Tackley Newsletter
October & November 2020

Thank you

Shirley Clothier

I would like to say a very big thank-you to the wonderful volunteers who sprang into action at the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Rather tentatively I contacted them, as I do like to think I’m very independent.

Although I’ve been in the parish of Tackley for many years, within a short time I had made new friends, all willing to help out where they could.

It makes such a difference to old people like me to feel there are people giving up their time like this. So, very many thanks once again.

With the sun shining, Christmas seems a long way off, but I would like to wish everyone the compliments of the season—and hopefully a better 2021.

New bus timetable

Alan Diver

The new S4 bus timetable is in effect now, and can be downloaded from the village website.

Most journeys are five minutes earlier than previously. More notable changes are additional evening services.

Group seeks legal challenge to 4,400 green belt houses

Cherwell Development Watch Alliance

Cherwell District Council has adopted its Local Plan review, ‘Oxford’s Unmet Housing Need’, releasing unspoiled green belt north of the city for development—urban sprawl to engulf Cutteslowe Park up to Woodstock; North Oxford Golf club lost; thousands of mature trees destroyed; and the closure of the road connecting Yarnton to Kidlington via Sandy Lane.

The plan is to attract jobs and people to an area of near-full employment. We believe it will do little to provide affordable homes for locals or more social housing, while causing pollution, lost green spaces and ever-higher housing targets in a cycle of unnecessary building.

Unchallenged, it could open the floodgates to rampant development. The wider ambition is to build a million houses in the Oxford–Cambridge arc, concentrating economic and population growth in the south east.

We have shown the target to be overestimated and unsustainable, with no response to changing circumstances like the climate emergency and recent economic recession.

This is no ‘NIMBY’ or short-term battle. It is a flawed plan vulnerable to challenge by judicial review, and we are campaigning to raise estimated legal costs of £50,000 to fight through the courts. We already have substantial pledges, but need your support. Please donate and share our campaign widely.

Cherwell Development Watch Alliance members: Harbord Road Area Residents’ Association, Greenway Oxon, Kidlington Development Watch, Begbroke & Yarnton Green Belt Campaign, Woodstock Action Group.

Museum reopens

Lorraine Horne

The Oxfordshire Museum is now open, and we cannot wait to welcome you back.

Discover the stories and treasures of Oxfordshire, from mysterious Iron Age mirrors through Anglo-Saxon warriors to Victorian toys and games. The dinosaur garden will be open, but sadly the dinosaur gallery must remain closed for the present. Most of our interactive exhibits can still be enjoyed, but we’ll remind you to use the hand sanitiser provided before and after you play. New trails and quizzes will add to the enjoyment for our family visitors.

Our current art exhibition explores ‘distance’, something that has been on everyone’s mind of late, and will run throughout October. Specially selected from our collection, it features paintings and prints with a theme of perspective, incorporating traditional to modern and slightly abstract works.

The cafe will be serving sandwiches and light lunches and offering our usual delicious cakes, scones and other treats. At the moment we are not able to provide indoor service, but there is plenty of seating outside from which you can enjoy the garden with its colourful summer planting.

The shop has new stock, including an excellent range of gifts and greetings cards. Currently we are only able to take card payments. Your cash is still welcome in our donation boxes.

Look out for the new one-way system that will be in operation around the site.

We regret we are currently unable safely to open our toilets to visitors.

So that we can give the museum a thorough sanitising before we open each day, as well as at intervals during the day, we have revised our opening hours which are now 11 am–5 pm Wednesday to Saturday, and 2–5 pm Sunday. Last admission will be 4:30 pm.

Our friendly staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer any queries you may have before or during your visit, and we all look forward to seeing you soon.

Strength and balance classes go online

Age UK Oxfordshire

Generation Games is now running its strength and balance exercise class online via Zoom. Regaining our fitness is especially important at this time when we risk being less active.

You will be doing a short warm up followed by exercises to help improve strength, balance, flexibility and mobility—from the comfort of your own home. Exercises are mainly chair-based; there will be some standing sections, but you may remain seated if you prefer.

Sessions are held on a Tuesday at 2 pm and cost £3, and have already got off to a great start. If you are interested in joining, please email or call Generation Games—details above.

Flu clinic in Tackley

Woodstock Surgery

Friday, 9 October

Because of the current situation, we are unable to offer a variety of clinics on different days and times this year. Please contact the surgery to make an appointment—all flu vaccinations must be pre-booked for a specific date and time.

If you are aged between 50 and 64 and not in a clinical at-risk group, the earliest you will be offered a flu vaccination is November, providing there is sufficient vaccine. No appointments will be offered for people in this age group until then. This is to ensure that those who are most at risk are vaccinated first. If you are aged 50 to 64 and are in an at-risk group eligible for the vaccination, for example you have a health condition which puts you at risk from the flu, you will be invited earlier.


Patients eligible to receive a flu vaccination from the practice are:


Please do not attend if you have any of the following symptoms:

If you have any of these symptoms, please call the surgery and a new appointment will be arranged for you.

Please arrive only at your appointment time to prevent a queue building up. Wear a face mask and wait in the designated area. Make sure the top of your arm is accessible and wait to be called for your vaccination. Following your vaccination, follow directions to exit.

We would like to thank you all in anticipation of your cooperation and patience in this unique situation.


Chris Sladen

Suspended for the duration of lockdown, Woodstock & District University of the Third Age’s programme of monthly speaker meetings – normally held at Woodstock Community Centre – was able to restart online on 1 September with a talk by member Andy Pedley on ‘Magic of the Hive’—the natural history of the honey bee, informed by Andy’s own long experience of beekeeping. Further Zoom meetings are planned—check our website.

The ban on meetings has of course also hit the work of our score of individual interest groups. Some, however, continue in business remotely. Among them is the craft group, whose members practice a wide range of artistic and utilitarian skills. Commendably, the group circulates a regular newsletter among its members. The most recent issue includes notes from individual groupies about making a fabric face mask (topical), a beanie hat and a ‘picture of the tree of life by cross-stitch’ (intriguing). Readers are invited to ‘share a piece of music and a book to take to a desert island’. And the newsletter finishes with a recipe for honey biscuits—scrumptious!

Walking group

Linda Birch & Rachel Strachan

Ever wondered what field paths you can walk from the village? Would you like to discover new walking circuits for you—and your dog? This group is a friendly way to get to know your local countryside better, and learn about the history of its paths and the places they pass.

We’ve restarted in a ‘social-distancing-compliant style’ by offering local led walks, and it’s been great to welcome new and familiar faces. We need to know in advance who is coming, and will keep records of walkers for ‘test and trace’. We may have to limit places. Contact Linda Birch if you’d like to book a place on a particular walk.

Walks are at a leisurely pace, and depart from Tackley Village Hall at the times given. Distances are approximate. Walking is at the participant’s own risk.

10 October: Bletchingdon

Saturday, 10 October at 10 am: Bletchingdon Park and village (6.5 miles). Cross the canal to the path past Kirtlington golf course; follow new paths through 17th century Bletchingdon Park, passing Grade II stables to reach Bletchingdon village. Field paths back to the golf course, and return to Tackley. Bring lunch.

28 October: Historic walks

Wednesday, 28 October at 2 pm: tracks taken by locals in Tudor and Roman times (4.2 miles). Get 360° views from Tackley’s trig point before crossing the A4260 to reach Dornford Lane, Woodstock Palace’s drove road. Take bridleways to Sturdy’s Castle pub, then via Akeman Street bridleway back to the site of Tackley’s Roman villa.

14 November: Kirtlington

Saturday, 14 November at 10 am: Kirtlington: thoroughbreds and fossils (5 miles). Up Crecy Hill bridleway and over the railway, to the river and canal bridges; Crowcastle bridleway past Kirtlington Stud farm. Through Kirtlington Quarry (SSSI in disused cement works); then over the canal at Pigeons Lock to return to Tackley.

25 November: Weaveley Furze

Wednesday, 25 November at 1:30 pm: Weaveley Furze: a repurposed ‘poor’s allotment’ (4.3 miles). Catch the 1:30 pm bus from Tackley Village Hall to the Shipton-on-Cherwell turn. Paths to Shipton Slade Farm, then across to Weaveley Furze—survival of a ‘poor’s allotment’ for the Weaveley area of our parish. Cross the A4260 to continue via bridleway to Gibraltar Point. Down Whitehill Road, with its hedges in autumn colour, passing the old farms of Lower Whitehill to pick up field paths back to the village.

12 December: Wootton

Saturday, 12 December at 10 am: Wootton’s peaceful Jubilee Meadows (6.2 miles). Follow Akeman Street to the site of the Roman settlement at Sansom’s Platt. Paths to Wootton’s Millennium ‘Jubilee Meadows’ in the quiet Dorn Valley. Recross the Dorn at Milford Bridge to pick up tracks and paths to the A4260, then down into Tackley.

Features: new normal to second wave

John Newton

By accident, I wrote a piece for the newsletter—last month! I re-read it today, and a rewrite was needed. ‘New normal’ felt more stable than the current concerns over a ‘second wave’. Either way, many people will have changed aspects of their lives and may not revert back once the crisis is over. I now have an online bank account, hardly ever carry cash, and have ordered more things over the Internet than I have ever done. Will I change back to my old ways? The jury is out on that one.

Hopefully, over the next couple of months, posters for Features will once more be back on Tackley’s noticeboards. Rest assured, the Features team will be closely monitoring the situation and only restart when it is sensible and we are allowed to do so. When we do resume, things will be a little different: seats arranged to reflect attendees (families & bubbles will be accommodated) so pre-booking will be essential; no half-time break; no food or drink; face coverings; hand sanitisers; extra cleaning etc.

Before the lockdown, Features had identified over six months worth of high-quality screenings, including one of my all-time favourites, the magnificent 1917. However, I’m pretty sure we will start with another audience favourite, the much-loved Huckleberry Finn-like Peanut Butter Falcon, a touching and funny buddy road movie.

So please watch out for the posters, as these may contain more information about the screening than the usual cryptic title and date.

Methodist church

Jan Grimwood

By the time you read this, Tackley Methodist Church will have held its harvest service—without being able to sing, of course, due to COVID-19 restrictions. All the food from our harvest table will have been delivered to Spencer Court residential home in Woodstock; we’re very grateful to all who generously donated items. We’ll have given thanks to God for crops safely gathered in after another difficult year for farmers. Many of our surrounding fields have already been replanted, and so the cycle continues, with the gentler days of autumn ahead of us.

2:30 pm on 22 September marked the precise moment of the autumnal equinox when the sun was directly over the earth’s equator, giving us an equal amount of daytime and night time. Now, each day that dawns will be marginally shorter as the nights draw in. Not everyone enjoys autumn, for various reasons, but it’s a time of the year I love: a gentler time with an explosion of vibrant colours, earthy smells and leaves to scuff underfoot.

The Psalmist reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” So, as we look around us in the days, weeks and months to come, let’s give thanks to God for his amazing creation and our place in it.

Here goes…

Revd Marcus Green

Six and a half months after weekly church services moved online, and following two and a half months of outdoor services around the benefice, it’s time to go back inside! On 4 October at 5:30 pm, St Nicholas’ church will see its first indoor service since March. The wardens, PCCs and I have worked together with Bishop Colin’s approval to begin a new series of services that hopefully will enable us to continue our worship together through the autumn and into the winter months.

First, a huge thank-you to everyone who made the summer outdoor services such a success: to everyone who worked hard to prepare for services and to clear up afterwards, to everyone who came, to those who won the ‘best face covering’ competitions, to our hand bell ringers and our tower bell ringers, to our musicians who played outdoors, and to everyone for bringing such good humour, kindness and love as we gathered in our churchyards—thank you!

Next, let’s take all of that terrific can-do spirit as we go back inside. It will be a bit different from how things used to be, but it will be wonderful, and I am really thrilled that we have reached this point.

How will it be different? We are still keeping to just one service per week in the benefice, so please do check the rota (page 33) to see where we are each time. The exception is Remembrance Sunday when there will be a service in each parish.

Many apologies—we can’t put on a big All Souls service this year. However, we will read out names of loved ones at evensong on 1 November, and that week’s online service will also mark the day. We are a benefice, so anyone from any parish can of course go to any service.

If you plan to come, you need to book! In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, and because we want everyone to feel safe at all times, we have to limit the numbers of people in our church buildings. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many we can still safely fit in, though, so don’t let that put you off. To book for any service call:

You can book now for any service on the rota, except Remembrance Sunday at Steeple Aston, which is outdoors so there’s no need to book.

When you arrive, you will be shown where to sit. I hope this makes sense—we need to make best use of the space so as many folk as would like to can come, and this means some may not always be able to sit where they’d like. We have tried to make sure very few people are behind pillars!

We have a new pattern of services. Steeple Aston will hold morning communion services, while North Aston and Tackley will normally share evensong services between them.

We still aren’t allowed to have congregational hymns, but we can have a small choir singing, and will do so at our evensong services. We’ve even had some special music written for us.

We do all have to wear face coverings or masks whenever we are inside the church buildings.

Worship at Home, our online service, will continue each and every week. So if you can’t come to a service in a church building, or you just want the chance to sing out a hymn, that will always be there. The easiest way to find it is to go to the homepage of our website, though we also have a phone service for people without Internet. Ring [phone number removed from archive copy] – a local call – and you’ll have the option to listen to a full service, just a sermon, or just some prayers.

Our services are for everyone because God loves everyone. Everyone is welcome, to everything, all the time. Booking for church may feel strange at first—but please, don’t worry; do pick up the phone and then please come and join us. I very much look forward to seeing you as we continue in faith and love and kindness, and as we move forward together through these remarkable days.

Primary school

Mrs L J Murrey

It has been a delight to welcome all of our children back to school. The school is full of life, laughter and chatter, and children are adapting well to their new learning routines.

We have 17 children in our Reception class this year, and we welcome lots of new families to the village and the school.

This term the children are learning about inventors, Earth, mountains, rivers and coasts. We also plan to include lots of outdoor learning in our curriculum, and are excited to be working in partnership with Scouts and Andrew Peake to develop a new Forest School area in the village.

We continue to run a food bank from school, and have been really thankful for the ongoing support from our local community. Your donations are hugely appreciated and enable us to provide a food box each week to our families who need it.

We look forward to updating you through the year on life at the school.

Parish council report

Cherie Carruthers, Parish Clerk

Your councillors


Owing to the latest restrictions, all meetings and surgeries will continue to be held online. These are via Zoom, with the login details remaining the same for each. Please join us if you are able:

Meeting ID: [removed from online edition]
Passcode: [removed from online edition]

The next surgery is on Monday, 5 October at 7 pm and the next full meeting is on Monday, 19 October at 7 pm.

Gardiner Arms planning applications

The following applications have been submitted to West Oxfordshire District Council. These are new applications, so any comments made previously will not be seen or considered. The deadline for comments is Friday, 9 October.

Black gate entrance to the heath, Fox Hill

The parish council is increasingly concerned about inappropriate activities taking place at the ‘black gate’ entrance to the heath on Fox Hill. We are aware that there is litter and paraphernalia because of this, causing not only a disgusting biohazard mess but also distress for users of the heath.

The parish council is in contact with the police and Public Health England. We are also researching in-house measures that will act as a deterrent, and hopefully we can resolve this matter as soon as possible.

Footpath Fortnight

The annual Footpath Fortnight took place between 6 and 19 July. We wish to thank all the volunteers who made the event a great socially-distanced success. We are working through the areas highlighted for maintenance, and looking into the suggestions put forward to improve the footpaths. A full report is available from the parish clerk.

Collection for shop

There are so many people to whom we are grateful for their service, support and care during the lockdown of March and April. But a resident has asked Tackley Parish Council to say a particular thank-you to Debbie, Steph and Sue at Tackley Village shop. They worked throughout the lockdown ensuring the shop remained open and stocked, and that deliveries were made to those who were shielding. Their cheerful and smiling service was such a boost to morale for many.

Councillor Jan Read has been asked to organise a collection to enable Debbie, Steph and Sue to have a small treat together—perhaps a spa on their day off. A JustGiving page has been set up, and the suggestion is that perhaps a family might donate £5 or an individual £1. Visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jan-read from Monday, 5 October. A collection box will also be placed for residents to donate cash if they wish (appropriate measures will be taken to minimise risk from COVID-19). The parish council will ensure that all donations are transferred to Debbie, Steph and Sue equally at the end of October.

Airport activity

A resident made an enquiry to the airport asking: “Why are we experiencing an increase in flights over Tackley in the past two or three weeks? The noise from aircraft flying low and frequently is extremely intrusive and irritating. In over 35 years here I have never experienced such noise. Is there nothing you can do to reduce this?”

We wanted to circulate this response from London Oxford Airport (Kidlington) talking us through the current trends at the airport affecting Tackley:

“With reference to your email to us, I can elaborate on activity levels at the airport and what is the trend right now.

“Tackley village centre is of course just 2.8 miles from the runway and just to the east of the approach centreline. With the prevailing wind direction in the United Kingdom, on average, 70% of all landings/approaches are into wind from the north of the airport, i.e. over Tackley. When the wind turns and comes from the north (roughly 30% of the year) then those landings are to the south of the airport over Yarnton, Begbroke etc.—but departures are to the north, again over Tackley.

“Below is a breakdown of actual aircraft movements (a landing or a take-off) for the last 10 years. We have hovered between around 40–45,000 movements a year in the last decade. Going back, say, 20 years as the main pilot training school (Oxford Aviation Academy, now CAE) was much busier, we were close to 160,000 movements a year and at our historical peak in the 1960s–70s we were the busiest single runway in the world with 230,000 movements per annum, almost all pilot training activity (90%+). Up to the 1990s the airport was the home to Europe’s largest professional pilot training academy. Our permitted hours of operation are from 06:00 to midnight and up to 160,000 movements a year.

“This year of course has been quite different to last with the COVID-19 pandemic disruption. All training was stopped for about two months and most other flying activity was also stopped, although the airport remained open for repatriation flights and emergency services. As soon as lockdown was lifted the training activity restarted and the schools have been playing catch-up effectively. At worst in July that meant we were up to about 200 movements a day—usually of course when the skies are clear.

“Overall, as we approach the end of July this week, we will almost have matched July 2019 activity levels, so arguably we are back to ‘normal’. We do not envisage any significant change from those ‘normal’ levels. In fact, one school doing about 30–35 flights a day is migrating about a third of its flying to Enstone airfield from 1 August, to the north west of us (about 6 miles from Tackley, but in line with). As the holidays kick in, flying will decline a little and then we will see the autumn period when it will decline further due to weather.

“One factor that may have changed since, say, last year is the greater use of diesel-engined piston aircraft. On the plus side they use half the fuel of their avgas (petrol) predecessors with lower emissions, but the engine noise is at a different frequency. In terms of actual decibels, they are not noisier, but the frequency is perceived differently by different people.”

Please feel free to contact your local councillor or the parish clerk if you have any problems or concerns.

Village hall update

Les Summers, Acting Chair

It has been a tumultuous summer for the village hall, as for most organisations, and we are not out of the woods yet. We are pleased to announce that a limited reopening has now been agreed, and that, given certain restraints, we can accept bookings for its use. The following requirements are in addition to the normal hire arrangements:

  1. Social distancing requirements, in force contemporaneously, must be observed by all hirers and by those attending their events. Until further notice, and where exemptions are not in place, the ‘rule of six’ must be observed, as appropriate. The hirer holds responsibility for ensuring that this requirement is observed.
  2. The hirer is expected to carry out their own risk assessment for the use of the hall, taking into consideration the number of participants in their group, and the requirements for the cleaning of equipment, particularly tables and chairs.
  3. The multiple use of the hall by different groups, at the same time, is not permitted.
  4. The requirements for maintaining hygiene, as stated at the entrance to the hall must be observed by all those attending any event.
  5. The committee room may be used by a hirer using the main hall, but social distancing must be observed, and cleaning requirements undertaken.
  6. The changing rooms may be used by sports teams involved in organised sport only; they cannot be used by those engaged in a ‘friendly kick around’.
  7. Currently the water supply to the changing rooms has not been certified as safe to use, and therefore, until further notice the showers may not be used. However, the changing room toilets will be available for use by sports team members.
  8. Hand sanitisers will be placed at the entrance to each changing room and must be used by all team members.
  9. Teams will be expected to undertake some cleaning of the changing rooms after use, including, where possible, wiping surfaces that have been used, for example, where metal, plastic or leather equipment has been placed.
  10. The stage, currently, cannot be accessed.
  11. The kitchen and bar will not be available to hirers until further notice.

If this seems draconian, then there is, sadly, no alternative. We must be vigilant to prevent any possibility of infection occurring in our building. As far as the use of the kitchen and changing room showers are concerned, it is hoped that these restrictions can be lifted during the course of the next few weeks. For clarification of these issues, and bookings for hall use, please email the bookings clerk on [email address removed from archive copy].

In other news…

Our long time chair Barbara Vaughan withdrew from the committee on 23 July. She had been involved with the hall right from the start of the proposal to rebuild the old building, and associated with just about everything that happened, from organising cleaning rosters to booking fundraising events. Barbara was elected chair in 2010 and had remained in post continuously since that date. The pandemic lockdown has prevented us from making proper acknowledgement of her contribution, but, for now at least, Barbie—please accept this as our due thanks.

We now have a pretty solid management committee with Katie Hofman continuing as secretary and Nick Hawes as treasurer. This is the place where I should express my thanks to all the members of the committee for the support they are giving me, having assumed the role of acting chair.

The next AGM will be on 27 February 2021, by which time we hope it will be possible to hold a physical meeting. Essentially, most local societies, apart from those supporting party political organisations, are entitled to have a representative on our committee, and I would renew our invitation to such groups to contact us with a view to nominating someone for this role.

At the moment there are no events currently planned by the committee and it is unlikely that we will be able to plan anything before the new year. The pop-up pub, despite the weather causing the cancellation of three sessions, was reasonably successful and we are looking at the possibility of having another pop-up-pub around Christmas. Since the weather will, by then, be very different, whether we can do this will depend on what restrictions are in force for the use of the hall. We will provide more information when we have it ourselves, probably not until shortly before any possible date.

Though the position, currently, could be a lot better, the prospects for the village hall – in both the short and long term – are very good. We have already thought a little about how we might extend our service to the village to become, with the shop, a major ‘hub’ for residents and events. Some interest has been expressed in our establishing a volunteer-led library, and we are certainly not averse to doing that. Other suggestions have also been made, and we will give them proper consideration as soon as we can.

If any resident wishes to comment on the foregoing or put forward an idea, viewpoint, or whatever, please feel free to email me at [email address removed from archive copy].

On a separate note, it has been reported to us that children have been climbing onto the roof of the hall and were possibly responsible for damage that occurred overnight on Sunday–Monday 20–21 September. Would all parents please ensure that their children understand the danger of climbing onto the roof of the village hall; particularly when damage occurs and it can be proved to have been vandalism, we will take the matter very seriously indeed.

Family search

Julian Whitehead

A lady called Celia Phillips has contacted me asking if I can find out any information about her grandmother Emily Minn (nee Broom) who lived in Tackley and married Felix Broom of Tackley in 1902. Felix died in 1930 and is buried in St Nicholas’ graveyard next to his sister Rizpah and father Jesse. Emily had two children: Frances Emily Watson (Celia’s mother) and Celia Mary Minn. If anyone can remember anything at all about Emily Minn or her family, please contact me and I will pass it on to Celia Philips who will be most grateful.

Poppy Appeal

Sue Pitts

As the organiser of the Poppy Appeal for Tackley, I would like to let you know of changes that will be happening this year due to COVID-19.

The Royal British Legion has put guidelines in place to keep everyone safe, and although poppies will be available, there will be no door-to-door sales this year.

During the two weeks prior to Remembrance Sunday – 24 October to 8 November – I will have a supply of poppies and wooden grave crosses for anyone who would like to buy them. I am also going to try to arrange to have sellers outside the village hall on the mornings of Saturday 31 October and Saturday 7 November. I will give an update on this via Tackley Notices nearer the time.

For further information, please contact me—details above.

Bad lighting hurts our wildlife

Mary McIntyre

As we head into the winter months, I would like to please urge you all to make sure any external, motion-activated lighting you have is set up correctly. Our meteor cameras are already picking up at least 20 occurrences of security lights flicking on overnight, and that is just in the area around our garden. Indeed, it’s hard to walk in the village at night without security lights flashing on as you pass certain places.

Aside from the economic and environmental cost – estimated to be £2 billion a year across Europe, which is huge waste of energy and money – such lighting is having extremely detrimental effects on wildlife. 60% of our biodiversity is dependent on darkness to survive, and light pollution is seriously impacting many species.

Studies have shown that millions of migratory birds are killed every year after becoming disorientated by dazzling lights and colliding with brightly-lit structures. 60% of insects are nocturnal, and a third of those attracted to artificial light are killed as a result. Many mammals, birds and insects are under so much stress from artificial lights that breeding is compromised, and prey species that need darkness for survival are seriously affected. Artificial light also affects the feeding pattern of many bat species.

It doesn’t just affect animals and insects; trees and shrubs are starting to bud at the wrong time, and it’s been shown that because of light pollution spring is appearing a whole week early. Even though our village street lighting is turned off overnight, bright white security lights are still very disorientating for our wildlife.

It’s also causing problems for humans. Many security lights are extremely bright, blue-rich LED lights which suppress melatonin production, leading to sleep disorders. Because outside lighting is often badly angled so it doesn’t illuminate only its own property, this can impact the sleep patterns of neighbours and be very upsetting.

Outside lights should be shielded so they don’t throw light out in all directions, and should be angled down so they only illuminate your own property and don’t spill into neighbouring gardens, windows and surrounding fields. They should also be adjusted so that they don’t come on constantly all night and are not triggered by wildlife, by passing cars or by people on the pavements, roads or neighbouring properties—they should only come on when a person actually walks onto your own garden or drive. Light trespass is actually an offence which is covered by the same laws as noise nuisance.

A couple of months ago I was doing some astrophotography from the very top of Fox Hill, probably the highest part of Tackley. There was a light on constantly at the very bottom of the hill which was so bright that I literally couldn’t see the ground in front of me, and I ended up twisting my ankle. There is no way any light from the lowest part of the village should be blinding somebody at the very top of the hill. Looking in the opposite direction north, another external light about a mile away was also dazzling me.

When a bright light shines in your face, your pupils contract, reducing your ability to see anything in the shadows. A few years ago a cyclist was killed in Oxfordshire when a security light dazzled a driver and caused him to hit the cyclist. So please take some time to angle your lights down, shield them and decrease their sensitivity. Our wildlife will really thank you for it.

For more information, help and advice, search ‘Commission for Dark Skies’.

Tackley history mysteries

John Perkins

Mystery 1: Roman snails

The Romans brought edible snails to England, and colonies of them have survived since. Robin Gibbons and Les and Barbara Summers have found them in the fields along the stream behind Chaundy and Harborne Roads.

Have you seen any in Tackley, and if so, where? They are larger – up to 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter – and have thicker shells than the common garden snail, and have a distinctive pattern of brown bands on the shell. They are a protected species so must not be picked up, collected or killed—but you can collect any empty shells you find. The story is that they were brought into Tackley by accident in a farm cart from Stonesfield where they were common. But given the extensive Roman presence in Tackley – the villa at Street Farm/Roman Place, several farmsteads and the roadside village on Akeman Street at Sansom’s Platt – it is very possible that one or more colonies have been here in the village for nearly two thousand years.

If you find any, let us know and we can add to our knowledge of Roman Tackley.

Mystery 2: Was there a second Roman villa?

On 4 November 1938, the West Bridgford Times and Echo, a Nottingham newspaper, carried an item about the diamond wedding celebrations of Mr and Mrs John George Shepherd. He came from a farming family near Spalding in Lincolnshire. In his early twenties, he moved to Sheffield where he married and then founded a general drapery business. In his fifties, he decided to return to farming and rented a farm in Tackley. The article continues:

“While cultivating the land there, Mr Shepherd made a discovery of much historical interest, unearthing an old Roman settlement which contained a pond in which were found four small islands designed in the shape of the aces of diamonds, clubs, hearts and spades.”

Adverts in local Oxfordshire papers show that he rented Court Farm from William Evetts from Michaelmas (29 September) 1909. He stayed only three years, selling his farm stock in September 1912 before returning to Sheffield and eventually living in Radcliffe-on-Trent.

What had he found, and where? There are several possibilities. First, that this is a garbled reference to the Harborne fishponds with their geometric shapes. This is unlikely: they were well-known, visible and he could not have ‘unearthed’ them.

Second, that it is the description not of a pond but of a mosaic floor, whose geometric patterns could look like hearts, diamonds, etc. If a couple of courses of stone wall surrounded it, a mosaic floor could certainly look like a pond. It would explain why he decided that the pond was Roman—how else would he have done so?

Third, that he had uncovered the Street Farm mosaics. Unlikely, since two of the three were destroyed soon after the villa was abandoned and the third that has partially survived does not show what could be designs of hearts, clubs etc. In addition, the Street Farm villa was not on the land he rented.

The fourth possibility is that it was a mosaic floor, but of a second villa. This is not impossible. David Sanchez, who directed the archaeological excavation of the Street Farm villa, has often said he thought there was another large Roman building to the south or east—perhaps under the school, St John’s Road or the playing field and possibly connected to the bath house at the south-eastern corner of the site.

However, William Evetts – from whom Shepherd rented Court Farm – was an amateur archaeologist. He had contacts in the Oxford archaeological community and had donated artefacts to the Pitt Rivers Museum. He and Shepherd knew each other socially—both were keen cricketers and were president and vice-president of Tackley cricket club. Evetts would surely have been told about such a discovery, but he has left no mention or memory of it. But equally, if this was nothing more than a fanciful family story, why did the local paper mention it in a short article about a diamond wedding anniversary? That they did suggests that it was something important to Shepherd.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Mystery 3: Peter’s Spout

Many of us know of Peter’s Spout, and many more walk by it on the path between Tackley and Whitehill, but where precisely is it and what is it? A spring, an outflow, a water course, the place where the two streams meet? It’s not marked on any early Ordnance Survey maps. Where does the name come from? It’s on or close to Akeman Street, so is there a connection with Peter’s Cross, also on Akeman Street, a mile east at the northern edge of Kirtlington?

In addition, does the present bridge mark the place where Akeman Street crossed the stream? The alignment seems correct, and the steeper bank on the eastern side appears to be retained by courses of stone. Is this modern, or a Roman construction to create a ford, or is it natural?