PARISHONERS have launched a campaign to raise funds for vital repairs to their church path ahead of its centenary.

For almost 100 years, worshippers at St Thomas Church in Cowshill in Weardale have accessed the building via a steep gravel pathway.

Blushing brides, christening guests, funeral parties - all have negotiated the walkway to mark important rites of passage in the Heatherycleugh parish.

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However, in recent years, the path has become increasingly precarious, plagued by moss and transformed into a stream during heavy rain.

And, as the church prepares to celebrate its centenary next February, the parishioners are on a mission to raise funds for repairs.

The cost of the work, including laying a membrane, gravel grid and gravel, is about £4,000 and the public is being asked to sponsor one square foot of path for £5.

The path measures 800 sq ft and if every patch is adopted the church will reach its target.

Heather Ross, of Heatherycleugh Parochial Church Council, said: “It is a matter of health and safety, as lot of elderly people use the path.

“It is also important the church is accessible to wheelchair users. The path is on a slope and we have had problems with drainage.

“Moss has built up and, despite our best effort to clear it, it keeps coming back.

“It is the church’s centenary next year and we want to create a path that will see it through another 100 years.”

St Thomas’ Church is important to the people of Weardale, with a regular congregation joining together for Sunday worship and more than 80 residents attending a recent First World War exhibition.

Preparations are already underway for next year’s 100th anniversary celebrations, which will actually start early, this October.

Mrs Ross said: “We are trying to get in contact with as many people who got married in the church as possible and are asking if they can loan us a wedding photograph.

“We already have 126 photographs and we are going to stage an exhibition at the end of October.”

Other commemorative events and services will also be held but for now the parishioners are focusing on the fundraising campaign.

For more information, including an address to send a cheque, contact Mrs Ross on or 01388-537439.

Donations can also be made online at