Works by two village artists chosen for prize exhibition

Works by two village artists have been selected to appear in Banbury Museum’s Ironstone Art Prize Exhibition. A charcoal drawing called “Eyecatcher Raging” by Abigail Boisot and “Stifle”, an oil painting by Rebekah Tuluie both appear in this biennial exhibition which aims to showcase the best recent work by artists living within a 25-mile radius of Banbury.

Abigail with “Eyecatcher Raging”
Rebekah with “Stifle”

Abigail lives in Cow Lane and walks her dogs around the Eyecatcher field daily. Her quote on the wall at the museum reads, “The Eyecatcher folly at Rousham stands in the field just below my house, I can see it from my bedroom window. It has been my muse, my source of comfort, and a constant in my life during my father’s death, the birth of my second child and the pandemic.”

That second child (pictured below) is now aged eight and a pupil at Dr Radcliffe’s School. Ted proudly accompanied his mother to the exhibition’s private view.

Ted & Eyecatcher

Many villagers will have seen Abigail’s paintings and notecards of the Eyecatcher in many different lights on sale at village events. She also specialises in painting portraits, especially of dogs and horses.

She says she was very excited to be selected for the exhibition as the judges are people she particularly admires in the art world. They included the well-known broadcaster and art dealer Philip Mould, Paul Hobson, the Director of Modern Art Oxford, Deborah Smith, the Director of the Arts Council Collection and Finlay Taylor, Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Arts.

The text on the wall beside Rebekah’s painting says: “I can’t breathe… Probing at human fragility through tension between internal vaporous space and solid congealed matter. Shapes dissolve or patterns harden. Fragments of memories conceal themselves, while rhythmic spiky episodes blast or collapse. At last, a lightness of being emerges, relief…”


Rebekah, who has lived in part of the The Grange for nearly ten years, trained as a painter but then worked in the film industry for many years. She is still involved in a few film projects, but spends the majority of her time painting in the little studio she built in her garden.

She says, “It was a raw need to dive deeply into my own vulnerability that gave me the courage to start to paint again. The poet Ted Hughes said, “Every work of art stems from a wound in the soul of the artists… Art is a psychological component of the auto-immune system that gives expression to the healing process.” My paintings hover between abstraction and a recognisable presence. I see each as an intimate portrait. They embrace and probe at my sense of femininity and the complex cluster of feelings that entails. There are centres of tension and depth within an orchestration of sparseness and calm. There is imbalance next to poise, floating and sinking, vulnerability but with teeth.”

Rebekah shares with Abigail a love of dogs, and often walks around the Eyecatcher field with her two. She says she finds walking a very good way of thinking through the next steps when she is stuck on a painting. She also values the friends she has made in this “warm, welcoming and supportive village.” They include neighbour Hilary Magee who took the photo of her at the exhibition.

The exhibition has plenty of interest for lovers of all kinds of art including paintings, photography, sculpture, ceramics, digital art, glass, textiles and metalwork. The winners of the Art Prize and the under-21 prize have already been chosen by the experts, but if you go along to the exhibition and you can vote for a “People’s Prize” of £100 to go to your favourite artist.

The exhibition runs until 10th March.  

You can see more of Abigail’s Eyecatcher pictures and more on her website and Instagram feed.

You can learn more about Rebekah and see more of her paintings on the Zuleika Gallery website 

First MCNP Engagement Meeting held in Steeple Aston

Cover of MCNP report

Steeple Aston was the first of the villages in the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP) area to have a Community Engagement meeting on the recently published revised Plan. The revisions include proposals for housing development in Steeple Aston as recently agreed by the Parish Council. 

The revised Plan is open for consultation until Friday, 23rd February. You can read or download the full version here.  And you can submit your comments by visiting the MCNP website .

At the meeting on Wednesday, 24th January, the Chair of the MCNP Forum, Martin Lipson, who is also a Steeple Aston Parish Councillor, explained that after the consultation period, the plan will be adapted in the light of the comments received. After Cherwell District Council’s further consultation on the plan, it will be sent to an examiner appointed by the Government.   The examiner’s recommendations will then be subject to the local referendum.

The proposals already agreed in Steeple Aston are for 10 to 15 houses each on  the field opposite Townend on South Side and the field bordered by Fenway and Coneygar Fields to be allocated for possible future development. A third site behind the east and south sides of Grange Park is to be held in reserve.

Julia Whybrew reports on more of the proposals outlined at the meeting:

The Plan has designated some areas as ‘local green spaces’ and in this village there are now three; the recreational area, the allotments, the field beside Paines Hill. The Community Orchard is now proposed as a fourth.  The designation gives the same protection from future development as being in a Green Belt.

The current version of the Plan has far more details than before about elements that need protection.  This covers both natural features and manmade issues such as soil erosion, light pollution and noise. The proposals cover preventing the loss of existing things and the re-instatement of others. The priorities here could be reflected in planning decisions.

The latest Plan has also identified ‘Local Gaps’. The idea is that communities can be protected from encroaching development if there are designated ‘Gaps’ between them, for example between Heyford Park and the Horse and Groom on the edge of Caulcott.

The new Plan has identified attractive viewpoints, mainly around the Cherwell valley which it would like to see protected.  This has to be a local issue and hence is not reflected in national planning policies.  In Steeple Aston the four views selected are two on Cow Lane towards the Eyecatcher and towards Rousham, one north from the shop corner towards the church and the fourth southwards from near Brasenose Farm.

The Plan has other proposals including the following issues.

  • Existing homes should not be allowed to have extensions if it means losing existing off-road parking.
  • Traffic calming measures may be needed to encourage safe active travel opportunities, with the connectivity between different parts of the neighbourhood being protected and where possible improved.
  • The MCNP would like to see a GP practice at Heyford Park as soon as there are enough residents to make it viable and there is a need for a new cemetery for Heyford Park.

After the presentation, villagers were able to raise comments and queries. They included the following:

  • The protected/existing trees would not have to be removed to build or get access to the site opposite Town End.
  • Perhaps, subject to agreement, part of the Cottrell Dormer old allotment site might be considered as a new cemetery.
  • Could the requirement for planning permission be waived for solar panels in conservation areas.
  • A community land trust might be the best way to make sure appropriate house sizes were built and continued to meet local needs, but this had to be subject to the financial viability of the development.
  • There was no accepted measure of light pollution making it difficult to control.
  • The proposed Local Gap at the Upper Heyford allotments might be made to join the Local Gap north of Caulcott.

Martin said the MCNP team would consider all the comments and ideas. His team are keen to hear from as many people as possible. So, if you couldn’t get to the Steeple Aston meeting, you are welcome to attend any of the other meetings listed below:

  • Kirtlington – 31st January 6:30pm – Kirtlington Church
  • Ardley w/Fewcott – 6th February – 7:30pm – Ardley w/Fewcott Village Hall
  • Somerton & North Aston – 7th February 7:30pm – Somerton Village Hall
  • Upper Heyford – 13th February 7pm – Upper Heyford Village Hall
  • Lower Heyford – 15th February 6:30pm – King George’s Community and Sports Centre
  • Middleton Stoney – 20th February 7pm – Middleton Stoney Village Hall
  • Duns Tew – 17th February 2pm – Duns Tew Village Hall
  • Heyford Park – 12th February 7pm – The Heyford

You can read or download the full version of the revised plan here. 

January 24th meeting on revised Neighbourhood Plan

MCNP logoThe Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP) Forum has published its revised plan, which includes proposals for housing development in Steeple Aston as recently agreed by the parish council. The plan is now out for consultation and there will be a public meeting in Steeple Aston Village Hall on Wednesday, 24th January at 8.00pm to discuss it.

The MCNP says there will be a presentation of the draft Plan  and an opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of the proposals. Although Steeple Aston has been the focus of potential housing allocations in the past months, there are also plenty of other new policies in the Plan that may be of interest. These afford extra protection to the countryside and biodiversity in the wider MCNP area, designation of more Local Green Spaces here and elsewhere, and Local Gaps around some villages to fend off possible future commercial development. 

Their earlier announcement about the publication of the draft Plan and the consultation on it read as follows:

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP) Forum wishes you a very Happy New Year.

We’re pleased to inform you that we have now published the Review of the Neighbourhood Plan, and would welcome your comments and feedback on it. The Consultation remains open until Friday, 23rd February 2024.

The updated Plan includes several important new planning policies, including the allocation of housing sites in two of the villages, aimed at meeting the needs of local people. There are also new policies protecting the Mid-Cherwell environment, its landscape and biodiversity, and we’ve added more Local Green Spaces and more Local Gaps for protection from possible future development.

We want to know what you think about the new Plan: we have tried to make it as easy as possible for you to respond with our online questionnaire – please click here.

If you wish, you can save your comments and return to the consultation later.

We have also printed a short booklet with a Summary of the Plan policies – your Parish Clerk has copies of these if you would like one. Copies will be available at local engagement meetings in January and February, which will be advertised on the village website.

Thank you

MCNP Forum

You can read or download the full version of the revised plan here. 

Road blocked by fallen tree

Heyford Road was closed after a large tree fell during Storm Henk on Tuesday, 2nd January. The county council’s Highways surveyor attended the next morning and said they would do the clearing. Then nothing happened!

It finally re-opened on the afternoon of Friday, 5th January. Barbara Shooter, the owner of the tree, arranged for it to be cleared on the advice of the police when the council failed to turn up. She said: “There is still some clearing to do, but the contractors are being brilliant. Thank you all for your patience.”

Photo from near neighbour Matthew Austin.

tree acrossHeyford Road