Results of Sulgrave Village Shop Survey

June 19th, 2023

Photo: Neil Higginson

See here for results of the Survey

In the usual way the degree of satisfaction expressed by each respondent is graded from one to five with one representing “poor” and five representing “very good”.

June on the farm (2023)

June 17th, 2023

Dog rose in a Moreton Road Hedge

Richard Fonge writes;

The buttercups in Madam’s Close were quite an astounding sight this year. A real centre piece to the village. The two other pastures to admire are on the Barrow hill footpath, where a wild flower mixture was planted many years ago and are now a blaze of flower. Walking along the railway line are more wild flowers. As you climb the recently made path to the old line there are broom bushes with their lovely yellow flowers. Broom has a smooth stem, gorse has spines. Dog daisies or oxeyes are abundant, and the dog rose with its white or pink flower can be seen intermittently. The dog rose is often found in our field hedges, with it’s vicious thorns. The fruit of this rose is called the hip, a red oval fruit full of vitamin C with noted herbal cures for many ailments when cured into a syrup. Another delicacy is rose hip tea.

Wild flower names were once used as names for milking cows when herds were small and milked in cowsheds, so buttercup, daisy, dandelion, cowslip were the favourites. I named a cow Up and Downer as a boy after her horn got caught in my trouser pocket and she tossed me up and down a few times when I was untying her chain!

The many flocks of sheep have now been shorn, and this hard, back bending job is often done by young New Zealanders who come over for the season. Wool is not of great value with the shearing cost hardly covered by its sale price. Man made fibres have seen to that. Sheep shear best when the grease is rising, the grease being Lanolin which when extracted is used in many ointments and creams. Go handling fleeces for a day and you will come away with soft hands. 

Of course it was wool that made the Washington family of Sulgrave Manor fame great wealth in the Middle Ages as it did many other families, with the Cotswolds in particular thriving on the wool, with towns such as Chipping Norton and Chipping Camden becoming centres of the trade. Chipping meaning market of course.

The recent storms will be most welcome to the crops, especially the late sown maize and barley up the concrete road. A late lamb has been born to one of the young sheep on Castle Mound. They are called cuckoo lambs (although we sadly don’t hear the cuckoo now). This sheep has “stolen the ram” as we say. Rather like a teenage pregnancy with Father unknown!

Richard Fonge.

Village Shop Newsletter for June 2023

May 31st, 2023

May on the farm (2023)

May 26th, 2023

Cow Parsley  (Photo: Colin Wootton)

Richard Fonge writes:

May the month of the bluebells in the woods, and the May blossom of the whitethorn, much in evidence in our hedges and along the old railway line.

The oil seed rape is in full flower, and the barley off Park Lane has come into ear.

Spring barley has been planted up the concrete road, much later than ideal because of this late wet spring, but it has germinated quickly and will soon catch up with this warmer wet weather. Also to its advantage it was sown into a fine tilth of soil. Maize has been planted in the big field on the left of Magpie road.

The seasons have always varied, and invariably nature evens things out in our climate .

The spring season is all about new life, and that also means it’s bird nesting time. This means it’s so important to keep dogs under control as many birds nest low in the hedges and others on the ground such as plover, snipe and curlew. With such good footpaths in our parish there is no need to stray, and to clear up a misunderstanding there is no right to roam here.

One sound that I find quite evocative is the call of the rooks in their rookery. The nearest one to the village is in the small copse or spinney at the bottom of the Big Green.The field off Little street. Rooks nest high in the trees and need to be near grassland and stock as they feed off the dung and pasture. These small copses and woodlands across our parishes were planted in many cases , or left when the land was cleared for cultivation for sporting purposes and wildlife habitat.

So here is the connection. Without the woods, no rooks, who depend on the grassland to be grazed by cattle and sheep. Who are reared for meat.Take these pastures out (and this land is not the best for crop production) and you upset a delicate balance. This is a small example of the interconnection between the natural world and land use, a healthy balance in our area.

There are many ewes and lambs in the fields around the Parish, and note how those once small little lambs have now grown . Their mothers are injected six weeks or so before birth with a vaccine which gives their lambs immunity from the seven clostridia diseases through their milk. Hence it is vital that a lamb suckles within an hour or so after birth. At a couple of months of age the lambs need a small drench to prevent coccidiosis. This parasite can cause significant damage to the intestines and stunt growth.

This is the time of year when the grass verges grow tall with the cow parsley or Queens Anne Lace . So called as it reminded the Queen of lace pillows so it’s believed. The verges are full of a variety of fauna, insects and small vertebrates and are best not mown till the autumn, except for that narrow width mown for safety. Years back they were a source of grazing for the village small holders with their few cows. Where there was width the grass would be scythed and made into hay. When you had to “scratch for a living” nothing was wasted.

Many a successful farmer started out this way.

Finally. A Greatworth man called Ernie Isham (a very common name in these parts) was always known as Samson, because as a youngster he was helping out at threshing time when the machine got stuck. The cry went up “Give us a push boy,” and as he did the threshing machine moved.

Richard Fonge.



May 17th, 2023

Photograph: Jo Powell


At midday on Sunday 7th May the gloomy spring weather relented to give a brilliantly sunny afternoon for the much anticipated events on Castle Green to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III which had taken place on the previous day. A large marquee had been erected in case of rain but most of the many people who attended chose to picnic on the newly mown grass, as shown in the above picture. On such a warm, still day every note of the Brackley and District Brass Band could be well heard and contributed much to the success of the event.

I am sorry that I was unable to photograph the celebration as I would have done over the last twenty years but I have received some stunning pictures, mainly by Jo Powell.

More photographs on the next page (Click on “Read the rest of this entry”)

Read the rest of this entry »


April 29th, 2023

Photo: Neil Higginson

Sulgrave Parish Council is launching a new survey into customer satisfaction with Sulgrave Village Shop.

It would be very helpful to the Council and also to the Management Committee of the Shop, if you would spend a few moments answering the questions

Click here to complete the survey by entering the number of stars you consider appropriate in answer to each question.

Your answers to the questions will be confidential to the Parish Council and will not be revealed to any third party without your express permission.

Thank you for taking part.

April on the farm (2023)

April 14th, 2023

Blackthorn Flowers (Photo: Colin Wootton)

Richard Fonge writes:

April’s showers have been more like heavy rain, and are delaying the planting of spring sown corn along the concrete road, which should ideally be in by now. April sees the blackthorn in blossom, a sure sign of a continual nip in the air and wintry conditions. The saying “Blackthorn Winter” is one that always resonates. Do note how much blackthorn there is in our hedges. The white blossom is very prominent. A field of grass opposite the Magpie has been ploughed up as has the remainder of the field where the HS2 compound is situated, and it highlights to me as a farmer what a travesty it is to see such good agricultural land being turned into a railway!

All the pasture fields around the parish are now stocked with ewes and lambs, so making it imperative to keep dogs on leads. It is easy to forget during the winter months when some of these fields are empty of stock that their prime purpose Is for the feeding of sheep and cattle.

I started writing these notes to inform people a little of what is happening in the countryside that surrounds us, as I think it is of interest and importance to the community . Especially if you are new to rural life. You cannot sanitise rural life, as it comes with its distinctive smells, sounds and at times plenty of mud. When spreading cow manure once I was asked by a local dignitary in all seriousness if I “could mix lavender with it”!

Agriculture is the business of producing wholesome food whilst maintaining the countryside which we all love and appreciate. Farming means that we have to work with nature not against it as the land is our income. That means managing nature from time to time. Vermin such as rats and mice in farm buildings have to be controlled and their extermination is part of Farm Assurance schemes. A box that must be ticked.

Pigeons are great menace to oilseed rape growers as they are to anybody who grows brassicas in their garden, and have to be controlled or scared away. Foxes also pose problems at lambing times and for those who have hens. It must be remembered that a fox is a serial killer and nothing preys on the fox, so to keep the balance in nature there has to be some control. As can be seen if you watch any wildlife programme it is the survival of the fittest of any species that keeps that species strong and eliminates the weaker genes.

I saw my first swallow today the 13th, but they were first seen on the 10th going into the barn by the stream up the Moreton Rd.

The weather has been very variable and it reminds me of a villager I knew who when asked about his health always replied “Like the sparrows up and down”!

Richard Fonge

Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter April 2023

April 1st, 2023

Village Events for the Coronation Weekend – 6th and 7th May 2022

March 21st, 2023



Coronation Crafts and Activities for children ( and big kids!) on the afternoon of May 6th (time tbc).

Come and join us in creating “coronation themed” items – expect to get messy and have a little fun. Volunteers to support and help are welcome – please get in touch with Caroline Grant via Next Door messaging system.



are holding

This will be one of the many “big lunch” events being planned throughout the country for that day. You are invited to bring your own picnic lunch and tables will be provided. Families and friends are welcome. A 21 metre x 9 metre marquee will be in place.

A bar will be provided by the Star Inn. Teas and light refreshments will be available.

Children’s games in the afternoon, including skittles, “wellie wanging” and face painting. Cake making competition.

Craft Stalls, Demonstrations, Exhibitions and Entertainments area are also being organised.

Brackley and District Brass Band will play at intervals during the day.

Special Coronation mugs will be presented free to children under twelve. A limited number of these will also be available for purchase.

This event is being financially supported by the Parish Council but private sponsorship will be gratefully accepted. Please contact Council Chairman Richard Fonge on [email protected]. Further ideas for the day will also be welcome.


This is a chance for the whole village to come together to celebrate both the Coronation of King Charles III and enjoy the variety of talents and skills of villagers young and old.










March on the farm (2023)

March 13th, 2023

Richard Fonge writes:

With hopefully the last of the snow behind us, we can look forward to more spring like conditions, with warmth and sunshine and some much needed rain to counteract the very dry February.

Lambs are now being seen in the fields around the village. Vital for their survival is colostrum, which is the first milk of the ewe. Provided they have this milk in the first few hours after birth, (and most lambs will be up and suckling within the first hour) they will thrive. The milk is full of anti bodies and lines the stomach to retain body temperature, which combined with their coats allows them to withstand cold weather. Putting coats on them is a bit of a gimmick. It’s not practical for most farmers and if the ewe has been prepared for birth properly she will have the milk to rear her lambs. Late winter, early spring lambing is done indoors, with the ewes and lambs turned out at a few days old when the shepherd knows they are fit to do so. By late March/April, outside lambing is more common and in many ways more natural as the ewe finds her own place to lamb and there is not the risk of infection you get inside. One downside is the taking of lambs by the fox at birthing or soon after. A real problem at times.

Talking of the fox, it is always noticeable how much healthier the rural fox looks to the urban one. The former lives off grubs, rabbits (and there are plenty of those on our disused railway lines), pigeons, and your hens if they can. Natural food. The urban fox lives off scraps mostly from bins etc. 

The very smart fencing is now completed up Barrow hill, with new footpath gates, which will be much appreciated by all those that walk that path regularly. Now wait for the sheep to arrive to graze the new conservation pasture.

A true story of a very brave and determined man:

My parents moved to Stuchbury Manor Farm in the Autumn of 1947 and employed a youngster who was just short of his fifteenth birthday. Dennis had been evacuated from Balham in south London to a farm in Lancashire with his mother during the war, and he decided to make farming his career. He took a three month Y.M.C.A farming course at Stratford-upon-Avon and then placed with us.

He was in digs with a Mrs Wade, whose cottage was where the entrance to Mayfield is now. Between the Old Chapel and Apple Acre in Manor Road.

He walked to and from work every day, until he was called up to go in the army in 1951, where he opted to do a third year as he had passed his tests to join the parachute regiment. On demob he returned to the farm staying with us till 1973.

So when I take that footpath off the Helmdon road to Stuchbury, I often think of that fifteen year old boy walking up there in the dark in all weathers that first winter. What determination and resilience! You can see why he became a parachutist. 

To finish. Ernie Baylis, a local farming character, wore his cap backwards for work, and then turned it peak forward for best..

Richard Fonge.