Let the organ thunder and the bells ring out!

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The celebration of the 150th anniversary of the installation of our fine organ in Littlehempston church was a tremendous success with the church packed on both days to hear some wonderful music. For the Saturday concert, Let the Organ Thunder – Let the Trumpet Blast, we were fortunate to have Dr Noel Tredinnick, organist and director of music at All Souls, Langham Place, London, deliver a rousing and accomplished concert of works by, amongst others, John Stanley, Purcell, J.S.Bach, Torelli and Handel. Dr Tredinnick (pictured far right), whose reputation is international and has family connections with Littlehempston, stayed on to conduct a Littlehempston in Praise event on the Sunday, when we sang some old favourites and newer hymns. On both occasions we were privileged to hear talented young Brazilian trumpeter, Izalni Batista Nascimento junior, who had travelled down with Dr Tredinnick. At the Sunday service, when our own organist Mark Ekert accompanied us, we also enjoyed beautiful solos by local soprano Clare Lash-Williams. In all, a wonderful weekend of music and celebration which we shall remember for a long time.

This all took place on the first weekend of June. On 12th June 1868, such a large congregation gathered for the inaugural service that many could not get into the church. More than 20 rectors and vicars of all the neighbouring parishes were present. This was a result of efforts by the Rev Fitzhenry Hele, rector of Littlehempston for 50 years in the 19th century. After the service, a cold collation for 300 was laid out in the barn at nearby Grattons Farm. This was owned at the time by the Evans family, who were all extremely musical, and who sang in the church choir and played the organ. Their grandchildren later presented a stained glass window to the church in their memory; it has three panels showing St Cecilia, St Gregory and King David.

We didn’t have a cold lunch for 300, but the quality of cakes and refreshments was highly commended and a magnificent £907 was raised to support the church and Community Space. Many thanks to all involved in putting on such a special event and, in particular, organiser, Jenny Galton-Fenzi.

The funds raised during the two concerts have given an enormous boost to church and Community Space funds. Some of the money raised will be put into a fund recently set up to raise money for new bell ropes for the church. There has been renewed interest in getting the bells of Littlehempston ringing out again on a regular basis, but new ropes are urgently needed. Around £1,200 is needed – appealing suggestions on fundraising welcome.

Fancy a spot of thistle thwarting?

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No, not a new local custom! To cut or not to cut? That’s been the recent local debate about mowing Lot 7 which was knee high in grasses and wildflowers. (Lot 7 is the piece of land bought back in March on behalf of the community to preserve it for future generations.)  The call went out to local people to come and chop the thistles that might spread to neighbouring farmland. Pictured here are Jenny Galton-Fenzi, Anna Ash, John Todd and Sandra Law who together with Jill Todd (pictured separately in a bush) and Ali Taylor spent a happy evening nattering and enjoying the beautiful setting and wildlife. The flat area has now been mown and the orchard area left for the moment.

A wide range of wildflowers had appeared and as one local said: It’s refreshing to see the land used for something other than grazing. Whilst that remains important, we also need to try and reverse the significant level of decline in biodiversity. The UK has lost 97% of its meadows since World War II and now we are seeing unprecedented declines in wildlife, particularly the pollinators, which, if left unchecked, will one day have repercussions for all of us. Hopefully (with the right advice) we can find a way of improving the odds a little for wildlife, whilst retaining enough control so the village does not disappear under a forest of thistles!

An expert lichenologist who visited the site recently was hugely knowledgeable about wildlife in general, and amongst other things identified a Lesser Whitethroat singing in Lot 7 (she thought possibly nesting in one of the bramble clumps), two male Beautiful Demoiselles dancing around down by the river, and she also pointed out the patches of Bird’s Foot Trefoil, favourite food plant of Small Blue butterflies, and the many spikes of Sorrel, favoured by Small Copper butterflies.

On Monday 2nd July at 7pm, a meeting in the Community Space in Littlehempston Church will consider management options for the land, together with how this large piece of land, which includes an orchard, can be best maintained.

Parish Council vacancy

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Gerald Hine-Haycock has resigned from the Parish Council – his fellow Councillors passed a vote of hearty thanks for his 8 years of service as Councillor, Chair and Vice-Chair, and wished him every success in the future.

A notice for a “Casual Vacancy” has been posted on the Parish Council noticeboards and you can read it by clicking here.

The next Parish Council meeting is on Wednesday 20th June at 6.30pm at Littlehempston Church. All are welcome to attend.

A Historic Day for Littlehempston

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On Thursday March 15th, a great cheer went up at the auction  of Higher Court Farm at the Seven Stars in Totnes, when the Littlehempston bid for Lot 7 was successful. The auctioneer commented that it wasn’t often he made so many people happy with just one sale! This land purchase provides the parish with its first community-owned open space and will help preserve this very central part of the village for future generations. And to add to the happiness, Lot 4 was bought by individual locals.

Littlehempston owes much to the small group of determined individuals who rallied the community to action so successfully, and did so much work behind the scenes.

If you missed the auction, you can experience all the excitement and tension of the Lot 7 bid, thanks to Jon Morris’s recording:


You can see a map of the various lots on page 17 of the Higher Court Farm Sales Particulars. Here are details of the prices paid and the purchasers, to the best of our knowledge:

Lot Price Purchaser
1 £348,000 Vision Residences (Phase Two) LLP
2 £450,000 Vision Residences (Phase Two) LLP
3 £197,000 Jacqui Hodgson
4 £45,000 Littlehempston residents
5 £94,000 To be confirmed
6 £200,000 Vision Residences (Phase Two) LLP
7 £58,000 Littlehempston community!!!
8 £285,000 Mare and Foal Sanctuary
9 £90,000 Mare and Foal Sanctuary
10 £202,000 A local farmer
11 £52,000 Mare and Foal Sanctuary

The village of Littlehempston in South Hams has a strong history of community spirit and purpose – we have bought our own pub, enhanced the church into a community space and now bought our own land for community use.

Murmurings started in late January 2018 when the Blacklers land in Littlehempston came up for sale, including a central pasture with orchard. When an email went out on the 19th of January asking whether it wouldn’t be worth “putting the idea out there” for the villagers to club together and buy Lot 7, it didn’t exactly take off as a priority … and not much happened until around the 19th Feb when a growing group thought it would be good to meet and discuss.

This first well attended meeting was on the 26th of February in the church where full support was given to “give it a go”. We got £30k in pledges that evening in a cardboard box so we felt emboldened!

Results of this meeting included some delegated tasks such as capture the pledges and turn them hard cash, find a purchasing entity (the Bidder) to bid on the day, think about the balance between Lot 4 and Lot 7, and start drafting an agreement for the community to agree with the Bidders that they would buy it on the village’s behalf.

There was quite a flurry of activity leading to the 2nd meeting on the 12th March with only 3 days to go until auction day. This 2nd meeting was a very focussed event where we could confirm that we had reached the guide price in hard cash, but requested more if possible. We also agreed to focus solely on Lot 7 as a community, and let village individuals go for Lot 4. We discussed the premise on which the Bidders would buy the land on behalf of the village and had Mike Dix and Nicky Oldridge stepping up to be the Bidders … things starting to come together but there was a way to go yet!

Really ramping up the tempo now in the days before the auction, the kitty reached £60k on auction day with some fabulous last minute donations, and having signed a Deed of Trust with Nicky and Mike, we were battle ready … and the rest is history!


Youth Club is Back in Action

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And there’s some great action on offer! Twenty young people turned up for the re-opening of the Youth Club led by Ash Levin. With the pews rolled back and mats on the floor, the group were kept busy with activities that stretched their minds, asked for artistic expression and practiced their physical dexterity.

Ash has loads of experience working with young people and offers an exciting mix of drama games, group challenges, physical games, acro-balancing, and (action) songs. The club is for 7 – 14 year olds, and the older ones can work with Ash as youth leaders to help run the sessions, if they want. Sessions are fortnightly on Friday from 6.15 to 7.45pm in the Community Space and cost £3.

We hope this group will grow friendships amongst the children in the parish and encourage a feeling of community. It is also a great opportunity for parents to have a regular get together in the Tally Ho. And if Ash seems a familiar face, you may have seen him at the Littlehempston Fete last year – either playing chess in the Chess Tent or as Mr Cupid on Stilts. Circus skills are another arrow to his bow.

Contact Kendal or Susie for more information. Check the Events page on this web site for dates.

A Good Year in Space

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A successful pilot of the Littlehempston Youth Club was one of the achievements of the Community Space in 2017, outlined at the recent Annual Meeting.  The Space is our “village hall” offering loads of events and activities that keep us all fit and entertained, whilst raising the money to keep our church open for all.

In 2017, the Space had an income of nearly £7,000, that included donations from the Fete, Lottery and the Bogan Trust. This income paid for a new boiler, heating, lighting, cleaning, repayment of the loans for the building works to create the Space and the Youth Club Pilot. A similar sum is generated by church activities, which covers insurance and church-related costs. Get in touch if you’d like a full Annual Report and Statement of Accounts.

A vote of thanks was passed at the meeting to Ken Wood, who started the Littlehempston Lottery, which to date has raised £4,200 for village causes. Pictured here is Space Team Chairman, James Dunn, who is doubly happy – he won first prize in the March 2018 quarterly draw and also received on behalf of the Space a donation for equipment for the new Youth Club. Thanks were given at the meeting to all who’d helped, including Kendal Tredinnick, who is stepping down from the Team.

New blood is needed, so if you’d like to join our friendly team, please get in touch – meetings are good-humoured, short, “well refreshed” and a great way to get involved in village life. Not keen on monthly meetings? Then why not offer to run a one-off event? Full support from the experienced team provided! Just get in touch for more information.

Stars abound in Space

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The stars were out in February for a fascinating exploration of the night sky guided by Dave Norman from the Torbay Astronomical Society with a great slide show provided by Alison Alexander. We stood mouths agape in the churchyard, as Dave’s laser guided us from Orion’s belt to the Seven Sisters, the faintly twinkling Pleiades, and explored the moon’s craters through the telescope. The raffle prize of a moon chart was won by children from Hemsford and home-made soup was served up in the Community Space.

Another group of stars appeared in a documentary film directed by Russ Pariseau, Holding up the Sky, about ten young women from Nepal and Africa who overcame many barriers to scale Kilimanjaro. One related that she had run away from home rather than face an arranged marriage; another felt lucky that she was sent to school because she was “too ugly” to be married. Their inspiring tales were a great way to celebrate International Women Days and the cake stall made £150 for the charity Womankind.

Littlehempston gets together to purchase Community Land

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After coming to the aid of our church and local pub, Littlehempston people are coming together to secure land that is going up for sale in the centre of our village.

In the biggest land sale for generations 122 acres (almost 50 hectares) is going to auction, following the death of farmer Lyndon Blackler, of Higher Court Farm. The land has been divided into 11 lots, some of which lie right in the centre of our picturesque village. The auction will be conducted by Rendells in 11 separate lots and is set to take place on March 15th. Click here for full details.

As well as protecting the land from possible development, we intend to place the land in a Trust for community use with a focus on nature conservation and biodiversity. Ideas include preserving an old Devon cider orchard, creating a village green and providing shared space for the use of all villagers and their children.

Littlehempston has a strong track record of community action. In 2012 we managed to protect the future of our church by adapting it to perform a dual function as a village hall, with the help of innovative pews on wheels. Then, in 2014, we formed a co-operative, bought, and then reopened our village pub, the Tally Ho. The centuries old pub is now the first community owned pub in South Devon.

Littlehempston is now applying its usual vigour to raise funds prior to the auction on 15th March, with a working group set up to investigate Community Interest Companies and Community Land Trusts.

In order to raise funds, the group is collecting money and pledges from within and beyond Littlehempston. With money rolling in, they’re feeling confident they will be able to raise the funds to bid for at least one of the lots.

Littlehempston Parish Council chair Jonathan Morris says: “This is a once in a generation opportunity to acquire land for the whole community of Littlehempston. We’ve got a great track record of pulling together as a village to protect the things we value most and this will provide a fantastic resource for the whole community to enjoy. There has been an astonishing amount of money pledged so far and each new pledge safeguards a little more of the village for future generations. Let’s hope people continue to give generously!”

If you are interested in contributing to the fund, make your cheque out to ‘Village Community Space’ and write ‘Land Littlehempston’ on the back of the cheque together with your contact details. Send your cheque to: Land Littlehempston, 2 Church Cottages, Littlehempston, Totnes, TQ9 6LY.

Alternatively you can do a bank transfer of your contribution to:
Account: Village Community Space
Sort Code: 30-98-69
Account No: 02271067

If you’d like to contribute to the fund but your money isn’t immediately available, you can make a pledge – please use this website’s contact form to get in touch and we’ll let you know how.

We’ve also set up a mailing list which you can join to be kept up to date with this campaign, ask questions, put forward ideas and contribute to the discussion. Again, use our contact form and let us know if you’d like to join the Littlehempston Land mailing list.

Holding up the Sky to support International Women’s Day

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Come and help celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th with an inspiring film about women who succeed against the odds. Presented by director, Russ Pariseau, Holding Up The Sky is an inspiring tale about 7 Nepali women and 3 African “sisters” who climbed Kilimanjaro on International Women’s Day in 2013. Their mission was to call attention to the challenges girls and young women face growing up in traditional patriarchal societies of the developing world. The physical challenges of the Kilimanjaro climb parallel the individual stories each woman relates about overcoming “gender obstacles” growing up.

This is a timely film given the current spotlight on the barriers women face … and overcome … and the IWD theme for 2018 is #PressforProgress. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first run by the Suffragettes in 1911 – it is not country, group or organisation specific. With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away, there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and there is currently strong global momentum striving for gender parity.

This event supports both the charity Womankind who work at local, regional and international levels to ensure women’s voices are heard, their rights are realised, and their lives are free from violence, and also the Community Space in Littlehempston Church where the event takes place. Entry is £3, doors open at 7pm and the event starts at 7.30pm. There’ll be a bar and light refreshments – please eat lots of cake in aid of Womankind. Feel free to share this invitation with as many of your friends as possible.

A first for Littlehempston wildlife?

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Spring is well on the way with snowdrops, celandines and daffodils brightening the hedgerows. And some interesting sightings since Christmas too. Jenny Galton-Fenzi reported last week “A first yesterday – John Floyd and I were standing on the village bridge when we saw a cormorant swimming downstream. Have previously only seen them drying their wings on the dead tree in the ’causeway meadow’. Cherry plum (prunus cerasifera) is out. I think the nearest tree is by the main road as you go through Littlehempston Wood. Next blackthorn, then hawthorn.” Jenny also has a regular visitor to her garden – a white pheasant. Another white pheasant has been spotted roaming around the fields in Gatcombe.

If you’d like to add yourself to the local informal e-mail list exchanging news about interesting sightings, just get in touch.