August on the Farm (2019)

August 19th, 2019

The Village Pound

Richard Fonge writes:

August is the main harvesting month and most of the crops are now safely in store. The one crop that we may see less of being grown is oil seed rape. This is a crop first grown in the early 1970s, that soon became an integral part of the corn growers rotation, as it made an ideal break crop from wheat and barley and the oil crushed from the seeds is widely used in numerous everyday products so making it a profitable crop to grow. But unfortunately it has a deadly enemy in the cabbage stem flea beetle, which attacks the plant at germination and the larvae are to be found in the growing plants stem, so restricting the uptake of nutrients to the flowers and therefore the yield. Nieonectonoid insecticides used as a spray used to be an effective control method against the beetle but have been banned due to the potential harm to the bee population. The beetle has the upper hand over the alternative insecticides, so many farmers are looking at alternative crops.

I was asked last month about the cacophony of noise coming from the lambs bleating in the field by the bridle path to Weston. This was due to the lambs being weaned from their mothers. At about eighteen weeks of age they are ready to be weaned and it only takes three days or so for both parties to forget each other. All animals are weaned or indeed wean themselves at a certain age from their mothers.

Field sizes are measured in acres and are still sold in acres despite the introduction of hectares with metrication all those years ago. 2.47 acres equals one hectare.

Two small areas of ground are worth mentioning in the Parish. Firstly the village pound, which is now a small patch of grass with a Silver Birch tree planted on it in memory of Mr Bill Henn a lifetime farmer in the village and Parish Council Chairman for many years. This area is found on your left as you leave on the gated road just before Manor View. Villages had a pound where stray stock was impounded and released back to the rightful owner on suffrance of a fine.

The second small field is the triangular one at the Magpie junction. This would have been used by the drovers for their stock to rest up whilst they themselves rested at the Magpie Inn, as it was in those days when the Welsh Lane was a great droving road from Wales to London. There are, or indeed were many of these small fields along that route where the stock were rested. Another point of interest is that along the Welsh Lane you will find farmers with Welsh names from time to time. Not all the drovers returned home for whatever reason.

The second droving road was from Banbury to Northampton market, with the stock being driven along from Thorpe Mandeville, to Culworth and onto Weston and Northampton. Therefore Culworth was a crossroads and that is why the road to Weston from Culworth is called Banbury Lane.

Richard Fonge

Village Shop Newsletter for August 2019

August 15th, 2019

July on the farm (2019)

July 23rd, 2019

Red Clover

Richard Fonge writes:

Firstly congratulations to our World Cup winning cricket team. Cricket is a sport very much associated with the greensward whether that be the hallowed turf of Lords or the village green. In Sulgrave Madam’s Close the field above the Manor and between Manor Rd and Little Street was where the Sulgrave cricket team played until about 1960. This field of grass as are many around the village are what are called permanent pasture fields, where the grasses are made up of many species, including perennial ryegrass, fescues, cocksfoot, Timothy and white clover, an interesting plant which is a member of the pea family and therefore a legume. White clover is a source of protein among the grasses and thrives on fairly tight grazing and not too much artificial nitrogen fertiliser, as it is like the alfalfa plant in that it has its own nodules that can fix nitrogen in the soil. A good example of a field sown to a mixture of perennial grasses and clover is on the footpath from Wemyss farm to the Stuchbury boundary. Sown last year it can be seen how the clover is increasing after some tight grazing by sheep. It appears that very little nitrogen has been applied.

Red clover another legume can be seen growing on our roadside verges, most notably up the gated road. Once used in grass mixtures for hay to help provide bulk and as a legume, protein, it has come back in favour especially for organic farmers. Both these clovers have medicinal properties. The white as a blood purifier, eyewash and the red for its estrogen. 

Roadside verges are corridors where wild flowers and insects can thrive without due disturbance, so need to be left unmown if possible. Two fields on the footpath to Barrow hill are wildflower meadows, sown to a mixtures some years ago as part of an environmental scheme, providing a diverse wildlife habitat. They are mown in late July, early August for hay after all the flowers have dropped their seeds. 

Finally the hedgerow briars are out in flower. So we hope for a bumper blackberry harvest, to go along with a good harvest of all the crops in our parish.

Richard Fonge

Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter – July 2019

July 19th, 2019

Sulgrave Produce Show 2019 – Sunday 1st September in the Church Hall – 2 pm to 4 pm.

July 11th, 2019

Kate Miles writes:

Our annual Produce Show will be held on Sunday 1st September, 2-4 pm in the Church Hall with prize giving at 3.30pm. We are hoping that even more villagers will participate this year as this is a very enjoyable village occasion. I know every household could easily enter at least one exhibit from their garden, kitchen or camera. This is a fun event for everyone to enjoy with very few rules and very easy going judges! Tea, coffee and delicious slices of home made cakes will be on sale and there will be a raffle and prize giving at 3.30 pm. There is a very small Exhibitor Entry fee (£1 for people over 20 years old and 25p for those under 20 years old regardless of the number of exhibits you choose to enter) but admission to the show is free.

The Show Schedule and Exhibitors Entry Form will be distributed with the August Newsletter and published on this website.

Hope to see you all there

Kate Miles and Family.

We would very much appreciate donations of garden themed items for the raffle prizes. These can be left with Kate at Garden House, Manor Road or Janet Smith at Northston in School Street. Many thanks.

See here for reports on previous Produce Shows:









Community Bus Services

June 26th, 2019

It is just over one year since the County Council withdrew its support for local bus services. During that time, there has been no way for villagers without cars to access town services other than by begging lifts or paying for taxis. Community bus services are now being restored to surrounding villages by “Ability Northants” (see above). A representative of this organisation will be attending the next meeting of Sulgrave Parish Council at 7.30 pm on Thursday 4th July. Do come along to discuss what can be done for Sulgrave villagers.

Click here to download a leaflet.

June on the farm (2019)

June 23rd, 2019

Photograph: Jo Powell

Richard Fonge writes:

At the start of June our rainfall for the year was in deficit but the last week has certainly redressed the balance. Farmers are often criticised for always moaning about the weather, and at times they should keep their thoughts to themselves, but their livelihood as food producers does depend greatly on the weather. They take pride in their work and how the crops they grow and the livestock they rear look, so when the weather interferes to their detriment it hurts not only that pride but the financial return on that enterprise.

This is the time of the year when bees are at their busiest pollinating the crops and all flora. There are other insects that pollinate but none as efficient as the bee. In Sulgrave we have four bee keepers, so plenty of honey being produced. All arable farmers have to record the name of a local beekeeper for their crop assurance scheme and keep them informed of any field operations that may affect the hives.

I mentioned in my May notes the parish of Stuchbury. Many of you will have seen the sign to Stuchbury on the way to Helmdon and heard it spoken of. It is a parish of just over 1,000 acres with Sulgrave to the north, Greatworth to the south, Marston St Lawrence to the west and Helmdon to the east. It is one of the lost villages of Northamptonshire, now made up of three farms, two of whom exit onto the Helmdon road and the third onto the Welsh lane opposite Greatworth Park.

It was an Anglo Saxon settlement of around 700 formed by a man called Stut. A burh was the name for a manor and so the land was Stut manor. Therefore you can see how Stutburh evolved into Stuchbury over the centuries. The Danes wiped out the substantial village or town around 1000. Another point of interest was that the Saxons defined their boundaries with what we call a double hedge. That is two hedges planted with a bank in between, and this can still be clearly seen along the northern boundary adjoining the Sulgrave parish. Other pieces still remain in small segments.

I am indebted to my late Mother for these historical facts, as she did a great deal of research into the history of Stuchbury, when we farmed Stuchbury Manor Farm.

Richard Fonge

Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter for June 2019

June 17th, 2019

Alison and Digby

Seven Sulgrave Gardens open in the National Gardens Scheme, Sunday June 9th 2019

June 10th, 2019

Appropriately, seven Sulgrave gardens were open to the public on the seventh occasion of the village contributing to the National Gardens Scheme raising money for charity. After a day of continuous rain on the Saturday prior to the event and another on the following day, we were blessed with a window of opportunity. Despite rival events in nearby villages, an impressive number of visitors seized this opportunity to view our beautiful gardens and enjoy the traditional refreshments.

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

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May on the farm (2019)

May 24th, 2019

Maize planted in the fields to the south of the Parish boundary

Richard Fonge writes:

As I write these notes the May weather is showing our countryside at its best. The crops up the concrete road are looking superb with the oil seed rape just beginning to lose its flowers, and the seed pods can be seen forming. The winter wheat after the bridge will come into ear at the end of the month. Winter barley off Park Lane is now in ear.

As you take the footpath to Stuchbury from the Helmdon Road you will have seen the two horses in the first field. The grey is a long since retired racehorse with many wins to his name and the bay is a point to pointer having a Summer rest. Nearly all the lambs in the next field are singles. The majority of these breeds of sheep have twin lambs, and these are grazing elsewhere with the singles in this field being aimed at an earlier market. Further on we have a field of winter wheat, but why has an area at the top of the field been mown when it looks such a healthy crop? I suspect it is because an infestation of black grass has been found, a grass that is very invasive and greatly reduces yield and is difficult to control. By mowing you cut the grass before it comes into seed, so reducing the seed bank and thereby controlling the weed. Going through the gate and into Stuchbury parish which is coupled with Helmdon, all the ploughed land has now been planted maize, to be harvested in October for the anaerobic digester seen in the distance with its green dome. (See here for details of the maize harvest in Richard’s notes for September 2018)

This year has seen very few swallows returning to Sulgrave, as is the case elsewhere. I have been told that last year was a bad breeding season by a Naturalist friend of mine, plus it could be couple with some disaster on their migration.

There has been quite a kerfuffle recently with the proposal to limit the control of corvids, pigeons etc. The pigeon as anyone knows who has a vegetable plot is very destructive, with its favourite the cabbage plant, so a field of oil seed rape another member of the brassica family is heaven sent for it. They descend in flocks of hundreds and can soon do real harm to the crop if not controlled. The rook and the crow are very different. The rook nests high up in the trees in a rookery and while at times destructive to young seedlings, it also feeds off slugs and leather jackets. Crows a larger bird with thicker beak and all black as opposed to the grey head of the rook, are cruel scavangers, and need keeping under control. If they see a weak lamb for example they will attack as will the magpie. So a balance must be kept.

Richard Fonge

Pictures of some of the many things described by Richard can be seen on the next page. Click on “Read the rest of this entry”.

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