News

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

Public hearing for Greyhound street food

During the recent consultation period for the application by The Greyhound and its food traders, it is understood that some objections were received, as a result of which there will now be a public hearing in early December.  

The landlord, Lottie Mitchell, is asking all her customers who enjoy the street food offerings to send an email to Oak Taverns to indicate their support for The Greyhound’s plans to continue the service.  The request, with the email address, is here.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 22nd November 2023 18:30

Whitchurch Scout heading to Malawi

Jay Sidhu, 13, lives in Swanston Field.  He is the only Whitchurch member in a group of seven Scouts from the 1st Purley & Pangbourne Scout Group who will be travelling to Malawi, Africa, in July next year to take part in a community project.  

Working with the local community and local builders for three weeks, the group will help build a new community centre and toilet block and refurbish two community buildings.  Berkshire Scouts have teamed up for this project with a local charity called Joshua, which assists orphans and their communities in Malawi. 

Jay is now trying to raise funds towards the cost of the trip.  He has challenged himself to run, cycle and walk 80km in each of the next 8 weeks.  His mother Angela Sidhu has organised a fundraising page.  Already in the last few days £245 has been raised towards a goal of £1000.  

Jay says: “I would be hugely grateful for any sponsorship.  I am also taking part in as many fundraising opportunities as I can find.  I have helped on the BBQ at the village fete, I have served hotdogs in Purley, I have helped at Pangbourne and Purley fireworks evenings, I am running a tuckshop at school, I am helping to organize a quiz night and a barn dance and I am running an Art Cafe in January.  I would love to hear of any other fundraising ideas anyone has.  I can come and wash your car, I can help with pet sitting or I am awesome at playing Lego if anyone’s young children need looking after for a few hours.” 

To take up any of these offers, Jay can be contacted by email here.   

Date/Time : Tuesday, 21st November 2023 11:18

The Ferryboat will re-open, but not just yet

Heineken Star Pubs were asked earlier this week for a statement on their plans for re-opening The Ferryboat, which closed in June last year following the sad death of its landlord Graham Dednum. 

In reply, a spokesperson for Star Pubs & Bars today sent these comments to the Whitchurch Web: 

"We are upgrading the electricity supply for the kitchen to give future operators more options in terms of kitchen equipment.  We cannot be specific about timing for this work as it is dependent on a number of third parties involved in the process.  We have an operator in place ready to reopen the pub once the current electricity supply situation is resolved, staff have been recruited and stock ordered." 

So it seems that now, after 17 months of closure, we will have to continue to wait for further news on when the pub will spring to life again.

Date/Time : Thursday, 09th November 2023 18:06

Tree falls on road above village

A tree fell earlier today and blocked the downhill side of the road between the war memorial and the village.  Jim Donahue, who took the photo here, has reported it to the Highways Authority.

Update: the road was cleared later in the day.

Date/Time : Saturday, 04th November 2023 16:57

High Street parking restrictions – have your say!

Oxfordshire County Council issued documents yesterday for proposed Whitchurch High Street parking restrictions, allowing those affected to examine and comment on them by 17th November. 

The link to the documents, which include two detailed plans showing where the restrictions are planned, is: https://letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/whitchurch_parking2023

The scheme is the result of work by the Parish Council's Traffic and Parking Working Group (TAPWG) in consultation with Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department.  It is based on a village-wide survey carried out in September 2021.  The resulting proposal was approved by the Parish Council in November 2022. 

A senior officer of OCC says: “We're asking for your views on the proposal to introduce new & amend existing parking measures in Whitchurch-on-Thames. The proposals are being put forward in accordance with OCC parking policy, and seek to better manage parking in the centre of the village which will help residents find parking closer to their properties and prevent all day parking by non-residents, also to improve traffic flow, and for road safety reasons to help improve visibility for more vulnerable road-users, including pupils & parents crossing High Street on their way to/from school.  Have your say.  Please read the detailed information provided on this consultation and take the time to complete the survey as your views and opinions matter.  Your response should be completed and returned by 5pm on Friday 17 November 2023.”

Date/Time : Saturday, 21st October 2023 11:06

Walled Garden House plans approved

The application to rebuild The Walled Garden House, opposite The Greyhound in the High Street, has been approved by SODC, subject to conditions.  The Decision Notice can be read here

Parish Council chairman Jim Donahue commented today: 

I would like to comment on SODC’s decision to approve this application as a number of residents objected to it and the size and height of the new house will be very visible and have a significant impact on the village Conservation Area.  I attended the SODC Planning Committee meeting on 11th October to present our objections, with support from Cllr Paul O’Grady, and another resident in attendance to raise their own concerns.  Despite us having what I felt was a strong planning basis for having the Walled Garden planning application rejected, I am sorry to report that the SODC Planning Committee voted to approve the application, as recommended by the Planning Officer: 

  • The Planning Officer recommended approval stating the impact on the Conservation Area was neutral.  He acknowledged that the new building would be much more visible from many angles, but felt it was offset by the improved architecture that was sympathetic to the area, compared to the existing building. 
  • 7 out of 11 SODC Councillors voted to approve the application, arguing that:

o   The plot was large, and the house was not disproportionate to the size of the plot.

o   Whilst the third floor roof was visible over the wall, overlooking would not be possible from the rooms there which formed part of the dormer roof that only had Velux windows.

o   Some felt that it was not out of keeping with the Conservation area which was a built-up area with buildings of diverse architecture.

o   Others felt the applicants would be successful in an appeal.  Even if rejected, other applications, perhaps for multiple houses, would likely be accepted. 

  • The councillors understood our concerns regarding the pond and flooding and understood that resolving this was a condition for development.  I intend to push this with their Drainage and Flooding Engineer to ensure we get satisfaction on the pond being fully reinstated prior to any work on the house starting.

Date/Time : Monday, 16th October 2023 20:44

Get ready for the Art & Craft show

The website for the Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 2023, to be held in the Village Hall over the weekend of 18th and 19th November, is now live and can be accessed here.  (Note: there are two active links at the top of the page.)

Organiser Sally Woolhouse says:

The website has all the details you will need about how and when you will be able to enter this very popular village event. Online registration is available at any time between 4th and 15th November. Please remember that all entries must be made through the website, even though this year there is no online exhibition.  If you have queries, do get in touch.

This year’s theme for the Joyce Voysey prize is ‘Re-use, Reduce, Recycle’. We are sure that this will produce some imaginative creations! Of course, your entries for all the main adult & junior classes (Art, Craft & Photography) can be on any subject whatsoever.

It is remarkable to note that the exhibition has now been running for over 50 years! The first cup to be awarded in 1972 was The Whitchurch Cup, presented by The Whitchurch Society. Note that it is now awarded to the best entry in the Adult Craft section; there are other cups for the Art and Photography sections. There is a link to the history of all the cups and the winners over the years on our webpage.

Finally, we will be serving refreshments over the weekend, so we are looking for willing helpers with this and with the setting up on Friday 17th November – we need a good team of willing volunteers to make the whole event run smoothly!

Please get in touch with me at sally@wotarts.co.uk.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 10th October 2023 12:14

Historic Oxford barge arrives at Hardwick estate

The Swan at Streatley has auctioned off its historic Magdalen barge.  It has been towed to a new home on the river at Whitchurch and is now moored at the end of Sheepwash Lane on the Hardwick estate, as seen in the photo. 

The barge, built in 1927, originally belonged to Magdalen College, Oxford.  Since it was acquired by The Swan it has been used as a wedding venue, but the hotel recently came to the reluctant conclusion that they could not afford the restoration it needs. 

Unusually, the barge has a reinforced concrete hull.  It is thought to be one of the last such vessels in the country. 

The barge has been bought by Paul Austin-Clark, who is understood to be a skilled carpenter/joiner/boatbuilder, and there is now a good chance of it being restored.  He has opened a GoFundMe page to raise £10,000 for the purpose.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund can find the details here and also read about Paul’s dream to restore the barge to its former glory and 'open it up for educational and creative activities’.   Those giving £200 or more will be promised a day's free hire in due course. 

Here is a photo of the barge some years ago, in better condition than now, moored at The Swan. 

Date/Time : Friday, 22nd September 2023 17:10

Burglary in Whitchurch – police release images (updated)

Thames Valley Police have this morning released a photo (left) of a man, presumably a possible witness, that they wish to speak to in connection with a burglary in the village on Monday evening, 11th September, and are asking for help from the public.  Also released are two photos of a car passing the toll bridge. 

Here is the Police statement: 

Thames Valley Police is releasing an image of a man officers believe may have vital information about a burglary in Whitchurch-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

An address in the village was burgled at around 9.15pm on Monday (11/9).

Investigating officer Detective Constable Michael Parker said: “I am interested in speaking to the man pictured as he may hold key information in relation to this burglary. 

“I am also keen to talk to the driver and any occupants of a small, black/dark SUV that drove through Whitchurch toll bridge at 9.10pm on Monday, heading into Whitchurch. The occupants of the car may hold vital information in relation to this burglary. 

“Also, if you have any CCTV footage in the area or any dash-cam footage if you were driving in the area around the time, I’d also ask that you check any recordings in case it has captured something that could assist our investigation.

“If you were the car driver or are the man pictured, or have any information on who the driver or this man are, please call 101 or make a report on our website, quoting reference number 43230408120.

“Alternatively, you can provide information anonymously to the independent charity, Crimestoppers, by calling 0800 555 111 or via its website.”

 

An enlarged version of the photo above can be seen here.  The person in the picture is presumably sought as a potential witness.

To see the two images of the dark SUV vehicle, go to the Police website

According to neighbours, the house involved is in the High Street and balaclava masks were worn by three men who had broken in.  It is understood that they searched the house and then left, having taken nothing, and the elderly couple living in the house were not threatened.

The Police are reported to have arrived very quickly after the event.  On the following morning a plain-clothed policeman visited several properties in the High Street seeking information and advising house-owners to be careful about security.

There appears to be some similarity to a break-in 18 months ago on a flat in a nearby property, The Mount.  There is a report on that in our News Archive dated 22nd March 2022. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 16th September 2023 11:00

Aerial photo reveals wartime activity in Whitchurch

An aerial photo taken from a US Air Force plane over Whitchurch on 8th March 1944 has recently been made available by Historic England. 

The aerial photo can be viewed here.  Hover on the image and click on the double arrow at the top right to have the full screen view.  Then zoom in to see details.  Note that North is roughly on the left, not at the top. 

Two areas of particular interest, which have been cropped and captioned by Jerry Cockeram, are attached here and here.  The first of these shows the military camp in Nissen huts at Manor Road.  The second shows the bridge training area, based at Thames Bank, making full use of the Pangbourne meadow. Bridge building is being practised using Bailey bridge units and floating pontoons, in preparation for the D-day landing of Operation Overlord on 6th June 1944.  A still photo of this is shown above. 

For a fascinating account of how the military forces of Britain, the USA and Canada made use of these facilities, see this account by Peter Hawley.  It seems that it came as a surprise to Mr Howard, owner of Coombe Park, when he discovered a military camp being built on his land in 1943, such was the urgency of wartime decision-making. 

Thanks to John Bradon for pointing out the publication of this historic aerial photo.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 12th September 2023 13:37