VILLAGE FEATURE: Birdham

A ‘LOVELY, thriving kind of place’ is situated just south of Chichester on the A286.

With a very active community, Birdham combines talented artists and craftsfolk with residents who have a desire to better the village and continually improve the facilities on offer.

Birdham Pool, Chichester harbour

Birdham Pool, Chichester harbour

With the popular St James’ Church having a sizeable congregation, church warden Sallie Drew emphasised how people who attended the church also play a wider role in the village.

“Everybody in the church does something for the church and the community,” she said.

Plans are underway for a new annexe at the church to provide more services to the village, such as counselling opportunities, and the church is now working on a fundraising appeal.

Both Sallie and Birdham Parish Council chairman Jane Finch spoke highly of the Rev Jonathan Swindells, who was one of the main proponents of the programme.

Sallie said the Rev Swindells, who joined the parish recently, suggested the village hold a harvest festival this year, as opposed to its usual harvest supper.

Businesses and groups in the village, such as the WI, the Birdham Village Residents’ Association and the village choir all took part.

The day included everything from a scarecrow competition to a barbecue and a homemade produce stall.

Sallie described the day as ‘very successful’.

“Birdham Stores were absolutely stellar,” she said. The shop sponsored the teas and coffees as well as supplying some food.

Sallie said the church was ‘very welcoming’ to everyone.

“There are all kinds of quiet little of acts of service going on and I think everybody’s there to help.

“We do have a lot of fun with it all. It’s a lovely, thriving kind of place.”

The church has strong links with Birdham Primary School, which recently held an Apple Day for its pupils.

Head teacher Mark McCadden said: “The school orchard has benefitted greatly from a bumper crop this year and the Environmental Club harvested enough apples for the whole school to partake in peeling, juicing and tasting fresh apple juice.

“Ian and Shirley, our visiting apple people, kindly helped out for the day, bringing some of their specialist equipment.

“There was a selection of fruit and vegetables for the children to identify and then to sort carefully into categories of flowers, stems, roots, leaves, buds and seeds.”

The village’s county and district councillor is Pieter Montyn, who is the county council’s cabinet member for highways and transport.

He said: “I’m very glad that it’s a very vibrant community. There are a lot of things going on.

“A lot of people are attending parish council meetings. The local plan meetings have been very well attended.”

The village has a very active group engaged in creating a neighbourhood plan for the area and Jane Finch is heavily involved.

“As chairman of the parish council, I am lucky enough to be invited to many of the events that happen in Birdham,” she said.

“There is such a range of community activities and we’re lucky enough to be in a beautiful, rural, marine location, so walking, cycling and sailing are also important for many residents.

“We’ve been so pleased to see how residents have taken up the feedback from the neighbourhood plan open days and started to make improvements, which are having a positive impact on Birdham.”

The village also holds an art exhibition over the May bank holiday weekend.

“It’s fantastic talent we’ve got,” said Sallie.

“There are lots of really talented crafters in this area.”

Lesley Hubbard helps run a tea party in the village.

“People wanted something where they could get together,” she said. “We started it in March. Everyone that comes seems to enjoy it.

“Nine of us actually help on the day making homemade cakes and they have cup of tea and a slice of cake.

“It’s something that came up in conversation. We thought ‘let’s give it a go’.”

It takes place on the fourth Tuesday of the month, at 3pm in the village hall.