News

Coombe Park boundary fence – changes proposed

New plans have been submitted by agents for the owner of Coombe Park, modifying the design of the estate’s boundary fence after strong opposition from many quarters to the high-security 2.4m-high steel fence that had been erected without planning permission along the bridleway. 

The planning application is P19/S0366/FUL

The fence design has been changed to round-topped vertical timber palings mounted on a steel frame, overall height 2.2m, for the full length of the boundary alongside the bridleway.  The gaps between palings are the same width as the palings.  There are no spikes at the top.  The hedge, to be planted along the full length alongside the bridleway, is to be of mixed native species and located on the bridleway side of the fence.  A note on the drawings states that the fence is ‘located 1m back from the bridleway’. 

For the boundaries shared with the Polish Garden and two nearby private gardens the height is reduced to 2 metres and the fence is likely to be of timber. 

Behind the village hall and its car park the requested height is 2.4m, of steel, and the proposed route still runs close behind the hall.  The agents, Oakley Planning of Devizes, explain in a letter that this is ‘where there are most difficulties with break-ins, with trespassers using existing structures and buildings as a way to jump over the existing fence.’  A yew hedge is also proposed for this length. 

The consultation period ends on 20th April.

Date/Time : Thursday, 02nd April 2020 19:19

Whitchurch Nature Notes launched

Our current state of lockdown has coincided with the welcome arrival of Spring.  Many of us will be finding ourselves spending more time than usual enjoying gardens and taking exercise in or near the village.  Some of us may have been wondering what that lovely white roadside blossom is, what on earth a bumble bee could be doing so early in the year and whether that was a kite or a buzzard overhead.  The good news is that, from today, guidance will be available on this website in the form of Whitchurch Nature Notes. 

The first Whitchurch Nature Note is Signs of Spring Part 1 which has been written for us by Sally Woolhouse and includes her own photographs.  More Nature Notes will appear here in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile Sally, who has kindly agreed to be our Nature Editor, would welcome any nature news, suggestions, comments or questions by email.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 01st April 2020 12:25

Latest update on getting help in the pandemic

The number of volunteers in the village who have offered to help with collecting a prescription, shopping for someone in need or just keeping in touch, is now approaching 50. 

John Bradon has provided an updated version of the list.  Lily King has been checking emails and tracking any requests. 

Date/Time : Friday, 27th March 2020 19:01

Whitchurch joins nationwide salute to NHS workers

At 8 pm this evening the sound of applause broke out in many areas of the village and continued for several minutes as residents acted together to show their appreciation of the doctors, nurses, carers and others tackling the coronavirus outbreak. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 26th March 2020 20:16

Update on getting help during the pandemic

A larger group of Whitchurch volunteers, 30 strong, has now been established to provide help with getting shopping, picking up prescriptions, posting letters or parcels, or just keeping in touch to check how you are. 

The list of volunteers in each area of the village is shown here:  NON-MEDICAL HELP DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC – Update, 19th March 2020

To request help, send an email to WotVolunteers@gmail.com.  A volunteer will note your name and address and someone will be in touch. 

A paper copy of the list, with phone numbers, is being delivered by hand to all households.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 18th March 2020 16:08

Response to Coronavirus in Whitchurch

The Parish Council has issued a statement on the current health situation.  It can be read here: Village Response to Coronavirus

The village’s Community Emergency Plan, published less than a month ago, established a ‘telephone tree’ network of communication to provide help to vulnerable people.  This is now being put to use at an earlier date than anyone expected. 

Ten volunteer coordinators are named in the statement, covering all areas of the village.  They can be phoned or emailed by anyone who is self-isolating and in need of some help, for example with shopping.  The ten coordinators will work with other volunteers in their areas to help vulnerable people. 

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue is temporarily in the USA and has asked John Bradon to deputize for him in coordinating the volunteers. 

For more about the Community Emergency Plan scroll down to our news item of 23rd February.

Date/Time : Monday, 16th March 2020 15:22

Bang goes another brick wall

Robin Shuff lives at The Vines, a High Street house just below the Hardwick Road junction.  On Sunday night, at around 1.50 am, he was awoken by a loud noise and discovered a green Vauxhall Corsa wedged into his garden wall.  He helped the driver, a young man, into the house and called the police.  The driver was uninjured.  The police summoned a truck to remove the car, which was partially obstructing the roadway. 

It appears that the driver, travelling down the hill, lost control of his car and clipped the kerb opposite the picture gallery.  He then collided with a black VW Transporter owned by a nearby resident, which was parked on the opposite side of the road.  The Corsa bounced off the side of the VW, crossed the road again and crashed into the garden wall.  The first impact caused considerable damage to the VW, shifting it sideways.  The second impact demolished part of the garden wall, narrowly missing a timber pole.

The police are understood to have breathalysed the driver, who was returning to his home in Pangbourne.  He is thought to be likely to appear in court in the next week or so. 

The photograph above was taken by Robin Shuff.  More here.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 10th March 2020 19:22

Eight-year-olds help to protect the oceans

Over two recent weekends, Eliza Kemp and Anna Acworth, both aged eight, have been drawing the attention of passers-by on Hardwick Road to the urgent need to take environmental issues seriously. 

In total they have raised £65.09 in donations.  They would like to thank everyone who stopped to learn more about their campaign.  

Eliza’s father Peter reports that they have donated the funds raised to Plastic Oceans UK, an organisation dedicated to ending plastic pollution within all marine and freshwater sources.

Date/Time : Sunday, 08th March 2020 13:57

Progress on Polish church memorial

At the parish council meeting on 13th February the creation of a memorial on the footprint of the demolished Polish church in the field at the north end of Manor Road was further discussed. Alexa Duckworth-Briggs reports: 

From previous meetings with local residents and those who have links to the church and garden when it was in use a remit was agreed for the suppliers: 

  • overall design as in this sketch
  • area 4 x 6m to 5 x 7m
  • area to be levelled out to create a flat base
  • memorial to be hard wearing and vandal proof
  • an area for quiet contemplation 

The parish council has agreed a budget and from three tenders a supplier has now been chosen and engaged for the work, which will need to be organised closely with local residents and Coombe Park. The memorial includes two benches and four planters.  The ground surface will be of concrete cast within a timber surround. Grants are being investigated for additional items such as an information board and a memorial cross. 

There is a get-together at the site to share the latest updates, plant trees and do some clearing in the garden at 2 pm on Saturday 21st March. All are welcome! 

Any photos of or information about the church and site that can be used to design the information board or to plan the celebration to "open" the site are most welcome. 

To find out more, get involved or share history and memories please get in touch with Alexa on alexa@ontherunhealthandfitness.co.uk or 07557 852600. 

The photo shows the derelict building in 2013, shortly before it was demolished.

Date/Time : Thursday, 27th February 2020 17:50

Concerns over parking plan discussed

A meeting of those opposed to the TAPAG proposals for 24 parking bays with double yellow lines took place last night, hosted by Carrie Leadbeater-Hart. 

Carrie reports as follows: 

“Thank you to everyone who came along to last night’s meeting, to discuss their concerns and suggestions with regards to the proposed Council/TAPAG plan for double yellow lines along the High Street.  It was a very positive and constructive meeting and we hope that the Council/TAPAG will listen and respond positively.  We have collated the discussions into three lists: 

Concerns, Suggestions and a Request for Information from the Council/TAPAG  

We would encourage the Council to respond via a group meeting for all concerned residents and to be open and transparent – we all love living in the Village and want to ensure that all residents’ needs are respected and met.  If anyone would like to get in touch please do – all comments welcomed – send me an email .”

Date/Time : Tuesday, 25th February 2020 20:02

Community Emergency Plan published

Over a dozen Whitchurch residents have been involved during the last year in the creation of a Community Emergency Plan for the village.  The 15-page Plan has now been published by the Parish Council.  It can be found by scrolling down the Parish Council page of this website to the appropriate section, or by clicking here.  

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue explains: 

“The purpose of the Plan is to ensure the village is prepared for emergencies and that action can be taken in a timely manner to minimise any negative impacts. 

The most likely scenarios foreseen in the Plan are:

  • Flooding
  • Roads/pavement blocked
  • Power cuts for an extended period of time

Actions are listed in the Plan to prepare for, and respond to, these scenarios. 

It is recognised that there is a broad range of other emergencies that we could face, but these are considered of lower probability, for which impacts are difficult to predict (e.g. contaminated water supply, spread of epidemic, extreme cyber attack, plane crash, nuclear/chemical incident).  The Plan would still apply to these scenarios, but specific steps would need to be determined at the time. 

One of the key elements of the Plan is a telephone tree list of Area Coordinators to assist communication with residents in every street or area of the village.  I will act as the overall emergency coordinator and initial point of contact for news of an emergency from OCC, SODC or other sources and will then cascade this information to the Area Coordinators. 

The Plan has been sent to the Emergency Coordinators at both Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council. 

Hard copies of the Plan are available on request.  Please email me or one of the other contacts in the plan with any questions.” 

Further information is given by Jim in this list of five steps that are to be taken in order to be prepared for Emergencies.

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd February 2020 18:53

TAPAG replies to comments on parking scheme

TAPAG has responded to the points made by several residents, following the informal consultation in the Old Stables, in the news item “Parking proposals challenged” and in recent posts on the message board. 

“TAPAG would like to thank everyone for all the feedback we received to last week’s informal review of the recommended approach to ease traffic and create more orderly parking in the High Street, which is seen by over 90% of respondents to the Village Plan as being a priority item for the Parish Council to resolve. 

The main focus areas have been to ease dangerous pinch points at the narrows and junctions, improve traffic flow whilst reducing frustration and ensuring adequate parking is still available for our residents. In addition, reducing poor air quality featured highly to many, especially those with young children.  TAPAG has always tried to look at the bigger picture, including all roads and verges as well as pedestrian safety in the village not just the High Street as there is little point in just moving the problem elsewhere. To this end we received support from the Parish Council to hire a professional consultancy to assess the situation, analyse the painstaking work on speeding and parking surveys over nearly 3 years, and provide a proposal that can be taken through an official process to implementation. Their view was we needed to stop parking in certain areas and better organise the parking in other areas so that, instead of cars being spread out all the way up the street and pavements, they are arranged in groups to provide places to pass. Our regular surveys of the parking in our village reveal that there are rarely more than 24 cars parked in the high street at any one time.  We fully realise that this means change, and may mean more to some than others, but we have done our best to ensure this was not unreasonable. 

There seem to have been a few misunderstandings and the statement that we have informal approval without a public consultation is incorrect.  Our consultant recommended that we discuss the proposal with the Highways Officer before formal submission.  The officer made some amendments and suggestions, after checking drives and sightlines, to which we have received informal approval.  The next step, which is not mandatory, was to have an informal public consultation for people to air their views. The final step is for the Parish Council to make a formal request to OCC to implement the plan which would lead to a formal public consultation.  All of this was well documented in the bulletin and on the website notifying residents of Saturday’s forum. The “exit poll” from Saturday’s informal public consultation showed five not in favour, one of whom favoured no parking at all and 50+ in favour not including Parish Council and TAPAG members. 

All the points raised in the objectors’ posts can be countered with a logical response although many are setting hypothetical scenarios. Furthermore, no positive alternatives are offered to improve traffic flow, get order into the parking and restrict car-parking on the High Street by commuters.  A Residents' Parking Scheme for the High Street is the aim but is governed under the authority of SODC.  TAPAG is already in discussion with our councillor.  It is the intention to continue to press ahead with getting approval for this once the existing parking spaces have been controlled.

 The information shared on Saturday is just the first phase and there are still discussions taking place about parking for residents.  However, if we do not make a start the traffic situation will not improve.  With increased building north of our village, and the problems with congestion and parking in Pangbourne, it will only get worse.  These measures can start to make a difference. 

TAPAG, 15th February 2020”

Date/Time : Sunday, 16th February 2020 09:27

Parish council news

At the parish council meeting on Thursday Hanna Ferguson was co-opted to fill the remaining seat on the council.  Hanna, who has worked in Kenya and Myanmar on United Nations development programmes, has been resident in Whitchurch with her husband and two sons for several years.  The parish council is now rich in its diverse origins, which embrace Switzerland, Finland, Canada and the USA, as well as the UK. 

In other matters, the council resolved to object to the current planning application for Eastfield House on a variety of grounds: bulk, un-neighbourliness, traffic generation, inadequate parking, flooding/sewerage, access in a school cul-de-sac, the existence of more suitable uses for the building and a long history of planning creep. 

Budgets were agreed for two items in the recently published Village Plan: the creation of a Polish Church memorial area at the north end of Manor Road and the commissioning of a Conservation Area Appraisal for the village.  It was agreed to have the damaged brick pillar at the corner of Manor Road rebuilt.

Date/Time : Saturday, 15th February 2020 14:46

Parking proposals challenged

A group opposing the Parish Council’s proposal to remove all parking from the High Street, apart from 24 spaces, is to meet at Hawthorn Cottage on Monday 24th February at 8.00 pm. 

Carrie Leadbeater-Hart explains: 

“The purpose is to urgently discuss our concerns and to raise a formal objection to the plans (which according to the Council have been informally approved already by the OCC Highways Officer - without formal consultation!!) 

Our initial concerns are: 

  • No provision for Residents Parking,
  • No provision of centrally located village car park - therefore:
  • Increased parking on Eastfield Lane (school road with many child pedestrians),
  • Increased parking on Manor Road,
  • Increased parking on Hardwick Road,
  • Increased parking by toll bridge approach,
  • Increased speeds along the High Street,
  • No widening of pavements to protect pedestrians,
  • The Parish Council’s spend on what is ultimately a flawed plan that will not improve safety. (Estimated £10k that could be spent on public buildings/pavements etc). 

Any queries to me at Caroline.78@btinternet.com.  All are welcome to the meeting.” 

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th February 2020 13:40

Traffic scheme passes its first hurdle

Members of the Traffic and Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) were busy at The Old Stables on Saturday afternoon explaining their proposals for dealing with the traffic situation in the village. 

Visitors were able to examine a plan of the High Street showing the proposed locations of 24 parking places and the double yellow lines.  The parking places are in five groups, all on the same side of the street: below the Picture Gallery 4; near The Little House 3; near Whitchurch House 2; near Mallards 8; near The Greyhound 7.  It is expected that the double yellow lines will be of the narrow type sometimes used in conservation areas to reduce the visual impact.  

Afterwards, a spokesman for TAPAG said that the vast majority of the 50 visitors who signed the attendance sheet were in favour of the scheme.  Of the small number against, all except one called for the immediate introduction of residents’ parking. 

In recent years car owners from outside the village have been parking in the High Street to avoid Pangbourne’s parking restrictions and charges, whether they are shopping there or taking a train to Reading or London.   TAPAG has also come across cases of cars parked while their owners take a train from Pangbourne to Heathrow for overseas trips lasting several days. 

TAPAG explained that the proposed scheme cannot initially favour residents over non-residents.  But the scheme will later be modified to introduce Residents Only parking once SODC has received delegation of responsibility for policing of parking, which is under active discussion. 

Regarding traffic speeds, once the scheme is in action TAPAG intends to re-examine the feasibility of a 20 mph limit and possibly other calming features in the High Street and elsewhere.  A degree of urgency is suggested by information from David Maynerd that parked cars near his house Mallards have been written off by passing vehicles in four collisions over the last two years.

The parish council is now expected to submit the TAPAG proposals to OCC Highways, after which there will be a formal public consultation before the road markings can be painted.

Date/Time : Monday, 10th February 2020 10:12

Meeting to discuss the Village Emergency Plan

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue says: 

“I am organising an Emergency Planning meeting at 8 pm on Wednesdy 29th January in the Ferryboat Inn – everyone in the village is welcome. 

A draft Village Emergency Plan was developed as part of the Village Plan work in December 2018 and has now been updated. 

The plan looks at the key risks and actions we can take as a village for scenarios such as flooding, roads blocked, power outages, if someone has a heart attack, etc. 

One of the key areas we need volunteers for is Telephone Tree contact for various streets of the village.  We need points of contact to coordinate with local residents that may be affected by the emergency, in particular those residents that may be particularly vulnerable.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 26th January 2020 14:10

Consultation on traffic and parking, 8th February

The Parish Council’s Traffic and Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) has been working in association with Mode Consulting and Oxfordshire County Council to find a way of improving traffic flow through the High Street while still providing car parking for residents.  The proposals were discussed at the Parish Council’s November meeting (see Minutes, Section 10, on the Parish Council page).  The next stage is an informal consultation on the proposals, which will be held on Saturday 8th February between 2 and 4 pm in the Old Stables. 

TAPAG has made this announcement: 

Traffic and Parking 

As many of you will know, from your contributions to the Village Plan, traffic and parking are the main issues concerning residents of our village. 

The Parish Council tasked the traffic advisory group with trying to find a solution. A consultant was engaged and meetings with OCC Highways undertaken.  A plan to get more order into the parking and improve traffic flow was submitted to OCC and, with a few minor tweaks, provisionally approved by the Highways Officer. 

The next step is for the village to hold an informal consultation with residents to gauge opinion before submitting a formal request to OCC.  At this point a formal public consultation will take place at a cost of over £3000 which will be borne by the Parish Council. 

It is important that as many people as possible attend this informal consultation to give their opinions both from a positive and negative perspective.  Members of TAPAG will be on hand to answer questions and explain reasoning and interpretation from the flow and parking diagrams which will be on display. 

The meeting date is Saturday 8th February between 2.00 and 4.00 pm in Old Stables.  Please make a note in your diaries. 

TAPAG, 20th January 2020

 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 22nd January 2020 16:42

Relatives of RAF airman sought

Five young RAF airmen died in May 1940 when their bomber hit the ground near the village of Brissy-Hamégicourt in northern France.  A commemorative celebration is planned by a French association ‘Mission Fraternité 2020’ for 23rd May this year and relatives are invited to attend.  The organisers have tried to contact relatives of all the five airmen and have succeeded with four of them.  But they have failed to trace the family of Pilot Officer Dennis Frederick Stanford HOLBROOK (pictured), who was 20 when he died. 

During the war Dennis Holbrook’s parents and sister were residents of Whitchurch (address: “The Lynches, Whitchurch, Near Reading” according to the National Archives).  The Whitchurch Web has received a request to help find the Holbrook family, in the hope that one or more family members will be able to attend the event, which is expected to attract 400 or 500 people.  

The emailed request from Sami Thellier, president of the association, from which above information comes, is here.  If you can offer any information he would very much like to hear from you.  His email address is shown in the attachment.  Alternatively, contact the News Editor.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 15th January 2020 18:41

Remembering Rosemary Prater

Rosemary, wife of Leslie Prater, died peacefully at home on New Year’s Day, aged 77.

After living in Goring for 44 years she and her husband moved to Whitchurch in the autumn of 2013.  Shortly after the move she was diagnosed with cancer, which she fought bravely for six years. Rosemary will be sadly missed but fondly remembered for her dedication to her family and for her enthusiasm and love for her garden.

A funeral service will be held on Monday 27th January at 1 pm in St Thomas of Canterbury Church of England, Goring, followed by a reception at Goring & Streatley Golf Club.  Please contact Leslie on leslie.prater@btinternet.com if you would like to attend.

Date/Time : Sunday, 12th January 2020 14:12

Eastfield House planning application, again (UPDATED)

Ross Healthcare of Stoke-on-Trent, owners of the derelict Eastfield House, have submitted a repeat application to demolish, rebuild and extend the care home, which they say is identical to their approved applications of 2013 and 2016. 

The document ‘Planning Support Statement, December 2019’ states that the application is ‘for the partial demolition of the existing care home’ but does not make clear which parts of the building would be retained.  The document ‘Photographs of Existing Buildings’ shows that the front elevation would be demolished and reconstructed. 

The large basement that was a feature of other applications since 2016 is not there.  The number of beds is 45 (existing 27) and car park spaces 14 (existing 9).  In the Application Form the number of beds is 43. 

The extensive documentation for this application, Ref P19/S4631/O, can be found on the SODC planning page, including the two documents mentioned above. 

If the application is successful and the consent is refreshed, it seems possible given the long planning history to date that further applications will follow. 

SODC will need to check whether the conditions they laid down in 2016 have been complied with and decide whether to accept the applicant’s contention that no Transport Assessment or Travel Plan is required.

The consultation period ends on 7th February.  Currently, the next scheduled meeting of the parish council is on 13th February, which suggests that an extension will be needed.

Update, 31st January 2020:  Mr Pasquale Nicosia has written to the Whitchurch Web to clarify two points in the above news item.  Here is the letter, dated yesterday: 

“I am writing on behalf of the applicant in reference to your article dated 11th January 2020 in relation to the planning application for Eastfield house. 

You correctly say the planning application form states the number of beds as 43, this is incorrect and the form has been amended with the LPA to state the correct number of beds which is 45. 

The application is for a partial demolition and this is clearly indicated in the application plan ‘Floor Plans Existing (Demolition)’  drawing  number 433-009, however you were correct to point out the ambiguity in the Supporting Document ‘Photographs’ which incorrectly stated the front  elevation was to be demolished and rebuilt. This is not the case and the document has been corrected and resubmitted to the LPA.” 

The above letter, together with the drawing referred to, clarifies that less than half of the existing building would be demolished under the current application.  The main part of the building, nearest to Eastfield Lane, would be retained.

Date/Time : Saturday, 11th January 2020 18:47

Coombe Park fence design to be scrapped

The agents acting for the owner of Coombe Park have proposed to submit a new fence design to South Oxfordshire District Council, following the barrage of objections to the installation last year of high security 2.4 m high spike-topped steel palisade fencing along the Hartslock Bridleway.  

Earlier this week the agents asked for the parish council’s view on the following:

“We would like to propose that the fence alongside the driveway (to the rear and adjoining the village hall) remain at 2.4m but that it be of timber palings, rather than the palisade fencing as currently proposed. Having read the Parish Council’s comments in respect of the most recent amended plan, we understand that this is a design which you may find acceptable.

We would also like to propose that the fence along Hartslock Bridleway also be amended to this design, so with timber palings fronting onto the bridleway in place of the current design making it very similar to the original fence. The fence would be sited on the same line as the original fence as was agreed with South Oxfordshire Rights of Way Officers as being clear of the bridleway (the previous fence having been granted planning permission in July 1984 under reference SO/S/262/84).“

Parish chairman Jim Donahue reports that this proposal was discussed at Thursday's meeting of the parish council and supported in principle, though an official response will have to await a close look at the revised application when it is submitted.

Date/Time : Saturday, 11th January 2020 15:03

Hardwick on Channel 4 this Wednesday

A Channel 4 team spent a day recently filming at Tolhurst Organic on the Hardwick estate for part of a documentary to be shown this Wednesday 8th January at 10 pm.  The programme is presented by George Monbiot (pictured), an activist who is critical of cattle farming. 

Eugena Tolhurst says:  “Our Whitchurch neighbours might like to see what we do here.  A large part of our work is educational.  We are the first farm in the world to set up and successfully demonstrate the Stock Free Farming model, with the first ever set of standards for attaining the stock free symbol.  Stock free farming is farming without any animal input, for the sustainable future of our planet.  Iain Tolhurst is an expert in this field and we now have groups coming from all over the world to learn about this method.” 

The programme title is “Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet”.

Date/Time : Monday, 06th January 2020 12:25

New Year’s Day walk

The founder Eric Hartley says it is the 13th annual New Year’s Day walk.  This year’s two-hour five-mile event attracted around 40 walkers and their dogs, who set off from the art gallery at 11 am today straight up the hill to Coombe End Farm.  From there they descended gradually towards the Hartslock nature reserve, where this photo was taken, and then back to the village along the Thames Path.  Here is a better photo by Jim Donahue.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 01st January 2020 18:26

Brown bins tell Christmas story

The artistic impulse in Whitchurch, temporarily bruised, has re-emerged in a High Street display of colourfully decorated bins.  The controversial boat disappeared in mid-November, preventing a planned Christmas display this year.  However, discussions in the Art Café among disappointed residents led to an alternative plan.  The display recycles the Christmas story with images of the holy family, wise men, shepherds and their flock. 

The next brown bin collection is on 16th January.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 24th December 2019 10:48

Muddy water puzzles High Street residents

After recent heavy rain a stream of water with the unusual colour of white coffee has been flowing down the High Street, causing some people to ask where it comes from.   A short walk up the hill above the narrows reveals the source of the pollution in the form of a pale brown stream passing under the wooden boundary fence of Foxglove Manor (picture) and flowing along the footpath down to the main road. 

Within the grounds of Foxglove Manor extensive earthworks can be seen, with long stockpiles of soil and of chalk from excavations.  It appears that rainfall is eroding these materials and washing them down to the village, where they are finding their way into the high street drainage system.   The quantity of material being carried may fill up the silt trap at The Greyhound, which is there to protect the Thames from polluted road runoff. 

Planning applications were submitted by the owners earlier this year for the construction of extensive terracing, a rebuilt pool and a sunken tennis court, all involving earthworks on the hillside.  The proposed layout was shown in a plan submitted in April.  The documentation indicates that the earthworks were to be done in the summer 'to minimise any unnecessary mud and disruption' and planning permission was obtained in September.

Date/Time : Friday, 20th December 2019 17:48

Village Plan 2019 published

After much hard work by many people in our community, the Whitchurch-on-Thames Village Plan 2019 has reached completion and is published today.  Improvements in traffic and parking and a new pavilion are two major strands of the Plan, as expected, but there is much more. 

To see the colourfully illustrated document, go to the new Village Plan webpage which offers links to the main volume and to its three appendices.  The page also offers a summary of the key actions. 

It is intended to make available a printed copy of the Plan for each household in the village. 

Jim Donahue, parish chairman, says "The Parish Council fully supports this plan and voted earlier this year to work to achieve implementation of all the recommendations.  We have a three year budget plan that supports these goals and indeed we initiated working parties and funding for many of these initiatives during these past two years, in particular for traffic and parking improvements, the new pavilion, and the village hall improvements." 

John Bradon, who chaired the Steering Committee of the Plan, says “I’d like to thank all those who contributed to the plan and have now started implementing it.  I hope everyone in the village will support the recommended actions – they are not controversial but it will be a challenge for a small village to get these things done”. 

It is ten years since the publication of the previous village plan in 2009.  Appendix 3 of the new Plan reviews the progress made towards achieving the 22 objectives of the 2009 plan.  

Date/Time : Tuesday, 17th December 2019 17:21

Carol singing this Saturday evening

Mulled wine and draught beer will be on sale at The Ferryboat Community Carol Singing on Saturday evening at 6 pm, in the car park.  A Brass Ensemble will set the musical tone.  All are welcome to come and sing at this popular annual event, first held in 2012.  The photo shows last year’s packed car park.

Here is the poster.  If the weather is wet the event will be held indoors.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 17th December 2019 10:01

Christmas greetings in many tongues

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

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

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

Graham Morfey, 1937-2019

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

Notice provided by the family.

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

Church packed for Christmas concert

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

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

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

There are photos in the Gallery.

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

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

Twist in the saga of the boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modest turnout for The Green Team

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

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

Alexa's photo shows the two stalwarts. 

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

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

Art & Craft Exhibition a great success

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

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

The complete list of winners can be seen here

Sally Woolhouse reports on the event: 

The 2019 Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sally Woolhouse (sally@wotarts.co.uk)

 

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

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

Parish council gains two new councillors

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will remember them

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

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

Get ready for the Art & Craft Exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the Green Team next weekend

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

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

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

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

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

History of Whitchurch finished

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coombe Park fence proposals modified slightly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An update from around the village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church clock restoration celebrated

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

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

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

Photograph by Jennifer Bruce.

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