Unusual auction sale of a field and two bungalows

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, both in need of modernisation: 

Lane End Cottage is a 3-bedroom bungalow in a 0.3 acre plot. Details 

Oakfield Cottage is a 2-bedroom bungalow with 2.8 acres of land. Details

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.

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. 

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.

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 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

Community singing group starting up

So many people came to sing carols in the car park of The Ferryboat before Christmas, enjoying themselves and creating a great sense of community, that several people suggested starting up a Whitchurch community choir.  A name for it, ‘SINGWOT’, has been proposed. 

Geraldine Witcher and Clare Donahue would now like to hear from all those who would like to join in.  See the attached flyer

Geraldine says: “We would meet once a month, hopefully in the Old Stables, in an informal and enjoyable way, to sing well loved songs, and learn some new ones. There will be no requirements such as reading music or even holding a tune alone, because the aim is to have fun and enjoy singing together. So far we have a pianist, and about seven people have already shown interest. But we would like to know from people who want to join whether they have a preferred day, or time?  Please could you contact us and let us know what you think about SINGWOT.” 

You can get in touch with the organisers on 0776 646 3132 (Geraldine) or by email (Clare).

Date/Time : Monday, 15th January 2018 18:35

Whitchurch resident wins Academy Award (UPDATED)

Jerry Huxtable of Swanston Field, Whitchurch, will be travelling with his wife Denise to Beverly Hills, Hollywood, next month to receive an Academy Award following an announcement last week by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Jerry is one of five people jointly cited among the Technical Achievement Awards for their contributions to the design and development of the Nuke compositing system. This system has become the most popular visual effects toolkit in the film industry.

Having graduated in physics at York University, Jerry, now 56, went directly into computing and now works with The Foundry in London as a senior software engineer.  He explains that the Nuke system, which he and his fellow award-winning colleagues developed, is a sort of PhotoShop for film-makers: “It's basically the process of taking all the elements of a shot - the sky, landscapes, building, actors shot against green screens, computer-generated characters and objects, smoke, effects and so on - which were all taken at different times, at different locations, with different lighting, or never actually existed in real life, and putting them together to make it look like they were all shot by the same camera at the same time. This is complicated by the fact that everything is moving and has to follow the camera and remain consistent from frame to frame.”

The Huxtables arrived in Whitchurch 18 years ago.  Denise says that she is really delighted with the news and that their children Tom 23, Jennifer 19 and Lia 15 are very proud of their Dad.


Postscript: James Burton, reporter for the Henley Standard, read the above news item, contacted Jerry and wrote a comprehensive article, which can be seen here.


Date/Time : Saturday, 13th January 2018 18:30

Proposal for new house in High Street

At a meeting this week, the parish council discussed an application to build a three-bedroom house in the garden of Ash Court on the east side of the High Street, in the heart of the Conservation Area.  

Details of the proposed new house, and of a new vehicle entrance through the brick-and-flint perimeter wall for access to the existing house, can be seen on the SODC planning website here

Parish councillors resolved to submit an objection to SODC, regarding the development as unacceptable on several grounds. 

Also discussed was an application to build a two-storey garage, office and games room in the garden of Prospect House, on the corner of the High Street and Eastfield Lane, after demolishing an existing garage.  Planning details are here.  The site is within the Conservation Area.  The parish council also objected to this proposal. 

Both these applications are currently out to consultation.  Any comments must be received by SODC before 31st January. 

Hardwick ‘Veg Shed’ to expand 

At the December meeting of the parish council, Iain Tolhurst described his pre-application to SODC for enlargement of the Vegetable Shed near the entrance gates to Hardwick House.  The new shed would be twice the size of the present one, with separate road entrance and exit and parking for up to 15 cars.  For more information, see the December minutes on the Parish Council page.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th January 2018 16:51

The beech hedge that got away

Many years ago a line of beech saplings was planted to create a hedge at the southern edge of what is now the village green, on the left hand side of the road to the school.  But the plants were not given a regular trimming back and so grew into trees.  How to manage them now is a question that has been given much thought, as Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs explains: 

During February this year the beech trees lining the southern edge of the Village Green will  be cut to hedge height, with the exception of one large mature beech in that line.   This decision by the Parish Council was made after consultation with local environmental group WoTHABS, who in turn had consulted Oxfordshire's Forestry Officer.  In addition, the large maple tree just inside the boundary will be felled.   These works will allow the two adjacent mature lime trees and a smaller Indian horse chestnut the space they need in order to avoid the current serious overcrowding.   Originally the line of over 60 beeches was planted as a hedge and this work will get it back to a height which can be easily maintained. It is also hoped it will become a denser corridor for local wildlife as the twiggy bits produce new sideways and upward growth. The work will be undertaken during the school's half-term holiday to minimise any inconvenience. 

The height of the trees can be seen in this photo.

Date/Time : Sunday, 7th January 2018 14:36

Go Active Gold comes to Whitchurch on 7th February

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils have been awarded £227,000 by Sport England towards a three year fitness project for the over-60s called GO ACTIVE GOLD.  The project comes to Whitchurch in the form of an initial taster event in the village hall on Wednesday 7th February, 10 am to 12 noon. 

The aim is to encourage more active lifestyles among older people by setting up some local physical activities catering for all abilities.  The project is fully explained in this leaflet.  Activities mentioned include Table Tennis, Golf, Yoga, Tai Chi, Senior Circuits, Keep Fit Classes, Nordic Walking and Dancing. 

All over-60s, and anyone who would like to get involved in helping to organise activities within the programme, are invited to come along to the taster event.  There is a flyer attached to the entry in What’s On.

Date/Time : Thursday, 4th January 2018 14:04

Ferryboat Christmas events raise £4000

The recent festive events organised by The Ferryboat have raised the huge sum of £4,000 for charity.  The funds will be distributed between St Mary’s Church, the Pre-school and the Primary School. 

Landlord Graham Dednum says he is overwhelmed by the amount raised and wants to thank all those who supported and helped with the Concert of Christmas Music and the Community Carol Singing events. 

The Concert in the church made nearly £3000.  The Carol Singing realised about £500 from mulled wine sales and £250 from the collection. The winning bid (of three) for the historic village sign added a generous £250.

Date/Time : Thursday, 21st December 2017 12:57

Theft from vehicle in Manor Road

The Police have issued an appeal for witnesses after a van in Manor Road was broken into early on Tuesday morning. 

Between 12.30 am and 5 am this morning (19/12) unknown offenders broke into a grey Renault Kangoo van on Manor Road, by smashing the back window (index R***NJK) and stole power tools. 

If you have seen any suspicious looking people or vehicles in the area or have any information relating to this message please call the Police via the 24 hour non-emergency telephone number 101.

Alternatively if you have information but wish to remain anonymous, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online by visiting  No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Message sent by (3155) Julia Williams (Police, Neighbourhood Policing Admin, South Oxon and Vale).”

Date/Time : Tuesday, 19th December 2017 12:52

Retired dinghy starts new life in High Street

Three months ago the Whitchurch Web carried this appeal from Leslie Maynerd: “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.” 

Within days Nick Bailey, director at Beale Park, had offered an old wooden sailing dinghy as a gift to Whitchurch.  The parish council agreed to have a supply of cobbles delivered for the dinghy’s new berth at the entrance to Church Drive, where it will serve as a planter.  An anonymous resident generously donated money to buy plants.  Dave Bowen offered the use of his trailer.  Yesterday he, Dave Maynerd and Keith Brooks collected the boat.  The photograph shows the handover in Lower Basildon. 

The boat is now sitting in its new location.  The next stage involves settling it in and planting it up.

Date/Time : Friday, 15th December 2017 10:29

New pavilion plans submitted

Revised plans have been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council for the new sports pavilion on the village green.  The size of the building has been slightly increased to enable showers to be included in each of the changing rooms.  The new location of the building in the south-east corner of the village green has also been adjusted from that presented in July. 

The new location of the pavilion, together with the revised building layout and elevations can be seen here

Carrie Leadbeater-Hart says:  “We at the Parish Council are very excited to say that the proposed Village Pavilion is progressing nicely – thank you to all who contributed comments with regards to where you would prefer to have the new building placed on the Village Green. 

We have taken these comments into consideration and have 'budged' the Pavilion back as far as possible, taking into account the constraints of proximity to existing mature trees (9 metres minimum distance from centre of trunk).  This means that the Pavilion will be well placed to serve the cricket team, the football team and be close for access for use by the school.  We would love to encourage new activities and sports once the Pavilion is built to make the Pavilion a well used and loved village hub. 

We care very much about making the Village Green look fabulous, befitting our wonderful community.  The Pavilion will be of traditional wooden construction and will be nestled well in the existing trees. 

The planning submission for the Village Pavilion will be available for comment on the OCC website by the 15th December 2017.  All comments gratefully received, either formally to OCC Planning, or informally by email to me.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 12th December 2017 17:28

Opportunity to acquire old village sign

Following the installation of the new village sign, the old one is being auctioned for Whitchurch charities by means of sealed bids.  Anyone wishing to make a bid for the sign should hand it in a sealed envelope to Graham Dednum at The Ferryboat by closing time (10.30 pm) on Friday 22nd December.  The winner will be announced at the Ferryboat’s Community Carol Singing on Saturday 23rd December. 

More details here

Date/Time : Thursday, 7th December 2017 11:13

The Ferryboat Christmas Concert packs out St Mary’s

This was the fifth year of the concert and every pew in the church was occupied on Sunday evening to hear the 28-strong Ferryboat Brass Band, gathered together by landlord and compère Graham Dednum, fill the building with lively Christmas music. 

Shortly after the start, nearly 40 children trooped in along with their teacher Lucy Lombos.  Singing in two sessions and an encore, the Whitchurch Primary School Choir enchanted their audience. 

Solo stars of the concert were Steve Clapton on cornet, the vocalist Debbie Jenkins and Whitchurch’s own Claire Donahue on flute.  Claire, who married Jim Donahue earlier this year, had just returned from performing on a Cunard cruise. 

Kelvin Ketteringham directed the band and band member Mervyn Clarke arranged the music for most of the carols, which the audience joined in enthusiastically. 

Congratulating Graham, Rev Claire Alcock pointed out that it was not only a feat of organisation but also a feat of imagination to have created such a successful event. 

Graham announced that ticket sales had already raised an impressive £2,500 in aid of the Church, the Pre-school and the Primary School. 

The photo above is by Jennifer Bruce.  More photos in the Gallery.

Date/Time : Monday, 4th December 2017 17:52

Opinions differ on coloured lights at toll bridge

Some people say the new flashing red and green lights on the rising booms at the bridge add an attractive touch of colour at the entrance to the village, especially at Christmas.  Others have described them as bringing Las Vegas to South Oxfordshire and are not enthusiastic. Some drivers say they are dazzled.  Bridge Company Director Geoff Weir says the new booms were introduced to improve safety. 

However, within two days of installing them a car driven by a Whitchurch resident struck the southbound boom, knocking it off its mounting and calling into question the improved visibility.  Geoff says that a boom is struck by a car once a week on average and he is confident the red lights will reduce the number of accidents. 

So far Geoff has heard comments both in favour and against the lights.  It would be quite feasible, he says, to eliminate the green lights and just have the red ones if that is the general preference in the village. 

What do you think?  You are welcome to comment on the Message board.

Date/Time : Monday, 4th December 2017 11:47

Muddy Lane now has a stronger gate

Only two weeks after the wooden entrance gate to Muddy Lane was shattered by a joyriding vandal it has been replaced by a more robust one made of steel. 

The parish council agreed to purchase the new gate and yesterday Pete Woolhouse and Keith Brooks installed it. 

More pictures here.                     

Date/Time : Friday, 24th November 2017 11:16

Creativity of all ages on display

Sally Woolhouse, organiser of last weekend’s successful Art & Craft Exhibition, reports on the event: 

This popular annual event, now in its 39th year, was staged by The Whitchurch Society in Whitchurch Village Hall over the weekend of 18th & 19th November. There were exactly 200 entries which is the second highest number ever, only beaten by the 218 entries in 2013. It was a very successful and sociable occasion which provided the opportunity for everyone to see and share the results of creative talent in our community. There was a wonderful variety of artwork, craftwork and photographs from young and old, showing a very high standard.

This year’s theme for the Joyce Voysey Prize was ‘Circles’ which produced some very varied interpretations. Colourful displays of work by children at the Pre-School, the Primary School and the Oratory Prep School were very eye-catching and showed great promise. Visitors enjoyed refreshments all weekend and meeting up with friends and neighbours before the prize-giving ceremony at 4-30pm on Sunday. 

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

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

The photo above shows two of the winning entries in the Art 6 to 8 years category. There are more in the Photo Gallery. 

Sally Woolhouse can be contacted here.

Date/Time : Monday, 20th November 2017 18:23

Whitchurch welcomes visitors with new signs and coloured lights (UPDATED)

A new village sign was installed last week at the entrance to Whitchurch from Pangbourne, together with a Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty sign beneath it.  The design of the village sign resulted partly from a competition among children at the primary school, as reported in our news item of 30th June this year (scroll down to see it)

The parish council resolved at a meeting earlier this week to order two more village signs and place them at the other entrances to the village.  The AONB sign will not be included at either location. 

Also this week, new traffic barriers have been installed at the toll bridge, incorporating a novel safety feature of coloured lights on the booms.  Geoff Weir, director of the Whitchurch Bridge Company said that the barriers are longer than before and cyclists and motorcyclists will need to be aware of this.

Update, 24th November:  The old village sign is to be auctioned for charity by the Ferryboat during December – details to be announced. OCC have confirmed, following criticism of the new sign’s surprisingly long support poles, that they will visit the site and consider whether they can make it more “aesthetically pleasing”.

Date/Time : Saturday, 18th November 2017 11:03

New owner sought for Coombe Park estate

The 125 acre estate of Coombe Park in Whitchurch is on the market for £10 million.  In addition to the main house, which is reported to be in a poor condition, there are three smaller dwellings, as well as an orangery, a coach house, an indoor tennis court, stabling and a boat house.  The private drive is ¾ of a mile long and leads from the entrance gate in Manor Road. 

The original Palladian house was built in 1794 by Samuel Gardiner, who had the grounds landscaped by Humphrey Repton.  His friend Francis Sykes, also wealthy from the East India Company, built a similarly impressive property on the opposite side of the valley at Basildon Park. 

The house was enlarged by a Mr Foster in the 1880s.  The Howard family acquired the estate in 1898 and added a stud complex where they bred racehorses. In the 1920s the estate extended to 670 acres. 

Towards the end of the Second World War the property became a Rest and Recuperation centre run by the American Red Cross for US air force combat crew, who were encouraged to have a quiet week here during their tour in the UK.  After the war most of the house was demolished. 

In the 1980s the remaining part, originally the servants’ quarters, and the coach house, were joined to create the present building.  The Howard family sold the estate in 1982.  The owner from then until recently was Martyn Deaner, an oil industry entrepreneur, who encouraged polo playing and arranged for the Reading Football team to train in his grounds. 

Full details of the property can be found on the agent’s website here.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 15th November 2017 16:53

Vandals wreck Muddy Lane entrance gate

The wooden gate at the Hardwick Road end of Muddy Lane, leading to the allotments, was badly damaged on Saturday night (photo). 

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks says: “The damage has been reported to the police by James Norman who also suffered considerable damage to his property in Path Hill. If anyone has information please phone James on 07867 657 156 as he has the URN number for the crime. The parish council will take steps to replace the gate as soon as possible.  It is unfortunate that some people seek to cause mindless damage to our lovely village.” 

Eric Hartley says he discovered minor damage to horse barriers in Hardwick Woods and reported it to the Hardwick Estate Office who told him there was a 'joy-riding incident' on Saturday night.  Later he discovered the damage to the Muddy Lane gate and to the anti-vehicle posts further down the Lane. He has also noticed similar minor damage to the posts on Church Drive.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 14th November 2017 08:33

War memorial restored and ready for Sunday

The project to restore the Whitchurch war memorial to its original height, topped by a Celtic cross to the original design, prior to its damage by a falling tree in a January 1990 storm, has been successfully completed (photo).  The work included a thorough cleaning of the stonework and some new granite set paving. 

The annual Remembrance Service will be held this Sunday 12th November at 10.45 am.  All are welcome to attend.  There will be a road closure for 20 minutes. 

The work on the memorial, implemented by Goring Heath Parish Council following a proposal by Martin Wise in 2014, was funded partly by donations from individuals and partly by a grant from the War Memorial Trust.

(Earlier news items: 12th December 2016 and 18th May 2017)

Date/Time : Friday, 10th November 2017 14:20

The Christmas Market is coming soon

The annual Christmas Market at Whitchurch Primary School will be held on Sunday 26th November from 11 am to 3 pm. 

Kate Lowe of the Parents Association says: “It promises to be a fun and festive day with Christmas market stalls filled with delicious treats and not-on-the-high-street goodies. There will be games and prizes – and if we're lucky Santa might even pay us a visit! We hope you can join us to celebrate the Christmas season, get your last minute (or for some of us first!) gifts – and most importantly help raise much-needed funds for our Primary School.”

Date/Time : Monday, 6th November 2017 17:50

Tickets now available for Christmas concert

Tickets for the annual concert of Christmas music in St Mary’s Church at 6.30 pm on Sunday 3rd December are now available from The Ferryboat, at £10 for adults and £5 for children. 

In what is expected to be another unforgettable evening of Christmas music, the Ferryboat brass band will play, the primary school choir will sing and newly-resident professional musician Claire Donahue will perform on the flute.  There will be opportunities for everyone to enjoy singing carols.  Funds raised will go to the Church and to both schools in the village. 

Ferryboat landlord Graham Dednum, the organiser and compère for the evening, says he anticipates another sell-out of tickets and suggests all in and around the village should buy theirs soon.

Date/Time : Friday, 3rd November 2017 11:40

Comments on new Pavilion by November 1st

In an earlier news item, Keith Brooks  asked for comments on the position of the proposed new Pavilion on the Village Green. To give an idea of the proposed new siting in the south east corner of the Village Green, a resident has kindly measured out the plot and made mock-up photos of  the possible appearence. (Please note, it is only a representation of the new Pavilion!)

Date/Time : Monday, 30th October 2017 20:41

Meeting to re-launch Village Plan

There is a meeting to re-launch the process of updating the Village Plan at 8pm on Wednesday 8th November at the Old Stables.  Jim Donahue says:- "If you would like to get involved we hope you will come along. 

We are looking for anyone who wants to help in the development of the Village Plan over the course of the next year.  No specific experience is required other than being a resident of Whitchurch and a willingness to get involved. We need people for the overall  Steering Committee and for workstreams to develop recommendations in specific areas.  Or perhaps you could provide us with specific finance, publicity, legal, technical writing, or graphics skills.

We have identified the following workstreams and will need workstream leaders and members for each:

  •      Community Facilities
  •      Open Spaces
  •      Community Groups and Activities
  •      Traffic and Parking  (led by Rachel Hatcher with TAPAG)
  •      Pavements and Walking
  •      Built Environment

There is more information in the attached document or you can contact Jim Donahue at or any member of the current Village Plan team: Dave Bowen, John Bradon, Keith Brooks, Charles Cotgreave, Peter Ferguson,  Jean-Marc Grosfort,· Sarah Hanfrey or Emily Williamson.

The resulting Village Plan update will update the 2009 Village Plan and provide a vision to guide development of improvements to our community for the next several years.  We need your help!"


Date/Time : Thursday, 26th October 2017 11:14

Eastfield House break-in

There was a further break-in at Eastfield House at lunch time today, Friday. Police are aware: please contact them if you have any information.

Date/Time : Friday, 20th October 2017 14:42

Family Nature Walk at Chalkhills

On Sunday 15th October a lively group greatly enjoyed the Family Nature Walk organised by WoTHABS and Sandra at Chalkhills.  Sally, Gill and John reported that:-

 “...again we are very grateful to Sandra for allowing access and for guiding us round. It was a pleasure just to be there in the fields, woods and on the hillside.

 Following the walk, Sandra reported that the leaf collection of one child included what appears to be an ash leaf the like of which she has never seen before.   At the moment it remains a mystery where it could have come from.

Another observant child found a large hairy caterpillar (the larva of a Pale Tussock moth).  The caterpillar is not frequently sighted at Chalkhills, though not considered rare as it can eat the leaves of lots of different trees.

Considering the lack of fungi on site due to the dry spell, sightings included two very interesting ones: a waxcap called Toasted Waxcap, and a Gomphideus, English name Slimy Spike - though the latter was very old and not slimy anymore.  Both are unusual if not rare these days. 

One of the highlights of the walk was a fascinating talk by Adam Howe, whom many of the Whitchurch children and their parents will well remember from our Explorer Days. This time it wasn't mammals or reptiles he showed us, but fascinating finds he has made recently using his metal detector at Chalkhills and along the Bozedown escarpment. Back down the hill again, Sally had kept the kettles boiling for the very welcome tea - and cakes.  

The trig point on the top of the hill puzzled many - so much for the earlier days of map-making!”

contributed by: Sandra Parkinson, Sally Woolhouse, Gill Goodwin and John Bradon 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 18th October 2017 12:02

Update on the new Village Pavilion

The chairman 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