Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

November 2010

This months News



Nature Notes

November is the pioneer of Winter, who comes with his sharp winds and keen frosts, to cut down every beaded and leafy bit of green that is standing up, so as to make more room for the coming snowflakes to fall on the level waste, and form a great bed for Winter to sleep on ….. But amid all these images of desolation, which strike the eye more vividly through missing the richly-coloured foliage that threw such beauty over the two preceding months, November has still its berries which the early frosts have ripened to perfection.  (Chambers Book of Days, 1864)

What a splendid weekend the Apple Day and OWLS photographic exhibition was.  It was pure chance that the two coincided, but I hope next year we can make this an annual weekend event.  I, like many others, assumed Apple Days were part of our rich history of festive calendar events, but in fact Apple Day was created by Common Ground in October 1990.  They took over the Piazza in Covent Garden for a demonstration of the importance of the apple to our culture, landscape and wildlife.  Apparently you could eat a different kind of apple every day for more than six years and still not come to the end of the amount you can grow in this country.  Over two thousand varieties of eating, cooking and cider apples have been cultivated in Britain.  There is still a variety found that dates directly back to Shakespeare’s time and British apples are probably the best in the world.  A single Ribston Pippin (a Yorkshire type of Cox) has more vitamin C that a pound of Golden Delicious (I always consider this name a real contradiction in terms)!

There are hundreds of customs and games that have grown up to celebrate the love and importance of the apple to our society.  Many died out, but some are now being resurrected.  Like hop pickers, many city folk would travel to the orchards of Kent, Worcestershire and Herefordshire for a time of hard work, but also an opportunity to meet old friends and enjoy cider-fuelled fun and games!  Indeed there was a tradition for casual farm workers to be paid in cider.  Many greengrocers would put out barrels full of water for a game of duck apple at Halloween, and in some areas of the country this became known as Duck Apple Night or Dookie Apple Night.  In the north of England, crabbing the parson was played and crab apples were pelted at the incumbent on the local saint’s day. 

Why oh why do our major supermarkets only stock two or three varieties (although I notice that Budgens in Moreton-in Marsh is selling locally-grown apples).  Imagine the pleasure of seeing names such as Cornish Gilliflower, Kentish Fillbasket, Stoke Edith Pippin, Roundway Magnum Bonum, Ten Commandments or Slack Ma Girdle!

It is very important to support our own local ‘Wot 2 Grow’.  I wish the enterprise success and growth and look forward to eating their produce – remember  “Buy things that are locally distinctive and locally made.  Resist the things that can be found anywhere.”

It is important now to clean out all your bird feeders, especially those hard mounds in the bottom.  After a warm summer there could be bacteria lurking, so give them a good scrub out.  It is also a good idea to give bird boxes a clean out, but please don’t over-tidy your gardens; leave piles of logs and twigs for hedgehogs (very few seen this year) and insects.

November 23 is St Clement’s Day and the iron-workers and blacksmiths’ holiday.  St Clement was traditionally martyred by being tied to an iron anchor and thrown into the sea.  He is therefore the patron of marines and iron-workers.  On this day blacksmiths “fired their anvils” by exploding gunpowder on them and held “Old Clem” processions.  In the Black Country, children on this day went “Clementing” for fruit and pennies singing:

                St Clements, St Clements comes once in a year
                Apples and Pears are very good cheer
                Got no apples, money will do
                Please to give us one of the two
                Father’s at work and Mother’s at play
                Please to remember St Clement’s Day

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: November 14, 2010