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Last month I wrote about how a small group of us locally raised funds to restore the Old Church Tower in Chapel Lane Long Marston.

One of the fund raising activities was Tea at the Tower. This proved to be one of the most successful and popular events of the summer and it continued to be held annually long after funds were raised sufficient to secure the safety of the Tower.

The event took place in the gardens of Old Church Cottage and Old Church Farm. It extended along the road between the two houses and also the churchyard within which the tower stood.

Games and activities for children were set up at Old Church Farm. A helpful potter gave hands on demonstrations making all sorts of vases and pots. Children were encouraged to try their hand at it and were able to take away their personal creations. Other craft attractions included spinning and basket making.

Alongside the road, beekeepers put up a large bee tent and gave demonstrations on how the hive functioned all dressed up in their white protection gear looking like space men. Naturally there was honey for tea.

Butterfly Conservation always attended promoting their activities with lots of information on how to attract butterflies to gardens and highlighting our local butterfly reserve at Millhoppers.

An important feature of our local landscape is the Black Poplar Tree. We have in this area one of the largest concentrations of this rare tree and they are under threat. A lot of information was available on work carried out to safeguard these trees and copies of the local Black Poplar Walk were distributed.

Perhaps the most eye catching stall was the fruit and vegetable display and sale. We were very fortunate to get a substantial discount from a local Pick Your Own farm as they were very sympathetic towards what we were trying to achieve. Tea at the Tower was held on a Saturday and on the day before a team of pickers set off early to dig potatoes, carrots and pick peas, broad beans, onions and many other vegetables.

On the Saturday, the day of the event, another picking party set off to gather many types of soft fruit. This party had to set off even earlier in order to get the fruit as fresh as possible. On return all the fruit and vegetables had to weighed, packed and priced. The prices were adjusted to local supermarket prices in order to make a reasonable profit. Under the gazebos the stall looked like a mini Covent Garden and it was always a sell out.

The most important feature of course was Tea; in fact tea, scones and cakes with fruit drinks for the children. All this was provided by local residents and many hours were spent making 

scones to be stored in home freezers up and down Chapel Lane. Tables were set up in the churchyard and garden of Old Church Cottage and of course we always had good weather.

This all took a lot of organising and hard work but it was a lot of fun. It produced a great sense of camaraderie and what is more it was highly popular and raised a lot of money. So popular did the event become that it continued for a number of years following completion of the Tower restoration. As the money was no longer required to fund the restoration we had to find other projects that could benefit from this largesse. It was decided to split the money three ways. A third was donated to Long Marston Church, another supported the Village News, then its early days and the final third was retained to manage the trees in the churchyard and to carry out any further maintenance on the Tower.

All such events require an enthusiastic and active team. Unfortunately many of the organising team were clocking up years and running out of energy. Furthermore there were no takers to replace us so the event fell off the village calendar. This is very sad as it was a well attended event, a highlight of the summer and it raised money for good causes.

Could it be resurrected? Are there any takers? It’s hard work but a lot of fun.

Article by John Noakes.