News Archive

Brown bins tell Christmas story

The artistic impulse in Whitchurch, temporarily bruised, has re-emerged in a High Street display of colourfully decorated bins.  The controversial boat disappeared in mid-November, preventing a planned Christmas display this year.  However, discussions in the Art Café among disappointed residents led to an alternative plan.  The display recycles the Christmas story with images of the holy family, wise men, shepherds and their flock. 

The next brown bin collection is on 16th January.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 24th December 2019 10:48

Muddy water puzzles High Street residents

After recent heavy rain a stream of water with the unusual colour of white coffee has been flowing down the High Street, causing some people to ask where it comes from.   A short walk up the hill above the narrows reveals the source of the pollution in the form of a pale brown stream passing under the wooden boundary fence of Foxglove Manor (picture) and flowing along the footpath down to the main road. 

Within the grounds of Foxglove Manor extensive earthworks can be seen, with long stockpiles of soil and of chalk from excavations.  It appears that rainfall is eroding these materials and washing them down to the village, where they are finding their way into the high street drainage system.   The quantity of material being carried may fill up the silt trap at The Greyhound, which is there to protect the Thames from polluted road runoff. 

Planning applications were submitted by the owners earlier this year for the construction of extensive terracing, a rebuilt pool and a sunken tennis court, all involving earthworks on the hillside.  The proposed layout was shown in a plan submitted in April.  The documentation indicates that the earthworks were to be done in the summer 'to minimise any unnecessary mud and disruption' and planning permission was obtained in September.

Date/Time : Friday, 20th December 2019 17:48

Village Plan 2019 published

After much hard work by many people in our community, the Whitchurch-on-Thames Village Plan 2019 has reached completion and is published today.  Improvements in traffic and parking and a new pavilion are two major strands of the Plan, as expected, but there is much more. 

To see the colourfully illustrated document, go to the new Village Plan webpage which offers links to the main volume and to its three appendices.  The page also offers a summary of the key actions. 

It is intended to make available a printed copy of the Plan for each household in the village. 

Jim Donahue, parish chairman, says "The Parish Council fully supports this plan and voted earlier this year to work to achieve implementation of all the recommendations.  We have a three year budget plan that supports these goals and indeed we initiated working parties and funding for many of these initiatives during these past two years, in particular for traffic and parking improvements, the new pavilion, and the village hall improvements." 

John Bradon, who chaired the Steering Committee of the Plan, says “I’d like to thank all those who contributed to the plan and have now started implementing it.  I hope everyone in the village will support the recommended actions – they are not controversial but it will be a challenge for a small village to get these things done”. 

It is ten years since the publication of the previous village plan in 2009.  Appendix 3 of the new Plan reviews the progress made towards achieving the 22 objectives of the 2009 plan.  

Date/Time : Tuesday, 17th December 2019 17:21

Carol singing this Saturday evening

Mulled wine and draught beer will be on sale at The Ferryboat Community Carol Singing on Saturday evening at 6 pm, in the car park.  A Brass Ensemble will set the musical tone.  All are welcome to come and sing at this popular annual event, first held in 2012.  The photo shows last year’s packed car park.

Here is the poster.  If the weather is wet the event will be held indoors.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 17th December 2019 10:01

Christmas greetings in many tongues

The Whitchurch Web team (Hilary, Pam, Phil and Richard, together with photographer-at-large Nick) would like to wish readers a very Happy Christmas. 

Instead of our posting a Christmas card this year, Nick has provided something really special, which is his video celebrating the multilingual nature of our community.  See it here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 08th December 2019 20:14

Graham Morfey, 1937-2019

It is with great sadness that we bring you the news that Graham Morfey has passed away at the age of 82.  Graham will be remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather, a highly accomplished yachtsman, and an active supporter of village life in Whitchurch, where he had lived for the past 52 years.  Graham died peacefully on 2nd December 2019 with his family around him at his home in Eastfield Lane.  The funeral will be at St Mary’s church, Whitchurch-on-Thames at 1.30pm on Monday 16th December.  

Notice provided by the family.

Date/Time : Friday, 06th December 2019 09:16

Church packed for Christmas concert

The sixth annual Concert of Christmas Music, compered by Graham Dednum and featuring The Ferryboat Brass, filled every seat in St Mary’s Church yesterday, even with extra chairs brought in.  For many in the audience, especially the parents, the highlight was four songs by a choir of over 40 children of Whitchurch Primary School, coached by Lucy Lombos.  The audience enjoyed plenty of singing opportunities too, filling the rafters with the sound of half a dozen well known carols.

Other special features this year were the vocal solos of Debbie Jenkins, the tenor horn solos of Haydn Brown and the Christmas thoughts, including a conjuring trick, of Major Richard Welch of the Salvation Army.

Proceeds from the community event, which is organised and sponsored by The Ferryboat, will be distributed between St Mary’s Church, the Primary School and the Pre-School Group.

There are photos in the Gallery.

Another opportunity to sing carols with a brass ensemble is on offer at 6 pm on Saturday 21st December in the car park of The Ferryboat.  Mulled wine and draught beer will be available.

Date/Time : Monday, 02nd December 2019 14:11

Twist in the saga of the boat

An enquiry at the Land Registry by ex-councillor David Bowen has led him to the conclusion that the land between the curved brick walls of the bellmouth and the High Street is outside the boundary of Walliscote House land.  The site that was until recently occupied by the boat appears to be unregistered and therefore, he concludes, is a public space.  The relevant part of the plan, which appeared on Facebook yesterday, can be seen here

As readers of the message board or of social media will be aware, the disappearance of the boat on 15th November took most people in the village by surprise and many residents expressed their disappointment.  It was said to have been removed at the landowner’s request and taken to a storage place. The members of the MOWS team and others who had worked hard to create the project and maintain it for two years expressed indignation at what had happened but in view of the apparent private ownership of the site it seemed that there was little they could do.  

There is an alternative explanation.  According to some, the patch of land between the brick wall and the edge of the street was purchased from the church authorities by the owners of Walliscote House around thirty years ago and added to their land in order to control car parking, for which bollards were installed.  Furthermore, not all land ownership is recorded by the Land Registry.

Meanwhile, the landlords of both the Greyhound and The Ferryboat have offered to give the boat a home.  The Ferryboat used to have a boat planter on the forecourt but landlord Graham Dednum said this week that he thought the boat on offer was too big for the space. 

The issue is likely to be discussed at the next meeting of the parish council on 9th December. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 28th November 2019 14:02

Modest turnout for The Green Team

The first volunteer working party of the recently created Green Team produced only a team of three, perhaps because rain was expected. 

The organiser Alexa Duckworth-Briggs says: “A big thank you to John Bradon and Charles Cotgreave who joined me on Saturday to clean the playground equipment on Manor Road and trim back some trees!  And all before the rain started.  We made a note of a few other maintenance activities needed in the playground so if you’d like to join us in future to help with those just send me an email.“ 

Alexa's photo shows the two stalwarts. 

The next Green Team get-together is next Sunday 1st December at 11 am for sweeping and tidying of Muddy Lane.  All welcome - just turn up. 

Date/Time : Monday, 25th November 2019 10:25

Art & Craft Exhibition a great success

The Whitchurch 2019 Art & Craft Exhibition took place in the village hall at the weekend.  There are photos in the Gallery. 

The Popular Vote went to Jenny Plumb for her stumpwork box of silk satin (pictured here).  The Joyce Voysey prize on the theme of ‘Masks’ was won by Amy Holland.  The Orford Cup for adult art was won by Jean Marc Grosfort.  The Chairman's Cup was won by David Robinson for his photograph of geese flying above the toll bridge.  The Brazil Cup for videos was won by Henry Lowe, aged 9.  There was no entry this year from canine village resident Harold, who won a prize last time. 

The complete list of winners can be seen here

Sally Woolhouse reports on the event: 

The 2019 Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 

This popular annual event took place in Whitchurch Village Hall over the weekend of 16th/17th November. There were 189 entries overall – 57 of these were on the theme of ‘Masks’ created by the junior exhibitors for the Joyce Voysey category. These made a particularly eye-catching display! 

It was a very successful and sociable occasion which provided the opportunity for everyone to see and share the results of the creative talent in our community. There was a wonderful variety of artwork, craftwork and photographs from young and old, showing a very high standard. It was also lovely to welcome new exhibitors to the show, and we hope they will continue to enter in the years ahead. The only disappointment was that there were no entries at all in the Junior 12 to 18 years section. We must really try to encourage the secondary school youngsters to enter next year. 

Colourful displays of work by children at the Pre-School, the Primary School and the Oratory Prep School were again on show on the stage. A lot of time and effort went into these super displays by the hard-worked school staff and helpers. 

This was the second year for the Brazil Award. This category is for film, documentary or animation videos, no longer than 5 minutes in length. There were four entries this year, which was encouraging. All were very enjoyable and well filmed but the winning video entitled ‘The Battle of Bedroom Castle’ by Henry Lowe aged 9 was outstanding. 

Visitors enjoyed refreshments all weekend and meeting up with friends and neighbours before the prize-giving ceremony at 4-30pm on Sunday.

Congratulations to all the prize winners; a full list of these can be found on the link above. 

Very many thanks to all exhibitors and also to everyone who helped with the setting up, dismantling and running of the show, including serving the refreshments and making delicious cakes. Finally, my special thanks to Sarah Dixon, Wendy Ferguson, Jean-Marc Grosfort and Laura Lucas who helped me in the planning stages and to the Whitchurch Society members who supported us. 

Sally Woolhouse (


Note: the item above was posted on Tuesday 19th November; the date below refers to an earlier version. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 16th November 2019 11:24

Parish council gains two new councillors

At a meeting of the parish council yesterday, two new councillors were co-opted and welcomed. They are Diana Smith, who has been active in the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) and Jean Marc Grosfort, who has been active in the Village Hall Management Committee. 

Regarding Parking and traffic flow in the High Street, Will Barclay, chair of TAPAG, described the current situation.  Following discussions with a consultant and with Oxfordshire County Council, a scheme has emerged that would provide 24 marked parking places in the High Street, with the associated use of double yellow lines.  This scheme will be the subject of an open consultation meeting in the village in January. 

On the subject of the Boat, Will Barclay said that as a friend of the land owner he would ensure that it was removed and he requested funds to restore the bellmouth area.  The council asked for details and costs of the proposed restoration before any contribution of funds could be considered. 

The council approved the funding of three sturdy timber benches for the village green to replace those of a lighter design, two of which were damaged by vandals this year. 

Postscript: the controversial Boat was taken away earlier today, 15th November.  Many people have said how much they liked it and they will be aware of all the work done in setting it up and maintaining it since its arrival in September 2017.  The planting schemes and artistic creations over its two years of life have clearly been much enjoyed by many residents and visitors.  However, not everybody has been in favour, concerns having been expressed by Will Barclay at a parish council meeting in May this year.

Date/Time : Friday, 15th November 2019 17:17

We will remember them

The Crafty Knit & Stitch Group has draped the boat in the High Street with handmade poppies in preparation for Remembrance Day in two weeks time.  Handmade poppies are available this morning (Saturday 26th) at the Art Café in aid of The Royal British Legion.  Gill Williamson says: “Crafty Knit & Stitch meets every Thursday at the Old Stables from 2 to 4 pm and from 7 to 9 pm.  Pop in and join us with your knitting, crochet, needlework or crafts – all levels welcome.”

Date/Time : Saturday, 26th October 2019 10:11

Get ready for the Art & Craft Exhibition

Across the village, some of our many amateur artists, crafts enthusiasts and photographers may still be thinking about what to submit for this year’s Art & Craft Exhibition, to be held in the Village Hall in three weeks time, on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th November, from 10 am to 5 pm. 

Posters around the village say “Get busy now with your brushes, paints, cameras, glue, varnish, stamps, inks, wool, chisels, pliers, cottons, clay, pens, paper, lovely ideas….. Be ready to enter this great show and help make it the best ever!”  

The latest rules for the different types of work can be found here.  Exhibits are to be brought to the hall on Thursday 14th (note the new time) or Friday 15th November. 

If you are entering a video for the Brazil Award, it should be delivered to organiser Sally Woolhouse by the revised date of Friday 8th November.  

Note that after last year’s surprise win for 3-year-old Harold's painting, all exhibits this year must be entirely the work of humans. 

This year’s prize-giving will be at 4.30 pm on Sunday 17th. 

Not sure what to send in?  Find inspiration in images from the exhibitions of recent years:  2016, 2017 or 2018.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 22nd October 2019 17:47

Join the Green Team next weekend

Alexa Duckworth-Briggs of the Green Team, which has been formed recently to coordinate some of the many green activities in the village, says: 

On Sunday 27th October at 2pm there is a get-together at the Polish Church Garden site off Manor Road to carry out some tidying, maintenance and planting tasks as well as talking about future plans for the area and how to get involved.  We'd love for lots of people to join us, particularly those who live on and around Manor Road and those who have family connections to the site and church. 

For those who aren't sure where the Garden is, take a look at the map above – or the larger one here. 

If you can't make that date but would like to be involved, drop me a line on or 07557 852600.

Date/Time : Sunday, 20th October 2019 20:04

History of Whitchurch finished

At a History Society meeting on Thursday, historian Dr Simon Draper (pictured) talked about his recent work on the history of Whitchurch.  Studying ancient documents and reading earlier histories, and with considerable help from the Whitchurch and Goring Heath History Society, he has now completed the Whitchurch chapter of Volume 20 of the Victorian Oxfordshire County History and is starting to study another village.  One of the world’s longest running research projects, begun in 1899 and originally dedicated to Queen Victoria, it is now managed by London University. 

Those who want to read Simon’s material and look at the pictures, even if they don’t want to refer to the many footnotes, will find it all in six convenient files, located towards the foot of this webpage.   The hardback Volume 20 is likely to be published in 2021, Simon said, at a cost of around £80. 

He said that Whitchurch was fortunate to be well covered by earlier historians such as The Reverend Slatter and Sir John Godlee, though he had uncovered a few myths in their accounts.

Here are some of the nuggets of village history he mentioned: 

  • Whitchurch territory was probably carved out of land belonging to Goring, where there was an Anglo-Saxon Minster.
  • For centuries the manor of Whitchurch included 300 acres in Purley.
  • The operator of the flash lock, the ‘lockshutter’, lived at Whitchurch wharf, where The Swan Inn now stands, on a patch of land that remained in Oxfordshire until 1991.  The lockshutter would have brewed beer for visiting boatmen.  
  • The ferryman (before the bridge was built in 1792) lived in Church Cottage.  In 1730 his wife was selling hot chocolate and coffee. 
  • Long before the ferry there was a ford, when the river was without weirs, broader and shallower than now.
  • Records on vellum presented by Isabella de Fortibus to King Edward I for the years 1269 to 1297 show that a flash lock, a mill and a weir were all in operation at that time. 
  • The lane through Whitchurch had open fields on each side, farmed in strips, called Westfield and Eastfield.  Hence Eastfield Lane.
  • Queen Elizabeth didn’t visit Hardwick House; that was Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.
  • Hardwick was not a Manor as sometimes claimed, but Simon does believe Sir Charles Rose was the model for Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows.
  • The John Wallis who built Walliscote House was not the famous mathematician and cryptographer but another one.
  • Swanston House was built by a Mr Swanton but the spelling was lost.
  • The small Whitchurch fire brigade rode gallantly up the hill to tackle the fire in the magnificent Bozedown House on 30 December 1904, but the house was lost.  Rebuilt, it was the home of a branch of the Palmer family, of the biscuit firm Huntley & Palmers, before being sold to the industrial firm ICI in 1951. 

Vicky Jordan, Secretary of the History Society, says that she looks forward to an Art Café morning in due course to raise enough money to buy the book.

Date/Time : Sunday, 20th October 2019 19:32

Coombe Park fence proposals modified slightly

In the latest submission by the owner of Coombe Park, following a site meeting with the parish council on September 11th, the length of fence affecting the Polish memorial garden and two Manor Road houses has been changed from 2.4m high steel to 2m or less, probably in timber, with details to be discussed with the parish council.  Planning permission is apparently not required for a fence of 2m or less. 

However Mr Pain has not changed his proposal for a 2.4m high spike-tipped steel fence behind the village hall, car park and garages, on the grounds that “this is where there are most difficulties with break-ins, with trespassers using existing structures and buildings as a way to jump over the existing fence.” 

It is not clear whether there have been any recent visits by urban explorers or others since security was stepped up, although there were certainly many intrusions earlier.  The parish council’s objection letter of February 2019 quoted a security expert who said that once the building is occupied intrusions would stop. 

On the darkening of the village hall, Mr Pain’s agent claims that the proposed removal of mature trees will provide better light and that enough light will pass through the high steel fence, even with the proposed yew hedge. 

The new information can be found on the SODC planning page.  The reference is P19/S0366/FUL. The current submission has lengthened the consultation period to 8th November.

There is no decision yet on the overall planning application which includes the partly-erected fencing beside the Hartslock bridleway.  

Date/Time : Saturday, 19th October 2019 15:51

An update from around the village

Repairs to damaged areas of Manor Road’s surfaces are underway this week, as seen in the photo, following requests by the parish council for improvements. 

Jim Donahue’s Chairman’s Report for October provides updates on the many positive things that are happening in the village, including further road repairs, weed-killing, drainage work, repainting the telephone box, new benches, village hall roof repairs and the formation of a Green Team. 

However it seems that all is not plain sailing.  Councillor Warren Beard, who joined just under a year ago, resigned last week and is the fourth councillor to resign this year.  As already reported, there is a vacancy for a parish clerk, following the recent departure of Laura White after one month in office.  She succeeded Ina Chantry who left in June eight months after she took over from Felipa House.  

Jim Donahue said yesterday that he regretted Warren‘s resignation but was pleased that he will continue to pursue the important matter of road drainage maintenance in the village.  He said that he expected some of the vacancies would be filled before long and there had already been some response to the councillor advertisement.  In the temporary absence of a parish clerk Jim said that he had offered to undertake the role himself on an unpaid basis. 

The September minutes, which are on the Parish Council page, mention confidential business discussed in relation to correspondence with the Information Commissioner’s Office.  There is also reference to an Extraordinary Meeting on 26th August, the minutes of which remain confidential until a ‘GDPR request from Cllr Bowen is resolved’.  It appears that there is a possibility of legal action against the council.  The extent to which these matters are related to any of the departures from the council is unclear. 

Warren Beard commented yesterday:  “Unfortunately my family commitments have changed and I no longer have the time required to add value as a serving Councillor.  I still hope to be able to contribute positively to the Village via one of the excellent Committees such as TAPAG.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the PC and I do hope that during this short period as a councillor some of the ideas I presented to enable to PC to function with direction and efficiency continue.”

Date/Time : Friday, 18th October 2019 11:37

Church clock restoration celebrated

The Friends of St Mary’s and St Johns’s were entertained to a medley of songs in St Mary’s Church this afternoon.  They were performed by Thames Vale Singers, led by Dr Timothy Robson at the piano, in celebration of the completion of repairs to the clock mechanism and its two faces beneath the spire.  Chairman Keith Williams said that the restorer had been putting in the finishing touches to his extensive work on the clock this morning - just in time. 

Afterwards WoTSing’s pianist Tim Valentine stripped the shiny wooden cover off the piano and played in his colourful style until pausing at just the right moment for the audience to hear the clock strike four times, indicating time for tea and refreshments and for a few of the adventurous to climb the narrow spiral staircase to the belfry to see the clock. 

Earlier in the afternoon, at the Annual General Meeting of The Friends, Keith said that the restoration had cost around £11,000, including new equipment to control the hours of striking and the hours of silence.  All the money had been raised by the Friends.  Keith said that he hoped that many more people in Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill would now become Friends following the success of this project, which would enable more projects to be undertaken for the benefit of the whole community.  (To become a Friend, follow the link on the Village Groups page.)

Photograph by Jennifer Bruce.

Date/Time : Saturday, 05th October 2019 19:02

Remembering Nicole Brett

Nicole Brett, who lived in Swanston Field with her family for 25 years, died earlier this month at the age of 56. 

Just over three years ago, the lovely Nicole received the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Notwithstanding this, she tried to lead as much of a normal life as possible and bravely and stoically undertook regular treatment in hospital. Nicole died at the tragically young age of 56 on the 16th September, at her home in Swanston Field, peacefully surrounded by her loving family. 

Nicole, her husband Howard and their young son Duncan proudly moved into their house in Swanston Field in 1994. The family was complete with the arrival of daughters, Amelia and then Madeleine. Nicole loved their large garden and would spend many hours in it, especially during the summer months. They made the most of what the village has to offer with the children attending pre-school and school. 

Nicole was also an enthusiastic helper at many fund-raising events and as a result made many long-lasting friendships. She was well known throughout the village for her big smile, cheerful attitude and friendly helpfulness. Many parents of young children would have met Nicole during the years she worked at Whitchurch Pre-School. 

As the children grew older and Nicole had more time on her hands, she became an enthusiastic volunteer for the Hearing Dogs charity who train dogs to offer much needed help to the hard of hearing. Nicole loved animals and dogs in particular and would often be seen walking various puppy breeds around the village. Nicole quickly generated a reputation for training well-disciplined dogs and eventually helped to train other volunteers. Earlier this year, in recognition of her efforts, Hearing Dogs published a fitting tribute in their magazine. 

Nicole was also very close to her twin sister Lisa and they were often seen together in the village. Lisa remained a loyal sister throughout Nicole’s illness and Nicole drew great solace and support from her weekly visits. 

A celebration of Nicole’s life will be held at 2.15 pm on the 10th October at the West Berkshire Crematorium and everyone who knew Nicole would be welcome. This will be followed by a reception at Goring Heath Village Hall. Please contact either Howard or Lisa if you would like to attend. 

Thanks to Julie Huntington for this appreciation of Nicole's life.

Date/Time : Sunday, 29th September 2019 20:56

Vandals wreck bench - UPDATE: Second bench attacked

One of the timber seats on the village green has been badly damaged by vandals.  This is not the first time a village green seat has been vandalised but the damage is more severe than previously. 

The seat affected is near the football goalposts near the fence separating the village green from the horse field. 

In a separate incident, a vehicle was subjected to deliberate damage in Eastfield Lane one evening between Sunday and Tuesday this week.  The police have been notified of this incident.

Update, Thursday 26th Sept: This morning a second seat was found newly damaged, the one nearest the allotments entrance. There are four seats, so the remaining two may be at risk. 

Please report any information to the Henley Neighbourhood police.  The crime reference number is 43190298397. The email address is here

Date/Time : Wednesday, 25th September 2019 20:02

Green party at work

Alexa Duckworth-Briggs reports: 

The working party made great progress yesterday (Sunday) and wrapped up just before the downpour!  We trimmed back the Hardwick Road bank opposite both ends of Swanston Fields, cut back vegetation on the narrows and started weeding on the High Street (more to do there).  Many thanks to everyone who took part! 

If you'd like to join future working parties on "green" tasks around the village please drop me a line on 

Date/Time : Monday, 23rd September 2019 15:08

Majesticare loses Eastfield House appeal

In January this year South Oxfordshire District Council refused Majesticare’s application to demolish the Eastfield House care home after strong objections from many village residents and the parish council.  In June Majesticare submitted an appeal against the decision.  Yesterday that appeal was dismissed by the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. 

The Inspector says in his Appeal Decision that he based the decision on two main issues.  The first was whether the proposals would enhance the character or appearance of the Whitchurch Conservation Area, and the second was the effect of the proposals on two protected lime trees. 

On the Conservation Area, he considers that demolition would harm it, though he describes the extent of the harm as ‘less than substantial’.  He also points to evidence in the viability assessment submitted by Majesticare that there are other viable uses for the site.  

On the lime trees, he concludes that they would be threatened to an unacceptable degree by the proposals.  

The Inspector says that he also considered other important matters raised by objectors, including the effects on landscape in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the privacy of neighbours, on the risk of flooding and on traffic and highway safety.  But he says that these factors were not critical to his decision. 

This leaves Majesticare, also known as Ross Healthcare, with their earlier permission, granted under appeal in May 2016, to demolish the building except for the retained front façade and create a 45 bed care home.  However, the company has argued that this does not lead to a viable solution for a modern care home.  

The old 27 bed care home, which Majesticare took over in 2002, was closed by them in 2016.  The history of the site was summarised in a Henley Standard article on 1st July this year.

Date/Time : Thursday, 19th September 2019 12:02

Two parish councillors resign

Councillor Keith Brooks, who joined the parish council in 2008 and was chairman from 2015 to 2018, submitted his resignation from the council this week.  Councillor David Bowen, who joined the parish council in 2015, has also submitted his resignation. 

A formal Notice of Vacancy was issued yesterday by Laura White, the new Clerk to the Parish Council, following the resignations. 

This creates an opportunity for Whitchurch residents to become more involved with the community by joining the Parish Council.  Those interested are invited to contact the Clerk, whose email address is shown in the notice, or chairman Jim Donahue whose contact details are on the Parish Council page.

Keith said today that after more than ten years on the council he had decided to resign for personal and family reasons but that he fully intended to continue working with others on many projects in the village.  This week, for example, he had been painting the railings at the village hall (together with Geoff Weir, John Bradon and Tim Hardwick) and cutting vegetation back at the village green car park (with a WoTHabs team of Leslie Prater, Pete Woolhouse, John Bradon, Charles Cotgreave and Gill Goodwin). 

David Bowen posted on his community group Facebook page yesterday, paying a warm tribute to Keith for his voluntary work.

At the monthly parish council meeting on Thursday the new Parish Clerk, Laura White, was confirmed in her appointment, following the resignation in June of Ina Chantry.  Laura is already the parish clerk of South Stoke, a riverside Oxfordshire parish, and brings considerable experience of the job to our village. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 14th September 2019 16:44

Remembering Anne Screech

Anne Screech, who lived in Swanston Field for many years, died on 1 September at the age of 91, having spent her final three years in a care home.  She follows her husband of 60 years, Michael, who died on 1 June 2018, as previously announced here.  Anne is survived by her three sons, Mat, Tim and Toby. 

Anne was third of four daughters of an antiquarian bookseller in London, where she grew up.  In her teens, she tragically witnessed the death of her sister in a road accident, and after the armistice, her parents sent her to Switzerland to overcome severe depression.  Mike and she met while studying French at University College London, where the first thing he ever said to her was ‘Your stockings are crooked.’  Their friendship deepened while studying abroad in Montpellier, where Anne imperiously asked Mike to take her surplus belongings home while she went on holiday.  He agreed, knowing it would stand him in good stead. They were married in 1956.

The couple moved to Birmingham, where Mat and Tim were born, then moved to Whitchurch in 1961.  Toby was born in 5 Swanston Field, which remained the family home for almost 60 years. 

For many years Anne served on the Parochial Church Council and was a member of the Women’s Institute and Young Wives.  She was a keen sportswoman and practised yoga for several decades.  She loved animals, especially cats, and she sketched, sang, made pottery and upholstered.  She excelled at cooking, and one of her signature dishes was fondue, which she was even asked to make on annual family summer holidays to Switzerland. 

Perhaps most lasting was Anne’s academic work. Her edition of Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament won her a Doctorate of Divinity in 2001 from the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

All are welcome to a Service of Thanksgiving in St Mary’s at 11.30 on Wednesday 2 October, followed by a reception at the Ferryboat.  Please contact Toby on if you would like to attend.  

Thanks to Tim Screech for this note on his mother. 

Date/Time : Friday, 13th September 2019 09:47

Farewell to Claire and Chris

Nick Brazil has made a farewell video featuring the Reverend Claire Alcock and her husband Chris who are saying goodbye to Whitchurch later this month after nine years and moving to an urban parish in Reading.  

Claire and Chris talk about how they have enjoyed their time in the village.  Church warden Ken Baker and trainee lay preacher Peter Ferguson add their appreciation.

Date/Time : Sunday, 01st September 2019 22:28

Coombe Park fence – site visit arranged

SODC Planning Officer Caitlin Philpotts is expected to attend a site visit at 4 pm on Wednesday 11th September to consider the proposals by the owner of Coombe Park for new boundary fencing between his private drive and the village hall and adjacent houses in Manor Road. 

Affected residents are free to attend the visit, which starts at the village hall.  It is expected that the owner will be represented by a planning consultant. 

On the SODC planning webpage there are now a large number of adverse comments, many of which suggest that the steel fence’s height and the spikes along the top are inappropriate.  See also our news item of 6th August. 

On the question of the design and alignment of the fence alongside the Hartslock bridleway, where it has already been built without planning permission, parish chairman Jim Donahue says he understands that this is still under discussion between SODC and the owner of Coombe Park, David Pain. 

The photo above shows the present fence behind the village hall, close to the newly replaced windows.  The proposed fence is considerably higher and would tend to block the light.

Date/Time : Friday, 30th August 2019 12:39

More work underground in Hardwick Road (UPDATED)

This time it is telephone cables rather than gas pipes that are receiving attention.  Apparently, 15 homes in Hardwick Road have reported phone problems and a length of 170 metres of copper cable is being replaced.  But it is a replacement copper cable that is going in, not fibre-optic.  It seems that fibre-optic is only installed to the east of Swanston Field.  

The photo, today, shows employees of BT Openreach attempting to rod the duct that contains the faulty cable.  They said that blockage and damage is often caused by tree roots and a combination of rodding and water jetting may be needed.

Update, 30th Sept: Hardwick Road is again closed for several hours, until 3.30 pm today. 

Some clarification was offered today by an Openreach engineer working on the cables.  The system is referred to as ‘hybrid’.  All local cabling in the village and all domestic connections will remain copper.  A fibre-optic cable already runs directly from the Pangbourne exchange to the cabinet opposite The Greyhound and will, before long, run from there directly to the more recently installed cabinet near the Hardwick entrance gate.  Once the current work is complete the telephone ducts along Hardwick Road will contain both the local copper cables and the cabinet-to-cabinet fibre-optic cable. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 29th August 2019 13:32

Church clock restoration is underway

Work has started on the restoration of the St Mary’s clock mechanism.  In a few weeks time it is expected to show the correct time on both faces and to strike the hours once again, after a long period of inactivity. Neighbours will be pleased to hear that it will not strike at night. 

Keith Williams, chairman of The Friends of St Mary's & St John's, the independent charity that has organised the fund raising and contracted a specialist to do the work, said yesterday: 

“I am pleased that today, at last, work has commenced on the restoration of St Mary's Church clock. The work is being carried out by a very experienced clockmaker and repairer, Peter Meecham and his team, from Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Provided there are no hidden snags, it is hoped that the village will have a fully working clock by early September - for the first time in about twenty years. 

The original clock was made by Smith & Sons of Clerkenwell and installed at St Mary's Church around 1910. It is regarded as 'a high quality clock for a relatively small church'. 

A new piece of kit will be added to allow control of the hourly striking mechanism.  This will be set initially to strike only from 7am to 10pm. The timing can be varied to suit the desires of the community. 

The condition of the two clock faces appears satisfactory and we are hoping that it will not be necessary to do any work on them. 

The funds raised by members of The Friends and other generous donations from the community are now sufficient to cover the project and we all look forward to having a reliable clock once again in the village.” 

Three photographs, taken in the bell tower yesterday, give some idea of the work. 

Keith also said that Nigel Grove, who was involved in the restoration work carried out in the early 1990s, tells him that the clock faces and hands were re-gilded at that time and an electrically powered device was added to wind up the weights when needed.  Before that time the clock was wound by hand. 

It seems that the clock was deliberately stopped around the year 2000 after complaints from a neighbour disturbed by the marking of the hours through the night, and comments from others in the village that the two faces often showed different times.

Date/Time : Saturday, 17th August 2019 14:07

Take a river cruise starting from Pangbourne

There are two more opportunities this month to catch the Lady Caroline (pictured today) when it comes to Pangbourne Meadows to pick up passengers for a Thursday afternoon round trip to Mapledurham.  More details of this recently introduced local cruise can be found on the Thames Rivercruise website.

Date/Time : Thursday, 08th August 2019 17:49

Coombe Park fence will affect Manor Road

The owner of Coombe Park, David Pain, has submitted further details of his proposed high security fence, focusing on the west side of the private drive behind the village hall.  These were recently posted on the SODC website.  The public consultation ends in one week’s time, on 14th August.  Many people affected may not be aware of what is proposed, which will have a considerable impact on the neighbourhood of the village hall. 

In the photo, the back of the village hall and part of the present fence can be seen, viewed past the razor wire on the entrance gate to the estate. 

Many people have commented with dismay on the proposal for the fence alongside the Hartslock bridleway, citing the unnecessary height, the aggressive design and the reduction in width of the bridleway.  Now the impact of the fence on the Manor Road area can be seen more clearly. 

On the submitted plan the village hall is not identified.  But the proposed 8 feet high (2.4 m) steel palisade fence is shown running immediately behind it and then along the back of the village hall car park.  It replaces the existing lower timber fence, which has a height of about 5 feet. The proposal states that the new steel fence is painted black.  It has sharpened points along the top, except for where it forms the boundary of the private gardens of 48A and 48B Manor Road.  Those gardens will have the oppressive fence but with the spikes removed and timber slats added to the steel. 

The north side of the Polish Memorial Garden is shown as bounded by the same high, black, spike-topped fence, replacing the present lower timber one. 

The village hall itself is seriously affected by the proposal.  The fence line is only 2 feet away from the windows at the back of the building and the new fence is 3 feet higher than the present one.  This will substantially reduce the amount of light entering the building.  The windows were recently replaced at considerable expense as part of the refurbishment of the hall. 

The owner’s wish to fortify the boundary of the Coombe Park estate is clearly regarded by many in Whitchurch, and further afield, as inappropriate and undesirable in a rural community and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The fact that no plans have yet been submitted for stronger defences on the boundary to the west of the Manor Road area, which is currently lightly fenced, may be cause for concern.  Nor have plans been submitted for a defence along the river front, which would undoubtedly be rejected. 

A map showing the layout of the estate can be found in the article about Coombe Park recently posted on the About the Village page of this website. 

Those wishing to comment on the new submission, or add to earlier comments, have until 14th August to do so.  Two people have already done so.  The SODC planning page can be found here.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 06th August 2019 14:28

New riverside seat built to last

Whitchurch has only a few locations that allow direct access to the river.  The least well known, but probably the finest, is at the end of Sheepwash Lane.  Eric Hartley thought there should be a seat in this delightful spot and Tim Sheldon, Hardwick forester, agreed to build one.  They decided it should be built to last and this week the seat, made from solid pieces of Hardwick oak, was installed. 

These photographs show the new seat and the view from it. 

Eric says that fully relaxing on the seat can lead to a vision of Ratty and Mole on the riverbank, or even of the invading Danes coming up the river long ago.  

Many walkers now call in at the Tolhurst VegShed at the Hardwick Road end of Sheepwash Lane.  Eric has produced three suggested walks which are displayed on the wall and available there, including one which takes the walker down Sheepwash Lane.

Date/Time : Saturday, 03rd August 2019 10:51

Job done – thank you, says team leader

The final connection was made under the High Street today and the project to renew the gas pipes under Hardwick Road, which started with pipeline TV surveys in early June, is almost complete.  The last backfilling and reinstatement work will be done in the next few days.  Hardwick Road is passable to traffic.  The traffic lights are likely to be taken away by the middle of next week. 

OMJ team leader Dean Shaw (picture) says he would like to thank everyone for their cooperation, which has helped them to finish their work ahead of schedule. 

Over the last six weeks the team of Yorkshiremen, all from Barnsley, have met a lot of Whitchurch people.  Dean said they wanted to thank the many who provided them with tea and biscuits.  They all agreed that Whitchurch was a good place to work and were happy to pose for a farewell photograph

Dean says that he hopes they managed to explain to most residents what they were doing but he was aware that there were some surprises.  He says that if anyone thinks his team did a good job of communicating with householders and car owners he would appreciate it if they could tell SGN by email to Customer Services.  Or they can wait for the independent survey form, which will be delivered to SGN customers in the next few weeks, and make their comments there.

Project foreman Richard Dominey of OMJ confirmed that he will be making sure that any damage, for example to granite kerbstones, is repaired by the reinstatement team and all litter is removed.  He says that if people think any remedial work needs to be done they can email him and he will be happy to look into it.

Date/Time : Thursday, 01st August 2019 18:17

Working party keeps hedge in order

Yesterday a group of volunteers organised by Alexa Duckworth-Briggs and Keith Brooks set to work trimming the hedge and doing other vital jobs in the area alongside the road to the school.  They were advised botanically by Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs and fortified by the promise of a drinks voucher from The Greyhound. 

In the photo above, from left, are Pete and Sally Woolhouse, Charles Cotgreave, Leslie Prater, Gill, John Bradon and Alexa.  Keith took the photo.

The attached photos, taken by Alexa, show the hedge before and after. 

Alexa says: “Many thanks to the eight hard-working folk whose stalwart efforts have spruced up the south end of the village green and cleared an overgrown section of pathway on Eastfield Lane. Sunday 28th was hot and humid, but welcome refreshments kindly provided by Leslie and Rosemary Prater kept us going.   There is always more to do, so watch out for the dates of future work parties, many of which can be found on the "What's On" page of the website. Your help will be very welcome.” 

The next opportunity to join a working party is for Maze Maintenance at 10 am next Saturday 3rd August.  All are welcome and tools are provided.

Date/Time : Monday, 29th July 2019 12:00

Claire Alcock to be vicar of a Reading parish

Revd Kevin Davies, team leader of the Langtree Churches Team Ministry, announced today that Revd Claire Alcock, parish priest of St Mary’s in Whitchurch-on-Thames and St John’s in Whitchurch Hill, will be saying farewell to us in September:

“I am delighted to say that Revd Claire Alcock has been appointed as the next Vicar of the Parish of St John and St Stephen in Reading. Claire joined the Langtree Team as curate in 2010 and completed her training in 2013. Since then she has served in Whitchurch and around the whole Team as part time house-for-duty associate priest. She and Chris have contributed hugely to the development of the mission and ministry in Whitchurch and we will miss them both enormously. However it is the right time for Claire to move to a full time incumbency post and the opportunity offered by the Reading appointment was too good to miss. Claire and Chris will be moving out towards the end of the school holidays and Claire will commute back into the Team for her final fortnight of ministry with us. Her last Sunday services will be on September 15th.”

Church wardens Ken Baker and Sue Matthews said today that they and everybody in the parish will be very sorry that Claire, her husband Chris and their children are moving on. They commented: “Claire has served us very well as our parish priest for nine years and will be sorely missed. We wish her well in her new post.  We are planning a farewell event – details will be available soon.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 24th July 2019 19:31

Rainstorm causes delay for gas trench

Gas pipe work was completed under the High Street by this morning and the trench was being backfilled when heavy rain filled it with water, stopping the work.  Now the traffic lights are expected to remain in place over the weekend and be removed on Monday when the road surface has been restored. (But see update below) 

Long traffic delays occurred in the High Street this morning, partly due to one car owner who is reported to have parked, unconventionally, on the east side of the High Street, creating extra blockage.  Delays are expected again in this afternoon’s rush hour.  The traffic lights are controlled automatically but an operative is present to help in the event of gridlock. 

OMJ said that OCC were asked several weeks ago to put in place a parking ban in the High Street for the period of the traffic light operation but had not done so, perhaps hoping that car owners would avoid parking there.  

Meanwhile OMJ reported work to be on schedule in the area of the Hardwick Road narrows closure, which started on 15th July and is planned to last for up to three weeks, i e until 5th August.  OMJ say they have been doing their best to allow vehicle access for residents where possible.

Update, Monday 22nd July:  OMJ clarified this morning that the High Street traffic lights will need to be in use for another week at least, while more trenching is done on the picture gallery side of the road. 

Date/Time : Friday, 19th July 2019 13:39

Hardwick Road closure postponed to Monday

OMJ’s team leader Dean Shaw said this afternoon that they had decided to postpone by several days the start of the Hardwick Road narrows closure.  It is now scheduled for 8 am next Monday 15th July.  The narrows were temporarily impassable earlier today while the vacuum excavator was at work (picture) but had reopened by 5 pm for local traffic and will stay open until Monday. 

He said that car parking in the triangular area of the junction of Hardwick Road with the High Street is likely to be impossible from next Monday, as many excavations are needed. 

He also said that the traffic light system to control High Street traffic is expected to be installed a couple of days later, on Wednesday 17th.  It seems likely that parking will then have to be banned from a considerable length of the High Street, downhill from the junction, to avoid gridlock in rush hours due to the queue of cars waiting at a red light to go up the hill.  Dean said that he expected most car owners to realise the situation and avoid parking there, but he might have to speak to some of them.  He thought that OCC, who are responsible overall for the traffic restriction and the diversion, have no plans to formally prohibit parking.  He said that OCC tend to leave contractors to sort things out on the ground.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th July 2019 17:14

Hardwick Road narrows to be closed later this week

OMJ’s team leader on the gas pipe replacement work, Dean Shaw, said this morning that work would continue this week on domestic connections in Hardwick Road to the east of the narrows, including the western end of Hillside.  By Thursday or Friday of this week he expects that it will finally be necessary to close the Hardwick Road narrows to vehicles.  Traffic lights for one way flow on the High Street are expected to be installed by the middle of the following week so that trenching can start at the junction.  

Dean confirmed that the Hardwick Road narrows will need to be closed to vehicles for up to three weeks.  He said that during the closure he will do his best to maintain car access for as long as possible to as many of the affected houses as he can.  Much will depend on the location and size of the excavations that are found to be needed.  Some excavations can be plated over for vehicles, he said, but others may be too big or on unsuitable terrain.

Date/Time : Monday, 08th July 2019 10:37

Gas pipe team find some surprises

More holes are being excavated daily in Hardwick Road by the OMJ team as they build up their knowledge of the underground layout of the gas mains and the connections to houses. This morning a vacuum excavator with an elephant trunk was noisily sucking up earth from new access holes in Hardwick Road, to the east of Swanston Field (picture). 

The furthest advanced area of the project is Hillside East, where the mains have been sleeved, domestic connections made and asphalt surfaces already repaired. 

OMJ foreman Dean Shaw said that a siphon pot** under the High Street junction had been discovered by the CCTV investigations, causing a complication to the plan for managing traffic flow at the junction.  The current route for local traffic through the Hardwick Road narrows, dodging the excavations, is now likely to be available for a further week or more, while work continues further away from the High Street. 

A second discovery is the way in which the two parallel gas mains under Hardwick Road are utilised.  The northern one of these appears to have the connections to Hillside West houses, and is likely to require a second line of access holes in the road. 

Closure of the Hardwick Road narrows is now said to be likely to last for 2 to 3 weeks, starting in about a week's time after a solution has been found to the traffic flow problem mentioned above. 

OMJ Project Manager Richard Dominy explained that though the site may have seemed quiet at times last week, 450 metres of renewed mains had been laid and domestic connections made on both sides of Hardwick Road. 

** For the interest of technically-minded readers:  OMJ say that siphon pots would have been installed at low points in the system to intercept any water condensing from the gas and any leaks of ‘weasel’, a sealant used with hessian at the joints in the iron pipes. The pots could be pumped out from time to time.  They are no longer needed and are being removed as they obstruct the insertion of polyethylene sleeves.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 02nd July 2019 12:33

Gridlock on local roads after accident in Whitchurch Hill (Update - road re-opened)

A motorcyclist is reported to have been severely injured in an accident at around 4 pm today on the B471 in Whitchurch Hill, near Hatchgate House and the junction with the Goring Heath Road.  The B471 is said to be likely to remain closed for several hours.  An air ambulance has been seen arriving.  Traffic in Pangbourne, Whitchurch-on-Thames, Goring and Streatley is badly affected.

Update, 6.40 pm:  the B471 is reported to have re-opened to traffic.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 26th June 2019 17:14

Gas pipe project explained (Update: Road closure postponed by a day)

Contractor OMJ’s representative confirmed this morning that the project is on schedule and Hardwick Road will be closed at the narrows from next Tuesday 25th June (updated 19.6.19).  Some domestic gas connection work was started in Hillside yesterday. 

When SGN sent out their letter of 24th May advising residents of Hardwick Road that gas mains work would be happening from 10th June, their intention was to enclose a leaflet that explains how it affects residents and offers safety advice.  It seems that in some cases, at least, this did not happen.  The Whitchurch Web has asked them to provide an electronic version

Among other things the leaflet explains that the polyethylene sleeves can be inserted into the gas mains without removing the gas.  However, for house connections the gas has to be removed and therefore the supply has to be cut for a period.  Five days notice is promised to each household of a disconnection from the gas supply.  OMJ have said they expect to have to replace the stop valve located near the gas meter inside each house, as well as insert a sleeve within the pipe leading to the house. 

Some residents of the Hardwick Road narrows have been asking whether they will be able to get their cars to their houses during the closure.  OMJ said today that it will depend on the location and size of the holes they have to dig.  As the work proceeds they will know more and be able to advise each household.  They say they will try to maintain vehicle access for residents wherever possible.  Where the road is level they can sometimes place a steel plate over the excavation. 

OMJ has been using a state-of-the-art vacuum excavation technique to dig many of the holes.  Using powerful turbines and an elephant’s trunk mounted on a large truck, earth is sucked from the ground, avoiding damage to the electric cables that are buried close to some of the gas mains.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 18th June 2019 11:26

Work on Hardwick Road gas mains starts next week

Representatives of OMJ, the contractor who will be working in Hardwick Road for the next three months, met representatives of the village this afternoon.  The photo shows Diana Smith of the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG) and Parish Clerk Ina Chantry discussing the planned work with David O’Mahoney of OMJ.  

OMJ explained that the present iron pipelines will remain in the ground and polyethylene sleeves will be pushed into them to create the new ones.  So instead of continuous trenching there will be individual excavations where needed.  The sleeve technique will also be used for the domestic connections to houses. 

Work will start next Monday with CCTV inspection of the gas mains and identification of excavation points.  Traffic lights will be used for an initial period at the junction while work is done in the High Street itself. The work stretches from the High Street to the far end of Hillside, but no work will be done in Swanston Field.  The extent of the works can be seen in this plan.  Working hours will be 7 am to 7 pm. 

On the key question of how long the Hardwick Road narrows will be closed to traffic, Richard Dominy of OMJ said that they were planning a six week closure, from 24th June to 5th August.  He said that there might be some reduction in that duration, but only if everything goes well. 

OMJ said that parking of cars will have to be severely restricted along the closed length of road, which is from the High Street to the nearer of the two Swanston Field junctions.  Access for cars to some of the individual properties within the closed length will be possible at times depending on the progress of the works. There are parking opportunities in Swanston Field for residents of the narrows. 

Swanston Field will always have free access to Hardwick Road at both its junctions.  During the road closure the diversion route will be via Path Hill, Goring Heath and Whitchurch Hill.  Road signs will be erected on 17th June to advise about the closure.  OMJ said that the only warning letter to residents is the one already sent by SGN on 24th May to householders whose gas connections are to be renewed.

Parish Clerk Ina Chantry has asked OMJ for a weekly report on progress.  She will also check that OCC has advised Biffa that they should deploy their smallest rubbish collection trucks in order to negotiate Path Hill.  OMJ had already said they were unable to postpone the work until the end of the school term on 22nd July. 

OMJ site foreman Richard Dominy said that concerned residents would be able to speak to him on 07805 409194.

Date/Time : Thursday, 06th June 2019 16:52

Totem poles embellish primary school

Last Friday saw the installation of a dozen ceramic totem poles at Whitchurch Primary School.  The poles are made of the pots created by school pupils for Equinox Together, the community art project displayed on the Pangbourne meadow last September.  The heights of the poles represent the changing seasons of the year, varying according to daylight hours in each month.  Headteacher Dawn Chesters suggested they even had potential for illustrating maths. 

Gill Williamson, the local artist behind Equinox Together, says: “I’m thrilled with the support Mrs Chesters and the School give to our community art projects; I’m delighted with the display and hope the school children will enjoy seeing their works of art on show in the years to come.  I would like to thank the school staff and parents who helped out, especially teacher Beth Higgs who organised the drawings beforehand and the Art Week when the pots were made.  Also thanks to the Arts Society Goring who sponsored the school's participation.  And thanks to Damian Per who, once again, volunteered to carry out the installation.”  

The photo shows Damian nearing the end of his installation work.

Date/Time : Monday, 03rd June 2019 14:10

Join the BioBlitz next Sunday

WoTHabs is running the first ever BioBlitz at the Whitchurch Maze on Sunday 26th May from 2 pm. The aim is to identify as many plants, trees, insects, birds, animal signs, etc. as possible during the afternoon. 

Here is the flyer.  Everyone is welcome to join in, especially children. Refreshments will be available. The picture here shows a Comma butterfly.

Sandra Parkinson says: “The target is to find 250 species. We will do our best to identify plants, plant galls, fungi, butterflies and moths, as well as locally common birds and mammal signs, on the day. There will be other creatures such as beetles, bugs, snails, spiders, which will be collected (temporarily) so that they can be counted and photographed, for later identification.  Do join us and be part of some Whitchurch (natural) history!” 

More information from Sandra.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 21st May 2019 13:44

History of Whitchurch published in draft form

After many months of study Dr Simon Draper has completed writing the Whitchurch on Thames element of Oxfordshire’s history, which forms part of the long-established Victoria County History project.  His draft text, with many fascinating illustrations, has now been released to the public. 

Members of the Whitchurch & Goring Heath History Society have already contributed to the project.  The author says he would welcome any further comments or corrections before final publication in a year or two.  

This is detailed history with many footnotes and references.  Here are the six draft chapters: 

Landscape, Settlement, and Buildings (including boundaries and population)

Landownership (including manor houses)

Economic History: farming; trades, crafts and industry

Social History: social character and communal life; education; welfare

Religious History (including church architecture)

Local government: manor courts and parish government 

The picture shows The Greyhound in 1909, at which time Blatch’s Fine Ales and Stout were offered.

More information about the project and contact details here.

Date/Time : Monday, 20th May 2019 20:53

Gas pipeline work coming to Hardwick Road

An extensive operation will start soon in Hardwick Road and Hillside to replace underground gas distribution pipes made of cast iron with modern polyethylene ones.  Work is expected to start on 27th May. 

The contractor for Scotia Gas Networks intends to close the narrows of Hardwick Road between the High Street and Swanston Field West, with a lengthy diversion for traffic via Path Hill, Goring Heath and Whitchurch Hill.  The date and duration of the closure have yet to be announced.  The contractor OMJ is expected to write to affected householders. UPDATE, 14th May: the road closure and diversion are expected to be from 24th June to 5th August. The works are expected to take 11 weeks in total.  The parish council is likely to discuss the closure this Thursday evening, 16th May. 

The last time that Hardwick Road was dug up for a gas pipeline was in 2011 when the district gas main was re-laid across the Thames and through the village in order to remove it from the toll bridge, prior to the bridge’s reconstruction.  That pipeline is not expected to be affected by the forthcoming work. 

Scotia Gas Networks has produced a drawing in which the proposed work is shown by yellow lines.  Over 900 metres of old 4 inch and 6 inch diameter iron pipes are to be replaced.  The work extends from the High Street to the far end of Hillside.  Swanston Field does not appear to be involved. 

The photograph above is from 2011 and shows a similar traffic diversion at the junction of the High Street with Hardwick Road during the installation of the gas main in that year.

Date/Time : Monday, 13th May 2019 19:22

Draft Village Plan is available for comment

Since the Parish Council started work on the development of a new Village Plan in November 2017 a lot of work has been done by the steering committee and four working groups.  Results of surveys and a preliminary summary of recommendations, with costs, have already been revealed.  Now the Draft Village Plan itself has been made available for comment.  The members of the steering group invite you to take a look at the draft and let them have any final comments, as they work towards its completion.

If you would like to comment on the Plan, please ring John Bradon, chairman of the steering group, on 07789 944 676 or send him an email.  There is more information on the recently updated Village Plan page of this website and there will be a presentation at the Annual Parish Assembly on Tuesday 21st May.

The photo shows John Bradon and Neil Huntington (who is working on replacing the Pavilion) ready to talk about the Village Plan at the start of Saturday’s Fun Day/Village Fete.  Jean-Marc Grosfort (who is upgrading the Village Hall) and Jim Donahue were also manning the stall, which attracted many visitors.  In the Gallery there is a photo showing Jean-Marc, John and Jim at the stall.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 07th May 2019 15:29

Eric Hartley to receive Whitchurch Award

The recently created Whitchurch Award for voluntary activity in the community is to be given to well known village resident Eric Hartley (pictured with his dog Molly). 

The joint organisers of the award scheme announced today: 

The Whitchurch Society and the Whitchurch Web are very pleased to announce that the inaugural winner of the Whitchurch Award for an outstanding voluntary contribution to life in the village is Eric Hartley.  For over thirty years Eric has overseen the publication of his booklet of local walks around Whitchurch, and there can be few houses in the village without a copy.  Through this work Eric has become a champion of the local rural environment, protecting local footpaths, encouraging local landowners to grant permissive rights over their land, and educating us all into the local history and natural history of the area.  The Hartley Steps on the Thames Path commemorate his efforts in this respect.  Above all, though, Eric will be forever recognised, especially perhaps by fellow dog-walkers, as the nicest, most friendly and most courteous of people – a real force for good cheer around the village, and a great contributor to life in Whitchurch. 

The award will be presented to Eric at the Annual Parish Assembly in the Old Stables on Tuesday 21st May.  (The date was changed from Thursday 23rd because of the European elections.) 

Eric led the Whitchurch Society village walks for many years, before handing on the role to younger walkers.  This year’s Spring Walk takes place next weekend, Sunday 12th May.  All are welcome – details in the poster on What’s On.

Update, 3rd June 2019:  The Henley Standard has published an article about Eric.

Date/Time : Monday, 06th May 2019 18:24

WoTFun is on the Village Green, 1 pm to 5 pm today……

For kids: Bertie Slippers, Mini Professors Science Classes South Reading, Pop Up Play Village UK, kids’ pocket money stalls, vintage fairground rides, pony rides, bungee trampolines, penalty shoot out, treasure hunt.

For grown-ups: Grand Prize Draw with amazing prizes, massages from The Quiet Way, stalls including jewellery, home-made cards, skincare, eco goodies and lots more.

For everyone: tea and cake tent, BBQ, licensed bar, ice cream, giant games, live jazz band and Whitchurch’s very own orchestra playing something speciaol for Star Wars Day!

Just £1 entry for adults and free for kids, with all proceeds to your local Pre School. For everyone: tea and cake tent, BBQ, licensed bar, ice cream, giant games, live jazz band and Whitchurch’s very own orchestra- playing something special for Star Wars Day!

Date/Time : Saturday, 04th May 2019 10:16

Bienvenue to our French visitors this weekend

A group of 24 visitors from our twinned community of La Bouille in France will arrive tomorrow morning in time for a hearty English breakfast in Goring Heath Parish Hall. 

The host families (half of them in Whitchurch and half up the hill) have a choice of events for their visitors on Saturday, including the Art Café and the Fun Day/Village Fete.  On Sunday there is an outing to Savill Gardens for a picnic and then a boat trip, with cream tea, through Windsor from Runnymead. 

The visitors are due to leave on Monday morning after a display of Morris Dancing at the Almshouses in Goring Heath. 

Across the Thames another group of French visitors from Houdan, the twin town of Pangbourne, will be enjoying a similar visit this weekend. 

Knit & Stitch members have been busy preparing a welcome.  The Boat in the High Street has been decorated for the occasion with the Tricolour and Union Jack, together with a flock of Gallic cockerels (also known as Gallic roosters). 

Gill Williamson, organiser of Knit & Stitch, says that the colourful knitted birds (more photos here) will be on sale in return for a donation to the Twinning Association, at the Twinning stall on the village green on Saturday, between 1pm and 5pm.  The cockerel has long been an unofficial symbol of France, gallus being Latin for the bird and Gallus for an inhabitant of Gaul.

Date/Time : Friday, 03rd May 2019 10:51

Peter Dragonetti is our new District Councillor

Peter Dragonetti has been elected District Councillor of the Kidmore End and Whitchurch ward.  Standing as an Independent he received 736 votes, compared with 280 for Domenic Papa (Conservative) and 122 for Dave Bowen (Labour). 

Peter Dragonetti (pictured) will combine his new role, representing the people  of Kidmore End, Mapledurham, Whitchurch, Whitchurch Hill, Crays Pond and Goring Heath, with his chairmanship of Goring Heath Parish Council.


Date/Time : Friday, 03rd May 2019 08:37

Local election today in Village Hall

Polling for the election of a new District Councillor takes place between 7 am and 10 pm today (Thursday) in the Village Hall in Manor Road.  Poll cards have been issued to voters. 

Whitchurch is in the Kidmore End and Whitchurch Ward, which includes Goring Heath and Mapledurham.  The three candidates are Dave Bowen (Labour), Peter Dragonetti (Independent) and Domenic Papa (Conservative).   They are residents of Whitchurch, Goring Heath and Benson respectively.

The three candidates' profiles and photos can be seen here, as published recently in the Henley Standard. Scroll down for the official information.

Date/Time : Thursday, 02nd May 2019 08:17

Whitchurch Award scheme announced

Whitchurch is fortunate in having many residents who contribute their services voluntarily for the benefit of the community.  We all know someone who has made a valuable contribution and we are grateful to them. 

The Whitchurch Award is being introduced to give recognition to those who have given exceptional service to our village.  The scheme will be administered by the Whitchurch Society in conjunction with the Whitchurch Web, with a small and changing committee.  The first award will be made later this month, at the Annual Parish Assembly in the Old Stables on Tuesday 21st May. 

From next year, village residents will be invited to nominate someone they consider deserves this special recognition. 

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue said: “We are very lucky in our village that there are so many residents volunteering their time in the community in so many ways.  I think the Whitchurch Award is an excellent idea to honour at least some of those individuals and show the value we place on their work.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 01st May 2019 17:08

Primary School football team plays in National Finals on Saturday

Whitchurch Primary School boys football team will be heading to Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s Stadium (pictured) this Saturday (4th May) to take part in the English Schools Football Association Under-11 Danone Small School Cup National Finals 2019.  The girls team were also district and county winners and narrowly missed out on a place in the finals. 

Teams from eight small primary schools from across the country will play a series of 7-a-side matches in Birmingham.  The National Champions will be announced at the end of the day.  All the teams have competed in and won District, County and Regional rounds.

Here is the line-up of schools:

Newcastle School for Boys, Northumberland

Christ Church Catholic Primary School, Northumberland

Newtown C of E Primary School, Shropshire

Warton Nethersole C of E Primary School, Warwickshire

Gretton Primary School, Gloucestershire

Whitchurch Primary School, Oxfordshire

Loyola Preparatory School, Essex

English Martyrs Catholic Primary School, Sussex


Good luck Whitchurch!

Date/Time : Sunday, 28th April 2019 11:10

Twenty is Plenty for Whitchurch

Two traffic-calming stickers are being delivered to each household on the High Street, Hardwick Road and Eastfield Lane, as part of the parish council’s plan to reduce traffic speeds in the village. They are self-adhesive and designed to be attached to waste collection bins so that they are visible to approaching drivers.  Residents are asked to place one sticker on their green bin and one on their black bin so that the message will be on display each week. 

Rachel Hatcher, chair of the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG), says that the parish council would like to introduce a 20 mph limit.  But currently our average traffic speeds exceed 24 mph, the upper limit for change to such a scheme without the introduction of traffic calming measures.  Further speed monitoring will be carried out.

For any queries or requests for more stickers, contact Rachel here.


Date/Time : Thursday, 18th April 2019 18:02

Village Fete returns as Fun Day on 4th May

Don’t miss it!  The Whitchurch Village Fete, previously held in mid to late summer, has been moved to early May in order to fit the year-on-year programme of the Pre-School, whose parents organise it.  Rachel Grocott reveals what is in store for us: 

The Whitchurch-on-Thames Fete returns - this time as your local Fun Day, on Saturday 4th May 2019 - organised by and raising funds for your local Pre-School, and generously sponsored by Warmingham & Co. 

Attractions include: - Tea and cake tent, bar and BBQ - Children's entertainment including Bertie Slippers, Mini Professors Science Clases South Reading and Pop Up Play Village - Vintage fairground rides

- Stalls including jewellery, pocket money gifts, bric-a-brac, dried fruit, ice cream and eco goodies  - Inflatable maze - Bungee trampolines - Orchestra and other live music.

From 1pm to 5pm on Whitchurch-on-Thames Village Green, Saturday 4th May 2019. We look forward to seeing you there!  

Rachel’s contact details: 07885 444510, 

Here is the full poster.

Date/Time : Monday, 15th April 2019 09:56

Youths trash Eastfield House care home

Between 3 and 4 pm today a group of male youths occupied themselves by inflicting damage on the empty Eastfield House care home, to which they had gained access despite the fencing and boarded-up openings.  Many windows at the back were broken, as the photo shows, and judging by the noises heard by concerned neighbours considerable other damage was done inside the building. 

The Police were called and caught about six of the youths, who are thought to have been cautioned. Several others rode off on bicycles.

The care home is owned by Majesticare who have allowed it to remain empty and deteriorating for several years while they have made a series of unsuccessful planning applications involving the demolition or part-demolition of the building.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th April 2019 18:36

Pop-up café for Lin’s VegShed at Hardwick

To celebrate the opening of Lin’s VegShed at the gates of the Hardwick estate, Eugena Tolhurst (pictured) is organising a Pop-up Café on Saturday 20th April from 12 noon to 3 pm. 

There will be soup, salad bowls, cakes and hot drinks.  All are welcome but please note that parking is limited. 

Read in this article about the Tolhurst family and how their latest venture, Lin’s VegShed, is named after Eugena’s mother Lin Tolhurst, who planned to upgrade the previous straw bale hut and create a new community hub.  Sadly Lin died last year, just after the 100th crowd-funding donation had been received, and shortly before construction was due to begin. Now the family has fulfilled her plan. 

Update, 15th April: the Henley Standard has published an article on the subject.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 09th April 2019 18:49

No parish council election on 2nd May

There are three candidates for District Councillor on 2nd May but there will be no election for Parish Councillors. 

For the seven seats on Whitchurch on Thames Parish Council, seven nominations were received by the closing date of 3rd April.  All six of the current councillors are standing again.  They are joined by Jon Steward who was previously co-opted in 2015 but resigned in May 2017.  The seven parish councillors are listed in the Statement of Persons Nominated

Whitchurch is among the majority of parishes in South Oxfordshire in having no election.  Only 14 of the 85 parishes have more nominations than seats and therefore require an election.  The cost of an election, payable by the parish, is over £2,000. 

For the District Council we are now in the Kidmore End and Whitchurch Ward, which includes Goring Heath and Mapledurham.  The three candidates are Dave Bowen (Labour), Peter Dragonetti (Independent) and Dominic Papa (Conservative).  Their details can be found on the link above, by scrolling down.  They are residents of Whitchurch, Goring Heath and Benson respectively.

Date/Time : Monday, 08th April 2019 10:46

Village Plan recommendations revealed

Parish councillors have supported 20 recommendations made by the Village Plan steering committee.  John Bradon, chairman of the committee, presented the outline of a draft three year plan at the 21st March meeting of the parish council.  Here is a summary of the recommendations

Designated parking bays are proposed in order to tackle the key issue of traffic and parking in the High Street, together with yellow lines and a 20 mph speed limit.  Rachel Hatcher, chair of the Traffic & Parking Advisory Group (TAPAG), outlined the options.  Further work will now be done by the traffic consultant MODE. 

The plan includes a new pavilion on the village green costing £200,000, while over £20,000 is expected to be spent on improvements to the village hall. A raised pavement is planned at The Ferryboat and the Hardwick Road pavement is to be resurfaced, at a combined cost of £25,000. 

Various other items, including a community lunch, river access improvements and opportunities for new sporting activities such as netball, are included the draft Plan, which updates the previous Village Plan of 2009.  The minutes of the March meeting will be found on the Parish Council page. 

The next stage is a final consultation to confirm that Whitchurch residents are satisfied with the recommendations supported by the parish council.

Update, 15th April:  The Henley Standard has published an article on the subject.


Date/Time : Monday, 01st April 2019 10:20

New venture – Whitchurch Wildlife Walks

Sandra Parkinson, a founder of Whitchurch-on-Thames Habitat Study Group (WoTHabs), is starting a programme of family-oriented monthly wildlife walks in and around the village.  They will generally be on the afternoon of the last Sunday of each month and will be based initially at Chalkhills Farm, Hardwick Road. 

All ages are welcome.  To join a walk, send an email to Sandra.  If enough people contact her, the first walk will be on Sunday 31st March.  

For more information see the flyer.

Date/Time : Thursday, 21st March 2019 14:51

Children demonstrate for climate change awareness

Last Friday a number of children from the Primary School gave up their lunch break to support a campaign for global climate change awareness, inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.  Carrying posters, they walked from the school to the Whitchurch bridge to show their support for the strikes around the globe and to raise awareness among the public. 

Andrea Joubert of Hardwick Road, whose children Aidan and Duncan Watkins were among the walkers, says “it was a small but determined group that braved the very strong winds – everyone was in high spirits and we received smiles, friendly hoots & cheers from passers-by.” 

There are more pictures in the photo gallery.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 19th March 2019 15:37

Nominations for local elections close in two weeks time

For anyone thinking of standing in the local elections on 2nd May, the closing date for nominations is just over two weeks away: Wednesday 3rd April. 

Whitchurch residents aged 18 and over will have the opportunity to vote in the village hall on Thursday 2nd May. 

Candidates for a new District Councillor will definitely be on the ballot paper as the position is vacant following the resignation of Rob Simister. 

Whether Parish Councillors will be on the ballot paper depends on the number of candidates who decide to stand.  There are seven places available on Whitchurch Parish Council and if there are no more than seven candidates there will be no election.  If there are eight or more candidates all their names will appear on the ballot paper and voting will take place. 

There is information on how to become a candidate on the SODC Local Elections website.  There is also guidance  from the Electoral Commission here.  The candidates will be listed by SODC on Thursday 4th April. 

To find out what is involved in being a parish councillor, read the Job Description.

Those who have not yet registered to vote in the elections have until Friday 12th April to do so.  SODC has issued a two-page guide on How to Vote.

Date/Time : Sunday, 17th March 2019 13:37

Brick wall again at risk from large truck

Only two days after the wall was damaged by a giant car transporter coming to collect a car from an address in Manor Road, the driver of a huge Austrian articulated truck found himself with the difficult task of having to turn around in the same location at 11 am this morning.  The photo shows the vehicle reversing towards the High Street, passing within inches of the pillar that was damaged on Tuesday.  More photos here

The writer happened to be examining the damaged wall for the previous news item, when the vehicle appeared. The driver said he had been told to go down the hill but had realised that he could not proceed.  He was an experienced driver, with some understanding of English, and he succeeded in making the turn by driving into Manor Road and then backing on to the High Street. 

Could there be a misunderstanding that with the bridge rebuilt very large vehicles can now drive to Pangbourne?  (Most people seem to know that large vehicles can’t pass under the railway bridge.)  

Richard Wingfield, Whitchurch Web News Editor.

Update, 18th March:  It seems that the vehicle did not come from the BP Technology Centre.  The driver was seen at Crays Pond, apparently getting advice from another HGV driver, before heading to Whitchurch.  There are two signs at the exit from the BP Technology Centre telling drivers of HGVs not to turn left. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th March 2019 18:46

Severe damage to Manor Road brick wall

On Tuesday an articulated car transporter struck the left hand pillar of the Manor Road entrance, causing serious damage, which can also be seen in this photograph.  The heavy brick pillar was knocked sideways by several inches and the adjoining wall is now cracked in several places.  A repair involving demolition and reconstruction is now inevitable, as was needed after the right hand pillar was struck by a Range Rover in July 2017.  On this occasion the pillar is still upright but not fully stable and some public protection seems to be advisable.  

The apologetic driver of the car transporter, an employee of the Newbury branch of the international car auction firm COPART, proceeded into Manor Road to upload a car and then departed. 

On the following day the driver returned, having been told by his boss in Newbury to find out who owned the damaged wall so that compensation could be arranged.  Tanya Hawley in nearby Whitchurch House saw him arrive and spoke to him.  She was astonished that he had arrived in the same huge car-transporter as on the previous day.  Asked why he had not come in a more sensible vehicle the driver said that his boss had asked him to call in at Whitchurch en route to Marlow where he had to pick up another car.  After making some enquiries, he succeeded in turning the massive truck around without causing any more damage to Whitchurch walls and then departed. 

Who owns the damaged wall?  Oxfordshire County Council apparently says it is not them.  The owner of the nearby house is understood to have consulted his deeds and says it is not him.  Parish chairman Jim Donahue says that it appears likely that the parish council is the owner, having acquired the nearby verges from the local authority about ten years ago. 

Long term resident Tanya Hawley says this is the first time in the 45 years that she and Peter have been living on the High Street that the left hand wall has been struck.  She is appalled at the ongoing damage being done to the village’s historic walls. 

(News items on earlier wall damage: 18.7.17 right hand pillar knocked down; 29.8.17 hole knocked through wall opposite pub; 22.5.18 hole in wall repaired)

For a recent article by Peter Hawley on the brick walls and bellmouth entrances of Whitchurch go to this page.

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th March 2019 17:17

Car stolen from Hardwick Road

A red BMW 325i, registration E30 2WKK, was stolen from Hardwick Road at 11.20 pm yesterday evening and driven up towards Whitchurch Hill.  Please call Will Skewes on 07590 681878 if you have any information. 

Update, 18th March:  The Henley Standard have interviewed Will and published an article.

Date/Time : Thursday, 07th March 2019 12:14

Whitchurch Toll Bridge has a new owner

The General Estates Company Ltd, based in Hythe near Southampton, has become the new owner and operator of the Whitchurch toll bridge, having bought the privately-owned bridge company. 

Geoff Weir, company secretary of Whitchurch Bridge (Holdings) Ltd said today: "Our directors are approaching retirement and for the last two years have been working to secure the future of The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge (COPWB) in order to ensure that the Bridge continues to be properly managed as an important part of the local highway infrastructure.  We offered it to both local highways authorities.  There was no interest from West Berkshire Council, but we know that Oxfordshire County Council considered the proposition carefully before deciding not to proceed.  We then initiated talks with The General Estates Company as we know they have expertise in running toll bridges. The recent sale is the culmination of those talks.  The Bridge Manager and her toll collecting staff will remain in post.  COPWB will continue to operate under its Acts of 1792 and 1988, and the regulation of Tolls will continue unchanged." 

It is understood that the General Estates Company, which has been in business for over 100 years, owns and operates the Batheaston Toll Bridge near Bath and also has an interest in Dunham Toll Bridge which crosses the River Trent.  The company also operates a large number of mobile home parks.  The company has been a shareholder in the Whitchurch Bridge Company for many years.

The following statement has been issued: 

The Directors of Whitchurch Bridge (Holdings) Limited announce today that the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge has been acquired by General Estates Company Ltd based in Hythe, Hampshire.  The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge has been the bridge owner since the construction of the first Whitchurch Bridge in 1792, and was responsible for the recent reconstruction in 2013-2014.  It is constituted under its own Act of Parliament which requires it to maintain the bridge in perpetuity, and that obligation, together with the rights to collect tolls subject to the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport, remains unchanged.

Commenting on the sale Mike Beckley, Chairman of Whitchurch Bridge Holdings said “General Estates has been a shareholder for over 90 years and have a long history of prudent family ownership. We are confident that they will be a good custodian of Whitchurch Bridge”.

James Percy, Managing Director of General Estates commented “I am pleased to have acquired the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge and look forward to building on the good work of Mike and his fellow directors in securing the long-term prospects of the bridge.  The bridge is efficiently run and we have no intention to change how it’s operated in the foreseeable future”.

Date/Time : Monday, 25th February 2019 18:41

High Court ruling on the White Lion, Crays Pond

Mr Satwinder Sandhu, who bought the White Lion pub in 2013, has been ordered to stop using it as his home within two months and pay £20,000 towards costs incurred by South Oxfordshire District Council. 

Mr Timothy Straker QC said that the Whisky Bar operated since last September was a front and “could no more be called a pub than a fig leaf on a naked statue could be called clothing.” 

Peter Dragonetti, chairman of Goring Heath Parish Council, said :  “This is a great vindication of our fight to get the White Lion back as a pub, and it has brought the community together.” 

Full story here.

Date/Time : Monday, 25th February 2019 09:07

Two urbanisation threats discussed (UPDATED AGAIN)

The ancient Tuddingway road through Whitchurch, along which generations of travellers walked and rode in past centuries, has seen nothing like it.  Two planning applications, very different in nature, are simultaneously out to consultation on proposals that affect the rural landscape along the historic route. 

The Fence: 

At yesterday’s parish council meeting, Lesley Landen, who has lived on the Hartslock Bridleway for many years, told councillors that she was so shocked and upset on first seeing the Coombe Park steel security fence that she wept.  She was appalled that anyone would want to build such an aggressive and industrial fence to mark the boundary of their land. 

Will Davies, a metropolitan police officer whose parents-in-law live on the Bridleway, said that his professional view regarding security was that the design of the fence was completely inappropriate for its purpose.  He said the spiked palisade fence was hostile in character and that it would tend to attract hostility. 

Ian Millar said he had pointed out to SODC, using old photographs, that the diagrams used to support the claim that the old and new fences are of equal height are incorrect.  The old fence was considerably lower than the proposed 2.4m height of the new one. (*See update, below.)

Others pointed out that the problem with intruders had developed because the house had been temporarily deserted.  Once someone is living there the problem will go away. 

After further discussion, the council resolved to object to both the line and design of the fence, a considerable length of which has already been installed without planning permission. 

Individual comments must reach SODC before 15th March and can be made here

The ‘Yurts’: 

The council went on to discuss the application from Bozedown Alpaca Farm to build year-round holiday cabins on the chalk hillside beneath the historic Bozedown Camp.  Several speakers emphasised that calling them yurts was misleading and that rather than portable tents there would be five fully serviced permanent buildings needing an access roadway. 

Speakers pointed out that while there could be merit in such a scheme in the right location, the proposal conflicts with the principles of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which exists to conserve and enhance the natural landscape of the chalk hills. 

The council resolved to object to the proposal. 

Many objections have already appeared on the SODC website.  Individual comments must reach SODC before 1st March and can be made here

The Tuddingway: 

To discover more about the ancient roadway, go to the About the Village page, select Hartslock Bridleway and follow the links.


*Update, 25th February:  Ian Millar's illustrated report, objecting to the fence, can be viewed here

Update 7th March: There is a Henley Standard article on the yurts plan here.

Date/Time : Friday, 22nd February 2019 17:19

Coombe Park submits plan for security fencing (Updated)

A retrospective planning application has been submitted for the erection of new steel fencing along the Hartslock bridleway, to replace the existing boundary fence of Coombe Park. 

Several hundred metres of new fencing had been installed before complaints last month caused South Oxfordshire District Council to alert the estate’s owner, David Pain, to the need for a planning application.  The 2.4 m high spike-topped steel palisade fence has been criticised on the grounds of its inappropriateness in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and for its alignment, which is generally nearer to the bridleway than the existing dilapidated fence. 

The extent of the planned fencing is shown on this map of the estate.  It includes a length along the drive at the back of the village hall. 

The planning application, P19/S0366/FUL, includes a report on the security of Coombe Park estate by Special Projects and Services Ltd of Hereford, which has provided a resident security team on the site for the past 12 months to deal with a continuing problem of intruders. The report states that websites are ‘actively promoting a high level of intrusions almost as a game’. 

Regarding the alignment of the fence, the Planning Statement of 4th February 2019 includes this undertaking: “The old fence will be removed following the completion of the new fence. Following the removal of the old fence the new fence will be adjusted to the position agreed with officers from Oxfordshire County Council highways & rights of way.” 

Details of a planned laurel hedge, including a temporary stock fence to protect the young plants, are provided in the documents. The hedge would be planted on the estate’s side of the fence. 

The Parish Council is expected to discuss a response to the application at its meeting on 21st February.  Comments can be submitted until 15th March.

Update, 15th February:  Parish council chairman Jim Donahue has heard from Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.  He said today:  “OCC's view on the new fence is that there should be a minimum of 20 feet between the fences on either side of the Bridleway, so they have asked David Pain to remove the old fence and move the new fence to the old locations.  They will be enforcing this agreement.  This is in addition to SODC’s planning review, which will still consider location of the fence, but also other factors such as the design and any new vegetation planted”.

Date/Time : Friday, 15th February 2019 11:05

High Street boat carries new message

The High Street boat has been re-decorated to a new theme – climate change and recycling. 

Gill Williamson, founder of Crafty Knit & Stitch, explains: 

The Crafty Knit & Stitch Group along with Tots on the Hill, Whitchurch Preschool and Whitchurch Primary have joined the Climate Coalition’s ‘Show the Love’ campaign which involves community based climate change action around Valentine's Day.  On Thursday we attached hundreds of papier mache hearts made from recycled material on the trees in the boat outside The Old Rectory Stables in Whitchurch.  Each heart goes with a pledge to take home and recycle our rubbish.  The Climate Coalition’s #showthelove campaign was brought to our attention by Vanessa Pearce who is a member of both Crafty Knit & Stitch and Woodcote WI.

Date/Time : Saturday, 09th February 2019 11:38

Application for five luxury ‘glamping’ cabins at Bozedown

A planning application is now out to consultation for the construction of five holiday accommodation yurt-style roundhouses on agricultural land at Bozedown Farm, spread out along the hillside above Hardwick Road with views to the river. 

The application has been registered on the SODC website, and the case for the development is presented in detail, with illustrations, in the Design and Access Statement

The application, prepared by a Bolton-based company Building Design Services, emphasises the scarcity of glamping facilities in the district and the need to provide a diversified income for the alpaca farm. 

The insulated timber-framed ‘winter’ yurts would be available for booking by holiday makers all year round.  Five car parking spaces would be created near Hardwick Road.  Water supply, electric power and septic tank drainage would be provided and each cabin would have a wood-burning stove.  The application states that the buildings would be blocked from public view by the hedge alongside Hardwick Road. 

The consultation ends on 22nd February.  Comments can be made online, via the SODC link above.  The parish council is expected to discuss a response at its next monthly meeting on Thursday 21st February.

Update, 6th February:  The time limit for consultation has been extended by SODC from 22nd February to 1st March.

Date/Time : Sunday, 03rd February 2019 17:09

District councillor Rob Simister resigns

Rob Simister, district councillor in South Oxfordshire District Council for the Kidmore End and Whitchurch ward since 2011, has resigned in the wake of his party’s suspension of six of his fellow councillors for voting against the council’s local plan.  The Conservative-controlled council voted last month to accept the local plan which indicates where 28,500 new homes could be built by 2034. 

More details in the Henley Standard report here

Elections in May this year are expected to result in a new councillor for our ward.

Date/Time : Thursday, 31st January 2019 18:35

Industrial fence appears alongside Hartslock bridleway

A high, spike-topped metal fence has been erected without planning permission along hundreds of yards of the boundary of Coombe Park, on Hartslock Bridleway.  The sprawling and dilapidated estate was bought recently by a Mr David Pain, who is clearly trying to improve its security.  Intruder-resistant measures were taken earlier at the estate’s entrance gate in Manor Road. 

Readers of our news item earlier this year (news archive, 12.3.18) will recall that the derelict site was being plagued by visits from young ‘explorers’ linked by social media, who took the opportunity to walk around, photograph the rundown mansion, examine its once-grand interior and other features of the estate and post on ‘explorer’ websites. 

The new fence has been built directly alongside an attractive length of the Thames Path, within the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty.  Historically, the bridleway is on the ancient route known as the Tuddingway, used since the 13th century. 

Jim Donahue, chairman of the parish council, commented yesterday: 

I was made aware of this last Sunday by concerned residents of Hartslock Bridleway.  The work had started without any notification or planning application, and I immediately escalated the matter to SODC. The new fence is along a considerable stretch of the Hartslock Bridleway along the Thames path.  The main concerns are: 

1. The location of the fence directly adjacent to the road surface in some places, leaving little room for vegetation or passing vehicles or pedestrians outside of the paved surface. Some residents have questioned whether it is in accordance with agreed boundaries. 

2. The intimidating design and size of the fence, while it may be similar to the one installed by Dan Hazell at his business further along the bridleway, is not in keeping with the rural AONB setting.  

Since Sunday, I have spoken to the head of SODC enforcement and also to the new owner of Coombe Park, David Pain.  SODC have told him that he does not need to stop work, but will require a retrospective planning application, as it is over 2m high. 

David Pain has told me that he plans to continue with the fence building but has committed to submit a planning application within 7 -10 days.  He said that he has also instructed the builders to make the rest of the new fence as close to the existing fence as possible. He also said that his intention for planting laurel on his side of the fence was that the laurel would grow through the fence to ultimately hide it, but would consider growing it on the other side, space permitting.  

The situation is clearly not satisfactory to the residents I have heard from on Hartslock Bridleway, and will also impact the larger community using the Thames Path.  The parish council will need to submit any objections to the plans based on feedback we receive once a planning application is submitted.

Date/Time : Friday, 25th January 2019 14:15

Toll bridge gets its 20 mph limit

Today’s 5½ hour bridge closure enabled West Berkshire Highways subcontractor Volker to install the Bridge Company’s traffic calming scheme.  They renewed the rumble strip alongside the Pangbourne approach curve, repainted white lines and other markings there and around the toll booth, added “20”marks on the road and erected new “20” signs.  Two automatic speed warning devices have yet to be installed and two old 30mph signs to be removed. 

Bridge Company director Geoff Weir said that the cost of the programme of work is around £15,000 and the Company and its advisers believe it will have a beneficial effect on pedestrian safety.   The change in traffic speeds will be monitored. 

Nick Brazil has made a 2½ minute film, “Speeding Down to 20”, set to stirring music, showing the action at the Whitchurch end of the bridge, with impressive speed painting about one minute in.

Date/Time : Thursday, 24th January 2019 19:23

Looking beyond ‘Winter Wonderland’

Since its installation outside the Old Stables the Boat has given pleasure to many people in its different appearances, first as a bed of colourful flowers, then with a brilliant red poppy display, followed by three kings Christmas trees and currently a ‘Winter Wonderland’ of snowflakes (pictured).  The four presentations can be seen here

Leslie Meynerd of MOWS (‘Make Our Whitchurch Special’) appealed through this website in September 2017 for someone to donate a retired boat.  Nick Bailey of Beale Park offered one, which was accepted, and it was installed with the help of the parish council before the end of that year, joining the two timber planters already adding colour to the Church Drive entrance. 

After its successful first year, the future of the Boat was discussed at a recent parish council meeting.  It seems that the great majority, though not every member, of the community likes it.  But there was agreement that its condition needs some work.  It was decided that physical improvements would be made in the spring by MOWS, with a raised floor and some painting.  In the meantime a canvas cover will be provided.  The parish council agreed that the seasonal sequence of flower beds and art installations should continue. 

Leslie is now asking for new volunteers to help with the improvements that will be made in the spring.  Anyone able to help is invited to contact her on 984 5513. 

Gill Williamson, who runs the Thursday sessions ‘Crafty Knit & Stitch’ says: “We are thrilled to have the chance to continue to use the boat as a display space for our imaginations until the flowers appear in the spring – keep your eyes open for what’s coming next!”  

Gill and the group meet weekly to work on their own projects and also to create community art (including yarn bombing of the bridge in 2017 and totem poles on the meadow in 2018).  She says: “Join us at The Old Rectory Stables any Thursday from 1.30pm to 3.30pm or from 7pm to 9pm with your knitting, crochet, needlework and crafts or just for a cuppa – everyone is welcome – we have lots of expertise to pass on if you’re just starting out.”

Date/Time : Monday, 21st January 2019 13:31

Pavilion project passes milestone

Outline planning consent has been granted for the new multipurpose pavilion to be built on the village green.  The proposed location, front elevation and interior layout of the building are shown here

Neil Huntington joined the pavilion project team last year and has been advancing the project alongside Keith Brooks, chairman of the Village Green Working Group.  They are developing earlier work by Carrie Hart, and are supported by Owens Galliver Architects of Pangbourne. 

Neil reports: 

“Many village residents will be aware that the existing village green pavilion is no longer fit for purpose and therefore the Parish Council has been promoting its replacement by a new multipurpose sports pavilion. The project passed a major milestone when planning consent was granted earlier this month. 

The new pavilion has been designed to meet the needs of the cricket club, youth football teams, the school and other sports activities and functions such as the village fete.  It will be positioned in the south-east corner of the village green to avoid possible damage to a number of mature trees near the existing site.  It has been carefully designed with timber elevations to ensure that it does not dominate its surroundings. 

The main tasks in 2019 are to agree a more detailed specification, involving discussion with future users, to fix a target budget and to start raising the required funds. The Parish Council is planning to make a substantial financial contribution and a community fund raising exercise will be undertaken. They would be interested to hear from anyone who has experience in raising funds for similar projects, or who can contribute ideas for this project.  Anyone who feels they can assist should contact parish councillors Sarah Hanfrey or Keith Brooks.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 20th January 2019 18:14

Permission refused for demolition of Eastfield House

South Oxfordshire District Council has refused Ross Healthcare permission for their proposed demolition of the Eastfield House care home, giving as the principal reason that it “would result in the loss of an important positive building within the conservation area…”   

The full statement is now on the SODC planning website and can be read here

Parish chairman Jim Donahue said he welcomed this good news, though we would have to wait and see whether Ross Healthcare appeals the decision. 

The parish council had been intending to provide a bus to convey objectors to a planning committee meeting. Jim said he understood that SODC felt there was no need to take it to a planning committee meeting and it seems that their view is aligned with the village’s.

Date/Time : Friday, 18th January 2019 14:39