Proposed New Bus Shelter. An Extraordinary Meeting of the Parish Council will be held in the Church Hall at 7.30 pm on Thursday 23rd November.

November 19th, 2017

An extraordinary meeting of the Parish Council will be held in the Church Hall at 7.30 pm on Thursday 23rd November. The main item on the agenda will be “to decide on making an application for a PWL (Public Works Loan) to help part fund the purchase and installation of the replacement bus shelter including the time frame over which the loan will be taken”.

See here for full agenda.

November on the Farm

November 14th, 2017

Mustard Plant

November this year has started warmer than average, so we see cattle out in the fields that would normally be housed by now. The field at the top of Barrow hill has been planted with mustard. This is what is known as a cover crop. This material provides cover and a good habitat for wildlife during the winter and will then die down in early spring, returning green manure to the soil, before being planted with a cereal crop.

Field sown with mustard on Barrow Hill

See more on Sulgrave farming in November by clicking on “read the rest of this entry”.

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LOCAL HEROES. A tribute for Remembrance Day 2017.

November 7th, 2017

Frank Riches’ Military Medal (see later)

Whilst in no way denigrating those who rightly deserve to be called modern day heroes, it can sometimes seem that this title is nowadays conferred a little too lightly, especially by tabloid newspapers in search of a headline. When I went into the Star Inn as a young man sixty years ago, a majority of the men in there could have been said to be heroes but would have made no such claim. They were from a time when everyone “did his or her bit”. Four men could regularly be seen playing cards together. During the Second World War 1939-1945, one had been a navigator on Lancaster bombers, one had landed on the beaches at Anzio in Italy and fought his way through to Germany via Monte Cassino, a third an RAF pilot four years in a prisoner of war camp returning home half his normal weight and a fourth had been an anti-aircraft gunner in Malta. The latter island had been heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe on a daily basis. When others went to the shelters he had to stay at his post. He said little about it but I vividly remember that when he lit a cigarette, the hand holding the match would shake so violently he had to clench it with his other hand. At that time a veteran of the Great War who had lost a leg limped daily to the Manor where he worked as a gardener. He was always smiling with a kind word for everyone. I plucked up the courage to ask him about it. “Ah well, you see”, he said “I only lost a leg and many of my comrades lost their lives!” A local lad of barely eighteen, newly enlisted in the Wiltshire regiment, went up to the front before the Battle of the Somme. The soldiers told him that WILTS stood for “Will I live til Saturday?” He returned home badly injured but 20,000 of the men who were with him that morning didn’t live to see the sun set, let alone living until Saturday.

At this time when we stand in silence to remember those who didn’t return, we should also spare a thought for those who served and returned, often suffering mentally or physically, but are no longer with us. I therefore set out on the next page the stories of two local men, one who returned from the First World War and one from the Second.

Colin Wootton

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Annual Grafton Team Chase at Sulgrave. Sunday 22nd October 2017

November 3rd, 2017

Unlike the glorious sunshine and fast going in 2016, this year’s event took place under grey skies, with a crisp wind and very soft going. However, the drab weather served as a good background for the teams’ bright colours and spectators were kept busy replacing divots.

More pictures on the next page:

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Inaugural Organ Concert at Church of St James the Less, Sulgrave, on Saturday 21st October 2017

October 29th, 2017

Ian Tracey at the console of the restored organ after the performance

On Saturday evening 21st October, in the Church of St James the Less, villagers were entranced by a wonderfully varied programme of music played on the newly restored organ by distinguished organist Ian Tracey. The concert was arranged to celebrate the completion of the restoration stage of the church organ project. The organ has now been restored to its original 1892 condition making it one of the very few working Binns’ organs of its age and excellence.

However, the project is not only about restoring the organ. A scholarship scheme is planned to enable enthusiasts to learn how to play this magnificent instrument, together with a fund to pay for an organist for regular church services and to maintain the organ.

Those wishing to contribute to this fund can do so by visiting and clicking the Virgin Giving button.

See next page for details of the programme and some pictures from the event.

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October on the Farm

October 22nd, 2017

In 1840 some 44% of the population of Great Britain worked in agriculture. By the time of the 2011 census this figure had declined to 1%. Currently, less than 4% of the rural population has any connection with farming or associated activities.

Growing up in the village during and just after the second world world, I lived in a community which was acutely aware of all that was happening on the surrounding land. At busy times of haymaking and harvest, everyone had a part to play. Many of the village men were away at the war and so everyone was pressed into service, including prisoners of war from the camp just outside the village on the way to Helmdon and airmen stationed at the RAF Communications Unit near Greatworth. I was one of the many village boys happily queuing up to drive the ubiquitous Fordson tractors and trailers between the haycocks, thus releasing an adult to wield a pitchfork.

Nowadays, almost all employed people in the village work in surrounding towns or take trains to London from Banbury or Milton Keynes. Those remaining in the village go about their daily lives largely unconscious of local farming activities, other than large tractors passing through, towing equally large trailers with hidden contents heading for unknown destinations. Those who use the footpaths through surrounding fields may pass through a growing crop one day and return a few days later to find it has gone with next year’s crop already in the ground. No one is to be seen other than in tractor cab. Gangs of children no longer roam the fields looking for employment, entertainment or mischief!

In order to re-establish a degree of connection between villagers and agriculture, the website’s de facto Agricultural Correspondent, Richard Fonge, has volunteered to provide a monthly digest in respect of current farming activities, which will be illustrated with pictures as appropriate. Richard grew up on his father’s farm at Stuchbury, went to agricultural college and before retirement spent 40 years in farm management. He is thus well placed for this task.

Colin Wootton

See next page for the first of these items, for this month of October 2017

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HS2 (High Speed Rail) Update

October 16th, 2017

On Thursday 12th October, representatives of HS2 and the chosen contractors’ consortium were in attendance at Sulgrave Manor to answer villagers’ questions in respect of the construction of the new High Speed Railway Line.

Contracts have now been let in respect of that section of the line which affects Sulgrave. The contractors are a consortium calling itself CEK (Carillion, Eiffage and Kier). The contracts have been let in two stages. Stage One is a 16 month period to develop a design, a programme and a target cost for the construction of the works. Stage Two is for the construction of the main works and this is expected to take between four and five years to complete.

Current estimates are that the scheme design work and costings should be completed by November 2018. The Government Treasury will then have until March 2019 to decide if the designs and costs are acceptable. Assuming this to be the case, construction can then commence and it is anticipated that works in the Sulgrave Area will begin at about the middle of 2020. The general civil engineering work is expected to be completed by 2023 followed by a two year period for the installation of the railway systems, signalling and overhead lines. Following a year of systems testing, the line is expected to be in use by 2026 or 2027.

The scheme design work now in progress will include traffic management schemes for the vehicles involved in the construction and off site movements. Until these designs and management schemes have been completed it follows that many of the questions expressing villagers’ legitimate concerns remained unanswered and the plans on display were no more than those showing the horizontal and vertical alignment of the line which have appeared many times on this website.

However, assurances were given in respect of one of the main concerns of Sulgrave residents, namely “how will the works in progress affect journeys to Banbury and Brackley?” The plan below shows the temporary roads that will be built to bypass the bridge constructions whilst the work is in progress. When completed, the bridges will allow traffic to follow the original road alignment. For the sake of clarity, I have also shown these in blue dots on the simple map of the route on the O.S. 1:50,000 map. Although temporary, these short sections of road will have to be built to the standards required by the Northamptonshire County Council as Highway Authority.

Click here to see a bigger version and use your enlargement facility and computer scroll bars to examine it.

Temporary road diversions on the Banbury and Brackley routes shown in blue dots (schematic only).

It is not anticipated that there will be any permanent road closures.

All villagers are naturally worried as to increases in traffic around the construction sites, especially heavy goods vehicles. In advance of the completion of the detailed design and traffic management scheme, representatives of HS2 and the contractors were not prepared to predict the sort of numbers which will be involved and this must therefore be a matter for continuing concern. In this context, the detailed engineering design will include mass haul diagrams wherein the designers make every endeavour to balance the cut and fill i.e. the material excavated from the cuttings should only be taken to the nearest embankment, rather than elsewhere along public roads. In its Petition to Parliament in 2016, the Parish Council stressed this very point and will be keeping a close eye on this matter as the design progresses. Following on from the petition, HS2 were directed to assure the Parish Council that there would be continued consultation on this important aspect of the scheme and CEK are therefore contractually obliged to honour this assurance. A transcript of the hearing of the Parish Council’s petition, presented by then Councillor David Walker, can be seen here.

In the context of representations concerning HS2 made on behalf of Sulgrave, the dedication and hard work of former Parish Council Chairman Ken Christy should not be forgotten. Newer villagers may not be aware of his appearance before the Select Committee as a petitioner. See here for the very comprehensive case made in the petition.

There will be a number of preparatory schemes in advance of the main construction work, notably the improvement of the Greatworth Junction with B4525, as shown below. Villagers will remember the fatal accident involving a much loved Sulgrave resident a few years ago and the early improvement of this junction must be welcomed.

Proposed improvements to the Greatworth turn off the B4525 Welsh Lane.

It is difficult to estimate the probable noise impact upon the village of the works in progress. The best that can be said at the moment is that working hours will be restricted to 08.00 to 18.00 on weekdays and 08.00 to 13.00 on Saturdays.

The design will attempt to minimise the noise of passing trains by the use of earth bunds, even on the edge of cuttings. Noise screens are not ruled out but are generally an unattractive last resort. With 16 trains per hour, each 12 carriages long, the measures will need to be robust, to say the least!

HS2 Senior Project Manager Dave Williams and the contractor’s representative, Interface Manager Simon Matthews, will be keeping in close contact with the Parish Council and will be submitting regular updates for display on this website.

Colin Wootton

Publication of South Northamptonshire Local Plan, Pre-Submission Draft for Consultation. Read and comment upon the policies and proposals affecting your village. Deadline: Noon Friday 10th November 2017

October 3rd, 2017

District-wide Local Plans contain policies and proposals which guide decisions on the use and development of land during a prescribed period. They are prepared by District Councils in accordance with relevant National and Regional planning policies, in consultation with all interested parties and organisations and the general public.

The current Local Plan for South Northamptonshire was adopted by South Northamptonshire Council in 1997. The Council is preparing a replacement plan for the period up to 2029 which will, amongst other things, establish a Rural Settlement Hierarchy for settlements within the District; propose amendments to existing town and village confines lines, beyond which expansion will not normally be permitted; identify areas of important open space within settlements and address local development needs.

In 2016, the Council published a consultation document inviting comments on the various options then under consideration in respect of these matters.

Numerous responses were received, including those from Sulgrave Parish Council. After due consideration of these responses, the Council has now published its Pre-Submission Draft Plan for Consultation.

See next page for further details, including links to the relevant documents.

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Construction works will soon commence on the High Speed Rail Line (HS2) which will be less than1500 metres from the nearest house in Sulgrave. Visit Sulgrave Manor on Thursday October 12th to find out more.

September 26th, 2017

A team from HS2 will be available to explain the proposals and answer your questions, between 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm at Sulgrave Manor on Thursday October 12th. A representative of the Parish Council will be present, together with Councillor Peter Davis of South Northamptonshire Council (Councillor for the Washington Ward which incorporates Sulgrave). Tommy Gilchrist, Parliamentary Assistant to our Member of Parliament has also been invited, as he leads on HS2 matters for Ms Leadsom and she is unable to attend due to a prior engagement. Please put the date in your diary – if you are at all concerned about or interested in the construction of the new line, this is your chance to learn more.

Any queries please contact Lucy Apperly at

Members of the public are now able to contact the HS2 helpdesk team using a new Freephone telephone number. All calls are free of charge from UK landlines and mobile phones. The new number is 08081 434 434. This number can also be found on the government website

There is also a new Freephone mini-com number for callers with hearing and speech difficulties. This number is 08081 456 472.

As previously published on this website, the line of HS2 in the vicinity of Sulgrave is shown on the map below:

Click here for details of the route between A and B.

Click here for details of the route between B and C.

Annual Vintage Ploughing Match at Sulgrave

September 18th, 2017

Colin Russell with his 1939 Fordson Standard

Compared to the bright sunshine of the previous year, September 17th 2017 was a rather grey, cool and cheerless day. However, the air was soon full of the nostalgic sound of tractors from 60 to 80 years ago (when they were small and travelled at a walking pace!) As usual, the venue was Dial House Farm, courtesy of the Cherry Family. Comments in italics for the rest of this entry are by Richard Fonge, village website agricultural correspondent.

More pictures on the following page:

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