Peter and Valerie Miles,

It certainly didn’t come as a surprise to anyone but, at the decisive meeting on Monday, December 9, ESCC resolved to proceed with the statutory notices to close Mountfield and Whatlington C of E Primary School. Leaving the jargon aside, this means that County have decided to shut the school after 140 years of continuous use. There may be no surprise after the absolutely single-minded way they pursued this outcome but it still leaves a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach.

Now that the decision has been made, we are free to say that, actually, nobody locally thinks that we have been given the whole story. And certainly nobody locally has any idea what the future holds for the buildings, the superb facilities and the land. It is inconceivable that they won’t be put to a proper use at some point in the future. The situation is all the more muddled because the land was conveyed to the vicar and church wardens of Mountfield and the rector and wardens of Whatlington, in trust, for educational use only, so it would seem to be pretty well unsaleable. Added to that is the detail that the upper playground is a war memorial dedicated to the fallen of the parish in the Great War. All or part of the current building probably belongs to ESCC, and the actual internal facilities surely do. That’s a mess.

There are all sorts of rumours flying around about who might be interested and what it might be used for but it should be stressed that they are just that: rumours. So far County have not given even the slightest hint about the future. Right now, there isn’t much more we can do than wait and see how things unfold. We will want to have some say in that future but we need those first few clues.

The school’s most famous alumnus is surely Charles Moore who gave up the editorship of The Daily Telegraph in order to write the authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher, of which the first volume was published in April this year. Charles’s mother, Anne, spoke very forcefully at the September consultation meeting at the school. Back in July, Charles wrote about the school in The Spectator saying “what a different world it was in the mid-1960s”. Some of the points he picked out included: “So far as I remember, no father except my own worked in London and very few pupils were middle-class”. He continued: “There were no inside lavatories, no packed lunches except for diabetics, no ethnic minorities, no ‘special needs’ and no children of divorced or unmarried pupils”. So much the same; so much so different: “Most pupils had long-standing Sussex names — Crouch, Spray, Avann, Lavender. All the boys wanted to be engine drivers, and all the girls nurses”.

Jackie Spriggs writes:

“We have our new Incumbent, the Rev’d. Anne-Marie Crosse! She was Licensed at a service in Netherfield Church last Friday by the Rt. Rev’d. Laurie Green, a retired bishop now living in Bexhill-on-Sea, and Archdeacon Philip Jones who placed her in her stall, blessed her ‘going out and coming in’ and we welcomed her with loud applause! So she is now ‘revved up’ (pun intended) and raring to go – which she did the following morning when Mountfield had their Festive Elevenses and drawing of the Grand Raffle, the result of which upped the Church Funds coffers by £757 – an amazing result! Many, many thanks to those who contributed and attended on such a lovely morning.

“Anne-Marie’s first service of Holy Communion also took place in Mountfield the day after that — and how good it felt to have our very own incumbent again.

“The services over Christmas for our Benefice of Brightling, Mountfield and Netherfield will be as follows:

Sunday, 22nd December: 3.30 pm at Mountfield Church: Carols, Lessons and Toy Service. Pre-loved toys in good condition brought to this service will be taken to Mayfield Children’s Home in time for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, Christmas Eve: 5.30 pm Crib Service in Netherfield Church.

Tuesday, December 24, Christmas Eve: 11.30 pm Midnight Mass at Brightling Church.

Wednesday, December 25, Christmas Day: 10.00 am Holy Communion at Netherfield Church.

Sunday, December 29: 10.00 am Holy Communion at All Saints, Mountfield.

Wishing all our readers a happy, blessed and peaceful Christmas and a great New Year.

Jackie Spriggs, Churchwarden”

The main topic at the Village Hall Committee meting last week was the idea of a 2014 village fête. They agreed to hold a dedicated meeting on January 21st to try to nail discussions down. In the meantime, as Caroline Hollamby writes, they are looking for people willing to act as key co-ordinators: “As there are no committee members (due to their full-time work commitments) who can mastermind the whole fête, we will be looking for approximately four people to take on this rôle collectively. They could take on specific areas, such as refreshments & food stalls, entertainment/displays and marquees, craft/other/external stalls and insurance/liaison with services/organisation of first aid etc.

“We need to establish this before we can go any further, as those who have ever organised anything like this successfully will tell you (just ask Dave Craven), so much work actually goes on behind the scenes in terms of coordination and communication and running around before the actual day. We therefore need people who have a bit of time to spare at computers/telephones during the day and have the necessary organisational skills to pull this off. There are always people who are willing and able to pitch in on the day, but fewer who are willing to put in the time in advance.”

We would add that it doesn’t just have to be individuals, it could be husband and wife teams, a couple of neighbours getting together or, even, a club. Which brings us to the next item…

Steve Smith writes with news of the Club: “The Mountfield Club snooker team lost its last home match of 2013 to Cramp. The visitors took a 2-0 lead but Mountfield fought back to 2-2 with Kevin Gray and Steve Smith winning their frames, then Cramp won the final frame to win the match 3-2. The team travel to Battle this week for the last match of 2013. Congratulations to Sean Spillett & Steve Smith who have reached the quarter finals of the Hurst Green and District Snooker Pairs tournament.

“Just a reminder that the Mountfield Club is laying on a Disco and Buffet on New Years Eve to see in the New Year. Members and non-members welcome. Family tickets are just £17.00 and £5.00 for singles (£6.00 on the night). To book your ticket please phone Sally Hayler on 079 888 72016.

“The Club would like to wish all members old and new a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

We have two more neighbours to welcome to the village as Alan and Carole Lacey recently moved into The Lodge, Vinehall Street. By our reckoning, that’s twelve new neighbours, plus various children, since we took over the Village Voice in June. So it struck us that this might be a good time to remind everyone about all the books of local history. There are the two classic books of Mountfield in (mostly) old photographs, compiled by Trish as Mountfield Meanderings 1 and 2. There is a splendid piece of local history in Trev Sully’s book on the discovery, 150 years ago this year, of the Mountfield Hoard of Pictish gold in the field just behind our cottage, Silas and the Mountfield Treasure. And, a much drier affair but nonetheless fascinating, the history of the Ressie, Darwell: Valley, Stream and Lake by George Coleman. They’d make good last minute Christmas presents. We can picture the scene as your loved one unwraps his or her present from you to find… Darwell: Valley, Stream and Lake; it would give you so much to talk about throughout the long Christmas evening. The first three are available from Trish Jones (or her lovely sales assistant, Roger) at 1, Church Cottages at £7.50 each; the last, from us at £10.00.

Your Village Voices wish you a very merry Christmas and peaceful New Year — during which we can be reached at 880614 (evenings) or at