Arle Valley Voice for the people of the Arle Valley Benefice is published monthly (except for January). It is on sale at the west end of St John’s Church and at Six West newsagents (both right in the centre of Alresford) from just before the start of the month.
Here we give you a taste of what is in the current issue – we hope you will come and buy a copy. It’s a real bargain at £1.20 with many interesting articles including: our excellent gardening page by Rose Briar; a recipe in Parish Pantry;  information about many local events – and the always amusingly quirky Scenes from Alresford Life. We also publish news of Baptisms, Weddings and Successes to celebrate in People Matter, together with obituaries. There are details of many local events, and you will also find many useful trade advertisements.

Editor’s Letter – December 2019 / January 2020

Hello and welcome,

This two-month edition of The Arle Valley Voice will take us into the New Year. There are a variety of Advent and Christmas services throughout the Benefice and I know you will receive a warm welcome to whichever service you choose to attend. So please do come.

This issue is full of many interesting articles and I hope you enjoy reading them. These include end-of-year reports from the Friends of St. John’s and Bells. Toby Green has penned an Eco Church article about St. John’s plans to reduce its carbon footprint. Reverend Canon Jackie Browning provides a thoughtful article that follows on from last month’s Leader by Reverend Tasha Anderson. Our ‘Shop Local’ spotlight for this issue is on the Laurence Oxley in Alresford.

After a short hiatus, People Matters is back! Please continue to send in all your news. We would love to hear from you.

Thank you to everyone who participated and supported the 2019 St. John’s Christmas Card. It is in the centre of this issue as a two page colour spread. A larger colour version will be on display in the St. John’s porch. This year’s winning charity is the Alzheimer’s Society, nominated by Paul and Sue Dix. We will have the total amount tallied and ready for the February 2020 edition.

The magazine team would like to take this opportunity to express its thanks to all those who have contributed articles, helped with the distribution and supported the magazine in any way during the past year. We are always looking for reports on holidays or visits to interesting places, poems, observations, etc so please keep sending them to us.

We wish all our readers, advertisers and supporters a very joyous Christmas and a happy and peaceful 2020.


Penny Forbes (Editor)



Leader Letter

I don’t know about you but I can’t bear getting up in the dark, and it doesn’t help that it is cold too! Most of us long for lighter days and miss the sunshine….and statistically we eat more and drink more alcohol too! I often wonder if we should hibernate for December!

The season of Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas day) marks the beginning of the new church year and in the Northern hemisphere it falls at the darkest time of the year. The natural symbols of darkness and light are powerful and they help us understand the meaning of Advent a bit better. This feels especially true at such a time of noisy campaigning and difficult decision-making, of Brexit brawling and parades protesting across the world. So much unrest, so much noise and confusion, so much untruth and unreasonable behaviour.

Advent is a time for reflection in the darkness, a time for waiting and stillness. It is a time for renewal of hope as we anticipate afresh the coming of Christ, the light of the world. It is a preparation of joy for the new beginning that Christ offers us. And a time to live out the hope and the joy by offering love and peace to those around us. Maybe even reaching out to invite someone who is always alone?

The challenge is making sure that Christmas doesn’t become so stressful or expensive or busy that we can’t sleep properly for worrying and any sense of hope and joy is gone. It takes us back to the importance of the waiting and the stillness, the focussing in the dark and seeking out the light that shines in the darkness and can never be put out.

Here’s wishing you a peaceful Advent, a joyful Christmas and a New Year full of hope and love.


Advent Reflection

The deeper the darkness

the brighter the light shines.

For love refuses

to be extinguished by despair.

Resilience and hope cannot be quenched

while the light of love burns steadily,

fuelled by courage and by compassion.

Look for the light

and there you will find love.

~ posted on RevGalBlogPals.


Christmas is almost upon us – a time to celebrate and make merry!

However, it is a time when our political and economic future is feeling decidedly uncertain. It is also a time where the gap between rich and poor is increasing; a fact displayed so clearly by the growing number of homeless people on Winchester’s streets. It’s easy to think that Christmas is a luxury we can ill-afford, an indulgence for the wealthy.

Yet, it would seem that this situation is remarkably similar to that encountered in the Palestinian world into which Christ was born. Though the years have rolled by, the same flawed human condition remains.

As we struggle through our own time of instability, it is indeed consoling that many still come to stop and reflect here in our Alresford churches on ‘what it’s all about’, recognising that deep down we are called to connect with something deeper than our everyday concerns. We all share a longing to try to make the world a more just, honest, and human place.

So together, as the Christian community in Alresford, we will strive to share the joy of Christmas and sing out the message of God’s love for all people. We will share food and fellowship and aim to carry on this spirit of ecumenism into the coming year.

Beginning with a joint carol service at St Johns on 15th December, we will together offer Christmas praise and this will pave the way for our intention to build more regular opportunities for ecumenical worship in 2020.

In the week beginning Monday 16th December we will be singing again, as we share carols with the residents of Ellingham Court, Bailey House and 18 Grange Road. Please keep a look out for dates and times, as these have not yet been finalised.

On Saturday 21st at 11am, we invite everyone to join in a rousing time of carol singing in Broad Street. Not only is this an opportunity for public witness, but it will help to raise much-needed funds for ‘Winchester Youth Counselling’, the charity we are supporting this year.

The local community has formed two volunteer groups offering a shared Christmas Day lunch for elderly Alresford residents. The first is at Bailey House, where house manager Sally Holmes and her family will put on lunch for up to 12 people. The second venue will be at Makins Court, where Julie Cleeve and family will provide lunch for about 30 people. Pam Stevens will organise the town mini-bus to provide transport for the day. We are indeed grateful to all these volunteers and it is good to know that no one in Alresford needs to spend Christmas Day alone.

Looking forward into the New Year, we will start by celebrating together the joint Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. A service will be held at St John’s on 19th January, beginning at 4.30pm with a ‘Bring and Share’ afternoon tea and followed by a service at 6pm. It’s a great opportunity to start 2020 with the strength of a united Christian community in Alresford.

Peace, love, and joy are what the Christmas season brings.

Our job is to keep it alive all year long!

To all – a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Churches Together in Alresford

Away Weekend – 13 – 15 March 2020

Due to popular demand, Churches Together in Alresford is returning once again to the Best Western Hotel Royale in Bournemouth for our annual weekend away. If you have not been before, you will find the hotel perched on the East Cliff in Bournemouth town centre, just a 5-minute walk to the beach and the shops. The hotel also has a leisure club, which boasts a large and airy indoor swimming pool. You can see more information by going to the hotel web site Once again, the weekend promises to be great fun, including free time as well as opportunities to get to know each other better with joint study, workshops, worship and social activities (just ask anyone who came last year if you are not sure). Please note however that unless significant number of children register it is not anticipated that there will be any specific children’s activities.

The cost is £175 per adult which represents exceptional value for what is included. Children under 18 are free if sharing a room with a parent. The cost includes bed and breakfast on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th March plus a-la-carte dinner on Friday and Saturday, and buffet lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Check-in is after 3pm

on Friday 13th and check-out before 11.00am on Sunday 15th. There is a choice of single, double, twin or family rooms, all of which are en-suite. Full payment will be due by 17th January 2020 at the latest. After this, places may not be guaranteed and it may not be possible to refund payments already made (you may wish to consider travel insurance but this is entirely up to individuals).

We recognise that in some circumstances individuals might find that the cost of the weekend deters them from coming. In order to help with this there may in some circumstances be assistance available with the cost. Please discuss this in confidence with your clergy if you would like to know more.

If you require transport or indeed are able to offer transport to someone then please can you indicate this on the form.

All you need to do now is to complete a registration form and return it to Gary Carter, together with your deposit, to The Shieling, Tichborne Down, Alresford, SO24 9PA. Payments details which may be made by cheque, cash or by bank transfer are shown on the registration form which should be available in church. You may also give your registration form and deposit to your CTIA representative to pass on to Gary. It will be of great help in our planning if you could register as soon as possible and certainly by 31st October.

Should you have any questions regarding the weekend, then please contact Gary by email: or by phone on 01962 732350.