Bus fares cap brings extra savings for villagers

The Government’s £2 Bus Fare Cap scheme will bring major reductions in fares for travellers on the S4 bus going from Steeple Aston to Banbury or Oxford.

Stagecoach, which operates the S4 bus, has opted to join the scheme which is run by the Department of Transport as part of its ‘Help for Households’ initiative.

From 1st January until 31st March the maximum fare on the S4 will be £2 single with the balance being paid by the Government.

Single tickets cost £5.50 to Oxford and £5.00 to Banbury. This means a contribution of up to £3.50 from the Government. This is much higher than the average across the country which is only 80p.

The cap applies to singles tickets only, including child and student fares. But instead of buying a return to Oxford at £7.50, you will be able to buy two singles costing £4.

The Government is investing up to £60 million in the scheme. It hopes it will help to ease pressures from the rising cost of living and encourage more people to make local journeys by bus, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions.

Retiring council chair’s plea for new recruits

Richard MacAndrew has announced that he will step down as Chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council in May. He will also be resigning as a councillor which will leave two vacancies. Here, he reflects on his time on the council, explains his reasons for retiring and makes a powerful plea for more villagers to join the council:

Me? On the Parish Council? No way!

That was my reaction five years ago when a number of people suggested I should stand for election to the Parish Council. So, what happened? Well, I allowed my arm to be twisted … twice. Once when I was persuaded to stand for election; then again when I was asked to take over as Chair.

To my surprise, I’ve had a fascinating and rewarding five years. To be sure, there are irritations. There are in any job, paid or voluntary. But overall, it has been an intensely rich learning experience; I’ve met a lot of interesting people; I now know far more about the village than I did before, though still not nearly as much as Stuart Ferguson; and I hope I’ve made a positive contribution to life in Steeple Aston.

It was only when I joined it that I realised how much the Parish Council does, and what a difference it makes. Over the last five years we have sorted out a number of local issues and set up several new initiatives. For example, the white lines on South Side ensure the bus always gets through these days. Our representation of local opinion about the development at Hatch End contributed to Cherwell’s refusal of their planning application. We have acquired defibrillators for the village. We were able to accept the gift of the Community Orchard and set up a committee to run it. We’ve established an Environment and Sustainability Committee to improve all our lives in a ‘green’ way. And during the first lockdown we co-ordinated volunteers to run errands for the most vulnerable residents, which contributed towards keeping the village almost entirely free of Covid during the early, most serious days of the pandemic.

You could easily be part of this. You don’t need special skills or experience to be a Parish Councillor. In fact, the more diverse the Parish Council is, the better. Practical skills are as just as useful as professional or academic abilities. The PC needs a mixture of men and women, older and younger, so that it can hear, and represent, the views of the whole village. We need people who would like to contribute towards improving the village in whatever way they can. Yes, this is a recruitment plug: you should seriously think about joining the PC, whatever your age, gender, background, skills or education. Let your arm be twisted. Talk to me (01869 347209), or to Cathy Fleet, our Parish Clerk (01869 347000).

Now that I’ve been Chair for nearly five years, you might well be asking: ‘Why are you leaving?’ I’m giving up because any organisation regularly needs some new inspiration, new ideas, and sometimes someone new in charge. I feel the time has come for that.

From a more personal point of view, as many of you know, my wife Cathy has Parkinson’s Disease. Her health is pretty good considering she’s had the condition for over 20 years, but it is not getting any better. As we approach ‘late middle age’, we both want to slow down a little. Whilst we are still reasonably active, we’d like more time with our grandchildren, and for ourselves.

There is already a vacancy on the PC that needs to be filled; and there will be another one when I leave. To put it bluntly, we need bums on seats. There are plans in the pipeline that will need active involvement and decision-making. The playground needs constant upkeep, and possibly further renovation. A decision needs to be made about Pocket Park, and how to develop that. We are still in the process of getting subleases for the Village Hall and the Sports and Recreation Centre to make it easier for them to get grants in the future. And doubtless new, interesting and unforeseen challenges will arise which require creative and practical solutions. Please think about giving up some of your time and joining us. Your village needs you.

Complete MP’s survey on mobiles and broadband

Local MP (and now Attorney General) Victoria Prentis is asking villagers to complete a digital connectivity survey to discover how many villages in rural North Oxfordshire ssuffer from slow broadband and poor mobile coverage..

In a letter to the Parish Council, she says, “While Banbury and Bicester largely benefit from strong broadband and reliable mobile phone coverage, I know there are many surrounding villages who have been left behind by the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband and are frustrated by ‘mobile not-spots’.

She says she will share her findings with providers and colleagues in Government to ensure iimproved coverage in the area.

She asks councillors to complete her survey and encourage other villagers to do the same. Steeple Aston residents (and their visitors) have often complained about the poor mobile signal in much of the village so this would be a good opportunity to draw attention to the problem.

The short and simple survey needs to be completed by 31st December.

You can access the survey here

Have your say now on massive solar energy farm plan

Villagers are being asked to comment on proposals to build the fourth largest solar farm in the world – much of it within a few miles of Steeple Aston. The developers claim that it could generate enough low-cost clean and renewable electricity to power approximately 330,000 homes and will make a big contribution to Oxfordshire’s target of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and 100% net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The name of the Botley West Solar Farm is rather misleading, as it will be spread across three sites. Of its 3,400 acres (more than 2,600 football fields), 818 acres of solar panels will be on land belonging to the Blenheim Estate between Wootton and Tackley, about six miles from Steeple Aston. This site will be joined by cable to the two other sites comprising 2,429 acres between Kidlington and Eynsham and 200 acres west of Botley, as shown below.Map of local siteAs a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), this proposal doesn’t require local planning approval. It will go directly to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate, and then to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for final approval. But before that happens, there has to be some community consultation. The deadline for the first round of consultation is 15th December. There will be another at a later date. If the plan is approved, construction will start in the summer of 2025.

Reactions to the plan have been mixed so far. While many people approve of the aim of energy self-sufficiency, there are fears that this very large project will blight the Oxfordshire countryside.

David Rogers, a retired professor of ecology at Oxford University has written to the parish council expressing his concerns. In his lengthy letter he asks for help in publicising this proposal within the local community and encouraging people to express their opinions

The local Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) is also concerned about the extent of these proposals. Helen Marshall, Director of CPRE Oxfordshire said “Climate change, energy security and fuel prices all mean that increasing renewable energy is vital.But we also need our countryside! Preserving our countryside is an essential counterbalance to climate change and nature recovery. Oxfordshire Pathways to Net Zero team have suggested that at the most 1% of Oxfordshire needs to be used for solar. This development would be almost half of Oxfordshire’s total solar requirement but at the cost of agricultural land and public green space, rather than making use of roofs or brownfield land.”

The developers, Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP), are holding a public consultation on their proposals up to and including 15th DecemberYou can see all the details on their website.  You can send them your thoughts via the online feedback form and find details of how to contact them by email, phone and post there. 


Firework display popular despite the weather

Lots of villagers braved the heavy rain on November 5th to enjoy the firework display on Robinsons Close. Thanks to all those involved in the organisation and to Nigel Francis for these photos.

Barbara Brewer, Chair of the Village Hall Management Committee writes:

What a great turn out we had on rather a damp evening to our annual bonfire and fireworks evening with so many other local displays happening on the same evening.

We watched a great display of fireworks and a wonderful Guy Fawkes burn on top of the bonfire made by the children of class 4 at Dr.Radcliffe’s School, along with hot soup provided by Hanny Nicholson, along with squash and sausages by the VH Committee.

Our thanks to the willing helpers of the Recreation Trust, Village Hall committee, Simon Thatcher and team of helpers for building the bonfire, Richard Preston and his team for the display, Raj and Parry at the shop for selling tickets, Bob Bickley for the use of his paddock for the bonfire, also the very generous local companies who kindly sponsored the event; Lakeside Farm Business Park (David and Robert Fry) Mr. Charles Sandy and Mr. Patrick Bradshaw at Hatch End Industrial Estate, without their support and help we could not have offered such a splendid display of fireworks.

Village speed limit to go down to 20mph

The speed limit in Steeple Aston will be reduced to 20mph in early 2024 as part of a rollout by Oxfordshire County Council for lower speed limits where there is local support.

The policy is being promoted by the Parish Council through its Environment and Sustainability Committee (ESC), which found in a survey that many villagers are keen for the lower limit to be implemented as soon as possible.

Carl Tomlinson, who is Chair of the Committee writes:

“Residents of the village who drive through our neighbouring communities will have noticed that Oxfordshire CC is rolling out a 20mph speed limit in villages across the county. The benefits of 20mph limits are well  documented:

  • There is a significant reduction in fatal injuries, when a child is hit at
    30mph they are much more likely to die than if hit at 20mph
  • Noise pollution almost halves
  • The latest research from engineering consultants Skyrad reveals that driving
    at 20mph lowers emissions of carbon dioxide by 26%, and of citrous oxide by

“The ESC recently canvassed the views of the village on 20mph limits. Those who responded expressed a clear preference for early adoption of the limit in our village.

“With the support of our County Councillor, Arash Fatemian, we applied to OCC to be part of the early rollout of the new limit. OCC complimented the Committee on our brilliant, innovative and superbly effective and simple way of engagement. Our thanks go to Claire Hall who organised this, and all who responded.

“We have been informed that we will be in phase three of the rollout, which is due to start in early 2024. In the meantime, we’d like to encourage residents to voluntarily reduce their speed to 20mph when driving through the village. We don’t need to wait for the new signs to enjoy cleaner air, safer roads and lower fuel bills.”


Steve cycles 100 climbs to raise funds for Parkinson’s

Back in March, Steeple Aston’s Steve Boote set himself a cycling challenge – to raise funds for charity by conquering the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs in Britain by the end of October. He is pictured here on Friday 21st October as he completed the challenge having greatly exceeded his fundraising target and experienced some memorable rides.

Steve writes: “To finish in Swansea on Constitution Hill was spectacular with Lisa, Amy, Ben and Welly cheering me to the top; I could hear Welly barking all the way up.

“It has been an amazing adventure. I have been to so many places in Britain that I have never been to, and there is no better way to explore our wonderful country than on your bike. You are in the scenery and seeing everything all around you. There are so many memories to cherish and places to go back to.”

The challenge took 36 days of cycling to complete, he rode 3833km, and climbed 69,219m (nearly eight times up Everest). He only had four punctures, no injuries and no mechanicals with his bike.

Steve’s favourite ride was in the Cairngorms, his favourite climb was the Bealach Na Ba in NW Scotland, closely followed by Honister Pass in the Lakes. The hardest climb was Hardknott Pass in the Lakes.

Steve has genuinely loved every minute and to do it raising funds for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust was the inspiration. He just wished that Stuart his father-in-law, who suffered from Parkinson’s, could have been there to see him finish.

Steve has so far raised well over £3,000 for the charity. He says a big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated but if you haven’t, here is his JustGiving page 

Tom and his washing machine go running for charity

Tom Coker has raised nearly £4,000 for charity by running the Oxford Half Marathon with a washing machine strapped to his back. He is pictured here entering the University Parks for the final push.

Tom, a British Army officer, lives in South Side, Steeple Aston with his wife and two children. Both babies were born in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and Tom ran to raise money for a charity that supports sick newborn babies, their parents and the staff that care for them at the JR.

His wife Becca explains:
If you saw Tom on a practise run around the village a couple of weeks ago, you could be forgiven for thinking you were hallucinating. But no, that was indeed a man jogging up Paines Hill with a washing machine strapped to his back.

On 16th October he and the machine ran the Oxford Half Marathon 2022 in 2 hours 57 minutes in aid of SSNAP, which supports sick and premature babies and their parents at the JR. This photo shows him being interviewed by Radio Oxford mid-run.

Last year Tom ran carrying the combined weight of our children (no mean feat, I can tell you), but found inspiration in SSNAP’s charity director, Martin Realey, who was running carrying a machine that many of us can barely lift. This year they both ran with washing machines, doing an incredible job to promote the charity’s work and raise much needed funds.

After the finish Tom was rewarded with a hug from his son Magnus,

Here you can find out more about the amazing work that SSNAP does. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve already sponsored Tom. If you haven’t yet and would like to, you can donate through Just Giving or send £4 by texting ‘BABIES’ to 70470. It really does all count.


Garden Tree Giveaway comes to villages

Villagers can order up to three free garden trees this Autumn as part of the Garden Tree Giveaway. This is a county-wide initiative, already very popular elsewhere in Oxfordshire, which is now being rolled out to Steeple Aston and other villages.

Free native trees for small, medium or large gardens are available. You can request your trees online up to 23rd November and collect from your local distributor.

The scheme is funded by the International Tree Foundation. It is supporting Oxfordshire Trees Collaborate, a partnership of community tree planting groups and supporting organisations working together to encourage appropriate tree planting in the county.

They have a variety of free saplings to give away for you to plant in your garden.To help you choose an appropriate tree, they have put together a Garden Tree Guide. It offers practical considerations and planting guidelines as well as a seasonal photo guide to native species.

The trees are all native species, and they will be in the form of ‘bare-root whips’ between 60-90 cm high. Each tree will come with a spiral and a cane for protecting it from rabbit damage.

The trees should be planted between October and mid-January (preferably before Christmas), and as soon as possible after receiving them.

You can place your order using this online form. You will receive an email detailing your local collection arrangements. 

The Garden Tree Giveaway is supporting the Queen’s Green Canopy project. If you would like to plant your tree in memory of the late Queen Elizabeth and for your tree to be included on the Canopy map we would encourage you to register your tree.

For more information, and to find the Garden Tree Guide,  go to the International Tree Foundation website 

Deddington Surgery list closed to village newcomers

Complaints about the level of service from Deddington Health Centre have been growing. Councillors at September’s Parish Council meeting were so worried that they agreed to send a letter indicating their concern about the service provided.

Now the surgery has published a letter to patients explaining the extraordinary pressures they are under. The shortage of staff has led to them closing their lists to most new patients. This means that new residents of Steeple and Middle Aston will have to look elsewhere for a GP.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear Patients

At Deddington Health Centre our team is committed to providing the very best care we can to our patients. The last couple of years have been extremely difficult for us all and we are still feeling the effects from Covid on our services, staff and on you, the patients in our care.

We were pleased to have been able to offer Face to Face appointments right through the Covid pandemic. During lockdown, we were all here, keeping the centre open for telephone and Face to Face appointments and looking after the health of our community.

We are currently facing a national shortage of GPs and nurses which means that the growing number of people around the country – including the residents of Deddington and other villages in our catchment area, are finding it extremely difficult to get an appointment to see their GP. The number of available appointments has decreased and the number of patients for which each GP is responsible has increased. Patients who have avoided seeing a GP during Covid are now returning at the same time as Covid is still impacting on the clinical teams attendance and are bringing multiple problems to each appointment.

The UK has not been training enough doctors for years. We have significantly fewer per head than the average EU country and just two thirds of the number per head in Germany. There are fewer full time GP’s than there were in 2015, and the number of patients has increased by 16%. This exacerbates conditions for existing staff, leading to burnout and more GP’s retiring early, joining private providers or simply leaving the profession completely.

GP’s are not the only area of primary care in crisis. Our Dental colleagues are in an even worse state – in some areas there is a three year waiting list for an NHS dentist.

Despite all this, we would like to reassure you, our patients, that we have an on-call doctor on duty every day to deal with urgent clinical conditions. Should these slots be all booked up, we have slots at the Urgent Care Centre in Banbury. Once those are full, we will refer you to 111, and if it is a life threatening situation, to A&E. We have an experienced Paramedic who sees common illnesses and although we are very short on routine appointments, we try our best to find you an appointment within 4 weeks.

We are in the process of recruiting more GPs, Paramedics and nursing staff, but this has not been an easy task. We would like to get more appointments onto our system as soon as possible and are working towards this goal as quickly and efficiently as we can. We are seeing many more patients Face to Face in past weeks and still conducting telephone consultations with patients who prefer this method of communication.

There is also a significant transfer of workload from secondary (i.e hospital) based care into primary (i.e. GP practice care) care. The administrative workload for GPs has greatly increased largely instigated by government and hospital departments which impact on time available for patient care. Our clinical staff are continuing to undertake many more patient consultations daily than advised by our professional bodies e.g. the British Medical Association.

At present the NHS has agreed to a list close at Deddington Health Centre due to not having sufficient staff to deliver services, this is due to the lack of staff available to recruit. . This means we can only register patients who have moved into and live permanently in Clifton, Duns Tew and Deddington. This may change in the new year and we may be able to go back to registering new patients in all our catchment areas. Please remember if you move out of catchment, to let us know.

We would like to thank the patients of Deddington Health Centre who have been nothing but supportive towards us during this time. Despite the difficulties around getting appointments, you have supported us and understood this is not a position we have been placed into voluntarily. We also thank all of you who have gone out of your way to be pleasant to our wonderful staff when so often they are sworn at or shouted at by those few who think that by abusing them, they may get what they want. It is a testament to their commitment to you, our patients and to each other, that they and the clinical team keep on coming in day after day to serve our patient population.

We hope that by communicating the real struggles we are facing around appointment availability, you gain an insight and understanding into the present situation.


Village mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II

Following the announcement of the death of the Queen on Thursday, 8th September, the union flag was flown at half mast on the church. The Parish Council posted the following notice:

“The Parish Council and the people of Steeple Aston are deeply saddened following the announcement by Buckingham Palace that the Queen has died.

“A Book of Condolence has been opened in the church and will be available from Friday, 9th September until the day after the funeral for those who wish to pay their respects.

“An e-Book of Condolence is also available on website link

“An area by the double doors at the west end of the church has been designated for those who wish to pay their respects by laying flowers.”

In common with many others across the country, Steeple Aston  church bells were rung at noon on Friday, 9th September to mark the death of the Queen. In addition, there  was a quarter peel rung at 7.30pm in the evening. Pictured here are bellringers at noon.

The bells were also rung on the day of the Queen’s funeral, Monday, 19th September.


Annual Show attracts 800 Bank Holiday visitors 

Richard Preston, Chair of the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society reports on a busy and successful show. He writes:

Not for the first time, Steeple and Middle Aston can be proud, not only for providing over 700 exhibits for the 130th Annual Flower Show, but for showing just what a village community can achieve.

We estimate around 800 visitors came to view the Flower Show on Bank Holiday Monday or enter their dog in the Fun Dog Show. Dogs for Good said, they had not seen so many dogs in one place for a long time and judging by the queue to enter one of the classes it was a bit like Crufts but much better. See photo above.

In a year when we are suffering drought conditions, it is amazing we had so many vegetable and flower entries but as always, so well supported by the cookery, handicraft, photography and children’s exhibits not to mention the stunning floral art arrangements to accompany the teas in the Village Hall.

None of this would be possible without the support and hard work of the small but dedicated committee who bring in their families and friends to help on the day. And then there are those wonderful volunteers who give up their day to help. No pay, just hard graft, but what an asset to this community. And as has been said many times before, we would not have the best traditional flower show in Oxfordshire without the support of you, the villagers, who enter some of the classes and come along during the afternoon to hopefully enjoy the fun and joy that is living here in this fantastic village.

The show has to raise around £3,000 or a bit more to cover the cost and we should have just about done that, aided by sponsorship from Finders Keepers and support from all our visitors

One quote from a visitor from quite a distance away. “What is it about Steeple Aston that makes one feel like they belong here?”

Residents of Steeple and Middle Aston, give yourselves a pat on the back as it is you who make our villages such a great place to live.

Full results in all the show classes

You can see a selection of photos by Nigel Francis in the Media Gallery

More photos from Nigel can be found in Nigel’s own gallery.

Villagers drink the Red Lion dry on opening night!

When the Red Lion pub re-opened on Thursday, 11th August, the enthusiasm of thirsty villagers meant they nearly ran out of drink!

The pub was shut for refurbishment in early March. The new tenants Ryan and Charlene Keogh only had a couple of weeks to prepare for the re-opening, but they did a great job painting and upscaling the bar and the furniture. So, the pub looked inviting on its opening night, one of the hottest of the summer.

They were also lucky to be offered a complimentary Pig Roast by Steeple Aston’s Bradley Andrew Hookway and his Oxfordshire Pig Roast Company. Locals didn’t hesitate in coming to claim their free meal. They were queuing down the road for a while, and many stayed on to drink late into the night.

The following morning, Ryan and Charlene found they had sold out of lager and nearly run out of wine! Fortunately, they managed an emergency run to top up supplies by the time customers started to return to the pub.

Their plan is to open daily, except for Mondays, from 12 midday until 11.00pm. The food offer will be limited at least to start with. They hope to offer “Steeple Stonebaked Pizzas” to eat in and takeaway almost immediately along with chicken wings and chips.

Ryan is going to do the cooking helped by Tyler who has returned to help in the kitchen. In the Autumn they plan to start providing Sunday lunches, maybe Fry-up Fridays, and themed events such as curry nights. Coffee and cake will be on offer during the day, and there may also be a limited lunch menu eventually. The idea is to offer simple pub food, mainly sourced locally.

And there will be more entertainment for customers too with a pool table in the garden room and regular music nights on the last Friday of the month. Preparations are under way for the first of these, an End of Summer Party Night on 26th August, and there is an Elvis tribute band booked for 28th October. More details to come.

Ryan and Charlene have already made friends in the village as they moved from Bloxham to Grange Park with their five children in March 2020. Charlene says they love it here, and have always wanted to run a pub, so when the opportunity to take on the Red Lion came along they were very excited.

This will be their first time in charge of a pub, but they say they have had good support from the owners, Hook Norton Brewery, and help from some former members of staff and their family.

Both born and bred in Banbury, Ryan and Charlene have been running Keogh & Keogh a bespoke fibreglass service based in Thorpe Way since 2014. Ryan brings his skills as a boatbuilder to the business and Charlene does the books.

They have staff to keep the business going while they concentrate on running the Red Lion. Judging by the reaction of villagers so far, it should keep them pretty busy!

‘Chicken sheds’ owners propose limited development of site

The owners of the ‘chicken sheds’ – Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston – are suggesting a new more limited development of the site to include three new units and possibly a café.

This follows the rejection of their original plan to demolish all the existing buildings and construct 25 new business units. Cherwell District Council, the local planning authority, unexpectedly refused permission to the developers Middle Aston Limited for this back in April.

Since then, the buildings have been painted and refurbished and have been let to a variety of local businesses, including a solar panel company, a laundry service, children’s dance classes, a music sound engineer, several storage users and a design company which is developing an electric vehicle.

Charles Sandy and Patrick Bradshaw of Middle Aston Limited have met with representatives of Steeple and Middle Aston parishes to discuss a way forward. They now propose a development with lower intensity of use to include the construction of three new units at the rear of the site, and possibly a café too.

In a message to the parishes, they say “The new units will be single storey and of a similar style to the existing units. We acknowledge the concern of the previously submitted scheme with regard to an increase in traffic and we feel our new proposal addresses this concern. We feel the additional units combined with the existing occupiers will not significantly increase traffic.”

They welcome feedback on their ideas.

Read their full proposals and see the plans.


Plaque to Margaret Mason unveiled

A plaque to honour Margaret Mason, the former chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council, has been unveiled  on the wall of the Village Hall.

The plaque was commissioned by the council after Margaret’s sudden death in January. Margaret was Chair of the Parish Council for 20 years and was the driving force behind many improvements in the village during that time. 

Margaret’s husband Roger unveiled the plaque at a short ceremony on the hottest day of the year so far, Monday 18th July. Roger was accompanied by members of his family. Many of Margaret’s friends and former colleagues were also present.

Parish Councillor Stuart Ferguson, who worked with Margaret during her time on the council, spoke before the unveiling and paid tribute to Margaret’s energy, expertise and dedication. He listed her many successful projects in the village including the play area, the football pitch and the affordable housing. The village, he said, would not have been the same without her.

You can read more from Stuart and other tributes to Margaret on the Family News page.


Steeple Aston celebrated the Platinum Jubilee in style

From the Jubilee Committee:

“Bunting packs flew off Paines Hill. Fingers got messy in print block workshops courtesy of the Arty Crafty Place. The Queen’s Pants were decorated to adorn the Pre-School railings and The Toddler Group got their hands messy creating hand print bunting…and that was before we even reached the Platinum Jubilee Weekend.

“The weather may not have played ball, but it was amazing to see the village out and about. People created street parties, competed at the ‘lite’ version of the Whit Races, joined Sunday’s concert and sold, bought (and drank) at Fete at the Gate. We discovered master bunt makers and amateur bakers, gardeners, musicians, artists and space enthusiasts.

“Hope you enjoy looking through the pictures. Watch this space as the Whit Races will return in better weather…and we also hear there are still some fantastic plants for sale on The Crescent.”

Because of the wet weather the Whit Races, which had been revived after several years’ absence, had to take place in the Village Hall this year. But that didn’t stop the children and quite a few adults having lots of fun! Here are the winners!

Whit Races 2022 – Results    
Egg & Spoon Race Age 3-5 Age 6-7 Age 8+  
1st Oli Grainger Seren Grainger Amelia Bailey  
2nd Rufus Webb Ottilie Maclean Hattie Wright  
3rd Isobel Coysh Rupert Hogg Woody Wright  
Handbags & Gladrags Age 5-6 Age 8+    
1st Seren Grainger Amelia Bailey    
2nd Rufus Webb Charlie Wright    
3rd Rayna Markham Hattie Wright    
Frong Prince/Princess Race Age 3-4 Age 5 Age 6 Age 7
1st Chester Hogg Rupert Hogg Ottilie Maclean Charlie Wright
2nd Clemmie Baggallay Rufus Webb William Atkinson Charlie Simpson
3rd   Henry Bonaria Seren Grainger Hattie Wright
3 Legged Race Infants Juniors Adult & Child 1 Adult & Child 2
1st Ottilie Maclean & Rupert Hogg Hattie & Woody Wright Sarah & Ava Obinna Katherine & Isla Markham
2nd Lottie & Clemmie Baggallay Charlie Simpson & Amelia Bailey Mark & Oli Grainger Angharad Lloyd-Jones & Seren Grainger
3rd Rufus Webb & Henry Bonaria   Steph & William Atkinson  

And the WI’s Make a Crown Competition was very popular, with around 50 visitors calling to their gazebo on South Side. Altogether 30 people made crowns. The winners were

Under 8 years old:  Issy Coysh
8 – 14 years old: Amelia Bailey
Over 15 years old:  Gareth John
You can see them and their crowns. and lots of other lovely photos by Nigel Francis in the Photo Gallery’s Whit Races album.
There’s also an album showing  Jubilee Bunting and Fete at the Gate, and the Valentines’ Tea Party.
Just click on a photo to enlarge and navigate using the arrows.

Dr Radcliffe’s passes OFSTED inspection with flying colours

Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School in Steeple Aston had its first OFSTED inspection in 15 years in March. All involved were delighted with the outcome.

Frances Brown, the Head teacher, and Lisa Boote, the Chair of Governors have written this account of the process and a very positive report from the inspectors:

After many years of waiting, the last full OFSTED inspection took place in 2007, Dr Radcliffe’s CE Primary school was finally inspected by two Senior HMI inspectors on March 23rd and 24th. As a team everyone was prepared and had been preparing for months to maintain the standards that the whole school community has come to expect of us. But when you know a team of inspectors are coming to visit everyone goes into overdrive to ensure everyone is working as a team to show the Inspectors what a great school we are. The school team and governors deserve enormous congratulations for their professionalism, energy, and teamwork during the inspection.

The inspection was a very thorough process which looked at all aspects of the school, meetings were held with Frances Brown the Head Teacher, members of the Senior Leadership Team, teachers, office staff, pupils, and Governors. The overall judgment is that the school is good, with outstanding features. We are delighted that OFSTED has recognised so many strengths of our school.

The judgement is made up of 5 categories: Quality of Education, Behaviour and Attitudes, Personal Development, Leadership and Management and Early Years Provision. The inspectors looked at four curriculum areas in depth. These were early reading, maths, science, and art. Judgements about the school were made based on lesson observations and conversations with pupils, discussions with staff, governors, parents, ODST and the Diocese of Oxford.

The children were an integral part of the process with the inspectors continually asking their views and knowledge of the broader curriculum throughout the inspection. The inspectors were very impressed with how confidently the children were able to talk about all areas of the curriculum. We are immensely proud of the way they interacted with the inspectors.

We were particularly delighted that the two areas which were graded as ‘outstanding’ were Behaviour and Attitudes and Personal Development. We feel that this reflects the ethos of our school and the wide range of opportunities and wealth of cultural experiences the children have when they attend Dr Radcliffe’s. As one of the inspectors himself expressed it: ‘ for the size of school Dr Radcliffe’s is batting way above its weight’.

The report also reflects the children’s commitment to diversity and fighting prejudice in all its forms, the care and kindness they display towards each other and their outstanding behaviour for learning. The school community and the loyalty and high regard which parents feel towards the school was also mentioned on more than one occasion.

Alongside the many positives, the Inspectors recommended three areas for action. These were to further improve the depth and challenge of the curriculum, to continue to develop the early years curriculum and to continue to focus on reading through Key Stage 2. These areas will now be included in our School Improvement Plan.

We are absolutely delighted with the report as are our Academy the Oxford Diocesan Trust who we joined in June 2017. Their Chief Executive Officer Anne Deller commented in her letter to parents:

‘This is a very strong outcome! Leaders, governors and all the staff work very hard to offer an excellent education to pupils and all of us across ODST – the Academy Trust responsible for the school – are very proud of their achievements. Dr Radcliffe’s became an academy in 2017, and this is the first time the academy school has been inspected. You will be aware that the school was previously inspected in 2007 and judged outstanding overall. Significant changes to the inspection handbook have taken place since then and there is no direct comparison between this 2022 grading and the one from 2007. I do want to pay tribute to the leadership and governance at the school – they really are offering your children an excellent education. As the report says: “Leadership is strong.” I am particularly thrilled that the inspectors highlighted that “provision for pupils’ personal development is superb.” That’s a really positive word for an Ofsted inspector to use in a report and it is absolutely spot on! It is also reassuring to have confirmed what we know – that the behaviour and attitudes of pupils and their personal development are both outstanding at your school; that “pupils behave extremely well, and bullying is incredibly rare;” that “teachers constantly seek to make learning interesting and relevant for pupils,” and that “leaders make safeguarding a top priority.” Many congratulations.”

As a school team we will continue to work with the children, staff, parents, governors and ODST to maintain and improve the high standards which have already been achieved. And look forward to being at the heart of our community knowing that we have your support.

Read the full OFSTED report.


How your Parish Council spends your money 

From Steeple Aston Parish Council: 

In recent years the Parish Council has published a commentary on the Parish ‘precept’ for you, the council tax payers, to see where and how your money is being spent. The precept is the local i.e. parish, element of the overall council tax bill. For those who wish to delve deeper a full breakdown is published online which can be found from the link below.

For 2022/23 we have had to raise the precept by 8.1% to £32,527 per annum.  To put this in ‘real terms’, this amounts to an additional £5.77 per annum for an average Band D home or the equivalent of 4 packs of own brand, large, eggs from Tescos. It maybe of interest to some to consider our increase against our parish neighbours. It’s interesting to see that both larger and smaller neighbours, Deddington, and Upper Heyford, have posted 10% and 8.4% increases respectively in 2022/2023.

So, what is it spent on? The precept is divided into three categories: administrative, maintenance and grants.

‘Administrative’ includes the vitally important qualified part time Parish Clerk. Alongside managing the council they also implement decisions and administer advice. £4,900 covers their salary (graded according to a local government scale) as well as training and expenses. Other administrative requirements include insurance (£3,000), external and internal audits (£300), Payroll services (£189) and training for councillors (£300).

‘Maintenance’ is where the bulk of cost increases have occurred, reflecting a wider rise in the cost of living. This area of responsibility includes general land maintenance from grass cutting (£3,000) to hedge and weed spraying (£1,000) as well as wider responsibility for the public realm from street furniture to bus shelters and the War Memorial. Given the size of our parish we are particularly well served by a range of facilities from the playground to the Sports & Rec, football pitch and Village Hall, The single greatest increase has been in maintaining the public toilet. In 2021 the cleaning and maintenance contract for this was awarded to a firm of cleaning contractors. This was necessary due to the retirement of our previous cleaner and struggle to recruit a replacement. £9,500 is now allocated annually to cleaning of the toilet and playground litter collection.

‘Grants’ are given annually to eligible village groups and organizations which choose to apply and are deemed to be providing a community service. These are nominal but the council are pleased to have helped The Sports & Rec, Steeple Aston Village Archive, The Baby & Toddler Group as well as Steeple Aston Life, The Church, Friends of Heyford Station and in previous years the Allotments Association with modest sums to support these volunteer led services.

Wherever possible council members take responsibility for saving the village money. That might be taking on maintenance work themselves such as jet washing graffitied bus shelters or researching and applying for grants. In 2021 our County Councillor  Arash Fatemian secured funding from the Councillor Priority Fund to pay for the defibrillator cabinet and in 2022 the Jubilee Committee’s Arts Council application funded the village Jubilee celebrations.

The purpose of this report is to provide reassurance to parishioners that we are managing your affairs with care and consideration, balancing necessary spend with spend that helps our community grow and develop. We always welcome feedback on the work we are doing by either attending one of our monthly public meetings or emailing

For further information please view

Gardens and Allotments raise over £2,000 for charity

As part of the National Garden Scheme, Steeple Aston Open Gardens took place on the afternoon of Sunday, May 29th. This year the Church Allotments were open to visitors along with two gardens not seen last year. It was a welcome return for The Pound House and a first time opening for The Old Post Office.

Organiser Richard Preston reports:

On what turned out to be a fine and reasonably warm Sunday afternoon at the end of May, Steeple Aston opened its doors to seven gardens and not forgetting some wonderful teas at the Village Hall.

Thank you to all those who came to have a look around the gardens, who made cakes and helped serve teas, wash-up or help at garden gates and most importantly, the gardeners who allowed around 300 adults visit their gardens or allotments and raise funds for such amazing charities under the umbrella of the National Garden Scheme.

With a large contribution from the village hall management who managed the refreshments, Steeple Aston was able to send £2,383.00 to the NGS to assist with their many charities and assist people who are not so fortunate as ourselves.

It was so good of all the garden owners to open their garden and it was obvious to all visitors as to how much time and effort had gone into making their gardens so pristine for the open gardens. It was especially nice to welcome The Old Post Office who opened for the very first time and the Allotments for showing visitors what can be achieved in such a varied and professional manner.

I will just finish with one comment by one of the visitors which I think says a lot about our village. Steeple Aston is such a welcoming village where everyone welcomes us with open arms, and I wish I lived here”.

Thank-you everyone who contributed to another great village event.

For lots more photos by Nigel Francis, mainly of the allotments this year, please go to the Photo Gallery.  Click on the first photo to enlarge, then use the arrows to move on.

Gigaclear apologises for ‘unacceptable’ Paines Hill situation

The rumble of dissatisfaction about the performance of Trench Cut, the contractors installing the full fibre network for Gigaclear in the village, turned to anger over the May Bank Holiday. There was real fear that there would be an accident on Paines Hill where a trench was left covered only in yellow boards designed for use on pavements not roads.

Now Ian Hughes-Williams, Senior Project Manager at Gigaclear has issued a statement apologising to all those affected. He said: “The work was carried out by one of our contractors to a standard that fell well below what we would consider acceptable.

“I take these instances very seriously and have spoken to the director of the company who accepts there were failings in its approach to the work and will ensure that supervisors are re-briefed to the correct standards.  Additionally, I will be instructing the contractor not to do any further civils work in the area until all defect/remedial works are completed to the correct highway standards and the correct roadworks guarding equipment is available for future use.” 

The trench was outside Paul and Amanda Rodgers’ home on Paines Hill, and they spent much of the Bank Holiday weekend replacing the boards which kept migrating down the road when vehicles drove over them.

They also spent a long time trying to contact the companies involved and the Highways authorities. They couldn’t reach either Gigaclear or their contractors on the phone and initially Oxfordshire County Council Highways denied responsibility.

Yoni Kinory, who also lives on Paines Hill and took these photos also spent time trying to contact the authorities. He was furious. He said, “They left the road in an extremely dangerous condition on the Bank Holiday weekend, having sworn they would make it safe before leaving. Instead, they covered the trench across the road with flimsy boards that say on them DO NOT USE ON ROADS and scarpered. This is a steep and twisting hill. Cars coming down the hill shift the boards and expose the trench, which is quite deep with sharp edges. Cyclists can only see boards (and the exposed trench) at the last moment.”

It was only on Monday night that the Out of Hours team from Highways eventually arrived. Amanda said, “They were not impressed by the situation – they did their best to make it safer by filling the big holes, moving signs and barriers – but they weren’t able to fix the traffic lights that had stopped working.”

This is only the latest in a long litany of complaints from residents about the Gigaclear project. The contractors are reported to have damaged flowerbeds, cut through a gas pipe and failed to make good their work in several places.

Now Gigaclear has instructed to its contractors to make good, perhaps these issues will be addressed.

Read the full statement from Gigaclear.

If you have queries or complaints, contact the Gigaclear Customer Operations team at or call 0370 774 0537.


Villagers support Ukraine with sell-out concert, donations and practical help

The Ukrainian flag flew from the church tower in Steeple Aston in late April. This was just one sign of the enthusiastic support in the village for the war-torn country and its citizens.

It marked the occasion of a sell-out Concert for Ukraine which raised over £6,000 in donations to the Red Cross and Unicef. In March there were collections in the Church for the Disasters Emergency Committee, and by a group of horse riders who rode round the village wearing blue and yellow to show support for Ukraine and raise money for World Horse Welfare’s appeal for horses and owners there. And WI members responded enthusiastically to a request from  Upper Heyford to fit out six homes for refugee families.

Villagers also provided practical support and friendship when two Ukrainian refugee families arrived in the village. Julia Whybrew was faced with providing a home for a family of four at very short notice. She said: “The family in my house have had friendship, food and limitless other help from many of you.  A huge Thank You from us all, we have been overwhelmed by your generosity.”

And Barbara Shooter, drove all the way to Poland to pick up her refugees. They had left home with hardly any possessions, so she set up a JustGiving page which raised over £600 within a couple of days so they could go shopping for clothes and other essentials.

Yuliia and her son Alex, who are staying with the Shooters, have been very grateful for the welcome and support they’ve received in the village. They took part in the Concert for Ukraine along with many local performers.  Nicholas Cleobury, who organised and curated the concert, described them as “a galaxy of local talent.”

It was a memorable occasion, described by attendees as joyful, uplifting and poignant with a wide ranging and varied programme.

Concert fro Ukraine in church

Nick said: “There were a Brass and Singing Quartet from North Aston, Eileen, Holly and Rebecca from Steeple, Maddy from Lower Heyford, international Australian star Helen from Bicester and the wonderful Dr Radcliffe’s Choir, readers and bunting makers. The three audience participation pieces were the icing on the cake. Learning the Ukrainian National Anthem in five minutes, the spontaneous dancing by our Ukrainian friends and raising the roof with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

And it was a real community effort with lots of villagers involved in the organisation. Thanks to:

Curator/Organiser – Nicholas Cleobury

Concert Management – Heather Cleobury and Martin Dale

Ticket Manager – Margaret Bulleyment and thanks to the Village Shop

Programmes – Martin Dale and Cathy Lawday

Flowers – Chris Clarke, Ruth Dale, Harriet Higgins.

Lighting – Tony Simpson

Bell Ringing and Donation Buckets – Dorothy and Graham Clifton

Audio – Marcus Green

Budget and Charity arrangements – Philip Davies and James Darcy

Ukrainian Research/on the day help – Beverley Davies

Translations – Olia Martin, Ivanna Lyepyeyko and Juliia Rudnieva

Dr Radcliffe’s School – Frances Brown and Guy Brigg

Catering – Barbara Shooter

General help from Ruth Dale, Eileen Baglin Jones and Lawrence White

Children from Dr Radcliffe’s School joined in enthusiastically. Their readings and their choir’s rendition of No Wars Will Stop Us Singing, under the direction of Deputy Head Guy Brigg, were much appreciated by the audience.

But we do have a wonderful selection of photos by Nigel Francis in the Photo Gallery.

And if you’d like to see all the photos Nigel took, and download copies for yourself, go to Nigel’s website.

The JustGiving sites for the Red Cross and Unicef are staying open until the end of June. So you can still make a donation to:


The full concert programme.

Stop Press We now have permission to include these photos of the children of Dr Radcliffe’s School who took part in the concert for Ukraine. Thanks to Nigel Francis for these.

You can see these in a bigger size, along with all the other photos from the concert in the Photo Gallery



SAFC celebrates 125 years of village football 


Steeple Aston Football Club has reached the grand old age of 125!

To mark the occasion, Oxfordshire Football Association awarded the club this special achievement certificate celebrating the commitment of players and members of Steeple Aston Football Club who have provided football to the local community from 1897 to 2022.

This photograph shows the certificate with two SAFC stalwarts. Alan Peckham, the Chairman, is on the left, Vice President Alan Brewer on the right. The certificate was presented by Pete Kerwin the Steeple Aston FC Manager on behalf of the Association at the end of season dinner presentation evening in the Village Hall at the end of April.

Peter Wild, the Secretary of Steeple Aston FC writes: 

This year, Steeple Aston Football Club is proud to be celebrating its 125th Anniversary.

In our founding year of 1897, amongst other things, the Monarch (Queen Victoria) celebrated her Diamond Jubilee year, Country Life published it’s first magazine and the National Trust acquired it’s first coastal stretch at Tintagel in Cornwall.

Warfare was prevalent, as was disease and shortages of goods (no change there then!).

All of the above institutions still exist, as do we, albeit in differing circumstances. Some things do pass the test of time even though they may have to evolve in order to do so.

In honour of our longevity, the Oxfordshire Football Association have awarded us a certificate recognising the commitment of players, coaches, volunteers and members of Steeple Aston FC for providing football to the local community for 125 years.

The certificate will be framed and put on display at the Village Sports and Recreational Trust Clubhouse at Robinson’s Close.

The club has had to evolve as demographic trends have meant that players from outside of the village are now also a part of the fabric. However, this has led to positive outcomes in terms of burnishing our reputation throughout Oxfordshire as a club that has a worthy ethos, excellent facilities and a commitment to fair play.

In recent times, our chairman has received a High Sheriff’s award for community service and our manager was recognised by the Football Association for his outstanding efforts to sustain ‘grassroots’ football. As a club we have sponsored and supported other clubs in countries with less resources, and football club badge collectors worldwide frequently write to request our badge.

No-one knows what the future holds; however, we hope to continue to provide a club that will allow people to play football in the village now and in the future.

Choose a tree for the Jubilee!

From the Parochial Church Council:

The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) is a tree planting initiative to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee and invites people to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”. Trees planted from October 2021 – December 2022 can be counted under the scheme and added virtually to a QGC map.

If you wish to read more about this and get involved by planting your own tree, then visit the website at

Silver limes on sixtyfoot

As a village, Steeple Aston has a tradition of planting trees for the Queen’s Jubilees! The avenue of the appropriately named silver limes pictured above on the Sixty Foot approach to the village were planted for the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Oak tree in churchyard

Then for the Diamond Jubilee, ten years ago, an oak tree was planted in the churchyard, accompanied by a Cumbrian green slate memorial stone which was commissioned by the Parish Council.

The PCC (Parochial Church Council) would like to continue the tradition and plant a tree in the churchyard for the Platinum Jubilee, especially since we have lost several trees in the last few years. We are somewhat limited by the need to obtain the church equivalent of planning permission for tree planting, so we are only looking at native species and have come up with the following shortlist:

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

Field Maple (acer campestre)

These would complement our existing trees (yews, hollies, copper beech, sycamore, oak, Scots Pine). We hope to plant the tree in the autumn. 

Please vote for your favourite option by sending your choice to Shirley Palmer:

Environment Committee makes a start

The Chair of the Parish Council’s newest committee is Carl Tomlinson. He reports on its first meeting:

Our Parish Council recently approved the formation of an Environment and Sustainability Committee to assist the Council in its goal of making our village a sustainable and healthy place for all residents.

The committee consists of Amanda Rodgers, Claire Hall, Martin Dale, Ruth Dale, Charlotte Clarke (who represents the PC) and myself. We would like to extend an invitation to anyone who is interested to join us at our meetings which will be publicised in the same way as PC meetings. The members are very grateful to Richard MacAndrew and Martin Lipson for their help and guidance in establishing the committee.

At our first full meeting on 31st March we agreed a list of standing agenda items for future meetings

These are

  • Proposals for a 20mph speed limit
  • Planning policies
  • Community engagement

We also decided to explore the ways in which we can contribute to

  • Establishing – and reducing – the village’s carbon footprint
  • Improving public access to EV charging
  • Biodiversity and habitat creation within our village

In the coming months, I will ask each member of the committee to share some of their thoughts about our work. This is my take.

In 1970, amid increasing public concern about our treatment of the planet, Wendell Berry wrote of his fear that ‘the Environmental Movement will…be a public cause, served by organizations that will self-righteously criticize and condemn other organizations, inflated for a while by a lot of public talk in the media, only to be replaced in its turn by another fashionable crisis.’ He went on to say that ‘if millions of people cannot or will not undertake [action to protect the environment] as a private cause’ then the Movement would be doomed to fail.

52 years later it’s an open question whether the Environmental Movement has succeeded or failed, but Berry’s analysis remains pertinent. As chair of the Committee, I believe we will achieve nothing by criticizing and condemning. I hope we will enable, encourage, and support public – and private – progress towards our goal.

Chicken Sheds’ planning application refused

Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee has just unexpectedly refused the application by developers Middle Aston Ltd to build 25 new business units at Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston.

According to the Decision Notice, the application was refused because it is contrary to local and national planning policies in that it “would create additional trips over the existing permitted use of the site. The proposed development would regularly attract large commercial vehicles and large numbers of cars onto the local minor roads which are unsuitable to serve the proposed development, and would have a severe traffic impact.” 

Martin Lipson, Vice Chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council reports:

“Cherwell’s Planning Committee this afternoon bravely and unexpectedly voted 10-6 for a refusal of the Hatch End development.

“The parish representatives were not permitted to speak again (as they did last December when the application was deferred), so this was very largely down to an impassioned speech by Mike Kerford-Byrnes, our District Councillor who retires this month, at his final committee meeting. He focussed on the danger to parents and children walking to and from the school, with unknown numbers of vehicles generated by the new scheme attempting to pass them at peak times.

“The defiant mood of the members was compounded by their annoyance, echoing our own, at the County Council’s Highways officers refusing to be concerned about the traffic and safety issues, something which has become their standard opinion on most applications. The fact that they hadn’t supported our wish to see the footpath extended along the highway was a factor in the Committee’s surprise decision.

“Well done to Cherwell, and especially to Mike.”

The developers have six months in which to appeal.

May election for one district councillor only

At the local elections on Thursday, 5th May villagers will be able to vote for a Cherwell District Councillor to replace Mike Kerford-Byrnes, who is retiring this year.

But there won’t be an election for Steeple Aston Parish Council as only six people have been nominated for the seven vacancies. All six of the current parish councillors are standing again, but there will still be a vacancy.

Details of the parish councillors nominated.

There are four candidates contesting the Cherwell vacancy from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties.

Details of those nominated as district councillors for the Deddington ward.

Voting will take place in the Village Hall from 7.00am until 10.00pm. The count will be on Friday, 6th May.


Rector to leave village in the summer 

The Rector of Steeple Aston, Revd Marcus Green is to leave the Benefice after nine years to take up a new post as Chaplain at an Oxford college.

Revd Green has already been absent from the village for some time with a period of sickness last year followed by a sabbatical. He will return at the beginning of April for three months. When he leaves to take up his new appointment on 1st July, there will be a further break of around a year until a new Rector is appointed.

Churchwardens Graham Clifton and Eileen Baglin-Jones write:

You may already have heard that after serving Steeple Aston, Middle Aston, North Aston and Tackley as our Rector Marcus Green is leaving us at the beginning of July to take up a new post as Chaplain to Worcester College, Oxford. He has been a familiar figure (with his faithful Springer spaniel Harry) involved in many village activities and leading the three congregations of the Benefice for nine years.

Marcus brought many talents, most notably his musical skills, and above all the message that God’s love is for everyone which he preached weekly, tirelessly travelling from one church to another becoming a well establishes rural priest – though few of whom would bring a swing band to the church fete too! During the long months of Lockdown he developed his film making abilities ‘broadcasting’ a weekly Worship at Home video which became an important anchor, sustaining its wide audience during that difficult time.

We shall miss him but wish him well in his new appointment and hope that he will keep in touch – after all he won’t be far away!

If anyone would like to contribute towards a leaving gift please give your contribution to either of us. We hope to hold a farewell event on June 12th after morning service. Details will follow.

The practice of the Church of England is that we shall have an interregnum for about a year during which there us time to make preparations for a new appointment.

Read the announcement of Marcus’s appointment on the Worcester College website 

Spring Show attracts record number of visitors

Daphne Preston & Dorothy CliftonRichard Preston, Chair of the Horticultural Society writes:

After an absence of three years, the last Spring Show was in 2019 if you can remember that far back, we were able to bring the joy of Spring and all things bright and cheerful back to Steeple Aston.

Over 300 exhibits adorned the tables in the Village Hall on Sunday, March 20th, which is well above the average for this show. Record numbers came along during the afternoon to view the abundance of Spring blooms, amazing cookery, handicraft, photography, and the superb children’s exhibits.

Pictured here is Daphne Preston, winner of the Mead Trophy for most points in show with Dorothy Clifton, and below is Daphne’s winning floral art arrangement on the subject “Yellow”. Other winners were Julia Whybrew and Victoria Clifton for the WI Cup; the Handicraft Cup went to Janet Coley and the Bedding Family Trophy to James Walker.

A very large and generous raffle, along with a competition and a stall for Sustainable Steeple helped the day along and not forgetting the fabulous as ever, teas served in the committee room.

Just to mention a massive thanks to the committee of the Horticultural Society who work tirelessly to make this event happen. One of the biggest thanks must go to the wonderful people who entered something as that is what enables the show to take place. It was so encouraging to see so many “new” names at this show and we hope to see you all at the Annual Show that will be with us again on August Bank Holiday Monday celebrating its 130th show.

The full Spring Show results

Lots more pictures in the Photo Gallery. Many thanks to Nigel Francis.

New tenants for Red Lion after six-week closure

The Red LionSteeple Aston’s Red Lion pub will close for structural repairs on the Thursday, 10th March for around six weeks. When it re-opens, hopefully at the end of April, new tenants will be in place.

Chris Gates, who took over the pub last May on a one-year lease, has decided not to continue. His wife Naomi’s coffee shop, a Bit on the Side,  will also close.

Edwin Pope, Operation Director at Hook Norton Brewery, which owns the pub, said that significant structural issues and damp were discovered when they were refurbishing the residential accommodation above the pub last year. He anticipates that the remedial work will take four to six weeks, so he is aiming to re-open “bright and fresh and new” on April 28th.

He says there are two potential new tenants wanting to take over the pub, and he will encourage existing staff to reapply for their positions.


Community Orchard to go ahead, subject to law

Steeple Aston looks likely to get its own Community Orchard following a decision by the Parish Council at its February meeting. The council agreed to accept the gift of the orchard from former resident Sarah Lucas subject to lawyers being able to transfer the ownership of the land to the council without problems.

The land is accessed from Water Lane by the gate pictured here. It’s surrounded by a low wall and contains shrubs, trees and grass.

Local residents Shirley Palmer and Elen Wade-Martins are keen to take responsibility for the orchard and lead a group of volunteers to maintain and improve the environment as a village asset. They wrote a detailed plan which was considered by the Parish Council.

In it they say, “We feel that with some imagination this small space could be the catalyst for a nature-friendly, community-building, sustainable project.” Their main aims are:

  • To encourage wildlife.
  • To make available a quiet, contemplative space that is accessible to all in the community.
  • To hold community events that are related to encouraging an appreciation for local wildlife, trees, hedges and sustainable fruit and that raise funds for the orchard.
  • To plant fruit trees and make the fruit freely available to the community.
  • To build up a community of volunteers who care for and take pride in the orchard.

Shirley and Elen have been in touch with organisers of community orchards in Woodstock and Kirtlington so they already know much about what needs to be done. They plan to fundraise to buy more plants for the area and cover the costs of maintenance.

Councillor were concerned about costs to be incurred before they could hand over the orchard to the volunteers. They had been told the most urgent problem was to remove a pine tree.  But the recent storms beat them to it and the tree came down without their help, thereby reducing the cost of its removal. There will be charges for a solicitor to transfer the ownership of the orchard and at the most it might cost about £2,000 or possibly a bit more, for the Parish Council to accept the gift. 

It was agreed that the Parish Council should appoint lawyers to look into the transfer of ownership, and that the scheme will go ahead unless the lawyers’ searches throw up anything unexpected.

See the full Orchard Plan

‘Chicken sheds’ development – decision delayed again

Edward Dowler, the Chair of Middle Aston Parish Meeting, has written an update on the application to build 25 new business units at Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston and asks villagers worried about this to contact district and county councillors.

Since Edward wrote this, it has been announced that the decision on this application has been delayed once again.It will come before the planning committee on 7th April, so there’s more time to contact your councillor.

He wrote:

On 2nd December 2021 Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee discussed the application to redevelop the Chicken Sheds (officially Hatch End Industrial Estate). I was invited to speak, as Chair of Middle Aston Parish Meeting, and Mike Kerford-Byrnes, one of our District Councillors, made an impassioned and influential contribution to the debate.

Whilst the developers have made some significant and welcome changes to the proposed appearance and configuration of the site, a very serious issue remains: the volume of additional traffic that will be generated, and its risk to road safety, particularly in relation to Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School. It is our contention that the Highways Team at Oxfordshire County Council has accepted at face value the developers’ assumption that there will be few additional journeys to the site and failed to recognise the dangerous situation that can already be seen every school day at drop-off and pickup times.

Please excuse a short diversion into the history of the site. In 1996, an application to change its use from a chicken hatchery to a small industrial estate was refused by CDC, on grounds of highway safety. A renewed application in 1997 was granted, but with the very exceptional provision that each and every change of tenant or specific use in any unit on the site required CDC’s prior permission, on grounds of highway safety. As we all know, there has been no improvement in the condition of the road in the intervening years, and traffic volumes have of course increased.

At the Planning Meeting, it was noted that the Highways Team, in its statutory consultation submissions in July and October 2021, had imposed an obligation on the developers to create a footpath along Fir Lane from the school to the entrance to the site. This looked like an acknowledgement of the safety issue, and a helpful if partial remedy. However, in November 2021 a further submission removed this obligation, in exchange for the creation of a footpath wholly within the development site. No-one could explain, at the meeting or indeed subsequently, how this would increase pedestrian safety on Fir Lane.

The Planning Committee resolved, on 2nd December, to defer a decision on the application for three months, for further consideration. So what has happened to date?

  • Richard MacAndrew, Martin Lipson and I met the developers on 23rd December to see whether there was any scope to amend their proposals to help address our concerns. Sadly, the discussions did not result in significant progress.
  • We have been made aware that the OCC Highways Team has been asked to re-examine the developers’ calculations on increased traffic flow.
  • I have asked the Team to explain the rationale of the withdrawal of the obligation to create a footpath on Fir Lane, in exchange for an internal site footpath. So far, the only explanation offered is that the developers baulked at the cost of the obligation

The matter will next be considered by the CDC Planning Committee on 10th March 2022. If, like me, you feel that the road safety issue remains as a grave concern, please do contact our local District and County Councillors to express your view.

Contact details for local councillor

Community Orchard plan goes to the council

A plan for a Community Orchard in Water Lane, Steeple Aston will be considered by the Parish Council at its February meeting.

The land has been offered to the village by former Steeple Aston resident Sarah Lucas. It’s surrounded by a low wall and contains shrubs, trees and grass. It is accessed from Water Lane by the gate pictured here.

Local residents Shirley Palmer and Elen Wade-Martins are keen to take responsibility for the orchard and lead a group of volunteers to maintain and improve the environment as a village asset. They have written a detailed plan for the Parish Council.

They say, “We feel that with some imagination this small space could be the catalyst for a nature-friendly, community-building, sustainable project.” Their main aims are:

  • To encourage wildlife.
  • To make available a quiet, contemplative space that is accessible to all in the community.
  • To hold community events that are related to encouraging an appreciation for local wildlife, trees, hedges and sustainable fruit and that raise funds for the orchard.
  • To plant fruit trees and make the fruit freely available to the community.
  • To build up a community of volunteers who care for and take pride in the orchard.

Shirley and Elen have been in touch with organisers of community orchards in Woodstock and Kirtlington so they already know much about what needs to be done. They plan to fundraise to buy more plants for the area and cover the costs of maintenance. 

If the Parish Council decide to take on the land, they will need to ensure the walls are in a safe condition, and to arrange for some initial tree work, before management of the orchard can be handed over. This could prove costly, but Shirley and Elen suggest that they could fundraise locally and apply for grants if the council can’t afford to fund the work required.

The full Orchard Plan will be available in due course.

Storm Eunice causes damage to village shelters 

Our villages may not have suffered as badly as some areas nearby when Storm Eunice visited on Friday, 18th February. There were extensive power cuts and road closures in much of North Oxfordshire, and a roof blew off a building in Banbury landing on the railway line.

But the woods at Middle Aston House took a battering and there was damage in Steeple Aston, as Richard Preston reports. He said: These photos are of the damage Storm Eunice caused to our field shelters on Friday. One is beyond repair and the other may be ‘turned over 180 degrees’ but not sure how it might land! This might be a lesson learnt as not to face the shelters with openings towards the south or the west! At least the horses are safe.”

The shelters were in Richard’s field between Grange Park and Dr Radcliffe’s School. There are six horses in the field, two of them belonging to Richard’s daughter Clare. Richard says horses are much to sensible to hang around near sheds when a gale is blowing, so no rescuing was needed.

Do you know of other storm damage in Steeple and Middle Aston? Do send photos if you have them to

Concerns about bonfire smoke in Pre School playground

Once again, staff at Steeple Aston Pre School are concerned about the smell and smoke from nearby bonfires that keep coming in to their playground. There is particular concern for staff and children who have asthma. It is also thought that the embers and acrid smoke that the bonfires produce can be dangerous to the development of pre-schoolers, aged from two to four and a half.

The manager Ann Buswell said: “Today it looks as if it’s coming from over in the churchyard direction as we look from our playground. We had an article in the Steeple Aston Life about it before, and it seemed to be addressed for a period of time. But these last couple of weeks it has started up again!”

The previous complaints were in Autumn 2020. At that stage Cherwell District Council said that there are no laws against having an occasional bonfire, but it is an offence for the smoke, or the smell of the smoke, to cause a nuisance. The council asked residents not to have bonfires during the pandemic.


Edwina Kinch retires from SAL

The Committee of Steeple Aston Life were very sorry to say farewell to the Chair Edwina Kinch who retired at the January AGM after a long association with the magazine stretching back to the 1980s.

Members expressed their grateful thanks to Edwina for all her work over the years, commemorated in a special SAL leaving card. In their farewell comments, members paid tribute to Edwina’s excellent chairmanship, her kindness, her efficiency and her charm. Her long experience and her knowledge of village life over many years have proved invaluable.

As one member said, “You must be so proud of SAL’s development from humble beginnings to the amazing publication it is today – all down to you.”

Steeple Aston Life started in 1973 as a Parish Council initiative under the guidance of George Ennis, the headmaster at Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School, and Paul O Sullivan, who was the first editor. The O’Sullivan family produced the magazine for its first ten years.

In 1983 responsibility for the magazine was transferred to a committee. Edwina took on responsibility for production and collation for five years before taking on the role of editor in 1988. When she finally retired in 2013 after editing more than 300 monthly issues, she became Chair of the SAL Committee.

A fuller version of this article including an appreciation by  Cathy Lawday, Edwina’s successor as SAL editor, can be found on page 20 of the February edition of SAL.