Valedictory letters aren’t much worth reading as… well… the writer is about to disappear in in a cloud of dust, but not to say thank you for having me feels rude so here is a thank you letter from your departing Head Governor.
I came to Bedales in 1975, the September before the hot summer when we sloshed water on our shirts before lessons, when the orchard was white as straw and when the pine trees made Steep smell like Provence. Mr Jacks, the school’s third headmaster came to visit; Tim Slack, the fourth was trying for a second time to be Liberal MP for Petersfield (he very nearly won); Roger Powell showed us how he was restoring a medieval Irish book in Froxfield and plenty of staff had been teaching long enough to have known our founder John Haden Badley.
Nearly 50 years on and plenty is unchanged, the Beechwood-Wooly hangers as backdrop and the mountain of Butser Hill to the South West and the wraparound green country that defines the school. In some ways the place is also unrecognisable as the last 20 years have seen the building of half of the school with the Orchard Building, the Art and Design Studios and now the Studies. But watching the students come out of Assembly it is hard not to see how very recognisable the actual body of the school is, and how the real continuum of Bedales remains its true and rightful owners: your children. Staff and governors, heads and chairmen steer and scheme but the heart of the place beats independently. It being Bedales, very independently.
In the 13 years that I’ve been on the Board (10 of them wearing the chief weasel’s hat), I have seen brilliant staff and children working together, watched staff building the roof of the pavilion, Old Bedalians restoring the Outdoor Work barn and building the loggia around the dining room, students involved in new designs for buildings and planting 40,000 daffodils. I have seen new giants arrive who will utterly inform your children’s lives like the great teachers of the past whose memorials have seen the Lupton Hall crammed to the gunwales with grateful students.
The late unpleasantness of COVID has made some of the joys of communal living seem hard to hang onto in these last two years but now we are (partly) back and lying in the orchard or bank, walking round the Mem Pitch and smelling those pines again.
Steve Nokes is taking over as Chair. He is an ex head and clever, wise and funny. You are in good hands I am sure of that. But more importantly in Magnus and Richard Lushington you have a team who make the school feel secure, impressive and progressive.
So thank you parents. Both for allowing me the actually huge privilege of doing this job for so long but more importantly for choosing Bedales. Those hundreds of decisions form and sustain and populate my very best loved school and will provide the Bedalians and Old Bedalians and maybe Head Governors that will keep the show on the road.
Ave atque vale