News Archive

Public hearing for Greyhound street food

During the recent consultation period for the application by The Greyhound and its food traders, it is understood that some objections were received, as a result of which there will now be a public hearing in early December.  

The landlord, Lottie Mitchell, is asking all her customers who enjoy the street food offerings to send an email to Oak Taverns to indicate their support for The Greyhound’s plans to continue the service.  The request, with the email address, is here.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 22nd November 2023 18:30

Whitchurch Scout heading to Malawi

Jay Sidhu, 13, lives in Swanston Field.  He is the only Whitchurch member in a group of seven Scouts from the 1st Purley & Pangbourne Scout Group who will be travelling to Malawi, Africa, in July next year to take part in a community project.  

Working with the local community and local builders for three weeks, the group will help build a new community centre and toilet block and refurbish two community buildings.  Berkshire Scouts have teamed up for this project with a local charity called Joshua, which assists orphans and their communities in Malawi. 

Jay is now trying to raise funds towards the cost of the trip.  He has challenged himself to run, cycle and walk 80km in each of the next 8 weeks.  His mother Angela Sidhu has organised a fundraising page.  Already in the last few days £245 has been raised towards a goal of £1000.  

Jay says: “I would be hugely grateful for any sponsorship.  I am also taking part in as many fundraising opportunities as I can find.  I have helped on the BBQ at the village fete, I have served hotdogs in Purley, I have helped at Pangbourne and Purley fireworks evenings, I am running a tuckshop at school, I am helping to organize a quiz night and a barn dance and I am running an Art Cafe in January.  I would love to hear of any other fundraising ideas anyone has.  I can come and wash your car, I can help with pet sitting or I am awesome at playing Lego if anyone’s young children need looking after for a few hours.” 

To take up any of these offers, Jay can be contacted by email here.   

Date/Time : Tuesday, 21st November 2023 11:18

The Ferryboat will re-open, but not just yet

Heineken Star Pubs were asked earlier this week for a statement on their plans for re-opening The Ferryboat, which closed in June last year following the sad death of its landlord Graham Dednum. 

In reply, a spokesperson for Star Pubs & Bars today sent these comments to the Whitchurch Web: 

"We are upgrading the electricity supply for the kitchen to give future operators more options in terms of kitchen equipment.  We cannot be specific about timing for this work as it is dependent on a number of third parties involved in the process.  We have an operator in place ready to reopen the pub once the current electricity supply situation is resolved, staff have been recruited and stock ordered." 

So it seems that now, after 17 months of closure, we will have to continue to wait for further news on when the pub will spring to life again.

Date/Time : Thursday, 09th November 2023 18:06

Tree falls on road above village

A tree fell earlier today and blocked the downhill side of the road between the war memorial and the village.  Jim Donahue, who took the photo here, has reported it to the Highways Authority.

Update: the road was cleared later in the day.

Date/Time : Saturday, 04th November 2023 16:57

High Street parking restrictions – have your say!

Oxfordshire County Council issued documents yesterday for proposed Whitchurch High Street parking restrictions, allowing those affected to examine and comment on them by 17th November. 

The link to the documents, which include two detailed plans showing where the restrictions are planned, is: https://letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/whitchurch_parking2023

The scheme is the result of work by the Parish Council's Traffic and Parking Working Group (TAPWG) in consultation with Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department.  It is based on a village-wide survey carried out in September 2021.  The resulting proposal was approved by the Parish Council in November 2022. 

A senior officer of OCC says: “We're asking for your views on the proposal to introduce new & amend existing parking measures in Whitchurch-on-Thames. The proposals are being put forward in accordance with OCC parking policy, and seek to better manage parking in the centre of the village which will help residents find parking closer to their properties and prevent all day parking by non-residents, also to improve traffic flow, and for road safety reasons to help improve visibility for more vulnerable road-users, including pupils & parents crossing High Street on their way to/from school.  Have your say.  Please read the detailed information provided on this consultation and take the time to complete the survey as your views and opinions matter.  Your response should be completed and returned by 5pm on Friday 17 November 2023.”

Date/Time : Saturday, 21st October 2023 11:06

Walled Garden House plans approved

The application to rebuild The Walled Garden House, opposite The Greyhound in the High Street, has been approved by SODC, subject to conditions.  The Decision Notice can be read here

Parish Council chairman Jim Donahue commented today: 

I would like to comment on SODC’s decision to approve this application as a number of residents objected to it and the size and height of the new house will be very visible and have a significant impact on the village Conservation Area.  I attended the SODC Planning Committee meeting on 11th October to present our objections, with support from Cllr Paul O’Grady, and another resident in attendance to raise their own concerns.  Despite us having what I felt was a strong planning basis for having the Walled Garden planning application rejected, I am sorry to report that the SODC Planning Committee voted to approve the application, as recommended by the Planning Officer: 

  • The Planning Officer recommended approval stating the impact on the Conservation Area was neutral.  He acknowledged that the new building would be much more visible from many angles, but felt it was offset by the improved architecture that was sympathetic to the area, compared to the existing building. 
  • 7 out of 11 SODC Councillors voted to approve the application, arguing that:

o   The plot was large, and the house was not disproportionate to the size of the plot.

o   Whilst the third floor roof was visible over the wall, overlooking would not be possible from the rooms there which formed part of the dormer roof that only had Velux windows.

o   Some felt that it was not out of keeping with the Conservation area which was a built-up area with buildings of diverse architecture.

o   Others felt the applicants would be successful in an appeal.  Even if rejected, other applications, perhaps for multiple houses, would likely be accepted. 

  • The councillors understood our concerns regarding the pond and flooding and understood that resolving this was a condition for development.  I intend to push this with their Drainage and Flooding Engineer to ensure we get satisfaction on the pond being fully reinstated prior to any work on the house starting.

Date/Time : Monday, 16th October 2023 20:44

Get ready for the Art & Craft show

The website for the Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition 2023, to be held in the Village Hall over the weekend of 18th and 19th November, is now live and can be accessed here.  (Note: there are two active links at the top of the page.)

Organiser Sally Woolhouse says:

The website has all the details you will need about how and when you will be able to enter this very popular village event. Online registration is available at any time between 4th and 15th November. Please remember that all entries must be made through the website, even though this year there is no online exhibition.  If you have queries, do get in touch.

This year’s theme for the Joyce Voysey prize is ‘Re-use, Reduce, Recycle’. We are sure that this will produce some imaginative creations! Of course, your entries for all the main adult & junior classes (Art, Craft & Photography) can be on any subject whatsoever.

It is remarkable to note that the exhibition has now been running for over 50 years! The first cup to be awarded in 1972 was The Whitchurch Cup, presented by The Whitchurch Society. Note that it is now awarded to the best entry in the Adult Craft section; there are other cups for the Art and Photography sections. There is a link to the history of all the cups and the winners over the years on our webpage.

Finally, we will be serving refreshments over the weekend, so we are looking for willing helpers with this and with the setting up on Friday 17th November – we need a good team of willing volunteers to make the whole event run smoothly!

Please get in touch with me at sally@wotarts.co.uk.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 10th October 2023 12:14

Historic Oxford barge arrives at Hardwick estate

The Swan at Streatley has auctioned off its historic Magdalen barge.  It has been towed to a new home on the river at Whitchurch and is now moored at the end of Sheepwash Lane on the Hardwick estate, as seen in the photo. 

The barge, built in 1927, originally belonged to Magdalen College, Oxford.  Since it was acquired by The Swan it has been used as a wedding venue, but the hotel recently came to the reluctant conclusion that they could not afford the restoration it needs. 

Unusually, the barge has a reinforced concrete hull.  It is thought to be one of the last such vessels in the country. 

The barge has been bought by Paul Austin-Clark, who is understood to be a skilled carpenter/joiner/boatbuilder, and there is now a good chance of it being restored.  He has opened a GoFundMe page to raise £10,000 for the purpose.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund can find the details here and also read about Paul’s dream to restore the barge to its former glory and 'open it up for educational and creative activities’.   Those giving £200 or more will be promised a day's free hire in due course. 

Here is a photo of the barge some years ago, in better condition than now, moored at The Swan. 

Date/Time : Friday, 22nd September 2023 17:10

Burglary in Whitchurch – police release images (updated)

Thames Valley Police have this morning released a photo (left) of a man, presumably a possible witness, that they wish to speak to in connection with a burglary in the village on Monday evening, 11th September, and are asking for help from the public.  Also released are two photos of a car passing the toll bridge. 

Here is the Police statement: 

Thames Valley Police is releasing an image of a man officers believe may have vital information about a burglary in Whitchurch-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

An address in the village was burgled at around 9.15pm on Monday (11/9).

Investigating officer Detective Constable Michael Parker said: “I am interested in speaking to the man pictured as he may hold key information in relation to this burglary. 

“I am also keen to talk to the driver and any occupants of a small, black/dark SUV that drove through Whitchurch toll bridge at 9.10pm on Monday, heading into Whitchurch. The occupants of the car may hold vital information in relation to this burglary. 

“Also, if you have any CCTV footage in the area or any dash-cam footage if you were driving in the area around the time, I’d also ask that you check any recordings in case it has captured something that could assist our investigation.

“If you were the car driver or are the man pictured, or have any information on who the driver or this man are, please call 101 or make a report on our website, quoting reference number 43230408120.

“Alternatively, you can provide information anonymously to the independent charity, Crimestoppers, by calling 0800 555 111 or via its website.”

 

An enlarged version of the photo above can be seen here.  The person in the picture is presumably sought as a potential witness.

To see the two images of the dark SUV vehicle, go to the Police website

According to neighbours, the house involved is in the High Street and balaclava masks were worn by three men who had broken in.  It is understood that they searched the house and then left, having taken nothing, and the elderly couple living in the house were not threatened.

The Police are reported to have arrived very quickly after the event.  On the following morning a plain-clothed policeman visited several properties in the High Street seeking information and advising house-owners to be careful about security.

There appears to be some similarity to a break-in 18 months ago on a flat in a nearby property, The Mount.  There is a report on that in our News Archive dated 22nd March 2022. 

Date/Time : Saturday, 16th September 2023 11:00

Aerial photo reveals wartime activity in Whitchurch

An aerial photo taken from a US Air Force plane over Whitchurch on 8th March 1944 has recently been made available by Historic England. 

The aerial photo can be viewed here.  Hover on the image and click on the double arrow at the top right to have the full screen view.  Then zoom in to see details.  Note that North is roughly on the left, not at the top. 

Two areas of particular interest, which have been cropped and captioned by Jerry Cockeram, are attached here and here.  The first of these shows the military camp in Nissen huts at Manor Road.  The second shows the bridge training area, based at Thames Bank, making full use of the Pangbourne meadow. Bridge building is being practised using Bailey bridge units and floating pontoons, in preparation for the D-day landing of Operation Overlord on 6th June 1944.  A still photo of this is shown above. 

For a fascinating account of how the military forces of Britain, the USA and Canada made use of these facilities, see this account by Peter Hawley.  It seems that it came as a surprise to Mr Howard, owner of Coombe Park, when he discovered a military camp being built on his land in 1943, such was the urgency of wartime decision-making. 

Thanks to John Bradon for pointing out the publication of this historic aerial photo.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 12th September 2023 13:37

Dozens of Manor Road boundary trees to be felled

A line of tall Douglas fir trees runs along the eastern boundary of the Coombe Park estate, forming a background to the Manor Road houses.  The owner of Coombe Park has obtained consent from SODC for felling them all to ground level and planting a hedge and young trees in their place. 

The length of the line of fir trees can be seen in this plan.  The trees are in part of the area shown as ‘W1’.  At its north end the boundary of the Polish Church Memorial Garden is affected (photo). 

The line of trees can also be seen in this aerial view

The application from Coombe Park requested: “Fell all firs along the eastern boundary adjacent to the Manor Road housing estate. Reason: Due to frequent branch failure of trees over rear gardens of adjacent residential properties posing a hazard to occupants of adjacent properties, actual property damage and persistent complaints from occupants to Mr Pain to address the issue of hazards posed by the trees. The previous branch failure affecting the rear gardens of the adjacent properties is attributed to the natural failure rate of trees. The issue being the number of trees of their height in such close proximity to the residential complex and the high propensity for any such failure to affect the adjacent gardens. Replacement planting proposed to create maintained high hedge in same location: Bare-root feathered trees (hornbeam), to be planted at 1m spacings.” 

The SODC consent letter of 20 March 2023 includes this information:  “Dear Mr Pain, Thank you for your application for tree works dated 24 January 2023. Under the powers of the above Order this council hereby grants consent for the following works at: Coombe Park, Coombe Park Road, Whitchurch on Thames, RG8 7QT.  Group of Douglas Fir trees, adjacent to Eastern boundary of Coombe Park, as shown in the application, part of W1 of TPO 20S05 - Fell trees to ground level.  The Replacement Planting consists of a hornbeam hedge and 25 standard trees of the following species (Field Maple, Hornbeam, Scots Pine, Corsican Pine, Wild Cherry and Whitebeam). The council advises that a young tree management programme is adopted to ensure replacement trees are successfully established. This should include routine watering, assessment and ongoing maintenance.” 

Date/Time : Friday, 01st September 2023 14:03

Whitchurch lock closed for repairs (Update: lock reopened)

The Environment Agency has closed Whitchurch lock until further notice for emergency repairs to one of its two downstream gates, which is now stuck partially open after a hinge failure.  The Agency’s website announced the closure on Saturday 12th. 

Eastfield Lane resident Keith Williams, one of the two volunteer Whitchurch lock keepers, says that barge-mounted lifting gear may have to be sent from downstream before repairs can be made, as the gate weighs over three tonnes.  He says the steel retaining collar at the top of the gate hinge broke on Saturday morning.  There are photos in the Photo Gallery.

Thames boat hire companies, in the middle of their summer holiday season, have advised some clients who are caught on the wrong side of the lock to moor their boats at the riverside and take a taxi home. 

Pleasure boats such as the African Queen and the Caversham Princess have had to turn around below the toll bridge and return downstream. 

The photo above shows the lock in normal times. 

Update, Tuesday 15th August, 6 pm:  The lock gate has been repaired and boat traffic through the lock has restarted. 

Date/Time : Monday, 14th August 2023 11:42

Eastfield House now a construction site

If you have walked down Eastfield Lane in recent days you will have seen that serious work has finally begun on Eastfield House.  As well as clearing the grounds, the contractor J Guest Ltd has installed a formidable security fence at the front.  In addition, numerous security monitoring devices have been put in place, including CCTV linked to a 24 hour monitoring service.

The site has proved very enticing to teenagers in recent years.  It is important that the community remains vigilant to the obvious dangers of entering a restricted building site.  Several outbuildings have already been demolished, leaving piles of rubble.  The roof tiles have now been removed, revealing bare rafters.  The contractor’s team wear hard hats for a good reason.

It is important that if trespassers are noticed on the site, this should be reported directly to the security team by phoning 01934 611 910.

Date/Time : Monday, 07th August 2023 12:47

Greyhound food trucks ban (Updated with BBC interview))

Yesterday Oak Taverns, owners of The Greyhound, issued a statement to say that the licensing department of SODC had decided to ban all street food trucks attending their pubs until further notice and that they have had to contact their solicitors for help. 

The statement says: “All the wonderful food companies that we use have the relevant paperwork themselves, but we need paperwork to use them on our private carparks as if they were public highways.” 

“We will keep you posted and fingers crossed we can continue our amazing food options in the future.  Watch this space.  Sorry from all at Oak Taverns.” 

Two weeks ago our District Councillor, Peter Dragonetti, who had followed up concerns over a possible threat to the popular street food offerings at The Greyhound, following an initial complaint about litter, said he understood that SODC were keen to support local pubs and he was confident of a satisfactory outcome.  It now seems that such an outcome will have to wait for a while. 

Update, 6th August:  Jim Donahue has provided an update on the street food issue – see the Message Board.  It seems that eight pubs in South Oxfordshire have all been hit with a ban on street food trucks until their licensing issues are sorted out.  Our MP John Howell and the CEO of SODC are now involved.

Meanwhile it has been pointed out that at The Greyhound there may be a related issue with the ownership of most of the land currently used for car parking, which is not privately owned but part of the public highway.

Update, 9th August:  Simon Collinson of Oak Taverns explains on BBC Sounds about the difficulty of obtaining licences for street food trucks.

 

Date/Time : Saturday, 05th August 2023 10:06

Sights & Sounds of Summer

Sally Woolhouse has put together a colourful new article, Sights & Sounds of Summer, which focuses on the wildlife that we can see around us in Whitchurch at this time of the year.  It is on the Nature Notes page

The photo above shows Bumblebees collecting pollen from an Allium. 

As well as bees, Sally has fascinating things to say about moths (with Gill Goodwin’s photos of the Pale Tussock Moth), birds (Bullfinches, and using the Merlin birdsong-identification App) and plants (including how to recognise the poisonous Giant Hogweed).  There is much more – don’t miss it!

Date/Time : Tuesday, 25th July 2023 15:23

Work on Eastfield House to start this week

Contractors for Urban Village Group are expected to start later this week on converting Eastfield House into a much larger 45-bed care home.  The first tasks, starting this Thursday 27th July, are likely to be clearing the vegetation growth and erecting screens, with stripping out the interior of the building to follow. 

The building has been empty since 2016.  The work is being done under planning application P11/S0126, which was turned down by SODC in 2012 but approved on appeal in August 2013. 

Most of the main building, including the distinctive façade, will remain, while parts are demolished and major extensions built, more than doubling the footprint. 

Urban Village Group, based in Sutton Coldfield, indicate that the cost of the work is around £3.3 million.  They plan to rename the facility Cedar Lodge Care Home. 

The lengthy planning history of the site was summarized in a Henley Standard article of 2019, after an application was refused for demolition of the whole building.

Date/Time : Monday, 24th July 2023 14:53

Threat to street food at The Greyhound

Anger is growing on social media after someone complained to OCC about litter in the village allegedly caused by street food vendors at The Greyhound, leading to fears that the popular service might be threatened. 

Jay Raymond, who lives in Hardwick Road, posted on Facebook:

“It transpires that a complaint has been made to the licensing division of Oxfordshire County Council about the street food vendors.  I understand this is primarily about the extra refuse it creates around the village.  I walk this high street daily, and have done, for nearly 30 years so let me be blunt. Bollocks!  I see more global fast food chain and coffee company waste littering the village than anything from the street food. The vendors dispose of the majority of the packaging waste as part of the agreement with the pub.” 

“The potential licensing conflict is, as I understand it, a grey area, as the food vendors are selling from private land but can also sell to non-pub users, potentially requiring them to each purchase an £800 trading license.  And although this licensing law is and has been for some time under review, it may see an end to some of the wonderful food we have seen over the last months as some of the vendors can’t justify that extra expense. 

“Oak taverns have invested heavily in the pub and hence the village. Rejuvenating the old girl and giving not only the locals but people from miles around a place for all to meet, smile, laugh and enjoy.  Book club, creative writing, chess, French club, cricket club, live music, events, parties. Food trucks and much more has been encouraged and accommodated by the amazing landlord (Lottie). And probably much more.” 

“So, what happens next?  I for one will be asking my local representatives to step up and support a local business.  Perhaps a petition to submit to OCC showing our support for the current structure of the pub.”

Date/Time : Thursday, 20th July 2023 15:45

Report on bridge approach safety

Consultants to West Berkshire Council have completed their feasibility study into ways of making pedestrians safer along the curved narrow pavement on the Pangbourne side of the river.  The report has not yet been made public, but parish chairman Jim Donahue has seen it and says that three options are identified.  His preference is for one of the two options that widen the pavement to a minimum 1.5m width for the full length of the approach road. 

Jim says he is working with the various stakeholders to ensure that the project is approved and can move forward to the next stage, which is for more detailed design and cost estimating. 

This new study builds on an earlier one by Peter Brett Associates, commissioned by the Whitchurch Bridge Company, which reported in September 2016.  Three options for widening the road were examined at that time but the project was not taken forward.

Date/Time : Monday, 17th July 2023 15:08

Pangbourne Station ticket office changes

GWR is conducting a public consultation on its plans to phase out manned ticket offices.  Pangbourne is one of the stations affected. 

There are details of the changes on this webpage.    

Details on how to send comments to GWR, by 26th July**, are shown on the same page. 

Rail users can also write to their MP to oppose ticket office closures – details here.

**This deadline has been extended to 1st September.

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th July 2023 11:47

Large lorry causes traffic delays in High Street

An articulated truck arrived in the High Street just after 4 pm today, having come down the hill, and caused major traffic delays. 

The embarrassed driver was advised that his vehicle, owned by S&P Transport, was too big to pass under the railway bridge in Pangbourne.  It was also too big to turn around using the Ferryboat car park.  It was suggested that he ask permission to cross the river and turn around near the Pangbourne Club entrance, which he did and then returned up the hill. 

It seems that the driver may not have had the appropriate Sat-Nav for HGV vehicles, which would have warned him not to come down the hill. 

Since the bridge was reconstructed in 2013-14 it has been strong enough to carry large trucks, which enables them to cross the river and turn round on the Pangbourne side.  

Date/Time : Thursday, 06th July 2023 21:50

Hardwick Estate’s owners to hand it to the community

Supported by their father Sir Julian Rose, Miriam and Lawrence Rose have confirmed that they will be moving the Hardwick Estate from private ownership into a community stewardship scheme, which would be the first in England. 

The change is modelled on the Isle of Eigg in Scotland.  But whereas Eigg was bought through public fundraising, Miriam says: “We are not selling.  We are giving the estate to the community, which is completely disinheriting ourselves.” 

Sir Julian says: “This is an exciting project that could break new ground in ways to maintain and enhance carefully managed family enterprises in perpetuity.” 

The estate covers 900 acres, including 430 acres of forestry, and has several organic farming, educational and artisan craft enterprises.  There are 27 tenanted houses, 80 tenants and 10 business directors. 

Reporter Grace Swiatek of the Henley Standard interviewed members of the Rose family last week.  There is more information in her article.

This website carries a range of information on the Hardwick estate here.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 04th July 2023 11:35

Theresa Elsome 1940-2023

Theresa Elsome, who lived in Whitchurch Hill, has died at her home at the age of 83. 

She arrived in Whitchurch Hill with her parents in 1956 at the age of 16 and trained as a nurse, later working at Flint House police convalescence home.  She has become well known and much appreciated both up and down the hill for her enthusiastic involvement in a remarkable range of community activities. 

Her family have provided this tribute to her, describing her many interests and contributions.

Date/Time : Friday, 30th June 2023 16:01

Whitchurch author publishes book on strange wars

The fruit of much research over many years, The War of The Stray Dog by Nick Brazil was published yesterday.  On the cover is Nick's dog Harold, often seen with him around the village.  

The back cover explains:  Throughout history, people have started wars for the strangest of reasons.  Whether it is a trashed pastry shop in Mexico City, an ear lopped off a sea captain in The Spanish Main or a lost dog in the Balkans, no cause is too trivial or obscure not to spill blood or capture treasure. This book tells the story of these weird wars and many other strange and forgotten conflicts that have occurred over the centuries.  In doing so it throws a fascinating light on the darker side of human nature. 

The 375-page paperback can be obtained at The Greyhound on Saturday 1st July between 12 noon and 3 pm.  Nick is reducing the price on that day from £15 (Amazon) to a friendly £10, which includes the author's signature.

The twelve chapters include a remarkable number of fascinating incidents and conflicts from the Middle Ages through to this century (listed in the sample shown on Amazon), generously illustrated with pictures and maps.  Nick dedicates the book to his son Peter and acknowledges the help he received from Jerry Cockeram, Secretary of the British Modern Military History Society.

Date/Time : Friday, 23rd June 2023 10:54

Iain Tolhurst awarded MBE

Organic farmer Iain Tolhurst at Hardwick has been awarded the MBE in the King’s Birthday Honours list for his services to agriculture. 

Iain’s wife Tamara Schiopu posted on Facebook yesterday: “Super proud of my King who appreciated the work and knowledge of my husband Iain – a simple farmer with no universities, with a huge impact on hundreds and thousands of young organic farmers. Iain Tolhurst M.B.E. - The Greatest Accolade !!” 

Here is an extract from an interview with Tolly, as he is known to many, on the iEat Green website: 

Tolly has been running Tolhurst Organic Farm for the past 30 years, and what sets them apart from other organic farms, is that they do it without using any animal inputs. The farm is made up of 17 acres over two fields, and 2 acres within a 500 year old walled garden. Their farm was the first to attain the Stockfree Organic symbol in 2004, and they do it through a systems approach which includes a lot of green manure, (cover crops), crop rotation, and the encouragement of insects. Tolly said that the farm averages 13 million earthworms per acre, which is a testament to healthy soil! During the Covid pandemic, they have seen their customer base grow, and the need for local produce has gone up. Tolhurst Organic Farm produces between 120-150 tons of vegetables per year, and most of it is distributed locally within a 10 mile radius. Tolly shares his knowledge with other farmers and takes on interns during the growing season. 

Date/Time : Sunday, 18th June 2023 11:16

The Gardens Walk

This year’s Gardens Walk was held in warm sunshine and was a big success.  It was organised by John Bradon, Laura Lucas and others in the Whitchurch Society.  John wishes to thank those who kindly opened their gardens for other residents of the village to visit.  Also, to thank the other helpers (Diana Smith, Jill Bradon, Adrian Dixon and Anna Szczeponek) for their hard work.  And finally, to thank Neil and Matilda King for hosting the tea and cakes afterwards in their garden, where many children made good use of the swimming pool and trampoline.  The event drew to a natural close when, shortly after 5 pm, an enormous dark cloud approached.  There was just enough time for most of the visitors to make their way home before the heavens opened and the rain poured down. 

Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th June 2023 09:12

Accolade for Jean Marc

At the Annual Village Assembly yesterday (25th May) the Whitchurch Award for 2023 was presented to Jean Marc Grosfort for his much appreciated activities in the village, especially in connection with the Village Hall.   Nominations for the annual Whitchurch Award, which is administered by the Whitchurch Society, were invited from all residents and the trophy (in the picture, held by the winner) was presented by parish chairman Jim Donahue. 

Jean Marc arrived with his wife Ann in Whitchurch in 2012 after 44 years in the hotel industry. While serving on the village plan committee, he took on the challenge of renovating our village hall to make it the warm, well-equipped and welcoming community centre it now is. 

At the Assembly, Whitchurch Society chairman John Bradon paid this tribute: 

I’ve worked closely for several years with Jean Marc on the village hall and firstly want to say what a pleasure he is to work with. He really wants things to succeed, is enthusiastic and very generous with his time. 

He organised the whole refurbishment: successfully applying for four grants (£6,000 in total). He worked out what was needed - many carefully considered practical items: new notice board, signs, kitchen equipment.  Lots of knowledge and care went into it to make maximum use of the limited funds. Accountants from Grant Thornton Reading branch painted the hall (as a CSR activity). The chairs you’re sitting on were bought at the bargain price of £10 each and came from the Ark of God Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I’m telling you this so you get an idea of the enormous care and effort Jean Marc put in. 

Another example is the monthly afternoon teas where everything is done perfectly. Everything is hand-made on the premises by JM’s team; usually a choice of four delicious things. I’d never seen an Opera Cake before. It has about six layers, each of which would be a major challenge to Bake Off contenders. There are flowers on the tables and each event has a seasonal theme. 

Jean Marc wanted the hall to be used for meals and this year his wish is coming to fruition. People like working with him. You know he has got your back and will make sure an event goes well. 

He helps with the Arts and Crafts show, to which he contributes a couple of excellent paintings each year. 

We are very lucky in the village to have someone so competent, generous, good-humoured and helpful. I’m very glad this award recognises that.

 

A new activity organised by Jean Marc is Friday’s Kitchen, in which amateur cooks from the village prepare a dish of their choice in the new kitchen at the village hall.  Videos of the first three of these demonstrations can now be watched via the links at the foot of the Village Hall page.

Date/Time : Friday, 26th May 2023 19:02

The Ferryboat will reopen, but not just yet

Albert, who runs The Waterside in Woodley, is the new landlord at The Ferryboat, which he will run in addition to his present pub.  He has discussed his plans for reopening the pub with his new neighbour Geoff Weir. 

The Ferryboat will be a traditional British pub and restaurant, Albert says, and not Turkish or Lebanese as rumours may have suggested. He is leasing the pub from Heineken Star Pubs and is keen to get started but needs to wait for two key upgrades to be completed.  A new kitchen is to be installed by Star Pubs and a new electricity supply is to be provided by SSE.  At present there is no reopening date. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 25th May 2023 16:43

Hazell & Jefferies – Public Inquiry (UPDATED)

Two years ago, roads contractor Hazell & Jefferies applied to vary their operator’s licence to increase the number of heavy goods vehicles in their local operating centres at Goring Heath and Woodcote.  This was opposed by many parties, mainly on the grounds of the environmental impact of increased vehicle movements on small rural roads.  Now there is to be a Public Inquiry on 23rd May at the Crown Plaza, Reading. 

A local resident, Ian Reynolds, has been following the application since the start and has been invited to attend the Inquiry.  His comments on the situation can be read here

Update, 3rd June:  The Henley Standard has published a report on the Inquiry.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 17th May 2023 17:45

Tree mystery solved

It turns out that the young fruit tree neatly planted in the verge of Eastfield Lane a couple of weeks ago was the work of Oxfordshire County Council’s Tree Service.  But they had not told anyone in the village about it. 

Parish chairman Jim Donahue reports below on a recent conversation with OCC Tree Officer Luke Rowlands, which has provided an explanation: 

The tree planted in Eastfield Lane was part of OCC's recently developed Climate Change and Tree Policy commitment to plant more trees in the county. Budget for this was approved in December for the planting of 450 trees. It was decided to plant one tree in each Oxfordshire village in the first phase of the programme. Tree officers came to all villages to find appropriate locations to plant a tree on OCC Highways’ verges. 

The effort was fairly rushed to spend the money in a timely manner and plant the trees in the spring planting season. They were unable to contact us due to our details not being up to date in the OCC village contact list. We will ensure our contact details are updated now that we are aware of it. 

The tree is a Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula). They say they “are looking to reach out to residents who may be interested in taking on some of the aftercare” and they can provide watering cans and information.  Luke Rowlands has provided his contact details and that of the Community Tree and Woodland Opportunity Coordinator and Officer, Elle Rawden, who will be able to assist with any interest. I can forward their contact details to interested residents.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 17th May 2023 16:30

Mystery tree in Eastfield Lane

Residents of Eastfield Lane have been scratching their heads about a young tree that has appeared on the grass verge in Eastfield Lane.  It arrived about a week ago, professionally planted with timber stakes and a protective wire cage.  It is thought to be a plum tree.  But it seems that none of the nearest residents knows who planted it, or why. 

One theory is that it was ordered for another Eastfield Lane, near Cray’s Pond.  Another is that it was surplus to a garden project.

The tree will need watering this summer.  The tree’s neighbours are keen to get to the root of the mystery.  If any reader can help with information, they are asked to send it by email

There are two more photos here.

Date/Time : Monday, 08th May 2023 17:37

All set for Party on the Green tomorrow

A team from the Parish Council was at work on the Village Green today, erecting marquees for the Coronation Tea Party, from 2 pm to 5 pm tomorrow (Monday). 

There is no entry charge and everybody is welcome from Whitchurch and nearby villages.  People are just asked to bring cakes or biscuits. 

The Roy Bailey Big Band will be playing, as at the Platinum Jubilee party last year. 

Tea will be offered.  Beer and Pimm’s will be on sale. 

There will be Arts and Crafts activities for children.

Date/Time : Sunday, 07th May 2023 16:47

Peter Dragonetti re-elected (Further update)

In a two horse race, Peter Dragonetti has held on to the Kidmore End & Whitchurch seat on South Oxfordshire District Council, having received more votes yesterday than his challenger Jim Donahue. 

Reflecting on the result, Jim Donahue commented this evening: 

“At this point it looks like only 1 out of 10 Conservative SODC District Councillors will be re-elected.  I have congratulated Peter Dragonetti. l look forward to continuing to work with him from the Parish Council as our District Councillor. Peter is a hard-working and conscientious District Councillor and I know he will continue to look out for the best interests of Whitchurch and South Oxfordshire."

"It was a privilege to meet so many residents from Whitchurch and the rest of the Kidmore End Ward over the course of the past two months of the campaign. I was engaged in dozens of important conversations about people's concerns about the area and found the experience exhilarating, enlightening, and fulfilling.”

Update, 9.30 am Saturday 6th May: 

The detailed results of the election have been published by SODC: 

  • Peter Dragonetti (Green Party) 717 votes, or 62.5% of those voting.
  • Jim Donahue (Conservative Party) 430 votes, or 37.5% of those voting.

Further update, 6th May: 

Peter Dragonetti commented on the result: 

“I am delighted to have been re-elected, and I look forward to continuing to be able to look after Whitchurch and its residents. I will continue to work to give the best protection I can to the countryside of our District and our historic towns and villages, and in particular I will continue to fight for the AONB, while helping to address wider problems such as the lack of affordable housing. I congratulate Jim Donahue on the hard work he put in to his campaign, and look forward to continuing to work with him and Whitchurch Parish Council.”

Date/Time : Friday, 05th May 2023 17:57

Election for District Councillor

Voting takes place in Whitchurch village hall today, Thursday 4th May, to elect the District Councillor to represent our interests on South Oxfordshire District Council.  There are two candidates: Peter Dragonetti (Green Party), the holder of the position, and Jim Donahue (Conservative Party), our parish council chairman.  The Kidmore End & Whitchurch ward comprises four parishes: Whitchurch on Thames, Goring Heath, Kidmore End and Mapledurham.  

The polls will be open from 7 am to 10 pm.  Don’t forget to take along photo ID identification such as a driving licence or passport. 

There is more information on this SODC page

There is no parish council election in our village as the seven seats on Whitchurch Parish Council are not contested.

(Updated, Thursday 4th May)

Date/Time : Wednesday, 03rd May 2023 16:24

Butterflies, promises and green ribbons

Art in the Community’s latest project, a colourful kaleidoscope of butterflies, is now fluttering across the toll bridge. The theme is Make a promise - see the change - watch the butterflies turn green! 

Organiser Gill Williamson explains: 

 We’ve made a butterfly for every household in Pangbourne and Whitchurch.  We would like everyone to make a small promise, something to do with the environment.  If enough of us do this, it can make a big change.  For each promise made, a green ribbon will be tied to a butterfly.  So, over the next two weeks, we hope we see a gradual change as the display becomes greener. 

Over 200 local people have been involved in the Butterfly Project, including 150 school children and guides, 30 crafters from Whitchurch Knit & Stitch and more from the Tilehurst knitting group.  In line with the aims of the project, everything about the display has been either recycled or donated.  Support has also been given by the charity PAWS and by the organisation, RG Spaces. 

How can I get my green ribbon? 

Click on this link for more information and to make a promise - it’s free!  Or pick up a leaflet from the bridge or from Garlands in Pangbourne.  Promises can be submitted online, handed in at Garlands or posted in the red box on the bridge. 

Already, by 10 am today, 258 members of our community have promised to do something in a greener way and have received their green ribbon.  The more promises there are, the greener the butterfly display will become.  The display will continue until 14th May.  Any queries should be sent to Gill

There are pictures in the Photo Gallery.

Date/Time : Saturday, 29th April 2023 10:40

Consultation on Walled Garden House plans

The Parish Council has voted to object to the latest proposals for Walled Garden House in the High Street on the basis of the scale of development, the negative impact on the Whitchurch Conservation Area and the potential increased flood risk. 

The Council wishes to encourage residents to be aware of these proposals in a prominent setting in the village. Any comments must be received by SODC on their planning page by Saturday 6th May. 

A comparison of the size and location of the existing and proposed houses can be seen here.  

Figure 4-1 of the Design and Access Statement shows a photomontage comparing the views from the High Street. 

Date/Time : Monday, 24th April 2023 11:17

Speedwatch team gets to work

A village Speedwatch team has recently carried out a survey of traffic speeds in the High Street, and were in action again yesterday, this time in Hardwick Road (photo).  The team consisted of three volunteer residents, equipped with a handheld speed measuring device.  The measurements, together with vehicle descriptions and registration plate details, are passed to Thames Valley Police for action. 

The High Street exercise involved checks on 238 vehicles, of which nearly a third of drivers were exceeding the 20mph limit by a margin of at least 4 mph.  More details are expected to appear in the next issue of The Whitchurch Bulletin. 

Linda Gray, Speedwatch coordinator for the village, says she would welcome more residents coming forward to help in the task of slowing traffic.  She can be contacted by email

Some residents have suggested that there should be large “20” signs painted on the road surface to give drivers a better chance of noticing the new limit.  But OCC has said that to justify the expense of doing so it is necessary to first show that the limit is not widely observed. The current monitoring exercise may help the parish council to persuade OCC to release funds for painting such signs, or possibly for installing physical measures.

Date/Time : Monday, 17th April 2023 12:45

Coronation Tea Party on Monday 8th May

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue has issued this invitation for a special Whitchurch event following the Coronation: 

I hope you will be able to attend our community event to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III.  It will be held on the Village Green on Monday 8th May from 2 pm to 5pm, in a similar format to the successful event held for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last year.  Here are some features of the event: 

  • The Roy Bailey Big Band will be playing and there will be community tables of tea, cakes, biscuits and other donations. 
  • There is no charge and everyone is welcome, including visitors from out of town or residents from other villages. We just ask that people consider bringing donations of cakes or biscuits if possible. 
  • The Church will be organising Arts & Crafts activities for children. 
  • The School plans to sell Pimm’s and beer. 

See the event poster.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 12th April 2023 11:22

Two candidates competing in 4th May election

Two candidates are standing for election on Thursday 4th May for the single seat as district councillor representing the Kidmore End & Whitchurch ward: 

  • Peter Dragonetti, the current district councillor.  He was formerly the chairman of Goring Heath Parish Council.  He lives in Whitchurch Hill and is Treasurer of Whitchurch Parochial Church Council.  More information from SODC here. His affiliation is to the Green Party. (picture, right
  • Jim Donahue, the current chairman of Whitchurch Parish Council. Resident in Whitchurch, he joined the parish council in 2011 and has been chairman since 2018.  His affiliation is to the Conservative Party. (picture, left

The Kidmore End & Whitchurch ward comprises four parishes: Whitchurch on Thames, Goring Heath, Kidmore End and Mapledurham. 

Voting on 4th May will take place in Whitchurch village hall between 7 am and 10 pm, for anyone aged 18 or over who is registered to vote.  This year, for the first time, photo ID must be shown. 

For full information on the election see this SODC page

There will be no parish council election on 4th May as the seven seats on Whitchurch Parish Council have not been contested.

Date/Time : Thursday, 06th April 2023 15:18

Petition for a Newt survey at Eastfield House

A petition to South Oxfordshire District Council has been launched by Laura Lucas to ask the owners of the derelict Eastfield House, Urban Village Group, to carry out a survey for Great Crested Newts before starting building work at the site.  Already, 415 people have signed it. 

Laura, who lives nearby, says: “Great Crested Newts are Britain’s most protected amphibian and have been found at the far end of Eastfield Lane and are known to have been seen at the Walled Garden Pond at the High Street too.  They migrate between a network of ponds for breeding, but actually spend most of their life on land between the ponds in their network, and find sites more attractive when the grass hasn’t been mowed regularly (Eastfield House gardens have had no maintenance for over 6 years).” 

The request to SODC and the owners is for a comprehensive newt survey now, or else a delay to the start of construction by three months from the planned date this month, to be clear of the breeding season. 

There is more on the petition website

Jim Kerevan, who lives next door to the derelict care home, said he had not seen any newts, but he hoped the owners would get on with the building work as soon as possible.  Eastfield Lane has been blighted for many years by the abandonment of its largest building, he said, and it had become a magnet for youths trying to break in.

Update, 17th March:

A senior planning officer at SODC has written to our District Councillor Peter Dragonetti on this subject, explaining that in her opinion there is no justification for insisting on a Newt survey – text here

Laura Lucas has responded to this.

Date/Time : Thursday, 16th March 2023 15:43

Incident at Hartslock

On Saturday afternoon at around 4.30 pm a stream of two ambulances, a fire engine and several police vans crossed the bridge from Pangbourne and came up the High Street with sirens blaring.  They are understood to have turned left along the Hartslock Bridleway and driven as far as the Hartley steps.  From the Berkshire side of the river a fire boat is reported to have approached the location, which is across the river from the Beale Wildlife Park.  Ambulances were also seen at Shooter's Hill, Pangbourne.  

The suggestion has been made that a pleasure cruiser was in trouble but there has been no confirmation.

Update, Monday 13th March, 9 am: there were unconfirmed reports this morning that the emergency services were trying to reach the site of a tragic accident involving a young person, a rope swing and a falling tree in Hartslock Wood, near the concrete bunker on the river side of the Thames Path.

Date/Time : Sunday, 12th March 2023 11:35

Refreshing the Whitchurch web

Regular readers will know that there is a wealth of information on the pages of this website, which the editorial team does its best to keep up to date.  New material is often posted - here are some recent additions: 

  • Ever wondered why Old Barn Cottages are so called?  An article, with a painting, about the lost High Street barn can be found on the About the Village page.
  • Fancy having a go at fly fishing this year?  An expert in the village offers taster sessions.  Find him on the Sports page.
  • Want to help look after the village?  A new edition of the Green Team newsletter has just appeared on the Green Team page.
  • The enterprises in Whitchurch are many and varied.  Recently arriving on the Businesses page are Glamping at Bozedown, Sadhama Wellbeing at Hardwick and Bijou Holistic Therapies in Eastfield Lane. 

Regular postings, for those who like to keep up to date, include: 

  • The latest monthly Minutes, on the Parish Council page.
  • The latest Whitchurch Bulletin, also on the Parish Council page.
  • The latest Parish Magazine, on the Church page, in colour. 

Any topic can be found quickly by using the Search Engine at the foot of our front page.  It goes through the back numbers of the above three and through all the past news items, in fact through the entire website including the photo archive. 

Our thanks to the many residents who help make our village website a lively and up-to-date place. 

Richard Wingfield, News Editor

Hilary Jensen, Page Editor

Pam Scott, Events Editor

Date/Time : Wednesday, 01st March 2023 16:36

Butterflies are coming to the Bridge

Following the much enjoyed ‘yarn bombing’ of Whitchurch Bridge several years ago, this year’s project from Art in the Community returns to the bridge, this time with a special theme.  The idea is to encourage us to take a small step towards protecting our environment and counteracting climate change. 

A leaflet The Butterfly Effect explains it.  We are invited to choose a small change to make in our lives.  For each promise made, a green ribbon will be added to a colourful display of butterflies on the bridge. 

Gill Williamson says: 

We need some help!  Do you have any spare wool? 

In early May we’ll be covering the bridge in butterflies made by Crafty Knit & Stitch from upcycled materials, and we are running out of wool.  If you have any left-over wool, we would be delighted to put it to good use – just leave it in the box in the porch of Rosemead, Eastfield Lane. 

If you would like to join in making butterflies, please get in touch with me at gill@artcafe.co.uk or come along to Crafty Knit & Stitch at the Old Rectory Stables from 2pm to 4pm or from 7pm to 9pm on alternate Thursdays.  The next dates are 2nd, 16th and 30th March.

Date/Time : Monday, 20th February 2023 11:09

Police detain two youths

Following an attempt to break into Eastfield House last Monday, and the disappearance of two bikes from Swanston Field shortly afterwards, two youths were spotted at the empty care home again on Wednesday.  Once again, today Saturday, the pair returned to their favourite derelict property, oblivious to police interest since their first visit and also to the fact that their bike-riding photos are on the village website**.  This time, a phone call from a resident to the Thames Valley Police resulted in their being detained at 1.30 pm as they walked back across the toll bridge to Pangbourne (picture)

The Police will no doubt be asking where the bikes are, so there is perhaps some hope for Laura Lucas and John Barker that they will see their property returned.

**Photos of youths

Date/Time : Saturday, 18th February 2023 13:59

Alison Michael, former Parish Clerk

The Michael family are very sad to announce the passing of Alison Michael on 2nd February 2023, aged 81, peacefully at home.  Alison loved living in Whitchurch, she was a former Parish Clerk and actively involved in village life with her husband, Bob, until he sadly died in 2014.  They moved into their house in Swanston Field in 1990.  Alison and Bob’s children will be holding a celebration of their lives in Whitchurch in the summer and would love to bring friends together then to remember them. 

Friends are also very welcome to come to Alison’s funeral, which will be held at West Berkshire Crematorium on Wednesday 1st March at 2pm.  Webcast available, please email Isobel.michael@btinternet.com to access.  All welcome to join the family afterwards at The Angel in Woolhampton from 3-6pm.  Alison loved blue so please do wear some blue if you would like and as her funeral will be on St David’s Day, add a daffodil, particularly for our Welsh family and friends. 

Donations, if desired, to the British Heart Foundation or for those who prefer small and local, to Whitchurch on Thames Pre-School. 

Thank you.

Isobel Michael (daughter) 

Funeral details

For more on Alison and Bob's life and to see some family photographs, visit their British Heart Foundation page, using the link above. 

Date/Time : Sunday, 12th February 2023 11:52

Work on Eastfield House to start this Spring

The sale by Ross Healthcare of the derelict care home Eastfield House to Urban Village Group was completed in December.  This week David Choules, project director for the redevelopment, contacted parish chairman Jim Donahue to say that his team are now preparing for the construction project to enlarge the building from 27 to 45 ensuite bedrooms.  The building has been empty since 2016. 

The work will be done under planning application P11/S0126, which was turned down by SODC but then approved on appeal nearly ten years ago, in August 2013. 

Most of the main building, including the distinctive façade, will remain, while parts are demolished and major extensions are built, more than doubling the footprint.  The picture shown here is from the developer’s website

Urban Village Group, based in Sutton Coldfield, aims to start the £3.3 million building project in March or April this year and to open the new facility by the end of 2024.  It will be renamed Cedar Lodge Care Home in line with Urban Village’s other care home projects which include The Oaks in Birmingham, The Maples in Telford and The Rowan in Wigan. 

In coming weeks, the company plans to undertake bat surveys and newt inspections and to develop tree root protection plans. Skips will be delivered to the site and clearing out, inside and outside the building, is expected to begin.

The planning history of the site was summarized in a Henley Standard article of 2019, after an application was refused for complete demolition of the building. 

Laura Lucas, who lives near Eastfield House, says she understands that surveys for great crested newts can only be carried out between mid-March and June, and questions whether such an early start is feasible. She also points out that the building is currently being considered for heritage listing, and that the application included incorrect information on the architectural status of parts of the building.

Date/Time : Friday, 03rd February 2023 13:50

High Street will be closed for several days (Now re-opened)

British Gas contractor SGN worked through last night to repair a gas leak under the High Street between The Little House and Manor Cottage.  The hole is now (8 am Thursday) protected by barriers and there are Road Closed signs.  A few vehicles are being allowed through.  The street is open from the bridge to just north of Manor Road.  A diversion via Goring is operating. 

Update, 2.30 pm Thursday:  On the one.network website there is now a notification that the road closure may need to continue for up to a week, until 1st February.  It seems that there may be several gas leaks.  On the road surface there are now extensive paint markings for investigations or repairs.   

Update, 4 pm Friday:  Investigation, ventilation and repair work has progressed today and will continue tomorrow Saturday.  An SGN operative explained today that several houses with cellars are affected as leaked gas has travelled underground over several weeks to a considerable distance away from the principal leak in the gas main, which was repaired yesterday.  He said that excavation work is now needed near White Hart Cottage, further up the road towards the picture gallery, where cars are usually parked.  He could not predict when the road would be reopened to traffic.  Asked how the public was reacting to the road closure, he said that the local residents were all polite and helpful, some offering cups of tea, whereas many drivers trying to pass through had made their frustration very clear. 

Update, 1 pm Saturday:  SGN say they have not discovered any more leaks.  The road will remain closed to traffic until after the holes are filled in early next week. 

Update, 4 pm Sunday:  SGN are still investigating traces of residual gas detected under the footpath near White Hart Cottage and Primrose Cottage.  Probing and testing is continuing, and it is possible that a new excavation will be needed to reach the gas main under the middle of the road in this area, if it is concluded that it has a leak. 

Update, 11 am Monday 30th: The first two holes are being backfilled and surfaced this morning.  The road remains closed to traffic.  Several smaller holes have been dug in the footpath outside the two cottages but these do not block the road.  Separately, under an earlier notification, Thames Water have today introduced one way traffic lights further up the High Street, near the Hartslock Bridleway junction, for work today and tomorrow.  Later (3 pm):  SGN now think it is unlikely that they will find any more gas leaks.  It seems possible that the road will be reopened to traffic tomorrow morning.  Later still (5 pm Monday): the road has REOPENED to traffic.  That just leaves the Thames Water traffic lights further up the hill, which are likely to cause some delays. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 26th January 2023 14:43

New: Friday Kitchen at the Village Hall

Our superbly refurbished village hall now offers excellent cooking facilities. Watch this brand new 6-minute video to see Whitchurch’s own resident hotelier and expert chef Jean Marc Grosfort in the village hall kitchen, preparing and cooking a delicious one-pot dish. 

If that inspires you, here is a challenge from Jean Marc.  He would like another resident of the village to come forward with their choice of a tasty one-pot dish and to make it in the village hall kitchen.  Nick Brazil, who made the video above, will be on hand again.  If you are interested in taking up Jean Marc's challenge, please let him know on 07881 312233 or send him an email

Here is a poster.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 24th January 2023 16:05

High level work in St Mary’s church

St Mary’s church looks the same as usual from the outside.  But inside, a forest of scaffolding now supports three raised timber floors that enable a maintenance team to access every part of the ceiling of the nave, high above the pews. 

Church warden Paul Witcher explains: 

“Repainting and plasterwork repairs have been needed for many years and are now underway, together with a close-up inspection of the entire ceiling and some minor work on the lighting.  The Friends of the Churches, the Whitchurch charity generously supported by many village residents, has allocated £7,000 towards the cost of this vital maintenance project, while the Parochial Church Council will be digging into its funds for the remaining £13,000 or so. 

This project is an essential step in keeping our historic church building in a serviceable condition. Maintenance is not cheap but the work over the next few weeks should not need to be repeated for many years. The next major project at St Mary’s is expected to be refurbishment of the shingle cladding on the church spire.  Any contributions towards the future of our churches would be most gratefully received.” 

For more pictures, see the Photo Gallery. 

For more on the activities of The Friends, and to find out how to become a member of the charity, or to make a one-off contribution, go to this page.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 11th January 2023 16:04

King Charles sends thanks to Whitchurch

A message addressed to “The Residents of Whitchurch-on-Thames and Members of Whitchurch-on-Thames Parish Council” has been received from the King.  

The note reads: “It was so very kind of you to send me such a wonderfully generous message following the death of my beloved mother.  Your most thoughtful words are enormously comforting, and I cannot tell you how deeply they are appreciated at this time of immense sorrow.  Charles R.”

Here is an enlarged version of the photo above, taken by Parish Council chairman Jim Donahue, of the contents of the parcel he received by post this week, with the note ready-framed alongside an early picture of Charles and his mother.  

King Charles’ note of appreciation is in response to a letter of condolence, shown below, sent by the chairman of the Parish Council last September in accordance with the recommended protocol: 

To: The Private Secretary to His Majesty The King, Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA

 Dear Sir, 

As we mourn the sad news that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died, the thoughts of the residents of Whitchurch-on-Thames are with the Royal Family as they grieve for their Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. The Queen demonstrated extraordinary dedication and commitment to duty throughout her reign and did so with a graceful strength and admirable determination. She ruled throughout decades of change, from the dark post war years through to the new horizons of the 21st century providing essential continuity for the nation. This is a period of public grief when people who do not know each other come together to mourn a national figure who has been consistent throughout our lives and for whom we have collective affection despite not knowing her personally. 

Please pass the condolences of the Whitchurch-on-Thames Parish Council to HM King.  A Book of Condolence has been opened and will be retained St Mary the Virgin Church in Whitchurch-on-Thames. 

Yours faithfully, 

Cllr Jim Donahue

Chairman of Parish Council

Whitchurch-on-Thames

Date/Time : Thursday, 05th January 2023 17:31

Toll barrier receives unexpected New Year knock

Police were called to the toll bridge at around 3 pm on Saturday (New Year’s Eve) after a northbound driver, approaching the toll booth from Pangbourne and swerving on to the wrong side of the road, drove into and uprooted the pillar supporting the barrier arm.  The car stopped just short of a southbound car waiting at the booth.  The driver was arrested and it is understood that she refused a breathalyser test.  The incident is expected to have been recorded on the Bridge Company’s CCTV system.

Date/Time : Monday, 02nd January 2023 15:14