Chepstow Rotary Club staged its annual Torchlight Parade at Tintern Abbey last Saturday, Dec 2.

The popular family event is always well supported and once again this year almost 1,000 attended the celebration.

Families started arriving from 3pm and by 5pm the Tintern car parks were beginning to fill.

Families gathered in The Anchor pub where they warmed up prior to the event and bought their wax torches, light sticks and programmes.

Volunteer marshals from the Lydney Sea Cadet Corps and Monmouth Rotary Club were in position, as were the three members of the St John’s Ambulance brigade. The community formed a very, very long procession on the road adjacent to the Abbey. Their torches were lit and their light sticks activated.

Then, at precisely 6pm the assembly, led by the Rotary President, David Burr, slowly marched off, down the road and onto the path that led to the Abbey grounds immediately behind the Abbey ruins.

This was a cold night. A particularly cold night, as you could see from the piles of clothing worn by the congregation. But as they approached the arena the voices of the Wyedean school choir could be heard and the Abbey ruins came into view setting the scene.

The buzz of the crowd had changed entirely into a hushed reverence for the sounds and the sights of our beautiful Tintern Abbey. One heard the gasps of the children as they saw those illuminated ancient walls and the view of the choir assembled

As this Christmas service was led by Reverend Kippax, carols were sung with much energy, lessons read with passion and there was a genuine feeling of goodwill towards one another throughout. A wonderful surprise was the Ukrainian choir from their St Briavels hub.

They were applauded loudly as they came on stage to sing two traditional Ukrainian hymns. President Burr thanked everyone for coming to the event and made an appeal for donations to Rotary charities that support causes in our own community and beyond.

He explained that the exit bucket collection would all be donated to the Ukrainian hub at St Briavels.

He then appealed for support from the public to ensure that the event would continue. He explained that the Rotary Club had limited membership, some of which were becoming quite aged and that additional support was required on the day.

A few volunteers did come forward to offer their services.

He wished everyone a very happy Christmas.

The service was closed by Reverend Kippax after which the assembly exited the Abbey grounds and dispersed into the darkness.

The Christmas celebrations had certainly started well. One particularly poignant comment was received, with permissions, afterwards: “My family and I were there last night and I found it so moving. My husband’s cancer diagnosis progressed to terminal this time last year and Christmas was incredibly difficult.

“But, after an operation this summer, he was given the all-clear a few months ago. I’m not really religious, but standing watching all the torches and listening to the choir sing was overwhelming.

Thank you to everyone involved in organising the event.”. If you wish to volunteer to help at next year’s carol service or find out more about Rotary then check out www.chepstowrotary.

The event raised over £6,000 and, after expenses, £4,400 went to its charity fund. In 2024 the Rotary Torchlight Carol Service will be held once again on the first Saturday in December, that is 07 December, from 5pm.

Every member of the family remembers Tintern for a very long time to come and so the date should be marked in your diary now or visit www.chepstowrotary for details