Christmas greetings in many tongues

The Whitchurch Web team (Hilary, Pam, Phil and Richard, together with photographer-at-large Nick) would like to wish readers a very Happy Christmas. 

Instead of our posting a Christmas card this year, Nick has provided something really special, which is his video celebrating the multilingual nature of our community.  See it here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 08th December 2019 20:14

Graham Morfey, 1937-2019

It is with great sadness that we bring you the news that Graham Morfey has passed away at the age of 82.  Graham will be remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather, a highly accomplished yachtsman, and an active supporter of village life in Whitchurch, where he had lived for the past 52 years.  Graham died peacefully on 2nd December 2019 with his family around him at his home in Eastfield Lane.  The funeral will be at St Mary’s church, Whitchurch-on-Thames at 1.30pm on Monday 16th December.  

Notice provided by the family.

Date/Time : Friday, 06th December 2019 09:16

Church packed for Christmas concert

The sixth annual Concert of Christmas Music, compered by Graham Dednum and featuring The Ferryboat Brass, filled every seat in St Mary’s Church yesterday, even with extra chairs brought in.  For many in the audience, especially the parents, the highlight was four songs by a choir of over 40 children of Whitchurch Primary School, coached by Lucy Lombos.  The audience enjoyed plenty of singing opportunities too, filling the rafters with the sound of half a dozen well known carols.

Other special features this year were the vocal solos of Debbie Jenkins, the tenor horn solos of Haydn Brown and the Christmas thoughts, including a conjuring trick, of Major Richard Welch of the Salvation Army.

Proceeds from the community event, which is organised and sponsored by The Ferryboat, will be distributed between St Mary’s Church, the Primary School and the Pre-School Group.

There are photos in the Gallery.

Another opportunity to sing carols with a brass ensemble is on offer at 6 pm on Saturday 21st December in the car park of The Ferryboat.  Mulled wine and draught beer will be available.

Date/Time : Monday, 02nd December 2019 14:11

Twist in the saga of the boat

An enquiry at the Land Registry by ex-councillor David Bowen has led him to the conclusion that the land between the curved brick walls of the bellmouth and the High Street is outside the boundary of Walliscote House land.  The site that was until recently occupied by the boat appears to be unregistered and therefore, he concludes, is a public space.  The relevant part of the plan, which appeared on Facebook yesterday, can be seen here

As readers of the message board or of social media will be aware, the disappearance of the boat on 15th November took most people in the village by surprise and many residents expressed their disappointment.  It was said to have been removed at the landowner’s request and taken to a storage place. The members of the MOWS team and others who had worked hard to create the project and maintain it for two years expressed indignation at what had happened but in view of the apparent private ownership of the site it seemed that there was little they could do.  

There is an alternative explanation.  According to some, the patch of land between the brick wall and the edge of the street was purchased from the church authorities by the owners of Walliscote House around thirty years ago and added to their land in order to control car parking, for which bollards were installed.  Furthermore, not all land ownership is recorded by the Land Registry.

Meanwhile, the landlords of both the Greyhound and The Ferryboat have offered to give the boat a home.  The Ferryboat used to have a boat planter on the forecourt but landlord Graham Dednum said this week that he thought the boat on offer was too big for the space. 

The issue is likely to be discussed at the next meeting of the parish council on 9th December. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 28th November 2019 14:02

Modest turnout for The Green Team

The first volunteer working party of the recently created Green Team produced only a team of three, perhaps because rain was expected. 

The organiser Alexa Duckworth-Briggs says: “A big thank you to John Bradon and Charles Cotgreave who joined me on Saturday to clean the playground equipment on Manor Road and trim back some trees!  And all before the rain started.  We made a note of a few other maintenance activities needed in the playground so if you’d like to join us in future to help with those just send me an email.“ 

Alexa's photo shows the two stalwarts. 

The next Green Team get-together is next Sunday 1st December at 11 am for sweeping and tidying of Muddy Lane.  All welcome - just turn up. 

Date/Time : Monday, 25th November 2019 10:25

Art & Craft Exhibition a great success

The Whitchurch 2019 Art & Craft Exhibition took place in the village hall at the weekend.  There are photos in the Gallery. 

The Popular Vote went to Jenny Plumb for her stumpwork box of silk satin (pictured here).  The Joyce Voysey prize on the theme of ‘Masks’ was won by Amy Holland.  The Orford Cup for adult art was won by Jean Marc Grosfort.  The Chairman's Cup was won by David Robinson for his photograph of geese flying above the toll bridge.  The Brazil Cup for videos was won by Henry Lowe, aged 9.  There was no entry this year from canine village resident Harold, who won a prize last time. 

The complete list of winners can be seen here

Sally Woolhouse reports on the event: 

The 2019 Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 

This popular annual event took place in Whitchurch Village Hall over the weekend of 16th/17th November. There were 189 entries overall – 57 of these were on the theme of ‘Masks’ created by the junior exhibitors for the Joyce Voysey category. These made a particularly eye-catching display! 

It was a very successful and sociable occasion which provided the opportunity for everyone to see and share the results of the creative talent in our community. There was a wonderful variety of artwork, craftwork and photographs from young and old, showing a very high standard. It was also lovely to welcome new exhibitors to the show, and we hope they will continue to enter in the years ahead. The only disappointment was that there were no entries at all in the Junior 12 to 18 years section. We must really try to encourage the secondary school youngsters to enter next year. 

Colourful displays of work by children at the Pre-School, the Primary School and the Oratory Prep School were again on show on the stage. A lot of time and effort went into these super displays by the hard-worked school staff and helpers. 

This was the second year for the Brazil Award. This category is for film, documentary or animation videos, no longer than 5 minutes in length. There were four entries this year, which was encouraging. All were very enjoyable and well filmed but the winning video entitled ‘The Battle of Bedroom Castle’ by Henry Lowe aged 9 was outstanding. 

Visitors enjoyed refreshments all weekend and meeting up with friends and neighbours before the prize-giving ceremony at 4-30pm on Sunday.

Congratulations to all the prize winners; a full list of these can be found on the link above. 

Very many thanks to all exhibitors and also to everyone who helped with the setting up, dismantling and running of the show, including serving the refreshments and making delicious cakes. Finally, my special thanks to Sarah Dixon, Wendy Ferguson, Jean-Marc Grosfort and Laura Lucas who helped me in the planning stages and to the Whitchurch Society members who supported us. 

Sally Woolhouse (


Note: the item above was posted on Tuesday 19th November; the date below refers to an earlier version. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 16th November 2019 11:24

Parish council gains two new councillors

At a meeting of the parish council yesterday, two new councillors were co-opted and welcomed. They are Diana Smith, who has been active in the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) and Jean Marc Grosfort, who has been active in the Village Hall Management Committee. 

Regarding Parking and traffic flow in the High Street, Will Barclay, chair of TAPAG, described the current situation.  Following discussions with a consultant and with Oxfordshire County Council, a scheme has emerged that would provide 24 marked parking places in the High Street, with the associated use of double yellow lines.  This scheme will be the subject of an open consultation meeting in the village in January. 

On the subject of the Boat, Will Barclay said that as a friend of the land owner he would ensure that it was removed and he requested funds to restore the bellmouth area.  The council asked for details and costs of the proposed restoration before any contribution of funds could be considered. 

The council approved the funding of three sturdy timber benches for the village green to replace those of a lighter design, two of which were damaged by vandals this year. 

Postscript: the controversial Boat was taken away earlier today, 15th November.  Many people have said how much they liked it and they will be aware of all the work done in setting it up and maintaining it since its arrival in September 2017.  The planting schemes and artistic creations over its two years of life have clearly been much enjoyed by many residents and visitors.  However, not everybody has been in favour, concerns having been expressed by Will Barclay at a parish council meeting in May this year.

Date/Time : Friday, 15th November 2019 17:17

We will remember them

The Crafty Knit & Stitch Group has draped the boat in the High Street with handmade poppies in preparation for Remembrance Day in two weeks time.  Handmade poppies are available this morning (Saturday 26th) at the Art Café in aid of The Royal British Legion.  Gill Williamson says: “Crafty Knit & Stitch meets every Thursday at the Old Stables from 2 to 4 pm and from 7 to 9 pm.  Pop in and join us with your knitting, crochet, needlework or crafts – all levels welcome.”

Date/Time : Saturday, 26th October 2019 10:11

Get ready for the Art & Craft Exhibition

Across the village, some of our many amateur artists, crafts enthusiasts and photographers may still be thinking about what to submit for this year’s Art & Craft Exhibition, to be held in the Village Hall in three weeks time, on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th November, from 10 am to 5 pm. 

Posters around the village say “Get busy now with your brushes, paints, cameras, glue, varnish, stamps, inks, wool, chisels, pliers, cottons, clay, pens, paper, lovely ideas….. Be ready to enter this great show and help make it the best ever!”  

The latest rules for the different types of work can be found here.  Exhibits are to be brought to the hall on Thursday 14th (note the new time) or Friday 15th November. 

If you are entering a video for the Brazil Award, it should be delivered to organiser Sally Woolhouse by the revised date of Friday 8th November.  

Note that after last year’s surprise win for 3-year-old Harold's painting, all exhibits this year must be entirely the work of humans. 

This year’s prize-giving will be at 4.30 pm on Sunday 17th. 

Not sure what to send in?  Find inspiration in images from the exhibitions of recent years:  2016, 2017 or 2018.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 22nd October 2019 17:47

Join the Green Team next weekend

Alexa Duckworth-Briggs of the Green Team, which has been formed recently to coordinate some of the many green activities in the village, says: 

On Sunday 27th October at 2pm there is a get-together at the Polish Church Garden site off Manor Road to carry out some tidying, maintenance and planting tasks as well as talking about future plans for the area and how to get involved.  We'd love for lots of people to join us, particularly those who live on and around Manor Road and those who have family connections to the site and church. 

For those who aren't sure where the Garden is, take a look at the map above – or the larger one here. 

If you can't make that date but would like to be involved, drop me a line on or 07557 852600.

Date/Time : Sunday, 20th October 2019 20:04

History of Whitchurch finished

At a History Society meeting on Thursday, historian Dr Simon Draper (pictured) talked about his recent work on the history of Whitchurch.  Studying ancient documents and reading earlier histories, and with considerable help from the Whitchurch and Goring Heath History Society, he has now completed the Whitchurch chapter of Volume 20 of the Victorian Oxfordshire County History and is starting to study another village.  One of the world’s longest running research projects, begun in 1899 and originally dedicated to Queen Victoria, it is now managed by London University. 

Those who want to read Simon’s material and look at the pictures, even if they don’t want to refer to the many footnotes, will find it all in six convenient files, located towards the foot of this webpage.   The hardback Volume 20 is likely to be published in 2021, Simon said, at a cost of around £80. 

He said that Whitchurch was fortunate to be well covered by earlier historians such as The Reverend Slatter and Sir John Godlee, though he had uncovered a few myths in their accounts.

Here are some of the nuggets of village history he mentioned: 

  • Whitchurch territory was probably carved out of land belonging to Goring, where there was an Anglo-Saxon Minster.
  • For centuries the manor of Whitchurch included 300 acres in Purley.
  • The operator of the flash lock, the ‘lockshutter’, lived at Whitchurch wharf, where The Swan Inn now stands, on a patch of land that remained in Oxfordshire until 1991.  The lockshutter would have brewed beer for visiting boatmen.  
  • The ferryman (before the bridge was built in 1792) lived in Church Cottage.  In 1730 his wife was selling hot chocolate and coffee. 
  • Long before the ferry there was a ford, when the river was without weirs, broader and shallower than now.
  • Records on vellum presented by Isabella de Fortibus to King Edward I for the years 1269 to 1297 show that a flash lock, a mill and a weir were all in operation at that time. 
  • The lane through Whitchurch had open fields on each side, farmed in strips, called Westfield and Eastfield.  Hence Eastfield Lane.
  • Queen Elizabeth didn’t visit Hardwick House; that was Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.
  • Hardwick was not a Manor as sometimes claimed, but Simon does believe Sir Charles Rose was the model for Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows.
  • The John Wallis who built Walliscote House was not the famous mathematician and cryptographer but another one.
  • Swanston House was built by a Mr Swanton but the spelling was lost.
  • The small Whitchurch fire brigade rode gallantly up the hill to tackle the fire in the magnificent Bozedown House on 30 December 1904, but the house was lost.  Rebuilt, it was the home of a branch of the Palmer family, of the biscuit firm Huntley & Palmers, before being sold to the industrial firm ICI in 1951. 

Vicky Jordan, Secretary of the History Society, says that she looks forward to an Art Café morning in due course to raise enough money to buy the book.

Date/Time : Sunday, 20th October 2019 19:32

Coombe Park fence proposals modified slightly

In the latest submission by the owner of Coombe Park, following a site meeting with the parish council on September 11th, the length of fence affecting the Polish memorial garden and two Manor Road houses has been changed from 2.4m high steel to 2m or less, probably in timber, with details to be discussed with the parish council.  Planning permission is apparently not required for a fence of 2m or less. 

However Mr Pain has not changed his proposal for a 2.4m high spike-tipped steel fence behind the village hall, car park and garages, on the grounds that “this is where there are most difficulties with break-ins, with trespassers using existing structures and buildings as a way to jump over the existing fence.” 

It is not clear whether there have been any recent visits by urban explorers or others since security was stepped up, although there were certainly many intrusions earlier.  The parish council’s objection letter of February 2019 quoted a security expert who said that once the building is occupied intrusions would stop. 

On the darkening of the village hall, Mr Pain’s agent claims that the proposed removal of mature trees will provide better light and that enough light will pass through the high steel fence, even with the proposed yew hedge. 

The new information can be found on the SODC planning page.  The reference is P19/S0366/FUL. The current submission has lengthened the consultation period to 8th November.

There is no decision yet on the overall planning application which includes the partly-erected fencing beside the Hartslock bridleway.  

Date/Time : Saturday, 19th October 2019 15:51

An update from around the village

Repairs to damaged areas of Manor Road’s surfaces are underway this week, as seen in the photo, following requests by the parish council for improvements. 

Jim Donahue’s Chairman’s Report for October provides updates on the many positive things that are happening in the village, including further road repairs, weed-killing, drainage work, repainting the telephone box, new benches, village hall roof repairs and the formation of a Green Team. 

However it seems that all is not plain sailing.  Councillor Warren Beard, who joined just under a year ago, resigned last week and is the fourth councillor to resign this year.  As already reported, there is a vacancy for a parish clerk, following the recent departure of Laura White after one month in office.  She succeeded Ina Chantry who left in June eight months after she took over from Felipa House.  

Jim Donahue said yesterday that he regretted Warren‘s resignation but was pleased that he will continue to pursue the important matter of road drainage maintenance in the village.  He said that he expected some of the vacancies would be filled before long and there had already been some response to the councillor advertisement.  In the temporary absence of a parish clerk Jim said that he had offered to undertake the role himself on an unpaid basis. 

The September minutes, which are on the Parish Council page, mention confidential business discussed in relation to correspondence with the Information Commissioner’s Office.  There is also reference to an Extraordinary Meeting on 26th August, the minutes of which remain confidential until a ‘GDPR request from Cllr Bowen is resolved’.  It appears that there is a possibility of legal action against the council.  The extent to which these matters are related to any of the departures from the council is unclear. 

Warren Beard commented yesterday:  “Unfortunately my family commitments have changed and I no longer have the time required to add value as a serving Councillor.  I still hope to be able to contribute positively to the Village via one of the excellent Committees such as TAPAG.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the PC and I do hope that during this short period as a councillor some of the ideas I presented to enable to PC to function with direction and efficiency continue.”

Date/Time : Friday, 18th October 2019 11:37

Church clock restoration celebrated

The Friends of St Mary’s and St Johns’s were entertained to a medley of songs in St Mary’s Church this afternoon.  They were performed by Thames Vale Singers, led by Dr Timothy Robson at the piano, in celebration of the completion of repairs to the clock mechanism and its two faces beneath the spire.  Chairman Keith Williams said that the restorer had been putting in the finishing touches to his extensive work on the clock this morning - just in time. 

Afterwards WoTSing’s pianist Tim Valentine stripped the shiny wooden cover off the piano and played in his colourful style until pausing at just the right moment for the audience to hear the clock strike four times, indicating time for tea and refreshments and for a few of the adventurous to climb the narrow spiral staircase to the belfry to see the clock. 

Earlier in the afternoon, at the Annual General Meeting of The Friends, Keith said that the restoration had cost around £11,000, including new equipment to control the hours of striking and the hours of silence.  All the money had been raised by the Friends.  Keith said that he hoped that many more people in Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill would now become Friends following the success of this project, which would enable more projects to be undertaken for the benefit of the whole community.  (To become a Friend, follow the link on the Village Groups page.)

Photograph by Jennifer Bruce.

Date/Time : Saturday, 05th October 2019 19:02

Remembering Nicole Brett

Nicole Brett, who lived in Swanston Field with her family for 25 years, died earlier this month at the age of 56. 

Just over three years ago, the lovely Nicole received the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Notwithstanding this, she tried to lead as much of a normal life as possible and bravely and stoically undertook regular treatment in hospital. Nicole died at the tragically young age of 56 on the 16th September, at her home in Swanston Field, peacefully surrounded by her loving family. 

Nicole, her husband Howard and their young son Duncan proudly moved into their house in Swanston Field in 1994. The family was complete with the arrival of daughters, Amelia and then Madeleine. Nicole loved their large garden and would spend many hours in it, especially during the summer months. They made the most of what the village has to offer with the children attending pre-school and school. 

Nicole was also an enthusiastic helper at many fund-raising events and as a result made many long-lasting friendships. She was well known throughout the village for her big smile, cheerful attitude and friendly helpfulness. Many parents of young children would have met Nicole during the years she worked at Whitchurch Pre-School. 

As the children grew older and Nicole had more time on her hands, she became an enthusiastic volunteer for the Hearing Dogs charity who train dogs to offer much needed help to the hard of hearing. Nicole loved animals and dogs in particular and would often be seen walking various puppy breeds around the village. Nicole quickly generated a reputation for training well-disciplined dogs and eventually helped to train other volunteers. Earlier this year, in recognition of her efforts, Hearing Dogs published a fitting tribute in their magazine. 

Nicole was also very close to her twin sister Lisa and they were often seen together in the village. Lisa remained a loyal sister throughout Nicole’s illness and Nicole drew great solace and support from her weekly visits. 

A celebration of Nicole’s life will be held at 2.15 pm on the 10th October at the West Berkshire Crematorium and everyone who knew Nicole would be welcome. This will be followed by a reception at Goring Heath Village Hall. Please contact either Howard or Lisa if you would like to attend. 

Thanks to Julie Huntington for this appreciation of Nicole's life.

Date/Time : Sunday, 29th September 2019 20:56

Vandals wreck bench - UPDATE: Second bench attacked

One of the timber seats on the village green has been badly damaged by vandals.  This is not the first time a village green seat has been vandalised but the damage is more severe than previously. 

The seat affected is near the football goalposts near the fence separating the village green from the horse field. 

In a separate incident, a vehicle was subjected to deliberate damage in Eastfield Lane one evening between Sunday and Tuesday this week.  The police have been notified of this incident.

Update, Thursday 26th Sept: This morning a second seat was found newly damaged, the one nearest the allotments entrance. There are four seats, so the remaining two may be at risk. 

Please report any information to the Henley Neighbourhood police.  The crime reference number is 43190298397. The email address is here

Date/Time : Wednesday, 25th September 2019 20:02

Green party at work

Alexa Duckworth-Briggs reports: 

The working party made great progress yesterday (Sunday) and wrapped up just before the downpour!  We trimmed back the Hardwick Road bank opposite both ends of Swanston Fields, cut back vegetation on the narrows and started weeding on the High Street (more to do there).  Many thanks to everyone who took part! 

If you'd like to join future working parties on "green" tasks around the village please drop me a line on 

Date/Time : Monday, 23rd September 2019 15:08

Majesticare loses Eastfield House appeal

In January this year South Oxfordshire District Council refused Majesticare’s application to demolish the Eastfield House care home after strong objections from many village residents and the parish council.  In June Majesticare submitted an appeal against the decision.  Yesterday that appeal was dismissed by the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. 

The Inspector says in his Appeal Decision that he based the decision on two main issues.  The first was whether the proposals would enhance the character or appearance of the Whitchurch Conservation Area, and the second was the effect of the proposals on two protected lime trees. 

On the Conservation Area, he considers that demolition would harm it, though he describes the extent of the harm as ‘less than substantial’.  He also points to evidence in the viability assessment submitted by Majesticare that there are other viable uses for the site.  

On the lime trees, he concludes that they would be threatened to an unacceptable degree by the proposals.  

The Inspector says that he also considered other important matters raised by objectors, including the effects on landscape in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the privacy of neighbours, on the risk of flooding and on traffic and highway safety.  But he says that these factors were not critical to his decision. 

This leaves Majesticare, also known as Ross Healthcare, with their earlier permission, granted under appeal in May 2016, to demolish the building except for the retained front façade and create a 45 bed care home.  However, the company has argued that this does not lead to a viable solution for a modern care home.  

The old 27 bed care home, which Majesticare took over in 2002, was closed by them in 2016.  The history of the site was summarised in a Henley Standard article on 1st July this year.

Date/Time : Thursday, 19th September 2019 12:02

Two parish councillors resign

Councillor Keith Brooks, who joined the parish council in 2008 and was chairman from 2015 to 2018, submitted his resignation from the council this week.  Councillor David Bowen, who joined the parish council in 2015, has also submitted his resignation. 

A formal Notice of Vacancy was issued yesterday by Laura White, the new Clerk to the Parish Council, following the resignations. 

This creates an opportunity for Whitchurch residents to become more involved with the community by joining the Parish Council.  Those interested are invited to contact the Clerk, whose email address is shown in the notice, or chairman Jim Donahue whose contact details are on the Parish Council page.

Keith said today that after more than ten years on the council he had decided to resign for personal and family reasons but that he fully intended to continue working with others on many projects in the village.  This week, for example, he had been painting the railings at the village hall (together with Geoff Weir, John Bradon and Tim Hardwick) and cutting vegetation back at the village green car park (with a WoTHabs team of Leslie Prater, Pete Woolhouse, John Bradon, Charles Cotgreave and Gill Goodwin). 

David Bowen posted on his community group Facebook page yesterday, paying a warm tribute to Keith for his voluntary work.

At the monthly parish council meeting on Thursday the new Parish Clerk, Laura White, was confirmed in her appointment, following the resignation in June of Ina Chantry.  Laura is already the parish clerk of South Stoke, a riverside Oxfordshire parish, and brings considerable experience of the job to our village. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 14th September 2019 16:44

Remembering Anne Screech

Anne Screech, who lived in Swanston Field for many years, died on 1 September at the age of 91, having spent her final three years in a care home.  She follows her husband of 60 years, Michael, who died on 1 June 2018, as previously announced here.  Anne is survived by her three sons, Mat, Tim and Toby. 

Anne was third of four daughters of an antiquarian bookseller in London, where she grew up.  In her teens, she tragically witnessed the death of her sister in a road accident, and after the armistice, her parents sent her to Switzerland to overcome severe depression.  Mike and she met while studying French at University College London, where the first thing he ever said to her was ‘Your stockings are crooked.’  Their friendship deepened while studying abroad in Montpellier, where Anne imperiously asked Mike to take her surplus belongings home while she went on holiday.  He agreed, knowing it would stand him in good stead. They were married in 1956.

The couple moved to Birmingham, where Mat and Tim were born, then moved to Whitchurch in 1961.  Toby was born in 5 Swanston Field, which remained the family home for almost 60 years. 

For many years Anne served on the Parochial Church Council and was a member of the Women’s Institute and Young Wives.  She was a keen sportswoman and practised yoga for several decades.  She loved animals, especially cats, and she sketched, sang, made pottery and upholstered.  She excelled at cooking, and one of her signature dishes was fondue, which she was even asked to make on annual family summer holidays to Switzerland. 

Perhaps most lasting was Anne’s academic work. Her edition of Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament won her a Doctorate of Divinity in 2001 from the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

All are welcome to a Service of Thanksgiving in St Mary’s at 11.30 on Wednesday 2 October, followed by a reception at the Ferryboat.  Please contact Toby on if you would like to attend.  

Thanks to Tim Screech for this note on his mother. 

Date/Time : Friday, 13th September 2019 09:47

Farewell to Claire and Chris

Nick Brazil has made a farewell video featuring the Reverend Claire Alcock and her husband Chris who are saying goodbye to Whitchurch later this month after nine years and moving to an urban parish in Reading.  

Claire and Chris talk about how they have enjoyed their time in the village.  Church warden Ken Baker and trainee lay preacher Peter Ferguson add their appreciation.

Date/Time : Sunday, 01st September 2019 22:28

Coombe Park fence – site visit arranged

SODC Planning Officer Caitlin Philpotts is expected to attend a site visit at 4 pm on Wednesday 11th September to consider the proposals by the owner of Coombe Park for new boundary fencing between his private drive and the village hall and adjacent houses in Manor Road. 

Affected residents are free to attend the visit, which starts at the village hall.  It is expected that the owner will be represented by a planning consultant. 

On the SODC planning webpage there are now a large number of adverse comments, many of which suggest that the steel fence’s height and the spikes along the top are inappropriate.  See also our news item of 6th August. 

On the question of the design and alignment of the fence alongside the Hartslock bridleway, where it has already been built without planning permission, parish chairman Jim Donahue says he understands that this is still under discussion between SODC and the owner of Coombe Park, David Pain. 

The photo above shows the present fence behind the village hall, close to the newly replaced windows.  The proposed fence is considerably higher and would tend to block the light.

Date/Time : Friday, 30th August 2019 12:39

More work underground in Hardwick Road (UPDATED)

This time it is telephone cables rather than gas pipes that are receiving attention.  Apparently, 15 homes in Hardwick Road have reported phone problems and a length of 170 metres of copper cable is being replaced.  But it is a replacement copper cable that is going in, not fibre-optic.  It seems that fibre-optic is only installed to the east of Swanston Field.  

The photo, today, shows employees of BT Openreach attempting to rod the duct that contains the faulty cable.  They said that blockage and damage is often caused by tree roots and a combination of rodding and water jetting may be needed.

Update, 30th Sept: Hardwick Road is again closed for several hours, until 3.30 pm today. 

Some clarification was offered today by an Openreach engineer working on the cables.  The system is referred to as ‘hybrid’.  All local cabling in the village and all domestic connections will remain copper.  A fibre-optic cable already runs directly from the Pangbourne exchange to the cabinet opposite The Greyhound and will, before long, run from there directly to the more recently installed cabinet near the Hardwick entrance gate.  Once the current work is complete the telephone ducts along Hardwick Road will contain both the local copper cables and the cabinet-to-cabinet fibre-optic cable. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 29th August 2019 13:32

Church clock restoration is underway

Work has started on the restoration of the St Mary’s clock mechanism.  In a few weeks time it is expected to show the correct time on both faces and to strike the hours once again, after a long period of inactivity. Neighbours will be pleased to hear that it will not strike at night. 

Keith Williams, chairman of The Friends of St Mary's & St John's, the independent charity that has organised the fund raising and contracted a specialist to do the work, said yesterday: 

“I am pleased that today, at last, work has commenced on the restoration of St Mary's Church clock. The work is being carried out by a very experienced clockmaker and repairer, Peter Meecham and his team, from Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Provided there are no hidden snags, it is hoped that the village will have a fully working clock by early September - for the first time in about twenty years. 

The original clock was made by Smith & Sons of Clerkenwell and installed at St Mary's Church around 1910. It is regarded as 'a high quality clock for a relatively small church'. 

A new piece of kit will be added to allow control of the hourly striking mechanism.  This will be set initially to strike only from 7am to 10pm. The timing can be varied to suit the desires of the community. 

The condition of the two clock faces appears satisfactory and we are hoping that it will not be necessary to do any work on them. 

The funds raised by members of The Friends and other generous donations from the community are now sufficient to cover the project and we all look forward to having a reliable clock once again in the village.” 

Three photographs, taken in the bell tower yesterday, give some idea of the work. 

Keith also said that Nigel Grove, who was involved in the restoration work carried out in the early 1990s, tells him that the clock faces and hands were re-gilded at that time and an electrically powered device was added to wind up the weights when needed.  Before that time the clock was wound by hand. 

It seems that the clock was deliberately stopped around the year 2000 after complaints from a neighbour disturbed by the marking of the hours through the night, and comments from others in the village that the two faces often showed different times.

Date/Time : Saturday, 17th August 2019 14:07

Take a river cruise starting from Pangbourne

There are two more opportunities this month to catch the Lady Caroline (pictured today) when it comes to Pangbourne Meadows to pick up passengers for a Thursday afternoon round trip to Mapledurham.  More details of this recently introduced local cruise can be found on the Thames Rivercruise website.

Date/Time : Thursday, 08th August 2019 17:49

Coombe Park fence will affect Manor Road

The owner of Coombe Park, David Pain, has submitted further details of his proposed high security fence, focusing on the west side of the private drive behind the village hall.  These were recently posted on the SODC website.  The public consultation ends in one week’s time, on 14th August.  Many people affected may not be aware of what is proposed, which will have a considerable impact on the neighbourhood of the village hall. 

In the photo, the back of the village hall and part of the present fence can be seen, viewed past the razor wire on the entrance gate to the estate. 

Many people have commented with dismay on the proposal for the fence alongside the Hartslock bridleway, citing the unnecessary height, the aggressive design and the reduction in width of the bridleway.  Now the impact of the fence on the Manor Road area can be seen more clearly. 

On the submitted plan the village hall is not identified.  But the proposed 8 feet high (2.4 m) steel palisade fence is shown running immediately behind it and then along the back of the village hall car park.  It replaces the existing lower timber fence, which has a height of about 5 feet. The proposal states that the new steel fence is painted black.  It has sharpened points along the top, except for where it forms the boundary of the private gardens of 48A and 48B Manor Road.  Those gardens will have the oppressive fence but with the spikes removed and timber slats added to the steel. 

The north side of the Polish Memorial Garden is shown as bounded by the same high, black, spike-topped fence, replacing the present lower timber one. 

The village hall itself is seriously affected by the proposal.  The fence line is only 2 feet away from the windows at the back of the building and the new fence is 3 feet higher than the present one.  This will substantially reduce the amount of light entering the building.  The windows were recently replaced at considerable expense as part of the refurbishment of the hall. 

The owner’s wish to fortify the boundary of the Coombe Park estate is clearly regarded by many in Whitchurch, and further afield, as inappropriate and undesirable in a rural community and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The fact that no plans have yet been submitted for stronger defences on the boundary to the west of the Manor Road area, which is currently lightly fenced, may be cause for concern.  Nor have plans been submitted for a defence along the river front, which would undoubtedly be rejected. 

A map showing the layout of the estate can be found in the article about Coombe Park recently posted on the About the Village page of this website. 

Those wishing to comment on the new submission, or add to earlier comments, have until 14th August to do so.  Two people have already done so.  The SODC planning page can be found here.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 06th August 2019 14:28

New riverside seat built to last

Whitchurch has only a few locations that allow direct access to the river.  The least well known, but probably the finest, is at the end of Sheepwash Lane.  Eric Hartley thought there should be a seat in this delightful spot and Tim Sheldon, Hardwick forester, agreed to build one.  They decided it should be built to last and this week the seat, made from solid pieces of Hardwick oak, was installed. 

These photographs show the new seat and the view from it. 

Eric says that fully relaxing on the seat can lead to a vision of Ratty and Mole on the riverbank, or even of the invading Danes coming up the river long ago.  

Many walkers now call in at the Tolhurst VegShed at the Hardwick Road end of Sheepwash Lane.  Eric has produced three suggested walks which are displayed on the wall and available there, including one which takes the walker down Sheepwash Lane.

Date/Time : Saturday, 03rd August 2019 10:51

Job done – thank you, says team leader

The final connection was made under the High Street today and the project to renew the gas pipes under Hardwick Road, which started with pipeline TV surveys in early June, is almost complete.  The last backfilling and reinstatement work will be done in the next few days.  Hardwick Road is passable to traffic.  The traffic lights are likely to be taken away by the middle of next week. 

OMJ team leader Dean Shaw (picture) says he would like to thank everyone for their cooperation, which has helped them to finish their work ahead of schedule. 

Over the last six weeks the team of Yorkshiremen, all from Barnsley, have met a lot of Whitchurch people.  Dean said they wanted to thank the many who provided them with tea and biscuits.  They all agreed that Whitchurch was a good place to work and were happy to pose for a farewell photograph

Dean says that he hopes they managed to explain to most residents what they were doing but he was aware that there were some surprises.  He says that if anyone thinks his team did a good job of communicating with householders and car owners he would appreciate it if they could tell SGN by email to Customer Services.  Or they can wait for the independent survey form, which will be delivered to SGN customers in the next few weeks, and make their comments there.

Project foreman Richard Dominey of OMJ confirmed that he will be making sure that any damage, for example to granite kerbstones, is repaired by the reinstatement team and all litter is removed.  He says that if people think any remedial work needs to be done they can email him and he will be happy to look into it.

Date/Time : Thursday, 01st August 2019 18:17

Working party keeps hedge in order

Yesterday a group of volunteers organised by Alexa Duckworth-Briggs and Keith Brooks set to work trimming the hedge and doing other vital jobs in the area alongside the road to the school.  They were advised botanically by Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs and fortified by the promise of a drinks voucher from The Greyhound. 

In the photo above, from left, are Pete and Sally Woolhouse, Charles Cotgreave, Leslie Prater, Gill, John Bradon and Alexa.  Keith took the photo.

The attached photos, taken by Alexa, show the hedge before and after. 

Alexa says: “Many thanks to the eight hard-working folk whose stalwart efforts have spruced up the south end of the village green and cleared an overgrown section of pathway on Eastfield Lane. Sunday 28th was hot and humid, but welcome refreshments kindly provided by Leslie and Rosemary Prater kept us going.   There is always more to do, so watch out for the dates of future work parties, many of which can be found on the "What's On" page of the website. Your help will be very welcome.” 

The next opportunity to join a working party is for Maze Maintenance at 10 am next Saturday 3rd August.  All are welcome and tools are provided.

Date/Time : Monday, 29th July 2019 12:00

Claire Alcock to be vicar of a Reading parish

Revd Kevin Davies, team leader of the Langtree Churches Team Ministry, announced today that Revd Claire Alcock, parish priest of St Mary’s in Whitchurch-on-Thames and St John’s in Whitchurch Hill, will be saying farewell to us in September:

“I am delighted to say that Revd Claire Alcock has been appointed as the next Vicar of the Parish of St John and St Stephen in Reading. Claire joined the Langtree Team as curate in 2010 and completed her training in 2013. Since then she has served in Whitchurch and around the whole Team as part time house-for-duty associate priest. She and Chris have contributed hugely to the development of the mission and ministry in Whitchurch and we will miss them both enormously. However it is the right time for Claire to move to a full time incumbency post and the opportunity offered by the Reading appointment was too good to miss. Claire and Chris will be moving out towards the end of the school holidays and Claire will commute back into the Team for her final fortnight of ministry with us. Her last Sunday services will be on September 15th.”

Church wardens Ken Baker and Sue Matthews said today that they and everybody in the parish will be very sorry that Claire, her husband Chris and their children are moving on. They commented: “Claire has served us very well as our parish priest for nine years and will be sorely missed. We wish her well in her new post.  We are planning a farewell event – details will be available soon.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 24th July 2019 19:31

Rainstorm causes delay for gas trench

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. (But see update below) 

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.

Update, Monday 22nd July:  OMJ clarified this morning that the High Street traffic lights will need to be in use for another week at least, while more trenching is done on the picture gallery side of the road. 

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