Village Hall Back Up and Running

Now that the majority of Government COVID-19 rules have been lifted,
Upton Village Hall is fully back up and running and taking all usual party and
event bookings. This includes the return of all the usual classes and group
meetings such as Karate, Yoga, Gymnastics, Brownies, Dog Training, Tea
Birds, Short Mat Bowls and Wine Club.
The Upton Village Hall Amenities Trust will be holding its AGM at the end of
March and details will shortly be available on the hall’s website
www.uptonvillagehall.co.uk

Nature garden and HUGS news

Exciting news just in: the next order of plants for the nature garden is on its
way (from Bampton, west of Oxford – we keep it local if we can). This time
it’s a bumper batch of more than 400 perennials, including honeysuckle,
foxgloves, ferns, yarrow, bugloss and meadow crane’s bill.
We’d really appreciate your help getting these lovelies safely stowed in the
soil. You can volunteer on Saturday March 12 and Sunday March 11 from 10
am.
This is the last big push (can you tell I’ve been watching This is going to
hurt) to get the greenery in the garden established, coupled with
wildflower seed-sowing next month.
After that there’s a new gate and a sign to install, and the garden will be
ready to receive visitors! Obviously it’ll take a while for the plants to get
established, but there are already bulbs poking through and buds on the
hedging plants.
Another welcome sighting earlier this month was a mistle thrush chortling in
the chestnut. I’m told one of its nicknames is the ‘stormcock’ because it
starts trying to pair up before winter is properly over. It’s on the British
Trust for Ornithology’s red list of birds of conservation concern, so let’s
hope it finds the food and habitat it needs locally.
Verging on the meticulous
Cutting verges costs a lot of money and turns a potentially productive strip
of land into a desert, albeit a green one.
In recognition of this, miniature roadside nature reserves have been
springing up all over the country, including about a dozen across
Oxfordshire. Have you spotted one? They’re a great way to support
pollinator populations and cut down on the bills we have to pay through our
council tax.
Now our county councillor, Sally Povolotsky, is working to make it easier to
arrange for verge-mowing operations to be suspended, and for local groups
to manage the land in a more sustainable way. Chilton Road is a good
candidate for this in our area. Turning the verge (on the left as you go up
the hill) into a bank of flowers and longer grasses would be relatively
straightforward and safe to do as there’s no longer traffic there.
We’d need to wait until the road closure works are complete before starting
work, but if there’s support for the idea then at least we could kick off a
discussion. If you’re interested in getting involved please let me know at
kieronhumph@gmail.com
Kieron

Blewbury Post Office

The Blewbury Post Office will be open again from Monday 28th, Mondays to Fridays.

Upton Nature Garden Volunteers

Bumper crop of volunteers for the Treebilee!
Whether spurred on by Prince Charles’ rallying cry or not, Upton came out in
force to plant up the nature garden on the 22 and 23 January.
There was a brilliant atmosphere as everyone got stuck into digging, shifting
mulch and carefully planting our healthy-looking trees, shrubs and hedges. It
takes a little imagination to picture it, but the work we’ve done should
result in:
the restoration of the hedgerow along the bank by the road
a new edible hedge crammed with nuts and berries to separate the
meadow from the glade
a miniature orchard with apple, pear, mulberry, cherry, crab apple and
wild service
shrubs and more edibles throughout the woodland
a new native hedge between the nature garden and the rec
Volunteers, take a bough
Thanks to our 30+ volunteers (including plenty of doughties who gave up
time on both Saturday and Sunday) we exceeded expectations – about 500
plants are now settling into their new home.
This follows the previous volunteer events where we planted bulbs, erected
fencing and prepared the site. Thanks to all those who got involved.
We also had two exciting donations to make sure the nature garden gets a
reputation as a des-res for wildlife as soon as possible:
a deluxe hedgehog house from William Lott
a birdbox from Frances Telling
Your next planting opportunity
We’re hoping to order perennials for the nature garden soon. Maybe you’d
like to plant a few dozen foxgloves, some graceful ferns, trailing
honeysuckle or heavenly hellebores.
Keep an eye on www.nature-garden.co.uk for updates.
Kieron Humphrey

Nature Garden Update

Upton Nature Garden Volunteers.
Not too many people will be shedding a tear for the end of 2021, I suspect,
but what a year for nature in Upton! We received funding for the nature
garden, broke ground in September and planted bulbs in October with the
help of loads of village volunteers. Meanwhile in the overflow cemetery we
sowed wildflowers and a flying squad from a local firm planted a 90 metre
hedge in the middle of a gale.
What does this add up to? Well, it depends what you want to measure.
According to long-standing convention, economic growth is the only scale
worth paying attention to. If it doesn’t increase GDP, it isn’t worth the
candle. But this is to ignore all the soft benefits that an activity brings – and
any harmful collateral. Quick example: going for a walk generates no
revenue, no margin, but it contributes to the walker’s health and maybe
their happiness, without causing any pollution – as long as they didn’t drop
any litter while they were out.
Let’s take a closer look at the balance sheet for the environmental projects
in Upton:
Plants and materials provided a bit of income for suppliers, but the labour
was all about love, not money, so economically there’s not much to report.
When it comes to environmental impact the calculations get interesting.
Initially there are carbon emissions from transport of goods and people to
consider. But over the course of the, say minimum 30 years we’d expect the
hedges, shrubs and trees to grow, the capture rate (according to experts at
https://ecotree.green) averages at 25kg of carbon a year. That’s the
equivalent of the emissions a new car produces over a distance of 125 miles
(www.nimblefins.co.uk for the calculation). And since we’ll have put in
more than 600 trees when everything’s planted, we’ll be safely in the black.
Then there’s the direct contribution to nature: food and habitat for
creatures that wouldn’t otherwise have had the necessary. With the
potential to harbour thousands of species, a single hedge is a pretty
phenomenal ecosystem. Adding one means a net gain for nature – and
indeed for humans since one of the nature garden’s hedges is edible, with
fruit and berries for jams, jellies and syrups if you’re that way inclined.
And what about the contribution to community? Gathering people with a
common purpose is definitely valuable, although I’m not sure what metric
you’d use. And finally the business of enjoying the end result: bud-burst or
birdsong or butterfly-flight. Again, hard to quantify. And maybe that’s the
point. If the uncountable stuff – birdsong or bud-burst or bumblebee drone –
disappears one day, it won’t affect the economy, but it will affect all of us.
Kieron Humphrey kieronhumph@gmail.com

VPA in Danger of Closing

Following a recent Committee Meeting of the Village Produce Association
this Notice is issued to all the residents of the Blewbury and Upton Villages.
An Extraordinary General Meeting of the Blewbury and Upton
Village Produce Association will be held on TUESDAY 18th
JANUARY 2022 at
7pm in the VALE ROOM, BLEWBURY VILLAGE HALL
Notice is hereby given that the current Committee Members propose
to resign en-block at this meeting, therefore the purpose of the EGM
will be to confirm whether any persons attending the meeting would
be prepared to form a new Committee and continue the VPA.
Please be advised that if a Committee cannot be formed, then the
Village Produce Association will be formally closed at the
Extraordinary General Meeting.

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