News Archive

Proposal for £2 extra per household per month to help fund the police

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld (pictured), would like our support for an increase in the police element of the council tax by about £24 a month. 

All Whitchurch residents are eligible to take part in a short survey, which can be found here.  It is open until 5 pm on Wednesday 9th January. 

More information: 

On Thursday 13 December the Home Secretary announced the provisional police funding settlement for 2019/20. In response to the exceptional operational demands on the police, particularly in areas such as Thames Valley, the Government is increasing the funding available to PCCs by up to £813 million. However, this is provided all PCCs increase the police portion of the council tax by £2 a month or £24 a year (equivalent for a Band D property), which, collectively, will raise £509 million of the £813 million increase in funding. 

Anthony Stansfeld said: “The Thames Valley Police budget has been cut by £101 million over the last eight years which has resulted in significant cuts to police officer and staff numbers. This year the Government has encouraged all PCCs to raise the policing element of the council tax precept for all households. To prevent further damaging cuts to policing and restore some important frontline policing capability I would like to make use of this Government advice and raise the council tax precept accordingly.

“Demand on police forces nationally has risen significantly in the last year as a result of an increase in non-crime business, higher crime numbers, the increasing complexity of crime, and the increasing reach of criminals both physically and via technology. Throughout this Thames Valley Police has been efficient and effective but having already faced significant cuts since 2010/11 the process of identifying new cash savings is becoming ever more challenging. However, we are committed to making policing even more efficient and have already identified over £4m of new savings in 2019/20.

“My focus for the future continues to be on delivering strong neighbourhood policing for all of the communities across the Thames Valley whilst addressing the serious threats and hardship posed by criminals. With this in mind the extra cash generated from the proposed increase in council tax will be spent on operational policing. The draft budget for 2019/20 includes additional funding to increase local frontline policing, recruit more investigators and improve contact management with the aim to reduce call waiting times on 101 calls.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 30th December 2018 11:28

Carol singing at The Ferryboat

Large numbers attended the Community Carol Singing event at The Ferryboat on Saturday evening.

Arranged and hosted by landlord Graham Dednum and featuring the brass ensemble from Pangbourne Silver Band led by Stewart Lewins, the event gave an opportunity for communities from our village and beyond to join together to sing many well-loved carols. 

Children enhanced the event with their performances of Away in a Manger and Jingle Bells, heralding the arrival of Father Christmas with gifts of sweets.

The event in the courtyard of The Ferryboat was first held in 2012.  It has become an increasingly popular feature of Christmas in Whitchurch, raising funds each year for our local church and schools.

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd December 2018 18:11

Final replacement bricks installed at the Maze

Yesterday morning Pete Woolhouse, who laid all the original bricks in the Maze, was back in action laying the last four named bricks in the current phase of work.  He is seen with his wife Sally in the centre of the photo.  Also in the photo are Leslie Prater (on the left) who inspired, organised and helped finance the recent campaign for new and replacement bricks, and Nick Brazil (right) who came up with the idea and design for a brick maze back in 2004. 

Leslie Prater said he wished to thank the bricklayers Phil Wise and his son Alec, who had done a great job of replacing 661 frost-damaged bricks, 50 of them named, and installing 149 bricks with new names. 

The Maze field is maintained by volunteers at monthly sessions from April to October. Sally says that more volunteers would be warmly welcomed. The next session will be in April and details will appear in What's On.

Photographs of earlier events at the Maze can now be seen in an updated article on the About the Village page – here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd December 2018 09:48

The Whitchurch Web team wishes you a very Happy Christmas

We hope you’ve enjoyed visiting the village website this year. We have a stunning Christmas card for you to open, thanks to local photographer Dave Olinski.

We would like to thank the many people who have provided news, photos and messages throughout the year. 

Hilary, Pam, Phil and Richard

Date/Time : Thursday, 20th December 2018 12:14

142 Bus now runs on Wednesdays and reaches hospital

Going Forward Buses has expanded its 142-8 service to include two buses on Wednesdays, as well as the two buses on Saturdays.  The times are 09:59 and 13:59 at the stop opposite The Greyhound. 

As at present, the route is via Whitchurch Hill, Crays Pond and Cane End to Caversham.  Then across the river to the Kings Meadow Tesco, Blagrave Street, Friar Street and Station Road in Reading. 

The return services leave Blagrave Street at 12:15 and 15:45. 

From yesterday, the route has been extended to include the Royal Berkshire Hospital. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th December 2018 15:11

Church packed for Christmas concert

St Mary’s bells were ringing yesterday evening as the church gradually filled to capacity.  Inside, the band struck up for the fifth annual Concert of Christmas Music featuring The Ferryboat Brass and organised by Graham Dednum.  Special guest this year was international singing star Barbara Allen (pictured), from California.  Also taking part were the children of the Whitchurch Primary School Choir. 

The 25-strong brass band directed by Kelvin Ketteringham raised the rafters with festive sounds while the audience did their best to compete, singing half a dozen familiar carols and two well known songs. 

The children’s choir, coached by Lucy Lombos, charmed everyone with their singing of less familiar numbers. Barbara Allen gave the audience six solo songs as well as one with the children, conveying a strong Christmas message.  Sue Matthews read a Candlelit Carol accompanied by the band.  The Reverend Claire Alcock rounded off the event with her thoughts for Christmas and congratulated Graham on his concert organising skill. 

As they made their way home after the two-hour event, surrounded by a myriad of twinkling lights on church and trees, the audience were able to admire the newly themed boat on the High Street. 

Proceeds from the concert, which was attended by more than 300 people, will go to St Mary’s Church, the Primary School and the Pre-School Group.  There is another opportunity to sing carols with a brass ensemble - at The Ferryboat on 22nd December.

There are photos in the Gallery.

Date/Time : Monday, 03rd December 2018 14:02

Hit-and-run collision in High Street

Yesterday evening at 6.47 pm Leslie and Dave in their High Street house Mallards heard a huge bang and went outside to see that their parked red Toyota had been hit by a Mercedes, belonging to another village resident, which had been parked some distance away but was now wedged between their car and their house.  Looking more closely they saw that a third car had smashed into the back of the parked Mercedes and propelled it forward against the Toyota.  The driver of the third car, which is thought to be a dark-coloured saloon, had driven off but left two clues on the ground: the registration letters “S” and “B”. 

The police have been informed.  CCTV footage at the toll bridge is being studied.  If anyone has information they can report it to the Police by phoning 101.

Photo taken by Jim Donahue.

Date/Time : Friday, 30th November 2018 09:32

Shaggy dog wins art prize for Under-6s

The judges thought long and hard on Friday evening about the entries for the Under-6 Art Prize in the annual Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition.  Finally they agreed unanimously on a painting by Harold Brazil, aged 3, that showed imaginative composition, good use of colour and no sign of any help from a grown-up.  Entitled My Paw Prints, it was an entry in this year’s hotly contested theme ‘Dogs’ for the Joyce Voysey Prize. 

Scarlet and her twin sister Tess were thrilled to hear that Harold had won 1st Prize.  It was they who had put paint on the paws of Nick Brazil’s dog and persuaded him to walk over the paper to create the unique canine artwork. 

The exhibition judges Peter Driver, Debbie Page and Julian Belmont were invited from outside the village and were not familiar with any of the entrants.  On learning that Harold was a dog, rather than a talented child, they were momentarily taken aback but quickly rallied and strongly defended their choice of winner, explaining that the artwork had all the necessary qualities to win the prize. 

The photo shows Scarlet and Tess with Harold after today’s prize-giving.  Harold, who is blind in his right eye, appeared to enjoy all the attention. 

Nick Brazil said he was very proud of his Collie cross, who had been an unwanted stray in Ireland, but not completely surprised at the latest turn of events as Harold hailed from the land of poets, bards and artists. 

Whitchurch Society chairman Peter Smith said he was delighted that the judges had recognised the undoubtedly authentic but hitherto hidden talents of Harold, who might have been influenced by the early works of Jackson Pollock. 

Exhibition organiser Sally Woolhouse said that bearing in mind that Harold would have two more years to compete in the Under-6 category, the committee might have to consider introducing a new category next year reserved for pets. 

Harold’s painting can be seen here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 25th November 2018 19:37

Double whammy stops traffic on bridge

A car occasionally breaks down on the bridge and the driver of an HGV lorry occasionally arrives at the toll booth wondering how to turn round.  Either of these events causes a traffic delay. During the evening rush hour yesterday both events happened at the same time, causing exceptional frustration to drivers held up on their journeys home. 

An Austrian HGV lorry had come down the hill and appeared at the toll booth at 5.15 pm, followed by a long line of cars. The driver, who spoke limited English, was told that as his vehicle would not be able to pass under the low Pangbourne railway bridge he should carry on across the toll bridge and turn around at the Thames Avenue / Pangbourne Club intersection.  That is the Bridge Company’s standard procedure to minimise traffic delays now that the bridge is strong enough to take HGVs. 

After a three minute discussion the articulated lorry set off across the bridge. Unfortunately there had just been a minor collision between two cars at the far end of the bridge, which had left one car with a severely damaged front wheel, partially blocking the road.  Traffic flow in both directions stopped while the lorry driver tried to manoeuvre past the stranded car.  At around 5.40 pm he succeeded and was able to drive into the car park of the Pangbourne Club where he remained overnight.  The car continued to cause delays until it was eventually removed later in the evening. 

Bridge Company director Geoff Weir said today that it is important to realise that the Company cannot prevent large lorries from arriving at the bridge.  The Company believes that letting southbound lorries cross and turn is the best way to minimise traffic congestion in the village.  It was regrettable that yesterday the Toll Collector received a considerable amount of abuse from delayed drivers who seemed unable to control their frustration. 

Geoff said that he would be reporting the lorry owners to Trading Standards with a view to a prosecution, though for foreign lorries this is not as straightforward as for UK-registered ones. 

Recently co-opted parish councillor Warren Beard commented that this is the fourth time in the last few months that an HGV has come in to the village, most probably following inappropriate Sat Nav systems, and he wondered whether better signage near the Crays Pond junction would help, with additional signs continuing toward Whitchurch Hill.  Also perhaps hefty fines should be imposed on HGV drivers arriving at the bridge, which might even raise money for village projects.  He said that yesterday his wife Olivia and Carrie Leadbetter-Hart had spent time talking with delayed drivers in the High Street, which had helped to reduce congestion and to limit ‘road rage’.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 20th November 2018 16:06

New names joining those already at the Maze

The response to the offer organised by Leslie Prater earlier this year, for more people to have their names recorded in the village archive at the Maze, was such that 149 new named bricks were subscribed for at a cost of £20 each.  This week Phil and Alec Wise started on the work at ground level. 

Leslie explains: “First there are 661 frost-damaged bricks to replace.  Of these, 50 have names engraved on them and these are being replaced free of charge.  Then, thanks to the generosity of many people, there are 149 new engraved bricks.  I could never have achieved my objective without the enormous help that I have received from Sally and Pete Woolhouse.  I am also grateful for the support of Alex Hilton and his Whitchurch AFC parents.” 

The photo above, taken by Nick Brazil today, shows, from left, Alec Wise, Sally Woolhouse, Leslie Prater and Phil Wise.  There are more in the Photo Gallery. 

The work follows the two Saturdays in the summer when volunteers scrubbed the existing bricks. (See news archive 28th July and photo gallery 4th August.)

Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th November 2018 15:46

Village hall gets helping hand from Grant Thornton

Eight staff members from the Reading office of business consultants Grant Thornton have been brushing-up on their decorating skills in support of a local community project – the renovation of our village hall. Working under the guidance of Jean Marc Grosfort, who organised the event, teams of volunteers spent two weekdays (6th and 7th November) painting the main hall, renovating the stage and sorting out the kitchen.  Keith Brooks and Richard Scearce, fellow members of the Village Hall Management Committee with Jean Marc, assisted. 

Keith said “We are very grateful to Grant Thornton and their employees for taking the time to come to our village and make our village hall fresh and bright.  Most of all we are indebted to Jean Marc for setting this up!  We hope to continue with our program of renovations in response to the comments made in the recent village questionnaire which will encourage more people to use this important village resource”.

The photo above shows Jean Marc on the left, with some of the volunteer decorators.  There are more photos in the Gallery.

Date/Time : Friday, 09th November 2018 16:52

Elisabeth Napier-Munn, 1926–2018

Elisabeth Napier-Munn, who lived for many years at No 1 Duchess Close in the High Street, has died at the age of 91 on 17th October.  A Memorial Service will be held at St Mary’s Church at 3 pm on Friday 9th November.  The family invites all who knew her to attend. 

Born in 1926, Elisabeth Deane married John Napier-Munn in 1959 and they moved to Whitchurch in the following year.  There are two children, Simon and Tamsin, and three grandchildren.  In his retirement John Napier-Munn served as editor of the Whitchurch Bulletin and died in 1994 at the age of 77.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 07th November 2018 11:33

Commemorating the end of World War One

The Centenary of the Armistice will be commemorated by a 9.30 am service at St John's, Whitchurch Hill, this Sunday 11th November. 

The service will be followed by an Act of Remembrance at the Whitchurch War Memorial at 10.45 am.  Here everyone will receive a special commemoration booklet called "Silence...we will remember them" produced by the charity Hope Together

Rev Claire Alcock says she warmly welcomes those of all ages to either or both of these events.

SODC has issued a Temporary Road Closure Order, which will be in operation from 10.45 to 11.10 am, for the "B471 from its junction with Hartslock Bridleway to approx halfway between its junction with Lower Hitch Road."  Emergency vehicles are allowed through.

Date/Time : Monday, 05th November 2018 21:16

Meeting held to discuss future of Eastfield House (UPDATE – Crowd Funding Appeal launched)

The parish council held an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday 30th October to discuss widespread concern in the village at the potential deterioration of Eastfield House as each planning application is followed by another, and to decide what action can be taken to safeguard the building, both in the short term with regard to fire risk and in the longer term.  

The meeting was well attended and there are draft minutes which can be found, attached to the normal October minutes, on the Parish Council page. 

Meanwhile the 80 letters of objection to Ross Healthcare’s plan to demolish the building have been joined belatedly by 22 letters of support for the application.  All were registered by SODC on 22nd October and share the same format, with three variants of the printed text, signed by people with addresses in Reading, Woodley, Tilehurst, Henley, Wargrave, Twyford, Bracknell, Aylesbury, Thame, Slough, Theale, Nuffield and Maidenhead. Some residents of Eastfield Lane who are affected by the proposals have been speculating on the manner in which these letters appear to have been organised.

Update, 6th November:  A crowd funding appeal has been launched in the village today by objectors to Ross Healthcare’s plans.  The intention is to hire a specialist planning consultant to act as the representative of the village at the forthcoming SODC planning committee meeting, the date of which has yet to be announced.  All objectors to the demolition of Eastfield House are invited to register their support - full details here.

Update, 10th November:  The parish council is planning to help arrange transport for those wishing to attend the SODC planning committee meeting.  The matter will be discussed at the parish council meeting on Tuesday 13th November.  If you are happy to drive and offer a lift to others, or would like a lift, or would be interested in a minibus if one were available, please email the parish clerk.

Date/Time : Monday, 05th November 2018 21:01

Walking to school made safer

On Sunday a small team of volunteers cleared an overgrown length of the verge on Eastfield Lane.  Keith Brooks, Charles Cotgreave and John Bradon can be seen in Gill Goodwin’s photo. 

John Bradon comments:  “In the Village Plan survey, several parents had shared concerns about the traffic along the lane and this will make it possible for children to walk on the verge or pavement all the way along to the school. We hope this will help but, of course, drivers will still need to remain especially careful at the start and end of the school day, both on Eastfield Lane and Hardwick Road.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 31st October 2018 10:40

Packed coffee house for Poppy Appeal

The Old Stables was filled yesterday morning with record numbers attending the Art Café in aid of the British Legion’s Centenary Appeal.  Every seat was taken and every cake consumed.  Nearby, the colourful poppy-covered boat, decorated by members of the Thursday Knit & Stitch sessions organised by Gill Williamson, was helping to attract visitors. (See Photo Gallery.) In its floral summer form the boat had already won recognition for MOWS founder Leslie Maynerd from the local branch of Britain in Bloom.  In its new form, yarn-bombed to support the Poppy Appeal, it has attracted many admiring comments.  

British Legion local organiser Diana Marriott said that Saturday’s Art Café had generated the record amount of over £500.  That would be added to the funds being collected door-to-door and in the village's two pubs.  She said that in her 30 years of organising the appeal there had never been a more fruitful year and she wished to thank both those helping in the Art Café and also the dedicated and long-serving Whitchurch team of 11 door-to-door collectors.

Date/Time : Sunday, 28th October 2018 17:46

Village sign mysteriously reappears (UPDATED)

Yesterday (Saturday) evening the pictorial village sign that was stolen from Hardwick Road in mid-August was found, left anonymously on Councillor Keith Brooks’ doorstep.  It is in good condition and Keith (pictured) says he and Pete Woolhouse, who had put back the original simple sign in September, will be restoring it to its position at the village entrance, this time using special security bolts.

At their 9th October meeting the parish council had voted by 3 votes to 2 to order a replacement pictorial sign.  The order will now be cancelled.

Update, 29th October:  The mystery has been solved.  Neil Huntington, walking along Hardwick Road with his wife Julie on Saturday afternoon, spotted the sign in undergrowth near the Maze.  He took it to Keith’s house for safekeeping and knocked at the door but there was no answer.  He says: “It was lying flat, face down, about 12m beyond the white fencing at the entrance to the village in the undergrowth between the road and the maze. I spotted it when I stood on the verge to allow a car to pass through. It was not completely hidden, so I am surprised that nobody had previously seen it. It may have been moved to make it more visible, but who knows!”

Date/Time : Sunday, 28th October 2018 15:41

MP John Howell is concerned about Eastfield House (UPDATED)

Opposition to Ross Healthcare’s plan to demolish Eastfield House and rebuild a much larger care home seems to have developed further with the intervention yesterday of Henley MP John Howell.  

Mr Howell has written to the Head of Planning at South Oxfordshire District Council, recalling their earlier decision to refuse the proposal to demolish almost all the building but retain the front façade, saying “the key issue appears to be that this current application seems to have total disregard for the previous decision.” 

The letter can be read here.

Update, 23rd November: Representatives of Ross Healthcare have asked us to point out that Mr Howell has not formally objected to the proposals.  In a Henley Standard report of 12th November, which can be read here, Mr Howell is quoted as saying  “The plans are insensitive and don’t take account of the location.  This is a situation where the two sides must work together to reach a compromise and, at the moment, the developer’s position is not a good compromise.”

Date/Time : Friday, 26th October 2018 14:05

Le Jazz Hot is coming

Thanks to a joint venture by our local twinning associations, a soul, jazz and swing band of 15 musicians will hot foot it from Elbeuf-sur-Seine, France, to play in Pangbourne Village Hall at 8 pm on Friday 2nd November. 

Ian Bruce of the Whitchurch Twinning Association says: “We have teamed up with Pangbourne Twinning Association to present an exciting evening of entertainment from France.  The fifteen musicians in the EMIJ Soul Band (including vocalists) play soul and standards with great flair and energy and had the Whitchurch twinners dancing in the aisles on a visit to La Bouille a couple of years ago.”  

The doors will open at 7.30 pm. The ticket price is £10. There will be a bar with wine, beer and soft drinks.  Here is the event poster.

Tickets are on sale at Garlands Organic shop, High Street, Pangbourne.  (Alternatively, from Ian Bruce (07879 405 559) or from Antonia des Forges (07971 859 594) 

At their suggestion, the band will also play at Whitchurch Primary School early on the Friday afternoon.

Date/Time : Sunday, 21st October 2018 12:27

Open meeting on Eastfield House, 30th October (UPDATED)

An Extraordinary Parish Council Meeting has been called for 8 pm on Tuesday 30th October, in the Old Stables, to discuss the issues and agree a plan of action with regard to the future of Eastfield House.  

The meeting is open to all. The Agenda explains the background and lists eight questions raised by village residents for discussion.


Update, 22nd October:  The draft minutes of the monthly parish council meeting on 9th October, with discussion on Eastfield House, can be read here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 20th October 2018 16:21

Plans for Village Hall revealed

All the windows of the Village Hall have been replaced recently with double glazed PVC ones, at a cost of about £7,000, improving both insulation and appearance.  Now, following a survey this summer, the Village Hall management committee has prepared further plans for the building.  

Jean Marc Grosfort and Keith Brooks describe the next steps as they see them: 

The management team is aiming to get several more jobs done before the end of this year:

  • Paint the inside with a team of volunteers.

  • Clean all storage spaces, kitchen and cupboards and reorganise crockery.

  • Employ an electrical engineer to check the electrical system.

  • Employ a gas engineer to check the central heating system.

  • Re-do the notice boards.

  • Organize a new board showing the history of the building, starting with the presence of the Canadian Air Force in WWII. 

In Spring next year we would like to present investment grant applications to various associations and groups (SODC, Awards for All, etc) in order to raise part of the finance needed.  A meeting with SODC has already taken place and Awards for All has been contacted. Part of the financing will need to be obtained via fund-raising events to be organised after March 2019.  We would aim to have most the funding in place by autumn 2019 and all works done (subject to funding received) by April 2020. 

Why are we aiming for this…..? 

  • The Village Hall should be the community centre for a village such as ours, where groups, associations meet and where social activities are promoted. With better facilities we would expect to attract much more of these and this would enable us to cover all running and maintenance costs for the village hall. 

  • With better facilities we would like initially to develop some social activities for the senior citizens living on their own in the village. We would like to start with some simple tea and cakes meetings so that our senior citizens could meet and spend together some good few hours, breaking their solitude. The intention medium term would be to see if with help of volunteers we could even organise quarterly (or monthly) small lunch and games or music for these citizens. 

  • With an upgrade of the stage we would like to invite small amateur drama groups to use the facility to promote theatre training and production.” 

There is more information on the Village Hall page of this website.  This includes a preliminary plan showing the team’s proposed list of tasks in order of priority, a list of the team members and the minutes of a recent meeting.  The parish council has so far agreed to spend £2,000 on the project (£1,000 per year) in addition to the £7,000 for the windows.

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue today expressed his appreciation of the work done by the Village Hall management committee but said that the scope and cost of the project would need to be approved by the parish council before it could be included in the Village Plan currently being drawn up.  He said that parish councillors are aware that the cricket pavilion project would also be at the fund-raising stage during a similar period and that the two projects would need to be coordinated.  He pointed out that the parish council has at least agreed to support the team submitting grants for the work, which is why an extra £1000 per year has been committed.  The final scope of the project will depend on what grants are approved. 

Date/Time : Sunday, 14th October 2018 11:16

Hundreds of Ultra-runners expected tonight

Seen in the High Street this afternoon, event volunteer Ilsuk is setting up red and white flags to guide runners along the Thames Path later today. About 250 Ultra-runners will be on their fourth out-and-back 25 mile route from their HQ at Goring village hall and will have run about 80 of their target 100 miles by the time they reach Whitchurch. The lead runner is expected at around 11 pm, followed by the rest of the field through the night.  Having reached Reading on their fourth route they will retrace their steps, returning through Whitchurch to Goring. Some of the field may be on the move for more than 12 hours in the dark.

Our village hall will be in use as one of 16 aid stations along the four routes. By comparison, a marathon is 26.2 miles long.

The Autumn 100 event is organised by Centurion Running – more details here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 13th October 2018 18:03

Parish council rejects plans for Eastfield House

Yesterday's parish council meeting (9th October) was packed with residents wanting to have their say during the 30 minutes allocated to discussion of Ross Healthcare’s current planning application for demolition of Eastfield House and its replacement by a new care home several times larger.  All those who spoke objected to the plans. 

Parish councillors unanimously agreed to submit an objection to South Oxfordshire District Council.  Various grounds for objection were discussed, the key points being: 

  • The building is of historic merit, important to Whitchurch, and it is situated in a conservation area that was specifically drawn to include it.  Demolition is unacceptable.

  • The proposed replacement building is unacceptably massive for the site.

  • High Street traffic has changed for the worse since the applicant’s transport statement was submitted, making the narrow part of the lane much more difficult to negotiate.  The serious access difficulty is obvious and the danger to school children is also clear. 

  • The number of parking spaces (15) is inadequate for a 48 bed care home and would result in vehicles overflowing into the lane.  Since the application was made, the bus service, which some staff were expected to use, has ceased.  Access and turning for large service vehicles would be particularly awkward. 

  • Potential flood risk, groundwater and sewerage problems have not been adequately addressed, and this has been highlighted by the 2014 sewage flooding of the lane and nearby houses.  The applicant has not discussed the issue with Thames Water. 

  • The overlooking of Swanston Field houses would be unneighbourly and unacceptable.

  • The planning history shows evidence of ‘creep’ towards a larger and larger facility. There is concern that this insidious process continues.

  •  The proposal contravenes the criteria for village development agreed in the 2009 Village Plan. 

Parish chairman Jim Donahue said that the fact that the planning authority had received more than 80 letters of objection from local residents showed an unprecedented and conclusive rejection by the community of Ross Healthcare’s plans.

Some residents expressed concern that during the construction period, with a large basement being excavated and many heavy vehicles attempting to negotiate the narrow bottleneck of the lane, life will become difficult for everyone in Eastfield Lane for a prolonged period.  However, the meeting was told that temporary construction conditions, however inconvenient, do not constitute grounds for refusing an application.

Several residents have pointed out that an alternative future for the existing historic Victorian building, by converting it into a number of apartments, is likely to be perfectly acceptable to the community. 

The period of consultation has now closed, except for the parish council’s comments.  The SODC planning webpage, with its 80+ letters of objection, can be seen here.  The target decision date is 3rd December.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th October 2018 17:02

An Evening of Music on 20th October

This is a great opportunity to hear local musicians Clare Langan, Nick Leadbeater-Hart, Chris Alcock, Leslie & David Maynerd and Michael Howell, together with Andrea Kmecova-Vargas and Mark Dallas, as they perform An Evening of Music. Coming to St Mary's Church, Whitchurch, at 7 pm on Saturday 20th October. 

The musical and social get-together is organised by The Friends of St Mary's and St John's, a local independent charity, and it promises to be an evening of music for all tastes – popular, jazz and classical – played on flute, guitars, saxophone, cornet and piano, with a symphony on the organ as a fitting finale. 

Tickets for the event cost £12 (or £6 for under-16s) and can be obtained from Graham Dednum at The Ferryboat, or from any of the Friends trustees: Keith Williams, Tim Suiter, Paul Witcher, Gordon Painter and Sally Woolhouse.  Tickets include drinks and nibbles.

Keith Williams says: “The Friends intend that the proceeds from this event will go towards the refurbishment and restoration of the famous St Mary's Church clock, which has not been in working order for about 20 years.  It is hoped that the Whitchurch community will fully support this project and that before too long we will again be able to get an accurate time check as we cross the bridge and look towards our church tower!”

Date/Time : Friday, 05th October 2018 18:00

Whitchurch traffic has been measured

Over the course of a week data has been collected at three sites in the village – Eastfield Lane, Hardwick Road and Manor Road – to determine the patterns of traffic speed and volume. 

Ben Riordan, a member of the parish council’s Traffic and Pavements Group (TAPAG) says that the monitoring was done in the school term to provide data to enable TAPAG to help build a case for bringing in some form of traffic restriction and/or calming in the village.  These surveys are in addition to earlier surveys that took place before the school summer holidays, using cameras sited at either end of the High Street.  The parish council and TAPAG are currently looking at the data provided by the earlier surveys (the most recent not being in yet) and will be considering how to proceed. 

Last month the parish council discussed an offer from BP in Whitchurch Hill to contribute funding towards a traffic study in the village.

Date/Time : Friday, 05th October 2018 16:49

Clarification provided on Eastfield House demolition (Updated)

South Oxfordshire Planning Officer Joan Desmond has clarified that no permission has been given to demolish the Victorian building, in case there has been any confusion.  In a reply earlier this week to a query from District Councillor Rob Simister, she quoted the conclusion of her pre-application advice (which can be read in our news item of 10th September) and added that “I have not yet managed to consider the latest application in detail but note that the applicant has submitted a viability report to argue that the consented scheme is not viable and will not come forward and a Heritage Environment Assessment which concludes that the contribution the building makes to the Conservation Area is not sufficient to warrant its retention.  We will need to assess the information submitted carefully and I would anticipate undertaking an independent review of the viability report.” 

Meanwhile, comments from 15 village residents have been published so far on the SODC planning website.  All 15 object to the proposals.  Reasons given include the historic merit of the existing building, its inclusion in a Conservation Area, the large scale of the proposals, perceived deficiencies in traffic assessment and in flooding, groundwater and sewerage assessments, overlooking of houses in Swanston Field, and risk of overflow parking on Eastfield Lane. 

The time limit for those intending to comment is 5th October.

Update, 2nd October:  SODC has given Whitchurch Parish Council an extension of time, to allow them to submit comments after the meeting on Tuesday 9th October.

Date/Time : Sunday, 30th September 2018 14:01

Village Plan Survey results published

The results of the recent Village Plan Survey, to which 143 village residents contributed, have been published.  They will be used to guide the four working groups making proposals for the forthcoming Village Plan. 

John Bradon, who succeeded Jim Donahue as chair of the Village Plan committee in July, has written a summary of the findings. 

The full survey results, including the comments made by residents on each topic, can be found on the Village Plan page.

Date/Time : Friday, 28th September 2018 11:09

Travellers served notice (Updated again)

Pangbourne parish council is reported to have served notice on the travellers yesterday (Saturday) evening at around 10 pm, on a criminal charge, giving them 12 hours to evacuate the site. It is reported that they used a chainsaw to open the gate at the Dolphin Centre leading to the meadow. They are understood to be a different group from the travellers who were on the meadow in June.

The photo shown here was taken at midday yesterday. 

Whitchurch parish council took action last night to block the entrance to the village green, initially with the chairman's locked car and then early this morning, thanks to Jon and Lissie Steward, with the cricket pitch roller.   

At 10 am this morning there were no visible signs of any preparations for departure by the travellers. 

Update, 3.30 pm Sunday:  The travellers had moved on by noon today, with police attending their departure.  At the site, rubbish is scattered over a wide area. The damage by chainsaw to the Dolphin Centre's gate into the meadow can be seen in this photo. There are now reports of about 20 traveller vehicles in the area of The Moors or Moor Copse in Pangbourne, attended by police.

Progress on changing the law so that trespass is a criminal offence rather than a civil one, which would bring our law into line with Ireland's, was described in this article in the Daily Telegraph last month.

Update, Wednesday 26th September:  Earlier this week the travellers moved further on, this time on to property at Englefield, from which they are expected to depart today.  They are reported to have again been served with a Section 61 criminal eviction order.

[The Police can use Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to require travellers to leave if they are satisfied that two or more more people are trespassing on the land and the landowner has taken reasonable steps to make them leave (and they have failed to do so). In addition, one of the following also has to apply: damage has been caused to the land or property, or threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, his family or agent, or the trespassers have six or more vehicles.]

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd September 2018 09:30

Whitchurch football coach receives county award

Alistair Aitchison, AFC Whitchurch’s longest serving coach, has been awarded the Oxfordshire Football Association’s 2018 Respect Award.  The award is given to “a coach who is committed to creating a fun, safe and inclusive environment for all players, who inspires positive change, and always brings out the best in people.” 

Alex Hilton, chairman of AFC Whitchurch, says: “Alistair has been coaching AFC Whitchurch players for 13 years.  He is a balanced, fair and calm communicator setting a high bar that, as a team, they thrive to achieve.  This is a richly deserved award and we are delighted Alistair has been recognised for his years of selfless service to the club and village.”  

The photo above shows Alistair. The attached photo shows the Under-18 team from last year, coached by him from when they were 5 years old. The team has now been disbanded as the players have gone to university.  Alastair can be seen in the back row, in a blue cap.

Date/Time : Saturday, 22nd September 2018 15:45

Travellers are back on Pangbourne meadow

Travellers’ caravans and cars have this evening returned to the meadow near the Dolphin Centre from which they were removed on 26th June.  This time they are reported to have driven their vehicles further downstream and set up a camp further away from the bridge, possibly in National Trust land.  They are reported to be in larger numbers than before.  At the time of writing (7.30 pm) further vehicles are still arriving to join the group.  There are unconfirmed reports of damage to the gate leading to the meadow and of some aggressive behaviour.  

Date/Time : Friday, 21st September 2018 19:42

Equinox art project on time lapse video

Gill Williamson and Nick Brazil have produced a video showing the installation of the spiral patterns of totem poles decorated with terracotta, textiles, mosaics, metal and knitted objects now displayed on Pangbourne Meadow.

See the 2-minute video here.

More than 500 people were involved in creating the many elements of the project, which will be on display until the end of September.  More information here


Date/Time : Thursday, 20th September 2018 14:45

Revised plans submitted for Eastfield House care home

Once again, outline plans have been submitted by Ross Heathcare Limited (Majesticare) for redevelopment of the empty Eastfield House care home.  The current application is for complete demolition of the building and the construction of a much larger new one, similar to the scheme presented in the village hall in March this year.  (See our news item of 10th March.)

The plans can be viewed on the SODC website here.  One of them is in the picture on the left, which can be seen more clearly here, and shows the south elevation (facing Eastfield Lane) at the top and the north elevation (facing houses in Swanston Field) beneath. 

The number of beds planned is 48, compared to the present 27.  The planned floor area is 2,712 m2, compared to 848 m2 for the present building.  The number of car spaces is 15, compared to 9.  As in a previous application, the design of the façade copies elements of the Victorian architecture of the existing building.

The Design and Access Statement dated October 2017 included the following statements:  “In terms of scale, whilst the footprint of the current proposals has been amended in places over that of the previously approved scheme, the impact of the building from either the street or from neighbouring properties will be lessened over that which was previously approved.”……“Whilst demolition of the existing building may be seen as a drastic measure, it is felt that the proposed replacement maintains the contribution to the street scene and conservation area and therefore does not result in demonstrable harm.”

The pre-application advice of SODC’s Major Applications Officer, Joan Desmond, can be read in her letter of 17th April 2018, one of the documents viewable on the SODC website.  She concludes: “No evidence has been provided with this application that suggests that the conservation area would be preserved, enhanced or better revealed by the total demolition of Eastfield House. Nor has evidence been presented that suggests that previous officer and appeal inspector decisions were incorrect that those elements of the building that were always to be retained make a positive contribution to the area. If a full application is made for total demolition of the building, it must be informed by a Heritage Appraisal and Impact Assessment proportionate to the significance of the non-designated heritage asset and the conservation as per Paragraph 128 of the NPPF.”

Whitchurch residents may wish to submit comments during the present consultation period, which ends on 5th October 2018.

Update, 14th September:  Roger Pratap of Majesticare has pointed out that in response to the pre-application advice received in April a number of specialist reports were added to support the current application, including a detailed heritage assessment undertaken by their consultants Abbey Architecture. This concludes with statements that “rebuilding Eastfield House in the way proposed would result in no detrimental impact to the character and appearance of the site or to Eastfield Lane” and “Having viewed the application from a neutral position, my opinion is that the proposal will not harm the special interests of the Whitchurch-on-Thames Conservation Area. Consequently, there is no heritage environment reason why this application should not be approved”.

Date/Time : Monday, 10th September 2018 14:21

Second village sign stolen (Report updated)

The plaque displayed on the brick wall of the High Street opposite Eastfield Lane, commemorating the Twinning of Whitchurch with La Bouille, has been detached from the wall and stolen.  The Twinning Association is appealing for the its return.  Designed by the late Ray Honey of Swanston Field, the cast aluminium plaque was unveiled in 1985 and the cost of £187 was paid by the parish council.  The original location, to the right of the village notice boards, can be seen in this photo page.

It is not clear when the plaque was stolen but its absence was first noticed on 1st September.  This comes not long after the theft of the colourful new village entrance sign on Hardwick Road, stolen on 16th/17th August, which cost the community around £1000.  One resident speculates that the two signs may have been stolen around the same time, perhaps for the aluminium scrap value, and the absence of the plaque could have gone unnoticed for a while.

Anyone who can offer information as to the whereabouts of either the twinning plaque or the village sign is asked to report it to parish council chairman Jim Donahue.

Alternatively, information can be given to the Police, under crime reference number 43180274983. PCSO Mark Bell has been informed.

The photo page attached shows both the missing signs.

Report updated 8th September 2018.

Date/Time : Thursday, 06th September 2018 18:41

Controversial cobbles story reaches Private Eye

The almshouses at Goring Heath, also known as Allnutt's Hospital, were built in the 1720s.  Not long ago the trustees of the Grade I-listed building replaced the courtyard cobbles with a modern, smoother, bonded latex gravel surface for health and safety reasons.  These pictures show the courtyard before and after the work. 

When the trustees subsequently applied to SODC for retrospective planning permission they found some support from the planners but objections from Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society (OAHS) and from Goring Heath parish council. 

Private Eye magazine, in its Nooks and Corners feature, reports that the parish council is demanding that the trustees be required to reinstate the cobbles through enforcement action, and quotes Peter Dragonetti, chairman of Goring Heath parish council, as saying that “what had been a very charming and characterful setting for the almshouses and chapel… now looks like a shopping centre.” 

OAHS accepts that the courtyard cobbles were re-set in the 1970s but maintains that it is likely that the historic 18th century cobbles were re-used.  It also claims that no proper assessment was made of the safety risk, given that there are smooth pathways of York stone enabling the residents to negotiate the courtyard without treading on cobbles.

Date/Time : Monday, 03rd September 2018 19:13

Bus service is reduced to Saturdays only (Updated)

It appears that demand has not been strong enough, despite some financial help from two parish councils to Going Forward buses, to enable the service through Whitchurch to continue to run on weekdays.  The new timetable shows there are now just three services on Saturdays to Reading (via Whitchurch Hill, Crays Pond, Cane End, Caversham and Friar Street).  The service number varies during the journey from 145 to 146 and 148. 

Buses pick up at The Greyhound at 10.12, 13.07 and 15.12.  The return journey leaves Reading at 11.30, 14.00 and 16.15.  The trip takes 35 to 40 minutes each way. 

A number of regular users in Whitchurch have expressed their disappointment at losing the weekday service.

Update:  Mike Ward of Going Forward Buses has given a detailed response today to an enquiry from Hilary Jensen, saying he still hopes it may be possible to introduce a Wednesday service.  Read his frank comments on the difficulties of organising a bus service with a mixture of regular and voluntary drivers.

Date/Time : Friday, 31st August 2018 12:24

Hard ground threatens community art project

Help is needed for this year’s Equinox art project after the exceptionally dry summer.  Organiser Gill Williamson says: “Last year the Art Cafe Together community yarn-bombed Whitchurch Bridge, come rain, come wind, come shine.  But this year the weather is defeating us - we have 84 posts to put in the ground of the Pangbourne meadow soon and right now the ground is very hard.  We badly need some help from someone who has the right equipment to make holes for the posts.” 

Click here to see the appeal and pictures. 

Over 500 people have been making and decorating the clay pots and at least 5000 visitors are expected to enjoy the colourful spirals - but only if the problem of drilling holes and driving posts in hard ground can be overcome.  If you can help, or you know someone who can, please contact

Date/Time : Friday, 24th August 2018 17:32

Tickets on sale for Outdoor Cinema event

Whitchurch Pre-School has announced that an Outdoor Cinema event will be held on the village green on the evening of Friday 14th September. 

Colette Rinaldi gives the details: 

We will be screening the blockbuster The Greatest Showman on a big screen.  A cash bar and food will be available, all with the aim of raising vital funds to support our Pre-School.  The event is kindly sponsored by Lamborghini Pangbourne and Warmingham. 

VIP tickets are priced at £25 (including welcome drink and nibbles, chair and blanket in our VIP area plus film), or standard film entry at £15.  Tickets are available to buy in person at The Ferryboat in Whitchurch and at Garlands in Pangbourne (cash only please) or you can email and we will request payment via bank transfer. 

If you are interested in advertising or sponsorship opportunities then please contact us here. 

Here is the poster for the event.

*See a trailer for The Greatest Showman.

Date/Time : Saturday, 11th August 2018 10:25

An opportunity to add new names to the Maze

Now is your chance to add your name to the village archive at the Maze!  A second restoration project is underway for this much-loved and unique feature in Whitchurch.  The existing bricks are getting a face-lift at two sessions (Saturday 4th and Sunday 19th August, 2 pm) and then those bricks that have been damaged by frost will be replaced by new sponsored engraved bricks, at a cost of £20 each. 

The brick maze was designed and turned into reality by local resident Nick Brazil.  He came up with the original idea in 2003 and it was officially opened on 27th June 2004.  The named bricks were sponsored by individuals and local groups.  Peter Woolhouse laid all 2,650 bricks as well as working with Nick on the detailed plans, with lots of volunteer effort digging the trenches and earth moving. 

In 2013, a restoration project was initiated by the Parish Council and the Whitchurch Society to replace some of the frost-damaged bricks.  The community were invited to sponsor more named bricks and approximately 160 additional names were added in this second phase, whilst retaining the original layout of the maze. 

If you would like to place an order for one or more engraved bricks for family and friends and even for your pets, please contact Leslie Prater by email or phone him at 984 5230 by 29th August

Finally, please come along to help with one of the face-lift sessions on 4th and 19th August – more details here.  It will give you a chance to find familiar names of friends and neighbours, and to order your own brick(s) to join this great bit of Whitchurch history! 

News item by Sally Woolhouse.  The photo shows named bricks being added in 2013.

Date/Time : Saturday, 28th July 2018 15:35

Volunteers make improvements to village green

A working party was in action today (Sunday 22nd July), organised by the Village Green Working Group and guided by Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs. 

Parish councillor Keith Brooks said afterwards: “A big thank you to all who turned out this morning to tidy up the village green entrance area.  We set about cutting back the bushes and smartening up the area by the entrance to the car park.  We also trimmed the new hedge and cleared the pavement leading up to the school.  Now people can walk along the pavement and are not forced into the road.  I would like to see some more clearing on the opposite side of the road to improve the safety of walking along Eastfield Lane.  There will be opportunities for people to join future working parties at dates to be announced.  This time we had representatives from the Primary School, WoTHabs and the Village Plan Working Group, as well as other village residents.  We achieved a lot in a short space of time so once again thank you all.” 

The picture (which is shown enlarged here) was taken by Tim Suiter and shows Gill Goodwin, John Bradon, Charles Cotgreave, Tim Hardwick, Leslie Prater, Gavin Jones, Keith Brooks and Laura Lucas.

Date/Time : Sunday, 22nd July 2018 18:43

Parish Council agrees support for 142 bus

Following the news that the 142 bus service will be reduced to two round trips per working day, the Parish Council agreed this week to provide financial support of £100 per month for a trial period of three months to Going Forward buses.  Goring Heath Parish Council is also understood to have agreed a subsidy.  It is hoped that this will enable the present schedule to be maintained. 

At the same meeting on 10th July it was agreed: 

  • to appoint Owens Galliver Architects, based in Pangbourne, to provide planning and design services for the new pavilion on the village green.  Three firms had submitted offers.

  • to raise funds towards buying new kitchen equipment in the village hall.  New windows and doors have already been ordered and are expected to be installed in August.

  • to provide a picnic table and bench for the new Polish garden at the top end of Manor Road.

Date/Time : Friday, 13th July 2018 13:06

Look out for spiral totem poles in September

Last year the Whitchurch bridge was “yarn-bombed” in a hugely popular community art project.  This year Gill Williamson, founder of the Art Café, has announced a follow-up in the form of Equinox Together.  Colourfully decorated pottery cylinders made by local schools, community groups and individuals, will be on display on the Pangbourne river meadow, threaded on to spiral patterns of poles, from 15th September. 

More information here.   And there is a short video.  

Date/Time : Monday, 09th July 2018 13:23

The 142 bus service is to be reduced

The 142 bus service from Goring to Reading and back, through Whitchurch, has not been attracting enough passengers.  From 8th August the weekday service will be restricted to one round trip in the morning and a second in the late afternoon. The services between those times will disappear. However, on Saturdays the off-peak services will continue. 

Mike Ward, director of Going Forward, says he is sorry that the route has not attracted anything like enough passengers and is running at a substantial loss. There are more details on the company's website. The changes are all subject to approval by local authorities.

The Henley Standard has a recent article on Going Forward bus services.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 03rd July 2018 15:58

Drafts of local history go online

For many years local historians have been putting together a detailed village-by-village account of Oxfordshire’s history.  The Victoria County History website now has links to six draft texts, with pictures and maps, on the villages of the South Oxfordshire Chilterns.  These include Goring, Gatehampton, Elvendon, Cray’s Pond and Goring Heath, including the Goring Heath Almshouses (picture). 

The author is Simon Draper.  Once this volume is published he will be turning his attention to Whitchurch Hill and Whitchurch on Thames.  Vicky Jordan of the Whitchurch & Goring Heath History Society says that members of the society are looking forward to contributing to the project. 

You can see the texts here.  If you wish to comment on any aspects of them, you can contact the author here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 30th June 2018 15:22

Pangbourne granted possession order on meadow

Following the serving of a claim on the travellers who had moved their caravans on to Pangbourne meadow on 13th June, a court hearing took place yesterday, Friday 22nd June, at which Pangbourne Parish Council was granted a possession order on the meadow. This is expected to be enforced early next week at the latest, according to the Council. 

Meanwhile, in Whitchurch, action has been taken to block the Eastfield Lane entrance to the village green.  The entrance gate to Muddy Lane and the maze from Hardwick Road is also normally locked. 

Reading West MP Alok Sharma has launched a petition to make trespass a criminal rather than civil offence, after various groups of travellers recently “settled on sites in Tilehurst, Theale, Calcot, Southcote, Coley and Prospect Park.”  BBC Berkshire had a report on this yesterday. There is also a national petition of a similar nature here, which is over halfway to reaching the 10,000 signatures needed to ensure a government response.

Update, 25th June:  Pangbourne Parish Council said this afternoon that eviction is expected tomorrow morning (Tuesday), following the serving by Sheriffs of the Order of Possession and the Notice of Enforcement. The travellers are said to have told Police that they have identified a "local" site to move to.

Further update, Tuesday 26th June:  Police were on site this morning, after most of the vehicles had left. The few remaining travellers departed, reportedly in the direction of Reading, and a clean-up task now awaits the attention of the authorities. There are some photos in the gallery.

There is a report that the travellers have moved only a short distance and have now parked their caravans in the area behind Pangbourne Primary School, adjacent to Sulham Lane, where a fresh landowner will now need to start the legal process of obtaining an eviction order.  

Date/Time : Saturday, 23rd June 2018 17:48

Travellers arrive on Pangbourne meadows

Several caravans were parked today on the Pangbourne meadows.  One report said that the travellers had informed police they intended to stay for a week.

Update, 14th June: Parish council chairman Jim Donahue reported yesterday evening:

"I have just had a briefing from Rob Holden, Chairman of the Pangbourne Parish Council, and the situation is as follows:

-       There are approximately 6 caravans.

-       These are NOT the gypsies that were recently evicted from Theale and Englefield Estate who have been reported to be causing trouble locally. ("gypsies" is the term West Berkshire Council says should now be used.)

-       These gypsies are from the Reading area, most recently from a Richfield Avenues site.

-       The West Berkshire gypsy liaison officer’s advice is that these are not troublemakers if not provoked. The lock to the gate to the meadow was compromised but they deny breaking it.

-       Rob notified them today that they are not welcome on the site as landowner of the site giving them 48 hours to vacate. Based on advice  from WBC that they are not a particular threat, he has not gone down the route of serving legal notice yet which is a process that costs £8000 to initiate in West Berkshire.

-       He is expecting the police to take action in the next few days and is hopeful that they will move on in a cooperative manner, but he will serve formal notice next week if the situation is not resolved. In this case they would have 1 to 2 weeks before being formally ejected."


The Reading Chronicle published an article on 14th June about current discussions between Pangbourne Parish Council, West Berkshire Council, the Police and the travellers.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 13th June 2018 20:06

Remembering Michael Screech (Obituary from The Times added)

Professor Michael Screech, who died on 1st June at the age of 92, had lived in Whitchurch with his wife Anne, at their house in Swanston Field, for more than half a century. He is survived by his wife, who is now in a care home, and by their three sons Matthew, Tim and Toby. 

Michael Screech was born in Plymouth and served in East Asia during the Second World War, becoming fluent in Japanese.  On return to England, he studied French and in time rose to the position of Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.  His distinguished academic career centred on French literature of the Renaissance period, and he is best known for his translation of the Essays of Montaigne published by Penguin Classics.  In 1992 he was made a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honour.  He was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1994. 

Michael and Anne moved to Whitchurch in early 1962 with their two young sons Matthew and Tim, and Toby was born shortly afterwards.  Michael was Church Warden of St Mary's for many years, and played an active role in securing a primary school within the village in the mid-1960s.  He was a parish councillor and a member of the Whitchurch Society.  When the Hillside housing development was underway he sat in the trees, along with others, an action which secured the magnificent beech that spreads its branches high above Hardwick Road.

Thanks to Tim for providing information on his father’s life.

Update, 3rd July:  A service of Thanksgiving was held in All Souls Chapel on Thursday 28th June. This was attended by almost a dozen past and present residents of Whitchurch in a capacity congregation of almost 100, including his former assistants Pam King, Sonia Wakely and Sally Horton. Learned Addresses were made by eminent academics and by Michael's three sons, Matthew, Tim and Toby, all brought up in the village. The service was jointly conducted by Dr John Drury, the Chaplain of All Souls, and by Rev. Richard Hughes, former rector of Whitchurch.

Update, 21st July:  The Times has published an obituary.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 12th June 2018 10:54

Discover St John’s – explore the church and churchyard

The Friends of St.Mary's & St.John's are holding an event at St John’s, Whitchurch Hill, on Sunday 17th June from 2 pm to 5.30 pm.

"It is open to everyone and is for all age groups." explains Keith Williams, chairman of The Friends. "There will be a Wildlife Trail in the churchyard, looking at butterflies, moths and flowers. There will be a History Trail for church explorers.  The little church has an interesting history and there will be people there to explain it.  Refreshments will be served across the road at Goring Heath Village Hall." 

The event will be followed by a Cheese & Wine Evening at Goring Heath Village Hall from 6 pm to 8 pm.  This is also open to all, with an opportunity to make a donation at the door.

Date/Time : Sunday, 03rd June 2018 16:24

Successful first sing-along for WotSing

Whitchurch’s fledgling community choir, known as WotSing, took advantage of the opportunity to let rip yesterday evening with some familiar songs such as Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music and the Beatles’ Hey Jude.  Leader Graham Dednum drew promising sounds from an enthusiastic group, who were warmly welcomed by Geraldine Witcher to St John’s Church, Whitchurch Hill.  She said the venue had been chosen for its well-tuned piano and good acoustics, emphasising that no one is required to read music or have any previous experience.  They just need to enjoy singing. 

Geraldine on piano and Leslie Maynerd on saxophone provided the accompaniment. 

Graham and Geraldine said they hoped that more members of the community would come along to these friendly, monthly get-togethers, which last only an hour, including a refreshment break.  The date and venue for next month will be announced soon.  To express interest, send an email

WotSing has a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Date/Time : Friday, 01st June 2018 17:26

Mapledurham view spoiled by new fence

Eric Hartley was walking his dog through Bottom Wood on the Hardwick Estate on Saturday.  He arrived at the edge of the wood, expecting to enjoy the well-known and delightful view towards the village of Mapledurham, and found that a new fence had been erected on the hillside, seriously affecting the view.  He says he was most surprised and wondered why the Mapledurham Estate, owners of the land, had considered it necessary to fence the public footpath here.  He is also concerned that more fencing may be planned. 

Eric says he has written to the Estate, which is owned by Mr Jack Eyston, asking for a review of the need for a fence.

The location of the fence can be seen here.

Date/Time : Monday, 28th May 2018 12:01

Pedestrian safety at the toll bridge

Among the speakers at a well attended Annual Parish Assembly in the village hall on Thursday (24th May) was Whitchurch Bridge Company director Geoff Weir.  He had two items of good news to report.  First, the white railings on each side of the road on the Pangbourne embankment will soon be repainted.  Second, a traffic calming scheme is to be introduced.  The 20 mph limit in Pangbourne will be extended across the full length of the bridge to the toll booth, pro-active “Slow Down” signs will be installed and the rumble strip alongside the kerb will be reinstated. 

However, many members of the audience expressed concern on learning that the Bridge Company’s plan to widen the road on the curving Pangbourne embankment, by which the footpath becomes a safer place for pedestrians, has no firm date for implementation.  Also that the ‘walkway through the trees’ scheme put forward in 2016 is no longer favoured. 

Geoff Weir said that it has turned out that the main difficulties for all these schemes are the potential impacts on trees and the absence of adequate records of accidents to pedestrians.  Recent progress of pre-application discussions between the consultants Peter Brett Associates and West Berkshire Council is reported in the current Whitchurch Bulletin (viewable on this website) and on the Bridge Company’s website. 

Members of the audience spoke of recent incidents involving pedestrians and wing mirrors that clearly demonstrated the hazardous conditions.  Geoff said that the Bridge Company has asked for any such incidents to be reported immediately at the toll booth.  Vague reports are not enough to convince the planning authorities that the safety benefits of a scheme outweigh the harm to the landscape.  Even the detailed spreadsheet of 16 incidents to named people submitted by TAPAG in 2011 is considered anecdotal evidence.  Signs have been displayed at the bridge since 2012 requesting written reports.  

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue expressed his unhappiness with the slow progress on a widening scheme.

Date/Time : Sunday, 27th May 2018 11:16

Up the hill for the Whitchurch Hill fete this Saturday (UPDATED with a report)

It seems that there is no definite news yet about a Whitchurch-on-Thames fete this year, but those who want to make sure of not missing the experience will be most welcome at the Whitchurch Hill fete which starts at 2 pm this Saturday 26th May on the recreation ground next to St John’s Church. 

Organiser John Gray says "The Fete will have a Concert Band, Tea Tent, Bar, Children's Races, Fairground Attractions, a Raffle with excellent prizes, Coconut shy, Punch & Judy Show, Ferret Racing, Tombola, Dog Agility Show, a wide range of  Stalls and the legendary Egg Throwing at the end. Plenty of free Car Parking at the Castrol Car Park - drive up the hill and you'll spot the Car Park Signs." 

One of the stalls will represent the Whitchurch & Goring Heath History Society.  Vicky Jordan says that the Society’s range of local history books will be on sale and there will also be a treasure map.  

The Whitchurch-on-Thames fete has been successfully organised for several years by successive groups of parents at the Whitchurch Pre-School.  Last year it was held in early September.  Parish councillors are currently trying to clarify whether something can still be arranged for this year.

Update, 27th May. John Gray reports:

The Fete went very well, good weather helped bring a large attendance and an enjoyable day was had by all. Whitchurch-on-Thames was well represented, with visitors both to the event and stalls. The Pre-School and Primary School had their own stalls, as well as local Societies (History, Twinning, Allotments). Peter and Sally also had the popular 'Clockwork Jukebox' in action, playing some Classic Jazz. And a particular thanks to Graham at The Ferryboat for his continued support for the event and his always generous Raffle Prize - the lucky winners will be enjoying an excellent meal there soon!

AND... don't miss this video of the fete made by Nick Brazil.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 23rd May 2018 17:41

Hole in High Street wall finally under repair

It is nearly nine months since a reversing Range Rover created a large hole in the 250-year-old brick wall of The Walled Garden House, opposite The Greyhound, on 28th August 2017.  But a bricklayer employed by insurance specialist Roywood Contractors of Tilford, Surrey, is now nearing completion of his careful rebuilding of the ancient wall. 

The bricklayer, who has forty years of experience, points out that the impact coincided with a curved feature known as a ‘horse’s nape’ where the level of the top of the wall changes.  He needed to remove this suspended portion of the wall before starting the rebuild.  But fortunately he has been able to re-use most of the curved bricks, which would have been difficult to replace. 

The owner of the wall, Stan Remington, says he understands that the work has been delayed by the insurers in order to avoid any risk of frost damage. The rebuild is being done using lime mortar to match the original.  The wall is three courses thick and some of the inner bricks are lighter in colour.  He is confident that in time the repair will not be obvious, though he thinks it will take a few years for the colour of the rebuilt area to darken and match the existing wall. 

Date/Time : Tuesday, 22nd May 2018 20:57

Sun shines on wedding celebration (Updated)

The tea party on the village green in celebration of the Royal Wedding on Saturday went with a real swing provided by the Roy Bailey Big Band and drew many outdoors after the TV coverage of the wedding.  Union flags decorated the gazebos and would have fluttered, given half a chance on such a warm, still afternoon. 

Two young members of John and Lissie Steward’s growing flock of Zwartbles sheep stole the show for many children (photo). 

Yesterday parish council chairman Jim Donahue thanked Lissie Steward for her role in getting the event up and running and for helping to bring in the many volunteers who lent a hand on the day.  He said:  “I know that none of it would have happened without your leadership and initiative.  Thank you for all your hard work.  It is volunteers like you that help us create a sense of community in our wonderful village.” 

Nick Brazil has produced a three minute video of the event, to the mellow sound of the RBB band.  This includes Leslie Meynerd on alto sax. 

Don’t miss Jim Donahue’s display of photographs of party goers, which can be seen here.

Update, 1st June:

The Henley Standard has written an article about the party.

Date/Time : Monday, 21st May 2018 10:42

Community singing date announced

The first get-together of the new Whitchurch singing group WotSing will be in St John’s Church, Whitchurch Hill, on Thursday 31st May from 7.30 to 8.30 pm. 

Clare Donahue and Geraldine Witcher are hoping for a big turnout and say that those attending can expect to enjoy singing some well known numbers from musical shows: “We hope that WotSing will be a truly community-run choir, drawing on the diverse skills of our amazingly talented residents.  We really look forward to meeting you on 31st and to sharing our mutual passion for music and singing.” 

All are welcome.  The poster can be seen here.

Date/Time : Thursday, 17th May 2018 18:59

Whitchurch friends take on Jurassic coast challenge

The team of six walkers is Trudi Benzie, Beth Baxter, Fiona Ackworth and Angela Sidhu, all from Whitchurch, together with Anna Cao from Whitchurch Hill and Gill Sefton from Reading.  They are in training already, preparing to take on the challenge of a 62 mile walk on 21st-22nd July.  The charity they are supporting is Diabetes UK. 

Trudi comments: 

"The team is taking on the adventure of the Jurassic Coast Challenge, a stroll along the wonderful Jurassic coast of a mere 100km from Poole to Bridport straight through, stopping only for water, food and perhaps a couple of loo stops! Starting our epic challenge at 7am on 21st July, we’re aiming to come over the finish line, possibly in time for breakfast on the 22nd, but definitely in time for the pub opening!

The team has been training hard, with at least 1 walk a week, movement workshops with Running Reborn and, to date, 2 long training walks of 50 and 57km. Endless kit discussions have taken place, many a blister had and plenty of nice breakfasts and coffee consumed.

This epic challenge is being taken on in aid of Diabetes UK - please read Beth’s story on the JustGiving page. We'd welcome your support and Diabetes UK would love the cash should you wish to sponsor us. Oh and just for the record, normally at around 45km some of us actually run out of conversation!!"

Date/Time : Tuesday, 15th May 2018 12:31

New Parish Council chairman

At the Parish Council meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Jim Donahue was elected  chairman. The outgoing chairman, Councillor Keith Brooks said:

I have enjoyed my role as chairman for the last three years; it has been an honour and a privilege to serve the village and I intend to continue my work as a councillor; I wish Jim success in his new position. “

Chairman Jim Donahue made this statement this morning:

“It is an honour for me to be selected as chairman of the Parish Council in our wonderful village. I will do my very best to ensure our Parish Council is working effectively to support the needs of Whitchurch on Thames.

I'd like to thank Keith Brooks, our outgoing chairman, for his past 3 years in the role.  He has worked tirelessly as chairman, most recently tackling the new village grass cutting and maintenance contract in addition to the Village Hall refurbishment improvements. When there are things that need to be done in the village, Keith is always the first one to roll up his sleeves with a couple of volunteers and get things done, whether it is repairing the broken windows in the Village Hall, a broken gate on Muddy Lane or installing a new fence in the Polish Garden (which I understand he is doing today).

We have dedicated and passionate parish councillors here in Whitchurch on Thames and I am sure that we will continue work well together, and grow stronger as a team, to achieve our ambitious agenda for the coming year; this includes improvements to the Village Hall, starting work on the new Village Green pavilion, and supporting the development of our updated Village Plan.

I am looking forward to working with Rachel Hatcher, our new vice-chairman with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating on the Village Plan. Rachel is also leading a team of residents to find solutions for the long standing traffic and parking issues along the High Street.

Councillors  Dave Bowen, Denise Huxtable and Sarah Hanfrey and our now well-established clerk Felipa House are, I am sure, no strangers to you.  I am confident that our Parish Council will be one that can deliver for our community. 

Finally, I'd encourage each resident to have a look at the document recently developed by the Village Plan team that lists all the improvements we have made to the village over the past eight years as a result of the 2009 Village Plan. I am very proud of all of the things we have accomplished as a village but I am also aware that there is still much to do."

Date/Time : Thursday, 10th May 2018 13:37

Jazz Night at the Old Stables this Friday (Who

Local group Wotjam started up three years ago and they rehearse every Friday morning at The Old Stables.  All are welcome at their Jazz Night, 7.30 to 10 pm, Friday 11th May at The Old Stables, opposite The Ferryboat.  The £5 entry includes a drink and nibbles. All welcome - no need to book.

Leslie Meynerd says the group will be showcasing a selection of numbers worked on this year, in an informal jazz club atmosphere.

Update, 15th May:

Those playing on the 11th were:

Drums - Andrew Last
Bass - Tim Walker
Guitar - Martin Dix 
Tenor saxes - Jan Buhagier and Clive Downs
Alto saxes - Colin Heaven and Leslie Maynerd 
Violin - Anna delnevo

Date/Time : Saturday, 05th May 2018 15:16

Football club parents and children get to work

Whitchurch Football Club made a successful effort last weekend to improve the condition of the football pitch on the village green.

Alistair Aitchison reports: 

On Saturday afternoon we had around 20 parents from the football club come with their children for the annual spring work party.

We re-turfed the goals, re-set and painted the goals, re-hung the nets, seeded the worn turf areas, cut the grass around the goals and nets, marked out the pitch and put a manhole cover over the new tap.

It was a great event and the pitch is looking much better as a result.  Thank you to the parish council for their excellent support. 

There are photos in the Gallery.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 02nd May 2018 09:35

Dr Oppenheimer retires

After more than 32 years as a GP at the Pangbourne Medical Practice, Dr Matilda Oppenheimer retired yesterday. 

An ‘Open House’ farewell was held at the Boathouse Surgery for all her patients and friends and a large number called in to say goodbye and thank you. 

Joanna Knott, Chair of the Patient Participation Group, says: 

For many of us it was a very sad day as she has been the most wonderfully kind, caring and capable doctor and her cheerful smiling face will be much missed by her patients. Not only has she been an excellent GP but she has also led the Practice extremely well, making the Boathouse Surgery one of the best in the country. 

To recognise all that she has done for patients in Pangbourne and the surrounding villages, the Patient Participation Group commissioned a watercolour painting of the Boathouse Surgery viewed from her home village of Whitchurch, which was presented to her at the farewell event. 

In expressing her thanks, Dr Oppenheimer said it had been a real privilege to be let into people’s lives and she would miss working with her many patients.

Date/Time : Sunday, 29th April 2018 15:10

Youths leave trail of painted graffiti (six CCTV images added)

On Sunday morning (22nd April), scribbles were found painted on various walls and other surfaces in Pangbourne and Whitchurch, including the toll bridge. 

Around 9 pm on the previous evening a group of about six youths, some with rucksacks, were seen near the bridge, before a car (possibly a grey Chrysler Grand Voyager) picked them up at the toll booth. 

Anyone who can offer information on the graffiti damage is asked to phone 101 and report it to PCSO Mark Bell. 

The photo shows the bridge being pressure-washed only eight days ago. Bridge director Geoff Weir said the contractor would be returning next Wednesday to try to remove all the marks.

Update, 26th May: Six CCTV images were made available by the Bridge Company today showing pedestrians crossing the bridge shortly after 9 pm, who might be able to help police with their enquiries. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 25th April 2018 16:34

Volunteers wanted for churchyard tidy-up

The Friends of St Mary's & St John's are holding a churchyard work session at St Mary’s on Saturday 21st April from 10 am until about midday.  Tim Suiter says that volunteers will be most welcome – just turn up and bring tools suitable for trimming shrubs or trees.  Afterwards you will be rewarded with a free tea or coffee and a delicious slice of cake at the Art Café. 

Date/Time : Monday, 09th April 2018 16:32

Majesticare to make Eastfield House more secure

Steve Oakes, Director of Majesticare, has today written an open letter to the residents of Whitchurch and asked us to publish it: 

Eastfield House Care Home 

Following the public consultation held at Whitchurch Village Hall in March, we have taken the opportunity to review the feedback received from the many attendees on the day.  We are grateful to everyone who attended and those who completed a comment form.  We received a wide range of feedback and are reviewing its content in detail to assess how and where elements can be incorporated into the proposals.  We were encouraged by some of the very positive and supportive responses received on the evening, though we respect the fact that others were opposed to the plans as they currently stand. 

A very clear message that came out of the consultation was concern about anti-social behaviour associated with the site.  Whilst we have previously invested in secure fencing to secure Eastfield House we recognise that this has not been as effective as we would have wished.  Therefore, we are taking further steps to secure Eastfield House.  These include: 

  • Securing and boarding up remaining accessible windows
  • Installing CCTV with remote monitoring to deter intruders 

Whilst this work is being done we have also instructed the contractors to undertake a tidy-up of the site to address concerns raised about the current visual impact.  We will make sure to continue to keep the community updated on progress. 

Once again, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in the consultation and share their views on the proposals.  We remain committed to working with the community to deliver a scheme that will be a real asset to the village. 

Yours faithfully

Steve Oakes


Date/Time : Friday, 06th April 2018 16:09

Work on beech hedge to benefit wildlife

Further efforts are being made towards recovery of the beech hedge near the school that featured in our item of 7th January (“The beech hedge that got away”).  Here are photos taken before and after the tree-cutting, and of recent work. 

Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs reports: 

A Corridor for Wildlife:  A small working party has now strengthened the line of the hedge by using some of the cut brushwood across the gaps.  It is hoped this will both allow the healthy growth of new shoots to fill those gaps and in due course encourage wildlife.  We have left several openings for going in and out, and are optimistic that the children will understand the value of helping us regenerate areas of habitat for wildlife.  At home time the schoolchildren who stopped by to help us showed great interest in what we were doing and why.

Date/Time : Thursday, 05th April 2018 11:04

School to hold Open Forum on 18th April

Whitchurch Primary School is currently facing a financial challenge, caused by a reduction in funding at a time when costs are rising.  Chair of Governors Eleanor Sugrue and Head Teacher Dawn Chesters say that there are several options on how to proceed and have written to parents and members of the local community inviting them to discuss the choice.  An Open Forum will be held at the school at 7 pm on Wednesday 18th April for this purpose. 

The letter says: “Understanding your preferences, concerns and how we can harness the collective support of the community will enable us to make the best budget decisions for the school.” 

Read the full letter here.

Date/Time : Friday, 30th March 2018 17:39

Volunteers clean up the village

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks reports:
On Saturday morning volunteers gathered outside the Greyhound to clean our streets as part of the Great British Spring Clean. This was originally scheduled for early March but cancelled due to the snow. It was a great success. Keith Brooks and Tim Hardwick cleaned the upper High Street up past the war memorial to the Whitchurch Hill sign, Leslie Maynerd looked after the lower High Street, John Bradon took care of East Hardwick Road and Manor Road, Leslie Prater tidied up Eastfield Lane and Sally and Peter Woolhouse spruced up West Hardwick Road. We collected a lot of debris including bottles and cans and a couple of tyres: this will all be collected next week by BIFFA. This is an important event which helps to keep on top of litter in Whitchurch and it should continue annually to ensure that the village continues to look smart and rubbish-free.
The photo shows five of the seven volunteers, from left: Tim, John, Leslie M, Leslie P and Keith.

Date/Time : Sunday, 25th March 2018 16:22

Village Tea Party on 19th May

To celebrate the Royal Wedding on Saturday 19th May all Whitchurch residents are invited to a tea party on the village green.  The well known Roy Bailey Big Band, expected to be 19 strong, will be playing between 3.30 and 5.30 pm.  Come along with all the family and enjoy the music together with tea, biscuits and cakes. 

Having a village party to celebrate Harry and Meghan’s wedding was the idea of Lissie Steward (Reed) and Leslie Maynerd.  It will follow the successful format of the parties for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the Queen’s 90th Birthday in 2016. 

All those attending will be expected to bring either a cake or a plate of biscuits to be shared with others.  The tea will be provided without charge but a small donation towards the Pre-school will be happily accepted. 

Volunteers will be needed for various tasks, including:

  • Setting up the marquee and chairs for the band
  • Setting up gazebos and tables to protect the cakes from the sun.
  • Decorating the marquee and gazebos with bunting and flags (even an American flag or two?)
  • Serving the tea (in shifts of half an hour) 

If you can lend a gazebo for the day that will be much appreciated. 

Volunteers are asked to contact the coordinator Lissie Steward on 07751 789 107.  She looks forward to hearing from you. 

The photo above shows some village residents enjoying the Diamond Jubilee tea party in 2012.  There are more pictures in the photo archive under the dates 25.6.12 and 12.6.16.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd March 2018 10:57

Unusual auction sale of a field and two bungalows (UPDATE: field is sold for £153,000)

Three Whitchurch properties have been simultaneously placed on sale by Savills National Auctions, London W1.  They are a field of nearly two acres with a long River Thames frontage and two bungalows, all of them reached from the private road at the east end of Eastfield Lane. 

The auction takes place in less than two weeks time, on Monday 26th March, in London. 

The location of the 1.89 acre riverside field, to the south of the primary school, can be seen in the picture above.  The guide price is £75,000. Details 

Also situated to the south of the primary school are the two bungalows: a 3-bedroom bungalow in a 0.3 acre plot and a 2-bedroom bungalow with 2.8 acres of land.

All three properties are understood to have been bequeathed to the National Trust by Whitchurch resident Joan Hope, who died in 2015 at the age of 95.  She was born in Whitchurch and lived in the village all her life, inheriting several properties. She had no heirs. (See our news archive item of 16th February 2015 for more about Joan Hope.)  It appears that the National Trust has now decided to capitalise on the gift.

Update, 27th March 2018: At Savill’s auction yesterday the riverside field sold for £153,000, more than double the guide price.  The identity of the new owner is not known.  The bungalows also exceeded their guide prices, selling at £570,000 and £675,000.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th March 2018 15:11

Abandoned car still obstructing traffic (UPDATED)

The crashed car hindering the flow of traffic and abandoned with one wheel partly on the pavement near the entrance to Church Drive was reported to the Police by a High Street resident on 8th March.  The Police said they had been in touch with the owner who told them it is not drivable and the insurance company will come to collect it. 

Today, six days later, the grey Ford Fiesta Zetec, GP52 MXH, is still in the same location and continues to cause an obstruction to traffic, particularly in the rush hour.  At yesterday’s parish council meeting PCSO Mark Bell was asked if he could possibly do something to have it removed. 

Further up the High Street there is another car, partly on the pavement, which may also be abandoned and has been reported to police.  It is another greyish Ford Fiesta Zetec and appears driveable. 

Parish Chairman Keith Brooks said “It’s bad enough having so many cars parked along the High Street nowadays.  We certainly don’t want any abandoned ones adding to the traffic difficulties.”

Update, 15th March:  Caroline Leadbetter-Hart clarified today that the crash happened on 28th February at 11.15 pm and she spoke to the driver and passenger who were not injured.  It appears that the Police PCSO who visited on 8th March decided that the car was not causing an obstruction, which is a surprising decision, and in that case it may be up to OCC to remove it. 

Update 20th March: The car has been removed, nearly three weeks after the crash.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th March 2018 13:19

Coombe Park plagued by unwanted visitors

It seems that the recently reported painting of graffiti on the Coombe Park gates in Manor Road is not the only problem on the estate this year. 

Richard Krupinski lives in a house in Coombe Park and is a brother-in-law of Martyn Deaner, the maritime services entrepreneur who used to own the 125 acre estate, which was bought by a London property company in 2015.  Mr Krupinski said last week that there had been an influx of intruders earlier this year after word went round about the empty mansion.  This happened several months after Coombe Park had gone on sale for £10 million last October and after a Henley Standard article in December. 

Last year there had been occasional instances of people trespassing on the estate, he said, but in January he was surprised on one occasion to find 20 or 30 young people in the mansion's conservatory.  They turned out to be members of a loosely organised group who share information about breaking into derelict buildings, taking photographs inside and publishing them on websites.  The group is called 28 Days Later, or 28DL, after a 2007 post-apocalyptic film in which survivors wander abandoned streets pursued by zombies. 

He said he had spoken to one young woman who said she had visited many interesting sites and had recently flown to Majorca to photograph the interior of a disused hospital. Destruction of property does not seem to be the aim of these people, he said, though a skylight window had been broken in an attempt to gain access to the boarded-up building. He thought most of the intruders were teenagers. 

Mr Krupinski said that initially the Police had responded but later they had asked the property company to provide its own security.  In recent weeks the entrance gates in Manor Road have been padlocked and security personnel have been living on the estate, which is still advertised for sale, providing 24 hour cover. 

With its variety of rooms, Coombe Park seems to be highly rated by young 'explorers'.  Mr Krupinski thought the graffiti on the gates might have been painted by 28DL enthusiasts, alerted by information on their website, hoping to visit the property but frustrated by the padlock. Though the painted graffiti featured swastikas and ‘NF’ marks, he understood that police did not think there was any political significance.

Update, Monday 12th March:

There have been two more intrusions despite the presence of security personnel and electronic devices.  Last Thursday, smoke rising from a chimney led to the discovery of young people drinking brandy and burning one of the fitted cushions in the fireplace of one of the grand rooms.  On Saturday two middle-aged men and a younger person were exploring the property with the aid of a drone and a cine camera.  In both cases the intruders were escorted off the premises and the police informed. 

Date/Time : Monday, 12th March 2018 09:26

Plans for Eastfield House presented

There was a big turnout in the village hall on Thursday to see Majesticare’s latest plans for their Eastfield House care home.  Eastfield Lane residents, parish councillors and many others came to find out what the owners were planning to do about the empty and decaying Victorian building, which has been subjected to intruders and vandalism.  Representing Majesticare were: Roger Pratap and Steve Oakes, directors and sole owners; Pasquale Nicosia, head of development; and Emma Fielder, manager of the company’s care homes in Henley and Wargrave. 

There is now a long trail of planning history.  In 2010 Majesticare submitted plans for a large extension at the rear of the existing building, increasing the number of bedrooms from 27 to 45.  This was refused by SODC but the company successfully appealed in 2013. 

In 2015 Majesticare submitted two new sets of plans, involving an increase to 50 bedrooms.  The first involved the complete demolition of the existing building and the construction of a replacement for it, together with the new rear extension. The second was similar but with the existing historic facade preserved in its position while the rest of the building was demolished and rebuilt behind it.  Both these applications were refused by SODC. 

On Thursday Majesticare presented another set of plans and answered questions.  There is the same rear extension as before and a complete demolition of the existing building. The proposed rebuild (architect’s image above) is intended to copy the existing architectural shape and materials of walls, roof and chimneys, and would aim to re-use the stone surrounds of windows and entrance door, and the stained glass window.  The western end of the existing building would incorporate a larger, modern entrance.  The ground floor would be slightly lower than at present to reduce the steps up from ground level.  A larger basement would be excavated than in earlier plans, enabling three more en suite bedrooms to be added at higher level and pushing the bedroom count up to 48.  The basement would accommodate the kitchen, laundry, staff changing room, hair salon, therapy room and cinema. 

Reactions from those attending varied from acceptance to outright rejection.  Some asked whether a distinguished Victorian building located in a Conservation Area and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be allowed to be demolished and rebuilt.  Majesticare now have an opportunity to consider the comments written on their questionnaires before they apply for planning permission.  They say that if permission is granted they would envisage re-opening the home in 2020. 

There will be the usual opportunity for formal comments to be submitted to SODC once an application has been submitted and the consultation period has started.

Meanwhile, there has been active discussion of the issue on Facebook.

Updated 19th March: a PDF of Majesticare's exhibition boards can be seen here.

There is a Henley Standard article dated 19th March here

Date/Time : Saturday, 10th March 2018 10:45

Coombe Park gates defaced with blue paint

Sometime on Monday night vandals attacked the locked gates leading from Manor Road into Coombe Park, spraying blue paint on the brick pillars and on the iron gateposts.  Police have visited and examined the site. 

Anyone with information that might help the Police with their enquiries is asked to phone 101 and report it. 

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks said today that PCSO Mark Bell is planning to attend the parish council meeting next Tuesday evening when vandalism, and what to do about it, can be discussed.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 07th March 2018 18:01

Whitchurch Primary School’s high standard recognised

Headteacher Mrs Dawn Chesters has received a letter from Rt Hon Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, congratulating her, the staff and pupils of Whitchurch Primary School on their very high standard of achievement in reading and mathematics in last year’s SATS assessments.

The letter states: “Your school’s results, as published on 14 December, show that 100% of your pupils reached or exceeded the expected standard in reading and mathematics at the end of key stage 2. This means that your school is in the top 1% of primary schools in England for attainment in reading and mathematics.”

Date/Time : Friday, 02nd March 2018 18:34

Jerry, Denise and the Academy Award return from Hollywood

Jerry Huxtable is now back at work after a once-in-a-lifetime trip.  His wife Denise says “We had a great time and the awards ceremony went very well.  It was held at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, which is the 'Pretty Woman' hotel in Beverly Hills, and hosted by Patrick Stewart. We had time for sightseeing after the ceremony and especially appreciated the summery weather.” 

Here are photos showing the Huxtables and actor Sir Patrick Stewart in the grand ballroom of the hotel for the 86th annual Academy of Motion Pictures Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards earlier this month. 

As mentioned in our news item of 13th January, Jerry was one of five people jointly cited for their contributions to the design and development of the Nuke compositing system, which has become the most popular visual effects toolkit in the film industry. 

Following that news item, the Henley Standard contacted Jerry and wrote a comprehensive article, which can be read here.

Date/Time : Monday, 26th February 2018 09:22

Owners have new plans to demolish care home (UPDATED)

Many people have expressed concern at the deterioration of the empty Eastfield House care home, sometimes used as an adventure playground last year before the owners Majesticare fenced it off and the police put up signs. 

Earlier this month Majesticare attended a meeting at SODC offices in Didcot together with parish council chairman Keith Brooks and district councillor Rob Simister. 

Keith Brooks was keen to emphasise how concerned many Whitchurch residents are about the deterioration of the building, one of the finest old houses in the conservation area of the village, and about the apparent lack of any action. 

Majesticare said that they would shortly be presenting new plans.  These would again involve demolition of the existing building and the construction of a new one.  They would like to show the new plans to the village before making their next application.  The company believes it can persuade residents that this is the best solution.  No date has yet been set for a presentation. (See Update below)

In January 2015 (our news item of 10.1.15 gives the letter in full) SODC refused outline planning permission for demolition and rebuilding of the care home, giving three reasons:

1.  The building is of historic and architectural importance.

2.  The new north elevation overlooks neighbouring properties.

3.  Insufficient information was presented on groundwater and sewage flooding risks. 

It has been suggested that VAT regulations may be a factor that the company has to take into account as the tax is generally payable on a conversion but not on a complete rebuild.  However, HMRC apparently allows one façade to be kept where required by planning permission, without incurring VAT.

Update,1st March: A public exhibition will be held by Majesticare on Thursday 8th March in the Village Hall, from 4 pm to 8 pm, to show their plans for the care home and to answer questions.

Date/Time : Saturday, 24th February 2018 16:58

Resignation from Parish Council creates vacancy

Carrie Leadbeater-Hart has resigned from the Parish Council, citing work and family commitments.  She said “The council are doing a fantastic job and I’d encourage anyone who is passionate about our community to get involved.” 

Parish Council chairman Keith Brooks commented: “I am sorry that Carrie is leaving the Parish Council.  We will miss her very much as she has been involved in many of our projects, particularly with getting the new pavilion project off the ground.  We all wish her and her family the best for the future.” 

Information on the vacancy and details of how to apply to become a Whitchurch parish councillor can be found here.

Date/Time : Thursday, 22nd February 2018 10:50

‘Mill of a thousand secrets’

Some of our local historians will be aware that in the 1960s the Whitchurch Mill housed a secret product development unit run by wartime inventor John Dolphin, after whom the Adventure Dolphin Centre in Pangbourne is named. 

Roger Wright worked with John Dolphin in the development team for three years and is now retired and lives near Greenwich.  He has sent us a fascinating old magazine article, which he recently discovered, describing some of the work they were doing.  

It begins: “On one of the loveliest reaches of the Thames – far removed from the noisy clatter and grime of tube mills – stands the Mill at Whitchurch, Oxon, headquarters of Tube Investments’ hush-hush Product Development Unit. …The sleepy, dreamlike atmosphere of the Mill as seen from the nearby toll bridge can be misleading. … Come inside and you will find a compact, highly skilled team at work translating often revolutionary ideas into practical products.” 

The three page article Mill of a thousand secrets appeared in the Tube Investments company magazine of May-June 1967 with a cover photo of the building (above). 

The article reveals that in the 1960s Whitchurch was at the cutting edge of electric car development.  The Mark II version of the Tube Investments car had a range of 50 miles and a speed of 25 mph.  Roger’s job included road and track testing of the prototype but the little electric car never went into production. 

The article brings new insights to the history of The Mill, now a private house, and adds to the story on our About the Village page.

Date/Time : Sunday, 18th February 2018 18:05

Visit Normandy by luxury coach this May

La Bouille survived the recent River Seine floodwaters unscathed.  Now Vicky Jordan, chairman of the Whitchurch and Goring Heath Twinning Association, has announced the details of this year’s visit: 

“Our visit to La Bouille is fixed for 4th to 7th May, and our hosts are encouraging us to come with as many people as possible. We will have a luxury coach leaving Whitchurch at around 9am on the Friday, and we return about 10pm on Monday 7th. 

It’s our 40th year of twinning, so apart from staying in a delightful town on the banks of the Seine, we will be entertained at the Town Hall and have a special dinner together in the village hall. Our Sunday visit will also be a special one. We will go to Giverny, to see Monet’s garden, his house, and of course the water lilies – if they aren’t flowering, the wisteria on the Japanese bridge will be. 

The more people we have the cheaper it will be, but it won’t be more that £200, and children travel free. 

So, come and celebrate with us. 

We will be holding a “Tea Café” at The Old Rectory Stables in Whitchurch from 3pm to 5pm on Sunday 25th March where we will offer free tea and cake, a chance to meet some twinners, as well as information on the trip. In the meantime, you can express interest on or ring 0118 984 3260.”

There is more on the flyer.

Date/Time : Monday, 12th February 2018 18:17

Join in the nation-wide Spring Clean

Parish council chairman Keith Brooks says: 

“It's just three weeks until the Great British Spring Clean, set for the weekend of 2nd, 3rd and 4th March.  Now is the time to add your tidy-up to the map and show the world you're part of something big! 

Be part of this fantastic event and meet outside the Greyhound at 10 am on Saturday 3rd March to clean Whitchurch on Thames.  Gloves, pickers and refuse sacks will be provided.” 

The Great British Spring Clean is a campaign organised by the registered charity Keep Britain Tidy.  Its aim is 'to bring people across the country together to clear up the litter that blights our towns, villages, countryside and beaches'. 

Date/Time : Friday, 09th February 2018 17:33

Village Plan meeting next Wednesday 7th

Village Plan chairman Jim Donahue is encouraging residents to take an active role in planning Whitchurch's future.  He says...

We are having our next Village Plan team meeting this Wednesday 7th February, 8 to 9:30pm at the Old Stables. We will be discussing progress by the four working groups that were recently established.  New participants and anyone curious about what we are doing are welcome to attend.

Topics we will be discussing include:

  • Traffic and parking issues
  • Plans for village facilities
  • Plans of open spaces and pavements
  • How community activities could be improved
  • Progress on the last Village Plan Action Plan

We still need volunteers to help us with things like developing a survey to get feedback from the village, organising consultation sessions, and with skills in writing the final document including graphic design and publishing.”

The recently installed new village sign (pictured above) came in for criticism from those who thought it looked a bit odd to have the support poles protruding at the top. Jim Donahue asked OCC to correct their installation but little seemed to be happening. So he asked County Councillor Kevin Bulmer to encourage them and last week an OCC contractor came to shorten the poles.  The sign now looks like this.

Date/Time : Saturday, 03rd February 2018 14:50

Twin town La Bouille is braced for River Seine flood

Paris has been experiencing unusually high flood levels in the River Seine, as seen on the news recently.  Our twinned community of La Bouille is situated on the Seine downstream of Paris, where the river cuts through chalk hills near Rouen in Normandy.  Earlier this month its inhabitants were hit by high water levels, coinciding with high tides.  And now they are preparing for the arrival of the peak of the flood that has recently affected Paris.  

Vicky Jordan, chairman of the Whitchurch & Goring Heath Twinning Association, has sent a note of sympathy to Martine Cousin, Presidente of the La Bouille Twinning Committee.  

To see a video of the recent Seine flood in La Bouille, with a backdrop of huge ships gliding past the town, click here.  Scroll past the story about a body discovered in the river to the video entitled “Près de Rouen: La Bouille sous les eaux de la Seine”. 

This year it is the turn of the residents of Whitchurch and Goring Heath to visit their opposite numbers in La Bouille.  The event is planned for the weekend of 4th to 7th May.  If you would like to join in, contact Vicky

The Twinning Association AGM is tomorrow (Wednesday 31st) at 7.30 pm in The Old Stables.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 30th January 2018 15:35

Party suggested for royal wedding day

At its meeting this month the parish council discussed the idea of having a celebratory event on the village green on Saturday 19th May to mark the wedding at Windsor Castle, on that day, of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. 

Parish councillors are keen to know what people think of the idea.  Dave Bowen says: “The format could be similar to previous events with a picnic on the green, a band playing some music and people generally having a good time. It would be great to hear people’s ideas and especially hear from people who would like to get involved in helping to organise an event like this.” 

Dave can be contacted by email or on 07531 600 888.  Or comments can be sent to the message board.

Date/Time : Saturday, 27th January 2018 16:40

Two more village signs installed

Parish chairman Keith Brooks reports on the completion of the project to have new village signs at each of the three road approaches: 

“Today we had the remaining two new signs installed in the village.  I liaised with Mark Matthews from Kingdom Signs who produced and installed the signs, which include the design derived from those produced by the pupils of Whitchurch on Thames Primary School and an acknowledgement of our twinning with La Bouille in France.  The signs were paid for by the Parish Council and are part of a long term project to identify areas of the village which need updating and by addressing these needs we can ensure that Whitchurch on Thames always appears smart and well looked after.”

Date/Time : Thursday, 25th January 2018 19:37

New traffic calming scheme for toll bridge

The Whitchurch Bridge Company has found that the cost of its preferred scheme to widen the Pangbourne approach road is higher than expected and has decided, for the time being, to extend the 20 mph speed limit in Pangbourne across the length of the bridge. 

Company Secretary Geoff Weir stated today:

“Our engineering consultants Peter Brett Associates (PBA) are still engaged in pre-application planning discussions with West Berkshire Council on our preferred option C2 for widening the Pangbourne approach road, as described in the October Bulletin.  Estimated costs are higher than expected and we will be looking at ways to reduce these, as on present estimates we could not afford to do the works before 2020. 

We have therefore decided to proceed immediately with a traffic calming scheme which will join up with the Pangbourne 20 mph zone to give a clear and continuous 20mph speed limit from the Toll Booth, over the Bridge and along Whitchurch Road into Pangbourne.  We expect the scheme to include new 20 mph signs at the Toll Booth, a tidying up of the signage at the boundary of the Pangbourne 20 mph zone outside the Boathouse Surgery, proactive “Slow Down” signs, and the reinstatement of the roadway rumble strip alongside the Pangbourne approach road footway kerb. 

These works do not require planning permission, but do need approval from West Berkshire Council Highways Department. They have already confirmed their support in principle, and PBA are working with them to finalise the details.  We hope to complete these works by the autumn.” 

Further information is available on the Bridge Company’s website

During 2017 the Bridge Company looked at the feasibility of Option D, the concept of a ‘path through the tees’.  This idea had been put forward by village resident Jean Bull as a way of taking pedestrians safely away from the hazardous curved part of the approach road, and was outlined in our news item of 7th December 2016: ‘Support grows for walkway through trees’.  However, it is understood that Option D has turned out to be more expensive than Option C2.  PBA’s report on the feasibility of Option D, which includes drawings, can be found on the Bridge Company’s website.  

Date/Time : Friday, 19th January 2018 14:34

Community singing group starting up

So many people came to sing carols in the car park of The Ferryboat before Christmas, enjoying themselves and creating a great sense of community, that several people suggested starting up a Whitchurch community choir.  A name for it, ‘SINGWOT’, has been proposed. 

Geraldine Witcher and Clare Donahue would now like to hear from all those who would like to join in.  See the attached flyer

Geraldine says: “We would meet once a month, hopefully in the Old Stables, in an informal and enjoyable way, to sing well loved songs, and learn some new ones. There will be no requirements such as reading music or even holding a tune alone, because the aim is to have fun and enjoy singing together. So far we have a pianist, and about seven people have already shown interest. But we would like to know from people who want to join whether they have a preferred day, or time?  Please could you contact us and let us know what you think about SINGWOT.” 

You can get in touch with the organisers on 0776 646 3132 (Geraldine) or by email (Clare).

Date/Time : Monday, 15th January 2018 18:35

Whitchurch resident wins Academy Award (UPDATED)

Jerry Huxtable of Swanston Field, Whitchurch, will be travelling with his wife Denise to Beverly Hills, Hollywood, next month to receive an Academy Award following an announcement last week by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Jerry is one of five people jointly cited among the Technical Achievement Awards for their contributions to the design and development of the Nuke compositing system. This system has become the most popular visual effects toolkit in the film industry.

Having graduated in physics at York University, Jerry, now 56, went directly into computing and now works with The Foundry in London as a senior software engineer.  He explains that the Nuke system, which he and his fellow 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.”

The Huxtables arrived in Whitchurch 18 years ago.  Denise says that she is really delighted with the news and that their children Tom 23, Jennifer 19 and Lia 15 are very proud of their Dad.


Postscript: James Burton, reporter for the Henley Standard, read the above news item, contacted Jerry and wrote a comprehensive article, which can be seen here.


Date/Time : Saturday, 13th January 2018 18:30

Proposal for new house in High Street

At a meeting this week, the parish council discussed an application to build a three-bedroom house in the garden of Ash Court on the east side of the High Street, in the heart of the Conservation Area.  

Details of the proposed new house, and of a new vehicle entrance through the brick-and-flint perimeter wall for access to the existing house, can be seen on the SODC planning website here

Parish councillors resolved to submit an objection to SODC, regarding the development as unacceptable on several grounds. 

Also discussed was an application to build a two-storey garage, office and games room in the garden of Prospect House, on the corner of the High Street and Eastfield Lane, after demolishing an existing garage.  Planning details are here.  The site is within the Conservation Area.  The parish council also objected to this proposal. 

Both these applications are currently out to consultation.  Any comments must be received by SODC before 31st January. 

Hardwick ‘Veg Shed’ to expand 

At the December meeting of the parish council, Iain Tolhurst described his pre-application to SODC for enlargement of the Vegetable Shed near the entrance gates to Hardwick House.  The new shed would be twice the size of the present one, with separate road entrance and exit and parking for up to 15 cars.  For more information, see the December minutes on the Parish Council page.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th January 2018 16:51

The beech hedge that got away

Many years ago a line of beech saplings was planted to create a hedge at the southern edge of what is now the village green, on the left hand side of the road to the school.  But the plants were not given a regular trimming back and so grew into trees.  How to manage them now is a question that has been given much thought, as Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs explains: 

During February this year the beech trees lining the southern edge of the Village Green will  be cut to hedge height, with the exception of one large mature beech in that line.   This decision by the Parish Council was made after consultation with local environmental group WoTHABS, who in turn had consulted Oxfordshire's Forestry Officer.  In addition, the large maple tree just inside the boundary will be felled.   These works will allow the two adjacent mature lime trees and a smaller Indian horse chestnut the space they need in order to avoid the current serious overcrowding.   Originally the line of over 60 beeches was planted as a hedge and this work will get it back to a height which can be easily maintained. It is also hoped it will become a denser corridor for local wildlife as the twiggy bits produce new sideways and upward growth. The work will be undertaken during the school's half-term holiday to minimise any inconvenience. 

The height of the trees can be seen in this photo.

Date/Time : Sunday, 07th January 2018 14:36

Go Active Gold comes to Whitchurch on 7th February

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils have been awarded £227,000 by Sport England towards a three year fitness project for the over-60s called GO ACTIVE GOLD.  The project comes to Whitchurch in the form of an initial taster event in the village hall on Wednesday 7th February, 10 am to 12 noon. 

The aim is to encourage more active lifestyles among older people by setting up some local physical activities catering for all abilities.  The project is fully explained in this leaflet.  Activities mentioned include Table Tennis, Golf, Yoga, Tai Chi, Senior Circuits, Keep Fit Classes, Nordic Walking and Dancing. 

All over-60s, and anyone who would like to get involved in helping to organise activities within the programme, are invited to come along to the taster event.  There is a flyer attached to the entry in What’s On.

Date/Time : Thursday, 04th January 2018 14:04