News

Save Our Pre-School! Updated - BBC News article

A major fund-raising campaign has been launched by a committee of parents at the Whitchurch Pre-School with the aim of funding a new building to replace the present one, which has been in use since 1998. 

Fund-raiser Rebecca Bell says that routine roof maintenance over Easter revealed that further patching repairs would not be enough, and a new building is clearly needed. Another winter in the current building is not an option.  There are two photos of the school here. There are currently 28 children enrolled. 

In a letter delivered to village households this week, the chair of the Pre-School, Emma Gammin, says: “We need your help whether you’ve attended the pre-school yourself, sent your own children, would like the option to in the future, or just want to support young families in the village.” 

The school is run as a charity and a special Giving Page has been set up, to which contributions are requested.  Already this has attracted a total of £2,000 from over 25 individuals in the community, towards a target of £40,000. 

Fund-raising activities planned include ice-cream sales at the Whitchurch Hill fete on 25th May, and regularly at the school itself, and a charity pub quiz at The Greyhound. 

Applications are being prepared for grants from such organisations as the National Lottery and Oxfordshire County Council. 

The Pre-School is seeking help from members of the community not just for their donations but also for expertise in fund-raising, grant applications, planning, procurement or construction.  They would like to hear from anyone willing to share their skills or experience.  

The members of the committee are Emma Gammin, Tim Suitor, Rebecca Bell, Becky Galea, Abi Eadie, Miriam Rose and Leigh Gorton.

Here is the appeal poster.  The school’s own website also has information.

UPDATE, 14th May:  BBC News has visited the school and published this article today: “Pre-school faces closure without new building”.

Date/Time : Sunday, 12th May 2024 18:28

Action against Asian Hornets

The British Beekeeping Association have asked if we could watch and share this video, to help protect the nation’s honeybee population as Asian Hornet numbers grow just across the Channel. Traps are being placed across the country to create a grid to track and monitor invading insects. 

Sally Woolhouse reports on action being taken in Whitchurch: 

WoTHabs has purchased eight Gard ‘Apis Sentinel traps which will be deployed as widely as possible across the parish. Each trap will be the responsibility of one or more people. They will be put in their chosen locations from April until the end of May, and then put out again in September until the end of October. They will be fitted with the red cap at each end of the trap with the intention of catching Asian hornet queens only.

All those who are looking after the traps, and others who are interested in following progress, will keep in touch primarily using the WhatsApp group, WoT Hornets. The administrators of this group are John Bradon, Gill Goodwin and Sally Woolhouse. All updates, such as when to remove the traps or re-instate them, will be sent through this group. We will keep in close touch with John White, the Pangbourne beekeeper, who sought the community's help with this initiative, and consult him when necessary. 

For more on the Asian Hornet, here is a BBC article.

Date/Time : Monday, 29th April 2024 12:04

Hardwick Road closure – now cancelled

‘Road closed’ signs went up on Hardwick Road this morning to enable Thames Water to start its excavation for water supply work.  But by 11.00 am there was no sign of Thames Water or its contractor at the site and traffic was still passing through.  The closure is booked for three days, Monday 22nd to Wednesday 24th.

Update, 6 pm:  It appears that Thames Water has decided against doing the planned work.  The ‘Road closed’ signs were taken off the road at around 4 pm this afternoon.  Traffic has been able to pass freely along Hardwick Road all day.  Many people are likely to have made lengthy diversions unnecessarily.  Whether this is a postponement or a cancellation is not clear.

Update, 10 am, Tuesday 23rd April:  All the signs have been removed completely and the road is open.  The work is no longer listed on the national roadworks register.  This is the second time this year that Thames Water has made an unannounced late cancellation for this road closure, after delivering notification letters each time, in advance, to many local addresses.   

Date/Time : Monday, 22nd April 2024 11:19

Peter Smith has died

We have to report the sad news that Peter Smith, who lived in Eastfield Lane with his wife Diana, has died at the age of 80, after a period of illness.

He was born and educated in Oxford, reading History at the University.  He then taught at Rugby School before being appointed Headmaster of Bradfield College in 1985.  He retired to Whitchurch in 2003.  He was involved in village life as Chair of the Whitchurch Society for 14 years and was a familiar figure at the annual Art and Craft Exhibition, presenting awards to winners.  He was also a governor of the Primary School for a number of years.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 17th April 2024 19:48

Toll bridge re-opens

Work on road repairs and resurfacing on the toll bridge and its approach embankments has now been completed, including road markings. 

After a three day closure to traffic, the bridge was re-opened at around 6.30 pm this evening, Thursday 11th April.

Date/Time : Thursday, 11th April 2024 18:49

Star Pubs still aiming to re-open Ferryboat

There has not been much activity recently at The Ferryboat, leading to doubts about the owners’ enthusiasm for re-opening it.  However, the Business Development Manager of Heineken Star Pubs confirmed yesterday that work is continuing.  He said that there is still work to do on the electrical supply as the power company had not completed the job.  Also, the interior of the pub has suffered considerable damage from waterpipe flooding, which they are planning to repair. 

It seems that Albert Tenkorang from The Waterside at Woodley is still lined up to run the pub, but no information was available on a time scale for re-opening. 

The photo above shows the pub last December when the footpath was excavated to install a new electricity supply.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 12th March 2024 12:16

Meeting on Hardwick’s future packs village hall

Miriam Rose, daughter of the Hardwick estate’s owner Sir Julian Rose, outlined her family’s vision for the future of the 900-acre property at a meeting yesterday evening in Whitchurch village hall.  So many people came that for the later arrivals there was standing room only - see the Photo Gallery. 

Miriam described how the burden of inheritance on successive generations of her family had led to their decision to hand it over to a charitable trust that would own and run it for the future. 

A key item for discussion was the Stud Farm with its livery stables (photo), a matter of great concern to the family which lives in a flat there, and a disappointment to those who keep horses there, who were well represented at the meeting.  The vision for the future of the estate includes the phasing out of horses in favour of food production, with crop rotation, on the paddocks where horses now graze.  There would be a variety of new uses for the buildings at the Stud Farm, which include an eighteenth-century timber barn.  Workshops, a farm shop with café and toilets are expected to be provided. 

Kanada Gorla, a professional facilitator who moderated the meeting, invited comments.  Concern was expressed about the financial prospects of the charitable trust and the need to build up a substantial capital reserve.  Questions were asked about the road access and parking and whether there will be a ‘Clarkson’s Farm’ effect. 

Miriam said that the decision to transition from horses to agriculture had been a painful one and she sympathized with the family affected, who had been given two years notice. The paddocks contained the best quality agricultural land on the estate.  There might be some scope for horses to continue to graze on the land to the north of the drive. The family’s overall aim was to create a sustainable and resilient mixed community and to increase public access to the estate. 

Asked whether Hardwick House itself, currently privately let, would be transitioned to a more public use, Miriam said that seemed unlikely.  Of the 27 other houses and cottages on the estate, 23 are currently let at affordable rates and some of these sources of income might be reviewed. 

Among those attending the meeting was Caroline Newton, prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Henley and Thame constituency, who was recently chosen to succeed John Howell, the current MP, who is stepping down at the next general election. There is a photo of Caroline in the Photo Gallery.  

Miriam invites anyone who would like to be kept informed about ongoing plans for the estate to send their email address to her at miriam@hardwickestate.co.uk

Some of the plans are already outlined in a Hardwick Friends Newsletter of July 2023, which continues to be available on this website under About the Village and can be viewed here

Date/Time : Friday, 01st March 2024 13:40

Otters wreaking havoc in garden fishponds

In Swanston Field, at least three garden ponds have been raided in recent weeks by a hungry otter hunting in the dark.  Large numbers of brightly coloured koi carp have been taken.  Some of these are over twenty years old, much loved by their owners and expensive to replace. 

It seems that a family of four otters is now established in the Whitchurch reach of the Thames, with their holt or den at some distance downstream of the bridge, on the Oxfordshire bank. 

The photo shows an otter, just visible swimming beneath the light on the left, at 9.30 pm on 19th February, about to catch some prey in one of the Swanston Field ponds. 

One pond owner says it appears that after a long period without otters the situation is returning to how it was many years ago and the pleasure of having wild animals returning to their natural habitat must be balanced against the downside risk.  The risk seems to be greatest in winter and especially when the river is in flood.  Owners of stocked garden ponds may want to take extra precautions.  There is advice from the Wild Otter Trust

For more information on otters in the Thames and the Pang, see Whitchurch Nature Note No 8, January 2021, pages 3-4. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 21st February 2024 19:14

Military History Society celebrates its first five years

Jerry Cockeram, who lives in Manor Road, is delighted to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the British Modern Military History Society which he and his brother Andy (pictured) started with others in 2019.  The Society grew rapidly and soon moved to the village hall at Woodcote where its monthly live talks often attract full houses.  There are also monthly talks on Zoom.  In the five years, over 75 talks have been given, three books of collected wartime reminiscences have been published and thousands of pounds have been raised for military charities. 

For the full story, read the Society’s press release

The current programme of talks is here

Date/Time : Wednesday, 21st February 2024 11:58

Reports of boa constrictor sightings

Three separate sightings of what was thought to be a boa constrictor, on or near the Thames, have been reported by phone to our parish clerk Jane Yamamoto in recent days.  One report described it as a large-mouthed snake-like creature. 

Another said it had appeared to be going towards the Lock, but with that closed, they thought it might head towards the Mill Pond. 

Jane reported it to the Environment Agency, who referred her to the RSPCA. The RSPCA said this is now happening quite often, especially with a cost of living crisis and some people no longer wishing to keep their pets.  The RSPCA will try to rescue an escaped or abandoned snake, but only if its location is known. 

If anyone does see the snake, the phone number for the RSPCA is 0300 1234 999. 

The image above is an artist’s impression of a boa constrictor, a large non-venomous South American snake.  Wikipedia says it is a popular in the exotic pet trade and they are fed mice, rats and chickens, usually becoming quite tame.  They are said to be strong swimmers but prefer dry land.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 20th February 2024 17:23

Tea Hut to be demolished

After consultation with the Whitchurch Cricket Club the Parish Council have obtained permission from SODC to demolish the Tea Hut on the Village Green, which is in a dangerously decrepit state.  The exact date of the demolition will be confirmed but will probably take place during the school Easter Holidays to minimize disruption to the car park.  Please see the message board with details of free furniture available which is currently in the Tea Hut.

Date/Time : Monday, 19th February 2024 10:34

Join the Annual Litter Pick on 16th March

The Green Team is organising an annual litter picking event throughout the village on Saturday 16th March, meeting at 2pm at the Hardwick Road end of Muddy Lane.  Please come along and help us tidy up the village!  Litter bags, hi-vis vests and picking sticks will be provided, but please bring your own gloves.

This is part of the Keep Britain Tidy - Great British Spring Clean and is being supported by SODC.

For any queries, contact Jill Bradon at 0118 984 1574 or by email.

Date/Time : Friday, 16th February 2024 10:47

Parking scheme approved (Updated with Statement)

At a meeting in Oxfordshire’s County Hall this morning the Cabinet Member for Transport Management approved the parking scheme, including resident permits, proposed for the High Street. 

Two residents had obtained permission to speak and they requested more parking opportunities near the Picture Gallery, especially in view of mobility problems.  The traffic officer addressed the residents’ concerns and said that special parking permission could be obtained by those with mobility problems. 

Parish councillor Diana Smith outlined the lengthy consultation process that had taken place.  Parish council chairman Jim Donahue emphasised the benefits of the scheme for pedestrian safety. 

The meeting's chairman said that all such schemes are subject to review after a period of use and changes can sometimes be made later.

Update, 25th January, 7 pm: Jim Donahue issued a statement on today's decision, seeking to reassure residents who have concerns about the scheme.   

Date/Time : Thursday, 25th January 2024 11:48

Otter back again in Whitchurch

An otter was seen in the Thames yesterday.  Nick Plumridge, who spotted it and took a photograph, says: “Definitely part of a group I would say, as it was calling out whilst swimming.  I spotted it first looking for food around the tollhouse millpond wall.  It then swam across the river to the central island and then under the bridge and disappeared along the bank on the Whitchurch side.”  

Date/Time : Monday, 22nd January 2024 18:57

Final details for decision on parking scheme

  In advance of the public meeting to be held in County Hall at 10 am on Thursday 25th January, Oxfordshire County Council has published the papers for the meeting, which can be seen here.  

The pages relating to the proposals for Whitchurch (Agenda Item 7) can be found between p195 and p279.   (Recommendation and summary pp195-200; Street plans pp201-202; Survey results pp203-204; Comments for and against pp205-279.) 

Two recent changes to the scheme that was presented for consultation last year are mentioned on p195.  These increase the parking near the Picture Gallery from 3 to 5 spaces and reduce the length of the parking bay south of Manor Road by 5 m. 

The meeting can be watched, without participation, on a Live Stream Link.  Opportunities to speak are detailed on p2. 

Date/Time : Friday, 19th January 2024 15:03

Remembering Doreen Godley (Updated with service details)

The sad death of Doreen Godley on 2nd January occurred when her car collided with a fallen tree at 5.30 pm near Crays Pond, in the aftermath of Storm Henk.  She was 87 and well known to many in Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill.  She and her husband Brian, who died in 2010, lived for many years in Rivacres, Whitchurch Hill, before moving to Goring. 

Vicky Jordan commented: “Doreen was a founder member of the History Society and served as treasurer for many years. She has been a member of the committee for as long as I can remember and was always full of ideas for our programme. She participated in all our activities, enjoyed our outings and happily took on the “coffee lady” role at our meetings. I know she was involved in many other groups in the community and will be sorely missed.” 

Chris Martin said: “Doreen was a long-term member of the Whitchurch Theatre Club.    She was a very friendly person, always enthusiastic and smiling.   Mixing with people very easily, she always made everyone welcome.” 

Martin Wise said: “A shocking and awful tragedy.  Doreen will be sadly missed.” 

Other groups she belonged to included the Women’s Institute, the Archaeology Society and U3A. 

This week’s Henley Standard has an article here.

Update, 23rd January:  A Requiem service for Doreen will be held at 11am on Tuesday 13th February at Our Lady and St John’s Catholic Church, Ferry Lane, Goring on Thames.

Date/Time : Sunday, 14th January 2024 12:03

Aerial photos of flooding last weekend

Photographer Dave Olinski took a video on Sunday from a drone high above the river, which shows the recent flooding at its greatest extent.  It can be viewed here

He also took the still photo shown here on the same day.  It is clearer in this enlarged version

The Thames floodwater reached its highest level on Sunday morning and has continued its gradual fall since then. 

The Greyhound was forced to close its doors to business at 6.30 pm on Saturday when water began to enter the bar area. Lottie says that on Sunday morning the floor was covered in water to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.  By Monday morning the water had gone, leaving silt behind.  Dehumidifiers were found and a start made on drying out the small area of fitted carpet and cleaning up generally.  The pub reopened on Tuesday morning. 

How does this flood compare with past ones? 

In comparison with previous river floods, the January 2024 event reached virtually the same level as the January 2014 event (which delayed the bridge reconstruction).  Before that, a river flood in January 2003 was lower than those by about 10 cm. 

The yardstick for a major Thames flood is the March 1947 event when the water level reached a level 30 cm (1 foot) higher than the 2014 or 2024 events. That was associated with the rapid melting of snow and ice in a severely frozen catchment, adding to heavy rainfall.  There was considerable flooding of Whitchurch properties. 

Prior to 1947 there was a historic flood in 1894 which is recorded as reaching a level 25 cm above the 1947 one.  But after that event many weirs were lengthened and extra floodgates were installed up and down the river, which helped to lower flood levels. 

The flooding that caused a large pool outside the pub on 16th June 2020 was the result of a local flash flood and not a river flood.  More from the Flood Forum on our Flooding and Drainage page

Date/Time : Thursday, 11th January 2024 16:54

Thames flood reached a historic peak today, Sunday

The Greyhound was forced to close at around 6 pm yesterday evening as water started entering the building.  The river slowly rose by a couple of inches overnight to reach the highest level for many years.  By midday today the level was starting to drop very slightly and by 7 pm this evening it had fallen by about the same amount.  It is now expected to continue to fall slowly. 

The photo shows The Greyhound this morning, at the time of highest flooding, with water right across the road.  The pub remained closed today.  There are more pictures in the Photo Gallery. 

The Report on the 2014 flood, which offers an approximate ranking of historic floods, suggests that this event produced the highest water level here for over 70 years, since the landmark flood of March 1947.

Update, Monday 8th January, 11 am:  The river level has continued its slow fall from yesterday’s peak.  By 11 am today it had gone down by about 15 cm (6 inches). 

Date/Time : Sunday, 07th January 2024 20:29

River Thames flood reaches 2014 level (Updated for Emergency Plan)

By 4 pm this afternoon the river had risen to roughly the level it reached at the peak of the January 2014 flood when the bridge reconstruction project was affected.  And it seems likely to continue rising for a while.  

At The Greyhound, publican Lottie Mitchell remained cheerful despite the pool of water in the car park (photo).  She was grateful to John Southey and Selby Armstrong who had helped fill and position sandbags to defend the doors.  Lottie says the pub remains open, with the floor still just about dry and the entrance now on the garden side. 

In Eastfield Lane, water rising from the village culvert was causing flooding across the full width of the road.  Bill Lewis managed to lower the level by clearing the grating that drains the road. 

This afternoon the Pangbourne meadow was fully covered by floodwater, causing a problem at the Dolphin Centre.  The Surgery car park was almost completely underwater and empty of cars.  Water was flowing strongly along the footpath shortcut from the station.  See the latest pictures in the Photo Gallery.

Update 7 pm Saturday:  Jim Donahue, Coordinator for the village’s Emergency Plan, said this evening that the Village Hall can be made available for anyone needing emergency accommodation, in the event that the rising water level causes flooding of houses.  He can be contacted at cllrdonahue.whitchurchonthames@gmail.com or 07557 668 601.  The Emergency Plan, which lists other residents prepared to help in emergencies, can be consulted here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 06th January 2024 19:13

Fatal accident on Tuesday near Crays Pond

Thames Valley Police are appealing for witnesses following a fatal car accident on the B4526 near Crays Pond at around 5.25 pm on Tuesday 2nd January. They report that a red Smart Forfour hit a fallen tree and the driver, an 87-year-old woman, sadly died at the scene. 

It has been reported locally that the victim of the accident was Doreen Godley.  She was the widow of Brian Godley and lived in Rivacres, Whitchurch Hill, before moving to Goring. 

The Police Appeal can be read here.

Date/Time : Thursday, 04th January 2024 16:02

Happy Christmas!

The Whitchurch Web team would like to wish you a very Happy Christmas.  We have a Christmas card for you to open.  

We hope you’ve enjoyed visiting the website during the year.  Thank you to the many people who have supplied news, events, photos and messages.  

Thanks also to Jim Donahue for the stunning sunset image which he captured on an icy day at Hardwick in January 2022. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 20th December 2023 11:00

Shining a light on the High Street (Photos added, 4th January)

There are currently two streetlights in the High Street that are not working, No 2 near the Ferryboat and No 7, further up the street.  Geoff Weir says he reported No 2 on FixMyStreet every week for two months, and has also used the OCC fault-reporting number, without any result.  He points out that this light is important as it is on a narrow pavement used by everyone walking to and from Pangbourne, including school children.

Parish Chairman Jim Donahue and County Councillor Kevin Bulmer have both been communicating with OCC on the subject.  OCC has said that both of the faults are for SSE to fix and they have asked SSE to move both jobs up their priority list.  It seems that it is not a simple broken bulb problem but an issue with the incoming power cables.

Separately, Jim says that the Parish Council has requested a quotation for installing an additional new streetlight between the upper narrows and Hartslock bridleway (between existing streetlights No 7 and No 8) to address residents’ concerns, as highlighted in the Traffic Survey, that it is unsafe for pedestrians in the dark.  OCC are thought to be unlikely to fund it themselves but might consider implementation if the Parish Council agreed to pay for it.

Update, 3rd January:  Geoff Weir, tired of waiting for a repair to the streetlight outside his home, has installed a small temporary streetlight on his brick wall, powered by his home solar electricity system.  He has also now submitted an official complaint to OCC after seeing no action in 12 weeks since reporting the problem.  See two pictures added to the Photo Gallery, 4th January.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 13th December 2023 16:52

Candlelit procession on Christmas Eve

A new Christmas event is coming to Whitchurch this year.  There will be an informal torchlit procession for residents and their families and friends, together with carols and music on the Village Green, between 8 pm and 9 pm on Christmas Eve. 

Those who wish to join in should gather at The Greyhound at around 7.45 pm.  The procession will make its way along Eastfield Lane, with music and torchlight, to the Village Green.  Participants are also welcome to join in en route when they hear the sound of bagpipes approaching.

There will be carol singing on the Village Green, then the procession will return along Eastfield Lane to The Greyhound, and further on to St Mary’s Church in time for the 9pm service for those who wish to attend.  

If you would like to carry a wax torch, they can easily be obtained online.  Or you can bring a candle. 

If you play a musical instrument that could accompany the carol singing, even for one carol, Alastair Dunstan would be delighted to hear from you – his email address is alastairdunstan5@gmail.com

A similar torchlit procession, on a larger scale (photo), has been a popular Christmas event in Goring & Streatley.  

Date/Time : Friday, 08th December 2023 16:16

Speedwatch in action

The village Speedwatch team, set up by the Traffic and Parking Working Group (TAPWG), has been busy monitoring vehicle speeds in the High Street and Hardwick Road and reporting to the Police those exceeding the 20mph limit by more than a small margin. 

The monitoring sites had first to be agreed with the Police and the volunteers received their online training.  Since April this year the dedicated team has been out in all weathers and has reported a total of 774 vehicles, including 35 in Hardwick Road in the past week.  The offending drivers will have received a letter from Thames Valley Police, who say that 80% of drivers who receive such letters do not re-offend. The minority who do re-offend will receive a visit from Police once they have received three letters.

Yellow signs have now been positioned at all three entrances to the village (photo) so that drivers will be more aware that their speed may be recorded. 

The Speedwatch Team, co-ordinated by Linda Gray, would love to attract some more residents to join the small team of volunteers. Please contact Linda by email to find out how you could help. 

Date/Time : Friday, 24th November 2023 17:08