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We look back at the last six months of 2012
Published 07/01/13



STING had an unexpected guest during the sold-out opening night of the Henley Festival. Madness singer Suggs walked on mid-set to realise a childhood dream of sharing a stage with the former Police frontman. “I mean this most sincerely,” he said. “When I was a kid I used to look at Sting and say, ‘one day, God damn it, given the chance,’ and this is it right before you.” A merry Suggs was ushered off the floating stage and re-appeared on the lawn moments later where he posed for pictures with fans.

Unseasonal weather could not dampen the spirit of competitors and spectators at the 163rd Henley Royal Regatta.There was a record number of foreign entries in the 20 events and an estimated total of 200,000 people watched the five days of action. Two of the highlights were a row-past by the royal barge Gloriana and the gathering of 170 Olympians on finals day.

More than 20,000 people descended on Henley to see the Olympic flame. Crowds up to 10 deep lined the streets and river banks to enjoy the visiting cavalcade on day 53 of the torch’s 8,000-mile relay around Britain. Children waved flags and banners as they waited to catch a glimpse of the passing flame carried by five torchbearers from Fair Mile to the River and Rowing Museum in Mill Meadows. Scores of people gathered on Henley Bridge to see five-times Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave help row the torch down the Thames to Leander Club.

Wellies were the must-have accessory for members of the audience at this year’s rain-hit Henley Festival. All but one of the five nights of the riverside music and arts extravaganza were affected by everything from drizzle to downpours but this didn’t bother the record crowds or the stars who performed. Men wore Wellington boots with their tuxedos and women did the same, choosing colours to co-ordinate with their outfits. Festival staff issued rain macs to visitors and put down extra duckboards to combat the mud.

Businesses, charities, sports clubs and community groups are counting the cost of the soggy summer. Weeks of unseasonal rain have led to a series of major events being cancelled and others suffering reduced attendances because of the downpours. June was one of the wettest on record in the Henley area and the first two weekends of this month were largely washouts.


Tributes have been paid to rock legend Jon Lord, who has died at the age of 71. The Deep Purple founder and keyboard player had been battling with pancreatic cancer and died at a clinic in London with his family at his bedside.He lived in Fawley with his second wife, Vickie, the twin sister of fellow band member Ian Paice’s wife Jackie, and he had two daughters, Amy and Sara.

The family of a cyclist killed in an accident with a car in Stonor say they can’t describe how much she meant to them.Denisa Perinova, 21, suffered head injuries and broken ribs in the crash, which happened as she was cycling with her boyfriend Ben Pontin along the B480. Police said her bicycle collided with his machine, causing her to fall into the path of a Mini which was overtaking cyclists on the other side of the road. The tragedy has led to calls for the forthcoming Challenge Henley cycle event, which uses the road, to be rerouted.

An athlete from Christmas Common is preparing to take part in the Olympic Games in London. Lawrence Clarke, 22, was selected to represent Team GB in the 110m hurdles. He said it was a “dream come true” and he hoped to follow in the footsteps of his ancestor Julian Roosevelt, who won a sailing gold medal at the 1952 Olympics. Four years ago, he hadn’t begun formal training and says he didn’t even watch the Olympics on TV. He didn’t make the school athletics team at Eton College, preferring football, rugby and climbing.







LEANDER Club’s Olympic medal tally topped 100 thanks to the British men’s eight taking bronze. The Henley rowing club had 99 before the final at Dorney Lake when the crew went all-out for gold in one of the most exciting events of the London Olympics. In the end, Leander rowers Rick Egington, Matt Langridge, Alex Partridge, Constantine Louloudis and cox Phelan Hill had to settle for third place behind Germany and defending champions Canada.

It was the best kept secret of the Olympic opening ceremony and Leander athlete Cameron MacRitchie was reeling from the shock of being asked to take part.When the 19-year-old gap year student learned of the part he was to play in lighting the Olympic flame he signed a confidentiality agreement which meant he could tell no one — not even his parents.He was one of seven young athletes who lit the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium in the climax to the ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle.

A stuntman from Henley who doubled for the Queen at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics says the experience has changed his life. Gary Connery, 42, of Station Road, parachuted from a helicopter above the Olympic Stadium dressed in a white wig and salmon dress. It happened moments after a short film to mark Her Majesty’s arrival at the ceremony showed her in a matching outfit accompanied by James Bond, alias actor Daniel Craig.

Henley rower Will Satch says it’s a dream come true to have won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games. Six months ago, the 23-year-old wasn’t even expected to be in the GB squad for London 2012. Now he is being hailed as the future of British rowing after grabbing third place in the men’s pair with George Nash at Dorney Lake.

The coach behind the success of GB’s first gold medal at London 2012 has spoken of his delight. Robin Williams had taken a break from top-level coaching and was focusing on his Henley business Totally Outdoors when he got a call from British Rowing in 2010. Eighteen months later, he was cycling alongside Helen Glover and Heather Stanning as they crossed the finish line in the women’s pair final at Dorney Lake.

The Challenge Henley cycle route will be altered next year following the death of a rider.Organisers of the triathlon event say they are responding to complaints about road safety and the disruption to residents. Just Racing is discussing alternative routes with Oxfordshire County Council to avoid using the Stonor Valley, where 21-year-old Denisa Perinova was involved in a fatal accident in July.

Two cousins who rescued an injured driver from his wrecked car moments before it exploded have been honoured for their bravery. Zac Wilson and Dimitri Martari received a police commendation after saving Nodari Babeav’s life. The pair were driving back from a night out on New Year’s Day when they noticed a black Mercedes in a ditch in Bath Road, Knowl Hill. They dialled 999 but with the emergency services still on their way and smoke filling the vehicle, they dragged 34-year-old Mr Babeav to safety.

Evergreen pop stars belted out their best-loved hits in sweltering heat at the fourth Henley Rewind festival. Sunshine and scorching temperatures greeted the 40,000 revellers who flocked to Temple Island Meadows to see Eighties idols such as Adam Ant, Tony Hadley, Midge Ure and Henley’s own Carol Decker of T’Pau. Many festival-goers wore fancy dress outfits inspired by the decade with neon wigs and leg-warmers proving especially popular. Some revellers also used umbrellas to keep cool — in contrast to last year’s festival, which was hit by heavy rain.





THE remains of a Catholic priest were moved from Fawley Court to the Fair Mile cemetery in Henley secretly. The exhumation of the grave of Father Jozef Jarzebowski took place late at night following a court ruling. The remains were reburied in plot number 19 in a section of the council-run cemetery dedicated to the Marian Fathers, the congregation of Polish Catholic priests who used to own Fawley Court. The move has upset members of the Polish émigré community who say they had expected to witness it.

A girl from Goring featured in the British Transplant Games. Ellie Beale, three, represented Great Ormond Street Hospital in the 25m dash, ball throw and obstacle course. She was watched by her parents Debbie and Simon as well as extended family at the Games in Gillingham.

Organisers of the Henley Regatta for the Disabled said they were thrilled with how the event had grown. More than 700 people attended the third annual fun day at Phyllis Court Club, which coincided with the Paralympics. Chairwoman Jane Holmes said: “The event is getting bigger and better every year with more people and more attractions and it is getting better known.”

Children using Henley’s adventure play area could be made the subject of a curfew. The town council is considering banning use of the equipment after 7pm following complaints by nearby residents about noise. It comes three years after the play area in Mill Meadows was refurbished at a cost of £60,000 and neighbours threatened the council with possible legal action if it wasn’t moved.

Greys Court had a starring role as Downton Abbey returned to TV screens. The National Trust property was used to film scenes following the wedding of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley, when the new couple are looking for a property. About 100 members of the cast and crew descended on the grounds in Rotherfield Greys in May.

Henley finally struck gold in the Britain in Bloom contest. Its victory in the town category for the Thames Valley and Chilterns region ended a run of six silver gilt prizes in seven years and catapulted Henley into the national finals. The town was also recognised for the best business involvement and was highly commended for the theme of celebration for 2012.

A teenager who died after crashing his car into a tree lay in the vehicle for more than three hours before being discovered. Joshua Justyn Smith, 19, from Sonning Common, was driving on the B481 Peppard Road, close to the Abbey Rugby Club, when the accident happened at about 5.30am. A passing motorist found him in his Ford Fiesta at 8.43am and called the police. Bouquets of flowers, a teddy bear and a Chelsea FC flag were among items laid at the accident spot. Tributes have been pouring in for the former Gillotts School and Henley College pupil, who was planning to take up a university place to study English.

Two Binfield Heath women believe that cats are being deliberately poisoned with antifreeze after four of their pets died. The pair are now alerting other pet owners about the dangers of the often colourless, odourless chemical. Since 2008 three young cats belonging to Tina McCarthy, of New Road, have died after becoming suddenly ill, each with identical symptoms. Toxicology tests showed antifreeze poisoning and Mrs McCarthy suspects that Salem, the first cat she lost, suffered the same fate.

Henley will become a “quintessentially English must-see town” in the next few years, according to the Henley Partnership. The organisation used its annual meeting held at Henley Rugby Club to discuss new ideas to boost tourism. Julie Perigo, who chairs the business and retail section of the partnership, outlined ideas for the forthcoming year, including a Henley loyalty card, special offers for members, a spring food festival and breakfast meetings.







LANDLORD Bill Dobson was trapped inside the Old Bell pub in Henley after scaffolding collapsed on to the building, the oldest in the town. A Biffa tipper-truck had hit the scaffolding outside Clarks shoe shop in Bell Street opposite the pub, causing it to fall. The impact smashed tiles on the edge of the pub roof and ripped the guttering from the wall as well as scraping exposed timbers and smashing a window. Mr Dobson did not hear the crash and came downstairs later to find his front door blocked. He said: “I’m not too worried — there are worse places you could be trapped. The pub has been here since 1325, so hopefully a little bit of scaffolding isn’t going to hurt it too much.” The pub re-opened more than a week later.

Retailers in Henley are thriving despite the recession, according to town centre manager Peter McConnell. He said the outlook was generally positive in the face of rising overheads and competition from the internet. He said: “You get flux all the time on the high street but we haven’t really seen anyone close in the past six months and we have got a couple of new shops about to open. Retailers are working blooming hard to make it work.”

The Imperial Hotel in Station Road, Henley, will re-open next year following refurbishment, which could lead to the regeneration of that side of town. Owner Raymond Crockett, who lives in Remenham, said: “We’re doing our best to reconstruct it. If we get it finished it could be a fairly high-class hotel but we have a little time to go.” Dr Crockett said he hoped the Imperial would be ready in the spring but no date had been set for the re-opening. The hotel might have an “upmarket” restaurant because he believed there were no stand-out venues in the town.

Kate Middleton made a surprise visit to Nettlebed as a wedding guest. Her family gathered at St Bartholomew’s Church to support bride Thierry Kelaart as she married Patrick Heathcote Amory.The Duchess of Cambridge emerged from a black Land Rover and quickly made her way into the church. She was wearing a pale grey-blue silk dress with embroidered flowers and a blue hat, which served to keep her face covered. Her mother Carole, brother James and sister Pippa made a more leisurely journey through the church grounds.

Famous faces helped the sixth annual Henley Literary Festival smash its previous attendance records. More than 12,500 tickets were sold for the 95 events over seven days featuring well-known authors and writers. More than a quarter of the shows sold out in advance, including closing night talks by sports broadcaster Clare Balding and actor Rupert Everett. Balding appeared at Phyllis Court Club to discuss her autobiography My Animals And Other Family. Afterwards, she signed copies and chatted with fans for more than 20 minutes. With hundreds vying to meet her, organisers had to introduce a queuing system. Balding said: “There were some lovely people, a really nice big crowd, and people were very polite until there was one slight fracas about the direction of the queue, which made me laugh.”

A teenager had 50 unwanted guests after he advertised his house party on Facebook. Hugo Sumeray, 16, then had to apologise to his father Graham, chief executive of Fine and Rare Wines, after discovering a paperweight worth £1,000 had been stolen.

Four teenagers were forced to apologise after they stole alcohol from a petrol station shop in Henley. Police told them to write letters and one said he was “deeply sorry” for his “stupid, inconsiderate act”. The gang of 16-year-olds struck twice in the same night at the On The Run shop at the Esso station in Reading Road and stole Bacardi Breezers.

CCTV cameras are being used to survey more than 100 sewers in Henley. Engineers from Thames Water are inspecting the tunnels over a six-week period and will clear any blockages they find using a jet flush. Some work is being carried out at night to minimise disruption to traffic.







A CAMPAIGN has been launched by Henley Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin to have a new war memorial to the town’s “forgotten” soldiers. She spoke about the idea during her Remembrance Sunday speech after visiting an exhibition at Holy Trinity Church about the 73 servicemen from the area who lost their lives in the First World War. Researcher Mike Willoughby, who compiled the display of photographs and documents, has established that all the men had connections with Henley but their names do not appear on any memorials in the area.

Tributes have been paid to Peter Sutherland, co-founder of Upper Thames Rowing Club, who has died, aged 87. He set up the club in Remenham with his wife Diane in 1963. He coached the Great Britain eight at the 1960 Rome Olympics and was captain of Leander Club from 1960 to 1962. He was also president of the Henley branch of the Conservative Party for more than 50 years.Hundreds of people gathered at St Mary’s Church in Henley to celebrate his life. Among them were Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin, South Oxfordshire District Council leader Ann Ducker and Team GB rowers Will Satch and Alex Partridge.

Waiter Daniel Leer, who ran naked in front of the Olympic torch in Henley, has been fined £175. The 27-year-old, who lives at the YMCA in Lawson Road, admitted threatening and alarming behaviour when he appeared at Oxford Magistrates’ Court. The incident happened in River Terrace on July 10 shortly before Sir Steve Redgrave rowed with the torch across the Thames from the River and Rowing Museum to Leander Club.Leer, who was naked except for a pair of running shoes, was carrying a replica torch and had “Free Tibet” painted in blue on his back. He was seen by thousands of people, including children, as he interrupted the relay leg run by Roy Clarridge. Leer was quickly arrested by police and covered up.

Mutant rats that carry life-threatening diseases and are resistant to poisons are on the loose in Henley. Many of the so-called “super-rats” were discovered on farms around the town. Dr Alan Buckle found the rats look like their common cousins but are resistant to typical pest controls thanks to genetic mutation.

Residents are angry that the £8.7million redevelopment of Townlands Hospital in Henley has been granted planning permission. A petition with 101 signatures opposing the application was submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee but the plans were passed unanimously.

Flats could replace an 18th century building adjacent to Henley Bridge. Cullum White Properties wants to build three two-bedroom flats and a one-bedroom flat on the site of Thames Bridge House.The disused office building, thought to have been built before 1820, is a two- and three-storey property with attic rooms and a basement.Over the last 50 years, it has been used in various ways, including being partly converted into flats and partly used as offices.

A referee was left with a broken tooth after being attacked at the end of a Sunday league football match in Sonning Common. Barrie Angell, from Caversham, is said to have been punched by a player from New England after their game against SC United Reserves at Bishopswood Recreation Ground.Mr Angell, 69, had sent off two New England players for foul and abusive language as their team was beaten 6-3 in the Reading and Sunday District League Division 4 East game.

Illusionist Uri Geller is best known for his ability to bend spoons but two of his protégés have moulded a sculpture made from something a little tougher. German brothers Andreas and Chris Ehrlich bent a steel railway track into a “U” shape in Geller’s garden in Thames Street, Sonning, as a gift to the Israeli personality for influencing their work. Geller, 65, who has donated the piece to the village, said: “It’s very impressive. I don’t want to know how they did it. I want to keep it as a mystery — maybe it was supernatural powers, who knows?”

Floods swept through the Henley area, disrupting businesses and sports events and causing gridlock on the roads. The Environment Agency issued five flood warnings as the River Thames rose following heavy rain. Residents in Henley, Shiplake, Wargrave, Caversham, Sonning, Mapledurham and Goring were all put on alert and some were issued with sandbags. Drivers were hit by road closures which caused tailbacks and rail commuters suffered long delays in services caused by flooded tracks.







A WOMAN has been elected captain of Leander Club for the first time. Olympic double silver medallist Debbie Flood will take on the role from January 1, succeeding Rick Egington, who was captain for three years. She was elected by her fellow athletes. Flood, 32, of Deanfield Road, Henley, finished sixth in the quadruple sculls at London 2012. She won her Olympic silver medals in the quadruple sculls at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

A watch that was customised for Leander Club to commemorate it winning 99 Olympic medals has been stolen. The timepiece, which is worth almost £4,000, was taken after a locked cabinet in the foyer of the club was forced open. Manufactured by Henley company Bremont, it is an ALT1-C model with a blue leather strap. It has a strokerate counter and a Leander Hippo logo on the face. Only 99 versions of this model have been made.

Toddler Eleanor Coneybeare will spend Christmas with her family less than two years after meningitis nearly killed her. The two-year-old has fought back after being critically ill in hospital just 20 months ago and losing her right leg to the disease. She recently learned to walk on her own with a prosthetic leg but her parents, Alison and Duncan Coneybeare, from Caversham, are simply grateful that she is alive. Mrs Coneybeare, an accountant, said: “We think we are very lucky that Eleanor is here and she is happy, beautiful and alive.”

An appeal to raise £350,000 for the Chiltern Centre for disabled children in Henley has reached its target in less than two years. The Building Our Future Appeal was launched when the Greys Road centre had low cash reserves and was facing the threat of closure. Now the charity, which is supported by the Standard, is looking in better shape after months of hard work, fund-raising and generous donations. South Oxfordshire District Council is to give the centre a grant of £25,000 a year for the next four years but the charity still needs to raise £200,000 each year just to keep running.

A youth and community group in Henley has lost the contract to run two children’s centres. Nomad will no longer operate the Rainbow centres at the d:two centre in Market Place, where it is based, and at Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common. Both centres, which help needy families with children from birth to age five, will be run by Action for Children, a national charity, after Nomad’s contract expires on March 31. Manager Sue Prior and Roger Cole, pastor of Henley Baptist Church, which owns d:two, said: “It goes without saying that we are extremely disappointed with the decision.”

Five firefighters performed their own version of The 12 Days )f Christmas for the Henley Living Advent Calendar. The retained members of the fire and rescue service, including one woman, were seen by a crowd of more than 50 people at Henley fire station in West Street. The performance was the 10th of this year’s calendar. Jason Evans sang while his colleagues acted out the lyrics, which they had written themselves to reflect the duties of a firefighter at Christmas.

A couple have told how their new £60,000 garden room was practically demolished when a car ploughed into their house. Sidney Busby, 86, was only feet from where the Volkswagen Tiguan smashed through the wall of their home in Marlow Road, Fawley. It was the first of two accidents on the same stretch of road in less than a week. A woman driving a 4x4 towards Marlow swerved to avoid a car coming the other way and her car left the road and hit a boulder outside the Busbys’ neighbour’s house before coming through their leylandii hedge and travelling 20ft across their garden and smashing into the house.

Published 07/01/13

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