Flamstead: More than just scarecrows
PUBLISHED: 08:38 16 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:42 20 February 2013
Hosting an annual Scarecrow Festival has raised Flamstead's profile and attracted visitors from all over Hertfordshire, but it is its rich history, community amenities and wealth of clubs and societies which give the village its real identity.
SITUATED just off junction 9 of the M1, close to the A5, Flamstead is a few minutes drive from St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Luton, Harpenden and Dunstable.
The village has a documented history which dates back nearly 1,000 years, with the first record of Flamstead appearing in a charter granted by King Ethelred to the Abbot of St Albans in 1006.
St Leonards Church is in the heart of the village and was developed in stages, with the tower dating back to 1140. Medieval wall paintings are a particular point of interest, and the church holds a list of parish priests dating back to 1223.
Since the closure of the butchers Flamstead Farm Meats the village has one shop the Village Store and Post Office. There are also four pubs The Rose and Crown, The Spotted Dog, The Three Blackbirds and The Wagon and Horses as well as a village hall and Flamstead Village School which offers primary education to about 100 pupils. Part of The Three Blackbirds dates back to the 16th century, and other buildings of note in the village include the almshouses in the High Street which were built in 1669.
The village boasts a large number of clubs and societies which cater for a wide range of tastes and interests. Flamstead Gardens Association is the largest organisation in the community and its members organise the Flamstead Village Show, which is held in September.
The annual event includes horticultural exhibitions, as well as sections for cooking, handicrafts, model-making, flower-arranging, photography, painting and drawing.
The Flamstead Front of House Competition is also run by the association, when all the villages front gardens are judged twice between April and August, with the one considered the best in categories which include design and colour presented with an award at the village show.
The Flamstead Society aims to promote all areas of village life, but is particularly involved in local history, wildlife, footpaths and issues regarding planning.
A village magazine is published monthly and contains details of forthcoming events and activities in Flamstead, with profits from the sale of the magazine and advertising donated to St Leonards Church, raising about 1,400 per year.
And then theres the scarecrows
THE Scarecrow Festival in Flamstead has become increasingly popular, attracting more visitors year on year since it was first held in 2002.
The festival was established as a means of raising funds for the Hertfordshire Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre in Letchworth Garden City, and it also raises money for St Leonards Church in the village.
Villagers let their imaginations run wild in creating scarecrows to enter into the competition, and there have always been no fewer than 90 to judge. Last year there was a record-breaking 130 scarecrows made, attracting about 5,000 visitors to Flamstead and raising around 10,000.
Villager Paul McMahon is chairman of the festival committee for the fourth consecutive year and says, The festival keeps the village facilities going. Half the money we make comes through selling voting forms, and the rest through selling tea and cakes in the village hall. It brings the community together, and most people seem to enjoy it. Some time their holidays so they are here for it.
From quite small beginnings the festival has grown every year and, with 500 houses in the village, about one in five is actively involved in making a scarecrow. What ideas people have come up with this year, I have no idea. We dont set themes, but because of the World Cup there could be quite a few footballing ones. One of my favourites from previous years is when England won the Olympic bid and someone made a scarecrow of an Olympic athlete jumping a hurdle, carrying an England flag, and beneath him was a French athlete.
This years Scarecrow Festival will be held between noon on Friday, August 20, and 5pm on Sunday, August 22. Free car parks will be signposted and it will take about an hour-and-a-half to walk around the village and view all the scarecrows before voting for your favourite. Voting forms are 2 each, or 5 for up to four forms per family, and tea and cakes will be sold in the village hall, where there will also be craft stalls. Walk round the village, burn off a few calories and earn the right to buy a cream tea, Paul suggests.
For more information about the Scarecrow Festival, visit www.flamstead-herts.co.uk