News Archive

The Greyhound has new owners

The family-owned company Oak Taverns of Thame, Oxfordshire, has completed its purchase of The Greyhound from Punch Taverns. 

Company director Simon Collinson said yesterday: “We have appointed Jason Walls, an experienced local Licensee, to operate the pub.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will be doing some minor refurbishment works to get the pub open for as much of the summer as possible.” 

Last Saturday evening, landlord Mark Lovett pulled his final pints before closing the pub.  He was presented with gifts by regulars who expressed their warm appreciation of all his hard work in maintaining the place as a central feature of Whitchurch life. 

When the pub re-opens in mid-August, it will be a Free House for the first time in living memory, offering beer from national and local breweries and from Oak Taverns' own micro-breweries in Oxfordshire. 

There is more information about Oak Taverns on its website.  

Date/Time : Saturday, 24th July 2021 18:33

Traffic delays in Pangbourne for 'emergency' water repairs

This morning Thames Water started work on repairing the two-week-old leak in the centre of Pangbourne, in the street near the Co-op. 

The Pangbourne Parish Clerk commented this morning: “Unfortunately Thames Water have today called in the ‘emergency’ water repairs permit to the mains pipe that’s been leaking for two weeks outside the Co-op / square in Pangbourne, so no advance notice and working on a weekday - despite everyone’s best efforts to plan this and get it done on a Sunday.  It’s pretty jammed out there and will likely get worse.  West Berks Council Highways Dept are working to get Thames Water done and gone ASAP but I suspect there will be disruption tonight.  It’s probably worth advising people to avoid the village if they can - especially at rush hour.” 

Date/Time : Tuesday, 13th July 2021 14:31

Roadworks in High Street for new storm drainage pipe

A team of three from OCC’s contractor, Drayton Construction, started work today on providing a new drainage route across the High Street.  The PVC pipe will allow water building up in the Greyhound area during a heavy rain storm to cross beneath the street and flow into the main roadside drain leading to the river. 

The need to replace the present cross-drain became apparent during the flash flood of 16th June last year when the interior of the Greyhound was flooded. 

Temporary traffic lights for alternate one-way flow are in operation. 

The OCC Highways Department had been asked by the Parish Council to do this work before resurfacing the High Street, but it seems that this was not possible.     

Date/Time : Monday, 05th July 2021 16:23

Heritage orchard proposed for Memorial Garden

The Parish Council would like to hear opinions about the idea of planting an area of the Polish Church Memorial Garden in Manor Road as an orchard.  Katherine Higley explains the proposal below. 

The 2019 Village Plan defined the Polish Church Memorial Garden as a 'quiet place for relaxation and remembrance of the church and those who worshipped there.'  Currently, the area has a seating area on the church site and a spinney where children can explore and be inspired by the insect life, the trees and the flowers.

The Parish Council have been asked to consider a proposal put forward by a younger member of the community, Alastair Dunstan, who is passionate about saving heritage fruit trees from old trees in the village**.  The idea is to plant a small number in the SE corner of the garden.  One of the last remaining former residents of the Polish camp, Mrs. Kowal, said that she thought the idea was 'a lovely tribute to the former community' and that it reminded her of the fruit trees in her late husband's village in rural Poland.  The history of orchards in Poland dates to the 11th century.  Interestingly, parts of Whitchurch had orchards up until the Second World War.

The Parish Council are interested to hear your views on this proposal. 

The Parish Council are also interested to understand what other ideas people in the village may have for the different ways in which this space could be used. 

Please note that the closing date for comments is Friday 3rd September 2021.  The Parish Council will discuss the responses at their September meeting on Thursday 9th September.  The Parish Council will store your responses for a period of four months during which we may contact you to hear more about an idea that you have suggested.  After that all e-mails and responses provided by other methods will be destroyed.  Your responses will only be shared with other Cllrs and the Parish Clerk if strictly necessary. The Parish Council may choose to publish a report explaining the suggestions received and considered; no names of residents will be used.

Please e-mail me (Cllr Higley) at cllrhigley.whitchurchonthames@gmail.com with your views. 

 

**Alastair would like to hear from anyone with a heritage fruit tree in their garden who would like to contribute to his project and have their tree grafted.  He explains his plans on this page.  Please email him if you can help.    

Date/Time : Sunday, 04th July 2021 16:36

Martyn Jordan, husband of Vicky, has died

Martyn died at home on Saturday evening (June 26th), having been diagnosed with a brain tumour in February 2020 and undergone treatment.  He was married to Vicky for 54 years and was well known in the community for his role as treasurer of the Twinning Association.  Martin and Vicky were married in 1967 and arrived in Whitchurch Hill in 1971. 

He is survived by Vicky, their daughters Helen and Sally and granddaughter Lauren.  No formal funeral is planned but there will be a small family gathering with a celebration later in the year. 

Last year Martyn wrote a summary of his career, in which music, mathematics, bell-ringing, golf and family featured strongly. 

Date/Time : Monday, 28th June 2021 11:54

Warning about Vaccine Passport scams

An alert was issued by Neighbourhood Watch today, warning about convincing-looking NHS emails that explain how to apply for a Covid Vaccine Passport.  You are led to a fake NHS website that asks for personal details and an admin fee. 

More information here.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 22nd June 2021 21:37

Coroner's conclusion on fatal cycling accident

Twelve-year-old Corey Caton from Reading was seriously injured on 7th November last year when his new bike veered into the path of a Volkswagen van.  He was cycling with his father down the steep, winding length of Whitchurch hill above the Whitchurch war memorial.  He died two days later in hospital. 

The Coroner in Oxford concluded that the death was a “tragic road traffic collision”.  He ruled out the relevance of the van driver using a headset phone at the time.  He did not accept the suggestion by Corey’s mother’s solicitor that there was gross negligence by the father. 

The collision investigator said that the speed of the bike was the most likely cause of the loss of control on the bend.

More information in this BBC news article, source of the picture of Corey above. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 09th June 2021 15:42

Primary School seeks donations to replace Astro Turf

The Astroturf surface at Whitchurch Primary School was installed 13 years ago and has been so well used that it is now almost worn out. 

School PE Coordinator Mr Jones says: “The Astro Turf surface is now an essential part of life at the school and has made a huge difference to the school’s ability to teach PE all year round.  Since its installation, sport at Whitchurch Primary has grown beyond all expectations, with the school winning 240 inter-school sports tournaments across 14 different sports, including 29 county titles.  During the 13 years, hundreds of Whitchurch pupils have benefited from using the Astro Turf during PE lessons and for after-school clubs and playtimes.  Whether for football, netball, cricket, tennis, rugby, athletics or fitness, the artificial surface plays a vital role.  We are proud of our sporting achievements and look forward to being able to continue and expand on this with new turf.” 

An appeal has been launched by Nicola Armstrong, working alongside Elaine Mullins, chair of Whitchurch Primary Parents Association.  The goal is £38,000 and the fund has already reached £1,000.  If you would like to make a donation, go to the GoFundMe page.

To see a larger version of the pupils' "Please Donate Today" photo, click here.

For any queries, contact Nicola by email.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 25th May 2021 18:00

An Annual Assembly following an unusual year

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue opened the online Annual Parish Assembly yesterday evening with a detailed photo presentation of an unusual year in the village, showing how life continued despite lockdowns.  (Don’t miss it! – the link to Jim's set of colourful images is here.   

Our county and district councillors addressed the meeting, followed by John Bradon’s review of current activities arising out of the recent Village Plan and by Diana Smith’s account of the change from TAPAG to TAPWG.  Charles Cotgreave listed the impressive upgrades made to the village hall under Jean-Marc Grosfort’s expert guidance.  Alastair Aitchison and Alex Hilton updated us on the Village Green and AFC Whitchurch.  Rev James Leach heralded the re-emergence of church services and John Coupland said the Allotments had never been busier.  Finally, Peter Ferguson reported on the Whitchurch Wallopers (hand bell ringers).  All reports will be in the Minutes of the event which will be posted here before long. 

The meeting also included the chairman’s announcement of the winners of the Whitchurch Award 2021, resulting from nominations invited from all residents by the Whitchurch Society of an individual or a group who have provided voluntary service to the community.  The writer of this news item is delighted to say that the award was given to the Whitchurch Web team for its efforts over the past decade to provide an active village website. 

Responding to the announcement, the news editor (Richard Wingfield) said: “On behalf of the website team I’d like to thank all those who nominated us, together with the Whitchurch Society and the Parish Council, for honouring us with this year’s Whitchurch Award.  One of the best things about living in Whitchurch is the variety of things going on.  We are of course lucky to be well provided with two schools, two pubs, two village halls, a church and a recreation ground.  But, more importantly, we have enough residents willing to play an active role on the parish council, and in the many working groups and committees, and in the wide range of special interest groups from Hand Bell Ringing to the Green Team.  The challenge for the village website team is simply to do our best to keep up with all of this.  Thank you.” 

Here is the village website report to the Assembly, which includes an invitation for an extra person to join the team. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 22nd May 2021 14:54

New members for traffic and parking group

Farewell TAPAG, welcome TAPWG.  The group of residents that advises the Parish Council has a new membership and a new name, Traffic and Parking Working Group.  The members are Diana Smith (Chair), David Baty, Marc Cresswell, Linda Gray, Kit Marriott, Frances Parkes and Mike Rayment.  Together they will be taking a fresh look at what is needed to solve the village’s traffic and parking difficulties in the High Street and the other village roads. 

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue says: “The Parish Council has gone through a process over the past few months to refocus a revitalised TAPWG with a clearer set of objectives that are defined in its updated Terms of Reference.  It has also recruited five additional members that will ensure the team is representative of different parts of the High Street and other parts of the village. Well done to councillors Smith and Leadbeater-Hart for driving this process!” 

Diana Smith says there will be a survey to find out more about the current parking needs of the community.  She also says that progress is now being made by SODC on the transfer of enforcement powers that is a pre-requisite for any scheme of residents’ parking.

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th May 2021 22:29

Fly fishing on offer

David Maynerd, who lives in the High Street, is offering an introduction to fishing for trout at Barn Elms Fly Fishery, which has four lakes beside the River Pang between Englefield and Bradfield. 

David (pictured) has been a bailiff for the fishery for several years and shortly before the pandemic he started offering fly fishing taster sessions, with all equipment provided.  Now he has restarted the project and recently had his first session of the season with a beginner called Chris, who caught two trout on his first outing, was allowed to keep one for supper and is now planning to buy his own equipment. 

For more information see the poster.

Date/Time : Monday, 10th May 2021 12:21

Military history society’s new book

The locally based military history society has compiled and published a book of war stories and eyewitness accounts to raise funds for Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s). 

Glimpses of War (shown in the picture with Jerry Cockeram, society secretary and joint author, Manor Road) is a new publication by the British Modern Military History Society (BMMHS) and was inspired by the first COVID lockdown.  When their monthly live talks ceased, the members and associates of BMMHS were asked to search their family archives and papers for their own and their family members' experiences of war time – military or civilian, any war, any role.  There was a huge response.  The articles range from the Boer War through the two world wars to the more recent Falklands War in 1982 and Afghanistan. 

There is more information here

Contributors from Whitchurch include Rosemary Postlethwaite, Jerry Cockeram, Nick Brazil and Richard Wingfield, with more expected to be included in further volumes that are planned.  More articles are welcomed for consideration. 

The book has been published in paperback through Amazon, where it can be ordered. 

Details of the ongoing programme of talks organized by the society can be found here.

Date/Time : Friday, 07th May 2021 11:57

Power cuts continue but some progress made

Yesterday there were long power cuts for dozens of High Street houses, while Hardwick Road remained relatively unaffected.  An SSE contractor has now replaced a faulty transformer with a new one at the substation near the junction of Manor Road and the High Street, shown in the picture.

Date/Time : Thursday, 06th May 2021 14:55

Local elections in the Village Hall on Thursday

Whitchurch voters have two votes in the local elections to be held this Thursday 6th May.  One is for County Councillor of the Goring Division and the other is for Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley Police Area.  The polling station is the Village Hall in Manor Road, which will be open between 7 am and 10 pm. 

The candidates for the polls are listed in these two notices

The three candidates for County Councillor (Goring) are: Kevin Bulmer (Conservative) of Goring, the present incumbent; Judi Green (Labour) of Swanston Field, Whitchurch; and Bryan Urbick (Liberal Democrat) of Goring. 

There are four candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner.  The current commissioner Anthony Stansfeld is not among them.

Date/Time : Monday, 03rd May 2021 13:18

The Greyhound is sold but will continue as a pub

Punch Taverns is reported to have sold The Greyhound to another, smaller, pub company, relieving many people's worries that the village could lose one of its pubs. 

Sadly, landlord Mark Lovett has confirmed that he has been given three months notice to quit by Punch Taverns.  He understands that they have sold the property to Oak Taverns Limited, a company based in Oxfordshire. 

Mark said today: “I am very sad to say that I will be leaving Whitchurch in July after four years here.  It is a great disappointment to me as I have put a lot of time and effort into the pub and I have loved being in the village.” 

In the meantime, he said, the pub garden will continue to be open as it is now, weather permitting.  Then from 17th May, when the rules change, indoor service is expected to be possible. 

Oak Taverns is a family-run pub company based in Thame, Oxfordshire, that was set up in 1991.  It operates around a dozen pubs and bars around the South of England, including microbreweries in Thame, Barnet and Faringdon.

Date/Time : Saturday, 01st May 2021 13:24

More power cuts but generator now replaced (Latest update)

Ten days on from the long power cut on Monday 19th April, the problems have not yet been resolved.  On several days since the generator was installed on Hardwick Road there have been cuts of an hour or so.  The area affected each time is thought to encompass Hardwick Road, Hillside and Swanston Field.  Yesterday the SSE Helpline could not provide any up-to-date information to the Whitchurch Web, though a report was promised within two days. 

This morning Hardwick Road resident John Bradon spoke to an SSE employee who had come out to examine the generator, which had failed again at around 7 am.  He managed to restart it but said that it was displaying an error code and might have to be replaced, depending on further investigation. 

It is not clear whether SSE have even started work on locating the suspected fault in the underground cable that links the Manor Road and Bozedown substations.  It seems that the task may have been classified as lower priority after the temporary generator was installed. 

It seems likely that there will be more power cuts.  John suggests that we keep our mobile phones well charged.

Update, 2 pm, 29th April: A spokesman for SSE has told us that next Wednesday 5th May there will be a Planned Service Interruption (ie a power cut) for investigation and hopefully the repair of the faulty underground cable, but was unable to say exactly where the fault is.  

Update, 12 noon, 30th April: Employees of the generator hire company came this morning and rectified the fault by replacing fuel filters.  After a 15 minute outage, power was restored at 11.30 am.  They said the generator does not need to be replaced.

Update, 10.30 am, 1st May: SSE evidently insisted on a replacement generator, as a fresh truck-mounted one was delivered this morning (picture).  There was a ten-minute power cut from 9.45 am for the reconnections to be made to the nearby pole-mounted terminals.  The SSE team said this generator will remain on its truck.  It feeds the local distribution circuits at 415/240 volts.  Next Wednesday’s work is to locate and fix the fault in the 11,000 volt primary circuit. Whether the newly surfaced High Street will need to be dug up is not yet known.

Date/Time : Thursday, 29th April 2021 13:43

Archaeologists probe secrets of Hardwick ‘bear pit’

Archaeologists and Hardwick residents have been digging test pits to discover more about mysterious brick and flint structures in an old chalk quarry in the woods above the Hardwick Stud.  

The history of the Hardwick bear pit/grotto/icehouse has intrigued many people.  Last month we posted an article about it by Vicky Jordan of the Whitchurch History Society.  One of the puzzles is why it is labelled ‘Sounding House’ on old OS maps.  

Sarah Lambert-Gates, Hardwick local resident and archaeologist attached to Reading University, took the picture above showing three of the five team members investigating the entrance area last weekend.  From the left: Nick Pankhurst, Rory Williams-Burrell and Simon Smith (who instigated the project). Romilly Swan is also a team member.

The group started several weekends ago by digging trial pits to identify the extent of the flintwork foundations within the chalk hollow.  They have now moved on to investigating the entrance area.   Sarah says: “We are now focussing on removing the rubble collapsed in the front entrance path to the Folly, leading up to the flint arches on either side.  We have revealed three brick steps leading down into the main arena.  Our plan is that once this area has been excavated to reveal the original ground surface and the four or five courses of flint work that are hiding, reconstruction can begin as the first stage in restoring the folly arches and flint walls with a view to making it safe for public access and use as a performance space.  Bob, a local builder skilled in these traditional building methods, will be leading this. Volunteers will be needed at weekends!” 

Anyone who would like to help should contact Sarah

Sarah also says: “We are appealing to people to send us any photos or drawings they have of the site in the past, and to tell us any information they may have and memories of how it looked and how it was used.” 

There is a Sketchfab webpage on the project showing 3D photogrammetry models of what they have found in the test pits.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 21st April 2021 19:08

Power cut hits Whitchurch

Electric power in many parts of the village was cut at 1.15 pm today and apart for a brief period of partial recovery in the early afternoon it remained off for many properties until around 7.30 pm. 

A representative of SSE, the service provider, told the Whitchurch Web this evening that originally parts of Pangbourne, Streatley and Whitchurch were within the alerted area and 951 properties were affected.  As the search for the fault proceeded, Hardwick Road in Whitchurch became the main focus and temporary connections were made during the afternoon to restore power in other areas. 

At around 6.30 pm a large portable generator, powered by diesel, was delivered to the roadside near the Muddy Lane junction in Hardwick Road (pictured) and power was restored to most of the remaining affected area at around 7.30 pm.  Later in the evening two more generators of a smaller size are expected to be installed further along Hardwick Road, at Bozedown, which is expected to have power back by 10 pm. 

Four SSE service vehicles were parked in Hardwick Road this evening, providing Covid-compliant transport for four employees working at the site. 

Tomorrow SSE will attempt to trace the exact location of the underground fault, which they say lies somewhere between the Manor Road substation and Bozedown.  Then the road will need to be dug up and the fault repaired.  The representative said that it may be Friday before the repair work is finished and the mobile generator can be removed. 

Date/Time : Monday, 19th April 2021 21:57

Tree surgery for Manor Road

The parish council has arranged for Heritage Tree Services to carry out Duty of Care surgery on Wednesday 21st April on the trees in Manor Road within the Conservation Area (yew trees pictured), and on the following day on the trees in the Manor Road playground. 

Parish councillor Katherine Higley says: “We would like to warn users of Manor Road that a tree surgeon will be working in the area and ask them to take extra care whilst walking or driving through on these two days.  The playground will be closed on 22nd April to ensure that children are kept away from any harm.”

Date/Time : Thursday, 15th April 2021 16:29

New maintenance team for our village

Parish Council chairman Jim Donahue reports:

A new maintenance contractor, Scofell Commercial Landscapes, has been selected by the Parish Council to manage grass cutting on the village green and other parts of the village.  Thanks to our Clerk Jane Yamamoto and Councillor Jon Steward for leading the bid process.  Scofell are a highly professional team based in Newbury with over 40 employees. Their customers include Newbury Showgrounds, Thames Valley Business Park, The Downs Schools, and about 15 other parish councils including Lambourne and Pangbourne.  I recently met the contract manager and team of three individuals that will be working in our village and was impressed with their professionalism.  On the far right of the photo is contract manager Luke, next to him is Stephen, who will be the primary person mowing the grass and has experience working for the Whitchurch Primary School. The other two will support Stephen with strimming and other jobs.

Date/Time : Monday, 12th April 2021 13:51

Birds of prey found dead

On Wednesday evening Eve Carnall, who lives at Path Hill, was walking on Bec Tithe, the grass-covered hill to the north of Hardwick Road and to the west of the road up to Path Hill, when she was surprised to come across the bodies of four dead birds of prey near the top of the hill, casually dumped on open ground. 

She informed the Police via 101 and the case has been referred to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme of Natural England, who have said they will come and investigate. 

Meanwhile the bodies have been taken into storage in a freezer to prevent further deterioration before they can be properly examined. 

The four birds are a barn owl, two tawny owls and a red kite.  They appear to be juvenile birds.  There was also a much smaller bird with them, a long-tailed tit. 

When, where and how the birds died is currently not known. 

The file photo shows a tawny owl, on the left, and a barn owl. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 03rd April 2021 20:30

Guide to the remarkable verges of Hardwick Road

Some time ago Sandra Parkinson surveyed the verges of Hardwick Road for a year, identifying an astonishing variety of wild flowers and producing a colour-coded leaflet, illustrated with drawings. 

“Wild Flowers of the Hardwick Road verges” has now been reissued as the latest entry on our Nature Notes page, with the help of Nature editor Sally Woolhouse. 

The information will also be available as a leaflet which passing walkers can collect from the box on the gatepost between The Old Farmhouse and Chalkhills. 

The photo above was taken by Sandra and shows blackthorn blossom, an early sign of Spring. 

The importance of road verges is explained on the Wildlife Trusts website.

Date/Time : Sunday, 28th March 2021 18:55

Update on The Greyhound

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue provided the following update today on options for the future of The Greyhound: 

“I have been approached by a few people showing support for the Greyhound Pub, given its risk of being sold as a private dwelling, so I wanted to provide an update of the latest guidance I have on available options.  District Cllr Peter Dragonetti has been involved in the work to reject change of use approval for the White Lion Pub in Crays Pond.  He is clear that the key to their success has been a strong organised community group to spearhead this.  They are the ones that submitted the application to register the pub as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).  SODC appears to be generally supportive of trying to keep village pubs where they can, and Cllr Dragonetti plans to raise a motion to that effect, but he also believes that SODC will be unlikely to approve an ACV application unless they are supported by a strong showing of community support.  But even with an ACV, ultimately the pub will still need an owner willing to run it as a pub, which has been a downside with the White Lion and the reason it has stayed empty for almost 7 years. 

A second option is related to a new government grant scheme for community ownership of local pubs and other facilities.  The government recently announced a budget of £150m to be allocated for this purpose with matching grants of up to £250,000 per community.  I understand that these grants would go to communities wishing to purchase pubs and make them community run ventures.  More information on this scheme is expected in June when bids will start to be accepted.  Again, the grant would go to a community group wishing to own the pub and not to the Parish Council.  More details can be found here. 

In summary, if we want to demonstrate that there is strong support in the community to keep the Greyhound running as a pub, and I believe there is, I would encourage one or more residents to take the lead in organising a community support group to either lead raising an ACV application or to organise an application and fundraising for a Community Ownership grant.”

Date/Time : Tuesday, 23rd March 2021 20:48

Work on Manor Road finished, the High Street is next

The team from Pronin Ltd of Whitchurch, Shropshire, today completed their work of placing layers of asphalt slurry to provide an even surface on all the pavements in the Manor Road area. 

This is the third stage in the programme of pavement improvements agreed with Oxfordshire County Council and subsidised by parish council funds.  The work started in Hardwick Road last October and continued in Swanston Field last month. 

Tomorrow the team will start work on the fourth and final stage, the High Street pavements between Hardwick Road and the river, for which there will be temporary traffic light control. 

Later in the year the High Street itself will receive a top dressing of asphalt and then reinstatement of its white lines. 

There was more good news for Manor Road over the weekend.  Alexa Duckworth-Briggs reports that Frances Dixon and Martin Bengtzen planted over 60 new plants on the Manor Road north verge, with help from Sally Woolhouse.

Date/Time : Monday, 22nd March 2021 14:11

Agent for The Greyhound attends parish council meeting

A representative of Punch Taverns, Daniel Faulkner of Cordage Planning Consultancy, addressed the parish council at their online meeting on Thursday, seeking comments on the future of The Greyhound pub. 

He said that there had been 12 tenants since 2008, following a long stable period from 1993, and that the business had recently not been able to do better than break even, after maintenance costs.  Punch Taverns had decided to sell the pub and put it on the market last year at £675,000.  They later reduced the price to £495,000 (plus VAT, as a pub).  There had been a number of viewers but only one offer had been received and that would involve a change of use to a private dwelling. 

Mr Faulkner met with an unwelcoming reception from some councillors, who said he should visit the pub on a Quiz Night, for example, when the place is full of life.  Parish chairman Jim Donahue emphasised that the village regards the Greyhound as a valuable community asset.  One councillor suggested waiting to see how business recovered after the pandemic before deciding on any change of use. 

SODC was reported in May 2014 to have declined an application by the parish council to list The Greyhound as a Community Asset, which would automatically trigger a delay of several months following a proposal for a change of use, to give the community the opportunity to organise some means of retaining the existing use. 

On a separate topic, Jim Donahue announced with regret that councillor Hanna Ferguson had resigned after more than a year on the parish council, as she wishes to spend more time on a business that she and her husband are building.  

Update, 15th March 2021:  Jim Donahue said today that he had approached district councillor Peter Dragonetti to discuss the White Lion situation at Crays Pond, where a group of residents are aiming to re-open the pub.  The government has recently created a £150m Community Ownership Fund to match local funding for pubs up to a limit of £250,000.  He would like to know of any Whitchurch residents who are interested in such a scheme.  There is more information here.

Date/Time : Monday, 15th March 2021 11:22

Polish Garden takes shape

Green Team volunteers were at work over the weekend in the Polish Church Memorial Garden at Manor Road, fitting it out with furniture to enable everyone in the village to enjoy the new recreational area. 

Four wooden planters and two benches (photo), funded by the parish council, were installed by Pete and Sally Woolhouse together with Alexa and Matt Duckworth-Briggs, who converted the flatpack kits into furniture.  Compost and plants (Hebe ‘Marjorie’) were provided by the Woolhouses.  The benches have been secured to the ground. 

Also helping with the work were Eileen Miles, Anna Szczeponek and Jon and Lizzie Steward. 

Other items of furniture funded by the parish council are now in place in the Polish Garden: a second 6-seater picnic table and a 3-seater bench.  Some native trees were also planted in the garden at the weekend.  An information board will be installed later. 

Background information on the Polish Garden project can be found on this page.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 09th March 2021 20:20

New life for the Boat

The retired sailing dinghy that enlivened the High Street for nearly two years, before disappearing early in the morning of 15th November 2019, has been refurbished and given a new life in the grounds of Whitchurch Primary School.  

A member of the teaching team, Mr Chesters, has patched up the boat and given it a colourful coat of paint ready to welcome the children back on Monday after the lockdown. 

Headteacher Mrs Chesters says that families have been invited to bring in pots containing plants or seeds, which will be placed in the boat "so that we can enjoy watching them grow, as we grow.”  She also invites anyone from the village who would like to join in the fun to add a pot to the collection.  They can drop it off at or just outside the school reception. 

She says that recently around a third of the children have been attending school, the others learning at home. During the lockdown, the children were given online learning buddies, funded by a donation to the Parents Association.  These buddies/teddies, dressed in special school tee-shirts, can be seen waiting for collection on this page

Anyone wishing to recall the colourful story of the Boat in the High Street will find photos in our news archive at 15.12.17, 28.10.18, 21.1.19, 3.5.19, 26.10.19 and 15.11 19. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 06th March 2021 11:44

Swanston Field pavements upgraded

Work was completed today on laying an asphalt slurry to improve the evenness and to extend the life of the pavements around Swanston Field.  A team of three from Pronin Ltd, a company based in Whitchurch, Shropshire, carried out the work for Oxfordshire County Council. The result is a better looking Swanston Field. 

As shown in the photopage, the bitumen slurry is spread by hand to seal the surface, in two layers each half-an-inch thick.  The colour changes from brown to black as it sets. 

The work in Swanston Field has taken a week. After a break, the team is expected back to carry out the same job on the pavements in Manor Road and then in the High Street. 

The work is part of a programme of pavement improvements agreed with OCC and subsidised by funds contributed by the parish council, which started with work in Hardwick Road last year.  

In a separate exercise, next week is expected to see a closure of the High Street for three days, starting tomorrow Monday 22nd, from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm, for OCC to carry out preliminary patching work in the carriageway.  This will be followed later in the year by a top dressing of asphalt and then the much needed repainting of white lines.

Date/Time : Sunday, 21st February 2021 15:34

Guide to the Maze published

Sally Woolhouse, who has been involved with the Maze from the beginning, and Geoff Weir, who as chairman of the parish council in 2004 cut the first turf and has helped to maintain the area ever since, have now completed an ambitious lockdown project.  They have catalogued all the names engraved on the bricks, recording their exact locations.  There are over 2,200 bricks, originally laid by Pete Woolhouse (behind them in the photo) and 646 of them are engraved with names. 

To look for a name, go to the Guide to the Maze, published today.  Press Ctrl F for a search box. 

If you would like to have your name on a brick in the Whitchurch Maze, contact the Whitchurch Society and ask Laura Lucas to add you to the waiting list.

There is an updated article with many photos, telling the story of the Maze to date.

Date/Time : Saturday, 13th February 2021 16:34

Fourth car write-off for High Street resident

Shortly after midnight, early on Sunday morning, a crashing noise alerted residents in the High Street to a multiple collision.  The driver of a BMW coming down the hill had collided with a parked Mini, which was propelled into a parked Renault, which was nudged forward into a parked Mercedes.  The first three cars were write-offs, while the Mercedes escaped with only minor damage. 

The owner of the black 10-year-old Mini convertible, Eiliis McCarthy, who lives nearby, called the police, who arrived shortly afterwards.  The car was removed at around 4 am. 

The owner of the red Renault was Leslie Maynerd, who lives opposite (picture).  She said it was the fourth parked car she had lost as a write-off in her five years there.  The car was removed at 11 am today. 

The driver of the BMW is understood to be a teenager who had borrowed his parent's car.  He was not seriously injured but was taken to hospital for tests.    

Date/Time : Tuesday, 09th February 2021 11:45

River has fallen steadily for several days (Update)

The Pangbourne meadow was covered in flood water today (1st February), with the Whitchurch reach of the Thames on a Flood Alert.  At 6 pm today the level had risen to around 30 cm below the peak level reached during the 2014 flood.  It was still rising, but more slowly than earlier in the day and at present it seems unlikely to reach the 2014 level, without further heavy rain in the upper Thames catchment. 

Anyone wishing to see the graph of the changing river level, which is updated frequently, should visit the Environment Agency webpages, which are listed on our Links page.  Here is a direct link.

Update, Tues 2nd Feb, 9.30 am:  The river rose a further 5 cm after our report yesterday evening.  By midnight it had stabilised at a level around 25 cm below the 2014 peak. The Environment Agency still has only a Flood Alert for the Pangbourne to Purley reach, but with a local Flood Warning (a higher category) for the Mapledurham and Purley village areas.   The EA says: “We expect the river to remain high over the coming days.”

Update, Wed 3rd Feb, 11 am:  The river level started to fall slowly last night and by 11 am this morning was 2 cm below the highest level it had reached.  It seems likely that it will continue to fall, though the current EA Pangbourne to Purley report does not yet say so. 

Update, Sun 7th Feb:  The river level has fallen slowly but steadily for the last four days and is now 22 cm below its peak.  But, interestingly, ponding in the fields between Eastfield Lane and the river has increased in recent days and is only now reaching its maximum.  This is because it takes longer for groundwater to respond to local rainfall than it takes for the river flow to respond to rain in the upper Thames catchment.  So the 'wave' of groundwater level lags behind the 'wave' of river level.

Date/Time : Monday, 01st February 2021 19:03

Bridge toll increase for regular users (Updated)

The owners of the toll bridge, General Estates Ltd of Southampton, have increased the discounted toll for regular users from 40p to 42.5p per crossing.  A notice on the toll booth states: “From February 1st 2021 / A £20 Bridge Card top-up will give you 47 Crossings”, without further explanation. 

Since 2015, a £20 top-up has provided 50 crossings.  An enquiry at the toll booth today suggested that the company is planning to make a further increase next year to 45p per crossing.  That would provide 44 crossings. 

Since the change of ownership in 2019 there has been a lack of information online about the bridge and the toll regime.  Under the previous ownership, with many local and historic connections to the village, an extensive website was maintained, including a Q & A page.  Since the purchase by General Estates Ltd no information has been offered online.  Their own website is about their portfolio of Park Homes.  The bridge website that is found on searching the internet is a relic only, with no update beyond February 2019.  There is a large amount of information about the bridge here on the Whitchurch Web, but this is now historic. 

Geoff Weir, a director of the former bridge company, said today that he was actually surprised that it had taken so long for the new company to raise the toll towards the anticipated level of 45p.  He said this level had been available since 2016, a toll of 45p being the limit to which the concessionary toll can be raised without a formal process.  Here is an extract from the Inspector’s report of 26th June 2015, prior to the approval of the new toll level: 

“Para 28. The Company has given a number of undertakings should the 60p toll be approved. For at least the next 10 years, or until another toll application is submitted and approved, the concessionary toll offered by the Bridge Card will not exceed 45p. It has also undertaken to phase in the increase in the discounted toll rate, starting with a rate of 40p for the first 12 months after the effective date of the increase in the cash toll.” 

It is thought that around half of all bridge crossings are made using the Bridge Card.  The Whitchurch Web has sent an enquiry to General Estates, asking them to comment. 

Update, 1st February:  James Percy, Director of the Bridge Company, has today clarified the company’s position, as follows:

“Income is well down as a result of COVID and the associated lockdowns. There was no collection for nearly 11 weeks during the first lockdown and traffic has been adversely impacted by subsequent lockdowns. 

However, the increase is not to compensate for lost lockdown income, which is a cost the Company will have to bear. We remain hopeful that once the pandemic ends the traffic will get close to levels seen before. The increase in the concessionary toll is an attempt to recover some of the cost increases we have seen in recent years. Most notably the minimum wage, which has increased by 37%, well ahead of inflation, but other costs as well. 

There are no plans to change the toll again in the next 12 months.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 31st January 2021 12:50

Tanya Hawley 1941-2021

Long-term Whitchurch resident Tanya Hawley, aged 79, died in hospital yesterday morning, 26th January.  She had been admitted on New Year’s Day with a serious form of anaemia and then contracted Covid a week before she died.  Her husband Peter says that either condition could have been fatal.  Sadly, the pandemic restrictions meant that he was unable to visit Tanya, though they could speak together by phone, during her three-and-a-half weeks in the Royal Berks.   

An appreciation of Tanya’s life and her family’s long connection to Whitchurch will appear here in due course (see link to obituary, below).  The family hopes to hold a memorial service in the summer.  

Thanks to Chris Martin for the photograph of Tanya, taken during a Whitchurch Theatre Club visit to Stratford upon Avon in 2015. 

Update, 8th February: An obituary has been published in the Henley Standard, with details of Tanya Hawley’s career in social work and as a stalwart of the community.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 27th January 2021 12:27

Great White Egret flies in just in time for new Nature Note

It is not every day that a large, white, long-necked bird appears in your garden.  Keith and Denyse Williams were surprised and delighted recently to spot one in their garden in Eastfield Lane.  They say the bird was there for at least ten minutes and they were able to identify it as a Great White Egret and photograph it (picture) before it flew away. 

This unusual sighting is only one of many features in Sally Woolhouses’s latest Whitchurch Nature Note ‘Winter Wonders’, which also brings us up to date on a furry creature that is now being sighted more frequently in the Thames and also in the Pang.  Kay Lacey describes how the Otter has been making a steady recovery and would like any sightings, even if it is only the evidence of otter ‘spraint’, to be sent in.

Date/Time : Sunday, 24th January 2021 18:06

PAWS founder calls for action on climate change

Dr Peter McManners, who lives in Pangbourne and is a founder of the Pangbourne and Whitchurch Sustainability Group (PAWS), has written a book Face Up to Climate Change: Demand Change Now, calling for action on redirecting the economy away from dependence on fossil fuels. 

He says: “This book provides the manifesto that protesters and environmentalists need.  It takes a laser sharp look at climate change, why we are failing to address it and what should be done.  It criticises the current weak response but moves quickly from criticism to proposing how to move forward.  Protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion make a lot of noise and cause disruption but ultimately fail because they don’t know what to demand.  It states clearly the need to close down fossil fuel without delay.  Individuals making change within their own lives will make little difference.  The solution is to demand even bigger changes which apply to all.” 

Dr McManners started his career in the army, where he became a Lt Col and head of the operations division for the UK Defence and Imagery Agency.  He now leads the sustainability module at Henley Business School. 

For more information see this article in the online Henley Standard. 

Date/Time : Sunday, 24th January 2021 11:10

Collection in memory of Pam Wilkinson raises £2,172

Following the death of Pam Wilkinson last April, a fund-raising appeal set up by her daughter-in-law Susie Wilkinson on a JustGiving page has succeeded in raising £1,707 for the Sue Ryder South Oxfordshire Emergency Fund.  This was in recognition of the much-appreciated work of the Hospice-at-Home team of Sue Ryder nurses from the Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading, which enabled Pam to stay in her own home until the end.

There was also a collection to plant a tree in her memory.  A Bramley apple tree was planted at the Maze a week ago, as shown in our Photo Gallery, and a plaque was installed.  

Shirley Hutchins reports that the success of the collection for tree planting allowed £465 to be added to the £1,707, making a total of £2,172 donated to Sue Ryder. 

Our news item of 30th April 2020 included this information: 

Pam Wilkinson of Eastfield Lane, who arrived in Whitchurch with her husband and two sons in 1976, died yesterday morning at the age of 82 after a short illness.  She died peacefully in her sleep with her family around her.  The death was not Coronavirus-related.   Pam was actively involved in many village activities including the Crafty Knit & Stitch group, which she started, and the Art Café, which she helped to set up.  She was a driver for the Pangbourne and District Volunteer Car Scheme and she sang with the Thames Vale Singers.  She was an active member of the Theatre Club.  She was always happy to help other people.

Date/Time : Saturday, 23rd January 2021 17:04

Getting help during the pandemic

Since last Spring, when Covid-19 was new, a list has been maintained of volunteers in Whitchurch who are willing to help others with shopping, picking up prescriptions, posting a parcel, driving someone to the doctors, or other task.  This service continues to operate during the current lockdown and there are now over 50 volunteers on the list, covering all parts of the village. 

If you need help, just send an email to this address:  WotVolunteers@gmail.com .  A volunteer will note your name and address or phone number and get in touch with you. 

For any queries, please contact John Bradon, coordinator of the Volunteers, by email or on 07789 944 676.

Date/Time : Saturday, 16th January 2021 16:48

Please don’t phone about your vaccination

The practice manager at the Boathouse Surgery, Rosie Barker, today asked people NOT to phone reception to ask when they are going to be called for vaccination: 

“PLEASE do not phone us regarding Covid vaccine bookings, we WILL phone you.  And if we miss you, we will phone you again, and again until we get hold of you! 

We are being swamped by people phoning to try and book a Covid vaccine or ask when they will be getting their turn, or they think they missed a phone call etc. We have clear messaging on our website, on our phone message and there is a national campaign that patients must not phone us, we will contact them, but it simply isn't working! 

We have a specially trained team of booking agents working tirelessly, even over NYE bank holiday weekend, to contact eligible patients as quickly as possible, and in a very short time frame, we need to let them do their job - they will repeatedly try to get hold of everyone. 

Reception are not trained to book Covid vaccine appointments, and they must remain available for regular, daily patient needs and helping acute sick people, so these phone calls are entirely pointless as reception cannot help or get them booked any quicker.  They're just wasting a lot of time and preventing sick people getting through. 

Please help to spread this message.”

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th January 2021 14:48

New chairman for The Friends of St Mary’s and St John’s

After five successful years as a trustee and chairman of the Friends, Keith Williams stood down at the group’s AGM last week and Paul Witcher (left) was voted in to take his place.  Geoff Weir was voted in as a trustee.  Keith was the first chairman of the group, which was set up after discussions between Yvonne Kerevan and Claire Alcock, with Jim Kerevan and Tim Suiter soon working on the project.  The aim of The Friends is to bring together the communities of Whitchurch-on-Thames and Whitchurch Hill in support of the preservation of their two churches.  People from all faiths and none are welcomed and the charity is run independently from day-to-day church life. 

There is more in the group's January 2021 Update.

In its first five years, the group has undertaken many projects, the most recent of which was the restoration of the church clock at St Mary’s. Socially distanced work parties have been carried out in both churchyards during this last year. Fund-raising events have obviously been put on hold temporarily, but Paul says that these will happen again when practical. 

The charity has more than 70 members, who agree to make a regular donation to the charity (minimum £10 a year).  All money raised goes towards the maintenance, preservation and improvement of the our church buildings and their churchyards,  for the benefit of current and future generations. 

Paul says: “We would welcome more members from both Whitchurch-on-Thames and Whitchurch Hill.  You do not have to be a churchgoer, only to appreciate the beauty and value of the village’s historic church buildings.  If you would like to join us, please contact me by email for an application form.”

(News item revised 7th February 2021 to clarify the origins of the group.)

Date/Time : Monday, 11th January 2021 14:53

Vaccination team making rapid progress

The Boathouse Surgery team has been working long hours on vaccinating the first three priority groups against Covid-19.  Cohorts 1 and 2 (including the over-80s) have now been completed.  Cohort 3, the over-75s, is expected to be completed by this Saturday 9th January.  Cohort 4, the over-70s, will follow after that, but their start date depends on the NHS's review of priorities for vaccine supply, and the Pangbourne clinic's programme is well ahead of others. 

For those who are wondering when they will receive their invitation, practice manager Rosie Barker made this request today: 

“We have a specially trained team booking in patients for vaccine, they are working tirelessly, even all over the new year bank holiday weekend, and we will absolutely make sure we contact everyone eligible as quickly as possible.  Lots of patients are calling Reception trying to book or ask about the vaccine.  But Reception are not trained to book the vaccines and need to continue being available for the regular healthcare needs of our patients.  The extra vaccine calls are really clogging up our phone lines and stopping poorly people getting through who need access to GP and nurse appointments.  So, in short, the message is, please do not call the surgery, we will call you!”  

The practice issued a statement yesterday on the postponement by around two months of all second dose appointments from 12th January.  Those with second dose appointments next week are asked not to attend the Pangbourne Club. 

More information about the Pangbourne Vaccination Clinics can be found on the Boathouse Surgery website

Date/Time : Wednesday, 06th January 2021 14:21

Road works in the High Street from Monday 4th January

There will be three-way traffic lights in the High Street at the junction with Hardwick Road, potentially causing delays, for up to two weeks from Monday 4th January.  This is to allow an OCC contractor to excavate in the road and carry out work on the storm drainage system.  It will extend further up the High Street the maintenance work that has been done since the flash flood of 16th June last year, which has cleared blockages in the drain between The Greyhound and the river outfall. 

The storm drain in some of the upper length, particularly near the Picture Gallery where it allows water to leak into the cellar, is old and built of brick.  It will be changed to a pipe that can be maintained by pressure-jetting. 

Drivers hoping to avoid a potential delay in the High Street by avoiding Whitchurch and crossing the river at Streatley/Goring should bear in mind that Goring High Street is scheduled to be closed completely for around three weeks from 11th January.  This is for work on traffic calming and changes to the pavement layout in their village centre.

Unfortunately, traffic required to divert from Goring is likely to increase the congestion in our High Street in the second week of the drainage work, which will add to the delays. 

Date/Time : Friday, 01st January 2021 12:08