Volunteers of all ages plant more trees at the Sulgrave Millenium Wood

January 29th, 2020

Janet Tattersall and members of her family with their newly planted oak tree.

In 1999, as one of several ways in which the village commemorated the dawn of a new millenium, a new wood was planted adjacent to the Pocket Park. This was made possible by the generous donation of the land by Janet Tattersall (on the right in the above photograph).  About 60 village families donated £5 each to sponsor a tree and on Sunday 27th February many of them assembled at the wood in order to plant their trees.

The Village Tree Warden at the time, George Metcalfe, was instrumental in this endeavour and he made a photographic record of the event. Click here to see these photographs and a map showing the location of the wood.

In the twenty years since that time, most of the trees have matured but a few have died.  The Parish Council decided that it was time for some replacement trees to be planted and called for volunteers to gather at the wood on Sunday 26th January. A considerable number did so and it was particularly pleasing to see so many youngsters.

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Church of St James the Less, Sulgrave, Spring update Jan 2020.

January 25th, 2020

PCC member Ingram Lloyd leaves the Church after the Christmas Carol Service 2019

The Parochial Church Council writes as follows:

Dear All

There are some major changes which will affect our Parish and hopefully this will bring all up to date. 

Brian Fairbank will be leaving our Parish at the end of January, his last service with us as our Vicar will be on Sunday February 2nd at 10.00.  We do hope that as many of you can attend to say “thank you” for his ministry during the seven years he has been with us and to wish him and Catherine well for the future.  He is not retiring until November and will continue to be Vicar of the remaining four churches. Brian and Nick Leggett, our new Vicar, will lead this service. 

Sulgrave will be leaving the Culworth group of six churches along with Thorpe Mandeville.  Both Sulgrave and Thorpe are joining the Chenderit benefice, which consists of Middleton Cheney, Chacombe, Greatworth, Marston St Lawrence, Thenford and Warkworth.  Thenford and Warkworth’s services are infrequent and are mainly during the lighter warmer summer months, all the other churches have regular services. https://allsaints-mc.church/benefice

While there are more churches in the group the team is larger.  The Rev Nick Leggett is our new Vicar.  Rev Carolyn Oley is our Associate priest.  Paul Franklin and Philip Ball are lay readers.  Chris Bazely is the Family Service Leader for Chacombe and Middleton Cheney.   https://allsaints-mc.church/our-team


The Chenderit Benefice would like to welcome us and invite us all to attend a “meet and greet” on Shrove Tuesday at 7.30pm at Middleton Church.  Pancakes may be involved!  Please contact any of the PCC if you would like a lift.

Service times are posted in the Church and on the South entrance.  Listed below are just two services of note.

Wednesday 26th February 7.30pm is the Imposition of Ashes service.  This will be a short service and Nick Leggett will be leading this.

Sunday 22nd March at 10.00am is the Mothering Sunday service.  Shrimp Christy will be leading this and it would be lovely to see as many families as possible attending this service.  


We are always seeking ways to increase the footfall in our beautiful country church.  If you would like to help in any way, as a one off, or on a regular basis we would love to hear from you.

In particular we are needing to increase our numbers of Readers for services and also help with flowers, cleaning and the Remembrance Garden. 

Parish Giving

We launched a Parish Giving Scheme in the Autumn.  This has been successful but we still need more people to contribute financially on a regular basis.  If you would like to donate but don’t want to give on a regular basis, we would able to fit in with your wishes.  All money given through this scheme is gift aided where possible.  The annual cost of keeping the church going is not less than £15,000. This is a considerable sum of money which is raised totally within Sulgrave.

If you can help or would like to know more about any of the points within this letter please contact any of the names below.

With many thanks from all Sulgrave PCC:

Jean Bates, Shrimp Christy, Andrew Dixon, Anne Dyde, Richard Fonge, Linda Harrison, Ingram Lloyd, Susie Mason, Julie Metcalfe, Kate Miles, John Stimpson, Margaret Watts.

January on the farm (2020)

January 16th, 2020

Snow clearing on the road to Helmdon. 1962/3 Winter.
Photo: Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

We are experiencing the wettest Autumn and Winter that I can remember, with the land at saturation point. Those of us who walk the footpaths will know how sodden the ground is, making walking that much harder. The consequences of all this rain has already had a serious impact on the sowing of crops nationwide as well as the lifting and picking of our horticulture crops.

The lambing season will start next month around our parish, and here again the land needs to dry up for the ewes and their lambs to be turned out to pasture, to prevent the land being churned up and muddied by their feet.

In the grass field behind Wemyss Farm, many molehills have appeared recently, showing a lovely fertile medium loam soil. This field with its ridge and furrow has been grass for centuries and has a great inherent fertility, as it has been stocked latterly with sheep, but for many years before that with dairy cows, both returning fertility to the soil with their dung.

I have been looking back at a diary I had to keep before going to Agricultural College, which covers the period from October 1962 to September 1963. What a contrast between the weather of that winter and this one. The first snow fell a week before Christmas, with hard frosts nightly, culminating in a tremendous blizzard on January the 19th which totally isolated our farm at Stuchbury for many weeks and cut off Sulgrave and most villages for a few days until they were dug out by hand, by teams of volunteers.

The drifts in some places were up to ten feet in height, but because of the severe frosts you could walk on the snow and not sink in. It was late February before it thawed, and it caused great difficulties. Groceries were fetched from Geatworth shop by tractor or by walking the footpath to Sulgrave Stores, who at that time used to deliver a fortnightly order to the farm. The milk from the dairy cows was sold in churns and it was two days before the Buckingham Co-op, our local dairy could collect by lorry. It really was an exceptionally hard winter to live through, with many indelible memories not least of which was to wake up every morning and go out to milk with the bedroom windows frosted up inside.

Enough of nostalgia, and let us look forward to a Spring that will hopefully redress the excesses of this winter.

Richard Fonge.

See here for more images of the aftermath of the 1963 blizzard.

HS2. High Speed Rail Construction. Common Design Elements Consultation.

January 13th, 2020

Viaduct with piers and parapets in a rural setting. Illustration from HS2 Consultation Document.

A Consultation Document has been published by HS2, which states as follows:

Common Design Elements are parts of the railway with a standardised appearance which will give it a recognisable look and make it more efficient to build. They include frequently used structures, such as bridge piers and parapets, as well as lineside noise barriers.

Since Parliament approved plans for the Phase One route in 2017, we’ve been developing the design of the new railway and now we need your views to help inform how we progress with the Common Design Elements.

We want all the visible elements of HS2 to be sympathetic to their
surroundings, including the character of the area. Common Design
Elements will help us with this.

We want to hear what people think about three different Common
Design Elements:

a. Parapets (part of bridges and viaducts) 
b. Piers (another part of bridges and viaducts)
c. Lineside noise barriers (used to compensate for the sound
of high speed trains)


Basically these elements will all be constructed of reinforced concrete and comments on them are restricted to whether the surfaces of parts of them should be smooth faced or patterned and/or textured in some way. The parts in question are shown in blue on the following diagrams from the consultation document:


Image of a Cross section through a viaduct

Image of a Side view of a viaduct

Click here to see the HS2 booklet from which these illustrations are drawn.

This matter was considered by the Parish Council at the meeting on Thursday 9th January, as follows:

Most of the line in the vicinity of Sulgrave Parish will be in the covered cutting shaded green on this map from the HS2 Section of this website. (More details of the construction works in the vicinity of Sulgrave Parish can be seen in that section.)


Map of Sulgrave (scale 1000 metres)

After the opening of the railway, those crossing it on the way to Marston St Lawrence will look to the left and see a landscape similar to today’s, hopefully with a lot more trees. If they look to their right they will see a cutting in the blue area, into which trains will emerge from the covered cutting and continue on an embankment and then a viaduct between Thorpe and Culworth, heading towards Edgcote Park. The Council generally considered that whether some parts of the concrete structure is patterned or not will have no effect on the general impact of the construction as far as Sulgrave is concerned. Having said that, those living near to the structures in other parishes may have a different view. The main concern of the Council remains the mitigation as far as possible of the disruption which will inevitably be caused by the construction works.

However, the Common Design Elements Consultation is a public one and so everyone is entitled to comment by completing the survey:

Click here to access the HS2 Survey.

This must be done by Thursday 30th January.

Village Shop Newsletter for January 2020

January 6th, 2020

December on the Farm (2019)

December 29th, 2019

Footpath along the southernmost Parish Boundary near Stuchbury

Richard Fonge writes:

December has continued the wet weather of the past two months, bringing the land to saturation point. This continual wet weather has resulted in very little winter corn being planted in this parish and indeed nationwide. It is estimated that only 40% has been planted. As most wheat is Autumn planted and that is divided between feed and milling varieties, it points to a shortage of bread wheat next winter. So look out for bread price rises.

Up to the late 1970’s all bread making wheat was imported mainly from Canada, but then our agricultural botanists at the time produced wheat plant varieties that were commercial here. So today we are normally self sufficient in milling wheat.

The ewes have gone from the field off the Stuchbury footpath, and will return with their lambs in March. They have returned to the home farm at Greatworth where they will have been scanned for pregnancy. This is a vital management tool for the shepherd, as it tells him the numbers of lambs each ewe is carrying or if they are empty. He can then feed the ewe accordingly, and especially in the last six weeks of pregnancy. So the one having triplets is put on a higher plain of nutrition to the one having a single for example with those having twins (the majority) in the middle. By dividing them up accordingly the shepherd has much better control of their welfare during this critical period.

The field where the sheep graze is permanent pasture, but next year they will be grazing a section of the field above. The bottom third has now got a food plant of grass sown last August with the remainder of the field to be sown an arable crop in the spring.

So we end the year with a totally sodden countryside that does not bode well for a good harvest, which should be a concern for us all, as we rely on the land to feed us, something we take for granted perhaps more than we did.

A Happy New Year.

Richard Fonge

PS: By way of compensation for the awful walk along the footpath shown in the picture above, the last Sunday of 2019 ended in this wonderful sunset as seen from the Helmdon Road near Stuchbury:


Village Advent Celebrations. December 24th, Christmas Eve. Church Cottage, Church Street.

December 25th, 2019

“Twas the night before Christmas”, as indeed it was. Last opportunity for the revellers to enjoy their mulled wine, sausage rolls and mince pies!

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Village Advent Celebrations 2019. December 23rd. The Old Forge, Church Street.

December 24th, 2019

A green ambiance for an Irish theme on a fine evening with a record crowd.

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Village Advent Celebrations 2019. December 22nd. Carol Service at the Church of St James the Less

December 23rd, 2019

Very pleasant to stand outside on an unusually fine evening and admire the Millennium stained glass window. See here for details of this window.

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Village Advent Celebrations. December 21st. Mulberry Barn, Little Street.

December 22nd, 2019

Window No 21. Eve of the Winter Solstice. The rain it raineth every day – and still they come!

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