Growing, flying and scaring in Pirton

PUBLISHED: 12:42 02 February 2012 | UPDATED: 20:59 20 February 2013

Alexis Corrigan, landlady of The Fox pub

Alexis Corrigan, landlady of The Fox pub

A poltergeist, a flying circus and gigantic veg make Pirton a surprisingly peculiar place. Richard Young explores a weirdly wonderful village...

Some spooky goings on

THE Fox, the villages oldest pub, has spirits other than those behind the bar, according to landlady Alexis Corrigan.

After taking over the red brick building last July, Alexis, who has lived in the village for 24 years, found some of the private rooms left her feeling very uncomfortable.

In the bedroom where we stay occasionally I would wake up feeling cold and I am always drawn to a cupboard. When I go that side of the room its very, very cold and I get the feeling that someone is watching me.

Downstairs in the private drawing room its again very cold. Ive felt a cold brushing, like a hand touching me. My dog behaves very strangely in that area. She barks and her hackles go up.

The spooky goings on can also become alarming, with things flying through the air, exploding and crashing to the floor.

One night one of the girls had a pair of keys fly out of nowhere and caught her on the face. They couldnt find anywhere where they belonged. Another time I was standing there one day all alone and I felt three pushes. I flicked my side and said Get off.

With all these unexplained goings-on the 56-year-old called in a pair of mediums to try to get some answers. They came up with some disturbing news.

The bedroom I dont like and wont sleep in - theres meant to be a soldier right beside the door. In another room theres a woman and two children and the children are ill, they are dying. The woman is distraught because they havent been christened.

Alexis thinks the poltergeist is Mary Cook, a landlady who ran the pub 80 years ago and whose picture still hangs in the bar. I dont think she likes one of the bar girls here, she adds.

Picking up strange feelings has been a part of her life since she was a child, Alexis says, which may explain why what would leave most of us running for the hills, she takes in her stride.

I do believe, but I dont let it bother me. Theres nothing malevolent. If you want to find an explanation then I suppose you could, but theres other things that cant be.

Thats the way to grow it

THE undisputed heavyweight of the Pirton vegetable world is 22 times Pumpkin King, Fred West.

The 78-year-old has won the annual Pirton Pumpkin Show more times than any other grower with his giant gourds.

Last year, he again took the crown at the harvest celebration that raises funds for village causes with a whopping 338 pounder, not far off his biggest ever a 375 pound monster. He also scooped the biggest marrow award with one tipping the scales at over 90 pounds and the biggest onion, heaviest apple, oddest carrot, longest bean and heaviest potato.

Fred, who has been entering the show for 40 years, says he got into it just for the fun of it.

I thought it would be a bit of a laugh. I thought I would have a go with the old pumpkins. Ive done some silly things in my time. Ive had a 20-tonne crane taking them in there and last year I had a lorry to take it over there.

Fred says he has been gardening his whole life and produces all his own veg in his back garden.

I love the veg out of my garden. You cant beat the fresh taste of it and its a lot of fun as well.

And his secret recipe to get them to grow so big? Fred says its very simple.

Theres no secrets at all. I even tell people what I do. I grow mine in a polytunnel. All it needs is good soil and moisture. Theres no point in hiding it.

Five years ago Freds skill as a grower saw him achieve national fame on the BBCs The Village Show.

I won the Eastern Region, Fred says. They took us to Highgrove and met Prince Charles. I came third. Ever the gentlemen, he adds: You cant always win. Theres no shame in losing if they are better than you.

This years show takes place on October 6.

Magnificent flying machines

EVERY summer Pirton hosts an event that far exceeds its small size a display of aerobatics with some of the best pilots in the UK.

With planes looping the loop, rolling and diving in the skies above the village, the air show at Pirton Summer Fair is one of the dramatic highlights of the year and is attended by around 2,000 people.

Villager Bob Barton took over the air show eight years ago after the original memorial flypast organised by a retired wing commander stopped when he left the village. Since then he has greatly expanded its scope.

It started off just a fly-past by the Battle of Britain memorial flight and just sort of grew. Last year we had six displays spread through the afternoon, the 66-year-old says.

I had to start completely from scratch and make the contacts, learn the Civic Aviation Authoritys rules, discover what was needed to book the military items and make sure the display is legal.

The show now has top aerobatic pilots and has featured everything from stunt planes, gliders and helicopters to Tiger Moths, Spitfires and Hurricanes.

The pleasure comes from the visitors to the fair enjoying themselves and the display, plus of course seeing the aircraft displayed well, Bob says.

Its the event of the year that brings the whole of the village and its societies and organisations together and provides a great afternoon out for everyone, particularly families.

Organising the show along with a team of fellow enthusiasts is a dream come true for Bob, a retired aerospace engineer whose life-long love affair with planes began in his back garden as a boy when he saw Victor bombers flying low overhead.

They looked and sounded fantastic, he remembers. On top of that my dad was in the Air Ministry and brought home copies of Flight and Aeroplane magazines and aircraft just became my thing. They have always seemed to me to be the epitome of engineering aesthetics perfection of form and function.

This years Pirton Summer Fair, which also includes stalls, games, classic cars and more, takes place on June 30.

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