When I arrived here as Rector in 2017, I immediately saw that many of our lovely congregation and visitors, of all ages, had problems accessing the wonderful Anglo-Saxon Grade I building that is St Nicholas’, and its beautiful churchyard. For more than fifteen years, this issue has been high on the Parish agenda and I cannot stress how important the question of access is – the path is steep and uneven where the tree roots have lifted it, and there are people who cannot physically come to our church. This saddens me greatly. We are an inclusive community and everyone should be able to enjoy our building and grounds.
As part of a parish wide project, we have plans to make both our churches accessible to all. At St Nicholas’, we are acutely aware of those visitors and within our congregation who, at present, are unable to make their way safely down the gradient of the current path and into the building. We would not remove trees without huge forethought and consideration of all the options.
Our immediate neighbours are in favour of the tree removal since they pose a threat to their historic house; they were planted too close and block the light while the lime tree sap damages the roof. Interestingly, these neighbours are directly descended from George Banks, Rector for 37 years, who died in 1896, and we believe George was responsible for planting the trees!
Of course, we truly sympathise with those who feel attached to the trees that line the access path (the only access to the church and churchyard), but would ask everyone to bear in mind that since they were only planted in Victorian times, they have been in existence for less than a tenth of the life of the church itself. With some of the trees diseased, quite sizeable branches now fall in each wind and quite simply, we cannot rebuild the path if the trees remain where they are. People are prevented from accessing our buildings, and they damage the nearby properties.
Our plans make clear that we intend to replant thoughtfully and generously, with the hope of making this a welcoming, peaceful and safe place for all, for another 1000 years and beyond.
The access path will have a gentler incline than at present, with a permeable resin-bound surface wide enough for pushchairs and wheelchair users. This rebuilt path would continue around the church giving access to hitherto inaccessible parts of the churchyard and also to a new memorial garden, to be built on land provided for this specific purpose. This path will greatly assist those who come to the church aided by a stick, a walking frame, in a wheelchair or with a pushchair. It will also help at funerals, for those making their final journey along our path, and the peaceful memorial gardens and grounds will then be fully available to all who wish to visit.
Click here to read more about the accessible changes that will take place inside the building at St Nicholas’.