An Unwelcome Summer Visitor.

August 13th, 2018

In the hot summer of 1976 I was working in a Daventry office which had a patio with flower beds. One August morning, someone discovered a new and unusual looking plant which had appeared in the flower bed almost overnight. It had something of a sinister appearance and fortunately, as it turned out, none of us touched it or lingered near it. At that time we had periodic visits from a qualified landscape architect and he immediately identified it as Datura Stramonium, commonly known as Thorn Apple. He explained that the seed could lie dormant in the soil for many years until suitably hot conditions occurred so as to replicate its South American origin. He also described its toxic and hallucinogenic properties, forbade us to go near it and promptly disposed of it.

When just such a plant appeared a few days ago in our garden at Dippers Cottage in Little Street my mind went back to that amazing summer 42 years ago and the alien plant. I took photographs and eventually found comparable ones on the Royal Horticultural Society website, which contained the following information:

Datura Stramonium, also known as Devil’s Apple, Trumpet or Snare has large, pale, trumpet shaped flowers and spiny pods. Its leaves give off a pungent nauseating odour and the flowers smell sweet, but both are narcotic and can induce hallucinations or stupor if breathed in for too long. The plant, which could grow to 12ft high, is said to create an inability to differentiate fantasy from reality, causing amnesia, hypothermia and even violent behaviour. A member of the Deadly Nightshade family, its poison causes dry mouth, blurred vision, heart irregularities, hallucinations, and eventually coma and death in severe cases. It is traditionally used by South American Indians to poison their hunting spears, arrows and fishing hooks. In sacred Hindu ceremonies it is revered by monks for its hallucinogenic properties. A spokesman for the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “These plants are not native to Britain and we think it arrives in bird seed sold to feed wild birds and is generally grown in hot countries where datura is a very common weed indeed. “They belong to the same family as Deadly Nightshade and are highly poisonous if eaten, but they should pose no threat if treated carefully and unwanted plants can be consigned to the compost bin or green waste collection.”

As recommended by the RHS, we promptly and carefully disposed of the plant before it could seed, after taking a number of photos. We tend to buy packs of seeds in Banbury or Brackley on a weekly basis to feed our garden birds and this seems to be the most likely source of this strange and alien plant. I suggest that villagers who do the same thing should examine the neglected corners of their gardens closely before the invader reaches its full height of 12 feet!

Note: Do not bother to report any such occurrence to the local authorities. I tried environmental health departments hoping to get advice from someone. I simply got a recorded message asking me to leave details of my inquiry and my telephone number. I sent photos by email. Needless to say, no-one has responded!

Colin Wootton



Sulgrave’s Castle Hill to become a Public Open Space

August 6th, 2018

Families take part in a history day treasure hunt on Castle Hill.

From time immemorial, the grassy earthwork immediately to the west of the church has been known to villagers as “Castle Hill”. Despite the obvious inference that a castle must once have stood there, the origins of this fortification were lost in the mists of time. This all changed in 1960 when archaeologist Brian Davison chose the site for investigation during the final year of his archaeological degree at Belfast University. Weeks of patient excavation and recording, followed by more intensive work through to 1976, revealed that there had indeed been stone buildings and fortifications on the site dating from early Norman times. More importantly, one of the largest Saxon wooden manor houses yet excavated was found under the later works, close to the boundary of the site with the church. The site history revealed by these investigations is detailed at the end of this entry.

This important site, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, is about to be purchased for the village by the Parish Council, funded by contributions from a number of parish organisations together with public subscriptions. Together with the adjoining Castle Green, purchased in 2004, it will form a valuable public open space in the centre of the village, under the management of the Castle Green Sub-Committee of the Parish Council.

More details on the next page (Click on “….Read the rest of this entry”)

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Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter for August 2018

August 1st, 2018

July on the Farm

July 25th, 2018

Richard Fonge writes:

July sees the start of the grain harvest. This year due to our prolonged spell of hot weather, the start of combining the barley and oil seed rape is a good fortnight earlier, with the wheat not far behind. The crops have died off rapidly rather than a slower ripening. It will be interesting to see how the yield and quality have been affected.

As you may have observed all farm machinery is of a great size and power today. Modern technology has replaced labour, so we see an efficient agriculture around us, producing high quality food. An interesting comparison to show the development from sixty years ago. Then a combine had a cutting width of 8ft and harvested 10 acres a day, producing around 15 tonnes of wheat. Today the width of cut is 30ft (and some are up to 40ft). The yield of the wheat is 4 tonnes per acre or thereabouts and the acreage done in a day 80 so harvesting 300 tonnes plus. In 1958 all milling wheat was mainly imported from Canada by the major millers. But by the early eighties we had bred our own varieties and become self sufficient.

The Spring beans up Barrow Hill have now flowered. If you walked through them at the end of last month, you could not help but notice the fantastic scent and the presence and sound of bees working hard.

July is the month when many of the lambs born in the early spring are ready for the butcher. Those remaining are weaned and finished on grass. Their mothers milk has now dried up and the ewes will have a complete rest before meeting up with the rams in the Autumn.

Finally is is sad to see the railway tunnel boarded up due to the unsafety of the brick work and the footpath diverted. The tunnel was built because the railway went through an old green lane that was the main route for horse and cart and people to go eastwards from Sulgrave. The Cluniac monks used it way back in the late 12th century to carry their produce to the Mother Church in Northampton from their church at Stuchbury.

It is so important to remember and respect the history of where one lives.

Richard Fonge

See here for a map of footpaths and bridleways in Sulgrave Parish.

See here for a website report from 2014 detailing the original proposal to divert Bridleway AY4 where it crosses the disused Great Central Railway. The tunnel is now to be permanently closed, with a footpath for pedestrians over the embankment and an option for horse riders to follow the originally proposed diversion to the north.

Sulgrave Camera Club Pictures from Canal Visit

July 24th, 2018

Graham Roberts writes:

The recently formed Sulgrave Camera Club went “On Location” during  June at the canal side in Banbury. Photographers were given free reign to identify opportunities for photographs reflecting the canal architecture, surroundings and leisure activities.

From the numerous photographs taken each photographer was asked to select six which were then were put together in a slide show for the members to view and comment on during the July meeting.  Once more The Star offered us accommodation and hospitality, an  impromptu theatre was set up in the snug and an entertaining evening followed looking at the results of our “On location” trip to Castle Quay.

Some 60 photographs were viewed and one from each photographer was selected to produce 10 Best Images, these are shown on the next page in alphabetical order (click on “read the rest of this entry”)

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A Very Special Birthday Party at the Corner House, Sulgrave on Saturday 21st July 2018

July 22nd, 2018

Birthday greetings are delivered to the Corner House

On Friday 20th July 2018 Janet Tattersall of the Corner House, Sulgrave, became “an English Lady of a certain age”! On a glorious summer’s afternoon on the Saturday following, a party was held in the house gardens to celebrate this notable event. Pictures on the next page (click on “read the rest of this entry”)

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New Management at the Star Inn

July 12th, 2018

Sunday 30th June was just one of the many hot, sunny days of the wonderful 2018 summer, perfect for the re-opening of the Star Inn under new “landlords” Niki and Steve. The extensive gardens were colourfully decorated with numerous stalls, a barbecue and many play opportunities for the children. As always at such events in Sulgrave there was also a dog show!

More pictures on the next page (Click on “read the rest of this entry”)

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Afternoon “sing-along” with Gospel Bell at Sulgrave Church

July 2nd, 2018

On a gloriously hot summer’s afternoon, villagers and visitors were entertained by Gospel Bell, described by group member Troy Daniels (of Helmdon Road and the Parish Council) as “an ensemble of musicians and singers based in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, playing gospel blues and country music”. Everyone was in good voice and those of “a certain age” hardly needed reminding of the words on the printed sheets. Refreshments were provided by volunteers and proceeds from the event will go to the Church of St James the less.

More photographs and a short video of one of the songs on the next page. (Click on “read the rest of this entry”)

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June on the Farm

June 29th, 2018

Richard Fonge writes:

June is the month of the longest day. Also the month when hay was made. This farming practice is now in decline, as most livestock is fed on silage, either from a clamp or wrapped as can be seen up the gated road. Horses are the prime eaters of hay. To make good hay you need at least four days of sunshine from mowing the grass to baling and then into barn for storage. I often hear people romanticising about making hay in years gone by, but believe me it was hard dusty work, and then you had the frustration of rain falling on the day of baling, resulting in an inferior product which had to be dried out again. The grass needs to be wilted and dried a little for silage, to make good winter feed but the task takes only two days at most. By sealing the the grass in a bag or clamp, fermentation takes place, and it is ready to be eaten in six weeks. Silage can be handled mechanically when feeding livestock, whereas stabled horses are fed by hand and a hay bale is easier.

In the field near to the Culworth turn a linseed crop is growing. It has a lovely blue flower. You may notice that sometimes you see it other times not. This is because it only comes out with the sun. The linseed seed is crushed and the oil used in paints and certain woods mainly. It is the same plant as Flax, which was grown widely in the past, mainly for the fibre of its stems. Linen comes from the linseed plant.

See next page for photos of hay being baled by modern machinery and the linseed field. Click on “read the rest of this entry”.

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Local Government Reform in Northamptonshire

June 21st, 2018

South Northamptonshire Council Area

There are currently eight local authorities providing council services across Northamptonshire in a ‘two-tier’ structure, in which services are divided between the county council and seven borough or district councils. In the case of Sulgrave Parish, these services are provided by Northamptonshire County Council and South Northamptonshire Council.

Unfortunately, the County Council has over-spent its budget in previous years and faces significant on-going budget deficits, as a result of which the government has taken the unusual step of appointing external Commissioners to take over many of the County Council’s functions. Furthermore, the government has now written to all eight councils inviting them urgently to co-operate in putting forward proposals by the end of August to restructure local government in Northamptonshire.

The eight local authorities are: Northamptonshire County Council, Corby Borough Council, Daventry District Council, East Northamptonshire Council, Kettering Borough Council, Northampton Borough Council, South Northamptonshire Council and the Borough Council of Wellingborough.

In formulating their proposals, the authorities are required to undertake a public consultation exercise and to this end a private company, Opinion Research Services (ORS) has been appointed to oversee the consultation and co-ordinate the responses. The consultation period runs from Monday 18th June to Sunday 22nd June.

Details of the consultation together with an online questionnaire can be seen at

Paper copies of the questionnaire will be available at council offices, libraries, leisure centres etc.,with freepost return address, from 25th June 2018.