Sir, — I took this photograph of a cloud “hawk” in the sky as it approached Henley Rugby Club on Monday last week.
A portent of the rugby season to come? — Yours faithfully
Lambridge Lane, Henley
Music festival lacked spirit
Sir, — A highlight of our summer every year is attending the Henley Festival.
We always attend Thursday evening suited and booted in the stands and VIP tents, and then on Friday or Saturday we attend again with our friends on a little row boat.
We tie-up with the non-motorised flotilla next to the floating stage and enjoy a picnic whilst listening to the performance and watching the people in the stands and vice versa.
One of the highlights of the evening when we are in the stands is not only watching the performance but enjoying the spectacle of the flotilla as they have their picnics and dance the night away. It has become such a quintessential Henley spectacle.
But I cannot express my disappointment this year with the event organisers. The whole event, in our opinion, lacked the spirit and camaraderie of previous years.
Tying up the flotilla half-a-mile away has, if anything, created far more health and safety issues and no atmosphere for any of the participants, either on land or water.
As a couple we will not be taking part in this event any longer if this is the future. Most of our friends and family share similar feelings. — Yours faithfully,
Abingdon Road, Drayton
Bring back the boats
Sir, — What a shame Henley Festival has got the health and safety bug.
The people fenced in now from the towpath, the little boats that were lovely ‘background action’ — banned!
Even the posh boats, that pay a lot to moor along the towpath looking at the new fence, have to pass a sliding boom.
Next to the floating stage, hundreds of little boats used to jostle together and picnic, because they didn’t pay and were not allowed to land.
They could hear the music and see the fireworks and people-watch what ladies consider evening wear! Now no more. Sad.
I’m surprised they let the audience in really!
Do lighten up, let’s have the fence down and the little boats back, please. — Yours faithfully, an ex-boater!
Drunk and disorderly
Sir, — We attended Sunday night’s performance at Henley. We have been a few times but not attended for about three or four years. The first few hours were fine walking around soaking up the atmosphere.
We entered the enclosure for the 9pm performance. We were seated on the lawn. But within minutes we could see what sort of an evening this was going to be. We were surrounded by well-oiled people who were not there to enjoy the music. There were remonstrations with a security guard in front of us who seemed unable to control the people concerned.
The people behind us were making so much noise it was hard to hear the group singing. We managed to move forward as there were some spare seats but it was no better. Noisy, raucous, frankly bordering drunk individuals who were not interested in hearing the group.
There was constant commotion with people getting up and down to go and get more booze (inevitably I had drink spilled all over my dress and shoes). At the end of the show we were relieved to get out of the place.
Why on earth do you allow individuals who are quite obviously worse for wear into the enclosure in the first place, let alone allow drinks to be taken in? It is quite reasonable to tell guests they must remain outside the enclosure if they wish to continue drinking.Our evening was ruined and we now seek a full refund of the £120. — Yours faithfully,
Waltham St Lawrence
Sir, — I would like to say a huge thank you to the kind, generous, honest person who handed my Henley Festival tickets into the Box office on Sunday evening.
I must have absent mindlessly dropped them on the way to the railway station to meet my friends whilst answering the phone and juggling with handbag, umbrella etc.
Thank you so, so much. My friend and I would have been completely devastated to have missed the festival.
I would also like to say thank you to the box office team and Mary. — Yours faithfully,
Reading Road, Henley
Lib-Dems take the lead
Sir, — People have been joining the Liberal Democrats at the rate of one a minute since the EU referendum result was declared, with a sharp spike after Tim Farron declared that his party would go into the next general election committed to restoring Britain’s place at the heart of Europe.
Well over 12,000 people have signed up and numbers continue to rise. This includes many in South Oxfordshire, where there is widespread frustration that despite this area voting decisively to “Remain”. Britain now faces an uncertain future out of Europe.
People are shocked that Brexit leaders clearly had no plan and are understandably fearful for jobs and investment.
But more even than that, new members want Britain to remain an internationalist, open and optimistic country.
We must also reach out to those who voted “Leave”. They were lied to by our former MP Boris Johnson as Brexiteers already admit they won’t be giving the NHS an extra £350million a week, or reduce immigration.
Many voters were as angry with Westminster as Europe, understandably frustrated by the lack of investment in retraining, social housing and schools.
The Conservative Government is failing to provide the leadership needed at this critical time, while it is obsessed with its own leadership vote, Labour has embarked on civil war and both UKIP and the Greens are losing their leaders. At this time of national crisis, only the Liberal Democrats have stable leadership and are focused on how we should stabilise the British economy and improve the lives of people in Henley constituency. — Yours faithfully,
Parliamentary spokeswoman, South-East Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats,
Benson Road, Ewelme
Religion is a killer
Sir, — Glasgow University invited me recently to an event in its Medical Faculty to celebrate the life of a member of my old rowing crew — the late Sam Galbraith MP, Scottish Health Minister and brain surgeon.
Shortly before he died we went for a pint to Tennent’s Bar in Byres Road. He knew he was dying. He called his good suit his coffin suit.
As Sam was an atheist I tried to cheer him up by asking him if in all his time among the dead and dying in his operating theatres had he not just had the tiniest of glimpses of another world beyond this one. ‘Not once’, he said — ‘there is no God, death is the end’.
After the presentation I clinked glasses with the Reverend who had been in charge of his funeral. As he had an edge of pride in his voice I confronted him with Sam’s beliefs but he was already aware. The Reverend spoke about growing into faith and how he was laid back about it all.
We parted on ill terms for I was conditioned myself by some bloke in a dog collar, staring down at me from a pulpit, telling me to pray to an alleged deity.
Since our final drink that night I have asked other doctors about their beliefs which surprisingly are in accordance with those of my old crew member.
This represents a sea change in Establishment thinking — after this world we go to eternal oblivion — not eternal bliss or doom.
Our ancient druids should have told immigrant Christian missionaries that we were happy with things as they were. We didn’t need their messages from the Holy Land.
Loving our enemies for instance, intead of destroying them, is wholly unacceptable. John Bull’s Brexit, rising like the phoenix, can learn from this as we do not want more of the same from the Middle East as all religious thinking is extremist.
Immigrants who profess any religion should be refused entry to Brexit Britain. — Yours faithfully,
Western Road, Henley
Democracy? — Really?
Sir, — Democracy is alive and well and stabbing people in the back.
The papers are littered with candidates, grotesquely grinning their forgiveness of the betrayals through resentful teeth.
We had everything during the last two or so months.
The jokers, pranksters, gymnastic flip-floppers, the Shakespearian dramatists and backstabbers. The pointers and whisperers. Orwellian doom-mongers, parodists and satirists, pantomime performers and purveyors of farce.We’ve had the liars, cheats and con artists. The self-serving money grabbers and hunters of fame and fortune.
But what we didn’t have among this wonderful democratic political elite is an honest human being.
This latest farce cries out for a reform of both the political system and the way it is funded.
Firstly (and the high turnout for the referendum bears this out) our democracy needs to adopt proportional representation.
Secondly, the ministerial remuneration must be looked at. They can no longer be awarded huge salaries and self-vote exorbitant pay increases while they tell their electorate they must be happy with belt tightening and penury.
Until then I will keep shouting: Stop the planet — I want to get off! — Yours faithfully,
Crisp Road, Henley
How to make corner safer
Sir, — After reading your article about the near-misses at the corner of Bell Street and New Street in Henley (Standard, July 1), I would like to suggest that, at the least, the signs on the carriageway are repainted soon.
There are three “TURN LEFT” signs with a direction of travel arrow but most of the paint has worn away.
If the first of these was to be replaced with a “SLOW” sign this may influence first-time visitors to reduce speed before negotiating the bend.
That corner is also a pinch-point for any cyclist about to be overtaken there. The priority is to have a light-controlled pedestrian crossing installed in New Street rather than a zebra crossing.
If that causes a momentary tailback of traffic into Bell Street then so be it, the problem of near-misses involving pedestrians would be minimised.
The “Give Way” signs for eastbound traffic in Bell Street also need repainting.
Three weeks ago the mini-roundabout and zebra crossing near the junction of King’s Road with Mount View was repainted, so it is a pity that Oxfordshire County Council was not informed of other similar repainting works that were crying out to be done at the same time. — Yours faithfully,
Mount View, Henley
Appalling road surface
Sir, — Hmmm, the proposed improvements to Gravel Hill sound exciting but unfortunately they do not address the extremely dangerous condition of the road surface — a series of holes, ravines, trenches, lumps and bumps which actually make safe driving extremely difficult.
However, every cloud etc. and so when Kim Jong Un makes his long overdue and eagerly awaited state visit to Henley, this stretch of road may help to make him feel at home, evoking fond memories of Pyongyang in all its glory.
If he survives Gravel Hill and gets as far as Greys Green, he may well want to stop en route and have a look at the sumptuous potholes, one of which on a clear day affords an excellent view of Sydney Opera House.
If he requires any medical treatment while in Henley, let’s hope he can hang on long enough to make the Royal Berks as, of course, we have no adequately functioning medical facility in Henley. — Yours faithfully,
Can’t move our coaches
Sir, — In response to your recent article about The Henley College’s coaches (Standard, July 1), I would make the following points:
1. While there were discussions with key parties about moving coach points several years ago, it was agreed then that the present arrangement is the best way of ensuring the health and safety of our students, which must always be the college’s priority. We consulted the police at that time.
2. Presently, we have approximately 700 students travelling in on buses and coaches and in September, with a new intake, many of these students will only just be 16. The college’s Rotherfield site is a considerable distance from the station and for the winter months this journey would be in the dark, which would be difficult for some of our more vulnerable students.
3. As evidenced by the recent neighbourhood plan, Henley’s congestion issues are not limited to Deanfield Avenue and this is not the area of the town with the greatest congestion in a morning.Having around 15 buses/coaches deliver more than 700 students to the station will simply transfer rather than reduce congestion. Very occasionally, buses are later than expected arriving and currently students can stay within the college rather than have large numbers of students waiting around the town.
4. It was mentioned that some of our students already come by train but adding the coaches would significantly increase the number of students walking from the station with the inevitable effects on points of convergence, such as traffic lights and crossings. This would add to rather than reduce any congestion.
5. Having our coaches near the college allows for rapid embarkation and quick turnaround with students immediately able to get into college and get to their lessons or leave quickly in an evening. All our coaches have arrived and departed within half an hour.
6. The college maintains very good relations with the coach companies which we communicate with regularly. College staff are close by and monitor the situation daily. This ensures that the coaches comply with the designated drop-off and pick-up zones and do not spend any longer than is necessary to pick up and drop off students. We would not be able to facilitate this if students were being dropped at the station.
7. We would be concerned that making student journeys more complex and increasing their travelling time would simply lead to more students choosing to travel by car. This would lead to higher levels of traffic into Henley with a subsequent increase in both congestion and pollution.
Finally, I would want to stress that we value our relationships with the local community and meet regularly with neighbourhood groups to discuss the concerns of local residents.
I would encourage everyone to see our young people in a positive light and point out that they do make a valuable and helpful contribution to our community.
Just as a very recent example, our vocational business students were involved in activities, organised entirely by the students themselves, which raised more than £2,600 for the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed. — Yours faithfully,
Acting principal, The Henley College
Sir, — Much has been published recently about the pollution problem in Henley. Everyone is probably fed up hearing about it!
I, too, suffer more with my asthma and a persistent cough.
I have one last interesting observation that not many people may have seen.
I was vey interested in a news item on mainstream television recently about this problem in Reading where they have disarmed two sets of traffic lights with the consequence that traffic flowed more freely and air quality was vastly improved.
A safety study was carried out and this was not found to be detrimental to safety!
I suggested, through your paper, a long time ago that traffic lights at the junction of Reading Road and Station Road be removed and the roundabout that was there originally be reinstated. Then, traffic flowed freely and we did not have stationary vehicles pumping out noxious fumes.
Those in power will never listen to us, will they? — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I refer to your article about the town council decision, overwhelmingly agreed, to proceed with the sale of its Reading Road site to include 40 per cent affordable housing (Standard, July 8).
The neighbourhood plan was endorsed by over 80 per cent of those who voted in the referendum.
The plan is clear that Henley and Harpsden expects developments to provide for 40 per cent affordable housing.
It is a tragedy that both the former Jet garage site and the youth centre site have been sold to care home developers who do not seek to provide any affordable housing.
The more so with the youth centre, as their trustees are all local people.
In 1985 Henley Town Council developed the Deanfield allotments, working closely with South Oxfordshire District Council, for what was then known as council housing.
It is regrettable that, under the Right to Buy legislation, these have now been sold. We should not allow this to happen again with the sale of town council land.
Any sale should make that abundantly clear and should be a sale condition in perpetuity for the affordable housing element. And we should all be at the barricades to ensure that the rest of the neighbourhood plan housing delivers the other 250 plus affordable houses.
The sale of the town council land provides for 14 affordable houses for people with strong local connections. Exactly what Henley wants and needs.
The balance of the sale will also provide much-needed funding for reproviding enhanced sports buildings for both the hockey club and the youth football club.
The additional capital receipts will be targeted for the benefit of the wider Henley community, which includes everyone aged 1 to 100.
Outdoor gym, public tennis courts, enhanced recreation facilities in our public open spaces, greening the town to improve air quality, public art, tourist trails, highway improvements, public transport, and the list goes on.
A good, fair and equitable compromise, letting the town’s money work for all the Henley residents. — Yours faithfully,
David Nimmo Smith
Henley Town Council
Protect us from traffic
Sir, — Is it just me or are other readers local to Highlands Farm and Greys Village getting frustrated with the fact that Crest Nicholson and its advisors, as well as Henley Town Council, continue to completely ignore the traffic impact upon Greys Village from the proposed 166-home development just down the road at Highlands Farm?
I find it staggering that the highways assessment makes no attempt to predict what will happen to Greys village, which already suffers from speeding drivers and has no traffic calming, not to mention a complete lack of pedestrian amenities such as pavements.
It’s not just the traffic that will result from ultimate occupiers of the houses but also the construction traffic which inevitably will have to come through the village, too. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — Over the last few years we have achieved many successes; crime levels remain low, with public confidence and victim satisfaction remaining high. We have also received formal recognition from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which we are extremely proud of.
However, the policing landscape continues to change with the emergence of new and complex crimes such as cyber crime and modern slavery, the growth of others, including sexual offences, and the ongoing financial uncertainty facing the police service.With this change comes challenge and opportunity. We will build on our previous success and deliver an effective and efficient core service which meets the needs of you, the public we serve. To do this we need to continue to transform and innovate so that we can meet policing needs now and in the future.
First and foremost we are a responsive emergency service that keeps people safe and brings offenders to justice. Where there is an immediate need, we will of course provide an emergency response; however we need to work with our partners to ensure that you receive the right service; this may not always be a police response.
We need to work together to build stronger more resilient communities. Many of you actively participate in your communities, problem solving to prevent and reduce crime and disorder. We are one community and I encourage residents, business and our partners to play their part in local problem solving and protecting themselves and others from becoming victims of crime.
We need to be a modern police force which meets the needs of our communities. We will maintain our presence within them, focusing on areas of greatest need.
You will be able to contact us whenever and however is convenient to you, receiving a more tailored service that includes greater use of digital channels.
My officers, staff and volunteers take pride in delivering the highest professional standard in their service to you. We will be honest about what we, the police, can deliver and we will be accountable to you. If our service falls short, be reassured that we will take action.We need to continue to be smart with our finite resources and over the coming years there will inevitably be difficult decisions to make; I will ensure that when we have to make them, we explain why.
As your chief constable I make a commitment to you that my officers, staff and volunteers will continue to work tirelessly, along with our partners and you the public, to make the Thames Valley an even safer place to live and work. — Yours faithfully,
Chief Constable Francis Habgood
Thames Valley Police
Bring back those beds
Sir, — I want to put into words my thoughts on our hospital in Henley. It’s wonderful but have we any beds?
For anyone in the countryside most of us have to travel many miles for a GP or hospital appointment.
I was a youngster in the late Forties and we had the Henley War Memorial Hospital, which I think was given to and paid for by the people of Henley. I know the beds were named after local people. It was sold off for private housing and it truly is very much missed.
My mother was taken there very ill. She was on the danger list for 10 days but she had very loving care and got well for us all.
I do hope Townlands Hospital will carry on having beds for the much-deserving people in the countryside. — Yours faithfully,
Sir,— On our small village green stands a red telephone box that was disconnected years ago.
It was then duly vandalised until even the vandals lost interest in it. But it still stands there, forlorn, useless, a pimple on the green and pleasant landscape.
Why does British Telecom not remove it? And, if they persist in their inertia, should our district council not force them to act? — Yours faithfully,
Help young sufferers
Sir, — The recent drive to diagnose the mental health problems of under 16-year-olds and to guide sufferers towards the right professional help is commendable but somewhat pointless since:
1. Only seven per cent of the entire NHS budget is allocated to provide child and adolescent mental health care despite an estimated 70 per cent of all adults with mental health problems first showing it before they were 16.
2. In many parts of the Thames Valley no specialist NHS care is available at weekends and none is commissioned for the ever-increasing number of under- 16s who suffer sexual abuse.
This can only serve to increase distress for sufferers and their loved ones and to increase waiting times. — Yours faithfully,
Wensley Road, Reading
Let’s attract the Chinese
Sir, — There was a news item on BBC Radio 2 on Thursday last week saying that Chinese tourists were visiting a small village between Oxford and Blenheim and taking photos of almost anything, including rubbish bins!
Unfortunately the parish council had not got its act together so there was nowhere for these tourists to spend their pocket money.
Now I have a suggestion. Why not ask the BBC to give you more information about this news item so that the tourist office can perhaps find out from the Chinese embassy in London which coach company is bringing these tourists to Oxfordshire so that they can be persuaded to come to Henley? Just a suggestion. — Yours faithfully,
Descended from Tsarists
Sir, — In my letter published last week, I referred to my mother’s friend having been a White Russian emigrée.
Unfortunately. you printed the “w” in lower case, which might raise the question in some minds as to why I considered it relevant to mention her skin colour. May I therefore clarify that “White Russian” is a historical term referring to her descendancy from a Tsarist family in what is now Belarus. — Yours faithfully,
Ken Stevens >Red House Drive, Sonning Common
Scourge of ragwort
Sir, — Thank you to everyone who turned out to help pull ragwort on Gillotts Field recently.
There was a Green Gym session on the last Saturday in June and another the following Saturday.
The more ragwort we pull the happier the town council will be to allow us to have wildflower areas on the field.
For wildflowers to thrive and spread they need to be able to set seed but the council need to cut the field to control the ragwort.
They are reluctant to leave any of the field uncut for long enough to allow the wildflowers to set seed unless we pull the ragwort.
There are Pyramidal and Bee orchids on the field as well various other wild flowers so we have selected the areas where the orchids grow best for later cutting.It was these areas in which we pulled the ragwort to prevent it going to seed.
The Green Gym did such a good job of pulling the Ragwort in these areas that in the second session we were able to pull the ragwort in the area where Grass Vetchling, a pretty little pink pea flower, grows.
Thanks also go to the Parks Service at the town council for the work they do to improve Gillotts Field and other areas for wildlife and people. — Yours faithfully,
Henley Wildlife Group
Pair of kestrels rearing their young
Sir, — I thought your readers may be interested in a photograph I took in the Harpsden Valley of a pair on kestrels who are nesting there.
Although they are not seen here, I can assure you that there are at least two young birds being reared. For people who are interested, the photographs were taken using a Canon EOS 600D with a 500mm lens on f/6 at 1/2000 of a second. — Yours faithfully,