Blandford flies

Picture: Ann Holland

The culture

Each Sunday we buy The Sunday Times as we enjoy ‘The Culture’. On June 6 2021, The Clarkson Review had this to say:

‘I am currently toying with the idea of having huge speakers in the gateposts at my new house that play ODE TO JOY, loud, every time the gates open. This would make me feel good every time I got home and, as an added bonus, it would annoy my Brexity pals….’.

This is our local patch, where I regularly meet up and walk with my West Oxfordshire friends from Woodstock, Charlbury, Chippy and Witney, who with me celebrated the Chipping Norton Labour result as well as the Oxfordshire County vote. On Friday 28 May I walked with my fellow Chippy street stallers on the public footpath area of Blenheim. My friends sensibly in jeans, me in a dress.

Blandford flies

We were strolling along, chatting as you do, when Diana yelled that she saw a swarm of midges on my bare legs that didn’t want to move.

We had thought that they were just midges, but a dear GP friend got the answer. They were Blandford flies, a small biting insect. I had previously met these devilish things back in 1990 in Dorset.

These minute 3 mm flies can cause mayhem and they have spread across the country to Herefordshire, Wales and Oxfordshire. Presumably the spread is from water, rivers and lakes, where the larvae grow. The female has to have blood, often human, before mating and breeding.

I can only guess that the surge has some reason to do with climate change. The month of May was extremely wet, with the heaviest rain and coldest temperature in decades. I was unlucky on May 28 as I stood by the stagnant lake when the thirty or so flies swooped on me, rather than trousered friends. It was a dank day, with light drizzle and the temperature rising in the afternoon. Perfect for the lady biters!

Oxfordshire MIU  centre has just  put out a warning that swelling, blistering and joint pain can make victims very unwell and in need of medical care. If blisters spread as mine did, good treatment after 3 days is essential.

Over the Bank Holiday in our relatively rural area there were very few opportunities to have some treatment for the very painful thirty bites. Quite quickly the bites joined together turning my leg into raw steak, looking like something out of a horror film from the sixties. After 4 days I managed to get antibiotics, but couldn’t walk without a stick for quite a while. My GP friends were horrified.

Mr Clarkson lives between Chippy and Blenheim, where he bought Clarkson’s farm in 2008, having previously lived in a village south of Chippy from 1996.I bumped into him whenever Jaffe and Neale were having a Clarkson book event. I always joined the queue, got the signature, and reminded him to come and talk to our pupils. The books are, I hope, still in the school library.


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Why people don’t know where their food comes from?

In the i newspaper on Monday 31 May 2021 was the following quote from the programme: ‘Where do you think that avocado came from‘. Clarkson is clearly not an agricultural export, admitting ‘I don’t really know where my food comes from’. This is what led to his new programme Clarkson’s Farm.

As a scientific geographer, I should know better, but only recently realised that my Quaker Oats come from China. No mention on the box! This is part of the problem. Those little Union flags don’t mean the product has been grown in U.K.

The reality in U.K. is that cheap food is essential, but there are cheap seasonal foods, whilst more expensive out of season ones seem abundant. 

Watching Clarkson’s Amazon farm stories, he is now more aware.

As a child we only had seasonal vegetables and fruit. Now anything goes. As usual I blame Gove for reducing farming to a minor part of Geography GCSE and especially at A Level. 

Ms Truss wandering across the planet seeking beef and lamb 9,000 miles away hits every single bad factor, with number one being the environment. 

I was lucky to join at Daylesford in Oxfordshire(2012) a Slow Cooking private event with Prue Leith. We wandered round the gardens and fields picking up rocket, lettuces, radishes, carrots etc., for a scrumptious lunch. There are brilliant farm shops…like Clarkson’s but in the pandemic even conscious people like us are getting food online from Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, 

As for pesticides …don’t ask..I dread that these new trade deals will make the situation even worse with the tractors passing our house are delivering their chemicals …..