April on the Farm (2019)

April 22nd, 2019

“….many different shades of green…”

Richard Fonge writes:

True to form as the blackthorn blossom dies away the temperature warms up. We are in serious need of rain for the crops and ourselves. After a pretty dry winter we could be in for a shortage by the Summer’s end if our reservoir stocks aren’t soon replenished.

Whilst we can’t control the weather, those that farm the land and manage it have a huge impact on how our landscape is shaped. The views around our parish and the crops and woods within it are there because of the way it is farmed and managed for country sports. Government also plays its part with its agriculture and environmental policies.

Whilst we have grass margins around fields for environmental reasons and wildlife bird mixtures on the Stuchbury to Greatworth footpath and up Barrow hill, the biggest wildlife corridor is of course the disused railway line. The trains once visible from the village before its closure in the mix-sixties have been replaced by the natural re-generation of the banks, soon to be a mass of May blossom, the flower of the white thorn.

The lambs are growing a pace with the dry weather to their advantage. Lamb is a meat produced from grass and their mothers milk with some added supplementary feed in some management systems. 40% of all lamb produced in this country is exported in carcass form, most of it to the Paris wholesale market. As I have mentioned before sheep are so vital to the countryside both as a grazer of our less favoured areas and the keeping of old pastures. The Oilseed Rape is now in full flower, but this year the crop is very variable due to the withdrawal of a pesticide that controlled the cabbage stem flea beetle, and the lack of a suitable alternative to combat this voracious insect, making the viability of this crop a possible doubt for the future.

One of the delights of this time of year are the many different shades of green as the crops grow and the hedges and trees come into leaf. Just stand on Castle Green to appreciate the village and countryside around you. It is a privilege to live in such a place.

Richard Fonge

Castle Hill Public Open Space – Progress Report

April 7th, 2019

Castle Hill Preliminary Archaeological Excavations in 1961 as seen from the Church Tower  Photo: Colin Wootton

Chairman of the Castle Green Management Committee, Martin Sirot-Smith, reported to the Annual Parish Meeting on 4th April 2019 as follows:

As you may have read, the Parish Council has purchased the Castle Hill site, thus bringing the whole of the Scheduled Ancient Monument into public ownership. It has been included into the Committee’s remit to manage it alongside Castle Green itself.

Our first task is to secure the fencing around the site. We will be getting in touch with all those whose properties border Castle Hill to ask for their co-operation. We will need to cut back all overhanging trees and branches, and then repair, or indeed, replace the post and rail fencing as necessary.

We will be looking at the trees on Castle Hill itself, removing all the elder and the small sycamore saplings, as well as raising the crown of the mature specimens.

We propose to continue the present system of grazing the pasture in season. We will have notices in place to inform visitors of their responsibilities when animals are present.

Once all the work has been completed we intend to hold a Celebratory Fair. This will probably take place in mid-Summer 2020. This will again, like the Michaelmas Fair did last year, involve many of the village organisations, and will enable us to showcase the value and importance of this historically important site.

May I take this opportunity to thank again those organisations and individuals who contributed to and supported our fund raising appeal last year. It is great credit to one and all that target was achieved so quickly.

We now have an amenity that not only enhances our village immensely, but ensures the proper management of this most important historical site.”

Martin Sirot-Smith, Chairman, Castle Green Management Committee

Ben’s Den at the Pocket Park

March 27th, 2019

Sara Brown writes:

A memorial to Sulgrave resident Ben Brown, who sadly died in a car accident in 2018, has been erected in the pocket park. ‘Ben’s Den’ is a living willow structure designed and created by an internationally recognised willow weaving artist Tom Hare.  Tom has created exhibits all over the world and has designs in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and in a RHS gold medal winning garden, to name but a few.  Ben’s family hope that the children of the village will enjoy the den for years to come and would like to thank the villagers for their kind and generous help and support over the last 12 months.

Kind regards, Sara

Click here to visit Tom Hare’s website.

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March on the Farm (2019)

March 23rd, 2019

Richard Fonge writes:

March has so far given us its usual mix of weather. So having come in like a lion, let us hope it goes out like a lamb. This is an old country adage that is normally right, as is the saying that when the blackthorn is out, we will have a blackthorn winter. And as long as the blackthorn remains in flower, you will find that there is always a chill in the air. One saying that I have never known to come true, is “The oak before the ash and we will have a splash. The ash before the oak and we will have a soak.” Because the oak always precedes the Ash in coming into leaf, whether we have a dry or wet summer.

Many of us walk the footpaths regularly and now we have a walking group who will be walking each footpath on a weekly basis. By doing this they can see the development of each crop they walk through. So on the Barrow hill lookout for the emergence of beans planted after the green crop. Up the gated road the flowering of the oil seed rape. The field called the big green off Little Street with the path down the centre will have cattle in it from late April, and the ewes and lambs are already in the fields up to the railway line.

Note the difference in the breeds of sheep behind Wemyss Farm when they arrive and those that are in the field by the Helmdon Road.

On the road to Halse from Greatworth there are two very large heaps of a white material (See photo above). What are they? They are piles of gypsum, which will be spread onto the land after harvest, as a fertiliser and conditioner. We normally associate gypsum as a building product, in the manufacture of plasterboard, but it is mined for agriculture purposes. By applying quite a large quantity per acre, it becomes beneficial to the heavy clay soils, as it sticks to the clay particles, making the soil more friable and helping in better infiltration of water, and helps to break up compaction, thereby making the soil easier to cultivate and the establishment of a crop. A natural product being put to good use.

Finally, I farmed for twenty years on the urban fringe which had some interesting challenges, but the great contrast to Sulgrave was the night sky. We had light pollution to such an extent that I had forgotten what a star lit night was like. I now appreciate those stars, and have on occasion been drawn to a particular Star!

Richard Fonge

Village Shop Newsletter for February 2019

March 7th, 2019

Apologies for the delay in posting this newsletter on the website – Ed.

February on the Farm (2019)

February 26th, 2019

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Photograph: John Sheppard

Richard Fonge writes:

It certainly feels very springlike as I write these notes. One of the first sounds of Spring is the noise of the woodpecker tapping away at his tree trunk. I first heard him this year on the 12th of February up the gated road to Weston. Farming wise all is still very quiet, but with this mild spell and dry ground to travel on tractors will soon be seen apply nitrogen to the oil seed rape up the concrete road, where considerable damage has been done to the crop in certain areas by pigeons. This will enable the crop to grow away from them. When they descend in their hundreds onto the oil seed rape they can soon do irreparable damage, resulting in substantial loss of yield.

You may have noticed the hedge along Little Street has had its gaps planted with new thorn plants. These are replacing the elderberry bushes which have been sprayed out. Elder is not a plant you want in a field hedge, as it dominates and is in no way a deterrent to stock. Whilst you need a field hedge made up of a variety of species, elder is not one of them. A hedge is a wildlife corridor as well as a boundary.

The lambing season will soon be in full swing, and ewes and their lambs will be re-stocking the grass fields around the village. A true sign of Spring, so make sure all dogs are on leads and under control when walking through them. These permanent pasture fields in our parish are so important for lamb production and keeping the balance between livestock and corn. 

These are interesting and challenging times for us all with a great deal of uncertainty, none more so than the Farmer with pressure from many lobbying groups. But one thing is definite and that is we all have to be fed, and that food is produced from the land.

Richard Fonge.

Postman John (the Younger) celebrates his 50th birthday at Sulgrave Manor

February 10th, 2019

Our popular “community postman”, John Down, (known to all as “John the Postman) is carrying on the tradition of cheerful and helpful service to the village established and maintained by his father (also known as “John the Postman”) until his untimely death in April 2011. Four years before this sad event, on 30th September 2007, a surprise party was held at Sulgrave Manor to celebrate his 60th birthday and forthcoming retirement.

Click here to see photographs of that event, attended by at least three quarters of the residents.

When it became known that John the Younger was approaching his 50th birthday, the Sulgrave Women’s Activities Group (SWAG) decided to hold a similar party to mark that event. From November 2018 onwards, a great deal of planning and hard work by the ladies and their helpers went into preparing for the big day, Saturday 9th February 2019.

Photographs on the next page (Click on “Read the rest of this entry”)

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Radio Northampton celebrates the Village Shop’s selection as a Regional Finalist in the Countryside Alliance Awards.

February 4th, 2019

Digby Lewis explains the Countryside Alliance Awards to Radio Northampton reporter Gill Brown

Having learned that the shop had been selected as one of the five regional finalists for the Countryside Alliance Awards (the “Rural Oscars”), Radio Northampton decided to celebrate that success by conducting a series of interviews on Monday 4th February. These were carried out by reporter Gill Brown and were broadcast live on the Annabel Amos breakfast show.

Photos and links to the interviews on the next page. (Click on “Read the rest of this entry”)

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Happy at Home Tea Room – A Great Success!

January 27th, 2019

The youngest and eldest ladies enjoy each other’s company! Photo: Charlie Ford-Ziemelis

Charlie Ford-Ziemelis writes:

I am glad that there was an amazing turnout of 18 guests, it was just fab! There was a really good vibe in the room. Thank you to all who came, you really are heroes and cake lovers!

It is an amazing cause to raise awareness for the older generations and stamp out loneliness in our community.

Thank you.


See next page for photographs taken by Charlie to illustrate the event (Click on “Read the rest of this entry”)

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Over Sixties “Afternoon Tea with Friends”, Church Hall, 1 pm, Saturday 26th January

January 22nd, 2019

Charlie Ford-Ziemelis of Manor Road, Sulgrave, writes:

The Happy at Home Partnership is a Big Lottery Funded project helping to reduce the feelings of isolation in elderly residents across Daventry and South Northants Districts and Northampton and enable them to remain living independently in their own homes.

Volunteers are recruited to visit elderly residents in their own homes and take them information about access to services in their own area. The project also recruits volunteers for its social events which bring isolated elderly residents together, of which Afternoon Tea with Friends, is one.

My involvement in the Happy at Home partnership is part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, as I believe the care of our elderly is very important and and we need to encourage our young people to take more of an active role and to support these types of schemes.

Please support this worthwhile cause.

Thank you,

Charlie Ford-Ziemelis