Spontaneity at its Best –  30th July 2022

Cropredy village has history of being the site of a very special battle back in 1644.

Cropredy Bridge on the River Cherwell was the site of a major battle in 1644 during the English civil warKing Charles engaged the Parliamentarian army led by Sir William Waller. The battle was a stalemate; the Parliamentarian side suffered heavy casualties but ultimately prevented the King’s forces from crossing the bridge. A plaque on the bridge bears the inscription: “Site of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge 1644. From Civil War deliver us.” Before the battle, some of the church valuables were hidden in the River Cherwell; these included the brass eagle lectern, which was not recovered for 50 years, during which time it was damaged.

So Cropredy is not just an obscure village in the county of Oxfordshire.

Our day started with joining Mike and Lesley for a walk around the village. They told us that the clock from the church of St Mary the Virgin had been sent away for repair to the clock masters who had repaired Big Ben in the four-year overhaul just recently.

An obligatory visit to the other pub in the village that we did not frequent last night.

We then stopped off at a local café to have a coffee and organise our day. The conversation came around to Jeremy Clarkson and his farm “Diddly Squat”. Many of you may remember him from the Top Gear series as well as The Grand Journey. He also has a show on Amazon Prime called Clarkson’s Farm and if you want a good giggle, it is worth a watch. Ignore the fact that he is a pompous buffoon and arrogant person as he is not the star of the show. It is his side kick Kaleb who is the country pumpkin and a natural star.

Mike said the farm was about 20 miles away and that they had never been to see it so that set the agenda.

The guys took us there via all the back roads so that we could take in the gorgeous countryside of the Cotswolds.

Clarkson has been in many skirmishes with the local council as he has been wanting to enlarge his farm shop as well as set up a restaurant. They wouldn’t let him build a restaurant so the way around it was to put the restaurant in the sheep shed which doesn’t have four walls so hence gets around the bylaws.

The farm shop attracts a lot of people which causes traffic congestion, and he is more than happy to build a bigger car park on his property to relieve this issue and not annoy the local villagers. Guess what, the council will not let him.

He organises information sessions for the local villagers prior to submitting any development requests so they are fully up to date with his plans.

We think this sign epitomises his frustrations of the beauracy that he faces with the local authorities.

Mike and Lesley then came up with the plan to visit the Hook Norton Brewery which was in the same area. They had been to the shop there before but had  always wanted to do the tour but had never had the time.

Well today, we had the time. The tours were for two hours and are well booked in advance. We just lucked out as they managed to squeeze us onto the 1.00pm tour.

 Hook Norton is a proudly independent and passionate family business. The brewery was founded in 1849 in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire and was designed as a ‘tower’ brewery in which all the stages of the brewing process flow logically from floor to floor. Until 2006, the brewing process was powered by steam. However, the historic Victorian steam engine (dating from 1899) is still in the brewery.

Beer is also still delivered in the village by horse-drawn dray when they have the horses available. They are in a flux with their horses at present as there is only one horse that is trained up, plus one is retired and there is a young buck. This beautiful fellow is the retired one who is 23 years old and seeing his final days out in comfort and being spoilt rotten.

This magnificent display of old keys and sampling cups dates back to when the custom and excise people would do spot checks on the brewery. Our guide Leon, who by the way was brilliant, said it would have been the best job to have as back then there were lots of breweries to visit and sample/test their beers.

Now this window is very interesting. It comes from the original family cottage that use to sit on this spot. They added it into the new brewery (1899) as it holds a significant history relating back to the stupidity of taxes. The saying “Daylight Robbery” originates from this law. In 1696, William III of England introduced a property tax which required those living in houses with more than six windows to pay a levy. In order to avoid the tax, house owners would brick up all windows except six.

At the end of the tour, we were taken down to the tasting room.

Fraser managed to tick off one of his bucket list items – pouring his own beer.

It was then back to Cropredy where we popped into the local cricket ground to watch Cropredy Seconds play some other Oxfordshire team in the league. Lesley is the treasurer of the Sports and Leisure Center where the cricket was being played.

Mike meantime is on the Village Hall committee, and he is heavily involved in providing 2,000 breakfasts over the three-day Fairport festival.

It was then back to the house where we had a lovely dinner and a few hours of more chatting and very much enjoying one another’s company. All in all, a very fun day for all.

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