October on the Farm, 2020.

Autumn in the Sulgrave countryside

Richard Fonge writes:

We are now halfway through Autumn with the leaves just starting to show their different colours. The winter season doesn’t start till December arrives, so please ignore all those in the media especially, who seem to think otherwise. At this present time we need more stories that are uplifting and not a surfeit of doom and gloom. I think it’s significant that we have on our screens so many programmes relating to the countryside, because in general the bucolic scenes they depict show a way of life that we all find relaxing to watch.

The squirrels are busy gathering nuts to hideaway for the winter, but the albino squirrels seen down Manor Road and the area behind have not been seen of late.

The planting of winter cereals is well advanced, but some fields such as those up the concrete road look as if the new crop has germinated. In fact, what has happened is that the previous crop shed some of its corn when combined. It was delayed in harvesting by bad weather, so when harvested a lot of corn fell to the ground when cut. Those seeds have now germinated after the ground was cultivated. In time past the housewives of the village and their children would have gleaned the fields. To glean was to clear the field of any ears of grain left lying on the ground and to use them, depending on type, to feed the family or the chickens or the pig, both of which were so vital to the well being of the home. It can’t be stressed enough how important the allotment, the hens and especially the pig were to villagers’ well being. That was why the church and chapel harvest festival services were so important. When you live off the land, your appreciation of it and the vagaries of the seasons have a much greater significance.

We have around Sulgrave a great variety of hedges, the Saxon double hedge that defines the boundary between Sulgrave and Stuchbury, newer hedges that have been laid and grown again to form stock proof hedges and wildlife corridors, and those that are trimmed mechanically each year, and these too harbour so much wildlife and fruits. There are two good examples of skilled mechanical hedge trimming. The hedge on the left of the Magpie Road and those on the way to Hemdon past Stuchbury. Hedges were planted as a result of the Enclosure Act of 1773 and are a unique feature of the British countryside. Before the act, all land was common. Once enclosed by hedges, stone walls, ditches etc it came into private ownership and the English country scene of today was born.

Lark Rise  to Candleford by Flora Thompson is a wonderful account of rural life in the late nineteenth century. Lark Rise is the village of Juniper, south of Brackley and Candleford is Cottisford, it is thought.

Richard Fonge



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