News

Tony Voysey has died (updated with funeral details)

Sadly, Tony Voysey died yesterday (Sunday 19th March). He was 84. He was taken ill suddenly in the morning and died later in the Royal Berkshire Hospital.  The arrangements for a funeral will be announced in due course. 

Tony, who lived in the High Street, was an active member of the Whitchurch community, involved in various roles in the Church, Riparians, History Society, Theatre Club, Whitchurch Society, Bowls Club and Bridge Club.  Last Friday he was playing in a charity bridge drive in Goring and on Saturday he was at the Art Café. 

Tony’s wife Joyce died in 1999.  He is survived by his son John and his daughter Linda.  

(Photo by Nick Brazil)

Update, 23rd March:  The funeral will be held at St Mary's Church, Whitchurch, on Tuesday 11th April at 1.30 pm.

Date/Time : Monday, 20th March 2017 19:14

Would you like to get to know some alpacas?

Mary-Jo Smith of Bozedown Alpacas is planning to offer members of the public the opportunity to take a walk with the animals.  Each visitor would be invited to lead an alpaca.  For this plan to work she wants to recruit some members of the local community to act as guides to small groups of visitors. Here is what she says: 

Do you have a few hours to spare at least once a week? Would you like to get to know alpacas better? Would you like to guide small groups of visitors leading alpacas around our farm?

If so, come and see what’s involved, learn the basics and have a go on Tuesday 21st March at 2 pm. If you are interested and can't make the 21st, please still get in touch.

Call or email me  -  Mary-Jo 

maryjo@bozedown-alpacas.co.uk, 0118 984 3827, or 07718 750 303.

Date/Time : Thursday, 16th March 2017 12:21

High Street given a new seat

Behind the new flower beds at the entrance to Church Drive an elegant wooden seat has recently been installed, carrying the inscription ‘In Loving Memory of Pockets Remington, 1923-2016’. 

Some people may be wondering who Pockets was and how she got her name. She is shown in the picture. The seat has been kindly donated to the village by her husband Stan Remington, 90, who lives in The Walled Garden House nearby.  Here he tells us something about his late wife: 

Pockets was born Isabella Morrice, to a farming family in a croft in Aberdeenshire.  Breaking the family tradition, she was determined to be a nurse.  However her height was under five feet, which prevented her from being accepted by the Royal Hospital in Aberdeen, and she joined a children’s hospital instead.  Here a rather large sister, on meeting her, said her size was such that she would fit in her pocket and she became known as Pockets, a name which she adopted.  She became a state registered nurse in 1948, the first year of the National Health Service. 

I met her in the Prince of Wales hospital in Tottenham where she was caring for my brother who had suffered a rugby injury. We were married in 1954.  Happily the marriage stood the test of time and we celebrated our diamond anniversary in 2014. 

We moved to Whitchurch in 1980, by which time our daughters Shirley, a doctor, and Sylvia, in pharmaceuticals, were already grown up.  I worked in book publishing in London.  Pockets was a much loved mother and grandmother to our daughters and our three granddaughters, two of whom have also become doctors.  (Photo when they were young.) In Whitchurch she was an active member of the Women’s Institute and found time for her great interests of needlework, embroidery and gardening. 

She died peacefully with me beside her in the Royal Berkshire Hospital on 14th March 2016, aged 92. 

Date/Time : Tuesday, 14th March 2017 16:58

Local girl aims for the Olympics

Emily Brown, 15, from Hill Bottom in Whitchurch Hill, has always wanted to be an ice skating champion.  Last year she and her partner James won a silver medal in the British championships.  Her sights are now set on selection for the 2018 championships in Bulgaria, with a later ambition towards the Olympic squad.  Her story is told in this article in the Henley Standard. 

Emily recently received a grant from the Whitchurch United Charities, to be used towards her tuition and choreography fees.  Sally Woolhouse, treasurer, said that Emily’s parents are making considerable sacrifices to enable their daughter to achieve her goal and the trustees agreed to support her efforts.  Generally the charity supports educational needs but at the end of the recent half-year year there was money unallocated, enabling trustees to take a broader view. 

Whitchurch United Charities traces its history back to a legacy of £1 made by Augustine Knapp in 1602.  More about it here.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 8th March 2017 17:48

New bus route chosen

The Going Forward Bus company has decided on a route for the minibus that it hopes will be replacing the 143 bus service after July.  The minibus will provide a service into Reading for a number of communities in both Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The route is shown in blue on this map. The minibus will start from Goring, go past Basildon Park and Beale Park, then through Pangbourne, Whitchurch, Crays Pond, Goring Heath, Kidmore End, Caversham and into Reading. The service will return along the same route.

Dave Bowen, the parish councillor coordinating Whitchurch’s input into the planning of the new service, says that Mike Ward of Going Forward Buses is now thinking about the timetable and particularly about the first and last services. He would appreciate comments from likely users as to whether there is any demand for an early bus into Reading for the start of the working day and also for a later bus for coming home from work. Comments should be sent to Dave Bowen.

Date/Time : Monday, 6th March 2017 18:23

New landlord at The Greyhound

Andy Prior, who has been chef at The Greyhound for the last five months, said yesterday on the pub’s Facebook page:  “It is with great pleasure that I announce that I am the new landlord at The Greyhound, Whitchurch on Thames.  Please bear with me during the transition while I sort out card machines etc.  No food this week, but feel free to drop in for a bite to eat from this Saturday.  I look forward to seeing you soon!”

The new landlord joined the pub last October, recruited by his predecessor Ray Cameron, who had re-opened the pub two months earlier.  Before that Andy spent five years working at The Rowbarge at Woolhampton.  Ray left the village earlier this week.

Andy will be assisted by part-time barman Robin and has announced a special event for the evening of Saturday 18th March, a 70s-80s Disco with free admission. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 2nd March 2017 16:15

MOWS adds colour to the High Street

Signs of planting by the volunteers of Make Our Whitchurch Special (MOWS) are now evident. The photo shows Leslie Meynerd with some of the shrubs sponsored by the parish council. 

Leslie said she wanted to thank that those who helped in the recent work: her husband David, Andy Heaps, Geoff Weir and Sally Woolhouse.  She would love to see some volunteers, perhaps even some new faces, turning up to assist her in laying a membrane for further planting at 10.30 next Saturday morning, 4th March. 

Parish chairman Keith Brooks said today: “When the display at the entrance to the church is finished it will be a credit to the village and a demonstration of how residents give up their spare time to keep Whitchurch a wonderful place to live in.  The Parish Council on behalf of the village would like to thank those who put themselves out to do this good work.”

Date/Time : Tuesday, 28th February 2017 16:15

Call for volunteer bus drivers

Have you always wanted to drive a bus?  An opportunity is coming soon when the 143 bus service is replaced from July this year by a new minibus service run by Going Forward Buses, a community interest company based in Goring.  The company is run by Mike Ward, who has recently started running replacements for Goring’s 133 and 134 services.  He now needs to buy a second minibus and recruit more drivers to replace our 143 service.  Whitchurch and Goring Heath parish councils are jointly working with Mr Ward to get this up and running. 

Whitchurch parish councillors recently agreed to pay £4,125 to West Berkshire Council as part of the village’s share of the 143 bus subsidy, which continues until July when it is hoped that the new local service can start.  Councillor Dave Bowen explained that “as Going Forward Buses is a not-for-profit based company its expenses are somewhat less than Thames Travel’s, so it should be more viable.” 

Full details of the requirements for volunteer bus drivers to help in running the new service can be found on the Going Forward Buses website under Could you help by driving occasionally? .

Date/Time : Thursday, 23rd February 2017 12:35

Whitchurch to help Pangbourne keep loos open

On 13th February Antoinette Solera and Mike Fellows, representing the Action for Pangbourne Toilets Community Trust (APTCT), told Whitchurch parish council about their progress towards re-opening the public toilets in the Pangbourne village hall car park.  They said they had received pledges of £4,000 from local residents and a grant from Pangbourne parish council of £3,000 towards their £10,000 target.  Whitchurch councillors voted unanimously to donate a sum of £750. 

The APTTC trustees issued this statement yesterday:

There is lots of good news to report as we move steadily towards our goal to re-open Station Road Toilets.

Our application to the Charity Commission was successful, so APTCT is now a fully registered charity. Our official charitable status means we can now work on agreeing the 99 year lease agreement with West Berkshire Council and setting up our bank account - in the coming weeks we will be in touch with donors who have generously pledged financial support. 

Meanwhile both Pangbourne and Whitchurch-on-Thames Parish Councils have kindly agreed to grant a donation to our re-opening fund. This means we are now much closer to our initial target of £10,000 to partially re-open the building (the single cubicle and the disabled toilet) and to pay for cleaning and maintenance for 12 months. 

Recently residents may have seen contractors carrying out works at the toilet block. West Berkshire Council has carried out some essential health & safety work, redecoration and basic repairs which will help us to ensure that the toilets, once re-opened will provide a clean and safe environment for visitors. 

We look forward to announcing the re-opening of the toilets as soon as we can - and if you would like to pledge a financial donation or offer practical help, please contact us at actionforpangbournetoilets@gmail.com . 

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Dog fouling in Whitchurch

On a (loosely) related subject, the parish council also discussed the problem of dog mess on footpaths and green spaces in our village.  A video of a dog-fouling incident had recently been given to PCSO Mark Bell, who would be speaking to the dog owner concerned.  Councillors agreed to purchase ten dog-fouling signs for display around the village, to remind owners of the importance of clearing up after their pet.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 21st February 2017 16:44

Litter cleanup on Saturday 4th March

Whitchurch will be taking part in the Great British Spring Clean on the first weekend in March. The parish council has decided to back the nationwide campaign led by Keep Britain Tidy and has registered the village. 

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks is looking for volunteers to spend a couple of hours picking up litter around the village, starting at 10 am on Saturday 4th March. Litter pickers, sacks, gloves and high visibility jackets will be available. Volunteers are invited to contact him for further details. 

Keith says: “I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s make this a success in Whitchurch!”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 15th February 2017 10:26

Primary School wins sports award

Whitchurch Primary School has been awarded the accolade of SPORTING PRIMARY SCHOOL OF THE YEAR in the 11th annual Oxfordshire Sports Awards.  The event was organised by Oxfordshire Sport & Physical Activity (OxSPA). 

Whitchurch beat runners-up Larkhill Primary and Wantage Church of England Primary.  More information here

OxSPA, a partnership run by Oxfordshire County Council, states that its vision is to make Oxfordshire the most physically active county in England by 2017.

Date/Time : Saturday, 28th January 2017 16:29

An alternative to the 143 Bus is in sight

The parish council has been discussing the replacement of Thames Travel’s 143 bus service with a minibus service to be run by a recently formed Community Interest Company (CIC) based in Goring. The company is Going Forward Buses, which is currently preparing to take over the running of another service, the 134 from Goring to Wallingford. 

Parish councillor Dave Bowen provided this update to Facebook users yesterday:

“Yesterday evening, Keith Brooks, myself and Peter Dragonetti from Goring Heath PC met with Mike Ward from Going Forward Bus's CIC which Mike has set up as a Community based Bus Company with a view to Going Forward running a community based bus in place of their current 143. As a Not for profit community based company Going Forward are able to recoup 100% of the average fare of OAP and Disabled concessionary pass holders from the County Council where as a commercial company, such as Thames Travel are only able to recoup 30% of the fare. Coupled with the not for profit concept this makes running the bus much more viable and would almost certainly reduce any subsidy the Parish Councils would need to pay.

From last night’s discussion there are various routes that Mike would be keen to look at. Essentially the Bus would start at Goring, run through Basildon past Beale Park to Pangbourne. From there it would cross the bridge and up to Goring Heath, past the Sun and White Lion at Crays Pond. From there it would go through Tokers Green, Kidmore End and into Reading. This would provide the quickest route to Reading however other routes may provide more usage by passing through other villages. Timings on this route are comparable to the current 143.

An alternative route could take in Woodcote and Stoke Row, and another alternative could see Henley rather than Reading as the final destination. Mike is very keen to provide a service in other areas that have been left without a bus. The Henley suggestion would allow for connections to Oxford and Reading using the X40 from Woodcote so Reading is still a destination.

We have discussed hours of running and it seems that the peak morning and evening services of around 8 am and 6pm are not particularly financially viable so we are looking for feedback whether this is something people do use.

In terms of route we would very much like to hear your feedback on routes to assist Mike in which route may be viable. Would people be keen to change buses for a service to Oxford and Reading so we gain a Henley Service or perhaps a fast direct route to Reading would be preferable?”  

There is an explanation of CICs, limited companies which operate to provide a benefit to the community, on the Going Forward Buses website.

 

Update 24th January:  The Henley Standard today published an article on the subject. 

Date/Time : Friday, 20th January 2017 14:21

Village hall to be refurbished, not sold

The parish council has decided to invest in improvements to the present village hall in Manor Road.  The scheme put forward early last year (news archive, 25.3.16) to sell it off, build affordable housing on the site and invest the proceeds in a new combined village hall and sports pavilion on the village green, is not being pursued. 

The reason is a legal condition in the agreement under which the village hall was sold by SODC to the parish council for a nominal sum many years ago.  The agreement gives SODC the option to buy it back for a mere £4,000 in the event of a sale.  The estimated £550,000 sale proceeds would not be available for the construction of a new combined building on the village green. 

The parish council decided at a meeting earlier this month (draft minutes on the Parish Council page) to have the condition of the village hall professionally assessed in order to plan a programme of improvements. 

As a separate project, the design of a new sports pavilion on the village green will be considered again by the village green working group, which includes representatives of the cricket club and other interested parties. The parish council will be investigating the availability of grants. 

The parish council is asking to hear from anyone who is interested in helping with the management of the village hall, which is registered as a charity.  Please email parish clerk Felipa House to express interest or to hear more.

Date/Time : Friday, 20th January 2017 14:12

Two M4 motorway bridges need repair

Highways England has announced that two bridges supporting the motorway near Bradfield, between Junctions 12 and 13 of the M4, are suffering from chloride-induced concrete corrosion.  Repair work will start in mid-February, taking around seven months and involving weekday overnight closures and three full weekend closures of the motorway.  Dark Lane and Ashampstead Road, which pass under the motorway, will be closed for about two months. 

There is more information here

The picture above shows a similar bridge elsewhere.

Date/Time : Monday, 16th January 2017 19:21

Skateboarding area for children requested

A 13-year-old girl wrote to the chairman of the parish council last month asking for a place to be provided for skateboarding.  Yesterday her mother Maureen O’Brien, who lives in Old Gardens, persuaded the parish council that the idea should be seriously considered.  She said that it was vital for young people to have outdoor opportunities as an alternative to screen time and suggested a location on the village green between the cricket nets and Muddy Lane where she felt it should be possible to install a skating ramp and perhaps also a basketball net. 

There was support from councillors for the idea in principle, but recognition that it might not be universally popular. Jim Donahue, deputy chairman, pointed out that a village survey had shown 23% support for a skateboard facility and 55% for a basketball net.  

Maureen offered to put together a detailed proposal with costs and it was agreed that this would be considered at the next council meeting. 

Maureen said she would like anyone who wished to make suggestions, or to support the idea, to contact her by email

Date/Time : Tuesday, 10th January 2017 16:18

Activities for young families

  1. The Whitchurch Web today has a new feature designed to help parents of young children to find play groups in the Whitchurch area.  Laura Lucas, who has a young child and lives in Swanston Field, has compiled two lists, one of free drop-in sessions and the other of payable ones.  Babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers are all catered for.

Laura’s lists can be seen by visiting the Schools and Young People page (menu on the left), third paragraph down, where two links will be found. 

As an introduction to the lists, Laura focuses below on two local playgroups, one well-established and one brand new: 

  • Tots on the Hill (pictured) is a long-running playgroup within the village of Whitchurch Hill.  “We warmly welcomes parents, carers and their pre-schoolers to join us for our weekly stay-and-play sessions, which take place at the Goring Heath Parish Hall (there is plenty of parking in the adjacent car park).  Sessions run on Wednesdays during term times, between 10-11:30am, and include free play with our wide range of toys suitable for babies and pre-schoolers, a healthy snack, and a song time.  And, of course, tea, biscuits and good company for carers as standard!  Each session is priced at £2 per adult & child, with an additional 50p per extra child, and newcomers are made very welcome.  For further details, please contact Emily Dalton at emilydalton@outlook.com.” 

  • Next week sees the start of a new, local playgroup for pre-school aged children.  The Little Ducklings toddler group will be run by 2Wild (www.2wild.co.uk) on Fridays 10-11.30am at Path Hill Farm, Goring Heath.  Although 2Wild have been providing outdoor activities for adults and children for some years, this is their first group aimed at preschoolers.  Children will explore nature, sing songs and play in the great outdoors. Facilities include yurts for inclement weather!  The group is already proving popular, so please pre-book on 984 2500 to avoid disappointment!  Tea and coffee for adults and a snack for little ones included.  £5 per child and sibling discounts available.

Date/Time : Friday, 6th January 2017 12:50

Engagement in the village

Sometime last year Carrie Hart invited her fellow parish councillor Jim Donahue over for dinner.  She also invited her neighbour Clare Langan as she had a feeling the two would get on. They did and shortly afterwards Jim invited Clare to go with him to a photographic exhibition in London, their first date. 

Last weekend Jim and Clare announced their engagement.  Jim says “we are planning our wedding locally for this summer when my family will be coming over from various parts of the USA.  Clare has just sold her house, Metten Cottage in the High Street, and I am selling mine in Hillside.  We hope to find a third house in the village as we plan to stay here amongst our friends in this wonderful community.” 

Clare studied at the Royal Academy of Music, winning the prestigious flute prize, and has a busy concert schedule that includes performances for cruise ship passengers. Jim, who arrived in this country from the USA nearly twenty years ago, is a project manager with Vodaphone and is currently working on a mobile payments service for African countries.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 28th December 2016 14:41

Power tools stolen from garden sheds

Manor Road and Hardwick Road have been hit by thefts from garden sheds in the run-up to Christmas. 

At about 2.30 am on Wednesday 14th December a leaf blower of the backpack type was stolen from Jack Dabrowski’s greenhouse in Manor Road. 

The Police reported today that between midnight and 9 am on Saturday 17th December three secure sheds in Hardwick Road were entered.  A strimmer and a hedge cutter were taken.  Police are appealing for witnesses and asking anyone with information to call 101.

Date/Time : Monday, 19th December 2016 15:52

Donations sought for war memorial plan

Goring Heath parish chairman Peter Dragonetti has reported good progress towards the plan to reconstruct to its original height the war memorial belonging to the two Whitchurch communities.  The project was initiated by Martin Wise of Whitchurch Hill in 2014.  A subsequent survey conducted in Whitchurch Hill/Goring Heath showed strong support for restoring the memorial. 

A comparison of the tall original cross, damaged in a 1990 storm, with its shorter replacement, can be seen here

An approach in 2014 by Goring Heath parish council to Whitchurch parish council to share the cost of restoration failed to generate support.  But the Whitchurch parish council elected in 2015 conducted a survey of its constituents a year ago which attracted 52 responses.  Of these, 33 favoured the most extensive option of a full height cross, a plaque, cleaning and landscaping, then estimated at £19,000, while 12 favoured a full height cross without any landscaping, 3 wanted to keep the present low cross, and 4 favoured only cleaning the memorial. 

Undeterred by the initial lack of enthusiasm from Whitchurch, Goring Heath parish council hired an architect to prepare drawings and approached the War Memorial Trust.  The Trust agreed to fund 75% of the cost of cleaning and restoration, amounting to £3,450, but would not contribute to the landscaped surround and would not allow an interpretive board to accompany the memorial.  Peter Dragonetti said last week that the estimated cost of the project was now £9,000 for full height restoration, professional cleaning and improvements to the immediate surround. The expected grant, supplemented by donations already made (enhanced by Gift Aid), amounts to a fund of around £7,000. 

Further donations from individuals or companies are now sought towards the remaining £2,000. If you would like to donate, please email indicating how much you would like to give. 

The intention is to complete the project without further cost to either of the parish councils, in time for the centenary of the Armistice in November 2018.

Date/Time : Monday, 12th December 2016 11:20

Parish Council agrees to back 143 Bus (Updated)

A deputation from Whitchurch Hill swelled the numbers at the Whitchurch parish council meeting on Monday, wanting us to support the scheme for the 143 bus service to be financed jointly by the two parishes. 

David Pearson from Whitchurch Hill said that support for their petition had been received from 150 households, representing well over 200 people from the two communities who had at some time used the bus, in favour of financial support through increased council tax.  

Councillor David Bowen explained that there were currently legal limits that would not allow a full year’s support by Whitchurch parish council.  However chairman Keith Brooks suggested that an election of councillors could be held next May so that the council would be better qualified to provide the support.  At least two-thirds of a council must be elected rather than co-opted if the needed powers are to be available and currently only half the councillors are elected. 

Geoff Weir questioned the appropriateness of a 50:50 split of finance between the two parishes when the extra cost of the service based on mileage from Pangbourne would suggest a 25:75 split. 

A suggestion for a volunteer-run minibus service was met with reservations on the considerable workload and the likely lack of volunteers. 

After discussion the parish council voted unanimously to spend money to try to ensure the 143 bus service continues, up to the applicable legal limit of financial support. 

Whitchurch Hill's share of the financial support will be discussed at a meeting of Goring Heath parish council tomorrow.

UPDATE, 10th December: Goring Heath parish council is reported to have resolved to fund its share (assumed as 50%) of the 143 service for the whole of next year.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 7th December 2016 12:36

Support grows for walkway through trees

In October Jean Bull made a suggestion for a raised walkway through the trees to enable pedestrians to avoid the narrow footpath alongside the bend on the Pangbourne approach to the bridge. (News item, 19th October) This idea, subsequently developed by others and submitted last month as a more detailed proposal, was discussed at the parish council meeting on Monday.  

Whitchurch Bridge director Geoff Weir said he thought this was likely to be the best solution, the report by consultants Peter Brett Associates having described as hardly feasible the more ambitious plans for widening the embankment.  After discussion the parish council voted to support the walkway scheme, referred to as Option D.  However it was acknowledged that the walkway route was on land owned by the Boathouse Surgery, whose consent would be needed for the scheme to proceed. 

The Option D proposal and suggested route of the walkway can be seen here

Geoff Weir said that the views of Pangbourne Parish Council on the report and on the walkway proposal are expected, together with comments from any others, before the February deadline.  Then the consultants will be asked to develop selected options further and identify any planning difficulties.  He suggested the walkway could be built in timber as an alternative to steel.  

Our news item of 15th October described the findings of the consultants’ report, which can be read in full on the Bridge Company’s website.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 7th December 2016 10:43

Skating rink draws record numbers to Christmas Market

Last Sunday skating came to Whitchurch for the first time, on panels of synthetic ice forming a slippery rink.  The photo shows Christy Riordan and her daughter enjoying the experience. 

Caroline Collins, event organiser from the Primary School Parents Association, reports on a most successful fund-raising event held at the school: 

“It was a beautiful winter's day for this year's Whitchurch Christmas Market, with the addition of the outdoor ice rink proving a huge draw.  The children were full of festive cheer as they skated on the ice, and the hot food and drink stalls around the ice rink proved very popular, helping to warm everyone up.  The food was provided by The Bowler serving meatballs and Lina Tandoori’s curry, and hot drinks were served by Camper Café run by Beth Baxter of Whitchurch and a Parent Association run bar serving mulled wine. 

Inside, Santa was kept busy in his grotto by all the excited children.  There was something for everyone in the main hall with a wonderful selection of local craft and gift stalls including “Love Scarlet” artisan silver designed by a school mum, Made by M.E selling locally produced hand-made crocheted items and Hen House Brewery selling beer brewed and bottled in the village.  There was also a musical trio composed of David Mattimoe, Anne and Derek Jones of Whitchurch playing festive tunes while people shopped.  A classroom was transformed into a busy café serving home-made mince pies and cakes.  In the raffle there were fantastic prizes won, including dinner at the Crooked Billet, a day at Newbury Races and a Sunday lunch at The Elephant Hotel.  

We had record attendance this year and the event was a huge success, raising £3,800 for Whitchurch Primary School.  A massive thank you to everyone who came along to support us and of course to all our very generous sponsors:  The Co-op Pangbourne, The Elephant Hotel, The Ferryboat, The Sun, Warmingham and Whitchurch Bridge Company.”

Date/Time : Tuesday, 6th December 2016 18:40

Support grows for keeping the 143 bus

David Pearson, organiser of the Save Our Bus Action Group, is monitoring the returns from the campaign’s petition, both online and paper, and reports strong support despite some possible snags recently discussed on social media.  He says it is vital that residents who are in favour of saving the 143 bus should not be deterred from signing the petition, so that both parish councils are given a clear mandate.  To encourage Whitchurch on Thames residents a new poster is being placed around the village and can be seen enlarged here

Whitchurch residents are encouraged to sign the petition, which can be found on the SOBAG website

The matter is expected to be discussed at two parish council meetings in the week after next: Whitchurch-on-Thames on Monday 5th December at 8 pm in the Old Stables - all welcome - and Whitchurch Hill/Goring Heath on Thursday 8th.

Date/Time : Sunday, 27th November 2016 11:20

Bus subsidy scheme hits legal snags

Support from residents for saving the 143 Bus is reported to be substantial in both Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill.  However, it now appears that there is a legal restriction on how much a parish council can pay to subsidise a commercial bus operator, and this would only allow about half the required sum to be paid.  Furthermore, as Whitchurch parish council currently has only three elected members, the other three being co-opted, an alternative route to a subsidy is unavailable. 

Both communities need to raise their share of the funds if the bus service is to continue.  The matter is expected to be discussed further at the Whitchurch parish council meeting on 5th December.

(The item above has been abbreviated, 25th November.)

Date/Time : Wednesday, 23rd November 2016 10:03

Record-breaking entry in Art & Craft Exhibition

Sally Woolhouse reports: 

This popular annual event, now in its 38th year, was staged by The Whitchurch Society in Whitchurch Village Hall over the weekend of 19th and 20th November. It was, yet again, a very successful and sociable occasion which provided the opportunity for everyone to see and share the results of creative talent in our community. There was a wonderful variety of artwork, craftwork and photographs from young and old, showing a very high standard. This year’s theme for the Joyce Voysey Prize was ‘Trees’ and we had a record-breaking 47 entries for this award this year – obviously an inspiring subject! Colourful displays of work by children at the Pre-School, the Primary School and the Oratory Prep School were very eye-catching and showed great promise. Visitors enjoyed refreshments all weekend and meeting up with friends and neighbours before the prize-giving ceremony at 4.30 pm on Sunday. 

Congratulations to all the prize winners. 

We were very pleased to welcome Gill Williamson and Alison Livesey from the ArtCafe, who were displaying and selling lovely art and craft items. 

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 and Peter Smith who helped me in the planning stages and to the Whitchurch Society members who supported us.

Sally Woolhouse (sally@wotarts.co.uk)

Date/Time : Monday, 21st November 2016 16:58

Save Our Bus campaign extends down the hill

The Save Our Bus Action Group (SOBAG), based in Whitchurch Hill, is promoting the case for saving the 143 bus service and has organised a petition.  The group is asking residents of Whitchurch-on-Thames to click on a button on the SOBAG website to support or oppose the petition, which is open to both communities. 

For the bus service to be saved both parish councils will need to agree to pay their share of the subsidy.  The annual subsidy of around £16,500 would be split equally between them.  

David Pearson, SOBAG campaign organiser, said yesterday that about 40 responses had been received so far on their website and 39 of them had indicated a happiness to fund a continuation of the bus service. A further 40 people had given their support in writing.

We have been asked to clarify, in case anyone is confused, that though Whitchurch Hill is the name of the village up the hill, it is situated within the area represented by Goring Heath Parish Council.  The SOBAG petition is addressed jointly to the parish councils of Whitchurch-on-Thames and Goring Heath.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 16th November 2016 15:59

Tickets available for Ferryboat Christmas Concert

The popular Ferryboat Concert of Christmas Music in St Mary’s Church will be on Sunday 4th December, starting at 6.30 pm.

Graham Dednum, landlord of The Ferryboat, says: This year’s concert will again feature the children from the primary school and this year they will be joined by children from the pre-school, along with several guest soloists and of course The Ferryboat Brass Band.”

“The bell ringers will announce the event with a special peal from 5.45 pm, inviting all to walk along the illuminated driveway to the church.  The church doors will open at 6 pm and the band will play a Prelude of Christmas Music as the audience take their seats, prior to the start of the concert at 6.30 pm.”

Graham, who will compère the event, says he wants everyone to join in the carol singing.  He hopes the concert will again raise a substantial amount of money for the benefit of the church and the schools.

Tickets are available from The Ferryboat at £10 each (or £5 for under-10s).

The photo shows members of the 28-strong Ferryboat Brass Band raising the roof of St Mary’s at last year’s concert.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 15th November 2016 10:14

Parish Council seeks views on paying for bus

The five-times-a-day, Monday-to-Friday 143 bus service run by West Berkshire Council currently extends across the river to include Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill.  This is thanks to a decision taken by the two parishes to pay for it until the end of next March, after Oxfordshire decided to stop paying their share of the cost earlier this year.  A decision now has to be made about what happens after next March. 

Whitchurch Parish Council wants to know whether there is sufficient support in the village for a 40p per week increase in council tax on all households which would enable the service to continue, at a cost of around £8,250 per year. (Whitchurch Hill would have to pay a similar sum.) The council is asking for the views of residents by means of this questionnaire survey.

In the survey the council explains: “Since July 2016 Oxfordshire County Council have stopped all Bus subsidies. In Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill the Parish Council have continued to pay the subsidy to maintain the 143 Bus through the village. The service was reduced to Monday to Fridays to minimise the cost. The 143 Bus provides a vital transport link for people in both Whitchurch on Thames and Whitchurch Hill. Of those passengers using the 143 Bus in the Oxfordshire section beyond Whitchurch Bridge, 64% are either using a Disabled or OAP Bus Pass and it is these people who would be most at risk by losing the 143 Bus. We are now in a position of looking at continuing to fund the Bus in 2017, this is likely to cost around £8250 for the year. This may require an increase in Council Tax of around 40p per week per household to cover the full subsidy. We would like your views on whether the Parish Council should be supporting this subsidy and any other comments you have regarding the bus subsidy.”

Some additional information on how many people are using the service is available from the bus company’s recent two week survey.  A total of 88 passengers from the two communities boarded the bus service in the sample fortnight from 12th to 23rd September.  Most of these can be assumed to have returned home using a later bus.  Usage was split evenly between passengers in Whitchurch (45) and in Whitchurch Hill (43).  After a small adjustment for untypical conditions the company says that on a ‘normal’ day the total number of people from the two communities who are using the service seems to be about 11.

Parish chairman Keith Brooks said today: “We would like as many as possible in our community to give their opinion on this issue.  Please return the questionnaire with your comments.  Those not using the internet should send their comments to our parish clerk Felipa House at 23 Swanston Field, Whitchurch-on-Thames, RG8 7HP.”

The matter is likely to be decided at the next Whitchurch Parish Council meeting on Monday 5th December (not Tuesday 6th as announced earlier), which is open to the public.

Meanwhile a ‘Save Our Bus’ flyer is understood to be in preparation in Whitchurch Hill for notice-boards and distribution to households in the two communities.

Background information can be found in our earlier news items of 4th March and 19th May.  The alternative of hiring a Comet minibus from OCC, only available in the middle of the day, was the subject of a news item on 4th September.

Date/Time : Saturday, 12th November 2016 12:42

Come ice skating at the Christmas Market

Don’t miss the Whitchurch Christmas Market at the Primary School on Sunday 4th December, 11 am to 3 pm.  For the first time it will include an outdoor ice skating rink. 

Caroline Collins, event organiser from the Primary School Parents Association, says:  

“As well as the skating, we will have Santa returning in his grotto (tickets £3 including gift and opportunity to write, decorate and post your own letter to Santa), some wonderful local craft and gift stalls and many children's activities. 

There will be hot food and drink stalls outside around the ice rink including mulled wine, Camper Café selling teas and coffees, Home-made organic food provided by Farm to Table Produce, The Bowler meatballs and vegballs and curry from Lina Tandoori.  We will have an indoor café seating area and be selling home-made mince pies and cakes. 

We will also be holding a raffle with some amazing prizes including dinner for two at the Crooked Billet, two premier enclosure badges for Newbury Races, a Sunday roast for four at The Elephant Hotel and lots, lots more. 

It's a great community event that is suitable for all ages, with something for everyone to enjoy. All proceeds are in aid of Whitchurch Primary School.  We would like to thank our sponsors: The Co-op Pangbourne, The Elephant Hotel, The Ferryboat, The Sun, Warmingham and Whitchurch Bridge Company for their kind support. 

To book your slot for ice skating (adults and children), email whitchurchiceskating@gmail.com  - tickets from £6. 

Put the date in your diary and come along for lots of fun-filled festivities!” 

More information, especially on the skating, in the event flyer

Date/Time : Thursday, 10th November 2016 16:29

Bridge to be decorated in the Spring

Having successfully set up the regular Saturday morning Art Café in the Old Stables, artist Gill Williamson (picture) now has her sights set on a new art project.  The parapet of the toll bridge, next to the pavement which forms part of the Thames Path, will be adorned with decorative artworks for a fortnight from 29th April. 

Gill has launched a weekly “knit and stitch” club on Thursdays (1 to 3 pm or 7 to 9 pm, Old Stables) and wants to encourage all those who have the skill to get knitting, colourfully, and create artworks for the event. 

There is more about the project in this Henley Standard article

Gill can be contacted here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 5th November 2016 14:58

Friends group is open for membership

A newly formed charity The Friends of St Mary’s & St John’s is being supported by an increasing number of people in the Whitchurch community, many of whom are not regular church-goers. 

Keith Williams, chairman of the charity, explains that the aim is to bring together the communities of Whitchurch-on-Thames and Whitchurch Hill in support of the preservation of their two churches.  People from all faiths and none are welcomed and the charity is run independently from day-to-day church life.  All money raised will contribute towards the maintenance, preservation and improvement of the two church buildings and their churchyards. This is for the benefit of current and future generations of Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill. 

At the recent Harvest Supper (picture above, more in Photo Gallery) nearly sixty people from the community enjoyed a three course meal, many joining the group, and the first of a series of monthly Saturday Art Cafés in the Old Stables has also been held.  Both events were successful in raising funds for The Friends and further events are planned.

Members of The Friends must agree to make a regular donation to the charity (minimum £10 a year).  The address for the Membership Secretary is c/o Eastfield Lodge, Eastfield Lane, Whitchurch-on-Thames, RG8 7EJ. 

A Friends page has been added to the Whitchurch Web. The group also has its own website, set up by trustee Tim Suiter. 

Date/Time : Monday, 24th October 2016 12:26

The Real Mr Toad is launched at Hardwick

Every seat was taken at a book launch yesterday (21st October) at Hardwick House.  A new biography, written by Oxford historian Michael Redley, examines the colourful career of Miriam Rose’s great-great-grandfather Sir Charles Day Rose (1847 – 1913).  The author makes a fascinating case for his being the real “Mr Toad” in Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows

Research by the author, with help from Miriam, has revealed new aspects of the life of the wealthy sportsman and banker who, after losing two sons in the Boer war, became a liberal politician. As an MP he supported direct taxation of the rich, land reform and a reduction in the power of the House of Lords. 

Horse breeding was one of his interests and he socialised with the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, owning several famous racehorses. He is the only person to have built three real tennis courts: two at Hardwick, one of which remains in active use, and one in Newmarket. His colourful and energetic life eventually became darker and there is some mystery surrounding the booking shortly before his death of a passage to California with his mistress. 

The 80-page illustrated book ‘The Real Mr Toad: Merchant Venturer and Radical in the Age of Gold’ can be purchased for £7.00 at Garlands food shop in Pangbourne, or by post for £7.50 including postage from the Hardwick Estate office (phone 0118 984 1096 or email).

 

Postscript: The Henley Standard has published an article on the launch. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 22nd October 2016 15:01

Raised walkway through trees suggested

Jean Bull of Swanston Field has responded to the Bridge Company’s request for comments on improving the Pangbourne approach road. Having read the consultants’ report and thought about their four options, she has proposed a new one: a separate raised walkway through the trees, like the one at Kew Gardens or at Westonbirt Arboretum, to take pedestrians away from the traffic.  She suggests the walkway should run parallel to the curve of the road, on the Boathouse Surgery side. 

She points to several benefits: 

“1.  The road could be widened to take up the existing pedestrian footpath which would be diverted through the trees. 

2.  The cost would be reduced because the construction of the pedestrian walkway would be cheaper than the other proposals. 

3. The approach to the bridge would be enhanced, making a feature of the raised walkway. 

4. Some of the larger trees would be saved.” 

Geoff Weir, director of the Bridge Company, said he was very grateful to Jean for her comments, which will be properly considered in due course, and he would welcome any further suggestions from the community. 

To read the consultants' report, follow the link in our previous news item.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 19th October 2016 16:24

Pangbourne approach road options studied

Peter Brett Associates, engineering consultants to the Whitchurch Bridge Company, have completed a 68-page report into the options for widening the Pangbourne approach to the bridge.  Both road width and footpath width are recognised as below standard. 

The consultants reviewed the possibility of widening the road on the Boathouse Surgery side or, alternatively, on the Dolphin Centre side.  Both options would involve landowner negotiations, removal of mature trees and floodplain complications.  Given these planning constraints and the lack of opportunities to mitigate impacts, they indicate that the outlook for planning permission is not favourable. 

They also studied a less extensive option, providing a modest degree of road widening and including the new idea of having passing places for pedestrians added to the footpath. Fewer trees would need to be removed.  A chicane for traffic calming might be included.  This third option is regarded by the consultants as more likely to be feasible. 

The full report can be read on the Bridge Company’s website here.

The Bridge Company has asked for comments on the options between now and the end of February 2017.  They will then decide which option to aim for.  Comments should be sent in writing to Company Secretary Geoff Weir at the address shown on the website.

 

Date/Time : Saturday, 15th October 2016 15:49

Volunteers invited to join working party

The recently formed group MOWS ('Make Our Whitchurch Special', see recent news item) is providing a working party on Saturday 22nd October, between 10.30 and 12.30, to start clearing the area by the church gate. Volunteers are invited to come along to help for any amount of time and will be warmly welcomed.  Organiser Leslie Maynerd says: “Please bring a garden fork and gloves and it would help if you can let me know you are coming on 984 5513 or by email.” 

Date/Time : Saturday, 15th October 2016 12:06

Charity formed to keep Pangbourne loos open

The Station Road public toilets, situated in the car park near Pangbourne village hall, closed a year ago.  But a campaign to re-open them has been gathering support. The enthusiasm for the project can be seen from this recent picture. 

Antoinette Solera and Lyn Higgs, representing Action for Pangbourne Toilets (APT Community Trust), came to the Parish Council meeting on 4th October to ask for support from the Whitchurch side of the river.  There is already a core team of six members, they said, but more volunteers and more funds are needed. The initial target for fundraising is £10,000. The Parish Council agreed to consider the request for funding.

A meeting will be held in Pangbourne on 16th October to explain how new volunteers can help with fundraising, publicity, maintenance work or becoming a trustee. 

To donate money, volunteer or ask for more information, email Antoinette or visit APT's Facebook page

There is more information in this article from Newbury Today.

Date/Time : Sunday, 9th October 2016 12:39

New brick-and-flint wall at Manor Road junction

The owner of No 4 Whitchurch House applied in August for planning permission to build a brick-and-flint boundary wall, 37 metres in length and 1.8 m high, on the south side of Manor Road.  The application details can be seen here.  To achieve this, owner Anthony Butcher had also applied to buy a narrow strip of the verge from the Parish Council, in order to align the wall clear of the mature trees that have damaged his existing low wall. 

During discussion at the Parish Council meeting on 3rd October, Peter Hawley commented that the splayed and walled entrance to Manor Road was originally the beginning of the drive into the Coombe Park estate, hence its generous proportions, and he thought it inappropriate to narrow this space.  Lizzie Steward recalled that children had enjoyed playing on the verge here for many years and she considered it should be kept at its current width. 

The owner said that as an alternative the new wall could be built on the line of the existing wall, which currently has a fence on it, if it proved acceptable to bridge over the trees or realign around them locally. 

The Parish Council resolved not to sell any part of the verge. 

SODC will decide on the planning application later this month.

Date/Time : Friday, 7th October 2016 16:59

Exhibition of Stephen Trinderís art

This weekend the Village Hall will hold a colourful exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Stephen Trinder, who died in June last year.  The show has been put together by fellow artist Lorna Webber and Stephen's widow Sally, with the help of Gill Williamson.  Many items will be on sale. 

Opening hours are 10.30 am to 4.30 pm on Friday 7th, Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th.  Admission is free and all are welcome.  There is also an Open Evening with refreshments on Friday from 7 to 9 pm. 

The Whitchurch Web carried an obituary article about Stephen last year.

Date/Time : Thursday, 6th October 2016 09:30