Three-day festival ends on a high note with surprise £3,000 donation

A three-day festival of flowers, fun and celebration boosted funds for St Michael & All Angels, Geldeston.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, led the patronal service and dedication of works on Sunday, October 1, 2023. Having been in post for four and a half years and responsible for the 658 churches in his diocese, he was delighted to have been invited to attend this special celebration in the Waveney Valley.

Bishop Graham offered prayers and thanks to all those who had made the extensive repair and conservation programme possible. It would not have been possible without the efforts of everyone from parochial church council members to volunteers and supporters and glaziers and builders, who had carried out the work. Windows had been restored, rainwater goods, drains and gutters and stonework had all been replaced and repaired, said Bishop Graham. He also welcomed representatives of trusts and groups, which had contributed towards the restoration.

He dedicated two replacement “head stops” of monks on the south side of the church, which had become eroded over the centuries. The restoration work had been carried out by Suffolk Masonry Services, which had based the new designs on the remaining less eroded heads.

The celebrations started with a “wine ‘n flowers” preview on a glorious late September evening. A bat walk, led by Richard Moores, was popular especially with younger visitors, who could hear some of the sounds of soprano and pipistrelles. Older members of the party had to rely on bat detectors to “see” the bats. A summer repeat walk is planned.

On Saturday afternoon, the parachuting Teddy Bears attracted a large number of spectators. In all, some 70 bears were launched from the tower – now, complete with the restored flagpole. Many children had made their own parachutes as the bears completed a safe descent. Although a couple had to be rescued from the roof, which was a little dramatic.

Overall, a total of £2,600 was raised, which will help funds the next phase of repairs. And there was a surprise last-minute boost when one late visitor to the flower festival offered £3,000 towards the restoration work.

Donations for the church restoration programme included the Round Tower Churches Society and the Benefact Trust, Geoffrey Watling Charity, National Churches Trust, Norfolk Churches Trust, Paul Bassham Trust, Wolfson Foundation and many others.

Photograph: Bishop Graham and the vicar, the Rev David Smith, dedicate the new monk’s head carving. Picture taken by Michael Pollitt.