News Archive

Brass band fills church with Christmas music

A concert featuring The Ferryboat Brass attracted nearly a hundred people to St Mary’s yesterday evening to sing Christmas carols and listen to soloists.  A powerful band of more than 20 brass players from different areas, assembled specially for the event under musical director Jonathan Corry from Pangbourne College, had the ancient fabric of the church vibrating to the trumpet sounds of a Christmas celebration with a Salvation Army theme.  The energetic publican of The Ferryboat, Graham Dednum, matching the band in dinner suit but distinctive red bow tie, was a relaxed master of ceremonies, in spite of last minute snags which might have floored someone without his thirty years of experience in brass bands.  Notwithstanding the flute soloist being unable to play, the solo singer suffering a bereavement but bravely performing (for which she was warmly applauded), the sound system having had to be replaced, and Curate Claire Alcock down with flu so unable to set the scene, all went not just smoothly but with a swing. The skills of horn soloist Haydn Brown, singer Lesley Thomas, and of the performers who stepped into the breach, singer Debbie Jenkins and pianist David Mortlock, were well appreciated. It was a great Whitchurch occasion, raising funds jointly for St Mary’s and for Christian Community Action, and giving rise to the hope that the event will be repeated.

Date/Time : Sunday, 08th December 2013 11:58

Users protest at cutbacks to Pangbourne Library

Book lovers of all ages were out in force during Pangbourne’s late night shopping event on Friday, demonstrating against the proposed cut in the library’s opening hours from 27 to 16 hours per week. 

Passers-by were encouraged to sign a petition to West Berkshire Council.  Inside the library, children were making posters on a 'Why I love my library' theme and doing other craft activities.  Another group was demonstrating its needlecraft.  This was to emphasise that the library does more than just lend books - it is an important community resource. 

Julie Huntington said that Pangbourne and other small branch libraries appeared to have been specifically targeted and there was a risk not just that the main supervisor would be made redundant but that this may be the start of a campaign which could eventually close the service in Pangbourne. 

Pangbourne library is used extensively by Whitchurch residents and supports book groups in the village.  It is the only library within walking distance.  The proposals will affect the vulnerable in the community i.e. the young and the elderly. 

Are you interested in maintaining a library service in Pangbourne?  If so, pop in to the library, talk to the staff or pick up a paper copy of the proposals and respond.  Or click here to comment online. 

The consultation period ends next Friday, 13th December.

Date/Time : Sunday, 08th December 2013 11:40

New feature at mill pool raises questions

A timber platform projecting over the river was built recently on the private lawn alongside Mill Drive and now features in the well-known view of the mill from the toll bridge.  This week Whitchurch Parish Council received some information on the subject from South Oxfordshire District Council.  An officer in the Planning Department confirmed that the owner has been told that the platform appears to be ‘a breach of planning control’ and its status is being investigated by their enforcement team.

Date/Time : Thursday, 21st November 2013 14:58

Art & Craft show breaks records

The Village Hall was transformed last weekend for the Whitchurch Society’s annual Art & Craft Exhibition. The number of entries broke all records – 218 exhibits from 127 exhibitors. There was a wonderful variety of artwork, craftwork and photographs from young and old, showing a very high standard of skills from the local community. Colourful displays of work by children at the Pre-School, the Primary School and the Oratory Prep School added to the show. Visitors enjoyed afternoon teas and meeting up with friends and neighbours before the prize-giving ceremony at 5pm. It was a lovely occasion – congratulations to all who helped and entered. The full list of prize-winners is here

Date/Time : Monday, 18th November 2013 09:35

Thatched house likely to be demolished

“Firhill”, an 8 bedroom Art & Crafts style thatched house, built on the hillside above the village in the 1930s, is likely to be demolished and a large modern house built in its place. 

Details of the planning application can be found on the SODC website here.  There is an existing planning consent to modify and enlarge the old house, a proposal for which can be seen here, but the current owner wishes to demolish it and start again. 

At Monday’s Parish Council meeting it was decided that, in view of the secluded nature of the site, no strong views would be expressed to SODC. 

Comments on the application can be made via the SODC website or by letter and must be received before 21st November. 

Date/Time : Monday, 11th November 2013 15:08

Storm closes Muddy Lane

The St Jude storm failed to close any roads in Whitchurch but it blew down a huge sycamore limb across Muddy Lane footpath early this morning, closing it for most of the day.  Fortunately it is half term for this school route.  Peter Woolhouse (left) brought cutting equipment to the scene and managed to clear a path through by mid-afternoon.  He said the branch weighed several tons and needed careful handling as it was perched on a neighbouring tree.

Date/Time : Monday, 28th October 2013 17:35

University in Poland studies Whitchurch planning

Aleksandra Goldys is a researcher at Warsaw University and a member of a team assessing local planning techniques used across Europe.  Browsing community sites in England some months ago, she came across the Whitchurch Web and was impressed by the information she found, including our Village Plan.  She also liked what she could see of the community and decided to pay us a visit.  Yesterday she arrived and after a guided tour of the village discussed planning with members of the Parish Council (picture, with Harry Butterworth and Keith Brooks).  This morning, she discussed how our Village Plan was prepared with Stephen Trinder, its principal author.  She was particularly impressed that the Plan was put together by people living in the village, with advice from a charity, the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council. 

Aleksandra had also visited Portugal where she said local planning tends to be more ‘top-down’ than our community-led approach. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th August 2013 16:19

Radio Times writer selects his ‘perfect riverside village’

BBC journalist and presenter Robin Lustig is pictured in the Radio Times this week, admiring the view of the mill pool from Whitchurch toll bridge.  He writes: “If you had to imagine what your perfect riverside village would look like, this is it, just across the river from Pangbourne, and with a toll bridge as well.”  His recent walk along the full length of the Thames will be featuring in the World at One on Fridays on Radio 4.  

The same issue of the Radio Times, by coincidence, carries a full page picture of Dr Lucy Worsley, daughter of Professor Peter Worsley of Hardwick Road.  She gave a talk to a packed village hall in June. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 01st August 2013 15:57

Whitchurch firm helps keep Gemini telescopes in shape

Two of the world’s largest optical telescopes work as a pair, one on a mountain top in Hawaii (left) and the other at high altitude in Chile.  Their 8-metre-diameter mirrors weigh 22 tonnes each and are supported on sophisticated bearings which keep the flexible mirrors in a precise parabolic shape as they search the sky.  Crucial to the operation is an array of hundreds of components known as load cells.  Each load cell contains an electronic device enabling the calibration to be adjusted remotely.  The load cells need to behave identically; if one of them fails, images from the telescope lose their focus. 

The electronic devices were designed and made in the late 1990s by Agritron, a specialist scientific equipment maker in Whitchurch. This month Agritron received a request to provide a further supply of the devices for the telescopes.  Director Harry Butterworth said they were delighted to be involved again in the Gemini project and were currently examining their original design to make sure they could make identical units.   

Date/Time : Thursday, 25th July 2013 11:07

Ancient stone axe unearthed at Village Green

Pete Woolhouse was recently throwing out a bucketful of stones that he and John Southey had picked up while planting hedges around the new car park at the Village Green.  Among them he was amazed to see what he thought was a primitive hand axe (photo).  It was a knapped flintstone and fitted comfortably in his hand.  He washed off the earth and showed it to his wife Sally. 

Eric Hartley was able to shed further light on the find thanks to his recent research for a talk to village schoolchildren.  Several of these axes, the earliest known tool worked by man, have been found in the village: two at Bozedown Hill, one of which is in the British Museum, and three in Swanston Field.  The axes were used for butchery — stripping flesh from hides — and are considered to date from the Early Stone Age, between 150,000 and 250,000 years ago.  Our predecessors in those days were hunter-gatherers known as homo erectus.

Postscript:  Margaret Hatton says that two of the Swanston Field hand axes were discovered in 1984 when her husband was double-digging a border in their garden at No 15.  They were found at a depth of 18 inches.   

Date/Time : Sunday, 30th June 2013 13:12