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.



VPA Looking to the Future

I’ve been sorting out my laptop recently and checking my word document folders to try and reduce some of the volume. When I checked the VPA files I couldn’t believe that I’ve been writing on behalf of the VPA every month for the last five years.

Looking through the files in previous years it was clear that the VPA was busy with monthly meetings including speakers, plant sales, summer and autumn shows, outings, AGM and an end of year social. However, given the reduction in support of our events and activities over recent years we have had to reduce our events to a Summer Show, an occasional outing and a Social in December in order to keep the VPA going. Please remember – all Upton and Blewbury residents have free membership to the VPA.

With the lockdown and other Government restrictions it has become apparent that more residents are becoming involved in ‘grow your own’.   So, maybe when this ghastly coronavirus has been dealt with and we can get back to some sort of normality, we will be able to build up the VPA as it was a few years ago to help and support budding gardeners in Upton and Blewbury.

It has been so disappointing that because of the Copid-19 pandemic we had to cancel our Summer Show which should have taken place in July and with the current ‘Rule of Six’ restrictions in operation we now have to advise that we are cancelling our planned Social in December. It is unlikely that things will have improved sufficiently by the beginning of December to take the chance of having (or being allowed to have) a large social gathering.

But, don’t forget we have organised a special competition to take place on Saturday 12th December. The details were in the October issue of the Upton News and are also available at Blewbury Post Office or from Maggie Maytham at Toad Hall (850126). If you want to take part, register your details at the Post Office by the 30th November or if you want more information, you can send an email to Please support the VPA and take part

Did you know:-The average tree will drink roughly 2,000 litres of water each year and did you know wood from the pear tree is still used in the manufacture of high-quality woodwind instruments.

Happy Gardening, keep well and safe



VPA Banksian Medal Competition

The Banksian Medal competition will be held on 12th December. In order to enter you need to make a Decoration for the Christmas Lunch Table and also a Wreath for the Front Door.

The table decoration can be any size and shape with all types of decoration and accessories. The wreath can be any size and include all types of accessories. Both items must be entered into the competition which is open to everyone in the family so it can be a combined effort.


  1. If you wish to enter, please record your name, address, phone no./email etc, by MONDAY 30th NOVEMBER at either Blewbury Post Office, Maggie Maytham at Toad Hall,Upton (Tel: 850126) or send your details to the VPA email address:
  2. Place your name and details in envelopes and attach one to each of your entries.
  3. Deliver your entries between 10am and 10.30am on Saturday 12th December to Blewbury Village Hall.
  4. Judging will take place at 11.00am
  5. Collect your entries between 11.45am and 12 noon.
  6. The winner will be advised on collection of their entries and the medal presented. It will be also be announced in the next editions of the Blewbury Bulletin and Upton News.
  7. All Covid-19 restrictions/regulations at the time of the event will be strictly adhered to.

For Covid-19 safety the Committee will NOT be opening the competition for members of the public to view the exhibits.   We will take photographs.  If there is a total Government lockdown again at the time of the event, it will have to be cancelled.

If you have any queries or require any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Eileen Bracken at the VPA email address:  or call on 0777 518 5322.


VPA Banksian Medal Competition

As you know, because of Covid-19 the VPA was unable to hold its 2020 Annual Summer Show. We are an Affiliated Member of the Royal Horticultural Society and we purchase the Banksian Medal to award to the Exhibitor who achieves the highest points in the Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Sections. Because the Banksian Medal is engraved by the RHS with the year it is awarded we are not in a position to roll it over to 2021. The Banksian Medal was first issued in 1922 in commemoration of Sir Joseph Banks and “to encourage exhibitions of various garden productions of excellence, merit or novelty “.
The Committee is pleased to announce it is organising a competition so the 2020 medal can be awarded. The competition which will be held on 12th December and is open to everyone in the family is to make :-
A Decoration for the Christmas Lunch Table and A Wreath for the Front Door
The Table Decoration and Wreath can be any size and shape with any type of decoration and accessories. Both items must be entered into the competition. Full details will be available in the October edition of the Upton News. Please support the Village Produce Association so that we can find a winner for the 2020 Banksian Medal
The VPA Social booked for Saturday 5th December is still in the diary. It will be organised in accordance with any Government rules regarding Covid-19. Please make a note of the date. More details next month.
Happy Gardening

Latest from V.P.A.

Gosh, we’re halfway through 2020 and at least some of the lockdown has been eased. We still all need to very careful and I must admit that, personally, I’m pleased we have to wear masks in shops. Anything that can give a tiny bit of protection must be good. I’m just glad I’m not a politician, having to make decisions to try and protect us from something that we know so little about. Sorry, I know this is nothing to do with the VPA and gardening, but there is not a lot to update you with regarding the VPA during the lockdown.
To update you with one VPA activity. Given the lockdown, you know we had to cancel the Summer Show scheduled in July. However, our Xmas Social at Upton Village Hall in December is still in the diary and instead of the usual quiz and games we plan to hold a skittles evening with a meal, but we will have to be guided with what happens with Covid over the coming months.
So, here are a few more Didcot Ramblings.
At least we have started to get a bit of rain over the past couple of weeks. I’m convinced my arms are two inches longer from carrying the watering cans to water the allotment – we’re not allowed hosepipes which is perfectly understandable. Still, the allotment is doing well and I’ve had pickings of French beans, runner beans, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and I had my first tomatoes a couple of days ago. The beetroot have done really well so I’ve been pickling some for the winter months.
I have a small section of one of my plots where I grow flowers. Each year I grow gladioli and last year because of the wet weather I wasn’t able to dig up the corms. However, this year they have done really well, in fact the best they have every been. So, I’m going to take a chance and leave them in over winter this year and see what happens. I sowed a row of California poppies and they are amazing, they’ve really enjoyed the hot sunny weather.
I had a fig tree in a very large pot in my garden which wasn’t very happy but unfortunately I didn’t have room to plant it in the ground. As I didn’t want to compost it I decided to plant it on the allotment. I had a space next to the greenhouse and adjacent to the greengage tree. It’s been there for about two years and is surviving well.
The hens seem happier now it’s not so hot. I had to do a running repair on their run roof – a slight leak – so one of the lads on the allotment very kindly got up on a ladder and filled the roof joint with mastic. It’s worked a treat and the inner run is nice and dry again.
DID YOU KNOW? Lavender, (Lavandula), comes from the Latin Lavare, ‘to wash’, because its oils were often used in cleaning clothes. To make one and a half pounds of Lavender Oil, you’ll need to harvest almost a quarter of a ton of flowers.

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