A detour through Abington (South Lanarkshire)

Driving down the M74 motorway, I was intrigued by the sign for “Abington Services,” I took the turn-off, but instead of the services, I was attracted by a sign to “Abington – 1.5 miles.”

Abington has a population of around 200 (2011 Census). Though the railway station succumbed to the “Beeching cuts” of the 1960s, the name “Station Road” remains. Despite its small size, Abington has amenities: including the Upper Clyde Parish Church, and the Abington General Store. For the locals, there’s the Abington Community Fire Station for emergencies, the Abington Hall for gatherings, and for the next generation there is the Abington Primary School with 39 pupils.

The Abington Hotel would make a good stop next time we’re headed that way. Abington’s appeal for visitors lies in its picturesque setting, close to the River Clyde with a walk and  hills forming a dramatic backdrop.

The road itself after passing through the village runs parallel to the M74 for a while before rejoining it, and so makes a pleasant detour as I speed back to Abingdon (population 37,931 2021 census) to see what has changed for the blog.

Abingdon Royal British Legion Honours D-Day Hero with Bar Renaming

The Abingdon Royal British Legion held a ceremony to rename its bar after Lieutenant Raymond Charles Belcher, a local hero and one of the casualties of the D-Day landings.

Belcher, a 20-year-old airman from Abingdon, was the officer in charge of a harbour landing party. His plane was hit by flak after reaching the Normandy coast in the early hours of June 6, killing all on board.

The Legion’s initiative coincides with a series of events organized by the Spring Road social club to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The club will also host an afternoon cream tea for veterans on June 8.

Lieutenant Belcher, known affectionately as “Bunny” to his parents who lived in Vineyard, Abingdon, had been married for only six months to his wife Kay, an ATS corporal who was expecting a baby.

Local military historian and author Stephen King played a key role in uncovering Belcher’s story.

King collaborated with Clare Oldfield, Abingdon’s Poppy Appeal Organiser. ‘Bunny was a young man with his hopes and aspirations ahead of him’, said King, ‘but sadly that was not to be, indeed he may have been one of the very first D-Day casualties.’

The “Ray ‘Bunny’ Belcher” bar was unveiled during a visit from members of the D-Day Normandy Federation. To further honour Lieutenant Belcher’s memory, Loose Cannon Brewery renamed one of their beers ‘Abingdon Pathfinder,’ and patrons raised a toast to the fallen hero.

‘We are proud to be naming the bar after Bunny,’ said Mrs. Oldfield. ‘The sacrifices made, from the first to the last casualty, deserve to be honoured and remembered.’

Thanks to Brighton College for the picture of Lieutenant Belcher.

A life of faith and service

There was a funeral today for Ena Mitchell at Trinity Church in Abingdon. She lived to 105.

She was born in 1918 and grew up in Hampshire.

She married Bill in 1939, but he died from wounds in the army in Belgium in 1944, eighty years ago. This left Ena alone to bring up their daughter.

Ena moved to Abingdon in 1954 when her daughter got a place at St Helen and Katherine School. Ena needed to find work and worked as a traffic warden and receptionist at the Oriel Hotel in Ock Street.

From her own experience, and after helping other war widows, Ena became a founding member of the War Widows Association.

She was actively involved in other community groups including the Royal British Legion, NSPCC, and Royal National Institute for the Blind. She served on committees and went round door to door fund raising.

Ena was also a dedicated member of Trinity Church where many of us met her. She celebrated her 100th birthday there in 2018, surrounded by loved ones.

She subsequently went to life in the Royal Star & Garter Care Home in High Wycombe, a home that looks after veterans and their partners. People could donate money to the Royal Star and Garter at the funeral service.

It was a lovely funeral led by Deacon Selina who told a far fuller story of Ena’s life and faith and service. Her grand daughter came over from Australia to give a eulogy. (The picture shows a recent birthday at the Star and Garter home.)

St Ethelwolds Garden – May 2024

The peace pole stands proudly amidst a flower bed bursting with shades of pink. The volunteer gardeners have carried out Simon’s wish to give this bed a pink theme this year.

This morning, the volunteers were hard at work, their shears trimming and their hands planting. One volunteer was cutting the edges around Mark’s Wildflower Meadow.

A few days ago, the garden room and the hut at the end of the garden hosted art as part of Oxfordshire Art Weeks

The garden is currently full of blooms and out of these tower irises and foxgloves.

A bumblebee flies among the flowers, contributing to the process of pollination.

High up in the branches of a large tree, a blackbird pours out its song.