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Project helps school children to learn, respect and help the future of church

Watton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian Burt

Watton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian Burt

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Schoolchildren have been learning about the history of a community church and the wildlife which lives in its surroundings as part of a restoration project.

Watton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils held a Baptism service at the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian BurtWatton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils held a Baptism service at the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian Burt

The St John the Evangelist Ovington Heritage Lottery Project is engaging with seven schools in the Wayland area, which send their pupils to visit the church for a day of activities and extra-curricular experiences.

The pupils, who range from years one to six, take part in an ecological treasure hunt of local wildlife, explore the church, learn about its history, take part in a baptism wearing traditional Victorian clothing and enjoy in drama-inspired activities.

St John the Evangelist in Ovington. Picture: Ian BurtSt John the Evangelist in Ovington. Picture: Ian Burt

The project was set up by former primary school teacher Linda Murray and Helen Kemp, head of school at Watton Westfield Infant School.

Mrs Kemp said: “The children are loving it and they are having the best time.

Watton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Pictured is Kayce. Picture: Ian BurtWatton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Pictured is Kayce. Picture: Ian Burt

“You can see their concentration is improving and the vocabulary they are using is increasing.”

The project, which started in January and will run for two years, helped the church secure a grant of more than £200,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out repair works - which will make the 900-year-old building a community hub.

Watton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian BurtWatton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian Burt

The works, which will cost £300,000, will start on Monday and will include improvements to the building, drainage and taking out pews to create more room to make it a community facility.

The work will be finished in November.

Watton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils held a Baptism service at the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian BurtWatton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils held a Baptism service at the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian Burt

John Hardy, who is the project leader, said: “These children are going to be the next generation living in the community. They will have a respect for Ovington and the church.

“We have a wonderful community spirit and [the community hub] will mean a lot to the community. We did a survey before we started and asked people if they wanted the church to remain open or to close and the majority wanted it to stay open. We are trying to make the church more available to people.”

Watton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian BurtWatton Westfield Infant School Year One pupils exploring nature outside the St John The Evangelist Church in Ovington. Picture: Ian Burt

The school project, which is aided by around 20 community members who volunteer their time, will see every child who took part receiving a book which contains pictures and work from their activities.

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