April on the Farm

April 20th, 2018

Cuckoo photographed by John Sheppard

Richard Fonge writes:

This has been a late spring, with the wet and cold delaying the planting of Spring crops. They will now be planted a month later than is normal. It has also delayed the application of nitrogen, used to stimulate growth in both corn crops and grassland and therefore production. The cereal crops sown last autumn around the parish now require a fungicide spray. For any crop to fruit it requires the leaf to be kept green so that photosynthesis can take place. A fungicide does just that by keeping the many leaf diseases that attack wheat, barley, oat plants etc at bay. Keeping the leaf free from disease helps to make a bolder grain of corn, of higher quality. Fungicides came on the market in the late 1970s and have greatly increased the yields of all crops, in a safe and positive way, thereby enabling us to feed an ever expanding population. All sprays applied are only done so on the recommendation of an agronomist (plant doctor).

The ewes and lambs have not returned as I write to fields on the footpath to Stuchbury. Instead I noticed a small group of young sheep. I suspect that they are ewe lambs. That is last years lambs who will be bred from next year. The fields from the gated road across to the old railway line are now full of ewes and lambs. They have had a pretty wet time of it but have come through well as their mothers have plenty of milk for them. Lambs are reared on the ewes milk and grass in the main.

Towards the end of April the ground dries up and as the grass grows beef cattle will be returning to the Manor fields and up the gated road. But spring will have truly come when the Swallows arrive. April 10th is the day in a normal year, but we are at least six days behind this year. Sadly the sound of the cuckoo has disappeared from the countryside. Let us hope we hear him again. They usually arrive around the last week of April.

It’s a great time of year to be in the countryside, witnessing all the new life emerging.

Richard Fonge


April 18th, 2018

Some three or four years ago, the footpaths in Little Street were reconstructed. After several months, the contractors returned and spread loose gravel over them to a considerable depth. This was never properly rolled in and it was not long before it spread onto the verges, over the carriageway and eventually and annoyingly into people’s houses via boots and shoes and under the pedals of parked cars.

Repeated requests to the Highway Authority to remove the excess gravel brought nothing more than a visit by a mechanical road sweeper which picked up minimal amounts in between the many parked cars.

At a recent Parish Council Meeting, it was reported that the County Council was more or less bankrupt. Libraries were to close. Bus subsidies would be discontinued. There would be very limited funds for road repairs and these would be restricted to urgent cases. It was clear that further requests for the removal of the gravel would necessarily fall on deaf ears.

During the public forum following the formal Parish Council meeting, the mood of despair gradually changed to one of optimism. “We must fend for ourselves” was the cry. Whilst not quite deciding to appoint our own constable to keep the peace and to educate our own children, it was agreed that an energetic task force of village volunteers ought to be able to remove the worst of the gravel.

So it was that on a recent Sunday morning volunteers with shovels and brooms emerged from almost every house in Little Street and many from elsewhere. A prior request for residents temporarily to park their cars elsewhere in the village was universally observed and by 10.30 the street looked much as it did in the 1940s.

As always with Sulgrave community events, it was a cheerful crowd that swept and scraped and shovelled to such good effect that “job done” was declared well in time for midday refreshments at the local hostelry! It was also a good opportunity for several people newly arrived in the village and indeed in Little Street itself, to meet up with their neighbours.

More photos on the next page. Click on: “Read the rest of this entry”.

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Grant Aid for Refurbishment of the Church Hall

April 16th, 2018

Outside the Church Hall on Village Produce Show Day, September 2011


The CEF fund has been created: “…… to add benefit over and above committed mitigation and statutory compensation to communities along the route that are demonstrably disrupted by the construction of Phase One of HS2 from London to West Midlands.” Communities coming into that category are invited to make applications for grant funding of up to £75,000, which is to be targeted at the voluntary/community sector, including residents’ associations, constituted community groups and so on. Possible uses of the grant funding includes the provision of enhanced or new community facilities.

Sulgrave evidently qualifies as a village which will be “demonstrably disrupted” by the construction works and which could certainly find a use for funds to the benefit of the community. With this in mind, an application for funds to improve the Church Hall is being made by Ingram Lloyd on behalf of the Parochial Church Council (the building being in Church ownership) and Councillor Anna Faure on behalf of the Parish Council. A village meeting to discuss this matter was held in the Church Hall on Thursday 12th April.

Councillor Anna Faure reports on this meeting as follows:

The hall was previously used as part of the Vicar’s grounds – dating back to the Georgian times. Subsequently, additional Victorian additions made (red brick). Further modifications (of no architectural significance) are the entrance hall and kitchen. However, the planners don’t want us to touch this.

Over the past 6 months we have been exploring potential opportunities for the site, including alternative options for relocating the hall and have concluded that this option is not viable due to a) if current premises sold, all proceeds would go to the Diocese and therefore nothing returned to the village, and b) other suggested sites were also no longer suitable (Madame’s Close – green space and area adjacent to Towrise unsuitable).

Whilst most of us would welcome a brand-new state of the art village hall, we’ve had to recognise that from a pragmatic point of view and taking into consideration the limitations imposed upon us, this is not viable.

So, bearing this in mind, we sought pre-planning advice on refurbishment both

from detailed consultation at Towcester with planning and conservation officers, and from seeking feedback from the village. We did this by way of a survey and an open forum held on 12 April 2018. We were tremendously appreciative of the turn out, which showed a keen interest in our efforts so far and that the majority of the community is in favour of the grant application and approach.

Currently the PCC is the leaseholder of the hall. For the purposes of the grant, it is in the village’s best interest for the PCC to apply for the grant as it fulfils a significant number of the requirements of the application. The PCC and PC are in accordance with this arrangement. Subsequently, if in the event of a successful award of grant, the PC will join the PCC as joint lease holders and therefore co-tenants.

The Diocese has agreed that the current lease will be extended for 30 years. There will be a new rent to pay – as yet not set – however, it is planned to set this as low as possible.

The Survey results

We circulated a survey to residents and have had a very positive response. The survey asked nine questions, through which we wanted to demonstrate that we’d consulted the views of the village.

There are roughly 250 households in the village, and we have had in excess of 100 responses including children under the age of 11.


Key areas for refurbishment?

83% felt that the hall would be of benefit to the village community from being refurbished

Toilets, heating, damp , lighting, heating, ambience were the most favoured improvements.

More news next month

Anna Faure

The Star Inn Aunt Sally Team look forward to the coming season.

April 9th, 2018


Team Captain Richard Fonge invites team members and friends to an evening at the Star.

Richard writes:

The Star Aunt Sally Team are looking forward to a new season in division three, with new teams to play and new players to welcome to our group. The first match of the season is on the 3rd May away, with the first home game on Thursday 10th and alternative Thursday’s thereafter till the end of August. Old foes are Banbury Cricket Club, the Reindeer with two teams, and the Dolphin. New are the Banbury Cross, M-Cheney Social Club, Butchers Arms Kings Sutton, General Foods and the George at Barford. Our highest scoring player of last year was Charlotte Cherry, who has been a leading light for many years finishing in the top ten scorers in the league, whilst retaining her crown as the Ladies Single Champion. This year, in conjunction with the Star, we are having a Barbecue on the afternoon of the 19th of May to celebrate the Royal Wedding, where there will be an Aunt Sally Competition and other activities going on. Please look for further information in the Newsletter. Further advertising will appear in the Pub and Shop and also on this website. Please do join us for a village social occasion the celebrate this special day.

For more pictures click on “Read the rest of this entry”:

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Meeting to discuss the Refurbishment of the Church Hall. Thursday 12th April at 7.30 pm in the Church Hall.

April 8th, 2018


Due to our proximity to the forthcoming HS2 train line, the Parochial Church Council has the opportunity to apply for a grant of up to £75,000. The HS2 Community and Environment Fund (ECF) can be used to improve village assets such as the Church Hall to encourage wider community use. So that we give ourselves the very best opportunity to bag the full £75,000 grant we would like to get as many villagers as possible behind the bid. It is essential to find out how villagers think we could best update the Church Hall to improve village life and our sense of community here in Sulgrave.

If you would like to know more, there will be a meeting at the Church Hall on April 12th at 7.30 pm when you can ask questions and discuss your ideas.

Also, an online survey will be circulated by email and it would be great if we can have as many people, young and old, complete it and give us their ideas for a new and improved Church Hall. If you are not on email there will be paper copies of the survey available at the Shop or from Ingram at Church Cottage.

These are the reasons for a refurbishment:

  • We cannot demolish the building
  • If the Hall was sold, the Diocese would not pass on the proceeds of the sale to the village for the construction of a new hall on the car park. However, the Diocese and SNC would consent to a new hall on the car park. But this becomes a major project.
  • If the Hall was sold, we would have to find funding for a complete new build with all the issues of gaining funding and planning permission etc.
  • This raises many issues. All of which include purchase of a site and acceptance of residents living nearby accepting a new hall.
  • Importantly, we might not resolve these issues in time to submit an application for the Community and Environment Fund.

Sulgrave Parochial Church Council

Permanent HS2 (High Speed Rail) Latest Information Page now installed on this website.

April 4th, 2018

In accordance with the Parish Council’s adopted HS2 strategy, a permanent page detailing the implications of the construction works for Sulgrave Village and the latest information about the project, has been installed on this website. See right hand column on the home page entitled:


The latest information will also be published in the monthly Village Newsletter and from time to time, printed copies of the website page will be made available in the Village Shop.


Village Shop Newsletter for April 2018

April 4th, 2018

“Slow, Middling and Jolty” (also known as the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway)

April 2nd, 2018

Those of us who grew up in Sulgrave during and just after World War 2 will remember that the main sound which intruded upon our otherwise silent village was that of steam locomotives crossing the railway embankment about half a mile to the east. This was especially noticeable at night. For us, at that time, railway journeys meant walking or cycling to the nearest main line stations at Helmdon (known as “Helmdon for Sulgrave”) or Culworth (actually about half way between Culworth itself and Moreton Pinkney). My journey to school in Brackley on Saturdays involved walking two and a half miles to Helmdon “top” station, 4 miles on the train and then walking a further mile from Brackley “top” station to the school.

“Helmdon for Sulgrave” in the 1950s.

However, in nearby villages there were other stations on other railway lines.

For example, there was a station more or less in Culworth village, known as “Eydon Road Halt”, on the line linking Banbury to the former Great Central Railway just to the north. My uncle was for many years the signalman in the box shown on the above photograph.

Until the early 1950s, in addition to the mainline station mentioned above, Helmdon also had a second station (inevitably known as the “bottom station”). This was situated on what had once been called the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway or “the SMJ”. Although the name subsequently changed, from the 1920s onwards, those in the village who used it from time to time still referred to it as the “Slow, Middling and Jolty”!

Helmdon “Bottom” Station, c 1910.

This station featured in evidence given at the trial of a man who committed a dreadful murder in Sulgrave in 1897.

I have particularly fond memories of this little railway as it ran through the fields to the south of Stuchbury, where my cousins lived during the war. We spent many hours playing on or around the brick bridge carrying a byway over the railway (which still exists). Perhaps once or twice a day, a small locomotive pulling a single carriage passed under the bridge at a speed which enabled us to exchange a few words with the driver leaning out of the window.

However, these are mere childish memories and I am not a railway buff. I am therefore indebted to Chris Behan for carrying out research into the origins of the SMJ, the results of which are set out on the next page as part of an enthusiastic report on his unexpected encounter with the railway at Cockley Brake, to the south of Farthinghoe.

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Annual Parish Meeting at the Church Hall. 7.30 pm on Thursday 5th April

March 30th, 2018

Sulgrave Neighbourhood Watch

March 20th, 2018