Village Feature: Fernhurst

FOR more than 50 years, ICI underpinned much of what happened in Fernhurst.

As well as 700 jobs, it provided sports facilities and often donated funds to village groups.

The Rev Nick Haigh with parishioners after Fernhurst's pet service

The Rev Nick Haigh with parishioners after Fernhurst's pet service

When it left for pastures new, there was a gap in village life and a massive empty site, the subject of several housing proposals which have caused controversy ever since.

But Fernhurst now boasts some of the best sporting facilities in the area.

Barry Wood is chairman of the recreation ground trustees: “The village is blessed with a beautiful recreation ground,” he said.

“It provides a pavilion, a cricket square, two football pitches, three hard tennis courts, cricket training nets and plenty of space for stoolball and other recreational activities. The various users manage the day-to-day maintenance on a self-help basis.”

Fernhurst Centre is another success story. “It is a volunteer-run internet hub and coffee shop and has been providing computer, web design and other non-computer courses for more than ten years. The latest initiatives include a homework club, craft workshops and the production and sale of Fernhurst notelets, Christmas cards and the annual calendar,” said trustee Antonia Plant.

“The recent craze for iPads and electronic tablets has provided a surge of bookings. As an entirely volunteer-run organisation, it adapts readily to the needs of schoolchildren on facebook, grandparents on Skype and a mum and toddlers group, all in the same place.”

On the other side of the busy A286 is the thriving village hall which plays host to everything from dog training and the Early Kickers toddlers group, to the lunch club, the choral society and the Good Companions.

At the other end of the scale, youngsters have their own youth club for two age groups, run by volunteers.

Fernhurst villagers are particularly proud of their archives which come under the umbrella of the Fernhurst Society and are housed at the back of the village hall.

They receive inquiries from people all over the world who want to find out about their families’ history.

It is now headed by Christine Maynard and Brenda Newman.

The church of St Margaret of Antioch is also a central part of village life.

Vicar Nick Haigh, taking on his first post as a vicar, has just celebrated his first year and together with his wife Anita and their daughter Erin, the family have thrown themselves into village life.

Across a raft of thriving ventures and groups, the Fernhurst News also has its place. It goes into every home in the parish and is still in demand from those who have moved away from Fernhurst.

“It was initially dependent on grants from local councils and the church,” said Noel Tonkin, “but is now financially self-supporting from a loyal and growing list of strictly local advertisers who value the access to every household in the village guaranteed by its delivery free of charge by our volunteer distributors.

“It is the primary source of information about all things Fernhurst, with regular articles from virtually all the village organisations.”

There are two pubs. The Red Lion looks over the picturesque village green and the King’s Arms, on the outskirts of the village, has seen many changes over the years including a brief spell as one of Marco Pierre White’s ventures.

There is still a range of shops dotted around the centre, including the vital post office, newsagent and ‘Steve the Veg’, alias Crossways Fruiterers.

Fernhurst Primary School further up the road is a thriving institution, under the headship of Gary Parkes, where two new classrooms are being added.

The burning issue of the day is Celtique Energie’s plan for an exploratory well to drill for oil and gas which has prompted the birth of Frack Free Fernhurst.

And the most important annual date on the village calendar is the annual Fernhurst Revels which sees the crowning of the May queen and a host of entertainment.