It’s that time of year again when Autumn finally establishes itself, the days get shorter and the leaves turn amazing shades of red, yellow and gold before finally falling to the ground, and in the tiny village of Slindon in West Sussex the annual Pumpkin Festival is in full swing. Each year between Halloween and Bonfire Night the village gains a few more residents… outside houses scarecrows appear and the famous Pumpkin Festival notches up a gear. The Pumpkin Festival was started by grower Ralph Upton to showcase the huge variety of pumpkins and gourds that he grew on his farm. Sadly Ralph passed away a few years ago but the tradition of the festival is kept alive by his son Robin and firmly establishes Slindon as the pumpkin capital of Britain! This years display can be seen at Pumpkin Cottage, Top Road, Slindon, West Sussex BN18 0RP where all manner of pumpkin, gourd and Halloween related oddities can be discovered.
Back down at the bottom of the village I left my car in the car park at the village hall and walked up the hill toward the village. The scarecrow trail follows a loop round the village starting along Reynolds Lane. The first group of scarecrows are situated just off the junction of Reynolds Lane with the main A29 and each year the creators of these figures give the public an amusing creation often based on something topical. This year we are treated to a ‘farmer’ and a group of crows, which are hilarious and guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone’s face.
Scare – ‘Crows’
Walking on past a recumbent figure on a hedge with a face which looked remarkably like Vladimir Putin I passed the newly opened Old Forge village shop and cafe. This time last year this delightful little building was semi derelict and covered in ivy and surrounded by overgrown vegetation. Now it is a bright, open fresh community store run by volunteers and selling all kinds of produce and local items, there is also a small cafe which I am sure be a great meeting place to relax over coffee with a friend. The best feature is the fabulous etched glass window depicting a blacksmith at his work.
Further up the road I passed the newly created Village Orchard which was created to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and on up to the village sign which depicts a cricket bat and ball. Slindon village is widely regarded as the birthplace of modern cricket and the bat and ball on the sign shows a ‘Crick’ which was an early type of bat similar to a hockey stick. There is a small plaque attached to the sign which announces that the sign was donated to the village of Slindon by the Slindon Pudding Club – a group formed in 1972 to support village and people of Slindon (http://www.slindon.com/clubs/pudding.htm), to commemorate the millennium.
The village itself is a charming mix of eclectic cottages and country houses many dating back to 17th and 18th centuries. One of my favourite buildings is the thatched railway carriage which stands just inside the gates of a house in Church Hill. This carriage is amazing and I for one would love to have one in my garden to use as a studio, although I think my husband would want it for himself to build his railway in!
Thatched railway carriage
Quaint flint fronted cottages and window to the Slindon Pottery
Walking round the village on this sunny but slightly chilly November afternoon I was passed by several people in their cars who were doing the same as me, following the scarecrow trail. It struck me as being incredibly lazy to drive round the village, the whole trail took about 30 minutes to walk round including stopping time to look and photograph, I know the village is on a hill, but it’s a gradual slope and the whole experience is far more enjoyable on foot, apart from occasionally almost being run over by the car bound voyeurs clogging up the tiny lanes!
The Duck Pond in Slindon village
This year there were definitely less scarecrows than in previous years, and sadly many of those on show were not of as high a calibre as previously seen. However, the whole event is for fun, and a great way to bring a community together. Long may it continue and I for one will keep on visiting.
A small selection of some of the 2012 scarecrows at Slindon