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

Heyford Gardening Club – October 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments
We started our new programme for the year with our annual flower and vegetable
show. These shows are always affected by the vagaries of the weather that has
experienced over the year, and our efforts to balance the classes are frequently
frustrated by events. For example, based on previous poor displays the class for
beetroot was withdrawn last year, only to prompt complaints from members because
their beetroot crops had been particularly good. So for this year the beetroot class was reinstated only to find that there was only one entry! And there were no courgette’s at all, whereas there were ten entries in the tomatoes. However the expansion of the floral classes was clearly a clever move as the displays of arrangements on show were truly impressive, indicating a wealth of artistic talent among our members.

The vegetable section was won by Irene Reeves with Jill Langrish in second place
and Tony Clewett third.

The flower section was closely fought, Mike Langrish came first with Anne Haynes in second place while Jill Langrish, Maureen Wright, Irene Reeves and Lynn Ashbee all took the third spot.

We reduced the plot to plate section down to just a jam or jelly class, which was won by Jill Langrish, with Margaret Ridgewell in second place and Sandy Alderson third.

The overall winner this year, taking into account prizes in our series of bench shows over the year, was Jill Langrish, with Irene Reeves as runner up and Margaret Ridgewell third. So our congratulations to them, the rest of us will just have to try harder next year!

Our next meeting will be on the 14th October when we will have a talk from Malcolm Dickson from Hooksgreen Herbs.

Some Things to do in October
1 Divide and replant herbaceous perennials
2 Give lawns a last cut and trim
3 Prune climbing roses

Mark Newstead

~/~

www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Heyford Singers & Allotments – September 2019

We’re neither pure nor wise nor good;
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.
The final chorus from “Make Our Garden Grow”
from “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein 1955

Normally Jill Langrish writes a piece for the Prattler on behalf of the Heyford Singers and Mike, her other half, waxes lyrical about the joys of allotments, orchards and all things green. For this September article we thought we’d combine what little talent we have and write about the effect that both music and growing things can have on making us feel good. So this article is a sort of a dialogue; a chance for us to share that sense of contentment, happiness, belonging, achievement, and well being that we believe comes from both activities. Easy? Just read on……

Jill. Music is a very social activity. Whether you play in a band or orchestra, sing in a group or a choir, sit or stand in the audience for a concert, you are sharing that unique experience with lots of other people. You are helping to contribute towards the collective outcome, a shared achievement. As well as the social benefits of music, it also contributes hugely to our physical and mental health. There has been considerable research recently about the value of doctors giving a “social prescription”. In July, Naomi Paxton hosted a BBC Proms panel discussion on music and wellbeing with epidemiologist Dr Daisy Fancourt and GP Dr Simon Opher. Both are enthusiastic advocates of social prescribing and of using music to support health.

“Social prescription is a fairly new idea,” says Dr Opher. “A doctor might give a normal
prescription for a medicine, but they can also give a prescription for an activity.
That could be singing, music, art, poetry, exercise or anything – but not a medicine.
Music can help everyone, but it can specifically help certain conditions – and we
know this from research. One of the areas of the brain that really lights up when you
listen to music is the pre cortical area. That’s one of the last areas that is damaged
with dementia – so people with dementia, for example, retain their ability to enjoy
music. I’ve seen more effect with music for patients with dementia than any kind of
medication.”

Mike. Gardening, whether it be wandering round the tiny patch of ground outside your back door or maintaining an allotment or huge vegetable patch, vastly improves both our physical and mental health. And the sort of evidence that applies to music is to be found in abundance when it comes to digging and weeding. Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive, one of the UK’s leading charities in disability and gardening says that

“as well as the strong therapeutic value of gardening it can help people connect with others, reducing feelings of isolation. It makes us more active, gaining both physical and mental health benefits.”

Jill. Then there is the intellectual side of music. Listening to a new song or unfamiliar piece of music demands attention, it keeps the brain’s cells active. And whether it be trying to make sense of all those dots and squiggles in music notation, learning new songs, understanding the different voice parts, learning and playing an instrument, all these are essential in keeping the “little grey cells’ active.

Mike. Now this is a generalisation, but doctors believe that gardeners have lower
levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, leading to improved sleep patterns, relaxation and mental wellbeing. Although sometimes I think it is just exhaustion that makes me sleep!

Jill. And what about the fun side, the enjoyment of it all. During August there was
delightful series on the radio entitled “A Singer’s Guide to Britain” which explored different aspects of British culture through the songs we sing. In the first episode the presenter said that, “a song is like an imaginary magic carpet. You climb aboard and it flies off, it takes you on an adventure”. Now this can be interpreted in so many ways. Special places, special people or special memories are all evoked by the song. It is powerful stuff.

Mike. That first snowdrop can make you feel really good. The flowering of the rose you pruned, a lettuce you grew from seed, the blackbird singing just for you. These are small things but all positive and have healing powers that medicine sometimes tries to mimic. It is no surprise that, like music, doctors are seriously considering prescribing gardening as a cure for some conditions. Monty Don, the man that appears on our TV screens on a Friday evening accompanied by two dogs and who isn’t bad at gardening either, says in a telling way that “When you plant something, you invest in a beautiful future amidst a stressful, chaotic and, at times, downright appalling world”

Apologies if we have just taken this opportunity to indulge in our two great passions. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t sing a note in tune (something we dispute) or you kill everything you plant (also disputable), there is so much to be gained from both activities. A good way to start would be to join Heyford Singers and/or get an allotment.

Jill. The next rehearsal of Heyford Singers is on Friday 6th September at 7.15 pm in the village hall. It will be an Open Evening and everyone is very welcome. Come and meet us, watch, listen, join in and I guarantee that you will go home feeling energised and happy, having sung, laughed and made new friends. If you feel that you would like to know more then please do contact Mary Rice, myself or someone you know who is already part of this community choir.

Mike. If you are interested in trying out an allotment 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.
There you are, two articles in one

Jill & Mike Langrish

____________________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Jill Langrish

Heyford Gardening Club – July 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Our June meeting featured a fascinating talk by Steve Brown on bonsai; a form of gardening which verges on an art form. I always think of it as extreme topiary.

Rose Show

Despite the tempestuous weather there was a good showing for the rose show with 57 entries.

Pauline Guglielmi won the single flowered class, Brian Jackson came second with John Dunkley and Tony Clewett in joint third place.

In the cluster flowered class Jill Langrish came first, Pauline Guglielmi was second
and Val Jackson, Rosemary Dunkley and Anne Haynes all tied for third place.

The perils of perlite

Following advice in the RHS magazine I have over the last few years added vermiculite to multi purpose compost for sowing seeds and taking cuttings. This proved extremely successful producing plants with vigorous root systems which established very quickly. Last year however instead of vermiculite I used perlite which, I assumed, would do the same thing. However I experienced a lot of difficulty; seedlings germinated quickly enough but then failed to develop properly and cuttings just didn’t root.

I can’t be sure that this was entirely due to the perlite, but having gone back to using vermiculite again, the results have improved significantly. This illustrates the principle that in gardening apparently small variations in conditions can make the difference between success and failure.

Weird Weather-again!

Following a baking Easter, a freezing May, and no rain for months suddenly the
heavens have opened and given us the whole summers rain in a few days. It’s a
wonder that we can grow anything!

Some Things to do in July

1. Dead head roses, bedding plants and perennials to get more flowers.
2. Pick courgette’s before they turn into marrows (unless you like marrows)
3. Water and feed plants in containers

Mark Newstead

~/~

www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Heyford Singers – July 2019

nether_heyford_heyford_singers_july_2019

Below is a seemingly random list of ideas, events and comments. Please read on and we shall join up the dots and gauge the connections, if you haven’t done so already!

  • Whilst waiting to be served in a renowned hardware shop in Stony Stratford last week, I glanced over the notices posted on the shop door. There was a delightful poster promoting, and inviting people to join, a new community choir being formed in the town. How wonderful is that! It seems that there are choirs and community singing groups springing up all over the country.
  • A headline in a recent newspaper article read “ ‘It gives me genuine freedom within’: the prison choir that reforms lives. The article, and indeed similar radio and television reports, goes on to praise the achievements of the Liberty Choir, which performs at the V & A in London. There are similar ventures happening all around the country.
  • The children from Bliss Charity school choir delighted the large audience who crowded into the village hall on fete day, singing amongst others songs, the one quoted above.
  • “We Are The World” was also sung by the children from Bliss, and thousands of primary age children at the 2019 Young Voices Music Festival. This is a very special and unique annual gathering of children from all over the country, who learn the songs in their individual schools and then come together to sing in their thousands, at the O2 Arena, the NEC, etc.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, but just as enjoyable, will be the Heyford Singers joining in with Nether Heyford’s Holiday at Home venture at the end of June. The theme this year is “Cruising”, so what watery songs does Mary have on her list for the choir and audience to sing?
  • Although I could go on I ought to finally mention my 30 year old nephew who, along with a large group of friends, is so excited about his impending trip to Glastonbury (I do hope the rain holds off for them all!). Amongst the many groups and artists he plans to watch is Kylie Minogue – to sing and join in with “I Should Be So Lucky”?

Well if you haven’t already worked out the link between these items, it is that of singing together, belonging to a group of people who also love to sing, and ultimately to achieve the benefits that brings to your own sense of well being. We are so fortunate to have in this village a community choir led by Mary Rice, whose musical history and abilities are renowned, and accompanied by our resident “master of the black and white keys”, Graham Kinnersly. We practise once a week from September until December for our Christmas concert, and then from January until May for our spring concert. The summer months are free for families, holidays, gardens, sport and leisure!

The choir is very much part of the local community and prides itself on having always been so. Most of us live in the village, although we have recently welcomed several new members from the surrounding area We have a delightful mix of male and female members, of all ages. And we have fun! That social event of meeting up once a week to learn new songs, sing old and familiar ones, ultimately then to perform before our families and friends, provides a warm sense of belonging, sharing and huge enjoyment.

On our first rehearsal in the autumn, Friday 6th September will be an Open Evening and everyone is very welcome. All you need is to enjoy singing, no need to read music, and definitely no auditions or solos! Come and meet us, watch, listen, join in and I guarantee that you will go home feeling energised and happy, having sung, laughed and made new friends.

If you feel that you would like to know more then please do contact Mary Rice, myself or someone you know who is already part of this community choir. There are also some information leaflets in the foyer of the village hall.

Jill Langrish

____________________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Jill 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

Revitalising the Allotments – June 2019

A lot to do
There is so much to do on the allotment (and in the garden) at this time of the year that writing is a luxury I can’t afford at the moment. So I’ll be brief.

Community Orchard
The trees continue to grow on well. There has been a good deal of blossom and all the trees are now in leaf. Fingers crossed things stay that way. Several new trees have also been added to our collection, now bringing our total to 31 (plus a further 7 trees in the hedgerow between the orchard and new playing field).

Those of you who have been down to the community orchard may have noted that the ground around the trees is now sprouting a collection of grasses and wild plants – some might even call them weeds. Once this undergrowth has established itself a little more we shall begin mowing it. Like the community area we created alongside the orchard, this will become a meadow that we will further enhance by creating pockets of wild flowers.

Looking Good
A villager who lives near to the allotment spoke to me the other day and commented on how attractive and cared for the allotments had become in the past year or so. Paths are mown, edges trimmed, sheds erected and, most importantly, plots are being cultivated and fruit and veg grown. This welcome news was completely unprompted and a real indicator of just how much progress has been made in in refurbishing the village allotments. Again, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those allotmenteers who continue to tend their plots and make the site such a productive and well managed space. Not everyone can spare the time to join a working party or attend a meeting, but their vital contribution, caring for the plots, is just as important.

Notice Boards
Do keep an eye on our allotment notice boards (situated by the gate on Watery
Lane and by the last gate on the access road to the playing fields). We try to keep allotmenteers and villagers informed about what is happening. If you would like to impart a horticultural message that fellow growers might find of use then do feel free to use the board. Free produce? Seeds or plants going spare? Equipment you no longer require? Already we have had one allotmenteer who mislaid a well loved garden tool reunited with it as a result of a message on the board board.

Wild Life Area
Thanks to the hard work of Dave Musson and Mary and Mark Newstead, our
wildlife area is developing well. Dave has written an informative piece about this for the current edition of the Prattler so I will not steal his thunder by waxing lyrical about it here. Needless to say, the area is another positive feature of the work being carried out on the site.

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
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall
never sit in.— Greek proverb

Mike Langrish