News

Hardwick Road pavement renewal starts

Work started this morning on the rebuilding of the pedestrian pavement along Hardwick Road, which is expected to take two weeks.

The work is part of a jointly financed project, negotiated by the parish council with OCC, to improve the village’s pavements.  Other worn out or damaged pavements in Swanston Field, the High Street and Manor Road are planned for repair in a separate operation that OCC expects to carry out by the end of the year, using a ‘slurry seal’ technique rather than a complete resurfacing.

Some confusion was caused this morning to parents who normally park in the area to drop off school children.  Today is also bin day, adding to traffic problems (picture). 

The Skanska team leader at the site today seemed unaware of the temporarily heavy traffic or the need for school parking in the area.  Parish council chairman Jim Donahue said that he had informed OCC weeks ago that there were two reasons for them to consider delaying the work: the current high traffic volumes caused by the road closure on the hill, which will continue until 5th October, and the desirability of doing the work outside the school term.  However, OCC decided to keep to their programme. 

Further east along Hardwick Road, OCC have filled in the deep roadside rut, following requests from the parish council, and are understood to be planning to trim back the hedge.  

On the separate topic of drainage, Jim Donahue said that he had been told by OCC that they have decided on a solution to address the shortcomings of the stormwater drainage from the Greyhound area.  This will involve replacing an undersized pipe connecting the drainage gullies on the Greyhound side of the High Street to the road drain on the other side with a larger diameter pipe. They have put this in next Fiscal Year's budget request. This follows a report by members of the village’s Flood Forum on the flash flood of 16th June 2020, which is on this website here.

Next Monday OCC’s specialist contractor OPC is expected to return to Whitchurch to continue the earlier work on cleaning out the High Street storm drainage system.  

Date/Time : Thursday, 24th September 2020 16:42

Whitchurch hill to be reopened on Monday 5th October

SGN have confirmed that they are currently on schedule to re-open the road up the hill on Monday 5th October.  Project Manager Matt Morland said today that they have successfully tested the new length of gas main and tomorrow will start work on the final connections to Castrol/BP and to several houses, before backfilling holes and reinstating the site.

He said that, in response to complaints about heavy traffic and occasional gridlock on the unofficial Hardwick Road and Path Hill diversion route, SGN increased and improved the signage to guide traffic to the official diversion route through Streatley and Goring.  However, some drivers used their Sat-Navs to find the shortest way around the closure, ignoring the official route.

Susan Day of SGN said the company appreciates the inconvenience that the road closure has caused the local community and wants to thank everyone for their patience.

Karl Bishop, site representative for contractor Direct Mole, said that his team would be paying special attention to reinstating the war memorial area to a clean condition.  

Date/Time : Wednesday, 23rd September 2020 19:43

Art & Craft show to go ahead in November

It's good news for our many lockdown artists, photographers and craftspeople.  After much discussion and checking of the current guidance on use of the village hall, the Art & Craft Exhibition committee is going ahead with this year's exhibition, though with certain changes from the norm. There will be no prize-giving ceremony, no serving of refreshments, and there will be a limit to the number of people in the hall, with a one-way system in place.

The dates are Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th November.  Here are the List of Classes for Adults and Juniors, the Timetable for Entries and the Rules.   

This year’s theme for the Joyce Voysey Prize is ‘Happiness’.  Last year’s theme was ‘Masks’ and who could have guessed how soon we would be wearing one?

The photo above shows some entries in last year's exhibition. The committee is keeping its fingers crossed that the current social distancing rules will not be changed significantly before the event. 

So, there is just under two months for the creative Whitchurch people of all ages to show the rest of us what they can do!  

Date/Time : Sunday, 20th September 2020 18:44

Drone training flights cause anger in village

As the message board shows, the repeated circuits flown by a large drone around the hillside near Hardwick Road have been causing annoyance to many residents.

It appears that these flights are part of a training course run by Damion Morphy from Lower Hitch, a property on the right at the top of the hill leading up to Whitchurch Hill.  It is understood that courses for would-be drone pilots have been run there from time to time.

The current drone is ‘the size of a wheelbarrow’, according to a close neighbour of Lower Hitch, who says that this morning alone there were at least five flights, each involving many circuits, and all creating an unpleasant whining noise.  Farm animals are reportedly being disturbed. One resident described the sound as somewhere between a chainsaw and a banshee. 

Some residents have complained that the drone has occasionally been tracking people, speculating that this may be training in surveillance.  Mr Morphy is understood to be connected to the nearby company Advanced Tactical Resources based in Goring Heath, which offers training in aerial surveillance.  Further information can be found in a Henley Standard article of 2019.

Both SODC and the Police have been informed about the noise nuisance created by the drone activity, which has been exceptionally frequent and noisy in recent days.

The photo above shows an example of a six-rotor drone.  The drone referred to in this item is shown in this photo taken in Whitchurch on 9th September. 

Update, 6 pm

A police representative, WPC Barbara Taylor, visited the drone launching site earlier today in response to many complaints.  She said afterwards that the drone company has hired the field only to fly their aircraft for a period of two weeks finishing this Friday.  The drones are licensed to fly above 50 metres and below 400 metres and they are registered by the CAA.  They are allowed to fly over properties as long as they are above 60 metres as the airspace is free, she said. 

After her visit, the drone flights continued right through the afternoon.

Some residents are considering challenging the legality of the flying operation.  Others are filing a complaint about the noise on this page of the SODC website on the understanding that even if the operation is legal the number of complaints about the nuisance will carry weight with the local authority.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 09th September 2020 14:35

Whitchurch Under-17s football team wins Cup Final

The Anglers finally beat the Woodcutters.  Originally scheduled to be played back in April, the East Berkshire Football Alliance U17s Plate Cup Final between AFC Whitchurch Woodcutters (Woodcote) and Anglers (Whitchurch-on-Thames) was played on Saturday morning at Checkendon. 

There is a larger photo of the Anglers here

Alistair Aitchison reports: 

In front of a large crowd of enthusiastic and socially distancing family and friends, the Anglers won 1-0, thanks to a first-half goal by Thom Denning.  It was a very tight game played in a good spirit.  Jonathan James, referee for the game commented afterwards that it was “A really enjoyable, hard-fought, high quality youth match”. 

Although the Anglers won, the game could have gone either way, with the Woodcutters having a second half penalty saved by Anglers keeper, Isaac Aitchison.  The game was a credit to both teams and the work that coaches and club officials are doing to develop talented players who play with intensity but also fairness . 

We are grateful to our team sponsor Leslie Prater and his labrador Dillon for financial support and also to Whitchurch Parish Council for their support in providing facilities, especially during this challenging period of lockdown, where local players could maintain their fitness and develop their skills. 

The season starts again this coming Saturday 12th September and continues through the end of April.“ 

Players interested in joining any of the five teams spanning ages 5 to 18 should visit the Sports page of this website to find out more.

Date/Time : Sunday, 06th September 2020 15:00

Opinions differ on traffic and parking plan

The informal consultation held online yesterday evening to discuss traffic and parking issues drew together over thirty residents, who had a wide range of opinions. The meeting continued for three hours.

Several speakers felt that the current plan is handicapped by the need to carry it out in two phases.  The first being to paint the yellow lines and mark out the parking spaces.  The second being to designate certain parking places as residents-only, which cannot be done at present as it requires the transition of certain powers from the Police to SODC.  Though this transition is believed to be underway, it is not expected to be complete before the autumn of 2021 at best.

Other participants were concerned that if fewer cars were parked in the High Street the traffic would be able to move at a higher speed and this would increase the risk to pedestrians.

Some were adamant that there should never be yellow lines in Whitchurch.  

Parish chairman Jim Donahue said today: “I would like to thank everyone who attended the meeting and took the opportunity to give their views and learn more about the proposed changes. We had more than 30 people attending, most of whom stayed for the full three hour meeting! There was some useful feedback on the traffic proposal and an opportunity for TAPAG members and a representative from Mode traffic consulting to clarify some things. The desire for residential parking is clear. Some people also felt that there is a more urgent need to address speeding and pedestrian safety as opposed to congestion and inconsiderate parking.  Since the start of the pandemic, there is less congestion during rush hours, but also more speeding in areas where there is less parking. This situation where the overall level of traffic is temporarily reduced also gives us some time to ensure we are proceeding with the right solution.  The Parish Council will consider this feedback before deciding on the next steps.” 

Information on this issue is carried on our Traffic and Parking page, which will be updated with any developments. 

Date/Time : Friday, 04th September 2020 18:04

Farewell tree for the Maze

Sally Trinder, who is reluctantly leaving Whitchurch later this month after 48 years, has given a farewell present to the village of a crab-apple tree, which has been planted at the Maze by Pete Woolhouse.  Shown here with the tree are Sally Woolhouse, Sally Trinder and Pete. 

Sally Trinder says: “I have loved living in Whitchurch and am sad to be leaving.  We were originally at Wellesley House and then after 2007 at The Gables.  Stephen died five years ago, and the time has now come for me to move nearer to other members of my family in Bristol, where he and I spent the first years of our married life.  The tree is planted at the Maze, where Toffee and I have had many happy walks.”

Date/Time : Thursday, 03rd September 2020 14:08

Thames Water has leaks to repair

There are two water leaks in the village that are of concern.

This afternoon a steady stream of water began to flow through the upper narrows and on down the High Street.  The source is at the southern limit of the trench being excavated by SGN’s contractor Direct Mole Ltd for the replacement gas main (picture).  Their work has evidently disturbed a water supply pipe.  The leak was immediately reported to Thames Water.

The second is the long-standing and much-reported seepage on the road in the narrows of Eastfield Lane.  It has at last been accepted by Thames Water to be their responsibility, after many visits and water tests in past months had led to their repeatedly denying the possibility. Their personnel will now try to locate the source more precisely before they plan any excavation, which could cause access problems for Eastfield Lane.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 01st September 2020 20:42

The Greyhound goes on sale again

Punch Taverns has put The Greyhound pub on the market again, at a freehold price of £675,000 + VAT.  The agents Fleurets, who specialise in the leisure sector, state (incorrectly) that the property has ceased trading and is closed. They describe the location of the five bedroom property as in the ‘pretty village of Whitchurch on Thames,’...‘an affluent and desirable residential area.’

The agents are holding an open viewing session on 8th September.

The price is higher than when Punch Taverns offered the pub for sale six years ago.  This was our news item of 3rd March 2014:

“The owner Punch Taverns, which has put The Greyhound on the market for £475,000 plus VAT with a closing date of 18th March, has said that the sale is a commercial decision and it hopes to sell the pub, in its grounds of 0.11 acre, as a going concern.  The company is known to have incurred financial problems following an ambitious period of expansion.  However, there is a possibility that the pub could be bought for conversion to a private house.  With this in mind, the Parish Council has applied to South Oxfordshire District Council to have the pub listed as ‘an asset of community value’ which would give a six month moratorium for a bid to be made by someone in the village. Parish Chairman Harry Butterworth said most people would regard it as a serious loss to the community if such a key feature of the village were to be lost.  It was therefore important to give the community a reasonable chance to consider its options.  However, the process of applying for the listing takes several months and it will not be known for some time whether the application is successful.”

Parish chairman Jim Donahue said today that he would be happy to hear from any individual or group in the village who needed time to put a bid together to acquire the pub and run it as a business. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 27th August 2020 16:11

Road closure on hill postponed by two weeks

The month-long closure of the B471 on Whitchurch hill, scheduled to start today 24th August as shown on the sign in the picture, has been postponed by two weeks.  Matt Morland, project manager for Scotia Gas Networks (SGN), said today that Oxfordshire County Council had belatedly realised that another road closure in the area makes it inadvisable to proceed.  A road closure in Goring is scheduled for a similar time and would block the designated diversion route for the Whitchurch project. 

The hill will now be closed from 7th September to 5th October.  The information on the signs will be changed.

The Goring closure is for pavement improvement works between the railway bridge and Tesco and is scheduled from 25th August to 7th September.  There is speculation that the late discovery of the clash could be due partly to the working from home of local authority staff during the pandemic. 

Date/Time : Monday, 24th August 2020 18:05

Whitchurch running expert publishes book

High Street resident Shane Benzie, running coach and founder of Running Reborn, has written a book The Lost Art of Running – A Journey to Rediscover the Forgotten Essence of Human Movement.  His research for the book included visits to Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Morocco to study running and walking techniques.  As part of his research in Uganda, he set up a coaching academy for young people in rehabilitation centres, a development that he hopes to see introduced to other communities. 

The paperback book can be ordered here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 22nd August 2020 15:21

Meeting on traffic and parking, 3rd September

The Parish Council is providing a second opportunity for an informal consultation on proposals for solving traffic and parking problems in the village.  The meeting will take place online at 7 pm on Thursday 3rd September.

Details of how to join the meeting and how to submit questions in advance are given on the Traffic and parking page.  The page also has links to an Information Pack from TAPAG and a drawing showing the road markings proposed last year by traffic consultants MODE.

Date/Time : Thursday, 20th August 2020 14:57

Refurbished village hall opens on 1st September

After months of refurbishment and upgrading, the Village Hall will be open for bookings from the 1st September.  It has a new central heating boiler, new curtains, new windows, new flooring, new doors and a smart new kitchen (pictured) making it a much more desirable place to hold events. 

The improvements have been made possible by generous donations from business as well as Parish Council funding.  They have been organised by parish councillor Jean-Marc Grosfort. 

There are new rules for using the hall, following government advice. 

Jean-Marc says: “We hope that many people will now want to use this splendid community asset.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 19th August 2020 10:43

School receives a fibre optic connection

BT Openreach has installed a ‘Full Fibre’ broadband cable from the High Street to the Primary School in time for the new school year.  The trench excavated in the grass verge along Eastfield Lane has been backfilled and grass seed scattered in the hope of recovery.

 Fiona Broadbent, the school’s Business Manager, says: “We have found that with the increased use of the internet by teachers, pupils and school administrators we have struggled with the internet speeds we were able to get at the school.  Whilst the line will be for our own private use, there will now be ductwork in place along Eastfield Lane so I would hope that may make it easier and hopefully cheaper for other residents to request their own fibre lines in the future.” 

Date/Time : Saturday, 15th August 2020 11:27

Racing driver tries witchcraft to recover stolen car

Retired racing driver David Brodie, of the Modern Artists Gallery in the High Street, was approached by a group of strangers who offered to help identify the thieves who had made off with his beloved replica Ford Escort.  The group of four conducted a ‘blood curse’ ritual and departed, saying only that they were from the New Candlemas Society.

Read more in this article from this week's Henley Standard.

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th August 2020 21:38

Whitchurch footballers sweep awards in Wallingford

Former AFC Whitchurch players, Euan Aitchison (22) and Lawrie Aitchison (20) won two of the three individual player awards at the recent Wallingford Town AFC 1st Team end-of-season event.

Euan received the Player of the Year award while Lawrie received the Clubman of the Year award.  Euan had received the Young Player of the Year award in 2019.

Wallingford Town AFC play in the Uhlsport Hellenic Division 1 East league.

Seeing former Whitchurch players continuing to play and progress in local senior teams shows that from the village teams in AFC Whitchurch there is a clear pathway ahead. 

Date/Time : Friday, 07th August 2020 12:50

Business returns to The Ferryboat

Landlord Graham Dednum reports a steady increase in clients visiting the pub for drinks and meals since it re-opened three weeks ago.  A new menu, including takeaway options, is being introduced next week.

The Ferryboat has been registered for the Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme which offers clients a 50% discount on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This will start on Tuesday 4th August, as Monday is not an opening day.  The discount, capped at £10 per head, applies to food and non-alcoholic drinks. 

The pub, which has been refurbished during lockdown, is strictly observing the recommended Covid-19 safety measures to protect both staff and clients. As shown in the photo above, these include a fully protected bar serving area, new signs explaining the procedures and floor-standing hand sanitisers at each entrance.

Graham points out that all village pubs depend upon continued local support and he feels that “use them or lose them” has never been more relevant.  He assures everyone of a warm welcome. 

Date/Time : Monday, 27th July 2020 14:42

Another brick wall takes a hammering

More damage was done to the village’s brick walls this morning when a garden retaining wall in the narrow part of Hardwick Road, not far from the High Street, was struck by a vehicle, possibly the bin lorry.  Parts of the wall fell into the road.  

Someone who drove past shortly afterwards said he saw the bin lorry, with staff of SODC/Biffa holding up the traffic and taking photos. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 23rd July 2020 16:15

Hill to be closed for work on gas main (UPDATED AGAIN)

Next Monday 27th July, traffic lights will be installed for one-lane flow on the B471 hill between Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill, as SGN begins a two-month programme of gas main replacement. 

At some time during the two months the road will be completely closed for an unspecified period. 

The work planned is the replacement of the present gas main with a plastic one, which appears to be similar to the work SGN carried out along Hardwick Road and Hillside last summer.  Further back in time, SGN excavated a trench along Hardwick Road in 2011-12, when they installed a new gas trunk pipeline across the river and through the village, prior to the rebuilding of the toll bridge.

Here is the full message received today from Scotia Gas Networks, with more information. 

Update, Thursday 23rd July:

In response to a query from the Whitchurch Web, SGN has clarified that the lower end of the closure will be at the junction of Hartslock Bridleway with the High Street.

Confusingly, a roadworks sign was erected yesterday in Hardwick Road, where last year's work was done.  The sign gives a conservative allowance of 19 weeks duration for the work, which is more than double the SGN estimate.

Update, Thursday 6th August: 

The complete road closure of the hill will be from 24th August to 21st September. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 22nd July 2020 17:00

Whitchurch Pre-School has new plans

The Pre-School lost £20,000 during the Covid-19 lockdown but is bouncing back with fundraising activities, a Forest Schools initiative in the allotments and a plan for a new building.  The present Portacabin was bought second-hand more than 20 years ago and has become costly to maintain.

A recent generous donation has doubled the crowdfunding total, bringing it to £1,980 against a target of £5,000. 

Read all the news in this update from Pre-School chair Mel Uglow.

Date/Time : Monday, 20th July 2020 17:09

Light aircraft noise campaign

After the peace and quiet of the lockdown period, the recent return of aerobatic pilots and their noisy aircraft to the skies above Whitchurch has caused annoyance to many residents. 

One of them, Geoff Weir, has set up a campaign group called SNOW – Stop Noise Over Whitchurch.  His comments on the message board have already been responded to by several others.  Many more are thought to agree that for one person in the air to disturb thousands on the ground by pursuing their hobby is not acceptable. 

Details of the SNOW campaign can be read in this document.  Geoff wishes to engage with the authorities at White Waltham airfield near Maidenhead, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Chiltern AONB board and anyone else who can help. 

To express your support for the campaign, or comment on it, send him an email or comment on the message board.

Geoff also says: "If anyone wishes to complain directly to White Waltham airfield, their phone number is 01628 823272. They’ll ask for the plane’s registration number, but if you give your postcode and the time the plane was overhead they’ll probably know the plane involved from their flight plans."

Date/Time : Thursday, 16th July 2020 11:11

Investments in pavements and storm drains

In two separate initiatives, Oxfordshire County Council will soon be working with the village to make significant improvements to its infrastructure. 

The first concerns flooding and drainage.  Following the flash flooding of 16th June, work is scheduled to start soon on jetting and root-cutting in the storm drainage system along Hardwick Road and in Swanston Field. CCTV will be used by the contractor OPC (picture) to investigate the system and its soakaways. This will be followed later in the month by similar investigations in the low-lying area of The Greyhound, where the complicated drainage system has proved inadequate on many occasions.  Also in line for investigation is the storm drain outside the Picture Gallery which currently allows some water to reach a cellar.  Finally, the effectiveness of the ten roadside soakaways on the hill will be checked. 

Within the village, the members of the Whitchurch Flood Forum (Warren Beard, John Southey, Geoff Weir and Richard Wingfield) have been sharing their knowledge of local flooding and drainage with OCC and OPC.  Recently the function of the ancient watercourse crossing beneath the street near The Greyhound, sometimes known as the ‘mysterious culvert’, has become clearer. 

The second initiative concerns the pedestrian pavements in the village, many of which are in a badly deteriorated state.  After many years of unsuccessfully requesting action by OCC, which is the responsible authority, the Parish Council resolved at their monthly meeting yesterday to go ahead with a pavement improvement project involving a contribution by the village of around £25,000.  This is to be funded partly from the parish council’s reserve funds and partly by a grant already received, with the work being carried out by a contractor to OCC.  The full value of the work is said by OCC to be up to £80,000. 

Yellow arrows have recently appeared on the pavements around the village, indicating the areas that will eventually receive either local repairs or more extensive replacement.  They are in Hardwick Road, Swanston Field, Manor Road, Eastfield Lane and the High Street. 

Parish chairman Jim Donahue comments:

I am pleased that we are finally getting action from OCC on these longstanding issues in the village. They have committed to program to clear drains in areas that were impacted by the flash flood that include Hardwick Road and Swanston Field in addition to the “Greyhound bowl” where the worst flooding happened. OCC supports the work that the Flood Forum team are doing and we all share a desire to have a long-term solution to the problem. 

The need for pavement improvements has continually been raised among issues from residents over the years and was the second highest priority issue raised by residents in the 2019 Village Plan after Traffic and Parking issues. The funds we are contributing for this have been budgeted as part of our 3-year Village Plan budget and include OCC grants and Community Infrastructure Levy funds that we need to spend, or they will expire.  They have committed to a complete resurfacing of the Hardwick Road pavement in time for school drop-offs in September and are also identifying fixes required on other streets. The Parish Council is also committed to improving safety on the pavement in front of the Ferryboat, but OCC has provided several reasons that they don’t believe a raised kerb there is feasible so will look at other options.”

Date/Time : Friday, 10th July 2020 18:36

Playground re-opens

The Manor Road playground, much missed by many regular users during the recent lockdown, has been re-opened.  Parish councillor Carrie Leadbeater-Hart reports: 

“The Parish Council are pleased to announce that as of 9.30 am today the playground on Manor Road is open to small people once again!   Councillors Jon Steward and Hanna Ferguson (pictured) have carried out a risk assessment which involves daily cleaning of the play equipment with disinfectant spray and also the installation of a foot operated sanitation station.   Children and adults are asked to read and follow the guidelines for safe use, which are posted on each entrance gate.  Enjoy!!”

Date/Time : Friday, 10th July 2020 17:44

Whitchurch celebrates gardening

Photographs of 18 flower-filled gardens in our village are now on display, thanks to the many residents who submitted photographs during June for the Whitchurch Society Gardens Walk, which this year has been an online event.  To see them, head to Photos/Gardens 2020. 

Whitchurch Society chair Laura Lucas says she is delighted by the response: 

“The Whitchurch Society would like to thank all 18 households who kindly submitted photographs for our virtual Gardens Walk this year.  Several gardens were submitted that haven’t been opened to the village before, which is particularly nice. Many residents have enjoyed the photographs and number 18 Swanston Field (pictured) was especially well-admired. 

Sally Woolhouse has begun planning this year’s Arts & Crafts Exhibition (14-15 November) which we hope can go ahead as normal, and next year’s Gardens Walk will be held in the usual way, on foot, rather than online! 

The Society will also be supporting the work on the Conservation Area Appraisal over the next couple of years and continues to support the annual Village Walks and also the Parish Council with the Whitchurch Award.  If you would like to help us in any way with any of these, or have a new idea, or would like to make a contribution to the Society, please email us on thewhitchurchsociety@gmail.com.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 01st July 2020 15:31

Vandals spray orange paint on cars

At around 2 am on Monday night vandals sprayed orange paint on a row of ten cars in Manor Road, parked at the kerb outside Numbers 22 to 29.  The cars included one that had belonged to Pete Hollitzer, who died recently. 

Police were called after the damage was first noticed on Tuesday morning. They have visited Manor Road, interviewed residents and distributed a leaflet asking anyone with information to call 101, ref 43200187458. 

The Police leaflet also suggests that residents set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.  Keith Brooks, Neighbourhood Watch coordinator for Whitchurch, says he would be happy to help anyone who would like to do this.  They can contact him on 0118 984 1178 or by email.

Yesterday, a joint effort by neighbours succeeded in cleaning most of the paint off the cars. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 24th June 2020 19:03

Torrential downpour floods village centre

Exceptionally heavy rain and hail struck Whitchurch between 4.30 and 5.00 pm this afternoon.  Water poured down the High Street, forming an extensive pool in the low area of the High Street near The Greyhound.  Traffic was brought to a halt.  The interior of the pub is reported to have been flooded and it seems that other houses in the area may also have suffered.  The Fire Service attended at around 5.30 pm.

More pictures here.  Photos by Geoff Weir 

Update, 17th June:  The Greyhound is reported to have been flooded inside to a depth of six inches.  This has hit the pub hard as it comes shortly after landlord Mark Lovett had the interior completely redecorated ready for re-opening. 

The Parish Council's road drainage volunteer Warren Beard, whose nearby house was also affected, cast doubt on the efficacy of the roadside soakaways on the steep hill, which were re-excavated last year.  He said that the task of surveying the drainage culvert, which the parish council agreed to fund, had not yet been achieved owing to a Covid delay and should now be a priority. 

 John Southey, who lives nearby and has made a study of flood risk in the village, said that he believed the drainage culvert was running freely and it appears that the huge quantity of debris coming down the hill after a long dry period had rapidly blocked gratings of road drainage gullies in the area, causing the build-up on the road of a large volume of water. 

Parish chairman Jim Donahue said that OCC had been requested to clear the road of mud and debris urgently and that he would help push ahead with the task of surveying the culvert. 

There are more pictures in the Gallery.

Update, 24th June: The Henley Standard has a report here.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 16th June 2020 18:19

Remembering Pete Hollitzer, 1949-2020

Pete Hollitzer, who lived in Manor Road, lost his short but intense fight with cancer and died on 22nd May, aged 71, at home with his family. 

Pete grew up in Yattendon and lived in Lower Basildon before moving to Manor Road in the mid-1990s.  He worked locally as a bricklayer and builder and had many other interests.  Espalier was a lifelong hobby and he was always teaching himself something new – he became a guitar player, painter, wood carver, vegetable grower and baker. 

Through work and his many interests, he came to know and be known by so many people.  He will be missed by his family, friends, neighbours and all those that knew him. 

There will be a short procession from his home at 22 Manor Road on Wednesday 17th June from 1.00 pm.  All those wishing to pay their respects and say their goodbyes are welcome to join in. 

This tribute is by Pete’s daughter Maz Elsome.

Date/Time : Sunday, 14th June 2020 22:02

Action agreed on Village Green fence

The recent problems at the Village Green concerning litter and the boundary fence were discussed during a virtual meeting of the Parish Council yesterday. 

Councillor Diana Smith reported on the problem of footballs kicked into the adjacent paddock and having to be retrieved, possibly disturbing the horses.  She had discussed the matter with Mr and Mrs Allen, who run the paddock, and with representatives of the football and cricket clubs, and this had led to a recommendation that several steps should be taken.  First, to acquire and set up a Ball Stop Net parallel to the fence, allowing access to the stile.  Second, to establish an alternative goal location to the north of the football pitch for occasional use.  Third, to install a rubbish bin.  The total cost of around £800 would be reduced by grants from the Football Association.  Alastair Aitchison said that the Football Club would take responsibility for emptying the bin. 

After discussion, the council resolved to proceed with all three steps and two further ones:  to consider installing a CCTV camera temporarily as suggested by police investigating the recent incidents of glass crumbs appearing in the goalmouth area;  and to consider more signage to remind users of what is permitted on the Village Green.  

It was agreed that turning the football pitch through 90 degrees and using a mobile goalpost at the southern end was not an acceptable solution,  mainly because of the degree of interference with the cricket pitch. 

Update, Saturday 13th June: 

Regarding the incidents of glass being found more than once in the west goal area, chairman Jim Donahue has clarified that the police responded by placing ‘Police Operation in Progress’ signs in the area and said they would increase the number of police visits. See photos.

He added: "The Parish Council wants to ensure the Village Green is available to use for the entire community. Allowing youth to safely play football is clearly important for a large number of families in the village, and I hope these measures will allow this to continue to happen whether it is part of team practice, family activities, or playing with groups of friends.  The Parish Council is not responsible for behaviour of people using the Village Green, so if residents become aware of activities that may break social distancing rules or may involve vandalism or other activities it should be reported to the police. We are working with the police on the serious issue of glass being found on one of the goals on a number of occasions that appears to be deliberate, so are considering the temporary use of CCTV cameras in cooperation with the police."

Date/Time : Friday, 12th June 2020 20:32

Gardens 2020 on display

The Whitchurch Society’s annual Gardens Walk is a special online event this year.  A display has opened on this website today of photos sent in by homeowners in the village.  To see them click on the Photos tab in the menu on the left, then select Gardens 2020. 

The first two gardens are there already and we would like to receive many more images of Whitchurch colour, especially after the extra lockdown attention that many gardens have received this year. 

Please send your photos (up to four of them) to the Whitchurch Society at this email address as soon as possible, but before the end of June.

Date/Time : Friday, 12th June 2020 13:04

New priest for Whitchurch

The vacancy for a parish priest, created by the appointment of Rev Claire Alcock to a Reading parish last September, is to be filled by Rev James Leach, who is currently associate priest in the parish of St James, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, where he has served for 14 years. 

Announcing the appointment, Langtree Team Rector Kevin Davies said that Rev Leach had been offered and accepted the post of ‘House for Duty’ (part time) associate priest serving the parish of St Mary’s Whitchurch and St John’s Whitchurch Hill. This is the same role as for Rev Alcock.

He said that Rev Leach (pictured) will move into St Mary’s House with his wife and youngest daughter later this year and that we all look forward to welcoming them into the Whitchurch community. 

Update, 23rd June:  There is more on the appointment of Rev Leach in this article in the Henley Standard.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th June 2020 19:02

Classic car stolen from behind Picture Gallery

At around 11.30 pm on Sunday evening thieves broke into the private yard behind the Modern Artists Gallery in the High Street by trespassing through a neighbouring property. They were intent on stealing the valuable replica Escort Mark I (pictured) owned by racing driver David Brodie, a classic car enthusiast with a successful career in motor sport.  The car was parked in the yard, behind a locked gate. 

David says: “I had removed the ignition and starter for security reasons but the car was pushed out on to the street through the locked electric gate, once the thieves had forced them open – and may have been wheeled down the street, possibly as far as Manor Road”.  He adds that “amazingly, the thieves managed to get the car started, so it was obviously someone experienced in car theft.” 

David’s wife Peggy says that the red and gold Escort Mark 1 - Replica 1968, which has a value of around £60,000, meant a lot to David.  It had been owned previously by the late Les Lyons for whom the racing fraternity has huge respect. The Brodies displayed the car at the 2019 Silverstone Classic event.  The door panel lists the names of the drivers of the famous original: Les Lyons, Graham Hill, David Brodie, Frank Gardiner, Jack Oliver, Roger Clark.  The original car is particularly well known for winning the 1968-69 Championship event and is said to have won over 200 races between 1969 and 1972.  The replica was built in the late 1990s. 

A Newbury Today article dated May 2015, when a documentary film was being made about the car, features David and gives more information. 

The police are actively investigating the case.  The Brodies are offering a reward for any information that leads to a recovery.  They can be contacted at 0118 984 5893 or by email.

Update, 12th June: This week's Henley Standard has a report on the theft here.

Update 23rd June:  The Henley Standard has published a longer article, including an interview with retired racing driver David Brodie.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 09th June 2020 15:57

Tidying up the village

There was a good response to the request by the chairman of the parish council for help with two jobs: removing the old mail storage box and repainting the red phone box at the Manor Road/High Street junction. 

Yesterday Nick Plumridge arranged for the concrete support post for the storage box to be cut out and the hole filled with concrete, all within a budget set by the parish council. 

See the Spot the Difference page. 

Royal Mail had confirmed to the parish council that it had no record of the storage box and the local post office said it had not been used for at least ten years. 

Allan Scriven has kindly offered to repaint the phone box free of charge. Again - it turns out that he repainted it six years ago.

Date/Time : Sunday, 07th June 2020 10:34

Hospital scrubs project completed

The Whitchurch project for making hospital scrubs that was started in mid-April has been successfully finished.  Volunteers sewing hospital garments and accessories (described in our news item of 17th April) made a grand total of 40 sets of scrubs, 150 bags and many headbands.  All the goods have been gratefully collected by Angela Hindle, facilities manager at the Royal Berks Hospital. 

The photo collage (left) shows some of the volunteers who were involved in the many hours of sewing.  Here is an enlargement.

Project organiser Yvonne Kerevan said today: “A very big thank you to all who contributed towards our Whitchurch venture, which has had a wonderful result.  Angela Hindle of the RBH was thrilled by what she found ready for collection.  Special thanks to the Rotary Club of Pangbourne who donated the funds to support the project.  This has been a very worthwhile effort, made all the more pleasurable by the number of generous and kind-hearted people we have all met.  Thank you so much, it has been a great pleasure to be involved.” 

Date/Time : Friday, 05th June 2020 13:39

Gardens Walk 2020 – an invitation

The village may be deprived of the usual Gardens Walk this year but the Whitchurch Society is inviting village residents to send in photographs of their beautiful gardens to create a virtual garden walk.  Starting today, and at any time during this month, please send up to four photos of your garden, showing either individual flowers, or beds, or shrubs, or trees, or a short walk-through video, to the Whitchurch Society’s email address.  Please include some thoughts, if you wish, about the plants or about your garden.  Photographs and comments will then be put on display on this website. 

Laura Lucas, chair of the Society, says: “We would love to receive lots of colourful images of early summer gardens in Whitchurch for us all to enjoy following the lockdown period.  Please share a part of your garden with us all!”

Date/Time : Monday, 01st June 2020 12:31

Annual Parish Assembly held online

Yesterday’s Annual Parish Assembly was held on Zoom this year.  Reports were given by many of those involved in village groups and working parties. 

A highlight of the event was the announcement of the Whitchurch Award 2020, after nominations by village residents had been received and a recommendation made by the Whitchurch Society to the Parish Council.  Parish chairman Jim Donahue announced that the recipients this year are Sally and Pete Woolhouse (pictured) and he paid tribute to their sustained and inspirational work on behalf of the community over many years. 

His tribute can be read in full here.

There is a screenshot of the event in the Photo Gallery.

There is an interview with the Woolhouses in the Henley Standard here.

Date/Time : Friday, 29th May 2020 13:15

Butterflies in Whitchurch

Can you tell a Peacock from a Red Admiral?  Or a Holly Blue from a Speckled Wood?  The sixth and latest in our series of Nature Notes is Butterflies in Spring, written by Sandra Parkinson and illustrated with her photographs of the butterflies she has seen recently at Chalkhills in Hardwick Road.  There is even a puzzle: Spot the Dingy Skipper. 

Find it on the Nature Notes page.

Date/Time : Saturday, 23rd May 2020 20:07

Football nets go back up

At a virtual monthly meeting of the Parish Council yesterday the issue of the fence between the village green and the private field was discussed, among other issues.  It was agreed that the goal nets would be replaced as soon as possible.  They were put back up today. 

It was explained that the absence of a net had been causing more people than normal to cross into the horse field to retrieve balls, in response to which the owner of the field had added panels to raise the fence, including a short length of spiked metal posts.  The owner has agreed to remove these. 

Jim Donahue said that the recent shocking discovery of many small pieces of glass on the ground in the goalmouth area had been reported to police, who had visited the site. 

Among other business, Jim Donahue was re-elected as chairman and Diana Smith was elected as vice-chairman. There is currently one vacancy on the council. 

The list of issues raised by residents and the current situation on each has been updated and can be found on the Parish Council page.

Date/Time : Friday, 15th May 2020 18:13

Pam Wilkinson 1938-2020 (Updated)

Pam Wilkinson of Eastfield Lane, who arrived in Whitchurch with her husband and two sons in 1976, died yesterday morning at the age of 82 after a short illness.  She died peacefully in her sleep with her family around her.  The death was not Coronavirus-related. 

Pam was actively involved in many village activities including the Crafty Knit & Stitch group, which she started, and the Art Café, which she helped to set up.  She was a driver for the Pangbourne and District Volunteer Car Scheme and she sang with the Thames Vale Singers.  She was an active member of the Theatre Club.  She was always happy to help other people.

Update (10th May):  Susie Wilkinson has invited those who knew Pam to show their support of Sue Ryder Nurses and the Hospice at Home healthcare team.  She has opened a JustGiving page in support of Sue Ryder South Oxfordshire Emergency Appeal.

Date/Time : Thursday, 30th April 2020 18:14

Book exchange set up in phone box

A small temporary library opened today in the phone box on the High Street, to help village residents who are running out of books for themselves or their children to read. 

Alastair Aitchison suggested the library idea a few days ago when he found that no less than ten families contacted him in response to his message on this website offering some children’s books. 

Jim Donahue suggested the phone box as a suitable venue and discussed the possibility with Jean Marc Grosfort. 

Jean Marc carefully measured the space available in the phone box and built a set of shelves, leaving adequate space for the defibrillator.  A poster reminds users of the coronavirus precautions. 

The suggestion is:  Bring a book and place it on the shelf.  Take a book home in exchange.

Date/Time : Sunday, 26th April 2020 20:51

Launch of Operation Bookworm

The local group known as the British Modern Military History Society (BMMHS) has grown with remarkable speed from its first event last May into a society with regular sell-out monthly talks in Woodcote Village Hall.  But the coronavirus crisis has stopped it in its tracks. 

Realising that many of us now have some spare time, the Society's joint founder, Jerry Cockeram of Whitchurch, is inviting us all to contribute a story about our experience, or that of a relative, in a military conflict of the last 200 years, with the intention of assembling the stories into a book to raise funds for charity.  This is Operation Bookworm.  Read the invitation in full

Jerry hopes that the programme of talks will re-start in September.  News will be on the BMMHS website

Date/Time : Monday, 20th April 2020 15:41

Use of village green clarified

The Parish Council met yesterday in a virtual session to discuss how government regulations and guidance should apply to the village green.  They agreed that it was most important for the village green to remain open for local exercise during the coronavirus crisis but that the nets should be taken off the football posts and the cricket practice nets should be taped off.  New signs will be displayed, reminding residents about the need for social distancing and requesting that dogs are kept on leads.  Read the full statement here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 19th April 2020 10:29

Can you sew? Help make some scrubs for the NHS

The Sewing Room in the Royal Berkshire Hospital has responded enthusiastically to a suggestion by Yvonne Kerevan in Eastfield Lane that volunteers who can sew should make scrubs for staff at the hospital. 

Yvonne is now helping to coordinate volunteers in Whitchurch.  She says: “Your help is urgently needed to support the NHS.  Please contact me on 0118 984 1424 or by email.”  She and others are turning sheet material and duvet covers into scrubs.  Some others are making headbands and drawstring bags. 

Angella Hindle, Facilities Manager at the RBH, provides more information here.   She gives the address of the Sewing Room for delivery but also offers to collect. 

Gill Williamson of the Crafty Knit & Stitch group has sent this link to a paper pattern for scrubs; also links to patterns for drawstring bags and headbands.

Date/Time : Friday, 17th April 2020 11:57

Resignation creates a vacancy on the parish council

Parish council vice-chairman Rachel Hatcher resigned last month, after more than four years on the council.  She said: “I have very much enjoyed being able to serve the community over the years and now that my children are older, plus with my work location changing to London, I need to be able to change how I use my time.”  At the March meeting, all councillors expressed their gratitude for her work as a councillor. 

This creates a vacancy.  Any Whitchurch resident over 18, who is on the electoral roll and a citizen of the UK, Commonwealth, EU or Ireland, can apply to become a councillor.  Applications should be received by 30th May.  Full information in these notices.  

Date/Time : Thursday, 16th April 2020 13:14

Whitchurch Society clarifies events for the year

The Gardens Walk organised by the Whitchurch Society has been a popular event in the village for many years and this year it was expected to take place in June.  That does not seem feasible now, which is a pity as many of us are likely to be spending even more time than usual tending our gardens during the lockdown period.  However, all is not lost as an alternative is planned.  

Laura Lucas, chair of the Whitchurch Society, has suggested that there should be a Virtual Garden Display instead of the Gardens Walk.  During the month of June, gardeners will be invited to submit photos of parts of their garden for display on the Whitchurch Web.  Details will be announced here nearer the time. 

Also featuring in the programme of the Society is the Whitchurch Award, now in its second year.  Village residents are invited to nominate one or more individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to village life.  The Whitchurch Society will receive and examine these nominations, forwarding a short-list to the Parish Council, who will make a final choice.  Last year the award was presented to Eric Hartley by the parish council chairman at the Annual Parish Assembly.  The invitation to submit nominations by 10th May will appear in the forthcoming issue of The Bulletin and can also be seen here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 12th April 2020 18:32

Water leak floods High Street

There was a burst water main in the High Street near the Ferryboat last night. This morning an emergency Thames Water team was present, trying to locate the leak before digging up the road to make a repair. 

A member of the team at the site said that to maintain the water supply to as many houses as possible they had re-zoned the system and only a few properties should lose pressure altogether.  Some others would experience a lower pressure than normal.

He said that the water in our village comes from a reservoir in Tilehurst and across the toll bridge.  This is a change from the situation that existed up to a few years ago when our water supply was piped down the hill and the link from Pangbourne was used only in emergencies.  The change was made after problems with excessive water pressure in the village, he said.

At 1.30 pm the team was awaiting the delivery of traffic lights for one-way flow before they could start work.

Update, Friday 10th April:  Geoff Weir reports: The leak was fixed at about 9.30 pm last night by Thames Water's sub-contractor Clancy Docwra.  During the night another gang came and removed all the debris and backfilled the hole, leaving the area neat and tidy and just waiting for the tarmac layer.

Date/Time : Thursday, 09th April 2020 13:08

Coombe Park boundary fence – changes proposed

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

The planning application is P19/S0366/FUL

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

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

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

The consultation period ends on 20th April.

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

Whitchurch Nature Notes launched

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

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

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

Latest update on getting help in the pandemic

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

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

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

Whitchurch joins nationwide salute to NHS workers

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

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