MISSING roof tiles and loose guttering are the telltale signs that the highest church above sea level in the Herefordshire Diocese is being beaten by mountain storms.

The tiny church of St Mary’s at Craswall has born the brunt of the heavy rain and high winds that sweep across from the Black Mountains since it was built in Norman times.

If it’s to continue doing so, its vicar, Rev Nicholas Lowton, says funding will need to be found for major repairs.

He said Historic England has placed the church, which sits at more than 1,000ft above sea level, on the 2016 Heritage at Risk Register following a failed application for a grant under the Church Roof Fund.

“We were turned down for the Church Roof Fund, which has caused some surprise in the Diocese.

“I then got a letter from Historic England. They sent someone out to look at the roof, gutters, drains and woodwork. It all needs attention, so they probably decided this needed more than just a roof repair grant,” said Rev Nicholas.

He pointed out that Historic England stated in its letter that being included in the register is not a criticism of those responsible for the building. Being named as at risk could even be a blessing.

“It means we are now in a good position for Heritage Lottery Fund grants, however they only give grants if you can demonstrate a community use,” explained the vicar.

At the moment he takes a service at the church, one of six he looks after in the Black Mountain Group of Parishes, once a fortnight.

“Effectively using a major public building for 24 to 30 hours a year is not a responsible use of a public amenity,” he said.

The community now needs to be able to show evidence of its support for the church if it’s to secure the hundreds of thousands of pounds expected to be required to save it.

Early ideas are for the old school room at the church to be made available for community use, which Rev Nicholas said could be as “slight as having lots of information for visitors and walkers.”

He added: “Some have more ambitious ideas. The great advantage here is the churchyard is free of gravestones and there are lots of walks around here. You could develop this as a pilgrim church. There is already a pilgrimage from Dore Abbey to Craswall Priory.”

He said the church will be at risk if nothing is done.

“The church isn’t, at the moment, waterproof. That will not improve if left unattended. It would reach a state where it can’t be used.”

A community meeting “open to anyone to whom Craswall church is important,” will also be held at the church on Saturday, November 5 at 2pm to discuss the way forward with expert support from Tim Bridges, the Diocese’s Church Building Officer, and Wendy Coombey, the Diocese’s Community Partnership and Development Officer, who advises on grant applications.