Rainstorm causes delay to gas trench reinstatement

Gas pipe work was completed under the High Street by this morning and the trench was being backfilled when heavy rain filled it with water, stopping the work.  Now the traffic lights are expected to remain in place over the weekend and be removed on Monday when the road surface has been restored.  

Long traffic delays occurred in the High Street this morning, partly due to one car owner who is reported to have parked, unconventionally, on the east side of the High Street, creating extra blockage.  Delays are expected again in this afternoon’s rush hour.  The traffic lights are controlled automatically but an operative is present to help in the event of gridlock. 

OMJ said that OCC were asked several weeks ago to put in place a parking ban in the High Street for the period of the traffic light operation but had not done so, perhaps hoping that car owners would avoid parking there.  

Meanwhile OMJ reported work to be on schedule in the area of the Hardwick Road narrows closure, which started on 15th July and is planned to last for up to three weeks, i e until 5th August.  OMJ say they have been doing their best to allow vehicle access for residents where possible.

Date/Time : Friday, 19th July 2019 13:39

Hardwick Road closure postponed to Monday

OMJ’s team leader Dean Shaw said this afternoon that they had decided to postpone by several days the start of the Hardwick Road narrows closure.  It is now scheduled for 8 am next Monday 15th July.  The narrows were temporarily impassable earlier today while the vacuum excavator was at work (picture) but had reopened by 5 pm for local traffic and will stay open until Monday. 

He said that car parking in the triangular area of the junction of Hardwick Road with the High Street is likely to be impossible from next Monday, as many excavations are needed. 

He also said that the traffic light system to control High Street traffic is expected to be installed a couple of days later, on Wednesday 17th.  It seems likely that parking will then have to be banned from a considerable length of the High Street, downhill from the junction, to avoid gridlock in rush hours due to the queue of cars waiting at a red light to go up the hill.  Dean said that he expected most car owners to realise the situation and avoid parking there, but he might have to speak to some of them.  He thought that OCC, who are responsible overall for the traffic restriction and the diversion, have no plans to formally prohibit parking.  He said that OCC tend to leave contractors to sort things out on the ground.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th July 2019 17:14

Hardwick Road narrows to be closed later this week

OMJ’s team leader on the gas pipe replacement work, Dean Shaw, said this morning that work would continue this week on domestic connections in Hardwick Road to the east of the narrows, including the western end of Hillside.  By Thursday or Friday of this week he expects that it will finally be necessary to close the Hardwick Road narrows to vehicles.  Traffic lights for one way flow on the High Street are expected to be installed by the middle of the following week so that trenching can start at the junction.  

Dean confirmed that the Hardwick Road narrows will need to be closed to vehicles for up to three weeks.  He said that during the closure he will do his best to maintain car access for as long as possible to as many of the affected houses as he can.  Much will depend on the location and size of the excavations that are found to be needed.  Some excavations can be plated over for vehicles, he said, but others may be too big or on unsuitable terrain.

Date/Time : Monday, 08th July 2019 10:37

Gas pipe team find some surprises

More holes are being excavated daily in Hardwick Road by the OMJ team as they build up their knowledge of the underground layout of the gas mains and the connections to houses. This morning a vacuum excavator with an elephant trunk was noisily sucking up earth from new access holes in Hardwick Road, to the east of Swanston Field (picture). 

The furthest advanced area of the project is Hillside East, where the mains have been sleeved, domestic connections made and asphalt surfaces already repaired. 

OMJ foreman Dean Shaw said that a siphon pot** under the High Street junction had been discovered by the CCTV investigations, causing a complication to the plan for managing traffic flow at the junction.  The current route for local traffic through the Hardwick Road narrows, dodging the excavations, is now likely to be available for a further week or more, while work continues further away from the High Street. 

A second discovery is the way in which the two parallel gas mains under Hardwick Road are utilised.  The northern one of these appears to have the connections to Hillside West houses, and is likely to require a second line of access holes in the road. 

Closure of the Hardwick Road narrows is now said to be likely to last for 2 to 3 weeks, starting in about a week's time after a solution has been found to the traffic flow problem mentioned above. 

OMJ Project Manager Richard Dominy explained that though the site may have seemed quiet at times last week, 450 metres of renewed mains had been laid and domestic connections made on both sides of Hardwick Road. 

** For the interest of technically-minded readers:  OMJ say that siphon pots would have been installed at low points in the system to intercept any water condensing from the gas and any leaks of ‘weasel’, a sealant used with hessian at the joints in the iron pipes. The pots could be pumped out from time to time.  They are no longer needed and are being removed as they obstruct the insertion of polyethylene sleeves.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 02nd July 2019 12:33

Gridlock on local roads after accident in Whitchurch Hill (Update - road re-opened)

A motorcyclist is reported to have been severely injured in an accident at around 4 pm today on the B471 in Whitchurch Hill, near Hatchgate House and the junction with the Goring Heath Road.  The B471 is said to be likely to remain closed for several hours.  An air ambulance has been seen arriving.  Traffic in Pangbourne, Whitchurch-on-Thames, Goring and Streatley is badly affected.

Update, 6.40 pm:  the B471 is reported to have re-opened to traffic.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 26th June 2019 17:14

Gas pipe project explained (Update: Road closure postponed by a day)

Contractor OMJ’s representative confirmed this morning that the project is on schedule and Hardwick Road will be closed at the narrows from next Tuesday 25th June (updated 19.6.19).  Some domestic gas connection work was started in Hillside yesterday. 

When SGN sent out their letter of 24th May advising residents of Hardwick Road that gas mains work would be happening from 10th June, their intention was to enclose a leaflet that explains how it affects residents and offers safety advice.  It seems that in some cases, at least, this did not happen.  The Whitchurch Web has asked them to provide an electronic version

Among other things the leaflet explains that the polyethylene sleeves can be inserted into the gas mains without removing the gas.  However, for house connections the gas has to be removed and therefore the supply has to be cut for a period.  Five days notice is promised to each household of a disconnection from the gas supply.  OMJ have said they expect to have to replace the stop valve located near the gas meter inside each house, as well as insert a sleeve within the pipe leading to the house. 

Some residents of the Hardwick Road narrows have been asking whether they will be able to get their cars to their houses during the closure.  OMJ said today that it will depend on the location and size of the holes they have to dig.  As the work proceeds they will know more and be able to advise each household.  They say they will try to maintain vehicle access for residents wherever possible.  Where the road is level they can sometimes place a steel plate over the excavation. 

OMJ has been using a state-of-the-art vacuum excavation technique to dig many of the holes.  Using powerful turbines and an elephant’s trunk mounted on a large truck, earth is sucked from the ground, avoiding damage to the electric cables that are buried close to some of the gas mains.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 18th June 2019 11:26

Work on Hardwick Road gas mains starts next week

Representatives of OMJ, the contractor who will be working in Hardwick Road for the next three months, met representatives of the village this afternoon.  The photo shows Diana Smith of the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) and Parish Clerk Ina Chantry discussing the planned work with David O’Mahoney of OMJ.  

OMJ explained that the present iron pipelines will remain in the ground and polyethylene sleeves will be pushed into them to create the new ones.  So instead of continuous trenching there will be individual excavations where needed.  The sleeve technique will also be used for the domestic connections to houses. 

Work will start next Monday with CCTV inspection of the gas mains and identification of excavation points.  Traffic lights will be used for an initial period at the junction while work is done in the High Street itself. The work stretches from the High Street to the far end of Hillside, but no work will be done in Swanston Field.  The extent of the works can be seen in this plan.  Working hours will be 7 am to 7 pm. 

On the key question of how long the Hardwick Road narrows will be closed to traffic, Richard Dominy of OMJ said that they were planning a six week closure, from 24th June to 5th August.  He said that there might be some reduction in that duration, but only if everything goes well. 

OMJ said that parking of cars will have to be severely restricted along the closed length of road, which is from the High Street to the nearer of the two Swanston Field junctions.  Access for cars to some of the individual properties within the closed length will be possible at times depending on the progress of the works. There are parking opportunities in Swanston Field for residents of the narrows. 

Swanston Field will always have free access to Hardwick Road at both its junctions.  During the road closure the diversion route will be via Path Hill, Goring Heath and Whitchurch Hill.  Road signs will be erected on 17th June to advise about the closure.  OMJ said that the only warning letter to residents is the one already sent by SGN on 24th May to householders whose gas connections are to be renewed.

Parish Clerk Ina Chantry has asked OMJ for a weekly report on progress.  She will also check that OCC has advised Biffa that they should deploy their smallest rubbish collection trucks in order to negotiate Path Hill.  OMJ had already said they were unable to postpone the work until the end of the school term on 22nd July. 

OMJ site foreman Richard Dominy said that concerned residents would be able to speak to him on 07805 409194.

Date/Time : Thursday, 06th June 2019 16:52

Totem poles embellish primary school

Last Friday saw the installation of a dozen ceramic totem poles at Whitchurch Primary School.  The poles are made of the pots created by school pupils for Equinox Together, the community art project displayed on the Pangbourne meadow last September.  The heights of the poles represent the changing seasons of the year, varying according to daylight hours in each month.  Headteacher Dawn Chesters suggested they even had potential for illustrating maths. 

Gill Williamson, the local artist behind Equinox Together, says: “I’m thrilled with the support Mrs Chesters and the School give to our community art projects; I’m delighted with the display and hope the school children will enjoy seeing their works of art on show in the years to come.  I would like to thank the school staff and parents who helped out, especially teacher Beth Higgs who organised the drawings beforehand and the Art Week when the pots were made.  Also thanks to the Arts Society Goring who sponsored the school's participation.  And thanks to Damian Per who, once again, volunteered to carry out the installation.”  

The photo shows Damian nearing the end of his installation work.

Date/Time : Monday, 03rd June 2019 14:10

Join the BioBlitz next Sunday

WoTHabs is running the first ever BioBlitz at the Whitchurch Maze on Sunday 26th May from 2 pm. The aim is to identify as many plants, trees, insects, birds, animal signs, etc. as possible during the afternoon. 

Here is the flyer.  Everyone is welcome to join in, especially children. Refreshments will be available. The picture here shows a Comma butterfly.

Sandra Parkinson says: “The target is to find 250 species. We will do our best to identify plants, plant galls, fungi, butterflies and moths, as well as locally common birds and mammal signs, on the day. There will be other creatures such as beetles, bugs, snails, spiders, which will be collected (temporarily) so that they can be counted and photographed, for later identification.  Do join us and be part of some Whitchurch (natural) history!” 

More information from Sandra.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 21st May 2019 13:44

History of Whitchurch published in draft form

After many months of study Dr Simon Draper has completed writing the Whitchurch on Thames element of Oxfordshire’s history, which forms part of the long-established Victoria County History project.  His draft text, with many fascinating illustrations, has now been released to the public. 

Members of the Whitchurch & Goring Heath History Society have already contributed to the project.  The author says he would welcome any further comments or corrections before final publication in a year or two.  

This is detailed history with many footnotes and references.  Here are the six draft chapters: 

Landscape, Settlement, and Buildings (including boundaries and population)

Landownership (including manor houses)

Economic History: farming; trades, crafts and industry

Social History: social character and communal life; education; welfare

Religious History (including church architecture)

Local government: manor courts and parish government 

The picture shows The Greyhound in 1909, at which time Blatch’s Fine Ales and Stout were offered.

More information about the project and contact details here.

Date/Time : Monday, 20th May 2019 20:53

Gas pipeline work coming to Hardwick Road

An extensive operation will start soon in Hardwick Road and Hillside to replace underground gas distribution pipes made of cast iron with modern polyethylene ones.  Work is expected to start on 27th May. 

The contractor for Scotia Gas Networks intends to close the narrows of Hardwick Road between the High Street and Swanston Field West, with a lengthy diversion for traffic via Path Hill, Goring Heath and Whitchurch Hill.  The date and duration of the closure have yet to be announced.  The contractor OMJ is expected to write to affected householders. UPDATE, 14th May: the road closure and diversion are expected to be from 24th June to 5th August. The works are expected to take 11 weeks in total.  The parish council is likely to discuss the closure this Thursday evening, 16th May. 

The last time that Hardwick Road was dug up for a gas pipeline was in 2011 when the district gas main was re-laid across the Thames and through the village in order to remove it from the toll bridge, prior to the bridge’s reconstruction.  That pipeline is not expected to be affected by the forthcoming work. 

Scotia Gas Networks has produced a drawing in which the proposed work is shown by yellow lines.  Over 900 metres of old 4 inch and 6 inch diameter iron pipes are to be replaced.  The work extends from the High Street to the far end of Hillside.  Swanston Field does not appear to be involved. 

The photograph above is from 2011 and shows a similar traffic diversion at the junction of the High Street with Hardwick Road during the installation of the gas main in that year.

Date/Time : Monday, 13th May 2019 19:22

Draft Village Plan is available for comment

Since the Parish Council started work on the development of a new Village Plan in November 2017 a lot of work has been done by the steering committee and four working groups.  Results of surveys and a preliminary summary of recommendations, with costs, have already been revealed.  Now the Draft Village Plan itself has been made available for comment.  The members of the steering group invite you to take a look at the draft and let them have any final comments, as they work towards its completion.

If you would like to comment on the Plan, please ring John Bradon, chairman of the steering group, on 07789 944 676 or send him an email.  There is more information on the recently updated Village Plan page of this website and there will be a presentation at the Annual Parish Assembly on Tuesday 21st May.

The photo shows John Bradon and Neil Huntington (who is working on replacing the Pavilion) ready to talk about the Village Plan at the start of Saturday’s Fun Day/Village Fete.  Jean-Marc Grosfort (who is upgrading the Village Hall) and Jim Donahue were also manning the stall, which attracted many visitors.  In the Gallery there is a photo showing Jean-Marc, John and Jim at the stall.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 07th May 2019 15:29

Eric Hartley to receive Whitchurch Award

The recently created Whitchurch Award for voluntary activity in the community is to be given to well known village resident Eric Hartley (pictured with his dog Molly). 

The joint organisers of the award scheme announced today: 

The Whitchurch Society and the Whitchurch Web are very pleased to announce that the inaugural winner of the Whitchurch Award for an outstanding voluntary contribution to life in the village is Eric Hartley.  For over thirty years Eric has overseen the publication of his booklet of local walks around Whitchurch, and there can be few houses in the village without a copy.  Through this work Eric has become a champion of the local rural environment, protecting local footpaths, encouraging local landowners to grant permissive rights over their land, and educating us all into the local history and natural history of the area.  The Hartley Steps on the Thames Path commemorate his efforts in this respect.  Above all, though, Eric will be forever recognised, especially perhaps by fellow dog-walkers, as the nicest, most friendly and most courteous of people – a real force for good cheer around the village, and a great contributor to life in Whitchurch. 

The award will be presented to Eric at the Annual Parish Assembly in the Old Stables on Tuesday 21st May.  (The date was changed from Thursday 23rd because of the European elections.) 

Eric led the Whitchurch Society village walks for many years, before handing on the role to younger walkers.  This year’s Spring Walk takes place next weekend, Sunday 12th May.  All are welcome – details in the poster on What’s On.

Update, 3rd June 2019:  The Henley Standard has published an article about Eric.

Date/Time : Monday, 06th May 2019 18:24

WoTFun is on the Village Green, 1 pm to 5 pm today……

For kids: Bertie Slippers, Mini Professors Science Classes South Reading, Pop Up Play Village UK, kids’ pocket money stalls, vintage fairground rides, pony rides, bungee trampolines, penalty shoot out, treasure hunt.

For grown-ups: Grand Prize Draw with amazing prizes, massages from The Quiet Way, stalls including jewellery, home-made cards, skincare, eco goodies and lots more.

For everyone: tea and cake tent, BBQ, licensed bar, ice cream, giant games, live jazz band and Whitchurch’s very own orchestra playing something speciaol for Star Wars Day!

Just £1 entry for adults and free for kids, with all proceeds to your local Pre School. For everyone: tea and cake tent, BBQ, licensed bar, ice cream, giant games, live jazz band and Whitchurch’s very own orchestra- playing something special for Star Wars Day!

Date/Time : Saturday, 04th May 2019 10:16

Bienvenue to our French visitors this weekend

A group of 24 visitors from our twinned community of La Bouille in France will arrive tomorrow morning in time for a hearty English breakfast in Goring Heath Parish Hall. 

The host families (half of them in Whitchurch and half up the hill) have a choice of events for their visitors on Saturday, including the Art Café and the Fun Day/Village Fete.  On Sunday there is an outing to Savill Gardens for a picnic and then a boat trip, with cream tea, through Windsor from Runnymead. 

The visitors are due to leave on Monday morning after a display of Morris Dancing at the Almshouses in Goring Heath. 

Across the Thames another group of French visitors from Houdan, the twin town of Pangbourne, will be enjoying a similar visit this weekend. 

Knit & Stitch members have been busy preparing a welcome.  The Boat in the High Street has been decorated for the occasion with the Tricolour and Union Jack, together with a flock of Gallic cockerels (also known as Gallic roosters). 

Gill Williamson, organiser of Knit & Stitch, says that the colourful knitted birds (more photos here) will be on sale in return for a donation to the Twinning Association, at the Twinning stall on the village green on Saturday, between 1pm and 5pm.  The cockerel has long been an unofficial symbol of France, gallus being Latin for the bird and Gallus for an inhabitant of Gaul.

Date/Time : Friday, 03rd May 2019 10:51

Peter Dragonetti is our new District Councillor

Peter Dragonetti has been elected District Councillor of the Kidmore End and Whitchurch ward.  Standing as an Independent he received 736 votes, compared with 280 for Domenic Papa (Conservative) and 122 for Dave Bowen (Labour). 

Peter Dragonetti (pictured) will combine his new role, representing the people  of Kidmore End, Mapledurham, Whitchurch, Whitchurch Hill, Crays Pond and Goring Heath, with his chairmanship of Goring Heath Parish Council.


Date/Time : Friday, 03rd May 2019 08:37

Local election today in Village Hall

Polling for the election of a new District Councillor takes place between 7 am and 10 pm today (Thursday) in the Village Hall in Manor Road.  Poll cards have been issued to voters. 

Whitchurch is in the Kidmore End and Whitchurch Ward, which includes Goring Heath and Mapledurham.  The three candidates are Dave Bowen (Labour), Peter Dragonetti (Independent) and Domenic Papa (Conservative).   They are residents of Whitchurch, Goring Heath and Benson respectively.

The three candidates' profiles and photos can be seen here, as published recently in the Henley Standard. Scroll down for the official information.

Date/Time : Thursday, 02nd May 2019 08:17

Whitchurch Award scheme announced

Whitchurch is fortunate in having many residents who contribute their services voluntarily for the benefit of the community.  We all know someone who has made a valuable contribution and we are grateful to them. 

The Whitchurch Award is being introduced to give recognition to those who have given exceptional service to our village.  The scheme will be administered by the Whitchurch Society in conjunction with the Whitchurch Web, with a small and changing committee.  The first award will be made later this month, at the Annual Parish Assembly in the Old Stables on Tuesday 21st May. 

From next year, village residents will be invited to nominate someone they consider deserves this special recognition. 

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue said: “We are very lucky in our village that there are so many residents volunteering their time in the community in so many ways.  I think the Whitchurch Award is an excellent idea to honour at least some of those individuals and show the value we place on their work.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 01st May 2019 17:08

Primary School football team plays in National Finals on Saturday

Whitchurch Primary School boys football team will be heading to Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s Stadium (pictured) this Saturday (4th May) to take part in the English Schools Football Association Under-11 Danone Small School Cup National Finals 2019.  The girls team were also district and county winners and narrowly missed out on a place in the finals. 

Teams from eight small primary schools from across the country will play a series of 7-a-side matches in Birmingham.  The National Champions will be announced at the end of the day.  All the teams have competed in and won District, County and Regional rounds.

Here is the line-up of schools:

Newcastle School for Boys, Northumberland

Christ Church Catholic Primary School, Northumberland

Newtown C of E Primary School, Shropshire

Warton Nethersole C of E Primary School, Warwickshire

Gretton Primary School, Gloucestershire

Whitchurch Primary School, Oxfordshire

Loyola Preparatory School, Essex

English Martyrs Catholic Primary School, Sussex


Good luck Whitchurch!

Date/Time : Sunday, 28th April 2019 11:10

Twenty is Plenty for Whitchurch

Two traffic-calming stickers are being delivered to each household on the High Street, Hardwick Road and Eastfield Lane, as part of the parish council’s plan to reduce traffic speeds in the village. They are self-adhesive and designed to be attached to waste collection bins so that they are visible to approaching drivers.  Residents are asked to place one sticker on their green bin and one on their black bin so that the message will be on display each week. 

Rachel Hatcher, chair of the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG), says that the parish council would like to introduce a 20 mph limit.  But currently our average traffic speeds exceed 24 mph, the upper limit for change to such a scheme without the introduction of traffic calming measures.  Further speed monitoring will be carried out.

For any queries or requests for more stickers, contact Rachel here.


Date/Time : Thursday, 18th April 2019 18:02

Village Fete returns as Fun Day on 4th May

Don’t miss it!  The Whitchurch Village Fete, previously held in mid to late summer, has been moved to early May in order to fit the year-on-year programme of the Pre-School, whose parents organise it.  Rachel Grocott reveals what is in store for us: 

The Whitchurch-on-Thames Fete returns - this time as your local Fun Day, on Saturday 4th May 2019 - organised by and raising funds for your local Pre-School, and generously sponsored by Warmingham & Co. 

Attractions include: - Tea and cake tent, bar and BBQ - Children's entertainment including Bertie Slippers, Mini Professors Science Clases South Reading and Pop Up Play Village - Vintage fairground rides

- Stalls including jewellery, pocket money gifts, bric-a-brac, dried fruit, ice cream and eco goodies  - Inflatable maze - Bungee trampolines - Orchestra and other live music.

From 1pm to 5pm on Whitchurch-on-Thames Village Green, Saturday 4th May 2019. We look forward to seeing you there!  

Rachel’s contact details: 07885 444510, 

Here is the full poster.

Date/Time : Monday, 15th April 2019 09:56

Youths trash Eastfield House care home

Between 3 and 4 pm today a group of male youths occupied themselves by inflicting damage on the empty Eastfield House care home, to which they had gained access despite the fencing and boarded-up openings.  Many windows at the back were broken, as the photo shows, and judging by the noises heard by concerned neighbours considerable other damage was done inside the building. 

The Police were called and caught about six of the youths, who are thought to have been cautioned. Several others rode off on bicycles.

The care home is owned by Majesticare who have allowed it to remain empty and deteriorating for several years while they have made a series of unsuccessful planning applications involving the demolition or part-demolition of the building.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th April 2019 18:36

Pop-up café for Lin’s VegShed at Hardwick

To celebrate the opening of Lin’s VegShed at the gates of the Hardwick estate, Eugena Tolhurst (pictured) is organising a Pop-up Café on Saturday 20th April from 12 noon to 3 pm. 

There will be soup, salad bowls, cakes and hot drinks.  All are welcome but please note that parking is limited. 

Read in this article about the Tolhurst family and how their latest venture, Lin’s VegShed, is named after Eugena’s mother Lin Tolhurst, who planned to upgrade the previous straw bale hut and create a new community hub.  Sadly Lin died last year, just after the 100th crowd-funding donation had been received, and shortly before construction was due to begin. Now the family has fulfilled her plan. 

Update, 15th April: the Henley Standard has published an article on the subject.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 09th April 2019 18:49

No parish council election on 2nd May

There are three candidates for District Councillor on 2nd May but there will be no election for Parish Councillors. 

For the seven seats on Whitchurch on Thames Parish Council, seven nominations were received by the closing date of 3rd April.  All six of the current councillors are standing again.  They are joined by Jon Steward who was previously co-opted in 2015 but resigned in May 2017.  The seven parish councillors are listed in the Statement of Persons Nominated

Whitchurch is among the majority of parishes in South Oxfordshire in having no election.  Only 14 of the 85 parishes have more nominations than seats and therefore require an election.  The cost of an election, payable by the parish, is over £2,000. 

For the District Council we are now in the Kidmore End and Whitchurch Ward, which includes Goring Heath and Mapledurham.  The three candidates are Dave Bowen (Labour), Peter Dragonetti (Independent) and Dominic Papa (Conservative).  Their details can be found on the link above, by scrolling down.  They are residents of Whitchurch, Goring Heath and Benson respectively.

Date/Time : Monday, 08th April 2019 10:46

Village Plan recommendations revealed

Parish councillors have supported 20 recommendations made by the Village Plan steering committee.  John Bradon, chairman of the committee, presented the outline of a draft three year plan at the 21st March meeting of the parish council.  Here is a summary of the recommendations

Designated parking bays are proposed in order to tackle the key issue of traffic and parking in the High Street, together with yellow lines and a 20 mph speed limit.  Rachel Hatcher, chair of the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG), outlined the options.  Further work will now be done by the traffic consultant MODE. 

The plan includes a new pavilion on the village green costing £200,000, while over £20,000 is expected to be spent on improvements to the village hall. A raised pavement is planned at The Ferryboat and the Hardwick Road pavement is to be resurfaced, at a combined cost of £25,000. 

Various other items, including a community lunch, river access improvements and opportunities for new sporting activities such as netball, are included the draft Plan, which updates the previous Village Plan of 2009.  The minutes of the March meeting will be found on the Parish Council page. 

The next stage is a final consultation to confirm that Whitchurch residents are satisfied with the recommendations supported by the parish council.

Update, 15th April:  The Henley Standard has published an article on the subject.


Date/Time : Monday, 01st April 2019 10:20

New venture – Whitchurch Wildlife Walks

Sandra Parkinson, a founder of Whitchurch-on-Thames Habitat Study Group (WoTHabs), is starting a programme of family-oriented monthly wildlife walks in and around the village.  They will generally be on the afternoon of the last Sunday of each month and will be based initially at Chalkhills Farm, Hardwick Road. 

All ages are welcome.  To join a walk, send an email to Sandra.  If enough people contact her, the first walk will be on Sunday 31st March.  

For more information see the flyer.

Date/Time : Thursday, 21st March 2019 14:51

Children demonstrate for climate change awareness

Last Friday a number of children from the Primary School gave up their lunch break to support a campaign for global climate change awareness, inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.  Carrying posters, they walked from the school to the Whitchurch bridge to show their support for the strikes around the globe and to raise awareness among the public. 

Andrea Joubert of Hardwick Road, whose children Aidan and Duncan Watkins were among the walkers, says “it was a small but determined group that braved the very strong winds – everyone was in high spirits and we received smiles, friendly hoots & cheers from passers-by.” 

There are more pictures in the photo gallery.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 19th March 2019 15:37

Nominations for local elections close in two weeks time

For anyone thinking of standing in the local elections on 2nd May, the closing date for nominations is just over two weeks away: Wednesday 3rd April. 

Whitchurch residents aged 18 and over will have the opportunity to vote in the village hall on Thursday 2nd May. 

Candidates for a new District Councillor will definitely be on the ballot paper as the position is vacant following the resignation of Rob Simister. 

Whether Parish Councillors will be on the ballot paper depends on the number of candidates who decide to stand.  There are seven places available on Whitchurch Parish Council and if there are no more than seven candidates there will be no election.  If there are eight or more candidates all their names will appear on the ballot paper and voting will take place. 

There is information on how to become a candidate on the SODC Local Elections website.  There is also guidance  from the Electoral Commission here.  The candidates will be listed by SODC on Thursday 4th April. 

To find out what is involved in being a parish councillor, read the Job Description.

Those who have not yet registered to vote in the elections have until Friday 12th April to do so.  SODC has issued a two-page guide on How to Vote.

Date/Time : Sunday, 17th March 2019 13:37

Brick wall again at risk from large truck

Only two days after the wall was damaged by a giant car transporter coming to collect a car from an address in Manor Road, the driver of a huge Austrian articulated truck found himself with the difficult task of having to turn around in the same location at 11 am this morning.  The photo shows the vehicle reversing towards the High Street, passing within inches of the pillar that was damaged on Tuesday.  More photos here

The writer happened to be examining the damaged wall for the previous news item, when the vehicle appeared. The driver said he had been told to go down the hill but had realised that he could not proceed.  He was an experienced driver, with some understanding of English, and he succeeded in making the turn by driving into Manor Road and then backing on to the High Street. 

Could there be a misunderstanding that with the bridge rebuilt very large vehicles can now drive to Pangbourne?  (Most people seem to know that large vehicles can’t pass under the railway bridge.)  

Richard Wingfield, Whitchurch Web News Editor.

Update, 18th March:  It seems that the vehicle did not come from the BP Technology Centre.  The driver was seen at Crays Pond, apparently getting advice from another HGV driver, before heading to Whitchurch.  There are two signs at the exit from the BP Technology Centre telling drivers of HGVs not to turn left. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th March 2019 18:46

Severe damage to Manor Road brick wall

On Tuesday an articulated car transporter struck the left hand pillar of the Manor Road entrance, causing serious damage, which can also be seen in this photograph.  The heavy brick pillar was knocked sideways by several inches and the adjoining wall is now cracked in several places.  A repair involving demolition and reconstruction is now inevitable, as was needed after the right hand pillar was struck by a Range Rover in July 2017.  On this occasion the pillar is still upright but not fully stable and some public protection seems to be advisable.  

The apologetic driver of the car transporter, an employee of the Newbury branch of the international car auction firm COPART, proceeded into Manor Road to upload a car and then departed. 

On the following day the driver returned, having been told by his boss in Newbury to find out who owned the damaged wall so that compensation could be arranged.  Tanya Hawley in nearby Whitchurch House saw him arrive and spoke to him.  She was astonished that he had arrived in the same huge car-transporter as on the previous day.  Asked why he had not come in a more sensible vehicle the driver said that his boss had asked him to call in at Whitchurch en route to Marlow where he had to pick up another car.  After making some enquiries, he succeeded in turning the massive truck around without causing any more damage to Whitchurch walls and then departed. 

Who owns the damaged wall?  Oxfordshire County Council apparently says it is not them.  The owner of the nearby house is understood to have consulted his deeds and says it is not him.  Parish chairman Jim Donahue says that it appears likely that the parish council is the owner, having acquired the nearby verges from the local authority about ten years ago. 

Long term resident Tanya Hawley says this is the first time in the 45 years that she and Peter have been living on the High Street that the left hand wall has been struck.  She is appalled at the ongoing damage being done to the village’s historic walls. 

(News items on earlier wall damage: 18.7.17 right hand pillar knocked down; 29.8.17 hole knocked through wall opposite pub; 22.5.18 hole in wall repaired)

For a recent article by Peter Hawley on the brick walls and bellmouth entrances of Whitchurch go to this page.

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th March 2019 17:17

Car stolen from Hardwick Road

A red BMW 325i, registration E30 2WKK, was stolen from Hardwick Road at 11.20 pm yesterday evening and driven up towards Whitchurch Hill.  Please call Will Skewes on 07590 681878 if you have any information. 

Update, 18th March:  The Henley Standard have interviewed Will and published an article.

Date/Time : Thursday, 07th March 2019 12:14

Whitchurch Toll Bridge has a new owner

The General Estates Company Ltd, based in Hythe near Southampton, has become the new owner and operator of the Whitchurch toll bridge, having bought the privately-owned bridge company. 

Geoff Weir, company secretary of Whitchurch Bridge (Holdings) Ltd said today: "Our directors are approaching retirement and for the last two years have been working to secure the future of The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge (COPWB) in order to ensure that the Bridge continues to be properly managed as an important part of the local highway infrastructure.  We offered it to both local highways authorities.  There was no interest from West Berkshire Council, but we know that Oxfordshire County Council considered the proposition carefully before deciding not to proceed.  We then initiated talks with The General Estates Company as we know they have expertise in running toll bridges. The recent sale is the culmination of those talks.  The Bridge Manager and her toll collecting staff will remain in post.  COPWB will continue to operate under its Acts of 1792 and 1988, and the regulation of Tolls will continue unchanged." 

It is understood that the General Estates Company, which has been in business for over 100 years, owns and operates the Batheaston Toll Bridge near Bath and also has an interest in Dunham Toll Bridge which crosses the River Trent.  The company also operates a large number of mobile home parks.  The company has been a shareholder in the Whitchurch Bridge Company for many years.

The following statement has been issued: 

The Directors of Whitchurch Bridge (Holdings) Limited announce today that the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge has been acquired by General Estates Company Ltd based in Hythe, Hampshire.  The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge has been the bridge owner since the construction of the first Whitchurch Bridge in 1792, and was responsible for the recent reconstruction in 2013-2014.  It is constituted under its own Act of Parliament which requires it to maintain the bridge in perpetuity, and that obligation, together with the rights to collect tolls subject to the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport, remains unchanged.

Commenting on the sale Mike Beckley, Chairman of Whitchurch Bridge Holdings said “General Estates has been a shareholder for over 90 years and have a long history of prudent family ownership. We are confident that they will be a good custodian of Whitchurch Bridge”.

James Percy, Managing Director of General Estates commented “I am pleased to have acquired the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge and look forward to building on the good work of Mike and his fellow directors in securing the long-term prospects of the bridge.  The bridge is efficiently run and we have no intention to change how it’s operated in the foreseeable future”.

Date/Time : Monday, 25th February 2019 18:41

High Court ruling on the White Lion, Crays Pond

Mr Satwinder Sandhu, who bought the White Lion pub in 2013, has been ordered to stop using it as his home within two months and pay £20,000 towards costs incurred by South Oxfordshire District Council. 

Mr Timothy Straker QC said that the Whisky Bar operated since last September was a front and “could no more be called a pub than a fig leaf on a naked statue could be called clothing.” 

Peter Dragonetti, chairman of Goring Heath Parish Council, said :  “This is a great vindication of our fight to get the White Lion back as a pub, and it has brought the community together.” 

Full story here.

Date/Time : Monday, 25th February 2019 09:07

Two urbanisation threats discussed (UPDATED AGAIN)

The ancient Tuddingway road through Whitchurch, along which generations of travellers walked and rode in past centuries, has seen nothing like it.  Two planning applications, very different in nature, are simultaneously out to consultation on proposals that affect the rural landscape along the historic route. 

The Fence: 

At yesterday’s parish council meeting, Lesley Landen, who has lived on the Hartslock Bridleway for many years, told councillors that she was so shocked and upset on first seeing the Coombe Park steel security fence that she wept.  She was appalled that anyone would want to build such an aggressive and industrial fence to mark the boundary of their land. 

Will Davies, a metropolitan police officer whose parents-in-law live on the Bridleway, said that his professional view regarding security was that the design of the fence was completely inappropriate for its purpose.  He said the spiked palisade fence was hostile in character and that it would tend to attract hostility. 

Ian Millar said he had pointed out to SODC, using old photographs, that the diagrams used to support the claim that the old and new fences are of equal height are incorrect.  The old fence was considerably lower than the proposed 2.4m height of the new one. (*See update, below.)

Others pointed out that the problem with intruders had developed because the house had been temporarily deserted.  Once someone is living there the problem will go away. 

After further discussion, the council resolved to object to both the line and design of the fence, a considerable length of which has already been installed without planning permission. 

Individual comments must reach SODC before 15th March and can be made here

The ‘Yurts’: 

The council went on to discuss the application from Bozedown Alpaca Farm to build year-round holiday cabins on the chalk hillside beneath the historic Bozedown Camp.  Several speakers emphasised that calling them yurts was misleading and that rather than portable tents there would be five fully serviced permanent buildings needing an access roadway. 

Speakers pointed out that while there could be merit in such a scheme in the right location, the proposal conflicts with the principles of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which exists to conserve and enhance the natural landscape of the chalk hills. 

The council resolved to object to the proposal. 

Many objections have already appeared on the SODC website.  Individual comments must reach SODC before 1st March and can be made here

The Tuddingway: 

To discover more about the ancient roadway, go to the About the Village page, select Hartslock Bridleway and follow the links.


*Update, 25th February:  Ian Millar's illustrated report, objecting to the fence, can be viewed here

Update 7th March: There is a Henley Standard article on the yurts plan here.

Date/Time : Friday, 22nd February 2019 17:19

Coombe Park submits plan for security fencing (Updated)

A retrospective planning application has been submitted for the erection of new steel fencing along the Hartslock bridleway, to replace the existing boundary fence of Coombe Park. 

Several hundred metres of new fencing had been installed before complaints last month caused South Oxfordshire District Council to alert the estate’s owner, David Pain, to the need for a planning application.  The 2.4 m high spike-topped steel palisade fence has been criticised on the grounds of its inappropriateness in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and for its alignment, which is generally nearer to the bridleway than the existing dilapidated fence. 

The extent of the planned fencing is shown on this map of the estate.  It includes a length along the drive at the back of the village hall. 

The planning application, P19/S0366/FUL, includes a report on the security of Coombe Park estate by Special Projects and Services Ltd of Hereford, which has provided a resident security team on the site for the past 12 months to deal with a continuing problem of intruders. The report states that websites are ‘actively promoting a high level of intrusions almost as a game’. 

Regarding the alignment of the fence, the Planning Statement of 4th February 2019 includes this undertaking: “The old fence will be removed following the completion of the new fence. Following the removal of the old fence the new fence will be adjusted to the position agreed with officers from Oxfordshire County Council highways & rights of way.” 

Details of a planned laurel hedge, including a temporary stock fence to protect the young plants, are provided in the documents. The hedge would be planted on the estate’s side of the fence. 

The Parish Council is expected to discuss a response to the application at its meeting on 21st February.  Comments can be submitted until 15th March.

Update, 15th February:  Parish council chairman Jim Donahue has heard from Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.  He said today:  “OCC's view on the new fence is that there should be a minimum of 20 feet between the fences on either side of the Bridleway, so they have asked David Pain to remove the old fence and move the new fence to the old locations.  They will be enforcing this agreement.  This is in addition to SODC’s planning review, which will still consider location of the fence, but also other factors such as the design and any new vegetation planted”.

Date/Time : Friday, 15th February 2019 11:05

High Street boat carries new message

The High Street boat has been re-decorated to a new theme – climate change and recycling. 

Gill Williamson, founder of Crafty Knit & Stitch, explains: 

The Crafty Knit & Stitch Group along with Tots on the Hill, Whitchurch Preschool and Whitchurch Primary have joined the Climate Coalition’s ‘Show the Love’ campaign which involves community based climate change action around Valentine's Day.  On Thursday we attached hundreds of papier mache hearts made from recycled material on the trees in the boat outside The Old Rectory Stables in Whitchurch.  Each heart goes with a pledge to take home and recycle our rubbish.  The Climate Coalition’s #showthelove campaign was brought to our attention by Vanessa Pearce who is a member of both Crafty Knit & Stitch and Woodcote WI.

Date/Time : Saturday, 09th February 2019 11:38

Application for five luxury ‘glamping’ cabins at Bozedown

A planning application is now out to consultation for the construction of five holiday accommodation yurt-style roundhouses on agricultural land at Bozedown Farm, spread out along the hillside above Hardwick Road with views to the river. 

The application has been registered on the SODC website, and the case for the development is presented in detail, with illustrations, in the Design and Access Statement

The application, prepared by a Bolton-based company Building Design Services, emphasises the scarcity of glamping facilities in the district and the need to provide a diversified income for the alpaca farm. 

The insulated timber-framed ‘winter’ yurts would be available for booking by holiday makers all year round.  Five car parking spaces would be created near Hardwick Road.  Water supply, electric power and septic tank drainage would be provided and each cabin would have a wood-burning stove.  The application states that the buildings would be blocked from public view by the hedge alongside Hardwick Road. 

The consultation ends on 22nd February.  Comments can be made online, via the SODC link above.  The parish council is expected to discuss a response at its next monthly meeting on Thursday 21st February.

Update, 6th February:  The time limit for consultation has been extended by SODC from 22nd February to 1st March.

Date/Time : Sunday, 03rd February 2019 17:09

District councillor Rob Simister resigns

Rob Simister, district councillor in South Oxfordshire District Council for the Kidmore End and Whitchurch ward since 2011, has resigned in the wake of his party’s suspension of six of his fellow councillors for voting against the council’s local plan.  The Conservative-controlled council voted last month to accept the local plan which indicates where 28,500 new homes could be built by 2034. 

More details in the Henley Standard report here

Elections in May this year are expected to result in a new councillor for our ward.

Date/Time : Thursday, 31st January 2019 18:35

Industrial fence appears alongside Hartslock bridleway

A high, spike-topped metal fence has been erected without planning permission along hundreds of yards of the boundary of Coombe Park, on Hartslock Bridleway.  The sprawling and dilapidated estate was bought recently by a Mr David Pain, who is clearly trying to improve its security.  Intruder-resistant measures were taken earlier at the estate’s entrance gate in Manor Road. 

Readers of our news item earlier this year (news archive, 12.3.18) will recall that the derelict site was being plagued by visits from young ‘explorers’ linked by social media, who took the opportunity to walk around, photograph the rundown mansion, examine its once-grand interior and other features of the estate and post on ‘explorer’ websites. 

The new fence has been built directly alongside an attractive length of the Thames Path, within the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty.  Historically, the bridleway is on the ancient route known as the Tuddingway, used since the 13th century. 

Jim Donahue, chairman of the parish council, commented yesterday: 

I was made aware of this last Sunday by concerned residents of Hartslock Bridleway.  The work had started without any notification or planning application, and I immediately escalated the matter to SODC. The new fence is along a considerable stretch of the Hartslock Bridleway along the Thames path.  The main concerns are: 

1. The location of the fence directly adjacent to the road surface in some places, leaving little room for vegetation or passing vehicles or pedestrians outside of the paved surface. Some residents have questioned whether it is in accordance with agreed boundaries. 

2. The intimidating design and size of the fence, while it may be similar to the one installed by Dan Hazell at his business further along the bridleway, is not in keeping with the rural AONB setting.  

Since Sunday, I have spoken to the head of SODC enforcement and also to the new owner of Coombe Park, David Pain.  SODC have told him that he does not need to stop work, but will require a retrospective planning application, as it is over 2m high. 

David Pain has told me that he plans to continue with the fence building but has committed to submit a planning application within 7 -10 days.  He said that he has also instructed the builders to make the rest of the new fence as close to the existing fence as possible. He also said that his intention for planting laurel on his side of the fence was that the laurel would grow through the fence to ultimately hide it, but would consider growing it on the other side, space permitting.  

The situation is clearly not satisfactory to the residents I have heard from on Hartslock Bridleway, and will also impact the larger community using the Thames Path.  The parish council will need to submit any objections to the plans based on feedback we receive once a planning application is submitted.

Date/Time : Friday, 25th January 2019 14:15

Toll bridge gets its 20 mph limit

Today’s 5½ hour bridge closure enabled West Berkshire Highways subcontractor Volker to install the Bridge Company’s traffic calming scheme.  They renewed the rumble strip alongside the Pangbourne approach curve, repainted white lines and other markings there and around the toll booth, added “20”marks on the road and erected new “20” signs.  Two automatic speed warning devices have yet to be installed and two old 30mph signs to be removed. 

Bridge Company director Geoff Weir said that the cost of the programme of work is around £15,000 and the Company and its advisers believe it will have a beneficial effect on pedestrian safety.   The change in traffic speeds will be monitored. 

Nick Brazil has made a 2½ minute film, “Speeding Down to 20”, set to stirring music, showing the action at the Whitchurch end of the bridge, with impressive speed painting about one minute in.

Date/Time : Thursday, 24th January 2019 19:23

Looking beyond ‘Winter Wonderland’

Since its installation outside the Old Stables the Boat has given pleasure to many people in its different appearances, first as a bed of colourful flowers, then with a brilliant red poppy display, followed by three kings Christmas trees and currently a ‘Winter Wonderland’ of snowflakes (pictured).  The four presentations can be seen here

Leslie Meynerd of MOWS (‘Make Our Whitchurch Special’) appealed through this website in September 2017 for someone to donate a retired boat.  Nick Bailey of Beale Park offered one, which was accepted, and it was installed with the help of the parish council before the end of that year, joining the two timber planters already adding colour to the Church Drive entrance. 

After its successful first year, the future of the Boat was discussed at a recent parish council meeting.  It seems that the great majority, though not every member, of the community likes it.  But there was agreement that its condition needs some work.  It was decided that physical improvements would be made in the spring by MOWS, with a raised floor and some painting.  In the meantime a canvas cover will be provided.  The parish council agreed that the seasonal sequence of flower beds and art installations should continue. 

Leslie is now asking for new volunteers to help with the improvements that will be made in the spring.  Anyone able to help is invited to contact her on 984 5513. 

Gill Williamson, who runs the Thursday sessions ‘Crafty Knit & Stitch’ says: “We are thrilled to have the chance to continue to use the boat as a display space for our imaginations until the flowers appear in the spring – keep your eyes open for what’s coming next!”  

Gill and the group meet weekly to work on their own projects and also to create community art (including yarn bombing of the bridge in 2017 and totem poles on the meadow in 2018).  She says: “Join us at The Old Rectory Stables any Thursday from 1.30pm to 3.30pm or from 7pm to 9pm with your knitting, crochet, needlework and crafts or just for a cuppa – everyone is welcome – we have lots of expertise to pass on if you’re just starting out.”

Date/Time : Monday, 21st January 2019 13:31