GALLERY: Plaistow is thriving thanks to four beating hearts

They say Plaistow is seven miles from nowhere and visitors winding their way through endless wooded country lanes soon discover why. And being seven miles from nowhere, the parish of Plaistow has pretty much had to fend for itself.

"If you talk to anyone at Chichester," says parish council chairman John Kirby, "they just think Plaistow is up the top end of the county somewhere, but they are not sure where."

Plaistow has not just one, but four distinct beating hearts. There is Plaistow village itself with its picturesque village green and across the road the Winterton Hall. Next door is the youth club and its treasured mutli-sports floodlit court. Down the road is Plaistow and Kirdford Primary School, going from strength to strength under its dynamic head, Steven Potter.

And then there is Ifold. This was a hamlet built on parkland owned by Ifold Estates, which once surrounded Ifold House, now long gone. Originally there was just 'The Drive', the main entrance to the house and 'The Ride', reserved for the horses, and these were lined on either side with houses. Now dozens of driveways have appeared beside these houses, where single homes with large gardens have disappeared to make way for several new ones.

It's the legacy of relaxed planning guidelines which has seen new houses springing up all over Ifold: "There were large houses with acre plots," said Mr Kirby. "Now every house has two new ones instead, the plots are being split and split again. It has snowballed in the last three years.

"As a parish council it's difficult to object because there is no planning reason, but we do protest at overdevelopment and where we are worried about drainage, sewerage and other issues."

But Iping is proud of its own identity. It has its own Freeholders and Residents' Assoication. Kelsey Hall is home to many organisations including Ifold Gardening Club, the History Society and Little Acorns pre-school.

Durfold Wood residents make up another distinct part of the parish, living on their one private road with only one way in and out, and where they impose their own 15mph speed limit.

Then there is Shillinglee, with its new bee farm and the imposing Shillinglee House, accidentally burnt down by the Canadians billeted there in the war. It has now been given a new lease of life as flats.

And presiding over these vastly different and vibrant communities is Plaistow and Ifold parish council. Mr Kirby has been chairman for nine years and a councillor for another nine before that. He and his wife Vickie, who was born at Rumbolds Farm, a stone's throw from her present home in Oakfield, have had their fingers on the pulse for more than 30 years.

"Plaistow was all about dairy and fruit farms once upon a time," said Mr Kirby, "but there was no money in milk and now villagers are mostly commuters or working at home."

Like many villages, community spirit is fragile and rests in the hands of a stalwart few.

"You can normally guess who is going to turn up to the functions. It's usually the same people, but we do have one or two newer people who are taking part in things and beginning to get on committees," said Mr Kirby. Winterton Hall will celebrate its 100th birthday with a special event this summer and the youth club goes from strength to strength in its own building. It is proud of its multi-sports court – the envy of village youth clubs – used most evenings of the week.

Mr Kirby and Mrs Kirby have been at the heart of the club since l975. For many years they were leaders. Vickie is currently chairman and John is secretary of the club.

They still run a juniors night once a month: "We have as many as 46 and they come from as far away as Loxwood, even Pulborough," said John.

Ann Butterfield is landlady of the Sun pub. She and her husband Fred ran it together for more than 30 years until his death last June.

Holy Trinity Church shares its priest-in-charge with Kirdford. The Rev Sebastian Mattapally arrived with his Italian wife Alida last April. Born and brought up in India where he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, Mr Mattapally travelled to East Africa in l985 where he was a missionary in Tanzania.

Later he studied in Rome and joined the Church of England as a priest. He married Alida in Rome and the couple moved to England in 2005.

"We are settling down here in Plaistow and Kirdford and meeting excellent people and making friends," he said, "and the countryside is lovely."

Plaistow's post office has fallen victim to the latest cuts, although there will be what the post office likes to call an 'outreach solution'. But the Payne family have been running the highly-successful Plaistow Stores for nearly 20 years – Jim and Pam and their son John with his wife Lorriane. Over at Ifold, Sharon Overington took over Oak Tree Stores last July and has a loyal band of customers.

Every second house seems to bear the name of a farm in an area which made its living from dozens of dairy and fruit farms of various sizes. Most are now private houses. The cattle in the acres of fields have made way for horses and sheep and the tiny country lanes bear the scars of great horseboxes churning up the verges. The two biggest surviving dairy farms are Crouchlands and Barkfold Farms.

The walking stick factory in Fisher Lane has long gone, Rod Wooldridge's builder's yard made way for houses, Sherwood's garage closed about five years ago and is now two homes.

The last bricks were made a decade ago at the brickyard on the Shillinglee road which now stands empty. Proposed housing development there has hit a Site of Special Scientific Interest planning obstacle.

Shillinglee golf course has disappeared and in its place a magnificent, almost stately, home is taking shape, a replica of the older house a short stroll away. But there are new ventures as Plaistow reinvents itself. A vineyard has planning permission and the first bottles of Chateau Plaistow are expected next year.

A smart sign points the way to the Equine Clinic and Steve and Cathy Wall-Palmer's Shillinglee honey is gaining a reputation.

Planning developments are the main issues facing the parish council and there are constant concerns over parking and speeding.

"But generally the parish ticks along very nicely," said Mr Kirby.

"The parish council raises money and quite recently we were able to fund a new play area. We try hard for the community although a lot of people don't understand our role and we are criticised. "But I suppose that is par for the course!"

ALL ABOUT PLAISTOW...

Parish: Plaistow, Ifold, Shillinglee and Durfold Wood.

Population: 1,700

Parish precept: 26,000

Parish council chairman: John Kirby

Schools: Plaistow and Kirdford Primary School, headteacher Steven Potter; Plaistow Pre-school based at Winterton Hall;Little Acorns Pre-school based at Kelsey Hall

Pub: The Sun

Church: Holy Trinity, Plaistow

Facilities: Winterton Village Hall, Plaistow, village green and play area, football field, Kelsey Hall at Ifold, Scout and Guide hut, youth club and multi-sports court.

Shops: Plaistow Stores

Hitting the headlines...

June, 2001 Plaistow Chapel to become a private house

Oct, l999 Lord Sterling re-opens Winterton Hall after more than 100,000 spent on new facilities

Sep, l992 Campaigners delight as speed limit introduced

Oct, l993 Cricket may be banned if resident carries out threat to take out injunction

June, l997 Durfold Wood breathe sigh of relief after licence for wild boars is refused

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