Mountfield

Peter and Valerie Miles, mountfieldvv@hushmail.com

To end the year, here is a round up of Mountfield’s news as reported by the Village Voice(s). Back in the spring, we felt strongly that Mountfield needed a strong Village Voice to share the news, publicise events and generally represent the village and it was obvious that this view was widely shared. So we spent weeks asking round, knocking on doors, emailing, trying to sell the idea. In the end it seemed easier to just do it ourselves for now and we have to say that the response, in terms of both contributions and comments made, has made it very rewarding and we’ve had a lot of fun along the way. A lot has happened in the short time we’ve been doing the Village Voice, much of it positive — Mountfield remains very good at making its own entertainment — though some it less so.

The two big stories of the year were the planning application at Baldwins Farm and the fate of Mountfield and Whatlington School. This column usually avoids planning issues but this was the largest non-industrial planning application the parish had seen. There have been bigger applications such as the raising of the reservoir in the 90s and the incinerator threat from 1999 onwards and the restoration plans at British Gypsum in 2011 but this was very different in character. The issue was the subject of a special open Parish Council meeting in January at which the packed audience unanimously expressed opposition to the plans. The application generated 153 objections in January plus a further 64 when revised documents were published in September. The issue has rumbled on throughout the year and is not expected to be considered by Rother until after Christmas.

We wrote about the proposed closure of the school in last week’s column and it received the full treatment on the news pages too so we will return to Charles Moore’s elegant and sadness-tinged memories, written in his Spectator column in July, of the school when he attended in the mid-60s. He remembers that: “All religion was the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised Version of the Bible”. He writes evocatively of the school speech day which: “had an almost 19th-century feel to it. In would come Commander Egerton [Lucinda’s grandfather], the squire, a figure so august that we dared have no opinion of him. He was followed by Mr Spriggs [Jackie’s late husband], the vicar, who was already 65 but would remain in post until the 1990s.” He goes on: “Then came Mr Coomber, a tenant farmer [at Glottenham Farm] of Commander Egerton’s, who presented the Coomber Cup. This carried prestige because it was not for academic merit but for character. ‘Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,’ Mr Coomber would declaim improvingly, and we could hear the bees humming through the open windows”. The Coomber Cup is no longer presented and you’d be hard-pressed to hear bees now against the roar of the A21.

Our first Village Voice column was in June. There wasn’t a lot to report that month. Our local farm shop changed hands when Sarah Geldard bought Poppinghole Farm Shop. Dave Craven, such a stalwart of the village hall, announced his retirement as chairman of the VH Committee. We noted how everything — roses, swallows, leaves, bluebells — was approximately three weeks late this year. Oh, and the Parish Council continued to badger away at the question of potholes.

July’s news was overshadowed by the shock news about the school but there were happier items too. Mountfield Horticultural Society visited Losely Park Gardens and held another successful Flower Show. Barbara Valentine’s Mountfield Community Arts exhibition was a great success and Barbara raised over £300 for St Michael’s Hospice with her quick portraits. Augustine, the 14th century bell in the church, was repaired to toll and tell the time. The Darwell Area Conservation Society (DACS to its friends) was launched with an exhibition of old photographs and Andy Murray’s specially commissioned victory at Wimbledon. And, rather poignantly, M&W School held its annual fête which, despite or because of the circumstances, was a great success. (And the Parish Council returned to the fray over potholes.)

More in next weeks column but, in the meantime, you know where we are: 880614 (evenings) or mountfieldvv@hushmail.com. We wish you all a restful Christmas time and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.