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.  In explanation of his own departure from the parish council he cited his frustration at the bureaucratic way business was conducted and the lack of action between meetings. 

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

Work on Hardwick Road gas mains starts next week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Totem poles embellish primary school

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

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

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

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

Join the BioBlitz next Sunday

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

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

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

More information from Sandra.

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

History of Whitchurch published in draft form

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

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

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

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

Landownership (including manor houses)

Economic History: farming; trades, crafts and industry

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

Religious History (including church architecture)

Local government: manor courts and parish government 

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

More information about the project and contact details here.

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

Gas pipeline work coming to Hardwick Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft Village Plan is available for comment

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

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

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

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

Eric Hartley to receive Whitchurch Award

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

The joint organisers of the award scheme announced today: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bienvenue to our French visitors this weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Dragonetti is our new District Councillor

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

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


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

Local election today in Village Hall

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

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

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

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

Whitchurch Award scheme announced

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

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

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

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

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

Primary School football team plays in National Finals on Saturday

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

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

Here is the line-up of schools:

Newcastle School for Boys, Northumberland

Christ Church Catholic Primary School, Northumberland

Newtown C of E Primary School, Shropshire

Warton Nethersole C of E Primary School, Warwickshire

Gretton Primary School, Gloucestershire

Whitchurch Primary School, Oxfordshire

Loyola Preparatory School, Essex

English Martyrs Catholic Primary School, Sussex


Good luck Whitchurch!

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

Twenty is Plenty for Whitchurch

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

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

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


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

Village Fete returns as Fun Day on 4th May

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel’s contact details: 07885 444510, 

Here is the full poster.

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

Youths trash Eastfield House care home

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

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

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

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

Pop-up café for Lin’s VegShed at Hardwick

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

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

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

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

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

No parish council election on 2nd May

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

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

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

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

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

Village Plan recommendations revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

New venture – Whitchurch Wildlife Walks

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

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

For more information see the flyer.

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

Children demonstrate for climate change awareness

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

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

There are more pictures in the photo gallery.

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

Nominations for local elections close in two weeks time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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