Saturday, 20 August 2022

Your letters...

Forgotten females

Sir, — How long until we see a female rower nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year?

“SPOTY” has been, to many people, a way to highlight the end of the year and recognise the nation’s sporting legends.

First given in December 1954, the award has had 64 recipients in its 65-year history with Torvill and Dean being honoured jointly in 1984.

Of the 64 people awarded, only 13 (20 per cent) have been female, a statistic which may not surprise many considering that last year only eight per cent of the public vote went to the female athletes who were shortlisted.

Zara Phillips was the last woman to win back in 2006 and even the nation’s sweetheart, Jessica Ennis-Hill, has only managed to make runner-up.

Ennis-Hill, in fact, holds the record for the most number of podium appearances without securing a win, making her the most successful sportsperson never to win the award.

Although she was awarded the lifetime achievement award last year, it perhaps feels to many like a delayed apology.

Look back through SPOTY history, traditionally “female appropriate” sports, such as tennis, gymnastics and athletics, have always fared better when it came to the public vote, so what chance do women in a sport such as rowing have?

Although climbing in popularity, rowing still finds itself struggling to be appreciated by the general public.

With the broadcasting of top rowing events such as the world championships and the addition of the women’s boat races being televised on the tideway, many hope that rowing will soon become as prominent as other traditional British sports such as tennis.

Rowing has only featured four times on the SPOTY podium, with Sir Steve Redgrave claiming three nominations (including his win in 2000) and Sir Matthew Pinsent coming second in 2004.

Katherine Grainger, a five-time Olympic medallist, was nominated in 2012 after winning gold in the double sculls. However, she only managed 11th place after securing just 1.76 per cent of the public vote.

Debbie Flood, Olympic silver medallist and a world champion, has made great strides for women in the sport. In 2012 she was elected captain of Leander club, the first female to hold the role in 200 years.

Flood says she believes that rowing won’t feature in SPOTY until rowers are given more of a personal profile in the media and captured as individuals like rowing was in 2000 in the Gold Fever documentary.

She is surprised that Heather Stanning and Helen Glover have never been SPOTY nominees.

Flood says: “I am amazed, looking at past sporting success and contemplating, for example, Heather and Helen’s outstanding history in the pair with more than 30 wins, including Olympic, world and European titles, that they never made the shortlist.” Evidently, Stanning and Glover are held in extremely high regard within the rowing community and there is unlikely to be a rower who does not know about them.

However, outside the sport not enough individual media attention was paid to these fantastic female athletes to place them prominently in the public eye.

Until the relatively new female rowers within the GB squad complete this current Olympic cycle it’s unlikely we will see a female rower on the podium until 2020 and beyond. — Yours faithfully,

Natalie Atkinson

Leander Club rower and contributor to Upton Close, Henley

Bridge alone isn’t enough

Sir, — It is not just the A4155 through Henley and the B481 through Sonning Common and other villages along the way that would incur additional traffic from a third Thames bridge without a related distribution road (Standard, January 26).

Reading residents should also ponder the likely effect on them, not just as regards what would become the Caversham Park expressway (currently known as Caversham Park Road) facilitating access between the bridge and the B481 but also the various rat-runs that could develop through other parts of Caversham to and from the A4074 Woodcote road.

I don’t share bridge proponents’ optimism that a new de facto route between the M4 and the M40 would not evolve from a third crossing. If I need to access the M40 from Sonning Common. the obvious route is up the B481, through Nettlebed and Watlington. Presumably drivers crossing the bridge are also capable of reading a map or listening to a satnav.

For a study that includes data on the effect of new roads on traffic levels, see http://highwaysmagazine.

For example, “Conclusions — the A34 Newbury bypass has resulted in a 77 per cent increase in traffic on the corridor between 1997 and 2015. This is more than four times the rate of traffic growth in the county and more than six times the rate of traffic growth in the region.”

For an overview of the various previous studies that support the common belief that new roads generate new traffic, visit

It needs to be acknowledged that a bridge project must include a new road that acknowledges the reality of it opening up a new M4/M40 link (and the proposed Watlington bypass should be configured to facilitate becoming part of that link).

Without a new distribution road, southern Oxfordshire and northern Reading would be blighted by the additional traffic generated by a bridge on its own. It’s not much good being able to cross the Thames at the speed of light if access to it is at speed of snail! —Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Sonning Common

Fossil fuels are to blame

Sir, — I do enjoy reading Philip Collings’s letters, particularly when they are about climate change.

In his latest contribution (Standard, January 26), he suggests that increased carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere may or may not be causing global warming.

Unfortunately, he fails to mention that air with a higher CO2 composition does actually absorb more heat so there is a clear link between CO2 levels and global temperatures.

Where has this extra CO2 come from?

Again the answer is clear — it has come mainly from us burning fossil fuels. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

In need of a science class

Sir, — I must thank and congratulate Philip M Collings for his letter regarding climate change.

My thank you is for being called a whippersnapper. As someone in their mid-forties, I have not been called this for some years; I almost feel young again!

My congratulations are for Mr Collings’s incredible ability to use all the typical, half-baked arguments to support his case.

If I was playing climate change sceptic bingo, I would have shouted “house!”

So let’s review the checklist:

• Anecdote used to make a broad statement — tick (cold weather in the North);

• False facts — tick (his claim that the climate was warmer during the Medieval Warm Period than currently is utter bunkum);

• Irrelevant, distracting facts used in an attempt to appear intelligent — tick (UK record diurnal range?);

• Arguing that “small” temperature changes won’t affect us — tick;

• Suggesting it’s a global conspiracy — tick;

• Claiming the theory is a religion — tick

I could go on but, unlike Mr Collings, I prefer to be concise.

I suggest that he updates his scientific knowledge rather than relying on his Fifties education. — Yours faithfully,

Tim G Dickson

Greys Hill, Henley

Planners to blame too

Sir, — In reply to Mrs N W Evans (Standard, January 26), the state of former pubs is not entirely the fault of Brakspear.

Planning permission to redevelop the premises for private or office use is routinely refused by the planners, so there is little that Brakspear can do.

It would be a waste of the company’s money to maintain a building that is ultimately to be demolished.

Thus, after two to three years it falls into complete disrepair and becomes an eyesore.

The council then receives an avalanche of complaints and the planners change their minds and approve redevelopment of the site.

Most people find this infinitely preferable to seeing an abandoned, derelict building. — Yours faithfully,

Adrian Vanheems

Baskerville Road, Sonning Common

I’d love to go back in time

Sir, — I am writing in response to Mrs Evans’s letter headlined “Old pubs look disgraceful”.

Once upon a time (in the Seventies and Eighties), I would cycle out from Caversham/Emmer Green with my pals to the Four Horseshoes in Checkendon, the Dog and Duck at Highmoor and the Lamb at Satwell.

They were all iconic pubs only to be found in our part of the world and are irreplaceable.

To sit outside in summer was bliss, in winter to sit by a fire equally so and the beer was fantastic. They are gone but why? Money. Thankfully, we still have the Black Horse at Scot’s Common to enjoy, the very last of them all.

Of course it happens to be a free house (Brakspear would have closed it at the first opportunity had the company owned it) and not a restaurant akin to the Crooked Billet at Stoke Row, which was wonderful when run by the inimitable Nobby Harris.

If I had the wherewithal I’d turn back the clock instantly. — Yours faithfully,

Vincent Ruane

Grove Road, Emmer Green

Give young a chance

Sir, — When I attend meetings of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee I am often struck by the casual nature in which developers cast residents’ objections as the words of a “NIMBY” .

Certainly, there are individuals who drone on about housing but refuse even the most modest development in their own area.

These people I can thank for pricing my generation out of home ownership.

However, for many objectors they actually do want houses to be built to give young people a chance to get on the housing ladder but they do not want that to be an open door to mass destruction of the countryside for profit.

It is enormously frustrating that our housing debate is not appropriately nuanced.

New housing is needed but so too is respect for the natural environment.

I urge all who are involved to remember that we debate where to strike a balance and not an artificial dichotomy. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor William Hall

South Oxfordshire District Council (Sonning Common ward), New Street, Henley

More cash for mental health

Sir, — It is hardly surprising that there is a scandalous rise in police call-outs to mental health cases (not just in the Thames Valley but nationwide) and an epidemic of addiction to tranquillisers when budgets for NHS mental health trusts rose by less than 2.5 per cent in 2016/17, far less than inflation and the six per cent boost received by NHS acute (physical health) trusts.

A Kings Fund report reveals a growing staff shortage in NHS mental health care — so much for parity of esteem — even five years after ministers first pledged to create this parity and despite rhetoric/promises from Prime Minister Theresa May.

Acute staff shortages coupled with acute lack of funding is causing GPs to rely on prescription drugs (often addictive) as real alternatives are too often not readily available and putting added pressure on our police forces.

All this confirms the increasing evidence that drastic action is needed in NHS mental health care.

We need that action to be taken now, not sometime in the future, and we need any increases in funding to be ring-fenced, which too often they have not been previously. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Active steps to fitness

Sir, -— At this time of year, there is so much publicity about getting fit and healthy that your readers might like to know of a leaflet dedicated to activities in the Henley area.

Active Steps to Fitness gives full details of local coaches/teachers, groups and organisations who offer everything from rambling to Zumba, swimming to yoga and bowls to Pilates.

It was compiled and written by the patient participation group of the Bell Surgery in Henley and is free to download from

The group has listed a range of activities but it is not an exhaustive list and the surgery does not endorse any specific group or teacher. — Yours faithfully,

Lynne Alderson

Bell Surgery patient participation group, Lovell Close, Henley

Voting’s not independent

Sir, — Having been “hors de combat” for a few weeks and unable to attend my normal quota of Henley Town Council meetings, I thought to have a catch-up by reading the minutes of the meetings I had missed on the council’s website.

Regular readers of these pages might recall that I have been banging on for some months about candidates for council standing as Independents rather that as representing one party or group.

The minutes of the full council meeting of January 3 highlight what I am getting at.

There were “recorded votes” on three matters at that meeting, which means that rather than a show of hands, votes are written down by the minute taker. All three resolutions were passed by eight votes to five.

Unsurprisingly the eight votes “for” were all Henley Residents Group councillors, plus the Independent Conservative, and the five votes “against” were all Conservatives.

So much for independent thinking. — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Luckett

Lime Court, Henley

Nomination is an honour

Sir, — As a nominee in the community category of the Sue Ryder Women of Achievement Awards, I feel entitled to comment on your headline “Olympic medalists fight for achievement award” (Standard, January 26).

I am sure these three very talented women do not see their nominations in those terms.

It is not a fight but a privilege to be nominated and to know that people in your community think you are worthy of such an honour.

The whole ethos of the Women of Achievement awards is entirely in keeping with our local hospice at Nettlebed where the the community support team and the clinical staff work together to provide palliative care and support for people with life-changing conditions and their families. — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury

Sonning Common

Josh was the real MacRae

Sir, — With reference to Terry Allsop’s picture of a fisherman at Benson lock (Standard, January 26), I would like to let him know that Josh MacRae sang Messing About on the River.

It was written by Tony Hatch when he was 19 years old. Hatch is perhaps better known for the song Downtown and the theme tunes to Neighbours and Crossroads. — Yours faithfully,

Alyson Warren

Fawley Bottom Lane, Middle Assendon

Message for ‘Pamela’

Sir, — I’d like to say sorry to Pamela, the owner of a white Fiat 500 that I unknowingly scratched in the car park at Tesco in Henley. I did not realise what I had done until I had reached home and saw your note.

I obviously want to pay for the damage but you did not leave any contact details. Believe me, it was not intentional. I truly did not realise I had done it.

I have left my contact details with the Henley Standard so that we can be in touch. Sorry. — Yours faithfully,

Sue Case

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