Recorder’s Report, Littlebury Parish June 2010- September 2011
Friends of Holy Trinity Church
The parish council takes responsibility for grass cutting but the trees need ongoing work and thoughtful planning for the future. The main volunteer work was that of churchyard maintenance. Local farmer, Tony Appleby, and Tom White, estate manager at Audley End Estate, organize a truck for the cuttings; volunteers lend invaluable assistance. The crowns of three trees, two hollies and a lime were raised this spring, 2011, creating a fresh sensation of light and air. Brian Stacey, the Diocesan Advisor for Trees and Nature Conservation, has visited the churchyard a few times with representatives of the DCC as well as the Friends. He confirmed many thoughts, particularly about a large conifer spreading across the north section of the churchyard. No doubt, by it’s nature, work in the churchyard is never ending, but there is excellent attendance at what have come to be known as Ivy Pulls, clear ups, particularly in November 2010 when a record 34 people set to, including children, many of whom worked no less hard than the adults.
The box hedge around the northwest corner of the church is overgrown. Jean Cowell kindly lent a postcard of how this hedge once looked. It has to be decided at what height the hedge should be maintained, but the only way to prune it in order to get the right kind of growth for regeneration is, according to Mr Stacey, by quite radical coppicing, although he initially suggested cutting just a few branches out to see what happens. No doubt there will be much discussion; nothing at all will be done without careful consideration. Trees and shrubs in public places are dear to people’s hearts and many of us remember the furore when the yew trees at Bridge End Gardens in Saffron Walden were pruned, but which now look splendid.
The Friends organized an Open Gardens in June 2010 with eight very different gardens and teas and a plant stall at the village hall. Many visitors said how pleasing it was to see the village full of people walking around and how interesting to see the gardens behind the façade of the village houses. In the evening the garden openers visited each other’s gardens, a time when the beauty of gardens is even more telling; the colours of the flowers seeming deeper and the slanting shadows lending atmosphere.
The Friends were delighted to receive funds from the profits of a concert held in the grounds of Granta House. The Garden Festival, a popular event, made a good profit and divides the funds between national, district and local charities. Neil Patmore completed the work on the string line, closing the gaps that appeared where the church wall abuts with the foundations and Dave Heales’ cleaning company cleaned the carpet in the bell tower and the chancel.
In June 2010, on a warm evening, the DCC invited the Fairhaven Singers (our own Janet O’Sullivan is a member of this choir) to sing in the church, with drinks served in the churchyard, raising money to be divided between Downsed and the Church. Fundraisers such as this will always be necessary as there are many remedial works planned for Holy Trinity as well as to encourage more people to come to church.
300 copies of Littlebury Cooks! were published by the Village Hall Committee to raise funds for the hall, and promptly sold out. The brainchild of Joanna Hancock, chair of the committee, it contains recipes from Lady Braybooke and many residents of Littlebury and benefited hugely from the kindness of the printer’s invisible fee. A Craft and Gift Fair was held in the hall in June with a variety of different stalls, all run by local people. There was the opportunity to have a manicure or massage, browse a cake stall, plant stall, gamble on a raffle ticket, be served lunch, eat a cream tea, have cakes and drinks all day, let the children enjoy a bouncy castle, face painting, or the opportunity to make Father’s day cards. With energy such as this behind fundraising ventures the future of this important village asset seems set fair.
Major change to the streetscape
A large part of Peggy’s Walk in the west of Littlebury village has for years been taken up by PG Wing, a firm that has traded selling army surplus; it is now destined to become a small housing estate. There is no argument for keeping old and unattractive warehouses, some of which are already demolished, but the proposed changes create some anxiety for residents who live on this narrow road and for those who own old flint walls nearby that are vulnerable to being knocked by large trucks. All along the B1383 the flint walls of the Audley End Estate suffer frequently from the results of cars crashing into them.
Essex County Council is preparing a new definitive map. Jubilee Path, opened and named for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, has quirky ownership and evidence had to be gained from nearby landowners. Likewise the use of The Grip, a small piece of land between the river and Mill Lane, had to be ascertained from many residents in order to retain its availability to villagers for posterity.
In the spring of 2010 we beat the last bounds for the next three years. Numbers of walkers finishing at the end of the day were noticeably down on previous occasions although the charm of being able to walk through the Bluebell (Howe) Wood drew many more than usual for the morning section. Mr Garrod, the Audley End Estate Keeper, explained how the wood is cared for, why the deer are culled and that poachers and trespassers are not welcome. The Strethall recorder, David Melford, and his wife Paddy again kindly allowed us to have our picnics in their enchanting garden, preceded by David’s short and interesting talk in Strethall Church.
Brian Sanders of Littlebury published his illustrated memoir, Evacuee, a Wartime Childhood, a book set in nearby Saffron Walden, that has continued to sell well. In full colour throughout it vividly describes the life of a small boy in a country town at an extraordinary time that will in due course be recollected by fewer and fewer people.
As recorder it was a privilege, and extremely interesting, to liaise with English Heritage on the mapping for the Stables Project. Subsequently, after discussion with Martyn Everett, long connected with Saffron Walden Town Library, and on which committee I serve, we invited Dr Hann, Senior Properties Historian and other English Heritage colleagues to see what this library offers. Amongst the important Victorian collections are several copies of Lord Braybrooke’s 1836 History, some with unique additional material attached to their pages; for instance: a handwritten account of Winstanley’s demise in the great storm of 1703 and a description of Catherine of Braganza’s adventurous trip into Saffron Walden disguised as a gypsy. There are copies of many 18th and 19th century publications incorporating information about Audley End and its inhabitants, and many secondary resources on local history. Historical journals such as the Annual Register and the Gentleman’s Magazine, archaeological publications, a significant photographic collection, many maps of the area and several studies relating to Audley End by local historians during the 20th century can be found here.In due course colleagues at English Heritage visited the Town Library and Archive Access Point as well as Saffron Walden Museum, guided by curator, Carolyn Wingfield. It is the first time for a very long time, to my knowledge, that the keepers of Audley End have liaised with, and been (albeit modestly) entertained by the Town.
This April Littlebury village celebrated the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in style. Despite the blandishments of the Prime Minister, there was an inordinate amount of red tape and only at the eleventh hour was permission to close the Walden Road granted. The village ‘Laddies’, a social group, hung up locally made bunting, set out tables and chairs and a bar. Sandwiches, cakes, jellies, biscuits and buns were laid on the tables. People arrived dressed in red white and blue, a giant and hugely popular Mega Slide wobbled on the ‘rec’ alongside five-a-side football and the sun shone on a range of activities. Residents of Catmere End and Strethall celebrated too, with a red white and blue theme, close to Strethall Church, with some of the men dressing up in royal costumes. Pictures of parish Royal Wedding Celebrations can be seen at www.littleburyparishcouncil.org.uk and on YouTube
In early September a 1940s afternoon attracted several past and present residents to the village hall with memories to be recorded on tape and photographs to see and scan. There were some reunions as well. Gradually the Littlebury archive of this period is growing.
The Littlebury website has been running for over three years now. Uploading images of our lives and activities to parish websites makes a permanent record of our times, not only for our own enjoyment but the rest of the world to see. When it is no longer of current interest archiving these stories to the site is effortless and creates an easily accessible and vivid store of past times.
Planning applications, newspaper articles, parish magazines, ephemera that arrives through the letter box, community posters and leaflets are kept and hardly a week goes by without an enquiry of one sort of another from people who have connections with this very special place.
Littlebury Local History Recorder