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Third time's a charm

by Michael Ford last modified 10 Sep, 2019 05:17 PM

Steeple Ashton’s Harvest Festival 2019 is the third “spectacular show” mounted by the formidable flower ladies of St Mary’s Church, and features some charming and well-loved characters.

Third time's a charm

Mr McGregor with Michael Moore., Kay King and Petra Brown

Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the dormouse – all your favourite characters that feature in Beatrix Potter’s timeless animal tales - will be descending on Steeple Ashton’s church for Harvest Festival this September (21 -22 September).

And the church interior, in the meantime will have been transformed by the church flower ladies into a Beatrix Potter themed setting to receive them.

There will be a garden in the Lady Chapel, overlooked by life-size figures of Mr and Mrs McGregor in front of their cottage, built by churchwarden Michael Moore, to incorporate the existing chapel door and with a thatched roof and mock window and fencing to the side.

The display will continue in the area around the altar with Peter Rabbit, knitted carrots and real harvest produce, flanked by terracotta planters and floral displays down the aisle.

Meanwhile, the area around the church font will feature a village pond with fishing in process, while the vestry will transform into a tearoom serving tea, coffee and cakes.

Chief organiser Petra Brown says:

“This is involving a massive effort by the whole village community.

“We want to reach out to the wider community beyond the regular churchgoers.”

Village children have designed and produced posters welcoming visitors in the entrance to the church; the local Guides and Brownies have turned clothes pegs into Beatrix Potter characters; local women are busy baking cakes; and an army of volunteers is on standby to decorate the church and put the displays into place.

The Wiltshire Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers, who have their base in the village, are joining in the fun by making knitted and felt flowers, as well as several of the main characters including rabbits and fox.

Across the village, volunteers are busy making Beatrix Potter characters, with Petra Brown herself creating Mr and Mrs McGregor and, together with Lady Geddes, Peter Rabbit himself.

Other themed attractions include a raffle for a Beatrix Potter cake and an auction of local produce conducted by villager Bob Quarterly, a retired professional auctioneer. There will also be a children’s competition, to test their knowledge of Potter’s fairytale world.

Opening hours over the harvest festival weekend will run from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 21st, and from 1pm to 5pm on Sunday 22nd. There will be a preview for villagers and the media from 6.30pm on Friday 20th.

Admission is free, but donations will be welcome, with all proceeds shared between the Melksham Food Bank and Alabaré Christian Care, a charity working to prevent homelessness.

Steeple Ashton’s Harvest Festival 2019 is the third “spectacular show” mounted by the formidable flower ladies of St Mary’s Church in recent months, attracting large audiences and media coverage. The others, in July and November respectively last year, showcased 40 vintage wedding dresses drawn from villagers and going back to late Victorian times, and a commemoration of the Armistice Day Centenary featuring local WW1 memorabilia. The latter included displays made up of some 3000 poppies knitted within the community.

The start of the Beatrix Potter children’s books can be dated to 4 September 1893, when Potter addressed a story and picture letter to Noel Moore, the five-year-old son of her former governess Annie Carter Moore. The letter told of a humanised Peter Rabbit and his adventure in Mr McGregor's garden.

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