“They’re looking over your wall again, Lyn!”
It’s a phrase Lyn Fairchild, of Howard’s Way, in Cawston, has become used to hearing from her husband Alan, 76, as he calls through to her from the living room.
Three years ago, following on from her participation in a local flower festival for the fifth or sixth time, she decided to reuse the materials of fairies and woodland flora and fauna to decorate the front garden of her home of 47 years.
It is what has earned her the title of “the lady with the garden” in her home village, based between Aylsham and Reepham.
The sight has pleased dozen of schoolchildren and their families who stop and admire her efforts, just a stone’s throw away from the local primary school.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the remarkable talents of this 74-year-old retired hairdresser, as she explained.
“I’ve always been crafty and have sewed from a young age, thanks to my mum and aunties,” she said. “Even now, the lovely sewing machine my daughter Anne bought for me is being serviced as I’ve used it so much – even more since lockdown.”
Back in March, before the government announcement, Mrs Fairchild was well on her way to making 100 laundry bags for NHS workers.
Now, more than three months on, she has sewed together around 260 face masks, the equivalent of around 65 hours of volunteering.
And not only has she done this to help aid the efforts of those working during the pandemic, but also to raise funds for a cause close to her heart – St Agnes’ Church.
Mrs Fairchild has attended the 15th-century parish church for over 30 years, helping with a variety of events there.
As well as flower arranging, she is also churchwarden and prepares the church for events, helps to tidy, and also volunteers at the weekly baby and toddler group, Little Fishes.
“I can’t take all of the credit though,” she added. “There are so many friends who help with everything too and I couldn’t do it without them. There are lots of us who work together.
“I just love the building and the atmosphere there. We have wonderful people who come regularly, as well as many visitors.”
As well as being involved with the church’s flower festivals, an event which has been cancelled this year, Mrs Fairchild also makes cards (“which people order from me specially”) and sells them to raise funds for St Agnes. And so far her face masks have helped the cause too, raising almost £500.
Not an original Cawstonian, Mrs Fairchild hails from the Georgian town of Holt where her father owned the bicycle shop there for many years.
She still retains links with the Holt area and is involved with Holt Flower Club. She also likes to support local enterprises, including The Scrapbox, in Reepham, her “little haven” where she sources a lot of her material and craft items.
It was back in the 70s when her almost 50-year love affair with Cawston actually started, after her and Alan, who married in 1967, moved to the village to build their dream home. At the time their daughter Anne, now aged 49, was just three years old.
“We just love it here,” Mrs Fairchild added. “It’s nice and quiet.
“I’ve loved making the garden for the children to look at – I used to change it every season – and watching the children’s happy faces as they walk by each day. At Christmas time, we decorate it with Christmas lights.”
You would think this was enough to keep Mrs Fairchild busy, but in her spare time she also runs a craft club from her living room, although currently it is on hold.
Together with its members, the club has donates to charities including the East Anglian Air Ambulance and Cancer Research UK. Members have also made trauma teddies for the emergency services, blankets, and hats for premature babies at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
So what exactly is it that drives her and has cemented her name in the history books as a Cawston stalwart?
“I just love helping people and doing things, and making things” she said. “Especially for people in the village. I just enjoy doing it.”
Patricia Santos, a resident of Cawston, first met Lyn Fairchild at Little Fishes baby and toddler group, run by the church. She said:
“We loved her from the start – she’s kind, thoughtful and truly an amazing lady.
“Even in these testing times she doesn’t cease to amaze me by taking it upon herself to make face masks for the community. She also went the extra mile to please my daughter by making a matching face mask for her dolly.
“We are very proud to call Lyn our friend and we can’t wait until we can safely give her a thank you hug for all she does.”
The Rev Andrew Whitehead added:
“Lyn is an absolute hero in our local community. She’s always looking out for other people, and dreaming up fundraising ideas for the church.
“She’s a great example of showing love for your neighbour, whoever that may be.”
This article originally appeared in the Eastern Daily Press, all photos are courtesy of the EDP and Donna-Louise Bishop.