The Water of Africa by John Hermon

There is a proverb which says,
“The one who drinks the water of Africa will one day return”.
So, did you drink the water of Africa?
The water of Africa will feed your memories and fuel your dreams.
Do you remember how you stood in the warm dusk and watched the clutching thorn trees stretch to pluck a full-orbed moon from the clear sky?
Do you remember how you silently scanned a heaven of myriad stars and heard the urgent drums resound in worship of the Creator?
Do you remember how you trembled while the thunder cracked and sudden lightning bolts hurled threats against the canopy of trees?
And did you drink the water of Africa?
Do you remember the dusty road trod in the heat of the sun or in brief twilight‘s sweet relief?
Do you remember the sweetness of mangoes cut fresh from the forest tree?
Do you remember those cratered unruly streets where men and bikes and buses vie for place – and danger lurks?
Do you remember the turmoil of the city market-place, driven by life clung to the edge of life itself?
And did you flee the snake and fear the mosquito’s bite and curse the flies which preyed upon your flesh?
And did you sense the pulse and thrust of youth, the vision of the possible yet unfulfilled?
Was it then that you drank the water of Africa?
The water of Africa will feed your memories and fuel your dreams.

By John Hermon

Biodiversity Group: The Common Shrew

Common shrews are closely related to the mole and hedgehog.  They are 5 – 8cm in length, weigh 5 – 14 grams and have dark brown backs, chestnut sides and are grey or silver underneath.  Their eyes and ears are very small and their snouts long and mobile. Their teeth wear down the same as human teeth but theirs have iron deposited in the enamel making them appear red tipped but also making them more resistant.  They spend most of their time in burrows previously used by other animals and, although mostly nocturnal, they can also be active during the day as they need to eat every 2 – 3 hours to survive.  They are highly territorial, defending their territory very aggressively and only coming together to mate.  The females have 3 or 4 litters between May and September with the 5 – 7 young having up to 3 different fathers!  The mother’s milk is very rich so the young grow rapidly and are independent at 1 month old.  If disturbed the female will move the young, all of them travelling in a caravan fashion each one holding onto the tail of the one in front.  They eat anything available including earthworms, snails, woodlice and some carrion and are important destroyers of the insects and slugs that harm crops.  Shrews are themselves a food source for other animals including the barn owl, tawny owl, weasel, fox, stoat, magpie, jackdaw, adder, smooth snake and kestrel.  Cats also kill a large number but usually abandon them as glands on the skin make them foul tasting. They are short lived with most dying before they are a year old.

Did You Know?

  • Shrews must eat 80 – 90% of their body weight every day and will starve to death if they don’t eat for just half a day.
  • They do not hibernate but become less active in winter. Their size shrinks (which includes their liver, brain and skull) so they need less food.
  • Shrews have the highest metabolic rate of any other animal.
  • Shrews are noted for providing a home for a large number of parasites, normally transmitted to them from their prey

Open House and Pancakes: Tuesday 28th February

Shrove Tuesday
Simon and Heather (The Rector and his wife) invite you to come to an Open House and Pancakes at The Rectory. Please feel free to drop in any time from 6pm to 8pm and sample freshly cooked pancakes and Rectory hospitality.
Advance warning of numbers would be welcome but do just drop in if you can.
Parking is available in Aynho church car park.  Looking forward to seeing you.

Aynho Long Walk 23rd February 2017

Doris was with us as ten of us set out along the Black Path this morning. She really hit us going down Station Road and Millers Lane. When we branched off to go round the ford we felt the full force in our faces; it was a real struggle. Most of the time the sun was shining, but there were bits of dead wood everywhere, and more coming down as we passed between the trees. We had seen the deer in Aynho Park and as we passed through Souldern we saw early blooming daffodils. There was also a fence down along a narrow footpath between the houses so we were grateful for Simon’s strength in holding it up so we could pass. We continued up to Nancy Bowles wood, noting a fallen fir tree, which fortunately did not block the lane. Two alpacas were sheltering close to the hedge as we took the track through to the Fritwell Road. We followed the road back to Souldern and continued past the church and across the fields on the Portway route. Again the wind across the fields was very strong. When we reached the final path between the walls and through the tunnel, our way was blocked again by a fallen tree covered in ivy. We had nevertheless enjoyed an invigorating walk. Coffee and Victoria sponge was esepcially welcome and delicious in the circumstances.

Aynho Long Walk 16th February 2017

Twelve long walkers set off down the Portway path in bright sunshine this morning. It felt like Spring. We hoped to see the new deer herd at Aynho Park but only the medium walkers in Millers Lane enjoyed that. Once beyond the Belcher brothers fields we headed up to the B4100 and crossed into Upper Aynho Grounds. I’d got permission to walk round the lakes today and it was a great pleasure to see two young swans enjoying the sunshine. We continued through the woods to Croughton and passed through the churchyard and across the road next to the school. We continued across the fields to the lane round Warren Farm and then behind Camp Farm and Rainsborough Camp. It was still wet and muddy along the ridge but the views were good in a clear sky and we were soon back at the pavilion for the usual refreshments. 6.7 miles.

History Society: Meetings 2017

Minutes of meetings held in 2017

January Brackley – from the Iron Age to the Wars of the Roses. [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”6133,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3″]
February Postcards and photos of Aynho 1902 – 1920  [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”6362,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3″]
 March  The Remarkable Story of Stowe House  [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”6439,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3″]
 April  The History of Royal Woodstock  [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”6573,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3″]
 May  The Cold War in Oxfordshire  [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”6819,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3″]
 June  ‘A Sunday afternoon with a school log book’.  A review of the Aynho school. [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”6966,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3”]
 September A History of Libraries. A talk by Keith McClellan. [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”7395,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3”]
 October  100th History Society Meeting  [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”7556,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3”]
 November  AGM and a delve into the archives  [prettyfilelist type=”pdf,xls,doc,zip,ppt,img,mp3″ filestoshow=”7709,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3”]


Photographic Society: February 2017 Report

Click here to see the complete photograph: Harbour Mist by Miggy Wild

In February, member Paul Brewerton gave a presentation on his trip made with his wife to ‘Alaska and the Yukon’. Starting with a boat trip and sunrise at 4.30am up the Prince William Sound, we were treated to fascinating photographs of Orca killer whales, sea otter, humpbacked whale, sea lions, seals, Horned Puffin, and beautiful blue-hued ice floes. Further along was the Drunken Forest, made up of the four main species of trees growing there in spite of the permafrost – Black Spruce, larch, willow and aspen. Places visited/seen along the way were the Alcan Highway, Carcross Town, White Pass Railway, the railyard terminus at Skagway, with its old and impressive black and red engines, the Klondike Gold Fields Mine, the Chillkoot Pass and then on to the Yukon River.

Passing the Five Finger Rapids, wonderful autumn colours were seen in the Alaska Rift Valley. From Midnight Dome, the boat moved along to Dawson City, the former capital city of Yukon (now Whitehorse), then to Bonanza Creek where the great gold rush started. Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Saloon was an interesting sight, with colourfully dressed can-can dancers, as was the river crossing on the Yukon Ferry. We were shown an oil pipeline from Prudoe Bay to Valdiz, which is resistant to seismic shock due to its zig-zag design, and some fascinating images of Iditerod dogs and their breeding kennels, a Chum salmon smoke house, and a stunning Chief’s mink, beaver and ermine coat (valued at some US$80,000!). From the train from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Paul and his wife alighted at snow-dusted Denali National Park. Mt. Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley, is the highest mountain in N. America, standing at 20,368 ft asl. There, they saw moose, snow, ptarmigan changing into winter plumage, eagles, and bears!

This was a well-recorded trip with photographs showing the breath-taking beauty and vastness of the Alaskan landscape, accompanied by charming images of the wildlife there, all of which delighted Paul’s audience.

The Society’s next Club Night is on 1 March, when Robert Harvey will give a presentation on ‘By The Sea: The Wild Edge of Britain”. The Workshops on 15 February, “Basic Computing for Photographers” (Windows based), will be led by John Prentice, and on 15 March, “Table-top Photography”, will be led by member Martyn Pearse. All meetings start at 7.30pm, and are held in the Cartwright Hotel, Aynho. Everyone is most welcome to attend, so please come along and meet us all.

Wendy Meagher

Aynho Long Walk: 9th February 2017

We welcomed Val Wright as a new walker who made our numbers for the day up to thirteen. It was cold but not cold enough to harden the mud, of which there was a great deal. We took the Black Path to Butts Close and from there crossed Charlton Road and took the path across the fields to Lower Walton Grounds. Unfortunately the path across the section over the hill and down to the farm buildings has not been restored. This meant a lot of wandering among the crop before we hit the gap into the bottom field. The track past the cottages to the bridge over the stream was a sample of what was to come as far as mud was concerned. The track along the valley was a pattern of large puddles and slippery mud. Some of us found it a difficult section to keep up any pace. Once past there we found the going easier and soon reached the old stone pits and the path through to Charlton Village. It was still very overcast but, with no rain and very little wind, it was still pleasant enough. Once through the village we walked up towards the camp and then back along Green Lane and through to the pavilion where the usual delicious refreshments were very welcome.

Aynho Long Walk 2nd February 2017

Seven of us were brave enough or foolhardy enough to defy the weather forecast and set off this morning down Millers Lane, round the ford and out to the Great Western Arms and the canal. On the way the path was frequently thick with mud and there were a number of puddles joined together to make lakes. Those of us in wellingtons were able to wash them quite well. There was an initial burst of biting rain in a strong wind as we walked down the lane, but the rain soon stopped and the hedges held off the wind. The canal was calm and quiet, with snowdrops blooming in little clusters under the hedges. Once off the towpath at Souldern Wharf there was a very muddy farm yard to cross before Wharf Lane. We were glad of the firmness under foot as we climbed up to Souldern. We crossed the fields, greeted the horses and returned up the Portway path to a much reduced number of refreshment customers. Those of us who braved the weather really enjoyed the walk.