Oh, so British! Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival

PUBLISHED: 11:32 06 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:30 20 February 2013

Oh, so British! Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival

Oh, so British! Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival

During June, the peaceful village of Kington Langley will be invaded by hordes of scarecrows, as Jan Seymour explains

During June, the peaceful village of Kington Langley will be invaded by hordes of scarecrows, as Jan Seymour explains



Kington Langley stands on a hill two miles north of Chippenham and is a fine example of a squared village with approaches from all directions. It has three greens, the largest and the main focal point is the Common, which covers 30 acres. There are two public houses, the Hit or Miss Inn and the Plough Inn, and one notable former inhabitant of the village was TV presenter Norris McWhirter. A regular player on the village tennis courts, he was awarded the CBE in 1980, but it was in 1954 that Norris first caught the publics attention. While working for the BBC as a sports commentator, he recorded the time when Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile. Norris and his identical twin brother, Ross, were known internationally for the Guinness Book of Records, a book they wrote and annually updated together.
It was 11 years ago that Elizabeth Coles created the idea of a Scarecrow Festival to raise funds for village charities and projects; the festival has now grown to be the biggest event on the village calendar. It is an event that the whole village can get involved in, whether it be making and displaying a scarecrow, or exhibiting work in the art exhibition. Each year the Festival Committee decide a theme which the scarecrow entrants should take, and this years theme is Villains.
A scarecrow is basically a decoy, normally in the form of a human figure dressed in old clothes and placed in fields by farmers to discourage birds such as crows or sparrows from feeding on recently cast seed. Crows can be a real problem for gardens and crops particularly in springtime when they pull up the newly sprouted crops. In the British Isles, where the use of scarecrows as a protection for crops dates back many centuries, the many dialects have produced alternative names for the effigy standing in the fields. In Devon he was known as a Marmet and in the Somerset, a Mommet.
In literature and film, the impact of the scarecrow extended far beyond its utility function, with scarecrows who came to life in a friendly or even sinister form. It is thought that the first English novel to use the term scarecrow was Daniel Defoes novel Robinson Crusoe in 1719. In the 1930s Barbara Euphan Todd published a series of novels centring around a scarecrow who came to life in a friendly form named Worzel Gummidge, and the storyline was so popular that a television adaption followed.
Earlier in 1815, Russell Thorndike wrote the first Doctor Syn book, A Tale of the Romney Marsh, where the scarecrow is the ego of the Revd Doctor Christopher Syn, the smuggler hero of the marshes. In later years the story was made into a movie by Disney and also dramatised for TV as Dr Syn starring Patrick McGoohan. Even the music industry was influenced by the allure of the scarecrow, with Pink Floyd recording The Scarecrow for their debut album.
The fascination and allure of the scarecrow will again be celebrated in Kington Langley this summer. At last years festival there were 88 entrants; will this years turnout be a record breaker?



Scarecrow Festival



11 and 12 June
Art exhibition and Craft Fair, lively background music, refreshments in the tea tent, cream teas and a barbecue. Entrance to the village is free, but there is a small charge for a programme. Visitors can also vote for their favourite scarecrow, and its a great fun day out for all the family.

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