Monthly Archives: March 2018

30th March, 2018. Churches Conservation Trust, third blog.

The church building in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust with which I am most familiar is St Mary’s, Barton Bendish (south-west Norfolk) – picture above. Sited on the edge of the village with woodland around and farmland beyond, it is a most delightful spot. Somebody local opens the church in the morning and locks it at night, which allows for open access. Although a few examples rustic benches, dated to 1637, and plain box pews generally the interior has been stripped of any less significant features and fittings making the small interior one that can be appreciated as a whole. The building is thatched and the gothic (pointed) windows are embellished with 14th century ‘decorated’ tracery, this cusped. One enters through the fine Norman west door although this is not original to the church. Apparently St. Mary’s once west tower collapsed in the early 18th century and damaged the west part of the nave so the building was shortened, given a new west wall to the nave into which was inserted the ornate Norman doorway from a ruinous nearby church, the reminder of this building (All Saints) being demolished a couple of years later. Also to be seen inside St. Mary’s is a faint medieval wall painting, a sedilia and two aumbry. The priest’s door in the south wall of the chancel (see picture) has a finely carved hood-mould. Presumably the small bell housing atop the apex of the west wall was a product of the Georgian re-build. The coursed chalkstone walls mean that the church blends well into its situation on the East Anglian Heights.

27th March, 2018. The Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals.

(Continued from blog of 25th March).

The Taylor Review was an initial response to one of the great heritage issues of the 21st century – as such it never made any news media that I saw. Regarding its three main recommendations (s.p.b.) all are encouraging. The fact that all three rely on a degree of political will and on the state of national finances is worrying but, is an inevitable factor in all such circumstances.

Regarding the encouragement to parishes to ‘enable the church building to be more readily used by the local community for a wide variety of purposes’ is as much a decision for the diocese as for each parochial church council. As far as I can tell much progress has been made in this respect over the last quarter century. Just a couple that I am familiar with; Immingham church has had public ‘facilities’ installed (including heating), the nave can be rented for meetings this including local history meetings. Paull church has had facilities installed (basically a toilet and mini kitchen) and is thus able to supply refreshments to visitors and users, while the church at Boughton (south-west Norfolk) basically functions now as a parish hall (where none previously existed). The idea of appointing Community Support Officers to assist in these developments seems like a good idea.

The idea of a ‘major and minor repairs fund’ (either nationally or distributed to diocese) is fundamental. Thus the State would be facilitating the sort of work the Churches Conservation Trust is currently doing, but on a larger scale. The creation of Fabric Support Officers to provide the professional expertise would also be a very positive move (although personally I don’t think they would need to be as ‘purist’ as currently English Heritage officers are).

So why aren’t more churches embracing more general usage? – see next blog.

The picture above of St. Peter’s church, Barton on Humber reminds us that it’s not just the Churches Conservation Trust that administers some redundant churches as this church is under the supervision of English Heritage.

25th March, 2018. ‘A Pressing Issue’.

‘A Pressing Issue’ is the title of a short article in Pinnacle, the latest members magazine of the Churches Conservation Trust. The article summarises the initial decisions of the Taylor Review: Sustainability of English churches and cathedrals. As I had not previously known of the Taylor Review and as I think this is such an important issue for our historic buildings in the 21st century I read on. The article summarised the problem ‘The issue is that fewer people are going to church and congregations are ageing(hardly a new realisation) … 45 per cent of all Grade 1 buildings (the highest listing for historic buildings) are parish churches’.

The article then summarised the Review’s three recommendations; (a) the creation of Fabric Support Officers who will offer practical advice to parishes on the condition of their churches and help create a plan for maintaining and repairing them, (b) the creation of Community Support Officers who will help parishes engage with their local community and enable the church building to be more readily used by the local community for a wide variety of purposes, (c) the creation of a minor and major repairs fund to support the care of the fabric in a more systematic way across the country.

The Churches Conservation Trust supports these ideas and the article goes on to state how the Trust has been trying to achieve this conservation objective over the past 50 years. The Churches Conservation Trust looks after 352 redundant church buildings – there are over 16000 parish churches in Britain, although no-one would expect every one of these to be preserved for ever, criteria must be defined soon.

(To be continued).

The picture is taken from the article and shows a detail of the eaves, supporting timber and roof tiles of the church of All Saints, Little Wenham.

22nd March, 2018. Global ‘Days’.

My latest communication from World Wildlife Fund reminds me that ‘With World Water Day, International Day of Forests and Earth Hour, March truly is a time to celebrate the planet’.

21st March = International Day of Forests.

22nd March = World Water Day.

24th March = Earth Hour (see above logo) – switch off your lights for one hour from 8-30pm. If everyone did it and the sky was cloudless the firmament would be lit with thousands of now visible stars sited in our part of the Milky Way galaxy. But, of course, the main point is to focus on depletion of Earth’s resources and factors causing global climate change. There is a very good website re global responses to Earth Hour – connect2earth, Earth Hour. For example, for the first time this year premises on Carnaby Street, London will be switching off their lights for the hour.

Less time focussed but remarkable is the fact that W.W.F. is working with the World Organisation of Scout Movement so that 40 million scouts worldwide ‘will be mobilised to take action for our planet and beyond’.

It is easy to be cynical about such initiatives and certainly it is more important to retain a focus across 365 days per year rather than just one. However, many are inspired by high profile ‘celebrations’, especially the young, and if it gets them thinking beyond that day ‘all well and good’.

Will I miss most of Casualty on Saturday evening? It just states switch off the lights.

21st March, 2018. Equinox, rhinos and oystercatchers.

On  the same day that the news that the last white rhino in the wild in Africa had died a communication from the World Wildlife Fund reminded us that the population of black rhinos in south-east Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa) had been rapidly depleted since 2012 by the actions of highly sophisticated and capitalised criminal enterprises, this undoing most of the good work done for black rhino conservation in the years before 2012. The rhino is, of course, killed for its horn which is ground down to a powder in Africa before being whisked off to the Far East. The animal, wounded by the initial bullet often bleeds to death through the open wound left after the horn has been hacked-off.

The ‘trade’ is fuelled by demand, that demand created by the traditional notion that rhino horn has some medicinal qualities as well as boosting the male libido, the later probably related to the coincidence that the rhino’s horn has a similar trajectory to the human male erection. In fact the material of the rhino’s horn has a similar composition to the human finger nail. Co-incidentally the black rhino evolved at about the same time as homo-sapiens co-existing with Neanderthal Man.  So the one contemporary creature has all but eliminated the other on the premise of a nonsense.

It is interesting that the endless current Brexit debates keep going on about ‘trade’ as if it were a given virtue. I think it may lead to a lot of bad things happening unless we keep asking what type of trade, what will be the outcomes.

With the Sun over the Equator today eastern England is at last freed from the grip of the east winds blowing from Siberia. Best wishes to anyone living full-time in Siberia.

Each year at this time a small flock of oystercatchers appears on the Humber bank. A colourful wader and easy to identify the have a loud, high-pitched piercing call and, as I have observed, particularly so at night. The local flock seem to prefer an area of wetland inland of the clay bank to the Estuary foreshore, presumably using their long beaks to search for worms. Apparently oystercatchers are not migratory but clearly they change locations.

19th March, 2018. Peter Scott.

Following on yesterday’s blog.

Peter Scott, whose print was mentioned yesterday, 1909-1989 and son of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, was a pioneer in stimulating an interest in British wildlife on the B.B.C. in the 1960s. He was a keen ornithologist, conservationist, painter and writer. He was a classic example of hunter turned conservationist being, as a young man, a ‘wildfowler’, that is someone who shoots for sport waterfowl and having one day a realisation that this was wrong and so devoted the rest of his life to the conservation of wildlife, in his case his especial interest being in waterfowl, particularly geese. This passion leading to his founding of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in 1946, this following P. Scott’s wartime service in the Royal Navy.

For a while P. Scott lived in a converted lighthouse at the mouth of the River Nene on the south coast of the Wash and near to Sutton Bridge. This isolated location gave scope for his studies of waterfowl behaviour and migration. The long-distance public right of way along the old clay bank flood defence between Sutton Bridge and West Lynn is known as the Peter Scott Way (Walk). Still today a small local ferry takes passengers (not vehicles) the few hundred yards across the canalised River Great Ouse back and forth between West Lynn and Kings Lynn. A mile or so upstream a modern road bridge carries the A17 over the River.