February on the Farm (2021)

February 20th, 2021

Fine views from a village footpath

Richard Fonge writes:

The weather is getting warmer, after a seasonal cold snap. Our forecasters do seem to like to exaggerate their weather news at times, referring to certain weather situations as an “event”. Whilst it is nice to know what weather is coming our way, please don’t over egg it!!

Support for agriculture and conservation will be changing now we are out of Europe. As the Common Agricultural Policy is phased out, new National schemes will come in. The prime scheme is to be called ELMS. Environmental Land Management Scheme. We will await with interest to how these new plans affect the countryside as Farmers and land managers adapt to the new directives. A healthy balance must be kept between the two. 

Footpaths and their accessibility have never been more important, and over the last year, they have become even more so as an escape from lockdown. As well as a form of recreation, they give the walker a chance to observe and take note of the sights and sounds of the countryside and an understanding of how it works.

Farming in whatever form is about producing high quality food for the consumer, and to do this, an appreciation of your particular land type is paramount. Secondly you must work with nature. Try to beat her and your hand will be bitten sooner or later. To produce what is wanted in today’s competitive market is both demanding and rewarding, none better illustrated than, by those who can sell at their local farmers’ market and getting an instant customer response.

All parishes have their history, and Sulgrave more than most. The Castle mound, and its Saxon past, the Manor with its connection to the Washingtons and the first President of America. The lost village of Stuchbury, which has a fascinating past, researched with great interest many years ago by my late Mother. The old prisoner of war camp, on Helmdon Road, with its bases still visible, which housed I believe mostly Italian prisoners, and for many years after was lived in by displaced families.

The fields around us also have history and a story to tell. Every field has a name, the one nearest to the farm is usually called dairy ground, as that is where the cows grazed, but many have names which refer back to an event or an individual of the past. Some examples: I had a field called Mushroom at Kenilworth. It had one year produced mushrooms in abundance. Along the Welsh Lane, near Greatworth you have Newpiece, it was the last field to be cleared of woodland in the 19th century, and the adjoining field is Washbrook. The sheep used to be washed in the stream. Finally further along towards Helmdon you have the more sinister named Gallows Field, the scene of many a gruesome ending.

Richard Fonge

Summary of Parish Council Meeting held on Thursday 4th February 2021

February 10th, 2021

A Meeting of the Parish Council was held via remote technology on Thursday 4th February 2021. The following summary has been prepared by the Chairman:

The Chairman, Councillor Richard Fonge opened the meeting on zoom, welcoming a full council and two attendees from the village. Points discussed were:

Eon electricity were in the process of repairing a street light on Magpie Road.

No response from Anglian Water as yet to the replacement cover in Church Street.

South Northants Council will replace the Manor Road sign at the junction of Little Street.

It was reported from Sulgrave Manor that the Brew House is being re-roofed with funds raised.

County Highways have agreed to put 30 mph signs back 100 metres on Magpie Road. Councillor Priestman is in discussion with Coval to buy a similar speed warning sign as the one on Helmdon Road.

Eight trees have been planted in the Pocket Park wood. Geoff Ratley’s quote for the re-felting of the shelter was accepted.

In response to a letter from Mr George Metcalfe, the Council agreed to appoint a Tree Warden for the village and to look out for any tree planting possibilities within the Parish.

Councillor Laura North said she would not be standing for re-election in May. The Chairman thanked her for her time as a councillor and reminded all about the forthcoming elections. Information on this will be posted on the noticeboard and advertised on the village website.

Richard Fonge, Chairman.


Sulgrave Church Hall upgrade project supported by £75,000 HS2 Community Fund

February 7th, 2021

The project will involve refurbishing and upgrading the church hall including new disabled toilets, improving accessibility and making the community facility available to be used by all. The successful application was co-ordinated by Ingram Lloyd on behalf of the Parochial Church Council, supported by Councillor Anna Faure on behalf of the Parish Council. 

See here for more information about HS2 community grants.

STOP PRESS! Changes to Village Shop Hours and Practices

February 2nd, 2021

The practice of excluding customers from the shop itself, as shown in the photograph below, will come to an end on Friday next, 5th February, when customers will be allowed in, one at a time, after sanitising their hands. The shop will also be open once more on Sunday mornings from 9.00 am to 12 noon, when freshly baked croissants and pains au chocolat will be available.

Yet another award for Sulgrave Village Shop

January 28th, 2021

Boxes are packed for collection or delivery. Customers are not allowed beyond the doorstep during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

Sulgrave Village Shop and Post Office is once again in the news having received yet another accolade to add to its long list of awards and commendations.

In recognition for the support the shop has provided to the community throughout the COVID pandemic, the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire County Council have jointly presented Sulgrave Village Shop with a “Rose of Northamptonshire Award” under the “Unsung Heroes of Northamptonshire” initiative. In their notification letter, the joint award committee stated “Sulgrave Village Shop has been awarded a ‘Rose of Northamptonshire Award’ – a recognition of the hard work and determination you have shown when faced with the unprecedented threat from the Coronavirus outbreak – keeping our communities together and those most at risk safe.”

This latest award is just recognition for the outstanding effort made by the staff and volunteers who run the shop to support the local community during these dark times.

The presentation of the award to the Shop Management Committee took place in a virtual ceremony on Friday 22 January 2021. A wall plaque will soon be displayed in the shop as a reminder to everyone of the central role Sulgrave Village Shop plays in the social cohesion of the district.

Sulgrave Village Shop Management Committee

January on the Farm (2021)

January 22nd, 2021

Winter Aconites on the Moreton Road

Richard Fonge writes:

January another wet month, with the ground extremely sodden, and our footpaths quite challenging to walk. When you live in the countryside as we do, the mud and water are all part of our daily walks at this time of year.

The sight of the aconites in flower up the Moreton Rd and Hazel Catkins out, reminds us that Spring is not far away.

Whilst there is nothing happening on the land Farmers are preparing for the spring, when as soon as the land dries out there are many tasks to do. Winter months are the time for maintenance of plant and machinery, and the making of any improvements to the homestead. It is also a chance to take a look at the business, never more so than this year with Brexit now completed. Challenging times are ahead for the agriculture business, which I am sure farmers will rise to. It will be interesting to see how new policies are going to impact on our countryside.

Preparation for lambing starts with the pregnancy scanning, followed six weeks before the start, with a booster dose of clostridial vaccine. There are seven clostridial diseases and this vaccine protects the lambs through their mothers first milk. Also at this time the ewes are often housed, and divided into groups, and fed according to the no of lambs they are expecting. It is exceedingly important that they are on a rising plain of nutrition leading up to lambing. To have healthy ewes and lambs born does not just happen, it requires planning of their feeding and veterinary needs.

Animal nutrition is vital in producing the quality product, whether that be milk or meat. Nutritionists are employed by most livestock farmers, to formulate their rations.

Finally on the Helmdon Rd, two small fields that have been let to get overgrown, have been cleared and the vegetation cut back and burnt. My understanding is that a stock fence will be put up and the field will be grazed for sheep. With the clearing that has gone on, the old prisoner-of-war camp site is now more evident.

Richard Fonge

Castle Green and Castle Hill Public Open Spaces

January 14th, 2021

Discovering the history of Sulgrave Castle – a treasure hunt on the ramparts

A Message from the Castle Green Management Committee:

In these Covid controlled days the one real positive outcome has been the opportunity to explore and enjoy our local countryside. We are positively encouraged to take daily exercise in our own locale. It has been a pleasure to see so many people out walking, running and cycling. Let us hope that post-Covid this enthusiasm will continue, leading to a fitter and healthier society.

The appreciation of our immediate environment hopefully will lead to a greater love and respect for the countryside around our beautiful parish. This has been much enhanced by our Parish Council Chairman’s monthly articles on the Village Website explaining, literally, how the countryside around Sulgrave “works”.

From the point of view of the Castle Green Management Committee it has been a pleasure to see many villagers, their families and children are using the recently extended Castle Green public open space. Now that the mound itself is an integral part of this public open space, the fabulous views of the village and its surroundings from the top can be enjoyed by all. It makes a beautiful spot for children to stretch their legs in the fresh air and perhaps even wonder what’s beneath the Mound!!

It is hoped, Covid willing, to hold a Mid Summer’s Fair towards the end of June when all and sundry will be invited to enjoy gathering together on our Castle Green again. Keep your eye on future Village Newsletters and the Village Website for further updates.

In the meantime enjoy your daily exercise and do visit the Castle Green and Castle Hill Public Open Space.

Martin Sirot-Smith, Chairman, on behalf of the Castle Green Management Committee.

See here for some notes on the public acquisition of these sites and a brief history of the Ancient Monument


Summary of Parish Council Meeting on Thursday 7th January 2021

January 9th, 2021

Parish Council Chairman Richard Fonge and the Castle Hill Christmas Tree

The Meeting took place via Zoom remote technology. The Chairman opened the meeting by wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

He then reported on the Christmas Hampers, which had been well received and appreciated and quoted from some of the letters of thanks. All agreed that the gesture had been a great success. The shop had asked for a list of recipients, so that they could make sure that group shopping needs were looked after.

The Christmas Tree on Castle Hill had also been much appreciated, with a Carol Service attended by some forty people observing social distances. The Websters had also used the area for a Pizza Night. The Chairman thanked all who had been involved in putting up the tree and decorating it and taking it down again. It was hoped to repeat the idea next year with improved lighting. 

Councillor Faure reported on HS2 (High Speed Rail). The main point of interest was traffic flows, information on which is to be put on the Village Website by Colin Wootton. It was noted that all HS2 construction traffic will display identification so that any complaints can be referred back to the right vehicle.

Councillor Faure also reported on the HS2 funded improvements to the Church Hall. Depending upon Covid pandemic developments, it was hoped that work could start in late spring 2021. 

Pocket Park. The Chairman thanked Julien and Sarah Staples for their work on the pond which had been most satisfactory. The Council agreed to buy five more trees to plant this month; these will be located in the wooded area rather than in the Millenium Wood itself. A quote had been received for the re-felting of the shelter roof and a second quote is required. 

It was reported that the Allotment Gardens were in good order with some rental availability.

The poor state of the Manor Road sign at the junction of Little Street had been reported to the County Council. If nothing comes of this it will be fixed by Councillor Powell.

The Precept and Budget for next year was agreed.

The new Eon street light maintenance contract had been signed. Problems with the lamps in Magpie Road and Little Street are to be reported.

In the public participation part of the meeting a suggestion was made as to tree planting along the hedge line in Helmdon Road. The Council will look into this possibility.

The Chairman closed the meeting with a strong reminder to everyone to observe the Covid rules.

Richard Fonge. Chairman. Sulgrave Parish Council.

Village Shop Newsletter for January 2021

January 4th, 2021

December on the Farm (2020)

December 29th, 2020

Wildflower meadows on the Barrow Hill Footpath

Richard Fonge writes:

This is the second consecutive wet December, with the ground at saturation point. More planting was done in the autumn, than last year, but there is still much to be done, as can be seen up the concrete road.

Last month I briefly outlined agriculture development through the seventies and eighties, finishing with the consequences of over production. All arable producers had to take 10% of their land out of production, reducing to 5% after a few years, and there was a compensation payment. You could if you so wished put the whole of your arable land into the scheme, and thereby enhance the Environmental impact, subject to guidelines laid down by government. With the growing industrialisation of farming, there became quite rightly, concerns about the destruction of habitat and fauna, although it was sometimes forgotten that the building of houses, by passes, motorways et al were also damaging nature to an equal degree. By the noughties Environmental schemes were introduced, and farmers and landowners embraced them, to go along with the new payments. Margins of grassland were left round fields, beetle banks made, wild life mixtures planted, trees planted etc. Much good Conservation work, a lot of it unseen has been done over the last twenty years. On the Barrow Hill walk, you go through two wild flower meadows, rich in their diversity of plants, and past two woodlands of a young age, with strips of game and nectar mixes to feed a wide variety of birds and provide cover for the game birds. Pheasant and partridge shooting are an intrinsic part of rural life.

As we leave Europe new policies are being proposed, for farming and the countryside, which will obviously have an impact on the countryside we admire each day. Let us hope a balance is struck between food producing and conservation. Always remembering that you can’t eat the view.

We are so lucky in these difficult times to live in a village surrounded by unspoilt countryside to enjoy and relax in, albeit we are having to suffer the great scar of HS2.

A happy New Year to all.

Richard Fonge