Until recently the church of St. Mary and St. Thomas Aquinas at Stella was quite hidden away from view. This was due to its history, having been built a bit too close for comfort to the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act. Although near a main road, many people didn’t even realise there was a church there at all – only an old building surrounded by high walls and trees. Over the last several years, the formerly overgrown gardens have been lovingly restored and tended by Alice Phillipson and her team of helpers, and have won many prizes in Britain in Bloom competitions.

However, the old cemetery remained very overgrown, with ancient bushes and ivy spilling over onto the roadside. When Fr. Jonathan Rose arrived in the parish a couple of years ago, he realised that many of the old trees were in rather a dangerous condition. A survey soon made clear that a lot of them would have to be, quite literally, axed. After this had been done, a team of committed people began the huge task of clearing out the graveyard. Scores of gravestones, lost for decades under masses of vegetation were brought back into view. It was once more possible to actually walk among them. Alice and her team planted up the bank that had been cleared along the roadside. New grass seed was sown and the idea arose that perhaps new, smaller trees could be planted –to be sponsored by people in memory of loved ones. The new grass has begun to grow and the trees are coming into their own, creating a lovely little oasis of peace where people can come and spend a quiet moment.

Parishioners Alice and Lynn taking a welcome break