For one month of the year the sleepy West Sussex village of Slindon, near Arundel, celebrates pumpkin growing on a massive scale. Each October, tourists (in coach loads) from around the world time their holidays to coincide with the village’s annual festivities. The man behind it was the late Ralph Upton, a market gardener who was given the title ‘King of the Pumpkin World’. He grew pumpkins on his six-acre plot for over 40 years, planting approximately 15,000 seeds each Spring to produce an organic harvest of more than 50 varieties, not to mention over 30 varieties of squash!
In recent years the American influence has seen the popularity of pumpkins escalate, and along with spooky outfits and trick or treating, the trend for pumpkin carving has grown such that in the weeks leading up to Halloween, thousands of people visit to buy their pumpkin from the grounds of Ralph’s former home in Top Road, known as ‘Pumpkin Cottage’. Following his sad demise, aged 87, in June 2009, it’s his son Robin, (pictured below) and loyal team, that have kept his tradition alive and preserve Slindon’s reputation as Britain’s pumpkin capital.
The highlight of this pumpkin-fest is the annual themed horticultural mural. Built in the past on the roof of his wooden shed, it now sits on specially constructed scaffolding, measuring about 2×4 meters, because the roof could no longer take the weight! Past themes have included the universe, the pyramids, Noah’s arc and even dinosaurs. This years display depicted the fairytale story of Cinderella. It shows her carriage turning back into a pumpkin and her horses to mice on the stroke of midnight, as she flees from the ball leaving her glass slipper behind.
As darkness descends on the eve of Halloween (October 31st) up to a hundred pumpkins, which Robin and his team have painstakingly carved with faces and other pictures are lit with candlelight to create a truly magical sight for all the kids (large and small) to enjoy.
What a treat – quite spectacular!