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Best Kept Village Competition 2015

Brief Report: Stert

The village of Stert has been defined by its geology both in character and in name (meaning ridge or tail of land). Hence it is described as a “village of views” (Chandler, 2003) where the community benefits from an outstanding rural outlook to the tranquil Stert Valley and beyond. St James’ churchyard provides the best public place from which to admire the village’s elevated position. Stert could be described as comprising three zones; the main village lane (which includes the Stert Conservation Area), the Clock Inn Park and the outlying farms and former mills. Within the main village are several 17th century cottages, Manor Farm with its attractive duck pond and the charming St. James’ church. Notwithstanding the small population and its unconventional layout, the village’s green spaces, such as the churchyard and steep verges, are routinely maintained by volunteers and the local farmer. The church is beautifully kept by a team of residents. These and other activities can best exemplify the village’s community spirit, include:

Village Projects
The community researched and published in celebration of the millennium a book titled “Stert: The Hidden Village” describing the history of the village and its properties. A second book is in preparation, telling the story of several of Stert’s more colourful characters from yesteryear.
Some of the residents of Stert have established allotments in a privately owned field towards the eastern end of the parish. The allotments are now quite productive in their fourth year of growth.
A few years ago, the Parish secured ownership of its traditional red telephone box. It has been re-painted and residents have used it to create exhibitions for display, such as seasonal photographs. It also provides a drop off point where daily newspapers are delivered by the local newsagent.
The village has recently purchased a salt spreader to ensure the village’s steep lanes are kept free of ice and snow during the winter months. The spreader will be operated by snow wardens appointed by the Parish Council.

Village Activities
Traditionally, the community comes together twice a year; in the summer on Stert Day, which is well attended by both current and past residents, and at the Christmas Party. The summer party typically involves live music, open gardens, a raffle and refreshments and is held either at Manor Farm or Stert House. Though principally organised by the Parish Council, substantial help is given by many residents who contribute to the success of the day. Typically, Stert Day has raised several hundred pounds for local charities.

In 2014, several events were held in the village. A “Springtime Celebration” of classical music was held in the church on Easter Monday with a programme of words and music including a Bach cello suite played by Bryony Moody and the Stertian Singers giving a world premiere of a new piece by David Mitcham, Manor Cottage. The music was greatly enjoyed with the little church filled to capacity. In May, Stert hosted a Country House Car Boot Sale in aid of Cancer Research, UK. This event, organised with the help of the village’s team of volunteers, was held in the field above Manor Farm, and has become increasingly popular with the field filled to capacity. In July, another concert of baroque music was held in St. James’ Church to a packed audience.

Later in the summer, Stert residents donated their home-grown produce and baking to a street stall in The Brittox with all proceeds in aid of St James’ Church.
In December, the Stertian singers again went round the village carol singing and started with a Christmas gathering at the Clock Inn Park where mince pies and mulled wine were served.
New activities for 2015 include another concert by the Stertian Singers in St. James’ Church on 3rd May, the annual car boot sale on 17th May at Manor Farm in aid of Cancer Research, UK, and a summer party on 12th July which will be attended by the Riley Club and other vintage cars when there will be live jazz music and refreshments.

The outstanding natural and managed landscape of the Stert Valley certainly enhances villagers’ quality of life but the community also translates this special quality by taking pride in the maintenance of its private gardens and public spaces. The village’s annual events act as focal points for disparate and busy families to come together and re-engage with each other, by providing the musicians, caterers and gardeners from within what must be one of the smallest village communities in Wiltshire. The parish is highly protective of its rural environment and is proud to showcase its village activities and projects in the Best Kept Village competition.

Stert, 20th April 2015