December 2008

Jumble sale raised £730 towards for Christmas dinner

They were queuing round the block to get in to Steeple Aston’s popular Grand Jumble Sale again this year. You have to get there early to get the best bargains – and there were plenty to be had with jumble piled high on all the tables in the Village Hall.


This annual event, which was held on Saturday, 25th October, raises money for the Valentine Club’s Christmas dinner. The cost of providing the meal is around £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 Tuesday, 9th December.

Club chairman Richard Preston said, “The final profit that will enable us to provide a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for all the club members was a magnificent £730!”jumble4

“We would like to thank all the public who donated articles for the sale and purchased many of the items during the 90 minutes that the jumble sale was in operation.”

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

For more information about the Valentine Club, please click here.

Steeple Aston remembers

Ninety years after the end of the First World War, villagers once again attended the annual Remembrance Sunday service in the Church.


They then processed up Paines Hill to the village war memorial to lay wreaths of poppies. The procession was led by the Steeple Aston Scouts.The Rector, Revd Stephen M’Caw and Revd. Geoffrey Hunter officiated.

The four wreaths were laid by the Steeple Aston Scouts, the Parish Council, the Women’s Institute and the Parish Church.

The memorial commemorates the 35 local men who died in the First World War, and the six who perished in World War Two. There are also plaques for them in the Church. Margaret Mason, the Chairmanof the Parish Council, read out their names at the beginning of the service.

For more information about the men and how they died, you can read local writer Jean Stone’s booklet The Steeple Aston War Memorial (1997), available from the Village Shop.

For more photos, please click here.

Consultation on future housing plans

Cherwell District Council is asking for views on the controversial question of future housing development in the Steeple Aston area.

The council has published a consultation paper called “Options for Growth. How should we distribute new housing in Cherwell?”

The consultation is to help the council prepare its Core Strategy as part of work on the Local Developpment Framework for the district until 2026. They are seeking views on the following questions:
how might housing development be distributed across the district?
where might major housing development go at Banbury and Bicester?
how might housing development be distributed to the villages?

You can view “Options for Growth” online at or you can see it at local council offices and libraries throughout the district.

You can make comments online at Or you can send your comments by email to or by post to Options for Growth, Planning and Affordable Housing Policy, Cherwell Dirtrict Council, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury, OX15 4AA.

The consultation period closes on 24th November.

November 2008

Parish Council says no to dog bins

Steeple Aston Parish Council has decided against installing dog bins in the village after a public consultation showed there was little enthusiasm for the idea.


At their September meeting, parish councillors were incensed by the amount of dog mess in the village, in particular on grass verges and footpaths. The Tchure was described by one as ‘a refuse tip for dog waste’ and difficult for walkers to avoid. The councillors decided to ask villagers to comment on a plan to install up to six bins in the village.

However, at their October meeting they heard that very few responses had been received. And the people who did send in their comments were equally divided between the pros and the cons.

One of the respondents was insistent that no further costs should be added to the precept. Each bin would have cost £280 to install and then a further £95 per bin a year for emptying. They would be emptied twice weekly in the summer and once a week in winter. So for six bins the total cost would have been £1,680 for installation and then an ongoing cost of £570 a year.

Given the lack of response, the costs and the current financial climate, the Parish Council decided not to install the bins.

Eco-town at Weston unlikely to go ahead

Plans for a new town with homes for 35,000 people at Weston on the Green now seem likely to be rejected.

Twelve possible sites for so-called ‘eco-towns’ across the country have been classified A, B and C by the government according to their suitability. Weston on the Green is in category C and is now seen as highly unlikely to go ahead.


However, an alternative site in Oxfordshire along Howes Lane and Lords Lane to the north-west of Bicester has been added to the list and is in category B, which means it could be suitable for an eco-town “subject to planning and design objectives”.

Housing Minister, Margaret Beckett, said: “I do not expect all of these locations to go forward. The eco-town standards are tough and I think some of these shortlisted schemes could struggle to meet them.” The government says a final shortlist will be published in the spring of next year.

Weston Front, the group campaiging against the scheme for Weston on the Green, said: “This is good news, but it’s not over yet and we will continue the campaign with the same vigour. We need to be realistic – the developers are hardly likely to sit back and accept this news lightly. They have put a lot of money into this venture and anybody who thinks this is all over is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

A roadshow displaying plans for the site visited Steeple Aston last summer as part of a public consultation exercise in neighbouring towns and villages.

For more information on the proposed eco-town, go to

For more information about the opposition to the scheme, go to

Third World donations leaflet “misleading”

Parish councillors are concerned that a leaflet delivered to houses in Steeple Aston may mislead villagers into thinking they are giving to charity.


The leaflet from Helpmates Limited asks for donations of clothing for the third world.

Parish Councillor John Coley explained that Helpmates Limited is not a charity collector. It is a commercial organisation, which sells the donations it receives to others in poorer countries to make a profit for itself.

He and his council colleagues are hoping to spread the word so that people do not donate to them thinking they are giving to charity. There is also a concern that if this company gets a good response from the village, they and more companies like them will keep coming back.

Helpmates are not doing anything illegal, but other communities have found that if people respond to them they find themselves leafleted over and over again. In Oxfordshire, the Headington News website reports that Helpmates and other similar companies have targeted their area 27 times since December 2006.

They say Helpmates is one of many commercial firms that constantly bombard Headington with leaflets asking for donations of clothing for third-world countries. They give a limited company number (linked below to their company details) that could easily be interpreted as a registered charity number; but in fact they sell these clothes to the poor for the sole purpose of making a profit for themselves.

For more information on the problem in Headington, go to

Some MPs are concerned as well. They held a debate on bogus charity collections last year. The Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, Jo Swinson is campaigning against bogus charities and Helpmates in particular. You can find out more on her website:

Steeple Aston welcomes new Headteacher

The parents, pupils and teachers of Dr Radcliffe’s School have all welcomed a new Headteacher, Frances Brown, who began her tenure at the beginning of September.


Mrs Brown, who replaces retired Head Mrs Heptonstall, joins the school following a highly successful five-year headship at Shenington C of E Primary School.

Having steered Shenington to a good Ofsted status and an outstanding Church Schools Inspection, Frances is perfectly placed to maintain the high standards already achieved by Dr Radcliffe’s.

“I’m really happy to be here and do appreciate the warm welcome I’ve received from everyone,” says Frances. “My main aim is to continue to lead Dr Radcliffe’s in its pursuit of excellence whilst treasuring what is at its heart – a caring, nurturing and truly inclusive Christian school.”

With a real passion for greener issues and bringing schooling outside the classroom, one of Frances’ immediate aims is to introduce the Forest Schools Initiative. “This will see pupils of all ages utilising the wooded area behind the school for many subjects including literacy, art, science and PE,” she says. “Work is already underway to move forward on this initiative, which we hope will help towards the school achieving the Eco-Schools Bronze Award and to ultimately become a Green Flag School.”

Even though she has been at the school for under a month, Frances’ warmth and enthusiasm have already been praised by the parents. “Mrs Brown seems really approachable and the kids love her already,” says one parent – clearly echoing a sentiment shared by many.

Mrs Brown is joined by three other new teachers to the school: Fiona Undrill (French), Emily Rymer (French and Spanish) and Morag Westworth (music).

Find out more about Eco-Schools awards at

Mrs Bedding receives Land Army medal

Mrs Joyce Bedding has just received a medal and a certificate in recognition of her time in the Land Army over 60 years ago.


In mid 1945 Mrs Bedding was working in a bakery in Birmingham. Looking back now she says she doesn’t know why she applied to join the Land Army. She “didn’t know anything about the country and did not like large animals.” Anyway she did apply, and was posted to Oxfordshire. She arrived in Woodstock and was shepherded to a camp nearby where there were about 100 girls. Each day they were collected from the barracks and taken to local farms.

One of the places she went was to Mr Robson’s farm at Middle Aston. When Mrs Bedding and a friend saw the Robsons were looking for two Land Army girls on a permanent basis they applied. They lived in ‘Windy Lodge’ on Paines Hill and got £2 a week in spending money. She said this was sufficient to go to Lower Heyford for fish and chips and to the Red Lion for ginger beer. But to go to the cinema in Banbury required a boyfriend to pay.

The work was hard all year and cold in the winter; they hoed, weeded on hands and knees, picked the vegetables and did whatever other farming jobs were needed. But it was fun as well. They worked alongside Italian and German prisoners of war and a number of Polish men. Together they grew and packed the fruit and vegetables from the farm. The Land Army girls went to the dance in the Village Hall on Saturdays and to a film there during the week. However the real highlight of the week was a Sunday trip to the cinema in Banbury followed by a visit to ‘Smokey Joe’s’ for a spam sandwich.

Mrs Bedding met her husband at the farm; he was the tractor driver. They got married at the end of 1947 and she gave up the Land Army a week before the wedding. Her only regret about the whole Land Army part of her life is that her medal and certificate arrived through the post. She would have loved to have had a chance to meet up again with some of the others and swap memories.

German visitors share wine and music with villagers

Twenty members of the ‘Initiative Plus’ group from several villages in the Middle Rhineland in Germany met residents of Steeple Aston in the Village Hall.


Initiative Plus are a Christian group who were touring England and were spending the night locally at Hopcrofts Holt Hotel on Sunday October 6th. They had earlier contacted the Rector, Stephen M’Caw and asked if they could meet local people.

The group provided generous entertainment: they offered wine tastings of three of their local wines and gave explanations of each. They also sang and showed slides of their local towns, villages, castles and the Rhine itself.


To provide a flavour of Steeple Aston, the guests were treated to hand bell ringing by the junior and senior handbell groups, a duet by Catherine Cooper and Charlotte Burgess, and another duet on flute and piano by Colin Chambers and Derek Hopwood.

They were given a welcome by Stuart Fergusson on behalf of the Parish Council and were thanked by the Reverend Stephen M’Caw. Snacks were provided by the White Lion pub, and a display of photos of the village through the ages was provided by the Steeple Aston Village Archive (SAVA).

The evening ended with the singing of familiar hymns by residents and visitors who somehow managed to sing in unison and in German and English at the same time.

Local groups contribute to Harvest Festival


The church looked suitably festive for Harvest Festival. There were the usual beautiful flower arrangements, but in addition, especially for Harvest Festival, six local organisations had added their contributions. The Horticultural Society and the Garden Club had decorated the Lady Chapel with magnificent enormous vegetables, stunning dahlias, preserves and baking. These were given away after the service.

wibThe WI window had perfectly co-ordinated leaves and flowers. The Bell ringers decorated the Memorial Window and the Choral Society’s flowers included a double clef in the design. The Valentine Club provided flowers and produce and the Golf Club had golf clubs in a SAGS bag.

wicThe pre-school decorated a window with suitably sized wellies.





Police warn of more car thefts

Local police have issued a warning about an increase in the number of vehicle thefts in rural areas. They are advising villagers to take extra care to make sure all vehicles are not left unattended with the keys inside.

WPC Caroline Brown, our Neighbourhood Specialist Officer, who is based in Bicester, reports that a light blue Peugeot 407 was involved in an attempt theft of a vehicle and a theft from a vehicle. Then the following morning a Mercedes van was stolen from Stoke Lyne while the driver was making a delivery, on this occasion a red Peugeot 106 was involved.

She says, “ Please ensure that you secure your vehicle when leaving it for any time, no matter if it is only for a brief time, as these people are quick when operating.

”Finally please can you be extra vigilant and report any suspicious people, incidents or vehicles to the police. Remember you as a resident are most likely to know when something is out of the ordinary.”

If you suspect a crime is being committed you should dial 999. For non-urgent reports, please contact the local police on 0845 8 505 505 or email

For the latest newsletter from the Bicester rural neighbourhood police team, please click here.

October 2008

Council consults on the installation of dog bins

The Parish Council is considering the installation of bins to help reduce dog fouling around the village, and has asked villagers to comment on their plans.

At their recent meeting, parish councillors were incensed by the amount of dog mess in the village, in particular on grass verges and footpaths. The Tchure was described by one as ‘a refuse tip for dog waste’ and difficult for walkers to avoid.


Councillors were told that dog bins had been installed in Hook Norton and this had made a real difference. They decided to ask villagers to comment on a plan to install up to six bins in the village. To help them in their discussions they would appreciate comments from parishioners on this proposal and the associated costs to the Parish.

Each bin would cost £280 to install and then a further £95 per bin a year for emptying. They would be emptied twice weekly in the summer and once a week in winter. So for six bins the total cost would be £1,680 for installation and then an ongoing cost of £570 a year.

Please send your comments to the Parish Clerk, Sue Lee at 19 Bradshaw Close or email or advise any of your parish councillors.

There is a discussion about dog bins in the Village Forum. To view the postings and add your own comments, please click here.

School dinners in Steeple Aston are best in county

School meals at Dr Radcliffe’s primary school have been judged to be the best in Oxfordshire.

Fresh Start Catering – a company run by local mother, Sue White – took over the catering at the school just over a year ago. She and her team came first in the primary school section of this year’s competition run by Oxfordshire County Council.


Pictured here hard at work in the school kitchen are (l to r) Sharon Peace, Selena Chapman, Sue White and Marian Trinder. Other members of the team not in the photo are Nikki Richard, Kate Quist, Penny Troughton and Sue Davies.

Sue is delighted with their success in the competition. She said “I am passionate about this project and very pleased we have won the competition in our first year. We are also very grateful for the support we have had from the school.”

Fresh Start Catering provides home cooked food, where possible organic and locally supplied. And the children clearly approve, with 120 of them enjoying school dinners every day. That’s 65 per cent of the children at the school, compared with a county average of around 27 per cent. On Fridays, the number increases to 160.

The judges for the competition visited the school, inspected the kitchen and ate with the children, asking them what they think about their school dinners. They also took away a sample meal for analysis to ensure it meets national nutritional standards.

The winners were announced at a presentation at the Malmaison hotel in Oxford. The winners received an engraved shield, along with a bottle of champagne and a £25 voucher for each member of the team.

Sue, who has a background in hotel and catering management, set up Fresh Start Catering after working at the school as a council employee. She said: “I thought that we could do better if we had the freedom to do things our own way. I have doubled the number of staff so that we can make all our own food, including bread and cakes.”

“As much of our food as possible comes from local sources; our meat is delivered daily from Bicester, our eggs come from a local farm and we have organic vegetables from North Aston. The children also grow vegetables and herbs for us and parents bring in surplus fruit and vegetables they have grown.”

Sue and her team are also starting to expand their activities beyond the school. They already run the Village Teashop on Wednesday afternoons in the Sport and Recreation Centre. Sue would also like to provide a community lunch, perhaps once a month, for villagers to attend. She is keen to canvass opinion on this so if you think it’s a good idea, please let her know.

Villagers invited to meet German visitors

Villagers are invited to come and meet a group of Germans who are visiting the area on a tour called “getting to know our neighbours”.

The Germans contacted the Rector, Revd Dr Stephen M’Caw asking to meet with some people from the village. He explained that they feel seeing the sights is one side of tourism, but meeting some of the people is the more important part.

The visitors are staying at Hopcrofts Holt Hotel on the night of October 5th, and have been invited to meet local people at Steeple Aston Village Hall at 8.30pm. All villagers are invited to attend as well.

The tourists will bring examples of their local wines to taste and some photos of the area they come from. The hosts are providing nibbles to go with the wine, and some photographs of the village, past and present (courtesy of SAVA).

There will also be some short light-hearted musical items during the evening, organised by Roderick Nicholson and featuring the Handbell Ringers, Kathryn Cooper, Colin Chambers and others.

Revd M’Caw said, “There will be no charge for admission – so it is a chance to enjoy some free wine and meet some interesting people. Let us hope for a good turnout from the village. We expect the evening to end around 9.30pm.”

The Germans are from an organisation called Initiative 55Plus/ Minus, and are visiting the UK between 1st and 8th October. They say it would be particularly interesting for them to meet people from Steeple Aston as most of the group live in small rural villages. The visitors, who are spending the day in Oxford and at Blenheim Palace, are mainly around age 60 and include teachers, professionals, and housewives. Most are involved in some voluntary work, or in their church or church choir.

If you can read German you might like to have a look at their website:

Summer Show blossoms with more local entries

The 117th Steeple Aston Flower Show saw an increase in entries from the village with more local adults and children participating in many classes.


The first Summer Show was held in 1869, and villagers have clearly not lost their enthusiasm for competing in many of the vegetable and flower classes. These, as well as the cookery and children’s classes saw an increase in entries and some close results.

Last year was an outstanding one for entries. This time, despite the increase in entries from the village, the overall total was more average. The open classes, which normally attract experienced exhibitors from outside the village, and the handicraft classes were particularly badly hit.

Altogether there were130 classes including flowers, vegetables, cookery, handicraft and photography. And this year there was a special prize for the best scarecrow. The judges of the photos and the floral art said they were particularly impressed with the excellent standard of the entries.

There was a new cup this year. The Wadham Challenge Cup is named after the grandfather of Richard Preston, Chairman of the Horticultural Society. Dick Wadham was Head Gardener at The Grange in Steeple Aston from 1890 until 1939. Appropriately, the first winner of this cup was his grandson’s wife, Dorothy Preston.


Richard and Daphne’s horticultural expertise is pretty legendary in the village and this year they didn’t disappoint. They tied for the honour of most points in show, so have to share the Walker Cup for Show Champion.

Other winners included Julia Whybrew, winner of the Hayter and Lee Cups and the Banksian Medal, Diana Relton who won the Coronation Bowl for her cookery and Eleanor Jolley who won the Gladys Stevens Memorial Cup for handicrafts. Gwen Stone won a cup and a trophy for her flower and foliage arrangements. Janet Coley won both photography awards and the prize for the best scarecrow.

Christopher Bedding won the Senior Children’s Cup and the Junior Children’s Cup went to Harry Tomkins. The Under 9s cup went to Yolanda Martin and the Under 6s to Oliver Brooks.

Other attractions at the show included Karluk Siberian Huskies, a bouncy castle, bowling, handicraft and produce stalls, a bottle stall, a WI stall, the prize draw, teas, games and side shows. For the first time this year there were several trade stalls as well.

An auction of produce donated by exhibitors was held before the prize giving. Sheila Side, President of the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society gave out the prizes to the winners. She thanked the members of the committee and all the other people involved in making the show such a success.

Richard Preston also wanted to thank all those involved, including the people providing tea and cakes. He especially wanted to thank the committee which has some new members who have bought a fresh and youthful eye to the proceedings. In one case very youthful – Jasmin Trinder must be the youngest ever committee member at age 14.

For the full results, please click here
For lots more photos, please click here.

September 2008

Parent’s views sought on updating village play area

The Parish Council is seeking the views of parents on how best to update the equipment in the children’s play area in Fir Lane.

The play area is now 16 years old and is starting to show its age. It is still safe to use, and has recently been inspected by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa). Their report was described as ‘pretty good’ considering the age of the equipment.

But the council is setting up a group to consider which pieces of equipment will need changing before long. It has been suggested that the train, climbing frame and all three swings as well as the fence around the edge might be replaced.

Richard Preston, Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council is setting up the informal group. He says, “We are about to consider how some or all of the apparatus is replaced. Should it be made of wood? Should the safety surface continue to be play-bark? What age of user should we be aiming at?

“Fortunately, there is some wonderful advice available to assist in making these decisions but the best advice will come from the users themselves. Do you, as parents use the play area? Would you, with the help of your children, like to be involved in deciding how our play area is refurbished?

“This will not involve fundraising albeit some funds will need to be raised at some stage but essentially this is a design exercise formulated by those that know best, the children and their parents.”

The group does not yet include anyone who had previously suggested that there should be a separate area for toddlers, so if this is your view you should contact Richard about joining the group and explaining your views. He warns that within the present sized site it may be difficult to put in a separate toddlers area and stay within Rospa guidelines.

If you are interested in helping or just want to express your views, please contact the Parish Clerk, Sue Lee on 01869 347652 or Richard Preston on 01869 340512.

Eco-town shortlisting postponed

A decision on whether Weston on the Green will be shortlisted as a site for the building of a new ‘eco-town’ has been postponed.

A shortlist of ten sites was due to be announced in October, but the Government now says the list will not be published until early 2009.

The site for the proposed Oxfordshire eco-town, known as Weston Otmoor, is alongside junction 9 of the M40. A roadshow displaying plans for the site visited Steeple Aston in July as part of a public consultation exercise in neighbouring towns and villages.


The new town would provide homes for 35,000 people and 12,000 jobs. The developers say between a third and a half of all the homes would be priced so that first-time buyers and families could afford them.

A new railway station would link Weston Otmoor to Oxford, Milton Keynes and London and there would be a new Park-and-Ride with space for 6,000 cars. Inside the town itself, residents would be expected to travel around by free tram instead of by car.

Opposition to the plan is being coordinated by a group called Weston Front. Among the leading campaigners is Anthony Henman, father of the former tennis star Tim, who has lived in Weston on the Green for more than 35 years.

The protesters point to the fact that a number of the 15 sites originally named have either been withdrawn or are in serious doubt. According to the campaign website: “Weston Front believes that Weston Otmoor will not progress further once the ongoing sustainability study is complete.”

For more information on the proposed eco-town, go to

For more information about the opposition to the scheme, go to

Wednesday teashop to reopen in September

The teashop held on Wednesday afternoons in the Sport and Recreation Building has been judged a success and will reopen on a permanent basis in September.


The teashop opened for business on six afternoons in the second half of the summer term. It is run by Sue White, Kate Quist and Laura Geddon of Fresh Start Catering, the award-winning company that does the catering at Dr Radcliffe’s School.

The Treasurer of the Sport and Recreational Trust, Ted Whybrew said: “They have got the tearoom off to an excellent start. The teas and cakes were popular with those picking up children from school, and the ice creams were particularly popular with those being picked up. Many seemed to find it a convenient place to wait while other children were at their club or singing in the school choir.

A few of the grandparent generation, including several Parish Councillors, also took the opportunity to meet for tea and a chat. A couple of ramblers and visitors to the village dropped in – we think mainly to use the toilets, but they stayed for tea.”

Sue White, who runs Fresh Start Catering confirmed that the teashop had done well, especially on sunny days when the icecreams were much in demand. However on wet days business was very slack.


Ted concluded that all in all the enterprise covered its costs and was sufficiently popular with users to make it worth continuing next term.

He said, “Starting on 10 September the teashop will be open every Wednesday at 3.00pm except on very wet days. It is intended as a facility for everyone. So if you are among those who think the village would benefit from a place to get tea and have a chat do give it a try and bring your friends. No one has been disappointed yet.

Prices are very much as those charged for village events. Remember also the team running this is the same as that which resulted in the School being judged as the best provider of school meals among junior schools in Oxfordshire.”

Fourth time lucky for Dog of the Day Sooty

The overall winner of Steeple Aston’s Fun Dog Show was Sooty, a cocker spaniel owned by Emily Savins from Buckland. They are pictured here being presented with the cup for Dog of the Day by the judge Malcolm Butler.

For a delighted Emily, a former pupil at Dr Radcliffe’s primary school in Steeple Aston, it was fourth time lucky. Sooty had been entered in the show for the last three years, but had only been placed in the agility class. So Emily and her family were delighted with this year’s achievement.


Over 30 dogs entered for the show, which runs alongside the Flower Show. The numbers were down on last year, much to the relief of the organisers who were rather overwhelmed by the 67 dogs who entered in 2007.

The show is sponsored by The Hart Veterinary Centre in Bicester. They provide the funding for rosettes for the winners and runners up and the 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)
The dog with the waggiest tail
Best child handler
Dog most like its owner

The Dog most like its owner class caused much hilarity when the owners were persuaded to parade on all fours like their dog.

For photos of this and the rest of dog show, please click here.

Second Open Gardens raises cash for sport and recreation

Members of the Steeple Aston Social Club raised nearly £700 when they opened their gardens to the public. The money will be spent on the maintenance and development of local sport and recreation facilities.


This second village Open Gardens day, which took place on Sunday, 20 July, followed a successful event under the National Garden Scheme in May.

Three gardeners who regularly open their gardens under the National Gardens scheme – the Prestons, the Nicholsons and Garry Norris – did so again. On this occasion they were joined by Mrs Vivian, the Mallinsons and the Whybrews whose gardens are not normally open to the public.

Ted Whybrew, Secretary/Treasurer of the Social Club said, “The weather was kind and publicity successful. So around 140 adults paid £3 to visit the six gardens. Some visitors came from as far as Milton Keynes, Bedford and Northampton. In addition a few gave donations and some plants were sold.

All this, together with over £200 from the teas meant that a total of £684 was raised to help maintain Robinsons Close and the Sport and Recreation Centre.

Barbara Brewer and helpers laid on excellent and popular teas – thanks to the generosity of many cake makers. I’d also like to say a huge thank you to all for their effort in making the day the success it was.”

For more photos, please click here.

August 2008

Marian and Dorothy go MoonWalking

Marian Trinder and Dorothy Willatt both took part in the Playtex MoonWalk in London on the night of 17th/18th May to raise money for a breast cancer charity.


They are pictured here an hour before setting off. Dorothy’s white caprepresents those doing the half moon (13.1 miles), Marian’s pink cap is for those those brave enough to doing full moon of 26.2 miles. As you can see it is traditional for walkers to wear decorated bras for this event to raise awareness for the breast cancer charity.

Marian said: “We had a wonderful night, starting with arriving at Thornhill, where about 15 of us (some doing the full and some half) caught the coach into London tomake our way to Hyde Park and the big pink tent in Playtex City. We met upwith my sister Heather just outside.

Food and entertainment was provided and a good time was had by all. There is a huge feeling of friendship and comradeship and some emotion as a lot of people are walking in memory of someone they`ve lost.

At 11 pm we waited to start – unfortunately this was delayed for a while butwe got going at 11.30 pm. I walked the first 10 miles with Heather andDorothy, then we went are separate ways – them to the finish and a cup oftea in the pink tent and me to carry on for a further 16 miles. Heather, however, came to meet me in the morning for the last half mile to accompany me home.”


This picture is of Marian about 10 minutes after finishing her walk. She is standing in front of the biggest pink tent in the world (bigger than two football pitches!).

It took her 8 hours to do the walk while Heather and Dorothy finished in 4hour 20 minutes – a huge achievement considering Dorothy had a hip operationonly 10 months ago. About an hour of this was taken up queuing for the loo, according to Marian.


And another highlight was to meet Nina Barough OBE walking round just as they finished their breakfast. Marian explained: “She is the founder of the Walk the Walk charity and came up with the original idea and she was more than willing to stop and chat and stand for a photo.” Here you can see (l to r) Marian, Nina, Dorothy and Heather.

She continued: “The night was perfectly finished off while travelling back to Oxfordon the coach (with several of those who had travelled in with us) and as weapproached Lewknor, where the first walkers were alighting, we were all givena personal thanks from the driver – as a cancer sufferer – for our efforts.”

Marian raised £230.90 and Dorothy raised £567.50 for the charity. For more information about Walk the Walk, and forthcoming events, go to

Farewell to Dr Radcliffe’s Headteacher

Pupils, parents and teachers gathered in the playground on the last day of term to say farewell to their Headteacher as she retired from Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School.


Mrs Penny Heptonstall is regarded as a bit of an institution in Steeple Aston as she has been in charge of the school for 13 years. Under her leadership, Dr Radcliffe’s has maintained an enviable reputation. The 2007 OFSTED inspection rated it as Grade 1, outstanding in all areas.

Parents and former pupils and parents were invited to the special leaving assembly to mark the departure of Mrs Heptonstall and two other teachers Mrs Diana Gardner and Mrs Ann Leggett.

After the ceremony, Mrs Heptonstall sent out her final newsletter to parents. She said “I want to thank you all for the wonderful privilege of being the Headteacher of a school where everyone cares and values each member of the school community. I have had a very fulfilling experience and feel that I have been immensely fortunate to work with these parents and carers, these children, these Trustees, these Governors, this staff; who together make up the truly exceptional team that is Dr. Radcliffe’s School.


Thank you also for the wonderful send off. I know that many of you have been involved in the hard work and preparation for the events of the last few days. Thank you too for the avalanche of good wishes and gifts. You have made me feel very special – and loved!”

The new Head will take over at Dr Radcliffe’s in September. She is Mrs Frances Brown, who has been the Headteacher at Shenington C of E Primary School near Banbury for the last five years.

For more information about the school, please click here

July 2008

Police issue new theft warning

Police have issued a new warning over thefts from local villages –this time involving oil storage tanks.

Eleven people have already been arrested in connection with the theft of lead and other valuable metals from buildings in North Oxfordshire.

Police say Steeple Aston is among villages being targeted by criminals cashing in on the soaring price of metals. Lead has been stolen from the church, school, village hall and sports and recreation centre – as well as homes in North and South Side.

In a message to residents in the area, Sgt Dave Hibbert of Thames Valley Police said: “We are still experiencing thefts of metal of all sorts, but particularly lead from church roofs. The good news is that 11 people have been arrested in connection with metal thefts and 60 offences have been detected, with a number of these as a result of information from the public.”

The new warning about the stealing of oil supplies comes from Neighbourhood Specialist Officer, Caroline Brown. She says: “There have been several incidents recently where fuel tanks have been emptied and large quantities of fuel stolen. It is advisable to secure any tanks with a good padlock. On one occasion the offenders gained access to a tank by walking across several fields and they would appear to go to great lengths to get fuel.

“If you see anything suspicious then please report it immediately on either the emergency number 999 (if you believe that an offence is taking place at the time) or the general number 0845-8505505.”

To read the full text of both police messages, please click here.

Patients asked to “vote” on controversial local plan

Patients at Deddington Health Centre are being invited to vote on plans for the future of local GP services.


Ballot forms are being distributed at the Deddington surgery, which servesvillagers in Steeple Aston, as part of a county-wide campaign against government plans for privately-run polyclinics, also known as Darzi clinics, which are intended to introduce competition into general practice.

The proposed polyclinic for Oxfordshire would be sited in Banbury and would be open seven days a week from 8.00am. to 8.00pm. According to the ballot form, the cost would be about £700,000 in the first year and £1.1 million per year thereafter.

The form says: “GPs in Oxfordshire believe that the funding for the privately-owned clinic could be better spent on the health needs of Oxfordshire patients. For example, the money spent could buy more than 1,000 cataract operations or 140 hip operations. Funding could also be made available for investment into the current general practices in Banbury so that they can expand their surgeries to accommodate the increasing population in the area.”

Patients are asked to tick the form to indicate which of two statements they most agree with:

  1. I think that the money should not be spent on the new clinic and should be spent on other health needs.
  2. I think that the money should be spent on the new clinic.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Oxfordshire Local Medical Committee, Rickman Godlee, has written to all GPs in the county urging them to encourage their patients to vote.

Mr Godlee says the proposed new clinic represents a politically-driven, centralist approach to healthcare. He tells local doctors: “The new centre threatens to destabilize existing local practices and the Horton General Hospital. We all need to show solidarity. It could be your surgery that is threatened next.”

The local MP Tony Baldry has written to the Secretary of State for Health questioning whether the proposed polyclinic will benefit his constituents. To read his letter, please click here.

To find out more about the local GPs’ campaign, please click here

To find out more about the proposed Banbury polyclinic, please click here.

Help needed for bird conservation project

Conservationists have appealed for help from concerned villagers in protecting a familiar species of bird in the Cherwell Valley.


The number of swifts in the area has been falling – and local people have been asked to assist by recording their nesting sites.

The swift population has declined considerably over the last 12 years – not just here but in Britain as a whole – and much of the blame is attributed to the loss of nesting sites due to building repairs, or even simple repointing of brickwork.

The aim of the local project, run jointly by Cherwell District Council and Kirtlington Wildlife and Conservation Society, is to build up a record of swift nesting sites in the area so that they are known when planning applications are made. If this information is available, they say, it will not be difficult to preserve nest sites. Existing nest places can be reinstated, new ones designed and built into eaves or swift nest boxes can be installed.

Swifts are only in this country between the beginning of May and early August sonow is the time to start looking out for them. They nest in the eaves of buildings or in gaps in the wall or tiles of a building, but their nests are not visible from the outside.

The organisers say it’s not easy to find the exact site of a swift’s nest, unlessyou see it entering the building where it nests. If you are lucky enough to seethat, you are asked to record the details of the location.

However, breeding swifts have a distinctive screaming display flight, which is particularly noticeable on fine summer evenings. When you hear this you can be sure that they are breeding nearby. Villagers are asked to make a note of places such as churches, other buildings or part of a street where they see or hear swifts displaying like this.

The organisers have provided a form, which you can download and complete with the details of where and when you saw the swifts. Please complete and return your form by 1st September.

For a copy of the form, please click here.

For more details about the project, please click here.

Sun shines on church fete

After last year’s rain-affected event, the organisers picked a bright if breezy day for this year’s church fete on Saturday, 28th June.

The proceedings were opened by Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason as the King and Queen – Hugo Matthews and Ailsa Renk – made their stately entrance in an elderly open Vauxhall. They were attended by Oli Ong as Jack o’ the Green and Charlotte Parsons as his Jill.


Richard Preston won the Bowling for the Pig (well part of a pig) but only after a tense three-way play-off, and the air-gun shooting was won by a visitor in motorbike leathers from Duns Tew. First prize in the raffle (which made £695) went to Sarah Harris.

Music was once again provided by Jubilee Brass, from Oxford, and the younger children were entertained with a mixture of conjuring and glove-puppetry by Paul Dumas. The compère was Malcolm Hensher.

The twenty or so stalls made an impressive show on Robinsons Close, and left rather more elbow-room than last time for teas in the Hall, which accounted for £280.

The result of all the generosity, enthusiasm and effort was a net figure of £2,612, well up on last year’s total of £2,190.

For more photos, please click here.

Eco-town roadshow comes to Steeple Aston

Developers promoting controversial plans for a new eco-town near Weston-on-the-Green are to stage a roadshow in Steeple Aston in mid-July.

The roadshow is part of a public consultation exercise in neighbouring towns and villages. It will take place at the Sport and Recreation Ground in Robinsons Close between 3.00pm. and 8.00pm. on Monday 14th July.

Questionnaires have also been sent to householders in Steeple Aston asking for comments.


The site for the proposed eco-town, known as Weston Otmoor is pictured here. It is alongside junction 9 of the M40. It is one of 15 under consideration by the government. A shortlist of ten is due to be announced in October.

The new town would provide homes for 35,000 people and 12,000 jobs. The developers say between a third and a half of all the homes would be priced so that first-time buyers and families could afford them.

The new town would include shops, schools and office space. The developers say it would be eco-friendly, built from sustainable materials and with zero carbon emissions.

A new railway station would link Weston Otmoor to Oxford, Milton Keynes and London and there would be a new Park-and-Ride with space for 6,000 cars. Inside the town itself, residents would be expected to travel around by free tram instead of by car.


Opposition to the plan is vociferous. It is being coordinated by a group called Weston Front. Among the leading campaigners is Anthony Henman, father of the former tennis star Tim, who has lived in Weston-on-the-Green for more than 35 years.

The campaigners say the new town would destroy 1,600 acres of North Oxfordshire countryside, a quarter of which is classed as Green Belt, and that extra traffic would make life intolerable in surrounding villages. They say current planning policy favours the development of existing towns such as Bicester, Banbury and Kidlington rather than building on greenfield sites.

For more information on the proposed eco-town, go to

For more information about the opposition to the scheme, go to

Steering group set up to plan for village future

A steering group has been set up to find out what changes villagers would like to see in Steeple Aston over the next decade or so.

You can contribute your ideas, and comment on those of others, through this website by posting your views on the Village Forum, or you can contact the steering group direct, see details below.

The steering group was set up following a brainstorming meeting in the Village Hall on 14th May, which was the first stage in the process of drawing up a Parish Plan.

There was a wide-ranging discussion of the changes that might make this village an even more desirable place to live. The aspects of the village that were particularly enjoyed were the beauty and rural peace, the friendly and welcoming atmosphere, the excellent facilities such as the school, pre-school, shop, church, village hall, sports facilities and pubs, and the large variety of clubs and other entertainment.

There were several suggestions for how the village might be improved, though there was not complete agreement on transport or housing. For example ten people suggested traffic-calming measures were needed and four disagreed.

Five people said they would like more affordable housing, though one person would prefer no more housing of any sort. Another four people would like consideration given to the housing needs of the elderly, including warden controlled housing as well as affordable housing for the old.

Some suggestions seemed to be welcomed by all, such as a coffee shop near the school, perhaps in the Sports and Recreation Centre. Other changes suggested included lavatories near Robinsons Close available when the Village Hall is locked, comfy chairs in the Village Hall for the elderly and the elimination of the steps between the main room in the Village Hall and its kitchen.

The main grumble was that many of the societies and other activities in the village are organised by those in their sixties or over. Those with young families tend to be involved less frequently, and this was borne out by only one person with school age children being at the brainstorming meeting. However it was noted that the age of the ‘movers and shaker’ depended on the activity concerned, with a few organisations having a wide age spread.

A number of environmental suggestions were made, including keeping the centre of the village open to retain the rural feel of the village and the need for a village transport, energy and water strategy.

If you would like to be involved in the Steering Group, or have suggestions, please contact Julia Whybrew on 01869 347850 or post your ideas on the Forum on this website.

Villagers support more affordable housing

A survey of Steeple Aston residents suggests there is a significant need for more affordable housing in the village – and strong support in the community for the building of such homes.

Questionnaires were sent to every household in the village by the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC) in February, and replies were received from nearly half.

The survey shows that at least 50 people have already left the village due to a lack of affordable housing. It estimates there is a need for as many as 18 homes at affordable rents and up to eight homes for shared ownership, where the occupiers buy a percentage of the property on a mortgage and pay rent on the remainder.

More than 70 per cent of those who responded to the survey said that they would definitely support a small development of affordable homes for people with a genuine connection to the village.

ORCC are now working with Cherwell District Council to try and identify suitable sites for affordable homes, which are often built on so-called “exception sites” – land that would not normally get planning permission for commercial development.

In a report on the survey results, ORCC’s Rural Housing Enabler, Nicky Ball, says:

“I would recommend that the Parish Council does proceed in supporting a Rural Exception Site development within the village. The total number of homes to be built should be a reflection of the need identified in this survey report, the current level of need recorded on the District Council’s Housing Register and the number of homes that the Parish Council feels would be an appropriate number to build in the parish.”

June 2008

Village website goes multimedia

The Steeple Aston village website has taken another step forward with the addition of multimedia clips to its growing library of content.


As well as collections of photographs marking various village events, the Gallery now contains both video and audio clips – and as a result the Photo Gallery has been renamed Media Gallery.

The Gallery currently contains just one video clip. It’s a television report broadcast on South Today following the BBC’s visit to Steeple Aston earlier this year to celebrate the village’s nomination as Oxfordshire Village of the Year.

On the same day, Radio Oxford carried a number of interviews with villagerswhich are now available to listen to online.

There are ten of these audio clips in all featuring (in order of appearance on the programme): Mike McKinley and Lorraine Watling from the Steeple Aston Players; Jenny Bell on the launch of the village website; Penny Heptonstall talking about the school; Margaret Mason and Clare McKinley from the Parish Council; Ted Whybrew on recreational facilities; Dorothy and Hannah Willatt from the White Lion; Pamela Knowles on the village shop; and Rev Stephen M’Caw talking about the church.

Radio Oxford presenter, Jo Thoenes, can also be heard talking to a group of mothers from Dr Radcliffe’s School – and to a number of pupils.

As part of the BBC’s series of programmes this year on life in rural Oxfordshire,Frances Coleman was later invited into the Radio Oxford studio to talk about what it’s like to live and work in a place like Steeple Aston. Frances runs a design company, Echo Design, with her husband Ian (and was also responsible for designing this website). An edited version of her interview is also available in the Gallery.

To watch the video or listen to any of the audio clips, just go to the Media Gallery and click on the item you want. Separate versions of the video clip are available for users of Windows and Mac computers.

If you have any problem accessing these clips, let us know via the Village Forum or email

Any ideas for video and audio content would be most welcome – and if you have any clips you’d like to see included on the site, do get in touch.

Open gardens attract a record 700 visitors

More than 700 visitors toured the open gardens of Steeple Aston and enjoyed tea and cakes in the village hall, raising a record £4,266 for charity.


Nine village gardens were open to the public on Sunday, 18th May under the National Garden Scheme, including three that had never been open before. On a fine day, 700 adults and lots of children came along to admire the gardeners’ efforts, and to visit the Plant Fair held by the Friends of Dr Radcliffe’s School.

The total income raised for the National Garden Scheme charities, including donations, was a record-breaking £3,769.45. This includes a 50 per cent contribution from the village hall committee who contributed £496.95. The balance of the money taken for teas went to the village hall.

Financially, this was the most successful National Garden Scheme event held in Steeple Aston. Together with the village hall charity, a total of £4,266.40 was made available to charitable organisations.

Richard Preston, on behalf of the organisers, said, “A big thank-you goes out to those people who opened their gardens and to those wonderful volunteers that made such a success of the teas in the village hall.We would also like to thank all those people who supported the event.”

Richard and his wife Daphne opened their garden at Primrose Cottage. He added, “We had 450 adults pass through Primrose Cottage and received some wonderful comments.”

The local NGS organiser commented “Steeple Aston can be heldin the highest regard for the quality and diversity of gardens.”

The Plant Fair at the School was also pronounced a great success. Final figures on the amount raised for the new school library extension are not yet available. Plants were on sale from a range of commercial growers as well as the organisers. The school’s Nature Club did great business selling vegetable plants grown from seeds planted by the children.

Visitors to the school also enjoyed a hog roast, some delicious icecream and a display of Morris Dancing by the Adderbury Morris Men

To see photos of some of the gardens that opened and the Plant Fair, please click here.

Visitors come to inspect Steeple Aston’s good practice

Visitors from all over the South East came to Steeple Aston to see our example of best practice in the provision of village sports and recreation facilities.


The meeting, held in the village hall on Wednesday 14th May, was organised by the Oxfordshire Playing Fields Association (OPFA). It was opened by Hugo Brunner, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire; then the visitors took part in a variety of workshops covering subjects from play provision to funding.

Steeple Aston was chosen as the venue for the meeting because the facilities in the village cover a wide age and interest range, and have been provided through the hard work of a small community.

Richard Preston, the Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council gave a presentation on the achievements of the community in providing the facilities. He then gave the visitors a guided tour around the area encompassing the sports field, the Sports and Recreation Centre, the MUGA, the BMX track and the other recreational facilities the village provides.

After the meeting Richard said, “The feedback to OPFAhas been positive and hopefully our example will enthuse other towns and villages to take Steeple Aston’s lead and provide facilities for their communities.”

Arrests follow police appeal over metal thefts

Eleven people have been arrested in connection with the theft of lead and other valuable metals from buildings in North Oxfordshire.

The arrests follow a police appeal for residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.

Police say Steeple Aston is among villages being targeted by criminals cashing in on the soaring price of metals. Lead has been stolen from the church, school, village hall and sports and recreation centre – as well as homes in North and South Side.

In a newsletter for residents in the area, Sgt Dave Hibbert of Thames Valley Police says: “We are still experiencing thefts of metal of all sorts, but particularly lead from church roofs. The good news is that 11 people have been arrested in connection with metal thefts and 60 offences have been detected, with a number of these as a result of information from the public.

“Please do keep an eye out for any suspicious activity around your local church, school or neighbours’ houses and let us know on the 08458 505 505 number, or the 999 emergency number, if you think you see people actually in the process of removing lead.”

To read the full newsletter from the police, please click here.

Police appeal for help after lead thefts

Police have appealed to villagers to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour after a spate of thefts of lead from community buildings and private properties.

David Campbell, the local Crime Reduction Advisor has sent a leaflet to villagers confirming that Steeple Aston is being targeted by criminals who are cashing in on the soaring price of metals.

Lead has already being stolen from the church, school, village hall, sports and recreation centre as well as homes in North and South Side. Copper and aluminium, along with bronze statues and iron structures such as gates have been stolen in other parts of North Oxfordshire.

Mr Campbell asks villagers who see strangers or vehicles in suspicious circumstances, day or night, to call Thames Valley Police as soon as possible.

The non-emergency number to report sightings is 0845 8 505 505, but if you think a crime is being committed or is imminent, please dial 999. To contact the Crime Reduction Advisor, David Campbell, call 01869 364560.

Richard Preston, the Steeple Aston representative on the new Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) has been liaising with the police about the thefts. He adds, “The only waythese thefts of metal such as lead and copper can be stopped is by catching the culprits. People local to the area are more likely to see something suspicious and can then alarm the police”. For more information about the NAG, please click here.

Village of the Year judges visit Steeple Aston

Villagers welcomed two judges from the Calor Village of the Year competition when they visited Steeple Aston on Friday 25th April.


Steeple Aston is one of just 39 villages nationwide shortlisted for the Calor Village of the Year Award 2007/08. Having passed the county rounds with flying colours, this was our chance to show the south east regional judges exactly why Steeple Aston is a potential winner of the region. If we are successful at regional level, then we go forward to the national finals.

Villagers representing many of our clubs, groups and societies gathered in the Village Hall to show the judges just how culturally rich and diverse our community is.

After a brief tour of the village and classic car ride courtesy of Malcolm Elder, the judges were given a lunch reception which included a superb welcoming song performed by the Choral Society and written especially for the occasion by Derek Hopwood.

The judges then took the time to chat with some of the representative groups including the Youth Club, WI, Horticultural Society, Steeple Aston Players, Website, Toddler Group, Bellringers, Steeple Aston Life, Valentine Club, Meals on Wheels, Book Club, Golf Society, Garden Club and many more. Four young musicians from Dr Radcliffe’s School also demonstrated their talents with a short recital.

Over 1000 villages enter the competition each year, so to get to this stage is something we should all be proud of. The judges look for “well-balanced, pro-active, caring communities which, irrespective of size, have made the best of local opportunities to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all residents”. Final judging will take place later on this year and the winning village will be announced at an awards ceremony in December.

For more information about the Calor Village of the Year Competition click here.

To view pictures of the visit click here

May 2008

Teenagers open their own village area

Steeple Aston’s new teenage facilities were opened in style when a ribbon around the famous MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) was cut with a flourish. The three young people pictured here performed the task. They are Chelsy, Tori and Izzy, and they have been involved in this ambitious project from start to finish.


Steeple Aston’s young people were the centre of attention on Sunday, April 27 when they celebrated the official opening of all the new teenage facilities: the MUGA, a BMX track, an outdoor table tennis table and a covered seating area.

Three years ago, one teenager commented to a parish councillor: ‘There’s not much for us to do in the village.’ In response, over the last three years the Parish Council (and in particular the energetic vice-chairman Richard Preston) have consulted with teenagers, their parents, local residents and advisory bodies about which facilities the young people wanted and the best location.

The new facilities have been attractively landscaped next to the existing play area, football field and Sport and Recreation building. Even before the official opening they have been proving popular with teenagers and younger children too. The village now has comprehensive sport and play facilities for all age groups.

The teenagers, from the outset, took the initiative in fundraising. This enabled the Parish Council to make successful bids to several local and national organisations to raise the £80,000 needed to complete the project.

At the opening, teenagers, their parents, grant providers, members of the Dr Radcliffe’s Trust and Parish Councillors enjoyed a buffet lunch which was followed by a speech of thanks by Margaret Mason, the chairman of the Parish Council, to all those involved.

Then sports training and games of ping pong began without delay.

For more photos please click here.

Pre-School ‘surf and shop’ fundraising plea

Steeple Aston Pre-School has announced two free and easy ways for us all to help them raise money by simply searching or shopping on the internet.

Whenever we use the following two websites to surf or shop, the Pre-School will make money – at absolutely no additional cost to you. You could even save yourself money through various discount offers.

This is a free charity search engine powered by Yahoo. Every time you use this site to make a search, you will be raising around 1p for the Pre-School. This might not sound like much, but the average surfer will raise about £25.00 a year. Imagine how this would add up if everyone in the village used easysearch instead of Google or Yahoo.

Simply go to the Pre-School’s charity page and set this as your home page to start raising money while you surf.

Use any of the 400+ retailer links on the easyfundraising site whenever you shop online and, at no extra cost to you, up to 15% of your purchase price will be donated to your chosen charity. The site features most popular retailers such as NEXT, Amazon, John Lewis, Tesco, M&S, Comet, Direct Line, Expedia, British Airways and many more. A special discount section also gives you access to exclusive discounts.

It’s completely free to register with easyfundraising and you will raise money for the Pre-School with every purchase you make.

For more information about the Pre-School and the latest Ofsted report, please click here.

Local percussionist inspires musical fundraiser

There was a rare opportunity to hearmembers of the BBC’s Symphony Orchestra perform in St Peter and St Paul’s church, Steeple Aston on April 26 to raise money for the church and Dr Radcliffe’s school.

The inspiration came from the orchestra’s percussionist, Fiona Ritchie who lives in Steeple Aston with her husband and two sons. Fiona persuaded five other members of the orchestra to join her in performances from Bach to Bartok. Also included was a narration of ‘Ferdinand the Bull’ to a violin accompaniment which delighted the packed audience of all ages.

The conductor, Nicholas Cleobury, who also lives in Steeple Aston, gave interesting and enlightening introductions to each piece, and many others were involved inensuring that the evening ran smoothly.

Wine and canapes prepared by the White and Red Lion pubs and served by children from Dr Radcliffes concludedan evening of excellence.

Villagers invited to Parish Plan meeting

In 1993 the Village Appraisal provided a huge amount of information about what changes people would like to see in the village. This work now needs updating and it is proposed that there should be a Parish Plan to find out how we would like to see the village improve in the future.

A Parish Plan is a way of collecting together the views and needs of a parish about all subjects which affect the community; facilities and services, planning, economic and social issues, in fact everything which is important to the life of the village. It can then prioritise issues and set out how they can be tackled. It looks at the distinctive character of the village, physical and social, and gives the community a chance to guide its future development.

The Plan will cover Steeple Aston and Middle Aston so that changes in both villages can be co-ordinated together.

There will be a meeting to discuss the proposals on 14 May in the Village Hall at 7.30pm. All are welcome to come and discuss their priorities for the Plan.

One of the affordable houses in Shepherds Hill is for sale

One of the affordable houses in Shepherds Hill is for sale. It has two bedrooms and a 65% share is for sale for £123,500. The houses in Shepherds Hill are confined to local people and were built in a partnership between English Rural Housing Association, Steeple Aston Parish Council and the Rural Housing Trust.

An application pack and more information can be obtained from Ann Camuyag on 020 7820 7930.

New head appointed at village school

The new Head of Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School will be Mrs Frances Brown. She will take over in September from the current Head, Mrs Penelope Heptonstall who is retiring this summer.

Mrs Brown is currently the Headteacher at Shenington C of E Primary School near Banbury, where she has been a teaching Head for the last five years. Like Dr Radcliffe’s, Shenington is within the Warriner Partnership of schools.

Mrs Heptonstall announced her retirement in January after 13 years as Head of Dr Radcliffe’s. The search for her successor started immediately with advertisements appearing in the press in February.

Despite a national shortage of headteachers, applications were received from an extremely high calibre of applicants from within and outside the county, and the final interviews were held on 17th and 18th March.

Lisa Boote, Chair of the School Governors said, “The governors were unanimous in their decision and we are very happy to report that we were able to appoint a new Headteacher.

It is a new chapter in the history of Dr Radcliffe’s and although none of us wish to say goodbye to Mrs Heptonstall we know that the future of Dr Radcliffe’s is in very safe hands.

We now look forward to ensuring that Penny’s last few months at school are nothing but enjoyable and that she leaves us with very happy memories and the knowledge that the school will continue to be a happy place and strive for nothing but the best for all of it’s pupils.

Working with Penny has been an absolute privilege and we all wish her the very best for the future.”

The 2007 OFSTED inspection rated Dr Radcliffe’s as Grade 1, outstanding in all areas. For more information about the school, please click here.

Village Clean Up bags a load of rubbish

Tyres, batteries, shirts, towels – even a lady’s handbag! They were all part of the haul in this year’s Spring Clean Up in the village on the last weekend of March.


Pictured here hard at work are Lynn, Thomas and Benjamin Stacey. They were among the volunteers who joined members of the Parish Council in Heyford Road and Sixty Foot, wearing fluorescent jackets and armed with professional litter-picking implements provided by Cherwell District Council.

Rubbish collected from the long grass and hedgerows yielded interesting evidence of the lifestyle and habits of villagers. It seems we smoke cigarettes, eat sandwiches, drink soft drinks (and alcohol too) – we’re also avid newspaper readers. And we’re not always too careful about how we dispose of the debris.

The entire haul was handed over to the council’s Cleansing Department where it will be sorted, recycled if possible and otherwise sent to landfill.

Volunteer joins drive for better policing

Steeple Aston has its own representative on a new body intended to improve the way local communities are policed.

Following a call for volunteers, Richard Preston has put his name forward to represent the village on the local Neighbourhood Action Group (or NAG).

The creation of NAGs is a government initiative that also involves councils, businesses and schools. The move is designed to strengthen communication between residents and the police, and the NAG will meet every six weeks to hear of local concerns.

Richard says: “I have volunteered as a member of the Neighbourhood Action Group with the hope that a closer liaison between the police, local authorities and the community can make our village and the surrounding neighbourhood a safer and better place to live.

“From a recent survey of our district, three main issues were identified. Speeding within the villages, road safety such as inconsiderate parking and groups of youths loitering in public places. I don’t think the latter is applicable to Steeple Aston but is a major concern in other parts of Cherwell.”

In a message to villagers, Richard explains that he will act as a point of contact for concerns that ought to be raised with the local police. As a member of the parish council, he is also aware of issues brought to the attention of the council.

However, he adds: “Please remember I am only a volunteer, so do not contact me every time someone drops some litter on the street.”

To read Richard’s full message, complete with details of the various contacts for the NAG, please click here.

New public inquiry likely on airbase development plan

A plan to build more than 1,000 new homes on the site of the former airbase at Upper Heyford looks likely to be the subject of a second public inquiry.

Negotiations were under way between Cherwell District Council and the developers, the North Oxfordshire Consortium, following an application for outline planing permission. The application was due to go before the District Council’s planning committee in February, but consideration of the plan was delayed when the developers submitted new information.

In a significant new move, the developers have now appealed to the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of “non-determination” – in other words that the District Council has failed to reach a decision. The developers have asked for a public inquiry to settle the matter.


If there is a new inquiry, it is unlikely to begin before late summer or autumn – and a verdict might not be announced until the end of the year.

A final decision will be made by the Planning Inspector who conducts the inquiry unless the Secretary of State uses his powers to make the decision himself.

In yet another twist to the story, the developers have submitted a new planning application similar to the original at the same time as launching their appeal.This means that discussions with the District Council may continue even while the appeal procedure is in progress.

A spokesman for North Oxfordshire Consortium said: “We very much hope this doesn’t end up going to another inquiry, but time is dragging on. We’ve had no constructive discussion with Cherwell so far and at the end of the day you reach the point when an appeal is the only option open to you.”

The Consortium believes that outstanding issues over the housing development itself can be resolved, but there is a major disagreement with the Council about the use of the rest of the airfield.

Steeple Aston Parish Council has submitted detailed objections to the plan. The council supports a limited development of around 1,000 new homes on the site, but insists that:

  • new building should be limited to the already-developed Camp Road area
  • the development should be permitted only as a compete settlement of limited size, not as the basis for future expansion.
  • open areas of the site should be retained and linked to the surrounding countryside
  • existing commercial uses of the site providing local employment should be allowed to continue, but not as a pretext for commercial exploitation of the whole site.

The Parish Council expresses fears about increased traffic in the surrounding area and the lack of adequate provision for schools and medical facilities. But the principal objection is that the lack of a comprehensive long-term plan for the entire site leaves open the possibility that attempts will be made in future to increase the size of the development.

According to its formal submission, “the Parish Council therefore suggests that this application be refused until such time as a fully comprehensive plan for the final treatment of the whole site is included”.

The planning application is the latest in a history of attempts to develop the base since the departure of the US Air Force in 1994. In June 2003, John Prescott dismissed an appeal by the North Oxfordshire Consortium,which had been refused planning permission to build 1,000 houses on the base.

The application and the detailed plans and assessments associated with it can be found at:

For the full text of the Parish Council’s response, please click here

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

Steeple Aston in the news on the BBC

Both BBC television and radio broadcast from Steeple Aston, the 2007 Oxfordshire Village of the Year, to mark the launch of this year’s competition.

The TV cameras visited for BBC South Today at the start of a new series called Exploring Rural Oxfordshire. They talked to Pamela Knowles in the village shop and to members of the Valentine Club at their weekly meeting in the village hall.


BBC Radio Oxford based themselves in a very chilly village hall car park for a live broadcast of the JoThoenes show on Tuesday, 18th March. Jo interviewed villagers young and old during the three-hour afternoon show.

She started off talking to Mike McKinley and Lorraine Watling about the Players’ forthcoming production of Aladdin, taking place in the Village Hall on 4th and 5th April.

Other interviewees included Penny Heptonstall, the retiring head of Dr Radcliffe’s School, Margaret Mason and Clare McKinley from the Parish Council, Ted Whybrew from the Sports and Recreation Centre, Jenny Bell the website editor and the Rector, Dr Stephen M’Caw.

Jo also spoke to a group of mothers about the advantages of bringing up a family in the village. And then some of the children coming out of school asked if they could have a go too, so she interviewed a group of them.

Aimee Evans from the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council was also there to talk about their sponsorship of the Oxfordshire Village of the Year competition and the ORCC’s role in supporting villages through out the county.

Steeple Aston is now going on to be the county’s representative in the national Village of the Year competition, sponsored by Calor. The judges will be visiting the village on April 25th.

Village shop gets new owner

Steeple Aston’s village shop and Post Office has been sold.

The new owner (pictured) is Ponnuthurai Kularajakaran, known by his nickname ‘Raj’.


Raj comes from Croydon, but his family is originally from Sri Lanka.
He will run the shop with his cousin Pari and Pari’s son Prash.

Raj has experience of similar businesses in the past and until recently was the manager of a Marks and Spencer food store set up at a petrol station in Croydon in partnership with BP.

Running a Post Office is a new venture for him, but he’s already had the benefit of a week-long training course.

“I’ve been in retail all my life and this is exactly the sort of business I’ve been looking for,” he said. “Steeple Aston is very different from Croydon, but it’ll be nice to be in such a peaceful place.”

Raj and his family will live on site in a self-contained flat. The flat was created by the previous owners, Andrew and Sharon Peace, when they made extensive alterations to the premises last year. The reconstruction work separated the shop from the adjoining Old Manor House, where Andrew and Sharon now live.

In a leaflet sent to customers last year, Andrew Peace said that separating the house from the shop would make the business “a more affordable purchase for a younger family to take into the next decade.”

The village shop has had a number of owners since the Harris family, who gave the store its name early in the last century. Andrew and Sharon Peace bought it in 2002.

Note: the Village Shop page on this website will be updated as soon as possible.

April 2008

Aladdin Pantomime a success

Steeple Aston Players were once again in fine form in ‘Aladdin’, an out-of-season pantomime performed in the village hall at the end of March. The pantomime continued the long tradition of pantomimes in Steeple, originally written by our former rector, Michael Hayter and later continued by Roger Mason. The three performances of ‘Aladdin’ were a sellout, including the Saturday afternoon matinée. The audience booed, hissed, cheered and sang along with the cast with gusto.


The Players have been delighted to recruit new members of all ages over recent months, and ‘Aladdin’ was the ideal way to show off all the new talents as well as feature some familiar favourites. The director, the producer, the cast, set designers and builders, pianist and front of house volunteers planned and practised over two months – a dedicated team. Those involved were Lorraine Watling ( director) Alan Wightman ( producer), Derek Hopwood ( musical director), Jan Liberadzki ( set designer), Paul and Jan Hotston ( lighting), Tim Messenger ( props and the bar) Marian Trinder ( wardrobe), Rose McCready ( make-up) Margaret Mason ( tickets and programmes). The cast was Mike McKinley, Francesca Ingall, Kate Stuart, Ted Atkins, Stan Owen, Yoni Kinory, Lawrence Tosh, Catherine Cooper, Jasmine Trinder, Guy Stuart, Dorothy Willatt, Ryan O’Sullivan and Cassie Heathcote, Freddie Cooper, Jacob Simpson, Rona Graham, Mara Smith, Eleanor Holton, Natalie Trinder, Anna Ingall and Philip Trinder.

At two of the performances, a collection was made for ‘Anjali’ a dance group for young people with learning difficulties. Further information can be obtained from Anjali on 01295 251909.

The Players are already looking ahead to their next production, probably in the autumn. If you would like to join them on stage or behind the scenes, contact Mike McKinley on 01869 347168.

For more photos, please click here.

Steeple Aston WI celebrates its 90th birthday

Steeple Aston’s Women’s Institute celebrated its 90th birthday in style with a dinner in the Village Hall on Tuesday March 11th. Members were invited to put on their “posh frocks” and come along for a mystery celebration.


When they arrived, they found the committee had laid the tables and decorated the hall with flowers. They also provided the wine and mementoes of the occasion for each member. And there was a professional Toastmistress on hand to make the proceedings really special.

Caterers provided the first two courses of the meal. But the dessert came from the WI treasurer Linda Needle, who made the birthday cake pictured here. President Pamela Waite (on the right) and twice Past President Sheila Side are performing the cake cutting ceremony.


Pauline Goddard, the Chairman of the Oxfordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes joined the 30 village members for the celebration. Her task was to raise a toast to the 90 years of Steeple Aston WI, while Pamela Waite toasted her predecessors – all the past presidents. And most of them were there, in photographic form at least. Pamela had collected together photos of nearly all the past presidents for members to see.

In her speech Pamela told how the institute, which is one of the oldest in the county, was set up following a meeting in the garden of Cedar Lodge in 1917. It was an immediate success with more than 50 women enrolling at the start, and it continued to grow so that by 1921 it had sixty-six members with a sixteen-strong committee.

Pamela described to much laughter some of the things members have got up to over the years – including an early attempt to make marrow jam which ended up as toffee, and an outing which, by mistake, ended up at a strip show.


The photo to the right shows members on an outing to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925. If you would like to read the whole of Pamela’s speech please click here.

Heyford bridge is open


The bridge over the railway at Lower Heyford was opened again to traffic on Sunday morning, 13 April and the temporary traffic lights were removed a week later. Work is still continuing but the traffic is flowing again smoothly. It is noticeable that the road still has less traffic on it than it used to do.

The old bridge was demolished in mid-January and the original target for re-opening the road to traffic was the end of March., later shifted to 13 April.

The County Council decided not to have any formal ceremony to mark the opening of the new bridge.

Any queries can be directed to Martin Brain in the OCC Bridges Section on 01865 815832.

Grand Opening of teenage facilities at 1.30 pm on Sunday 27 April

The work on the teenage facilities at Robinsons Close is complete and there will be a grand opening at 1.30 pm on Sunday, April 27th. This will give the village a chance to appreciate the result of all the fund raising efforts.


The outdoor table tennis table is in place and there will be a table tennis demonstration followed by an opportunity for anyone who wishes to have a game on the new outdoor table with its unorthodox net.

The multiuse games area is complete and the white lines are marked out. There will be football coaching sessions from 1.30pm for about an hour. Children of all ages will be welcome to take part.

The BMX track is already being developed by its users. It looks as if some enormous mole holes have sprung up. So come and see how it is progressing.

The Youth Club is going to set up an informal game of dodge ball in the Sports and Recreation Centre from about 2.30pm. Visitors will be invited to join in.

There will be plenty to eat and drink. Starting at 1.30pm there will be hot dogs and a bar. There will also be tea, coffee and soft drinks.

It had been hoped that there would be archery. But this is impossible because the insurers who cover the Scouts’ archery will not extend the cover to the public in a public area. So to try out archery, for those of the right age, the only thing is to join the Scouts.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said, “We want to make this an enjoyable day for all. We have so many people to thank for their work on this.”

Village of the Year judges to visit

Steeple Aston will come under close scrutiny when the judges for the National Calor Village of the Year competition visit on Friday 25th April.

There will only be a couple of hours in which to impress the two judges, who will spend between 11.30am and 1.30pm in the village. Plans are under way to ensure that they meet as many villagers as possible in the limited time available.

The Parish Clerk has written to all the village organisations inviting them to put up a stand in the village hall and meet the judges over lunch.

Before that Margaret Mason and Richard Preston, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council, will take them on a walk round the village to include a visit to the shop and our two pubs. They will also be able to take a good look at the new teenage facilities in Robinsons Close.

Steeple Aston was voted Oxfordshire Village of the Year in 2007 and won a prize of £500. The village was then nominated as the county’s representative in the national competition, where the prize for regional winners is £2,000 and the overall national winner receives £7,000 to be used in the local community.

The judges look for “a well-balanced, pro-active and caring community, which, irrespective of size, has made the best of local opportunities to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all residents.”

No doubt they will also be impressed by the look of the village, so it is helpful that the annual Spring Clean Up will take place on the last weekend in March. For more details see the website’s Noticeboard.

The results of the competition, which attracts around 1,000 villages every year, will be announced in October.

Good report for Pre-School – and they raise some money

Steeple Aston Pre-School received a good report from Ofsted this year, and were judged outstanding on several counts.


And their fundraising exercise last month raised £195 towards school funds. Pictured here are all the bags of jumble donated before they were taken away to be recycled by the bags2school organisation.

The Ofsted inspection took place in March and found that overall both the quality of care and the quality of nursery education at the Pre-School were good. The report praised the “extremely capable staff group who work exceptionally well together to support individual learning and development and keep children safe.”

They were described as “outstanding” at helping children make a positive contribution, and at helping children achieve well and enjoy what they do. They were also found to be outstanding at protecting children from harm and neglect and helping them stay safe.

Over 50 children attend the Pre-School on a part-time basis, and there are eight staff looking after them. For more information about the Pre-School and to read the full Osted report please click here.

Spring Show attracts record number of entries

There were more entries than ever before for the Horticultural Society’s Spring Show this year. The 350 entries ranged from the traditional spring flowers, through lardy cakes and pork pies to handicrafts and limericks.


More than 100 paying adults and plenty of children braved gale-force winds and freezing temperatures to visit the show, which was held in the Village Hall on Sunday 16th March.

The overall winner for most points in the show was Daphne Preston, who also won the Duncan Cup for the horticultural classes. Other cup winners were Julia Whybrew for cookery, Gwen Stone for flowers and John Coley for handicraft. Helen Cooper won the prize for an informal flower arrangement that was judged by visitors to the show.

The cup for Best Children’s Entry went to Christopher Bedding for a very impressive gift-wrapped saucepan made into an elephant. The prizes were presented by Mrs Sheila Side.

Horticultural Society Chairman Richard Preston said: “We would like to thank everyone who came to visit the show during the afternoon and all those people who contributed to the various stalls or made a cake for the teas. Most importantly, a big thank-you to everyone who entered something. Without you there is no show.

Financially, we are confident of a good result, this in turn will help to ensure the success of our Annual Show on August Bank Holiday Monday.”

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

March 2008

Dr Radcliffe’s School Head to retire

Mrs Penelope Heptonstall, the Headteacher of Dr Radcliffe’s CE Primary School has announced that she intends to retire at the end of this school year.


Mrs Heptonstall is regarded as a bit of an institution in Steeple Aston as she has been in charge at Dr Radcliffe’s for 13 years. Under her leadership, the school has maintained an enviable reputation. The 2007 OFSTED inspection rated it as Grade 1, outstanding in all areas.

In a letter to parents, the Chair of the School Governors, Lisa Boote, said that working with Mrs Heptonstall had been “a privilege and great fun,” and it would be difficult to imagine the school without her.

She said: “Her inspirational leadership, her personal commitment and above all her energy and devotion to all of the pupils will be greatly missed. However she leaves behind her an exceptional team of teachers and support staff who are fully committed to all of the pupils.”

Mrs Heptonstall will leave in July at the end of the summer term. The process of finding her replacement has already begun. Advertisements are appearing in publications this month, and the governors hope to announce the appointment of a new headteacher by the end of March.

For more information about Dr Radcliffe’s, please click here.

Concerns grow over traffic diverted by bridge closure

Drivers using unofficial routes to find their way around the bridge closure at Lower Heyford are said to be damaging road surfaces and verges in Middle Aston.

This follows concerns about road safety in Steeple Aston , especially near the village school.

The chairman of the Middle Aston Parish Meeting, Matt Robinson, said the additional traffic there was having “an awful impact” on verges and potholes in North Aston Lane.


“I live on the lane and have witnessed an articulated lorry and a white van try and negotiate their way past each other, smashing up my verge in the process. The council unfortunately seem unable to put any additional control measures in place. May I ask that if at all possible drivers do try and stick to the official diversion?”

The chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council, Margaret Mason, said: “We have been trying to get something done about the increased traffic, but we’ve had no joy so far as it isn’t the official diversion. It is infuriating because the verges are getting damaged and the likelihood of being hit by a speeding car is pretty great. The possibility of warning signs for parent /child walkers is ticking slowly through the system but looks hopeful.”

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council urged drivers to use the official diversion through Bletchingdon and Kirtlington.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure the official diversion route is safe,” he said. “We check the route at least twice a day to make sure it is properly signed and maintained. It’s very difficult to cater for every eventuality if drivers don’t use the official diversion.”

The spokesman added that the Council had monitored traffic speeds on the route from Steeple to Middle and North Aston and found that they were generally within the 30mph limit.

Successful Entertainment Evening maintains DIY tradition

A wide range of local talent of all ages was on show in the village hall for a DIY Gala Entertainment Evening on Friday February 29. These Entertainment Evenings are a longstanding tradition in Steeple Aston, and the packed audience for this one were as enthusiastic as ever.

The evening included a performance from the 60-strong choir from Dr Radcliffe’s School who excelled themselves and were persuaded to sing an encore. Other acts included jazz and folk singing by two former pupils at Dr Radcliffe’s, and a group of family and friends, known as The Wild Rumpus, who played a selection of folk music.


Both the junior and senior school orchestras played. There was also a flute recital, and performances by the junior and senior handbell ringers.

A rousing rendition of songs by Flanders and Swan completed the evening. All ages in the audience joined in ‘Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud’ with gusto, led by seasoned performers Derek Hopwood, Roderick Nicholson and Dennis Long.

This was a great evening in which to relax and enjoy the many different talents to be found in Steeple Aston. For more photos, please click here.

Meeting on affordable housing was a bit of a squeeze

Sixteen members of the public squeezed into the committee room of the village hall at the Parish Council meeting on January 21 to learn more about the possibility of more affordable housing in Steeple Aston from Nicola Ball of Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC).

Nicola explained that ORCC is part of Oxfordshire Rural Housing Partnership (ORHP), which comprises four district councils and four housing associations in Oxfordshire. Her role is to be an independent broker between parishes, the housing associations, ORCC and ORHP.

To see Nicola’s powerpoint presentation (9.13MB), please click here.

Please note this is a powerpoint file to view it you will need the powerpoint application or alternatively a powerpoint viewer, which can be downloaded for free from Microsoft here

Does the village need affordable housing?

The first step is to establish a need from within the village. Therefore, ORCC has arranged, through the Parish Council, for every household in the village and those who have moved away from the village to receive a six-page survey asking them for their views on the current housing need. To download a copy of the survey, please click here.

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

Nicola noted that the public attendance at the Steeple Aston meeting was already evidence of the high level of interest. She suggested that anyone interested in applying for affordable housing should write this on their completed survey.

Finding a site

Nicola told the meeting that affordable housing is built on exception sites i.e. land which would not normally be available for commercial development and which can therefore be bought at a much lower price – well below the commercial value. A common stumbling block is that landowners may not be willing to sell. ORCC and parish councils work together to find suitable sites and to negotiate with landowners.

What next?

When a site is found, a planning application is drawn up and submitted by ORHP, which has its own architects and builders. The design of the houses must fit in with local building styles and their eco rating must be good. Parish councils are consulted about the design. If a need is established for housing for single people, then some housing may consist of flats.

The homes are built by ORHP’s developers, but ongoing management of the housing is by the Housing Association. The Housing Association decides on the ratio of rented/shared ownership housing but affordable housing can never be fully privately owned or sold off to private buyers.

Housing is allocated by Cherwell District Council, not the Parish Council. However, the Parish Council can alert the District Council to suitable applicants. The entire process from finding a site to occupied housing can take from between two to three years.

Who can apply?

Applicants must already be registered on the local housing register. Nicola encouraged anyone with an interest to ensure that they are on the register as soon as possible. Housing is allocated according to need i.e. level of earnings plus a local connection. This means that an applicant must have lived in the village for five out of the last eight years, or an applicant’s parent or child must have lived continuously in the village for at least ten years, or an applicant must have worked in the village for two continuous years or three years if working part time.

Nicola confirmed that no ‘swapping’ outside the parish is possible. Only if no suitable local applicant is found, will housing be offered to nearby parishes.

Want to know more?

Nicola urged anyone interested to contact her directly 01865 883488 or email

Bell ringers win the quiz – now you can have a go at the questions

A group of bell ringers beat 14 other teams to win a hard fought contest in the village hall on the occasion of Steeple Aston’s Annual Quiz. This popular event also made profits for the village hall of almost £600.

Julia and Ted Whybrew were the questioners chairing the competition which was held on Saturday 26 January in a packed village hall. Fifteen teams of up to eight people each answered 120 questions, half of which were general knowledge and half were divided into six special subjects: 2007, entertainment, natural world, local, food and drink, and places.

The whole thing seemed to be taken remarkably seriously by some, one participant even objecting crossly that the answer to the joke question “How many beatles were on the cover of Abbey Road” was 5, four beatles and a Volkswagen.

There was also a paper quiz on the tables when everyone arrived. The visitors were given the initial letters of the first lines of familiar hymns and carols.

The website has been given a copy of these questions and the other 120 asked during the competition. If you would like to have a go at the quiz yourself:

  • for the questions, please click here
  • for the questions and answers, please click here.

 Council takes first step towards a Parish Plan

Steeple Aston Parish Council is to apply for funding to start the process of creating a Parish Plan for the village. But it may need more time to consider how useful such a plan will be before it finally decides whether to go ahead.

A Parish Plan is a way of setting priorities based on what members of the community want for their village, not what the parish or district councils may decide on their behalf. People who were in Steeple Aston in 1993 may remember the Village Appraisal, which had a similar aim.

Based on the information gained from the maximum number of people in the village, a concise action plan is drawn up which prioritises the issues raised by members of the community. The parish and district councils then work together to tackle these issues.

The Parish Council has been deliberating for some time whether the village needs a formal Parish Plan. At their meeting on January 16, councillors decided to apply for funding from DEFRA through the Rural Social and Community Programme to begin the Parish Plan process as the deadline for funding is March 2008.

However, they agreed that the application could later be cancelled if more time is needed to consider the usefulness of a Parish Plan for Steeple Aston.

Councillors decided that, if they do go ahead, the collection of information should be delegated to non-council members as far as possible to ensure maximum coverage of all sectors of the village. The role of the Council would be to support the work in progress.

Councillors also agreed that any Parish Plan questionnaires would have to wait until after villagers have been asked for their views on Affordable Housing to avoid questionnaire fatigue!

Grant to Valentine Club funds variety show

The Valentine Club has received a grant of £450 from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, which will allow members the opportunity to see a London-based theatrical company performing in the comfort of the village hall instead of having to travel miles to a major theatre.


The show is called “Cool Britannia” and is a mix of music, comedy and dance from the Time of our Lives Music Theatre. It will take place at 2.00pm on Friday 22nd February.

Richard Preston, Chairman of the Valentine Club said, “We are a vibrant group of over 60s who enjoy experiencing theatrical performances within our own community. To travel to nearby towns is not possible for many of our members, but with the support of the Oxfordshire Community Fund we can bring the performance to us.”

Wally Cox, Grants Manager for the Oxfordshire Community Foundation 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 people’s lives.”

For more information please contact Richard Preston on 01869 340512.

February 2008

New pavement to be built at the top of The Dickredge

A new pavement is to be built alongside the sloping grass bank at the top of The Dickredge in Heyford Road. It is hoped that this pavement will improve safety for pedestrians, especially those with pushchairs or wheelchairs, when it is completed before the end of March 2008.

This decision follows the site meeting held the issue in November. Gordon Johnstone (Area Highways Engineer) and James Drew (Travel Plans manager) from Oxfordshire County Council, came to the village to discuss the extension with representatives from the school, the parish council and local residents.

At present, there is no pavement on either side of the Heyford Road at the top of The Dickredge. This means that those walking from Heyford Road towards the village shop (and vice versa) have to go on to the road to get to the pavement in front of the New Manor House.

If there is a car parked next to the grass at the top of The Dickredge the pedestrians have to go into the middle of the road to get past. It is for this reason that Oxfordshire County Council’s Better Ways to School programme has agreed to fund the new pavement. The new pavement is indicated by the black dots on the map below.


However, a new pavement could make it more difficult for vehicles leaving the Dickredge and the New Manor House. This is already a difficult exit as it is hard to see if anything is coming. In order to alleviate the danger there will be No Parking markings on the road beside the new pavement. The No Parking markings should also mean that the bus towards Oxford will no longer need to stop in the middle of the road.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said “Heyford Road becomes increasingly busy and unfortunately traffic frequently travels much too fast. It is important that the safety of the pedestrians, especially the children, be balanced against the acknowledged difficulty of the exit from The Dickredge and New Manor House for vehicles.

We hope that we have agreed the best solution all round, but it will only work well for everyone if the No Parking markings are observed.”

Pretty plant overruns village stream


The stream, which runs through the middle of the village is being overrun by a plant called Himalayan Balsam. The Parish Council is keen that everyone should recognise it and kill it where they can.

As the photo shows, Himalayan Balsam has a very pretty flower. However, it is highly invasive and it will dominate and kill the indigenous plants around it. It is very good at propagating as the seed pods explode and scatter their contents up to five metres from the parent plant. The pink flowers appear in July and are pleasantly scented. But even if the Balsam is not in flower it is recognisable by its serrated leaves and its reddish stems, particularly near the ground.

The Balsam has already got a hold along the stream running through the village. One of the gardeners whose garden runs down to the stream says he has found the easiest way to eliminate the Balsam is to mow it. Though pulling it up before it flowers should work as well. Since it is an annual and is solely propagated by seed it only needs to be eliminated for a year because old seed will not germinate.

So please, if you find it on your land, do your best to destroy it!

January 2008

New altar frontal goes on show at Christmas

Two years ago the local Parochial Church Council decided that they would like to enhance the church’s space for worship. Gradually these enhancements have been introduced. There are new kneelers for the high altar and the Lady Chapel and new carpets in the chancel and the Lady Chapel.


The latest enhancement is a new celebratory altar frontal. This will be used for the first time for Christmas midnight mass. The frontal will be on the altar through the Christmas and Epiphany seasons until 2nd February, and will be used in future at Easter and Christmas. Further enhancements, also to be unveiled this Christmas, are decorated pennants to go on the four nave pillars.

The developments within the church are intended to make it a warm, welcoming and more beautiful place and the Rector, Stephen M’Caw will welcome anyone who would like to come and see the new altar frontal and the other changes.

The new frontal uses the design of the lamb holding a flag from the Lady Chapel window. This Christian symbol is of Jesus Christ as vulnerable as a lamb, but victorious over death, hence the victory banner.


The old frontal was plain white and had no symbols on it; but the new one is striking with its appliqué lamb and panels of silk. It was made by Margaret Underwood, Edwina Kinch, Gwen Stone, Margaret Mason and Isabella Cleaver. They are pictured here, except for Margaret who took the photo.

Wassail evening continues tradition

The Wassail Evening on December 16 continued a longstanding, pre-Christmas tradition in Steeple Aston. Warmed by mulled wine and mince pies in the candlelit, decorated village hall, villagers sang the old, familiar Christmas carols with traditional gusto.

The evening was organised and compered by Roderick Nicholson. Nicholas Cleobury provided a virtuoso accompaniment on the piano. The three kings were sung by Gordon Hallam, Nick Powell and Stuart Walton, and seasonal readings were given by Jean Stone, Karl Tomlinson and Mike and Clare McKinley.

The evening drew to a close with some expert ringing of the handbells. Donations were made to the handbell ringers and the Village Hall.

Vintage Ploughing Match attracts entries from all over the country

The Banbury and District Ploughing Society’s vintage ploughing match attracted entries from as far afield as Wales and Yorkshire this year despite a very gloomy weather forecast.

The match was held at Warren Farm, Middle Aston on a very rainy Sunday 2nd December. Because of the Foot & Mouth outbreak earlier this year a large number of matches had been cancelled, so many ploughmen were keen to qualify. They travelled from as far away as Kent, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Somerset and Wales to compete.


Nine classes were arranged to cover the different types of tractors and ploughs. Three of these were qualifying classes for next year’s National Ploughing Championships to be held at Peterborough. The classes covered trailing, hydraulic vintage, classic and horticultural ploughs.

Over 90 ploughmen and 2 ladies had entered. Unfortunately the weather was not as kind as it could have been and the land was very wet. On the day only 64 entries turned up.

In the trailed qualifying class Ian Craddock from Melksham clinched victory over Mike Taylor from Melton Mowbury by only half a point. The Mounted qualifier was won by John Plowright from Yorkshire and the Classic class by David Greenwood from Garforth, Leeds.

Local ploughmen who did well were Derek Parker from Hempton, who came third in the trailed and Nigel Stroud from Gagingwell, third in the classic class.

Lilly Pantry from Langford, Oxon. won the largest number of trophies. She won her class as well as the trophies for best lady and best young ploughmen under 25.

Tractors on the field ranged from the oldest, Graham Clifton’s 1935 Fordson Standard through Grey Fergusons, Fordson Majors, Nuffields, Fergusons and Fords up to the early 1970s.

A raffle donated £139 to Steeple Aston Church.

It is planned to hold next year’s match again at Warren Farm in October 2008.

For more photos of the ploughing match, please click here.