FOR most couples planning to get married, the countdown involves finding a suitable venue, sending out invitations and choosing their outfits.
But for bridegroom Guy Champion preparing for the big day meant clearing a huge tree that crashed into the grounds of the church where he and his fiancée Rebecca Beddows will be saying “I do”.
The turkey oak at All Saints’ Church in Church Lane, Dunsden Green, came down during the St Jude’s storm which swept across Britain in October.
The tree, which was between 250 and 300 years old and nearly 100ft tall, narrowly missed the church itself but landed in the churchyard, damaging a flint wall and blocking an entrance.
But rather than despair over their bad luck, 29-year-old Mr Champion decided to enlist four friends from Henley Young Farmers to help him clear up the mess.
On Saturday they spent eight hours cutting up the tree and removing about half of the wood. Mr Champion, group marketing manager at Thame agricultural and groundcare dealers Farol, was helped by Laurence Williams, 22, a tree surgeon from Heights Tree Care in Caversham, best man Mike Crump, 23, Shane Parnell, 27, and 18-year-old Jordan Greenaway.
Mr Champion, who lives opposite the church at Dunsden Green Farm, said: “Once we got to the main trunk it was quite heavy so we only cleared about half. The bottom part is still there but it’s out of the way so the churchyard is looking a lot better now and it’s tidier and safer. We’re planning to go back to clear the rest of it. People from the church were coming out to say ‘hi’ while we were working, which was nice.”
Mr Crump, of Roke Farm in Benson, said: “We were happy to help because we want to make sure it all looks nice for Guy on the big day.”
Miss Beddows, 28, a midwife, was working for most of the day but turned up with ice creams for the men in late afternoon.
Mr Champion said they both felt better for making the churchyard much tidier in time for their wedding day in June.
He said: “It’s not long to go now until the big day. If we have weather like we had at the weekend it will be perfect.”
Rev Paul Bradish, rector for the benefice of Shiplake, Harpsden and Dunsden, was delighted at the men’s efforts.
“I think it’s the biggest tree in the area that fell in the St Jude’s storm,” he said. “It was a challenge for a church like us to move it so the help we got from Guy and the Henley Young Farmers was great. We are very grateful.
“It’s going to be a wonderful day when Guy gets married and I’m sure his work will be appreciated on the day as well.”