Upton Nature Garden – October update

We’re thrilled to report exciting and momentous progress towards supporting nature in our village. This weekend just past, villagers and other volunteers have planted 2500 bulbs and laid out the paths in the nature garden. This means that next spring there’ll be nectar for the early emerging bees – generally queen bumbles looking for food so they can build strength to find a nesting site – and a way to walk around the garden to get a look at the flowers and who they’re feeding.

So thank you to everyone who took part (all the more so if you stayed when it rained) from the toddlers to the elders, from the experts to the newbies, from the diehards to the sceptics – you made it a great community gathering and set the bar high for future volunteer events.

As it happens, our volunteer weekend was also the start of CO26 in Glasgow. Basically the last ditch attempt by the international community to arrest climate change. It’s worth noting that as the deliberations kicked off we were planting up a green space that will absorb carbon as well as providing other benefits.

Hedging our bets

Even though I’ve been devouring ‘A natural history of the hedgerow’ by John Wright, I still haven’t fathomed why we say “hedging our bets”. Is it to do with steeplechasing? Or investing in land? Please advise. What I do know is the next stage of the nature garden involves planting hedges.

Small at first, these unprepossessing stalks will develop into beautiful berry-laden, species-rammed, carbon-digesting chambers of greenfulness. Hedges, amazingly, can host thousands of species of plant, animal, lichen and fungus, and while we may not see them all, they all contribute to the ecosystem. It’ll be a while before we get to serious levels of biodiversity, but the main thing is to get started.

We’ll be planting wildlife-targeted hedge plants along the fence adjoining Station Road, and across the garden near the seating area. These hedges will provide habitat for pollinators and birds. The border with the rec stretching from the village hall to the fence adjoining Beeching Close will be planted with ‘edible’ hedging – plants bearing berries and fruits which can be used for jams, syrups, and other home uses, which was a recommendation from County Councillor Sally Povolotsky who generously allocated funding to the garden.

To get these hedges planted, along with shrubs for the woodland area, we really need your help (again!) later this month. We don’t know dates yet because we have to wait for the supplier to say when they can deliver. But if you’re willing and able when the time comes, please don’t be shy.


Upton Nature Garden Volunteers


St. Mary’s Vestry Improvements Appeal – Update November 2021

The appeal to raise funds for improvements to St Mary’s church in Upton was launched in July 2019. The works include extension of the vestry to provide a disabled access WC and refurbishment of the existing vestry to include catering facilities.

So far, funds raised via a combination of generous donations, grants and other sources totals over £38,000. We are very grateful to all those who have contributed to this cause.

The original cost of the proposals was estimated at £55,000 over two years ago. Inevitably, this cost has crept up and the most recent estimate, earlier this year, was £68,500.

We applied to the National Churches Trust for a grant of £20,000 but we learnt recently that this has not been successful. If the grant had been made, we were hopeful that the remaining gap of about £10,000 could be made up from a further, final appeal and smaller grants.

We have since applied for a grant from to the Joseph Rank Trust, an organisation whose aims and charitable policies appear to be compatible with the objectives of our project and we expect a response early next year. At that point, we will be able to assess what further fundraising is required.

The aim of the St Mary’s project is simple – to improve the facilities of the church so that it remains a cornerstone of the community for another thousand years. Fundraising takes time and patience but, with persistence, it can succeed. We have been encouraged by the example of All Saints, North Moreton, where over £150,000 was raised from a village of similar size to Upton for larger-scale, works which have proved a great benefit to the whole local community.

We hope for an encouraging outcome from the latest grant application and we’ll provide a further update as soon as there’s more news.


Paul Batho


Kit Maunsell MC (1939-2021)

It is with sadness that we report that Kit Maunsell died on his 82nd birthday on the 6th October. He had lived at Upton Manor, Hight Street for 35 years.

Kit was born in India where his father was on secondment to the Indian Political Service on October 6th 1939. He and his family returned to this country in 1944 whereupon Kit was sent to Cheltenham College. He went on to Sandhurst in 1957 and was posted to the first of his Army postings with the Gurkha Rifles in 1959. In 1960 he was posted to and joined 2/10GR Norwegian Farm Camp, Hong Kong where his rugby talent resulted in him playing at centre for Hong Kong.

Other postings were to follow including three operational tours to Borneo during one of which, when he was Company Commander, Kit was awarded the Military Cross. Kit decided to leave the army in 1968 having risen to the rank of Major (at the time he was the youngest Major in the British Army).

In 1974, after a few years working in the rag trade in Hong Kong, Kit enrolled himself for a two-year course at Cranfield Business School following which he returned to the clothing industry to work for Thomas Marshalls where he quickly rose through the ranks. In 1982 he moved to the catering industry with Letheby and Christopher as managing director and stayed with them in that role until they were taken over in 1997. From that date Kit held a mix of company directorship, including Gieves and Hawkes for ten years and he continued to invest in small publicly quoted and private companies.

It was while he was posted in Hong Kong that Kit first met Caroline whilst she was working her passage around the world. They married in 1970 and raised three lovely daughters Venetia Davidson, Chloe Tindall and Skye Veciana. The family moved from Blewbury to Upton to live in Upton Manor soon after it had been restored and saved from demolition by the previous owners. Caroline and Kit then spent a further few years continuing to renovate and improve the property.

His love of family was his first priority. He was immensely proud of his three daughters and was an active and loving grandfather until the end.

In 2003 he was an enthusiastic member of the committee that was tasked with producing an Upton Parish Plan which when published did so much to improve the social life of the village.

Kit was a huge lover of sports his favourites being Rugby, Golf, Tennis and Cricket. He personally played a lot of rugby, squash and skiing when younger. His interests in later life were reading, opera, bird watching, walking, painting, visiting Art Galleries and playing bridge with his friends and at Blewbury Bridge Club.

Kit was known as a man of strong values and great integrity. Generous, honest, straight speaking and determined. A man who lived by his principles and high expectations. Despite his successful career in both the Army and business, he remained a modest man albeit with a great sense of humour to the last.

Mike Brown

Nature Garden update

Dear villagers and supporters,

You may have seen the nature garden site is looking a little different. Now we need your skills and energy to take the transformation even further.

On Saturday 30 October and Sunday 31 October please donate some time to plant thousands of bulbs.

Please reply to kieronhumph@gmail.com if you can come for 30 mins … or all day! (So we can buy the right amount of biscuits.)

Continue Reading Nature Garden update

Free Film Ticket

Churn Churches Action Group

With the approach of COP26, climate change is attracting

large amounts of media and public attention. As one part

of our local response we are organising a free showing of a

very powerful documentary film which has already won

many awards throughout the world.

The showing will take place in the Vale Room – Blewbury Village Hall

on Wednesday 13th October at 7.15pm

It tells the story of Kisilu, a Kenyan farmer who starts to

use his camera to capture the impact of climate change on

his family and village. A violent storm brings him into

contact with a Norwegian filmmaker, and soon he becomes

a community leader and activist on the global stage.

To reserve your free seat please email valerie.ahs@gmail.com

Progress on the Nature Garden

Over the weekend of 25-26th September we started the landscaping work on the nature garden site. The grass was removed to leave earth for the woodland shrubs, perennials, and native ground cover. The massive concrete foundations from the old playground equipment were dug up and removed from site. Smaller hardcore has been retained to form the base for the seating area and some paths. Some of the rubber matting from the slide area was also re-purposed as path base.

There are two sets of trenches where hedges will be planted. One hedge is between the meadow (bus stop) end and the seating area, and the other is the new boundary behind the village hall. NB there will be a gate in the hedge there too, even though the trench is continuous for now. The big pile of wood chippings next to the nature garden site will be used as toppings for the paths through the woodland area

So, what is the plan?

The Upton Nature Garden project aims to create a haven for wildlife and people that is a focal point for community activities involving biodiversity and the environment. Walk through the woodland glades; spot insects, fungi, flowers, birds and the tracks of small animals. Sit and relax whilst youngsters try out the log trail and babies enjoy the flickering sunlight through the leaves and branches. Enjoy the wildflower meadow spectacle in summer.

Inside the nature garden site, we already have

Mature copper beech, horse chestnut and field maple

Well shaded bank with hazel, willow and hedgerow beech

An area that has been dog excrement free for many years

Oxfordshire Conservation Charity recommended we plant blossom and berry bearing bushes, shrubs, and wildflowers; that we renovate the hedge along the roadside; and that we include boundary hedges that have edible fruit for birds (and people) to eat.

The final garden design has three areas that wrap around the village hall.

(1) In the Forest Sub-Canopy there are native shrubs and woodland bulbs around the perimeter, and perennials and ground cover over a mound in the centre. The winding paths and log trail loop around the trees, and log piles and dead hedges return nutrients and encourage fungi, bugs, and insects.

(2) The Open Glade, where the slide used to be, is bounded by new native hedge for seclusion. Part of the existing concrete base has been re-used for the seating area, which is surrounded by flowers and berry bearing shrubs. There will be shallow rooted plants near the hall and two clusters of fruit trees between the seats and the road.

(3) In the sunniest part of the garden nearest the bus stop, in the Meadow, there are wide mown paths for pushchair and wheelchair access, and a wide variety of meadow flowers to support pollinators like queen bumblebees who need that early nectar for the energy to find a nest site.

The garden will develop over the next few years and increase in interest as the plants grow and the wildlife moves in. There are information posters about the planned work schedule and design pinned to the boundary fences. More information and pictures on nature-garden.co.uk


Upton Village Fete

Over 300 people came from far and wide to Upton recreation ground on the first Saturday in September to enjoy all the fun of the fete.

There were Morris men, gymnasts and a fun dog show in which it seemed that just about every dog in Upton got a prize. An impressive array of classic cars glinted in the occasional flashes of sun and for those with an appetite (and this included almost everyone!) there were burgers, pizzas and fabulous home-made cakes plus, of course, gallons of tea.

Then there was the usual group of stalls including books, preserves, a kids’ corner and a tombola of 1001 prizes!

In short, it was a lovely afternoon and many thanks are due to all who helped in so many ways, including putting it all up and taking it down again, looking after the stalls, selling programmes, arranging parking….the list goes on! It was not only a great social occasion but the event raised over £3,300 for the Village Hall and St Mary’s Church.

Keep your diaries free for Saturday, 3rd September 2022 when it all happens again!

Paul Batho


Lights on at Blewbury Tennis Club

Blewbury Tennis Club has installed court lighting at the club. By using the latest high tech, low spill, LED components, extended play and coaching can now take place for people of all ages and abilities all year round.
To celebrate this special occasion, British renowned tennis player, Tim Henman OBE will be the guest of honour for the big Switch On.
Everyone is invited to join in the fun on Tuesday 5th October 6-8pm so do join us if you can although booking is essential via https://buytickets.at/styleacre/555273 We’re delighted to be hosting this event in partnership with Style Acre, a local charity supporting 250 people with learning disabilities and autism across Oxfordshire. The occasion will be celebrated with musical accompaniment from Blewbury Brass Band, drinks, refreshments and a raffle. And if you fancy a spot of tennis, bring your racket along and stay for our club social from 8-10pm.This project has been made possible through support from the LTA, which provided both a grant and a loan for the project, National Tennis Association, the club’s coaching partners, Vale of the White Horse District Council, whose funding contributed towards the project and of course Luminance Pro who supplied and installed the lighting.
Rosemary de Wilde

Environmental News – Garden Funding Reaches Target

Really excellent news on the funding front this month – we’ve now raised over £7K for the nature garden.
Huge thanks to the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment which provided half our total with support from Grundon Waste Management Limited.
And a massive thank you to our County Councillor, Sally Povolotsky, who approved an application for £2.5K from her Councillor Priority Fund.
Here’s why Sally selected the project:
‘Supporting Upton Nature Garden is one of the wonderful legacy projects that I am proud to assist with a donation from my Councillor Priority Funding. The great outdoors, nature recovery, ‘green’ therapy as well as biodiversity net gain is at the core of my agenda, and I am over the moon that I could help the team.
Sally Povolotsky – Hendreds & Harwell Division Elected Member
(Oxfordshire County Council)
Thanks also to the generosity and support of local donors, Sherfield Flooring and Strictly Wine, and the many villagers and local organisations who have pledged time, plants, logs or support in kind.
We’re getting cracking later in September. Look for the signs on the garden fence (or visit nature-garden.co.uk) for more details.
Green refills – reduce plastic
We create 2.4 million tonnes of plastic waste in the UK each year. But less than half gets recycled.
The good news is there’s an easy way to cut down on plastic waste – by refilling your own containers with cleaning products.
Better still, you’ll be able to do this in the comfort of your own village hall later this month. Honorary villager Frankie Jacklin has kindly agreed to run a refill station for the village as part of the national Great Big Green Week event – a celebration of nature and efforts to combat climate change.
You can fill up on washing-up liquid, laundry detergent, cleaning products, hand soap and other essential (plastic-free) products. Cash or credit card payments welcome.
All you need to do is bring your empty bottles to the village hall meeting room on Thursday 23rd September, 5.30 to 7.30pm.
Overflow cemetery
We had a great time mowing the hay in the overflow earlier this month.
The next job is to take out the grass thatch and reduce the soil fertility to make it suitable for wildflowers. We had a go at doing this with a reasonably powerful garden rotovator but it’s clearly a job for a bigger machine.
A compact tractor and rotovator would make short work of the area – do you have one or know someone who does? Please get in touch if you’d be willing to lend us your horsepower!

Upton Nature Garden

Exciting finds on the nature garden site next to the village hall last month: a pyramidal orchid, several field voles, and a slow worm!
We’re aiming to prepare the ground in September ahead of planting in October and November.
We haven’t been given the final grant figure for the garden by Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment yet, but we know there’s going to be a shortfall in the amount of funding we receive for shrubs and plants. So we need your help! Could you donate any of the following native species:
Foxgloves (digitalis purpurea); honeysuckle (lonicera periclymen); ivy (hedera helix); sweet briar rose (rosa rubignosa); wild privet (ligustrum vulgare); spurge laurel (daphne laureola); guelder rose (viburnum opulus); spindle (euonymus europaeus); barberry (berberis); juniper (juniperus communis); dogwood (cornus sanguinea); holly (ilex aquifolium).
We’d prefer smaller plants – ones grown from cuttings or seeds of your own stock would be ideal – because these can adapt and establish themselves to the conditions in the nature garden more easily than mature plants.
We’d also like your logs or stumps to provide high-spec homes for insect families. If you’re planning to fell a tree, please call Brian or Kieron, or email us at support@nature-garden.co.uk