January on the farm (2023)

RAF Camp at Greatworth – 1940s and 1950s

Richard Fonge writes:

The New Year has started with a lot of rain, thereby making the ground quite sodden. The winter corn is looking very healthy, and this is the time of year when the pigeons start to ravage the oilseed rape crops, hence the sound of the gas bangers to frighten them away. 

At the start of the year, there are certain dates to note . For a farmer the 25th of March is Lady day when rents are due, as is the 29th of September Michaelmas day. It is usual for farms to change ownership on these dates, more especially Michaelmas day. February 2nd is Candlemas day the 40th day after Christmas and the official end of that festival. But there is a wise saying. “Have half your hay on Candlemas day”. Meaning a stock Farmer should have half of his winter feed left on that day. Spring can be late quite often.

Other dates are: Jan 10th for the first aconites up the Moreton road, although this year I saw them out on the 8th. The first swallow 10th of April. 10th September for their flight back to Africa, and to many of us of country origin the 21st of December, the shortest day. Always so glad to get that past us and look forward to longer days.

HS2 is re shaping the countryside around us to put it politely, and one set of buildings that have been demolished recently have been on Greatworth Park, on the south side of the Welsh lane. Greatworth Park was once an R.A.F station, starting with a few Nissan huts during the Second World War , transmitting messages from Bletchley Park, and then until it’s closure in 1988 it played a vital part during the Cold War . There used to be wooden towers and steel masts in the surrounding fields. The buildings just demolished were built for the single servicemen originally, when conscription was in place complete with mess room etc. The married quarters were the row of houses as you enter Greatworth from Helmdon, with the C.O’s house the detached one.

I well remember many of those doing their National service coming up to the farm looking for work on their days off. Very handy at haymaking and harvest time in those days when most of the work was physical. 

The land up the concrete road was cultivated last autumn and left unsown, and large green patches can now be seen. This is a horrible weed called black grass and the reason why the land wasn’t sown. The farmer can now treat this spring before planting and try to get the better of a grass that reduces yields so much.

Have you ever wondered why a milking stool has only three legs?  It’s because the cow has the “udder”.

Richard Fonge



Leave a Reply