Revitalising the Allotments – December 2019

Weather
As a nation we love to talk about the weather. It’s too hot, too cold, too wet. And gardeners are even worse. However, for once it would seem as though something very odd really is going on with our weather and more particularly, our climate.

As I write this, the river is again overflowing its banks, the playing field resembles a lake and the allotments are getting soggier by the hour. The poor folk of Fishlake are trying to salvage possessions from their flooded homes and it is snowing in Gloucestershire. Just two months ago I dug down two spade depths and the ground was as dry as a bone. For two years now we have had a bumper crop of grapes, the fig tree is flourishing and we’ve just picked the last of our beefsteak tomatoes from the allotment. In the near future we are likely to reap both the benefits of a Mediterranean climate and its drawbacks (including a whole host of little beasties that do nasty things to our flora and fauna).

I guess if there is any lesson to be learnt from all this it is be ready for ‘change’ … and plant more grapes!

Trees
The community orchard goes from strength to strength and the trees we planted just a year ago are looking in good health. Several of the orchard volunteers are about to embark on pruning workshops and they will then be wielding the saw and secateurs on the trees, creating an even better, well shaped orchard for the coming Spring.

I was fascinated to read an article in the Prattler some months ago about a local resident who had successfully grown trees from fruit stones and pips. It is a fascinating thing to do but does not necessarily result in producing good ‘true’ fruit.

All named fruit trees come about as result of something called ‘grafting’. This is a process whereby a young branch from a good, productive tree is fixed onto a vigorous rootstock from the same genus i.e. apple branch to apple rootstock (you can’t mix apple and pear or plum and cherry). The two cut pieces are spliced into each other and sealed with tape during February/March. Providing the two cut surfaces meet smoothly a ‘graft’ is achieved and the result is a tree with all the fruiting characteristics of the good, productive tree and all the vigour of the rootstock. Next time you see a fruit tree, particularly a youngish one, take a look at the trunk near the ground. You’ll see a knobbly knuckle. That is the graft union. Earliest records suggest this practice has been going on for thousands of years, although it is likely that it first occurred by accident when two different trees simply rubbed against each other, wore down the bark and fused together.

Grafting isn’t really complicated and if you have the right growing material, a sharp knife and little patience you can do it yourself. Whilst the bulk of the wonderful trees in our community orchard came from specialist grower Andy Howard, several have been grafted by us. It is as cheap as chips to do … £3 to £4 for a vigorous dwarfing rootstock and the rest is free or easily available in your shed or garage. Within a year you’ll have a tree that is a metre tall!

Community Cut Flower Patch
Following on from the creation of the community orchard and jam patch, work has now started on the community flower patch. Digging was hard when it was dry and it is harder still now the ground is wet (I told you that gardeners obsess about the weather). However, the beds are starting to take shape. With the kind donation of paving slabs from our local Bowls Club we will be able to divide the beds so that flowers are easily accessible. The flowers we have on offer will be a mixture of annuals from seeds collected or donated, some perennials and both spring and summer bulbs. If you can help in any way by letting us have unwanted seed or plants you have lifted/divided, do let us know. We are keen to cover the soil; that is good for the environment and stops the weeds from having a nice bare patch to colonise.

Allotment Holders
It is so good to see that more plots on the allotments are being cultivated and that many of the new allotment holders represent the younger generation. Growing your own fruit and veg is for old and young alike and all are welcome. If you want to join us here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. They’d love to hear from you.

Wildlife
Dave, Pauline, Mark and Mary, our wildlife enthusiasts, have written quite extensively in the past about the wildlife area they have created on the allotment and I have no doubt they will be keeping you all briefed about future developments. However, I must just mention the wonderful pond they are in the process of creating within this area. It is going to be a huge asset to the allotments as a whole, as good ponds encourage a host of beneficial wildlife. We look forward to our first batch of frogs, newts and toads.

Mike Langrish

“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”
Vietnamese Proverb

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Spirit of the Valley

Nether_Heyford_River_Nene_SpiritofValley

This mosaic artwork is situated adjacent to the River Nene road bridge and footpath as you leave Nether Heyford towards Upper Heyford.

Earlier this year I asked around about its origins but didn’t get much of a response, only educated guesses.

The heading reads “Spiritus Vallis” (Latin for “Spirit of the Valley”) and also depicted is MM (Roman Numerals for 2000)

Obviously the railway, canal and river indicate a local connection, the Roman/Mosaic connection ties in with a wealth of very significant discoveries in the village since the mid 1960’s.

The photograph above was taken in July 2019 and as you can see it has suffered from some decay on the left hand edge.

I have recently discovered more information so thought I would share in a post.

“Spirit of the Valley” 

Part of the Northamptonshire’s Millennium Festival – a South Northamptonshire Council funded arts project during 2000.

Based on the Nene Valley and the communities that live along it, the project resulted in many activities including guided walks, photography, performances, writing and visual arts.

  • One of the last elements to be completed was the siting of three mosaic-based art works made by groups in three South Northamptonshire villages.
  • Guided by Northamptonshire artist Carole Miles.
  • SNC Arts Development Officer was Anna Hayward in 2000.
  • Harpole Heritage Group, Bugbrooke Arts Society, Heyford Archaeology Group & Youth Club each produced artwork based of the Nene Valley theme.

The 3 pieces were placed at the following sites:

“Roman Way Marker” – Nether Heyford

“Mosaic benches” –  Harpole

“Giant Fossils” – Bugbrooke

 

Jez Wilson

 

The Story of Heyford: Childhood Memories V4C7

Before the second world war the village was only half the size that it is now, transport was very limited, and the modern leisure facilities that are so commonly available today simply didn’t exist. Therefore the young people made their own fun in whatever way they could. There are many people in the village, now in their eighties, with childhood memories from the pre war period.

Children and young people
Before the first world war, the children went to school up the age of 13. Life was pretty busy keeping up with the chores. Mrs Dorothy Kingston of Furnace Lane remembers taking bread and jam to her father at the Brickworks when she came home from school. There was water to fetch, pigs to feed, eggs to collect, vegetables to prepare.

At thirteen, you left school and went to work. Some worked on the farms, some learned trades in their family businesses, but some worked outside the village. Bob Browning’s first job was a Saturday job at the age of 12 for W H Smith in Weedon. He walked from Heyford to Weedon and collected papers for delivery to Litchborough and Maidford and then walked back home. The journey was done entirely on foot and took him all day.

When he left school in 1905 he went to work there full time. They gave him a bicycle and two panniers to carry the papers. His new route was from Heyford to Weedon to pick up the papers, then to Dodford, Everdon, Farthingstone, Upper Weedon, then home. He ate his packed lunch each day under one of the big Beech trees beside the road through Everdon Stubbs.  There he double checked his takings.

On one occasion he arrived home and found he was one gold sovereign short. The sovereign had come from Everdon Hall where they always had several papers. His mother was desperate because he had to give his takings in the next morning but they didn’t have as much as a sovereign in the house.

So Bob cycled back to Everdon Stubbs to where he had counted the money at lunchtime, and there he found the missing sovereign. He was delighted at finding it that he carved his initials with his pocket knife into one of the trees. The four trees are still there today. All of them have dozens of initials carved into them of which some are quite new, but others could be 100 years old. Somewhere amongst them are the initials R.B.

Walking 
With time to, spare, little transport, and few organised facilities, walking was common. People would walk miles without a second thought.

The children all walked to school, some coming from Upper Heyford and others from the Railway cottages, or from Stowe Hill. They mostly travelled in small groups, unaccompanied by adults. Nobody worried about safety. The school didn’t provide lunches then so they made four journeys each day, often dawdling along the Way. There were several brooks in those days, running either side of the Green and also alongside a number of the hedges. Here it was tempting to dally along the way, making boats out of whatever materials they could find in the hedgerows.

Families walked together on Sundays, often for miles up to Glassthorpe or Stowe. They sometimes ended up at one of the pubs where father would have a beer and the children a ‘spruce’ – a bottle of pop with a glass ball in it.

Cars were a rare sight in the village between the wars so groups of young people would walk up to the ‘Turnpike’ (the A5) and sit on the bank by the Stowe turn, Waiting to wave at the drivers as they passed at a rate of only one or two an hour.

The Railway children
Mrs Doris Lovell, now in her eighties, lived in the railway cottages because her father, Frank Denny was a signalman. Although there was never a station in Heyford, she recalls how the railway had a strong presence in the village. There were sidings in the brick yard, there was an active signal box, and there were four railway cottages occupied by signalmen, platelayers and their families.

In the days of steam, each locomotive had its own unique personality and they chuffed past at a more friendly speed than today’s diesels. The driver and fireman, whose faces were often familiar to the villagers, would wave as they passed by, and sometimes they would throw lumps of coal for the children to take home.

The children played in the fields alongside the railway, although there was a strict understanding that playing near the tracks was forbidden. Favourite play areas included the stream near the brickyard just the other side of the small foot tunnel under the embankment. Here you could make stepping stones, build dens, and fish for tiddlers.

The railway bridge and railway cottages in the 1930s

memories2.jpg

Photo lent by Judy Armitage

Box Pond and ‘the Humps’
Another favourite play area recalled by Doris Lovel was in the field where the furnaces used to be. There was a pond here called ‘box pond’ because it was near the signal box. There was another pond across the road in the brickyard where deep water had formed in the claypit. Both ponds were popular play areas with much wildlife in them, including lizards and moorhens.

Also in the furnace field were four huge clinker mountains. These had been formed out of clinker waste from when the furnaces were in operation. Each seemed as high as a house. They had set solid into various shapes, Weathered through time, and were full of interesting nooks and crannies. They, were affectionately known as ‘the humps’. Cut hands and scraped knees were common.

These ‘humps’ were eventually moved when the M1 was built in the late 1950s. The field was full of hills and hollows from where the furnaces had been, and the contractor, Dowsett, was looking for somewhere to put the topsoil from the construction of the M1. So they broke up the humps, rolled them into the hollows, and covered them with topsoil. Box Pond was also filled in.

Fishing and swimming 
As today, there were plenty of fish in the canal. With a line, a hen feather, a bent pin and some bait, you could catch gudgeon to take home to feed to the cat. Favourite places on the river were by one of the two bridges – either the bridge to Upper Heyford, or Coach Bridge (now only a footbridge beyond Manor Park). Jumping off Coach Bridge into the deep waters below was a regular summer game for the boys.

Many local people, now in their 70s and 80s remember swimming in the canal. On warm summer days the young people would take their swimming costumes, some sandwiches, a drink, and a pot to pick blackberries. This way they could would spend hours by the canal.

An article in the Mercury and Herald dated 25th May 1978 included an interview with Mrs George (nee Browning) in which she recalled how ‘we’d go up to the canal at Heyford Bridge. The boys would change one side and the girls the other. Then we’d have a swim or watch the boats, all drawn by horses of course, being pulled up the canal.’ Unlike the railway where it was firmly understood that the track was out of bounds, the canal was considered ‘safe’. This was in spite of the murky state of the water and the waste disposed of by the boat people. However it was a fun place to spend the day, and was the only way to learn how to swim.

Swimming in the canal

memories3.jpg

This photograph, taken in the 1920s shows a group of young people beside the canal.  They went up Furnace Lane and turned left at Wharf Farm where they walked along to the next bridge. They are seen here in the field opposite the tow path. Pictured from the front are: Ivy Denny, Jack Earl, Friend, Nen Blaney, Odette Punch, Friend, Friend, and Mrs Frank Denny. The little girl to the left of the group is June Denny.

Photo lent by Doris Lovell (nee Denny)

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 7 of 8 | Pages 28 to 30TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Life at Heyford Mill V3C8

I was one of a family of three who moved into the mill house in November 1954. My mother had been a housekeeper at East Haddon where she lived in a tied cottage with my sister and myself. Due to ill health she had to give up her job, and of course the cottage. We met some friends of ours, Betty and Bert, who lived in the mill house. They put us up, but when we had been there some weeks they moved with Bert’s job on the railway, so we took over the tenancy of the mill house.

Primitive

It was very primitive to say the least, but at last we were in rented accommodation again. For the £1 per week rent we had a unique dwelling. Having no electricity, mains water, or gas, we used oil lamps and candles for light, and a large black range to cook on, for which we had to collect wood from around the fields. The coalmen Guy and Bob West couldn’t deliver coal to the door because the track was so pot-holed. They thought it would break the axle of their truck, so they left the coal at the second field gate.

In the kitchen we had an earthenware sink. Above it was a pump which you had to ‘prime’ to get the water up from the spring below. To prime it you had to turn the metal pipe (which swivelled) upside down, pour a pint of water down, and then pull a handle, much like a beer pump, and so get your water. The wash-house was a shed opposite the kitchen across the yard. It had a large metal copper which was mounted on bricks, with a space to light a fire beneath it, and so heat the water.

But the greatest delight was the loo! It was in a shed at the far end of the house. It had a wooden seat with a bucket below, which when full had to be emptied and the contents buried in the garden! Home produced manure! When you went after dark you had to go armed with various items — a candle in a jam jar to light your way, and a thick stick and a bucket to bang on to frighten the rats out of the building before you went in! But for all that it was a most happy place to live.

Flooding

We had to go across the fields to get the shopping from Mrs Courts shop, and we bought paraffin, candles and stamps from Mrs Blaney’s store. That was when the weather was fine. When it rained the house did get flooded in the hallway and the main room, but the kitchen was above water level so that wasn’t too bad. When the weather was bad we had to paddle through the mud to the large dutch barn, then past two fields to the top gate (change from wellies to shoes). Then we walked along the main road to Upper Heyford and down the lane to Nether Heyford (Lower Heyford in those days). Sometimes the lane was flooded near Crow Lane so we had to paddle through freezing water.

I married from the mill in 1955 and had my eldest daughter in April 1956. The ambulance taking me to the Barratt got bogged down in mud, but managed to get me to town in time for the birth. Then in September 1956 we were given a council house in Hillside Crescent with all mod cons.

It was a hard life at the mill, but at the same time an experience that my sister and I are pleased to have shared. We were the last people to live there and it is so sad to see the dreadful state it is in now.

Wendy Blackmore

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 8 of 17 | Page 17

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Heyford Mill V3C7

The Domesday Survey of 1086 includes a record of ‘Haiford with one mill rendering 16s.’ There has presumably always been a mill on this site since those days. The mill buildings are marked (though un-named) on Eyre’s/]effrey’s map of 1771. Bryant’s map of 1827 marks them simply as ‘mill’, but the one inch OS map of 1835 shows it specifically as ‘Heyford Mill’. There were a number of mills along this stretch of the river Nene – at Dodford, Flore, Heyford, Bugbrooke, Harpole, Kislingbury, and Upton. Sadly though, like most of the others, Heyford Mill has fallen into disuse.

The current buildings, though now derelict, consist of a millhouse, a cottage, and several barns and outbuildings. The building at right angles to the mill stream appears to be the oldest one on site and it is thought to have had an undershot waterwheel. The building on the south side of the stream is considered the most recent, and had an overshot waterwheel. There is a plague built into the front wall of the mill which states: ‘].D. — erected 1821, restored 1881’. The lower part of the buildings are of stone and probably form the original part built in 1821. The upper part which is of brick was probably added
during the 1881 restoration.

The mill in the early 1900s

NetheryHeyford_Mill_1900

This photograph, lent by David Banner, shows the mill buildings as they appeared in the early 1900s. The building on the left is the new mill with an overshot wheel. In the apex above the window is the plaque referred to in the paragraph above. The building on the other side of the bridge is the old mill with an undershot wheel. The slightly taller building in the centre is the mill house, and to its right is the stable block.

The Cosford family

From the late 1700s until the early 1900s the mill was run by the Cosford family. The militia lists of 1777 and 1798 for Upper Heyford both refer to ‘Thomas Cosford, miller, with one water mill capable of grinding 20 quarters per week’. The census returns for 1841 and 1851 show the occupants of the mill as being George Cosford, born around 1804. Also living there were his wife Sarah, their twelve children, and three servants. George Cosford died in 1867. The census return of 1871 shows the occupier as George’s son Edwin George. He was born in 1845. The Kelly’s directories of 1885 and 1914 both list ‘Edwin George Cosford of Upper Heyford’ as ‘miller using water power only’. Edwin’s son, Arthur Thomas, ran the mill with him.

The Banner family

During the first world war, John Banner came to work for Edwin and Arthur Cosford as their miller. He later took over the rent of the mill and continued to run it with his son John. The Banner family continued to run the mill until it eventually closed in the 1960s. Around 1915 John Banner bought a bakehouse in Weedon where his other son James did the baking. They ground the grain at the mill and mixed it with other grades of flour to make bread. James’ wife became known as ‘the bakers lady’ because she took the bread by cart to the villages.

After a lifetime of working in a dusty environment, John Banner developed ‘millers asthma’ and he eventually died in 1933 at the age of 63. His wife continued to live at the cottage until she died in 1943. She was the last member of the family to occupy the cottage.

Around this time, James and John bought the mill (it was originally only rented) and continued trading under the name of Banner Brothers. In addition to growing and grinding their own grain, they provided a milling service to other local farmers. Some of the farmers who came were Charlie North from Upper Heyford, and Billy Whitton, Reg Collins, and Oliver Adams from Lower Heyford. The route from Lower Heyford was along Church Street, through the Manor yard, across North field, and over Coach Bridge. This route from Lower Heyford to the mill is clearly marked on the 1834 ordnance survey map as a track, but on the modern map is shown only as a footpath.

Coach Bridge

Coach bridge was an ancient stone bridge, just wide enough to take a horse and cart across the river. However it had fallen into poor repair and was eventually dismantled in the early 1960s. Now it has been replaced by a simple concrete foot bridge behind Manor Park.

Bob Browning (1892-1997) recalled Coach Bridge with the following words which he wrote for the Prattler several years ago: ‘Take a walk down Church Street, straight on past the Manor House, across the first meadow (I think it is called Manor Park now), and you will find a most unusually built bridge. The two sides are stone built, perpendicular, and it has a flat top and very stout girders of oak with oak railings. This bridge must be  centuries old and possibly was built during the Danish occupation as ‘Hei’ and ‘Forde’ are Danish words. ls this the place from which the village was first called Heiforde?’

Working life at the mill

From 1954 until 1960, the mill continued to be run by James’ sons Jim and Anslem. Jim, who provided much of the information for this article, described to me how the mill worked. The wheat or barley would arrive by horse and cart. It was carried to the top of the mill by a series of chains driven by the mill wheel, and tipped into the garners. It then ran via a spout down to the stones for grinding, and out into the tubs for the farmers to take away.

The wheel was almost certainly the one that had been there since the restoration of 1881. The cogs were made of applewood, and when they wore out, they were replaced by new ones made by a wheelwright called Les Phillips in Flore. The stones, which were of Derbyshire granite, each weighed more than a ton, and would last around twenty to thirty years. The bottom stone remained stationary, and the top one rotated. Both had grooves carved into them to allow the grain to flow. Jim and Anslem both learned the trade of ‘dressing the stones’, that is carving or ‘pecking’ the grooves in such a way as
to ensure that the grain flowed evenly.

The mill as it appeared in 1976

NetherHeyfordMill_1976_C.jpg

The photograph above is from a painting owned by Jim Banner. It was painted in 1976 by Harry Frost and shows the appearance of the buildings before they became derelict.

The closure 

When the mill was working, the building shook with vibration. This eventually caused it to become potentially dangerous and too expensive to repair. This, together with the development of modern electrically-driven mills such as Heygates at Bugbrooke, made it necessary in 1960 for Jim and Anslem finally to close the mill. It was the last of the mills along this stretch of the Nene to close, and therefore marked the end of an era.

They applied for planning permission to convert the buildings into living accommodation, but it was refused because the area is in a flood plain. When the river rises it occasionally breaks its banks, and it is not uncommon for the ground floor to become flooded with several inches of water. This really made it impractical to do anything with the buildings. Until the 1970s they were in reasonably good repair, but the damage created by vandals, together with the effects of the wind and rain, have caused them gradually to become derelict.

Stephen Ferneyhough

The Mill in 2020

TheStoryofHeyford-HeyfordMill2020_2

Photo by Tactico Photography:
www.tactico-photography.co.uk
www.houzz.co.uk

Jez Wilson

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 7 of 17 | Pages  14 to 16

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: The Canal Burst of 1939 V3C15

In October 1939, prolonged and heavy rainfall brought the canal level up dangerously high. A break of sixteen feet wide occurred on the Weedon bank, releasing 300 million gallons of water into an already swollen River Nene. The entire Nene valley became flooded and water levels rose into the villages. There has been periodic flooding in the village from time to time, eased to some extent by the culvert inserted in the mid 1980’s. But the recent flooding during the Easter of 1998 showed us again the damage that can he done. On each occasion it was Church Street that bore the brunt of the disaster as is illustrated in these photographs, all taken in 1939.

Watery Lane

NetherHeyford_WateryLane_1939

Church Street / Manor Walk

NetherHeyford_ChurchStreet_ManorWalk_1939

Heyford Antiques (formerly Tops of Heyford)

NetherHeyford_ChurchStreet_1939

The Jubilee Hall

NetherHeyford_JubileeHall_1939

 A view from the top of Church Street

NetherHeyford_ChurchStreet_2_1939

~~

Extra photograph added 2020

NetherHeyfordCanalBurst

Bob Smith January 2020

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 15 of 17 | Pages 28 & 29

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers