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More tea vicar at Ringstead on Sunday

With more than 50 years of Open Garden Sundays so much part of their village tradition, Ringstead is looking forward very much to celebrating this year and is back with a blaze of colour, cakes and community spirit as a selection of gardens are open to the public to raise money for St Andrew’s Church on Sunday (June 27).

When the event last happened in July 2019, St Andrew’s Church, one of the eight churches of the Saxon Shore Benefice, was on the hunt for a new full-time rector and part-time vicar.

Late 2019 saw the very welcome arrival of Rev Rachael Dines, as team rector, along with her Parson Jack Russell ‘Pippi’, joining from the North Walsham Benefice.

Rev Kirsty Allen and Rev Rachael Dines (48516358)
Rev Kirsty Allen and Rev Rachael Dines (48516358)

Rachael remembers when she first heard about the vacancy in West Norfolk and came to explore the area, excited by the prospect of a rural multi-parish of eight churches.

“I remember on my first visit to St Andrew’s, I was so pleased to see the welcoming supplies and note in the Church saying ‘Do help yourself to Tea of Coffee”.

Once successfully installed, Rachael’s first ‘cuppa’ with the community was at the village’s Advent coffee morning at the end of November 2019 where she sampled the wonderful cakes and savouries made by talented parishioners.

The reverends Kirsty Allen and Rachael Dines at St Andrew's Church in Ringstead. (48516418)
The reverends Kirsty Allen and Rachael Dines at St Andrew's Church in Ringstead. (48516418)

Rachael remembers: “It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere and a friendly welcoming warmth behind people’s eyes.”

But with lockdown restrictions, opportunities to get out and about to get to know parishioners better and make connections in the community were restricted, as they were for us all. 2020 meant that a large part of her role – connecting and supporting the community face to face, was just not easy to do.

Joined in January by new team vicar, Rev Kirsty Allen, from Wilmslow, who, like Rachael, had been in teaching and also completed her ordination training at Cranmer Hall, St John’s College, Durham University, they faced times dominated by sadness and support of families who lost loved ones to Covid.

St Andrews Church in Ringstead (48516303)
St Andrews Church in Ringstead (48516303)

Now with lockdowns being lifted and the gardens of Ringstead working up to be at their best, there is a great sense of positivity and excited anticipation throughout the village and ‘green fingers’, cooks and bakers are hard at work with preparations!

Rachael and Kirsty are looking forward to being part of their first open gardens event which raises such valuable funds for St Andrew’s Church.

They are both talented bakers with a special penchant for shortbread, sponges, bramble jelly and marmalades and will be joining the village in contributing to the stalls and teas.

Rachael has also spent lockdown time creating a basket of knitted ‘flowers’ as momentoes to give to visitors to the flower festival taking place in St Andrew’s Church tomorrow until Monday (from 10am-5pm each day) too.

She has even managed to get other willing volunteers involved in the creative floral gifts.

The day not only offers a tour of beautiful village gardens but petanque (boules), cake and local produce stalls, tombola, raffle, live guitarist and the delicious and ever popular home-made, two course lunches at £12.50 per head.

A free minibus will ferry you round the village too. Nearby, you can walk in Ringstead Downs and chalk pit and courtyard farm welcome to Courtyard Farm, Ringstead, is hosting a guided walk offering an insight into organic farming – meet for this at 4.30pm at the cowsheds on Burnham Road.

To commemorate their first open gardens, Rachael and Kirsty will be cutting a special cake on the Sunday and we feel sure there will be many requests for “More Tea Vicar!”

To pre-book lunches please call 01485 525223. Gardens open 11am-5pm Sunday, lunches served from 12-2pm, Teas from 2-5pm. See updates on Facebook and Instagram @ringsteadopengardens.

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