Village Feature: Easebourne

MOTORISTS passing along the A272 could be forgiven for not knowing where Midhurst ends and Easebourne begins.

In fact the exact point where Midhurst becomes Easebourne is set in stone on North Mill Bridge, where the boundary is marked by two hands reaching out to each other.

Members of Easebourne Women's Fellowship with just some of the knitted goodies ready to be sent to the Children's Life Line.''C121457-1 Mid Chernobyl Knitting  Photo Louise Adams

Members of Easebourne Women's Fellowship with just some of the knitted goodies ready to be sent to the Children's Life Line.''C121457-1 Mid Chernobyl Knitting Photo Louise Adams

One of Easebourne’s issues centres on the bridge, where flooding during heavy rain has caused road closure and seen water pour off the fields, bringing mud and misery. It is an issue now being tackled by a multi-agency group.

Easebourne is undoubtedly a close-knit community where villagers look after each other, illustrated through the support for Easebourne Village Stores.

Run by Alex Christou and his wife Sharon, they have faced their fair share of problems. First they lost the post office, then the garage across the road, in the words of Alex, ‘exploded into a massive supermarket’. Now the closure of the primary school further up Easebourne Street, which has moved to the former Intermediate School on Wheelbarrow Castle, has meant less passing trade.

“It’s been very difficult,” said Alex, “but full credit to the local support we have had and it’s thanks to them we are still trading. This is our business and our home and to lose it would have a big impact on us. But we love it here in Easebourne and that’s why we are still here.”

C130876-1 Mid Easebourne Fair phot kate''The childrens sack race.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C130876-1

C130876-1 Mid Easebourne Fair phot kate''The childrens sack race.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C130876-1

Just next door is the White Horse pub taken over by the Manning family three years ago. Libby Manning is the friendly face behind the bar. “This is our first pub venture,” she said, “we do food, but we pride ourselves on keeping it as a locals’ pub, not a gastro restaurant.

“Easebourne is very close-knit and all different types of people get along – it’s the best thing about the place and it’s particularly noticeable in the pub.”

Across the road Tina Litchfield, who published The story of our village in the words of the villagers, has lived in her cottage for more than 20 years: “I use the shop as if it were my larder just over the road. The success of Easebourne is down to the community built around the church, the pub and the village shop.”

St Mary’s Church is attached to the ancient priory, the home of the Rev Derek Welsman and his family, and behind his home is the refectory, until recently the only meeting place for villagers.

There was great excitement when its most famous residents, Billie Piper and Laurence Fox, were married there.

Ann Harfield is one of the many staunch supporters of the church. Married to Bill, a former rector of Stedham Church, they retired to Easebourne in 1975. Although Bill died several years ago, Ann is still leader of the Women’s Fellowship.

“There is always something going on,” she said. “Apart from the regular Sunday services there are mid-week services and various groups including the fellowship and Toddlers Two have events as well.”

The most heavily-populated part of Easebourne is sandwiched between the busy A286 and the A272, which brings with it problems of speeding traffic.

But it also stretches to the north as far as the King Edward VII hospital which villagers have watched with increasing concern. Once the hugely popular ‘sanny’ which provided work for many villagers, from nurses to cleaners and cooks, it left a big hole after the controversial closure and now there is concern about traffic and infrastructure as plans for hundreds of homes emerge in its place.

The village is proud of its special links with the Cowdray Estate. To the east are the Cowdray Ruins which have seen a £4m upgrade. The Cowdray estate office sits in the village centre and behind it the Cowdray Hall has been refurbished with its chapel and hall for community groups.

Throughout the summer, Cowdray Park draws polo players and spectators from all over the world.

“During the summer the polo makes the shop busy and is good for the whole village,” said Alex Christou.

The Cowdray Estate has also opened its farm shop and cafe – voted one of Britain’s top 20 posh farm shops.