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Wilmington Charity Model Railway Exhibition set to end after 21 years after Revd Richard Arding steps down

By Ed McConnell

The future of a model railway exhibition looks uncertain after its founder bowed out after 21 years.

Reverend Richard Arding started the Wilmington Charity Model Railway Exhibition in 1997 – a year after taking the reins at St Michael and All Angels Church – as a way of fundraising for much-needed repairs.

It was hoped the event would draw a few hundred people and run for a couple of years but two decades later it has become a highlight of the church calendar and at the weekend welcomed 850 visitors and raised more than £11,000. In total it has raised more than £150,000 in its lifetime.

Susan Lee and Laurence Williams part of the team who built the 'Hatch End' layout show off their layout to Nicola, Jacob, two and Richard Lewis at the charity model railway exhibition in St Michael's Church Hall, Wilmington on Saturday. Picture Chris Davey

Susan Lee and Laurence Williams part of the team who built the 'Hatch End' layout show off their layout to Nicola, Jacob, two and Richard Lewis at the charity model railway exhibition in St Michael's Church Hall, Wilmington on Saturday. Picture: Chris Davey

But former banker Mr Arding, a train enthusiast, is now stepping down and says there is no one to take on the running of the exhibition.

Revd Richard Arding at his last annual charity model railway exhibition in St Michael's Church Hall, Wilmington on Saturday. Picture Chris Davey

Revd Richard Arding at his last annual charity model railway exhibition in St Michael's Church Hall, Wilmington on Saturday. Picture: Chris Davey

The 65-year-old said: “It was a great event yet again and the amount raised is the best to date. I never saw it becoming so popular when I started it.

“Unfortunately patron Jools Holland couldn’t make it as he was playing in Dublin but he invited us to his castle last week, gave us a guided tour, showed us his railway and gave us some items to sell at the event. I had tea in his kitchen and he was a really lovely man.

“Unfortunately there’s no one to take over at the moment and it won’t happen again unless anything changes. I suppose it depends on whether the next vicar is a train enthusiast.”

Ben Kinderman who attends the Sunday School and Church at St Michael's, Wilmington was invited to take control of one of the trains on the Hawkenbury layout at the model railway exhibition in the church and hall on Saturday. Picture Chris Davey

Ben Kinderman who attends the Sunday School and Church at St Michael's, Wilmington was invited to take control of one of the trains on the Hawkenbury layout at the model railway exhibition in the church and hall on Saturday. Picture: Chris Davey

The money raised will be split between charities Railway Children – which helps homeless children – Demelza Hospice Care for Children and Dartford-based Cherished Memories as well as funding a youth worker for the area.

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