Parish Council agrees support for 142 bus
Following the news that the 142 bus service will be reduced to two round trips per working day, the Parish Council agreed this week to provide financial support of £100 per month for a trial period of three months to Going Forward buses. Goring Heath Parish Council is also understood to have agreed a subsidy. It is hoped that this will enable the present schedule to be maintained.
At the same meeting on 10th July it was agreed:
to appoint Owens Galliver Architects, based in Pangbourne, to provide planning and design services for the new pavilion on the village green. Three firms had submitted offers.
to raise funds towards buying new kitchen equipment in the village hall. New windows and doors have already been ordered and are expected to be installed in August.
- to provide a picnic table and bench for the new Polish garden at the top end of Manor Road.
Date/Time : Friday, 13th July 2018 12:06
Look out for spiral totem poles in September
Last year the Whitchurch bridge was “yarn-bombed” in a hugely popular community art project. This year Gill Williamson, founder of the Art Café, has announced a follow-up in the form of Equinox Together. Colourfully decorated pottery cylinders made by local schools, community groups and individuals, will be on display on the Pangbourne river meadow, threaded on to spiral patterns of poles, from 15th September.
Date/Time : Monday, 9th July 2018 12:23
The 142 bus service is to be reduced
The 142 bus service from Goring to Reading and back, through Whitchurch, has not been attracting enough passengers. From 8th August the weekday service will be restricted to one round trip in the morning and a second in the late afternoon. The services between those times will disappear. However, on Saturdays the off-peak services will continue.
Mike Ward, director of Going Forward, says he is sorry that the route has not attracted anything like enough passengers and is running at a substantial loss. There are more details on the company's website. The changes are all subject to approval by local authorities.
The Henley Standard has a recent article on Going Forward bus services.
Date/Time : Tuesday, 3rd July 2018 14:58
Drafts of local history go online
For many years local historians have been putting together a detailed village-by-village account of Oxfordshire’s history. The Victoria County History website now has links to six draft texts, with pictures and maps, on the villages of the South Oxfordshire Chilterns. These include Goring, Gatehampton, Elvendon, Cray’s Pond and Goring Heath, including the Goring Heath Almshouses (picture).
The author is Simon Draper. Once this volume is published he will be turning his attention to Whitchurch Hill and Whitchurch on Thames. Vicky Jordan of the Whitchurch & Goring Heath History Society says that members of the society are looking forward to contributing to the project.
Date/Time : Saturday, 30th June 2018 14:22
Pangbourne granted possession order on meadow
Following the serving of a claim on the travellers who had moved their caravans on to Pangbourne meadow on 13th June, a court hearing took place yesterday, Friday 22nd June, at which Pangbourne Parish Council was granted a possession order on the meadow. This is expected to be enforced early next week at the latest, according to the Council.
Meanwhile, in Whitchurch, action has been taken to block the Eastfield Lane entrance to the village green. The entrance gate to Muddy Lane and the maze from Hardwick Road is also normally locked.
Reading West MP Alok Sharma has launched a petition to make trespass a criminal rather than civil offence, after various groups of travellers recently “settled on sites in Tilehurst, Theale, Calcot, Southcote, Coley and Prospect Park.” BBC Berkshire had a report on this yesterday. There is also a national petition of a similar nature here, which is over halfway to reaching the 10,000 signatures needed to ensure a government response.
Update, 25th June: Pangbourne Parish Council said this afternoon that eviction is expected tomorrow morning (Tuesday), following the serving by Sheriffs of the Order of Possession and the Notice of Enforcement. The travellers are said to have told Police that they have identified a "local" site to move to.
Further update, Tuesday 26th June: Police were on site this morning, after most of the vehicles had left. The few remaining travellers departed, reportedly in the direction of Reading, and a clean-up task now awaits the attention of the authorities. There are some photos in the gallery.
There is a report that the travellers have moved only a short distance and have now parked their caravans in the area behind Pangbourne Primary School, adjacent to Sulham Lane, where a fresh landowner will now need to start the legal process of obtaining an eviction order.
Date/Time : Saturday, 23rd June 2018 16:48
Travellers arrive on Pangbourne meadows
Several caravans were parked today on the Pangbourne meadows. One report said that the travellers had informed police they intended to stay for a week.
Update, 14th June: Parish council chairman Jim Donahue reported yesterday evening:
"I have just had a briefing from Rob Holden, Chairman of the Pangbourne Parish Council, and the situation is as follows:
- There are approximately 6 caravans.
- These are NOT the gypsies that were recently evicted from Theale and Englefield Estate who have been reported to be causing trouble locally. ("gypsies" is the term West Berkshire Council says should now be used.)
- These gypsies are from the Reading area, most recently from a Richfield Avenues site.
- The West Berkshire gypsy liaison officer’s advice is that these are not troublemakers if not provoked. The lock to the gate to the meadow was compromised but they deny breaking it.
- Rob notified them today that they are not welcome on the site as landowner of the site giving them 48 hours to vacate. Based on advice from WBC that they are not a particular threat, he has not gone down the route of serving legal notice yet which is a process that costs £8000 to initiate in West Berkshire.
- He is expecting the police to take action in the next few days and is hopeful that they will move on in a cooperative manner, but he will serve formal notice next week if the situation is not resolved. In this case they would have 1 to 2 weeks before being formally ejected."
The Reading Chronicle published an article on 14th June about current discussions between Pangbourne Parish Council, West Berkshire Council, the Police and the travellers.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 13th June 2018 19:06
Remembering Michael Screech (Updated)
Professor Michael Screech, who died on 1st June at the age of 92, had lived in Whitchurch with his wife Anne, at their house in Swanston Field, for more than half a century. He is survived by his wife, who is now in a care home, and by their three sons Matthew, Tim and Toby.
Michael Screech was born in Plymouth and served in East Asia during the Second World War, becoming fluent in Japanese. On return to England, he studied French and in time rose to the position of Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. His distinguished academic career centred on French literature of the Renaissance period, and he is best known for his translation of the Essays of Montaigne published by Penguin Classics. In 1992 he was made a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honour. He was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1994.
Michael and Anne moved to Whitchurch in early 1962 with their two young sons Matthew and Tim, and Toby was born shortly afterwards. Michael was Church Warden of St Mary's for many years, and played an active role in securing a primary school within the village in the mid-1960s. He was a parish councillor and a member of the Whitchurch Society. When the Hillside housing development was underway he sat in the trees, along with others, an action which secured the magnificent beech that spreads its branches high above Hardwick Road.
Thanks to Tim for providing information on his father’s life.
Update, 3rd July: A service of Thanksgiving was held in All Souls Chapel on Thursday 28th June. This was attended by almost a dozen past and present residents of Whitchurch in a capacity congregation of almost 100, including his former assistants Pam King, Sonia Wakely and Sally Horton. Learned Addresses were made by eminent academics and by Michael's three sons, Matthew, Tim and Toby, all brought up in the village. The service was jointly conducted by Dr John Drury, the Chaplain of All Souls, and by Rev. Richard Hughes, former rector of Whitchurch.
Date/Time : Tuesday, 12th June 2018 09:54
Discover St John’s – explore the church and churchyard
The Friends of St.Mary's & St.John's are holding an event at St John’s, Whitchurch Hill, on Sunday 17th June from 2 pm to 5.30 pm.
"It is open to everyone and is for all age groups." explains Keith Williams, chairman of The Friends. "There will be a Wildlife Trail in the churchyard, looking at butterflies, moths and flowers. There will be a History Trail for church explorers. The little church has an interesting history and there will be people there to explain it. Refreshments will be served across the road at Goring Heath Village Hall."
The event will be followed by a Cheese & Wine Evening at Goring Heath Village Hall from 6 pm to 8 pm. This is also open to all, with an opportunity to make a donation at the door.
Date/Time : Sunday, 3rd June 2018 15:24
Successful first sing-along for WotSing
Whitchurch’s fledgling community choir, known as WotSing, took advantage of the opportunity to let rip yesterday evening with some familiar songs such as Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music and the Beatles’ Hey Jude. Leader Graham Dednum drew promising sounds from an enthusiastic group, who were warmly welcomed by Geraldine Witcher to St John’s Church, Whitchurch Hill. She said the venue had been chosen for its well-tuned piano and good acoustics, emphasising that no one is required to read music or have any previous experience. They just need to enjoy singing.
Geraldine on piano and Leslie Maynerd on saxophone provided the accompaniment.
Graham and Geraldine said they hoped that more members of the community would come along to these friendly, monthly get-togethers, which last only an hour, including a refreshment break. The date and venue for next month will be announced soon. To express interest, send an email.
Date/Time : Friday, 1st June 2018 16:26
Mapledurham view spoiled by new fence
Eric Hartley was walking his dog through Bottom Wood on the Hardwick Estate on Saturday. He arrived at the edge of the wood, expecting to enjoy the well-known and delightful view towards the village of Mapledurham, and found that a new fence had been erected on the hillside, seriously affecting the view. He says he was most surprised and wondered why the Mapledurham Estate, owners of the land, had considered it necessary to fence the public footpath here. He is also concerned that more fencing may be planned.
Eric says he has written to the Estate, which is owned by Mr Jack Eyston, asking for a review of the need for a fence.
The location of the fence can be seen here.
Date/Time : Monday, 28th May 2018 11:01
Pedestrian safety at the toll bridge
Among the speakers at a well attended Annual Parish Assembly in the village hall on Thursday (24th May) was Whitchurch Bridge Company director Geoff Weir. He had two items of good news to report. First, the white railings on each side of the road on the Pangbourne embankment will soon be repainted. Second, a traffic calming scheme is to be introduced. The 20 mph limit in Pangbourne will be extended across the full length of the bridge to the toll booth, pro-active “Slow Down” signs will be installed and the rumble strip alongside the kerb will be reinstated.
However, many members of the audience expressed concern on learning that the Bridge Company’s plan to widen the road on the curving Pangbourne embankment, by which the footpath becomes a safer place for pedestrians, has no firm date for implementation. Also that the ‘walkway through the trees’ scheme put forward in 2016 is no longer favoured.
Geoff Weir said that it has turned out that the main difficulties for all these schemes are the potential impacts on trees and the absence of adequate records of accidents to pedestrians. Recent progress of pre-application discussions between the consultants Peter Brett Associates and West Berkshire Council is reported in the current Whitchurch Bulletin (viewable on this website) and on the Bridge Company’s website.
Members of the audience spoke of recent incidents involving pedestrians and wing mirrors that clearly demonstrated the hazardous conditions. Geoff said that the Bridge Company has asked for any such incidents to be reported immediately at the toll booth. Vague reports are not enough to convince the planning authorities that the safety benefits of a scheme outweigh the harm to the landscape. Even the detailed spreadsheet of 16 incidents to named people submitted by TAPAG in 2011 is considered anecdotal evidence. Signs have been displayed at the bridge since 2012 requesting written reports.
Parish council chairman Jim Donahue expressed his unhappiness with the slow progress on a widening scheme.
Date/Time : Sunday, 27th May 2018 10:16
Up the hill for the Whitchurch Hill fete this Saturday (UPDATED with a report)
It seems that there is no definite news yet about a Whitchurch-on-Thames fete this year, but those who want to make sure of not missing the experience will be most welcome at the Whitchurch Hill fete which starts at 2 pm this Saturday 26th May on the recreation ground next to St John’s Church.
Organiser John Gray says "The Fete will have a Concert Band, Tea Tent, Bar, Children's Races, Fairground Attractions, a Raffle with excellent prizes, Coconut shy, Punch & Judy Show, Ferret Racing, Tombola, Dog Agility Show, a wide range of Stalls and the legendary Egg Throwing at the end. Plenty of free Car Parking at the Castrol Car Park - drive up the hill and you'll spot the Car Park Signs."
One of the stalls will represent the Whitchurch & Goring Heath History Society. Vicky Jordan says that the Society’s range of local history books will be on sale and there will also be a treasure map.
The Whitchurch-on-Thames fete has been successfully organised for several years by successive groups of parents at the Whitchurch Pre-School. Last year it was held in early September. Parish councillors are currently trying to clarify whether something can still be arranged for this year.
Update, 27th May. John Gray reports:
The Fete went very well, good weather helped bring a large attendance and an enjoyable day was had by all. Whitchurch-on-Thames was well represented, with visitors both to the event and stalls. The Pre-School and Primary School had their own stalls, as well as local Societies (History, Twinning, Allotments). Peter and Sally also had the popular 'Clockwork Jukebox' in action, playing some Classic Jazz. And a particular thanks to Graham at The Ferryboat for his continued support for the event and his always generous Raffle Prize - the lucky winners will be enjoying an excellent meal there soon!
AND... don't miss this video of the fete made by Nick Brazil.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 23rd May 2018 16:41
Hole in High Street wall finally under repair
It is nearly nine months since a reversing Range Rover created a large hole in the 250-year-old brick wall of The Walled Garden House, opposite The Greyhound, on 28th August 2017. But a bricklayer employed by insurance specialist Roywood Contractors of Tilford, Surrey, is now nearing completion of his careful rebuilding of the ancient wall.
The bricklayer, who has forty years of experience, points out that the impact coincided with a curved feature known as a ‘horse’s nape’ where the level of the top of the wall changes. He needed to remove this suspended portion of the wall before starting the rebuild. But fortunately he has been able to re-use most of the curved bricks, which would have been difficult to replace.
The owner of the wall, Stan Remington, says he understands that the work has been delayed by the insurers in order to avoid any risk of frost damage. The rebuild is being done using lime mortar to match the original. The wall is three courses thick and some of the inner bricks are lighter in colour. He is confident that in time the repair will not be obvious, though he thinks it will take a few years for the colour of the rebuilt area to darken and match the existing wall.
Date/Time : Tuesday, 22nd May 2018 19:57
Sun shines on wedding celebration (Updated)
The tea party on the village green in celebration of the Royal Wedding on Saturday went with a real swing provided by the Roy Bailey Big Band and drew many outdoors after the TV coverage of the wedding. Union flags decorated the gazebos and would have fluttered, given half a chance on such a warm, still afternoon.
Two young members of John and Lissie Steward’s growing flock of Zwartbles sheep stole the show for many children (photo).
Yesterday parish council chairman Jim Donahue thanked Lissie Steward for her role in getting the event up and running and for helping to bring in the many volunteers who lent a hand on the day. He said: “I know that none of it would have happened without your leadership and initiative. Thank you for all your hard work. It is volunteers like you that help us create a sense of community in our wonderful village.”
Nick Brazil has produced a three minute video of the event, to the mellow sound of the RBB band. This includes Leslie Meynerd on alto sax.
Don’t miss Jim Donahue’s display of photographs of party goers, which can be seen here.
Update, 1st June:
The Henley Standard has written an article about the party.
Date/Time : Monday, 21st May 2018 09:42
Community singing date announced
The first get-together of the new Whitchurch singing group WotSing will be in St John’s Church, Whitchurch Hill, on Thursday 31st May from 7.30 to 8.30 pm.
Clare Donahue and Geraldine Witcher are hoping for a big turnout and say that those attending can expect to enjoy singing some well known numbers from musical shows: “We hope that WotSing will be a truly community-run choir, drawing on the diverse skills of our amazingly talented residents. We really look forward to meeting you on 31st and to sharing our mutual passion for music and singing.”
All are welcome. The poster can be seen here.
Date/Time : Thursday, 17th May 2018 17:59
Whitchurch friends take on Jurassic coast challenge
The team of six walkers is Trudi Benzie, Beth Baxter, Fiona Ackworth and Angela Sidhu, all from Whitchurch, together with Anna Cao from Whitchurch Hill and Gill Sefton from Reading. They are in training already, preparing to take on the challenge of a 62 mile walk on 21st-22nd July. The charity they are supporting is Diabetes UK.
"The team is taking on the adventure of the Jurassic Coast Challenge, a stroll along the wonderful Jurassic coast of a mere 100km from Poole to Bridport straight through, stopping only for water, food and perhaps a couple of loo stops! Starting our epic challenge at 7am on 21st July, we’re aiming to come over the finish line, possibly in time for breakfast on the 22nd, but definitely in time for the pub opening!
The team has been training hard, with at least 1 walk a week, movement workshops with Running Reborn and, to date, 2 long training walks of 50 and 57km. Endless kit discussions have taken place, many a blister had and plenty of nice breakfasts and coffee consumed.
This epic challenge is being taken on in aid of Diabetes UK - please read Beth’s story on the JustGiving page. We'd welcome your support and Diabetes UK would love the cash should you wish to sponsor us. Oh and just for the record, normally at around 45km some of us actually run out of conversation!!"
Date/Time : Tuesday, 15th May 2018 11:31
New Parish Council chairman
At the Parish Council meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Jim Donahue was elected chairman. The outgoing chairman, Councillor Keith Brooks said:
“I have enjoyed my role as chairman for the last three years; it has been an honour and a privilege to serve the village and I intend to continue my work as a councillor; I wish Jim success in his new position. “
Chairman Jim Donahue made this statement this morning:
“It is an honour for me to be selected as chairman of the Parish Council in our wonderful village. I will do my very best to ensure our Parish Council is working effectively to support the needs of Whitchurch on Thames.
I'd like to thank Keith Brooks, our outgoing chairman, for his past 3 years in the role. He has worked tirelessly as chairman, most recently tackling the new village grass cutting and maintenance contract in addition to the Village Hall refurbishment improvements. When there are things that need to be done in the village, Keith is always the first one to roll up his sleeves with a couple of volunteers and get things done, whether it is repairing the broken windows in the Village Hall, a broken gate on Muddy Lane or installing a new fence in the Polish Garden (which I understand he is doing today).
We have dedicated and passionate parish councillors here in Whitchurch on Thames and I am sure that we will continue work well together, and grow stronger as a team, to achieve our ambitious agenda for the coming year; this includes improvements to the Village Hall, starting work on the new Village Green pavilion, and supporting the development of our updated Village Plan.
I am looking forward to working with Rachel Hatcher, our new vice-chairman with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating on the Village Plan. Rachel is also leading a team of residents to find solutions for the long standing traffic and parking issues along the High Street.
Councillors Dave Bowen, Denise Huxtable and Sarah Hanfrey and our now well-established clerk Felipa House are, I am sure, no strangers to you. I am confident that our Parish Council will be one that can deliver for our community.
Finally, I'd encourage each resident to have a look at the document recently developed by the Village Plan team that lists all the improvements we have made to the village over the past eight years as a result of the 2009 Village Plan. I am very proud of all of the things we have accomplished as a village but I am also aware that there is still much to do."
Date/Time : Thursday, 10th May 2018 12:37
Jazz Night at the Old Stables this Friday (Who
Local group Wotjam started up three years ago and they rehearse every Friday morning at The Old Stables. All are welcome at their Jazz Night, 7.30 to 10 pm, Friday 11th May at The Old Stables, opposite The Ferryboat. The £5 entry includes a drink and nibbles. All welcome - no need to book.
Leslie Meynerd says the group will be showcasing a selection of numbers worked on this year, in an informal jazz club atmosphere.
Update, 15th May:
Those playing on the 11th were:
Date/Time : Saturday, 5th May 2018 14:16
Football club parents and children get to work
Whitchurch Football Club made a successful effort last weekend to improve the condition of the football pitch on the village green.
Alistair Aitchison reports:
On Saturday afternoon we had around 20 parents from the football club come with their children for the annual spring work party.
We re-turfed the goals, re-set and painted the goals, re-hung the nets, seeded the worn turf areas, cut the grass around the goals and nets, marked out the pitch and put a manhole cover over the new tap.
It was a great event and the pitch is looking much better as a result. Thank you to the parish council for their excellent support.
There are photos in the Gallery.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 2nd May 2018 08:35
Dr Oppenheimer retires
After more than 32 years as a GP at the Pangbourne Medical Practice, Dr Matilda Oppenheimer retired yesterday.
An ‘Open House’ farewell was held at the Boathouse Surgery for all her patients and friends and a large number called in to say goodbye and thank you.
Joanna Knott, Chair of the Patient Participation Group, says:
For many of us it was a very sad day as she has been the most wonderfully kind, caring and capable doctor and her cheerful smiling face will be much missed by her patients. Not only has she been an excellent GP but she has also led the Practice extremely well, making the Boathouse Surgery one of the best in the country.
To recognise all that she has done for patients in Pangbourne and the surrounding villages, the Patient Participation Group commissioned a watercolour painting of the Boathouse Surgery viewed from her home village of Whitchurch, which was presented to her at the farewell event.
In expressing her thanks, Dr Oppenheimer said it had been a real privilege to be let into people’s lives and she would miss working with her many patients.
Date/Time : Sunday, 29th April 2018 14:10
Youths leave trail of painted graffiti (six CCTV images added)
On Sunday morning (22nd April), scribbles were found painted on various walls and other surfaces in Pangbourne and Whitchurch, including the toll bridge.
Around 9 pm on the previous evening a group of about six youths, some with rucksacks, were seen near the bridge, before a car (possibly a grey Chrysler Grand Voyager) picked them up at the toll booth.
Anyone who can offer information on the graffiti damage is asked to phone 101 and report it to PCSO Mark Bell.
The photo shows the bridge being pressure-washed only eight days ago. Bridge director Geoff Weir said the contractor would be returning next Wednesday to try to remove all the marks.
Update, 26th May: Six CCTV images were made available by the Bridge Company today showing pedestrians crossing the bridge shortly after 9 pm, who might be able to help police with their enquiries.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 25th April 2018 15:34
Volunteers wanted for churchyard tidy-up
The Friends of St Mary's & St John's are holding a churchyard work session at St Mary’s on Saturday 21st April from 10 am until about midday. Tim Suiter says that volunteers will be most welcome – just turn up and bring tools suitable for trimming shrubs or trees. Afterwards you will be rewarded with a free tea or coffee and a delicious slice of cake at the Art Café.
Date/Time : Monday, 9th April 2018 15:32
Majesticare to make Eastfield House more secure
Steve Oakes, Director of Majesticare, has today written an open letter to the residents of Whitchurch and asked us to publish it:
Eastfield House Care Home
Following the public consultation held at Whitchurch Village Hall in March, we have taken the opportunity to review the feedback received from the many attendees on the day. We are grateful to everyone who attended and those who completed a comment form. We received a wide range of feedback and are reviewing its content in detail to assess how and where elements can be incorporated into the proposals. We were encouraged by some of the very positive and supportive responses received on the evening, though we respect the fact that others were opposed to the plans as they currently stand.
A very clear message that came out of the consultation was concern about anti-social behaviour associated with the site. Whilst we have previously invested in secure fencing to secure Eastfield House we recognise that this has not been as effective as we would have wished. Therefore, we are taking further steps to secure Eastfield House. These include:
- Securing and boarding up remaining accessible windows
- Installing CCTV with remote monitoring to deter intruders
Whilst this work is being done we have also instructed the contractors to undertake a tidy-up of the site to address concerns raised about the current visual impact. We will make sure to continue to keep the community updated on progress.
Once again, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in the consultation and share their views on the proposals. We remain committed to working with the community to deliver a scheme that will be a real asset to the village.
Date/Time : Friday, 6th April 2018 15:09
Work on beech hedge to benefit wildlife
Further efforts are being made towards recovery of the beech hedge near the school that featured in our item of 7th January (“The beech hedge that got away”). Here are photos taken before and after the tree-cutting, and of recent work.
Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs reports:
A Corridor for Wildlife: A small working party has now strengthened the line of the hedge by using some of the cut brushwood across the gaps. It is hoped this will both allow the healthy growth of new shoots to fill those gaps and in due course encourage wildlife. We have left several openings for going in and out, and are optimistic that the children will understand the value of helping us regenerate areas of habitat for wildlife. At home time the schoolchildren who stopped by to help us showed great interest in what we were doing and why.
Date/Time : Thursday, 5th April 2018 10:04
School to hold Open Forum on 18th April
Whitchurch Primary School is currently facing a financial challenge, caused by a reduction in funding at a time when costs are rising. Chair of Governors Eleanor Sugrue and Head Teacher Dawn Chesters say that there are several options on how to proceed and have written to parents and members of the local community inviting them to discuss the choice. An Open Forum will be held at the school at 7 pm on Wednesday 18th April for this purpose.
The letter says: “Understanding your preferences, concerns and how we can harness the collective support of the community will enable us to make the best budget decisions for the school.”
Read the full letter here.
Date/Time : Friday, 30th March 2018 16:39
Volunteers clean up the village
Date/Time : Sunday, 25th March 2018 15:22
Village Tea Party on 19th May
To celebrate the Royal Wedding on Saturday 19th May all Whitchurch residents are invited to a tea party on the village green. The well known Roy Bailey Big Band, expected to be 19 strong, will be playing between 3.30 and 5.30 pm. Come along with all the family and enjoy the music together with tea, biscuits and cakes.
Having a village party to celebrate Harry and Meghan’s wedding was the idea of Lissie Steward (Reed) and Leslie Maynerd. It will follow the successful format of the parties for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the Queen’s 90th Birthday in 2016.
All those attending will be expected to bring either a cake or a plate of biscuits to be shared with others. The tea will be provided without charge but a small donation towards the Pre-school will be happily accepted.
Volunteers will be needed for various tasks, including:
- Setting up the marquee and chairs for the band
- Setting up gazebos and tables to protect the cakes from the sun.
- Decorating the marquee and gazebos with bunting and flags (even an American flag or two?)
- Serving the tea (in shifts of half an hour)
If you can lend a gazebo for the day that will be much appreciated.
Volunteers are asked to contact the coordinator Lissie Steward on 07751 789 107. She looks forward to hearing from you.
The photo above shows some village residents enjoying the Diamond Jubilee tea party in 2012. There are more pictures in the photo archive under the dates 25.6.12 and 12.6.16.
Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd March 2018 10:57
Unusual auction sale of a field and two bungalows (UPDATE: field is sold for £153,000)
Three Whitchurch properties have been simultaneously placed on sale by Savills National Auctions, London W1. They are a field of nearly two acres with a long River Thames frontage and two bungalows, all of them reached from the private road at the east end of Eastfield Lane.
The auction takes place in less than two weeks time, on Monday 26th March, in London.
The location of the 1.89 acre riverside field, to the south of the primary school, can be seen in the picture above. The guide price is £75,000. Details
Also situated to the south of the primary school are the two bungalows: a 3-bedroom bungalow in a 0.3 acre plot and a 2-bedroom bungalow with 2.8 acres of land.
All three properties are understood to have been bequeathed to the National Trust by Whitchurch resident Joan Hope, who died in 2015 at the age of 95. She was born in Whitchurch and lived in the village all her life, inheriting several properties. She had no heirs. (See our news archive item of 16th February 2015 for more about Joan Hope.) It appears that the National Trust has now decided to capitalise on the gift.
Update, 27th March 2018: At Savill’s auction yesterday the riverside field sold for £153,000, more than double the guide price. The identity of the new owner is not known. The bungalows also exceeded their guide prices, selling at £570,000 and £675,000.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th March 2018 15:11
Abandoned car still obstructing traffic (UPDATED)
The crashed car hindering the flow of traffic and abandoned with one wheel partly on the pavement near the entrance to Church Drive was reported to the Police by a High Street resident on 8th March. The Police said they had been in touch with the owner who told them it is not drivable and the insurance company will come to collect it.
Today, six days later, the grey Ford Fiesta Zetec, GP52 MXH, is still in the same location and continues to cause an obstruction to traffic, particularly in the rush hour. At yesterday’s parish council meeting PCSO Mark Bell was asked if he could possibly do something to have it removed.
Further up the High Street there is another car, partly on the pavement, which may also be abandoned and has been reported to police. It is another greyish Ford Fiesta Zetec and appears driveable.
Parish Chairman Keith Brooks said “It’s bad enough having so many cars parked along the High Street nowadays. We certainly don’t want any abandoned ones adding to the traffic difficulties.”
Update, 15th March: Caroline Leadbetter-Hart clarified today that the crash happened on 28th February at 11.15 pm and she spoke to the driver and passenger who were not injured. It appears that the Police PCSO who visited on 8th March decided that the car was not causing an obstruction, which is a surprising decision, and in that case it may be up to OCC to remove it.
Update 20th March: The car has been removed, nearly three weeks after the crash.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th March 2018 13:19
Coombe Park plagued by unwanted visitors
It seems that the recently reported painting of graffiti on the Coombe Park gates in Manor Road is not the only problem on the estate this year.
Richard Krupinski lives in a house in Coombe Park and is a brother-in-law of Martyn Deaner, the maritime services entrepreneur who used to own the 125 acre estate, which was bought by a London property company in 2015. Mr Krupinski said last week that there had been an influx of intruders earlier this year after word went round about the empty mansion. This happened several months after Coombe Park had gone on sale for £10 million last October and after a Henley Standard article in December.
Last year there had been occasional instances of people trespassing on the estate, he said, but in January he was surprised on one occasion to find 20 or 30 young people in the mansion's conservatory. They turned out to be members of a loosely organised group who share information about breaking into derelict buildings, taking photographs inside and publishing them on websites. The group is called 28 Days Later, or 28DL, after a 2007 post-apocalyptic film in which survivors wander abandoned streets pursued by zombies.
He said he had spoken to one young woman who said she had visited many interesting sites and had recently flown to Majorca to photograph the interior of a disused hospital. Destruction of property does not seem to be the aim of these people, he said, though a skylight window had been broken in an attempt to gain access to the boarded-up building. He thought most of the intruders were teenagers.
Mr Krupinski said that initially the Police had responded but later they had asked the property company to provide its own security. In recent weeks the entrance gates in Manor Road have been padlocked and security personnel have been living on the estate, which is still advertised for sale, providing 24 hour cover.
With its variety of rooms, Coombe Park seems to be highly rated by young 'explorers'. Mr Krupinski thought the graffiti on the gates might have been painted by 28DL enthusiasts, alerted by information on their website, hoping to visit the property but frustrated by the padlock. Though the painted graffiti featured swastikas and ‘NF’ marks, he understood that police did not think there was any political significance.
Update, Monday 12th March:
There have been two more intrusions despite the presence of security personnel and electronic devices. Last Thursday, smoke rising from a chimney led to the discovery of young people drinking brandy and burning one of the fitted cushions in the fireplace of one of the grand rooms. On Saturday two middle-aged men and a younger person were exploring the property with the aid of a drone and a cine camera. In both cases the intruders were escorted off the premises and the police informed.
Date/Time : Monday, 12th March 2018 09:26
Plans for Eastfield House presented
There was a big turnout in the village hall on Thursday to see Majesticare’s latest plans for their Eastfield House care home. Eastfield Lane residents, parish councillors and many others came to find out what the owners were planning to do about the empty and decaying Victorian building, which has been subjected to intruders and vandalism. Representing Majesticare were: Roger Pratap and Steve Oakes, directors and sole owners; Pasquale Nicosia, head of development; and Emma Fielder, manager of the company’s care homes in Henley and Wargrave.
There is now a long trail of planning history. In 2010 Majesticare submitted plans for a large extension at the rear of the existing building, increasing the number of bedrooms from 27 to 45. This was refused by SODC but the company successfully appealed in 2013.
In 2015 Majesticare submitted two new sets of plans, involving an increase to 50 bedrooms. The first involved the complete demolition of the existing building and the construction of a replacement for it, together with the new rear extension. The second was similar but with the existing historic facade preserved in its position while the rest of the building was demolished and rebuilt behind it. Both these applications were refused by SODC.
On Thursday Majesticare presented another set of plans and answered questions. There is the same rear extension as before and a complete demolition of the existing building. The proposed rebuild (architect’s image above) is intended to copy the existing architectural shape and materials of walls, roof and chimneys, and would aim to re-use the stone surrounds of windows and entrance door, and the stained glass window. The western end of the existing building would incorporate a larger, modern entrance. The ground floor would be slightly lower than at present to reduce the steps up from ground level. A larger basement would be excavated than in earlier plans, enabling three more en suite bedrooms to be added at higher level and pushing the bedroom count up to 48. The basement would accommodate the kitchen, laundry, staff changing room, hair salon, therapy room and cinema.
Reactions from those attending varied from acceptance to outright rejection. Some asked whether a distinguished Victorian building located in a Conservation Area and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be allowed to be demolished and rebuilt. Majesticare now have an opportunity to consider the comments written on their questionnaires before they apply for planning permission. They say that if permission is granted they would envisage re-opening the home in 2020.
There will be the usual opportunity for formal comments to be submitted to SODC once an application has been submitted and the consultation period has started.
Meanwhile, there has been active discussion of the issue on Facebook.
Updated 19th March: a PDF of Majesticare's exhibition boards can be seen here.
There is a Henley Standard article dated 19th March here.
Date/Time : Saturday, 10th March 2018 10:45
Coombe Park gates defaced with blue paint
Sometime on Monday night vandals attacked the locked gates leading from Manor Road into Coombe Park, spraying blue paint on the brick pillars and on the iron gateposts. Police have visited and examined the site.
Anyone with information that might help the Police with their enquiries is asked to phone 101 and report it.
Parish council chairman Keith Brooks said today that PCSO Mark Bell is planning to attend the parish council meeting next Tuesday evening when vandalism, and what to do about it, can be discussed.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 7th March 2018 18:01
Whitchurch Primary School’s high standard recognised
Headteacher Mrs Dawn Chesters has received a letter from Rt Hon Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, congratulating her, the staff and pupils of Whitchurch Primary School on their very high standard of achievement in reading and mathematics in last year’s SATS assessments.
The letter states: “Your school’s results, as published on 14 December, show that 100% of your pupils reached or exceeded the expected standard in reading and mathematics at the end of key stage 2. This means that your school is in the top 1% of primary schools in England for attainment in reading and mathematics.”
Date/Time : Friday, 2nd March 2018 18:34
Jerry, Denise and the Academy Award return from Hollywood
Jerry Huxtable is now back at work after a once-in-a-lifetime trip. His wife Denise says “We had a great time and the awards ceremony went very well. It was held at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, which is the 'Pretty Woman' hotel in Beverly Hills, and hosted by Patrick Stewart. We had time for sightseeing after the ceremony and especially appreciated the summery weather.”
Here are photos showing the Huxtables and actor Sir Patrick Stewart in the grand ballroom of the hotel for the 86th annual Academy of Motion Pictures Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards earlier this month.
As mentioned in our news item of 13th January, Jerry was one of five people jointly cited for their contributions to the design and development of the Nuke compositing system, which has become the most popular visual effects toolkit in the film industry.
Following that news item, the Henley Standard contacted Jerry and wrote a comprehensive article, which can be read here.
Date/Time : Monday, 26th February 2018 09:22
Owners have new plans to demolish care home (UPDATED)
Many people have expressed concern at the deterioration of the empty Eastfield House care home, sometimes used as an adventure playground last year before the owners Majesticare fenced it off and the police put up signs.
Earlier this month Majesticare attended a meeting at SODC offices in Didcot together with parish council chairman Keith Brooks and district councillor Rob Simister.
Keith Brooks was keen to emphasise how concerned many Whitchurch residents are about the deterioration of the building, one of the finest old houses in the conservation area of the village, and about the apparent lack of any action.
Majesticare said that they would shortly be presenting new plans. These would again involve demolition of the existing building and the construction of a new one. They would like to show the new plans to the village before making their next application. The company believes it can persuade residents that this is the best solution. No date has yet been set for a presentation. (See Update below)
In January 2015 (our news item of 10.1.15 gives the letter in full) SODC refused outline planning permission for demolition and rebuilding of the care home, giving three reasons:
1. The building is of historic and architectural importance.
2. The new north elevation overlooks neighbouring properties.
3. Insufficient information was presented on groundwater and sewage flooding risks.
It has been suggested that VAT regulations may be a factor that the company has to take into account as the tax is generally payable on a conversion but not on a complete rebuild. However, HMRC apparently allows one façade to be kept where required by planning permission, without incurring VAT.
Update,1st March: A public exhibition will be held by Majesticare on Thursday 8th March in the Village Hall, from 4 pm to 8 pm, to show their plans for the care home and to answer questions.
Date/Time : Saturday, 24th February 2018 16:58
Resignation from Parish Council creates vacancy
Carrie Leadbeater-Hart has resigned from the Parish Council, citing work and family commitments. She said “The council are doing a fantastic job and I’d encourage anyone who is passionate about our community to get involved.”
Parish Council chairman Keith Brooks commented: “I am sorry that Carrie is leaving the Parish Council. We will miss her very much as she has been involved in many of our projects, particularly with getting the new pavilion project off the ground. We all wish her and her family the best for the future.”
Information on the vacancy and details of how to apply to become a Whitchurch parish councillor can be found here.
Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd February 2018 10:50
‘Mill of a thousand secrets’
Some of our local historians will be aware that in the 1960s the Whitchurch Mill housed a secret product development unit run by wartime inventor John Dolphin, after whom the Adventure Dolphin Centre in Pangbourne is named.
Roger Wright worked with John Dolphin in the development team for three years and is now retired and lives near Greenwich. He has sent us a fascinating old magazine article, which he recently discovered, describing some of the work they were doing.
It begins: “On one of the loveliest reaches of the Thames – far removed from the noisy clatter and grime of tube mills – stands the Mill at Whitchurch, Oxon, headquarters of Tube Investments’ hush-hush Product Development Unit. …The sleepy, dreamlike atmosphere of the Mill as seen from the nearby toll bridge can be misleading. … Come inside and you will find a compact, highly skilled team at work translating often revolutionary ideas into practical products.”
The three page article Mill of a thousand secrets appeared in the Tube Investments company magazine of May-June 1967 with a cover photo of the building (above).
The article reveals that in the 1960s Whitchurch was at the cutting edge of electric car development. The Mark II version of the Tube Investments car had a range of 50 miles and a speed of 25 mph. Roger’s job included road and track testing of the prototype but the little electric car never went into production.
The article brings new insights to the history of The Mill, now a private house, and adds to the story on our About the Village page.
Date/Time : Sunday, 18th February 2018 18:05
Visit Normandy by luxury coach this May
La Bouille survived the recent River Seine floodwaters unscathed. Now Vicky Jordan, chairman of the Whitchurch and Goring Heath Twinning Association, has announced the details of this year’s visit:
“Our visit to La Bouille is fixed for 4th to 7th May, and our hosts are encouraging us to come with as many people as possible. We will have a luxury coach leaving Whitchurch at around 9am on the Friday, and we return about 10pm on Monday 7th.
It’s our 40th year of twinning, so apart from staying in a delightful town on the banks of the Seine, we will be entertained at the Town Hall and have a special dinner together in the village hall. Our Sunday visit will also be a special one. We will go to Giverny, to see Monet’s garden, his house, and of course the water lilies – if they aren’t flowering, the wisteria on the Japanese bridge will be.
The more people we have the cheaper it will be, but it won’t be more that £200, and children travel free.
So, come and celebrate with us.
We will be holding a “Tea Café” at The Old Rectory Stables in Whitchurch from 3pm to 5pm on Sunday 25th March where we will offer free tea and cake, a chance to meet some twinners, as well as information on the trip. In the meantime, you can express interest on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 0118 984 3260.”
There is more on the flyer.
Date/Time : Monday, 12th February 2018 18:17
Join in the nation-wide Spring Clean
Parish council chairman Keith Brooks says:
“It's just three weeks until the Great British Spring Clean, set for the weekend of 2nd, 3rd and 4th March. Now is the time to add your tidy-up to the map and show the world you're part of something big!
Be part of this fantastic event and meet outside the Greyhound at 10 am on Saturday 3rd March to clean Whitchurch on Thames. Gloves, pickers and refuse sacks will be provided.”
The Great British Spring Clean is a campaign organised by the registered charity Keep Britain Tidy. Its aim is 'to bring people across the country together to clear up the litter that blights our towns, villages, countryside and beaches'.
Date/Time : Friday, 9th February 2018 17:33
Village Plan meeting next Wednesday 7th
Village Plan chairman Jim Donahue is encouraging residents to take an active role in planning Whitchurch's future. He says...
“We are having our next Village Plan team meeting this Wednesday 7th February, 8 to 9:30pm at the Old Stables. We will be discussing progress by the four working groups that were recently established. New participants and anyone curious about what we are doing are welcome to attend.
Topics we will be discussing include:
- Traffic and parking issues
- Plans for village facilities
- Plans of open spaces and pavements
- How community activities could be improved
- Progress on the last Village Plan Action Plan
We still need volunteers to help us with things like developing a survey to get feedback from the village, organising consultation sessions, and with skills in writing the final document including graphic design and publishing.”
The recently installed new village sign (pictured above) came in for criticism from those who thought it looked a bit odd to have the support poles protruding at the top. Jim Donahue asked OCC to correct their installation but little seemed to be happening. So he asked County Councillor Kevin Bulmer to encourage them and last week an OCC contractor came to shorten the poles. The sign now looks like this.
Date/Time : Saturday, 3rd February 2018 14:50
Twin town La Bouille is braced for River Seine flood
Paris has been experiencing unusually high flood levels in the River Seine, as seen on the news recently. Our twinned community of La Bouille is situated on the Seine downstream of Paris, where the river cuts through chalk hills near Rouen in Normandy. Earlier this month its inhabitants were hit by high water levels, coinciding with high tides. And now they are preparing for the arrival of the peak of the flood that has recently affected Paris.
Vicky Jordan, chairman of the Whitchurch & Goring Heath Twinning Association, has sent a note of sympathy to Martine Cousin, Presidente of the La Bouille Twinning Committee.
To see a video of the recent Seine flood in La Bouille, with a backdrop of huge ships gliding past the town, click here. Scroll past the story about a body discovered in the river to the video entitled “Près de Rouen: La Bouille sous les eaux de la Seine”.
This year it is the turn of the residents of Whitchurch and Goring Heath to visit their opposite numbers in La Bouille. The event is planned for the weekend of 4th to 7th May. If you would like to join in, contact Vicky.
The Twinning Association AGM is tomorrow (Wednesday 31st) at 7.30 pm in The Old Stables.
Date/Time : Tuesday, 30th January 2018 15:35
Party suggested for royal wedding day
At its meeting this month the parish council discussed the idea of having a celebratory event on the village green on Saturday 19th May to mark the wedding at Windsor Castle, on that day, of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Parish councillors are keen to know what people think of the idea. Dave Bowen says: “The format could be similar to previous events with a picnic on the green, a band playing some music and people generally having a good time. It would be great to hear people’s ideas and especially hear from people who would like to get involved in helping to organise an event like this.”
Dave can be contacted by email or on 07531 600 888. Or comments can be sent to the message board.
Date/Time : Saturday, 27th January 2018 16:40
Two more village signs installed
Parish chairman Keith Brooks reports on the completion of the project to have new village signs at each of the three road approaches:
“Today we had the remaining two new signs installed in the village. I liaised with Mark Matthews from Kingdom Signs who produced and installed the signs, which include the design derived from those produced by the pupils of Whitchurch on Thames Primary School and an acknowledgement of our twinning with La Bouille in France. The signs were paid for by the Parish Council and are part of a long term project to identify areas of the village which need updating and by addressing these needs we can ensure that Whitchurch on Thames always appears smart and well looked after.”
Date/Time : Thursday, 25th January 2018 19:37
New traffic calming scheme for toll bridge
The Whitchurch Bridge Company has found that the cost of its preferred scheme to widen the Pangbourne approach road is higher than expected and has decided, for the time being, to extend the 20 mph speed limit in Pangbourne across the length of the bridge.
Company Secretary Geoff Weir stated today:
“Our engineering consultants Peter Brett Associates (PBA) are still engaged in pre-application planning discussions with West Berkshire Council on our preferred option C2 for widening the Pangbourne approach road, as described in the October Bulletin. Estimated costs are higher than expected and we will be looking at ways to reduce these, as on present estimates we could not afford to do the works before 2020.
We have therefore decided to proceed immediately with a traffic calming scheme which will join up with the Pangbourne 20 mph zone to give a clear and continuous 20mph speed limit from the Toll Booth, over the Bridge and along Whitchurch Road into Pangbourne. We expect the scheme to include new 20 mph signs at the Toll Booth, a tidying up of the signage at the boundary of the Pangbourne 20 mph zone outside the Boathouse Surgery, proactive “Slow Down” signs, and the reinstatement of the roadway rumble strip alongside the Pangbourne approach road footway kerb.
These works do not require planning permission, but do need approval from West Berkshire Council Highways Department. They have already confirmed their support in principle, and PBA are working with them to finalise the details. We hope to complete these works by the autumn.”
Further information is available on the Bridge Company’s website.
During 2017 the Bridge Company looked at the feasibility of Option D, the concept of a ‘path through the tees’. This idea had been put forward by village resident Jean Bull as a way of taking pedestrians safely away from the hazardous curved part of the approach road, and was outlined in our news item of 7th December 2016: ‘Support grows for walkway through trees’. However, it is understood that Option D has turned out to be more expensive than Option C2. PBA’s report on the feasibility of Option D, which includes drawings, can be found on the Bridge Company’s website.
Date/Time : Friday, 19th January 2018 14:34