News Archive

Whitchurch will bloom in the spring (UPDATED)

In recent days hundreds of bulbs have been planted in the grassy verges of the High Street, at about eight locations from the toll bridge up to the junction with the Hartslock bridleway.  Daffodils, tulips, irises and hyacinths are expected to emerge and bloom this spring, adding colour to the village. 

Former landscape gardener Jonathan Steward recently put forward the idea of beautifying the village to his fellow parish councillors and they agreed that a planting programme should go ahead.  Bulbs are being supplied by Collins in Pangbourne at an expected total cost to the village of up to £250.  Jonathan, who is doing the work for free, says: “So far I have planted over 400 bulbs.  My knees have taken a lot of punishment but they should recover.  As well as the current planting for the spring there will be further plantings of summer bulbs later on.  The Greyhound and the Bridge Company will be joining in and putting up hanging baskets.”

Update, 12th January:  Jonathan has now planted about 1000 spring bulbs, including some in Eastfield Lane and some in Manor Road. He is planning to add summer bulbs and some shrubs in March/April.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 29th December 2015 19:10

Eastfield House – here we go again…

Ross Healthcare Ltd has submitted an appeal against the refusal last July of its application to demolish all except the façade of the Victorian care home building in Eastfield Lane.  On Christmas Eve, a letter was sent by South Oxfordshire District Council to all interested parties announcing that the appeal process had started on 23rd December and that any representations must be made by 27th January 2016. 

SODC will be sending the Inspector all the comments made for and against the proposal during the planning consultation in June and July this year.  Anyone wanting to add further comments or withdraw their earlier ones should be able to do so online via the Appeals Portal (once the page is properly available, which it is not yet - 4 Jan 2016).  Alternatively by writing to The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3/09, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN quoting the reference APP/Q3115/W/15/3140879. 

The developer has submitted a 30-page Appeal Statement, reviewing the planning history of the site and giving an opinion on the application of planning policies to the most recently refused proposal.  Also submitted is a new 26-page Heritage Environment Assessment for the site, arguing that ‘façadism’ - the retention of a façade while the building behind is demolished and refashioned - is a satisfactory approach to conservation of an unlisted building within a conservation area. 

The SODC planning webpage includes links to the appeal documents.

Date/Time : Saturday, 26th December 2015 15:29

The Whitchurch Web team wishes you a very Happy Christmas

We hope you’ve enjoyed visiting the village website this year. You have a Christmas card from the team. 

(High Street in the snow, January 2010, Nick Brazil)

Date/Time : Friday, 18th December 2015 16:39

Art Café – have fun and raise money for your cause

Whitchurch’s community Art Café opened at the beginning of November and has become a popular Saturday event, bringing people in to enjoy the art, chat with friends and raise money for a good cause.  Village resident and artist Gill Williamson is the organiser.  Rev Claire Alcock has welcomed her to use the Old Rectory Stables opposite the Ferryboat.  Each week Gill shows arts and crafts from local and emerging artists and invites charity groups to run the café. 

Gill says: “I am delighted with the support from the church in getting the project off the ground and with the warm welcome the community has given to the Art Café.  Local artists are queuing up to show off their work and charities are looking forward to having fun at their coffee morning fundraiser.” 

The next two cafés will be run by and benefit these charities: 

Saturday 12 December:  Alder Bridge is a Steiner-Waldorf school at Padworth, Berkshire, where creativity lies at the heart of teaching.  Sarah Taylor, who lives in Whitchurch, says: “We are currently raising funds to complete our Woodland Classroom - a wooden structure built predominantly by parents with support from the children. This will enable the classes to spend long periods out in the woods and will be a great resource for local groups to hire.” 

Saturday 19 December:  Parkinson's UK addresses the needs of anyone affected by Parkinson's.  Kit Marriott, who lives in Hardwick Road, is the fundraiser for Parkinson’s UK Oxfordshire branch and says: “Research is going on at the Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre to seek a cure. We support this major research centre and much of our fundraising is set aside for it.” 

All are welcome to pop in and enjoy tea, coffee and homemade cakes sold on behalf of charity and community groups, whilst browsing art and crafts from local and emerging artists.  The Café is open from 9.30 am to 12 noon.  More information from Gill

The picture shows Denyse Williams and Wendy Ferguson offering mouth-watering cakes last Saturday.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 8th December 2015 15:28

Training day for parish councillors

Today the six members of Whitchurch Parish Council, together with the Parish Clerk, attended a training course on ‘Roles and Responsibilities of Working for the Local Council’, organised by the Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils at the Civic Hall in Didcot.  They can be seen in the photo. 

The course was well attended.  Twenty-eight parish councils were represented, including those from Goring, Henley, South Stoke and Wallingford.  All aspects of council work were covered, under the headings ‘Who does what?’, ‘What they are allowed to do?’ and ‘How do they do it?’ 

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks said:  “The course was very informative and has given us all a good base to work from.  This will benefit the residents of the village enormously in our future day-to-day work.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 25th November 2015 19:26

Young and old show their artistic skills

The Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition attracted large numbers to the village hall on Saturday 14th November. 

Sally Woolhouse reports: 

As always, it was an enjoyable and sociable occasion. There was a wonderful variety of artwork, craftwork and photographs from young and old, showing a very high standard and mix of skills from the local community. The Whitchurch Cup (winner of the Craft category) was awarded to Yvonne Kerevan for her superb Windsor Chair, which was without doubt the star of the show this year. Colourful displays of work by children at the Pre-School, the Primary School and the Oratory Prep School were very eye-catching and added to the show. Visitors enjoyed refreshments all day and meeting up with friends and neighbours before the prize-giving ceremony at 5pm. 

Included in the exhibition this year, for the first time, was an impressive display of artwork created by residents of Eastfield House. Volunteer artists have started this initiative which provides a new interest and stimulation for the residents and to which they have responded with great enthusiasm. 

Congratulations to all the prize winners. Very many thanks to all exhibitors and also to everyone who helped with the setting up and running of the show, including serving the refreshments all day and making delicious cakes. Finally, my special thanks to Chris Martin and Sarah Dixon who joined me on the planning committee and to the Whitchurch Society members who supported us. 

The photo above shows two prize-winning paintings by Keiri Swann in the age 15-18 years category.  More pictures in the Photo Gallery.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 17th November 2015 16:02

Brass band booked for Ferryboat concert

The sound of a 28-piece brass band will again fill the church in what has become an annual event, the concert of fine Christmas music in St Mary’s, on Saturday 5th December at 7pm. 

Bells will ring to welcome the audience for the evening and the path to the church will be specially lit. This is an opportunity to sing carols and listen to selected guest soloists. Children from the primary school will also sing. The event, sponsored by The Ferryboat, will raise funds equally for St Mary’s Church and Whitchurch Primary School. 

Tickets (£10, or £5 for under-10s) are now available from The Ferryboat or can be purchased on the night.  Doors open at 6.30pm.  Poster here

Date/Time : Friday, 13th November 2015 14:33

Fire in a house in Manor Road

Three Oxfordshire fire appliances arrived in Manor Road at around 10 am today to deal with a fire at No 18.  The fire was reportedly caused by a fault in an electric cooker hob.  The blaze was soon extinguished but smoke was afterwards seen coming out of the opened windows of the house.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 11th November 2015 15:22

War memorial refurbishment - have your say

For those who didn’t comment earlier in the year on what they would like to see included in the refurbishment of the Whitchurch war memorial, there is another chance now to tell the parish council by responding to this simple survey

The picture shows the war memorial at its original height before the storm of 1989.  There is an opportunity to rebuild it to that height.

Date/Time : Monday, 9th November 2015 18:48

Sarah Outen kayaks through

British adventurer Sarah Outen set out from Tower Bridge in 2011 to row, bike and kayak around the world.  She had a stormy time in the Pacific, cycled across America, rowed across the Atlantic and is now on the final straight.  After 25,000 miles of travelling, she is kayaking the Thames on her way to a triumphant finish at Tower Bridge on Tuesday. She is scheduled to pass Whitchurch tomorrow (Saturday) morning at around 10.30. 

Sarah’s website has more information, including where she is. She supports four charities.

Date/Time : Friday, 30th October 2015 16:57

Community Art Café is coming to Whitchurch

A new Art Café will be open on Saturday 7th November in The Old Stables, opposite The Ferryboat, between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm. 

Come and enjoy tea, coffee and homemade cakes while you browse the art and crafts on display. The event is inspired by Gill Williamson, an Eastfield Lane resident and talented artist. She plans to make this a regular Saturday morning showcase for local artists. 

Sue Matthews and Yvonne Kerevan, also of Eastfield Lane, are among the volunteers of the Friends of St Mary’s and St John’s churches who are running the event. 

Visit the website for more about the Art Café. 

Gill, Sue and Yvonne say: “Please come along to support this new community venture and bring your friends!”

Other local groups who would like to run a Saturday Art Café are asked to contact Gill.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 28th October 2015 12:16

Opportunity to comment on railway gantries

Anger at the effect that rows of prominent ‘silver goalposts’ are having on the beautiful scenery of the Goring Gap has led to an event tomorrow at which the public are invited to have their say. 

Called ‘Introduction to the Consultation process’ the drop-in event has been organised by Network Rail for tomorrow 23rd October from 12 noon to 8 pm in South Stoke Village Hall , Cross Keys Road, South Stoke, Oxfordshire RG8 0JT, off the Wallingford Road (B4009) between Goring and Wallingford. 

There is a BBC article on the topic here.  The ‘Save the Goring Gap’ website has a petition.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd October 2015 10:17

Second incident on Tuesday revealed (UPDATE)

Thames Valley Police have made an appeal for witnesses to an attempted theft in Hardwick Road yesterday afternoon: 

“Between 1.20pm and 2.20pm on Tuesday (20th October) offender(s) gained access to a farm in Hardwick Road, Whitchurch.  Tractor keys were taken from an office and used to attempt to steal a KUBOTA tractor, this was unsuccessful as the ignition lock was damaged whilst trying to take the tractor. 

A suspicious vehicle was seen parked near to the access of the farm at 11am, it is described as a white car derived van with “WINDOW CLEANING SERVICES” on the side, and ladders on the roof. The occupants of the vehicle are described as two white males, one being large build with a bald head and the other with short brown hair. Both males got out of the van several times, and were parked for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. 

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 on 101. Alternatively if you have any information but wish to remain anonymous, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online @ crimestoppers-uk.org.  No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.”

Update, 22nd October:

  Also on Tuesday afternoon, a Whitchurch resident suffered damage to his boat, which is kept on the Hardwick Estate moorings at the end of Sheepwash Lane, off Hardwick Road.  A 14-year-old youth, white with dark hair, who gave his name as Daniel, was spoken to by the owner of a neighbouring boat before he made off on his bicycle, wearing a helmet.  Both cabins of the boat had been broken into and an attempt made to start the engine.  The police are investigating.  This follows an incident three weeks ago when all five of the boats moored there were entered.  

Date/Time : Wednesday, 21st October 2015 12:47

Lorry closes High Street (AND ANOTHER - UPDATE)

The driver of a large Irish-owned lorry missed the turn-off to Castrol and continued down the hill this afternoon, almost reaching the toll bridge.  Police were called and closed the High Street at around 3 pm.  When the Polish driver tried to turn at Eastfield Lane the lorry became stuck.  Police attempted to jack up and move a parked car to provide more turning space but that failed to help.  The driver, who appeared to have limited experience of reversing, managed to get the lorry into a position to start the long reverse between parked cars to Manor Road, but did not seem confident.  By this time four police vehicles were in attendance and an HGV-qualified police driver was requested.  Eventually the driver managed the long reverse, guided by police officers, and by 4.30 pm the traffic was able to pass. 

Geoff Weir, Bridge Company director, said that he had reported Goggins Transport, the owners of the vehicle, to Oxfordshire Trading Standards.  The Police said they would be checking the driver’s licence and later confirmed that they would be prosecuting.  School mothers said they were concerned at being prevented from collecting their children.  Nick Baker, publican at the Greyhound, said that having two police cars in the car park for half the afternoon was not the ideal opening day for his pub.

Later:  Geoff Weir reported that this is the second time this year that an errant Goggins Transport lorry has caused delays to hundreds of drivers here.  County councillor Kevin Bulmer has today reported the problem to MP John Howell and to the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council.

Update, 23rd October:  Yesterday evening another large lorry was stuck in the High Street at 6.30 pm, the driver having been advised on arrival at the toll booth that his lorry was too high to pass under the railway bridge in Pangbourne.  Geoff Weir commented that some people seem to think it is the toll bridge that causes these holdups whereas it is the limited height under the railway bridge that is the problem.  The new bridge is strong enough to take HGVs when this is needed. 

Date/Time : Friday, 9th October 2015 17:24

Have your say about the village green by 30th October

The photo shows the village green noticeboard, installed today by parish councillors Jonathan Steward (pictured), Dave Bowen and Keith Brooks.

As reported earlier, the parish council wants to know how Whitchurch residents would like their village green to be used and paid for.  What activities should be encouraged and should the maintenance costs be paid for by all residents through the parish council?  Should there be a charge for cricket or football teams?  Once the views of the community are known, a charter will be developed for the use of the green by the various interested parties, including the school and sports clubs. 

All residents have been invited to take part in a SURVEY which can be filled in and submitted online.  Alternatively, the printed version of the survey contained in the current issue of the Whitchurch Bulletin can be filled in and sent to Jim Donahue, Village Green Working Group chairman, at 17 Hillside, Hardwick Road, RG8 7HL. Residents of all ages are invited to respond.  A household is not limited to a single response.

Many residents have already filled in the survey. The deadline for doing so is Friday 30th October.

Date/Time : Thursday, 8th October 2015 11:08

The Greyhound reopens (updated)

After a two week closure for refurbishment The Greyhound opened again on Thursday 8th October at 5 pm.   

The picture shows publican Nick Baker and his team.  There are more pictures by Nick Brazil in the Photo Gallery.

The pub has launched a new website.

Date/Time : Friday, 2nd October 2015 18:43

Coffee morning at Old Stables raises funds

A Whitchurch Community Macmillan Cancer Support coffee morning was held on Tuesday at The Old Stables.  Organiser Denyse Williams reported: "The team of willing helpers together with excellent support from the community ensured that the event was a big success. The sum of £586 in donations was raised for a most worthy cause".

The photo shows Denyse Williams, left, with Wendy Ferguson, Tricia Clapp and Maria Page.

Date/Time : Thursday, 1st October 2015 09:50

Fire in the night as van burns out in Hardwick Road

At around 2.30 am this morning a grey Ford Transit van caught fire.  It was parked next to the brick wall in the lay-by below Hillside.  The sounds woke Hillside resident Sylvia Andersen who called the emergency services when she saw flames leaping up towards overhanging trees.  As sparks flew towards other cars and black smoke billowed towards houses she noticed that the owls in nearby trees had been disturbed and were calling.  After a while the Fire & Rescue Service arrived and extinguished the flames before any other cars caught fire.  The whole of the cab, the engine compartment and the front wheels were gutted.  Leaves on the trees overhead were scorched.  Nick Brazil was there when the Police visited later in the morning (pictured) and he reported that local residents were unable to identify the owner. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 12th September 2015 14:26

Planners grapple with Whitchurch summerhouse plans

     (UPDATED - PLANS REJECTED)   A controversial application for change of use of a summerhouse on a riverside plot situated to the east of Thames Bank has been objected to by the Parish Council and others, resulting in a meeting of SODC’s planning committee on Wednesday 16th September. 

The owner seeks to use the property (see map) for holiday accommodation. But the access to it is by a right-of-way across private land belonging to several neighbours. The planning officer has recommended approval subject to certain conditions.  Neighbours have objected on a variety of grounds. The Chilterns Conservation Board has also objected.  The details can be read here

The meeting is expected to be attended by the Parish Chairman and by local objectors. In addition to the effect on neighbours, concern has been expressed that approval could open up the riverside nearby to further applications. 

Members of the public can attend the meeting, which starts at 6 pm on 16th September in Didcot Civic Hall.  Those wishing to speak should register their intention by the previous day. 

The timber-built summerhouse is currently offered for sale at a guide price of £500,000. 

Update, Sunday 20th September:  The application was unanimously refused by the Oxfordshire Planning Committee at their meeting last Wednesday.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 8th September 2015 14:05

Pink Ladies raise funds for cancer research

A group of Mums from Whitchurch Primary School walked the Breast Ever half marathon on Sunday 6th September and raised £1400 for the Against Breast Cancer charity.  Their route was Wallingford to Beale Park, passing through Whitchurch and across the bridge.  They walked in memory of Anne Tuckwell who died on 20th February this year (see News Archive, 1st March). 

An enlarged photo is here.  You can read more about Anne and her young son Louis here.

Date/Time : Monday, 7th September 2015 18:12

Have you seen this cat? UPDATE: cat has returned home.

A short-haired brindle/tortoiseshell cat, Ava, has been missing since Monday evening.  Eve Alcock says: “It is very unlike her to go so long without coming back for biscuits!  She doesn't wear a collar but is microchipped.  We think she wanders mainly round St Mary's Church and the surrounding gardens, but she may go further - who knows!"

Update, 29 August: Rev Claire Alcock reported this morning: "Our missing cat, Ava, returned home this morning (slightly worse for wear).  Thank you so much for your kind messages and thanks to our lovely helpful neighbours."

Date/Time : Wednesday, 26th August 2015 14:27

Look out for the Dunk Tank at the village fete

The Whitchurch fete is on Saturday week, 29th August, and for the first time there will be a Dunk Tank.  Parish councillor Dave Bowen is planning some Dunking to help raise funds for the village green pavilion project.  He explains:

The Parish Council will be at the Fete this year fundraising for the new sports pavilion. We will have a Dunk Tank and will be Dunking People to raise money. We are looking for some volunteers to be Dunked, along with any nominations of people you would like to Dunk. If you know somebody who you think deserves to be dunked then name who you would like to dunk along with how much you are prepared to donate and we will start a list of nominations and how much people have pledged.

If you want to volunteer or know somebody who wants to volunteer for a stint on the Dunk Tank then let me know as we will be looking for quite a few people for this.

Dunk Tanks are quite rare in the UK with only around 7 or 8 available for hire. Our one has been used on quite a few TV shows so you will be in good company being Dunked including Tom Parker from the Wanted, Richard from the Sooty Show, Abi Clancy, Midsomer Murders to name a few.

Dave can be contacted here.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 19th August 2015 19:01

'Mr Sam' of Manor Road has died

Samuel Josefowitz, who owned the 11-acre property Badgers Bosk in Manor Road until selling it last year, has died at the age of 93 in New York.  He studied to be an engineer, then became an entrepreneur and art collector with a special interest in the work of Paul Gauguin.  He would stay in Whitchurch from time to time, visiting from his home in Switzerland. 

He allowed a small strip of land on the boundary of his property to be leased annually by the parish council as part of the children’s playground in Manor Road.  The annual ground rent for the land, negotiated with him by past parish chairman Matilda Oppenheimer, was one red rose.  It is understood that the sale of the property entailed a continuation of the lease. 

‘Mr Sam’, as he was often known, generously gave swings, climbing frames and slides to equip the playground for the benefit of the village.

An article on his life and career can be read here.

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th August 2015 11:20

Tuesday is last day to top up bridge cards at old rate

The Telegraph today published an article about Whitchurch bridge and its tolls, quoting research by local resident Mike Holland comparing it unfavourably with other bridges worldwide in terms of cost per mile.  It also quotes Helen Bowsher who said it can cost her nearly £4 a day ferrying her three children to school and activities. 

On Tuesday 11th August at 9 pm the barrier comes down on top-ups at the present card rate of 29.4p per crossing.  Until then, if you have 50 or fewer crossings left on your card, the toll collectors will let you add £10 to it as you pass.  That gives a maximum of 50 + 34 = 84 crossings on a card.  On the following morning the card toll rises from 29.4p to 40p.  The Bridge Company is also changing the minimum top-up from £10 to £20. 

Bridge Company director Geoff Weir confirmed today that a cap of four crossings per day, which will limit the cost to any frequent user to £1.60 per day, is expected to be introduced by the end of this month. For any further crossings in a day no toll will be taken from the card.

The picture shows the toll house in August 1948 when the toll is thought to have been 2 old pence per wheel, which is about 3p per car.

Date/Time : Saturday, 8th August 2015 18:17

Inspector approves new bridge toll

(updated) The Department of Transport has approved the application made by the Bridge Company last November for a 60p toll, a 50% increase on the present 40p.  A 21-page report by Inspector M J Moore has been published, following the Public Inquiry he conducted on 19th May at the George Hotel in Pangbourne.  It can be read here.

The Bridge Company announced today that the concessionary toll for card users will increase from 29.4p to 40p from Wednesday 12th August. Card users who wish to top up their cards at the current rate can do so until 11th August.  A maximum top-up of £10, adding 34 crossings, can be made if a card has fewer than 50 crossings remaining. 

The Bridge Company has also announced a concession which will benefit a small number of very frequent users: a cap of four crossings in any one day.  This will come into effect as soon as the current software is modified.  There will be no charge to a card for the fifth or any further crossings in a day. 

Further information is available on the company’s website.

Update, 28th July: Parish council chairman Keith Brooks said today: “I am disappointed at this result in view of the many valid points made by objectors at the Public Inquiry, most of which seem to be quoted in the Inspector’s report.  There were 293 written objections and a petition with 1520 signatures.  But at least the result is that the concessionary rate is going to be 40p for the first year instead of the expected 45p, and the company has undertaken not to charge card users more than 45p for ten years.  One point the Inspector made is that even if the bridge were to be taken into public ownership it would not necessarily be toll-free.  I would like to see a user group set up to enable the views of bridge users to be communicated to the company and I shall be speaking to them about that.”

Date/Time : Monday, 27th July 2015 11:39

New classroom delivered

(updated)  Whitchurch Primary School’s new classroom was delivered and installed in the school grounds yesterday.  Gavin Jones, sports teacher at the school, said: “We would like to thank the residents of Whitchurch for ensuring the High Street and Eastfield Lane were clear, which made the process a smooth one.”

Mrs Dawn Chesters, the Headteacher, explains here the background to the new classroom, which will increase the school capacity from 126 to 140 pupils.

Date/Time : Friday, 24th July 2015 10:12

Planners turn down Eastfield House demolition

South Oxfordshire District Council has refused permission for Eastfield House care home to be demolished, even if the front façade is retained. 

Mr Adrian Duffield has given the council’s reasons in a letter of 13th July to the applicants:  “Eastfield House is a substantial late Victorian house, the original part of which is of high architectural quality.  The building makes a positive contribution to the Whitchurch Conservation Area.  The proposed demolition of the building would cause almost total loss of the historic fabric of this important non-designated heritage asset and would fail to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Whitchurch Conservation Area, resulting in substantial harm to this designated heritage asset.  There are no substantial public benefits of sufficient weight to outweigh the harm caused to the designated and non-designated heritage assets.” 

This is not necessarily the end of the matter as the care home owners, Majesticare, may appeal the decision.

Date/Time : Friday, 17th July 2015 16:01

Driver charged after Hardwick Road accident

(updated) Thames Valley Police have confirmed that the driver who lost control of his pick-up van and crashed in Hardwick Road on the evening of Friday 3rd July has been charged and is awaiting trial at a Reading court. The picture, taken by Jim Donahue, shows the black pick-up after it came to rest against a tree in a driveway. 

The sound of the crash interrupted an event being held at Jim’s house at Hillside.  James Norman, who was taking a telephone call outside, said that he heard a massive bang followed by a prolonged squeal of tyres.  He was on the scene within seconds and found the driver trying to back out from the tree to continue his journey, apparently unaware of the extent of damage, so James took control of the car keys.  The police and an ambulance were called.  Before hitting the tree the vehicle had struck and severely damaged a Nissan car which was parked at the roadside. The driver was only slightly injured and was taken to Henley police station for questioning and breath-testing.  It is understood that he failed the test by a considerable margin. 

Tania Neeson said today that her insurers had written off her six-year-old Nissan Qashqai.  She said it is normally parked safely in her own driveway, not far from the site of the accident, but unusually she had parked it at the roadside in order to collect equipment after the school sports day.

Update, 29th July: The driver is reported to have been convicted and given a two year driving ban and community service.

Date/Time : Monday, 13th July 2015 11:35

New team gets to grips with Village Green issues

The newly set up Village Green Working Group has been discussing the new pavilion project, methods of fundraising, maintenance of the green and new social events. 

The group, chaired by Jim Donahue, includes Dave Bowen (Parish Council), Cormac Neeson (Cricket Club), Alastair Aitcheson (Football Club), Gavin Jones (Whitchurch Primary School sports teacher) and Adrian Coulas-Pitman (Whitchurch resident).  A WoTHabs member is expected to join. 

Jim has written a report on progress to date which can be read here

Date/Time : Monday, 13th July 2015 09:32

Campaign to keep heavy lorries out

County Councillor Kevin Bulmer is calling for a ban on drivers of HGVs using personal sat-navs, which frequently lead them to drive along narrow rural roads and through villages.  The motion, to be discussed next week by Oxfordshire County Council, would make compulsory the use of commercial satellite navigation. 

Whitchurch Bridge director Geoff Weir, who supports the campaign, said today: “At least once a week a Heavy Goods Vehicle comes down the B471 through Whitchurch (ignoring the 7.5 tonne environmental weight limit and other signs) and is told by our toll collector that there is a railway bridge ahead with only 11 feet of headroom.  So the driver parks near the toll booth, causing delays and inconvenience to drivers and local residents.  This is made worse when the lorry is turned around, which often involves reversing to Eastfield Lane or even Manor Road.  Our toll collectors do their best to cope but sometimes find themselves on the receiving end of motorists’ anger.”

Date/Time : Friday, 10th July 2015 19:13

Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend starts Friday 17th

Whitchurch in Hampshire is the venue for the first ever Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th July. In recent months the organisers have visited all the known Whitchurches in the UK, believed to be around 14 in number, to gather support.  It is not clear how many will be represented at the event.  Residents of Whitchurch-Stoufville in Canada have sent a video message and one of their town flags to show their support. Whitchurch-by-Cardigan and Whitchurch Canonicorum have been invited.  Early on, the organisers were pleased to discover a Whitchurch that was new to them: Whitchurch Hill. 

Keith Brooks and Jim Donahue will be representing Whitchurch-on-Thames at the opening ceremony on the Friday evening, which will feature a vintage car parade and marching bands.  Attempts were made to raise a 5-a-side football team from our village but are understood to have been unsuccessful. 

The packed Schedule of Events over the three days can be seen here.

There is a Facebook page here.

The poster above can be read more clearly here.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 8th July 2015 17:58

Eastfield House demolition – last chance to object

Today (Friday 3rd July) is the final day of consultation on the current proposal by the owners to demolish Eastfield House, retaining only the southern façade.  The planning reference is P15/S1632/FUL and the link is here

Whitchurch residents not in favour of the demolition plan should register their objections online today, even if they have already objected to the related application S1641, for which the consultation ended two weeks ago.

Date/Time : Friday, 3rd July 2015 09:49

Young Explorers make new friends

On Sunday (28th June), 16 budding naturalists had a great time at Chalkhills, Hardwick Road, finding out about the flora and fauna that abound in the fields and woods at this unspoilt farm. This was the eighth Wildlife Explorers Day which Sandra Parkinson, Sally Woolhouse and Gill Goodwin from WoTHabs have organised for local primary age children and their parents. 

Sally Woolhouse reports: 

The children were very lucky to handle some of the many moths (over 200 different species) that Martin Townsend, a professional entomologist, had caught during the previous night in 5 moth traps set up around the farm. They were amazingly varied and beautiful. After going on specimen-gathering expeditions with maps and compasses in 3 groups, everyone got back together for lunch in the barn. 

The other ‘first’ for this event was a visit by Clive Hill (with Gill and Chris) who brought along a red kite, a Harris’ hawk and a kestrel. He explained to the children all about these wonderful birds and the different ways they hunt. They even had the chance to stroke the hawk. 

Adam Howe talked about the different mammals that live in this area, capturing the children’s keen interest in dead things and skulls! The day finished with the old favourite – snail racing! 

There are more photos in the gallery.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 1st July 2015 16:05

New threat to Whitchurch’s only bus service

Oxfordshire County Council, in its search for savings to match cuts in central government funding, is reviewing all its subsidised bus routes with the possibility of closing some of them.  This includes the 143 bus service, the only one that visits Whitchurch.  OCC is holding consultation meetings, including one in Didcot Civic Hall at 4.00 pm on Monday 6th July, to explain the proposals and obtain feedback from users. 

The 143 service is run by Berkshire County Council with a financial contribution from Oxfordshire.  The route mainly serves communities in Berkshire but on its return from Upper Basildon the bus crosses the river into Oxfordshire at Pangbourne, passing through Whitchurch and up the hill to do a circuit of Whitchurch Hill before returning through Whitchurch to Pangbourne, and then heading to Reading.  There are five services a day. The 143 timetable can be seen via our Links page. 

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks said that for many people, particularly the elderly and disabled, it would be very inconvenient to have to walk across to Pangbourne to catch the bus into Reading, while for those in Whitchurch Hill the situation would be considerably worse.  Councillor David Bowen is currently looking into the matter on behalf of the community.

Oxfordshire County Council is asking for the views of users on its website.  They also say that anyone needing support in commenting on the proposals or in attending one of the events should get in touch with the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council on 01865 883488 or email orcc@oxonrcc.org.uk

The poster giving details of the consultation meetings can be seen here.

Date/Time : Monday, 22nd June 2015 11:55

Remembering Stephen Trinder

As reported earlier, long term Whitchurch resident Stephen Trinder died on Sunday 14th June after a recent period in hospital.  He had returned to his home in Eastfield Lane for the last week of his life.  He is survived by his wife Sally.  He was much loved and respected in the village where he played an active role in a great range of activities over many years.  There will be a private family funeral.

A memorial service will be held in St Mary’s Church, Whitchurch, on Friday 14th August at 1.30 pm. 

An appreciation of Stephen’s life can be read here.

Date/Time : Thursday, 18th June 2015 14:41

Eastfield House demolition – opportunity to object

Many Whitchurch residents who commented on the previous proposal will have received letters of notification from South Oxfordshire District Council about the latest proposal by the owner of the care home, which is to demolish the whole building except for the front wall nearest to Eastfield Lane. 

There are two linked applications for the current proposal. The letters ask for comments on them by 11th June and 24th June respectively but the Parish Clerk has requested and received agreement for a postponement of the earlier date to 19th June. 

Issues of concern which appear most relevant in responding to the current proposal are listed in this leaflet, prepared by a village resident. 

If you wish to object to the current proposal, it is important to respond again to planning officer Tom Wyatt, even if you did so last time.  The closing date is 19th June. You can comment either online or by post. 

Links to planning applications:

          P15/S1641/FUL

          P15/S1632/FUL

Date/Time : Saturday, 13th June 2015 18:07

Bridge project wins an engineering award

Balfour Beatty has won an Engineering Excellence award from the Institution of Civil Engineers  for the rebuilding of Whitchurch Bridge.  The award was presented by the president of the Institution at a ceremony at Phyllis Court in Henley yesterday evening, 12th June. 

This accolade may cause mixed feelings among local residents who suffered the inconvenience of many months overrun on the bridge closure period and are faced with an increase in the toll to pay for a 50% overrun on the budget. 

However, the judges said: “We recognised the difficulties encountered in the construction of this project during a period of extreme weather. Overall a challenging project, well executed under very difficult conditions, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing structure that will be used and enjoyed by the local community for many years to come. A worthy winner.” 

The submission was made by Balfour Beatty on behalf of the project team, which comprised:

Principal Contractor: Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Ltd; Client: Whitchurch Bridge Company; Project Manager: Oxfordshire County Council; Detailed Design Consultant: Atkins; Preliminary Architectural & Engineering Design Consultant: Jacobs Engineering UK Ltd.

More details can be found on the Bridge Company’s website

The top prize in the Institution's Thames Valley awards was won by Network Rail for the elevated railway viaduct at Reading station.

Date/Time : Saturday, 13th June 2015 15:00

Missing black and white cat

Sylvestor has sadly gone AWOL and this is so highly, highly unusual that he is away from home for more than a few hours, never mind a few days.

He is a domestic short-hair feline, medium size, mainly white with black patches (he's much smaller than a similarly marked Friesian cow, so not much chance of confusion if sighted) and a black right ear. He is generally calm, but also very wary of strangers.

He was last seen around the area of Little Cottage (his home) and Swanston Cottages. His territory seems to be within 5-6 properties of this location. He sometimes wanders into Manor Road across the High Street but has never been sighted too far down there. He has been spotted in Hardwick Road gardens. He could be stuck in a tree, locked in a shed out outbuilding in error, or simply have got himself in a bit of a predicament due to his inquisitive nature. 

His owners implore their neighbourly village residents to please check their outbuildings and sheds, cellars and big trees, or anywhere of note that may entice a curious cat. They are hoping for the safe return of their precious cat and if there are any sightings, would greatly appreciate a call right away to 0777 595 8379 or 07979 648506. Please view a poster here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 6th June 2015 09:25

Many keen to serve as Whitchurch councillors

Eleven candidates have put their names forward for the three vacancies on the parish council created by resignations last month.  Parish council chairman Keith Brooks has clarified that the closing date for applications is this Saturday 6th June.  The candidates can expect to be interviewed and three co-opted.  However, if a request has been submitted before that date by ten electors to hold a by-election, arrangements for polling will have to be made within two months, at the expense of the village. 

One recently arrived resident who put his name forward found he was barred by the residence requirement of a year.  Adrian Coultas-Pitman, who teaches in Tilehurst and is moving into Old Gardens, said he was keen to get involved in the community as soon as possible. 

At yesterday’s parish meeting, councillors unanimously supported a resolution not to charge the school for use of the village green during school hours.  Councillor Jim Donahue said that a village green working group containing representatives of interested parties had now been set up and would be holding its first meeting soon. 

The new Eastfield House demolition plan was discussed but there was a lack of clarity about what is proposed.  District councillor Bob Simister said he would speak to the SODC planning officer.  The closing date for objections is currently 11th June.  The parish council decided to meet later to discuss its reaction to the plans. 

The picture shows the oak picnic table in use at the Maze.  It was installed last August by volunteers (see news archive, 25th August 2014).  Jim Donahue said that the next plan is to add seats.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 2nd June 2015 10:45

Eastfield House – new application

Ross Healthcare Ltd of Stoke on Trent has submitted a modified application, following the refusal by SODC in January of their demolition proposal.  They are now proposing to demolish all but the façade facing Eastfield Lane (the central, dark-shaded area in the picture) and incorporate that in the large new 45-bed care home. 

It is understood that the SODC planning officer, Tom Wyatt, has written to all those who objected to the previous application.  The consultation period ends on 18th June.  All those wishing to object should write once again to the planning officer, or submit comments online, by 11th June.

The submission appears to address the first point of refusal (scroll down to the news item of 10th January for a link to the refusal letter) but it is not clear whether either of the other two points raised by the Inspector, namely the overlooking of neighbouring properties and the effects on groundwater and sewerage, have been addressed.

The new submission includes a Bat Survey with recommendations for accommodating two species of pipistrelle that frequent the building.

Laura Lucas has applied to Historic England for listing of Eastfield House, which is within the village's Conservation Area and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.    

Date/Time : Tuesday, 26th May 2015 12:48

Editor of the Bulletin bows out

After 13 years of producing the Whitchurch Bulletin, Sarah Butterworth has announced her retirement as editor.  Her final edition was delivered this week, featuring a cover picture of Eric Hartley and his dog Molly. 

There is now a vacancy for the position of editor, a role which could be filled by one person or a small team.  Anyone who would like to consider this is invited to contact parish council chairman Keith Brooks (984 1178).  Or they could phone Sarah (984 2922) to hear what it entails. 

While a number of residents now turn to the Whitchurch Web for local information, the two-monthly Whitchurch Bulletin continues to be an essential medium of local communication which reaches everybody in the village and is likely to be needed for many years to come. 

Sarah took over the editorship in 2002 from Sylvia Rosekilly, who had in turn taken over from Joyce Voysey.  Keith Brooks said yesterday: "The village is most grateful to Sarah for carrying out this task for so many years and will always be indebted to her. We now need to find someone to take this on and continue the great service this publication provides."

Date/Time : Monday, 25th May 2015 10:04

Parish councillor creates a To-do list

As he knocked on front doors around the village during the run-up to the recent local election, Jim Donahue asked residents to tell him their concerns.  Now he is vice-chairman of the parish council and has prepared a detailed Issues List

He says: “There are almost 50 different issues here, most that we already know about and many that we are already trying to address. I am not saying that this list is complete or promising to resolve them all, but I will promise to ensure that each issue is fully investigated and will keep them on the list until they are closed or we have done everything that we can. If anyone in the village has concerns or issues please let me or any of the parish councillors know and I will add it to the list. It should go without saying, but I believe one of the most important things we can do as a councillor is to listen to the concerns of our community and to make their issues our own. I am always happy to hear feedback from anyone in the village. So please don't hesitate to contact me or any of the councillors by phone, email, or knock on our doors.”

Date/Time : Friday, 22nd May 2015 11:44

Strong objections to bridge toll increase

Every seat was taken for yesterday’s Public Inquiry at the George Hotel in Pangbourne as Mike Moore BA(Hons) MRTPI CMILT MCIHT (left), the independent Inspector appointed by the Department of Transport, opened the proceedings at 10 am. 

As the details of the Bridge Company’s history, recent project performance and future finances were examined relentlessly through the day, empty seats began to appear among the audience. After nine and a half hours, including half an hour off for lunch, the Inquiry closed at 7.30 pm. 

First to speak were Bridge Company representatives Mike Beckley and Geoff Weir, together with project manager Martin Brain of Oxfordshire County Council’s bridges department.  Their statements took two hours and can be read on the Company’s website

It was then the turn of the objectors.  Pamela Bale, David Watson, Mike Holland, Peter Dragonetti, Mike Scott, Jonathan Pearson, Barry Reid, Amanda Holland, Terry Driscoll, Peter McManners, Ian Hargreaves, Jim Kerevan, Graham Morfey and Helen Bowsher all spoke. 

The principal topics raised were: 

  • The status of the company: private monopoly or regulated utility

  • the 50% cost overrun of the reconstruction project

  • projections of declining future traffic levels

  • valuation of company assets based on the £6.5m actual cost of the bridge reconstruction, though this was inflated by a rare flood

  • bank borrowing terms and repayment arrangements

  • loan stock terms

  • shareholder dividends

  • cardholder concessions

The objectors included at least two accountants and an economist.  Several argued that the company’s plans to start setting aside funds immediately for the next rebuilding of the bridge in 100 years time were unjustified.  Others considered that the traffic projections, showing a continuous decline, were contradicted by government figures and local economic growth indicators. Some maintained that all the assumptions in the financial model generating the requested toll were unreasonably pessimistic and had led to an unjustifiably high level of 60p.

Having listened to the Company’s case and the large number of objections, the Inspector now has to weigh up the merits of the application and report to the Secretary of State, who is expected to announce his decision in several months time. 

Bridge Company director Geoff Weir said afterwards that he thought the objectors’ points had been clearly made.  He also said he would like to explore the possibility of setting up a Bridge User Group to improve two-way communication with regular users.

A detailed report on the first half of the Inquiry, while their reporter was present, has appeared in getreading.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 20th May 2015 15:27

Public Inquiry today on bridge tolls

The independent Inspector appointed to lead the Public Inquiry, Mr M Moore, is expected to open the proceedings at 10 am today at The George Hotel, Pangbourne. 

After the Department of Transport agreed to extend the period of consultation to 20th April, a further 280 written objections are reported to have been received.  These were in addition to the 28 received during the statutory 42 day period ending on 2nd January. 

The Bridge Company yesterday added its Witness Statements and an analysis of bridge card usage to the Statement of Reasons already on its website.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 19th May 2015 08:50

Eric Hartley and the village walks – a tribute

On Sunday Eric organised and led a fascinating and well attended walk (see photo gallery) but he insists that the time has come for him to retire.  Peter Smith, chairman of the Whitchurch Society, pays this tribute to him: 

After organising some 27 village walks, Eric Hartley has decided to step down and to hand on his maps, compass and Hi-vis tabards to the next generation.  But Eric’s Walks, as they are sure to be known, will continue! 

Some seven years ago the Whitchurch Society decided to introduce a village walk to be held each New Year’s Day, and Eric, as our local walking guru, was asked if he would plan the route and lead the walkers.  Over 100 people attended this first walk, and Eric decided that there was clearly a call for organised walks at other times of the year too, and so further walks were arranged for Spring, Summer and Autumn.  Each year since then there have been four walks, all organised by Eric, where walkers have been furnished with OS maps and Eric’s own commentary on the geography, history and natural history of our route. 

This year’s Spring Walk was held on 10th May, when we enjoyed a sunny day along dry paths where, as far as possible, we followed the parish boundary and “beat the bounds”.   As usual, we were well furnished with Eric’s historical references – boundary stones, Boundary Farm, the Pump House, and, a new one for many of us, an Anglo-Saxon jug well.  A welcome break at The Sun – Eric’s walks are invariably punctuated by hospitality – and then a more leisurely return down the hill. 

Eric’s Walks have generated a loyal following, and there are many in the village and beyond who have come to appreciate not only his meticulous organisation but also his courtesy, good humour and friendship.  He has made a wonderful contribution to village life, and we are very grateful to him. Thank you, Eric.

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th May 2015 16:48

Tree felling at The Mount next week

Starting on Monday, a contractor will be working on trees in the car park area of The Mount, opposite the Modern Artists Gallery.  A sycamore that has been causing damage to the brick perimeter wall is to be removed.  Elsewhere in the car park, where a large stem of a cedar is threatening the house next door, the tree is to be removed.  Mark Weedon, a resident of The Mount, said today on behalf of the residents’ group Mount Management that the work has been approved by the Tree Officer in SODC and will take at least two days to complete.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 13th May 2015 19:11

Resignations from the Parish Council (Updated)

The first monthly meeting of the newly elected seven-strong Whitchurch Parish Council was held yesterday evening (11th May) in the village hall.  Chairman Harry Butterworth said that after five years it was time for somebody else to take the leadership role and he was standing down.  Long serving Councillor Vincent Aldridge announced his resignation with immediate effect.  He explained that he had tried earlier to withdraw his application to stand in the parish election but had not been permitted by the organisers to do so. 

It was proposed by several councillors that ex-District and ex-County Councillor Pearl Slatter, eighth candidate in the election results, should be re-instated to the council to fill the vacancy created by the resignation.  After some discussion on the appropriateness of the procedure, Councillor Slatter was re-instated. 

Councillor Keith Brooks was elected chairman and Councillor Jim Donahue vice-chairman. 

Management of the village green was discussed and the need for a fresh start was agreed, which will include a consultation in the village about charging policy.  It was revealed that discussions are already underway between Oxfordshire County Council and the Primary School about a formal agreement with the Parish Council for the use of the village green. 

Later:  It appears that the dissatisfaction felt by some councillors with recent events is affecting their willingness to serve.  Councillor Pearl Slatter said this afternoon (12th May) that she had tendered her resignation to the Parish Clerk with immediate effect, and did so with great disappointment.  This was followed shortly by the resignation of Councillor Laura Lucas, leaving five serving councillors.

Update, 13th May: A further resignation was announced yesterday evening.  Councillor Harry Butterworth, chairman for the last five years, announced his resignation from the Parish Council with immediate effect.  He has served the community as a parish councillor for over two decades.   The councillors now remaining are Keith Brooks (chairman), Jim Donahue (vice-chairman), David Bowen and James Norman. 

It appears that the recent unsettled situation stems primarily from differences or misunderstandings over the issue of village green management and the method of charging for its maintenance, which came to a head at the parish council meeting on 13th April.  That led to many heated email exchanges within the community, and to flurries of messages on the website message board.  In order to preserve the family-friendly nature of this website, and in the hope that calm will soon return to the community, the message board has been temporarily closed to messages on these contentious topics. - Richard Wingfield, News Editor.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 12th May 2015 19:24

Election results — Whitchurch on Thames Parish

There were eight candidates in Thursday’s election for Parish Councillors, for seven places. Voters were instructed to mark their ballot paper against any number of candidates up to seven.

 

The numbers of votes received, announced by South Oxfordshire District Council today, were: 

Jim Donahue                       343 

Keith Brooks                       280

Harry Butterworth               265

Vincent Aldridge                  244 

Laura Lucas                        244 

James Norman                    240 

David Bowen                       227 

Pearl Slatter                        189 

The top seven candidates have been elected. 

There was some surprise in the village that the candidate with the most experience in local politics, Pearl Slatter, did not receive more support.  After 18 years as a county councillor and 12 years as a district councillor, including 10 years chairing the planning committee, Pearl should be well placed to help the village in its dealings with district and county officials. 

Today Pearl was taking in the result but was happy that she had received an invitation to attend the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace later this month.  After her many years of service to the community she said she was delighted to have been given the accolade of representing South Oxfordshire at the event.

Date/Time : Saturday, 9th May 2015 18:34

Election results – MP and District Councillor

John Howell, Conservative, has been re-elected MP for our Henley constituency with a large majority.  The turnout was 70%.  Full results can be seen here

 

Rob Simister, Conservative, has been elected District Councillor for our Kidmore End and Whitchurch ward.  Here are the votes: 

          Keith Brooks (Independent)                     194

          Harry Butterworth (Liberal Democrats)     185

          Peter Dragonetti (Green)                         551

          Amanda Holland (Labour)                        205

          Rob Simister (Conservative)                  1073 

Results of the Whitchurch Parish Council election are expected to be available tomorrow afternoon (Saturday).

Date/Time : Friday, 8th May 2015 18:47

School’s fund-raising auction

Whitchurch Primary School is expanding to accommodate growing numbers of children in the village.  The parent group is raising funds for a covered walkway between the new classroom and the school and towards furnishing the new classroom.  Local authority funding is available for the classroom itself.

There is an Auction of Promises between now and the Quiz Night on Friday 15th May.  You can bid online for tickets to Newbury races, a day shadowing John Howell (but only if he is re-elected), a 6 month toll bridge pass (donated by the Bridge Company), or a weekend course on butchery in Goring Heath, to mention only a few of the offers.

Date/Time : Thursday, 7th May 2015 15:56

Voters out early at village hall

A steady stream of Whitchurch voters was entering the polling station this morning to make their marks on ballot papers for member of parliament, district councillor and parish councillors.  See pictures in the Photo Gallery.  The voting booths will remain open until 10 pm this evening.

Date/Time : Thursday, 7th May 2015 12:55

Trees damaged at the Maze

Three young cherry trees were damaged beyond recovery at the Maze last weekend, in an act of vandalism.  Considerable force was used to tear down the trees, two of which were broken off near the base and one at waist height.  A signpost and a set of divining rods were also removed.  Jim Donahue said that the trees had been planted by David Mattimoe several years ago.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 6th May 2015 10:51

Candidates present themselves for Parish Council election

The Henley Standard today published profiles of candidates in the Whitchurch Parish Council election.  Residents of the village will have the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate(s) in the Village Hall on 7th May. 

The profiles submitted by each of the eight candidates can be read here.

Date/Time : Friday, 1st May 2015 15:07

Comments invited on War Memorial improvements

The memorial on the hillside between Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill is shared between the villages.  Goring Heath parish council has backed a proposal initiated by Martin Wise of Whitchurch Hill to make improvements to it over the next year or two.  These start with cleaning the stonework. There is a plan to add an interpretative board giving details of the lives of those commemorated.  A re-landscaping of the area has been suggested and finally the cross could be rebuilt to its original impressive height prior to tree damage in 1989, if funding can be found.

The range of improvements and the estimated costs are summarised in this document, which also shows the original design.  Residents of Whitchurch are invited to fill in the form to indicate how much work they would like to see done and return it to Martin Wise.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 22nd April 2015 18:35

Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend approaches

The organisers of the jamboree and get-together at Whitchurch in Hampshire, from 17th to 19th July, for the 14 Whitchurches in the UK (plus the one in Canada), are touring the invited villages. Paul Driver (pictured, wearing a WWW tee shirt) visited our village yesterday with a fellow organiser and they were shown around by Jim Donahue.  Their next stop was Whitchurch Hill. 

Details of the Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend can be found here.  Anyone who would like to be involved should contact Jim.

Date/Time : Monday, 20th April 2015 11:46

Candidates announced for elections on 7th May

For the first time in many years there are more candidates for the parish council (8) than places (7), so the voting in the village hall on 7th May will be in three parts.  Polling will take place not only for a member of parliament for Henley, and for a district councillor for Kidmore End & Whitchurch, but also for parish councillors for Whitchurch on Thames. 

For district councillor, five candidates have been nominated: 

Keith Brooks (Independent), Harry Butterworth (Liberal Democrat), Peter Dragonetti (Green Party), Amanda Holland (Labour Party), Rob Simister (Conservative Party). 

For parish councillors, eight candidates have been nominated: 

Vincent Aldridge, David Bowen, Keith Brooks, Harry Butterworth, Jim Donahue, Laura Lucas, James Norman, Pearl Slatter. 

Further details of candidates for parish councillor can be found on this South Oxfordshire District Council webpage, at sheet 29.

Date/Time : Thursday, 16th April 2015 21:19

Users object to charges for Village Green

The Parish Council meeting on Monday evening (13th April) was attended by about 20 users of the Village Green, cricketers and others, protesting they were being asked to pay for their use of the ground. 

Representatives of Whitchurch Cricket Club said that were unhappy about being charged as they understood that the 2012 agreement transferring the ground to the community included an assurance that cricket could be played on the green for 30 years, with no mention of charging.  Two members had offered to fund a trust to handle the running of the village green. 

Parish councillors commented that charging for the use of recreation grounds was a standard practice and necessary to pay for upkeep.  An increase in council taxes for this purpose would not be fair as most cricket players are not from the village. Currently, in the run-up to parish council elections on 7th May, the present council is barred from taking any decisions that would bind its successors.  The extent of charging is expected to be discussed by the next council, who are likely to consult village residents. 

Parish councillor Laura Lucas has provided her own comments on the question of charging.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 15th April 2015 09:36

Police hunt after fracas at Greyhound

Last night (5th April) a group of three young people caused considerable trouble at The Greyhound, ending in a police manhunt around 9.30 pm.

At around 7.30 pm they entered the pub from the garden and an altercation followed about whether they could be served.  After they left a brick was thrown through one of the pub windows.

This led to a fracas and the police were called. Two men were arrested by police and were detained with the help of the publican and customers.  One ran off, handcuffed.  The police then called in more resources, including a helicopter from NPAS Benson which hovered over the village.  Five police cars were deployed.  It was reported that a man was subsequently detained in Swanston Field.

Two men are understood to have been charged this morning and released on police bail.

Date/Time : Monday, 6th April 2015 14:43

Bridge Toll Inquiry – further developments

It has been made clear today that those who are not among the 24 earlier objectors are free not only to submit documents or comments for the Inspector to see but also to have a request to speak passed to the Inspector. 

Julian Smith, who is overseeing the toll increase application process on behalf of the Secretary of State, clarified today: 

All objectors evidence/correspondence sent to Julian Smith at the Department for Transport will be forwarded onto the Inspector for his consideration. Julian Smith will also be informing the Inspector of those who wish to attend and those who wish to speak at the Inquiry. Please note all correspondence/evidence for the Inspector’s consideration must be sent to Julian Smith by Monday 20th April 2015*.  There are no restrictions on who wishes to attend the public inquiry and who wishes to give oral evidence. But note the Inspector will be in charge of the Inquiry on the day and it will be for him to decide who will be called to give oral evidence. 

(* the address is given in our 29th March news item.) 

A community meeting has been arranged by objectors for 8 pm on Friday 10th April in Whitchurch Village Hall. This is to provide an opportunity for those who want to object to the planned 50% toll increase to find out the facts and learn how to put forward an objection at the Public Inquiry on 19th May. 

A Facebook page ‘NO to Whitchurch Toll’ has been created, aimed at spreading the word about the planned increase and publicising the opportunity to object.  Posters are being put up in Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill about the community meeting.

Date/Time : Thursday, 2nd April 2015 19:25

Whitchurch to be involved in research project (updated)

The village is soon to play a small but important role in an international scientific research project. A joint team of scientists from Leicester University and NASA’s Intergalactic Research Unit will be setting up a temporary observatory near the old trig point above Bozedown Farm. Using both conventional and radio telescopes this will be one of over a thousand such stations around the world probing outer space in the search for extra-terrestrial life over the next year. Lead scientist Professor Del Inocente of the Leicester University Space Centre explained that the village had been chosen because it is a known “hot spot” for unexplained aerial activity. The most recent incident was in February 2010 when the village was briefly bathed in a bright green light one evening. A small team of project scientists will be visiting the site tomorrow (Wednesday) to begin setting up the observatory.

Update, 2nd April:  Professor Del Inocente of Leicester University disappointed many yesterday (Wednesday) by announcing that the planned space investigations had been postponed and were now most unlikely to commence before April next year.  He added reassuringly that he did not consider Whitchurch to be at an abnormal level of risk from aliens at the present time.  However, he asked to be informed immediately of any further instances of the “green light in the evening” phenomenon.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 31st March 2015 18:37

Call for evidence at Bridge Toll Inquiry (Second update)

The Department of Transport has written to ask interested parties* (see clarification below) whether they wish to give oral or written evidence in the Public Inquiry on toll charges to be held at The George Hotel, Pangbourne, on Tuesday 19th May.  Those wishing to attend and give evidence in person are asked to say so in advance. 

Those wishing to send documents or evidence for the Inspector to consider* must send them by 20th April to Julian Smith, Policy Advisor, Department for Transport Cities Policy & Delivery Division, Zone 2/14, Great Minster House, Horseferry Road, London SW1P 4DR.  Both post and email to julian.smith@dft.gsi.gov.uk are accepted.  Documents received and all earlier objection letters will be forwarded to the Inspector.

*UPDATE, Monday 30th March:  Julian Smith clarified today that the invitation to submit documents or evidence at this stage was only to those 24 who objected in writing during the consultation period late last year, to each of whom a letter was sent on 23rd March.  Others now wishing to object are still free to attend the Inquiry.

*UPDATE, Tuesday 31st March:  Julian Smith clarified further today, after receiving queries, that the last sentence of the above update should read:  Others wishing to object can still do so - to him at the above address - and are still free to attend the Inquiry.    

Whitchurch Parish Council submitted a memorandum last December, prepared by four residents, detailing objections to the proposed increase.

The Department of Transport has named the independent Inspector appointed to hold the Public Inquiry: Mr M Moore BA (Hons) MRTPI CMILT MCIHT.

Date/Time : Sunday, 29th March 2015 11:45

Candidates invited to stand as Parish and District Councillors

Nominations have been invited today by South Oxfordshire District Council for candidates to stand as Parish Councillors for Whitchurch.  Seven councillors will be elected on 7th May.  In the event that seven or fewer candidates are nominated there will be no poll.  The instructions for submitting a nomination are here.  The deadline for receiving nominations is 9th April.  As the SODC office in Crowmarsh Gifford is not in use, each nomination is required to be delivered in person to the Abingdon office. 

Parish Council chairman Harry Butterworth said that he would like to see as many people as possible put forward their names in order to ensure that Whitchurch is well represented. 

A similar announcement was made by SODC today in respect of the nomination of candidates to stand as District Councillor for the newly formed district of Kidmore End and Whitchurch.  One councillor will be elected on 7th May.  In the event that only one candidate is nominated there will be no poll. A link to the instructions for submitting a nomination will be found on the Parish Council page.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 25th March 2015 08:17

Changes at the Village Hall

After many years as chairman of the Village Hall Management Committee, Stephen Trinder stepped down from the role earlier this month and Laura Lucas has taken over.  At the same time Nigel Grove took the opportunity to retire as treasurer after a long period of service and Jill Bradon has taken on the role.  Keith Brooks has joined the committee.  The hall manager is Richard Scearce. 

Stephen has donated to the village his new painting (above) of a much loved view, which is now on display in the village hall. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 21st March 2015 09:47

A bridge too far for Oxfordshire Highways

Attempts by the village conservation group WoTHabs to improve conditions for walkers alongside Hardwick Road have suffered an unexpected setback.  Two weeks ago volunteers gathered to clear the bushes and trees blocking the walking route on the south side of the road near the village entrance.  Small oak plank ‘bridges’ were installed across two road drainage grips.  The volunteers also flagged off areas of the verge, newly seeded at their expense, to protect them from damage.  The group appeared to have succeeded in creating a useful footpath, which drew favourable comments from users. 

However the Highways Department of Oxfordshire County Council took a different view.  They were concerned that the footpath route, despite being some distance from the road and separated from it by trees, was legally on the verge.  The verge forms part of the highway and there are extensive regulations about what can be done there.  In particular, the unauthorised ‘bridges’ were a potential hazard in the eyes of the authority, which could put it at risk of liability claims.  And the sticks, marker tape and signs protecting the verges were a visual distraction to drivers.  OCC said that the work should have been done under a licence from them, obtained through the Parish Council, and should have complied with the Traffic Signs Manual. 

Accordingly, a contractor came earlier this week and removed the oak planks, the sticks, the marker tape and the signs that had all been so carefully installed.  This was initially assumed by the disappointed members of the volunteer group to be the work of vandals. 

All is not lost, however, as the vegetation blocking the footpath route has been successfully cleared and most walkers will be able to take the drainage grips in their stride.

Date/Time : Thursday, 19th March 2015 14:51

Burglars active in Goring Heath

Thieves broke into outbuildings in Goring Heath on Thursday night and stole four mountain bikes, a quad bike, power tools and other equipment, including a tractor – details here.  It is not clear whether the owners had marked their property with SmartWater, or whether the outbuildings were well secured.

Date/Time : Monday, 16th March 2015 17:01

Public Inquiry on bridge tolls announced

Tuesday 19th May is the date for the Public Inquiry into the Bridge Company’s application for an increased toll.   It will be held at 10 am in The George Hotel in Pangbourne and is expected to last one day.  Members of the public may attend. 

The Bridge Company has applied to increase the toll for cars from 40p to 60p, primarily as a result of the exceptional river floods which delayed the reconstruction and increased its cost.  John Howell MP wrote to the Government last November seeking financial support to mitigate the extra costs due to flooding but it is understood that no response has been received. 

The Department of Transport received 24 objections during the period of consultation which ended on 2nd January 2015 and subsequently asked the Planning Inspectorate to arrange a Public Inquiry at which the Company and the objectors can put forward their views to an independent Inspector.

Date/Time : Thursday, 12th March 2015 16:31

Jim Donahue wins national photo award

In the inaugural British Life Photo Awards the winner of the rural photography category, announced yesterday at the Mall Gallery near Trafalgar Square, is Jim Donahue.  His winning photograph, Early Morning Rowers, shows a pair on the Thames on a misty September morning near Hambledon Lock. This, together with two more of his entries, can be seen in the Photo Gallery. 

Originally from the USA, Jim has lived in this country since 1997 and is a Whitchurch parish councillor. Having produced books of photographs of Whitchurch and Pangbourne in recent years, he is currently working on a book on Henley which is expected to appear this summer.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 4th March 2015 15:47

Remembering Anne Tuckwell

Anne passed away on Friday 20th February at the Sue Ryder Hospice, Nettlebed.  She first came to Whitchurch in the 1990s and settled in Dower House, adjacent to Hardwick House.  She was a Fine Arts graduate and worked as a Curator at the V&A and on design projects in hospitals. Her passion was flowers and gardens which led to her giving talks in garden centres to groups with learning difficulties. 

Anne played a prominent part in local societies including The Whitchurch Society, of which she became Chairman in 2004, and the Twinning Association.  She also painted and exhibited in local shows in Pangbourne and in the Turbine House at Blake's Lock, Reading. 

In January 2009 Anne gave birth to her first child, Louis.  About this time she suffered a recurrence of breast cancer and underwent a series of debilitating procedures and treatments.  These were not effective in halting the spread of the disease.  Louis was a great joy to Anne during her illness and to her many friends. 

Anne's funeral will be at St Margaret's Church, Mapledurham, at 11.30 am on Thursday 12th March. A donations account has been set up in her memory at www.memorygiving.com/AnneTuckwell.  Proceeds will go to the Sue Ryder Hospice, Nettlebed. 

Thanks to Anne’s family for the information and the 2013 photo.

Date/Time : Sunday, 1st March 2015 18:25

Churchyard tidy-up volunteers invited

On Saturdays 7th and 14th March, between 10 am and midday, volunteers are invited to come along and help tidy up St Mary’s churchyard. 

There is ivy to be removed from walls, brambles to be cleared and overgrowth to be trimmed around headstones and trees.  If you are can come, bring whatever 'cutters' you have and a pair of gloves.  There will even be a reward: coffee, tea and biscuits (and possibly cake) will be available at the Old Stables.  Let’s make this a real Whitchurch community event and improve the surroundings of the remarkable church building which in one form or another has been here for over 1,000 years. 

Our historic church belongs to the whole community.  You don’t have to be a churchgoer to join in!

Date/Time : Thursday, 26th February 2015 18:02

SmartWater signs coming

Parish Council chairman Harry Butterworth said today: “There has been good progress on the SmartWater campaign, which was initiated and funded by Thames Valley Police and became a joint exercise between the Parish Council and the Police.  The 80% take-up target to qualify for burglary-deterrent signs was reached last week and yesterday PCSO Mark Bell and I went round the village looking at sign locations.  A proposal will be put to the Parish Council on Monday for three signs.  One is on the ‘gate’ marking the nominal village boundary half way up the hill, seen on the approach from Whitchurch Hill; one on the 30mph sign on the approach to the village along Hardwick Road from the east; and one on the ‘Whitchurch on Thames’ sign on the approach from Pangbourne, just north of the toll booth. There will be some delay for planning procedures to be followed but eventually we should have our ‘don’t mess with us’ signs!” 

The standard sign provided free by the Police is shown above. It measures 30 x 40 cm. 

If you are among the 20% of households which have not applied for a SmartWater kit, you can still obtain one.  Just email Mark or leave a message for him on 101.  The kit costs £10.  For more information, scroll down to our news item of 26th July 2014.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 25th February 2015 11:57

High Street no-parking lines awaited

Changes in parking habits that developed during the bridge closure have caused rush hour gridlock in the High Street on many occasions since the bridge was re-opened last September.  (For an earlier report, scroll down to the 9th December item on road rage.) 

In mid-December the Parish Council asked Oxfordshire County Council to paint some limited lengths of white line, similar to the one opposite The Greyhound, in certain locations in the High Street that had been identified by their working group on traffic and pavements (TAPAG).  These would define no-parking areas and provide a less confrontational environment for rush hour traffic in the High Street.  Factors taken into the balance were the parking needs of residents without off-street parking, the desirable traffic-calming effect of having plenty of cars parked along the High Street, and the wish to avoid the imposition of double yellow lines that has spoiled the look of many villages. 

OCC agreed the need for action but said that it had no budget left for painting work until at least April.  Meanwhile, Eastfield Lane residents complained that they were finding themselves trapped by the gridlocked High Street.  There was also concern for the safety of pedestrians who were at risk from impatient drivers mounting the pavement.  The Parish Council discussed funding the painting of white lines, which might cost £1500.  OCC wanted some modifications to the locations on the grounds that white lines were appropriate as access protection markings but not as passing refuge markings.  That removed a proposed passing refuge opposite the Duchess Close driveway but left in a restriction opposite Prospect House (just north of the church driveway - photo) and a lengthening of the line at the entrance to Walliscote Farm.  Since then discussion has continued about a white line in the area of Mallards/Ford Cottage/Tudor Cottage. 

OCC have said they prefer to do line marking from April onwards when the roads are less wet and the contractor does not need to dry the road before laying the paint.

Date/Time : Monday, 23rd February 2015 12:58

Remembering Joan Hope who has died aged 92

Born in Whitchurch in 1923, Joan Lambourn lived in the village all her life.  Her grandfather was employed on the Coombe Park estate.  She went to Whitchurch School (now Flint House, Hardwick Road) and Kendrick School.  She married Charles Hope and they lived at Littleholme, Eastfield Lane.  They had no children.  She was an enthusiastic gardener.  In later life she was a familiar sight walking her Jack Russell.  As a good friend of the Holmes family, she inherited several properties in the village.  She spent the last four years of her life in Eastfield House and died on 8th February 2015. 

A private person with a long memory, she was indignant about many of the details of village history in William Barefield-Hutt’s book ‘Memories of Whitchurch’ in 1999 and prepared a long list of corrections with the assistance of Robin Giddings. 

Robin says: “Very few Whitchurch residents will have known her, she was a solitary soul; but those who did will miss her feisty individualism.  She wished for no memorial. There is no doubt that she has taken many Whitchurch secrets with her, and that they are now safely beyond dispute.” 

Joan had no heirs and is understood to have left her estate to charity.  In accordance with her wishes there will be no funeral and no flowers. 

Thanks to Pam Wilkinson for providing the photograph of her friend Joan and details of her life.

Date/Time : Monday, 16th February 2015 14:09

Hardwick Road verges project starts

After three years of planning and a few false starts, a way has been found through the red tape to enable the WoTHabs Hardwick Road verge restoration project finally to start today. 

The project, promoted for WoTHabs by Sally Woolhouse, John Southey, Jim Donahue and James Norman, aims to recover the flora-rich grass verges alongside Hardwick Road which have been damaged in many places by traffic using them as passing places.  The first part of the work will provide two surfaced passing bays near the village entrance, to replace the current muddy wastes of unofficial passing areas.  The project will also provide the opportunity for pedestrians to walk at a safe distance from the road along its south side. 

Butler & Proctor have been employed by Oxfordshire County Council for the £8000 contract, organised by parish clerk Jenny Welham. The cost is primarily covered by two local community grants awarded to the Parish by OCC, with a contribution from the Parish Council.

Date/Time : Thursday, 5th February 2015 09:50

Broadband cabinet being installed in High Street

Contractors for BT Openreach have been working in the High Street on the provision of fixed line broadband.  A new olive green cabinet 1.6 m high is expected to appear shortly on the pavement opposite The Greyhound. 

The ‘Notice of Intention to Install Apparatus’ submitted last October can be seen here.  It includes illustrations to show what the cabinet will look like. It seems that no planning approval is required. 

[Note: if anyone can say what difference this will make to our broadband service in the village, please post a message.]

Date/Time : Wednesday, 4th February 2015 14:21

Burglary at the Co-op in Woodcote

Thames Valley Police are appealing for witnesses after a burglary yesterday at the Co-op shop in Woodcote.  They have issued this notice: 

The burglary took place at 3am yesterday 26th January at the Co-op, Woodcote.  The offenders used a vehicle and a bench to force entry to the shop. Once inside the property, the offenders stole a quantity of cigarettes.

It is believed there were five offenders involved in the burglary and they used a convertible car. They were all wearing clothing to cover their faces. One offender wore a distinctive orange hat with an image of a face and ears on it.

Anyone with information about this incident should contact investigating officer PC Katie Ford, of Didcot Local CID, via the 24-hour enquiry line 101.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 27th January 2015 14:46

Invitation to the Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend

In mid-July this year a unique festival is being held in the village of Whitchurch, Hampshire.  People from all the Whitchurches in the UK – there are thought to be more than a dozen of them – have been invited to come to Whitchurch in Hampshire (midway between Andover and Basingstoke) for a weekend of cultural and sporting events. 

The ambitious programme for the festival is described on the Worldwide Whitchurch Weekend’s website.  The event starts with a ceremony on Friday evening 17th July to welcome guests, with vintage cars and a combined Whitchurch Brass Band.  On Saturday it features a Country Fayre with stalls, tea room, hot air balloon launch, birds of prey, open gardens, historical society, Great Whitchurch Bake-off and Tug of War.  In the evening there are cocktails, a gala entertainment and supper.  A farewell brunch will be held on Sunday 19th July in the grounds of the historic Silk Mill. 

The organisers are asking for teams from the other Whitchurches to take part in tournaments they are organising for 5-a-side Football, Tennis and junior tennis, Squash and Bowls. 

Anyone who would like to represent our village at any of those sports, or can play a brass instrument, or would like to keep in touch with plans for the event, should get in touch with Jim Donahue.

The organisers' theme is Bringing Whitchurches Together. They would like to see as many people from our village as possible visiting the festival to spectate at the events, rub shoulders with those from other Whitchurches and enjoy themselves. There will be a camping and caravanning site in the village and they are even expecting visitors from Whitchurch in Canada.

Put the date in your diary: 17th-19th July!

Date/Time : Monday, 26th January 2015 15:14

Celebrating 17 years of Village Hall management

January 1st signalled the start of a new life for Eddie and Joyce Pilcher.  Family and friends celebrated Joyce's birthday and their forthcoming move from Manor Road to a new home in Goring with a party in the Village Hall.  Joyce first, and then Eddie, had looked after the bookings and maintenance of the Village Hall since 1997. Harry Butterworth, Chairman of the Parish Council, made a presentation to them and said that they will be greatly missed.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd January 2015 21:40

Oxfordshire closes mud bath of a public lane

The track known as Town Lane, linking Path Hill with Whitchurch Hill, has been closed after heavy logging vehicles created deep flooded ruts, making it impassable to walkers and cyclists.  Eric Hartley, whose published walks use this route, says the track is a restricted byway which is not legally open to motorised vehicles. 

Oxfordshire County Council today issued a notice prohibiting the use of the byway until further notice.  This map shows the location of the track.  The Hardwick estate is understood to be trying to repair the damage.

Eric Hartley points out that the alternative route shown on the map by OCC is unsuitable for walkers or cyclists and he would not recommend it for horse riders.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd January 2015 16:20

Eastfield House - refusal was for three reasons

On 8th January, SODC's Head of Planning issued a formal refusal of outline planning permission for Ross Healthcare's application for the demolition and rebuilding of the care home, citing 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.

The notice can be read in full here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 10th January 2015 15:11

Parish Council decides to meet more often

At Monday’s meeting of the Parish Council it was agreed that meetings should be held every month instead of every two months.  Chairman Harry Butterworth said that the parish is now having to deal with more issues, partly because of the lack of funding in district and county authorities for work they had previously undertaken. 

Other matters decided: 

Village Green: Councillor Pearl Slatter is to take the lead on management of the parish-owned Village Green and its pavilion project. 

War Memorial: Martin Wise of Goring Heath Parish Council made a presentation and invited Whitchurch to contribute to the estimated £18,000 cost of their plans for improvements to the shared memorial and its surrounds, including rebuilding it to its original height before storm damage in 1989.  This met with a largely negative reception, partly because of the scarcity of parish funds. 

Traffic in the High Street: A proposal from the Traffic and Pavements Advisory Group (TAPAG) for white ‘no parking’ lines to be painted in certain parts of the street to avoid gridlock and driver rage was approved after amendment and will be submitted to Oxfordshire Highways.  (Photo)

Date/Time : Wednesday, 7th January 2015 14:33

Remembering John Dolby who died recently

John Dolby, who lived at Highway Cottage in the High Street, passed away peacefully on 22nd December at the age of 86 and is survived by his wife Anthea, son Timothy and daughter Caroline. 

John and Anthea arrived in Whitchurch 45 years ago, in 1969.  He was Church Warden at St Mary’s for many years.  There is more information about his life in an obituary provided by the family. 

There will be a Memorial Service to celebrate John’s life at St Mary's Church on Friday 16th January at 3 pm.  The family say that all who knew him are most welcome to attend.

Date/Time : Sunday, 4th January 2015 17:26