May note from the VPA

Well, has much changed since the last newsletter? Not a lot! A slight improvement on the lockdown, but I do find it strange why only one family member can make a visit! Let’s hope everyone is still keeping well and safe and staying alert!
Nothing to do with the VPA – I’m Secretary to the Thames Ridge Scout District Executive Committee which covers Didcot and Abingdon. As a result of the lockdown we were unable to have the meeting planned for the 21st May, so in his wisdom the Chair decided to hold the meeting via ‘Zoom’. Now I’m sure that many of you are totally conversant with this system and are using it regularly to contact family and friends. Unfortunately, my expertise relating to technology only goes as far as email. So, you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to this ‘Zoom’ thing. Will keep you posted on the outcome.
Back to gardening. The weather wasn’t very kind in May, with a couple of nights of a minus 2 degree frost in Didcot. Fortunately I had fleeced my early potatoes and earthed up the main crop, so escaped damage. I did, however, have a good bit of damage to my borlotti beans which were doing really well, (I must admit I did plant them out a bit early), so I’ve just
planted some beans directly into the ground and hoping for the best. I love borlotti beans because I shell and freeze them and in the winter I add them to my vegetable casserole which gives it a bit of body.
On the allotment we all complained about the wet winter and now we’re complaining about the lack of rain. I’m sure my arms have stretched 2” carrying watering cans, we’re not allowed hosepipes on our plots. It will be nice to see some rain as it really does make the plants grow better than when watered with tap water that’s full of chemicals.
DID YOU KNOW? An ingenious and handy way to preserve garden herbs such as basil, tarragon and chives is to freeze them, as soon after picking them as possible, in ice cubes. When they have frozen solid, transfer the cubes into bags and put them back in the freezer. Larger-leafed herbs like mint and parsley can be frozen in bags as they are.
Happy Gardening and Keep Safe

May News from The Village Produce Association

First, on behalf of the Committee, we hope everyone is well and avoiding Covid-19. Secondly, we would like to Thank everyone, everywhere, for keeping the country running which enables the rest of us to seek medical help and keep shopping at the supermarkets. Thank you to those who are emptying our bins regularly and those teachers helping workers’ children to go to school while their parents work to save lives and the Police who protect us daily. Thank you to every other person that we don’t really hear about who is working behind the scenes to keep us all safe.

In the last bulletin we hadn’t decided about the Summer Show scheduled for July, but the decision has now been made to postpone the Show until next year. We did consider holding an autumn show but felt that everyone would have too many other things to worry about rather than a show. So the Schedule printed for this year will be used for the Summer Show on the 3rd July 2021.

Life on the allotment has been a bit traumatic. I have had a bad back for ten years and just over three weeks ago I set it off again and was unable to get treatment at the chiropractor. I began with loads of pain killers from the doctor but now just take them occasionally if it gets really painful.   Unfortunately, at the moment, I can’t bend but can manage to do things by standing up straight. I managed to plant my early potatoes by digging a trench with a special hoe and dropping the potatoes in place without trying to damage the shoots, then covering them with soil. Hopefully I’ll be able to do the late spuds in a couple of weeks the proper way!  All the seedlings are doing well in the greenhouse including broad beans, peas, sweetcorn, beetroot, borlotti beans – all will need hardening off and then planting out, hopefully my back will be well enough to get them in the ground in a couple of weeks.

The hens are doing well and have been treated to a new permanent dust bath instead of digging in the actual run. They now have a bright blue children’s plastic sand pit which I’ve put in a shelter. They’re definitely enjoying it and usually there’s two at a time sharing it, although Borlotti seems to enjoy sun bathing in it on her own. At least they will now have a dry dust bath all year round. They didn’t like the very windy weather we had recently as it ruffled their feathers but despite the mixed weather they have been laying well.

DID YOU KNOW?  If your potatoes happen to have caught the sunlight and turned green, you can still derive benefit from them by boiling them up and using the water, when cooled, as an effective insect repellent for spraying on plants..

Happy Gardening and Keep Well



V.P.A. Show Schedules Ready

This is what I wrote in February 2016 – We might be complaining about the rain and wind here – but aren’t we lucky we don’t live in Cumbria and further north.  I do hope they are drying themselves out and getting back to normal.

You may recall that Cumbria had serious flooding.   It appears that the weather hasn’t changed that much over the last four years other than, this year, the wind and rain is worse and has covered the whole of the country.  I do hope that everyone is safe and dry in Blewbury and Upton, even though some of the roads have been flooded.  I believe we have got to accept that this is the type of winter we are going to have in the future – all because of global warming and climate change.

On a happier note!!   Our Summer Show Schedule is now ready.  Copies are in the Blewbury Post Office or contact Maggie Maytham in Upton.    It is also available on line – send an email to: and I’ll forward you a copy.  We’ve produced it nice and early this year to give you time to decide what you want to enter.

Since writing about my hens last month, I have some sad news.   Polly had not been on top of her game for a few weeks and then a couple of weeks ago she was really poorly, not eating and drinking.   I took her to the vet and it turned out she had a growth in her digestive system.   Nothing could be done for her, so I had no alternative but to have her put to sleep.   Holly, who had been with Polly from the start, was a bit unsettled but is now mixing well with the other girls.   The hens were flooded  by Storm Ciara and since then I have dug trenches and ditches in and around the chicken run and good news – the hens weren’t flooded by Storm Dennis!  although the allotments are in inches of water at the moment.

The VPA Committee is meeting soon and will probably be planning a garden visit in the spring – so keep an eye out in the next newsletter for details.

DID YOU KNOW?  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) said: “The good rain, like the bad preacher, does not know when to leave off.”

Happy Gardening


VPA Look Forward to a New Season

Another year, another decade and another gardening season to look forward to. Now is the time to look at seed catalogues in earnest to decide what to grow for the coming year.   I belong to the National Allotment Society and receive a quarterly magazine which is very interesting and a Kings Seeds catalogue, plus free insurance for the allotment.  The seed catalogue provided to NAS members by Kings is almost half the price of their normal catalogue which is very useful as I’ve noticed the cost of seeds in other catalogues and garden centres seem to have increased so much over the last few years.

The VPA is now looking forward to 2020 and the Schedule for the Summer Show being held on Saturday 4th July is about to go to the printers.   The refurbishment of the village hall has commenced and is expected to be completed by the 19th June which means we should have a newly refreshed building for the Show.  If completion is delayed,  it will take place in Blewbury School, so whatever happens it will still go ahead.

Don’t forget, If you would like an electronic copy of the Schedule, it is available now, contact the VPA via the following email address:

Update on my allotment – I’ve been flooded three times so far this winter!  Overwintering broad beans are managing to survive and overwintering onions are about six inches tall.   My hens have survived the floods with pallets in their run and plenty of perches to sit on.   I’ve spent the last few weeks digging trenches around the chickens’ run to move the water into the trench at the boundary fence.   I took the plunge nearly four years ago to have hens.   I began with two hybrids (Polly and Dolly) and a rescue hen (Holly).   Sadly, Dolly died last summer, so in September I bought three cross breeds and as they live on the allotment I named them after some of the vegetables I grow – Shallot, Pumpkin and Borlotti.  They’ve settled in really well and have been laying ever since.   More news about the hens next month.

DID YOU KNOW?  Healthy, mature APPLE TREES will bear between 100 and 200 kilos of fruit every year and dried FIGS contain about 60 per cent sugar, making them an excellent energy snack.

Happy Gardening


VPA – Report on the AGM.

Our Annual General Meeting took place on Wednesday 6th November and the following is an extract from the annual report.

At a Committee meeting in October the members seriously considered closing the Village Produce Association.  The general consensus was that peoples’ attitude to gardening and gardening clubs has changed over the years and rather than ‘growing your own’ people rely on the quick fire method of a trip to the garden centre and buying ‘ready-made’ plants for the garden.   It’s accepted that people have less time to spend in the garden given the numerous activities available for families these days.  However, it was agreed that the Annual Show still appears to be a popular event and therefore, the committee agreed to continue to run the Show and thus the VPA will remain operating for the foreseeable future.   We will also continue to have a selection of garden tools available for use by residents for a donation.  Details of the tools and who to contact will be listed on the notice board at Blewbury Post Office and Maggie’s notice board at Toad Hall, Upton.”

We hope that residents of both Blewbury and Upton will continue to support the Annual Summer Show and the date for next year’s event is the 4th July – so please pop the date in your diary.   Show Schedules will be available after the New Year to give everyone plenty of time to plan what they want to exhibit.

I have been asked to continue our Monthly News in the Blewbury Bulletin and Upton News and hopefully we will have outings next year which will be advertised together with any other VPA news.  Also, I’ll keep you posted via my aimless ramblings about my allotment on New Road, Didcot.  Did you know I have hens?  Yes, they have got names – I’ll let you know what they are next month.

To end 2019 our ANNUAL SOCIAL takes place on SATURDAY 7thth DECEMBER – 7.00pm at UPTON VILLAGE HALL.  Our theme this year is “Around the World with the VPA ”.    Food, quizzes and indoor games are the order of the evening with great fun for a family night out.  Full details and tickets available at Blewbury Post Office, or you can telephone and book your ticket with Margaret Maytham – 01235 850126 or Eileen Bracken – 01235 510095.    Please advise of any dietary requirements you may have, at the time of booking your ticket.

Tickets will need to be booked by Sunday 1st December at the latest.


DID YOU KNOW?  Hawthorn, an extremely common site in our hedgerows and gardens and home for all sorts of wildlife, is regarded as providing the hottest firewood.   It burns superbly even when green and makes first rate charcoal that gets so hot it can melt pig-iron.  It is thought that Christ’s crown of thorns was made from hawthorn.

Happy Gardening


Too wet for the VPA

Well, it’s now the middle of October as I write this newsletter and instead of having a very dry allotment like last month, I now have an allotment which is like a quagmire.   Our weather is always ‘all or nothing’ – no rain throughout the summer and monsoon type rain in the autumn – what can we expect this winter?

Our Annual General Meeting takes place on Wednesday 6th November at 7.00pm In the Vale Room at Blewbury Village Hall. We will be announcing the Committee’s future plans for the VPA and we are pleased to confirm that members of the Didcot and District Wood Turner’s Club will be giving a demonstration on how they produce beautiful items from simple pieces of wood.

Please Join Us.

To end 2019 on a high note we will be holding our usual Annual Social on Saturday 7th December at Upton Village Hall. Our theme this year is “Around the World with the VPA ”. A two course meal will be served (which will cater for those with special dietary needs). Please bring any drinks you may want, although non-alcoholic drinks will be available. We have an unusual table quiz and a couple of extra special indoor games!!  Everyone is welcome, so why not make it a family evening out. Tickets are £9 per person.

Tickets will be available from the 1st November at Blewbury Post Office, or you can telephone and book your ticket with Margaret Maytham – 01235 850126 or Eileen Bracken – 01235 510095.    Please advise of any dietary requirements you may have, at the time of booking your ticket.Tickets will need to be booked by Tuesday 1st December at the latest.

DID YOU KNOW?  There is an old saying that if a shrub flowers before the middle of summer, prune it in the autumn; if afterwards, then wait till spring. There are exceptions to this, but generally it holds true.

Happy Gardening


V.P.A. Notice of AGM and Social

Don’t forget our Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 6th November at
7.00pm for 7.30 in the Vale Room, Blewbury.
Please also put Saturday 7th December in your diary – it’s our Annual Social
in Upton Village Hall. Every year it has been a very popular event and 2019
will be no exception. The social consists of a lovely homemade two course
meal together with an evening of special quizzes, games and fun for
everyone. It starts at 7.00pm and is all for the price of £9 per person. Full
details will be in the November issue of the Upton News.
Using a power mower, with three or four horsepower, for one hour to cut
the grass releases the pollution equivalent of driving 350 miles in a car!
AND – in one hour the average sprinkler uses the equivalent of two days’
water consumption by a family of four. The average family uses
approximately 500 litres of water per day!

August News from the VPA

We are now well into summer and I hope you are all reaping the rewards of your labours in the garden or allotment with abundant supplies of fruit, flowers and vegetables.   The summer has certainly meant plenty of watering and my arms feel 2” longer carrying watering cans on my allotments, but it has been worth it – my sweetcorns are delicious!!

Well, the next VPA event will be in the autumn – it’s our Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 6th November in the Vale Room of Blewbury Village Hall, 7.00pm for 7.30. The Didcot and District Woodturners Club will be giving a demonstration of the wonderful things they can do with a lump of wood. We would be very pleased to see as many of you as possible so that we can tell you first hand the future plans the Committee has for the Village Produce Association.

Don’t forget to put Saturday 7th December in your diary – its our Annual Social at Upton Village Hall. It is a very popular event and hopefully this year will be no exception. There will be a few surprises in store plus the usual tasty food.

More details of these events will be in the next issue of the Upton News.

Did you know?  Minnie Aumonier (N.D.) wrote: “When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden.” 

Happy Gardening


VPA Annual Show Report

Well, the 72nd Annual Show has taken place!   Unfortunately, Karen our Show Secretary being unwell was unable to carry out the work needed to prepare the Show so the Committee rallied round to get the work done.   A special thanks to Maggie Maytham who did all the work necessary for us to be able to provide tea and cakes and raffle prizes and also for sticking all the raffle tickets on the Tombola prizes!  Thank you also to my friend Ruth (from London), who helped me with the paperwork which included entering every entry received from each exhibitor on the Excel spreadsheet ready for recording the results on Saturday after the judging.   Of course, thanks to Chris & Toby and Malcolm who helped with the setting up of the village hall on the Friday evening.  Well done to Mary Gutfreund who did a grand job serving the refreshments on Saturday afternoon.

We had a total of thirty four exhibitors including five children.   With a total of 170 exhibits in the fruit, vegetable, flower, cookery, handicraft and photography it provided a very full and colourful hall.   Entrants came from Blewbury, Upton, Harwell and Didcot.   We award the Royal Horticultural Society Banksian Medal to the exhibitor with the most points in the horticultural section and this year Joanna Fielden from Didcot was the winner – congratulations Joanna!

It’s lovely that the Blewbury pre-school always put in an art exhibition from the children and this year was no exception.  It was a really colourful display.  Thank you for taking part.

Despite one or two hiccups, the Show was a great success and enjoyed by all the visitors in the afternoon.

We are now preparing for the 73rd Show and hope to have something extra special.   Watch this space!!

I hope those of you who are off on your summer hols are enjoying yourselves, whether it’s in the UK, Europe or further afield.  For those of you who are still at home, don’t forget our special event in Upton. On Thursday 8th August, Maggie Maytham of Toad Hall, Stream Road, Upton, is very kindly opening her garden (weather permitting – otherwise in the house) for an afternoon tea (cost £3 per head) starting at 5pm.  After tea we will then walk to Prospect House and have a guided tour of the 2-acre garden.  Alternatively you can drive from Maggie’s and park in the Village Hall car park.  You MUST register for this event either at Blewbury Post Office or with Maggie (01235 850126) by the 1st August.

DID YOU KNOW ?  Howard Carter and his archaeological team found many seeds and plants stored in the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings including, garlic, cumin, coriander, watermelon, wheat, barley, lentils, fenugreek, chickpeas, olive oil, almonds and dates.


Minnie Aumonier (N.D.) wrote: “When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden.”  (Sounds rather appropriate given the current political climate!). 

Happy Gardening


VPA July News

On Saturday 8th June a small group of us visited The Vyne at Basingstoke and had a great time. The house is quite amazing and the new roof which cost £4M is outstanding. The room guides said how much warmer the house is and no more leaks into the rooms.

Our next event is the Summer Show on Saturday 13th July. The Schedules are now available at Blewbury Post Office, or Maggie Maytham at Upton (ring 01235 850126). You can also get it on line by emailing We want as many exhibitors as possible, so please make the effort and enter – even if you have only one item – you could win a prize!!

On the Thursday 8th August we have a very special event in Upton. Maggie Maytham is very kindly opening her garden (weather permitting – otherwise in the house) for an afternoon tea (cost £3 per head) starting at 5pm. After tea we will then walk to Prospect House and have a guided tour of the 2-acre garden. Alternatively you can drive from Maggie’s and park in the Village Hall car park. You MUST register for this event at Blewbury Post Office or with Maggie by the 1st August.

DID YOU KNOW? Bees are particularly attracted to blue, white, yellow and purple colours for their ultraviolet properties. It is no use planting red flowers in your garden to attract bees because bees cannot see red.

Happy Gardening Eileen