Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter for July 2022

July 20th, 2022

June on the farm. 2022

June 16th, 2022

Newly shorn sheep on Castle Hill. Support local farmers by using the fine insulating qualities of their natural wool to keep yourself warm and cut down on heating bills!

Richard Fonge writes:

Last month I said that the crops were in need of rain, and at the months end we had rain, and the difference it has made is very noticeable, especially on the oats along the concrete road, and even more so on the beans on the Stuchbury footpath. Wheat and barley have ears of corn and are both members of the grass family. Oats come out in bell to form their seed. There are two large acreages of oats, on the left as you drive to the Magpie and up the concrete road to the bridge. They will be harvested for animal feed or breakfast cereal such as muesli .

In the years of the binder when sheaves were made and stooked it was always said that the stooks should hear the church bells three Sundays in a row before carried into the barn or made a rick of.

Barley is being grown in the field by Park lane. There are two types of barley, feed and malting, with different management for both. Malting barley after the brewing process has been completed produces a mash, which can be fed back to cattle. A nutritious high energy feed used by milk producers. I used to buy 20 tonnes at a time from Carlsberg. Also when available carrots and potatoes, which could be incorporated into a balanced ration. 

Most of the sheep have been shorn. With wool a much under used product, and heating costs rising, perhaps it is the time to wear woollen sweaters, rather than synthetic fibres and be able to turn the thermostat down.

It has been brought to my notice the precision planting of the maize at Stuchbury. G.P S or Global Positioning System is part of the modern tractor, where a satellite guides the tractor in a straight line and can plant the seed precisely. With G.P.S fertilisers can be applied at the correct rate across a field, after a soil analysis. Precision farming is here for the benefit of all, not least the soil on which we depend to grow our food.

The rain I mentioned at the start of these notes has made the prospect of a good harvest a reality. Something in the present world circumstances we should be grateful for.

Richard Fonge

Sulgrave celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – June 4th 2022

June 13th, 2022

Photo: Jo Powell

Plans had been made many months ahead for a village picnic on Castle Green on Sunday June 4th to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The morning dawned cool and grey. Rain was forecast on and off for the entire day. This was not unexpected and marquees and gazebos were assembled from wherever they could be found.

Photo: Graham Roberts

In fact so much cover was provided that all of the 150 or so people who attended could have found shelter. In the event the threatened rain failed to materialise and the various events went ahead as planned.

Website Editor’s Note: As I was unavoidably absent, I am indebted to the members of the Sulgrave Camera Club for the following images:

Photo: Graham Roberts


 Photo: Graham Roberts


Photo: Graham Roberts


Photo: Graham Roberts



Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Jo Powell


Photo: Tony Keatley


Photo: Tony Keatley


Photo: Tony Keatley


Photo: Tony Keatley


Photo: Graham Roberts


Photo: Graham Roberts


Photo: Graham Roberts

Parish Council Chairman Richard Fonge proposing the Loyal Toast. See here.

Photo: Chris Behan

Photographers set up station on the hill to record a truly remarkable image……..


Photo: Graham Roberts.

Click on this image twice to see everyone in more detail and then use your computer’s horizontal and vertical bars to move around the picture (or enlarge in the usual way on your mobile). Either way, you will find the detail in this picture quite stunning.


June 3rd, 2022

It’s particularly appropriate that on this first day of the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday it has been officially announced that the Sulgrave Village Shop Volunteers have just been awarded The Queens’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

Representatives of the Sulgrave Volunteers will receive the award crystal and certificate from the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire later this summer. In addition two volunteers will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2023 (depending on restrictions at the time) along with other recipients of the Award.

This represents a very public recognition of the dedicated work for the shop by countless numbers of volunteers over seventeen years, some no longer with us, having sadly passed on or moved away.

Since the very beginning, the shop established a reputation for reliability, which has been maintained through various crises including the pandemic, shortages of volunteers and sadly, a number of malicious break-ins. Nothing daunted, the volunteers returned to clear up the mess and re-establish their cheerful service with a minimum of delay.


A Personal Note

My wife Molly, seen in the above photo taken fifteen years ago, was one of the original volunteers who did so much to establish the shop at a time when many doubted the outcome of the experiment. Numbers of these veterans continue to serve but the Award is also a tribute to those who are no longer able to participate, of whom Molly is one. 

As an early (though less active) volunteer myself, I was honoured to be asked to submit the nomination of the Shop Volunteers for this Award. This involved completing a specific nomination form, giving full details of the enterprise and its importance to the community. In this I was ably supported by letters of recommendation from the Vicar, Father Leggett, the present Chairman of the Parish Council, Richard Fonge and former Barrister and long time village resident Roger Ellis. Finally, I have to acknowledge that without the drive and enthusiasm of Digby Lewis over a long period, the nomination might have foundered along the way!

However, my main contribution was the preparation of a booklet setting out a brief history of the shop, illustrated with photographs culled from the village website (which I edit), demonstrating the vital part played by the shop in the life of the village.

This was prepared for the assessment visit by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, who presented it to the panel making the final choice of those deemed worthy of the award, as part of her recommendation.

A booklet can be viewed online here and a copy will also soon be available to be seen in the shop.

Colin Wootton


May 29th, 2022

After an earlier abortive attempt, Ronnie Langdon-Gray finally achieved her ambition of undertaking a sky dive to celebrate her 80th birthday, on May Day Bank Holiday Monday. Ronnie has been a volunteer at Katherine House Hospice for many years and has taken part in other fund raising events but this must surely be the most exciting!

Ronnie also volunteers for the village shop and can be seem most Mondays and Wednesdays behind the Post Office Counter.

Ronnie with her 1959 Austin Healey Sprite.

Katharine House Hospice provides specialist palliative care for adults with life-limiting conditions. This amazing team supports both the patient and their loved ones too, in warm, comforting, environment, ensuring that every moment matters. Your donation will mean more people can receive this care

To make your own contribution to this amazing charity, go to:

Click here for more details.


May on the Farm (2022)

May 24th, 2022

Buttercups in Madam’s Close

Richard Fonge writes:

We are having some welcome rain. Welcome in the fact that the crops and grassland are in dire need of it, as can be seen with the beans on the Stuchbury path, and oats along the concrete road. The situation in the Ukraine has highlighted the need for us, a country with the soils and expertise to grow most crops and rear livestock, to be as self sufficient as possible. The balance between growing food and environmental schemes has never been more important.

The buttercups in Madam’s Close are an attractive sight. Many associate buttercups with contented milking cows grazing amongst them as they did a long time ago. The days of cows being called Buttercup, Daisy or Marigold have long gone. Sixty years back a good Friesian cow would give 4,500 litres in a lactation. A lactation being 305 days. Today due to better genetics and nutrition that yield has more than doubled to 9,000 litres, with most of our milk being produced in the western side of the country where rainfall is higher, and grass can grow better.

The cattle out in the fields near Sulgrave are steers, (If you follow All Creatures Great and Small they are stirks). These are castrated males. Remember cows lactate and then only after giving birth. All very confusing but terminology is important.

Our countryside looks at its best I think in May, with the May blossom out and the fresh greens of the hedgerows and trees. Take a walk on the many footpaths we have around our Parish and savour. The bird song up the gated road in the morning is worth a walk to hear on its own.

The eight sheep on the Castle mound are a rare breed. They are Lonks, a breed native to the Pennines, with a strong body and thick fleece, essential for the climate of the region. Their meat is of good quality and my research tells me it claimed first prize in best hotpot competition. There are many rare breeds of sheep, cattle and pigs and the best way to ensure their survival is to breed them for meat. The rare breeds survival trust stress this in their literature.

Richard Fonge

April on the Farm (2022)

April 23rd, 2022

Romney sheep on the footpath to Greatworth

Richard Fonge writes:

We are enjoying a warm sunny spell of weather as I write these notes, and with the blackthorn beginning to go over the air should feel warmer. The adage that we are in a blackthorn winter is a very true one, especially when it first comes out as in this year we had very wintry conditions followed by cold easterly winds, although the sun shone. I saw the first two swallows on the 10th April by the stream on the gated road. After their long migration they usually stay around a water course to feed for a week or so before beginning to nest.

The crops around the Parish are starting to grow with the oil seed rape now coming into flower up the gated or Moreton Road. Notice the variable flowering stages, this is because the pigeons have grazed it during the winter, so stunting the plant and therefore it flowers later and ripens later making harvesting time often a compromise. This year it has become a premium crop with the Ukrainian War, as most of our sunflower oil is imported from the Ukraine and Russia, as are our fertilisers. The conflict certainly brings food security to the fore!

A crop looking exceptionally healthy are the oats up the concrete road. Planted in mid November, small areas have suffered from wet, but as a percentage of the total acreage of all the field very insignificant.

The Romney breed of sheep on the footpath behind Weymss Farm are now lambing and are having singles (although I have noticed a set of twins). These sheep are part of a larger flock and were scanned to singles. Scanning at around seventy-five days of the 145 day gestation period enables the shepherd to manage his flock accordingly.

I mentioned in my January notes how important the pig was to the villager’s living until relatively recently. Other regular or seasonal foods from the farm were bislings or cherricurds, the first rich milk from a freshly calved cow. It was cooked and eaten like a baked custard. Sweet meats or calves testicles were another delicacy. Today we are inclined to look in amazement at what was eaten back in the past. However, it was a healthy diet of home grown vegetables and local delicacies of this kind, including pigeon and rabbit. The harder physical work of the time necessitated such food.

The electric fence to control livestock first came about around 1940, I believe and here are two true stories. My father was on Home Guard duty one night when two of the platoon, panicking in true Cpl Jones style, announced that they had heard a bomb ticking behind a certain hedge and that the end was nigh. It was, of course, an electric fence unit ticking. The second occasion happened at Stuchbury Manor where we had moved just after the war and Reg the cowman concluded that this bit of single wire was useless to keep cattle in, so he touched it with hob nailed boots on, leapt in the air and respected the darn thing forever more!

Richard Fonge


April 19th, 2022

Ronnie has been a familiar sight in the village for many years moving, usually at speed in her sports car or on foot, between her home in Helmdon Road and a whole range of voluntary occupations, including frequent work at the Village Shop and Post Office. Her regular voluntary work for the Katherine House Hospice has always been close to her heart, about which she writes as follows:

“I have been a volunteer at Katharine House Hospice for many years and joined in several fundraising events so, hopefully,  my 80th birthday ‘skydive’ challenge will raise some more, much needed, funds for this wonderful charity.

Katharine House Hospice provides specialist palliative care for adults with life-limiting conditions. This amazing team supports both the patient and their loved ones too, in warm, comforting, environment, ensuring that every moment matters. Your donation will mean more people can receive this care”.

She describes her forthcoming adventure (with typical modesty) as follows:

April 23rd, weather permitting, will see Ronnie, falling gracefully into her octogenarian years, doing a tandem skydive, and along side her,  

 to make sure she jumps, will be daughter Suzi and grandson Ed. 

Ronnie’s challenge is to raise money for Katharine House Hospice,

so what better way to celebrate her

80th Birthday. 

Please support Ronnie’s 80th Skydive challenge,

 visit and make a donation

or send a cheque, in favour of Katharine House Hospice, to Stone Court, OX172SQ,

and if a tax payer, please add your name & address, to collect Gift Aid.




Summary of Annual Parish Meeting held at the Village Church Hall on Thursday 7th April 2022

April 18th, 2022

Parish Council Chairman Richard Fonge presents a bouquet of flowers to Parish Council Clerk, Christine Coles, in recognition of her 18 years of dedicated service to the Council.

The Chairman, Cllr Richard Fonge, welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially all the new residents of Sulgrave. He also noted the deaths of Mr Donald Barratt, Mr Donald Taylor and Mr Des White.

As usual at the Annual Parish Meeting, the business of the evening comprised a series of reports by various organisations, followed by a public forum, as follows:


Northants County Constabulary.

Two officers attended to report upon their work, much of which comprised liaison with the public. For example, a “Police Drop In Surgery” was scheduled to take place in the Village Church Hall on the coming Sunday, 10th April. Local crimes were generally of a petty nature.


High Speed Rail (HS2)

The Greatworth junction to be started in midsummer .New relief road to be laid with two roundabouts, exiting onto the B4525 by the Greatworth T junction. Work progressing on the Banbury Lane through Thorpe Mandeville.

West Northants Council.

Our local West Northants Councillor Alison Eastman attended to report on the work of the new unitary body. They had great concern over the HS2 proposal to work regularly at weekends. Reactions to this proposal were being sought from affected villages. Councillor Eastman reminded all of the new £42 annual charge for green waste bins. The new Council’s finances were in satisfactory shape and being deployed for the benefit of all. The County’s central geographical location makes it ideal for storage and distribution facilities and large developments for this purpose were taking place within the West Northants Council area at Towcester and near Northampton.


Sulgrave Manor. 

Mr Clive Preston, a trustee of the Manor, reported on the restricted Manor opening times of three days a week this season. The first visit of The Colonial Dames of America since before the pandemic will take place in late May. The sale of Kiln Farm is in progress to a private buyer. The Wool house had been sold, with the two Cottages in Manor Road coming on to the market ,hopefully in June.

Sulgrave Parish Council. 

The Chairman, Councillor Richard Fonge, reported on a two year period as there had been no formal Annual Parish Meeting last year. He firstly thanked Laura North and Anna Faure for their service to the Council and welcomed Councillors Sara Staples and Jen Castle who had replaced them in September last.
The wooden flower planter at the entrance to Stockwell Lane had proved a great success in improving the appearance of the area by preventing the destruction of the grass verge by the parking of vehicles. The Chairman thanked Maureen Jeffrey for caring for it. He was pleased that the library in the Church had proved itself, and offered many thanks to Sue Sanderson for setting it up, looking after it and refreshing the books from time to time. He hoped that the Parochial Church Council will organise coffee mornings from time to time to promote both the Church and library.
The village had been entered in the best village competition. A new boundary fence had been provided for the allotments. The pocket park shelter has a new felt roof and the pond has been dredged and overhanging branches cut back to let more light in. Further trees have been planted.
We are still waiting for 30mph signs to be moved back on Magpie road so that the New Sulgrave sign can be erected.
The Parish Council had complained about the poor workmanship of the road repairs on Magpie road.
The Chairman thanked Cllr Alison Eastwood for her conscientious work at West Northants Council on our behalf, and in conclusion thanked the clerk, Christine Coles and his five fellow Councillors for their work for the village – a good team, which he enjoyed leading.


Public Footpaths.

Footpath Warden Graham Roberts reported on the general good order of the paths, and expressed his thanks to the County officer for her help in getting the path to the Banbury Lane re-laid, cleared of scrub and fenced. He was planning to arrange walks this summer.


Graham Trower, Chair of the Allotment Committee, reported that only one allotment was not taken. The chairman thanked him for his work in getting the allotments back in good order. Janet Smith had stood down as secretary and was thanked for her services. The new secretary will be Jill Barratt with Anthony Barratt as treasurer.

Sulgrave Charities.  

Julian Rodway reported on the two Sulgrave Charities. There had been little take up from the village and so monies had been given to Culworth primary school and Chenderit Comprehensive School for educational needs.


Castle Green Committee

Committee Chairman Martin Sirot-Smith reported that there were no problems with the Green or the Hill at this time. He was pleased that such an asset to the village had been used for Winter fairs and Summer picnics, with the Queen’s Jubilee Picnic to come on June 5th.

Village Website.

Colin Wootton reported that he had now been looking after the village website for sixteen years, during which time 2,200 new front page items had been published, illustrated with 54,000 photographs, maps and diagrams. All of this information remains on the website and individual items can be found by entering a request into the Google type search panel on the front page.

He thanked Bob Foster for his work in maintaining a village weather station linked to the website and also Janet Smith for her dedicated work in editing the village newsletter from which much information for the website was taken.

Regular information on the website includes reports on HS2 construction news such as road closures; Parish Council agendas and minutes; Village Shop and Post Office information and newsletters; and Camera Club notes. Another much appreciated regular feature is Richard Fonge’s monthly agricultural notes “on the farm”.

A novel addition to the website contents first appeared in 2014, being the 24 consecutive Advent Calendar Window Displays and their attendant unveiling parties. This was meant to be a “one-off” but has clearly come to stay. It has a wide following both at home and abroad and the average monthly total of visits to the site rises from 2000 to 7000 during December.

The Chairman thanked Colin Wootton for his work on the website and also that of his grandson who acts as the service provider at no cost to the Council. The only additional cost is £20 per year for the domain name –

The Chairman concluded the meeting with the presentation of a bouquet of flowers to the Parish Council Clerk, Christine Coles, for her eighteen years of dedicated service.

Richard Fonge, Chairman, Sulgrave Parish Council

Queen’s Jubilee Organ Concert, Sulgrave Church, Saturday 30th April at 7.30 pm. Application Forms and Programme available here.

April 1st, 2022


Click here to download a copy of the ticket application form.