December 2012

Permission granted for Village Hall extension


Plans for an extension to the Village Hall have been approved by the Cherwell District Council. Now the search is on to find the funds to pay for it.

Funding applications have gone in to three organisations, hoping to further supplement the support already agreed from the Parish Council and the Village Hall Management Committee.

The extension, pictured here in an “artist’s impression” is designed to provide more suitable accommodation for Steeple Aston’s village archive. There will be improved storage space and the community will be able to have access to the archive.

The plan is to replace the small lean-to structure that SAVA has occupied since 2001 with a purpose-built extension to complement the committee room extension built some years ago. As part of the project there will also be a new chair store and the floor of the ladies toilet will be raised to give disabled access. The total cost is expected to be in the region of £75,000.

The Parish Council, which holds the lease for the Hall, has agreed to back SAVA’s proposals and funded the production of drawings suitable for obtaining tenders. It has also agreed to provide up to £10,000 towards the building costs. The Village Hall Management Committee has promised a similar sum.

It is hoped that grants will be forthcoming from Oxford County Council and other local bodies. There may also be a local fund-raising effort later in the year. If the funds can be raised in time, work will start on the extension in the Summer or Autumn next year for what is to be called the Village History Centre.

For more detailed information, and to see the plans for the extension, go to SAVA’s website,

Richard is a ‘Diamond Champion’


Richard Preston has been named as a “Diamond Champion” by the WRVS in recognition of his voluntary work to improve the lives of other people.

Richard, who is Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council, is pictured here receiving his certificate of achievement from the Chairman of Cherwell District Council, Cllr Colin Clarke and Karl Demian, assistant director of older people’s services for WRVS at a special ceremony for 22 ‘champions’ from Cherwell on October 1st.

Now he has been chosen to go on to the next stage of the process as one of 60 Diamond Champions selected for their outstanding work from the whole of South and South West of England.

The WRVS chose to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by honouring older people who give their time to improve the lives of those around them. The scheme, supported by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, recognises the contribution that people over the age of 60 make through volunteering.

In all 4,573 people were nominated throughout the UK and Northern Ireland. Sixty Diamond Champions from each region were chosen to attend regional celebrations in their honour and to be presented with a specially designed Diamond Champions pin and a certificate signed by Their Royal Highnesses. Richard was invited to a ceremony in Bristol, but unfortunately he will be abroad on holiday at the time (“My first in three years”). The organisers have promised to post his certificate and his special pin to him.

At this regional celebration, ten Diamond Champions will be chosen by a judging panel to join 70 others from across the UK at an event to be held at St James’s Palace in London on November 29th, where they will meet the Prince and the Duchess.

Richard was nominated by Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason on behalf of all his fellow councilors. She said, “We did, as a council, feel that we should take the opportunity to put Richard forward for this as he does give a huge amount of time to the village, much of it unseen. The time he spends on grant applications and the hands on involvement in achieving the Play Area and Millennium Park come to mind. This is not necessarily generally recognised and this was an opportunity to get him a pat on the back! We thought he deserved the wider recognition.

“In the nomination I outlined the many things Richard does in the village and the wide range of interests he has such as the Parish Council and Village Hall, Valentines, Horticultural and Gardening clubs. I emphasised his energy and willingness to help others, both groups and individuals, his cheerful nature and his commitment to the village.”

Richard said: “It is very nice to be recognised and quite heart-warming to be appreciated. I was rather surprised by what Margaret said about me, and it was rather embarrassing when they read out her citation in full at the ceremony.

“I have enjoyed being involved in a lot in the village and raised about three quarters of a million pounds in grants for various projects. But of course, you never do these things on your own. There are always lots of other people involved.”

Richard enjoyed the ceremony and buffet supper at the WRVS Cornhill Centre in Banbury, and was interested to meet the other nominees as well as representatives of local voluntary bodies and district councillors. He was particularly impressed by volunteers much older than himself, some in their eighties, still giving a lot of their time to help others.

He’s sorry to miss the regional event in Bristol – but you never know, maybe he’ll be one of the lucky 10 chosen to go to St James’s Palace!

Funding secured for village apple press

Steeple Aston is to have its own apple pressing equipment next year thanks to a grant from the county council.

Jen Cawood writes: “It’s great news that Chairman of the Parish Council Margaret Mason has secured a £750 grant from Oxfordshire County Council’s councillor funding scheme to get the village apple pressing initiative under way and in place for next year. Many thanks to Margaret and to County Councillor Ray Jelf.

“If you have apple trees that you might wish to press or if you are interested in being part of the Steeple Aston Village apple pressing group please contact me via email or leave a message with your contact details on 349081. You will then receive updates directly.

“We need to form a small group to oversee the purchase of the equipment and to consider the organization of the pressing process, storage of equipment and disposal of the apple waste. If you are keen to be more involved as part of the “core” group could you contact me as soon as possible.

“Waterperry Orchard disposes of their apple waste via a local pig farm. If anyone knows of a similarly sustainable means local to Steeple Aston could you please let me know.

“Fingers crossed for apples galore next year.”

November 2012

Complete bus survey to help maintain services


Villagers are being asked to complete a short survey on their current and future bus use so the Parish Council can make a case for the maintenance, or even improvement of, bus services to Steeple Aston in the future. The survey must be returned by December 1st.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason explains: “This survey will feed into a more widespread survey by the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC). That is four pages long and we doubted whether people would bother with it, so have devised this one. We hope that we can provide evidence which will safeguard at least the bus service we have!”

You can download and print the survey by clicking on the link below. It will also be printed in Steeple Aston Life, and will be distributed at several local club meetings.

The importance of the survey is explained by the Parish Council as follows:

“The S4 bus to and from Oxford/Banbury is subsidised by Oxfordshire County Council who will soon consider what level of subsidy to provide between 2013 and 2017. With no subsidy it is likely that the frequency might decline to a few buses per day (as used to be the case) and the Sunday service might cease.

“The 23A bus to Chipping Norton will continue on Wednesday mornings but it has already been decided to stop the Saturday service after December 9th.

“The Parish Council needs to make a case to the County Council for maintaining or even improving bus services through Steeple Aston. Your response to this short survey would be greatly appreciated.

“Remember that whilst you may have no interest in bus services now you may have a young person in the house who would value independent travel to Oxford and Banbury in the future, or you may wish to use the concessionary bus pass within the next five years, especially as petrol prices may continue to rise. So, future use is as important as current use.

“Please get your responses in by 1.12.2012. You can put your survey form in a box at the village shop, hand it to any Parish Councillor or post to the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet at Westfield Farm Cottage, Fenway, Steeple Aston OX25 4SS.”

To download the survey for printing, please click here.

Brownies learn the joys of science


Steeple Aston Brownies have all been awarded their Science Investigator Badge following a spectacular display of scientific magic in the Sport and Recreation Centre.

All 22 girls in the recently-formed village Brownie pack looked on enthralled (but at a safe distance) as “Frosty the Scientist” demonstrated the qualities of liquid nitrogen.

Frosty was in fact Dr Chris Frost, a Senior Scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories near Oxford. It was rather an appropriate name for him as liquid nitrogen is very, very cold as he clearly demonstrated.

He has been involved in the public understanding of science for many years, and is keen to visit schools and voluntary groups to show children some of the extraordinary things that science can do. He said: “I want to share with them some of the aspects of science which excited me when I was young and led me to taking up science as a career”.

The enthusiastic group of girls, aged seven to 10, were certainly excited by his spectacular displays of the effects of liquid nitrogen on flowers, fruit, air, rubber and metal. There were lots of volunteers to help with the scientific experiments, and the lucky ones got to don the protective glasses and enormous gloves required.

At their previous meeting, Brown Owl Fiona McLoone had introduced them to some of the mysteries of science showing them how use an electrostatically-charged drinking straw to bend water. They had also extracted iron filings from a children’s breakfast cereal using a strong magnet and used red cabbage juice to investigate the acidity of kitchen cupboard items..

So they had learnt plenty to qualify them for their Scientific Explorer Badges which were presented by Dr Frost at the end of the evening.

Steeple Aston Brownies meet every Wednesday evening during term time. Past badges they have earned as a group are Home Safety, Healthy Heart and Entertainer. They can earn badges independently at home as well. After the excitement of Frosty’s visit, they are now looking forward to a visit from “Al’s Owls”, when the girls will hear a talk about owls and be able to handle some of the birds.

For more information about the Brownies, please click here.

To see lots more photos, please click here.

The circus comes to town


The thrills and spills of the big top came to Steeple Aston when Happy’s Circus came to Robinsons Close on Friday, October 12th.

Happy’s Circus is an all-human professional show which has been touring the country for many years and focuses on bringing the entertaining world of the circus to schools.

The children at Dr Radcliffe’s School were excited to see the erection of the Big Top during the day. Then they returned in the evening with their parents to enjoyed pizza and icecream before the show.

There was a long queue to get in to the big top. The packed audience enjoyed a spectacular show featuring clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists and much more.

The event was organised by the Friends of Dr Radcliffe’s School.

For more information about Happy’s, go to

For more photos, please click here

Former councillor receives a Birthday Honour


A former Steeple Aston Parish Councillor was awarded an OBE in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Wing Commander Paul Hotston, pictured here, was given the honour in recognition of his work in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training). He was a local councillor here until 2009 when he and his wife Jan moved to the Lake District.

The couple were well known in the village as the organisers of the annual Whit Races. They also organised the lighting for several productions by the Steeple Aston Players.

As well as working with the RAF Reserve, Paul was a skilled professional photographer. He also taught photography at the former North Oxfordshire College in Banbury.

In 2000, he did a series of Millennium photos of the village for the Parish Council which are now in the Steeple Aston Village Archive.

Permission sought for Village Hall extension


Planning permission is being sought for an extension to the Village Hall to provide more suitable accommodation for Steeple Aston’s village archive. The proposed extension will provide improved storage space and enable the community to have access to the archive.

The plan is to replace the small lean-to structure (pictured here) that SAVA has occupied since 2001 with a purpose-built extension to complement the committee room extension built some years ago. As part of the project there will also be a new chair store and the floor of the ladies toilet will be raised to give disabled access. The total cost is expected to be in the region of £75,000.

The Parish Council, which holds the lease for the Hall, has agreed to back SAVA’s proposals and is funding the production of drawings suitable for obtaining tenders. It has also agreed to provide up to £10,000 towards the building costs.

Planning permission is now being sought from Cherwell District Council, following informal advice from the Conservation Officer. Once planning permission is obtained, SAVA will have the task of raising the balance of the funds needed. It is hoped that grants will be forthcoming from Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC) and other local bodies. There may also be a local fund-raising effort later in the year.

For more detailed information, and to see the plans for the extension, go to SAVA’s website,

Summer show “as good as ever” despite the weather


This year’s Summer Show was as popular as ever despite fears that the weather might disrupt both the event and the preparations for it. As it turned out, the rain held off until the very end of the afternoon on Bank Holiday Monday, so the disruption was minimal on the day.

The cold and rain earlier this year though meant that gardeners have had some difficulty growing fruit and vegetables to their usual standard. It was feared that entry numbers would be down for this year’s show. But, as you can see from the photo, local gardeners rose to the occasion and in the end there were 852 entries to the show, only six less than last year.

The prizes were given out by Edwina Kinch, the Horticultural Society’s President. The Walker Cup for Show Champion was won this year by Brian Badby, who also won the Hayter Cup and the Lee Cup.

Other trophy winners included Richard and Daphne Preston, as always, along with Gwen Stone and Julia Whybrew, both previous winners on many occasions. But there were some new names to contend with including Cara Sharpley who won the Gladys Stevens Memorial Cup for Handicraft; Steve Chessum won the George Alder Memorial Cup for his dahlias and Richard de Selincourt won the Beehive Cup for the most points gained without winning a trophy. Stan Nelson won the RHS Banksian Medal. John Silverside won the Jean Stone Trophy for the best photograph, while Janet Coley and Eleanor Jolley shared the Photography Cup.

Among the winning children, Alice Owen-Lloyd retained the Senior Cup she won last year, and Alex Burt won the Under 8s Cup once again. The Junior Cup was won by Clara Nicholson and the Under 5s Cup was shared by Zara Quist and Keaton Brock. Hannah McLoone won the Junior Photography Cup once again.

There was a very special (and non-returnable) prize presented to Roderick Nicholson in recognition of his 50 years’ service as Treasurer of the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society. He received a crystal rose bowl to much applause. The Society’s Chairman, Richard Preston paid tribute to him saying, “Roderick’s hard work over 50 years is really appreciated very much. We couldn’t do this without him.”

The Fun Dog Show, sponsored by the Hart Veterinary Centre in Bicester, was popular as always giving the judge Julia Joyce plenty of difficult choices. There were five classes: six best moving legs; best sausage catcher; best turned out; best armchair companion and best of the rest.

The Dog of the Day, selected from the winners of the five classes, was a Golden Labrador called Chillie, and his handler was Matthew Evans. He also won the Best Turned Out class.

Show Secretary, Julia Whybrew said: “The Show was just as good as ever. There were lots of entries, fantastic teas and many fun sideshows. So a huge thank you to the committee, their friends, the judges, the sponsors, those who entered and those who came to the Show.”

To see the full results, please click here.

To see lots more photos, please click here.

October 2012

Police appeal after theft of two cars


Thames Valley Police are appealing for witnesses after two cars were stolen from Westfield Farm barn in Fenway, Steeple Aston on Thursday, August 16th. The police later released a photo of one of the missing cars, which is shown here.

The first car to be stolen was a Red Alpha Romeo, registration W518 SPD, which had a black bonnet. Police say it was towed away by two white men who were driving a silver/white Peugeot estate car at around 5.00pm.

It seems the thieves returned for a second bite of the cherry a few hours later. The second car was stolen at around 9.00pm, and was a Lancia Beta VX Coupe in red, registration B419 PRJ. Unusually, this vehicle had no interior, no doors and no wing mirrors, It was towed away by the same Peugeot silver or white estate.

One of the men involved was described by police as around six foot tall, of medium build with long dark blonde hair in a ponytail.

If you saw either of these vehicles being towed, have seen the Peugeot described, in the vicinity of Steeple Aston and surrounding villages, or know the man described, please contact the Thames Valley Police Non-Emergency Number, 101, and quote Crime Reference Number JA 4104306/12, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

PC Chris Kidd, from Bicester neighbourhood policing team, said: “I would like to hear from anyone who saw these vehicles being towed away or anyone who noticed a suspicious Peugeot Estate fitting the above description in the area.”

If you can help with this, or know the man described, please call the 24-hour Police Enquiry Centre on 101 and ask to speak to PC Kidd.

If you don’t want to speak directly to the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Local nurseries on a winning streak


Nicholsons Nurseries are riding high this year, winning a trophy on their first visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, and a prestigious local business award for ingenuity, tenacity and entrepreneurship.

The 22-acre nurseries were founded in 1979 by Roderick and Hanny Nicholson of Steeple Aston. It is still a family business with their son Niel, who was born and brought up in the village, now director of the company’s plants division. His wife Liz runs the landscaping side of the business.

The North Aston nursery exhibited at Chelsea for the first time this year. They were asked by the Blewbury designers of sundials, water features and sculpture, David Harber Ltd , to design and build a garden for their trade stand. The design, pictured here, took inspiration from David’s trademark armillary sphere sundials.

Nicholsons were delighted to be awarded the Trophy for the “Best Presented Trade Stand”. The garden was designed by Landscape Architect, Karen Maskell and built by the nursery’s Hard Landscape teams led by Jules and Graham.

Closer to home, the company was awarded the Cherwell Large Business Award for 2012. The Cherwell Business Awards scheme was launched earlier this year and is intended to highlight the ingenuity, tenacity and entrepreneurship of the North Oxfordshire business community.

The process came to a head with a Gala Dinner staged in The John Paul II Centre in Bicester. A champagne reception, to the accompaniment of a string quartet, welcomed some 150 representatives, delegates, guests and judges, including local MP Tony Baldry and the leader of Cherwell District Council Barry Wood.

A sumptuous three-course meal was followed by the presentation ceremony, hosted by local businessman Brian Whitford, MBE. The winners in nine categories were presented with engraved trophies and certificates. Nicholsons won the Large Business Award, sponsored by Spratt Endicott Solicitors, for businesses with more than 25 employees or with a turnover of more than £5 million.

Local boys create new bike track


Steeple Aston has a new BMX track in the play area below the Sports and Recreation Centre thanks to the hard work of four local boys.

A space was set aside for the track some time ago but it was never completed and the area became overgrown. However, in recent months the boys pictured here (l to r) Adam Bradley, Oli Ong, Jack Taylor and Ryan O’Sullivan have worked to complete the track, which has now been approved for use.

The boys planned the tracks, cleared the vegetation from them and shifted the earth to make them both hilly with a smooth surface. The tracks are made of beaten down earth and riding around them should keep them free of weeds.

The boys made sure the tracks were both safe and fun, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) has inspected the result and declared it safe. The Rospa report finished by saying, “Well done to those involved in returning this area to a jump track”.


Oli Ong did his share of the building as part of his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award, and Jack Taylor did it as part of his Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. Jack is hoping that he can do the Gold Award when he moves to Chipping Norton School in September. Ryan and Adam got involved when Jack and Oli asked him to help them.

It is quite clear that the new facility is being very well used. And, like the zip wire, adults have been seen enjoying it too.

Roof work started on the Sport & Rec


Work to replace the roof on the Sport and Recreation Centre in Robinsons Close started on Thursday, July 26th, and will last for about four weeks.

The Parish Council is very pleased to say that support from Viridor Credits for £12,500, half the contract cost, has made this possible.

The council asks villagers to be aware of the work in progress, and to note there will be slightly reduced car parking during this period.

It would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by this major refurbishment, but wants to assure people that the centre will be much warmer during the colder months and energy loss will be reduced following the introduction of high level insulation in the roof.

September 2012

Whit Races celebrate their 50th year


Everyone knows we are celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year but fewer people will know that on the same weekend Steeple Aston was also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Whit Races. The original races were held to raise money to convert Roderick Nicholson’s shed into a Scout Hut to give the youth of the village somewhere to call theirs.

The Whit races committee (during our first of many committee meetings held in the pub!) decided that we should use this 50th Anniversary races to help raise money to fix the roof of the current building used by several youth groups in the village. These include The Scouts, Brownies, and the Baby and Toddler Group who all use the building for their meetings as well as the village football team and numerous other groups.

Despite the wind the weather held for us and a great day was had by all. The cold meant tea and coffee sales were very popular and together with the entry fees, face painting, candy floss and the obligatory raffle we raised over £425 for the sports and rec roof fund.

The Brownies sold ice cream sundaes and raised around £50 for their funds and the Scouts raised over £400 with their Tombola and BBQ.

Many thanks to Stuart Walton for his photos and press cuttings of the original Whit races which made a great display in the village hall where the great lunch was enjoyed. Thanks to all the youth groups and volunteers who helped make all of this possible as well as to Dr Radcliffe’s school for the loan of equipment – here’s looking forward to next year.

The Whit Races Committee – Steve Boote, Damien Cassidy, Sue Tyler and Anna Thatcher

To see the full results of the races, please click here.

To see photos please click here.

August 2012

JOGLE abandoned due to gales


The two Steeple Aston men attempting to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End to raise money for charity have had to abandon their attempt because of gales in the north of England. But they have managed to raise over £1,500 for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of a friend and neighbour who died recently.

The weather was kind to Ian Gain and Richard Postill when they set out on their 900-mile journey on Sunday, June 3rd. While it was cold and wet for the Jubilee River Pageant in London, they enjoyed a pleasant cycle in the Scottish sunshine. But unfortunately by the time they got to England everything had changed.

They were in Lancashire, having just passed the half-way point of their journey when increasing winds and storm warnings issued by the Met Office forced a serious rethink. With high winds up to 80 mph predicted for the next few days, and with work commitments after the weekend, as well as the support van needing to be returned, the enforced delay due to the bad weather meant that there was no realistic way of continuing with the JOGLE.

The disappointed riders arrived home in Steeple Aston in their support van late on Thursday night, exhausted and a bit battered by the experience.

Ian and Richard, both aged over fifty, were planning to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End day and night, through all weathers – aiming to complete the trip in just 110 hours. A JOGLE is the name for a cycle trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End, but most people take rather longer to complete the journey.

The trip was called JOGLE for Juliet as it was dedicated to the memory of Juliet Hodkin from Grange Park who sadly died from cancer last year. Her husband Simon was one of the support drivers for the trip.

It’s not too late to make a donation, go to

Villagers celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee


Villagers in Steeple Aston came out to enjoy a long weekend of Jubilee celebrations despite the cold and wet weather – and as always there was plenty of cake involved!

Flags and bunting were put up around the village and attached to cars. Children at Dr Radcliffe’s School got into the mood on the Friday, leaving their uniform at home and wearing outfits of red, white and blue instead.

Then on Saturday morning Steeple Aston Church Bellringers rang their full peal – a first for the new tenor bell, cast to commemorate the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, and bearing the Royal Crest.

On Sunday there was a Jubilee Service at the church, followed by The Big Lunch. This was to have been a picnic in the churchyard. The rain didn’t dampen spirits, but it did mean the lunch had to move inside the church.

Monday was the big day for the village with the traditional Whit Races in the morning on the field at Robinsons Close. They were also celebrating their own Jubilee – a golden one to mark their 50th anniversary.

As well as races for all ages there were stalls selling candy floss, face painting, a Scouts tombola and burgers available. Welcome cups of tea and coffee were served at the Village Hall to keep spectators warm on an unseasonably chilly day.

Then villagers were invited to a free lunch at the Street Party in the Village Hall, where a mountain of sandwiches and cakes were consumed by young and old alike. Visitors were greeted by the Brownies on arrival. Then in the evening nearly 100 villagers enjoyed a pig roast followed by a lively ceilidh.

John Coley, who chaired the organising committee for Monday’s events said, “I would like to say “Thank You” to everyone who contributed to the whole day of the village celebrations. We were submerged with cakes for our lunch, and had lots of helpers for the Races, which became a joyful party for all ages. It’s been a long time since so many folks have immersed themselves in a ceilidh. And it is all due solely to the help and support of folk all around the village which made it such a success. Thanks from me to all those who helped to make the day one to remember.”

Thanks also to all who helped to record the celebrations by providing photographs. To see our photos, please click here.

Steeple Aston to get faster broadband by next Spring

BT has announced plans to make faster broadband available to homes in Steeple Aston which should more than double the download speed available. However, this is not the superfast broadband which the Parish Council has been campaigning for, just an upgrading of copper lines.

BT says that the Steeple Aston exchange along with Burford and Checkendon are the latest communities in Oxfordshire to be included in the roll-out of BT’s next generation broadband service delivered over copper lines. They are due to be upgraded by the Spring of next year.

The upgrade will make available download speeds of up to 20 megabits per second (Mbps) – more than double the speed previously available. The new service is available on an open, wholesale basis to all companies providing broadband.

Once an exchange area has been upgraded for next generation broadband, some service providers automatically upgrade their customers to an enhanced broadband service. BT advises customers to contact their service provider for more information about the products and services they offer.

Meanwhile the campaign for superfast provision in Oxfordshire continues. Superfast, or next-generation access delivering fibre-based broadband, is being managed by Oxfordshire County Council (Oxonline) independently of BT. Indeed, it appears there is no communication between them! Superfast/next-generation-access will apparently give speeds of up to 24 megabits per second. Villagers and local businesses are being asked to complete a survey giving evidence of their need for superfast/next-generation access broadband. For more details, please click here.

July 2012

Jubilee bell peals for the Queen

Steeple Aston Church Bellringers began the Jubilee weekend celebrations with a full peal lasting nearly three hours on the morning of Saturday, June 2nd.

Tower Captain Graham Clifton reported: “We successfully completed the peal for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2 hours and 53 minutes. This was the first peal using our new Jubilee tenor bell which sounded wonderful.”

The ringers who took part in this marathon effort were: Lawrence White, Nick Powell, Malcolm Hensher, Graham Clifton (conductor), Robin Green, Claire Tarrant, Heather Bletchly and Mick Journeaux. They are pictured here celebrating with a well-deserved drink after they completed the peal.

The Jubilee Bell, pictured at the top of every page on this website, was cast especially to commemorate the Jubilee and bears the Royal Coat of Arms by permission of the Queen. It was installed in the bell tower in March, and blessed by the Bishop of Dorchester on May 10th.

Steeple Aston’s Jubilee celebrations carried on throughout the weekend. Lots more photos will be on the website soon. Watch this space!

Garden design wins prize for village school


A local mother has won £1,000 for Dr Radcliffe’s School with her design for a “picture in plants” in a new competition at the Malvern Show.

Samantha Willis, pictured here with her garden and famous TV gardener Chris Beardshawhas two children at the school – Jessica in Year 5 and Oscar in Year 2. Her garden was chosen by the public at the show to win the £1,000 prize.

Samantha explains: “Just before Easter I entered Chris Beardshaw’s competition to ‘Paint aPicture’ in Plants at the Malvern Show. The idea was that we chose a painting and replicated it in flowers and plants. This had to be done in a 2 x 2m area.

“With 28 days from acceptance to completion I managed to get sponsorship from Waterperry Gardens where I’ve been studying my Royal Horticultural Qualifications and garden design. They kindly gave me free rein of the nursery and loaned me the plants.


My garden was replicating a Cezanne woodland scene (pictured here). So with Acers, Betulas and a multitude of small herbaceous plants I set up the scene.

“On the day we were digging the garden I was interviewed by Gardener’s Question Time andmet the lovely Pippa Greenwood. It was a fantastic four days, one highlight being the garden designer James Alexander-Sinclair admiring my garden and advising me to do a show garden next year.

“The perfect end to the four days was that my garden was voted ‘People Choice’ and we won £1,000 for Steeple Aston School. If you were at the show and voted many thanks for your support.”

To hear Samantha’s interview and more about the competition by going to the Gardener’s Question Time website, please click here ( and fast forward to 30 minutes in to the programme.

Affordable housing plans to go for approval

After a very long wait, Steeple Aston Parish Council’s plans to build 12 affordable homes on a site on Fenway are likely to go for approval by Cherwell District Council very soon.

Margaret Mason, the Parish Council Chairman, reported to the Annual Parish Meeting in May that, “Despite financial uncertainly due to governmental policies during the year, it seems that the funding is now secure, the site agreed with the vendor and the plans for 12 houses appear to find favour not only with SAPC but also OCC and CDC, so far.

“Planning permission has still to be applied for and that will be the acid test. We can, I think, be optimistic that we will see a start on building at least before the year end.”

Parish councillors met in late April with representatives of all those involved in the project: the developers Sovereign Housing, Cherwell District Council housing department and Oxfordshire Rural Community Council.

They were told that the funding is now available and the purchase of the land has been agreed, though it is not yet completed.

There will be no open market housing on the site and there will be no right to buy or to acquire the properties. Where the tenant partly owns the house there will be a maximum of 80 per cent which can be owned by the tenant in perpetuity.

The rent level will be calculated against the Local Housing Allowance for Banbury and Bicester, which is lower than for the Oxford area. Rents are likely to range from £119 per week for a one-bedroomed flat to £205 per week for a four-bedroomed house.

Councillors were concerned about the ability of those on low incomes to afford the rental as dictated by new government policies on housing benefit. Those on benefits will have their rents paid, so the impact of the higher rentals will be felt by the low paid working families.

The plans are similar to those which have already been on show in the village for consultation. There was also discussion at the meeting on design aspects, parking provision, drainage, site lighting and materials. The houses will probably be made of reconstituted stone and the site road will be adopted by Oxfordshire County Council.

On a ‘best case’ scenario planning permission will be sought in the next couple of months or so by Sovereign Housing. The planning process is likely to take another six to eight weeks.

It is hoped that building will start before the end of the year and be completed roughly a year later, that is by the end of 2013.

Assuming that the plans are approved and the land sale goes ahead, the Parish Council has asked for the plans to be available for villagers to inspect again, though for information and not consultation this time.

Once again, it was emphasised that everyone who wants to apply for social housing in Steeple Aston or elsewhere is registered with Cherwell District Council. Time on the Housing Register counts in applicant’s favour, so people should sign up even if they believe they have little chance of success.

To find out more about registering and download an application form, please go to

June 2012

Children boost the Spring Show entries


The children’s entries for this year’s Steeple Aston Spring Show were about 25 per cent up on the previous year – maybe because the Horticultural Society promised to pay £1 for each entry put in by children from Dr Radcliffe’s School. They now owe them a total of £42.

Overall there were 325 entries for the show, held in the Village Hall on a very sunny Sunday, March 25th. .

The entry that won the Bedding Trophy for best child’s exhibit was one by Joe Ellis for a soap carving of a tank. The turret turned round.

Steeple Aston twins Joshua and Isaac Moran won the under 5s section. According to their mother, Alison, they wake up early and had been busy preparing their entries before dawn for at least a week before the show. Both of them put in seven entries.

The other winners of the children’s classes were Julius Quist (under 8s), Aaron Thatcher (under 12s) and Abbie Plows (under 16s).

Adult winners included Roderick Nicholson who won the Duncan Cup and Gwen Stone, who won the Flower Cup and the flower arrangement judged by visitors. Janet Coley won the Handicraft Cup. As usual Mary White won a prize with her lemon curd.

Compared to last year the handicraft entries were about 20 per cent down but flower arranging was up from six entries last year to 27 this year. The most popular class was a flower arrangement in an egg cup which had 13 entries.

Show Secretary, Julia Whybrew (who won the WI Cup and the Mead Vase) said the harvest loaves were the prettiest bit of the cookery classes. But she nearly faced disaster when her harvest loaf got dropped on the night before the show and a bit broke off the bottom. Ever resourceful, she glued it back on and managed to win third prize!.

She said, “As always a huge thank you to all the helpers, tea and cake providers, entrants, exhibitors and visitors.”

For the full results, please click here.

And for lots more photos, please click here.

JOGLE cyclists are on their way


Two local men have set off on their 900-mile bike ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End to raise money for charity.

The riders, Ian Gain and Richard Postill left Steeple Aston on Saturday, June 2nd to drive to Scotland. They started their cycle ride the next morning, and cycled 120 miles on their first day. Fortunately the weather in Scotland was much sunnier than it was at home where the pouring rain swamped the Jubilee pageant and local celebrations.

The trip is called JOGLE for Juliet as it is dedicated to the memory of Juliet Hodkin from Grange Park who sadly died from cancer last year. They have already raised over £1,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support in her memory, and are hoping for much more.

Ian and Richard will be cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End day and night, through all weathers – aiming to complete the trip in just 110 hours! A JOGLE is the name for a cycle trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End, but most people take rather longer to complete the journey.

You can follow Ian and Richard’s progress, and find out how to sponsor them on their blog at:

Buy Jubilee tickets before they run out


Tickets are selling fast for the Jubilee evening celebrations on Bank Holiday Monday – so if you’re hoping to go, it would be wise to buy now to avoid disappointment.

John Coley, the chair of the organising committee said, “Tickets for the evening celebrations are selling very well and as it’s a limited to ticket only we will be able to allow in only those who have a ticket – numbers are limited by the capacity of the Village Hall.

“I don’t want anyone to wait and then be disappointed, so the best thing to do is buy your tickets early from me, John Coley (01869 347882), Raj at the Post Office counter, or Anna Thatcher (annawhybrew35”

The evening will start at 7.30pm with a pig roast and a bar; then at 8.30pm the George Buchanan Scottish Ceilidh Band will perform. Tickets cost £12 each and include the roast and ceilidh.

The evening will round off a day of celebration on Monday, June 5th to celebrate three Village Jubilees: 60 Years for the Queen, 60 years for the Valentines and 50 years for the Whit Races.

John explains: “We will be starting with the Whit Races; sign on from 9.00am, races start at 10.00am. For those who like a mid-morning snack there will be candy floss and a barbeque.

“From around 1.00pm there will be light refreshments in the Village Hall, open to everyone. This will be free, but donations will, of course, be gratefully received. It will finish by 3.00pm, or when the food runs out whichever is the soonest.

“We will have an exhibition of photos from the earliest days of the Whit Races, with village folks looking even younger than they do now. If anyone has photos of the earliest days, please let me or Stuart Walton have them, so we can enhance the exhibition.

“Now, for the lunchtime refreshments we need cakes and folk to prepare the rest of the food. Please contact me beforehand, so we know where we are. As usual in the village, folks like to have a slice of cake with their drink, so I’m also asking here for volunteers to donate cakes for the lunch. These can be large cakes, or cupcakes for the children. Bring them along during the morning (when you enter for the Races??) and they will be gratefully received. If you can spare a couple of hours, then do come along to the kitchen from 10.00am and join our merry band, who will be breading and spreading refreshments.”

You can contact John Coley at Paines Cottage, Paines Hill, tel. 01869 347882 or email

Jubilee Bell is up and ringing!

Steeple Aston’s new tenor bell, cast to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, rang out across the village for the first time on the evening of Sunday, March 11th. But before it was installed in the bell tower, schoolchildren and villagers had the chance to see it close up.

Pictured here is the Tower Captain and Chairman of the Jubilee Bell Appeal Committee, Graham Clifton showing the bell to children from Dr Radcliffe’s school.

Diana Gardner tells the story of its arrival and installation under his careful direction. She writes: “Everything went according to Graham’s carefully laid plans.

“On Wednesday the old tenor was disconnected from its place in the bell frame, the trap doors down the centre of the tower opened for the first time since 1986 and slowly, slowly down came the bell with the use of block and tackle. So wonderful to have a bell hanger in the Steeple Aston family.

“Many bellringers assembled to help in any way they could, and not just ringers from Steeple Aston. Tim Taylor arrived with his fork lift truck and lifted the bell onto the Whites of Appleton bell hangers’ lorry. Dorothy Clifton kindly provided tea and delicious cake, for once underestimating her catering!

“Early on Thursday Graham and daughter Vicky set off to Whitechapel bell foundry where the exchange took place. By 1.00pm they were back and heading for the school car park. Here all the children came to have a look and ask questions.lots of them!

“On Friday Graham went to work, and went to work on our bell, adding the headstock and preparing its clapper (etc, no doubt).

“On Saturday people had assembled outside the village shop before the bell arrived there at 9.45am. Most people were surprised at the size of it. At 12cwt, 2 quarters and 16 pounds or 643 kg, it is certainly a hefty object, not to be dropped on toes!

“A representative of Viridor, our main sponsors, and a press photographer were also present. More people viewed the bell outside the Red Lion and outside the church. Tim Taylor had left his fork lift truck for us to borrow to manoeuvre the bell from the road to the base of the tower. During the afternoon others came for a close look at the bell which was about to be raised out of sight.

“Sunday! The Rector conducted a brief “Christening” service for the bell, and then at 10.30am up it went. A goodly crowd were there to witness the event which took about 15 minutes, with cameras flashing busily.

“Under Graham’s instructions our male ringers attached the bell to the frame and inserted the clapper. The female ringers tidied up! At 5.15pm it was at last time to try the new bell out with the old bells.

“We were anxious that it might stand out like a sore thumb, but no, the bell foundry have done an excellent job in casting it not only to fit into the space and fittings we have, but also to fit in with the volume of the sound of our existing bells. We were all smiling broadly as the rich over tones and resonant sound of our new bell hummed on over the other seven, just as we’d been hoping it would!

“As for the old tenor, we were rather sad to hear that it had been promptly broken up and melted down on its arrival at Whitechapel, but absolutely delighted to hear the reason why. Our bell metal was recycled on Friday into new bells for the Queen’s river pageant in June. This set will be rung from the leading barge; hopefully it will be a nice calm day. And so our old tenor becomes part of other Jubilee bells!”

For lots more photos of the bell’s arrival and installation, please click here.

Local cyclists to ride 900 miles non-stop for charity

Ian Gain
Two local men will embark on extraordinary 900-mile bike ride during Jubilee week in June to raise money for charity.

The riders, Ian Gain and Richard Postill, and the main support team are all people from Steeple Aston. The event, called JOGLE for Juliet is dedicated to the memory of Juliet Hodkin from Grange Park who sadly died from cancer last year. It is being held to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support in her memory.


Richard%20PostillBut it is not just any old 900-mile bike-ride, Ian and Richard will be cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End non-stop, day and night, through all weathers – aiming to complete the trip in just 110 hours! A JOGLE is a cycle trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End, but most people take rather longer to complete the trip.

Are these participants top athletes I hear you ask? No. Just a couple of ageing 50 plus year-olds, one of whom is actually building his bike from spare parts… and it’s not quite ready yet!

For more information on the JOGLE for Juliet and to see how you can help out and sponsor this madness, check out the blog at:

May 2012

Parish Council reaches out to try and improve mobile coverage

Following the recent campaign by mobile phone users to improve coverage in the village, the Parish Council is contacting providers and others to continue the campaign on their behalf.

Clare McKinley, the parish councillor leading the campaign explains, “Mobile users in Steeple Aston complained to their providers for twelve weeks because Ofcom’s website states that Ofcom will offer an Alternative Dispute Resolution Service if complaints are not addressed and the service improved after eight weeks of sustained complaints.

“However, when pressed, Ofcom now say that their dispute resolution service only covers such issues as disputes over individual contracts. They will not deal with complaints over inadequate coverage. Nevertheless, the complaints recorded on the Steeple website are useful evidence which the Parish Council can use.”

The Parish Council has approached the Department of Culture, Media and Sport with their complaint. They replied with a letter saying that Mobile Network Operators have met, and even exceeded, their obligation to provide coverage for 2G phones (phone and text) in the UK. They don’t say what percentage coverage this is.

The department also says that the operators have also exceeded the obligatory 80 per cent coverage for 3G phones (phone, text and broadband). Therefore, the department and Ofcom have no further powers to make operators extend and improve coverage.

But the department is currently asking operators to provide information on ‘not-spots’ around the country. ‘Not-spots’ are areas which have ‘no coverage at all, no broadband coverage, partial no coverage, interrupted coverage on the move, or no indoor coverage.’ Clare says that Steeple Aston seems to meet all these criteria in some areas and with some operators.

So, the Parish Council are currently taking the following action:

1. Margaret Mason, Chair of the Parish Council, has written to the head of Customer Services, Vodafone with a letter of complaint on behalf of Vodafone customers in the village and asking for an upgrade of the existing Vodafone coverage. She’ll wait for their reaction before approaching other operators as necessary.

2. Approached Oxfordshire County Council with a request that Steeple Aston be part of the government funded scheme to improve broadband coverage in rural areas (3G phones). If we can achieve this, we will bypass the current system of masts and become part of the next generation of 3G and 4G phones which are broadband based.

Clare added, “Until we know more about the above, mobile phone users needing to boost their signal can only work with the advice given by Ofcom )

. Buy a router-like device such as Vodafone’s ‘Sure Signal’or Orange’s ‘Signal Boost’ from retail outlets.

. Route your mobile calls through your Wi-fi connection if you have one.

. Return your phone or cancel your contract if the operator does not meet the terms and conditions in your contract. If they refuse, you can ask Ofcom to mediate.

. If you choose another operator, check their coverage before you buy – though we know this information is not always accurate!

“The Parish Council will provide ongoing updates through SAL and this website. Meanwhile, many thanks again to all those who complained to their Network Operators as part of the campaign and which has given us the evidence we need.”

To see the Ofcom leaflet containing their detailed advice go to

Jubilee Committee appeals for volunteers, cakes and old photos


With arrangements well under way for Steeple Aston’s Jubilee Celebrations, John Coley, the chair of the organising committee, outlines the plans for the day and appeals for volunteers to help with the lunch and to provide cakes.

John writes: “It’s nearly here!! Monday 5th June!! A whole day celebrating the three Village Jubilees: 60 Years for the Queen, 60 years for the Valentines and 50 years for the Whit Races.

“We will be starting with the Whit Races; sign on from 9.00am, races start at 10.00am. For those who like a mid-morning snack there will be candy floss and a barbeque.

“From around 1.00pm there will be light refreshments in the Village Hall, open to everyone. This will be free, but donations will, of course, be gratefully received. It will finish by 3.00pm, or when the food runs out whichever is the soonest.

“In the evening we have an all-ticket event starting at 7.30pm with a pig roast and a bar; then from 8.30pm we have the George Buchanan Scottish Ceilidh Band who will help us all to have a ‘reely’ good experience. Don’t be put off about not knowing the steps, we will be walked through them first.

“Because of space restrictions, it’s first come, first served, at £12 a ticket for the combined roast and the ceilidh. Get your tickets from Raj at the village shop, Anna Thatcher or me. Don’t be the ones left trying to listen from the outside.

“We will have an exhibition of photos from the earliest days of the Whit Races, with village folks looking even younger than they do now. If anyone has photos of the earliest days, please let me or Stuart Walton have them, so we can enhance the exhibition.

“Now, for the lunchtime refreshments we need cakes and folk to prepare the rest of the food. Please contact me beforehand, so we know where we are. As usual in the village, folks like to have a slice of cake with their drink, so I’m also asking here for volunteers to donate cakes for the lunch. These can be large cakes, or cupcakes for the children. Bring them along during the morning (when you enter for the Races??) and they will be gratefully received. If you can spare a couple of hours, then do come along to the kitchen from 10.00am and join our merry band who will be breading and spreading refreshments.”

You can contact John Coley at Paines Cottage, Paines Hill, tel. 01869 347882 or email

Three hundred sign petition as White Lion is sold


Three hundred supporters of the White Lion pub in Steeple Aston have signed a petition to try and stop it being turned in to a private house.

But they fear it may be too late already, as the owners Admiral Taverns have already exchanged contracts with a purchaser, who is believed to want to turn the pub in to a private home. The current landlord has been given notice that the pub will close on Monday, 5th March.

The petition has been organised by villagers Samantha and Neil Brewer. Supporters of the pub have been able to sign a petition hanging beside the bar or to show their support through a special Facebook page.

Samantha explained: “We originally hoped to petition the brewery to prevent the sale. Now we feel we shouldn’t let the pub go without a fight. It has a long history and would be really missed, particularly by families in the village.”

Samantha has been grateful for help and advice from the Parish Council, and says if the new owner applies for a change to residential use, the petition will be sent to the planners at Cherwell District Council.

Meanwhile landlord Mark Foster and his wife Lorraine Caspall are determined to keep going to the very end. Indeed they are planning a big leaving party at the pub on Saturday, March 3rd starting at 7.00pm. – and everyone’s invited.

Mark said, “We have loved it here and are quite upset to leave. We’ve made some very good friends in the village.” Mark and Lorraine are looking for another pub to manage locally so they can keep their three children at school in Bicester.

Samantha paid tribute to the hard work they have put in at the pub over the past few months. She said, “They have been doing really well recently. They have worked hard to get the pub back to what it was and the customers have responded. The barrelage has tripled in the last few months. We had hoped Admiral Taverns would give them time to prove they could make a go of it.

“We don’t have any ill feeling towards the purchaser, but everyone we know wants it to remain as a pub. There were some very strong feelings expressed, which is why we organised the petition. It would be a sad loss to the village, and we don’t want it to go without a fight.”

The Save our White Lion Facebook pages has lots of comments from people with happy memories of the pub. To join in the discussion on Facebook, or just to support the petition, please click here.

Parish Council keeps costs down

Steeple Aston Parish Council has managed to reduce its planned expenditure, spending less in 2012/13 than it did in this financial year. This means that its share of the council tax bill should stay much the same.

Council Chairman, Margaret Mason explains: “In January the Parish Council set the precept for the village for the next financial year. The figures are then sent to Cherwell District Council who determine the amount returned to the village as the annual precept to be spent by the Parish Council for the village. This does not apply in Middle Aston as they have a Parish Meeting not a Parish Council and do not set a precept.

“The precept is usually agreed by CDC in March and the amount you are charged as part of your Council Tax is determined by the number of tax paying houses in the village, and what band you are in. Last year it worked out at about £49 for a band D property, we haven’t the exact figure for this year yet.

“The precept for 2012/2013 is set at £20,988.90, rather less than last year. Things are still pretty difficult nationally at the moment and the PC were committed to reducing the amount, if it proved possible. To see the full figures, please click here.

“The figures will also be on village notice boards or you can ask the Parish Clerk for a copy. Meanwhile here is a short run through of what your money is used for.

“The greatest amount, over £3,200 is for insurance, for the community buildings and land leased from Dr. Radcliffe’s Trust. Loan repayment for the major redevelopment of the Sport and Recreation Centre and Robinson’s Close some years ago now is £2,662.40. The Clerk’s wages and expenses come next (the councillors come free) and the upkeep of the Play Area toilet. We have decided that the expenditure on contracting a village steward was not proving value for money so we have now contracted out both the maintenance of the Millennium Park area, by the Village Hall and the play areas. In fact the same person will be doing both, from February, but they are two separate contracts. The play areas and the Millennium Park continue to be a real asset to the village and it is really good to see how much, and how well they are used. We are hoping to persuade CDC to contribute to the upkeep as people from much further afield come to enjoy the facilities, but that is an ongoing discussion!

“We get a grant from OCC which pays for rather under half of the village grass cutting bill. Grants to the PCC towards churchyard maintenance, and to SAL, S.A.V.A. and S.A. Online also are made from the precept. We have an annual audit fee of around £500-£600, luckily this year we will not have to pay for an election. As we are responsible for the external maintenance of the Village Hall, S&R Centre and the adjacent play spaces and car park we continue to build our reserves to ensure that these are well looked after, and we have put aside £500 as a contingency for the Jubilee celebrations.

“We will have the Parish Council AGM and Annual Parish Meeting in May and of course every Parish Council meeting is open to the public (look on the noticeboards or this website for the agenda). You will be very welcome if you would like to come, just to listen or to bring something up, you will always be given an opportunity. Those who do come long often seem surprised at how interesting it can be!”

Affordable housing plans to go for council approval

Revised plans for 12 “affordable” homes in the village should be submitted for planning permission in February and, if they are approved, building could start in the summer.

Plans for the new housing on a site in Fenway, Steeple Aston were shown to the public last November. Representatives from the developers Sovereign Housing, Cherwell District Council, and Oxfordshire Rural Community Council joined parish councillors at an exhibition in the Village Hall. They explained the plans to villagers and took note of their comments.

This was followed by a new Housing Needs Survey to be completed by villagers and others with a connection to the village who might be interested in moving to the new homes when they are built.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason said, “The results of the Housing Needs Survey, done in December, show the need for a probable 12 units, 10 for rental and 2 for shared ownership. Twenty-five individuals returned the survey and 21 had the necessary local connections.

“By the end of the month those who said they were interested in shared ownership should have been contacted again by Sovereign, and also those who were interested in a two- bedroom property but may only qualify for a one-bedroomed home.

“By early February the size and tenure mix should be finalised and Sovereign’s architect can begin drawing up the new scheme layout based on the revised mix with a view to be ready to apply for planning permission by the end of February.

“The Parish Council will have the opportunity to discuss the final draft with Sovereign before the plans are sent in for approval. The planning process will give everyone the chance to comment on the plans to CDC.

“So, things are moving on. CDC’s Strategic Housing Officer has emphasised the need for those interested to keep their applications up to date with CDC.

“I hope I’m not being too optimistic in looking forward to building beginning this Summer.”

A double Jubilee Celebration planned for June

This year marks 50 years of the traditional Whit Races in Steeple Aston, as well as 60 years of the Queen’s rule. So an extra special celebration is being planned for Monday, 4th June.

Parish Councillor John Coley is Chairman of the committee that is organising the celebrations. He says, “It is good luck that 2012, as well as being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, also marks 50 years of the Whit Races in the village. So there is a double celebration.

“We are still putting the details together but the broad intention is to have a number of events which will appeal to most in the village to share in one or more of the events during the day.

“The celebrations will begin with the Whit Races, held this year on the Recreation Field at Robinsons Close, rather in Heyford Road. We are hoping to have light refreshments on sale during the races, but nothing is yet definite.

“The Races will be followed by a Jubilee Refreshment for those who have taken part in the Races and guests from the Valentine Club. The food will have a 1950s theme and the Refreshment will be held in the Village Hall from around 1.00pm.

“In the evening there will be a Ceilidh with a live professional group and a pig roast. A bar will be on hand to allay the thirsty work of dancing (or to give courage to those who, like me, need it before getting up to dance).

“This will be a ticket only event – tickets will be on sale nearer to the time. We are limited to around 100 for Village Hall safety aspects, so it will be first come, first served.

“If anyone wishes to come to the Recreation Field and enjoy just watching the Races, they will be more than welcome to do so and bring their own picnic for later.”

None of this is designed to prevent other groups holding their own celebrations over the Jubilee Weekend.”

Celebrations will take place across the country over the long weekend at the beginning of June to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the throne. The traditional end of May Bank Holiday has been moved to Monday, 4th June, and there will be an additional Jubilee Bank Holiday on Tuesday, 5th June.

Steeple Aston’s Whit Races are traditionally held on the Whit Bank Holiday Monday. Children and adults compete in a variety of races, relays and competitions. There is usually a tug of war and a popular gurning competition as well.

For photos of last year’s very wet Whit Races please click here.

March 2012

Steeple Aston chooses its own Jubilee Pudding


Seven leading cooks from the village were asked to create a pudding fit to celebrate this year’s Diamond Jubilee. And lots of hungry tasters turned up to a special Pudding Evening to help choose a winner.

John Coley, who clearly enjoyed the experience, writes: “On the evening of 11th February a total of seven desserts, fair chieftains of the pudding race, were progressed around the Village Hall to test the resolve of around 60 passionate pudding enthusiasts.

“Firstly we were lured by the looks, then we were elucidated by the explanations of the enticing elements which the cooks had combined to enhance the encounter and the enjoyment to come. So, in no particular order as they say on TV shows, here are the chefs and their competing confections:

. Mary Williams Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Pudding
. Sally Cooper Chocolate Truffle Torte
. Judith Lane Union Flag Fruit Flan
. Joan Hensher Queen’s Brandy Cake
. Anne Bonwick Jewel in the Crown
. Diana Gardner Royal Jubilee Cherry Tart
. Dorothy Clifton New England Crown

I hoped we were all feeling peckish.

“Then, thank goodness, at last we were allowed to taste these delights. Lots of Greg Wallace faces of yummy appreciation and some John Torode careful constructive criticism before marking our score sheets with comments and occasional smears of chocolate or cherry compote.

“Then to rub it all in we had to decide which of the delectations we would want to make as our own Jubilee Pudding. There lay the problem – could we make any of them to the same standard or would they be pale imitations like the “wedding cakes” made during the last war which had a small sponge underneath a fancy inedible exterior?

“So, we scrutinized, we savoured, we balanced, and we balloted, and then sitting comfortably we watched Kim Brock demonstrate, without repetition, hesitation or deviation how to cover a round cake with one piece of icing

“Time for the results of our vote. We were all winners as we had sampled all of the puddings, but in this context there has to be a Champion. To great acclamation the award went to Anne Bonwick for her “Jewel in the Crown”. Then we sat awhile before beginning to wobble homewards, many wanting this to be an annual event.

“As the Jubilee Bell Fund has reached its target, the profit of nearly £350 was very generously donated to the Jubilee Celebrations Committee, for the events planned on 5th June.”

To see photos of all seven puddings with a description of their ingredients, please click here.

Jubilee Bell to be installed in March


Steeple Aston’s new Jubilee Bell will be delivered to the village early in March. Schoolchildren and villagers will have a chance to see it close up before it’s installed in the church tower.

Members of the Jubilee Bell Appeal Committee, pictured here with the new bell, recently went to see the casting at Whitechapel Foundry in London.

Graham Clifton, the Bell Captain and Chairman of the Jubilee Bell appeal committee, writes: “The new bell has now been tuned and is awaiting collection. It is planned to remove the old bell from the tower on Wednesday 7th March and deliver it to the foundry and collect the new bell on the morning of Thursday 8th March. We hope to be able to park it in the school grounds during the afternoon of that day for the children to see.

“On Friday 9th it will go to Whites of Appleton Bellhangers to be fitted out with its headstock etc. We then intend to show it off to the village on Saturday morning 10th March. It will be in the area for the Shop/White Lion between 9.45 to 10.30am. Then near the Red Lion until about 11.15am. We will then install it in the tower during Saturday and Sunday to be ready to ring it for the first time for Evensong on 11th March.

“Please come and see the new bell and take photos next to it. This will be the last time the bell will be out of the tower for at least two hundred years.

“A dedication service will be arranged sometime in May when the Bishop will come along and bless the bell for us. We then intend to attempt a full peal for the Jubilee Celebrations in June.

“Many thanks from the Steeple Aston Jubilee Bell Committee: Graham and Dorothy Clifton, Sally Cooper, Diana Gardner, Cathy Fleet, Marian Trinder and Lawrence White.”

BT worked to reconnect phones after cable theft


BT engineers worked round the clock to reconnect phones in Steeple Aston and nearby villages following the theft of underground cables that cut services to some customers for over a week.

The trouble started on Thursday, 19th January when thieves got away with over a kilometre of copper cable connected to the exchange in Steeple Aston by underground ducts.

BT said they’d received reports of more than 350 homes left without landline and internet services in Steeple Aston, Middle Aston, Middle Barton and Tackley.

BT engineers had to spend several days repairing damage to the ducting and replacing the cables before they could start the time-consuming process of reconnecting individual customers one by owere finally reconnected on Tuesday, 31st January.

The last few households in Steeple Aston are now reported to have been reconnected but as of Friday, 27th January some in Northside, Fenway and the other villages were still cut off. BT is hoping all will be restored by early next week.

Copper is a valuable commodity and this is by no means the first time that underground cables have been stolen in Oxfordshire. Cables linked to the exchange in Adderbury were stolen earlier this month. BT says it is working with the police and with government to counteract the problem.

Detective Inspector Steve Duffy of Thames Valley Police said: “We are aware that the theft at Steeple Aston has caused a lot of disruption to the local community. I am keen to hear from anyone who has any information or anyone who saw vehicles or people acting suspiciously.”

Local MP Tony Baldry said magistrates should take a stronger stance against people convicted of stealing metal in this way. He told the Oxford Mail: “Without being melodramatic, it’s going to be a matter of time before this leads to someone’s death when they are not able to dial 999.”

Among those affected by the disruption was Steeple Aston’s Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet. She apologised to any villagers who may have tried to contact her while her telephone and emailconnections were down. Her mobile number is 07989 398838.

February 2012

Pre-School gets thumbs up from Ofsted


Steeple Aston Pre-School has made “significant progress” and been given a “good” rating, with one outstanding feature following a recent Ofsted inspection.

The Chair of the Pre-School Nicky Elliot said, “It’s a huge achievement considering what the staff were left to deal with at the start of this term. I’m hugely proud of the team and hope that they continue to go from strength to strength with Ann at the helm.”

There were severe problems in early September when the newly appointed manager, Karina Faulkner, unexpectedly resigned the weekend before term started citing personal reasons.

The Deputy Manager Ann Buswell stepped in to the breach. She was appointed temporarily as Supervisor and she along with other members of the team worked extremely hard to get the Pre-School up and running in time for the start of term.

The Ofsted inspector reported that children make generally good progress towards the early learning goals in a safe, friendly and stimulating environment. She complimented the Pre-School staff on their skills and positive attitude, and said they have made significant progress since the last inspection and in particular during the last term.

The report states that “Staff use good quality observations, interactions and generally good planning to enhance learning experiences for children based upon their interests. Children are valued as individuals, and some resources reflect diversity. Staff demonstrate clear knowledge of children’s individual needs and this is enhanced though strong partnerships with parents and carers.”

The inspector singles out the area of partnerships as “outstanding”. The report says “The pre-school has built excellent partnerships with local schools and childminders. As a result, they very effectively share good information regarding the individual needs of each child. Procedures for managing times of transition, such as settling children into the pre-school or moving on to primary school, are outstanding. There are well-established channels of communication between all partners involved with individual children, which successfully enhances their learning, development and welfare.”

Only two areas are singled out for future improvement. The inspector reccommends they should:
. improve the planning system further to build more effectively on child-initiated activities
. extend the resources which reflect the ethnic, cultural and social diversity in society to further promote children’s awareness of people’s differences.

The inspection was carried out on 23rd November 2011.

To read the full OFSTED report, please click here.

To find out more about the Pre-School, please click here.

Bellringers witness the Jubilee Bell’s casting


Steeple Aston’s Jubilee Bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London on Thursday, 26th January – and a group of bellringers went along to witness this notable event.

Bellringer Diana Gardner was there and she writes: “We arrived by 11.00am for the casting at 11.15. It had taken three weeks to build up the mould, a core of curved bricks and a metal cope between which the metal would be poured. The bell would be cushioned by layers of loam between it and the mould, the loam being made up of sand, manure, straw and goats’ hair.

“Into the surface of this was set our chosen inscription and the Royal Coat of Arms which the Queen had given her permission for us to use. The loam was then left to harden, as was the similar building material of yore. By the time we arrived, the bell mould was clamped to a base plate and the furnace was roaring.

“As the molten bell metal (77% copper, 23% tin) was poured into a vat, one man was scraping off any impurities and charcoal, towards himself, an unenviable job I thought! It then took several men to move the gantry and suspended vat into position. A second smaller bell was being cast at the same time for another tower and this was done first as it would cool more quickly.


“The hole to pour the metal into it was in the centre of the bell and it was difficult to reach. Some metal missed its mark and flew off in showers providing a dramatic display causing nearby boots to smoulder, much to the irritation of our guide. These sparks turned into ball bearings on the floor and a substantial layer of dust is left on the floor for health and safety reasons! Then the mould was full and the gantry was on the move again to lie over the Steeple Aston mould. The hole being to one side of ours, the molten metal poured in beautifully. Then the gantry was gliding back to the other bell for a top up, and back to ours. Sand was put over the flaming apertures and then a metal lid.

“All this was achieved in virtual silence, each member knowing his task. But as the word “ingots” was shouted we visitors beat a hasty retreat while the remaining metal was poured into ingots ready to be used for a future casting. On our return we were able to go right up to our bell in its mould as the heat from it wasn’t yet excessive. It will remain there for four days, then take a week to cool.

“The content of the loam was explained. The goats’ hair and straw would burn out, leaving channels for the gases to escape through to the vents in the outer mould. The bell will then be inverted for tuning which takes a couple of days. The walls of the bell are cast thicker than needed, so when the tuning takes place slithers of metal are trimmed from the inside. Apart from the basic note, four higher harmonics are tuned in. This is achieved electronically using a strobe tuner which can detect notes to a fifth of a semitone. Only tiny fragments are shaved off at a time as they cannot be replaced! But not only this, it will be tuned to match in with our existing bells so they will not sound too dull in comparison! After this the surface of the bell will be touched up and we will receive it at the end of March. It all suddenly seems quite a bargain!

“We were then taken to other parts of the foundry where they were making handbells etc. We saw the St Dunstan, Fleet Street, bells which have been cast for the Jubilee and will be rung as the Queen passes by. We also saw a bell which had been bought in as scrap with a calculated date of 1320. The birth of our Steeple Aston Jubilee bell is likely to be the start of a very long life.”

To read more about the bells of Steeple Aston go to

Roadworks to disrupt traffic around Heyford Station


Traffic will be disrupted in the area around Heyford Station for five days in February because of roadworks.

Repair work will take place between the traffic lights at the bottom of Heyford Road and the junction of Station Road and The Lane, Lower Heyford, to the east of the railway bridge.

The work will start on Monday 6th February and should be finished by Friday 10th.

For the first day or two, the junction at the Heyford Road traffic lights will be completely closed to traffic while the junction itself is repaired. After that, the repair work will move gradually east over the river and railway bridges. At that point, the junction at the traffic lights will be partially re-opened. Vehicles approaching from Steeple Aston, Hopcrofts Holt and Rousham and will be able to pass through the traffic lights, but the road from the traffic lights eastwards towards the station will remain closed for the whole week.

An exception will be made for buses. A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council emphasised that the Banbury to Oxford service would be unaffected.

Heyford Station will remain open. Pedestrians walking to and from the station will still be able to cross the river bridge, but rail travellers arriving by car will need to approach the station from the east: that is, from the direction of Upper Heyford.

Residents living in the immediate area of the roadworks will continue to have access to their homes from the east while the river bridge is closed from Monday to Friday.

For the early part of the week, ‘road closed’ signs will be placed in the centre of Steeple Aston, at Hopcrofts Holt and near Tackley Wood on the southerly approach to Rousham

to warn motorists of the closure at the Rousham junction.

Click here for a map issued by Oxfordshire County Council which shows a recommended diversion that avoids the Rousham river bridge by using the A4095. The diversion is marked in green.

January 2012

Brownies make their promises


Members of the new Steeple Aston Brownie troop have been making their promises over the last few weeks – and so have their leaders.

Seventeen girls have joined the Steeple Aston Brownies which was set up this September. Over three weeks ceremonies were held for them to make the Brownie promise.

And the adult leaders who are also new recruits to Guiding had to make their promises too. Fiona McLoone is Brown Owl, Kelly Clinkard is Tawny Owl and Kim Phipps is Snowy Owl. Jasmine Trinder is the young leader.

Proud parents and the Rector, Father Mark Clavier were invited along to watch the ceremony and enjoy some delicious home-made cakes served by the Brownies.

The Brownies meet in the Sport and Recreation Building on Wednesday nights during term time. Their activities at the moment are all focused on Christmas. They have already made some salt dough Christmas decorations. They intend to carol sing around the village to raise funds, weather permitting and will end the year with a Christmas party.

Brownies are the junior division of the Girl Guides for girls aged from seven to ten. They provide an opportunity to get together with other girls of a similar age, try new activities and make some friends while developing confidence and life-skills — all while having fun!

Brown Owl Fiona said, “We have capacity for more girls, and we do have girls on a waiting list who will join us when they are seven.” For more information, contact Fiona on 01869 340132 or email:

For more photos, please click here.

Jubilee Bell to have Royal Crest


The Royal Coat of Arms, pictured here, will be cast on to the new Jubilee Bell to be installed in Steeple Aston Church later this year.

The tenor bell has been commissioned to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It will replace the current unsatisfactory bell, and will allow villagers to enjoy a much richer tone and more resonance when the clock chimes.

The Chairman of the Jubilee Bell Appeal Committee, Graham Clifton reports, “We have requested and received permission from Buckingham Palace to have the Royal Coat of Arms cast onto the bell. This stamp has been commissioned for a new ring of bells to be cast for St.Dunstan’s in the West in Fleet Street to commemorate the Jubilee, and the trustees of that project have allowed us to use it.”

Fundraising for the new bell is now almost complete. Graham says, “Our latest event, a Barn Dance in the Village Hall, was a great success despite not selling quite as many tickets as we would have liked. The band, Apricot Pie, were excellent and all those attending had a good evening particularly the children who quickly picked up the dances. At the end of the evening the event raised £400.”

“Three more grants have come in from D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, Dr Radcliffe’s Trust and Viridor Credits (Ardley Quarry landfill tax).”

There are still more fundraising events planned. There will be a Pudding Evening in the Village Hall on Saturday, February 11th at 7.30pm, and on Easter Monday, April 9th there will be an Open Gardens Day in Middle Aston. For more information on both events, contact Dorothy Clifton on 01869 347273.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated on the first weekend of June 2012. There will be a nationwide celebration to mark her 60 years on the throne with an extra bank holiday on Tuesday, June 5th. A small committee has been formed to coordinate celebrations in Steeple Aston, and more details will soon be available on this website.

Contacts supplied for complaints about mobile reception

The campaign for better mobile reception in Steeple Aston has got under way with several people recounting interesting conversations with their mobile phone provider as a result.

One of the frustrations of course is that without a signal you can’t use your mobile to complain. And even when you complain by email, providers don’t understand that offering to text or phone you on your mobile is not very helpful if you don’t have a signal.

More complainers are needed. If you haven’t yet complained to your Network Operator yet, all you have to do is contact them on your mobile or as follows:
. O2 Email: Landline: 0844 8090222
. Vodafone – Email: Landline: 08700 700191
. T-Mobile – Email: Landline: 0845 4125000
. 3/HutchinsonG – Email: 0800 3584916
. Orange – Email: Landline: 07973 100450

Parish Councillor Clare McKinley who is organising the campaign says “The Operators will only improve their services if they receive enough complaints! Please also report your complaint on the website Forum so the Parish Council has evidence for the regulators.”

The campaign to try and improve mobile phone coverage in Steeple Aston was launched by the Parish Council at the beginning of November. Leaflets have been distributed to all households saying:

“Mobile phone users in Steeple Aston have been increasingly frustrated by the generally poor and unreliable reception in the village and surroundings. People are forced to ‘stand at the end of the garden’ or ‘hang out of the bedroom window’ to make and receive calls.

“For many reasons, mobile phone reception is now an essential part of 21st century life:
. Crucial for businesses as customers and deliveries expect to make contact through mobile rather than landlines.
. Vital in emergencies and for First Responders.
. Essential for home workers ( at least 59 of residents work from home according to the Parish Plan of 2010)
. Integral to everyday life for individual users – the majority of homes in future will have a mobile rather than landline.
. Necessary for parents needing to stay in touch with children and for carers to monitor the infirm
. Reassuring for locals and visitors who enjoy exploring this beautiful area but are out of touch if they need help.

“The Parish Council has been researching the Mobile Phone Network Operators who all admitted that reception here is variable or poor. None currently has plans to improve the signal because they don’t have evidence of need.

“So what must we do?
. Find your provider’s Customer Services from your phone, their website or their local shop
(You may get through quicker via their Sales line).
. Phone them from your mobile or landline.
. Complain about the poor reception quoting any and all of the points above.
. Point out that your provider is in breach of contract i.e. you have made an agreement and they have failed to make reasonable efforts to provide the service.
. Continue to phone Customer Services weekly over a sustained period e.g. for 9 – 12 weeks.

“It is important that YOU complain to YOUR mobile phone provider, and keep complaining.

“What happens next?

“Your complaint will be logged by your provider. After enough complaints over a continuous period, the provider will take steps to improve the signal. If the signal does not improve after 12 weeks of complaints, then the Parish Council can go to the regulators.

“So that we can gather evidence of the number of weekly complaints, please log each complaint on the Forum at www. This is not essential, but the more evidence we have, the stronger our case.

“Start complaining today, through November, December and January – and we’ll provide an update after that.”

Local Nordic Walkers on TV


A group of Steeple Aston residents have appeared on the local BBC news demonstrating a new approach to keeping fit – Nordic Walking.

Nordic Walking is used by cross country skiers to keep fit in the summer and exercises the top half of the body as well as the legs.

The Walking session was organised by Go Active for Cherwell District Council, with the idea of encouraging the middle aged take more exercise. Led by instructor Kate Bennett, the group of villagers were shown getting their instructions in the Village Hall and then walking around the Recreation Field using long poles.

The people filmed for the BBC were recruited specifically for the television programme, but a Nordic Walking group, open to all, will be starting in the village in February. The initial four sessions will be free, paid for by Go Active, and all are welcome to turn up and give it a try. The dates and times of these sessions will be on this website and in Steeple Aston Life as soon as they are definite.

The other two classes which started with Go Active sponsorship a year ago, Pilates and a general exercise class, are still going strong and take place in the Village Hall every week. Pilates is on Mondays at 2.30-3.30pm and the exercise class is at 10.30-11.30am on Wednesdays. Both cost about £6 a session and newcomers wishing to see what the classes are like are welcome to just turn up and join in.

For more photos, please click here

Local boys to refurbish BMX track

Local school boys have volunteered to refurbish the village’s disused BMX track as part of their Duke of Edinburgh awards.

The boys, Alex Hatz, Oli Ong and Jack Taylor, all aged 15, received approval from the Parish Council at its November meeting to refurbish the track beside the play area on Robinsons Close. They are being helped by 17-year-old Ryan O’Sullivan.

The old BMX track has fallen into disuse and the grass has been allowed to grow long. The boys wish to develop bike tracks which are both sufficiently exciting to attract users but also designed to be safe if the riders fall off.

The tracks will be bare earth with grassy areas in between. The corners and jumps will be engineered and assessed for safety. The riders themselves should ensure the maintenance of the tracks, keeping down the grass as they ride around.

The boys did their own survey and found 20 people who said they would use the track, though they think the real number will be higher as the track’s existence becomes known. The boys showed their design of the tracks to the Parish Council and they have agreed to discuss the design with play area specialists.

The project is expected to take about six months to complete with work starting soon. When it is complete the tracks will be assessed for safety by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Alex Hatz and Jack Taylor are building the track as part of their silver level Duke of Edinburgh Award and for Oli Ong it is part of his bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. Ryan O’Sullivan is interested and helping with the project.

Play area survey shows village children are in a minority


A recent survey of users of Steeple Aston’s play area in Fir Lane showed that less than a quarter of children playing there come from the village. The play area is very popular with families from a wide area of North Oxfordshire, and was described by them as “fantastic” and “the best around”.

The majority of play area users come from outside the village, and many of them return several times. Deddington families were the biggest individual group of non-Steeple Aston users. But several groups from Bicester, Banbury and even Chipping Norton had visited more than four times in the preceding six months.

At last month’s Parish Council meeting, Rachel Smith, who organised the survey, was congratulated and thanked by the Councillors. Her survey was described by one councillor as “brilliant” and by another as “fantastically interesting”.

The survey, which was conducted at weekends and during half term in late September and October, showed that about 22 per cent of the users came from Steeple Aston, and a similar number from within a five mile radius. Roughly a third of all users came from five to 10 miles away, and over a quarter of all the users came from between 10 and 25 miles away.

The survey showed that most visitors from outside Steeple Aston had heard about the playground through word of mouth or after visiting Steeple Aston. But a significant number had found out about it through Cherwell District Council advertising, for example in Banbury library.

The survey report said comments from users of the play area were overwhelmingly positive and several groups of visitors were very clear that the toilet helped make the play area an attractive destination. However this has a downside for the Parish Council which is meeting the running costs.

The Councillors are hoping that Cherwell District Council might contribute to the running costs of the play area and the toilet, particularly as it is advertised on the CDC website.

Councillors might also consider installing a donation box in the toilet. A lot of those interviewed said they would happily contribute and one user stated that she often used a playground in Epwell which does have a toilet and a donation box (she described a sealed canister/ tube bolted to the ground) and that she personally put money in each visit.

Carol ceremony raises funds for Jubilee Bell


Steeple Aston Church played host to the well-known Blackbird Leys Choir in a Christmas concert to raise money for the Jubilee Bell Appeal on Sunday, 4th December.

The choir was conducted by Trevor Davies, who teaches music at Dr Radcliffe’s School. And the school’s Chamber Choir also took part in the concert. Accompaniments were provided by Trevor on the organ and by Karina Bell on the harp.

The first half of the concert included several well-known carols, giving the audience a chance to join in from Time to time.

The second half featured Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. The retiring collection was for Jubilee Bell Appeal.

This was one of series of events to raise enough money to buy a new tenor bell for the church to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year. More than half of the £12,000 required has already been raised.

Fund raising will continue with Steeple Aston Handbell Ringers starting their annual tour of the village on Sunday, December 11th. All of their collection this year will go to the appeal. Then there will be a Pudding Evening in the Village Hall on Saturday, February 11th and an Open Gardens Day in Middle Aston on Easter Monday, April 9th.

For more photos, please click here.

For more information about the Blackbird Leys Choir, go to