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Two years ago in September 2016 part of the North-East corner of St. Giles (the Frowyke Chapel) suddenly sank about 4 inches, causing parts of the structure to crack. In fact all the north side of the church was affected, but the historic Thomas Frowyke tomb was most seriously damaged, and on the advice of the church’s insurers, access to the chapel has been closed off.

The cause of this was found (after half a year of expensive surveys) to be twofold. First, the line of lime trees along the boundary with the White Hart car park is only about 11 metres away from the church wall, and live lime tree roots were found growing half way across the chapel inside the church. Lime trees are very thirsty, and the trees were drawing water out of the clay foundations, causing the clay to shrink, and the church to subside into the void created by the shrinkage.

Secondly, another survey found that the surface water drain which runs outside along the north side of the church was cracked in two places. So for a good number of years, water had been pouring into the clay, and washing away the substructure on which the wall and its buttresses were built. There has also been a fear that the water seeping through the clay had become acidified, and had dissolved the underlying chalk stratum, also creating a void. This has been investigated, and there is some evidence that this has contributed to the subsidence.

The church has now mended the land drain (last June), but the trees remain a problem, and the church has been advised to have five of them closest to the church felled and stump ground (killed off). Actually they are not single trees, like the rest around the churchyard, but clusters of mature sprouts. It seems likely that when the church faced a similar problem in 1877, the trees were felled, but not killed off.

So on the advice of St. Giles’ Surveyors and Structural Engineers, the church has gained permission from the Diocese and the Local Authority (Hertsmere BC) to remove the five lime tree clusters, and repair the fence between the churchyard and the car park, and to plant a hedge, so that wildlife is not adversely affected. This should take place over the summer, with as little inconvenience as possible to the local community.

In the long run it is likely that the church will have to be underpinned, which could be very costly – a figure of £500,000 was mentioned back in 2016. The inside of the chapel will also need to be restored, to ensure a flat floor (at present there are dips and trip hazards), and to stabilise the Frowyke tomb, as far as possible.

In the mean time the church has been advised to monitor the movement at critical points, to see if removal of the trees and repairing the drain have solved the subsidence problem. This will take at least another year, during which time the chapel will remain closed. Depending on the structural advice given after this period, the bills for repairs may be very costly indeed.

People generally think that money will not be a problem – the Church of England is very rich and it will pay, or the Government will pay, or at any rate someone will pay. But the C of E’s funds are largely tied up in paying salaries and pensions. Despite being the National Church, the Nation has no funds for church repairs. The Heritage Lottery Fund (which is funded from the sale of Lottery tickets) has closed down its special funds for Listed Places of Worship, and churches have to take their turn with lots of other worthy causes (and so it should, you may think). No, each church has to fund its own repairs: it is down to St. Giles Church alone!

So St. Giles will have to apply to a range of grant making bodies (including the Beds & Herts Historic Churches Trust, whose Bike ’n Hike sponsored event is promoted elsewhere in this Paper). And while St. Giles is well endowed, through the generosity of supporters over the last hundred years, the expendable funds the church has in savings will not even go half way towards funding half a million pounds or more of repairs. The PCC will have to work hard to find sources of funding before work can begin.

So a solution to the problems looks to be several years away. But the Parochial Church Council (not the Parish Council, that’s different) is determined to preserve St. Giles for future generations, and to restore this beautiful building and make all of it accessible for the local community and the many visitors who are welcomed into the church.

And to start with, this means removing the lime trees, which are literally the root of the problem.
William Marsterson

It’s commonly known that (at least in Europe and Asia) migration has come from the east to the west, as peoples look for more attractive land – that is, until recently, when migration from North Africa has caused a few flutters in the global dovecot. However, for thousands of years peoples have moved west from Central Asia into more fertile lands.

One of the earliest groups to take this route were the Celts. They came from Central Asia, stopping off in places such as Turkey (Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was written to settlement of Gauls in what was then called Asia Minor) and eastern Poland (Galicia). They gave their name to Gaul (France). They changed their pronunciation too, so that the G in Gaul became a W, as in Wales, but also Wallonia (southern Belgium), Wallachia (in the Carpathians), and the Welsch (Austria) and Wlachs (Romania). Galicia in North-West Spain is another Celtic settlement, and, of course, the Irish and Scots Gaelic peoples are Celts.

Once the Celts had moved west, other races moved after them: Germans, Huns, Slavs and many others. They occupied the lands the Celts were quite happy in and pushed them further westward. What’s more, they considered that as they had pushed the Celts out, they must therefore be superior. As well as slaughtering and laying waste and so on, they also made fun of their (now) more westerly neighbours. It’s a curious phenomenon, but everyone makes fun of people to the west.

So the Dutch make jokes about the Walloons (and Belgians generally, and who doesn’t?). The English make fun of the Welsh, and both of them make fun of the Irish. East Coast Scots are unkind to their Western compatriots (who, however, give as good as they get). But once you get to Ireland, where else is there to go?

Even in Ireland, the Eastern Counties make jokes about people from Cork and Kerry. And the people from Cork’s Eastern regions make fun of those from West Cork. I daren’t repeat any Irish stories, in case the political correctness police cart me off. (I did once repeat a story told me by a Kerryman to someone of Irish descent from Liverpool and nearly caused a riot).

I’ve just come back from West Cork, and I can assure you that, while they do things differently there, they don’t deserve all these insults. My friends and I were installed in self-catering cottages on what had been, and possibly still was, a farm, with a fantastic view all the way to Bantry Bay. We were very lucky with the weather: the sun shone all week, until our coming home day, when the clouds and rain rolled in from the Atlantic Ocean. We were driven around in a 16-seater coach by a very skilled driver, who never touched a drop of the hard stuff all week, and who seemed, by his waves to passing traffic and others, to know everyone in the whole of Southern Ireland. He was utterly reliable, patient with his wayward passengers, who couldn’t be easily persuaded that the evening ought to come to a close, and he became a great friend.

For the last couple of days we transferred ourselves to Baltimore. No, not on the east coast of America, but the place in Ireland which emigrants had come from, at the south-western tip of Ireland. Its harbour looks across a bay studded with islands, and we fetched up on one of these, Sherkin Island. Just to reinforce the point about people casting aspersions on those further west, John-Jo, our driver, warned us that they were a wild lot there. The pubs knew no closing time, there were no police, and not many rules. I think he feared for our safety!
If you want to get a flavour of what life is like on Sherkin Island, go online and have a look at this YouTube clip:

It’s about using recycled string… Go on, have a look, go on, go on, go on…

There is the restaurant in Kenmare, commemorating the person who had been the real hero and saviour of Shackleton’s trek across South Georgia, one Tom Crean, a native of Kenmare, whose relatives are doing a re-enactment of that treacherous journey shortly. His strength, persistence and loyalty saved Shackleton’s crew as they traversed the glacier.

The first transatlantic telegraph cables were laid from Bantry in about 1860. There’s a statue to St. Brendan the Navigator, who sailed to America a thousand years earlier. There are cultural events in the town: the West Cork Chamber Music and Literary Festivals. And of course, the craic, traditional Irish Music played late into the night, the jigs and reels like a kaleidoscope of sound, never really coming to an end.

No, the Irish are NOT lazy, stupid or unresourceful, as the English stereotype would have it. They gave us a warm and friendly welcome. They are not as blunt as English people, tending towards more tentative statements, leaving a little room for doubt or alternatives, but they are strictly logical. If there are two ways to a place at a road junction, they say so: Macroom 20 miles, Killarney 50 miles, one way; Macroom 20 miles, Killarney 50 miles, the other. Utterly reliable! A great people! William Marsterson