November 2013

Council receives update on “superfast” broadband coverage

Parish Councillor David Kewley has been trying to discover why many Steeple Aston villagers may not get “superfast” broadband, despite a county council promise that 90 per cent of premises in Oxfordshire will have it by 2015.

He has discovered that paradoxically those homes closest to the telephone exchange may not get the new service, while those who live further away will.

There seems to be no room for negotiation or appeal against the plan which has been agreed with BT. But much is still uncertain until BT engineers have carried out a survey of the area, which should take place over the next few months. A website to be available soon will give more information about individual homes as the project progresses..

Below is the report Mr Kewley has produced for his fellow councillors:

At the beginning of August Oxfordshire County Council announced a partnership contract with BT to roll out “Superfast Broadband” within the county by the end of 2015. They promised that “90% of all premises (houses and offices within the county) will have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above by December 2015.” Some areas will have access to speeds of up to 80 Mbps and the partnership guarantees that all areas of the county will have access to a minimum of 2Mbps by the end of 2015.

The map of the proposed roll-out of the investment shows that Steeple Aston will be split – all houses and buildings along the Heyford Road, Paynes Hill and the road to Middle Aston and some of the houses at the eastern ends of North Side and South Side will be in the new Superfast provision, but the rest of the village to the west of these areas will not be. What is surprising (and in some ways ironic – see point 4 below) about this split is that the houses that will not be covered are those that are closest to the BT exchange which will be providing the Superfast service through the use of fibre optic cable.

I have had a number of email exchanges and conversations with OCC about this and, as I understand it, the situation is as follows:

1. The provision of Superfast Broadband will be through the provision of optic fibre cable to BT Exchanges and from there the optic fibre cabling will go to the BT distribution cabinets (the green painted metal cabinets you can see on street corners and elsewhere). From the cabinets the Superfast Broadband distribution will be via the existing copper cables which connect the distribution cabinets to individual houses and businesses. The plan and the timing of the roll-out of Superfast Broadband is based on the lay-out of BT’s current main infrastructure in the county.

2. OCC “negotiated the contract based on achieving maximum coverage for the investment. The coverage was determined by financial modelling to maximise the value received from the investment of public funds..The Council is not in the position to negotiate coverage areas.” There is no provision for appeal against the coverage provided in the plan.

3. BT OpenReach surveyors will assess conditions for laying the fibre optic cables during the intial period of each of the roll-out phases of the project. This “on the ground survey assessment” will determine the viability of installing fibre optic cable as measured against planning constraints, power supply and the condition of existing exchanges, ducts and distribution cabinets. There may be variations in the plan following these assessments.

4. Currently BT are in the planning stage of the project. Within the next 3-4 months they will start the on the ground survey of the areas to be covered in Phase 1, and the rest will follow on from there. It is intended that all the phases of the project will be complete by the end of 2015.

5. My research suggests that the reason why a significant number of houses in Steeple Aston are not included in the Superfast Broadband plan is to do with their proximity to the Steeple Aston BT Exchange. Houses or offices close to an exchange are served by copper lines directly from the exchange rather than through the distribution cabinets. It is likely that BT has decided that the direct connection provided by these “Exchange only” lines will give an adequate broadband speed

(15-20Mbps – probably faster than at present because the service to the BT Exchange will be upgraded to fibre optic cable) and that the investment that would have gone into upgrading them, the Exchange only lines, would be better placed elsewhere. The irony of this situation is that, through the fibre optic connection to the distribution cabinets, houses far from the BT Exchanges throughout the county will have much faster speeds than those that are closest – the exact reverse of the current situation. This is only my supposition – I was unable to get a comment from BT.

6. There does not appear to be anything that we can do to influence or change the proposals made by BT in their plan, as these have been agreed and formally contracted by OCC. I was told that there is a possibility of extra investment in the future and of course that may be influenced by the popularity and take-up of Superfast Broadband once it has been rolled out. Household access to Superfast Broadband will be via their ISPs.

7. OCC will be creating a website to be available later this autumn which will give more information as the project progresses – this is likely to give detailed information down to postcode letter 6 level.

David Kewley
Parish Council

Progress made on new housing, but worries about road

Coneygar%20Fields%20October%202013Work is progressing on the “affordable housing” site on Fenway, now called Coneygar Fields. But there are continuing concerns about the narrowing of the road and flooding opposite the site, which the Parish Council is trying to resolve with the county’s Highways Department.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason writes: “The builders, E.G. Carters, have kindly agreed to keep the parish updated as work progresses on the affordable housing site on Fenway. This is the first of their reports since work began in September:

“Work is progressing well and generally in line with programme. We have installed the new services in the main road, and are very grateful for the village’s assistance whilst these works were underway.

We have commenced the site road and its drainage and foundations; the new homes are also well underway.

We are preparing for the installation of the beam and block floors – which will form the ground floors of the new homes – during the latter part of October.

Erection of the timber frames, which form the main structural element of the new homes, will then commence mid-November. We are working from the rear of the site to the front on Fenway.”

Margaret continues: “There has been some real concern about the apparent narrowing of the carriageway on Fenway following the construction of the footpath. (The contractors have carried out the works according to the approved plans, for which they are not responsible). We are awaiting OCC Highways inspection and opinion on whether the carriageway is now unacceptably narrowed and, if so, what their suggested solution might be.

“The Parish Council is also pressurising OCC Highways to get some constructive work done at last to ensure that the large puddle opposite the site, which forms whenever it rains, is properly drained. With site works and with winter coming it becomes an even greater and unnecessary hazard for drivers and walkers.”

Efforts to reduce power cuts will continue, say suppliers


The company responsible for supplying electricity to Steeple Aston will continue to invest in maintenance and modernisation following a barrage of complaints about the number of power cuts in the village.

But in a rural area where power is distributed by overhead cables that are vulnerable to trees, there is a limit to what can be achieved.

That was the message to emerge from a meeting between the Parish Council and representatives of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). The meeting followed the intervention of the local MP, Tony Baldry, and an article in the Oxford Mail. It was attended by Duncan Macdonald of SSE Corporate Affairs and Gary Paxton, manager of the firm’s Oxford depot. A number of local residents were also present.

Mr Macdonald explained that power is fed to Steeple Aston from Deddington using overhead cables and is distributed in the village on six separate circuits. He acknowledged there was a problem in Steeple Aston meriting further investigation. No fewer than 20 outages had been logged in the past year on just one of the six circuits. He said that ideally all the cables would be underground, but that was impractical because of the enormous cost.

There are advantages with overhead cables, Mr Macdonald said, in that faults can often be identified and repaired more quickly, but the disadvantage is that they are vulnerable to disruption by bird strikes and especially by trees. “Coming to Steeple Aston, I was very struck by the number of trees,” he said.

SSE’s programme of maintenance and modernisation takes a number of forms. Large sums of money have been invested recently installing new overhead cables which are heavily insulated and should be more resilient. Not all the old cables have yet been replaced, but the work is continuing.

Teams of staff are employed to walk and inspect the lines, looking particularly for likely contact with overgrown trees. Tree cutting is carried out where necessary. And modern technology (called “auto-reclose”) means that when there’s an alert about minor contact from trees not requiring major repairs, the power can be automatically switched on again in a few seconds. Only if the alert happens three times running is the power disconnected for longer and engineers sent to investigate.

Local residents at the meeting complained that some parts of the village seemed to get more than their fair share of the power cuts. Several people said the area around Northside often lost power when lights could still be seen burning in the south of the village and in Grange Park, for example.

And a resident from Heyford Road who works from home and depends on power to run his computer system drew attention to the frequency of outages in that neighbourhood.

Mr Macdonald and Mr Paxton promised to investigate both issues as a matter of priority.

“Our aim is to keep the power on for our customers,” said Mr Paxton, “and we’ll keep working towards that goal.”

Another villager offered thanks and congratulations to SSE’s engineers who, he said, were available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, in all weather to identify and repair major faults.

“I think they do a brilliant job,” he said. “I wouldn’t like to do it.”

Apple Day a success, now more to follow

A steady stream of visitors kept Steeple Aston’s new apple press fully occupied on the first ever Apple Pressing Day on the last Sunday in September. The sunny weather attracted lots of families to come and have a go at making their own apple juice outside the Sport and Recreation Centre.

Since then the press has been in use by individuals at home and at Dr Radcliffe’s school where the children greatly enjoyed helping to make their own drinks.

There are two more Apple Pressing Days planned:

  • Wednesday, 23 October at Paynes Hill House between 10.30am and 4.00pm. If you wish to attend this one, please phone Caroline Edwards in advance on 01869 347492
  • Sunday, 27 October in the Village Hall between 10.00am and 4.00pm

Organiser Jennifer Cawood writes: “For those who wish to collect the pressing kit to press juice at home please phone Charlotte Bartlett on 01869 347347. All of the kit can be hired for one day and collected from Charlotte at Seven Springs House, South Side, Steeple Aston. OX25 4RU, email A returnable deposit of £20 will be required and we would welcome a donation once you have finished your apple juicing. This money will go towards the purchase of additional kit, and any replacement kit in future. Please ensure you have plenty of clean bottles ready.”

Jennifer has some tips for potential apple pressers:

1. We have found that the best mix for juice is of cookers and eaters so if you only have cookers please don’t be put off, we should all be able to swap fruit on the Apple Pressing Days. (It is best to avoid pressing damaged fruit.)

2. Please start collecting either re-used glass bottles with screw tops (for pasteurizing) or plastic containers with caps for freezing or for cider making. We hope to have some spares on the Apple Pressing Days but it would help if you could bring along your own clean containers to fill and take home.

3. You will need to bring with you a chopping board and knife to quarter the apples on the day (you could do this in advance if you wished).

She adds, “We are hoping to invite an “apple expert” from Oxford to one of the Apple Pressing Days to identify your apples and offer advice in general – I will keep you posted.

“If you do have any excess apples at all we would be very pleased to come and collect/pick them. Please contact : Julia Whybrew 01869 347850; Margaret Mason 01869 340485; Caroline Edwards 01869 347492; Jen Cawood 01869 349081; Mike McKinley 01869 347168.

“We hope to see as many of you and your apples as possible at the various events and that you enjoy pressing apples to make your own juice as much as we all do.”

For any further information please contact Jennifer Cawood on 01869 349081 or email

For more photos of the first Apple Pressing Day, please click here.

October 2013

Village History Centre opens


Steeple Aston Village Archive (SAVA) has opened a purpose-built Village History Centre attached to the Village Hall. The centre, which was completed on time and on budget, will provide safe storage for the archive and a Study Room for researchers and members of the public.

Martin Lipson, Chairman of SAVA writes: “Seen here unveiling the sign over the door of the new Village History Centre on Friday 6th September, the representatives of the five funding bodies were clearly delighted to see how their money had been spent. The photo shows Lynne Newin of Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, Sheila Wallington from Viridor Environmental Company, Barbara Brewer of the Village Hall Management Committee, Margaret Mason from the Parish Council, and Roger Mason of Dr. Radcliffe’s School Foundation.

“On the following day, SAVA had invited supporters and other local people to visit. We were taken aback by the extraordinary level of interest shown by so many of the 80-90 people who came throughout the morning. Some came with small, but important, artefacts that they wished to donate to the archive, while others wanted to discuss future projects that they had in mind related to the history of the village. Still others spent time looking at the small display which we had put up, of samples of past exhibitions about village history. Most noticed the permanent dehumidifier in operation, which keeps the paper, photographic and other documents in the archive store at optimum environmental conditions – something we certainly did not have in the previous, now demolished, archive building.

“There are very few purpose-built community archive buildings in the country, and we are proud to have created this one for our two villages. Its biggest asset is probably the Study Room, where visitors can inspect historic maps and old documents of various types brought from the archive store on request. We especially welcome village people who would like to find out more about family history, or take part in ongoing research about the history of the village. There are plans to carry out video interviews of those with recollections of the village and its people in times past, building up a library of memories.

“Fund-raising for the Centre started in September 2012, and to many people’s astonishment the Centre is open only one year later. Just short of £100,000 was needed (including VAT), and the generosity of the funders cannot be underestimated. The good summer combined with a good building contractor provided ideal conditions for completion on time and to budget.

“A separate grant has been obtained from Sanctuary Housing, which has enabled SAVA to start working on projects with Dr. Radcliffe’s School. The first of these will bear fruit in November, when the children’s contribution to the forthcoming exhibition and book on the village Inclosure Map will be evident.

“Next year, SAVA will be working with the school on bringing up to date the 2005 exhibition about the history of education in the village, which will also be published as a book. We hope that the Village History Centre, in such close proximity to the school, will gradually come to be seen as an indispensable educational resource supplementing the work of the school itself, as well as an essential part of village life.

“Arrangements for regular opening have still to be finalised, relying as they do on the small group of volunteers that is SAVA. If you would like to play a part in this exciting new venture, please get in touch with us.”

For contact details and more information, go to

For more photos, please click here.

Champion girls win at Summer Show


Girls of all ages showed off their talents at the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society’s 122nd Annual Show on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday.

Daphne Preston was a well-deserving Show Champion winning a total of six cups and awards for her flowers, plants and cookery at the show, which as always attracted visitors from far and wide.

But nine-year-old Hannah McLoone, pictured here, was the star of the show, beating all the adults to win the Jean Stone Trophy for the best photograph in the show. She also won the Junior Photography Cup which she won last year and the Junior Children’s Cup for the highest number of points in the children’s classes.

Yolanda Martin won the Senior Children’s Cup and Tamsin Thatcher was awarded the under 5s Cup. The only boy with a cup in the children’s section was Julius Quist who won the under 8s Cup.

Other female winners with more than one award were Julia Whybrew who won the Hayter Cup for local residents’ fruit and vegetables along with the Lee Cup for her vegetable collection and Janet Coley, who was awarded the Gladys Stevens Memorial Cup for handicraft and the Photography Cup.

For the men, Richard Preston won the Rousham Trophy for his collection of vegetables and the RHS Banksian medal. He was also a joint winner with Stan Nelson of the Robson Cup for fruit and vegetables. As Richard has held the cup before he generously allowed Stan to take it home with him.

The ever-popular Fun Dog Show had 99 entries from 47 dogs. The Dog of the Day was a whippet called Jimi and was shown by Adrian Drake from Brackley. The judge was Jane Cule from Lechlade.

Edwina Kinch, the President of the Horticultural Society presented the winners with their cups. She thanked the committee and the large band of helpers on the day for making the show such a success. She said that the standard of entries this year was “amazing”.

The society’s Chairman Richard Preston agreed and said the judge of the Floral Art section had described the standard of entries as “incredible”. The Scott Cup for the best Floral Art arrangement was won by first time exhibitor Elaine Stoner.

Show secretary Julia Whybrew said, “The Show was even better than ever. There were lots of entries, fantastic teas and many new and 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.

Village Apple Pressing dates announced


Steeple Aston’s own apple press will be available to use this autumn, either on special Village Apple Pressing Days or you can borrow the kit to use at home.

Organiser Jennifer Cawood writes: “We would like to invite you and your apples to some Village Apple Pressing Days (there is no charge):
. Sunday, 29 September in the Sport and Rec between 10.00am and 4.00pm
. Sunday, 27 October in the Village Hall between 10.00am and 4.00pm

Depending on demand and the apple harvest we may organise one more towards the beginning of November.

For those looking for a mid week pressing over a tea or coffee, Caroline Edwards is kindly offering to host:
. Wednesday, 23 October at Paynes Hill House between 10.30am and 4.00pm. If you wish to attend this one could you phone Caroline in advance on 01869 347492

“For those who wish to collect the pressing kit to press juice at home please phone Charlotte Bartlett on 01869 347347. All of the kit can be hired for one day and collected from Charlotte at Seven Springs House, South Side, Steeple Aston. OX25 4RU, email A returnable deposit of £20 will be required and we would welcome a donation once you have finished your apple juicing. This money will go towards the purchase of additional kit, and any replacement kit in future. Please ensure you have plenty of clean bottles ready.”

Jennifer has some tips for potential apple pressers:
1. We have found that the best mix for juice is of cookers and eaters so if you only have cookers please don’t be put off, we should all be able to swap fruit on the Apple Pressing Days. (It is best to avoid pressing damaged fruit.)
2. Please start collecting either re-used glass bottles with screw tops (for pasteurizing) or plastic containers with caps for freezing or for cider making. We hope to have some spares on the Apple Pressing Days but it would help if you could bring along your own clean containers to fill and take home.
3. You will need to bring with you a chopping board and knife to quarter the apples on the day (you could do this in advance if you wished).

She adds, “We are hoping to invite an “apple expert” from Oxford to one of the Apple Pressing Days to identify your apples and offer advice in general – will keep you posted.

“If you do have any excess apples at all we would be very pleased to come and collect/pick them. Please contact : Julia Whybrew 01869 347850; Margaret Mason 01869 340485; Caroline Edwards 01869 347492; Jen Cawood 01869 349081; Mike McKinley 01869 347168.

“In order to put the kit to as much use in the village as possible, Mike McKinley and Julia Whybrew are planning to organise a few apple pressing events with Dr Radcliffe’s C of E Primary School and are currently in discussion with the headmistress Frances Brown.

“We hope to see as many of you and your apples as possible at the various events and that you enjoy pressing apples to make your own juice as much as we all do. If you want to have a look at the kit and find out more, it will be at the Horticultural Society Flower Show in Steeple Aston on Monday, 26 August with a demonstration of apple pressing at 3.30pm.”

For any further information please contact Jennifer Cawood on 01869 349081 or email

September 2013

SAL editor retires after 25 years


Edwina Kinch has retired as Editor of the Steeple Aston Life newsletter after more than 25 years at the helm. She is pictured here with her successor, Cathy Lawday.

Edwina’s last edition coincided with the 40th anniversary of the founding of the newsletter which was started in in 1973 as a Parish Council initiative.

Edwina wrote in her final editorial: “I find it difficult to believe that my first issue was published in January 1988, 25 and a half years ago! I have enjoyed my time as editor; contributors have become friends, many changes have come along – in particular the computer revolution. The support of the committee has been constant and SAL has developed into a real community asset, some thirty people now being involved. With a touch of sadness I hand the baton over to Cathy.”

Cathy, the new Editor, moved to Steeple Aston in April 2011 with her husband Richard. She is originally from Yorkshire, but had lived in Caversham near Reading for the previous 26 years.

She says that when they decided to move they looked in an area near Oxford, which both she and Richard knew from working with the OUP. They wanted to be close to the M40 which would give them good transport links to London where their 27-year-old twin sons live. They also travel often to Yorkshire where they have a cottage.

They looked around a wide area. “But when I discovered Steeple Aston, I took to the village immediately and decided this is where we should live” she said.

Cathy has experience of editing newsletters in the past. She was editor of the Twins Club newsletter when her children were small, and edited a Boat Club newsletter as well. But her main career was as a teacher of English as a foreign language, and later writing and designing courses for teaching English to primary schoolchildren. Her work has taken her around the world; she taught for several years in Sweden and Malaysia and visited many other countries where her textbooks were used.

Since she arrived in Steeple Aston, Cathy has been busy getting involved in village life and meeting new people. She said Coffee and Chat at the White Lion (now both defunct) was a good way of making contact with other villagers. Maybe it could be revived in another venue. She met another group of friends at the Red Lion pub quiz nights,.

But it was singing in Steeple Aston Choral Society with Edwina that led to a suggestion that she might like to take on the editorship of SAL. Edwina was very grateful when she said yes.

Cathy has now edited her first edition which is published on 31st August. She said it was quite hard work and she still has plenty to learn. But she has been surprised and gratified by the many messages of support she has had from villagers.

Building begins on the second affordable housing site

Building work is to start on the new affordable housing site on Fenway at the end of August.

It is expected that the development of 12 homes will be completed by the middle of next year, and potential applicants are encouraged to apply in good time.

Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish Council, Margaret Mason explains: “It was in 2007 that the Parish Council first discussed a possible second Affordable Housing project, following the success of Shepherd’s Hill. There have been very many complications and setbacks on the way, not least that the Sixtyfoot site proved unviable at a very late stage, but, at last, this month will see work beginning on the Fenway site adjacent to Shepherd’s Hill.

“The development, which will be called Coneygar, will consist of 12 units, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses and 2 flats, if you would like to look at the details they can be viewed on the Cherwell District Council website, reference number 12/01611/F. The final decision notice was issued on 24th July 2013 and there are a number of attached conditions which will need to be fulfilled.

“It has been immensely frustrating for the Parish Council, and not least for those who are hoping to be able to stay in the village in one of the new homes, that the process has taken so long. It is now two years since agreement was reached on the Fenway site, and two months later we were discussing the first draft of the plans. Two years seems a long time to wait to reach this stage, but positive news now, the build should be completed by the middle of next year. It will then be seven years since we started the ball rolling.

“The Sovereign Housing Association is the developer and they have appointed E.G. Carter as the contractor. They are a long established firm with wide experience in many kinds of building, they have built a number of such schemes in recent years.

“The work will begin shortly, Oxfordshire County Council have granted a temporary road closure in order for them to carry out some off-site works. These works involve the sewerage connection and extension of the footpath along Fenway. The road will be closed from the junction of the new site to Shepherds Hill from the 27th August for four weeks. People living on the North side of the village will have received a letter warning of this.

“Once the off-site works are finished the building work should not have too much impact on the roads; access down Fenway means that contractors’ traffic should be kept clear of the village.

“Finally, this from the Rural Housing Enabler at ORCC, a reminder to those who hope to have a chance to live on the development, ‘the houses and flats have not yet been allocated, you need to apply to Cherwell District Council’s Housing Register and keep your applications up to date. This means that when a property becomes available in future there will be people with a local connection ready to nominate for properties. Often people think there is little hope and do not apply. However, CDC needs to allow four to six weeks to process, check and verify an application- so waiting until a property is available means leaving it too late, as CDC is required to provide a nomination in two weeks. It also helps CDC to measure any changes in demand’.

“This will be an evolution in the village, the largest development of housing we have seen since Lawrence Fields, but it is a positive one, which will benefit this community, not one forced on us by development speculators looking for an available site, with little reference to the local community. I hope it will be welcomed as such.”

“Superfast” broadband plan excludes many villagers

A parish councillor is trying to discover why a plan to bring “superfast” broadband to 90 per cent of Oxfordshire by 2015 appears to exclude much of Steeple Aston.

Councillor David Kewley explains: “On 9th August Oxfordshire County Council announced a partnership contract with BT to roll out “superfast” broadband within the county by the end of 2015. They promise that “90% of all premises (houses and offices within the county) will have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above by December 2015.” Some areas will have access to speeds of up to 80 Mbps and the partnership guarantees that all areas of the county will have access to a minimum of 2Mbps by the end of 2015.

“The map of the proposed roll-out of the investment shows, bizarrely, that Steeple Aston will be split – all houses and buildings along the Heyford Road, Paines Hill and the road to Middle Aston and some of the houses on North Side and South Side (approximately as far as Water Lane but not quite) will be in the new “superfast” provision, but all the rest of the village to the west of these areas will not be.

“What is particularly surprising about this split is that the houses that will not be covered are those that are closest to the BT exchange which will be providing the “superfast” service through the use of fibre optic cable.

“The press statement from Oxfordshire County Council states that ‘the map of the coverage is subject to change following “on the ground” survey assessment’. I have written to the Council asking what this means, who the Parish Council should approach to influence this decision and whether there is a forum for discussion of the proposed coverage.

“I have pointed out that with more than 1200 residents and a large number of people who work from home, Steeple Aston is one of the Oxfordshire communities most deserving of the new service, and I shall be applying continuing pressure on OCC and BT to include all the buildings in the village within the “superfast” coverage.”

For more details of the plan and to see the map, please click here.

Complaints about power cuts lead to meeting

Scottish and Southern Energy have at last responded to the barrage of complaints about repeated power cuts by offering to come and meet villagers at the next parish council meeting.

Following complaints to both the local MP and the local press, Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason had a letter from Duncan Macdonald of Corporate Affairs at SSE offering to come to a meeting with some of his colleagues. They will be at the council meeting on Monday, 16th September which will start early at 7.00pm. Villagers are, as always, invited to attend.

Mr Macdonald wrote: “I am writing to you as Chair of the Steeple Aston Parish Council, in connection with the recent article which appeared in the Oxford Mail regarding power cuts in your area.

“We are committed to providing our customers with the best level of service possible, and so with these recent interruptions in mind, I’m writing to ask if you would find it useful for myself and 2-3 of my colleagues to come to one of your meetings, to explain more about the work we do at our Oxford Depot and technologies we are investing in to make the network more resilient.”

As he explained on the website’s Village Forum, Paul Ekert recently raised the matter with local MP Tony Baldry. Villager John (Yoni) Kinory was featured in the Oxford Mail in August complaining about the recent spate of power cuts.

A spokesman for SSE told the Oxford Mail “We recognise that Steeple Aston experienced an unusually high number of interruptions to its power supply last year caused by trees coming into contact with overhead lines and activitating safety equipment.

“We have now carried out a programme of tree cuttings to address the issue and we believe this has been effective.”

This clearly hasn’t solved the problem as the power cuts have continued through 2013. Tony Baldry MP told the paper he knows of nowhere else in his constituency that struggles with power cuts as much as Steeple Aston. He complained to SSE in June of this year, but it seems to no avail.

New Rector to arrive in September

Revd Marcus Green has been appointed as the new Rector of the United Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Aston and Tackley. He will take up his new post in early September.

Churchwarden Malcolm Hensher writes, “As we approach the final stretch of this interregnum I can now openly announce that a new incumbent to the three parishes has been appointed. I apologise for the “secrecy” following the interviews on July 10th but this was at Bishop Colin’s behest.

“Arriving at a decision was most difficult for the interviewing panels – all four candidates demonstrated clear strengths in differing areas but after much deliberation under Bishop Colin’s chairmanship we opted for Revd Marcus Green.

“I know he can rely on your support, both from those who actively identify themselves with the church and from those of different persuasions. It has not been easy keeping our Parish Church rolling during this unexpected interregnum but thanks to the encouraging support of so many, this has been possible.”

Revd Green has volunteered the following information about himself:

“I grew up in Accrington, Lancashire before heading to Oxford where I studied History at Merton College and Theology at Wycliffe Hall. I was ordained into the Church in Wales in 1994 and served two curacies before becoming vicar of St Catherine’s Pontypridd in 2000.

“In no particular order, I enjoy jazz, opera, theatre, cinema, Manchester United, skiing and walking. Getting a new dog to accompany me walking is at the top of my ‘to do’ list as I move to the benefice at the end of the summer.

“I have enjoyed working at the University of Leeds for the last two years and am delighted to be returning to parochial life as Rector of Steeple Aston with North Aston and Tackley. I am eager to discover more of the villages, the churches and the schools, and to meet everyone in the wider community. Please pray for me as I prepare to move in early September.”

The previous Rector, Father Mark Clavier, left unexpectedly in April when he was offered an senior academic post in Wales.

Village bells welcome Royal Prince

Steeple Aston bellringers were quick off the mark to welcome the birth of the royal baby.

As soon as the birth was announced at 8.29pm on Monday 22nd July, ten bellringers assembled in the tower of the village church. And in time honoured tradition, they rang the bells to mark the birth of the new Royal Prince, who becomes third in line to the throne.

Steeple Aston’s bell ringing team stole a march on many others. Westminster Abbey, for example, didn’t hold their peal of bells until nearly 24 hours later on the Tuesday afternoon.

August 2013

Village pair top fundraisers at toughest event

A duo from Steeple Aston were the top fundraisers out of 384 participants who competed in Scotland’s toughest endurance event to help raise nearly £850,000 (with match funding) for charity.

Team captain Peter Higgins and Mark Angela were among a record number of people who competed in this year’s Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon. Billed as Scotland’s toughest one day endurance event, it requires participants swim to the North shore of Loch Tay, run or walk seven Munros, kayak seven miles and cycle 34 miles to the finish line.

Scottish adventurer and round the world cyclist, Mark Beaumont and his team-mate, Bruce Duncan, completed the course in the fastest time, in just 8 hours and 37 minutes. Peter Higgins and his team mate Mark, completed the course in 12 hours 57 minutes and 37 seconds and raised over £12,000 for charity.

Peter, who is a trustee of beneficiary charity Mary’s Meals, said “It was one of the toughest days of our lives but the stunning views and our unbreakable team spirit got us through in the end. We’re delighted to have supported such great charities to tackle hunger and poverty in hot spots around the world.”

The Artemis Great Kindrochit supports two charities: Mercy Corps works to improve the lives of those living in the city slums in Indonesia; and Mary’s Meals works to feed 755,000 children in schools around the world. Since the event was launched 13 years ago, by Perthshire-based outdoor adventure challenges company WildFox Events, almost £6 million has been raised for charity.

WildFox Events’ managing director, David Fox-Pitt said, “Participants hope to raise £250,000 from today’s event and with match funding from the European Commission, we hope to take this figure to a staggering £850,000! This has only been made possible due to the dedication of those that took part, the generosity and encouragement of their supporters, and of course the many volunteers who have helped make this event such a success.”

Stage lighting generously upgraded

The Village Hall’s stage lighting has been much improved, thanks to the generosity of a local teenager.

William Gardner from Grange Park was given some lighting equipment and he decided that rather than selling it online he would give it to the Village Hall at a much discounted price.

Julia Whybrew reports: “William knew what the Village Hall needed because regularly he has been in charge of the lighting for Steeple Aston Players. He knew that the old system was inflexible and frequently broke down. So he has generously presented the village with the equipment needed to upgrade the stage lighting.

“We now have a new lighting mixing desk and new dimmers. This means that it is easier for anyone to control the lighting and enables the more experienced users to get the full potential from the lights.

“The lights now have both more capacity and can be controlled far better. For example, for complicated scenes William will be able to automate and programme the lights in advance. So, on behalf of all the villagers, thank you William.”

Church Fête makes record profit


This year’s Church Fête made a record profit of about £2,915. This is thought to be partly as a result of the fine weather on the day and partly because people came for all the usual attractions plus a couple of new ones as well.

The regular attractions were all there; shooting, flowers, plants, books, children’s toys and games and wonderful teas with home-made cakes. In addition there was a coconut shy, bottle stall, raffle and bric-a-brac. The Jubilee Brass Band from Headington provided a cheerful background to the festivities.

New attractions this year included a roundabout, which added quite a lot of colour as well as fun for the smaller children and as well there was a “Magic Man” making animals and other shapes with balloons and performing captivating tricks.

The fete was organised by Malcolm Hensher supported by the regular volunteers both from Parochial Church Council and the community at large. He would like to extend sincere thanks to all the helpers and those who came to spend their money for the church and other designated charities.

To see more photos, please click here.

Pre-School says thanks for festival fundraising


The second Steeple Aston Festival Party was lots of fun, as you can see from the photo. And it raised nearly £13,000 for Pre-School funds, most of it from the very successful auction.

Members of the Pre-School team want to express their gratitude. They said, “We would like to thank everyone who supported the Steeple Aston Festival Party on 22nd June this year. Once again our dedicated Fundraising team, with help from Pre-School parents and carers staged another fantastic event which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The total sum raised was an amazing £12,767!

“We would also like to say a big thank you to our neighbours for being so understanding regarding the inevitable noise associated with such an event.

“We now have the very exciting task of deciding how this fantastic amount of money will be spent on improving our wonderful Pre-School.”

The members of the fundraising team were Harriett Palin, Heather Brooks, Kelly Sutton, Lisa Mooney, Vicki Owen, Helen Mcrae, Rachel Smith, Rachel Taylor, Frances Bristow, Sara MacAndrew-Uren and Janne Pilbeam.

They also said thank you to all their supporters. They wrote, “Big round of applause everyone and thank you…. long may this wonderful local fundraising event continue!

“It is the kindness and generosity of you all that enabled us to pull off this event and raise this truly outstanding sum for our wonderful Steeple Aston Pre-school. Thank you!

“We have really appreciated all your kind words and feedback. It has been a great journey bringing this all together. We all had a superb night of fun and frolics, great music, great food, great beer, lovely people, dancing and cheer and what a great atmosphere, made by you all!

“So .. we wish to sincerely thank everyone who has devoted their time, expertise, support and money to ensure this event could take place. Ideally we would like to name everyone individually, however the number of people involved since the start of the Festival is so high that quite honestly we would be afraid of forgetting someone!

“Instead, we would like to say an enormous thank you to ALL our auction donors, sponsors, guests, auction bidders, helpers, volunteers, suppliers, parents, pre-school staff and of course to our bands/acts: Harry Pane, Tallulah Rendall, Tim Friers and the Mercenaries and DJ Jim Tustian, our wonderful sound engineer Matt and of course our fantastic auctioneer Charlie Ross! Over £10,000 alone was raised in the auction! Wow… Huge sincere thanks to all the auction lot donors, and all those brave bidders and winners

“We hope that maybe next year a fresh team of busy brave Mums can take over the mantle and make this super little festival happen once more, so your continued support is greatly appreciated.”

To see more photos of the party, please click here.

There are also some photos on the Steeple Aston Festival Party Facebook page.

July 2013

Apple press on radio and on show at Open Gardens


There was lots of interest when Steeple Aston’s new apple press went on show at this year’s NGS Open Gardens – maybe some of it prompted by its appearance earlier in the week on BBC Radio Oxford.

Visitors to the garden at Paynes Hill House on Sunday, June 9th were able to see the apple press in action, and taste some of the juice made during the day.

Radio Oxford listeners couldn’t try the juice, but they were able to listen to the sound effects of apples being prepared for the stages of producing apple juice (or cider) made from local trees in and around the village.

Interviewer Jo Thoenes was taken through the history of how and why the village obtained the press and the history of apples in Steeple Aston in several five minute slots from 7.15 to 8.50am on Wednesday, June 5th.

Organiser Jen Cawood and friends gathered in Caroline Edward’s kitchen to make some juice. They also hoped to show how go-ahead the village is by producing local foodstuffs with very few food miles.

The process starts with cutting the apples to go in to a macerator for crushing. The crushed apples are then put in to the press. When the apple juice emerges it goes in to bottles for sterilising. (If you want cider you skip that process and let the apple juice ferment.) Finally, the residue from pressing is taken out, and in this case, was fed to Caroline’s pigs as a special treat.

The press, along with the macerator and steriliser were bought by Steeple Aston Parish Council with a grant from Oxfordshire County Council. For a donation, the kit will be available for use by those living in Steeple and Middle Aston.

Jen Cawood said they will also be holding apple days in the autumn when people who want help with the process can bring their apples along to be pressed. And they will be experimenting with other fruit. Already a rhubarb and apple mixture has proved popular.

Jen also said, “We would be very interested to find out what apple varieties we have in Steeple Aston and where they are. If you know what you have it would be great to hear from you (take a photo if possible of blossom and fruit) – if you don’t know and would like to find out we hope to organise a village apple pressing event in the autumn with a specialist who can identify your apples.”

For hiring of equipment and bookings please contact; Jennifer Cawood on 01869 349081 or Caroline Edwards on 01869 347942

And if you missed seeing the press in action this time, there will be another opportunity at the Summer Show on Bank Holiday Monday, August 26th.

To see more photos of the apple pressing kit and the radio broadcast, please click here.

Whit Races raise over £800 for village youth


The theme for this year’s Whit Races was Pirates and Princesses. And on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday, plenty of them came along to Robinsons Close for the Children’s Fancy Dress Parade.

They were joined by lots more enthusiastic competitors, along with plenty of spectators. And the firefighters from Deddington brought their shiny red fire engine along for the children to explore. This high turnout yielded a total of £815 raised for village youth charities.

The Jan Lester George Memorial Trophy was presented for the first time to the winner of the Fancy Dress Parade, Maisie Butcher. Jan supported the Whit Races for over 15 years, but sadly lost her battle with cancer last year. Her family and friends have provided the trophy in her memory.

Richard Churchill was awarded the Adrian Kinch Memorial Trophy for Participation and the Shayler Family won the Rosebowl Trophy for the Family Relay.

Anna Thatcher, one of the organisers, writes: “The Whit Races were founded 51 years ago to raise money for the scout hut. The current committee of Steve Boote, Sue Tyler and myself have decided to continue the tradition of organising the races as a fun family event which raises money for village youth projects. So when the morning of the Whit Races started bright and sunny we were very pleased to see it had encouraged what seemed like the largest attendance for a long time. We had 240 race entries, the largest anyone can remember for a long time!

“The Brownies raised around £50 from ice cream sales, the Scouts raised around £450 with the tombola and BBQ, the Sports and Rec Trust raised £190 from hot and cold drinks and candy floss. £125 was donated to the Dr Radcliffe’s School library fund from face painting and race entry fees, making a total of around £815 raised for village charities. This would not have possible without the hard work of several people so we would like to take this opportunity to thank them.

“Karen Adriaanse, who after 20 years of planning and organising the signing in and registering of all racers has decided to retire. A huge thank you to her for all her commitment over the years, we hope she has a happy retirement. Cathy Fleet very kindly assisted Karen and we are hopeful that she will assist with this again next year.

“Thanks too to Alan Peckham for painting the lines, putting up the goals and organising the footballers to save penalties. To Laura Geden who painted faces solidly for nearly three hours in the heat without so much as a cup of tea – sorry and thank you. Also to those people who volunteered to help on the day with holding the tape, handing out winners notes and generally assisting the smooth running of the event.

“It is not possible to put on these events without a lot of help to make them happen so we are always looking for more volunteers, if you feel you would like to help please email us at

“We are going to change a couple of races next year including having a race for one and two year olds and a separate race for three and four year olds and if anyone has any further suggestions we would be happy to hear them, in the meantime we look forward to many more years of the Whit Races!”

For lots more photos, please click here.

And to see the full results, please click here.

Bishop blesses the Jubilee tree


In a weekend full of celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, Steeple Aston’s new Jubilee oak tree was blessed by the Bishop of Dorchester.

The first weekend in June began with three hours of bell-ringing – a full peal – on Saturday morning by the Steeple Aston Bell ringers. Then on Sunday, Bishop Colin Fletcher came to take the morning service in the church. Afterwards, as pictured here, he went out to the churchyard to bless the young Jubilee oak tree.

This tree was planted to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year, and as a replacement for the ancient and much loved sycamore which had to be felled.

Once the ceremony was completed, parishioners joined others across the country in sharing a Big Lunch. With finger food contributions from everyone there was plenty to eat. Young and old were able to sit in the churchyard and enjoy some of the warmest sunshine of the year.

Many of the lunchers then walked down the road to the Village Hall to look at an exhibition of Coronation memories. The exhibition, which was organised by the Steeple Aston Village Archive group, included photos of the Coronation parade in through the village in 1953. Also on show were newpapers and magazines from the time, a selection of special coronation stamps and examples of familiar objects from the early 1950s.

To see more photos, please click here.

Council Chairman delivers penultimate report


Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason was unanimously re-elected at the Annual Parish Meeting on May 20th, but announced that this will be her last year in the post. She will not be standing as a parish councillor in next year’s elections.

Her departure will mark the end of an era. She has been doing the job so long she can’t remember when she started. No doubt there will be many tributes before she stands down, but before then there’s plenty to keep her busy.

Her Annual Report shows how much has been going on over the last year, and looks forward to the completion of several projects in the year to come. It is reproduced below:

Steeple Aston Parish Council Chairman’s Report 2013

The year since last May has again seen a number of projects, some successfully accomplished, some still ongoing.

The Affordable Housing scheme on Fenway continues to progress, frustratingly slowly, but it is on course and we should see the ground broken for the start of building in the next few weeks. Endless details have had to be agreed by many parties but the scheme as it stands is good, has Planning Permission, and I think will bring a real benefit to the village.

At the Village Hall, now looking smart with a new coat of paint, the SAVA extension has begun this week. This will also provide improvements to the ladies toilets and much needed chair storage space. This is due entirely to Martin Lipson, Chairman of SAVA, and the work he has put in to the project, and to Richard Preston for, again, demonstrating his skills in obtaining grants. The extension will give SAVA a really worthwhile archive storage space and enable them to open the archive to the village, and to the school for research and for projects, the first on Maps is programmed for the Autumn.

The S+R building has also benefited from Grants, enabling the roof to be replaced and insulated, for the first time. The building is much warmer now and the fuel bills for this winter are appreciably lower!

Ryan Kilby continues to look after the Millennium Park well for us. He has recently re-stained the picnic benches. It is good to have somebody with a real interest looking after the area though we haven’t had a look yet to see if the birdboxes he put up last year are occupied. Julia Joyce keeps the very well used toilet in good shape, the new hand drier should cut down on the use of paper towels.

May brought to an end the two year saga of negotiating a lease for the allotments with the Diocese. It felt like something of a triumph finally signing the lease and thereby safeguarding the future of the allotments. The allotmenteers are a strong group who will use the allotments well. There are still a couple of plots available for anyone who would like to join.

June saw the village Jubilee Celebrations, wonderfully organized by John Coley and his team. A great day was had by all and the remaining funds were voted towards the Jubilee tree stone to commemorate the Jubilee and record the demise of the gloriousancient sycamore that stood in the churchyard. This project is ongoing. Funds are still being collected but we hope to see the stone installed by the end of the year.

In August the Volunteer Connect group in the village began the ‘lifts to hospitals and surgeries’ service for the older villagers who have no transport. This arose from a need identified within the village, is working well and seems to be very much appreciated. It has become a template for other villages wishing to start a group.

Round the village, grass cutting is always something that is commented on. Our last contractor stopped his business abruptly in September and Bob Bickley took on the last few cuts, saving the village from going through the winter wading through long grass. He now has the contract for the next three years.

Thanks are due again to Martin Lipson for his work on the village map at the top of the Dickredge, which finally got replaced in November and should be good for another 20 years.

Some things the PC does not seem to achieve, the white van parked opposite the White Lion has been static there now for seven months and is a vexation to those living near. Sadly, the village was unable to save the White Lion as a pub but it is good to see it now as a family home.

At the recent OCC elections we were sorry to say goodbye to Cll.Ray Jelf who has looked after the Deddington Ward for many years and has been a good friend to this parish. He has been replaced by another Conservative, Arash Ali Fatemian who has previously been councillor for Kennington. Due to Cllr. Jelf the village now has an apple press for villagers to use, His Councillor’s Community Grant provided the funding for this as well as a very welcome £5,000 towards the SAVA project.

The AGM report is again an opportunity to thank many people, firstly the hardworking committee members, VH, S&R, and the Website. Thanks also to our SAL reporter who faithfully attends our meetings and manages to make her reports informative and amusing at the same time, to our Clerk, Cathy Fleet, and to my fellow councillors who all have a real commitment to the village and give so much time and hard work to make this a Parish Council which works well together and I think achieves a great deal.

Margaret Mason

Chairman May 2013

Bus services to improve in June

Two new bus journeys will be added between Steeple Aston and Banbury in the early evening on weekdays, when new timetables are introduced on June 2nd. And the late night bus from Oxford to Bicester will stop in Steeple Aston by request on Friday and Saturday nights.

There will be minor changes to most journeys on the S4 route between Oxford and Banbury via Steeple Aston, which is run by Stagecoach. The company say this is to improve reliability. There will no change to the Sunday timetable.

The new Monday to Friday journeys will be at 18.45pm from Banbury to Steeple Aston and 19.20pm from Steeple Aston to Banbury.

Thames Travel runs the services 25 between Bicester and Kidlington and 25A between Bicester and Oxford, which stop at Lower Heyford.

The company has offered to divert the 23.20pm Friday and Saturday journey from Oxford to serve Steeple Aston on request. However, please note that S4 return and multi-journey tickets will not be accepted for travel.

To see the new S4 timetable, please click here.

To see the 25 and 25A timetable, please click here.

SAVA lecture covers maps from 1360 to now


Steeple Aston’s Village Archive group’s lecture this year was on maps of the village from Gough in 1360 to current Google maps. The lecturer, John Leighfield, was both interesting and extremely knowledgeable. He brought with him many examples of the maps he described.

Mr Leighfield explained the historical development of mapping and concentrated on the Steeple Aston area. He said that most of the earliest maps have not survived though a map produced in 1477 was based on Ptolemy’s coordinates from 150 AD.

The most significant early manuscript map of England was made by Gough in 1360 and it is remarkably accurate. However in the 16th century mapping became much more commonplace with the development of printing. The military threat from Spain meant better maps were needed and far more surveyors were trained. In 1579 Christopher Saxton published a regional atlas of England and Wales which became the basis of subsequent maps for nearly 200 years. His map of the local area is pictured above.

In 1790 the Ordnance Survey was begun in response to the threat from the French and it continues to be the basis of most paper maps, though nowadays aerial and satellite photography are changing the basis of mapping.

SAVA is intending to follow on from the lecture with an exhibition over the weekend of 16th and 17th November based around the 1768 Inclosure Map of Steeple Aston. For more information about SAVA and the exhibition, go to their website,

To see more of Mr Leighfield’s historical maps, including two extraordinary maps of Oxford and Iffley made by the Russians in the 1960s, please click here.

Name chosen for affordable housing development

The new affordable housing development in Fenway, Steeple Aston is likely to be called Conegar Fields, though the name is still subject to approval by Cherwell District Council.

It is hoped that building work will start at the end of May on the 12 new “affordable homes”. Building isn’t expected to take longer than a year, so the houses could be ready to move in to by the Spring of 2014.

The planning authority approved the plans for the development at the end of January with a couple of conditions. Agreement has now been reached on these. The provision of suitable lighting has been agreed with the local authorities, and the housing association Sovereign will provide and maintain play equipment suitable for toddlers in the open space.

The plans were put on show to villagers at an exhibition in the Village Hall in December. There are to be 2 single bedroom, two person flats, 2 two bedroom, three person flats, 2 two bedroom, four person houses, 5 three bedroom, five person houses and 1 four bedroom, six person house.

To see the plans, please click here

June 2013

Village apple press to go on show


Jennifer Cawood writes: “Steeple Aston Parish Council is now the proud owner of the apple pressing kit purchased with an Oxfordshire County Council grant.

“For a donation, the kit will be available for use by those living in Steeple Aston and also in Middle Aston. If you would like to see the new purchases and find out more, we will be displaying them at the National Gardens Scheme Paynes Hill House on the afternoon of Sunday, 9th June and also at the Steeple Aston Horticultural Show on Monday, 26th August.

“We would be very interested to find out what apple varieties we have in Steeple Aston and where they are. If you know what you have it would be great to hear from you (take a photo if possible of blossom and fruit) – if you don’t know and would like to find out we hope to organise a village apple pressing event in the Autumn with a specialist who can identify your apples.”

For hiring of equipment and bookings please contact; Jennifer Cawood on 01869 349081 or Caroline Edwards on 01869 347492

Work to start on Village History Centre


Building work on Steeple Aston’s new Village History Centre will start in May, now that a grant from Viridor Credits has provided the balance of the funding required to go ahead.

Fundraising continues for the final fit-out costs

The village archive group SAVA has succeeded in raising the £90,000 required to extend the Village Hall to provide the centre despite the difficult financial climate. It is hoped that the project will be completed by September.

More than half the funds required were raised with grants from Parish Council, the Village Hall Management Committee, Dr Radcliffe’s Foundation and Oxfordshire County Council. Now Viridor Credits have agreed to provide the remaining £40,000 that had been sought. Viridor makes grants available to eligible local groups within the catchment area of their landfill sites, in this case Ardley.

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 small lean-to structure that SAVA has occupied since 2001 will be replaced 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

For more details, and to see the plans for the extension, go the SAVA website

“Differences of perception” on allotments resolved

Steeple Aston Parish Council and local allotment holders have agreed to work together to ensure compliance with the terms of their tenancy agreement.

A meeting on the allotment site on April 13th caused concern on both sides, and the allotment holders wrote to the Parish Council expressing their surprise and disappointment at the tone of the meeting. This letter led to a long discussion at the April Parish Council meeting. But finally it was agreed that the allotment holders would ensure that the site met the conditions of the tenancy agreement and the council would assist by sharing the costs.

Peter Kohn, who is vice chairman of the Allotment Committee, attended the council meeting and read out the letter from the chair and committee members present at the site meeting which explained the Association’s point of view.

He began by saying it was roughly a year since the allotments had been leased to the Parish Council by the Diocese and on behalf of the Allotment Committee and allotment holders he wished to thank the Parish Council “for making it all happen…this was a great tribute to the Councillors’ time and patience”. He said the Parish Council and the Allotment Committee shared “a special relationship”.

He said the allotments were now a very attractive and popular amenity and 15 years ago, when he had started his allotment, there had been only a handful of allotment holders whereas now 25 allotments were being worked. Peter said the allotments encouraged social interaction for local people who enjoyed growing things and he was sure the Parish Council and the Allotment Association had the same broad aims.

However, the meeting had shown up differences in perception about the speed at which the allotment holders should meet the obligations under the terms of the lease with the Diocese. All involved hoped that ultimately the bottom of the allotments would be cleared to create a special place for the allotment holders to relax or hold social gatherings. Equally everyone would like to see the rubbish cleared at the top near Fir Lane.

The disagreement was about whether it was reasonable for the allotment holders to be judged on how well they kept up the individual plots and how quickly any ‘unkempt’ parts of the allotments should be tidied now that the old overgrown hedges and trees had been cut back. Peter explained that the weather and personal reasons had resulted in some allotment holders not having got on to their plots so far this year.

He asked the Councillors to accept that it was for each allotment holder to do their allotment in the way they liked, especially as the allotments are not public amenity land and many of the holders are “weekend gardeners”.

One of the councillors was concerned about this approach because the Parish Council’s lease with the Diocese, agreed with the Allotment Committee, had specifically stated that at least 75% of the allotment should be cultivated annually. He was also concerned that the whole site should look attractive and so the remaining rubbish, ‘pernicious weeds’ and felled wood needed to be cleared. He said that the Parish Council had already paid for one skip for rubbish and suggested that if another skip was needed the cost should be shared between the Council and the allotment holders. Peter said the Allotment Association agreed that if needed the costs would be shared.

Other Councillors accepted the allotment holders should be left to decide what they wished to do and that immaculate gardening was not expected or required by the Parish Council. All the Council asked was that the allotment holders be mindful of the requirements under the tenancy agreement and work towards them.

The Council agreed to fund half the cost of another skip and Peter said he would evaluate the amount of rubbish to be cleared and report back. It was also agreed that a councillor would attend the forthcoming meeting of the Allotment Association.

The Parish Council also discussed meeting its responsibilities under the lease by instituting an annual visit to the allotments, possibly in early autumn when the area would be at its most productive.

There are a couple of allotments still available, if you are interested you should contact Josie Cassidy on 01869 349088.

May 2013

Choral Society appoints new Director


Choral Society Chairman, Jenny Evans writes: “Steeple Aston Choral Society has a new Director of Music. After interviewing six applicants Paul Badley has been chosen to conduct the choir. Paul is an accomplished professional tenor, singing teacher and he dances with the Forest of Dean Morris Men!!!

“For three years as a young man, Paul was Organist and Choirmaster of All Saint’s West Dulwich Church whilst he studied trumpet at the London College of Music. His first singing post was at Wells Cathedral and this was followed by post graduate study (voice) at the Royal Northern College of Music. After graduation he returned to London and took up a post at St.Paul’s Cathedral and has pursued a freelance career as a tenor ever since.

“Paul has worked with some of the best vocal ensembles in the world such as The Monteverdi Choir; The Sixteen; The Tallis Scholars and The Gregorian Singers, singing in excess of 25 operatic roles ranging from Kurt Weill’s “Seven Deadly Sins” to Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

“Over his twenty five year career, Paul has toured the Middle and Far East singing Broadway repertoire; sung in session choirs for innumerable Hollywood films and has sung backing on crossover albums and pop discs for artists such as Seal, Bjork and Mike Oldfield.

Paul now divides his time between his family in Monmouth and teaching singing at Stowe School, Prior Park (Bath), Bromsgrove School and the Royal Welsh College of music in Cardiff.

“The Choir have really enjoyed working with Paul this term and are looking forward to their first concert on Sunday, April 28th in the Church at 8.00pm.We have a terrific programme of music chosen to reflect an Easter and Spring Theme. Paul has used his professional contacts to get a wonderful Baritone soloist, Guy Harbottle, who will be singing the solo part in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs with the choir. Other music included in the programme is Benjamin Britten’s Five Flower Songs, of which we will perform two, as well as music by S Wesley, M Greene and J Rutter.

“Tickets are available on the door for £8, concession £5 and children (free) are always welcome at the concerts if they bring a paying adult with them. There will be a glass of wine and other refreshments available during the interval.

“Rehearsals will begin on April 29th at 7.45pm for our July 14th concert, Songs from the Movies, in the Village Hall. We are planning to break away from our usual repertoire to a completely new type of music that the Choral Society hasn’t performed before. We have selected James Bond themes, Over the Rainbow and Breakfast at Tiffany’s to name just a few. All the music has been chosen by suggestion from the choir to reflect the movie theme.

We hope that the concert will appeal to a wide audience of friends and families of all ages.

“If you would like to sing with the choir this term please come to our first rehearsal on April 29th. New members are always welcome and no audition is required. Prospective members may attend the first two rehearsals for free; thereafter the membership fee of £30 for the term is required.”

Villagers compete at Spring Show despite winter weather


Despite several inches of snow and icy winds, the villagers of Steeple Aston haven’t lost their competitive instincts. The Astons Horticultural Society’s Spring Show went ahead in the Village Hall on Saturday, March 23rd, although signs of Spring itself have been delayed by the appalling weather.

Show Secretary, Julia Whybrew said, “The show generally went well. There were fewer daffodils than usual but lots of competition elsewhere. Teas were very popular as ever. A huge thank you to everyone who helped, entered exhibits and came to the Show.”

The lack of daffodils was made up for by plenty of entries in the limerick and photographic classes. And there was lots of competition in the children’s classes. This was good news for Dr Radcliffe’s School as the Horticultural Society donates £1 for each pupil’s entry to the school for use on horticultural projects.

Overall winners in the children’s classes were: under 5s Zara Quist; under 8s Alex Wade-Martin; under 12s Aaron Thatcher and under 16s, jointly, Alfie Thatcher and Abbie Plows. Abbie also won the Bedding Family Trophy for the best child’s exhibit.

Amongst the adults, Daphne Preston’s flowers and plants once again impressed the judges. She was awarded three trophies: the Duncan Cup, the Flower Cup and the Mead Vase. Julia Whybrew won the WI Cup for cookery and Janet Coley won the Handicraft Cup.

To see the full results, please click here.

For lots more photos, please click here.

White Lion gets go-ahead to become private house


Steeple Aston’s White Lion pub is to become a private house following a decision by Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee.

The new owners of the pub, Dan and Helen Wright, had applied for planning permission for alterations which would turn the pub into a home. Despite protests from a several villagers, the committee decided that the pub was not financially viable and therefore approved the planning application on February 28th.

In a lengthy report to the committee, the planning officer recommended approval despite receiving 27 letters of objection from villagers. CAMRA also objected to the application saying it would result in the total irreversible loss of a community facility

However, the application was supported by the Parish Council and the two local district councillors, James Macnamara and Mike Kerford-Byrnes. There were also 16 letters from villagers in support of the application.

The application was brought to the committee in the light of considerable public interest. The planning officer explained that the applicants had submitted a viability test prepared by John Keane of Thomas E Teague, a firm of Licensed Property Valuers. An objecting Steeple Aston resident, Mr Royce Lye submitted an alternative view. Their assessments differ widely in their conclusion.

The key question to be answered in determining viability is “What could this business achieve given a management dedicated to it and with full discretion over stocking policy and type of operation?”

At the meeting Helen Wright said that since she and her husband loved living in Steeple Aston. At the meeting Helen Wright said that she and her husband they had purchased the pub in March 2012 they had thrown themselves in to village life. They had spoken to many villagers about the pub and she believed the general feeling was that the closure was very sad but inevitable. It was better to have one successful pub in the village, the Red Lion, rather than two failing ones.

John Keane, who had written the viability report told councillors that he had records going back to 2005 and that historic trade had been very low. He didn’t believe that even under new independent and motivated management the pub could generate enough custom to be financially viable.

Cllr Macnamara supported that application on the basis that it would give the Red Lion a better chance of survival. Cllr Kerford-Byrnes said that Steeple Aston had a vibrant Parish Council which was very community focussed. He said that if they believed the White Lion could be saved they would have fought tooth and nail to keep it open.

After the decision, Royce Lye wrote in the Village Forum: “For those that got behind trying to save the pub, it was a worthwhile campaign as at least it created a village discussion.

“We will keep the Facebook page group open for the Aunt Sally team, as it proved very popular in Steeple and surrounding villages (reached over 4,000 unique people). The White Lion spirit will continue through the Aunt Sally team, which will kick off a new season after successive promotions.”

To see their Facebook page go to:

A webcast of the Cherwell planning committee’s discussion can be found at:

April 2013

Rector to leave for Wales after Easter

rector2Steeple Aston’s Rector, Father Mark Clavier, is leaving the village to take up a senior teaching post in Wales. His last official Sunday on duty will be Easter Day, March 31st.

Father Mark, who became Rector in July 2011, is to become the new Dean of Residential Training at St Michael’s College, Cardiff, and will teach both at the college and at Cardiff University.

He will leave Steeple Aston, along with his wife Diane and son Paul, so that he can take up his new post at the beginning of the summer term. South Wales is not unknown territory for him as he has family living there and as a history undergraduate in the States, wrote a thesis on Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

There will inevitably be a delay before a replacement can be appointed, but it is hoped that a new Rector will be in place by the Autumn.

Father Mark writes: “In late November, I was asked if I would be interested in overseeing the training and formation of full-time clergy in the Church in Wales. Almost all Anglican clergy in Wales attend St Michael’s College, Llandaff (on the north-western outskirts of Cardiff), which is now affiliated with Cardiff University. The invitation to me was due, in part, to a recommendation made to the Principle by one of my former doctoral supervisors at Durham. So, I agreed to meet with him and various other representatives and before I knew it I had been offered the job.

“Officially, I will be the Dean of Residential Training at St Michael’s College and a lecturer in theology at Cardiff University. I will divide my time between overseeing and teaching those training for full-time ministry in the Church in Wales, teaching theology to undergraduates enrolled at the university, supervising postgraduates, researching and writing, and assisting at the Centre for Late Antique Religion and Culture. So, I should keep very busy.

“When the opportunity arose, I reflected a great deal about the position before accepting the offer. Despite my long dream to teach, the decision turned out not to be an easy one to make. First, I hate the idea of moving my son, Paul, yet again. Since moving to the UK in 2008, we have not lived in the same home for longer than two years, which is hard for a lad his age.

“Second, I had no intention of leaving this post so soon after my arrival. Many of the initiatives I’ve begun were intended to take five or more years to bear fruit. In particular, I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to the children at our school. They are a great bunch and have been a delight to know. “Finally, I have begun to make some good friendships in this benefice. During the past year and a half, I have walked miles and miles of footpaths and have chatted with lots of different people, and so I have come to know the area in a surprisingly intimate way in a very short time. In short, the village has begun to feel like home.

“In the end, the opportunity to teach, continue my research and potentially make an impact on the future clergy (about which I have some decided opinions!) was simply too attractive to turn down.

“Bishop Colin Fletcher hopes to expedite the search process so that a new vicar can be in post by the autumn. I know you all will receive whomever it is with the same warmth that you have shown to my family and me. It has been a privilege to minister to you during the past 20 months. I will remain very busy doing so for the next month, and hope to see some of you in church, at school, in the village shop, at our final Pint with a Parson, or at our Lenten course. Please keep the Claviers and the leadership of your church in your thoughts and prayers.”

Standing stone will commemorate 2012 events


A special Sycamore Stone is to be commissioned by the Parish Council to commemorate the Jubilee of 2012 and the demise of the 300-year-old sycamore tree in the churchyard in the same year. And villagers have been asked to contribute towards this new landmark for Steeple Aston.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason writes: “The extraordinary year of 2012 is drawing to its close. It has been a year of celebration and surprises. The amazing Olympics and Paralympics made us feel better about ourselves despite the financial horrors and the punishing weather. They followed on from the celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee, a bit on the wet side but spirits couldn’t be dampened when celebrating something only once achieved before, 60 years on the throne

“2012 has also been the final year for a village landmark: the great sycamore in the churchyard (the largest and oldest in Oxfordshire), pictured here, has finally come down after watching over the village for more than 300 years.

“It seems appropriate to mark these two significant events together. A new young oak tree has been planted in the churchyard. It will take a long time to reach the size of the sycamore, but, from small acorns…..

“The Parish Council would like to commission a village standing stone to be positioned between the stump of the ancient sycamore and the new, young oak tree – linking the ancient tree with the Jubilee year in which the new oak was planted, 2012. Hopefully both the tree and the stone will be there for the next 300 years for people to enjoy.

“We are in discussion with an Oxfordshire stonemason calligrapher and member of The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust, who is working on a design for us. He does beautiful stone carving and calligraphy work some of which you can see as commemorative plaques on buildings in Woodstock.

“He has created a draft design in the form of a squared column of stone about 5′ (1.30m) high which will carry carving of the commemorative text. This will be a unique and beautiful work and a landmark in the village.

“The Parish Council has set up a fund to pay for the work. We have some initial funding from the Jubilee celebrations and are looking into the possibilities of grants. We also hope that some of you would like be a part of making this happen and will make a donation towards commissioning this special art work.

“Donations in the form of a cheque made out to Steeple Aston Parish Council and marked ‘Sycamore Stone Fund’ will be gratefully received by the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet at Westfield Farm Cottage, Fenway, Steeple Aston, OX25 4SS.

“During 2013 we are hoping to have the stone commissioned, created and set in the place where it will stand beside the growing oak, a unique feature in the village for the future.”

Affordable housing plans get the go-ahead

Work will start shortly on 12 new “affordable” homes in Fenway, Steeple Aston, now that the plans have been approved by Cherwell District Council.

The planning authority approved the plans at the end of January with a couple of conditions about parking space and the play/open space.

Building isn’t expected to take longer than a year, so the houses could be ready to move in to by the Spring of 2014.

The plans were put on show to villagers at an exhibition in the Village Hall in December. There are to be 2 single bedroom, two person flats, 2 two bedroom, three person flats, 2 two bedroom, four person houses, 5 three bedroom, five person houses and 1 four bedroom, six person house.

The planning permission was granted after a lengthy and difficult search for a suitable site on which to build these homes. At the planning committee meeting local councillor James Macnamara supported the plans with enthusiasm. The other local councillor, Mike Kerford-Byrnes, paid special tribute to the tenacity and hard work of Steeple Aston Parish Council.

To see the plans, please click here.

Survey shows villagers would like extra buses

The recent bus survey by Steeple Aston Parish council showed unanimous support for retaining the current bus service, and a large majority in favour of some expansion.

The introduction of a late night service on Fridays and Saturdays was supported by over 90 per cent of respondents. There was also plenty of support for extra buses in the early evening and on Sunday.

The Parish Council has now sent the results of the survey to Oxfordshire County Council. You can read it in full below:

Review of Banbury area bus services: response from Steeple Aston PC

I am writing on behalf of Steeple Aston Parish Council with our response to the consultation over bus routes serving the area. The Parish Council carried out a survey to which we received 120 replies and, since many of these replies represented the views of entire households, the opinions of well over 200 residents, c 20% of the village population were obtained. Below is a summary of views on the S4 service followed by details of other transport needs that were identified:

Present S4

There was unanimous support for retention of at least the current level of the service which provides access to work and various services in Banbury and Oxford. It is clear that the service is being used increasingly and Parish Councillors have personal experience of the 0636 from Steeple Aston having around 20 on board when leaving the village (with one person even alighting at that early time!), to be compared with approx 5 when this service was introduced. The 0901 on Sundays now has between 15 and 25 passengers on leaving Steeple Aston (up from one or two when this service was introduced) and the 1745 from Oxford return on Sundays has shown a similar pattern of increase. No doubt the same applies to the other timings. The increasing use of the Sunday service answers your question about the need for a Sunday service when there is a good Monday to Saturday service. There is increasing usage, including by those travelling to work in shops etc on Sunday and for whom the service on Mondays to Saturdays is not immediately relevant. Your own figures show that by general subsidy standards the cost per passenger is modest.

There are complaints that it is ‘standing room only’ on the 0744 to Oxford in school term time, while the 0719 is often almost as full. The 1615 and 1715 from Oxford are frequently ‘standing only’ on leaving Oxford. These passenger numbers have grown considerable since these services, ie the hourly service, were introduced. It is especially important to note that the hourly frequency permits visits from Steeple Aston to the doctor and shops in Deddington, a matter of considerable importance since the demise of the dedicated minibus service to the Deddington Health centre.

Possible improvements to the S4

There was considerable support (c 80% with a stated intention that they would use it) for an extra return journey from Banbury at 1845 and from Oxford at 2015, the latter possibly operating as a set down on request in the villages on the journey from Oxford. We note that patronage of the 1745 from Banbury and the 1915 from Oxford has grown, according to our observations, during the last four years. We think that numbers would grow on a later service.

There was strong support (c 60%) for an increased frequency on Sundays with the majority of those in support saying that they would use the Sunday service more often if it were more frequent. There was less support for increasing the general daytime frequency to every 30 mins but at peak periods this was argued for. (The frequency from 0634 to 0744 to Oxford is approx 30 min already). (Interestingly, there were two comments that the frequency has to be much improved if folk are going to switch to the bus from a car).

The peculiarity of the timetable which has a big gap from 0744 to 0932 from Steeple Aston on weekday mornings has again been noted many times. The 0744 must not be made later as it clearly brings many into Oxford who need to arrive by around 0845, but another bus at around 0830 should alleviate some of the overcrowding.

The introduction of a late evening bus on Fridays and Saturdays to/from Banbury/Oxford received very strong support, (over 90% of respondents, who also said that they would use it). At the last review we raised the possibility of the bus which replaces the train from Oxford to Banbury at approx 2330 on Saturday nights being treated as a hybrid S4/ train replacement service with setting down only stops on request, in addition to at Tackley (main bus stop), Heyford and King’s Sutton stations, at Steeple Aston, Deddington and Adderbury. Councillor Ray Jelf has taken this up with Councillor Rodney Rose and the advice is that technically this is indeed possible, and it really ought to be a low cost solution for providing such a bus on Saturday nights. First Great Western are paying for this anyway (and thus one would hope that they would welcome a modest contribution to defray the costs; I gather that last time this was tried they asked OCC to pay almost the whole cost – if they try this again we would like to approach our MP about it). Apparently it will never be reinstated as a train since the signalling system on the Banbury to Oxford line is closed down after 2300 on Saturday nights. There are many in not only Steeple Aston but also Deddington and Adderbury who would welcome the introduction of this bus. Ideally, there would be southbound buses from Banbury at around 2200-2300 on Fridays and Saturdays and return trips northbound at c 2330 on these days but that would obviously cost more. We note that most routes in Oxfordshire, eg the 25 to Bicester via Heyford have this provision on these evenings.

Other destinations – Bicester

Until earlier in the year there was a commercial weekly bus to Bicester on Fridays run by Heyfordian who had declined to apply to continue the previous subsidy at the last review. Our own observations were that this was quite well used but that Heyfordian did not issue tickets and so how they knew the passenger numbers escapes us. They withdrew the service citing unprofitability and did not ask for subsidy.

Our review of transport needs has shown a significant number (c. 60 %) of respondents requesting a service to Bicester, but not necessarily at the original Friday am time. We think that this is likely to be an increasing need as Bicester is slated to grow more or less to the size of Banbury. Hence shopping/leisure/employment opportunities in Bicester are likely to become much important to Steeple Aston. We would like you to consider whether some journeys on the 25 service to Bicester might be diverted a relatively short distance to call at Steeple Aston, even for an experimental period. This could be ‘call on request’ on journeys from Bicester to Oxford. Indeed the Friday and Saturday late night journeys from Oxford to Bicester on the 25 could stop at Steeple Aston on request. This would add only about 10 mins to the journey time beyond Lower Heyford and would be a very low cost solution to late night buses to Steeple Aston, albeit one which would not help other villages between Oxford and Banbury.

Other issues:

Although not strictly relevant to Steeple Aston, you raised in your emails the idea of feeder buses from Middle Barton to the S4. This has of course been tried before (about ten? years ago when it was the X59) but was not well used and thus discontinued. Therefore we doubt this is a plausible proposition. We know that some Middle Barton residents are jealous of the Sunday and more frequent services along the main S4 route and that they would be disappointed if the services through their village were to be truncated, but presumably they will be writing to that effect.

One respondent wants us to propose that ‘Swiss/German style’ the S4 and 25 should call at Heyford station in a proper integrated fashion.

I believe that the foregoing accurately summarises the majority views from Steeple Aston. There were a handful of requests for a bus service to Woodstock which we feel we ought to mention.

Concluding remarks

We are convinced that the improved level of service at the last review has led to more use of the S4, not just of course by Steeple Aston residents but by all those living along the route. The train from Heyford does not duplicate the bus because, apart from the issue of access to the station, only a minority of passengers boarding in Steeple Aston are travelling to central Oxford and Banbury. Deddington, the Horton Hospital, various stops in Kidlington and Summertown are very common destinations.

19 December 2012
Steeple Aston PC

Village map replaced at last


After a long wait, the village map on Heyford Road has been replaced with an up to date, colourful new version expected to last for many years.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason writes: ” The original map, given by the WI was 20 years old, quite out of date and was looking its age so the Parish Council felt it was time for a new one.

“This has taken much longer than anticipated as original quotes for a map, centring on the village and in a sufficiently large scale, were very expensive. But recently the Parish Council was able to join the new Ordnance Survey PSMA service and obtain the right map online at a sensible price.

“This was then ‘customised’ with vital local information thanks to the technical expertise of Martin Lipson, who also arranged for it to be printed by AM/PM in Stanton St. John, on an aluminium backing. Up to date printing materials mean that this map will be fade proof and weatherproof, and looks clear and colourful too.

“The saga continued. With the help of Paul Barber the map was removed from its original frame and new glass ordered. Tris Edwards cleaned down and re-stained the frame and now, at last, the photo shows Martin beside the new map celebrating successfully getting the whole thing together.

“The Parish Council would like to thank Martin for all the work he has done on this. Let’s hope it helps people from getting lost in Steeple Aston for at least the next 20 years.”

March 2013

Do you know who might need a lift?


A car drivers’ scheme for Steeple and Middle Aston has been launched following an appeal for volunteers. The volunteer car scheme will be used to provide transport for villagers who need help getting to medical appointments.

Organiser Richard Preston writes: “Thanks to the generosity of a number of private car owners in the villages of Steeple and Middle Aston we now have a volunteer car scheme to provide transport for ‘health related’ appointments when public or alternative transport is not available or appropriate.

“Health related appointments may be for a visit to the local surgery or hospitals in Banbury, Bicester or Oxford or possibly for visits to the dentist or optician etc.

“There will be a cost of 45 pence per mile payable direct to the volunteer driver to assist in the ever increasing expense of owning and running a vehicle.

“All bookings must be made through Volunteer Connect at Banbury on 0845 8150087 preferably three days prior to an appointment.

“If you are in need of or know anyone who might benefit from this service then please don’t hesitate to call Volunteer Connect who will provide further details.”

Council doesn’t object to White Lion change


Steeple Aston Parish Council will not object to plans to turn the White Lion into a family home, despite protests from a group of villagers.

After a lengthy discussion at January’s meeting councillors voted four to one, with one abstaining, not to oppose the new owners’ application for planning permission. The plans, which involve alterations to the ground floor interior of the pub, will now be considered by Cherwell District Council.

A petition signed by 300 people was sent to the pub owners, Admiral Taverns, early last year to try and keep the pub going. It had been on the market for seven months. They closed it in March when it was bought by Dan and Helen Wright.

Before putting in their application for planning permission, the Wrights commissioned an independent report which showed that the White Lion isn’t viable in any hands and that the village can only sustain one pub.

A group of villagers have already objected to the plans, setting up their own Facebook page to encourage others to object to the district council. Five of them attended the Parish Council meeting, along with Mrs Wright.

The objectors were meticulous in explaining they had no ill will towards the Wrights, but they strongly believe that the pub could be viable in the right hands. They also regard the loss of the pub as a significant blow to the social life of the village.

You can see more of their views, along with a posting by Mrs Wright, in the Forum on this website. Their Facebook page is

There are already several objections and at least three letters in favour of the application on the Cherwell District Council site. The deadline for comments is January 31st.

To view the application on CDC’s website, please click here.

Comments from the public are listed in the Documents section.

Helen Wright posted: “We understand that the pub will be missed by some members of the community and are sorry the business has closed. However a detailed independent report shows that the White Lion is not financially viable (in any hands) and the village can only sustain one pub. We have put forward numerous documents (including barrelage figures that date back years) that back this statement up. Our planning application can be seen on the Cherwell District website (ref. 12/01779/F)

February 2013

Valentines know how to Christmas party


The Valentine Club, Steeple Aston’s over-60s society, is as popular as ever, attracting members from many miles away. And they certainly like to have fun, as they showed at yet another ‘legendary’ Christmas dinner on Tuesday, 11th December.

As always the occasion was funded mainly from the proceeds of the Valentine’s Grand Jumble Sale held in October, which this year raised £820.

Richard Preston, the club chairman writes: “The more senior members of the club know how to enjoy themselves as we found out at the Christmas Dinner held in the Village Hall.

“After all eighty-seven of them had eaten their way through numerous turkeys and a wide variety of puddings cooked and served by S & J Cuisine (those wonderful girls Sally and Jasmine) and consuming a few gallons of wine and softer drinks they partied to the sounds of Donna who sang her way through a selection of songs from carols to pop.

“This was followed by what must be one of the largest raffles ever seen at Steeple Aston and not to forget the slightly different interpretation of The Christmas Fairy by Alan Brewer and what a fine fairy he makes!

“2013 starts off with Cinderella coming to Steeple Aston courtesy of Tickled Pink Theatre Productions of London followed by a visit to Dr Radcliffe’s for ‘A Christmas Carol’. Our programme for this year includes entertainment, speakers, meals and eight coach trips so no time to relax just yet.”

For more photos, please click here.

To find out more about the Valentine Club and see its programme for 2013, please click here.

Exhibition of affordable housing plans ‘successful’


The exhibition of the finalised plans for the new “affordable housing” development on Fenway which should be considered by the planning authorities early next year attracted a good number of people to the Committee Room on Monday, December 3rd.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason reports: “We had a successful exhibition of the plans, which gave a good number of people a chance to view them as the planning application went in to Cherwell District Council.

“Generally there were very positive responses. People were very pleased with the appearance of the development and pleased to be able to see the internal layouts in detail. Jenny Grote the Development Manager and Tony Drake the Architect from Sovereign Housing were there and able to talk people through the plans and answer questions.

“There are to be 2 single bedroom, two person flats, 2 two bedroom, three person flats, 2 two bedroom, four person houses, 5 three bedroom, five person houses and 1 four bedroom, six person house. These combinations have been agreed on the basis of the CDC’s Housing Officer’s recommendations.

It is hoped that the plans will be considered by Cherwell District Council by February. If they are approved then, work would start in late Spring or early Summer. Building isn’t expected to take longer than a year, so the houses could be ready to move in to by the Spring of 2014.

But there could be delays for a number of reasons. Before the plans are considered, for example, an ecology report has to be completed. If bats (or other wildlife) are found on the site then they will have to be moved. They could be rehoused in bat boxes, but they can apparently only be moved at certain times of the year, so this could cause a delay.

And of course the planners may require changes which will have to be incorporated in the plans. But the Parish Council and Sovereign Housing have been working in close cooperation Cherwell District Council throughout the process, so it is hoped that no major changes will be required.

You can see the plans and other related documents on Cherwell District Council’s website, where you can also make a comment if you wish. The reference is 12/01611/F | Erection of 12 No residential units etc.

Or if you just want to see the plans, please click here.

January 2013

Spate of thefts from motors in Cherwell


Thames Valley Police are warning that there have been numerous reports of thefts from motor vehicles over the last few days in the Cherwell area. This includes a break in to a car in Grange Park, Steeple Aston, although fortunately nothing was taken.

As always, they say that if you see anything suspicious in your area or have any information on these crimes, you should telephone the police on 101 with information or 999 for immediate attention.

Since a number of these thefts seem to have been from vehicles thought to be insecure, it is worth making sure you lock your car or van even if it’s on your private driveway. And don’t leave anything valuable inside it.

The following eleven crimes, listed here with their crime numbers, were reported between Friday, November 30th and Monday, December 3rd:

JA/4164941/12 – between Thursday, November 29h at 9.30pm and Friday November 30 at 8.00am at the High Street, Cropedy an unknown offender removed the beading around a rear van window to gain entry. One cordless Dewalt drill and two mains electric drills were stolen.
JF/ 4165643/12 – between Friday, November 30 at 6.30pm and Saturday, December 1 at 8.30am at Grange Park, Steeple Aston an unknown offender gained entry toa vehicle which was parked on a driveway. The vehicle may have been left insecure. Nothing was taken.
JF/4165329/12 – between 9.05pm on Friday, November 30 and 9.45am on Saturday, December 1 at Cemetery Road, Bicester. Offenders smashed the driver side window and passenger side of a vehicle using a glass bottle. It’s unknown if anything was stolen. The vehicle was a black Toyota Yaris.
JD/4165552/12 between 9.15am and 11.45am on Saturday, December 1 at Church Lane, Islip an offender entered an insecure vehicle and made a search of the glove compartment. A satnav was stolen. The vehicle is a silver Mercedes SLK 280.
JD/4165557/12 between 4.00pm on Friday November 30 and 6.00pm on Saturday, December 1 in Church Lane, Islip the offender entered an insecure vehicle and made a search of the glove compartment. Nothing of value left inside the vehicle and papers etc have been shoved onto the seat.
JA/ 4165698/12 between 11.00pm and 11.30pm at South Bar Street, Banbury two males approached victim when he was in his car a silver Audi A3. The victim was punched in the face by one male and the second stole his cd player and cds.
JF/4166056/12 between 9.00pm on Saturday, December 1and 7.50am on Sunday December 2 at Fairhaven Road, Caversfield, two ladders were stolen from top of white Vauxhall Vivaro van.
JF/4166756/12 between 4.30pm on Sunday December 2 and 7.30am on Monday, December 3 at Kings End, Bicester the front number plate was removed from a green VW golf
JD/4166740/12 between 9.00pm on Sunday, December 2 and 8.00am on Monday, December 3 at Rousham Road, Tackley, loose change and a satnav were taken from a vehicle that may have been left insecure. The vehicle was parked on private driveway.
JF4166969/12 between 2.15pm and 4.10pm on Monday, December 3 in Station Road, Ardley a sat nav and hands free mirror device was taken. Theft of a motor vehicle.

Attracting birds to the Millennium Park


The Parish Council has had a collection of bird boxes made by prisoners to go in the Millennium Park on Fir Lane.

The boxes were made at Spring Hill Prison near Bicester. Spring Hill is an Open Prison with a resettlement regime designed to prepare prisoners for release. It has a workshop where the prisoners learn and use their carpentry skills.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason explains, “Last year a group of Parish Councillors were invited to visit the prison to be shown round as part of an initiative to create a partnership between the prison and local communities. We thought that commissioning some bird boxes for the play area would be a good start.

“As you see, Ryan Kilby, who looks after the park and play area is putting the first one up in a yew. There are three boxes for blue and great tits with round entry holes and four open entrance boxes for robins, wrens and anything else which likes a sheltered dry nest site.

“We have also a special box for little owls ready to go up. This may be a bit optimistic but little owls used to be seen around the village and it would be wonderful to entice them back.

“We hope that over the winter the birds will become accustomed to the boxes, they might even use them for shelter on winter nights, and that next year we will be lucky enough to have them used for nesting.

“It is important that they are not disturbed, they should be too high for children to reach but please don’t let your child try to disturb them, no harm in sitting and watching the occupants though!”