WEEKLY COLUMN about Fairford and Lechlade news by Chris Roberts MBE. 

1. Library celebrates 20k grant 

The volunteers at Lechlade Community Library are celebrating receiving a grant of £20,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund.

The money will be used towards the refurbishment of the library that will cost around £78k, as there is a significant amount of structural refurbishment needed, damp issues, general wear and tear, improving the efficiency of the Tourist Information section and general updating to all areas.

Thanks to other fundraising efforts and an already accumulated fund of £20,000, the library volunteer team are thrilled that they have now raised just over half the amount needed. If you wish to donate to help Lechlade Library, please go to the Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/lechladelibrary.

If you would like to add to ten-year old Ella Bacon’s fundraising efforts, please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Ellathebookwormlechladelibrary?utm_term=KdevX7GzN.

If you would like to donate in any other way or would like to become a Friend of Lechlade Library, please email: info@lechladelibrary.co.uk or visit www.lechladelibrary.co.uk.

2. Woodcarver teaches heritage skills 

Tom Ball, who is a Lead Woodcarving Lecturer at City and Guilds of London Art School, specialises in carving wood and stone and is just one of several craftspeople who focus on restoration and historic reproductions.

In November last year, Tom won the Heritage Crafts Woodworker of the Year Award 2023 and was presented with his £2,000 prize and trophy at St George’s College, Windsor Castle.

He is now holding workshops for beginners and hobbyists in woodcarving and letter cutting at Coleshill with several other courses available for those with more advanced skills. The aim is to introduce people to a skill or series of skills that have a rich history. Once learned, the skills can be taken in any direction or possibly even lead to a highly rewarding career.

Coleshill, which has only recently been fully opened to visitors, is within easy local reach of Faringdon, Highworth, Lechlade and Swindon and, for a delightful day out, not too far from Cheltenham, Gloucester, Marlborough, Oxford or Reading.

One of the biggest draws for visitors to Coleshill is the Heritage and Rural Skills Centre showcasing a number of expert craftspeople who can teach people about the skills that created and restored great houses and estates like Coleshill. This is where you can start a new hobby or learn more about by-gone heritage conservation skills such as blacksmithing, lime plastering, stained glass, carving (wood or stone) and more.

With so much interest in preserving rural history and crafts, the workshops at Coleshill are very popular and really important in increasing people’s appreciation for heritage skills. Tom said: “When I first got into carving as a career, I never thought of myself as learning an endangered skill or about passing it on to others in order to preserve it.”

But this is exactly what the workshops do, and Tom explained that they offer the chance for people to achieve something with their hands – hand skills appeal to many people and can give a great sense of purpose and satisfaction. It can also provide an escape from the fast pace of life, and they end up with something tangible that they can be proud of.

When he’s not teaching, Tom likes to focus on hand-carved memorials and taking more one-off commissions. “The highlight of my career so far is probably working on the Grinling Gibbons carving at Trinity Chapel Oxford.”

If anyone is interested in learning any of the skills mentioned, please check out the Coleshill Heritage and Rural Skills Centre on the National Trust website. You can book now and there will be regular courses throughout the year. Some of the courses are selling out fast, so please book early on: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/oxfordshire-buckinghamshire-berkshire/heritage-and-rural-skills-centre/events.

3. Next messy Church event 

The next Messy Church is on Sunday February 11 starting at 4pm in St Mary’s Church. The theme is Peter’s Discipleship when we will be looking at how we can follow Jesus like Peter did. There will be activities and a celebration on the chosen theme followed by a cooked meal in Fairford Community Centre. The meeting will finish at about 6pm. Everyone is welcome. It would be a help for catering purposes to know if you intend to come along, but there will be enough food even if you don’t notify the organisers. For more details, please contact Sarah Bottomley on 01285 712074 or stmaryslmt@gmail.com.

4. Next film screening 

The Palmer Hall Cinema is usually held on the second Wednesday of each month. The next film being shown on Wednesday February 14 is Champions. This is a 2023 American sports comedy-drama starring Woody Harrelson. A former minor-league basketball coach receives a court order to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. Despite his doubts, he soon realises that together they can go further than they ever imagined. Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Entry is £3.50 to include a free tea/coffee and a biscuit or £3 for a glass of wine. For more information about The Palmer Hall, visit www.thepalmerhall.org.

5. History society meeting 

The next meeting of Fairford History Society (FHS) will be on Thursday February 15 and will be a morning meeting at 10.30am in Fairford Community Centre. Edwin Cuss will take the audience on a visual journey ‘on the road through Fairford’ in photographs and postcards. FHS membership remains at £5 a year and visitors are welcome at £3 per meeting. New members will be very welcome. For further information, contact Alison on 01285 711768, enquiry@fairfordhistory.org.uk or visit www.fairfordhistory.org.uk.

6. Community health checks 

Community health checks in Fairford and Lechlade: Get a blood pressure check or find out about local services. No appointment needed. On Wednesday February 14 and Wednesday March 13 between 10.30am till 12 noon in Fairford Community Centre, High Street, Fairford GL7 4AF. Also on Thursday February 22 and Thursday March 21 between 10.30am till 12 noon in Lechlade Baptist Church, Sherbourne Street, Lechlade GL7 3AW. More info at www.ghc.nhs.uk/health-check.

7. Arts society meeting 

The Arts Society Upper Thames’ meeting on Thursday February 8 will be about “Imperial Purple to Denim Blue – the Colourful History of Colour in Textiles” with Susan Kay-Williams, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Needlework. The lecture explores the fascinating story of how dyes were discovered, made and used from the earliest time to the end of the 18th century. It shows the social importance of certain colours including red, blue and purple. It is a story that travels from Europe to India and the Americas – a story of exploration, invention, war, the church, money, power and sex. Meetings are at 2pm in Lechlade Memorial Hall, but please arrive by 1.50pm. Please pre-book by email at info@tasupperthames.org.uk and pay £7.50 on the door.

8. Mothers' Union meeting 

The next meeting of the Mothers’ Union is on Wednesday February 14 at 2pm in Lechlade Memoral Hall. Gordon Dey will give a talk entitled ‘Time to Prepare’. For further information, contact Kathy on 01367 252543 or 07508 563905 or kathryn8newton@gmail.com.

9. Gardening club meeting

The next meeting of Lechlade Gardening Club is on Wednesday February 14 with Timothy Walker talking about ‘Designing and making a smaller garden.’ Timothy is a British botanist and was the Horti Praefectus (Director) of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum. Meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm in Lechlade Memorial Hall. Membership is £5 per person per annum, after which it is £2 to attend each meeting. Visitors £3. For more information, please contact 01367 252495 or 01367 252286.