News

Restoration project on the way

The traffic-worn verges of Hardwick Road from the village to the Hardwick estate gates have been under close scrutiny recently as a long-considered improvement scheme moves forward. 

The aim of the project, which was included in the 2019 Village Plan, is to restore the biodiversity of the verges.  The verges would be rebanked and reseeded and, by marking the extent of the many passing places with wooden posts fitted with reflectors, it is hoped to reduce future traffic damage.  The project would involve soil and aggregate movement to provide better drainage, pothole repairs and seeding with grass and wild-flower mix.  John Bradon and Sally Woolhouse of WoTHabs, in consultation with Jon Beale of Oxfordshire Highways, and with support from the Parish Council, have put together documents for the work needed in 22 separate areas along the road. 

At their November meeting the Parish Council agreed to support the project, assuming that financial support is obtained as hoped from the Mend the Gap programme.  The programme is run by Network Rail as a compensation scheme for the visual effect on the Chilterns of the electrification of the railway.  After the work is done, the Parish Council would have responsibility for the maintenance of the proposed 29 marker posts and for their coverage by the council’s public liability policy. 

The WoTHabs team is now working on obtaining quotations and securing funding from Mend the Gap. The project is expected to cost several thousand pounds.

Date/Time : Saturday, 26th November 2022 10:23

Hardwick Road is closed to traffic today (Now re-opened)

A surprise closure to traffic on Hardwick Road is in operation today for repair work by an Openreach broadband contractor on an access manhole in the road near the western Swanston Field junction.  

The Highway Authority granted a permit for Openreach to carry out maintenance work in Hardwick Road during the period 2nd to 23rd November, listing it as ‘Roadworks, delays unlikely, some carriageway incursion’.  Added this morning is information about a closure today from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm. 

Update, 2.30 pm: Road reopened.

Date/Time : Friday, 18th November 2022 11:01

Art & Craft exhibition – register by 9th November

Entries are flowing in for the Art & Craft Exhibition on 12-13th November.  The last date for pre-registering your entry on the exhibition website is Wednesday 9th November. 

This is a special year for two reasons - it is 50 years since the Whitchurch Cup was awarded (the first winner in 1972 was Jim Reed) and there is a special one-off prize for the best in the Adult Art section - a weekend painting course at the Joe Daisy studio in Mapledurham. 

The exhibition is open to residents and ex-residents of Whitchurch-on-Thames, Whitchurch Hill and Goring Heath, plus children at local schools.  For more information go to this page.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 02nd November 2022 10:20

Sue Matthews has died (Funeral details added)

With great sorrow we report that Sue Matthews, who lived in Eastfield Lane, died on Monday 26th October, at the age of 72.  She had suffered declining health for many months, caused by Motor Neurone Disease. She passed away at her home.

Sue was an active member of the Whitchurch community throughout her life and was involved in a wide range of activities.  She was a Church Warden, choir member and bellringer for many years, and was at the first History Society meeting in 1993.  She served on the Parish Council and chaired it for several years prior to 1997.  Older residents will recall her theatrical performances in village productions with The Riparians.  She had appeared in the first Riparians production in 1971.  Only a few years ago she played Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's The Rivals, with the Basildonians.

Sue's parents, Victor and Jean Yaldren, who were leading lights in the village, lived nearby.  Her husband Alan died some years ago.  She is survived by her son Ben, her daughter Sarah and four grandchildren. 

Vicky Jordan said today: “Sue and I alternated as Chair and Secretary of the History Society for many years, and her knowledge of Whitchurch history is irreplaceable.” 

The photo above shows her in March this year, accompanied by her carer Nataliiya.

Update, 28th October:  The funeral will be held at St Mary's Church on Monday 14th November at 2.00 pm, followed by refreshments in the Village Hall.  The family welcomes all those who wish to pay respects to Sue's memory to join them. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 26th October 2022 08:43

Have your say about the Manor Road playground

The Parish Council has been considering the funding of various repairs and improvements to the Manor Road playground and is now inviting residents to respond to a questionnaire survey:

“Whitchurch-on-Thames Parish Council is interested in your views on the Manor Road playground.

Substantial repair works are needed to the ‘wet pour’ surfacing underneath the various pieces of equipment and recent surveys show that some of the well-loved equipment is beginning to show signs of wear and corrosion. Whilst necessary repair works will be carried out, this also presents an opportunity to make changes to the playground and provides scope for any improvements our village would like to see.

We would be very grateful if you could spend a couple of minutes filling out the following questionnaire. Answers can either be submitted via the link below or alternatively a hard copy will be distributed through the upcoming village bulletin with further details on where to drop off completed forms.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO TAKE PART IN THE SURVEY

This survey is anonymous and therefore there will be no use of personal data.

Should there be a majority of opinion from the village to see more than repair of the existing, we would also like to welcome interest from volunteers to join a working group to take forward any improvements. Please inform Jane Yamamoto if you would like to take part, on parishclerk.whitchurchonthames@gmail.com ."

Date/Time : Tuesday, 25th October 2022 17:23

Wrangle over cricket pavilion delays refurbishment

Ten years ago, the Whitelock family handed over the cricket field to the parish council and the cricket club.  Ambitious plans were then drawn up for a new sports pavilion, but these were abandoned in 2020 when it was decided that sufficient funds were unlikely to be raised. 

Since then, differences of opinion between the Cricket Club and the Parish Council have caused frustration on both sides in deciding how to fund a less costly project, the refurbishment of the existing pavilion.  The Cricket Club wants the Parish Council to contribute £5,000 to an estimated £30,000 project and considers that the buildings are the responsibility of the Club.  The Parish Council takes a different view, believing that the pavilion needs to be their responsibility and that, while keen to support cricket, they are legally unable to give public funds to a body that does not have the necessary constitution to receive them. 

This week, the Parish Council issued a statement: 

“The Parish Council held an extraordinary meeting on 3rd October to review the proposed agreement between the Parish Council and the Cricket Club to govern refurbishment of the pavilion. We have separately taken some informal legal advice that suggests the buildings on the Village Green are legally owned by the Parish Council and not the Cricket Club. This understanding has a number of implications including who is responsible for public liability, insurance, and health and safety checks for these buildings. We are now undertaking a formal legal review to confirm this. Once ownership is confirmed, upgrades to the pavilion and its on-going maintenance should be more straightforward going forward.” 

The minutes of the Parish Council’s Extraordinary Meeting on 3rd October can be read here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd October 2022 11:43

High Street closed for second day running

Thames Water was called out yesterday to deal with leakage into a property from the foul water pipeline that runs down the High Street.  They obtained emergency permission to close the road.  Again today, Friday, the High Street near the Hardwick Road junction will be closed to traffic from 9.30 am to 3 pm.  The street will remain open from Pangbourne to a point just north of Manor Road. 

The pipeline runs beneath the middle of the High Street, but no excavation is involved.  A Thames Water supervisor says that a remotely controlled CCTV unit will be sent down the pipeline over a length of 150m  today, followed by cleaning of the pipeline.  The length under treatment is from a point 100m uphill of the art gallery to a point 50m downhill of it.

Date/Time : Friday, 07th October 2022 10:29

Peter Ferguson was in The Queue

Last week Peter Ferguson travelled up to Westminster to pay his respects at the Lying-in-State of the late Queen.  He spent just over 12 hours on the long, slow walk towards Westminster Hall (photo), which gave him plenty of time to contemplate. 

He says: “I had the privilege of paying tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last Friday 16th September.  The walk lasted 12 hours 20 minutes before we reached the Palace of Westminster.  During the walk I met many lovely people.  We became close friends, sharing personal stories about our lives in our common endeavour to pay homage to a dutiful Queen who reigned for seventy incredible years.  It was a very moving and emotional experience, with many of us holding back tears.  She taught us about servant leadership, displaying courage, compassion, kindness and a steadfast love of her Lord and Saviour.”  

Peter, who lives in Swanston Field, is the Director of a charity in Nigeria, recently renamed The Growing Seed Trust Foundation, which among other things encourages children to play rugby football.  He makes regular visits to the Niger Delta.  Peter played rugby for Henley RFC in the 1960s and later in Nigeria during his Voluntary Service Overseas in the 1970s.  Further on in his career he spent time as a consultant in Lagos and became aware of the limited opportunities for underprivileged children there and in the troubled Niger Delta. 

Peter has written an update especially for us on the progress of his charity. To read it, visit this page.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd September 2022 17:36

National Moment of Reflection on Sunday

Many people all around the country will be observing a one minute silence at 8.00 pm on Sunday evening, 18th September.  It has been suggested that we might like to be on our front doorsteps for this, and then join in singing the National Anthem, with musical accompaniment from live TV or radio. 

The Parish Council has decided that this would be an appropriate way to mark the occasion rather than having a special public event. 

The National Moment of Reflection, to mourn the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and reflect on her life and legacy, is on the eve of her funeral. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 15th September 2022 15:09

Peace breaks out over Village Green fence

For several years there has been trouble between players of cricket and football on the village green and the owners of the horses in the adjacent paddock.  Complaints have been made of disturbance to horses and damage to the fence when balls are retrieved from the paddock. The situation reached a peak in June 2020 when the police and the local authority became involved (News archive, 12th June 2020). 

Recently the Parish Council has had a constructive dialogue with Tessa Allen and her husband Chris, in an attempt to reach some agreement on how to mitigate the situation.  Tessa is the daughter of Richard Hazell, owner of the paddock. 

Parish chairman Jim Donahue comments: 

“In the past two months, parish councillor Frances Parkes and I have had ongoing discussions with members of the Hazell family, as well as representatives from the Football Club and Cricket Club, to address concerns over trespassing and the welfare of the horses.  Here are some of the issues and the changes that have been made to address these concerns:

  • The East and West football goals, that have been the main cause of the stray balls and youths trespassing in the paddock, have now been removed.  The backstop net behind the West goal is no longer needed and has also been removed.
  • The North goal remains and there is now a temporary goal that can be positioned when needed at the South end of the football field.  This will be kept securely behind the pavilion and made available to Football Club members and residents requiring it for matches.
  • The changes have been agreed with the Football and Cricket Clubs as well as the owners of the paddock.
  • The re-orientation of the football pitch has significantly reduced the number of balls going into the paddock and helped to de-escalate tensions.  The owners of the paddock seem to be genuinely pleased with the changes and have agreed to work with us to have the fencing improved and returned to a more normal state.
  • The owners have now removed several large ‘Keep Out’ signs that were on the fence and have said they would like to work with us on options to replace and improve both the temporary and permanent fencing between the two fields. 
  • We have been made aware that at least one of the horses is very young and active and should be considered dangerous to anyone approaching it within the paddock.
  • The owners had raised concerns to our MP John Howell and the Thames Valley Police.  Given the recent changes that we have made to reduce the impact of football, I have been able to respond to both with the concrete steps we have taken to address the concern, and they both seem satisfied with this.
  • The Parish Council is discussing some follow-on actions with the owners, including motions that were approved at the September parish council meeting.  One is the installation of a permanent metal sign warning users to avoid trespassing in the paddock, to ensure the message is clear to users of the Village Green.  Another is a contribution to the cost of an improved fence along the entire length of the field, with the aid of a grant from Oxfordshire County Council. 

Alistair Aitcheson has announced his retirement as the representative of the Football Club on the Village Green Working Group.  It is difficult to express the gratitude that the Parish Council has for all that Alistair has done for football in our community over the years.  We are certainly committed to ensuring that his legacy is preserved, and an effective Village Green Working Group will be an essential part of that. 

Councillor Frances Parkes will become the new chairman of the Village Green Working Group.  Alex Hilton will be the new representative of the Football Club on the Working Group.” 

The photograph above shows the West goal and the fence behind it in May 2020.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 13th September 2022 13:56

Village mourns the Queen

The Chairman of the Parish Council made this statement, following the council's meeting yesterday evening: 

The Parish Council is deeply saddened to hear the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. As we reflect on the passing of the Queen, I am sure that many of us will want to pay tribute to her in our own way. There will be a number of opportunities to do so in the coming days. 

A Book of Condolence has been opened at St Mary’s Church and will be accessible daily from 9am to 6pm for those who wish to pay their respects.  

If residents would like to lay flowers, then please do so by the bench by the church front door. 

A bell will be tolled at St Mary’s Church at noon today, Friday 9th September.  Once for each of the 96 years of the Queen's life.

A service of Prayer and Reflection Remembering her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be held at St. Mary’s at 6.00 pm on Sunday 11th September. 

We understand that the Royal Family will also be offering an e-Book of Condolence on their website at https://www.royal.uk/royal-family.  This e-book of condolences will be available until the day following the day of the funeral. 

Jim Donahue, on behalf of Whitchurch Parish Council

Debbie Leach has provided this photo of the Book of Condolence now available in St Mary's Church, commenting that all are welcome to come and pray, reflect, and write in the Book.

Date/Time : Friday, 09th September 2022 08:20

Eastfield House planning refused, again

The planning saga on the derelict Eastfield House care home, empty since 2016, continues.  Last week the most recent application for planning permission was refused.  The parish council and 21 members of the public had objected.  SODC planning officers objected on grounds of conservation, countryside, drainage, forestry and environmental protection. 

A 23-page report by SODC outlines the planning history, lists 65 objections received and explains the refusal.  It can be found on the SODC planning page P22/S1689/FUL or viewed here

Since 2010, 16 planning submissions have been made, some approved and some refused.  Six refusals have been appealed against, three successfully. 

One current uncertainty is that the building is undergoing a pre-assessment for listing by Historic England, following the submission by Laura Lucas of the identity of the architect (News 29th June).  She says that the initial response was negative, but there are errors in their report and a review is awaited. 

In a further complication SODC says that Great Crested Newts may be present, following their discovery in a pond about 300m further east along Eastfield Lane under a separate planning application.  SODC requires an updated ecological survey. 

Whether the latest planning refusal will affect the sale of the property by Majesticare to Urban Village Group (News 28th May) is unclear. 

Date/Time : Monday, 29th August 2022 14:02

Double blessing for the Polish Memorial Garden

Yesterday around eighty people turned out on a sweltering Sunday afternoon to celebrate the formal opening of the Polish Memorial Garden, tucked away at the north end of Manor Road. 

Parish chairman Jim Donahue explained the significance of the event and introduced Mrs Kowal, 95, who cut the ceremonial red and white ribbons.  She was a young adult in the refugee community here in the 1950s and is now its oldest survivor.  She is the grandmother of village resident Katherine Higley. 

Fr. Richard Maniak, priest at the Polish Roman Catholic church in Reading, then blessed and sprinkled holy water on the memorial, which stands on the footprint of the former community chapel.  He was followed by our own Church of England vicar, Rev James Leach, who added his blessing. 

Anna Szczeponek, the only remaining Polish descendant from the Camp still living in Manor Road, spoke about life there.  She has accepted the role of Guardian of the Polish Memorial Garden. 

Sally Woolhouse, who helped to organise the event, explained how the neglected patch of land had been transformed in recent years, originally under the creative eye of Alexa Duckworth-Briggs and WoTHabs, and more recently under the guidance of Charles Cotgreave, with hard work by the Green Team.  The oak cross was made by Matt Duckworth-Briggs.  Recent heritage apple tree planting was arranged by Alastair Dunstan. 

Afterwards, those attending enjoyed refreshments in the village hall, where some vintage photos and a set of recent site photographs were on display.  Around half those attending this very successful event are thought to have been village residents and half members of the Polish community who made a special visit. 

Nick Brazil’s photographs of the event are in the Photo Gallery. 

For more on the refugee community and the memorial garden, see the links on this page. 

Update, 23rd August:  The Henley Standard has published an article on the event. 

Date/Time : Monday, 15th August 2022 18:44

Polish Memorial Garden event on Sunday 14th

A milestone event will take place on Sunday 14th August at 2.30 pm, when the Polish Memorial Garden in Manor Road will finally be officially opened. Six years ago, the responsibility for the management of the site was transferred to Whitchurch Parish Council by SODC, on the understanding that it should be developed into a tranquil green space for the community to enjoy.

Since then, this neglected area has been transformed by the hard work of numerous working parties, to make it a pleasant space to relax and quietly enjoy the meadow area and the little copse, both now increasing in bio-diversity. The most significant part of the project is the raised platform to commemorate the site of the Polish Chapel, demolished in 2014. This was an important place of worship for the Polish community from shortly after the end of the Second World War until 1992.

Do come along, from 2.00 pm, to join in the opening ceremony at 2.30 pm, including the blessing of the cross, and to hear some of the fascinating recollections of the Coombe Park Camp from past residents and their relatives. Refreshments will be served in the Village Hall after the ceremony and some historic photos will be on display there. There will be direction signs from the Village Hall to the Garden, for those who are not sure where this well-kept secret is hidden.

Everyone will be very welcome.  For further information, please contact Anna Szczeponek, the Guardian of the site, on 01189 841234 or email annaponek@btinternet.com.

Here is the poster for the event, which suggests an arrival time of 2.00 pm, for the ceremony at 2.30 pm.

For more about Whitchurch's refugee community and the history of the Coombe Park Camp, go to this page.

Date/Time : Friday, 05th August 2022 17:04

Creatures of the Night

During the last two years, Nature Editor Sally Woolhouse has from time to time posted fascinating articles on aspects of the natural world in Whitchurch, with contributions from others and plenty of photographs.  Topics have included spring birdlife, wildflowers, butterflies, deer, otters and more. 

Now she has created a new article Creatures of the Night, featuring hedgehogs, badgers, bats, moths and glow-worms.   It can be found on our Nature Notes page

She suggests staying up late one night, finding a quiet spot in the garden and seeing what creatures are out and about. 

The photo above, taken by Lorna Woolhouse, shows an Elephant Hawkmoth.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 27th July 2022 17:21

Is the new 20 mph speed limit working?

The new speed limit has now been in operation for two months and some residents are asking whether it is having any effect on traffic speed. 

Some people think that altering a single digit on speed limit signs is not a striking enough change to make drivers notice.  Painting 20 mph roundels on the road at each entrance point to the village has been suggested. 

Parish councillor Diana Smith said today: “We have recently asked OCC to add roundels on the road surface to draw drivers’ attention to the change, but OCC have told us that average speeds in Whitchurch do not justify their spending money on this.  However, the parish council intends to keep the matter under review over the next year.  Installing an electronic speed monitoring sign is another possibility.” 

TAPWG, the working group advising the parish council, has registered the village in the Community Speedwatch scheme.  This involves local volunteers, who receive training that qualifies them to measure vehicle speeds and report transgressors to the police.  Anyone wishing to volunteer is invited to contact Linda Gray at lindapgray100@gmail.com.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 26th July 2022 12:47

Sally Trinder has died

With great sadness we report the death of Sally Trinder, a long-time resident of the village.  She had moved from Whitchurch to Bristol two years ago to be nearer to members of her family.  Her husband Stephen died in 2015. 

Sally and Stephen arrived in the village from Purley in 1972, living first at Wellesley House at the top of the High Street and then, from 2007, at The Gables in Eastfield Lane. 

Diana Marriott was told the sad news yesterday by Sally’s brother John Cottrell who lives in Bristol.  Diana says: “Sally died shortly after moving into a hospice, having been suffering from cancer for several months.  She was a good friend to so many people and took part in many local activities.  She worked as a primary school teacher, helped to run a charity shop in Caversham supporting the Duchess of Kent Hospice, sang with the Thames Vale Singers and played tennis and golf.” 

Before reluctantly leaving Whitchurch, she gave a farewell present of a crab apple tree, now growing at the Maze. 

There will be a private funeral service in Bristol, followed later by a service of thanksgiving in Whitchurch, details for which will be announced here. 

The photo above was taken at her farewell party in 2020.  Another photo of Sally, with her dog Toffee, can be seen here.  An appreciation of Stephen's life can be read in our News Archive for 18th June 2015. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 23rd July 2022 21:34

Historic England begins assessment of Eastfield House

Some weeks ago, village resident Laura Lucas came across a document in the Oxfordshire archives that included a vital piece of historic information on Eastfield House: the name of the architect John Thomas Lee who designed it.  Further checking revealed that he had been involved in design of three other large houses, all of which are listed.  Believing that the identity of the architect had not been known to those considering some years ago whether Eastfield House should be listed, she sent her findings to Historic England. 

She heard this week that they have deemed Eastfield House eligible to be considered for listing and they are now at the initial assessment phase of the process. 

The property is understood to be in the final stages of sale from Majesticare to Urban Village Group. The buyers are currently awaiting the result of a planning application, which involves many changes to the internal layout of the original building, as reported in our news item last month (28th May). 

The deadline for submitting comments to SODC on the planning application is this Friday, 1st July.  

For detailed information on the life of the architect concerned, see this Note prepared by Laura.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 29th June 2022 14:16

Ferryboat front door shuttered (UPDATED)

Lincoln Eu, who has been trying to keep The Ferryboat running since the death of the leaseholder Graham Dednum in May, has been told he no longer has a job.  The pub was closed earlier this week and fitted with a temporary steel door (photo)

After 11 years working at the pub Lincoln now finds himself in limbo, though as shown in this picture he and his red Mercedes are still in residence. 

The owners of the pub since 2018 have been Heineken Star Pubs & Bars, who continue to use the trading name Punch.  They are believed to be discussing the lease with Graham’s widow and family, prior to appointing a new landlord and arranging for a re-opening.  Meanwhile, they have not posted a notice at the door and the old menus and opening hours remain on display in the High Street. The pub’s website and telephone answering service offer no news of the closure. 

Their website has an Events page, reminding us of Graham’s legacy with photos of Whitchurch’s bands, the NeverNevers and the WoTJammers. 

Update, 7th July

Heineken Star Pubs & Bars, based in Edinburgh, have responded to a village resident’s concern about the current situation, as follows: 

“Our thoughts are with Graham’s family at this difficult time. Graham was very community-focussed and will be sadly missed. As regards the future of The Ferryboat Inn, we are committed to reopening the pub but there are legal and compliance procedures that need to be completed before we can recruit an operator.  The Ferryboat Inn was run as an independent business. We therefore did not employ the staff and are unable to provide any information on staffing. All marketing and local communication is also controlled by those running the previous independent business.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 26th June 2022 14:40

Cross-river action on pedestrian safety

A significant milestone was achieved last week towards improving the safety of pedestrians on the narrow, curved approach road to the toll bridge on the Pangbourne side of the river.  Two Whitchurch councillors, Jim Donahue and Frances Parkes, crossed the river and put forward a motion at a meeting of Pangbourne Parish Council.  The report they presented can be read here

The approach road is owned by the Bridge Company, while West Berkshire Council is the Highways Authority.  Efforts over the last ten or more years to have the hazardous conditions improved have not resulted in any action. 

The Whitchurch motion was approved by Pangbourne Parish Council. A small Cross-River Working Group is now to be set up, with representatives from Pangbourne, Whitchurch and West Berkshire Council. 

Jim Donahue explains that the formal approach to Pangbourne Parish Council follows discussions he initiated with a West Berks councillor and with the Pangbourne & Whitchurch Sustainability group (PAWS).  A West Berks engineer has now re-appraised the 2016 report by Peter Brett Associates.  The aim is to secure support for hiring consultants to develop one of the options studied, which are to widen the road on one side or the other, or to introduce a chicane and local widening.  The alternative concept of a raised footway through the trees has not been ruled out.

Collecting evidence of hazardous conditions is important and any incidents should be reported in detail to Councillor Frances Parkes at cllrparkes.whitchurchonthames@gmail.com or 07867 009 614.  Anyone wishing to get involved in the Cross-River Working Group should also contact Frances. Data will be kept securely and in line with GDPR, as per the privacy statement below: 

Privacy Statement:

By providing details of any incidents on the Whitchurch Bridge Approach Road, you confirm that you are content for Whitchurch Parish Council to process your personal data for the purposes of this survey. If you would like to withdraw your consent at any time, please contact Frances Parkes – cllrparkes.whitchurchonthames@gmail.com Your personal data will be shared only with members of Whitchurch Parish Council. Whitchurch Parish Council will only collect personal data that is necessary for this survey and will take all reasonable steps to ensure the personal data they hold is not incorrect or misleading. Whitchurch Parish Council will keep your personal data until the project is completed, after which it will be destroyed. This will apply to any of your personal data held by individual members. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 23rd June 2022 16:36