AFTER 24 years of service, vicar Martin Coppen has waved farewell to his home in the parish of St Mary Bourne, and the churches in Woodcott, Hurstbourne Priors and Longparish.

Martin moved to the parish and into the vicarage in October 1988 with his wife Christine and has served the area ever since, his tenure ending at midnight on the 7 January.

Speaking about his time in St Mary Bourne, Martin said: “It has been a real privilege to live here for 24 years and serve the people of these parishes. It has worked out well and the people here have been most supportive.

“It’s a very constructive, positive and social area, and a beautiful place to live. The best part of the job has been serving the people here and accompanying them through times of joy and times of great sadness.”

Martin began his career in the church in Southampton and explained how he came to move to St Mary Bourne: “I was originally in Southampton as a curate for three years, and the Bishop stopped off while returning from Jersey and invited us to view St Mary Bourne and Woodcott.

Martin already has plans for his new life in Andover. He said:“I’m hoping to join a choir and play some more badminton to keep fit. I’d like to do some writing too.

“Also we will be nearer our family who all live in the town, our two children and six grandchildren.”