Update on the new Village Pavilion

The chaiman of the Parish Council has given an update on the proposed position of the new pavilion on the Village Green.
Keith Brooks says:-"Having  applied for planning permission to demolish the existing pavilion and replace it in exactly the same spot, with a new one, on the village green, we were told that ‘the new pavilion would be well inside the root protection area of protected trees so that construction could cause significant root damage to these important trees.’
We are therefore moving the pavilion to a new site which will avoid trees with protection orders and large trees that could cause subsidence. The new position is indicated on diagram shown here with the new site on the right hand side and the old buildings on the left.
We would like to hear what the village thinks about this new position and so if you have any comments please email our parish clerk by the 1st November."

Date/Time : Monday, 16th October 2017 17:37

Pangbourne Loos re-opening celebrations

Tomorrow (Saturday 30th) at 11 am the Station Road Loos will be ceremonially re-opened, with people invited to gather at 10.30, a press call at 10.45 and tea, coffee and cakes available afterwards in the car park. All are welcome.

Charity trustee Rosie Nurick is seen here with fellow trustee Antoinette Solera, fund-raising at the Whitchurch fete this summer. 

Rosie says that the Action for Pangbourne Toilets Community Trust is being watched by many other communities as this is the first time in Britain that a local group of volunteers has taken over the responsibility from a local authority for running a public convenience.  Around the country many such facilities have been locked up and are out of use as councils search for economies. 

Whitchurch parish council made a contribution of £750 earlier this year to the APT Community Trust (more in news archive, 21st February 2017).

Date/Time : Friday, 29th September 2017 12:38

Neighbourhood Plan shelved

The parish council has voted to postpone developing a Neighbourhood Plan and has decided to update the 2009 Village Plan instead. 

Parish councillor Jim Donahue, chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee said yesterday: “It was felt that the village would get more benefit in the short to medium term addressing issues that we can directly influence such as traffic and parking, the future of our community facilities, and planned improvements to our infrastructure and open spaces such as the Village Green. The goal will be to complete a new Village Plan by the end of 2018. Neighbourhood Plan activities that focus on housing allocation and future development policies will be put on hold until the Village Plan is completed.” 

Jim says that the various consultations carried out in the past two years will feed into the new plan and that the members of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee have all expressed interest in contributing to the Village Plan.  He will be leading these activities and setting up a working group and steering committee structure. 

 Anyone interested in getting involved should contact Jim.  He says that one area where volunteers are particularly needed is for planning improvements to the Village Hall. 

The 2009 Village Plan can be seen here - its 22-point action plan is on page 21.

Date/Time : Sunday, 24th September 2017 11:43

Buzz Aldrin visits Whitchurch

On Saturday evening Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, visited The Ferryboat for dinner along with some friends in the village.  Landlord Graham Dednum, pictured here with him, gave the former astronaut a very warm welcome, as did staff members and other evening guests.

Date/Time : Monday, 18th September 2017 17:53

Old wooden boat – Update: Boat offered; some help is now needed

After reading this news item, a trustee of Beale Park got in touch with Leslie Maynerd and has kindly offered a choice of several old boats.  Now Leslie is looking for some help at 10.30 am on Saturday 30th September to clear the area where the boat will be placed. (Update, 15th September)

If anyone has an old boat tucked away in their garden and would be happy to donate it (or even sell it) she would love to hear from them.  Or perhaps they know of someone else who might have one.  Leslie can be contacted at 0118 984 5513 or by email

Some examples of boat planters installed elsewhere can be seen here

Leslie is looking for volunteers to help clear the left hand area in a few weeks' time and would be grateful for offers.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 5th September 2017 17:52

Concern about further ‘Yellow Peril’ incidents

One topic is currently dominating conversation around the village and on the community Facebook page.  That is whether the village is now safe from further damage by the yellow Range Rover from Manor Road whose driver has caused two serious wall collapses in the village within five weeks. 

Among the questions being asked are: Did the police interview the driver after each of the wall collapses?  Was the driver breathalysed or given a warning?  Is the driver, who is understood to have mobility problems, safe behind the wheel? 

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks said today: “The parish council is of course concerned about the welfare of residents but this is primarily a matter for the police.  When I contacted the police after the first incident I was told that there was little they could do in the absence of an injury to a person.” 

Keith said that the topic will be discussed at the parish council meeting on 12th September. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 2nd September 2017 12:28

Does Whitchurch have a patron saint?

Commander Allen Gardiner of Coombe Park, Whitchurch, was a naval officer and missionary credited with founding a community that became the city of Durban in South Africa.  He later made strenuous attempts to bring Christianity to indigenous people in Bolivia and Chile before he finally died of starvation in Tierra del Fuego in 1851 just a few weeks before a relief ship arrived.  His reputation as a Victorian hero was such that the Anglican Calendar marks 6th September every year as Allen Gardiner Day. 

To find out more about the career of this unusual man, come to St Mary’s Church at 6 pm next Wednesday 6th September.  His memorial is on the wall of the church.  There will be a brief service followed by a talk.  All welcome.

Date/Time : Thursday, 31st August 2017 16:47

Village resident gains unexpected view of pub

Police rang the doorbell of The Walled Garden House in the High Street yesterday evening (Bank Holiday Monday) at around 10 pm and told Stan Remington that a vehicle had knocked a big hole in his wall opposite The Greyhound.  The police had cordoned off the adjacent footpath in case of a further collapse of the brickwork. 

According to unconfirmed local reports the vehicle was the same yellow Range Rover that destroyed a brick pillar and wall at the Manor Road junction last month (News item, 18th July). 

Stan says that his damaged property was once the garden wall of Walliscote House and is around 250 years old.  It is Grade II listed and he hopes a repair can be done successfully.  About 15 years ago there was a similar but less severe incident, he recalls, after which the full height of wall had to be demolished before repairs could start. 

Further up the High Street today, work was continuing on rebuilding the Manor Road entrance pillar and wall.  See picture.  Bricklayer Terry Stacy of Val Build Group, Southampton, said he was re-using as many of the original bricks as possible, after removing the old mortar, and adding reclaimed bricks from elsewhere to get the right match.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 29th August 2017 15:09

The Village Fete is this Saturday 2nd September

Pony rides, climbing wall, giant inflatable maze, orchestra, barbecue, cakes, tea, proper coffee, Pimms, Prosecco, waffles, strawberries and cream, beer tent…..  Have lunch there!  Craft stalls, Art Café, community group stalls, there’s even an RSPB display.  Tug of war, hobby horse gymkhana, grand prize draw…..  there’s lots for all ages.  The Whitchurch Village Fete is on Saturday 2nd September from 2 to 5 pm on the village green. 

More information here on what to expect at this year’s Fete.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 22nd August 2017 10:30

Help needed checking Hartslock sheep

Hartslock nature reserve, situated about a mile from the village along the bridlepath to Goring, has a flock of Shetland sheep helping to manage the habitat by grazing on the chalk hillside. There is a rota of local volunteers who take it in turns to visit the sheep daily to check that all is well.  Currently there is a need for some extra help at weekends. 

Read more about it here.  No previous experience is needed.

Date/Time : Friday, 18th August 2017 13:41

Bench damaged on village green

The wooden bench at the top end of the village green has been vandalised.  Keith Brooks, parish council chairman, discovered the damage on Tuesday this week when he and a plumber went there to install a new tap for the football club. 

 Keith said: ‘”We found beer bottles strewn everywhere and damage to the bench which the village had paid for.  This could not have been an accident as substantial force was needed.  Also the broken off pieces had been thrown around.  I recently painted all the benches and they were in good order.  I wish whoever is doing this would cease.  The incident has been reported to the police and we will be keeping a close eye on the village green, which was also the target for vandalism last week when a pavilion window was broken”.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 16th August 2017 11:21

Superfast broadband in Whitchurch

Claire Hutchins-Lee of the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme has written to the parish council to report on progress with superfast coverage.  The report includes details and a map of the services provided so far in Whitchurch.

She says: As we move into the closing phases of the programme, it is important to let us know if the information provided is incorrect in any way and if there are any areas in your parish, which to your knowledge, remain without superfast broadband coverage already installed or planned for installation. 

The general view is, that with some 73,000 premises enabled by the programme so far, we are on track to achieve above 96% of premises having access to superfast broadband by the end of next year and are now dealing with truly small conurbations of less than ten premises. 

However, we still have the means of addressing gaps either on a fully funded or partly funded basis, so feedback from you or directly from parishioners would be very welcome.”

She can be contacted by email here.

Date/Time : Monday, 14th August 2017 11:04

Parish council chairman drives community bus

Yesterday the chairman of Whitchurch parish council, Keith Brooks, climbed into the driver’s seat of the 142 community bus and made four round trips from Goring to Reading and back, via Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill.  Some months ago he had put his name forward following a request for residents to volunteer their services as occasional reserve drivers.  On Tuesday he received a phone call from the manager of Going Forward Buses to say the regular driver was unwell and asking if he would be available. 

Keith says: “it was quite an experience.  I started at 7 in the morning and finished at about 5 in the afternoon.  I met various passengers, some of them going to work, some going shopping in Caversham, others shopping in Reading.  One group were taking the bus to Beale Park.  I would like everyone in the village to support the service.  Why not take a trip into Reading and back from time to time?  There are plenty of spare seats.  Let’s all try to use our community bus!”

Date/Time : Thursday, 10th August 2017 20:14

Sportsman seeks to help Nigerian children

Peter Ferguson of Swanston Field is a former rugby player with a new mission.  Some years ago, when he was working for an oil company in Nigeria, he started up a scheme to bring rugby to deprived youngsters in Lagos.  British coaches visited and helped train locals.  Peter used to obtain second-hand rugby kit from schools and take it to Nigeria, much to the delight of the children.  After a while Nigerian junior rugby teams visited the UK. The coaching model, which was later introduced by Peter in Sierra Leone and then by Peter’s son William in Kenya, has been successfully developed and broadened over a number of years.  Many children have benefited.  In Nigeria, Peter says, “some gained international honours in rugby, some gained university places and others joined the police force which has a very creditable rugby side.” 

Recently Peter was contacted by his trusted friend and former colleague Emeka Ukome (above, with Peter) who asked for his help in setting up a similar venture in a different part of the country. He is now involved in helping to establish the Niger Delta Rugby Foundation, which will run a life skills programme that encourages sporting and academic achievement regardless of religious belief among deprived children in the troubled Niger Delta region.  A rugby tournament is being held in October and it is hoped that international players will support the venture. 

Peter is looking for sponsorship for the Foundation from companies with links to Nigeria, from rugby clubs and from schools.  There are also expected to be opportunities for individuals to become Friends of Niger Delta Rugby in due course. 

If you know anyone who might be able to help find sponsorship for this venture, then Peter would love to hear from you.  He can be contacted on 07557 383 634 or by email here.

Here is a photo of some of the younger children in their donated shirts.

Date/Time : Monday, 7th August 2017 10:53

Amphibious cars slip into Thames unnoticed

On Thursday this week at around 10 am a procession of amphibious vehicles rolled down the High Street.  When they reached the bridge they were guided by three marshals wearing fluorescent jackets towards the ramp next to the toll keeper’s cottage and into the water.  The leading car churned a path through the lilies on the mill pool and the flotilla then motored down the river towards Mapledurham lock. 

The unusual event was witnessed by few Whitchurch residents but was clearly planned well in advance by the European Amphibious Car Group.  The group meets in a different country each year and their 2017 gathering has brought them to this country. The owners of over 60 amphibious vehicles from around the world have enjoyed a week in the Thames Valley, sightseeing in and out of the water. 

For a flavour, watch the brief BBC video here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 5th August 2017 14:39

Eastfield House attracts wrong age group (UPDATE: new incident)

The boarded-up Eastfield House is attracting the attention of teenagers, according to a resident of the village who became aware of a break-in yesterday evening. 

At 8.30 pm yesterday a dog walker heard a window being smashed and saw three teenage boys wearing hoodies in the grounds of the empty care home.  He called out and the three disappeared, possibly through private gardens towards Swanston Field.  About fifteen minutes later, three boys of a similar description were seen on small BMX bikes on the High Street.  A second witness, who had called the police, said he attempted to speak to them but they were keen to make off towards Pangbourne.  They were white, two with shortish blond hair and similar appearance, who might be brothers, and a darker haired youth.  He estimated their ages as 15, 14 and 11ish. 

It seems the youths knew the area and its shortcuts well.  It is suggested that people with properties backing on to Eastfield House be vigilant. 

When the Police arrived the youths had gone. If anyone has information that could help with enquiries they should phone 101.

Update, Saturday 29th July:   Further visitors.  Last night at about 9 pm Eastfield Lane residents were alerted by noises coming from Eastfield House and reported seeing a group of people apparently trying to break in at the back.  The visitors then made off at speed towards Pangbourne.  The vehicles were a white van and a silver Honda Civic (reg R151 MMO).  A neighbour had seen the car and van occupants acting suspiciously in the vicinity and called the police.  Within minutes the community police arrived but did not see the individuals.  Local residents wondered whether the two incidents could be related.  The care home owner Majesticare has been informed and asked to make the building more secure.

Date/Time : Thursday, 27th July 2017 18:21

Friends’ first concert announced

On Saturday 23rd September from 7.30 pm the Roy Bailey Big Band will be playing the music of Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and others. The concert will be held in St John’s Church, Whitchurch Hill, with a drinks bar in Goring Heath Parish Hall across the road.

This is the first fund-raising concert of The Friends of St Mary’s and St John’s, the charity set up last year to support the maintenance and preservation of the two churches.

Tickets at £10 each are available from: Kit Marriott 07813 948448, Lizzi Steward 07751 789107 or Tim Suiter 07930 490808.  Early booking is advisable as seating is limited and tickets are already selling.

The Roy Bailey Big Band will be familiar to many from their brilliant performance on the village green last summer – here is a refresher video.

Like to become a Friend? – find out more here.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 26th July 2017 20:28

Relics & Monuments in Whitchurch

Peter Hawley’s book on Whitchurch history Relics & Monuments has been re-issued, with extra chapters, and at the same price, eight years after its first appearance.

Vicky Jordan tells us more:

The new edition retains the many articles which throw light especially on the people of the past. Here is Sir John Soane, architect of the Bank of England; Allen Gardiner, naval captain and missionary; John Simeon, MP; the many distinguished Whistlers; Robert Grey, Governor of the London Foundling Hospital. There are two extra chapters on the tenants of Whitchurch House, and an intriguing Whitchurch mystery. Moreover, it is a good read, told in erudite but conversational style, as facts are tracked down and myths exposed. In the Introduction the author speaks of acting as Watson to Robert Noble’s Holmes as he helped with the articles published in the Bulletin in the 1980s and 1990s. Now he is Holmes.

Relics & Monuments, new edition 2017, by Peter Hawley is available at £7.95 from the Whitchurch & Goring Heath History Society or tel 0118 984 3260.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 19th July 2017 14:31

Care home not being cared for

The Eastfield House care home is boarded up and becoming overgrown with vegetation.  Attempts to find out what plans the owners have for its rebuilding or re-opening have not resulted in any clear picture, according to this article in the Henley Standard this week.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 18th July 2017 18:03

Historic wall knocked down (Updated)

Sometime on Sunday evening or night (16th July) a vehicle collided with one of the massive brick pillars at the entrance to Manor Road from the High Street, bringing it crashing to the ground together with a substantial length of the curved wall beside it, between Lower Lodge and the red telephone kiosk. Shards of mustard-yellow paintwork on the ground near the point of impact with the pillar suggest that the vehicle may have been that colour. The vehicle appears to have been travelling into Manor Road from the High Street.

The curving brick wall forms part of the grand bellmouth entrance to the original Coombe Park estate.

Nearby resident Peter Hawley says he recalls at least one similar incident about twenty years ago and he thinks the district council undertook the repairs then.  But since that time he understands that the parish council has taken over responsibility for the verges of Manor Road.  Whether the wall now belongs to the parish council, the district council or the owner of Lower Lodge, whose doorway is now obstructed by the rubble, is not clear.

Update, Wednesday 19th July:  PCSO Mark Bell confirmed today that the incident had been reported to the police and that the identity of the driver was known.  

Date/Time : Tuesday, 18th July 2017 11:16

Progress on pavilion plans

Consultation in recent weeks on proposals for a new sports pavilion on the village green has resulted in some changes to the design and location that were put forward in the planning application in late May.  Carrie Leadbetter-Hart, project manager on behalf of the parish council, summarises the current situation: 

“The outline planning application has been withdrawn, as SODC felt we had enough detail in our proposal to go directly for Full Plans - this will save us the fees of £385 and also time.  The full plans will cost £770, but SODC have agreed to move to offset the fees already paid. 

Secondly - following the feedback I have received from SODC, Sport England, The Forestry Commission and villagers - two issues became apparent:

1. The new Pavilion will need to be sited 9m away from mature trees.

2. The lack of showering facilities were seen as a concern. 

The showering facilities were a sticking point, as there wasn't enough space within the existing floorplan without significantly reducing either the changing rooms or the main social area.  However, a very wonderful patron has stepped forward in the form of Leslie Prater.  Leslie is passionate about supporting sports within the village, particularly in encouraging youngsters and has committed to fund the additional space required!  Therefore removing this barrier - Thank you so much Leslie!  

I have spoken to SODC and Sport England about increasing the floor space by 15% - they do not have an issue in principle - however I will need to put a case together discussing how this additional space will be used to encourage diversity in sport.” 

Carrie says that a satisfactory new location has now been found for the new building that complies with the rule on distance from trees.  This is in front of the existing mound of earth in the south-east corner of the village green.

The formal responses to the application from the Forestry Officer, from Leisure South and others can be seen on the SODC planning page here.

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th July 2017 18:11

New village sign on the way

Arrivals crossing the bridge from Pangbourne will soon be welcomed by a new village sign.  It will be displayed together with a new Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty sign. The two can be seen here. 

The new sign is the result of several months of consultation by the parish council, including a design competition at the primary school resulting in six finalists, followed by feedback from residents who voted on the designs in a survey in The Bulletin and feedback from parish councillors. 

Parish councillor Jim Donahue, manager of the project, explains: 

“The final version was developed by Caroline Widdop, a professional graphic artist and mother of a child at Whitchurch primary school.  She was also responsible for the final coat of arms design for the primary school.  Caroline is volunteering her time for this project and is now working with sign makers on the final stages.  We hope the new sign will be in place by the end of the summer. 

There will initially be just one new sign, located at the village entrance by the bridge, to keep the costs down.  It is expected to cost approximately £1000.  Signs at the village entrances from Whitchurch Hill and from Hardwick Road were not considered to be in such need of refurbishment and the entrance by the bridge is considered by most people to be the grand entrance to the village as well as the edge of the Chiltern Hills. 

The current sign is damaged and slightly crooked and the old Chilterns AONB sign was removed a number of years ago as it was faded and vandalised.  We think this new sign will be a much more suitable entrance to our lovely village and show visitors how proud we are to live here.”

Date/Time : Friday, 30th June 2017 14:30

Remembering Anna Scanlon

Anna Scanlon, who moved into her Hardwick Road house in 1962, died aged 92 on 6th June 2017.  A memorial service will be held on Tuesday 4th July in St Mary’s Church, Whitchurch, at 3.15 pm. 

Her four children have provided this note on her life and an invitation to the memorial service: 

Anna Scanlon, a familiar Whitchurch resident for the past 55 years, passed away peacefully aged 92 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital on Tuesday the 6th June having been taken ill the previous day. 

Anna was born in Hawick in the Scottish borders in 1925 where she met and married Martin during the war whilst he was posted there with the Royal Ulster Rifles to train for the D-Day landings. 

They moved to Birmingham after the War before moving with the family to Whitchurch in the early 1960s and purchasing one of the newly developed properties in Hardwick Road. 

Having added a fourth child to the coop in the mid 60s, she returned to work as a PA for organisations in Henley and Pangbourne, including a stint for Michael Heseltine MP during the 1970s. 

Both Martin and Anna were active members and familiar faces in the community, particularly if you happened to venture into one of the local hostelries. 

Anna was a past member of the local WI and especially well known in the village for her “Paddy’s Market” stall at numerous village fetes, ever popular cricket teas complete with home-made scones, legendary open-door New Year’s Eve parties with trademark “Turkey Curry”, and willingness to welcome and chat to all comers at the Greyhound, Ferry Boat and/or Working Men’s Club. 

Even very recently she could still be found from time to time in her usual spot at the bar partaking of a wee dram of Scotch whiskey or a half of Guinness and regaling those around her with tales of yore. 

A committal at West Berkshire Crematorium will be followed by a memorial service to celebrate her life at St Mary’s Church on Tuesday the 4th July at 3.15pm. Everyone that knew her is welcome to attend, especially if you bring your singing voices, and it would be helpful if anyone planning to attend could let us know via email so we can gauge numbers. 

Funeral arrangements are being handled by A B Walker (Reading) and donations in lieu of flowers can be made to The British Red Cross via  

We look forward to seeing you on the 4th July. 

Patsy, Fiona, Mike and Paul 

The photograph shows Anna at The Greyhound in 2012.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd June 2017 15:00

Fact-finding on High Street parking

Residents of the High Street will soon receive an important questionnaire.

In the last year there have been seen some angry confrontations between northbound and southbound drivers in rush hours.  The main reason appears to be increased numbers of parked cars, which turn a two-way road into stretches of one-way without rules of priority.  Families with small children are finding the road riskier to cross because parked cars make it difficult for them to be seen by drivers, some of whom are hurrying to get through gaps.  Many residents believe that some of the parked cars belong to people seeking to avoid Pangbourne parking charges and the bridge toll. 

What are the facts?  The Traffic and Parking Action Group (TAPAG), consisting of two parish councillors and four other residents, wants to obtain firm information and then investigate solutions. This week they are distributing a letter and questionnaire to every property on the High Street in an attempt to find out the parking needs of each property and to enable them to distinguish cars of residents from those of others. 

Parish councillor Rachel Hatcher said that she very much hopes that all High Street residents will cooperate on this project by completing and returning the questionnaire by Sunday 9th July.  She also invites those not living on the High Street to submit a response if they wish, by emailing her here.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd June 2017 12:59

Second Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend held

The second Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend took place in Whitchurch, Shropshire, a week ago.  The Sunday Times published a detailed description of the event and its origins in this article in yesterday's issue (11th June).  Except for Hampshire, which held the first event two years ago, participation by the other 12 Whitchurches seems to have been disappointing.

But perhaps someone from our Whitchurch did attend?  If so, do let us know by sending a message to the Message Board.

In any case, it was our mill pool that made it on to the front cover of the supplement!

Date/Time : Monday, 12th June 2017 20:06

Voting for Henley MP - (Updated with full results)

The polling station in Whitchurch Village Hall, Manor Road, will be open from 7 am to 10 pm on Thursday 8th June. 

Names and parties of the six candidates for Henley constituency’s Member of Parliament are given here.

The SODC website says: “Don’t worry if you’ve mislaid your poll card or you are registered but didn't receive your poll card – you don’t need it with you to vote, but it will speed things up at the polling station if you do take it with you.”

Updated, 11thJune: Click here for detailed Henley results.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 7th June 2017 15:08

Plans for new sports pavilion published

Whitchurch Parish Council has submitted plans to South Oxfordshire District Council for a new sports pavilion to replace the two existing buildings on the village green.  The consultation period started on 1st June and full details of the application, showing the proposed shape and size of the building, can be seen here.  Comments must be received by 22nd June. 

Parish councillor Carrie Leadbetter-Hart, a chartered engineer, has prepared the plans and supporting documents for the outline planning application under the name of her company Chase Project Engineering Ltd.  Parish chairman Keith Brooks says that the community is much indebted to her for her extensive work on the project, and that she has provided her services to the community without charge.  She recently returned to the parish council after maternity leave.  Her son Henry now has a sister, Harriet, aged four months. 

Carrie explains that the design is a traditional wooden-framed, multipurpose one that should encourage use by a wide range of local teams, clubs, the school, etc.  The building has a pitched roof with space for a clock.  There is a veranda at the front.  Inside there is a central area of about 5m x 6m, a food preparation area, and two changing rooms with toilets.  Disabled access is provided. The floor level is raised above any likely flood level. 

Keith says there has been lengthy consultation with interested parties in the community about the facilities to be provided and a very rough estimate of the cost of the building proposed is £100,000. At least half of this is expected to be met by a local authority grant, for which an application is being prepared, and the balance will require some fund-raising. 

The proposed floor layout of the building can be seen here.

Date/Time : Monday, 5th June 2017 14:40

Whitchurch author publishes book on Darwin

Peter Worsley, who lives in Hardwick Road, has been Emeritus Professor of Geology at Reading University since 2000 and has written over 150 technical papers.  Now he has tried his hand at writing a book, having developed an interest in the history of the family of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species.  This was sparked on returning from a visit to the York National Railway Museum in 2013 when he visited a farm in Lincolnshire once owned by the family, which happened to be situated near to where Peter was born and grew up.  One thing led to another, an archive of letters and other documents - referred to as the ‘Higgins Deposit’ - emerged, and before long he had before him a wealth of unpublished information about Darwin family history in Lincolnshire. 

The book’s title is The Darwin Farms and it covers a period from the Elizabethan era to the mid-twentieth century.  The text is enlivened on almost every page by photographs, portraits, family trees, accounts or maps.  Peter says he takes great pride in the fact that the book is self-published and he therefore felt unencumbered by a publisher in producing exactly what he felt the subject needed.  The result appears to be a significant addition to the substantial literature on the Darwin family.  It is also a work of history with an unusually rich feel for the geology and landscape of Lincolnshire, and benefits from more and clearer maps than is usual in a history book. 

In the acknowledgements the author thanks his wife Hilary for her enthusiastic participation in the field work, archive searches, indexing and proof reading. 

The 148-page book is available for £8.00 a copy direct from the author Peter Worsley, Svartisen House, Hardwick Road, Whitchurch-on-Thames, Reading, RG8 7HW.  Postage, if applicable, at cost.  Email him here or phone 0118 984 1600.

Date/Time : Saturday, 3rd June 2017 10:25

Whitchurch artwork selected by Royal Academy (Updated)

Chris Martin, who lives in Whitchurch Hill and is a familiar presence in the bridge toll booth, has been making art collages for two years.  This year she entered one, ‘Whitchurch Lock’, for the 2017 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy under her maiden name Chris Scoby-Smith.  After getting through the first two rounds of the selection process, she was thrilled to hear today that her work has been accepted and will be displayed at the exhibition starting in London on 13th June. 

She explains how this came about: 

“Last year my twin sister, who lives in Vancouver, was diagnosed with a neurological condition.  She has always been active in the art world and I remember that when we visited the Summer Exhibition in 2008 we talked about entering.  I decided to do so this year because I know that even though she is now quite severely handicapped she takes a keen interest in the Summer Exhibition. 

‘Whitchurch Lock’ is a slightly abstract collage that I made in 2015. I have always been interested in art and photography and have done foundation courses in both fine art and in textiles.  As a result I had a collection of books of samples and work, which I have been able to use in the pictures. The materials include handmade paper, handmade felt, printed paper, machine knitting, machine embroidery and dyed textiles. I have also been a keen patch worker, winning a cup for a quilt in a national competition and contributing to quilting exhibitions in Henley.” 

Since the opening of the Saturday morning Art Café people have been buying prints and postcards of Chris’s collages which have been displayed there.  The subjects incude Whitchurch Bridge, Whitchurch Lock, The Ferryboat, The Greyhound, St Mary’s Church, the Maria Cornelia, Hardwick House, The Swan at Streatley and Goring Lock. 

Chris has recently started to run workshops on collage work.  She can be contacted here.

Update, 6th June: The picture above shows the collage, now in place at the Summer Exhibition.

Update, 9th June: Chris's collage has sold, before the exhibition opens to the public, for £500. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 27th May 2017 21:46

Annual Parish Assembly on Thursday – all welcome

Once a year Whitchurch has a get-together at which representatives of all the groups in the village have a chance to say what they have been doing and tell others what their plans are.  This year’s Parish Assembly is on Thursday 25th May at 7.30 pm in the Village Hall, Manor Road.  All residents are welcome.  

An account of last year’s Assembly can be read here.

The picture (left) shows a well-known scene painted in 2015 by the late Stephen Trinder. 


Here is the agenda for this year's Assembly: 

1. Parish Council Chairman – report on the Parish Council Year and Financial Report 

2. County Councillor Report 

3. District Councillor Report  

4. Neighbourhood Plan Report, Residents' Issues Update

5. Roads and Traffic Report 

6. Transport Report 

7. Planning Report 

8. Allotment Report 

9. Village Organisations' Reports & Activities (5 minutes each approx):

  • Allotment Society
  • Bulletin
  • Parochial Church Council
  • Town Twinning Association  
  • Whitchurch Bridge Company
  • Whitchurch and Goring Heath History Society 
  • Whitchurch on Thames Habitat Study Group
  • Whitchurch United Charities

Date/Time : Saturday, 20th May 2017 17:58

War memorial work to begin soon

The project to restore and refurbish the war memorial near the top of the hill before the centenary of the Armistice in November 2018 is nearly ready to start, reports Peter Dragonetti, chairman of Goring Heath parish council. 

 A contract has been awarded by Goring Heath to Reading stone masons A F Jones for the work shown in this drawing prepared by Pangbourne architects Owens Galliver.  The memorial will be restored to its original height, topped by a Celtic cross to the original design, as reported with photos in our news item of 12th December 2016 (scrolling down will reach it).  The landscaping work around the memorial comprises areas of granite setting and a kerb at the roadside.  Currently the project is waiting for official approval from Oxfordshire Highways for the kerb. 

Peter reports that fund raising has been successfully completed, financial support from the War Memorial Trust having been boosted by gift-aided donations from individuals living in both the communities represented by the memorial, Whitchurch-on-Thames and Whitchurch Hill/Goring Heath, without a financial contribution from either parish council.

Whitchurch parish chairman Keith Brooks said he was delighted that the project was going ahead and he congratulated Goring Heath on their successful efforts, starting with Martin Wise's proposal in 2014, to promote the restoration and to raise funds.

Date/Time : Thursday, 18th May 2017 10:46

Open Day for Neighbourhood Plan

At least 25 residents called in at the village hall on Saturday morning to find out about the initial stage of a Neighbourhood Plan for Whitchurch and to discuss their wishes and concerns for the future of the village.  They were able to talk to members of the steering committee and examine display boards specially prepared for the occasion.  There was a questionnaire to fill in, which can also be accessed here

The members of the steering committee are: Jim Donahue (chairman), Keith Brooks, Dave Bowen, John Bradon, Charles Cotgreave, Peter Ferguson, Jean-Marc Grosfort, Sarah Hanfrey and Emily Williamson. 

Jim Donahue said: "This initial stage of the village consultation is important to understand what type of development village residents want and what their vision is for the future. The Neighbourhood Plan is the main vehicle for us to have a say in what development looks like over the next 15 years. We are lucky to have so many people from the village come forward to support development of a plan so far, but there is a lot of work required and we are looking for more villagers to get involved."

Those who missed this event are invited to come to a second Open Day on Saturday 3rd June in the Old Stables. 

One resident said he felt that Whitchurch had few development opportunities and that there was sufficient protection already in the normal planning process, especially within the conservation area. 

Parish chairman Keith Brooks said that the parish council had agreed to go ahead with the first stages of the process of creating a Neighbourhood Plan and that a decision would be taken later on whether to pursue it through to the referendum stage.  He said that many villages are currently at this exploratory stage. 

Meanwhile, anyone who wants to comment on the SODC’s overall Draft Local Plan has a few more days to do so.  The consultation ends on 17th May.

Date/Time : Sunday, 14th May 2017 16:17

‘Wotjam’ performs at The Old Stables

Leslie Meynerd and Jan Buhagiar started two years ago to assemble a group of jazz musicians who live within reach of Whitchurch.  Every Friday morning the members of Wotjam now come together from Reading, Lower Basildon, Wallingford, Basingstoke and Brightwell-cum-Sotwell to play at The Old Stables in the High Street.  Last Saturday night (29th April) they put on an evening of jazz for an audience of about 20 guests. 

The photo above shows Wotjam.  A larger one can be seen here.  Leslie is at the far right.  Jan, with tenor saxophone, is in the centre.

Leslie says:  “Last Saturday we played some well known jazz standards together with some less well known numbers such as “Funk in Deep Freeze”,” Voodoo Rex” and “Fungii Mama”.  They all seemed to be enjoyed by the audience.  Refreshments were served throughout the evening and a donation of £60 was made to St Mary’s Church.  Watch out for the next event, which will be listed in What’s On.”

Date/Time : Saturday, 6th May 2017 18:02

Kevin Bulmer re-elected as county councillor

The results of yesterday’s county council election for the Goring division were announced at 2 pm today:

Kevin Bulmer, Conservative:        1,918 votes

Laura Coyle, Liberal Democrats:     601 votes

Dave Bowen, Labour:                     393 votes

Jim Dowling, Green:                       389 votes 

The turnout was 28%.  More details from OCC here.

Date/Time : Friday, 5th May 2017 15:39

Hundreds flock to see decorated bridge

The art installation on Whitchurch toll bridge was opened today by the organisers, Gill Williamson and Alison Livesey, who expressed delight at the number and variety of the artworks and the skill of the many people, almost 100, whose work is on display. 

Among the admiring visitors were a number from the French towns of La Bouille and Houdan, twinned with Whitchurch and Pangbourne respectively.  Three Chelsea Pensioners added extra colour. 

The photo gallery on this website shows some of the knitted, woven, embroidered, collaged and painted panels and a few of the crocheted characters.  Familiar riverside creatures such as Ratty, Mole and Mr Toad are joined by more elusive ones such as the owls of Hardwick Road.  References to boating, swimming, fishing, kayaking, allotments, the Reading Festival and the Thames Barrier are there. Nature is well represented by squirrels, Canada geese, kingfishers, ducks, a heron, dragonflies and others. 

There are contributions from Whitchurch Primary School, both Twinning Associations, Pangbourne Heritage Group, Pangbourne Primary School, Pangbourne Heritage Group, Oratory School, Purley Quilting Group, Girl Guiding and others, including Action for Pangbourne Toilets. 

The Thames Path Together Community Art Project will be in place for two weeks, closing on 14th May. The Art Café is open from 10 am to 4 pm all this weekend and the next two. To donate to the project’s charitable causes: Text YARN17 to 70070 or drop some change in the boxes at the toll booth or at the Art Café.  Or visit the JustGiving page.

Date/Time : Saturday, 29th April 2017 17:51

‘Yarn bombing’ of bridge begins

Today those who have been working away in Knit & Stitch sessions in recent months were beginning to install their creations on the bridge. The picture shows Alison Livesey, crochet expert and assistant organiser of the event, admiring a Toad of Toad Hall created by a fellow enthusiast. 

Tomorrow Saturday 29th April there will be a short opening ceremony.  Participants will gather in the car park of The Boathouse Surgery from 12 noon and at 12.30 pm will walk across the bridge, led by event organiser Gill Williamson, to mark the beginning of a fortnight in which the toll bridge will be transformed by the presence of colourful art installations.  All are invited to join in the opening ceremony. 

Gill has arranged for the Art Café to be open from 10 am to 4 pm on all three days of this bank holiday weekend, at the Old Stables in the High Street. 

More information about the event and its charitable aims is given in the project brochure.  For the international background to the activity see this article

A Henley Standard article last week described the preparations for Whitchurch's unique event. 

There are more photos in the gallery.

Date/Time : Friday, 28th April 2017 15:29

Sports for young people on the village green

Designs have been obtained for two sports facilities for children and young people that might be installed near the present cricket nets on the village green.  Such facilities have been requested by a number of parents in the village and by young people themselves.  One benefit to families would be that an outdoor attraction would counteract the appeal of indoor electronic games.  But parish councillor Dave Bowen, who has been investigating the possibilities, has encountered a mixed reception to the idea so far.  He is now seeking the views of as many village residents as possible, via the village website, before deciding whether the proposal should be put to the parish council as a whole.

The proposed facilities are: 

  1. A tarmac ballcourt offering a football goalmouth with side panels at one end and a basketball hoop with backboard at each end.  The court would be marked out for football and basketball.  Bikes and scooters could also be ridden on the area. 

  2. A concrete mini skatepark, incorporating a quarter-pipe, kerbs and ramps, with wrap-around handrails at each end. 

Attached are two diagrams prepared by Sutcliffe Play Southwest Ltd.  The first one gives an idea of the appearance of the facilities, with options for the shape of the skatepark. The second (scroll down for it) shows the locations proposed, on opposite sides of the existing cricket nets.

The estimated cost is not clear but substantial grants are understood to be available for such work.

If you have views on the desirability of proceeding with (1) or (2), or both, or neither, you are invited to email your thoughts to Dave Bowen.  Or to express your opinion on our message board.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 26th April 2017 17:53

Memorial garden begins to take shape (Updated)

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks, who took the photo (left) of fellow volunteers, reports on the current state of the patch of land at the north end of Manor Road on which the derelict Polish chapel stood until its demolition in 2014: 

On Saturday morning volunteers massed with chainsaws and other gardening implements and under the direction of Jon Steward and Sally Woolhouse started to clear the waste ground that is to be the Polish Memorial Garden. Trees have been felled, scrub cleared and we are starting to see what a fantastic and valuable resource the parish council has taken on.  The possibilities might include a picnic area, wild flower meadow and nature walk, as well as a memorial to the Polish community who built the chapel there in the 1940s. Well done everyone who turned out and I am sure that this is just the start of a successful project which will attract even more support from the village in the future.

A lot of thought is being put into the project.  Here is a recent site visit report written by Sally Woolhouse, which includes a diagram of the site.

Update, Friday 28th April: 

Manor Road resident Jon Steward has pointed out that the idea for a memorial garden was his.  He said that Jack Lovegrove, Jowan Marsden and Jamie Friend had helped him with the initial job of felling trees, and Sally Woolhouse and Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs and Leslie Meynard of MOWS have been providing guidance.  He said he would like the garden to be called the Kaiser Miles memorial garden in memory of two residents of Manor Road who had connections with the chapel and its site. There will be a hazelnut copse in one area, he said, together with seats and perhaps a table, and also a memorial to the Polish community, while from the garden there is a lovely view over Coombe Park, particularly at sunset.

Date/Time : Monday, 24th April 2017 10:04

New bus service starts on 15th May

The Goring based company Going Forward Buses has announced that its new minibus route from Goring to Reading via Whitchurch, which they are calling the 142, will start earlier than expected, on 15th May. The local authority’s existing 143 bus service will continue to run until July. 

Full details of the 142 service, including the timetable, are given on this page of the company’s website. 

Parish councillor Dave Bowen said today: 

“I am pleased to announce that the new 142 Bus Service through the village will be launching on 15th May. This will provide a service to Reading via Crays Pond and Caversham that will take around 30 minutes as well as a service to Goring, Beale Park and Basildon Park. For those just looking to do a quick shop the bus will stop at Waitrose in Caversham, the Tesco Superstore at Kings Meadow or close to Marks and Spencer in the town centre. If you don't want to wait 2 hours for the return bus, the new service waits at Tesco for 30 minutes then picks up in the Town Centre giving a 40 minute shop and then Caversham where you have almost 1 hour. For those with Elderly or Disabled bus passes these are valid on the bus and Going Forward are actively encouraging those with passes to make use of the bus. The current 143 service will continue until July so there will be 2 services into Reading for a few months. Having been on the trial bus into Reading a week or so ago, I found the new route very pleasant compared to the Oxford Road route and it did not take any longer going that way.” 

Those who would like to help by occasionally driving the 142 minibus are invited to contact the company, which is recruiting standby drivers. Details are on the company’s website.

The 142 timetable will be displayed and kept up to date on our Links page (Buses, Trains and Taxis) which shows the current bus timetable.

Date/Time : Thursday, 20th April 2017 14:32

Vote for a county councillor on 4th May (Updated)

Theresa May has announced a general election for 8th June but well before that time we have the Oxfordshire County Council elections on Thursday 4th May, with voting in Whitchurch Village Hall between 7 am and 10 pm. 

The Goring Division elects one county councillor and there are four candidates standing for election: Dave Bowen (Labour), Kevin Bulmer (Conservative), Laura Coyle (Liberal Democrat) and Jim Dowling (Green). 

Two of the candidates are Whitchurch residents: Dave Bowen of Heron’s Reach, Eastfield Lane, and Jim Dowling of Flat 3, The Mount, Hardwick Road.  The other candidates are from Goring and Streatley.  Kevin Bulmer, the current county councillor, is also district councillor for the Goring ward and chairman of Goring parish council. 

The names of each candidate’s proposers, seconders and assentors are listed on page 7 of 13 of the Statement of Persons Nominated

Candidates’ manifesto leaflets are likely to be delivered to village residents in coming days.

Update, Saturday 22nd April:

Kevin Bulmer’s wife Mary, distributing leaflets for her husband in Whitchurch this morning, said she could not help feeling a degree of divided loyalty as the Green party candidate Jim Dowling, managing director of Oxford Renewables in Path Hill, is her son. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 19th April 2017 17:53

Bridge parapet to bloom with artworks

The footpath across the toll bridge will be transformed into a riot of colour later this month, a spectacle likely to attract many visitors.  The Thames Path Together community art project, dreamed up by Art Café organiser Gill Williamson, will be opened on the morning of Saturday 29th April and will be on display for two weeks. 

Full details of what is involved are given in the project brochure. (Note: there are two pages.)  Panels displaying knitted designs, weaving, needlework, painting and collage will be attached to the parapet.  Visitors will be invited to make donations for distribution to the community charities involved in the Art Café up to now – no fewer than 22 of them. They will also be able to submit bids for the artworks. 

Gill, the event organiser, explains: 

The community has been working together since last October to create artworks based on the Thames Path. The starting point was yarn bombing – a form of street art where public spaces are covered in knitting and crochet. By expanding the definition of yarn to mean any spun thread, artists, needle workers and weavers, as well as individuals, art and craft clubs and community groups have joined us to offer an imaginative display of artworks. 

Pangbourne and Whitchurch on Thames are divided by a river and united by a bridge. The Thames Path Together community art project is a celebration of Whitchurch Bridge and the Thames Path that has brought us together to make and exhibit art and to raise money for charitable and community causes. 

The picture above shows two participants enjoying a Knit & Stitch workshop session in the Old Stables.  There are more pictures in the Photo Gallery. 

Whitchurch Bridge director Geoff Weir said the company was delighted to support the project.  With many more people expected to be using the footpath than usual, safety issues have had to be carefully considered and special signs will be in place to warn drivers, he said.

Date/Time : Monday, 17th April 2017 14:35