News

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

What is happening at the Walled Garden House? (See also Photo Gallery)

The Walled Garden House, sold following the death last year of Stan Remington, is situated within the high brick walls of the old vegetable and flower garden of Walliscote House.  A contractor was at work this morning (Monday 4th July) starting to fill in the large pond that was created many years ago to store water.  The photo, taken this morning, shows a digger used to remove the paving between the pond and the high brick wall opposite the Greyhound.  Earth and branches now partially fill the pond.

Such work requires permission from the land drainage authority, SODC.  The historic pond also is within the Whitchurch Conservation Area, which has strict regulations on construction work.  Apparently, no application has been made to SODC for permission to carry out the work. 

The pond is on the line of a stream sometimes referred to as the village watercourse that removes flood water from the fields to the west of the village via a hidden culvert flowing into the pond.  From the opposite end of the pond, it flows through another hidden culvert across the High Street and past the Greyhound. Crossing under Eastfield Lane it flows first in a buried pipeline, then in an open channel, to its outfall into the river Thames.  The whole watercourse is an essential component in the flood defence and land drainage of the village. 

The owner/developer, understood to be a Mr Knott of Basingstoke, has said that he plans to install a 0.9 metre diameter pipe to take the flow through the backfilled pond.  The pond is about 30 metres long and a 90-degree bend would be needed near the outlet.  Such a job would require pumping the pond dry and some skilful construction work. 

The land drainage and planning offices in SODC, and our district councillor Peter Dragonetti, have been informed.  The Environment Agency has also been informed. 

The tactic by a developer of taking action first and applying for permission later may remind readers of the situation at The Haven in Eastfield Lane a few years ago, where the roof was prematurely taken off the bungalow before an application was made to demolish it and build two houses on the plot.  It is understood to be the same developer who has now bought The Walled Garden House.

UPDATE, Wednesday 6th July, 5 pm: 

SODC’s land drainage officer advised the property owner/developer Mr Justin Knott of Basingstoke yesterday (Tuesday 5th) that permission would not be given for his intended works on the pond.  Later in the day, Mr Knott communicated to say that he had decided to abandon the project of backfilling the pond and installing a pipeline through the backfill.  However, the historic pond has already suffered considerable damage to its perimeter at the hands of the digger driver on Friday, Monday and Tuesday.  It now contains many large pieces of broken-up concrete, earth pushed in from the surrounds and tree debris. Its ability to function properly in a flood has been affected.  Also, silt pollution from the work may be entering the culvert under the High Street. 

It has emerged that the deeds to the Walled Garden House contain a covenant requiring the owner to keep the pond and its outlet free from obstruction.  This is in addition to the fact that any works on the pond would require Section 23 Land Drainage consent.  Furthermore, the property is in the Whitchurch Conservation Area and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  SODC’s Tree Officer has been alerted to the unauthorised felling of trees in the garden and the risk of more felling. 

Today the site was fenced off and closed. How many houses the owner hopes to build on the property will be seen when a planning application is received by SODC. 

UPDATE, Saturday 9th July: 

Despite the developer's undertaking given to SODC's land drainage officer on Tuesday 5th, on Thursday 7th a large quantity of earth was brought from near the house and dumped in piles on the long western edge of the pond.  This has been reported to SODC as no work is permitted near a watercourse without permission. 

UPDATE, Saturday 23rd July: 

Further earthworks have been carried out, as can be seen in the Photo Gallery.  The pond has been narrowed to a channel connecting the inlet and outlet culverts of the village watercourse.  

Date/Time : Monday, 04th July 2022 13:05

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

Whitchurch football season finishes strongly

On Saturday June 4th on the village green, AFC Whitchurch held its annual club presentation morning.  Club Chairman, Alex Hilton, welcomed parents, players and coaches representing each of the competitive U13, U14, U15 and U18 teams.   Teams split off to their individual team presentations before club friendly showcase games between the U18 vs U15 and U14 vs U13s.

In 2022 AFC Whitchurch had 70+ registered players across the 6 competitive teams (including our newly formed U8s), and another 30 in our Saturday morning Academy for 5-7 year olds.   The club welcomes boys and girls from across the age groups to come and play. For more information contact afcwhitchurch@yahoo.co.uk

The photo above shows some of the players.  To see the full picture click here.

Date/Time : Monday, 06th June 2022 12:28

Jubilee Beacon lighting on Thursday (Updated)

A Jubilee Beacon has been under construction over many weeks on Sandra Parkinson's land, on the hill at Chalkhills in Hardwick Road, with her initiative and guidance, and is now ready to be lit this Thursday evening, 2nd June.  The eight-foot-high structure is the result of much hard work by Sandra, Charles Cotgreave and other members of the Green Team, including Geoff Weir and John Bradon.  See photo

We are all invited to gather at the cricket pavilion on the village green, with a clear view of the beacon, to see it lit at 9.45 pm.   The beacon lighting team up on the hill will be Sandra, Sally & Pete Woolhouse and Charles Cotgreave.  

At 9.35 pm, there will be a bagpipe tribute to Her Majesty the Queen at the pavilion.  Alastair Dunstan has been practising the tune Diu Regnare, which has been specially written for the occasion and will be played all round the country and Commonwealth. 

At 9.45 pm the beacon will be lit, at the same time as around 2000 other beacons around the country. 

All are welcome at the pavilion.  There will not be a bar but drinks or refreshments can be brought along.  The weather forecast is favourable. 

Update, 4th June: There was a good turnout. Photo from village green added, above.  More photos. with captions, in the Gallery.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 31st May 2022 23:33

Jubilee weekend approaches

Nicola Armstrong of the School Parents Association reports: 

The village is really starting to get into the spirit of the Jubilee.  The bunting created by the children at Whitchurch Primary School and Knit & Stitch has gone up.  It would be lovely to see more bunting up around the village too.  Preparations are well underway for the Jubilee Tea Party next Sunday, 5th June, from 2 to 5 pm. 

Just a reminder that if you can bring along a cake to share as a community for the cake table that would be wonderful.  There will be refreshments available and a bar raising money for the school.  There will also be some crafts for the children.  It might also be useful to bring along some chairs or a blanket to sit on.  There will be some shelter but if this glorious weather doesn’t hold you may want to bring something to shelter under.  Look forward to seeing you all at the village green next weekend. 

For any queries, contact Nicola at nicola.luetchford@btinternet.com

The Roy Bailey Big Band will be in action on the village green between 2 pm and 4 pm.

Date/Time : Sunday, 29th May 2022 10:18

Eastfield House – new application

The derelict care home Eastfield House, recently sold by Majesticare to specialist developer Urban Village Group of Sutton Coldfield, is once again the subject of a planning application.  This time for a variation of the permission obtained on appeal in 2013, which provided for the partial demolition of the existing building and the construction of a large extension, which would have increased the number of bedrooms from 27 to 43.

The new variations include changes to the internal layout, apparently two more bedrooms, more dormers, a large brick-built 'summer house' in the garden and an additional plant room near the eastern boundary.  The entrance is at the side of the building, the main doorway at the front being redundant.

Consultation runs from 27th May to 1st July.  The plans can be seen on the SODC planning page

Eastfield House has been empty since 2016 when Majesticare closed the care home.  Following various incursions, all the windows were later boarded up against visitors.  A planning application for complete demolition was refused on appeal in 2020.

The Urban Village Group gives a brief description of the project here

Date/Time : Saturday, 28th May 2022 19:27

For this Ukrainian family it is like a fairy tale

The Ukrainian family of three, whose visas took two months to process, have arrived and are living in Swanston Field, Whitchurch, at the home of their host Mrs Judi Green and her family.  They arrived last weekend and the two children are already in school.  Mark Goldenberg, 6, has been at the Whitchurch primary since Tuesday, and his sister Mariia, 13, started at the Langtree School on Thursday.  Their mother Mrs Anna Goldenberg said she was grateful to the Greens and to the British people for welcoming Ukrainians and ensuring their safety.  She said that finally being here was like something out of a fairy tale.  But her husband Oleg remains in Ukraine, helping to provide humanitarian aid on the front line. 

Today’s Henley Standard has a report about the family and how they are settling in.   Read it here

Date/Time : Friday, 27th May 2022 15:52

Gill Williamson wins Whitchurch award

The annual Whitchurch Award was presented to Gill Williamson at the Village Assembly in the Village Hall yesterday.  Nominations were received and counted by the Whitchurch Society and all residents were able to nominate their choice of a person, or a group, who they felt had given exceptional voluntary service to the community. 

Presenting the award, parish chairman Jim Donahue congratulated Gill for being the driving force behind not only the successful Saturday Art Café, now in its sixth year, but also the Crafty Knit & Stitch group.  Asked how much the Art Café had raised for the charities that participate, she said it was around £60,000.  

Gill mentioned that the toll bridge is currently being decorated by a Knit & Stitch team with bunting and with royal portraits by children, as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.  This photo shows Gill, with Damian, and Nicola Armstrong of the Whitchurch Primary School Parents Association, on the bridge this morning. Images on Instagram: @artcafewhitchurch.

Date/Time : Friday, 27th May 2022 14:38

Defibrillator installed at cricket pavilion

A second defibrillator has been installed in the village, this time on the front of the cricket pavilion on the village green.  The first one remains active in the red telephone kiosk at the junction of Manor Road and the High Street. 

Alistair Aitchison reports that the new defibrillator was acquired thanks to the Football Club’s connection with the Football Association and it was installed by members of the Cricket Club.  Located on the front of the cricket pavilion, the defibrillator is registered on the national ambulance network.  The unlock code to the cabinet is available by dialling 999 or 112. 

This picture shows the new defibrillator. This video explains the use of the device.

Date/Time : Friday, 20th May 2022 12:29

Graham Dednum, landlord of The Ferryboat, has died

Sadly, Graham Dednum, a true pillar of our community, who became ill and was taken to hospital on 5th May, is reported to have died on the evening of Monday 16th.  The picture shows him presiding at the popular Christmas Music event that he organised in St Mary’s church for many years.  There are more pictures in the Photo Gallery.   The pub is now closed for the time being.  

Jim Donahue commented on Facebook yesterday: “Like so many others who have known Graham over the years, I am still in a state of shock about the sudden loss of such an important member of our community, without any warning or chance to say goodbye. I don’t think that I can offer the words to provide a proper tribute to him but hope that by sharing these photos, it will at least give everyone a chance to remember him as the wonderful person that he was. Amongst other things, I think that they clearly show his infectious enthusiasm for our community, especially around Christmas.” 

Helen Bowsher added: “I too was so shocked and saddened by the news yesterday. I’ve known Graham for many years. Always had a lovely cheeky warm smile. Had been incredibly supportive to the school and preschool over the years. (Fond memories of quiz nights at the school where he would do a rush order for 20 or so pizzas… always delivered with a smile. Nothing was ever too much trouble). A generous soul that will undoubtedly be missed by both villages. Bless you Graham.” 

Debbie Leach added: “James and I only knew Graham for a short time, but he still made such an impression on us. So welcoming and supportive of St Mary's Church and the community. May he rest in God's peace.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 18th May 2022 14:05

A warm welcome in La Bouille

Tim Suiter reports on a recent visit to La Bouille: 

Over the May Day bank holiday weekend a group of villagers travelled from Whitchurch to our twinned village of La Bouille in Normandy.  Due to the challenges presented by Covid, rather than the full twinning trip (alternate years either visiting or hosting visitors from France) we were a small contingent on this occasion. The main aim of the trip was to rekindle the relationship in anticipation of a larger group visiting later in the year. 

Seven of us in total in two cars made the journey on the Friday, staying with our French hosts until the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon.  We all had a wonderful time and were as usual wowed by the French’s hosting skills.  In particular we were delighted to see just how dearly the people of La Bouille value the friendship between our villages and how many of them turned out to greet and raise a glass with us (picture). 

We are now planning the main twinning visit for the weekend of 1st and 2nd October (traveling on the Friday and Monday).  We would love to welcome new members on the trip and I have no doubt that anyone joining us will have a good time, receive a warm welcome and make new and lasting friendships. 

To find out more about the twinning association contact Tim Suiter on 07930 490808 or  tim_suiter@hotmail.com

Date/Time : Wednesday, 18th May 2022 13:01

Lower speed limit comes in

The photo shows the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday 13th May, when the long awaited change of speed limit in the village came into effect.  Seen in the photo from left to right are: Parish Councillor Paul O'Grady, Parish Council Chairman Jim Donahue cutting the ribbon along with Cllr Diana Smith who is Chairman of the Traffic and Parking Working Group (TAPWG), Charles Cotgreave, Oxfordshire County Councillor Kevin Bulmer, TAPWG members David Baty, Rachel Hatcher and Frances Parkes.   Photo by Nick Brazil.  Enlarged version here

Jim Donahue provided these comments: 

The need to reduce speeding in the village is a key issue for the community that was first highlighted in our 2009 Village Plan and again in the 2019 Village Plan. It is only in recent months that a change on OCC highway policy has enabled us to gain approval for this change after over 10 years of requesting it.  We understand that we are one of the first villages where this change has been implemented ahead of the broader initiative to roll our 20mph in the county. We also understand that we are the first village to get the speed limit changed across all streets in the community. 

The reduced speed limit is especially important in a village like Whitchurch where it is used by so many drivers to access the river crossing every day. Our residents regularly walk over the bridge to shop in Pangbourne and parents and children are encouraged to walk for the school run so pedestrian safety is a real concern.  The village is also popular with local cyclists and walkers on the Thames Path. 

This change is the result of speed surveys and consultation. The 20mph speed limit should be achievable on the High Street where the median speed is already below 25mph. 20mph may be more difficult to achieve at the Hardwick Road entrance to the village as it changes from the national speed limit of 60mph to the 20mph, but this will be monitored and further traffic calming measures could be taken if needed. Speeding on Hardwick Road is a particular concern as that is where parents park for the school run to walk their children the remaining distance.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 18th May 2022 10:55

New Youth Theatre Group

A new theatre group for young people is being set up, which is very good news for the village. It will run on Fridays at the Village Hall.

It’s being run by Lori Taliesin who, as well as acting professionally and holding an Equity card, has taught in local schools including teaching SEN children.

It is hoped that there will be enough support to run three classes each Friday:

  •          Junior (Years 1-3)              3:45 - 4:45pm
  •          Intermediate (Years 4-7)    5:00 -7:00pm
  •          Senior (Years 8-11)            7:00-9:00pm

 The village hall is an ideal location for the classes as it has a proper stage, is fully insured, has a safeguarding policy and is also licenced for performances.

Contact Lori to join the free trial class on Friday 20th May by emailing info@breakthboxtheatre.com.

Date/Time : Friday, 13th May 2022 13:43

Green Team plants apple trees

Charles Cotgreave, who has helpfully taken over the reins of the Green Team from its creator Alexa Duckworth-Briggs, reports on recent progress: 

Work on the community orchard section of the Polish Church Garden has taken a significant step forward. Members of the Green Team have planted five heritage apple trees; a sixth will be planted in the autumn. The planting layout, the details of the apple varieties and the parentage of the grafts will be published in due course on the Polish Church Garden page of this website.  Other work carried out included this year's first mowing of the grass, and the cutting back of brambles which were growing through the snowberry bushes on the southern boundary.   

The team included the site guardian, Anna Szczeponek, who provided much appreciated refreshments, and local tree expert Alastair Dunstan, who has sourced and grafted the saplings.   Alastair is willing to help with similar plantings for people in the village and can be contacted for advice at alastairdunstan5@gmail.com.  He thanks all those who have already expressed an interest in this work.  

The photo shows Charles Cotgreave with Pete Woolhouse and Alastair Dunstan.  There are more pictures in the Photo Gallery. 

Date/Time : Friday, 29th April 2022 12:06

Eastfield House sold to developer

The derelict care home Eastfield House in Eastfield Lane has been bought by the property development company Urban Village Group, based near Birmingham. On their website they say it will “be developed into a new purpose-built care scheme for senior living, featuring 45 ensuite bedrooms.”  It mentions a figure for construction costs of £3.3 million, which would be for the conversion and extension of the existing 27-bedroom building to a much larger facility, a front view of which is shown on their website and in the picture above. 

The design shown is thought to be the one for which planning permission was obtained by Majesticare in August 2013 on appeal.  It involves the partial demolition of the existing building.  A planning application for complete demolition was refused on appeal in 2020.

Eastfield House has been empty for six years.  After repeated incursions by young people a few years ago, the site security was reviewed and all the windows were boarded up.  Here is a recent photo

Date/Time : Friday, 22nd April 2022 17:46

Plan for Manor Road trees – comments invited

The Parish Council has developed a plan to upgrade the environment of Manor Road by replacing various trees on the left hand side (see picture) with yews, which would create a balance with the existing yews on the opposite side, recreating the original avenue. 

The trees to be replaced include Elm and Ash, both of which have health problems. 

There is more about the plan in this article by Councillor Katherine Higley.  She asks for comments by Friday 6th May, prior to the next Parish Council meeting on 12th May. 

Date/Time : Monday, 18th April 2022 13:34

Ukrainian Nataliia offers help in contacting refugees

Enjoying the sunshine yesterday, Sue Matthews of Eastfield Lane is seen in the picture being escorted along Hardwick Road by Nataliia Kuczynska. 

Nataliia lives in Whitchurch but is from Kyiv in Ukraine.  She has been in Britain for about three years and was the live-in carer for Nigel Grove until he died last November.  Recently she has become the live-in carer for Sue, who has been coping with Motor Neurone Disease. 

Nataliia says that if there are any families in the village who would like to offer accommodation to refugees from her country, she would be happy to help them make contact with suitable people.  She is appalled at what has been happening.  Some of her family have fled to Poland from their homes in Sumy, north-eastern Ukraine, where there has been heavy fighting ever since the invasion began.  She is extremely worried for her friends in Sumy and in Kyiv. 

She would be happy for anyone who would like to discuss the possibility of accommodating refugees to email her, via Sue, at sue.matthews103@gmail.com.  She is also contacting Becky Galea who recently posted on the Message Board.

Date/Time : Saturday, 26th March 2022 19:16