Swanston Field pavements upgraded
Work was completed today on laying an asphalt slurry to improve the evenness and to extend the life of the pavements around Swanston Field. A team of three from Pronin Ltd, a company based in Whitchurch, Shropshire, carried out the work for Oxfordshire County Council. The result is a better looking Swanston Field.
As shown in the photopage, the bitumen slurry is spread by hand to seal the surface, in two layers each half-an-inch thick. The colour changes from brown to black as it sets.
The work in Swanston Field has taken a week. After a break, the team is expected back to carry out the same job on the pavements in Manor Road and then in the High Street.
The work is part of a programme of pavement improvements agreed with OCC and subsidised by funds contributed by the parish council, which started with work in Hardwick Road last year.
In a separate exercise, next week is expected to see a closure of the High Street for three days, starting tomorrow Monday 22nd, from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm, for OCC to carry out preliminary patching work in the carriageway. This will be followed later in the year by a top dressing of asphalt and then the much needed repainting of white lines.
Date/Time : Sunday, 21st February 2021 15:34
Guide to the Maze published
Sally Woolhouse, who has been involved with the Maze from the beginning, and Geoff Weir, who as chairman of the parish council in 2004 cut the first turf and has helped to maintain the area ever since, have now completed an ambitious lockdown project. They have catalogued all the names engraved on the bricks, recording their exact locations. There are over 2,200 bricks, originally laid by Pete Woolhouse (behind them in the photo) and 646 of them are engraved with names.
To look for a name, go to the Guide to the Maze, published today. Press Ctrl F for a search box.
If you would like to have your name on a brick in the Whitchurch Maze, contact the Whitchurch Society and ask Laura Lucas to add you to the waiting list.
There is an updated article with many photos, telling the story of the Maze to date.
Date/Time : Saturday, 13th February 2021 16:34
Fourth car write-off for High Street resident
Shortly after midnight, early on Sunday morning, a crashing noise alerted residents in the High Street to a multiple collision. The driver of a BMW coming down the hill had collided with a parked Mini, which was propelled into a parked Renault, which was nudged forward into a parked Mercedes. The first three cars were write-offs, while the Mercedes escaped with only minor damage.
The owner of the black 10-year-old Mini convertible, Eiliis McCarthy, who lives nearby, called the police, who arrived shortly afterwards. The car was removed at around 4 am.
The owner of the red Renault was Leslie Maynerd, who lives opposite (picture). She said it was the fourth parked car she had lost as a write-off in her five years there. The car was removed at 11 am today.
The driver of the BMW is understood to be a teenager who had borrowed his parent's car. He was not seriously injured but was taken to hospital for tests.
Date/Time : Tuesday, 09th February 2021 11:45
River has fallen steadily for several days (Update)
The Pangbourne meadow was covered in flood water today (1st February), with the Whitchurch reach of the Thames on a Flood Alert. At 6 pm today the level had risen to around 30 cm below the peak level reached during the 2014 flood. It was still rising, but more slowly than earlier in the day and at present it seems unlikely to reach the 2014 level, without further heavy rain in the upper Thames catchment.
Anyone wishing to see the graph of the changing river level, which is updated frequently, should visit the Environment Agency webpages, which are listed on our Links page. Here is a direct link.
Update, Tues 2nd Feb, 9.30 am: The river rose a further 5 cm after our report yesterday evening. By midnight it had stabilised at a level around 25 cm below the 2014 peak. The Environment Agency still has only a Flood Alert for the Pangbourne to Purley reach, but with a local Flood Warning (a higher category) for the Mapledurham and Purley village areas. The EA says: “We expect the river to remain high over the coming days.”
Update, Wed 3rd Feb, 11 am: The river level started to fall slowly last night and by 11 am this morning was 2 cm below the highest level it had reached. It seems likely that it will continue to fall, though the current EA Pangbourne to Purley report does not yet say so.
Update, Sun 7th Feb: The river level has fallen slowly but steadily for the last four days and is now 22 cm below its peak. But, interestingly, ponding in the fields between Eastfield Lane and the river has increased in recent days and is only now reaching its maximum. This is because it takes longer for groundwater to respond to local rainfall than it takes for the river flow to respond to rain in the upper Thames catchment. So the 'wave' of groundwater level lags behind the 'wave' of river level.
Date/Time : Monday, 01st February 2021 19:03
Bridge toll increase for regular users (Updated)
The owners of the toll bridge, General Estates Ltd of Southampton, have increased the discounted toll for regular users from 40p to 42.5p per crossing. A notice on the toll booth states: “From February 1st 2021 / A £20 Bridge Card top-up will give you 47 Crossings”, without further explanation.
Since 2015, a £20 top-up has provided 50 crossings. An enquiry at the toll booth today suggested that the company is planning to make a further increase next year to 45p per crossing. That would provide 44 crossings.
Since the change of ownership in 2019 there has been a lack of information online about the bridge and the toll regime. Under the previous ownership, with many local and historic connections to the village, an extensive website was maintained, including a Q & A page. Since the purchase by General Estates Ltd no information has been offered online. Their own website is about their portfolio of Park Homes. The bridge website that is found on searching the internet is a relic only, with no update beyond February 2019. There is a large amount of information about the bridge here on the Whitchurch Web, but this is now historic.
Geoff Weir, a director of the former bridge company, said today that he was actually surprised that it had taken so long for the new company to raise the toll towards the anticipated level of 45p. He said this level had been available since 2016, a toll of 45p being the limit to which the concessionary toll can be raised without a formal process. Here is an extract from the Inspector’s report of 26th June 2015, prior to the approval of the new toll level:
“Para 28. The Company has given a number of undertakings should the 60p toll be approved. For at least the next 10 years, or until another toll application is submitted and approved, the concessionary toll offered by the Bridge Card will not exceed 45p. It has also undertaken to phase in the increase in the discounted toll rate, starting with a rate of 40p for the first 12 months after the effective date of the increase in the cash toll.”
It is thought that around half of all bridge crossings are made using the Bridge Card. The Whitchurch Web has sent an enquiry to General Estates, asking them to comment.
Update, 1st February: James Percy, Director of the Bridge Company, has today clarified the company’s position, as follows:
“Income is well down as a result of COVID and the associated lockdowns. There was no collection for nearly 11 weeks during the first lockdown and traffic has been adversely impacted by subsequent lockdowns.
However, the increase is not to compensate for lost lockdown income, which is a cost the Company will have to bear. We remain hopeful that once the pandemic ends the traffic will get close to levels seen before. The increase in the concessionary toll is an attempt to recover some of the cost increases we have seen in recent years. Most notably the minimum wage, which has increased by 37%, well ahead of inflation, but other costs as well.
There are no plans to change the toll again in the next 12 months.”
Date/Time : Sunday, 31st January 2021 12:50
Tanya Hawley 1941-2021
Long-term Whitchurch resident Tanya Hawley, aged 79, died in hospital yesterday morning, 26th January. She had been admitted on New Year’s Day with a serious form of anaemia and then contracted Covid a week before she died. Her husband Peter says that either condition could have been fatal. Sadly, the pandemic restrictions meant that he was unable to visit Tanya, though they could speak together by phone, during her three-and-a-half weeks in the Royal Berks.
An appreciation of Tanya’s life and her family’s long connection to Whitchurch will appear here in due course (see link to obituary, below). The family hopes to hold a memorial service in the summer.
Thanks to Chris Martin for the photograph of Tanya, taken during a Whitchurch Theatre Club visit to Stratford upon Avon in 2015.
Update, 8th February: An obituary has been published in the Henley Standard, with details of Tanya Hawley’s career in social work and as a stalwart of the community.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 27th January 2021 12:27
Great White Egret flies in just in time for new Nature Note
It is not every day that a large, white, long-necked bird appears in your garden. Keith and Denyse Williams were surprised and delighted recently to spot one in their garden in Eastfield Lane. They say the bird was there for at least ten minutes and they were able to identify it as a Great White Egret and photograph it (picture) before it flew away.
This unusual sighting is only one of many features in Sally Woolhouses’s latest Whitchurch Nature Note ‘Winter Wonders’, which also brings us up to date on a furry creature that is now being sighted more frequently in the Thames and also in the Pang. Kay Lacey describes how the Otter has been making a steady recovery and would like any sightings, even if it is only the evidence of otter ‘spraint’, to be sent in.
Date/Time : Sunday, 24th January 2021 18:06
PAWS founder calls for action on climate change
Dr Peter McManners, who lives in Pangbourne and is a founder of the Pangbourne and Whitchurch Sustainability Group (PAWS), has written a book Face Up to Climate Change: Demand Change Now, calling for action on redirecting the economy away from dependence on fossil fuels.
He says: “This book provides the manifesto that protesters and environmentalists need. It takes a laser sharp look at climate change, why we are failing to address it and what should be done. It criticises the current weak response but moves quickly from criticism to proposing how to move forward. Protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion make a lot of noise and cause disruption but ultimately fail because they don’t know what to demand. It states clearly the need to close down fossil fuel without delay. Individuals making change within their own lives will make little difference. The solution is to demand even bigger changes which apply to all.”
Dr McManners started his career in the army, where he became a Lt Col and head of the operations division for the UK Defence and Imagery Agency. He now leads the sustainability module at Henley Business School.
For more information see this article in the online Henley Standard.
Date/Time : Sunday, 24th January 2021 11:10
Collection in memory of Pam Wilkinson raises £2,172
Following the death of Pam Wilkinson last April, a fund-raising appeal set up by her daughter-in-law Susie Wilkinson on a JustGiving page has succeeded in raising £1,707 for the Sue Ryder South Oxfordshire Emergency Fund. This was in recognition of the much-appreciated work of the Hospice-at-Home team of Sue Ryder nurses from the Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading, which enabled Pam to stay in her own home until the end.
There was also a collection to plant a tree in her memory. A Bramley apple tree was planted at the Maze a week ago, as shown in our Photo Gallery, and a plaque was installed.
Shirley Hutchins reports that the success of the collection for tree planting allowed £465 to be added to the £1,707, making a total of £2,172 donated to Sue Ryder.
Our news item of 30th April 2020 included this information:
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.
Date/Time : Saturday, 23rd January 2021 17:04
Getting help during the pandemic
Since last Spring, when Covid-19 was new, a list has been maintained of volunteers in Whitchurch who are willing to help others with shopping, picking up prescriptions, posting a parcel, driving someone to the doctors, or other task. This service continues to operate during the current lockdown and there are now over 50 volunteers on the list, covering all parts of the village.
If you need help, just send an email to this address: WotVolunteers@gmail.com . A volunteer will note your name and address or phone number and get in touch with you.
For any queries, please contact John Bradon, coordinator of the Volunteers, by email or on 07789 944 676.
Date/Time : Saturday, 16th January 2021 16:48
Please don’t phone about your vaccination
The practice manager at the Boathouse Surgery, Rosie Barker, today asked people NOT to phone reception to ask when they are going to be called for vaccination:
“PLEASE do not phone us regarding Covid vaccine bookings, we WILL phone you. And if we miss you, we will phone you again, and again until we get hold of you!
We are being swamped by people phoning to try and book a Covid vaccine or ask when they will be getting their turn, or they think they missed a phone call etc. We have clear messaging on our website, on our phone message and there is a national campaign that patients must not phone us, we will contact them, but it simply isn't working!
We have a specially trained team of booking agents working tirelessly, even over NYE bank holiday weekend, to contact eligible patients as quickly as possible, and in a very short time frame, we need to let them do their job - they will repeatedly try to get hold of everyone.
Reception are not trained to book Covid vaccine appointments, and they must remain available for regular, daily patient needs and helping acute sick people, so these phone calls are entirely pointless as reception cannot help or get them booked any quicker. They're just wasting a lot of time and preventing sick people getting through.
Please help to spread this message.”
Date/Time : Thursday, 14th January 2021 14:48
New chairman for The Friends of St Mary’s and St John’s
After five successful years as a trustee and chairman of the Friends, Keith Williams stood down at the group’s AGM last week and Paul Witcher (left) was voted in to take his place. Geoff Weir was voted in as a trustee. Keith was the first chairman of the group, which was set up after discussions between Yvonne Kerevan and Claire Alcock, with Jim Kerevan and Tim Suiter soon working on the project. The aim of The Friends is to bring together the communities of Whitchurch-on-Thames and Whitchurch Hill in support of the preservation of their two churches. People from all faiths and none are welcomed and the charity is run independently from day-to-day church life.
There is more in the group's January 2021 Update.
In its first five years, the group has undertaken many projects, the most recent of which was the restoration of the church clock at St Mary’s. Socially distanced work parties have been carried out in both churchyards during this last year. Fund-raising events have obviously been put on hold temporarily, but Paul says that these will happen again when practical.
The charity has more than 70 members, who agree to make a regular donation to the charity (minimum £10 a year). All money raised goes towards the maintenance, preservation and improvement of the our church buildings and their churchyards, for the benefit of current and future generations.
Paul says: “We would welcome more members from both Whitchurch-on-Thames and Whitchurch Hill. You do not have to be a churchgoer, only to appreciate the beauty and value of the village’s historic church buildings. If you would like to join us, please contact me by email for an application form.”
(News item revised 7th February 2021 to clarify the origins of the group.)
Date/Time : Monday, 11th January 2021 14:53
Vaccination team making rapid progress
The Boathouse Surgery team has been working long hours on vaccinating the first three priority groups against Covid-19. Cohorts 1 and 2 (including the over-80s) have now been completed. Cohort 3, the over-75s, is expected to be completed by this Saturday 9th January. Cohort 4, the over-70s, will follow after that, but their start date depends on the NHS's review of priorities for vaccine supply, and the Pangbourne clinic's programme is well ahead of others.
For those who are wondering when they will receive their invitation, practice manager Rosie Barker made this request today:
“We have a specially trained team booking in patients for vaccine, they are working tirelessly, even all over the new year bank holiday weekend, and we will absolutely make sure we contact everyone eligible as quickly as possible. Lots of patients are calling Reception trying to book or ask about the vaccine. But Reception are not trained to book the vaccines and need to continue being available for the regular healthcare needs of our patients. The extra vaccine calls are really clogging up our phone lines and stopping poorly people getting through who need access to GP and nurse appointments. So, in short, the message is, please do not call the surgery, we will call you!”
The practice issued a statement yesterday on the postponement by around two months of all second dose appointments from 12th January. Those with second dose appointments next week are asked not to attend the Pangbourne Club.
More information about the Pangbourne Vaccination Clinics can be found on the Boathouse Surgery website.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 06th January 2021 14:21
Road works in the High Street from Monday 4th January
There will be three-way traffic lights in the High Street at the junction with Hardwick Road, potentially causing delays, for up to two weeks from Monday 4th January. This is to allow an OCC contractor to excavate in the road and carry out work on the storm drainage system. It will extend further up the High Street the maintenance work that has been done since the flash flood of 16th June last year, which has cleared blockages in the drain between The Greyhound and the river outfall.
The storm drain in some of the upper length, particularly near the Picture Gallery where it allows water to leak into the cellar, is old and built of brick. It will be changed to a pipe that can be maintained by pressure-jetting.
Drivers hoping to avoid a potential delay in the High Street by avoiding Whitchurch and crossing the river at Streatley/Goring should bear in mind that Goring High Street is scheduled to be closed completely for around three weeks from 11th January. This is for work on traffic calming and changes to the pavement layout in their village centre.
Unfortunately, traffic required to divert from Goring is likely to increase the congestion in our High Street in the second week of the drainage work, which will add to the delays.
Date/Time : Friday, 01st January 2021 12:08
Flood Alert as river level rises (Updated)
The Environment Agency has issued a Flood Warning, indicating a threat to property, for low-lying Purley. For Whitchurch and Pangbourne the current status is merely a Flood Alert, which means “Flooding is possible – be prepared.” The Agency says it expects river levels to remain high. The graph shows there has been a 3 cm drop from a peak last night.
River levels are at their highest since 2014. The photograph was taken this afternoon, Monday 28th December.
Update: The river continued to fall and the Alert was cancelled.
Date/Time : Monday, 28th December 2020 17:26
Emmy award for Whitchurch resident
Jerry Huxtable has won an Emmy award from the Television Academy for 'extensive developments in engineering that materially affect the production, recording, transmission or reception of television'. This is for his part in the development of the compositing tool Nuke, which has become the industry standard for creating dramatic and visual effects and has been used in the making of every recent Emmy award-winning TV show, including The Crown, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire.
This is the second accolade for Jerry. Nearly three years ago, he received an Academy Award for the same Nuke software in the film industry. On that occasion he and his wife Denise flew to Hollywood for the presentation. (Covered in our news items of 13th January and 26th February 2018). This time the pandemic prevented them from travelling there for the ceremony and they simply waited for the trophy to arrive, which it did just in time for Christmas.
The Huxtables have lived in Swanston Field for 20 years and have three children: Tom 26, Jennifer 22 and Lia 18. Jerry, 59, graduated in physics from York University, went straight into software development and works with The Foundry in London. He explained that the Nuke system, which he and his fellow Emmy-award-winning colleagues developed, is a sort of PhotoShop for film-makers: “It's basically the process of taking all the elements of a shot - the sky, landscapes, building, actors shot against green screens, computer-generated characters and objects, smoke, effects and so on - which were all taken at different times, at different locations, with different lighting, or never actually existed in real life, and putting them together to make it look like they were all shot by the same camera at the same time. This is complicated by the fact that everything is moving and has to follow the camera and remain consistent from frame to frame.”
Here is a larger photo of Jerry with the Emmy.
Date/Time : Sunday, 27th December 2020 15:08
The Whitchurch Web team wishes you a very Happy Christmas!
We have a Christmas card for you to open – alpacas in the snow by Dave Olinski.
We hope you’ve enjoyed visiting the village website during the year. Thank you to the many people who have provided news, photos and suggestions.
Whatever next year may bring, the Whitchurch Web team will continue doing its best to provide up-to-date local information and help us all to stay connected.
Best wishes from Hilary, Pam, Phil and Richard
Date/Time : Sunday, 20th December 2020 10:27
Vaccination programme begins
The programme for vaccination against Covid-19 has started for patients of The Boathouse Surgery. Contact is being made with the first cohort of NHS registered patients, those aged 80 or over. The location of the Covid Vaccination Clinic is Rosewood Hall, Pangbourne Club, 1 Whitchurch Road, Pangbourne (formerly known as The Pangbourne Working Men’s Club).
For those eligible, two bookings are being made. One for the first dose and one for the second a month later.
Detailed information is available on the Surgery’s website.
The Practice Team says: “We will contact you when it’s the right time to come forward, so please do not contact the Surgery to seek a vaccine or ask when you will get one.”
Date/Time : Saturday, 19th December 2020 10:48
Carol singing at The Ferryboat cancelled
Update, Tuesday 15th December: Sadly, the carol singing event this Saturday has been cancelled in the light of current information about the course of the pandemic and further advice received by landlord Graham Dednum.
Graham says: "Whilst in our area figures remain relatively unchanged, fundamentally the message given is that we should not be seen to encourage anyone to mix with others outside their household, either inside or outside. We have a duty of care to those who may wish to attend. It is therefore with great regret and significant disappointment that I have concluded it would be a responsible decision to cancel the event."
The Ferryboat Community Carol Singing event was to have taken place in the car park of the pub, accompanied by a brass ensemble, from 5.30 to 6.30 pm on Saturday 19th December. Proceeds from drinks sold would have gone to the village's two schools. The event was to have been live streamed.
Date/Time : Saturday, 12th December 2020 16:29
Online Art & Craft Exhibition a big success
The Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 2020 closed yesterday after two weeks of viewing. There were over 200 entries on display, submitted by around 70 entrants. The exhibition pages were visited 4500 times.
Although this year there was no judging, and no cups or awards, viewers in the village and elsewhere were invited to vote for their favourite entries. This proved popular and around 1900 votes were received, spread widely across the exhibition. The highest number received was for ‘My Daddy Collage’, created by Tess Higley in the 6-8 years age group. It can be seen in the Photo Gallery, together with other entries that attracted large numbers of votes. A list of these, and a fuller report on the event, can be found here.
Sally Woolhouse, exhibition coordinator, says: “Despite the difficulties this year, the event proved to be remarkably successful and enjoyable, with large numbers taking part. Well done everyone, and particular thanks from all of us to Adrian Dixon who designed the special software for submitting and viewing the entries.”
Date/Time : Tuesday, 01st December 2020 10:06
Eric’s Walks – now available online
The popular booklet 'A Guide to the Walks around Whitchurch-on-Thames' by Eric Hartley has been published in six editions since 1980. Today an online edition has been launched, with updated descriptions and individual maps, and all the walks are available on our Walks page.
The key map on the Walks page can be enlarged with a click and shows the routes of 12 numbered walks, together with an introductory walk around the village and some short walks using permissive paths on the Hardwick estate. The links are on the page and readers can download as many walks as they wish.
The walk descriptions have been updated by Eric following check-walking by several residents in recent weeks. A particular acknowledgement is due to Robin Giddings who has contributed his time and special skills in creating the maps. He has also made a Christmas version of the key map.
Eric, who has lived in Swanston Field since 1964, says that he hopes the new edition will help to encourage us all to get to know the countryside around the village and to keep fit in these unusual times.
To make it easy to find the Walks page, a new tab 'Local Walks' has been included in the menu on the left.
Date/Time : Friday, 27th November 2020 10:21
Another cyclist injured on hill
At around 10 am today a cyclist riding down the hill came through the upper narrows and lost control at the road junction, running into the kerb and the lower wall opposite the Picture Gallery.
David Brodie, who lives there, said that the man was looked after by various people who happened to be nearby and an ambulance arrived within half an hour. The man was in shock and appeared to have injured an arm.
David, who took the mountain bike to a safe place, said: “In my opinion the pathetic state of the white lines in this area should be rectified urgently. There have been many accidents involving cyclists at this junction. I would also like to see double white lines on the whole length of the hill, as has been done successfully at Hurley, which dramatically cut the accident rate.”
The virtual disappearance of some of the white lines can be seen in the photo above, including one of the two that might have helped to guide the cyclist away from the kerb. The hazardous upper narrows in the background of the photo, which residents and Thames Path walkers must risk passing through, has also lost almost all of its pattern of warning white paint and with that, any helpful effect on traffic calming.
It is hoped that Oxfordshire Highways will propose some improvements in road safety following the fatal accident to a young cyclist further up the hill on 7th November.
Parish chairman Jim Donahue said today that repainting of the upper narrows lines has been requested several times, including this summer with the suggestion that the work should be done while the hill was closed for the gas pipeline work. It seems that OCC Highways agreed and gave the instruction but that their painting contractor was confused about the location and repainted the faded white lines further down the street at the junction with Eastfield Lane instead. Now it appears that, even if OCC had any budget left, the white line painting season is over until the spring.
Date/Time : Sunday, 22nd November 2020 12:31
Tea Hut replacement – comments invited
In February 2020 concerns were expressed by the Cricket Club at the Parish Council meeting about the increasing cost of the new pavilion project, for which the Club were expected to raise a substantial share of the funds. This was discussed further at the September 2020 meeting. It was agreed that the Parish Council would no longer pursue development of the new pavilion, for which planning approval had been obtained. Instead they would consider taking on responsibility for replacing and owning a new tea room/hut, while the Cricket Club would work on renovating the existing pavilion.
As part of assessing the feasibility of this, Councillor Hanna Ferguson is collecting community feedback on how the Tea Hut could be utilized by the community for various events such as village fete, sports day, or private events such as small birthday parties etc, and what capacity/facilities the Tea Hut should/could have.
If you would like to provide ideas/feedback, or would like to join a small working group to develop the plans further, please get in touch with Hanna at email@example.com or 07375 457 584.
The photo shows the existing Tea Hut, with the Pavilion on the right.
Date/Time : Thursday, 19th November 2020 17:41
Pre-School children walk to raise funds
The children are between 2 and 4.5 years old, they wear bright blue t-shirts, and they are walking 360 kilometres this month to raise money for the Whitchurch Pre-School.
To find out how the rest of us can support them, and to hear how the Pre-School has been selected by the Co-op as a local community cause, see this page.
Date/Time : Tuesday, 17th November 2020 14:59
Art & Craft Exhibition opens
The Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 2020 has opened online.
Over 200 works of art, craft and photography are on display on the specially created website. Viewers can browse all the exhibits or select one category at a time and are encouraged to vote for their favourites. Comments can be sent to the Whitchurch Web message board.
To see the exhibition, click on this link.
Sally Woolhouse, exhibition coordinator, says: “I am delighted by the response by so many people in our village to the idea of an online exhibition, which has produced as many entries as in a normal year. In these difficult times the exhibition offers a really positive experience.”
Date/Time : Saturday, 14th November 2020 11:13
Road accident closes hill
A serious traffic accident on the hill (B471) above Whitchurch caused the road to be closed from around 12.30 pm today. Emergency services, including an air ambulance, attended.
The road was still closed at 4 pm. It has been reported that a cyclist coming down the hill was in collision with a van going up.
UPDATE, 9th November: The cyclist was a 12-year-old boy, who was taken to hospital by road but has sadly died of his injuries. The collision is understood to have occurred on the steep bend above the war memorial. The Police issued this Appeal today:
Date/Time : Saturday, 07th November 2020 16:14
New Wessex cycling trail comes through Whitchurch
We may be seeing more cyclists on the Thames Path. King Alfred’s Way is a new 350km circular cycling trail launched this summer by Cycling UK. It links the Thames Path with the Ridgeway and the South Downs Way, using bridleways and byways. Part of the route is the Hartslock bridleway, Whitchurch. A recent Guardian article about the trail included a photo (above) of cyclists climbing the ‘Hartley Steps’ on the bridleway. Elsewhere the trail visits Winchester, Salisbury and Farnham.
There is more information on the Cycling UK website, where current regulations on cycling can be found.
Something on the Hartley Steps here.
Date/Time : Thursday, 05th November 2020 17:50
Remembrance Sunday 2020
The decision has been taken not to hold a Remembrance Service at the War Memorial this year.
Goring Heath Parish Council has issued this statement:
“It is with regret that we are unable to hold the Remembrance Service at the War Memorial on the B471 Between Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill this year. Due to Coronavirus restrictions, there will be no public service.
The Chair of Goring Heath Parish Council, Mr Chris Jessop, the Vice Chair Mr Peter Dragonetti, and Councillor Jim Donahue, Chair of Whitchurch Parish Council will lay wreaths at 11am on behalf of our community. They will observe the traditional two minute silence.
It has been suggested that as we cannot attend at the memorial, we may like to join in with private reflection from our doorsteps.”
The Reverend James Leach, newly resident Team Vicar with responsibility for Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill, has sent a first email to those who have been receiving weekly emails from Rev Canon Kevin Davies, Langtree Team Leader. His message, with details of online services this Sunday, can be read here.
Rev Leach, who is married to Debbie and has three children, obtained a classics degree and then spent seven years in IT roles in industry prior to ordination, followed by 14 years of service in the parish of Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. See our news item of 19th June.
Date/Time : Thursday, 05th November 2020 11:41
Entries coming in for Art & Craft Exhibition
The period of opportunity to submit entries to the Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 2020 has begun and runs until 12th November. The exhibition will be viewable online from 14th November on a special website created by Adrian Dixon and hosted by the Reading Foundation for Art.
Exhibitors in the village have already started to send in their entries. A wide range of entries is expected, especially in the present lockdown conditions.
If you have any queries, please contact the organisers.
Date/Time : Sunday, 01st November 2020 17:22
Parish councillor resigns
Jean Marc Grosfort is stepping down from his role as a parish councillor but he will continue with his project to refurbish and improve the Village Hall and its amenities.
He has issued this note:
It is with regret that I have decided to step down and resign from the Parish council. Some important health issues (not related to Covid19) and some serious challenges with my work in the hospitality sector in UK and abroad are the reasons for my decision. To work with dedicated and talented councillors has been very enriching. To share from the inside the life of our beautiful village has been interesting and exciting.
Take good care and keep safe – Jean Marc Grosfort.
Jean Marc says that three new hotel projects on which he is advising, in London’s Covent Garden, Geneva and Qatar, all need more attention as a result of the current difficult conditions.
He says that after the Special Afternoon Tea in the newly refurbished Village Hall on Thursday next week he will be arranging another similar event nearer to Christmas, if government rules permit. Among other projects, he says he will be continuing to work on a new booking system for the Village Hall, which he hopes will be up and running in the Spring.
Date/Time : Thursday, 29th October 2020 11:01
How to buy a Poppy this year
The normal door-to-door collection for Remembrance Day poppies is not possible during the pandemic. Diana Marriott and her team of ten Whitchurch collectors will therefore not be ringing doorbells around the village this year. But it is still possible to buy a poppy and contribute to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
Both The Greyhound and The Ferryboat have supplies of poppies and there is a collection box at each pub. You can call in for a poppy at any time during opening hours.
There is also ‘Poppies in the Post’ – you can request a free pack of 20 poppies to give out to friends and family in return for their donations.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 28th October 2020 17:33
Art & Craft Exhibition is going ahead online (UPDATED)
The Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 2020 will take place online. Entries, in the form of photographs, are to be submitted between 1st and 12th November. The exhibition will be available for all to enjoy online from 14th November.
Art, craft and photography can all be submitted, as usual. The Joyce Voysey Prize theme this year is Happiness (picture).
The arrangements for entries to be submitted and exhibited have been specially created by Adrian Dixon. This year there will be no prizes but viewers will be able to vote for their choice of best entry.
Details of how to submit entries will be posted shortly on this page of the Whitchurch Web. (DETAILS POSTED, 28.10.20)
Sally Woolhouse says:
“The exhibition organisers are very happy to announce that ‘the show will go on’ this year, in a novel way. The online exhibition in November will showcase your art, craft and photography, as well as entries on the theme of ‘Happiness’, that you have been working on over the past year. It will keep to the traditions of the live exhibition, open to everyone in Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill. But, unlike the usual format, it will be possible to view the show worldwide!
If you have any queries, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Update, 27th October: The online hosting for this exhibition is kindly being provided by The Reading Foundation for Art. The Foundation was established as a charity in 1974 to create a collection of significant works of art for Reading Museum. The Foundation is keen to promote art in the local area and is pleased to be helping our Art and Craft exhibition.
Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd October 2020 15:37
Pumpkins invited online
Halloween, on Saturday 31st October, is approaching. Some things are difficult these days, but the traditional activity of pumpkin carving is expected to be just as popular as it was last year, when some wonderful creations appeared in Whitchurch towards the end of October.
This year carvers of all ages in Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill are invited to send a photo of their pumpkin for display on this website for everyone to enjoy. There will be three prizes, for Under-11, Under-16 and Over-16 age groups. Under-11s may prefer to paint their pumpkins rather than carve them.
Please email your photo to Helen Willis at this address by 5 pm on Friday 30th October, giving your name, age and home address. Your pumpkin will be displayed in the Photo Gallery. And you could win a prize!
If you don’t have a pumpkin, Lin’s VegShed at the entrance to the Hardwick Estate has a good stock in all shapes and sizes. Buy local! The VegShed is generously donating a family size veg box as the Over-16 prize.
Date/Time : Thursday, 15th October 2020 20:15
Next month’s Art & Craft Exhibition cancelled
The organisers of the annual Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition have announced the cancellation of this year’s event owing to the pandemic and are planning an online exhibition instead.
Sally Woolhouse, chair of the organising committee, said today:
This year’s annual show was scheduled to take place on the weekend of 14th/ 15th November. However, it is with much regret that the planning committee have decided that we should not hold the exhibition this year because of the worsening Covid-19 situation.
We have discussed all the issues in detail and looked at the appropriate current guidelines for the use of the Village Hall. Our conclusion is that even with the necessary strict hygiene protocols in place, there would inevitably be potential risks for our great team of volunteers and of course the visitors.
The exhibition has been run by The Whitchurch Society since 1972 and it has always been keenly anticipated and well supported by our local community. It was therefore a very difficult decision to cancel this year. However, our team will do its utmost to return the show next year in its traditional format, with the prize-giving and refreshments, and a very sociable event where everyone can gather to enjoy the lovely exhibits.
Meanwhile, to avoid too much disappointment, we are planning to organise an online exhibition in November, to showcase your art, craft and photography that you have been working on over the past year. Keep an eye on the village website where the details of how, when and what to enter will be posted.
Date/Time : Saturday, 10th October 2020 17:09
Eastfield House owners fail to renew permission
Majesticare have been turned down in their attempt to renew the time-expired planning permission granted on appeal in 2013 for a large extension to their derelict care home, which has been closed since 2016. The refusal is linked to the likely adverse impact on three protected trees.
The next move in the long saga of planning applications and appeals could be another appeal by Majesticare, as on the previous occasion.
There is more information in an article in this week’s Henley Standard.
Full information can be found on the SODC planning webpage.
Date/Time : Saturday, 10th October 2020 17:37
Road up the hill is now open again
The gas main replacement work has been finished and the road has been re-opened, on schedule, this afternoon. That brings to an end a month-long period of frustration for drivers.
The contractor has carried out some grass seeding on damaged banks. Some of the ten roadside soakaways appear to have been damaged by the wheels of heavy plant and will need repair.
The village entrance gateways and the sign are also damaged. The damage is thought to have been done before the start of the gas pipe work.
On the separate Hardwick Road pavement work, the full length of the asphalt base was finished today. Tomorrow, and on the next three days, the smoother top surface is expected to be placed, working westwards from Muddy Lane. This is likely to inconvenience those parking for the school run tomorrow.
Date/Time : Monday, 05th October 2020 16:30
Parish council seeks a way forward on traffic and parking
At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the parish council held online yesterday evening, councillors discussed traffic and parking issues for over three hours.
The two informal consultations held this year highlighted various concerns about the proposals for double yellow lines and parking bays in the High Street put forward by TAPAG, the Traffic and Parking Advisory Group that has been assisting the council for several years,. Foremost among these was concern about the two-phased programme, whereby the yellow lines and 24 bays would be established first, with the bays given residents-only status later. This phasing was proposed because of the need for the police to delegate their parking enforcement powers to SODC, a change that is underway but will take time to complete.
Councillors were told that the effect of Covid had been to reduce the severity of the problem, at least temporarily. They were asked to give their opinions on the priorities for a scheme in terms of congestion, speed, pedestrian safety, pollution, street crossing and traffic calming. After much debate the council resolved to concentrate on short-term improvements, including pedestrian safety at the Ferryboat narrows, while re-evaluating and refining the current proposals. A scheme involving yellow lines and parking bays would then be introduced in the medium term once it is possible to ensure residents-only parking from the start. There was also discussion of changes to the approach adopted by TAPAG in respect of consultation and transparency.
Some complaints are reported to have been received about the apparent conflict of interest for any councillor who is personally affected by proposed parking changes.
Minutes of the meeting will be published and the subject is expected to be raised again at the parish council meeting next Thursday.
Date/Time : Friday, 02nd October 2020 20:02
Whitchurch hill re-opening at end of Monday
SGN clarified to the Whitchurch Web today that the gas main works on the hill are still on schedule, and they expect to be working at the weekend in order to re-open the road by late in the day on Monday 5th October.
Project Manager Matt Morland said that he will let us know if they encounter any snag in the next few days which affects that opening date.
The re-opening will come as a relief to those using the Path Hill unofficial diversion route, and to those living on the route, who have been blighted by gridlock and road rage in recent weeks. The start on 24th September of the Hardwick Road pavement works made things worse, including the addition of a large Tarmac lorry to the overloaded route.
Date/Time : Thursday, 01st October 2020 15:15
New and improved Coombe Park fence
Following the granting of planning permission in April for an acceptable design for the Coombe Park boundary fence, about half the length along the Hartslock bridleway has now been rebuilt (photo). The new fence consists of timber palings on a steel frame, instead of being entirely of steel, and has a height of 2.2m, which is about 0.2m lower than before. Instead of hazardous steel spikes there are now tapered timber points. Most importantly, considerable lengths of the fence line have been moved further away from the bridleway and the hedge is now to be planted on the bridleway side rather than on the Coombe Park side.
The planning documents show that the hedge will contain six native plant species, mainly hawthorn and hazel, with some field maple, spindle, holly and wild privet. The plants, initially bamboo-staked and with spiral guards, are to be actively managed ‘to create a dense bushy structure at a height of 2.5m with foliage down to ground level’.
Parish council chairman Jim Donahue said today that he was very pleased that the owner of Coombe Park had reached an agreement with SODC to have a boundary fence that is more appropriate for the Thames Path and he felt that the successful outcome of the planning process called for congratulations to SODC and also to owner Mr David Pain for undertaking the realignment and rebuild.
Date/Time : Sunday, 27th September 2020 18:05
Hardwick Road pavement renewal starts
Work started this morning on the rebuilding of the pedestrian pavement along Hardwick Road, which is expected to take two weeks.
The work is part of a jointly financed project, negotiated by the parish council with OCC, to improve the village’s pavements. Other worn out or damaged pavements in Swanston Field, the High Street and Manor Road are planned for repair in a separate operation that OCC expects to carry out by the end of the year, using a ‘slurry seal’ technique rather than a complete resurfacing.
Some confusion was caused this morning to parents who normally park in the area to drop off school children. Today is also bin day, adding to traffic problems (picture).
The Skanska team leader at the site today seemed unaware of the temporarily heavy traffic or the need for school parking in the area. Parish council chairman Jim Donahue said that he had informed OCC weeks ago that there were two reasons for them to consider delaying the work: the current high traffic volumes caused by the road closure on the hill, which will continue until 5th October, and the desirability of doing the work outside the school term. However, OCC decided to keep to their programme.
Further east along Hardwick Road, OCC have filled in the deep roadside rut, following requests from the parish council, and are understood to be planning to trim back the hedge.
On the separate topic of drainage, Jim Donahue said that he had been told by OCC that they have decided on a solution to address the shortcomings of the stormwater drainage from the Greyhound area. This will involve replacing an undersized pipe connecting the drainage gullies on the Greyhound side of the High Street to the road drain on the other side with a larger diameter pipe. They have put this in next Fiscal Year's budget request. This follows a report by members of the village’s Flood Forum on the flash flood of 16th June 2020, which is on this website here.
Next Monday OCC’s specialist contractor OPC is expected to return to Whitchurch to continue the earlier work on cleaning out the High Street storm drainage system.
Date/Time : Thursday, 24th September 2020 16:42
Whitchurch hill to be reopened on Monday 5th October
SGN have confirmed that they are currently on schedule to re-open the road up the hill on Monday 5th October. Project Manager Matt Morland said today that they have successfully tested the new length of gas main and tomorrow will start work on the final connections to Castrol/BP and to several houses, before backfilling holes and reinstating the site.
He said that, in response to complaints about heavy traffic and occasional gridlock on the unofficial Hardwick Road and Path Hill diversion route, SGN increased and improved the signage to guide traffic to the official diversion route through Streatley and Goring. However, some drivers used their Sat-Navs to find the shortest way around the closure, ignoring the official route.
Susan Day of SGN said the company appreciates the inconvenience that the road closure has caused the local community and wants to thank everyone for their patience.
Karl Bishop, site representative for contractor Direct Mole, said that his team would be paying special attention to reinstating the war memorial area to a clean condition.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 23rd September 2020 19:43
Art & Craft show to go ahead in November
It's good news for our many lockdown artists, photographers and craftspeople. After much discussion and checking of the current guidance on use of the village hall, the Art & Craft Exhibition committee is going ahead with this year's exhibition, though with certain changes from the norm. There will be no prize-giving ceremony, no serving of refreshments, and there will be a limit to the number of people in the hall, with a one-way system in place.
The dates are Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th November. Here are the List of Classes for Adults and Juniors, the Timetable for Entries and the Rules.
This year’s theme for the Joyce Voysey Prize is ‘Happiness’. Last year’s theme was ‘Masks’ and who could have guessed how soon we would be wearing one?
The photo above shows some entries in last year's exhibition. The committee is keeping its fingers crossed that the current social distancing rules will not be changed significantly before the event.
So, there is just under two months for the creative Whitchurch people of all ages to show the rest of us what they can do!
Date/Time : Sunday, 20th September 2020 18:44
Drone training flights cause anger in village
As the message board shows, the repeated circuits flown by a large drone around the hillside near Hardwick Road have been causing annoyance to many residents.
It appears that these flights are part of a training course run by Damion Morphy from Lower Hitch, a property on the right at the top of the hill leading up to Whitchurch Hill. It is understood that courses for would-be drone pilots have been run there from time to time.
The current drone is ‘the size of a wheelbarrow’, according to a close neighbour of Lower Hitch, who says that this morning alone there were at least five flights, each involving many circuits, and all creating an unpleasant whining noise. Farm animals are reportedly being disturbed. One resident described the sound as somewhere between a chainsaw and a banshee.
Some residents have complained that the drone has occasionally been tracking people, speculating that this may be training in surveillance. Mr Morphy is understood to be connected to the nearby company Advanced Tactical Resources based in Goring Heath, which offers training in aerial surveillance. Further information can be found in a Henley Standard article of 2019.
Both SODC and the Police have been informed about the noise nuisance created by the drone activity, which has been exceptionally frequent and noisy in recent days.
The photo above shows an example of a six-rotor drone. The drone referred to in this item is shown in this photo taken in Whitchurch on 9th September.
Update, 6 pm:
A police representative, WPC Barbara Taylor, visited the drone launching site earlier today in response to many complaints. She said afterwards that the drone company has hired the field only to fly their aircraft for a period of two weeks finishing this Friday. The drones are licensed to fly above 50 metres and below 400 metres and they are registered by the CAA. They are allowed to fly over properties as long as they are above 60 metres as the airspace is free, she said.
After her visit, the drone flights continued right through the afternoon.
Some residents are considering challenging the legality of the flying operation. Others are filing a complaint about the noise on this page of the SODC website on the understanding that even if the operation is legal the number of complaints about the nuisance will carry weight with the local authority.
Date/Time : Wednesday, 09th September 2020 14:35
Whitchurch Under-17s football team wins Cup Final
The Anglers finally beat the Woodcutters. Originally scheduled to be played back in April, the East Berkshire Football Alliance U17s Plate Cup Final between AFC Whitchurch Woodcutters (Woodcote) and Anglers (Whitchurch-on-Thames) was played on Saturday morning at Checkendon.
There is a larger photo of the Anglers here.
Alistair Aitchison reports:
In front of a large crowd of enthusiastic and socially distancing family and friends, the Anglers won 1-0, thanks to a first-half goal by Thom Denning. It was a very tight game played in a good spirit. Jonathan James, referee for the game commented afterwards that it was “A really enjoyable, hard-fought, high quality youth match”.
Although the Anglers won, the game could have gone either way, with the Woodcutters having a second half penalty saved by Anglers keeper, Isaac Aitchison. The game was a credit to both teams and the work that coaches and club officials are doing to develop talented players who play with intensity but also fairness .
We are grateful to our team sponsor Leslie Prater and his labrador Dillon for financial support and also to Whitchurch Parish Council for their support in providing facilities, especially during this challenging period of lockdown, where local players could maintain their fitness and develop their skills.
The season starts again this coming Saturday 12th September and continues through the end of April.“
Players interested in joining any of the five teams spanning ages 5 to 18 should visit the Sports page of this website to find out more.
Date/Time : Sunday, 06th September 2020 15:00
Opinions differ on traffic and parking plan
The informal consultation held online yesterday evening to discuss traffic and parking issues drew together over thirty residents, who had a wide range of opinions. The meeting continued for three hours.
Several speakers felt that the current plan is handicapped by the need to carry it out in two phases. The first being to paint the yellow lines and mark out the parking spaces. The second being to designate certain parking places as residents-only, which cannot be done at present as it requires the transition of certain powers from the Police to SODC. Though this transition is believed to be underway, it is not expected to be complete before the autumn of 2021 at best.
Other participants were concerned that if fewer cars were parked in the High Street the traffic would be able to move at a higher speed and this would increase the risk to pedestrians.
Some were adamant that there should never be yellow lines in Whitchurch.
Parish chairman Jim Donahue said today: “I would like to thank everyone who attended the meeting and took the opportunity to give their views and learn more about the proposed changes. We had more than 30 people attending, most of whom stayed for the full three hour meeting! There was some useful feedback on the traffic proposal and an opportunity for TAPAG members and a representative from Mode traffic consulting to clarify some things. The desire for residential parking is clear. Some people also felt that there is a more urgent need to address speeding and pedestrian safety as opposed to congestion and inconsiderate parking. Since the start of the pandemic, there is less congestion during rush hours, but also more speeding in areas where there is less parking. This situation where the overall level of traffic is temporarily reduced also gives us some time to ensure we are proceeding with the right solution. The Parish Council will consider this feedback before deciding on the next steps.”
Information on this issue is carried on our Traffic and Parking page, which will be updated with any developments.
Date/Time : Friday, 04th September 2020 18:04
Farewell tree for the Maze
Sally Trinder, who is reluctantly leaving Whitchurch later this month after 48 years, has given a farewell present to the village of a crab-apple tree, which has been planted at the Maze by Pete Woolhouse. Shown here with the tree are Sally Woolhouse, Sally Trinder and Pete.
Sally Trinder says: “I have loved living in Whitchurch and am sad to be leaving. We were originally at Wellesley House and then after 2007 at The Gables. Stephen died five years ago, and the time has now come for me to move nearer to other members of my family in Bristol, where he and I spent the first years of our married life. The tree is planted at the Maze, where Toffee and I have had many happy walks.”
Date/Time : Thursday, 03rd September 2020 14:08
Thames Water has leaks to repair
There are two water leaks in the village that are of concern.
This afternoon a steady stream of water began to flow through the upper narrows and on down the High Street. The source is at the southern limit of the trench being excavated by SGN’s contractor Direct Mole Ltd for the replacement gas main (picture). Their work has evidently disturbed a water supply pipe. The leak was immediately reported to Thames Water.
The second is the long-standing and much-reported seepage on the road in the narrows of Eastfield Lane. It has at last been accepted by Thames Water to be their responsibility, after many visits and water tests in past months had led to their repeatedly denying the possibility. Their personnel will now try to locate the source more precisely before they plan any excavation, which could cause access problems for Eastfield Lane.
Date/Time : Tuesday, 01st September 2020 20:42
The Greyhound goes on sale again
Punch Taverns has put The Greyhound pub on the market again, at a freehold price of £675,000 + VAT. The agents Fleurets, who specialise in the leisure sector, state (incorrectly) that the property has ceased trading and is closed. They describe the location of the five bedroom property as in the ‘pretty village of Whitchurch on Thames,’...‘an affluent and desirable residential area.’
The agents are holding an open viewing session on 8th September.
The price is higher than when Punch Taverns offered the pub for sale six years ago. This was our news item of 3rd March 2014:
“The owner Punch Taverns, which has put The Greyhound on the market for £475,000 plus VAT with a closing date of 18th March, has said that the sale is a commercial decision and it hopes to sell the pub, in its grounds of 0.11 acre, as a going concern. The company is known to have incurred financial problems following an ambitious period of expansion. However, there is a possibility that the pub could be bought for conversion to a private house. With this in mind, the Parish Council has applied to South Oxfordshire District Council to have the pub listed as ‘an asset of community value’ which would give a six month moratorium for a bid to be made by someone in the village. Parish Chairman Harry Butterworth said most people would regard it as a serious loss to the community if such a key feature of the village were to be lost. It was therefore important to give the community a reasonable chance to consider its options. However, the process of applying for the listing takes several months and it will not be known for some time whether the application is successful.”
Parish chairman Jim Donahue said today that he would be happy to hear from any individual or group in the village who needed time to put a bid together to acquire the pub and run it as a business.
Date/Time : Thursday, 27th August 2020 16:11