Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

October 2008

This months News



Nature Notes

The woods never looked more beautiful than from the close of last month to the middle of October, for by that time it seems as if nature had exhausted all her choicest colours of foliage.  We see the rich, burnished bronze of the oak, red of may hues, up to the gaudiest scarlet; every shade of yellow from the wan gold of the primrose to the deep orange of the tiger-lily …. And all so blended and softened together in parts, that like the colours on a dove’s neck, we cannot tell where one begins and the other ends.
                               Chambers Book of Hours (1864)

As I write this we are at last enjoying some beautiful weather, an Indian Summer, a name that originated in North America where such occurrences are common and which were much celebrated by the Native Americans as they collected their wild harvests ready for winter.

We too start to collect our autumn cultivated and wild fruits; damsons and sloes which both make an excellent winter warmer when steeped in gin, wild mushrooms and fungi, nuts, pears, plums, and blackberries together with their perfect partner, the apple.  The apple is a wonderful emblem of diversity.  In Britain we have grown more than two-thousand varieties and hundreds more cider apples, The Carlisle Codlin, Worcester Pearmain, Devonshire Quarrendon and Crawley Beauty all tell of the place of origin; Peasgood Nonsuch, Ashmead’s Kernel, Laxton’s superb and Charles Ross tell of the people who developed and raised them.  Forgotten people and forgotten stories?  Not any more, for we now have Apple Day – October 21 this year – first started in 1990 by a wonderful organisation, Common Ground, to celebrate and demonstrate the importance of the apple to our culture, landscape and wildlife.  This first celebration was held in Covent Garden, originally the Convent garden which included an orchard – a place that had been London’s prime market for fruit and vegetables.  Although in 1990 it had not served as a fruit market for 16 years, stallholders came from all over the country.  All had some connection with apples and orchards; nurserymen, bee-keepers, juice makers, cider makers, and hundreds of varieties of apples for people to look at and taste.  There were “apple doctors” and people were encouraged to bring apples from their gardens to be identified.  These Apple Days have now multiplied and by 2000 there were well over six hundred taking part all over the country.  Varieties that were thought to be extinct have turned up in the West Country.   Cheshire, Gloucestershire, and Devon are all replanting orchards, and only last week I heard on the radio that Herefordshire is setting up hundreds of new orchards and creating “Mother Orchards” of all the varieties of apples.  It was an offspin from the Apples Days that the farmers markets started.  Local Apple Days are at Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire on 11 and 12 October; Cogges Manor Farm, near Witney on 11 and 12 October; Hill Close Gardens, Warwick (parking and main entrance by Warwick Racecourse) on 19 October; and Longford Park, Coventry on 25 October, or check Common Ground’s excellent website.

“Of these rivals to the grape, with the exception of John Barleycorn and his sons, there is none which may more fairly claim the contest, the palm of agreeableness and popularity than the apple and her golden-haired daughter, the bright and sparkling cider, whom some ardent admirers have even exalted to a level with the regal vintage of champagne.

                                     Chambers Book of Days (1864)

From early September to about now all our resident swallows start congregating in readiness for their migration back to North Africa – imagine then, our surprise when on 7th September on a wet cold day, we saw a pair of swallows with a nest under the eaves of one of the buildings on Towcester Racecourse, feeding young gaping mouths still in the nest!  Swallows often have two broods and occasionally (usually in hot summers) three.  I hope they were finding enough insects in the cold damp weather we have been experiencing, and also that they will be mature and strong enough in time for their long flight.

You may have read my ramblings with reference to a pair of ravens at Idlicote, well I now hear there is another pair in the old school grounds at Kineton.  I saw one of the Idlicote ravens the other day at very close quarters, carrying what appeared to be a small grey furry creature of some sort, and chortling away to itself with what I can only describe as glee and satisfaction.

I have been told that our house was once the premises of a cobbler, so I will celebrate October 25th – St Crispin’s Day, patron saint of cobblers and shoemakers:

                The twenty-fifth of October
                Cursed be the cobbler
                That goes to bed sober

                             (Traditional English rhyme)

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: September 29, 2008