Announcement: Associate Priest

20170530_122819wThis morning 11th Feb 2018, it was announced that the Bishop of Winchester has appointed me on a permanent basis as Associate Priest in the Benefice of Eversley and Darby Green. My Licensing Service will take place at St. Mary’s Church, Eversley on Monday 9th April, rather appropriately the Feast of the Annunciation.

My husband Graham and I will remain living in our home in Yateley, my ‘sending’ parish, and the place with which Eversley and Darby Green has strong historic, social and economic ties. On paper it doesn’t look like we’ll be living in the communities I will be serving; but because of the way they relate to each other, and how the congregations are spread among them, I will be. I will also remain a Non-Stipendiary Minister – the accepted terminology in this diocese is Self-Supporting Minister (SSM) but I’m not self-supporting as I don’t anything from anywhere; and my ministry is enabled through the love and generosity of my spouse!

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My ‘popcorn’ sermon at St. Mary’s Eversley

I will be honest, for a long while I didn’t think this was what God wanted. But, it’s not the first time I’ve been wrong, or been very slow on the uptake – my call to ordination being a fine example. Whilst some significant moments in my ministry have included instantaneous recognition of God’s hand on my life, sometimes I have been too busy trying the doors that fit my dreams and/or the recommendations of those around me, or burying my head in the sand, to notice or accept the calling God is trying very hard to make obvious. In this case, as Graham and I sought to discern where God wanted me next, he opened an unexpected new job for Graham in his vocation as a teacher at the same time as the door that logically fitted it for me, closed in my face. Then when we looked at another exciting door for me, and found it very willing to open, with heavy hearts we realised it wasn’t compatible with where Graham’s new job was being affirmed and confirmed, so we had to firmly close the door I liked so much.

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Epiphany at St. Barnabas Darby Green

Cryptic, well it has to be really. If you’re interested and meet me face to face, I can explain a bit more. But it seems appropriate that such painful decisions are acknowledged in the process of discerning a new ministry, role and context. The struggles are important in themselves, but sometimes we can get lost in our struggles, and ignore the calling, the welcome, and the work, that is staring us in the face. Such is the case in this instance.

The warmth of the welcome last year when I was deployed to St. Mary’s Eversley, and the encouragements I have received over the intervening months both there and more recently at St. Barnabas Darby Green, have been a significant in me coming to realise where it was that God has called me to serve these churches. Developing a great working relationship with the new incumbent has helped too!

So, here’s to Lent, the time of preparation and penitence that suitably for me starts this week on Ash Wednesday and will lead through to Holy Week, after which I will take a week’s retreat in the run up to my Licensing for this new work. I’m looking forward to it, and to seeing where God is leading both these communities in the months and years to come.

 

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Crawshaw built Solo for sale – PRICE REDUCED

Sail Number: 4134P1090803w

Wooden, Crawshaw built
Fast boat
Proctor mast
2 sails including Solo B
Trolley, but no road trailer
New wheels fitted
Cover sound but faded


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Owner now gone to university

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Please comment on this blog post to express your interest; blog owner will reply by email.

A butterfly in the hand is worth…? Dandelions?!

Small White rescued from drowning in a plant trough!
Small White rescued from drowning in a plant trough!

I had spent the morning finishing a book about Forest Church and connecting more consciously with God through nature, and the idea of natural theology where we actually come to understand God directly through his creation.

I went into the garden to have lunch on the bench in the sun and spotted a butterfly, apparently dead, floating in the water trough under our raspberry plant (itself rescued from the compost heap last year). I fished the Small White butterfly out to get a close up of it’s wings – at which it promptly struggled feebly in my hands.

Minutes later, sat in the sun and with the heat from my hands, it was much revived and posing for photographs, some of which are here. A real resurrection moment!

Peacock butterfly on a Dandelion.
Peacock butterfly on a Dandelion.

I had already planned to take a walk in the sun – the forecast telling me this was the best day of the week to do so (Wednesday) – and spend some time with God. I also consciously broke one of the rules of Forest Church, which is not to be too attached to your camera!

On my usual walking route through which I watch the seasons and wildlife, I notched up a further species of butterfly: Green Veined White, Peacock, Tortoiseshell and Brimstone. I also found the Common Lizards, Graham and I had found about ten days previously basking back on their piece of car part on Blackbushe.

Male Common Lizard on some car refuse up on Blackbushe
Male Common Lizard on some car refuse up on Blackbushe

To my utter delight, I also found two species that have been missing from my usual route since the filming of Rush. There were three Stonechats present, and a pair of Schedule 1 species I’m not naming! Time to start being even more careful not to disturb those nesting in the Gorse and Bramble bushes methinks.

So what among this wealth of wildlife did God say to me? Well it involves Dandelions. As a gardener I loath them, far, far more than Daisies which I’m more than happy to live with. In fact as I finished my butterfly rescue I picked all the Dandelion heads I could in the garden.

Female Brimstone on a Dandelion.
Female Brimstone on a Dandelion.

Once outside though, all down the verge, across the public field that is not longer cut regularly (which I claim as a blogging success story because they only stopped mowing after I got my Councillor friends to look at the issue), there were literally thousands of these bright yellow heads, or their seeds blowing everywhere in the breeze. For starters I though they’d make great evangelists, noticeable, prolific and seed well into the surrounding community! Then I realised what all the butterflies I photographed were feeding on,… Dandelions! So they’re full of nectar too, obviously a good source of nourishment to our little winged friends.

So, there’s a challenge or two:

  • should I stop dead-heading the Dandelions in the garden, or see if I can at least put them to good use – Dandelion tea anyone?
  • should we try to be like Dandelions in our ministry; bright and noticeable, providing refreshment, prolific and sowing seeds everywhere?

Poem: The challenge of your passing #RemembranceDay

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Royal Marine Adam Brown, 40 Commando. RIP

The challenge of your passing

I don’t know you, I never did.
When we met, you’d gone.
Then, I recognised you
By the Union Jack,
A uniform cap,
The young lover, brightly dressed.
Family brave faced, and broken;
Symbols of why you mattered;
Reminders of what it cost.

The War Memorial in Yateley, photographed after Remembrance Day 2010 showing the fresh wooden plaque with marks Adam's place among those whom Yateley remember each year.
The War Memorial in Yateley, photographed after Remembrance Day 2010 showing the fresh wooden plaque with marks Adam’s place among those whom Yateley remember each year.

Strangers brought you before me,
Hundreds marked your passage.
The honour guard and satellite trucks,
Riflefire and raw emotion,
A counterpoint to
The ripple of respect,
As a town stood,
Marking your passing,
One of their own.

Broken voices, your praises spoke,
And hymns of praise from land and sea
Filled briefly the cavern of broken dreams.
Touched by scripture,
Tradition and some hope,
The gathered host found, I pray
That where reason failed,
God’s grace and mercy
Rested where the memories lay.

A bit part, my role
In laying you to rest.
Yet yours, in plotting my path,
Significant;
The slow, military march past
Of a different sacrifice,
A calling I count as gift,
A burden, its fulfilment,
Yet to be deployed.

Commended you were, to Christ.
Yet you never knew, how could you,
What it was you taught me,
The challenge that your passing marked.
Now, each year,
I stand and weep,
Privileged to have met and served
In some small,
Your needs, that day.

This is my attempt to put into words some sense of the significance to me of a Royal Marine called Adam‘s death in 2010.  Many knew and loved him when he was alive. Many who know me, might see more of the significance to me of this man’s funeral than I’ve been able to articulate here. But as I stand at another war memorial this year, taking another significant step on the journey that Adam helped to start, it will be for him and for his loved ones that the tears will fall.

Adam’s Hoofing Hut, a beach hut retreat at Mudeford bought in memory of Adam is now open and supporting Marines returning from theatre, as they recuperate and spend time with their families. Donations to continue the huts refurbishment, and to create a purpose built facility in the future can be made via Adam’s widow’s ‘Just Giving’ page.

Well finally – Spring is here!

College House, Ripon College Cuddesdon, in the sunshine on a spring day (20th April 2013)
College House, Ripon College Cuddesdon, in the sunshine on a spring day (20th April 2013)

Yes, I know the forecast is for it to leave again later this week, but at least for the last few days, spring has definitely sprung.

Last weekend, we dashed down to the New Forest and after a rainsoaked abortive trip to see the sea on Saturday, finally managed a walk on Sunday 14th, one of the highlights of which was sighting the first to Swallows of our spring.

Fox Moth Caterpillar 22nd April 2013 Blackbushe
Fox Moth Caterpillar 22nd April 2013 Blackbushe

I sighted another in Garsington (Oxon) on the way to college on Tuesday 16th, and avoided running over a Toad on the lane to College Field on the way home. I spent most of the glorious weekend weather in college too, with another Swallow gracing my walk up the path to All Saints Church, Cuddesdon for a rehearsal on Saturday 20th. As you can see (above) college is such a hardship when the sun is out and there’s a few moments to stand and stare. There were even butterflies – Brimstone in particular.

Whitethroat (male I think) 21st April 2013
Whitethroat (male I think) 21st April 2013

When I got home yesterday we walked up on Blackbushe to discover the Whitethroats (small summer migrant) are back, and the Gorse is finally in full flower. When I returned today, I confirmed there are at least two Whitethroats (a pair I think), and also that caterpillars are beginning to emerge – though I very nearly stood on this one as I was watching the birds! No Swallows here, nor our more usual House Martins, and I reckon it’s too early for our Swifts yet. I also saw a young second year Roe Buck in the fields looking like it’s beginning to moult, but I couldn’t get close enough for a decent photo.

But it is coming, spring really is here… more or less! Hopefully it will really get it’s act in gear in early May when I get to spend a whole week doing Rural Theology field visits in the villages around college – hope they don’t mind me taking the camera!

My count – RSPB Big Garden #Birdwatch

So, having told you about this weeks Mistle Thrush, when it came to doing my hour for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, it had vanished completely! Just typical!!

Timed from 9.45am on Sun 27th January 2013 in my little suburban garden in Yateley, my totals for the 10 species of birds that landed in the garden are:

Chaffinches on our seed feeder 14th January 2013
Chaffinches on our seed feeder 14th January 2013

Chaffinch – 13
Blue Tit – 2
Robin – 2 (resident is v territorial)
Starling – 5
Blackbird – 2 (M & F)
Wood Pidgeon – 2
Great Tit – 2
Siskin – 1 (M)
Goldfinch – 1
Greenfinch – 1

So, no Mistle Thrush and much reduced numbers of Starlings (although there are plenty around), Goldfinches and Siskin. That’s the difference the Hampshire thaw has made I guess. The Dunnock that’s been semi-resident is also missing, as were the Long-Tailed Tits who dash through a couple of times a day and two Collard Doves who were cooing on our fence up until a few days ago.

Male Siskin on our Niger seed feeder 16th January 2013
Male Siskin on our Niger seed feeder 16th January 2013

Overflies, if I could have included them, would have been many more Wood Pidgeon and Starlings, and about 4-6 Magpies.

We didn’t do the Birdwatch in in 2012 (I must have been busy) but looking back at our totals for the 2011 RSPB #Birdwatch this years count is pretty good. We’ve not had a Blackcap this winter that I’m aware of, and Siskin numbers are down (though we did have up to 4 in the garden during the snow), but a lot more Starlings and Chaffinches.

I shall be interested in the RSPB results when they are released later in the year, and really must get out around Blackbushe and Castle Bottom again soon. The weather and lack of dog are have had a bad effect on my birdwatching, and on my hips!

My love-hate relationship with Starlings #Birdwatch

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Starlings on our garden seed feeder in Yateley

The reason that this weeks Mistle Thrush has had so much seed to feed on, is because of the Starlings.

I know that according to last years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch suggested that Starlings are among the garden birds most in decline, but there’s never been any shortage of them in our Yateley garden. Numbers regularly reach double figures actually in the garden, and there are many dozens around our estate, often lined up on the television aerials.

They are far from being dull brown birds, with plumage that close up is not only startlingly marked, but also an amazing combination of iridescent green and purples. Yes, they really could be described as beautiful.

But, they squabble atrociously and the noise can totally dominate the garden soundscape. Especially when there’s food on offer. We can refill our birdseed feeder and an hour later these greedy guzzlers have totally dominated the feeder, chucking the majority of the seed on the ground beneath. Some of the Starlings also feed beneath, but here the main beneficiaries are the Chaffinches, Wood Pidgeons, and Collared Doves.

What it does mean is that the Chaffinches who actually quite like to use the feeder too, only get a look in towards the end of the shift, ditto the Blue Tits who won’t stand up to the Starlings, and the Robin who has mastered the perch but rarely gets to feed there.

Birds feeding in the first snowfall of January 2013
Birds feeding in the first snowfall of January 2013 – you can see the attractive pile of waste food below the Starlings favourite feeder, but is it a health risk to other birds?

We do have other feeders to suit various tastes, so the most of our garden bird life gets something, but the grass is being utterly ruined and I’m concerned that the dropped food might contribute to the prevalence of Fringilla papillomavirus (warty legs) that we have in our Chaffinches – could the mites that cause it be transmitted through the mess of waste food?

With this weeks snow melted, and the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over, it is my intention to try and sweep up as much of the waste the Starlings have created as I can, but I know it’s going to build up again very quickly. So what I’m wondering is if there is some design of bird feeder that will create less waste, or discourage the Starlings, who are perfectly capable of feeding on the fat balls or table feeders we have on offer?!

It’s not that I want to get rid of the Starlings completely, but just find a healthy balance in the way we feed the birds who frequent our garden.

Unusual Autumn

Young Swallows at Perriswood on The Gower in August

This morning, in GU46 (that’s in Hampshire) I walked the dog in a snow flurry!! We’re still in October for goodness sake!!!

Between, or in fact sometimes because of, the journeys to and from college in Oxfordshire, I’ve been trying to keep track of some of my autumn sightings this year, and it’s been unusual.

The most noticeable oddity of the autumn for me was the Swallows and House Martins. They left for their migration to Africa incredibly late this year with my last sightings being

  • Farley Mount near Winchester on 6th Oct
  • Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire on 8th Oct
  • Blackbushe, Yateley on 9th Oct

All of which is noticably later than the date I recorded last year of 21st September!

But apparently that wasn’t the half of it, as the BTO reported migration to be late, with their e-news talking about some Swallow chicks still on the nest in early October, and  Going Birding Hants still showing Swallows leaving the coast on 24th October!!

The dragonflies also flew late this autumn. The last one I spotted at college was on 15th October, and the following day the last one here in my favourite field near Yateley, where it rose from the damp grass into the sunlight a bit like Tinkerbell after she was poisoned!

Buckthorn berries

The Spindle trees at Farley Mount started the autumn colour, which given the damp weather bringing the leaves down whilst still partly green, may be all over before we return after half-term. The little black beauties we found on 20th October initially had me completely puzzled, probably because it’s years since I’ve seen any.

Sadly the autumn colours going over the Ridgeway to college have been somewhat dulled by the misty weather. However, I’ve a trip to the New Forest to look forward to late next week, so shouldn’t go completely without the golden autumn palette I love.

The Red Kites still regularly delight me on the way to college, even in the mist. It’s been particularly interesting to watch their behaviour: swooping low over the road, presumably looking for carrion, or following the plough on it’s autumn rounds, in groups of up to a dozen. On one occasion I spotted three sat in a fresh ploughed field, presumably feeding on the worms, whilst others circled overhead.

Still no decent photo’s of them though! The best views are in the car when I’m driving, or as I dash into college with no time to spare, and no camera to hand.

This garden visitor doesn’t make the dog bark! Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Exhaustion overcame amazement when we received repeated visits from a local vagrant. One night the dog repeatedly, and energetically (to the point of hysteria) barked in our kitchen/diner on and off throughout the night. Irritated, on the second night I visited her distracted activity with vengeance in my heart, but happened to peak through the curtains of the french window; to find a fox standing less than 3m away, feeding its face on… fallen Conference pears!!!!

So, I can confirm foxes are not totally carnivorous, and can easily bank a 5′ fence to gain entry and exit to a tasty morsel. I can also confirm that we are now very careful to pick up all fallen pears as soon as we see them, and that as a result, we’ve all slept better the last few nights 😉

I’m not great at fungi identification but at least they are static organisms that can’t run or fly away (like the fox did) when you try and photograph them!

Porcelain fungus (Dudemansiella mucida)

Thanks to the ‘Fungi Name Trail’ guide from the wonderful Field Studies Council, I have discovered this week that the glistening fungi we found on a Beech tree in Farley Mount is called the Porcelain Fungus. I suspect we will photograph other such beauties in the New Forest if the weather is clear – being married to a micro-biologist tends to mean we stop at every new specimen.

Beetles and butterflies between the showers

My favourite field as one of those showers closed in. Probably the best photo taken on my smartphone so far! 7th July 2012 (just before I saw the butterfly shown below)

Today the sun has come out, term is over, the lad is home from his school music tour to Austria, and all is well with the world. But, it has been a tad showery recently, don’t you think?!

I guess most of us have grumbled about the wet; even if we’re delighted there is no-longer a hosepipe ban, it’s not like we’ve needed the hosepipe!

Female Stagbeetle struggling through the mud 14th July 2012

But just think how the little creatures have faired? Even if you’re a big Stag Beetle, the mud and the wet must make life a huge struggle, not to mention the fact that mid July is actually quite late in the summer to be seeing them! It suggests that the female shown here, hadn’t yet had a chance to lay her eggs perhaps?

For the butterflies, it might seem even worse. If you’re trying to hatch and dry your wings as a deluge like the one shown above arrives, what chance have you got of survival I wonder?

Very poor photo taken on the same smart phone of a Purple Hairstreak butterfly trying to dry its wings as a storm blew in – 7th July 2012

But, the sun has been out, and between the showers it has been a joy to grab a camera, and a walk, and make the most of it. Now that summer has really come perhaps, what more #dogwalkdelights (as I call them) will be revealed? Who knows!

Meadow Brown (left) and Little Skipper butterflies on a thistle 14th July 2012

Hart DC cut and slash – does it conflict with new Biodiversity Action Plan?

My husband photographing insects in the field West of the Red Cross Centre in Yateley 30th June 2012

Previously I have written about my delight in the fields adjacent to the Red Cross Centre in Yateley, that have been left this summer to grow long, and rich in flowers and insect life. Until yesterday that is!

Today, I found the long lush field utterly flat, and totally silent, devoid of all those flowers and insects. Not a butterfly, ladybird or grasshopper to be seen or heard. Rough mowed in yesterdays rain (from what I could tell) the cut grass lies like a hard crust across the field. In addition, a slasher has been taken to the trees around the field, including to the beautiful Bhutan Pine with the bluey-purple cones. As far as I can tell, these trees (which also include the Cherry and Oak in that line of planting) were not in anyone’s way.

The same field 17th July 2012.

As a regular user of the site I am keenly aware of how it is used, and I am not for a moment suggesting that all three fields are never mown. The two fields behind the Red Cross Centre, are regularly used by organised and recreational groups of families and children from the local community for all sorts of fun and games, as well as by local dog walkers. I can understand that these need reasonably regular grass cutting to maintain their attraction to users.

The field to the West of the centre and Monteagle House (nearer The Highwayman pub) doesn’t get such use however, really being nothing more than a thoroughfare for people, including many dogwalkers like myself.

Beauty (and a feeding place) to be found in a simple Hawkbit flower

Here (by eye rather than detailed survey) is the richest diversity of flower and grass species, which this year has proved (if left) can attract a whole bunch of insects. Surely with a little thought by those involved in Grounds Maintainance perhaps by talking with their colleagues in Countryside Services, here is an opportunity to take a tiny step towards fulfulling in a small, but important way, the aims of Hart District Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan which it seems to be launching this year. I have no idea if this little field fits Section 4.2 of that plan, but surely it could be an example of what will hopefully be done in more out of the way areas of the District?

How’s this for an idea that takes consideration of the field’s obvious use AND biodiversity value:

  1. The fresh (and rescued from the slashings) cones of the Bhutan Pine, alongside those dried, fallen and collected from a previous season.

    Rather than mowing the whole field, cut 3-4 single stips in the grass along the well developed natural pathways that people use the most, and leave the rest of the grass long for the duration of the summer.

  2. Rather than slashing the trees around the field, prune (not slash, which can cause rot and infection) only those that overhang the pathways through to the Red Cross Centre and Throgmorton Road areas (which noticably HAVEN’T been slashed this week!)

It only takes a little thought, and though I happily pay Council Tax for my bins to be collected etc, it would be nice to feel I was paying my District Council to THINK in a connected and joined up way about Biodiversity as well.

Postscript 18th July 2012: 

Three lots of swift and helpful feedback from local councillors: Apparently

“The land has recently been transferred to the Town Council although the ground maintenance is still, for a period of time, being carried out by contractors following a contract that was specified by Hart some time ago. 
 
Now that the land us the responsibility of the Town Council… a review will be undertaken as to what we want moving forward. Your comments will be useful as part of the review along with input from other users of the land so that the right balance can be achieved.
 
 I am aware that the land immediately adjacent to the Scout Hall is used for a wide range of activities which this week includes a pre school play group sports day. As your blog suggests there are other parts of the land that is not currently used as widely.”
another that said…
… appalled at the severity of the slashing that took place. I will ensure that the matter is raised for awareness at full council on Monday, in order that subsequent measures can take place to prevent any re-occurence…
but also a different view that suggest that some miss noticing the specifics I raise, and miss the point for a need for balance in biodiversity ‘v’ usage issues:
“I have been getting –mails and phone calls about the grass being too long.  The children couldn’t play in it and the dog walkers kept losing their balls.
I was up there yesterday and the weeding was being done by the  contractors  I didn’t see anything about un necessary cutting back.  Yateley Town Council will be taking this area over hopefully on the 1st August and they will have their own contactors.  I have passed your e-mail on to the Town Clerk who is due to meet with Hart this week.”