People in the UK spend twice as much on bird food than those on mainland Europe and this may have resulted in the British great tits developing longer beaks.  Oxford University, who have been studying great tits in Wytham Woods near Oxford for 70 years, have been collaborating with researchers at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and the universities of Wageningen, Sheffield, Exeter and East Anglia.  They found that since the 1970s the UK great tits have developed longer beaks than their relatives in the Netherlands suggesting that natural selection is at work.  Further research into great tits with longer beaks found they visited bird feeders more often than birds with shorter beaks, they were in better condition and more successful at reproducing.  Dr Lewis Spurgin, of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia says “Although we can’t say definitively that bird feeders are responsible, it seems reasonable to suggest that the longer beaks amongst British great tits may have evolved as a response to this supplementary feeding.” What gives the birds with the longer beaks the advantage?  Maybe they can access food in the feeders more easily or maybe as Dr Spurgin speculated “it could be that they don’t drop seeds when they’re carrying them away.”

Top Ten Dreamers by Fiona Gow

This is Radio Bedfordshire, and it’s nearly midnight. Time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, when we announce our all-time Top Ten Dreamers, as chosen by you, the listeners.

And coming in at Number Ten is – Mary Shelley. Back in 1815 she was looking for inspiration for a ghost story, and she had a strange dream in which she saw a monstrous creature coming to life. From that dream came her famous story, Frankenstein, and all those scary films.

You may not have heard of dreamer Number Nine – Frederick Banting, but our diabetic listeners have. In the 1920s he was looking for a cure for diabetes, the disease which had killed his mother. He knew insulin was involved, but couldn’t see exactly how. He went
to bed thinking about the problem, and dreamt the solution. When he woke, he knew what experiment he had to do.

And who’s at Number Eight? I think our golfing listeners have been voting here, because it’s Jack Nicklaus. One of the world’s best golfers, but he had a bad patch in the 60s. Then one night he dreamt he was hitting the ball really well. When he remembered the dream , he realised he had been holding the club slightly differently. So he did that for real, and he was back on form!

Now at Number Seven we have some Christmassy dreamers – it’s Joseph and the Wise Men. An angel tells Joseph in a dream not to send Mary away when she’s pregnant, and the Wise Men dream that an angel tells them not to return to Herod. And I’m told there are 3 more dreams in that story!

And who is at Number Six? It’s Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine. He couldn’t work out where the hole in the needle should be. Then one night he had a nightmare when he was taken prisoner by a group of natives. They were dancing around him with spears,and he noticed that their spears all had holes near their tips. When he woke up he realized that his problem was solved!

Now we’re down to Number Five and it’s Paul McCartney. Did you know that he dreamt the tune for Yesterday? He woke up with the melody in his head, tried it out on the piano, and liked it. But he couldn’t believe he had composed it in his sleep- he thought he must have heard it somewhere, so he went around for weeks asking his friends if they knew the tune!

And at Number Four we have another famous name. It’s Albert Einstein, who had a dream where he was hurtling downhill at the speed of light, and this helped him fit in the final bits of his theory of relativity. Just don’t ask me for details!

Now we’re at Number Three and this is our youngest dreamer, Alice in Wonderland. She was a bit drowsy at the start of the book. So all those characters we know so well, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts are part of her amazing dream.

And our last two dreamers both had a dream with a Christmas message. Number Two is Martin Luther King with his “I have a dream” speech, and his vision of racial harmony. He’d heard a lot about the American dream, but it didn’t seem to include black people, so he spoke of his dream that one day black and white Americans would all work together in peace and friendship.

And at Number One it’s Simon and Garfunkel, and we would all like to see their dream come true:

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.

So there we have them folks, your Top Ten Dreamers, and as you climb the stairs to Bedfordshire, may I wish you all Sweet Dreams.

Fiona Gow -Aynho Writers

Biodiversity Group: Plant of the Month

Plants of the Month:  Common Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
The common holly, one of Britain’s few native evergreens, can grow up to 15m in height and live for 300 years. It flowers in May or June with each bush producing either male or female flowers.  The female bush alone produces the bright red berries but only if there is a male plant nearby to pollinate it.  A wide variety of wildlife rely on the holly bush.  Birds use its dense cover for nesting in and the berries are an essential food source in winter.  Small mammals also eat the berries and along with toads, slow worms and hedgehogs use the deep leaf litter for hibernation.   Bees and other pollinators visit the flowers for the nectar and pollen whilst caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly and some moths eat the buds, leaves and flowers.  Deer also eat the leaves but choose the smooth ones found at the top of the bushes.  The use of holly as a decoration at Christmas dates back centuries to pagan times when the Romans used it in wreaths and garlands during their Saturnalia festival held in December. If you are using it as a decoration be aware the berries and leaves are poisonous to both pets and humans.

Did You Know?

  • Scandinavian myths state the holly bush originally belonged to Thor the god of thunder. Ancient Romans believed holly protected against lightning strikes. According to The Holly Society this may have some truth in it as they suggest the spines of the leaves act as miniature lightning conductors protecting the tree and other objects nearby!
  • The Celts believed that the Holly King ruled during winter days while the Oak King ruled over the summer.
  • The mistle thrush jealously guards the holly berries in winter preventing other birds from eating them.
  • In heraldry, holly is used to symbolize truth.
  • Holly wood is heavy, hard, fine grained and easily dyed. It is used to make walking sticks and is sometimes dyed black and used instead of ebony for piano keys.  It also makes good firewood, burning with a strong heat.


Biodiversity Group: The Stoat

Creature of the Month:  The Stoat

Stoats have slim chestnut coloured bodies with lighter underparts and short black tipped tails. They are solitary and very territorial only coming together during the breeding season.  Although they mate during the summer the fertilised egg is not implanted until spring of the following year and the young are born 3 – 4 weeks later. The female raises the young alone often using old rabbit burrows which she lines with fur, grass and leaves.  The young do not open their eyes for the first 4 – 5 weeks.  By 12 weeks they are fully independent and able to kill their own prey but may well stay in their family group for some time hunting and playing together.  When hunting stoats may travel as far as 5 miles and reach speeds of 20mph.  They are fierce predators killing animals much larger than themselves.  Often when approaching a group of prey animals they will leap, spin and twist gradually getting closer to the transfixed prey. The next minute they pounce!  As their main food is rabbits the size of the stoat population depends on the abundance of rabbits although they do take other small mammals, birds, eggs, worms, large insects and carrion.  The main danger to the stoat is starvation in winter, predation by larger carnivores and being killed on the roads. Their average life span is 1½ years but they can live for up to 7 years.

Did You Know?

  • Baby stoats are called kittens and a group of stoats is called a caravan.
  • Stoats kill their prey with a bite to the back of the neck. If there is a surplus of food they will often break the neck of their prey instead so they can store it and presumably it will last longer.
  • Stoats communicate through scent and it is believed they can tell the sex, age and health of prey animals by their scent.
  • Ermine, the white winter coat of the stoat, used to be seen as a symbol of high status and was not only worn by royalty around Europe and Britain but also by Members of the House of Lords and academics of Oxford and Cambridge who saw it as a sign they were equal to nobility.

Winter Lunch Club Report for 2016/2017 season

The Winter Lunch Club has had a very good season and I am delighted to tell you that the following donations have been made from the profit (after ingredient expenses and hall hire costs):

Macmillan Cancer Support – £600
St Michael’s Church, Aynho – £450 (+ an additional £150 which has been held back to purchase a small chest freezer which can be used to support the Fete held in June)
Village Hall, Aynho – £600
Defibrillator Fund (Aynho Parish Council) – £200

This is not possible without your support in coming and eating lunch but also my huge thanks to Amanda Leigh for doing the front of house work every week, also to Annabel Bellamy, Liz Short, Harry Leigh and my Alice when I have had to be up in Scotland or at busy times such as pre Christmas.  It is always lovely to hear the (I hope) happy buzz of people lunching from the kitchen!! Thank you all.       Amanda.


Flower & Vegetable Show 2017

I would like to thank everyone who helped to set -up and run the Flower and Vegetable show. It is always absolutely exhausting and you all worked so hard.  Hopefully we will impress the producers of ‘ Village of the Year’.

Thank you also to everyone who entered or came along on the day. It was a great atmosphere and showed  Aynho at its best.

Carol McClellan (Show Organiser)



Flower and Vegetable Show

Gardening Club’s Flower and Vegetable Show will be held in the Village Hall on Saturday 19th August.
The show is open to all residents of Aynho so please enter as many classes as you can.  Tea and cakes will be served during the afternoon and there will be a raffle as usual.

For those of you who enjoy the produce, this will be auctioned at the end of the afternoon.

Any cakes and raffle prizes will be greatly appreciated.

Contact:   Carol McClellan – Show Organiser– 810346 or any Member of the Committee.

Schedule and Rules of the show.

Entry form.

Spiced Butternut Squash Cake recipe.

Where to go this Summer Holiday

Farthinghoe Nature Reserve
Purston Lane 4.5 miles west of  Brackley NN13 5PL
A former landfill site now transformed into an oasis for wildflowers and insects.  This small, amazingly diverse site is now a mosaic of developing woodland, open grassland and ponds. The meadows are improving each year as a result of better management with the return of some of the old meadow flowers such as lady’s bedstraw, meadow vetchling and snake’s-head fritillary.  The ponds and wet areas attract dragonflies and damselflies from the nearby lake and stream and in late July it is possible to find beautiful demoiselle damselflies in good numbers. There is also a colony of marbled white butterflies on the site.  Pipistrelle and noctule bats find an ideal hunting ground here. Among the birds are treecreeper, bullfinch, breeding sparrowhawk, several species of warbler and long-tailed tit.
Information taken from their website:

Otmoor RSPB Reserve
Otmoor Lane, Oxford OX3 9TD
The information below is taken from their website.
Otmoor is a mixture of wet meadows and reedbeds. In summer it is a haven for breeding wading birds while later in the year you can see the spectacular starling murmuration.  The reserve has no postcode, but OX3 9TD will take you into Otmoor Lane then follow this road to the reserve car park at the end.
Top things to do in Summer—taken from their website
1See hobbies hawking over the grassland.
2.  See dragonflies and damselflies patrolling ditches and
3.  Watch butterflies dancing along the footpath rides.
Important Visitor numbers can be high, particularly at weekends. If you are able, please try to visit the reserve during the week to avoid disappointment.
If the car park is full please do not park along Otmoor Lane, as this can block access for emergency vehicles.
Thank you

Lamb’s Pool 
4 Hook Norton Lane, Sibford Ferris, Banbury OX15 5DJ
The information below is taken from their website.
Lamb’s Pool reserve is a man-made lake with hedges and
pollarded willows. The pool, popular with anglers through the years, is fed by a stream which forms the head of the
River Stour. Reed sweet-grass and common reedmace
flourish at its shallow eastern marshes with occasional bursts of handsome yellow iris, marsh-marigold, ragged-robin, water mint, meadowsweet and fool’s watercress.  White-legged damselflies have also been recorded here. Birds and Bats
A small, scrub-covered island in the middle of the lake is popular with breeding species such as tufted duck and coot. Snipe, barn owl and lapwing have been glimpsed nearby. Heron and kingfisher use the pool for hunting and fishing. The reserve is surrounded by fields and buzzards and song thrush can be seen and heard close by. The pool, one of three open water areas in the valley linked by hedges, is ideal hunting ground for bats.  Pipistrelle, Daubenton’s and noctule bats have all been spotted here.

Hook Norton Cutting
7.5 miles south-west of Banbury, OX15 5JR (northern section).
The information below is taken from their website.
This former Great Western Railway track was used to transport iron ore from the north Oxfordshire town of Hook Norton to the blast furnaces of the Midlands and south Wales. It is composed of two sections of line separated by an old railway tunnel (which does not belong to BBOWT and is not accessible).
Wildlife Highlights
The southern section has open, sunny banks of limestone grassland studded with a galaxy of wild flowers including
woolly thistle, oxeye daisy, fairy flax and wild carrot. The northern section has areas of woodland and areas of scrub. These ring out with birdsong in spring and summer. Among the many species recorded nesting here are great spotted and green woodpeckers, garden warbler, blackcap, whitethroat and goldcrest. The cutting is also notable for its populations of bees. Butterflies, including marbled white, common blue and red admiral are numerous.
Exposed cliffs:   The cutting is of special geological importance because of its exposed Jurassic oolite limestones which contain many fossils, and are stained red by the presence of iron oxide. Recently, scrub has been cleared to allow better views of these. The retaining walls along the track are a lichen and moss-spotter’s dream.

More Information on Oolite Limestone
Aynho is built on the edge of an oolitic limestone plateau  approximately 145 metres above sea level.  Oolite limestone was formed about 165 million years ago in the middle of the Jurassic Period.  It is made up of ooliths which are mostly composed of little balls of calcium carbonate that look a little like fish eggs.  If you look closely at the limestone you may also see small fossil seashell fragments.  This limestone  was formed in shallow tropical seas which means Aynho was once under a warm sea like the Caribbean.