The Rivers of life

PUBLISHED: 15:59 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:18 20 February 2013

Toot Hill show

Toot Hill show

Like many villages, summer is a special time of year in the parish of Stanford Rivers. Linda Heffernan invites us to join the traditional fun of the Country Fair

LOCATED only 22 miles from the centre of London and just two miles outside the M25, Stanford Rivers is undeniably rural but takes advantage of its proximity to the capital.

Descendents of old village families, who owned and worked the land, now inhabit a landscape sculpted by farming alongside incoming professionals from the City who have chosen to work in town but live in this country idyll.

With the beautiful 12th century St Margaret's as its parish church and St Andrews in Greensted (the oldest wooden church in Europe) on its doorstep, Stanford Rivers has its share of ancient buildings including the Union Workhouse.

Built in the early 1830s, by 1838 it had 240 inmates. The building was acquired by Piggott Bros in the 1920s. Founded in 1780 to provide clothing and tents for British troops in the American War of Independence, Piggott Bros later produced canvas tents for both sides in the American Civil War.

After a brief flirtation with early flying machines, the company spent most of the 20th century in Little End and Hare Street in Stanford Rivers, providing employment for locals who made and supplied marquees for the Chelsea Flower Show, flags, and erected the Christmas lights in London's West End.

Bounded in the south by the River Roding and the disused Central Line to Ongar in the north, the parish of Stanford Rivers is large geographically but has a head-count of less than 800. The many local clubs and groups have rich and varied interests that take advantage of the Toot Hill Village Hall, which is about to be refurbished.

On Saturday, August 2 the parish sees the annual Country Fair. Traditionally run by the Toot Hill Horticultural Society and known as the Toot Hill Horticultural Show, the Country Fair is very much the place to showcase handicrafts and homegrown fruit and vegetables. Exhibiting the whitest cauliflower or the largest onions is as hotly contested as ever and in addition to the exhibits on show there are all the attractions of a traditional fair.

The show has a new site, new management, a new name and is coming back into its own, taking advantage of the huge show tent into the evening for Jazz in the Field.

The show attracts locals and folk from far and wide who come back year after year to enjoy an old fashioned rural event - a piece of old England in the open countryside within earshot of the urban madness of inside the M25. I might see you there.

Linda Heffernan
Editor of News & Views
(The Stanford Rivers Community Newsletter)

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