“Slow, Middling and Jolty” (also known as the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway)

April 2nd, 2018

Those of us who grew up in Sulgrave during and just after World War 2 will remember that the main sound which intruded upon our otherwise silent village was that of steam locomotives crossing the railway embankment about half a mile to the east. This was especially noticeable at night. For us, at that time, railway journeys meant walking or cycling to the nearest main line stations at Helmdon (known as “Helmdon for Sulgrave”) or Culworth (actually about half way between Culworth itself and Moreton Pinkney). My journey to school in Brackley on Saturdays involved walking two and a half miles to Helmdon “top” station, 4 miles on the train and then walking a further mile from Brackley “top” station to the school.

“Helmdon for Sulgrave” in the 1950s.

However, in nearby villages there were other stations on other railway lines.

For example, there was a station more or less in Culworth village, known as “Eydon Road Halt”, on the line linking Banbury to the former Great Central Railway just to the north. My uncle was for many years the signalman in the box shown on the above photograph.

Until the early 1950s, in addition to the mainline station mentioned above, Helmdon also had a second station (inevitably known as the “bottom station”). This was situated on what had once been called the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway or “the SMJ”. Although the name subsequently changed, from the 1920s onwards, those in the village who used it from time to time still referred to it as the “Slow, Middling and Jolty”!

Helmdon “Bottom” Station, c 1910.

This station featured in evidence given at the trial of a man who committed a dreadful murder in Sulgrave in 1897.

I have particularly fond memories of this little railway as it ran through the fields to the south of Stuchbury, where my cousins lived during the war. We spent many hours playing on or around the brick bridge carrying a byway over the railway (which still exists). Perhaps once or twice a day, a small locomotive pulling a single carriage passed under the bridge at a speed which enabled us to exchange a few words with the driver leaning out of the window.

However, these are mere childish memories and I am not a railway buff. I am therefore indebted to Chris Behan for carrying out research into the origins of the SMJ, the results of which are set out on the next page as part of an enthusiastic report on his unexpected encounter with the railway at Cockley Brake, to the south of Farthinghoe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Annual Parish Meeting at the Church Hall. 7.30 pm on Thursday 5th April

March 30th, 2018

Sulgrave Neighbourhood Watch

March 20th, 2018

March on the Farm

March 17th, 2018

Richard Fonge writes:

March has come in more like a lion, so let us hope it goes out like a lamb with some true spring weather. Lambs are now being seen in the fields up the gated road and of course they have been born to the ewes we have been following since conception last October in the field on the footpath to Stuchbury. All the ewes are marked with a number to correspond with their lambs,making it easier to match up if they get separated or there is a tragedy.It is so important that we all keep to the Countryside Code and keep our dogs on their leads when walking the footpaths where stock are present. Signs are there for a reason and the landowners wishes should be respected.

This is turning out to be a late spring,with the early March snow followed by a period of wet. This means that there is a delay in the sowing of Spring crops and the winter crops that now require some nitrogen to stimulate growth,especially the Oilseed Rape which is beginning to suffer as the ground is too wet for tractors to get on the land.

All crops need the right nutrients to produce to their optimum. Phosphate and potash for root and general development and nitrogen for growth. These are all applied under the recommendation of an agronomist employed by the individual Farmer and after regular monitoring of the soil, through testing. An interesting development since the demise of heavy industry and therefore cleaner air is that there is a lack of Sulphur for our plants,and this is now applied where necessary in an artificial way. Roses for example need spraying for black spot more frequently than they did when there was a more polluted atmosphere.

It looks therefore that there will be more to report on in April, but one thing is certain,nature invariably balances things out.

Richard Fonge.

Closure of Weston Road for repair works on Monday 12th March

March 10th, 2018

“Northamptonshire Highways” has informed the Parish Council that the Weston Road will be closed between 9.15 am and 3.30 pm on Monday 12th March so that “Category 2” repair works can be undertaken. The road will be closed between Points A and B on the map shown below:

Whilst Northamptonshire County Council remains the local highway authority, works such as those in Weston Road are undertaken on behalf of the Council by the private company KierWSP, known for this purpose as “Northamptonshire Highways” whose commitment is “to provide high quality, sustainable transport and highway services to the people of Northamptonshire”. On behalf of the Parish Council the Company was asked to explain 1) the nature of “Category 2” repairs and 2) whether the repairs would be in a specific location or whether an attempt was to be made to deal with the worst of the potholes (clearly a near impossible task in the time available). At the time of writing no reply had been received.

More photographs and a little of the history of the road can be seen in “read the rest of this entry”. Read the rest of this entry »

Sad Demise of the County Council Mobile Library Service

March 8th, 2018

The Parish Council has received the following information from the Northamptonshire County Council:



Village Shop Newsletter – March 2018

March 4th, 2018

Saturday 3rd March. Essential supplies reach the shop despite the snow.

See here for March Newsletter and note Easter opening hours.

February on the Farm

February 23rd, 2018

Richard Fonge writes:

February the years shortest month, with the first signs of Spring in the offing. February the 2nd is Candelmas a Christian festival and the winter Equinox. That is halfway between the shortest day and the Spring Equinox. There is a very good old country saying, that a good farmer has half his hay to feed his stock on Candelmas day. If we have a late spring, stock can still need supplementary feed till the end of April.

The sheep we saw with the rams in October will be having their lambs at the end of the month at their farm in Greatworth before returning to the same pasture and the mustard up on the field at Barrow Hill, has now died back and will soon be incorporated into the soil.

So much depends on the weather and ground conditions as to when a farmer can get onto the land to start sowing his crops and fertilising, spraying etc at this time of year.

So before we see tractors at work, around the village or stock back again in the pastures, it is worth mentioning the strict production criteria that quite rightly all farmers have to comply with. All farms have to keep a record of all field operations and management decisions relating to each individual field and a movement and medicine record of their animals. If producing for a supermarket, there will be additional compliances to comply with.

The pasture field at the bottom of the bridle way which adjoins the old railway line has slits in the turf at regular intervals. The field has been sub-soiled, that is a means of breaking a pan up by passing a thick tine through the soil at a depth of 15 to 18 inches normally. This helps in drainage and lifts and aerates the soil, so improving the grass.

A comparison to look out for is the different methods of sowing. On the footpath to Stuchbury and as you go to Barrow Hill, these crops have been sown directly into the soil, whereas those up the concrete road have been sown after some cultivation. The other observational point to notice is the straightness of the rows of corn. Whilst the operators of farm machinery are highly skilled, their tractors are today guided by G.P.S., so making a straight line simpler.

Looking forward to spring and the new life it brings.

Richard Fonge

Winter Bird Report by John Sheppard

February 19th, 2018

Hawfinches by John Sheppard

This is the first of the year’s quarterly reports by former villager John Sheppard (see previous post).

John writes:

This is a difficult time for birds and wildlife in general. The potentially cold weather combined with diminishing supplies of food put many species under pressure. I’m sure many of you will have noticed an increase in the numbers of birds at your feeders during this time. You may also have noticed a few new species showing up.

More details and photographs in “read the rest of this entry”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Local Bus Services Under Threat

February 8th, 2018

Click on picture to see the original version

South Northamptonshire villagers without access to private transport fear that they will be left high and dry if the County Council withdraws support for local bus services. The Council’s budget proposals for 2018/19 include “a council tax increase of 5.98%, including a 3% adult social care precept, and cuts totalling £2,748,000 for bus subsidies, trading standards, winter maintenance and library services.” The Council’s Chief Finance Officer warns that “members of the county council should be in no doubt that the council faces a financial situation that is grave and which thus places strict limits on the choices available to the county council”.  The budget will be discussed by the council cabinet on 13 February. In the meantime, the County Council has brought in a so-called section 114 notice preventing all new expenditure. Concerned villagers should write to their County Councillors before 13th February. More details in “read the rest of this entry”, including a protest letter from a Culworth parishioner to the Culworth Parish Council which sums up the situation.

Read the rest of this entry »