The Char Valley Village Communities
Action Plans 2003

for Whitchurch Canonicorum, Wootton Fitzpaine and Stanton St. Gabriel Parishes



Wootton Fitzpaine Parish
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Wootton Fitzpaine is the most westerly of our parishes and runs up to the Devon boundary. The A35 cuts through the southern edge of the parish and then forms the parish boundary as far as the Devon border. There are two church parishes, Wootton Fitzpaine and Monkton Wyld, with two small village centres and many scattered farms.

Several small streams form the landscape, with the valleys divided by high ridges, which provide spectacular views to the sea and to the Marshwood Vale inland. The streams meet below Wootton village to run down to join the river Char. The small irregular fields with hedgerow trees and strips of woodland along the streams give an impression of a largely wooded landscape while Charmouth Forest on Wootton Hill provides a different environment with a large area of mixed conifer and deciduous plantations. The whole parish was owned and managed by the various Lords of the Manor from before 1066 until 1970, but is now split into individual holdings.

The deep, winding lanes have flowery banks and there are protected ancient meadows. The parish has a network of rights-of-way, which includes The Wessex Ridgeway, The Liberty Trail and the Monarch’s Way. There are no shops, post offices or public houses in the parish and only one bus service a week.

Wootton Fitzpaine village is divided into two parts. The main village centre with the village hall has fifty houses closely placed. About half a mile to the east of the main village, are a further eleven houses and the Church within the Manor grounds.
The manor house is a lovely Queen Anne building in red brick. The original manor open fields to the south have lost their strip cultivation marks but the enormous hedgebanks which were once the boundaries of a medieval deer park can still be seen. To get to the Church you walk through the Manor gates by the East Lodge. At the entrance to the new Manor Farm is a small stone village pound big enough for one or two skinny animals, and below the farm on the stream is an old sheepwash.

The Village Hall is a much-loved “Arts and Crafts” listed building and has beside it a licensed Social Club and a skittle alley. The village war memorial is a clock on the hall, with a bell on the roof, which rings the hour. Behind the hall there are a children’s playground, a small playing field and a large car park.
Wootton Playing Field
Wootton Playing Field. (Elizabeth Fortescue)

A personal view of the community in Wootton Fitzpaine

I have lived and worked in Wootton Fitzpaine for more than twenty years but my family has been here for over a century, and four generations still live within two miles of each other. What do I love about living here? It is of course set in the most beautiful countryside. This is a man-made parkland of meadows and woods with great oaks standing in the hedgerows, with rushing streams and an interesting network of walks.

However, for me it is home because of the village community. Not everyone gets on all the time it is true, but it is overall a friendly, supportive village. We have seventeen Housing Association houses, nearly one third of the total dwellings, which means that there are local people of all ages, as well as others who have retired to live here. Young couples can bring up their children near grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. Children use the playground and the playing field and their noisy play means that the village is alive.

The Housing Association houses have also been a bonus as they cannot become second homes or holiday accommodation. The (six) village houses that are empty for part of the winter months, leave a hole in the village, and their owners (with honourable exceptions) do not generally find time for village activities. The converted farm buildings and whole farm complexes converted for holiday use do not disconnect village life, as they are generally isolated from other houses and nobody has to live next door to an empty property.

The Village Hall is well used. There are regular bookings for the Parent and Toddler Group, the Wootton Friendship Club, The Charmouth Girl Guides, and others. There are also several Arts Reach productions each year which are well attended. The Wootton local history group has held several very successful exhibitions and there is a Harvest Supper in some years, with food from local farms. The Social Club next door to the Hall has a skittle alley and teams play regular matches. The Club has a bar and a family room, and has an important role in the social life of Wootton. The Club Management Committee organises informal football matches on the playing field and other social evenings attended by many local families. An enormous Jubilee party was organised by villagers in the Hall and on the Playing Field. Everybody turned out. It was a good example of the enjoyment that home made entertainment provides, with circus skills, barbecues, Barry’s band and Sue and Graham’s wonderful hot air balloon.

Wootton has a Best Kept Village Committee, which sees that the public spaces of the village are kept free of litter, clean and tidy and in good repair. They also combine with the PCC for an annual churchyard and cemetery tidy, and help with the Wildlife Conservation in Churchyards Scheme. In the Millennium, the children of the village planted trees and wild daffodil bulbs, and more tree planting is planned for the future. The village has twice won Best Kept Small Village.

The Church is in the upper village within the grounds of Wootton Manor. The congregation is not large and there are worries over the future for the upkeep of the Church. The PCC holds a Flower Festival every other year, with cream teas on the Manor lawns, which is much appreciated.

One of the best ways to appreciate the community is to walk down the village street. People out gardening stop for a chat, friends passing in cars wave, parents waiting for the school bus are laughing and talking. When people are ill or things are difficult, Wootton can be a caring place to live, as neighbourliness is alive and well.