Virtual December Meeting of the Wine Club

We are getting used to a “new normal,” and whilst it can never replace what we all hope will be back soon, it is better than the alternative!  And so it was this December, when the Upton Wine Club hosted their second virtual meet. December has traditionally been the month where our wine club goes to town and pulls out all stops for a really festive food and wine pairing evening. This year, our village showed (again) what tremendous spirit we have, with some wonderful home made sausage rolls and mince pies, accompanying cheese and chorizo, with some Christmas crackers, again home made!

We were joined by Katie Jones from her home in the South of France, who presented a selection of her wines, along with a wonderful story of how she moved to a small community, who fell in….and then out of love with her but through adversity has found an amazing way of life, which may not be for everyone but most of us would want to sample, if only for a few weeks of the year!

Between Katie, and then supported by Frankie, we explored a number of wines, all grown on vines at least 60+ years old, which goes against the ethos of the community around her, who prefer to pick grapes on younger, more abundant fruiting vines. This was a voyage of quality over quantity, with a market for both, although personally, I know which ones I will be buying!

Our first wine was called On the QT Bin 25. This was made from 100% Cariganan Gris grape, a difficult grape to grow and for that reason is hardly harvest anywhere else in the world. It was a tremendously smooth grape, herbaceous and one to try with soft cheeses or even a few mussels!

The whites were finished off with Blanc “A Different Direction” and Macabeau. Both were rated very high by our members and worth a try.

We moved on to the reds. The first of which was called Hairy Grenache, so called after the hair on the leaves. The wine however, was beautifully smooth and if you are still making use of the BBQ this winter, one to try with some of those sausages!

Next up was her Fitou. Full of dark red fruits, herbs and just a touch of liquorice – simply delicious. This was followed by a Domaine Jones Syrah and those that liked the previous wine, loved this one! Made from a very small batch of wine grown each year, this was more intense but with similar liquorice and deep red berry flavours. Our last Red was called “La Gare Old Vine Carignan”, branded after the new office Katie works, a converted railway station. A great red to finish, full bodied and full of that jammy fruit flavour, making it a wonderful Xmas tasting wine.

Our final wine was a sweet Muscat, which has become a favourite of many a member. Wonderfully smooth and perfect with a bit of blue cheese, should you have any room left after Christmas dinner!

It was a great to share a drink and have a virtual chat with some fellow wine enthusiast. It really helped add a little bit more Christmas Spirit to what has been a very very mixed year! Let’s hope for a more uplifting 2021!



First Steps for HUGS

We were slightly hampered by Covid in our first few months – the perishing pandemic prevented us from holding meetings or getting plans for a refill pop-up off the ground. But, we still managed to launch a nature trail (free on, run a campaign to plant 1,000 trees (400 planted so far!) and focus on helping the local owl population. Members also wrote to our MP, David Johnston, to invite him to take part in a discussion about the private member’s bill on tackling the climate emergency ( He declined.

We had a workshop on mitigating global emissions using the en-roads simulator – pretty whizzy stuff developed by MIT. You can have a go yourself at  And we contributed ideas to the various Parish Councils for improving green spaces, supporting nature’s recovery and becoming more sustainable. Hopefully more on these once we’ve seen the PC’s response to the village questionnaire.

Chilton Road Bird Survey

Have you heard the birds along Chilton Road? It’s quite a little chorus following the closure and will be even better as the weather gets warmer. We’ve started monitoring bird species on the new quiet stretch to see if anything changes. There were 10 species logged on the first pass in December. (You can see what they were on the iRecord system at – search for “Chilton Road survey”. You can also join the team of volunteers who are carrying out the fortnightly update.)

Ideally we’d also have comparison data from before the road was closed. Unfortunately we don’t have this, but we’re working with the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) to interpret the data we’re now collecting.

While on the subject of cycle-friendly routes, did you know that there’s now an almost continuous track from Upton to Wantage along the 544 Cycle Route and Icknield Greenway? This is part of ongoing improvements to cycle routes across Oxfordshire.

On Boiling Frogs

Thanks to experiments by Friedrich Goltz in 1869 (and probably numerous predecessors), we know there’s no truth in the idea that a frog will sit happily in a saucepan that is gradually heated up until it becomes an ex-frog. But it’s an image that’s been used a fair bit when describing apathy towards mitigating climate change. The analogy works well: incremental change doesn’t seem to require urgent response. And then, suddenly, when the danger becomes clear, it’s too late. At the point of realisation, you’d expect a fast and decisive reaction. (Frog exits pot; governments ban CFCs to prevent further damage to ozone layer.) So, what’s different about climate change? Why are we so reluctant to take the necessary action to prevent global warming increasing by 1.5 degrees Centigrade?

The most obvious reasons are that governments want to protect their economies, and that as individuals we’re not willing or able to brook the cost or inconvenience of doing without the products that create the emissions. It’s not uncommon to feel powerless when in front of such a big problem. And after all, “the Chinese are building new coal-fired power stations so it makes no difference what I do”.

The main issue with doing nothing is that the problem gets worse. And if we divest ourselves of responsibility we’re being dishonest into the bargain: we’re the ones busy buying affordable goods manufactured in China, so we’re driving demand for that energy.

Facing up to the problem is going to involve changes, sacrifices and some creativity. One writer likens it to medieval cathedral building*. The people who start the job won’t be around to see it finished. But they know they’re contributing to something much more important that will endure.

*(Read the full article at




Banksian Medal Awarded by VPA

Well, on the 12th December, despite Blewbury Village Hall refurbishment not being complete, we managed to hold the Banksian Medal Competition outside the hall under a VPA gazebo. Thank you to Andrew for helping me put it up – I hadn’t got a clue which pole went where! We had nine entrants and all of them deserved to win. Well done to Rosie and Mathew Phillips (the youngest entrants) for taking part. The most unusual entrant was Tony Sibley’s whose table decoration displayed his skill as a woodturner and included wooden Christmas trees, snowmen and bells. And, congratulations to our entrant, 90 years young, who was placed 2nd by the judges – which proves you are never too old!!

The judges, Joanna Fielden and Alex, had great difficulty in choosing a winner as so much thought and work had gone into all the wreaths and table decorations. The final decision was:

1st place – Kornelia Hearman. (winner of the Banksian Medal)

2nd place – Helen Bennett

3rd place – Graeme Gettings

Highly Commended – Rose and Mathew Phillips

The judges asked the Committee to pass on congratulations to all the entrants for their beautiful entries, so, Congratulations to you all!

It is hoped that when we have the Summer Show in 2021, all the entrants in this competition will take part and put entries into the floral art section.

Well, we’ve now been locked into the Covid-19 Tier-4 and goodness knows how long it will be before we have freedom again. Let’s hope the vaccine which is now being given out will do its job and it can be distributed to everyone as soon as possible.

Despite the restrictions, the VPA will be preparing for the Summer Show, to be held in July 2021.

In the meantime, maybe we can hold another competition at the beginning of April – how about “An Easter Bonnet with Spring Flowers.”

There’ll be an update on the allotments next month. Just to let you know, the hens are surviving the mixed weather we’re having and still laying well.

Did You Know “It is said that marigolds, particularly the Mexican variety ‘tagetes minuta’ will control Ground Ivy, Horsetail and Ground Elder.  It may be disconcerting to the visitor to see a dense crop of marigolds blazing in some unsuitable part of the garden, but if this remedy works as effectively as turnips against couch grass, who cares?

Happy Gardening – Keep well and safe.

A Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year from all the Committee Members of the VPA.



VPA review 2020

You still have time to enter our Banksian Medal Competition, the deadline is December 12th. Details are available at Blewbury Post Office, from Maggie in Upton on 850126 or send me an email to VPA.IN.BL.UP@GMAIL.COM  and I will send them to you.

Don’t forget we have had to cancel our Christmas Social this year.

I can’t believe we’ve almost reached the end of 2020 and what a year. A wet, wet  spring and a hot, hot summer, with windy storms in between. I won’t mention the stressful months caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reviewing 2020:  As the VPA has been unable to do anything during the past year because of the pandemic, I have offered some ramblings about my Didcot allotments. My allotment sites have been kept open throughout the year by the Town Council, whilst conforming to the various coronavirus rules. These plots are my ‘green gym’. I don’t know how far I walked each day during the summer carrying two 2-gallon watering cans backwards and forwards from the water trough to keep the plants alive!  At the end of the season most of what I planted survived. Surprisingly the main crop potatoes (Cara) were superb and I’m now enjoying lovely baked jacket potatoes with plenty of butter. The main disaster was the sweetcorn – I don’t know why – I kept them watered and weed-free, they produced cobs but dried out and died for no apparent reason. I’m waiting to see what is going to happen to the Brussels sprouts – they don’t look too good at the moment as they seem to have blown and look like mini-mini cabbages.

Well enough about the allotments – they have now been put to bed until the spring.

The hens did really well this year, despite the hot summer. Their inner run is enclosed with a recycled roof from my old conservatory roof and keeps surprisingly cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It also gives them a dry run in the wet weather. I did have to take Holly (she’s nearly 7 years old!) to the vet recently, she had lost feathers around her face. She was given a complete overhaul and guess what – the vet decided it was her hormones, given her age! However, since then all the hens (Shallot, Pumpkin and Bortlotti) have received lots of tonics for their feathers, bones and general health. They all look in fine form and are still laying well. They’ve also had lots of treats including cold water melon in the hot weather!!

On behalf of the Committee Members of the VPA may I take this opportunity to wish everyone in Upton an enjoyable, safe and happy Christmas and New Year together with best wishes for 2021.

Did You Know?  Battersea Park in London was once the site of a giant asparagus field, with over 260 acres set aside for its cultivation.

Happy Gardening, keep well and safe.



HUGS have More Trees.

It’s National Tree Week, so it’s very fitting that there’ll be 400 new trees planted across the 3 villages following our ‘More trees, please’ campaign.

Thanks very much if you’ve found space for one tree (or a whole bunch). And if you were already at full capaci-tree, don’t worry, the Woodland Trust has agreed to supply Upton with 400 native trees to plant our own ‘tiny forest’.

The plan is to use a method pioneered in Japan in the 1970s, and successfully deployed in the last couple of years in the Netherlands and Witney! It involves putting in trees very densely – as many as 600 on a tennis court-sized space. Competition encourages the trees to grow much faster than usual in the first 3 to 4 years, achieving higher than usual levels of soil enrichment, and quickly becoming home to large numbers of birds and invertebrates. (Search for the ‘Tiny Forest Zaanstad’ report from Wageningen University if you want to see the species lists!)

The trees arrive in March, and will need lots of mulch to get them started. The young woody growth on hedges and trees makes one of the best mulches, so if you’re pruning or clipping over the winter please don’t brown bin it – let me know and I’ll take it away.

Citizen science: Owl project

We’ve launched a new project to study the owl population in the three villages. Lu Barton, our local owl expert, is working with us to help map and support our owl population. Together we’ll be listening for owls, putting up nest boxes, installing nest webcams and working to improve local habitat for owls.

Lu has already been looking into where our local owls are around the 3 villages. Do help her by emailing her ( to tell her if you’ve seen or heard owls near you.

Lu has already been hosting fascinating Facebook live sessions about each of our local owl species – tawny, little and barn owls. She’s joined in the sessions by her own gorgeous owls and she tells us more about each type of owl and what we can do in our gardens and on our land to support them better. If you missed any ‘owlcasts’ you can watch again on our Facebook page. Here’s a short link to find it:

Joining HUGS

It’s free to join – just drop an email to You’ll get advance notice of events and you’ll get a say in what activities HUGS focuses on in 2021.



Covid Help Available

The United Charities of Blewbury, Aston Upthorpe and Upton (UCAB) has been allocated money from the District Council to support people who have been negatively affected by the COVID pandemic and are, for example, in need of support for food and other basic essentials. If you would like to follow this up, there are applications forms in Blewbury Post Office. We are more than willing to help with filling these in if required or if you would simply like to message me as a next step that’s absolutely okay too.

email: or telephone 07773001385.

All requests are dealt with in absolute confidence.



Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2020

Owing to the ongoing Covid 19 Pandemic, there will not be any house to house collections this year. However, from the 22nd October there will be a collection box and poppies available at the George and Dragon here in the village, in Blewbury at Savages, the Garage, the Post Office, the Blueberry, the Red Lion and also at the Horse and Harrow in West Hagbourne.

I am also trying to arrange to set up a table somewhere in the village so that villagers can purchase a Poppy from myself or one of the other collectors, this will depend on current restrictions and also the weather. I will provide further details nearer the time.

Helen Weston


HUGS – Creating a cleaner, greener, healthier future

We’d like to tell you about a new sustainability group called HUGS, the Hagbournes and Upton Group for Sustainability.

We formed in lockdown having had the time to appreciate nature more as well as to think about the future.

We also took part in the Climate Coalition’s ‘The Time is Now’ campaign to ask MPs for a greener recovery from Covid-19.  This is an economic recovery that works to tackle both the climate crisis and the dramatic decline in our UK wildlife.

HUGS has 3 main aims:

  1. To work with other groups in the area to ensure plans and policies for our communities are compatible with achieving a healthy, nature-rich, low-carbon future
  2. To help nature by supporting existing conservation work around our 3 villages, and also starting new projects that promote greater biodiversity
  3. To share information about how we can all live more sustainably – whether in our homes, our gardens or our lifestyles. And to develop projects that help us live more sustainably together (e.g. a local pop-up refill station to reduce plastic use).

To find out more read our first blog at

If you’d like information about our events and meetings, send us an email at

Kieron and the HUGS team!

Village Tea Party

Saturday, 5th September was to have been the date of the Village Fete but current circumstances mean we can’t hold this in its traditional format. However, the government’s restrictions do allow certain events to take place and many people long for something to look forward to in a summer when so much has been cancelled. So instead of the fete, we are planning a grand village tea party on 5th September, open to Upton residents and their invited guests.
Reserved tables will be set up outside the village hall, one per family or group, and delicious sandwiches, cakes and tea will be served up to all. There will be a small number of stalls (preserves, raffle, tombola etc) and, with music playing the scene will be set for a jolly afternoon. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we will erect the village marquee to provide shelter.
We are likely to be restricted to 30 people at a time so if there’s enough interest we will arrange a couple of sittings. Pre-booking will be essential so we can cater for the right numbers. We are of course very aware of social distancing and other safety measures which will be carefully observed.
The cost will be £10 per head, with children at half price. Tickets must be booked through Jessie (851206), Frankie (851404), Gloria (850683) or Paul (851251). Don’t forget that they must be booked in advance and that numbers are limited!

Paul Batho

Christian Aid Donation

Thanks largely to some keen gardeners in Upton, I was able to send £260 to Christian Aid. Nothing like as much as we have managed from the house to house collections, but still a worthwhile amount. Thank you for your custom.

Malcolm Wright