Annual Reports:

April 2015
March 2014
March 2013

News and events from St. James Church, Swimbridge

This section deals with church events.
For other events and news please visit the excellent village website:


Green Team Success!

Green Team Success!

Our project to support the Swimbridge Parish Green Team's work to keep Swimbridge's community assets in good order and improve them through our volunteers has been shortlisted for a public vote in Tesco’s #BagsofHelp initiative! Please vote for us in our Barnstaple Tesco stores during May and June to help us win the top prize of £5,000 to help us secure a Tesco grant.  With your help ... Please put the tokens in the Swimbridge box at the store, and we could be in for a great boost to our village environment and support for the volunteers #BagsofHelp grant. This will support the Streamside Gardden which is very much a Friends priority this year. Please also tell others about the new donations box for the Streamside Garden. Thank you.

Good Friday Procession from church to Hooda Hill, Easter 2017.

Photos by David Netherway and Philip Dalling
Easter 2017 Easter 2017 Easter 2017 Easter 2017
Easter 2017 Easter 2017 Easter 2017 Easter 2017
  Easter 2017 Easter 2017  
Click for enlargements


Cowslips generously given by Joyce Cork, member of the Friends of St James, for the Streamside Garden.

The Green Team planted them on Saturday 8 April and they can be seen from the path beside the garden. Thank you Joyce! 


Mazzard blossom

Michael Gee tells us that the Mazzard blossom in the Millennium Green (an orchard of 60 Mazzard trees) should look good in a few days' time and over Easter Week. He will do a short walk/talk from Willows Tearoom in the main street at 10.30am on Saturday, 15th. 

Wildlife Watch group

Wildlife Watch group

Jack Smith made this bird nest box with the Wildlife Watch group, junior Devon Wildlife Trust at Hakeford Woods.

It is now installed in the Streamside Garden.

We shall be watching it with interest! 


Plough Service

The Plough Service revived in 2016 continued this year on 5 February, with a collection for farming charities. A plough was brought into the churchyard by tractor during the service (many thanks to Mr Bert Bartlett). Our photos, taken by Philip Dalling and David Netherway, show the Rev  Shaun O'Rourke blessing the plough in the time-honoured way, and our Reader, Christopher James, reminding the congregation of the names of all the farms - one by one - in this large agricultural parish. Thank you very much to all who provided the tasty food and drink consumed afterwards. 

Plough service 2017 Plough service 2017  
Church clock repair 2016

Church clock repair 2016

A final thank you note: a framed information piece has been put in the nave close to the door to the tower (see photo).

This marks the completion of the project by The Friends of St James to restore the church clock for our community.

The text describes the repair work, with  photographs showing what was involved - so that no one has to climb the steep ladder, negotiate a trap door, negotiate some more steps and then balance on a wooden platform in order to view the work.

Renewed thanks to all the donors and to project leader David Netherway, without whom it would still be ten past three in Swimbridge.

Mark Haworth-Booth, Secretary,
Friends of St James

Wildlife Surveys

In 2016 the Friends initiated a survey of the wildlife in the parish. This followed talks given by John Bradbeer of the Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) and Tom Hynes of the North Devon Biosphere. Two events were organised in association with the Barnstaple branch of the DWT. A walk at Hearson on 10 May, led by Paul Madgett and Mary Breeds, produced a list of over 120 vascular plant species. The survey also revealed the presence of otter, dormouse and badger. On 16 August, an evening at Middle Hearson devoted to bats and moths was led by John Breeds: 27 species were identified. Warmest thanks to Paul, Mary and John for sharing their extraordinary expertise. The surveys plus some photographs are available here.

The next event is a survey of Lichens in the churchyard to be led Maxine Putnam of the DWT from 11am - to 3ish on Saturday 18 February 2017. All are welcome but, because detailed looking with lenses is involved, places are limited: please contact the survey leader Maxine Putnam by email to or phone her on 01271 865 569.

Remembrance Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembrance Sunday, 13 November 2016 Remembrance Sunday, 13 November 2016 Remembrance Sunday, 13 November 2016

Streamside gardens leaflet

A special 'History and Guide' leaflet to the Streamside Gardens has been produced.

Please click here to see the leaflet.

Swimbridge Open Gardens 2016

Seven lovely and varied village gardens in Swimbridge, St James Church Streamside Garden and the allotments were opened to visitors over a glorious weekend at the beginning of July.

The event was organised by Annette Shilling and Mike and Mo Clift who opened their own cottage gardens. Cream teas were served at The Mill House and the Streamside Garden and plants were sold at three gardens.

Proceeds from the event which was sponsored by St Johns Garden Centre were for local good causes. This included the Twinning Association, Swimbridge Preschool and Be Brave Bears with the principal object being the special memorial sundial for the Streamside Garden.

Pictured in their garden, Mike and Mo Clift hand a tin containing £700 in cash for the sundial project  to Mark Haworth- Booth, Treasurer and Secretary of the Friends of St James Church who are managing this project.

Swimbridge Open Gardens 2016 Swimbridge Open Gardens 2016 Swimbridge Open Gardens 2016
Swimbridge Open Gardens 2016 Swimbridge Open Gardens 2016 Click for enlargements

Pet Service

pet service

A new event for Swimbridge and the Streamside Garden: Rev Shaun O’Rourke led a blessing of the pets  service on a slightly damp summer Sunday afternoon. Children and adults brought their well-loved pets along to take part in this special occasion which is hoped will become an annual event.

The service ended with children holding and releasing Christopher James’ pigeons …hopefully to fly safely home to Gunn.
David Netherway

The Bug Hotel Event

Lots of Swimbridge children (and their parents) enjoyed a sunny Saturday morning of bug related activities in the St James Church Streamside Garden. The day was led by John Hickson in the garden with wire workshops by Ruth Bateman in the Old Schoolroom. Look out for the results of their work in the garden.

Hunting, discovering, studying and making and decorating a home for the thousands of bugs in the garden and just enjoying free event was made possible by the 2015 Prince of Wales Award grant funding.
David Netherway

The Bug Hotel The Bug Hotel The Bug Hotel
The Bug Hotel The Bug Hotel The Bug Hotel
Click for enlargements

The Clock at St James

The church clock is repaired, repainted and regarded. A well-attended celebration was held on Saturday 14 May,  with a fine cream tea provided by Mary and Richard Fardon, a video of the work by Matt Thomlinson - all were in awe at the steeplejacks - a talk on bats (with live bats) by Samantha Pickering of North Devon Bat Care, and a chance to cheer as the clock hands passed ten past three, and the bells rang out too, then Rev Shaun blessed the renewed clock.

Thanks to all the very generous donors, who were thanked by name, to Peter and June Gaydon for representing the family who installed the clock in the 19th century, and to everyone who helped on the day. 

Repair of the clock Repair of the clock Repair of the clock
Click for enlargements

Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill

...and Hot Cross Buns afterwards in the church

Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill 2016 Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill 2016 Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill 2016
Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill 2016 Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill 2016 Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill 2016 Good Friday Procession to Hooda Hill 2016

2016 Plough Service

plough service

Chris James and Rev Shaun O'Rourke bless the plough at the 2016 Plough Service held on 10 January. St James church revived this traditional thanksgiving service to recognise and support our farming community. A collection was made for the Farming Community Network.
Bert Bartlett provided the plough, which was one of the few departures from previous Plough Services when Sid Bartlett's horsedrawn plough was used. This now stands in the Streamside Garden.
The service was organised by Churchwarden Matt Tomlinson and Rev Shaun O'Rourke.

Harvest Festival

Harvest festival 2015 Harvest festival 2015 Harvest festival 2015

New Churchwardens

New churchwardens



Our two new churchwardens, Matt Tomlinson and Peter Miller, were formally inducted into their roles by the Rev Shaun O'Rourke at the Sunday morning service on 12 September.

Ride and Stride!

On Saturday 12 September three members of the congregation took part in the 'Ride and Stride' event organised by the Devon Historic Churches Trust.

David Netherway, John Hayes and Mark Haworth-Booth were generously sponsored by other members of the congregation to cycle from St James Church to the other churches of the benefice.

They first cycled to St Paul's, Landkey, where they admired the newly conserved Acland monument (photo 1). They went on, sometimes in rain showers, to the Church of the Holy Name at Gunn, where three parishioners were busily cleaning and a fourth doing maintenance work. Next to St Peter's, West Buckland, where a coffee morning was in full swing, enabling the cyclists to take excellent refreshments (photo 2). Kind members of the congregation there added to the sponsorship. The trio then went on to St Michael, East Buckland, which will be joining the benefice at a service on the afternoon of Sunday, 11 October (photo 3).

The cyclists called in at St Paul's, Filleigh and then returned to Swimbridge in sunshine. The ride raised £150, to be divided between the Devon Historic Churches Trust and St James Church. Warmest thanks to all the generous sponsors.

Ride and Stride fundraising Ride and Stride fundraising Ride and Stride fundraising

Christingle making!

Preparing Christingles in the Old School Room

Preparing Christingles in the Old School Room Preparing Christingles in the Old School Room Preparing Christingles in the Old School Room

Christmas tree

As he does every year, Bert Bartlett very generously brought a fine tall Christmas Tree and helped us to decorate it with Martin, Janet, Vera, Mavis, Matt, Ruth and Mark.

Our Foodbank

Also a reminder that we are open daily to receive any gifts for the food bank - a new box has been hand-crafted by David Netherway.

Please continue to support this effort. The church is open >every day with a box at the back for your contributions and
more details of the items most needed.

Christmas tree 2014 Christmas tree 2014 North Devon Foodbank

Repairing the weather vane on St James Church, Swimbridge

The weather vane with its cockerel was taken down for repair when the steeplejacks Dawson's checked the lightning conductor several months ago. It has been expertly repaired and re gilded.
Dawson's are a family firm now into their sixth generation. Ben and Sam Dawson re-fixed it 93 feet above the ground on Thursday, 27 November. Ben's young son aged three will be going up his first tower soon.
The cost of the work has been met by the Friends of St James Church. Swimbridge will now know which way the wind is blowing again.

Repairing the weather vane on St James Church Repairing the weather vane on St James Church Repairing the weather vane on St James Church Repairing the weather vane on St James Church
David Netherway took the photos and provided the article

Remembrance Day 2014

Remembrance Day 2014 Remembrance Day 2014
             Photos by Philip Dalling - click to enlarge
Remembrance Day 2014 Remembrance Day 2014
             Photos by Nigel Ashelford - click to enlarge

The Re-dedication of the War Memorial in St James Churchyard, Swimbridge

At 11am on Sunday 10 August, the church congregation, parish councillors and other members of the community joined together for a service of re-dedication. Prior to the service, many people looked at displays in the church commemorating the soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War. The main panels were researched and assembled by the late Mervyn Dalling, historian of the village. They are displayed every Remembrance Sunday.

This year they were augmented by a display of memorabilia kindly lent by the Combat Collection at Cobbaton and by Janet Patton. These included the standard equipment issued to soldiers – mess tin, enamel mug and other eating utensils; sewing kit and other tools for maintaining boots and uniforms, plus a helmet, greatcoat, cape and kitbag.

While those attending partook of tea and coffee, Janet Patton played a variety of First World War tunes on the piano, including ‘There’s Something About a Soldier’. The national anthem was sung and everyone followed Churchwarden John Hayes, carrying the British Legion flag, to the war memorial. The service was led by the Rev. Shaun O’Rourke. Veteran Mat Bluge read out all the names on the war memorial. Geoff Dodd, chair of the parish council, laid a wreath.  

The wind and rain desisted, the sun shone briefly, and the service was a very moving occasion. Thank you to everyone who helped to make it so special. The excellent refurbishment of the war memorial will be the subject of a future contribution. However, we were pleased to see Mr Brian Barrow at the event. Through PCC member Nigel Ashelford, Mr Barrow guided us to the source of funding for the refurbishment.

Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014
Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014
Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014 Rededication service, 2014
Click the pictures to enlarge them.

Gabriel Hummerstone

The sculptor Gabriel Hummerstone, who created the wonderful carvings in the Streamside Garden, is working on a sculpture in memory of his mother. He sees it in part as a Lenten meditation. If you would like to follow the progress of Gabriel's work please use this link:

BBC Radio Devon

Anyone interested in the church and the village  can hear Vera Knight and David Netherway on BBC Radio Devon talking about the Streamside Garden. The presenter was Belinda Dixon. The children interviewed for the programme loved talking about their new garden as these photos show.

To download the show, right-click this link then choose 'save target as' or 'save link as' then, once downloaded, find it and click it to play.

Radio Devon Radio Devon Radio Devon

Swimbridge on TV

Swimbridge on TV

Windfall Films were in Swimbridge for a day with Ruth Goodman of BBC’s Victorian Farm fame, filming for 'The Wonder of Dogs' (working title), a three part series that will be broadcast on BBC2 in August at the 8 pm slot.  A celebration of the amazing diversity in the domestic dog the series which delves into the science and the history of different breeds.

The Jack Russell Terrier was of course the subject for the Swimbridge piece. Based at the Jack Russell Inn they filmed in the church, churchyard, the village, the pub and met some local terriers, decendents of The Rev John Russell’s original terrier Trump.

Also, a working party made good use of the sunshine to give the church shed its first thorough tidy up for many a year. Thanks very much to Anne, David, John, Sarah and Mark. Parson Jack would surely have approved. 

A wedding day to remember

On Friday 24 May our church was bursting at the seams with the many well-wishers who attended the wedding of Mary Sargent and Richard Fardon.
It was an occasion of great joy for all of us and we wish our dear friends wonderful times ahead. The occasion was captured in these photographs kindly provided by Nigel Ashelford. 

Wedding of Mary Sargent and Richard Fardon Wedding of Mary Sargent and Richard Fardon Wedding of Mary Sargent and Richard Fardon

Swimbridge Q&As

Click here for a piece about the first Swimbridge Q&As

in the North Devon Journal: Click the image to enlarge it. (There may be an icon, bottom right, to make it maximum size so you can read the text)

Swimbridge Q&As in the North Devon Journal

Friends of St James, Swimbridge

Mervyn C. Dalling 1 November 1941 - 8 March 2013
John Hayes, Deputy Chair, Swimbridge Parish Council, signing the Friends' Constitution

On 20 February a constitution was approved and the first officers appointed. The Rev. Shaun O'Rourke is Chair, Mark Haworth-Booth will serve as Secretary and Treasurer. David Netherway serves on the committee. Lady Arran has graciously consented to serve as Patron. The aims of the Friends are to preserve, maintain and enhance for the public benefit the church of St James, Swimbridge, its churchyard and Streamside Garden'. Membership of the Friends is open to all on payment of an annual subscription. This should be a minimum of £10.00 p.a. but we hope many Friends will feel able to pay a higher amount - which is left to their discretion. Support from the wider community is now essential for the church to survive but we hope that we can do more than that and help make the beautiful building and its lovely setting even more marvellous. We plan to have working parties helping to keep the Streamside Garden looking wonderful. 

Mervyn C. Dalling 1 November 1941 - 8 March 2013

Mervyn C. Dalling 1 November 1941 - 8 March 2013

On Saturday 16 March St James Church was full of mourners attending the funeral of our good friend Mervyn. There was, quite literally, standing room only. Many knew Mervyn far better than I, but I should like to pay tribute here to Mervyn as the unofficial but very fine historian of our village. He modestly referred to himself as an 'amateur historian' but his dedication to proof and truth was superior to some professional historians I have come across. He was a lifelong preserver of historical records, including all kinds of memorabilia and photographs - many of which he took himself. He generously shared his knowledge and collections with anyone who took an interest. He kindly allowed me to copy important historical texts and photographs.

Mervyn took part in the first season of the Swimbridge Q&As launched in autumn 2011. Alongside John Hayes, Mervyn spoke on the first evening on 'Swimbridge Village and its History'. The event included a slide show of photographs of Swimbridge taken by Mervyn in 1965. No one present will forget his marvellous anecdotes of a Swimbridge childhood in the 1940s and '50s. St James church was central to that childhood and to Mervyn's later life too. On the second evening, Mervyn spoke on 'The Rev. John Russell – breeder of the Jack Russell Terrier, huntsman, founder of Swimbridge School and parish priest here for 48 years (1832-80)'. His presentation stressed the amount of important work undertaken by Russell for his parishioners - Mervyn even gave us the precise numbers of baptisms, weddings and funerals conducted by this vigorous and dedicated clergyman, who was far more than the huntsman and dog breeder familiar from myth. Russell also, of course, founded two Chapels of Ease, at Cobbaton and Gunn, so that members of the congregation who lived far from the village could worship closer to their homes, and he also founded Swimbridge School. It was entirely fitting that children from the school, led by their headmadmaster, Garry Reed, should present a 'radio play' about Parson Jack and the school. They also sang a song Mervyn had composed (to the tune of 'Clementine') in honour of Russell. Then the children did something Mervyn was not expecting. They sang Happy Birthday to him - Mervyn had celebrated his 70th birthday a few days earlier. It is true to say that Mervyn was moved to tears. We shall not forget him. 

Rogan Haddock

Rogan Haddock who lived at Hannaford and passed away in January generously left a legacy of £10,000 to St James Church.
His gift to the church has been very gratefully received by the PCC who have yet to decide how best to use this legacy in his memory. Leaving a legacy to our church is a way to ensure that St James will be here for the community for new generations to come. Thank you very much, Rogan

St James Church Streamside Garden Project Costs and Grants Summary

The vision was to create a public space for in our community and our visitors to enjoy from a part of our St James church yard which had been fenced off for over 100 years.  

St James Church Streamside Garden Project

Development Stage: 2006-2010
Before we could start work all consultation, planning, and other consents had to be in place to satisfy the Lottery for our Stage 2 application. There were fees and some expenses for essential professional reports, design and Diocese, District Council, and Environment Agency approvals.

This cost of about £1300 covered by Lottery and Devon County Council (Cll Edgell) grants and donations and volunteer time.

Delivery Stage: 2010-2011
A National Lottery Grant award of nearly £50,000 through Groundwork UK from its Community Spaces fund allowed it to go ahead. Lottery grants can only be spent on the approved work and claimed for actual expenditure after the work has been completed. All work is subject to strict Lottery procurement rules overseen by our appointed professional landscape architect.

The grant was supplemented by individual donations and many hours of volunteer work by church members and supporters in the community. The overall cost of the construction and landscaping work was £50,352.     Of this some £23,000 was for the new metal railings and public footpath surfacing.

Dedication and Official Opening: December 2011 and June 2012
It was a Lottery condition that there should be a project launch event to celebrate the achievement with our community for which they gave a £240 grant.  This covered expenses, printing and the accommodation expenses for the garden builder, who provided entertainment, and his family

Sustainability Stage: 2012 onwards
To ensure the project continues to serve the community the Lottery awarded up to £3500 (of which £3486 has been claimed) towards specific expenditure. Further grants were given by local funders who wished to support the garden in the community. These were South Molton Rotary Club £250, Barnstaple Bridge Trust £ 1200, North Devon District Council (Cll Lane ) £100     and Devon County Council (Cll Edgell) £750
This funding has provided garden maintenance equipment and training, a shed alarm, a gazebo, the Swimbridge school children’s carved stepping stones poetry project, the leaflets, scientific/environmental equipment for use by Swimbridge School, and will provide school and pre school environmental teacher training and continuing garden community project work led by the Pre School.

It was a condition of the Lottery grant that we employed an independent lead professional for the project delivery. This was provided by David Wilson Partnership landscape architect Peter Leaver. His fees throughout were paid by the Lottery.
No payments were made to the project leader, project members or volunteers for their services.  

There is likely to be a small balance which will be retained in the PCC Streamside Garden account for use for future development, maintenance etc. Full details of the accounts are available from the Treasurer if required.

David Netherway   February 2013

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