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Deep in the forest

26 July 2013

IT IS to be found along a wooded track, and has the mysterious Green Man over its door. St Leonard's, in the hamlet of Linley, in that part of Shropshire that falls in the Hereford diocese, is the latest church to be added to the collection of the Churches Conservation Trust. It is "magical", Dawn Lancaster, of the Trust, says, "giving the feeling of stepping back into our ancient rural past". She tells me that the place name, Linley, means lime wood, and the church still gives the illusion of being in the heart of ancient woodland.

St Leonard's is a nearly complete 12th-century church building. The ancient studded door is still on strap hinges, but it reveals a Victorian tiled floor, pews, altar, and east window. Otherwise, it is all 12th-century, with a "fabulous" Norman font that is also carved with the enigmatic masks of the Green Man.

St Leonard's has served a tiny hamlet with a dwindling population, and has not been used for the best part of a decade. Urgent work is needed on its tiled roof, its windows, and - always a disaster waiting to happen - on the exterior walls, where an attempt has been made to "cure" damp patches by rendering the walls with modern cement.

The estimate for the work needed is "in excess of £208,000", and the Conservation Trust will be launching an appeal, especially to the surrounding community as an integral part of their local heritage. It is hoped that the church, which now falls within the parish of Broseley, will be open to visitors by May 2014. The Rector of Broseley, the Revd Sue Beverly, accepts that there will be no regular services there in the future, but hopes that such a lovely building will find some occasional use.

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