September on the farm.

September 19th, 2018

Richard Fonge writes:

Whilst we look upon spring as the time of re-generation and new life, September, the first month of Autumn is the final month in so many ways of the agricultural year, and the natural world. Of the crops we have been following during the year, the beans on Barrow hill were the last crop to be harvested. Due to the vagaries of this years weather it was not conducive for the beans to grow and flower as they should, but that is the lot of any Farmer, who is always at the mercies of the climate, and we are fortunate in this country to farm in such an even climate. The wheat fields up the concrete road, have now been planted Oilseed Rape. This has been done by sowing direct into the stubble (remains of last crop). The plants have now germinated. O.S.R. needs to be established well before winter sets in. Pigeons are a great nuisance after Christmas, grazing the crop and causing damage. Hence the sound of timed gas bangers. Up the gated road can be seen a large heap of black material in a field. This is green compost from the plant along the Welsh Lane. The green waste from our bins is composted there and is returned to the land to increase its organic content. Similar to the sewerage waste I noted last month. Re-cycling with a positive impact on the soil. The maize to be seen off the Stuchbury footpaths will be cut by the months end, some to feed their dairy herd, the majority to go into the anaerobic digester. Finally our ewes I suspect will be returning with the Rams to the field near the village down Helmdon road, and the swallows will be off on their long journey to Africa. No sat navs needed there!! This will bring the year and my notes to a full circle. I have enjoyed the challenge of writing them each month, and will continue to do so if they are being found of interest.

Richard Fonge

Click on “see the rest of this entry” for some pictures of the maize harvest.

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Sulgrave Produce Show – Sunday 16th September 2018

September 17th, 2018

As there was no show last year, it was a great pleasure to attend the resumption of this popular event. Given the near drought which has persisted up to the show day, a remarkable variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers and baked items were on display, with special classes for the youngsters. As usual the show was organised by Maureen Jeffery and Janet Smith, ably assisted by Graham Roberts and daughter Shelley.

Click on “read the rest of this entry” to see the winning entries and some of those who took part:

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HS2 Community Engagement Meeting in the Church Hall on Thursday 27th Sept, 7-9pm

September 13th, 2018

A reminder of Satellite Compounds and Construction Traffic Routes in the vicinity of Sulgrave. More details on the website HS2 Page.

Parish Councillor Anna Faure writes:

HS2 and Eiffage Kier have committed to present their strategy for the works schedule and logistics impacting Sulgrave and the surrounding locale of HS2 on the 27 September 2018 at 7pm. The meeting, which will take place in Sulgrave village hall, will comprise a presentation by them, followed by an open forum Q&A session. All are invited to attend. In the interests of keeping the meeting as objective and efficient as possible, and also to address all concerns, please post questions in written form to the Sulgrave village shop or through my letter box or via email to in advance so that I can prep the speakers. We can take questions from the floor on the night as well otherwise, but these will be lower priority if time is a factor.
I will assume that if you have a question, you intend to attend (if not, let me know). If you don’t have a question, but intend to attend, please let me know.

Last of the Summer Wine!

September 10th, 2018

Carol Churchill writes (in respect of the “Pimms and Tea Party” held on Saturday 1st September):

Many thanks to everyone who attended, provided delicious cakes and
sandwiches and donated money to the Pimms & Tea Party on Saturday.
It was a huge success with over 50 villagers enjoying the warm weather and
a massive £660 raised for the Pocket Park and St James the Less Church.
Also, many thanks to Hywel and Ingram for kindly hosting the party in their
beautiful garden!

A few photographs of the event on the next page (click on “Read the rest of this entry)

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August on the Farm

August 19th, 2018

Photo: Graham Roberts

Richard Fonge writes:

Harvest is now finished, some three weeks earlier than in the average year. A question asked of me recently was what happens to the stems of the corn. The straw as it is known is used to bed the livestock in their winter housing. It then becomes manure which is then returned to the land as an organic material. You will have seen the corn fields around Sulgrave that some have had the straw baled for that reason whilst in others the straw has been chopped by the combine, leaving the residue to be incorporated back into the soil. This is vital for the soil structure. In the fields up the concrete road beyond the bridge and indeed around the area, you may have noticed large heaps of a black material, which is spread after harvest and incorporated into the soil. This is sludge waste from the sewerage works. The sludge and soil are both tested to make sure they are beneficial to the soil and the following crop.

The straw from the linseed is of a high calorific value and can be burnt in burners for central heating. This brings me to the use of crops for alternative energy. As you leave Sulgrave towards the Magpie junction there is a field of maize. Likewise if you take the footpath to Stuchbury, when you get to the parish boundary, it is maize again across a wide area. When harvested later this autumn it will be stored for use in anaerobic digesters, providing electrical power. Most crops have to be rotated but with maize you can grow it continuously without any agronomic failure.

Finally the livestock with the drought we have had, have had to have some supplementary feeding. But the recent rains and shorter days should encourage grass growth. Meaning better Autumn grazing and the sound of law mowers once again.

Richard Fonge

More harvest time photos by Graham Roberts

See Richard’s previous agricultural notes:

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

February 2018

March 2018

April 2018

May 2018

June 2018

July 2018


Fund Raising for the Pocket Park and Church.

August 16th, 2018

An Unwelcome Summer Visitor.

August 13th, 2018

In the hot summer of 1976 I was working in a Daventry office which had a patio with flower beds. One August morning, someone discovered a new and unusual looking plant which had appeared in the flower bed almost overnight. It had something of a sinister appearance and fortunately, as it turned out, none of us touched it or lingered near it. At that time we had periodic visits from a qualified landscape architect and he immediately identified it as Datura Stramonium, commonly known as Thorn Apple. He explained that the seed could lie dormant in the soil for many years until suitably hot conditions occurred so as to replicate its South American origin. He also described its toxic and hallucinogenic properties, forbade us to go near it and promptly disposed of it.

When just such a plant appeared a few days ago in our garden at Dippers Cottage in Little Street my mind went back to that amazing summer 42 years ago and the alien plant. I took photographs and eventually found comparable ones on the Royal Horticultural Society website, which contained the following information:

Datura Stramonium, also known as Devil’s Apple, Trumpet or Snare has large, pale, trumpet shaped flowers and spiny pods. Its leaves give off a pungent nauseating odour and the flowers smell sweet, but both are narcotic and can induce hallucinations or stupor if breathed in for too long. The plant, which could grow to 12ft high, is said to create an inability to differentiate fantasy from reality, causing amnesia, hypothermia and even violent behaviour. A member of the Deadly Nightshade family, its poison causes dry mouth, blurred vision, heart irregularities, hallucinations, and eventually coma and death in severe cases. It is traditionally used by South American Indians to poison their hunting spears, arrows and fishing hooks. In sacred Hindu ceremonies it is revered by monks for its hallucinogenic properties. A spokesman for the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “These plants are not native to Britain and we think it arrives in bird seed sold to feed wild birds and is generally grown in hot countries where datura is a very common weed indeed. “They belong to the same family as Deadly Nightshade and are highly poisonous if eaten, but they should pose no threat if treated carefully and unwanted plants can be consigned to the compost bin or green waste collection.”

As recommended by the RHS, we promptly and carefully disposed of the plant before it could seed, after taking a number of photos. We tend to buy packs of seeds in Banbury or Brackley on a weekly basis to feed our garden birds and this seems to be the most likely source of this strange and alien plant. I suggest that villagers who do the same thing should examine the neglected corners of their gardens closely before the invader reaches its full height of 12 feet!

Note: Do not bother to report any such occurrence to the local authorities. I tried environmental health departments hoping to get advice from someone. I simply got a recorded message asking me to leave details of my inquiry and my telephone number. I sent photos by email. Needless to say, no-one has responded!

Colin Wootton



Sulgrave’s Castle Hill to become a Public Open Space

August 6th, 2018

Families take part in a history day treasure hunt on Castle Hill.

From time immemorial, the grassy earthwork immediately to the west of the church has been known to villagers as “Castle Hill”. Despite the obvious inference that a castle must once have stood there, the origins of this fortification were lost in the mists of time. This all changed in 1960 when archaeologist Brian Davison chose the site for investigation during the final year of his archaeological degree at Belfast University. Weeks of patient excavation and recording, followed by more intensive work through to 1976, revealed that there had indeed been stone buildings and fortifications on the site dating from early Norman times. More importantly, one of the largest Saxon wooden manor houses yet excavated was found under the later works, close to the boundary of the site with the church. The site history revealed by these investigations is detailed at the end of this entry.

This important site, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, is about to be purchased for the village by the Parish Council, funded by contributions from a number of parish organisations together with public subscriptions. Together with the adjoining Castle Green, purchased in 2004, it will form a valuable public open space in the centre of the village, under the management of the Castle Green Sub-Committee of the Parish Council.

More details on the next page (Click on “….Read the rest of this entry”)

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Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter for August 2018

August 1st, 2018

July on the Farm

July 25th, 2018

Richard Fonge writes:

July sees the start of the grain harvest. This year due to our prolonged spell of hot weather, the start of combining the barley and oil seed rape is a good fortnight earlier, with the wheat not far behind. The crops have died off rapidly rather than a slower ripening. It will be interesting to see how the yield and quality have been affected.

As you may have observed all farm machinery is of a great size and power today. Modern technology has replaced labour, so we see an efficient agriculture around us, producing high quality food. An interesting comparison to show the development from sixty years ago. Then a combine had a cutting width of 8ft and harvested 10 acres a day, producing around 15 tonnes of wheat. Today the width of cut is 30ft (and some are up to 40ft). The yield of the wheat is 4 tonnes per acre or thereabouts and the acreage done in a day 80 so harvesting 300 tonnes plus. In 1958 all milling wheat was mainly imported from Canada by the major millers. But by the early eighties we had bred our own varieties and become self sufficient.

The Spring beans up Barrow Hill have now flowered. If you walked through them at the end of last month, you could not help but notice the fantastic scent and the presence and sound of bees working hard.

July is the month when many of the lambs born in the early spring are ready for the butcher. Those remaining are weaned and finished on grass. Their mothers milk has now dried up and the ewes will have a complete rest before meeting up with the rams in the Autumn.

Finally is is sad to see the railway tunnel boarded up due to the unsafety of the brick work and the footpath diverted. The tunnel was built because the railway went through an old green lane that was the main route for horse and cart and people to go eastwards from Sulgrave. The Cluniac monks used it way back in the late 12th century to carry their produce to the Mother Church in Northampton from their church at Stuchbury.

It is so important to remember and respect the history of where one lives.

Richard Fonge

See here for a map of footpaths and bridleways in Sulgrave Parish.

See here for a website report from 2014 detailing the original proposal to divert Bridleway AY4 where it crosses the disused Great Central Railway. The tunnel is now to be permanently closed, with a footpath for pedestrians over the embankment and an option for horse riders to follow the originally proposed diversion to the north.