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.

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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 

Crafty Club – May 2020

As these are unprecedented times I thought I would reminisce about the Crafty Club.

In 2001 I had to retire from my full-time job due to a family crisis.  Then in around 2005  due to a chance meeting in the village, the Crafty Club was “born”.

I met two ladies (Tracey & Jude) in the village who were, at the time, attending a sewing class that was not all they expected.  From this simple conversation came the idea of opening our own craft club – but where?

Tracey, who worked in the local hairdressers, suggested asking her boss if we could use the premises on a Monday afternoon for this club, and so we had a venue.  At the time, (somehow) we managed to find six other ladies who were interested in joining our newly formed club.

Tracey, Jude and myself decided we would start at the beginning of 2006.  Then again, fate seemed to intervene as I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of 2006 so I missed the first few meetings.

Following on my surgery, and feeling 100% better I joined the ladies on a Monday in the local Hairdressers. Thinking back and remembering the nine of us sitting in a circle with each person bringing our “crafts”, brings a smile to my face.

Sometime later other crafters were asking about our club, and it soon became obvious we would need larger premises. That said, the group was too big for the hairdressers, but not big enough to fund bigger premises at a large cost.

One member of the group suggested approaching the Baptist Chapel with a view to using their “meeting” room and so enquiries were made to see (1) if it was available on a Monday between 12.30 and 14.30 and (2) how much it would cost.  Both questions were answered favourably, and so the Crafty Club was officially opened to anyone and everyone.

The three photos are of some of the original members busy in the Baptist Rooms.  Unfortunately three of them are sadly no longer with us – maybe you remember them

Some original members

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Photograph 1 – Mrs Wright, Mrs Wright’s daughter, Mrs Mattacola & Sue Madeley 

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Photograph 2 – Rachel Dunkley, Mrs Wright’s daughter, Mrs Wright & Mrs Mattacola

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Photograph 3 – Joan Eales, Olive Peck, Pam Green & Elaine Oldroyd.

[Mrs Wright, Mrs Mattacola and Olive Pack have since passed away]

From the start of the club having nine members, we have grown over the years and now have between 25 – 30 people on the list with an average of 20 attending on a regular basis.  Over the years we have unfortunately lost quite a few of our members as well as several moving away from the area.

The first Christmas the club arranged a Christmas meal at the Narrow Boat, which seemed to be well liked.  Following on from this the small “committee” decided that we could just as easily cook a Christmas dinner, with portions to suit all and so between 2011 and 2013 this was arranged in the Village Hall.

The party involved singing including carols, plus various poems/antidotes, with a “Secret Santa” present.   Between 2014 – 2016 we returned to the Baptist Rooms for our Christmas meal, as it was felt to be much more “cosy”.

From 2017 the club moved to the Village Hall, as the Baptist Rooms were proving too small with the ever-increasing membership.

Christmas 2017 it was decided to have a Buffet which was pre-ordered from M&S, and this proved very popular especially as there were little or no plates etc to wash!

During the last two years we have added some really “challenging” – although amusing games to the party which appears to have been a big hit with all the ladies.

Christmas 2016 the club decided to hold a Christmas Fayre in the Baptist rooms, with the ladies showing and selling some of their fine handicrafts.

One of the tables from this Craft Fayre

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With this success in mind it was decided from 2017 to date to hold an annual Christmas Fayre in conjunction with the W.I. who provided the refreshments and helped with a cake stall etc.

At the Christmas 2019 Christmas Fayre it was with trepidation that the Tree Festival was “resurrected” in the Baptist Rooms along with the Fayre in the Village Hall.  There seemed to be a steady stream of people coming to “inspect” the trees (which were all artificial and therefore identical) with the aim of voting for the best decorated tree. NetherHeyfordCraftyClub5

Since 2017 there are now “Workshops” organised throughout the year which have proved very popular, as it gives the ladies a chance to try new skills without too much outlay.

2020 is the start of the 14th year the club has been running and until this present pandemic the club is still thriving.

So to all you crafters and future crafters – take care and stay safe – see you all when this current crisis is over.

Chris Phillipps

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

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Growing Up in Heyford – John Butcher

I was born on Nov 18th 1937 at 15 Furnace Lane, or as my mother always called it Stowe Lane. Our house was built in 1934 by Denny and Sons and for whom my father worked as a carpenter.

I remember little of my early years other than playing with my friend, Norman Denny who lived next door. Apparently my mother used to allow a young girl from the village to walk me out in my pram, she had special needs and it seems a man attempted to rape her. She was sent to Berry Wood (St Crispins) where she remained for the rest of her life, about sixty years. I don’t think anyone from the village ever visited her!

Another of my very early memories was of my father holding me up at the bedroom window to show me Coventry burning and of hearing German planes flying overhead. In June 1942 my brother David was born and because of medical problems he had to have an operation. He remained in hospital for many weeks and my mother had to visit the hospital every day to feed him, so I was sent to live with my grandparents at Caldecote near Towcester. Since I was the only child in the household I was thoroughly spoilt and given the sweet rations of all the adults in the family. It is no wonder then that when I eventually returned to Heyford to start school I was not very happy about it and of course was no longer an only child. On my first day at school I was taken by Daf Thompson (Holtham) because my mother was still pre-occupied with my brother.

At this time my father was working in London and Coventry repairing war damage. He was unable to do military service because of deafness. At the end of the war he was eligible for a large bonus, but he refused it saying it was his contribution to the war in which many of his friends had suffered.

I attended Sunday school as did most of us in the village at that time and each Sunday was given a penny for the collection. However, most of us put a half penny in the collection and used the other halfpenny for an ice cream on the way home. Sunday morning was the time for slaughtering pigs in the village and there was always competition for the pig’s bladders which the butcher threw over the wall, and if you should wonder why, a pig’s bladder makes a great football.

They were happy days which consisted of going to school, playing sports on the green, playing in the brook that ran at the bottom of the field behind my house and cycling around the local villages. Sometimes I would cycle to Banbury with my other good friend, Robin Ellis, we always bought Banbury cakes home to prove that we had actually been there.

I remember V J day September 1945 very clearly. My father was playing in a celebration football match on the village green. In those days, chickens roamed freely on the green and making themselves dust baths. During the match the ball landed in one of the dust baths and unbeknown to my father when he went to kick the ball he hit the side of the dust bath instead, resulting in the bone in his leg snapping, the sound of which was heard all over the green.

When I was 10 we had a new headmaster at Heyford school, Mr Woods, he made drastic changes to the school and the village. He introduced a school uniform and changed the attitude of the village. We were to become the best village school in the county winning most competitions from sport to gardening as well as in the field of education. Two of our pupils, Norman Freeman and Eileen Garrett were selected to represent England in the junior Olympics. Mr Woods together with Mr Wilkinson started the Heyford Boy Scouts and later I became the leader of Peewit Patrol. We often camped at the stone quarry in Stowe and at Brockhall travelling on foot and carrying our tent etc on Denny’s 2 wheel builders cart, quite a journey uphill to Stowe. We once camped at Compton Verney but that time we travelled by bus. Also camping there was a troop of Girl Guides who Mr Woods warned us not to get involved with. However, he did agree that we should dig their latrines about which we were not very happy. We did as instructed, well not quite, instead of 18” wide, we dug them at 30”, quite a stretch for the girls, that was our protest. The estate was overrun with rabbits so on the first night I decided to set some snares and actually caught 3 rabbit’s, but Mr Woods was not happy, accused me of poaching and told me to bury them.

I remember well the winter of 1947 when the whole village was snowed in and the Grand Union canal was frozen. Coal was normally delivered to Mr West by barge so there was an acute shortage. We were rationed to one sack of coal and I remember going up Weedon Road with my parents to collect it by sledge.

At the age of 11 we all took the exam to get into Daventry Grammar School, I failed. However, some time later we were given a second chance which involved an interview with some of the teachers, this I failed too. Some weeks later I was on a train to Peterborough to run in the 440 yards representing South Northants at the East Midlands School competition. One of the teachers who had interviewed me was on the train, he asked ”haven’t I met you recently?” I said yes you interviewed me for a place at Daventry School, but I failed. He said then why didn’t you tell me that you could run? My education could have been completely different.

It was around this time that I had three narrow escapes from death. The first was when I sledged down Furnace Lane and went underneath a lorry which was travelling from Weedon to Bugbrooke. I went under behind the front wheels and came out the other side just before the rear wheels. Next was when my friend Robin Ellis and I exploded a mortar bomb which we had found in Stowe wood (details of this are in an old copy of The Prattler). The next lucky escape took place at Heyford mill which was no longer in use. One day, together with a group of other village boys we started to hoist ourselves up the mill floors on the chain which had previously been used to lift the corn sacks to the top floor. I had my feet in the chain and pulled on a rope that operated the lift, however, as my head went through a trapdoor in the floor, I lost my grip on the rope and was left hanging by my neck in the trapdoor. Fortunately, after a few seconds I managed to find the rope and am still here to tell the tale.

Another tale involving the mill started at a jumble sale at the school. I was sitting in a large armchair and when the time came for it to be sold I bid one shilling expecting others to bid higher. It was knocked down to me and thus I became the owner of a chair that I didn’t want. After the sale, a lady who had just moved into the mill asked if she could buy it from me. I was relieved and gave it to her for nothing and offered to carry it down to the mill for her. My offer might have been influenced by the fact that she had two pretty daughters about my age.

Guy Fawkes night was always celebrated with a large bonfire on the green. We boys would collect the wood from Crow Lane and drag it down to the village. If we were lucky sometimes we would stop a passing truck and ask them to tow it to the green for us. We saved our money to buy fireworks and had great fun throwing Jumping Jacks at the girls.

Another event that remains fixed in my mind occurred in Stowe. In those days children were allowed time off from school to help in the potato fields. We boys together with many ladies of the village were collected in an old army lorry with a tailboard held up by hooks and chains. I think it was Mrs Sargent who jumped from the lorry and landed just in front of me, minus her ring finger which had been ripped from her hand and remained on the hook of the tailboard together with her wedding ring. I swore on that day I would never ever wear a ring.

At the age of 15 I started on a two year O level course at Northampton Tech and along with two other boys we decided during our Easter holiday we would cycle to Scotland. I started out from Heyford and met them in Northampton. After 2 days we arrived in Redcar where we stayed overnight with an aunt of one of the boys. Next morning, they told me that they had decided not to continue but if I wanted they would wait for me for 2 days in Redcar. It was agreed and I continued to the Scottish border and back. Of course, they were fresh as daisies having had two days of rest but for me it was another two days of cycling to return home. I said goodbye to the boys in Northampton and travelled home only to find that my house was locked and empty.

I walked back out into the road to be met by Mrs Eales who told me how sorry she was to heat about my dad. Of course, I knew nothing about what had happened. She told me that he had had a very serious motorbike accident and was in Northampton general hospital and my mother had gone to stay with her parents at Caldecote. I got back on my bike and cycled the longest six miles of all. My father remained in hospital for many weeks and never did recover completely.

When I was 17, I decided I would like to become a Fleet Air Arm pilot, I had big ambitions and went for a medical only to be told that although I was tall enough, my legs were too short. It was after that I decided that I would like to join the Merchant Navy as a marine engineer, even though I had never even seen a big merchant ship. I gained an interview with Shell Tankers and was offered a four and a half year apprenticeship. This was to be 2 years at college in London, 18 months at sea as a cadet and then 1 year working in the shipyards. All was signed up and I left Heyford for the first time returning once a month since my father had agreed to pay my rail fare. I lived in London on a wage of £2.12 shillings a week out of which I had to pay for my food and accommodation etc.

I returned to live in Heyford after 7 years, but that story is for another day.

John Butcher – December 2019

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

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Sheep Dipping in the early days at Whitehall Farm – Hugh Adams

Sheep Dipping in the early days at Whitehall Farm

We used to take the sheep to be dipped at Upper Heyford. Jack Perkin and I would leave the buildings at Whitehall Farm around 1pm with 40 sheep, driving them along the road towards Heyford. We would pass High House Wharf where the West family (Coal Merchants) lived. On the right side of the road would be the house on the bridge where Ted Grey and his wife Ellen lived. Carrying on down the hill on the right by the side of the canal and past Mr and Mrs Fry (he was a carpenter) following on down the road towards the village, on the left the French family (now Adrian Hayes) – past the Cemetery – down the hill on the right, the Johnson family.

We are now in the village and on the left was Sid Eales shoe mending hut, past the little green. We would pass on the right the Butchers shop kept by Sid Capel (now Glen). We had to keep an eye on the sheep at this point otherwise they would escape down Church Street!! Next was Chapel Cottage, Mrs George. David Browning kept the shop, past the Foresters Arms, the landlord was Tom Rolfe. Now the sheep would take to the green where there was lots of good grass! Turn left into Middle Street past the School and School House where Mr Carrington, the headmaster lived with his wife and 6 children. Next to the Sun Inn was the Farmhouse, Mr and Mrs Will Smith, past Bens Orchard (full of Apple Trees), now it was plain sailing on the way to Upper Heyford.

Our destination was Dovecote Farm where Mr Cosford would be expecting us. The sheep would be put through the dipping bath. This would take about one or two hours. After a cup of tea and then the journey home with two tired men and a very wet dog called Nell. She had been dipped too.

Hugh Adams

Letter published in The Prattler – March 2020