poppy field

Byfield & District Branch in rural SW Northants. UK

Byfield & District's "Other" Social Gatherings

Due to that damned SARS Covid-19 virus debilitating our land, we were unable to gather socially, or officially between March and the end of August 2020. However, when the situation eased a little, we did have our first social get-together middle-day on the last Wednesday of August. We had booked the garden of The Griffiin Inn in Chipping Warden as the venue but the proprietors, Sally and Andy, set us up indoors, just in-case the gales and rain of the preceding few days had not yet abated. As it turned-out, storm "Francis" barrelled its way out into the North Sea the night before. But as there was a distinct autumnal nip in the air, and only nine of us turned-up, we did take advantage of those socially distanced indoor place settings and wiled-away a couple of hours with good ale, very stasty food and a lot of jibber-jabber about nothing in particular.

Middle-day on 26th February 2020, seventeen of us we were to be found tucked-up cosily in Byfield's "Cross Tree" inn where we spoke of many things. Friend's family connections to Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the Founder of the Scouts for example, and others who knew of a local lad who was once Leading Seaman Goldstein in the BBC radio's "Navy Lark"; indeed Chief Petty Officer Pertwee of that programme (and also a one time Dr. Who) once opened a church fête here. Then there were more serious things that couldn't be avoided, like the terrible floods afflicting many today, and not so far west of us, and of course, coronavirus. On a lighter note the delights of shisha pipes in Dubai and why nobody mentions Ceuta or Melilla, and indeed, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera half way between the two on the North African coast of Morocco, when the Spaniards periodically bleat about wanting Gib back?

At our first lunch of the new year 2020, on Wednesday 29th January, we were in Culworth, at their Red Lion inn. As we were in Culworth in mid winter, there was a story to be told around a roaring log fire... Did you know that before the west was wild there were outlaws hereabouts? In the latter eighteenth century this area was terrorised for twenty years by "The Culworth Gang". No Robin Hoods these, more like the Mafia. They robbed the Northampton - Oxford stagecoach near Chipping Warden and attacked solitary travellers along the Banbury - Daventry Turnpike; they also committed countless felonies around and about with impunity due to their intimidation of the locals. One of the principals had close connections with Byfield and kept our villagers in line. There was a labourer of Culworth who dominated the gang with his fierce rugged personality; the gang included his sons, and Sulgrave's Parish Clerk who always carried pistols, even when conducting his duties in church, where they also concealed booty before distribution. All this was the result of laws passed with good intent that backfired. In those days the law could impose the death penalty on anyone stealing a sheep, so why not make the deed worth while? Eventually after a suspicious visit to a Towcester Inn, and a robbery at Blakesley two of the gang were caught and after some persuasion, confessed and dobbed-in most of the rest of the tribe. Subsequent searches of their houses revealed much of the stolen property, which confirmed their guilt. The subsequent hanging in Northampton in 1787 drew a crowd of 5,000. Thanks to ex Byfield School Headmaster E. F. Poole BA (1930) who tells this tale in his "Story of Byfield".

LAST YEAR, 2019...

On Wednesday 27th November 2019, the last of our monthly lunch's for this decade a dozen of us, including two new faces that were very welcome sampled the new menu at The Royal Oak in Eydon, and worth sampling it was. The only strange thing about it was that it needed to be pre-ordered (for any party over eight people). We did have four who hadn't but that wasn't really a problem except that they had to wait until the hoards had been served. The Royal Oak is one of the very Olde Worldy pubs in the area. It hasn't been serving food until recently but on today's experience, we'll be back (who said that?) - OK, it IS our quiz night Friday next! And that was one topic of conversation, the other main one was the kids' Christmas Card comp. See our separate Web page for that.

BUT I was present at our October 30th monthly lunch, this time in The Red Lion in Hellidon. Thirteen of us met, including one visitor from far flung fields but it was a bit of a subdued occasion because of the sad death of our Chairman of long-standing Russ a couple of weeks back. It didn't help either, especially just as this year's Poppy Appeal was getting underway that some hack had spread around the media that our Legion was sitting on seventy million. We weren't alone in suffering such attention but...

At the end of September '19 I was afloat somewhere and therefore not in the pub on the last Wednesday of the month. I believe the gang were in The Cross Tree in Byfield but as nobody's mentioned it, I have no idea what they were talking about to report here.

Wednesday 28th was a "fresher" day, having just had the most glorious Bank Holiday weekend (weather wise), with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the 30's (degrees C). Our pub lunch for August '19 was at The Plough, in Upper Boddington NN11 6DB, which has excellent food but not much of a garden, good job really 'cos it rained! Twelve of us discussed this and that.

  There was talk of deep fried Mars bars, experienced by the submariner amongst us when at Faslane. That lead us to Rocketlab on NZ (due to our Kiwi Chairperson) and their launch site at Mahia, near Gisborne but as that was on North Island, it probably didn't disturb the Hobbits. Starhopper's second successful free flight over in Texas yesterday was a logical step from that and then we switched to the delights of St Petersburg, including its canals and waterways and of course the onion domed churches that can be found there. And the Blarney continued with memories of kissing the stone...

Thanks to Carnival Munchies, Spacecraft Insider, Electronics Weekly and Wallpapersdsc.net for the images.

31st July '19 was a day for discussing old times, very old times. We were in The Griffin Inn Chipping Warden again and the conversation got around to evacuees housed in the area during the blitz of 1940/41, some of whom are still here! Now THAT's a pat on the back for the area! That lead-on to why, when flying in formation in large numbers, German bombers made a distinctive "where do you want it" (repeated) undulating sound, and ours didn't. SO, was it lack of engine synchronisation? Was it deliberate, to confuse sound location devices? OR was it a myth? The other end of the table was talking TANKS, and vouchers for Bovington...


Although you can see tanks being driven on certain days at Bovington Tank Museum, we didn't think you could actually drive them BUT just down the road, not half a dozen miles away at TanksAlot, you could. Speaking of tanks, who had running water in the fifties? Lucky beggars. Is this kind of chat why we have difficulty attracting younger members?

The Red Lion at Hellidon has had a "makeover", so we tried it out at our "pub lunch" gathering on 26th June 2019    Sixteen of us assembled and sampled a cross section of their lunchtime menu and all came away satisfied, even if there was a bit of confusion about the reimbursement required (after most people had left). Fetes were big on the chat agenda with our recent attendance at Woodford and then Aston, where the sun shone for the only day of June (so far)! Byfield's fete is looming and as its theme is "Launch", 'cos of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landings on the Moon, we need everyone in space suits!!!

The clue (on our Facebook presence) to May '19's pub lunch location was "next to England's smallest (probably) packhorse bridge" - here's a picture...  Got it? A day later and I haven't heard of anyone getting lost but our numbers were depleted to eight because of various conflicts of duty middle day on Wednesday 29th. We still managed to discuss how fish knives were a fad never used by the upper crust, living in a log cabin in the forest (of Dene) and the suggestion that the planet Mercury used to be in an orbit nearer Mars and could have been lush if it hadn't been bashed by a bully planetoid.

After a week of lovely spring weather, heavy showers greeted us to The Red Lion in Culworth middle-day on Wednesday 24th April '19. One less than a dozen, including a new member, supped and swopped yarns. We discussed Global Positioning Systems (did you know there are now four independent GPS systems covering the globe?) And we spoke nostalgically of how satisfying it was to use a paper map! Fawsley's five-hundred plus years of bell ringing with the same bells came-up again and the fact that the lord of the manor there had all the surfs' houses knocked down so he could have a clear view of "his" church. That lead us on to The Tattingstone Wonder, which was a much more acceptable solution to that "problem".

On the last Wednesday before the clocks spring forward, eighteen Members of our little group met in The Plough in Upper Boddington. The landlady and chef did us very well as they were expecting between eight to a dozen (your editor's fault, not wishing to get their hopes-up for a "big do"). The two of them accommodated our extra bodies without any fuss and anyway, after a couple of pints all was right with our world. The birth of RADAR and the subsequent demise of Marconi were topics to be aired, as was possible dealings one of our number had with the Ukranian mafia, the one maybe not unrelated to the other! AND the fact that the company digging-up the countryside for HS2 at the bottom of Red Hill between us and Chippy had gone bust, leaving the works just begun with lots of holes in the ground. On a lighter note but still another demise we heard of a grandmother, taught to cook by a Victorian chef who in-turn taught her daughter, who taught her daughter who then had no issue - will that handed-down super-skill die with her? (Her pastry is already "to die for")...

At the end of February, on the seventh consecutive day of blue skies, wall to wall sunshine and mid-teen temperatures C (YES, IT WAS FEBRUARY, the 27th), sixteen met in the lair of the only mythical beast* in our District to enjoy fine ale and pub fayre and to discuss anything and everything. It has been said February is the cruellest month and sadly we did lose two of our number this month, and Dr. Stuart Adams OBE, Dr. Adams was born and spent his first ten years in Byfield. He went to work for Boots in Nottingham and invented Ibuprofen pain relief. The only other famous person I had heard of who lived in Byfield, long ago 'tis true, was The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. His life was one of triumph and tragedy and those who know of Byfield's past will tell you many of the stories about him are questionable. We also spoke of lighter things...


  Our first "pub lunch" of 2019, on Wednesday January 30th, was in Byfield's "Cross Tree". We were a little depleted in numbers, there only being ten of us. However we did have four "apologies" with the excuse of family illness, regrettably a common occurrence for our aging group this time of year. We ten were sitting inside the south facing bar bathed in very bright winter sunshine warming the window seats after a wintery start - yes, we had a little snow the previous night.

We spoke of footwear for the freeze, meeting ships and methods of sealing letters (old style). In 1950, one of our number had to join his squadron, based in Malta, using public transport. He well remembered comparing our railways with those of France and Italy; it is strange to relate that nothing seems to have changed in all those years. It begged the question, "who won the war"?

Fires in electric cars were apparently a matter of concern, although it was agreed that automotive manufacturers were at last waking-up and smelling the ozone. Then there was Danny La Rue, one of our Legionnaire's wives had sat next to him on a long haul flight and found him (her) charming; that dredged-up memories of Raymond's famous "bar" in Soho - but in that area, boy have there been changes!

If you are wondering how previous pub lunches went, and what we debated at those, see our archive of those and other similar events under our "Other Social Gatherings 2016-2018" page of this Web site.