Parish Council – June 2020 Meeting

Nether_Heyford_Parish_Council_2019

Due to government regulations prohibiting public meetings the June 1st, 2020 Parish Council meeting was held online, using the Zoom platform. This is in line with national advice and is the first interruption in public meetings in the history of this parish. At this time there is no indication of how long these conditions will persist, but it is almost certain that the next meeting will also take place online on July 6th. Realistically, it would seem unlikely that any public meetings will be held before September. The August Meeting is usually restricted to Planning and Finance. Parishioners wanting to participate in the Public Session should check the Agenda on the Public notice boards, or the Website, for the meeting ID on Zoom.

Due to difficulties experienced by Councillors unused to using the internet, a reduced number of Councillors attended the online meeting, but a quorum was achieved and was supplemented by the District and County Councillors and one Member of the Public.

The Parish Council are very grateful for the work of all the volunteers during this emergency and are proud of the community spirit that it has engendered.

Reports from the District and County Councillors. Cllr Adam Brown reported that the first meeting of the West Northants Shadow Authority would shortly take place on Zoom, with potentially 130 Councillors. This will also be on Youtube. The first meeting of the Shadow cabinet would be on June 9th, as part of the process moving towards the full authority on April 1st, 2021. NCC are expressing concern about the unexpected additional costs of the Unitaries.

Country parks and waste centres are re-opening.

Cllr Phil Bignell reported that SNC were not looking to re-open the Forum for the time- being and could not see normality returning this year.

Reports.

PCSO – reported concerns about groups of people of all ages not maintaining social distancing on the Green.

Lights – Quotes had now been received from Sparkx and Balfour Beatty, and one was expected from Aylesbury Mains. The next stage would be to apply for funding.

Roads and pavements – In poor condition, many repairs needed. Hedge near the canal bridge on Furnace Lane was overgrown. Resident to be contacted. Holes had appeared in the grass around the bungalows in Hillside Rd.

The Green and Play Area – Grass in good condition. Play area not able to be reopened as yet. Play Area had been inspected. There were no items in need of  immediate attention, but a number to monitor.

Playing Fields – In good order. Tennis courts being re-surfaced.

Trees – Some wind damage in churchyard and cemetery.

Allotments – Waiting list of 3, allotments felt to be in good order.

Footpaths – Church Lane to river had been reported as in poor/dangerous condition, but Councillors had walked it and found it in reasonable and passable condition. A tree had been felled blocking the permissive footpath from the canal to Weedon Rd.

Youth Club will remain closed until at least September. Trees had been cut down adjacent to the Youth Club.

Planning – An application for land behind Denbrook was proving controversial and a report had been put in to the Planning Dept at SNC.

Reports on effect of Covid 19 emergency – No additional report, situation much the same as last month. Although restrictions starting to be lifted, but online meetings likely to be the norm for the time-being. Large table could be removed to Youth Club to discourage gatherings.

Internal Auditor report and External Audit. The internal Auditor’s report was positive, and made some minor points that the clerk would endeavour to follow up. Council accepted the report, and agreed the annual general report for submission to the External Auditors.

Reporting Highway and Footpath Issues. The Clerk will report issues that Council is made aware of, but Council would encourage residents to use the FixMyStreet service to report issues themselves as there will then be no time lag and first-hand reports are almost always better than 2nd or 3rd hand reports. The service can be found here: www.fixmystreet.com  It is easy to use; you can have your own account and can check up on any issues you have reported.

Parish Council meetings in 2020 will continue to be on the first Monday of each month, (unless a Bank Holiday) and start at 19:30. The next one is on July 6th.

NetherHeyfordParishCouncilMay2020_List

Clerk to the Parish Council: Guy Ravine, c/o Old Dairy Farm, Upper Stowe, Weedon, Northamptonshire, NN7 4SH
Telephone: 07935 931787
Email: netherheyfordparishcouncil@gmail.com

For further useful information about Nether Heyford Parish Council and full contact details for the clerk and the Councillors please visit:

Nether Heyford Parish Council Website 

Revitalising the Allotments – July & August 2020

Revitalising the allotments

Sharing

I was pleased to report, in last month’s edition of the Prattler, that allotment holders had been generously sharing their surplus plants with other allotment holders. That has continued throughout June with more and more excess being offered. What a generous group of people we have in our growing community. I am sure that when excess produce is forthcoming later in the season, there will be fruit and veg to hand out too. I won’t even attempt to guess how many oversized courgette’s are likely to appear! An old wheelbarrow now sits proudly in the picnic area and hopefully by the time this article goes to print, there will be a sign attached directing you to place all surplus items there.

It has been encouraging to see more and more villagers making use of the picnic area. It is a tranquil place to sit and while away some time.

We are also encouraging people to visit our community flower patch (clearly signposted) and, if they so wish, help themselves to some cut flowers. Cutting carefully should enable everyone to have a bunch – so bring a pair of scissors or secateurs. Sweet peas benefit especially from regular cutting and will continue to flower all season if that happens. Later in the year we are hopeful that we may have sufficient soft fruit to offer to you as well. Just keep an eye on the notice boards at the entrances to the allotments and on the large shed in the middle of the site.

A spare watering can be found by the sweet pea wigwam, so if you are cutting flowers you might also give the plants in that area a drink. Every little helps.

Links to the past

We were very pleased to accept a donation of old tools from two allotment holders who found them at the back of their parents’ garden shed. They’d once rented an allotment in the village and it was wonderful to think that the tools were “coming home” and again being put to use. If you are a new allotmenteer or just want to make use of some unusual hoes and hand cultivators, let us know. They are stored in the community shed and available to borrow.

If you too have any unwanted garden tools let us know; someone can probably
make good use of them.

Wildlife

One of the joys of working on the allotments is the amount of wildlife you see. Even if we do seem to spend a lot of time and effort protecting crops from greedy pigeons and butterflies anxious to lay their eggs on our tasty greens, the benefits from creating a rich and diverse eco-system far outweigh any small loss of produce. It has been wonderful to see more and more people visiting the allotment wildlife area, created and curated by Dave and Pauline Musson and Mark and Mary Newstead.

An indication of the richness of our eco-system has been the presence of more frogs, toads and hedgehogs on the allotment. They are beneficial visitors to allotments and gardens, hoovering up large quantities of slugs and snails. A note of caution however: try to avoid using larger gauge netting to protect crops as it can snag and trap hedgehogs. One conscientious allotment holder recently spent an hour disentangling one of our prickly friends from a piece of netting before taking him off to the vet! I am pleased to report that the hedgehog made a full recovery and when set free, limped off across the allotment site to find more slimy treats for dinner.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

I believe in the life enhancing virtues of
pure earth, clean air and blue sky.
Octavia Hill – founder of the National Trust

Revitalising the Allotments – June 2020

Revitalising the allotments

Having spent over forty years teaching, I grew very accustomed to the sound of little people’s voices and since retirement I have missed that more than I realised. The situation has been compounded by the fact that we can’t even hear the cheerful sounds that emanated from village school at playtimes.

So, what has all that got to do with allotments you might be asking?

Well, I am pleased to say that another benefit of having virtually every plot on the allotments occupied is that we have many more young families joining us and they bring children with them. It is refreshing to hear and see them enjoying the outdoors, learning about growing things and appreciating and respecting the hard work of others. With a little guidance it is amazing how quickly children learn where not to tread! A particularly special thank you must go to the young people who have assisted on the community plot, whether that is simply deadheading bulbs that have “gone over” or more strenuous tasks such as digging, watering and moving soil and compost.

The current lockdown meant that a project about growing and sustainability, that we were setting up with the village school, had to be postponed. However, the allotments and the school are not going away and we are hopeful that when the climate is right, the project can recommence. If Coronavirus has taught us anything it is the importance of valuing the natural world and the provenance of food (and so much else we’ve taken for granted). There is so much to look forward to.

Where did that come from?

All that fine weather in April and early May really did convince a lot of people that it was safe to put out tender plants. What a mistake. Nature is nothing if not fickle and I am sure that by the middle of May a lot of allotmenteers were suddenly donning warm coats and saying “Where did that come from?” Beans, potatoes and young sweet corn plants were scorched by late frost. Some plants will recover, but where they won’t I suppose we always have the reopened garden centres. Gardeners learn from experience and dead plants teach us a valuable lesson.

The Community Orchard

Fortunately, the fruit on most of the trees in the orchard had set by the time the cold snap arrived so we are hopeful that this will not have been affected by our inclement weather. Cherry trees have been netted against marauding birds – although we’ll perhaps remove the covers once most of the fruit has been picked, just to give them a little something to snack on.

A big thank you must go to the volunteers who not only keep the grass in the orchard under control, but those who water and weed around the trees.

Sharing

We have a large table in the middle of the community area that has been used to display any plants that people have spare and are quite happy to share. A big thank you to the good souls who have recently left young lettuce, strawberry plants, assorted brassicas and seed potatoes. Where possible we will advertise what is on offer by posting a notice on the blackboard by the shed and on the notice boards at the allotment entrances. Do feel free to add more spare items as well as avail yourself of plants that others have left.

If our amazing growing experiences this season result in an excess of produce and you have nowhere or no one to give it to, do make use of the sharing table. It is good to share and allotmenteers are generally a generous lot.

Pathways

A big thank you to all the allotment holders who are able to keep their pathways mown and tidy and special thank you to Bill Corner for the conscientious way that he strims all those other areas that need attention. It really has been a feature that has changed the allotments so dramatically. Some pathways have, over the years, become increasingly narrow, which means that getting a mower along them is impossible – hence the need for a strimmer. Plot holders can, in a small way assist Bill by trying to ensure that any row markers or cloches are not set right against the path edge, thereby making it easier to strim and avoiding accidental damage to their equipment. If paths could be reinstated to their original width that would be even better, but I think that is an issue for the future and we are not even going there yet!

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”
Audrey Hepburn

Parish Council – May 2020 Meeting

Nether_Heyford_Parish_Council_2019

Due to government regulations prohibiting public meetings the May 4th, 2020 Parish Council meeting was held online, using the Zoom platform. This is in line with national advice and is the first interruption in public meetings in the history of this parish. At this time there is no indication of how long these conditions will persist, but it is almost certain that the next meeting, will also take place online on June 1st. Parishioners wanting to participate in the Public Session should check the Agenda on the Public notice boards or the Website for the meeting ID on Zoom.

Due to difficulties experienced by Councillors unused to using the internet, a reduced number of Councillors attended the online meeting, but a quorum was achieved and was supplemented by the District and County Councillors and one Member of the Public.

The May meeting is the Annual Meeting of the Council at which the Chair is elected, and councillors’ responsibilities apportioned.

Election of Chairman & Declaration of Acceptance of Office. Charles Kiloh elected as chair.

Election of Vice Chairman and Acceptance of office Lesley Dilkes elected as vice – chair.

NetherHeyfordParishCouncilMay2020

Public Question Time Jez Wilson reported on volunteer activities during the emergency, and wondered whether councillors were happy with the website. Councillors thanked him for his efforts with food parcels etc during the last months.

Cllr Adam Brown reported that NCC were looking to re-open tips. He reported a tremendous response to the coronavirus all round, but 200 plus deaths. There had been a severe impact on NCC Finances that they would look to central government for help. On Local Government Reorganisation the first meetings of the Shadow authorities were due to take place. Highway repairs were still being carried out.

Cllr Dave Harries reported that SNC finances had been in good order; but that the Emergency had severely affected all Council incomes and felt central government would have to plug these revenue holes. He expressed concern for Councils who were less well placed.

Cllr Phil Bignell reported that the first virtual Planning meetings had taken place, and re-iterated that no site visits could take place. He encouraged applicants to send photographs with applications.

Annual Parish Meeting. There had been no Annual Parish Meeting due to the Covid 19 Emergency and the meeting was postponed until the situation improved.

Reports. Lights AW reported that it was hoped that quotes from Aylesbury Mains and Balfour Beatty would be forthcoming. AW had consulted the latter regarding “Smart Management” but it was not felt that this would be cost effective in such a small lighting system. NHB scheme had been reopened. DH cautioned that the wording on an application would need to be carefully considered.

Roads and pavements. It was noted that repairs were still being carried out, but that some areas such as Hillside Road were in very poor condition and were not being attended to.

The Green and Play Area Inspection due. The Play Area was still locked up, but it was felt that the inspection should go ahead. CK continued to do weekly inspections.

Allotments Allotments were felt to be in the best condition for years. There were no empty plots now. LE commended DM for work on the wildlife area.

Footpaths Felt to be in reasonable condition; apart from the section between Church lane and the river footbridge which had subsided and was felt to be dangerous.

Churchyard Tree work has had to be paused.

Joint Burial Board There had been complaints about the grass and foliage in the cemetery. CK would check this.

Covid 19 Emergency reports Leaflets had been delivered. It was reported that food parcel distribution was proceeding well and now included Upper Heyford. Medications from Bugbrooke surgery were now routinely delivered. It was felt that village volunteers were on top of the situation. Councillors thanked Jez Wilson and Faye Brassett for their efforts.

Internal and External Audit Clerk reported that the AGAR forms had been received from the External Auditor PKF late because of the Emergency, and that the Internal Audit would take place remotely. It was hoped to keep within the standard timeframe, although deadlines had been relaxed.

Further Grant Funding for Church Roof In light of NCALC advice, the Chair felt that further contributions should not be made; as Council had been advised that it was unclear whether such donations could, or should, be made to a religious organisation. Council were, however, obliged to take responsibility for the Churchyard, and there was a power enabling them to pay for the upkeep of the church Clock.

Reporting Highway and Footpath Issues. The Clerk will report issues that Council is made aware of, but Council would encourage residents to use the FixMyStreet service to report issues themselves as there will then be no time lag and first-hand reports are almost always better than 2nd or 3rd hand reports. The service can be found here: www.fixmystreet.com  It is easy to use; you can have your own account and can check up on any issues you have reported.

Parish Council meetings in 2020 will continue to be on the first Monday of each month, (unless a Bank Holiday) and start at 19:30. The next one is on June 1st.

NetherHeyfordParishCouncilMay2020_List

Clerk to the Parish Council: Guy Ravine, c/o Old Dairy Farm, Upper Stowe, Weedon, Northamptonshire, NN7 4SH
Telephone: 07935 931787
Email: netherheyfordparishcouncil@gmail.com

For further useful information about Nether Heyford Parish Council and full contact details for the clerk and the Councillors please visit:

Nether Heyford Parish Council Website 

Revitalising the Allotments – May 2020

I promised, in my last article that this would be a Covid 19 free area and I intend to stick to that, although I suspect that increased activity on the allotments may have just a little something to do with “that which will not be named”.

Bloomin’ Lovely
The allotments have never looked better. If you have had a chance to wander past the site on Watery Lane as part of your daily walk/exercise you can’t have avoided seeing so many well tended plots. If you have not ventured that way, then do so, it looks a treat and is testament to all those people who have worked so hard to make it happen.

The fact that so many people have more time on their hands is I suppose a factor, but I’ll skip over that. I would like to think that this has more to do with the good people of Heyford and nearby locations realising that growing your own fruit and veg is good for you and the planet.

Trees are in bloom, the ground has been tilled and sown with seed, the grass has been mown and things are starting to grow. Even more sheds are springing up from the earth!

And bird song, particularly on the calm sunlit evenings with which we have been blessed, has never sounded so loud and life affirming. It is a tonic and puts a spring in your step.

The Community Orchard
All the trees we planted just eighteen months ago have survived the winter and are flourishing. If the blossom on the trees and the number of foraging insects that we have seen is anything to go by, then the chances of trees producing some good fruit this year are high.

A big thank you must go to the volunteers who not only keep the grass in the orchard under control, but those who water and weed around the trees.

The pruning of the cherries and plums will take place in May – a little later than the apples and pears, so as to avoid a fungal disease called Silver Leaf.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
We are now in the unusual position of having almost no vacant plots available. A group of us joked a year or so ago that one of our targets should be to arrive at point where we had to create a waiting list for an allotment. Fanciful we thought, impossible, some cautioned. Well, we are almost there. As I write this article (16th April) we have just half a plot available for rent. The waiting list could become a reality. If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
— Margaret Atwood

Revitalising the Allotments – April 2020

Pests and Diseases
I promise you this will not be another opportunity to go on about Coronavirus. We’ve had too much of that recently. This is a Covid 19 free area!

Pests and diseases trouble plants just as they trouble us humans. How we tackle them is a moot point and one that has divided gardeners for many years.

Since before Roman times gardeners have used all manner of concoctions to wage war against pests and diseases in plants. We have become increasingly inventive and clever devising what appears to be foolproof remedies. However, our cleverness does not necessarily mean we’ve been equally wise; for these efficacious products can have the most devastating effect on not just the baddies that ravage our crops, but also the many beneficial insects and animals that inhabit our countryside (and more specifically our allotments and gardens).

DDT was once hailed as the wonder chemical that would solve all our horticultural and agricultural problems until it was discovered to be slowly accumulating in the stomachs of a host of creatures, including humans, and doing untold damage. That was almost fifty years ago and yet even now big agro-chemical companies (and a host of retail outlets) develop and promote a range of pesticides and herbicides that have the potential of cause untold damage to the environment. Since the millennium, there has been a massive decline in the butterfly, beetle and bee population in Europe and the UK leading to the extinction of some species. Much of that can be laid at the door of these products. Sadly, the story is replicated across the whole world. The disappearance of these vital links in the chain of life means that pollination is threatened. No pollination, no food!

There is however some good to emerge from this. We are seeing herbicides and pesticides being used by fewer gardeners and allotmenteers as they discover more environmentally sustainable ways of controlling pests and diseases. Consumer pressure has led to this year seeing a ban on all slug pellets containing the highly toxic chemical metaldehyde. Fear not gardeners, an equally effective organic pellet using ferric phosphate will be available as a replacement.

Many alternative remedies are cheaper and have the added benefit of enhancing what and how we grow. Stop the pests from getting to your crops in the first place by using a barrier and growing sturdier plants. You might ask how that is done and of course you’ll probably guess, from previous articles, that the answer lies in homemade compost. This will develop good, fertile soil. Look after your soil and it will look after your plant

Getting Ready to Grow
The recent advice to avoid social gatherings does not mean you can’t go to the allotment and begin sowing and planting. What better way to take exercise and yet still maintain social distancing. A friendly wave from a neighbouring plot is breaking no rule.

It has been so heartening to see so many villagers at work.

The Community Orchard, Jam Patch and Cut Flower Beds
Work continues in these areas and we’ve had some tremendous help from villagers on our volunteer days held on Saturdays in March. The information signs we reported on in our last two articles are now in place and look very impressive. Hopefully they’ll also be of use for people finding their way around the allotments. A big thank you goes to Tom Dodd for his design work, to the volunteers who erected them and to Ed Smith from the Telegraph Hill Shoot in Daventry who provided the posts.

We would be very grateful if any gardeners who still have spare perennials or shrubs could donate those for our cutting garden. This will ultimately become a free resource for the village. How much nicer to be able to pick locally grown flowers than buy them at extortionate prices from the filling station forecourt.

Our first crop of rhubarb is coming to fruition and visitors to the jam patch are welcome to pick some for themselves.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
As always, if you are considering growing your own fruit and veg and you want to try a small tester plot, or something larger, here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

For England is not flag or Empire, it is not money and it is not blood.
It’s limestone gorge and granite fell, it’s Wealden clay and Severn mud,
It’s blackbird singing from the May tree, lark ascending through the scales,
Robin watching from your spade and English earth beneath your nails.

Revitalising the Allotments – March 2020

Weather
I started last month’s article talking about the weather and, yet again, I think I’d better make mention of that much-loved topic. This time it is the wind. The roofs on allotment sheds seem to have stayed in place, a testament to sound construction by their owners. I am afraid the same can’t be said for all manner of other allotment paraphernalia. I have never seen so many runaway compost bins, cloches and cold frames. I even spotted one item lodged up against the tennis courts. Where possible, anchor things down and hope for the best.

Getting Ready to Grow
Although the ground is soggy, it is amazing how quickly the soil on the allotments drains (and the same seems to be true for the Playing Fields as well). Those hardy souls who have begun preparing ground for the earliest of crops like shallot and onion sets and a first sowing of parsnip seed, will have been surprised at how well the ground turns over.

Now is also a good time to dig out perennial weeds, particularly couch grass. It really takes hold later in the year by spreading a clinging net just below the surface and clings on for dear life. Wise gardeners dig it out and try to ensure they leave not a scrap of root behind, for it regenerates with a vengeance from just the tiniest of root segment. Rotavating the soil when couch (or any other perennial weed) is present in the soil will result in an even more dense net of weed later in the year. The ground might look good when you finish your rotavating, but beware of what lurks beneath the surface.

There is still time to prune bushes and trees, but as mentioned last month, plums, cherries and other stone fruit should not be touched until April as they are susceptible to a fungal disease called “silver leaf” if cut during the winter.

The Community Orchard, Jam Patch and Cut Flower Beds
Our pruning of the apples and pears in the Community Orchard is now complete and, after a general health check on all the trees, we can report that all are doing well.

Signs, indicating where the community areas are situated, have now been printed onto special weatherproof aluminium sheeting and they will be erected in the next few weeks. We have clearly identified the orchard, the jam patch, the cut flower borders and the wildlife corner, as well as the community seating area. We hope that will enable you to find your way around the allotments and make good use of the space, particularly once the weather warms up.

Allotment Volunteer Days
Throughout March we will be holding a series of volunteer days. We invite allotmenteers and anyone in the village who’d like to help, to join us on Saturday mornings, from 10.00. until 12.00. to finish clearing the few remaining derelict plots, tidying up the paths, covering vacant plots with plastic sheeting and weeding around the fruit trees/bushes and painting the tables and chairs in the community area. Every little bit of help is valued and enables us to continue to make the allotment an important part of the village.

Equipment
A range of equipment is now available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact either Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124) or Mike Langrish (langrish_heyford@hotmail.com  01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
As always, if you are considering growing your own fruit and veg and you want to try a small tester plot, or something larger, here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

“And there will come a time of great plenty,
A time of good harvest and sun.
Till then put your trust in tomorrow, my friend,
For yesterday’s over and done.”

John Tams

Mike Langrish

Revitalising the Allotments – February 2020

Weather

It’s soggy on the allotments at the moment and too cold to do much sowing of seed, although bare root fruit bushes and trees can be planted, as long as there is no frost in the ground. It is also the perfect time to prune bushes and trees but plums, cherries and other stone fruit should not be touched until April as they are susceptible to a fungal disease called “silver leaf” if cut during the winter.

If you grow rhubarb you can also cover a few crowns with an old bucket. This will force the rhubarb to seek light and in a month or so you should have beautifully pale but succulent fruit to pick.

If that doesn’t give the allotmenteer or fruit and veg gardener enough to do, these early months of the year are a good time to do structural work such as building compost bins or raised beds.

The Community Orchard, Jam Patch and Cut Flower Beds

These community areas go from strength to strength, although the prospect of carrying out our first major prune is a little daunting. The trees have grown well but if we want them to thrive and take on the attractive shape that marks out a really productive tree, they need some fundamental cutting back. If it looks as though someone has given our young trees a serious haircut, it is all for their good. It means that we should all have more succulent fruit to pick in the years to come.

Several volunteers have recently brushed up their pruning skill by attending fruit tree pruning courses at Waterperry Gardens and with Andy Howard, from the Heritage Fruit Tree Company.

The Jam Patch is looking good and there are now three rows of raspberries, two beds of strawberries and a good range of currant and gooseberry bushes. Once they begin to fruit later this year we will let you know so that you can come and “pick your own”. Depending on how well things progress with the cut-flower beds we are also hopeful that villagers will be able to pick some flowers for themselves. Issues surrounding imported flowers, their carbon footprint and bio-security have led many people to consider the virtues of homegrown flowers.

If, when sorting our their gardens this Spring, any villagers find they have surplus plants, tubers or bulbs, we would be most grateful if they could consider us before disposing of them. Please contact one of the numbers below.

Signs

Further information about what is available and where to find things will be signposted in the next few months. We will be installing a number of attractive notice boards around the allotment making it clear what is a community resource and what is privately owned. Goodwill and respect will be important if our venture is to succeed.

Help

We have a small band of volunteers working on the community aspect of the allotments but are keen to enlist as many additional helpers as possible. This can involve heavier, more labour intensive activities such as digging and clearing, or lighter, low level work such as removing the weeds from around the fruit trees. As an example, if everyone visiting the allotment were able to pull up a dozen shallow rooted weeds from the bark chippings surrounding each tree, it would save a small group of people many hours of work.

A noticeboard outlining the range of different jobs to be done will be attached to the shed situated in the middle of the allotment site. We would like the community aspect of the allotment to be as inclusive as possible and although some people are able to give more time than others, it is, as a certain supermarket says, a case of “every little helps”.

Equipment

A range of equipment is now available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site, this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact either Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124) or Mike Langrish 01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Although it could not be described as “equipment”, we also have a large pile of good quality topsoil available for allotmenteers to use on raised beds or for topping up existing areas of their allotment. This can be found in one corner of the orchard – you can’t miss it at the moment as it is many barrow loads tall! Please help yourself.

Allotment Holders

As always, if you are considering growing your own fruit and veg and you want to try a small tester plot, or something larger, here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

As the soils warms up and the evenings get lighter, now is the time to give it a go – and it is cheaper than the gym! They’d love to hear from you.

Mike Langrish

Revitalising the Allotments – October 2019

About two years ago we began to despair that the main allotment site in Nether Heyford was going to rack and ruin. Those conscientious souls who kept their plots in good order were often fighting a losing a battle, as weeds from abandoned plots encroached onto their veggie beds. Trying to find a way through the site involved hacking your way through a jungle of tall grass and vicious brambles and at the same time trying to negotiate your way round abandoned car tyres, scrap metal and various wooden obstacles. The allotments, taken as a whole, looked a mess.

Fast forward to the present and what a change has occurred. Thanks to the support of the Parish Council, a group of volunteers have been able to make the allotments not only look good but once more become productive – in so many ways.

A section on the site that had long been abandoned was cleared and, with generous support from local businesses, organisations and individual residents, over thirty heritage fruit trees were purchased and planted. As we approach the first anniversary of that planting, I am pleased to report that they are thriving and have put on a considerable amount of new growth. In the next few years we look forward to harvesting our first crop and inviting you to share in this bounty.

Maintaining good pathways around the allotment site had always been a problem. Several allotment holders went above and beyond their remit of keeping their own area in order and often mowed whole sections near to their allotment. But that became the exception, not the rule. Over the past two years that has changed and thanks to volunteers and more individual allotment holders, the pathways are in good order. No longer do you hazard life and limb when you enter the allotments.

Following on from the success of the community orchard, a “community jam patch” has been created, again using several abandoned plots and utilising fruit bushes that have been rescued in the clearance work. We try to ensure that nothing goes to waste. Plans are afoot to extend this by including a “community cutting garden”, made up of annual and perennial flowers.

Another, long abandoned area of the allotments, has been turned over to a “wild area”. This is not an excuse to simply abandon land but is a carefully managed space that includes a wild flower area, nesting boxes for birds and smaller mammals as well as areas for tall grasses to flourish and a host of butterflies, beetles and other mini-beasts to thrive. Pathways have been mown through the area for safe access and a clearly defined perimeter rope has been fixed to posts to show where the area starts and finishes. As this is an area of sensitive growth and development the wildlife volunteers would ask that anyone seeking to visit first contacts one of them to arrange a convenient time. The next development for this area will be the creation of a wildlife pond.

Having a place to sit and eat lunch after a hard session on the allotment or for just taking the opportunity to sit and admire the orchard and the surrounding allotments, requires a community seating area. Again, thanks to the generosity of villagers and fellow allotmenteers we have been able to create a green space with tables and chairs. It was a joy to be able to gather here several weeks ago and share a drink as well as BBQ some food. As the sun went down it was good to reflect on what a lovely village we live in.

For those intrepid, long standing allotmenteers who have cultivated their plots over the years, despite the sea of weeds and the piles of junk, a big thank you. If you hadn’t battled on regardless then the allotments could have been in real jeopardy.

Finally, and probably most importantly of all, it is wonderful to report that more and more allotments are being cultivated. Ever since I began reporting on the refurbishment of the allotments I have always included an invitation to everyone out there to take on an allotment. I think it is beginning to pay off. Once abandoned land is now being put to good use by villagers and from folk in the surrounding area. It is so heartening to see this change in fortune, and whilst we’d never want to deny anyone an allotment, wouldn’t it be an achievement to say that we had a waiting list!

So here we go again…If you are interested in trying out an allotment (you can have a small “taster plot” free for one year – or you can plunge straight in and select a more permanent plot that suits you) then contact either Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Come and join us.

Mike Langrish

Revitalising the Allotments – July 2019

Tasty
I know it sounds a bit ‘holier than thou’, but gardeners and allotmenteers will all agree there is nothing quite like picking and eating something you have just grown. Some would also add that taking an item of fruit or veg from the freezer in the middle of winter and reflecting on the fact that it was grown on your patch of land during the warmth of summer is even more satisfying. There aren’t too many food miles (or nasty chemicals) involved in that and as for taste, nothing compares.

Caring for what we have
Bearing that in mind, we on the allotments are aware that our little patches of borrowed land are not hidden behind high wire fences or locked gates. Indeed we have actively encouraged the community to join us and to eventually share in the fruits of our labour on the community jam patch and in the community orchard.

However, the produce from the individual plots that fellow allotmenteers have nurtured remains the fruit of their labour and we would ask everyone in the village help us ensure that applies. If you see someone on the allotments who looks as though they should not be there, or is using it for purposes for which it was not designed, either report the incident to someone from the Parish Council or Allotment Working Group or, if you are feeling confident enough simply ask them what they are doing. As with Neighbourhood Watch we can all do our bit to help eliminate vandalism and theft if we work together.

Community Orchard
The trees continue to grow on well and the recent rain has been a blessing, even if it has meant more work cutting the grass. We are keen to add some signage to the allotments, particularly the community areas and, following on from the previous section, we hope that will help steer villagers towards the shared areas that we can all enjoy. Watch this space for more updates.

Thank You
A special vote of thanks goes to those good people who continue to mow the pathways and open spaces on the allotment. Your hard work really is paying off and makes the place not only look good but also a joy to work on.

Tester Plots and Renting and Allotment
If you are interested in trying out allotmenteering contact either Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We can offer a range of allotment sizes, to suit every need. Help is also on hand to offer advice and encouragement.

Food For Thought 
‘I was just sittin’ here enjoyin’ the company. Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listen.’
From Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne.

Mike Langrish