Christmas Message

My twelve meals of Christmas continued with a speaking engagement at a lunch in Bexhill, an evening at Walberton - where I was delighted to see that the Holly Tree pub has re-opened - and a 'curry and carols' night at Slindon.

I also visited Warminghurst Church, in between Thakeham and Ashington, which every other year holds a Christmas Tree Festival.

This beautiful 13th Century church, set in a wonderful position with views of Chanctonbury Ring, is now run by the Churches Conservation Trust.

It is featured in Simon Jenkins' "England's Thousand Best Churches" and has an interesting history, with memorials to the Shelley and Butler families.

James Butler bought the now demolished Warminghurst Park from the Quaker, William Penn, who it is said wrote the first draft of Pennsylvania's constitution there.

£100,000 is needed for repairs to the Church, and the Festival, with trees sponsored by local groups and stalls manned by volunteers, helps to bring in visitors.

My last event before Parliament rose for the Christmas recess was to take a group of  Mid Sussex teenagers to Downing Street to present a petition against the proposed Mayfields new town.

We were joined by Nicholas Soames MP, who told us that he had once lived in 10 Downing Street as a child, of course when his grandfather was Prime Minister.

The petition took the form of a Christmas card with nearly 200 signatures from local young people.  The card urged the Prime Minister to ‘Protect Our Countryside for the Future'.  It was a reminder that we owe it to future generations to conserve our West Sussex heritage and countryside.

I then had several hundred Christmas cards of my own to send out before the deadline for second class post.  This year I asked children at Henfield School to enter the competition for the image to feature on my card.

There were many super entries, but the winner was Austin Elliott in Year 5 with a wonderful painting of St Peter's Church in the village.

For the first time this Christmas, as well as sending cards by post, I decided to send additional cards by e-mail, all personally addressed.  I had many kind replies, including one which said: "Thank you for the nice thought.  However, my name is Margaret.  Daisy is the cat."

Ah, the perils of Christmas card lists.  I wish all my constituents a very Happy Christmas.

Christopher N Howarth