Village Feature: Graffham is a hive of activity

FROM mahjong and movies to badminton, bell ringers and bowls, Graffham has it all.

All this and much more happens in a village which geographically is more isolated than most.

James Woods hands over the keys  to picture framer Stephanie Marx  at the end of phase one last year

James Woods hands over the keys to picture framer Stephanie Marx at the end of phase one last year

There are three ways in and no way out. Cars meander past the Empire Hall, the listed war memorial, the shop and the church, but when they reach the gates of Seaford College, they are at a dead end.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that if villagers want something, they invariably make it happen themselves.

Parish council chairman Richard Davidson and his wife Alison moved from London 13 years ago.

“It’s a fantastic place to live because there is something for everyone, not just older but young people live here too, and there’s a very strong community,” they said.

Richard was thrown in at the deep end when he joined the parish council in 2011 and suddenly found himself elected chairman.

But the man who gave up commercial law to embark on a second career as a painter, relishes the role.

And Alison, who was a GP in Twickenham, also flung herself into village life.

Richard is currently organising Graffham’s first festival, due to take place from July 19-26.

In addition to the original idea to have open art studios, they are now planning concerts, a poetry reading, church service and flower festival and open gardens, together with an official opening of the refurbished pavilion and a grand village barbecue.

Together with the Easter Market organised by Mary Butterworth in the Empire Hall, the two events look like being the next big things on the Graffham calendar.

The charity market, whose preparations are already under way, will be held to raise funds for the Empire Hall.

The church plays an important part in village life. New vicar the Rev Michael Barter has just arrived and as well as looking after St Giles church, is also chaplain at nearby Seaford College.

And at the college, new headmaster John Green is forging closer ties with the communities around his school, having already met all the surrounding parish council chairmen.

Graffham Infant School, the younger end of the Lavington Park Federation with Duncton Junior School under dynamic headteacher Helen Martin, is another thriving part of village life.

The much-loved village shop is run by Jeeva and his wife Vasu.

The first phase of improvements there, masterminded by the former Village Shop Association leaders Jacqueline and James Woods, has seen a picture-framer move into new premises at right angles to the shop. The next phase will expand the shop and provide residential accommodation.

The Empire Hall is central to many activities. It is used by the Graffham Rustics amateur dramatic group, mothers and toddlers, exercise groups, the Thursday Club born out of the former WI, Graffham Ladies Group, Graffham Empire Movies and the popular monthly lunches.

The village pubs The Foresters Arms and The White Horse are also much-used meeting places, as well as the Three Moles down the road in Selham

An unusual village group chaired by Alison, which organises an exercise group for older people as well as a regular foot health clinic, is the Graffham Health Support Association.

It also has a bank of equipment to borrow and can award grants for eye and dental treatment. In addition transport can be provided to appointments and prescriptions are collected from Petworth.

Sport is also strong, with the pavilion on the recreation ground recently undergoing a £100,000 refurbishment.

Stoolball returned last summer and there are popular cricket and tennis clubs and a bowling green.

The Graffham Down Trust looks after six wildlife reserves on 70 acres of the downs above the village.

The trust was formed in 1983 by environmentally concerned villagers to re-establish areas of downland and preserve the wildlife.