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Locals campaign to restore Clophill church ruins
St Mary's Church, Clophill
St Mary's Church dates back to the Middle Ages.

A campaign is underway to restore St Mary's Church at Clophill in Bedfordshire.

Clophill Parish Action claim they have support from English Heritage to turn the church into an overnight shelter for walkers.

Years of neglect have now left St Mary's in ruins.

Records suggest that there were clergymen based at the church as early as 1100AD.

It was in regular use until 1840, when a new rector decided that a new church also called St Mary's should be built nearer the village itself.

Since the 1950s the church has fallen into disrepair, and has been the scene of several dubious instances of alleged witchcraft. Locals claim it is regularly used by drug abusers, and want to see the ruins made safe for the public.

Clophill Parish Action, comprising of local residents and members of the Clophill Parish Plan Steering Group, are now campaigning to turn the site into an attraction for walkers and ramblers.

The Greensands Ridge walk passes nearby, and the campaigners believe that the church could be renovated into a hostel otherwise known as a boffey, and run as a charitable trust where walkers could rest after a day's walking.

The campaigners suggested at a recent council cabinet meeting that a figure of £75,000 be put forward by Central Bedfordshire Council, then together with support from English Heritage, they would campaign to raise an additional £700,000, which would pay for the repair, upkeep and a permanent warden to deter vandalism and criminal behaviour.

St Mary's Church, Clophill
Campaigners want to turn the ruins into a hostel for walkers

However, Central Bedfordshire Council currently needs to save more than £12m in efficiency savings.

Councillor Maurice Jones who is in charge of Corporate Resources agrees that something needs to be done about the ruins, but told the BBC that the council simply does not have the capital to carry out all of the projects they would like

"We would definitely like to be able to fund the project," said Councillor Jones.

"The difficulty we have is that as a new council, we have only just disaggregated the assets from the old county council and until we can start to sell off some of those, it is going to be very difficult for the council to fund developments such as this."

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