent low level crime.

The Parish Councillors asked about the funding for a PCSO. Each one costs about £30,000 of which Thames Valley police would pay half; the rest to be paid for by Steeple Aston, either on its own or as part of a group of local villages. For the £15,000 contribution the villages would get the PCSO for half his or her time. The Police Authority would decide what was done with the other half of the PCSO’s time.

The Parish Councillors were keen to know whether they would always get the time they had paid for, or whether the Police Authority might sometimes move the PCSOs to areas of greater policing need. The Home Office said they had received letters from Parish Clerks where PCSOs are already being funded; some letters said they were delighted with the scheme but others complained that they had got less PCSO time than they had paid for.

£12,000 grant for teenage facilities “wonderful news”


Two grants totalling £12,000 to Steeple Aston Youth Club mean the development of teenage facilities in the village is now on track. Construction of the site at Robinsons Close is well under way, and it now looks as if the whole project, including the Multi-Use-Games-Area (MUGA) will be completed before the end of the year.

After an earlier setback when an application to the Lottery Fund for a £28,000 grant was rejected, the Parish Council decided to go ahead with the first phase of the project, while seeking further funding elsewhere to complete it.

Richard Preston, who has been working hard to raise more funds for the project is delighted, he said: “This is wonderful news for all the youngsters in and around our village as it will enable us to install the MUGA giving them somewhere to play ball games and socialise in “their own space”. With the help of Steeple Aston Parish Council, the new facility will be available for all to use by the autumn.”

A grant of £7,000 came from the Local Network Fund, a government initiative supporting small voluntary and community groups working with children and young people. This is the twenty-third round of Local Network Fund grants that have been administered by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.


The Grants Manager of Oxfordshire Community Foundation, Wally Cox, said:”We are delighted to contribute towards this valuable group. We try to focus our grants on small, grass-roots, community organisations which are making small but significant differences to the lives of children and young people.”

The second grant of £5,000 came from Oxfordshire County Council Youth Support Services. The application was submitted by Isobell Howe on behalf of the Youth Club.

Now that trees have been cleared from the site, work is starting on the BMX track Fencing will be erected and a new pathway will be created.

There is a lot of planting to be done in the autumn, and the Parish Council is currently liaising with Cherwell District Council on the final design. It is hoped that involvement by interested groups in the community will make this a much-improved environment for all to enjoy.

If you would like to help with construction of the BMX track, or offer help in any other way, contact Richard Preston on 340512.

June 2007

Steeple Aston Church Fête

Saturday 30 June 2007.


Dark skies and an even gloomier forecast forced the Church Fête indoors this year. But the rain held off for much of the time, and outdoor activities went ahead as planned – including performances by the Adderbury Morris Men (just back from a tour of Transylvania) and fire-juggling by the Showtime Party Team from Oxford. There were Shetland pony rides, and after initial hesitation the bouncy castle was rolled out and inflated, to the relief of some parents and grandparents.

Inside the Village Hall the various stalls traded their wares to the powerful accompaniment of the Jubilee Brass Band from Headington, while the children’s events such as face-painting took place in the Sports Hall.

The day began with a modest parade of vintage and classic cars led around the village by Master of Ceremonies Ted Atkins in full Town-Crier rig; for the technically-minded the vehicles included a yellow 1925 drophead Austin 25, a rare Velar (prototype Range-Rover), and a Morris-Oxford style Ambassador imported from India only four years ago but already a classic.

Mr Atkins then proclaimed the King and Queen of the day – Alex Hatzigeorgiou and Angharad Saunders – and the show could begin. Malcolm Hensher was the overall organiser of the programme. A little judicious price-cutting at the end of the fête saw much of the donated produce disappear from the stalls, and the result of all the enthusiasm and effort was a net figure of £2,190 60p, As usual two-thirds will go to the church itself, the rest to charities, mainly local ones.
Click here for photographs of the Fête.

Two new booklets on village history to be published

Two new publications on the history of Steeple Aston are due to come out in the next few months.

Steeple Aston Village Archive Trust (SAVA) is to publish an illustrated booklet about business and trade in the village over the last 300 years. This will be based on the information collected for their successful exhibition on the same subject last autumn.

And local resident Jean Stone has been writing an account of Steeple Aston in the 20th century. The booklet, “A Century of Changes, Steeple Aston 1899 – 2000”, will be launched at the Summer Flower Show on Bank Holiday Monday, 27th August.

Mrs Stone has already written two booklets about local history, which are on sale in the village shop – A Stroll Through Steeple Aston and The Steeple Aston War Memorial. She says this new publication will feature all kinds of changes that happened in our village in the last millennium. Some worldwide events are also included to put the changes in context, and there will be photographs old and new.

There should be plenty of customers for both publications. The local interest in village history was demonstrated by the very healthy turnout to SAVA’s annual lecture on April 22nd. The village hall was full when Chris Day, Lecturer in Local History gave his talk on 1,000 Years of Steeple Aston.

The audience heard that for much of its history Steeple Aston was a poorer and more unruly place than its immediate neighbours. In the 19th century, particularly, there is evidence of unrest, and a local labourer was hanged for burning a hayrick. There were complaints that the village had become a dumping ground for unwanted labour from neighbouring parishes so in 1852, attempting to address the problem the vestry offered £3 each to up to eight young people prepared to emigrate.

Mr Day talked in detail about the differences between Steeple, Middle and North Aston over the last 1,000 years. Despite the difficulties of the past, he concluded his talk on a brighter note for Steeple Aston. He saw a positive, although very different, future for the village. Few villagers were now employed in agriculture, but newcomers and original residents alike were much more prosperous than in the past.

To find out more about SAVA, go to their website

The web site is being used to find long lost friends

A notice board has just been added to this site. This is the result of two requests for helping find some long last friends.

Paul Greenwood and his wife Jo ran the village shop and post office for a few years. Richard and Dilly Croft are now hoping to get back in touch with Paul. The two men met at Sandhurst in the 1960s and Paul worked abroad for Hymac for many years. On his return he ran the village shop in Steeple Aston. Richard Croft says that since 2000 he has been trying to contact Paul, but been unsuccessful. Does anyone know how to contact him?

The other request we have had is from Alan Reed who is trying to get in touch with Neil Butler to invite him to a reunion. Neil is one of the others with whom Alan trained in the Army Pay Corps in 1963/4. The group were together at Worthy Down near Winchester and Alan has contacted most of the other trainees. When Alan last heard of Neil he was living in Steeple Aston and working for what is now TSB Financing in Banbury. Alan says he lost track of Neal in 1965 when their postings sent them apart and Alan now thinks it is time he made up for not keeping in touch with the Regimental Associations.

May 2007

Mobile phone mast on village church rejected

A proposal to site a mobile phone mast on the church in Steeple Aston has been rejected.

The Parochial Church Council turned down a request from the installation company QS4 who wanted to put a mast in a modified flagpole on the church tower to improve mobile phone reception in the area.

The Rector of Steeple Aston, Revd Stephen M’Caw, said the decision was taken aftervillagers expressed anxiety about possible health risks. There was also concern that the school and pre-school buildings are so close to the church.

“The PCC trust the outcome of turning down the mast is to the satisfaction of the community as a whole”, said Revd M’Caw.

Open Gardens

Four gardens in Steeple Aston were open on 6 May for the National Gardens Scheme. The four are completely different to each other and you can see photographs of them by clicking here. One is small and exquisite, another is elegant and beautifully planned, one has magnificent trees and a breathtaking bog garden and the last garden is large and mainly walled with a huge greenhouse and stunning herbaceous border and vegetables.

The National Gardens Scheme donates most of the money it raises to Macmillan Nurses who care for the terminally ill. The Open Gardens in Steeple Aston raised £1372 in entry money from 392 visitors. Plant sales came to £121 and donations and other activities made £48. In addition there were delicious home made teas in the Village Hall and this raised a further £583. The takings from the teas were shared with the Village Hall so that overall the National Gardens Scheme got £1,832 and the Village Hall made £291.50.

The village has opened its gardens for many years and the money sent to the National Garden Scheme was about the same as it has been in the past. Over the last nine years, four garden openings have raised slightly more money than this year, and four raised less. One garden opening family were sent a presentation boxed trowel as a thank you from the National Garden Scheme for having opened in every one of the last ten years.

Parish Council considers “pay-for-policing” proposal

If Steeple Aston wants better policing, the village may have to pay for it.

That’s the message from Thames Valley Police, who’ve told Parish Councillorsthey do not have the manpower to police rural communities in the way villages would like.

The police have suggested that Parish Councils may wish – alone or in partnership with neighbouring villages – to employ Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)themselves. The cost of a single PSCO is estimated at about £30,000 a year, of which Thames Valley Police would pay half.

PSCOs are not fully-qualified police officers, but they spend 80% of their time on the beat and can deal with minor incidents. If necessary, they can report back to specific police officers with overall responsibility for the area.

Thames Valley Police have been invited to explain the proposal to the Council more fully. Councillors will then decide whether residents should be consulted and may ask the police to attend a public meeting.

Steeple Aston goes online

This new website has been launched to serve the needs of villagers in Steeple and Middle Aston, and others who may be interested, such as visitors, prospective and former residents.

The site is designed and run by a committee of local volunteers who first got together in January 2007. It is funded by the Parish Council.

The site is not yet complete. There is lots of information still to be collected, and the committee hope over the next few months to make the site more fun and interactive. One of the aims is to get the young people of the village involved by having a special Kids Zone.

Comments, suggestions and offers of help are all very welcome. If you have a local business, or run a club that you’d like to see featured on the site, do get in touch. Accuracy is important, so if you see any mistakes don’t hesitate to say so.

The best way to make contact is by email to Alternatively you can phone Jenny Bell on 01869 347714.

For more information about the website, please click here.

New teenage facilities to go ahead, despite lottery rejection

Members of Steeple Aston Parish Council were disappointed to hear that their application for a lottery grant to improve teenage facilities in the village was unsuccessful. However, they have decided to go ahead with the first phase of the project this year, while continuing to raise money for the second phase.

The application to The Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund for a £28,000 grant to improve facilities for the youngsters of Steeple Aston and the local community was rejected at the end of April.

The plan is to use a piece of derelict land to the east of the play area, next to the village hall and playing fields to construct a BMX track, a seating area, a multi-use-games-area (MUGA) and landscape the remaining site making it a place to enjoy with family and friends.

The total cost of the project is £63,000 of which the Parish Council, with considerable help from the youth of the village, has already raised well over half the required sum.

Despite the failure to win the grant, the Parish Council has decided to start the project during the summer with the ground works, which involves tree surgery and drainage to be followed by the construction of the BMX track. The seating area will also be installed leaving just the MUGA to be completed at the earliest possible time once the required funding has been identified. Grant applications are being presented to various funding bodies with the hope that the project can be completed in the not too distant future.

The exciting part of the project at the moment is the detailed design of the BMX track by the users themselves. Some keen BMXers have already offered their services and if anyone else feels they can help, they should contact Richard Preston on 01869 340512 for more details. Construction of the track should happen during the summer holidays. Richard says, “Get those wheelbarrows oiled, shine up your shovels and come and join us!”

Marathon man Ian raises over £800 for charity


Steeple Aston resident Ian Coleman braved the scorching heat to successfully complete the London Marathon on Sunday April 22nd.

Running in aid of Cancer Research UK, Ian is justifiably proud to have completed the 26.2 mile course in five hours and 24 minutes. “I’d been hoping to finish in under four-and-a-half hours,” says Ian “but considering the unusually hot conditions, I’m just pleased to have finished at all!”

It was the hottest London Marathon on record. Track temperatures soared to over 25°C and many runners didn’t make it across the finish line. Celebrity runner Gordon Ramsay was quoted as saying that runners were dropping like flies, which makes Ian’s achievement even more impressive.

“By mile 21, I was hurting all over and my entire body was telling me to stop. The spectators were amazing and the extra support from all my sponsors helped to spur me on to the finish line,” he says. “I can’t thank my sponsors enough. My total raised for Cancer Research UK currently stands at just over £800 with more pledges still to be confirmed.”

Anyone wishing to sponsor Ian can still do so securely online at

When asked if he’ll ever run the London Marathon again, Ian isn’t too sure. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he says, then quickly adds “but you should never say never!” Our advice is to watch this space…