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Henley thaws out
Published 22/01/13



Evidence of the recent snowfall was beginning to disappear as Henley and the surrounding villages started to get back to normal.

View a selection of pictures of the snow sent in by our readers.

There were no school closures and Gillotts in Henley welcomed its pupils back despite its heating system not fully functioning.

Engineers have returned for a second day with a digger to help fix the leaking pipework that runs underground between the back of the science and maths blocks.

Headteacher Catharine Darnton wrote on the secondary school’s website: “It appears that the problem had been caused by the failure of a joint between steel and plastic pipework that has been in place for many years, and that the failure at the same time as low temperatures and snow is simply coincidental.”

Staff have planned room changes for areas without heating or would be noisy due to the repair work. Room changes may also be needed tomorrow (Wednesday).

Pupils have been told they can wear trainers or wellingtons, or other appropriate boots.

The snow brought Henley and South Oxfordshire to a virtual standstill on Friday.

Schools and many businesses were shut and there was disruption on the roads as up to three inches fell within the space of a few hours.

There was a number of minor accidents and dozens of calls were made to the ambulance service as drivers were warned not to make any unnecessary journeys. Public transport was disrupted with rail and bus services delayed or cancelled and bin collections were suspended with about a quarter of them not made.

The disruption continued to a lesser degree on Monday with more school closures following light snowfall for most of the previous day and freezing overnight temperatures.

Thanks to advance warnings, many people had decided to stay at home when the heavy snow began on Friday morning and Henley was soon deserted as people left work early and parents picked up children from the schools, which all closed early.

There were queues on all routes out of the town and drivers were delayed for up to four hours on the road between Henley and Caversham after a collision involving two cars between Shiplake and Playhatch. A number of vehicles was abandoned in the snow.

Standard reporter James Burton, who was riding his Honda scooter home when he was caught up in the chaos, said conditions were “lethal”.

He said: “I got nearly as far as the Flowing Spring pub. You could see the road surface very clearly but under an inch thick of ice.

“It was like a skating rink so I got off my bike and pushed. In the end it got so bad that I had to leave my bike on a layby. I was very lucky that someone pulled over and offered me a lift into town.”

Remenham Hill also clogged up as many drivers heading out of Henley were forced to turn back due to the thickness of the snow.

Geoff Whiting, who was on his way to Hurley, said: “It was really scary and dangerous trying to get up the hill.

“My car is normally quite good at handling the snow and ice but looking at the people in front of me sliding all over the place, I decided to give up and turn around. In the end, I had to go via Sonning, which took ages.”

Schools which closed early on Friday included Gillotts and Valley Road and Sacred Heart primaries in Henley as well as Peppard, Crazies Hill, Benson, Sonning Common and Nettlebed primaries and Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common.

The Henley College cancelled all classes and only stayed open for timetabled exams.

The college remained closed on Monday as did Badgemore School and Sonning Common Primary.

Gillotts School was also shut following the breakdown of its heating system.

Karen Edwards, headteacher at Sacred Heart School, said: “Break time on Friday was fabulous as the children were allowed to play in the snow. We had various snowmen and other creatures including a snow caterpillar. It was all very creative.”

Hannah Wilson, whose son Roman, seven, is a pupil at the school, said: “It was decided to close the school at midday but most of the kids had gone by then as their parents picked them up, thinking it was better to get them home sooner rather than later.”

Town council staff cleared snow in Henley on Friday and used grit provided by Oxfordshire County Council in important streets and pavements.

They were led by parks supervisor Karl Newman and were helped on Saturday by 10 volunteers from Henley Lions Club.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “We were able to go into smaller residential roads and help people, particularly those on a hill. There was a number of SOS calls that were answered.”

There was a similar operation in Sonning Common, with a team of nine volunteers led by parish councillor Dirk Jones.

There was some evidence of panic-buying as shoppers stocked up on basics such as milk and bread as well as salt, shovels and firewood.

Tony Stevens, manager of the Henley self-service petrol station in Reading Road, said: “On Friday and Saturday morning people were buying everything - snow shovels, screen wash, hats and gloves, de-icer, coal, firewood and kindling.

“We had got extra stuff in and had planned for it but I didn’t expect us to be so busy. I sold 10 sledges in three hours.

“People were also coming in and saying they were filling up their car in case it snowed.”

CMP Motor Parts in Reading Road, Henley, sold almost all of its stock of 50 snow shovels.

Owner Iain Ryan said: “I have also been selling the big bags of ice melt, a lot of car batteries and jump leads, logs, coal and kindling - and doing quite a lot of repeat business, which is great.”

He said he regretted not having any sledges to sell, adding: “I missed a trick there.”

Autolex Car Accessories in Friday stayed open on Friday while nearby shops closed and sold around 400 sledges from then until Monday.

Manager Kevin Payne said: “It has mainly been adults coming in and picking up sledges for their kids.

“We have also been selling snow shovels, socks and tyre chains. We always expect it to be busy when the weather turns cold.”

Temperatures dropped to -2C during Friday night and remained around or below zero all weekend as light snow fell and ungritted side roads and minor routes remained icy.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading resumed normal service on Monday but advised patients to allow extra time for travel.

South Central Ambulance Service received a total of 3,968 calls from across the Thames Valley between midnight on Friday and 7pm on Sunday, a considerable increase on the previous week. The number of calls related to falls was 740 and the number to road accidents was 92.

South Oxfordshire District Council said that garden waste that wasn’t collected on Friday would be collected on Friday, February 1.


Published 22/01/13

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