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John Riches our Village Correspondent writes weekly reports about the village for the local media.  We are pleased to place them on our web site in order that those interested in Abthorpe can access the latest village news from anywhere in the world.

This page will keep the latest 3 or 4 reports.

On the Archive page we will store past articles and other pieces of particular interest.

Also, our newsletters can be downloaded on the Newsletters page.



16th July
Fair waves the golden corn.

The most important even of the year out here in the countryside has already begun – The Harvest! Has the spell of very cold weather in February nick-named The Beast from the East, plus  the long spell of hot weather that we are now experiencing affected the crops of our local farmers? I asked one for his latest news of the harvest.

He explained that crops of winter barley have already been combined and despite the weather, yields were reasonable. His oil seed rape is due to be cut during the coming week. He doesn’t fully know what the quality and quantity will be like but he’s keeping his fingers crossed. The hay that has been cut and compressed into huge cylinder shapes is very dry and of a reasonable quality.

His winter wheat is not quite ready for harvesting and because lack of rain may have inhibited its growth he is very concerned. But he was philosophical and commented that the up-side of low yields was that he would be paid a better price.

We wish our local farmers a successful and profitable harvest.


8th July
What Our Neighbours Do For A Living. Tim Pollock of the Thames Valley Mounted Police.

As part of an occasional series looking at some of the more unusual ways in which our Abthorpe neighbours earn their crust, Tim Pollock has shared his experiences with us which could be straight from the Boys Own Paper. Having started his working life in the prison service, Tim decided a more active outdoor life would suit him better and joined Thames Valley Police in 1994. He opted for the armed response unit as it offered excellent training in firearms use, interception tactics, unarmed close quarter combat and advanced driving - all skills required for dealing with potentially dangerous situations. But after five years of this excitement another avenue beckoned: retraining as a mounted police officer with the Thames Valley Police Mounted Section. Not having ridden a horse before, Tim embarked on four months of training in Merseyside.

Police horses are recruited from wherever suitable animals can be found: Horse & Hound and word of mouth are the usual sources. They are generally about five years old and a minimum of 16.3 hands. Favoured breeds are Irish Draught, Percheron and Shire-crosses. Their training includes learning to stand still and withstand loud noises, such as would be experienced with football crowds. Once they have joined a mounted unit they are allocated their police officer and form a close bond, but they do get used to other riders. Although they live in police stables, they have daily exercise and are also regularly turned out to grass. Their working life is as long as they are happy. Thames Valley is one of 13 police forces in the country which has a mounted section. There are six mounted officers in Milton Keynes, three women and three men, supported by two grooms. However, the officers muck out and groom their own horses as part of their 10-hour shift. The range of their duties is wide and unique. Sitting tall above people's heads gives a good viewpoint which is particularly useful for crowd control. As an Accredited National Mounted Commander Tim has the authority to request that foot police are moved to where they are needed. A mounted policeman can often establish rapport with members of the public diffusing situations and encouraging cooperation. Of course a large horse is invaluable as an aid to clearing a football pitch of aggressive fans! For six years Tim rode Titan who was the biggest police horse in the country, a Shire-cross standing at 18.3 hands and weighing just over a metric tonne – not to be argued with.

Together they shared some pretty lively situations. Interviewed on Titan’s retirement in 2011, Tim said: “Titan is one of our top horses - he is very loyal and brave in all situations. People are always astounded by his size and often come up to say hello. Despite his large size, he is remarkably agile and incredibly surefooted. It was like he was made to be a police horse!" ‘Directed patrols’ is the phrase for regular appearances on estates which are experiencing crime or anti-social behaviour. Their aim is to disrupt, reinforce support for the community police and to also break down barriers: horses are a magnet as a conversation opener and the difference can be seen when residents engage with the police. Although based in Milton Keynes, the mounted police support other forces by policing marches and demonstrations as far south as Brighton, travelling to coastal areas on immigration duties, in fact anywhere where crowds gather and a height advantage can gauge the dynamics of a situation.

Another important service is searching open country for missing or vulnerable people where sitting high can give a good viewpoint. Royal duties and state visits offer a complete contrast. On many occasions Tim has escorted the Queen up the course at Royal Ascot, and of course the latest royal outing was at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Working with the South Wales Mounted Section, Tim and his colleagues were in Windsor a week before the event, riding security patrols in and around the castle and getting a feel for the crowd. Naturally a high profile police presence was needed – in fact the largest Tim has ever seen – along with the vast interest of international media. He hit the spotlight broadcasting live on ABC to 52 states in the US, and also being interviewed on Basque TV. Two mounted officers led the carriage procession after the ceremony with two immediately behind. That left Tim and his colleague to have the job of a final security sweep walking five minutes ahead of the procession to identify any risk factors. The patient crowd, some of whom had been there for two days, were excited by any spectacle and so the two horses and their riders slowly walking the cleared road with the crowd whooping and hollering gave them a chance for a little interaction. And they repeated their performance after the carriage had passed.

The overwhelming memory of the day was the amazing party atmosphere and such happiness spilling over from the crowd. So watch out for Tim on his patrols around the city centre of MK. And after such a high octane career, what could Tim possibly do in retirement? Sail around the world maybe?


2nd July
Where have all our insects gone? That headline in a national newspaper was followed by the comment that “Summer is the season when butterflies and ladybirds should be out in force. But there is a crisis in the countryside – and scientists fear a massive decline in insect numbers could have significant consequences for the rest of our environment.

Was that comment true? I asked myself. Especially here in Abthorpe and its surroundings. Now I’m no naturalist just a lifelong countryman. But after looking round our garden I suspected there was some truth in the allegation. So I decided to undertake a somewhat non-scientific survey by looking for butterflies on my regular keep-fit ride mostly along National Cycle Route 50 between Wappenham and Syresham. All of my ride is along beautiful country lanes with farmers’ fields and woodland lining almost the entire route. Surely I would be able to spot some butterflies at the side of the lanes especially as the brilliant white waving fronds of cow parsley were blooming in profusion.

On my first survey trip a couple of weeks ago I looked for butterflies fluttering across the cornfields and amongst the woods. How many did I see? None! On the next survey trip a few days later I saw a few butterflies but they were certainly not in profusion. Gradually as the days passed and the spell of hot weather arrived there seem to be more and more butterflies out and about – but not in the numbers we should expect. Should we be worried?

As I rode back into the village from one of my most recent survey trips I stopped to chat to a long term resident of Abthorpe and explained my concerns. “Don’t worry John,” she exclaimed. “Once the Michaelmas daisies are out in a few weeks time, all the butterflies will be back!” I do hope she’s right.

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