BIG EFFORT: Christine Barnett church warden at St Andrew’s, in Winston, says the community has rallied round
BIG EFFORT: Christine Barnett church warden at St Andrew’s, in Winston, says the community has rallied round

ABOUT a year ago, as they sat around a kitchen table enjoying coffee and cake, three friends in Winston pondered how they could help save their historic dale church.

Twelve months later, the village is on its way to fixing the leaking roof at St Andrew’s parish church, which is facing a £120,000 repair bill.

The year’s fundraising drive will culminate with a Christmas tree festival this weekend which promises sparkle and magic to kick off the festive season.

The community had previously repaired the chancel roof, which cost £190,000 to replace, but were aware the nave roof now needed attention.

This year the congregation has organised open garden and village events, walks, cream teas, picnics, garden parties and were delighted when Alwent Hall opened for vintage teas, vintage cars and a tombola on the church’s behalf. Cash has come in from the village community and further afield.

Churchwarden Christine Barnett said: “At the moment we have got £43,000 and this year’s events will finish with the tree festival. Not counting that, we have raised £6,000 so far in 2018.

“All the community have supported this and have really showed their passion for the church to maintain it. It’s such a beautiful place. Whatever time of year it is, opening the doors and looking outside is such a wonderful view.

“It’s a perfect place to get married and for baptisms and even funerals because it’s so intimate and personal. You can have a small service and people it won’t get lost because it’s not a huge church, whether that’s a happy or sad occasion.”

The church sits upon the hill above the village. The grade-I listed building was built early in the 13th century and extensively restored in 1848.

“But it’s leaking and there are damp patches. We need to march on with raising the funds,” said Ms Barnett.

The congregation is applying for grants and hopes that enough cash will be raised to start work late next year.

About £50,000 must be gathered before grant applications can be made, said Ms Barnett, who warned that funding was harder to come by. But she said the spirit of villagers would shine through.

“This started this year when there were three ladies sat around the kitchen table enjoying cake and coffee. A year later, it’s gone so well,” she said.

Paula Kirkup, one of the main organisers of the Christmas tree festival, added: “We’ve got our running shoes on, so to speak, and we’re getting ready for 2019’s fundraising. We have got lots of ideas.”

The tree festival will run between Friday, December 7, and Monday, December 10. The church will be open to visitors from 5pm to 9pm on the Friday and Monday, and between 3pm and 9pm on Saturday and Sunday. Entrance costs £3.50 and this includes a mulled wine and mice pie.

Some 23 trees will be illuminated and sponsored by individuals and companies across the area – from Walker Hall Farm, in Winston, to Charge Brothers, of Gainford.

There will also be a Christmas raffle with the first prize of a dinner bed and breakfast at a four-star hotel in the Lake District. Other prizes include a golf voucher at Headlam Hall, a meal at the Bridgewater Arms, in Winston, and a voucher for the award-winning Raby Hunt restaurant.

Staindrop Young Farmers’ Club is organising a prayer tree, on which people can write their prayers. Revd Eileen Harrop will bless them all on Christmas Day.

The young farmers will also host a festive tea at the village hall between 3pm and 6pm on Saturday, December 8.

Ms Barnett said: “There’s an awful lot of hard work involved in organising the festival – from getting sponsorship to rearranging the church. But when they are all lit up it’s magical – there are tea-lights too and it’s lovely for the children.”

Ms Kirkup added: “It’s going to be brilliant. We’d love people to pop in and see how beautiful the church will look. We’ve been so well supported by the wider community.”