Idsworth Church Friends Trust forges link with South Downs National Park Authority
In normal non-Covid times, the church of St Hubert’s expects to welcome over 4000 visitors a year through its doors. Visitors are drawn to the church for many reasons: some come to attend the weekly Sunday service, a wedding or baptism; others to enjoy the fine heritage of this 11th century church with origins that date back to Roman times.
In order to enhance the visitor experience, the Idsworth Church Friends Trust has been working closely with the South Downs National Park Authority in the creation and development of a ‘Shared Identity Project’ over the last two years. The focus has been in five areas:
One of the first tasks was to improve the roadside frontage which involved removing old hedging and replacing this with a post and rail fence and a pair of access gates. In addition, trees were pruned and rough bramble cleared. This has opened up a splendid view looking up the hill to the ‘little church in the field’. The lay-by for car parking was also resurfaced.
Secondly, an Interpretation Panel was designed giving a nutshell history of the heritage of St Hubert’s in the context of the Idsworth Valley and the South Downs National Park. The information panel provides a flavour of the area and what to look out for when visiting the church which includes the Norman window and the nationally-acclaimed wall paintings dating back to 1330.
The third objective was to create an Activity Trail leaflet for children of Primary school age. This is a user-friendly doubled-sided A4 sheet with plenty of features to find and explore on a tour around the church. The sheet has now been printed off and is ready for when the church re-opens to visitors.
Fourthly, a work-in-progress is a leaflet providing an adult tour of the church highlighting the key areas in and around the building for the visitor to appreciate. Included in this there will be some maps for walks around St Hubert’s and the Idsworth Valley.
Finally, in order to improve visitor access for the disabled, an access gate adjacent to the ‘kissing gate’ entrance at the top of the field is soon to be installed. This part of the project has been supported by a grant for district councillor, Malcolm Johnson.
Once the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are lifted, it is planned to have an ‘official opening’ to celebrate the completion of the Shared Identity Project.
Andrew Callender, Chairman of the Idsworth Church Friends Trust