Reflections on ministry in lockdown – Good Friday 2020

2020-03-27 14.16.31
First attempts at set up for Sunday Worship for 29th March 2020

Over a month since I last posted!
Somehow life isn’t quite the same… and I’m not sure anyone saw it coming.
40 days on, and things have become very strange indeed.
But you’re living it too, so you know that.

So this is by way of a memorandum and reflection to myself, as to a few of the things I’ve learnt and needed to be creative about, to maintain ministry in the lockdown necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

2020-03-27 14.25.56 HDR
Technical support and a ‘behind the scenes’ view of that first attempt at recording services in the garden. Glad I was that I’d liberated a couple of necessary props from church before locking up the last time, and that I have horded an interesting selection of useful heirlooms.

As a minister I think I’d become too reliant on contact with parishioners on a Sunday morning in the physical spaces that are our church buildings. Those are special times (especially in memory, when you can’t stand round and have coffee), but actually I’ve spent more time talking to people, and talked to more people more meaningfully, one-to-one, particularly the phone, than I ever have, at any stage of my ministry. I feel embarrassed that people have been surprised that I’ve rung, and depending on their circumstances, more than once. Without exception, everyone has been positive, understanding and supportive, as my colleague and I have grappled with the new needs of ministry in lockdown. If by any chance, you’re one of them, reading this… thank you, it has been hugely appreciated.

Jesus walked, and talked, and met people, and talked and taught some more. My husband and I took what should have been our statutory one-hour walk one day last week, on a route we know takes us about that, one hour. It took us 2.5 hours, as the socially-distanced conversations flowed! We’ve lived here over 20 years, so many familiar faces crossed our paths, parochially related and otherwise. I had a strong sense of healing in what at times was some fairly black humour, of words becoming the new sense of touch, of gift that God was providing in these days of glorious weather. As is so often the case, it is in looking back at your footsteps that you see where it was that Christ carries you.

Christ has a such weight to be bear now – and his burden gets heavier each day; and there should be no irony in the fact that I say that on Good Friday, as we acknowledge most particularly his sacrifice on the cross. A few months ago, I’d wondered whether I ought to change my pattern of ministry to take in some connection with our Foodbank. Not unusually I’d done nothing about it, distracting myself with other things, and probably appropriately getting excited about growing a fresh community project. But the cafe plans are of necessity on hold, though I must make sure they’re ‘oven-ready’ at a week’s notice, for when we’re free to fraternise again.

2020-03-22 22.29.51Instead, I find myself giving significant support to that previously noted Foodbank – not least because so many of the regular volunteers are now forced to protect themselves in isolation. Whilst it is horrible that we live in a society where one is needed, and tragic that the economic impact of the Coronavirus have brought so many more people to the crisis-point of needing one, there is a (slightly exhausting) joy in being able to deliver those shopping bags to socially distanced doorsteps – it’s not just food, it’s hope and a sign that people care. The same goes for the donations that have come flooding in, in particular through Eversley’s Centre Stores (who have carefully stocked the Foodbank to people’s cash donations) but also to our doorstep – one of the benefits of having lived here for a while. People’s generosity has been great, and the Foodbank is so grateful for it. No, making such things happen is not without anxiety and risk, and yes there is a cost in that, but after all, being a herald of hope is one of our diaconal responsibilities in ordination. Once again, perhaps I’m fulfilling more ordination vows more fully than before.

So, where’s the creative Rachel been? Lost, literally, frequently and for long periods, in an open source video editor (OpenShot), Facebook ‘live’ and otherwise, Zoom for Messy Church (less messy and calmer than it’s cousin, at least if you’re not ‘hosting’), and Zoom for PCC and other meetings; all via computer, phone, iPad and camera! I’ve ended up looking at myself in a way that I really would prefer not to. Perhaps, I’m seeing myself as Christ sees me, more than I do normally – flaws and all – but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

My first recorded Morning Prayer, was a spur of the moment experiment outside St. Mary’s, but received an encouraging response. My colleague also took up the challenge and ‘went live’, and we were glad we’d started promptly, as within the week we were on lockdown, and leading worship purely from home. Bless him, he’d done a little video editing before – I am a complete newbie. I am grateful he’s putting together the really complicated Sunday Services like our first attempt. There has at times been some distinctly un-clerical language; “purely pastoral” as a past spiritual director would have it. There are also unhealthy strains associated with so much screen-time, on the eyes, the back and on the anxiety levels.

2020-04-08 19.23.13
Cuckoo-pint… or do you know it as Lords and Ladies? Photographed in a nearby lane, 8th April 2020 on our less than daily constitutional.

But once again, there is a strong sense of fulfilling my calling in not only a different way, but in a way that is reaching more people and encouraging them in their discipleship somehow in a way that may have a greater long-term significance of them, then perhaps our regular church-based worship does. I’m not sure that says much for our regular services, but I do find myself wondering what of all these skills and forms of worship need to be kept when we find a new way of post-lockdown living and liturgy?

There have been times to relax… there’s a crochet blanket for a loved-one slowly taking shape, an activity that can prove a prayerful Compline of sorts at the end of a long day, and there have been some gems of moments around the home and on our walks. More of the former in other posts, but if happen to have read this far (bless you) enjoy some Pipistrelle bats at late dusk – another use for my mobile phone which has resulted in interesting pastoral, and wildlife related conversations!


Best Butterfly Day 2013 – New Forest

Silver Washed Fritillary, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Silver Washed Fritillary, New Forest, 26th July 2013

Back at the end of July before we took our holiday, I grabbed a few hours with my Dad wandering one of his favourite butterfly woods in the New Forest. It was a veritable bonanza of butterflies, when I got my best ever sights of Silver Washed Fritillaries.

I also learnt the difference between Green Veined and Small Whites. It seems to have been a big year for Whites – in the Yorkshire Dales a fortnight later there were clouds of Small Whites in the gardens where we were staying in Askrigg, with a few Green Veined among them if you looked hard.

Small White on the Corn Marigold's of my Dad's wildflower garden, New Forest 26th July 2013
Small White on the Corn Marigold’s of my Dad’s wildflower garden, New Forest 26th July 2013
Green Veined White butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Green Veined White butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013

We also saw a Ringlet, common here in Yateley but I’d never found one in the New Forest before, and also Gatekeeper’s but my photos of them weren’t very good!


Reviewing the photographs I have also now learnt to tell a Small Skippers from a Large Skippers – the large ones are (obviously) slightly larger, but also have more a dull brown around their wings. I love these little butterflies – I think of them as the cute teddies of the butterfly world!

Female Small Skipper (male's have a black line on the upper wing), New Forest 26th July 2013
Female Small Skipper (male’s have a black line on the upper wing), New Forest 26th July 2013
Male Large Skipper, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Male Large Skipper, New Forest, 26th July 2013








There was also this beautiful Peacock butterfly – I’ve seen only a few of these this year in Hampshire.

Peacock Butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Peacock Butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013

We missed out completely on my dream of seeing a White Admiral but that means there’s plenty to keep me looking next year.

There’s more photo’s on my Flickr account if you’re a real fan, feel free to wander over there.

Hopefully I’ll be uploading some holiday photo’s soon – a week which was defined for me by the sound of Curlew.

Small Heath butterfly finds an Early Marsh orchid

Small Heath (female I think)

I remembered the camera when out walking the dog today. After a little incident with a young Roe buck (when I didn’t have anything except my phone) a few days ago, this was a major step forward.

There are often plenty of these Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) butteflies up on the disused part of Blackbushe airport at this time of year, but rarely do we get close enough for a half decent photo, which is what this is; it’s not as well in focus as I would like.

But whilst trying to get that shot, I found this little beauty disguised among the Red Clover. I think, that with the kink at the end of the leaves, and the lack of spots it is an Early Marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), but I’m more than willing to stand corrected. There is a close-up of the flowerhead on my Flickr account here if it’s any help with the ID.

Such is the joy of the countryside; sometimes you just have to look really closely to find the hidden gems!

By the way, despite comments I’ve seen from people saying this isn’t a good thing, I think it’s wonderful to see the fields still haven’t been mown at the Red Cross Centre!

Not to be missed or mowed – please!

The public open space between the Red Cross Centre and the Highwayman in Yateley

I want to publicly thank Hart District and Yateley Town Councils for NOT mowing the grass, especially that in the fields adjacent to the Red Cross Centre in Yateley, which forms part of my regular dog walk. PLEASE keep up the good work!

The poor photo below, taken with my phone, should (if better) show a number of the plant species present, over and above a range of grasses I’m not knowledgeable enough to name. There are yellow Hawkweeds, Plantains, White Clover, Daisies and Buttercups, and also a tiny white star shaped flower, that I ought to identify. Here they can prosper and seed, bringing the colour of summer to all who visit; little things, but not to be missed or mowed.

There are also pockets of Ox-Eye Daisy appearing at the edge of the field and the list could be easily extended through a detailed survey and with a little help from some wildflower mix, which surely can’t cost any more than a trip from the mower men!

It may look like a scruffy bit of grass, but if the weather was just a little warmer and less windy this lovely field would be alive with insects, helping to attract even more birdlife to the area, and bringing even more joy to people’s lives.

Where Buzzards Call – God’s own Cathedral

Buzzard above the trees in Yateley

There is a field where I like to walk the dog, to breath deeply of the fresh air, to watch butterflies and look across the edge of town to the hill beyond, and to listen to the buzzards calling.

They are a new edition to the scenery. At one visit about two weeks ago, I spotted six separate buzzards – four in the air at once, but two others calling from nearby trees. Regularly since then there have been two, lifting from the nearby oaks and circling above my head calling to each other as I walk the field boundary.

Stitchwort flowering in the field bank

The sound of a buzzard, lifts my spirits. When I’m in the company of my husband, the effect is even better. There is something about sharing our appreciation of wildlife, from the tiniest flower to the raptors above, that brings a depth to the sense of joy at God’s creation that I struggle to put into words. There is also a freedom in such circumstances to praise and worship God in a way that is impossible within the walls of a building, however majestic and prayer-filled it might be. Truly I sense that this is one of the places where I stand in God’s own cathedral.

Moulting Roe Buck near Yateley, May 2012

Yesterday, I entered this same field, to be greeted by yet another treat. At the top of the field was a grazing Roe Deer, unconcerned by the presence of myself & my Honey dog. For once, she stayed quiet and allowed herself to be put on the lead as I crept closer, a few yards at the time. The Roe buck raised it’s head occasionally, moved occasionally to some new patch, and grazed on. Before it left the field, I was even able to get close enough to take a photo!

I wondered at it’s unusual mottled look, but not until I got home and looked at the photo did I realise that it was moulting heavily, the glossy gingery red coat just visible below the long guard hairs that have kept it warm through the winter.

As the Roe buck leapt over the fence, my terrier Honey, finally spotted it!

[On the phone later in the day, Dad (30 plus years a wildlife manager in the New Forest) reminded me that the Roe Deer has an unusual biological cycle, that doesn’t match that of the other deer of Britain. They caste their antlers in November (rather than May as the Fallow do), bearing new antlers in velvet during the cold of winter. They rut (mate) in late July and early August. But there’s another twist of biology, for the fertilised eggs have delayed implantation until sometime towards the shortest day, so that the young, which can be twins, are born in high summer.]

Can “Rush” be filmed, access retained AND the wildlife protected?

Heathland, scrub and old tarmac habitats on the disused airfield at Blackbushe (June 2011)

Last night’s post on the proposed filming of pit lane and grandstand sequences of the Ron Howard film “Rush” seems to be causing a big stir.

For some there are positive outcomes to look for: the fascination of F1 or big name films; the possible stimulus to the local economy.

For many (like me) it’s more about our concerns: the protection of wildlife during the spring and summer breeding seasons; the access issues for local residents and groups who use the site regularly, often to engage and support local young people.

The most positive outcome for everyone would of course be for filming to take place without denying access to this public area and whilst taking care to not overly disturb important and in some cases, protected, wildlife.

So here’s what various responses to my concerned emails have so far told me. Please feel free to use the information to carefully validate your own responses.

The date between the closing of the consultation period on the application (11th January 2012) and the proposed start of work building the set (9th January 2012) is impossibly tight! It has also allowed very little time for interested parties to make their comments, especially given the current holiday season when many organisations like the RSPB have their offices closed until 3rd January 2012. This may not be deliberate, but it doesn’t help the local community to feel it has been positively engaged with the project. The response of the Scout Group leaders who run the Scout Lodge adjacent to the site, and use the site to teach environmental use and responsibility to youngsters, would also appear to show that no attempt has been made to consult with those that will obviously be affected by the application.

At least one local Councillor believes that the land concerned is Common Land. Apparently the film set could therefore need approval of the Secretary of State, a process that is presumably long and expensive. The Land Registry could confirm this, but I can’t afford the expense and the application doesn’t make it clear as far as I can see.

screenshot of Googlemap of proposed film set

Apparently the history of the airport at Blackbushe is rather more difficult than might appear: sources suggest that 143 acres of land have never been returned to the “town” after being commandeered for WW2, and Ordinance Survey maps confirm that there is one Right of Way that runs across the current airport runway from East to West. An additional Right of Way (a Public Footpath) runs across the area designated in this film set proposal for “Parking/Unit Base” shown on the full supporting document 11_02695_FUL-SUPPORTING_STATEMENT-555171. (See adjacent map I have created and the full Google link here.)

If these disused areas of Blackbushe Airport that seem to make up part of Yateley Common Country Park were covered by the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area then members of Hampshire Ornithological Society inform me that filming would automatically be impossible during the breeding season for Schedule 1 birds (March – May). However the airfield was excluded when the SPA was designated.

It is illegal to disturb birds (especially Schedule 1-Annexe 1) at their nests. This creates two issues:

  • the exact nest sites can’t be proved without license because it is illegal to look for and disturb specific nests
  • the landowner/film crew would be breaking the law if it were to be proved that there work was disturbing the locality of or adjacent to such nest sites.

I have had it confirmed by a past County Bird Recorder that there are in fact two Schedule 1- Annexe 1 birds who nest in the gorse, heather and ‘tufty’ areas that run right up to the tarmac of the disused runways, which fall within the red area marked on page 8 of the Full Supporting Document of the application. (I have not named the species deliberately for their future protection.)

Common Spotted Orchid photographed May 2008 on the heath adjacent to the disused runways on Blackbushe Airfield

In addition to these and other rare, but less protected bird species, who nest in the same areas and into the scrub in the north and east of the site, there are also wildflowers like the Common Spotted Orchid in the same heathland areas between the runways, and Glow-Worms that display and mate in the cracks in the old tarmac that the application wishes to replace. It is illegal to uproot any such wildflower (by whatever means) but the Glow-Worm which I had assumed was a rare insect has no more protection under the law than a woodlouse! If filming was completed for June they would not be directly affected, except if their favoured spots were covered by new tarmac.

It would be a success for the community at large, if a balance can be struck between the requirements of the public who have a right of access to this site, the requirements of of Ron Howard’s film company and the protection of rare wildlife. However as I currently see it this would require there to be

  1. some formal consultation with local interested community groups and individuals who use the site, by both local council and film company representatives
  2. temporary changes made to a Public Right of Way
  3. the careful fencing of several areas of heathland and scrub so that they remained undisturbed by the building of the film set
  4. the commitment of the film crew not to allow machinery and vehicles to deviate from tarmacked areas, nor allow any fire, explosions or other activities to affect the areas that are not tarmac, so that Schedule 1 – Annexe 1 protected species can breed freely
  5. some other solution other than new tarmac that would return the area to its existing state after the production.

More wildflowers and spring activities



A pleasant family walk whilst celebrating two birthdays this weekend produced these delightful scenes at Sheepsleas near West Horsley in Surrey.

I have a real ‘thing’ about Bluebells… which stem from childhood walks at a place near Fritham in the New Forest, and I get very excited wherever I see them to this day. Cowslips speak to me of real English rural pasture, something that we have so little of these days. At Sheepsleas I don’t think it’s grazed but they somehow maintain this fantastic wildflower meadow – later in the season it will be full of herbs, day flying moths and butterflies.

On Wednesday last week I both heard my first Cuckoo of the year, and saw it as well! Dad and I took an hours ramble from Thrifty Gate near Stoney Cross – a good place to meet so we dog walk before I take on the one-way system into Lyndhurst.

Other than that, with the dog’s missing toenail growing back slowly and a rather busy diary, I’ve not been out and about much. We’ve sorted out a load more belongings and I’ve made two trips to our church charity shop. A lot of the things I want to get back to remain slightly hypothetical, though I have got as far as ordering my Fishing License for this year, buying the makings of two hanging baskets and I’ve acquired some greenhouse veg, courgette and spicy salad plants!

Wild flowers and other wildlife wonders

Wild Violets
Wood Sorrell

Been meaning to load these off the phone since Easter week but typically life has been busy. C spent that week sailing and has now passed his Stage 4 and his Seamanship module. G and I worked really hard (marking and sermons) but took these on our daily dog walk.

Last week we brought back more belongings and did lots of unpacking sorting and tidying. However the trips included various wildlife highlights including a pair of Roe Deer, Wood Anemonies and a male Orange Tip butterfly at Bushey Leaze near Beech, Medstead, Alton.

Gs best photo of the Orange Tip

I found a 5.7m girthed Beech tree for Dad at Ances Wood near Cadman’s Pool. He had been asked to check it by the folk at Ancient Tree Hunt. Dad is actually featured in the current free National Park/Forestry Commission ‘paper’ circulating the New Forest – with a staged photo and an article he had to correct heavily to make it bearable!

At Eyeworth Pond, Fritham we found our first Swallows and Martins of the year, plus Mandarin and Wood Duck. There were also Mallard Ducklings fresh off the nest like fluffy whirlygig beetles. Dad and I also watched what may be odd Chaffinch behaviour – they were buzzing the water surface for either Reed Mace seeds or insects, couldn’t tell which.

Since then we’ve seen a Swallow closer to home – just the one at Hawley Lake on Sunday as Chris was sailing.

Male Mandarin Duck at Eyeworth

Birds, blooms and boats

Probably not that exciting, but wanted to note that whilst watching the Chris sail for an hour at Hawley Lake (think M3 J4a) we saw our first Swallow of the year… just the one though.

One of Graham's Bluebell photos
One of Graham's Bluebell photos

(Chris passed his RYA Stage 3 sailing qualification at Easter and we got him youth membership at Hawley Lake – where they have previously film Scrap Heap Challenge because it’s part of Royal Engineers set up.)

Dog walking is producing a regular pair of Stonechats on the back of Blackbushe Airport, but definitely not the numbers of previous years, and still not a sign of Dartfords this year… last one I saw was the dead one I found in the winter. Something was singing today too – I want them to be Skylarks, but I gather they could be Meadow Pippits. I need lots of help with SBJs as they are not my strong point.

The bluebells are lovely all over the place, but I suspect will start to go over in the next week. There are a few in the bank along the lane to the airport, and lots in the copse on the way to Castle Bottom. I don’t think we’ll get this year to the lovely bit on the edge of Finchampstead Ridges that lies between Horseshoe lake and Ambarrow, but having driven past last night it’s one to try when we don’t have such a frantic spring. The Gorse has been in full bloom for ages, and the scent is heady, but some is now beginnning to go over, whilst the Hawthorne is in full bloom.

God blessing us with birds and blooms to lift the spirits.