Editorial February/March 2013

Memories of the earlier days of the Villager

Your appointment as the new editor triggered memories of the five years (1988 to 1993) during which I had that responsibility until I left Brightwell. Perhaps you will allow me to indulge in a little nostalgia. But first may I wish you well and thank Annabel Rodda for her long spell in the chair.

The Villager came into being when Fred Heyworth, who was headmaster of Brightwell School, and John Griggs, who was a churchwarden, decided to revive a defunct church magazine by giving it a wider village appeal. Fred was the first editor and John was the production manager. Articles were submitted typed, or more commonly, hand written. They were then typed onto stencil sheets. My wife, Janet, typed some of the early ones on a manual typewriter until Betty Price took over because she had the benefit of an electric typewriter. John loaded the stencils onto a duplicator that produced the pages as well as covering him in black ink. This was a mammoth task, partly because of the large number of sheets needed and partly because of the temperamental nature of the machine. (A less temperamental one was bought later.) When all the pages were ready they were laid out in the correct order on the Griggs’ dining table and a team of volunteers walked round and round picking them up and assembling them into the final magazine. It was the enthusiasm of these volunteers that ensured that the new magazine flourished.

The first era ended with the death of Fred Heyworth and it was then that I was asked to take over the editorship. As I sit writing this on a comparatively sophisticated computer intending to send it to you as an email attachment I am reflecting on the technological changes that have occurred since those days. I used an Amstrad computer that was useful as a word processor but not much else: no internet, non-standard floppy discs and a dot matrix printer. But we still had to use a typewriter to cut the stencils. This job was taken over by Nonie Hobson. The actual task of editing was always a pleasure. It brought me into contact with many people in the village and rarely caused controversy (unlike my other job as clerk to the parish council!). I remember only one occasion when I had to refuse an article that I thought libellous. Sometimes verbosity had to be reduced but mostly the task was to assemble 20 or 24 pages of interesting material. Because of the way the magazine is put together it must have 20, 24 or 28 pages. When I had only 22 pages I tried to make up the extra with snippets, puzzles or jokes rather than disappoint contributors by leaving out their pieces.

The format and content of The Villager has hardly changed since Fred Heyworth’s days: same cover, same village society reports, same notices and many of the same people appear in its pages. In these days of websites, email, facebook and blogs it may appear a little old-fashioned but it is this continuity and its connection with the people of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell that is its strength. Although I no longer live in the village I still look forward to reading it. Long may it continue.

John Biggs

(Editor: We were very pleased to welcome back John and his wife Janet to a special committee meeting of the Villager Group in November where we made a presentation to Annabel to mark her spell as editor. Viola Crowe, who had been Chair of the Group during Annabel’s editorship, was also able to attend, and she brought her famous shortbread in its original tin, which some of you will remember on assembling days!

We presented Annabel with a frame containing her first and last editorials and a beautiful glass vase as a thank you for her work and commitment to the Villager over 17 years, that’s over 100 issues without a break. John ,Viola, Annabel and others present were able to share with us ‘new ones’ some more enjoyable anecdotes from the past 40 years of producing the Villager. )

Brightwell School

I would like to share with you a wonderful letter that arrived on the last day of the December term, from the Rt Hon David Laws MP, Minister of State for Schools, that contained the following:

‘It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you on the excellent performance of your pupils in the 2012 national Key Stage 2 tests as published on the 13 December 2012. Your results show that you are amongst the 100 top performing schools based on sustained improvement in Level 4+ performance each year from 2009-2012.’

We are, of course, very proud of this achievement and would like to thank everyone from our community who has or continues to contribute to our success. If you would like to read the full letter please follow this link to our website: http://www.brightwell.oxon.sch.uk/Virtual+Office/Correspondence

Our Key Stage 2 children have recently got back from their day at the 02 Arena where they sang for 6 hours with 2000 other children. The concert in the evening was spectacular and they all had a wonderful experience that will become a lifetime memory. Share our photographs on our website.

This term the children in Pippin and Bramley classes will be studying life on an Island, using the Katie Morag stories as a stimulus for their discussions. Russet class will be going to France (virtually!) and turning their classroom ‘all French’, studying Monet and cooking French foods. Worcester class will be exploring the world of fantasy, while Discovery class is learning about World War 2. If you have any expertise or resources to share in any of these areas, we would love to hear from you. If you would like to know more detail of the curriculum, it is available on the class pages of the school website.

In the autumn, all children in the school took part in a gardening day. Everyone got their gloves and boots on and dug, weeded and planted for the day. It was a wonderful time for sharing conversation and scientific discovery. As you can imagine, many a mini-beast was discovered and much delight was had by some children in exploring muddy, dark corners of the school grounds! When we returned this January, we were delighted to see the 100s of little bulb shoots beginning to emerge from the soil. We will place photographs on our website as they bloom so that you can all share in the blaze of colour that will be the fruits of our labours!

Liz Hunt

Parish Plan Update

A Community Led Parish Plan sets out how the community would like the parish to change over the next ten years – a statement of what makes the area special and a series of actions to conserve and enhance parish life. It can include anything that you decide should be in it. From Sires Hill to Shillingford Hill, from Mackney to Brightwell, Rush Court to Sotwell; everyone from each part of the parish will have the opportunity to have their say. If there is anything about the area that really bugs you – tell us, or maybe there are things about living round here that you love and would like to see more of, or have some new ideas for community events. The important thing is that you let us know so we can include your views in the Plan.

Local people are putting together our Parish Plan - everyone who is helping is a volunteer. You may have already seen us popping up at a local event asking you to give us your ideas. At the moment we just want to know what you like and dislike about parish life and maybe anything that you think would improve things. Once we have gathered these views we will need to sit down and write a detailed questionnaire based on your ideas. We expect to have this questionnaire ready in September. At the moment, you can talk to us in a number of ways –

- at one of the parish events we attend for example, wherever you see the ‘Well of Wishes’

- or through our website (if you have internet access visit http://www.brightwellcumsotwell.co.uk/ and follow the links)

- or you may want to join one of the working groups that have been formed – these are looking at different issues in more detail such as: housing, the environment, amenities, community, business, young people, traffic & transport and crime. Simply contact me and I can pass you onto the right person.

To try and reach everyone in the parish, one of the Parish Plan volunteers will be knocking on your door to ask you a few simple questions. We will wait until it gets a bit lighter - so come March please do expect us and please do talk to the volunteers when they call – it will not take long.

Jason Debney, Parish Plan Committee

Mistletoe – not just for a kiss at Christmas

Many homes were adorned with a sprig of mistletoe during the festive season, the modern tradition being that it is permissible to steal a kiss underneath said sprig. The folklore around mistletoe is immense and would require a book length article, rather too long for The Villager.

Surprisingly there are almost 1500 varieties of mistletoe worldwide. Most varieties grow in the tropics with Europe being at their northerly limit having only four species and the UK having just one. One European species has red berries and grows on olive trees, another has yellow berries and grows on oaks and around the Mediterranean there is a dwarf species that grows on juniper.

Mistletoe is semi-parasitic, relying on the host for nutrients but its green leaves mean it is partly self-sufficient. It mainly grows on apple trees but also on lime, poplar and hawthorn, rarely on other trees. Brightwell-cum-Sotwell is host to a lot of mistletoe because of the many old orchards in the village. It can easily be seen in winter on limes and poplars, though most is in gardens and orchards on fruit trees and not so visible.

Nationally, the loss of old apple orchards has led to a decline in the amount of mistletoe. A survey in the 1990s highlighted the importance of garden trees in maintaining the mistletoe population. There is evidence that recently mistletoe is undergoing a wider distribution, a change thought to be bird related. Historically the Mistle Thrush has been the main consumer, taking the whole berry and then the seed is passed and some then stick on tree branches and more mistletoe grows. Enter the Blackcap - over the last 20 years the number of these birds coming from Germany and overwintering in the UK has greatly increased. They too eat mistletoe, but only the flesh, not the seed which often gets stuck to their beaks and is then wiped off onto the tree branches. This is thought to be helping to increase the amount and distribution of mistletoe.

National survey

A national survey is being held to find out the status and distribution of mistletoe. Most UK mistletoe grows in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire but it can be found in all areas. To help me make a return for this survey I would like to hear from any household that has mistletoe growing in their garden. It would be helpful if you state the type of tree the mistletoe is growing on, if it is apple the variety if known (there is a theory that mistletoe prefers certain varieties.). Contact me on 01491 836661 or email me on jchilton894@btinternet.com.

Finally, if anyone would like to try and grow mistletoe on their apple trees I would be happy to supply seed and show how it is done. This would be in late February, early March. If you have a go on your own do not use seed from mistletoe harvested at Christmas as the berries will not be ripe.

Paul Chilton

Environment Group

From drought to flood

In hydrological terms, 2012 was a very remarkable year, unlike any other on record. The first three months saw the continuation of the drought which, by March, had intensified and was covering much of the southern half of the country. Feeble flows in rivers and much depressed reservoir and aquifer levels caused worries of a drought of 1976 proportions and serious concern for summer shortages of water. Towards the end of March it seemed probable that, even if rainfalls were about average for the summer months, water supplies would be hit hard in the south and east, possibly with standpipes in the streets. There was a deficit of 120mm of rain that had to be made up to bring conditions towards normal. Hosepipe bans were introduced by water companies on 5 April across much of southern England but within days the deluge started, a deluge which turned the summer into the wettest for 100 years. Instead of average rainfalls, monthly totals of twice the average (and more) were widespread between April and August. Floods replaced the drought, Hebden Bridge and Clovelly were flooded, and there were even floods in some places where there was still a hosepipe ban !

This abrupt change from serious drought to excessive rain is unequalled in the hydrometeorological records which have been collected over the last 150 years. By the end of September 2012, England had received about 600 mm of rain compared to an average of less than half that amount for the 6 months. By comparison, Angus Dart recorded 426mm in Mackney. In October, flood warnings were issued for a growing number of locations, approaching 200 in late November, the south west being hardest hit. In most areas the heavy rain continued for the rest of the month and in the New Year the Met Office declared 2012 as the wettest year ever in England and the second wettest for the UK as a whole. Rosemary Greasby’s total for the year at Highlands Farm was 819mm, the second wettest since she started rainfall observations in 1998.

Annual Meeting and Talk

The annual meeting of the Group will be held in the Village Hall on 26 February, followed by a talk by Angus Dart on Farming in Brightwell.

John Rodda

The Bach Centre

A traditional name in Wales for the shortest month of the year is "y mis bach", which means "the little month". To us at the Bach Centre, though, February is "y mis Bach" for another reason. It's the early part of spring, and that means remedy-making will soon be underway.

All Bach remedies - whether prepared here or by other makers - are made between February and early September, because that's when the flowers are out. Those prepared at the start of the season are tree remedies, made from blossom and catkins. The sun isn't strong in February, so back in 1935 Dr Edward Bach devised a preparation method that involves boiling up the flowering parts with water. It's a bit like making tea.

Later in the summer, most of the remedies use the sun method. This is a more photogenic affair. Glass bowls with clear water glinting in the sun, and a top layer of fresh flowers, look extremely attractive. If you have ever seen a photo story in a magazine about the remedies it is probably the sun method that you saw.

So while remedy-makers need sunshine and heat later in the year, they don't worry too much if the weather is unkind this early. In fact we're hoping for a cold, wet couple of weeks to begin with. Another tradition - not just in Wales, but in England and Scotland too - is that bad weather in February means a fine summer to come. After last summer's monsoon, it would be good to see more sun in 2013.
Stefan Ball