May on the Farm (2024)

May 14th, 2024

HS2 so-called “Green Tunnel” under construction at the bottom of the huge cutting which is devastating the countryside between Sulgrave and Greatworth:
Photo: Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

We are coming to the end of a lovely warm spell, much appreciated after the last few months of rain and chill. The countryside I always feel looks at its best in early May with the freshness of the new foliage.

The better weather has come too late for the planting of the land up the gated road. This is an area of some 150 acres or 60 hectares. A sizeable area to have no income from. Official figures forecast that cereal production will be down by 17% this year because of the wet winter and spring. Although we changed from imperial to metric all those years ago, land is still advertised and sold in acres mainly. One hectare equals 2.47 acres. Also at pedigree stock auctions, the animals are sold in guineas. £1.05 pence equals a Guinea.

The majority of sheep flocks, and to an extent beef and dairy herds, are commercial. To be a pedigree flock or herd you must have kept the breeding lines and records for many years to prove the origin of your stock. Once approved as a pedigree breeder the farmer can prefix the herd or flock with a suitable name. So my younger sister Susan and husband Dennis after establishing a dairy herd on their farm in Kentucky U.S.A called it the Stuchbury herd of pedigree Holsteins.

This does not mean that commercial stock are badly bred, far from it. The selection of sires and females is most important, because the farmer is producing a product, whether that be milk or meat, that has to be to the high standard demanded and expected of the consumer, and commercially viable and profitable for the business he operates.

The agricultural show season soon begins, but sadly the Kenilworth Show which I have been involved with for nearly forty years is no longer, as a site can’t be found, due to that great destroyer of our countryside HS2 going through our present site. Agricultural shows are the industry’s shop window, where stock are shown, machinery displayed and all things countryside are in evidence. It gives the farming industry an opportunity to meet with their customers, explain by word and demonstration what we are about as food producers and guardians of the countryside.

Richard Fonge

Agendas for ANNUAL PARISH MEETING and ANNUAL PARISH COUNCIL MEETING in the Village Hall on Thursday 9th May at 7.00 pm and 8.00 pm respectively

May 6th, 2024

Village Shop Newsletter for May 2024

April 30th, 2024

April on the Farm 2024

April 16th, 2024

The last pigs to be reared in Sulgrave, twenty years ago
Photo: Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

I started last months notes by saying that there had been a much needed break in the continual wet weather allowing some field work to be done. Sadly it was just a short break, and now in mid April the continual rain persists. It is now a very serious situation for farmers and growers, which could have an impact later on in the year on food prices. You only have to look at the unplanted fields up the concrete road and on the Moreton rd to realise that the chances of planting a crop this spring is unlikely. The effects of the excessive rain can be seen in the winter wheat crop on the Stuchbury footpath. Multiply these field situations across the country and you have a serious situation. We are less than 60% self sufficient food wise as a nation anyway, so we do not want to be sucking in more imports.

In the grass field off the Helmdon rd there is a flock of young sheep. They are ewe lambs which will be bred from this autumn to have their lambs next spring at two years old when they will be called theaves. Sheep terminology is endless and confusing as it varies from different regions of the country. This wet weather has not been good for the lambing season, making it an extra pressure at a busy time. It must be remembered that lambs are born with a coat that is there to protect them from wet and cold, with wet the most threatening of the two. However providing the ewe has the milk to feed her lambs and they are born strong all should be well.

At our forthcoming fete in June there will be skittles played with the winners receiving prizes. This game was once called bowling for the pig, with the first prize of a weaner pig being hotly contested between the men of the village and others from neighbouring villages. Up until the mid 1950s the pig still paid a vital part in the household economy. The saying went. “The only bit of a pig you couldn’t eat was its squeak.” A valued prize. The pig was fed on waste food and fattened up to a good size before being humanely slaughtered by the local pig sticker. The sides were then salted and hung from hooks in the out shed and cottage kitchen. The bacon often 80% fat was vital to that cottager’s family along with the fresh vegetables from his allotment. It must be remembered that work was far more physically demanding, especially farm work where there was often a bike ride to work after a hard days labour, so the high fat meat was soon burnt off.

A man I knew who had been a teenager during the Second World War, said how well they had lived in the country during that time, with vegetables, the pig, fresh eggs, and always the odd rabbit and pigeon and cockerel to supplement their healthy diet. For that is what it was. Living off the land with no preservatives!

Richard Fonge

Neighbourhood Policing Team Visit to Sulgrave on Saturday 13th April.

April 8th, 2024

PC Mel Carter will be with a marked Police Vehicle near to the Village Shop on the Saturday morning to discuss any concerns you may have.

Advance Notice. Sulgrave Super Saturday Fete. June 8th 2024

April 2nd, 2024

The Organising Committee are always open to any ideas, so please don’t hesitate to come forward with any ideas or help on the day.

Richard Fonge. Chairman. Sulgrave Parish Council.  [email protected]


Village Shop Newsletter for April 2024

April 2nd, 2024

March on the farm 2024

March 22nd, 2024

Roman coin found on Sulgrave Castle Hill in 1961
Photo: Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

It’s nice to have some drying weather after what has been one of wettest of late autumns and winters for many a year. The fertiliser spreaders have been out applying much needed nitrogen to the winter sown crops. The oilseed rape off the Magpie Road will soon grow at a pace and be coming out in flower before the month is out. Some of the wheat on the Stuchbury footpath is suffering from the incessant wet and it will be interesting to see how well it recovers, whilst the fields up the concrete road which were cultivated last autumn will take sometime to dry out before they can be planted.

All fields have names, most of them going back many generations. The field nearest the farm was usually called the dairy ground for the obvious reason as that is where the cows grazed. There are three fields in the Stuchbury Parish, I can recall, Gallows field where the hangman’s scaffold once stood. Washbrook where the stream at the bottom of the field has a sheep wash and Newpiece, so called as it was the last field to be cleared of woodland in the early nineteenth century.

Near to the new junction of the temporary road as it meets the Welsh lane was a triangular field of an acre, used by the drovers to rest their stock, such as there is at the Magpie junction. That history has been destroyed by HS2 as have other field names, by developers. Field names tell you a lot about the former characters and history of the parish.

When farming I had a 25 acre field called mushroom after a sudden crop of mushrooms appeared many years previously, and in 1992 two metal detectorists found a horde of Roman coins dating from 79 AD to 210 AD. It was thought that a pot had been buried which had been broken by the plough and spread in a small area. The Coroner’s court ruled they were not treasure trove but Warwick museum catalogued and kept most of them.

Richard Fonge

Village Shop Newsletter for March 2024

March 1st, 2024

February on the farm (2024)

February 10th, 2024

Vincenzo Luigi Cugini at work on Syresham church roof in 1970. Photograph by Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

The countryside remains much the same as it has for last three months, with hedge trimming the only task being carried out. Whilst some is done by the farmer himself, most hedge trimming is done by a contractor. With some dispensation allowed in August to cut, the season extends from September to the end of February. A contractor therefore has six months to plan his work, and one man has been doing this for well over fifty years. Many of you may have recognised a small blue Leyland tractor at work in the parishes around here, cutting hedges in winter and mowing grass verges for the council in summer. This combination of senior citizen and tractor of sixties vintage still do a high class job, and have created quite a record for longevity.

Noel is a great character always happy to break off for a chat and recite a yarn or two, and this brings me to mention a past Sulgrave village character, known only to those of you who have lived in the village for a long time. In Manor Rd you may have noticed a cottage between Nutcracker and Hill Farm house that has a wide oak front door with raised and fielded panels and inscribed in the stonework above are the initials V.L.C. 1956. This was the home of Vincenzo Luigi Cugini, an Italian carpenter, joiner and cabinet maker who worked for the village builders, Wootton Brothers. He made the door in the company’s carpenters’ workshop between the telephone exchange and the present village shop to advertise his skills. Vince was conscripted into the Italian army, serving time in Abyssinia before surrendering along with many other Italians at the battle of El Alamein. He then came as a prisoner of war to the Sulgrave camp situated on the left up the Helmdon Rd (a stack of white silage bags mark the area today). This was in 1943 and the prisoners, all Italians, were sent to work on the local farms. Vincent like many of his compatriots stayed on after the war and was offered a job by Sid Wootton, father of Colin (who has been kind enough to supply this information) and he was to stay with the firm until his retirement. He was a master craftsman and I have witnessed some of his work in a friend’s house built in the late sixties. Married with a family before the war separated them, he was to marry a Sulgrave lady called Connie, who outlived him by some twenty years.

Sulgrave has a rich history and this true story needs to be remembered for posterity.

Richard Fonge