News

Whitchurch celebrates gardening

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vandals spray orange paint on cars

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

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

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

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

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

Torrential downpour floods village centre

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

More pictures here.  Photos by Geoff Weir 

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

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

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

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

There are more pictures in the Gallery.

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

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

Remembering Pete Hollitzer, 1949-2020

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

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

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

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

This tribute is by Pete’s daughter Maz Elsome.

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

Action agreed on Village Green fence

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

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

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

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

Update, Saturday 13th June: 

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

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

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

Gardens 2020 on display

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

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

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

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

New priest for Whitchurch

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

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

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

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

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

Classic car stolen from behind Picture Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tidying up the village

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

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

See the Spot the Difference page. 

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

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

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

Hospital scrubs project completed

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

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

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

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

Gardens Walk 2020 – an invitation

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

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

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

Annual Parish Assembly held online

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

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

His tribute can be read in full here.

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

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

Butterflies in Whitchurch

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

Find it on the Nature Notes page.

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

Football nets go back up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pam Wilkinson 1938-2020 (Updated)

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

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

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

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

Book exchange set up in phone box

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch of Operation Bookworm

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

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

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

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

Use of village green clarified

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

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

Can you sew? Help make some scrubs for the NHS

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

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

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

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

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

Resignation creates a vacancy on the parish council

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

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

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

Whitchurch Society clarifies events for the year

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

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

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

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

Water leak floods High Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coombe Park boundary fence – changes proposed

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

The planning application is P19/S0366/FUL

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

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

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

The consultation period ends on 20th April.

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

Whitchurch Nature Notes launched

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

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

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

Latest update on getting help in the pandemic

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

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

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

Whitchurch joins nationwide salute to NHS workers

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

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

Update on getting help during the pandemic

A larger group of Whitchurch volunteers, 30 strong, has now been established to provide help with getting shopping, picking up prescriptions, posting letters or parcels, or just keeping in touch to check how you are. 

The list of volunteers in each area of the village is shown here:  NON-MEDICAL HELP DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC – Update, 19th March 2020

To request help, send an email to WotVolunteers@gmail.com.  A volunteer will note your name and address and someone will be in touch. 

A paper copy of the list, with phone numbers, is being delivered by hand to all households.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 18th March 2020 16:08

Response to Coronavirus in Whitchurch

The Parish Council has issued a statement on the current health situation.  It can be read here: Village Response to Coronavirus

The village’s Community Emergency Plan, published less than a month ago, established a ‘telephone tree’ network of communication to provide help to vulnerable people.  This is now being put to use at an earlier date than anyone expected. 

Ten volunteer coordinators are named in the statement, covering all areas of the village.  They can be phoned or emailed by anyone who is self-isolating and in need of some help, for example with shopping.  The ten coordinators will work with other volunteers in their areas to help vulnerable people. 

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue is temporarily in the USA and has asked John Bradon to deputize for him in coordinating the volunteers. 

For more about the Community Emergency Plan scroll down to our news item of 23rd February.

Date/Time : Monday, 16th March 2020 15:22

Bang goes another brick wall

Robin Shuff lives at The Vines, a High Street house just below the Hardwick Road junction.  On Sunday night, at around 1.50 am, he was awoken by a loud noise and discovered a green Vauxhall Corsa wedged into his garden wall.  He helped the driver, a young man, into the house and called the police.  The driver was uninjured.  The police summoned a truck to remove the car, which was partially obstructing the roadway. 

It appears that the driver, travelling down the hill, lost control of his car and clipped the kerb opposite the picture gallery.  He then collided with a black VW Transporter owned by a nearby resident, which was parked on the opposite side of the road.  The Corsa bounced off the side of the VW, crossed the road again and crashed into the garden wall.  The first impact caused considerable damage to the VW, shifting it sideways.  The second impact demolished part of the garden wall, narrowly missing a timber pole.

The police are understood to have breathalysed the driver, who was returning to his home in Pangbourne.  He is thought to be likely to appear in court in the next week or so. 

The photograph above was taken by Robin Shuff.  More here.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 10th March 2020 19:22

Eight-year-olds help to protect the oceans

Over two recent weekends, Eliza Kemp and Anna Acworth, both aged eight, have been drawing the attention of passers-by on Hardwick Road to the urgent need to take environmental issues seriously. 

In total they have raised £65.09 in donations.  They would like to thank everyone who stopped to learn more about their campaign.  

Eliza’s father Peter reports that they have donated the funds raised to Plastic Oceans UK, an organisation dedicated to ending plastic pollution within all marine and freshwater sources.

Date/Time : Sunday, 08th March 2020 13:57

Progress on Polish church memorial

At the parish council meeting on 13th February the creation of a memorial on the footprint of the demolished Polish church in the field at the north end of Manor Road was further discussed. Alexa Duckworth-Briggs reports: 

From previous meetings with local residents and those who have links to the church and garden when it was in use a remit was agreed for the suppliers: 

  • overall design as in this sketch
  • area 4 x 6m to 5 x 7m
  • area to be levelled out to create a flat base
  • memorial to be hard wearing and vandal proof
  • an area for quiet contemplation 

The parish council has agreed a budget and from three tenders a supplier has now been chosen and engaged for the work, which will need to be organised closely with local residents and Coombe Park. The memorial includes two benches and four planters.  The ground surface will be of concrete cast within a timber surround. Grants are being investigated for additional items such as an information board and a memorial cross. 

There is a get-together at the site to share the latest updates, plant trees and do some clearing in the garden at 2 pm on Saturday 21st March. All are welcome! 

Any photos of or information about the church and site that can be used to design the information board or to plan the celebration to "open" the site are most welcome. 

To find out more, get involved or share history and memories please get in touch with Alexa on alexa@ontherunhealthandfitness.co.uk or 07557 852600. 

The photo shows the derelict building in 2013, shortly before it was demolished.

Date/Time : Thursday, 27th February 2020 17:50

Concerns over parking plan discussed

A meeting of those opposed to the TAPAG proposals for 24 parking bays with double yellow lines took place last night, hosted by Carrie Leadbeater-Hart. 

Carrie reports as follows: 

“Thank you to everyone who came along to last night’s meeting, to discuss their concerns and suggestions with regards to the proposed Council/TAPAG plan for double yellow lines along the High Street.  It was a very positive and constructive meeting and we hope that the Council/TAPAG will listen and respond positively.  We have collated the discussions into three lists: 

Concerns, Suggestions and a Request for Information from the Council/TAPAG  

We would encourage the Council to respond via a group meeting for all concerned residents and to be open and transparent – we all love living in the Village and want to ensure that all residents’ needs are respected and met.  If anyone would like to get in touch please do – all comments welcomed – send me an email .”

Date/Time : Tuesday, 25th February 2020 20:02

Community Emergency Plan published

Over a dozen Whitchurch residents have been involved during the last year in the creation of a Community Emergency Plan for the village.  The 15-page Plan has now been published by the Parish Council.  It can be found by scrolling down the Parish Council page of this website to the appropriate section, or by clicking here.  

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue explains: 

“The purpose of the Plan is to ensure the village is prepared for emergencies and that action can be taken in a timely manner to minimise any negative impacts. 

The most likely scenarios foreseen in the Plan are:

  • Flooding
  • Roads/pavement blocked
  • Power cuts for an extended period of time

Actions are listed in the Plan to prepare for, and respond to, these scenarios. 

It is recognised that there is a broad range of other emergencies that we could face, but these are considered of lower probability, for which impacts are difficult to predict (e.g. contaminated water supply, spread of epidemic, extreme cyber attack, plane crash, nuclear/chemical incident).  The Plan would still apply to these scenarios, but specific steps would need to be determined at the time. 

One of the key elements of the Plan is a telephone tree list of Area Coordinators to assist communication with residents in every street or area of the village.  I will act as the overall emergency coordinator and initial point of contact for news of an emergency from OCC, SODC or other sources and will then cascade this information to the Area Coordinators. 

The Plan has been sent to the Emergency Coordinators at both Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council. 

Hard copies of the Plan are available on request.  Please email me or one of the other contacts in the plan with any questions.” 

Further information is given by Jim in this list of five steps that are to be taken in order to be prepared for Emergencies.

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd February 2020 18:53

TAPAG replies to comments on parking scheme

TAPAG has responded to the points made by several residents, following the informal consultation in the Old Stables, in the news item “Parking proposals challenged” and in recent posts on the message board. 

“TAPAG would like to thank everyone for all the feedback we received to last week’s informal review of the recommended approach to ease traffic and create more orderly parking in the High Street, which is seen by over 90% of respondents to the Village Plan as being a priority item for the Parish Council to resolve. 

The main focus areas have been to ease dangerous pinch points at the narrows and junctions, improve traffic flow whilst reducing frustration and ensuring adequate parking is still available for our residents. In addition, reducing poor air quality featured highly to many, especially those with young children.  TAPAG has always tried to look at the bigger picture, including all roads and verges as well as pedestrian safety in the village not just the High Street as there is little point in just moving the problem elsewhere. To this end we received support from the Parish Council to hire a professional consultancy to assess the situation, analyse the painstaking work on speeding and parking surveys over nearly 3 years, and provide a proposal that can be taken through an official process to implementation. Their view was we needed to stop parking in certain areas and better organise the parking in other areas so that, instead of cars being spread out all the way up the street and pavements, they are arranged in groups to provide places to pass. Our regular surveys of the parking in our village reveal that there are rarely more than 24 cars parked in the high street at any one time.  We fully realise that this means change, and may mean more to some than others, but we have done our best to ensure this was not unreasonable. 

There seem to have been a few misunderstandings and the statement that we have informal approval without a public consultation is incorrect.  Our consultant recommended that we discuss the proposal with the Highways Officer before formal submission.  The officer made some amendments and suggestions, after checking drives and sightlines, to which we have received informal approval.  The next step, which is not mandatory, was to have an informal public consultation for people to air their views. The final step is for the Parish Council to make a formal request to OCC to implement the plan which would lead to a formal public consultation.  All of this was well documented in the bulletin and on the website notifying residents of Saturday’s forum. The “exit poll” from Saturday’s informal public consultation showed five not in favour, one of whom favoured no parking at all and 50+ in favour not including Parish Council and TAPAG members. 

All the points raised in the objectors’ posts can be countered with a logical response although many are setting hypothetical scenarios. Furthermore, no positive alternatives are offered to improve traffic flow, get order into the parking and restrict car-parking on the High Street by commuters.  A Residents' Parking Scheme for the High Street is the aim but is governed under the authority of SODC.  TAPAG is already in discussion with our councillor.  It is the intention to continue to press ahead with getting approval for this once the existing parking spaces have been controlled.

 The information shared on Saturday is just the first phase and there are still discussions taking place about parking for residents.  However, if we do not make a start the traffic situation will not improve.  With increased building north of our village, and the problems with congestion and parking in Pangbourne, it will only get worse.  These measures can start to make a difference. 

TAPAG, 15th February 2020”

Date/Time : Sunday, 16th February 2020 09:27

Parish council news

At the parish council meeting on Thursday Hanna Ferguson was co-opted to fill the remaining seat on the council.  Hanna, who has worked in Kenya and Myanmar on United Nations development programmes, has been resident in Whitchurch with her husband and two sons for several years.  The parish council is now rich in its diverse origins, which embrace Switzerland, Finland, Canada and the USA, as well as the UK. 

In other matters, the council resolved to object to the current planning application for Eastfield House on a variety of grounds: bulk, un-neighbourliness, traffic generation, inadequate parking, flooding/sewerage, access in a school cul-de-sac, the existence of more suitable uses for the building and a long history of planning creep. 

Budgets were agreed for two items in the recently published Village Plan: the creation of a Polish Church memorial area at the north end of Manor Road and the commissioning of a Conservation Area Appraisal for the village.  It was agreed to have the damaged brick pillar at the corner of Manor Road rebuilt.

Date/Time : Saturday, 15th February 2020 14:46

Parking proposals challenged

A group opposing the Parish Council’s proposal to remove all parking from the High Street, apart from 24 spaces, is to meet at Hawthorn Cottage on Monday 24th February at 8.00 pm. 

Carrie Leadbeater-Hart explains: 

“The purpose is to urgently discuss our concerns and to raise a formal objection to the plans (which according to the Council have been informally approved already by the OCC Highways Officer - without formal consultation!!) 

Our initial concerns are: 

  • No provision for Residents Parking,
  • No provision of centrally located village car park - therefore:
  • Increased parking on Eastfield Lane (school road with many child pedestrians),
  • Increased parking on Manor Road,
  • Increased parking on Hardwick Road,
  • Increased parking by toll bridge approach,
  • Increased speeds along the High Street,
  • No widening of pavements to protect pedestrians,
  • The Parish Council’s spend on what is ultimately a flawed plan that will not improve safety. (Estimated £10k that could be spent on public buildings/pavements etc). 

Any queries to me at Caroline.78@btinternet.com.  All are welcome to the meeting.” 

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th February 2020 13:40

Traffic scheme passes its first hurdle

Members of the Traffic and Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) were busy at The Old Stables on Saturday afternoon explaining their proposals for dealing with the traffic situation in the village. 

Visitors were able to examine a plan of the High Street showing the proposed locations of 24 parking places and the double yellow lines.  The parking places are in five groups, all on the same side of the street: below the Picture Gallery 4; near The Little House 3; near Whitchurch House 2; near Mallards 8; near The Greyhound 7.  It is expected that the double yellow lines will be of the narrow type sometimes used in conservation areas to reduce the visual impact.  

Afterwards, a spokesman for TAPAG said that the vast majority of the 50 visitors who signed the attendance sheet were in favour of the scheme.  Of the small number against, all except one called for the immediate introduction of residents’ parking. 

In recent years car owners from outside the village have been parking in the High Street to avoid Pangbourne’s parking restrictions and charges, whether they are shopping there or taking a train to Reading or London.   TAPAG has also come across cases of cars parked while their owners take a train from Pangbourne to Heathrow for overseas trips lasting several days. 

TAPAG explained that the proposed scheme cannot initially favour residents over non-residents.  But the scheme will later be modified to introduce Residents Only parking once SODC has received delegation of responsibility for policing of parking, which is under active discussion. 

Regarding traffic speeds, once the scheme is in action TAPAG intends to re-examine the feasibility of a 20 mph limit and possibly other calming features in the High Street and elsewhere.  A degree of urgency is suggested by information from David Maynerd that parked cars near his house Mallards have been written off by passing vehicles in four collisions over the last two years.

The parish council is now expected to submit the TAPAG proposals to OCC Highways, after which there will be a formal public consultation before the road markings can be painted.

Date/Time : Monday, 10th February 2020 10:12

Meeting to discuss the Village Emergency Plan

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue says: 

“I am organising an Emergency Planning meeting at 8 pm on Wednesdy 29th January in the Ferryboat Inn – everyone in the village is welcome. 

A draft Village Emergency Plan was developed as part of the Village Plan work in December 2018 and has now been updated. 

The plan looks at the key risks and actions we can take as a village for scenarios such as flooding, roads blocked, power outages, if someone has a heart attack, etc. 

One of the key areas we need volunteers for is Telephone Tree contact for various streets of the village.  We need points of contact to coordinate with local residents that may be affected by the emergency, in particular those residents that may be particularly vulnerable.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 26th January 2020 14:10

Consultation on traffic and parking, 8th February

The Parish Council’s Traffic and Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) has been working in association with Mode Consulting and Oxfordshire County Council to find a way of improving traffic flow through the High Street while still providing car parking for residents.  The proposals were discussed at the Parish Council’s November meeting (see Minutes, Section 10, on the Parish Council page).  The next stage is an informal consultation on the proposals, which will be held on Saturday 8th February between 2 and 4 pm in the Old Stables. 

TAPAG has made this announcement: 

Traffic and Parking 

As many of you will know, from your contributions to the Village Plan, traffic and parking are the main issues concerning residents of our village. 

The Parish Council tasked the traffic advisory group with trying to find a solution. A consultant was engaged and meetings with OCC Highways undertaken.  A plan to get more order into the parking and improve traffic flow was submitted to OCC and, with a few minor tweaks, provisionally approved by the Highways Officer. 

The next step is for the village to hold an informal consultation with residents to gauge opinion before submitting a formal request to OCC.  At this point a formal public consultation will take place at a cost of over £3000 which will be borne by the Parish Council. 

It is important that as many people as possible attend this informal consultation to give their opinions both from a positive and negative perspective.  Members of TAPAG will be on hand to answer questions and explain reasoning and interpretation from the flow and parking diagrams which will be on display. 

The meeting date is Saturday 8th February between 2.00 and 4.00 pm in Old Stables.  Please make a note in your diaries. 

TAPAG, 20th January 2020

 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 22nd January 2020 16:42

Relatives of RAF airman sought

Five young RAF airmen died in May 1940 when their bomber hit the ground near the village of Brissy-Hamégicourt in northern France.  A commemorative celebration is planned by a French association ‘Mission Fraternité 2020’ for 23rd May this year and relatives are invited to attend.  The organisers have tried to contact relatives of all the five airmen and have succeeded with four of them.  But they have failed to trace the family of Pilot Officer Dennis Frederick Stanford HOLBROOK (pictured), who was 20 when he died. 

During the war Dennis Holbrook’s parents and sister were residents of Whitchurch (address: “The Lynches, Whitchurch, Near Reading” according to the National Archives).  The Whitchurch Web has received a request to help find the Holbrook family, in the hope that one or more family members will be able to attend the event, which is expected to attract 400 or 500 people.  

The emailed request from Sami Thellier, president of the association, from which above information comes, is here.  If you can offer any information he would very much like to hear from you.  His email address is shown in the attachment.  Alternatively, contact the News Editor.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 15th January 2020 18:41

Remembering Rosemary Prater

Rosemary, wife of Leslie Prater, died peacefully at home on New Year’s Day, aged 77.

After living in Goring for 44 years she and her husband moved to Whitchurch in the autumn of 2013.  Shortly after the move she was diagnosed with cancer, which she fought bravely for six years. Rosemary will be sadly missed but fondly remembered for her dedication to her family and for her enthusiasm and love for her garden.

A funeral service will be held on Monday 27th January at 1 pm in St Thomas of Canterbury Church of England, Goring, followed by a reception at Goring & Streatley Golf Club.  Please contact Leslie on leslie.prater@btinternet.com if you would like to attend.

Date/Time : Sunday, 12th January 2020 14:12

Eastfield House planning application, again (UPDATED)

Ross Healthcare of Stoke-on-Trent, owners of the derelict Eastfield House, have submitted a repeat application to demolish, rebuild and extend the care home, which they say is identical to their approved applications of 2013 and 2016. 

The document ‘Planning Support Statement, December 2019’ states that the application is ‘for the partial demolition of the existing care home’ but does not make clear which parts of the building would be retained.  The document ‘Photographs of Existing Buildings’ shows that the front elevation would be demolished and reconstructed. 

The large basement that was a feature of other applications since 2016 is not there.  The number of beds is 45 (existing 27) and car park spaces 14 (existing 9).  In the Application Form the number of beds is 43. 

The extensive documentation for this application, Ref P19/S4631/O, can be found on the SODC planning page, including the two documents mentioned above. 

If the application is successful and the consent is refreshed, it seems possible given the long planning history to date that further applications will follow. 

SODC will need to check whether the conditions they laid down in 2016 have been complied with and decide whether to accept the applicant’s contention that no Transport Assessment or Travel Plan is required.

The consultation period ends on 7th February.  Currently, the next scheduled meeting of the parish council is on 13th February, which suggests that an extension will be needed.

Update, 31st January 2020:  Mr Pasquale Nicosia has written to the Whitchurch Web to clarify two points in the above news item.  Here is the letter, dated yesterday: 

“I am writing on behalf of the applicant in reference to your article dated 11th January 2020 in relation to the planning application for Eastfield house. 

You correctly say the planning application form states the number of beds as 43, this is incorrect and the form has been amended with the LPA to state the correct number of beds which is 45. 

The application is for a partial demolition and this is clearly indicated in the application plan ‘Floor Plans Existing (Demolition)’  drawing  number 433-009, however you were correct to point out the ambiguity in the Supporting Document ‘Photographs’ which incorrectly stated the front  elevation was to be demolished and rebuilt. This is not the case and the document has been corrected and resubmitted to the LPA.” 

The above letter, together with the drawing referred to, clarifies that less than half of the existing building would be demolished under the current application.  The main part of the building, nearest to Eastfield Lane, would be retained.

Date/Time : Saturday, 11th January 2020 18:47

Coombe Park fence design to be scrapped

The agents acting for the owner of Coombe Park have proposed to submit a new fence design to South Oxfordshire District Council, following the barrage of objections to the installation last year of high security 2.4 m high spike-topped steel palisade fencing along the Hartslock Bridleway.  

Earlier this week the agents asked for the parish council’s view on the following:

“We would like to propose that the fence alongside the driveway (to the rear and adjoining the village hall) remain at 2.4m but that it be of timber palings, rather than the palisade fencing as currently proposed. Having read the Parish Council’s comments in respect of the most recent amended plan, we understand that this is a design which you may find acceptable.

We would also like to propose that the fence along Hartslock Bridleway also be amended to this design, so with timber palings fronting onto the bridleway in place of the current design making it very similar to the original fence. The fence would be sited on the same line as the original fence as was agreed with South Oxfordshire Rights of Way Officers as being clear of the bridleway (the previous fence having been granted planning permission in July 1984 under reference SO/S/262/84).“

Parish chairman Jim Donahue reports that this proposal was discussed at Thursday's meeting of the parish council and supported in principle, though an official response will have to await a close look at the revised application when it is submitted.

Date/Time : Saturday, 11th January 2020 15:03

Hardwick on Channel 4 this Wednesday

A Channel 4 team spent a day recently filming at Tolhurst Organic on the Hardwick estate for part of a documentary to be shown this Wednesday 8th January at 10 pm.  The programme is presented by George Monbiot (pictured), an activist who is critical of cattle farming. 

Eugena Tolhurst says:  “Our Whitchurch neighbours might like to see what we do here.  A large part of our work is educational.  We are the first farm in the world to set up and successfully demonstrate the Stock Free Farming model, with the first ever set of standards for attaining the stock free symbol.  Stock free farming is farming without any animal input, for the sustainable future of our planet.  Iain Tolhurst is an expert in this field and we now have groups coming from all over the world to learn about this method.” 

The programme title is “Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet”.

Date/Time : Monday, 06th January 2020 12:25