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Mr Norman Woodward recalls growing grapes in Chipping Norton 1945-1947, interviewed in 1986
Mr Norman Woodward was born in 1918 and interviewed in 1986 for the 'Looking Back at Liverpool: An Oral History of the Liverpool Region 1900 to 1960.' He recalls here the hazards of grape growing in Chipping Norton in the immediate post-war years.
NORMAN: If you got a late frost it would burn the buds or the shoots out of your grape vines, so you had an alarm that went off at thirty three degrees [Fahrenheit]. And we got up, and you had your oil drums set all round the farm, with scrap rubber in from the rubber factories. And if it dropped to thirty two [degrees], well you lit a blow lamp, and went round and started the fires. You just kept walking all night, and kept the fires going, and put up smoke and a little bit of heat to keep the frost off. Otherwise you could be wiped out with a heavy frost.
INTERVIEWER: Would the other farmers do this?
NORMAN: No, we were the only ones that were doing it.
INTERVIEWER: Did the smoke affect their crops?
NORMAN: It saved some of their crops, anyone that was in the drift either side, we saved some of their crops. And I've seen, when the sun started to rise of a morning, you couldn't see the sun for the smoke pall we had up, which would be illegal now. They wouldn't allow you to do it now. We also had a dryer in the wet weather, to dry our grapes. It was an old parachute dryer we bought from the disposal stores and rigged it up on a tunnel, and we could pick in the pouring rain and put the basket of grapes in the tunnel. And the dryer was run by kerosene with a big fan on it, and you lit it up and it drove hot air through the tunnel and dried the grapes out and we could market them. We were the only ones on Chipping Norton marketing grapes in the wet weather.
INTERVIEWER: When would this have been?
NORMAN: '45, '46, '47.