Friday, 06 August 2021

Your letters...

Don’t spoil our festival

Don’t spoil our festival

Sir, — As a boat owner who has moored to the booms for many of the last 25 years to enjoy the Henley Festival, I was alarmed to learn that this year the Environment Agency had proposed removing the booms on safety grounds, believing that there would be too many boats crowding the river and there was “an accident waiting to happen”.

Worse still, the small boats that traditionally moor at the heart of the site next to the “floating” stage for the concert were moved down river out of sight and out of mind.

In a heated moment, the agency was reported to have threatened to close the river to boat traffic while the festival was under way.

This is a huge travesty and is taking the “Nanny State” a stage too far.

The parade of boats makes the festival unique. It is an essential part of the creative mix.

Festival goers attend to watch the boats and the boat people attend to watch the festival. And all this benefits Henley business.

At this year’s festival my boat spent about £2,000 in the town: £600 for dinner for 10 at the Spice Merchant; £200 for dinner for two at Hotel du Vin; £400 for grandstand tickets plus daily shops for food and drink at Waitrose. It soon mounts up.

There are a few simple rules that the Environment Agency should adopt to ensure safety:

• Retain the booms to maintain traffic separation of upstream and downstream craft

• Deploy the agency boats into active management to keep the boats moving, especially behind the floating stage. Stationary or semi-stationary boats create a hazard in crowded conditions. Three agency boats with discipline and VHF radios can achieve this — one controlling the admission of boats to the stage, one instructing loiterers to move on and one at the downstream end of the circuit giving early warning of traffic build-up.

• Before the festival, remind the large commercial boats from Henley that they must keep moving.

From humble beginnings in 1982 there has been organic growth of the music festival and then the Thames Traditional Boat Festival in the following week.It is a triumph of entrepreneurial vision and hardnosed success for organisers like Lady McAlpine.Let’s hope that the Environment Agency finds a way to come in behind this and support success — and Henley businesses can continue to reap the benefit. — Yours faithfully,

Donald Cameron

Hillgate Street,


Rewind was health hazard

Sir, — I am writing to complain about the extremely poor sanitation at this year’s Rewind Festival.In previous years the festival has operated with inadequate toilet facilities and in 2015 I contacted the organisers in this regard via their website but received no response, hence my letter to you.

I am also considering writing to the local authority to raise a formal complaint on the grounds of public health. I attend Rewind as part of a large group of like-minded friends but this year’s festival certainly dampened our spirits.

The absolute failure of sanitation must be noted and should be a concern for all festival goers and sponsors alike.

We understand the nature of festival facilities (we go to Glastonbury) but the standards were allowed to drop well below an acceptable level this year and for what would seem to be entirely avoidable reasons.

We were camped within view of the main toilet block. This unit is the largest on the site and serves the majority of campers.On Friday and Saturday, the block was functional and acceptably clean. However, on Sunday morning we awoke to a very different situation.

The toilets had not been cleaned or emptied from the night before, there was no water with which to flush the toilets and they were overflowing with faeces and soiled paper.

There was also no water at the wash basins — a public health hazard in the making! We tried the other toilets on site but found them to be in the same state, so we had no option but to drive into Henley to use the facilities of local businesses.

The main toilet block was so badly damaged that it was out of use for the rest of the day.

My observation was that the contractor was understaffed and did not appear until late Sunday morning or, if they were on site, they were dealing with facilities not open to the main festival goers.

I walked the entire site looking for them and spoke with several security guards who were sympathetic but unable to provide any insight.

I hope the Rewind organisetrs will address this issue with the seriousness that it deserves as I am sure this lack of care will lead to a fall in ticket sales and could even lead to a licence refusal for next year’s event. — Yours faithfully,

Sally Howes


Rewind founder David Heartfield responds: “The toilets at Rewind have been supplied and maintained by the same contractor for many years.

“There are many hundreds of toilets on site and festival goers are on site 24 hours a day from Friday to Monday.

“It is impossible for us to comment on whether an individual block was cleaned adequately on Sunday morning but we will look into it with the contractor.”

Please repair the towpath

Sir, — On the assumption that the Rewind Festival was a great financial success for the Copas family, adding to the profit made from Henley Royal Regatta, perhaps they could put something back into the local and riparian community by making good the towpath along their frontage, above and below Temple Island?

While one has to accept that the rights of way laws necessitate the restriction of the public to a 3m wide strip along the river bank, the potholes in the tarmac path mean that, come the autumn rain, this enclosed strip will again become an impassable sea of mud. A thorough reinstatement of the tarmacadam towpath would be a much appreciated gesture. — Yours faithfully,

Bill Brown


Footpath is badly needed

Sir, — I read with interest that the car park entrance nearest to Henley town hall is due to be closed for 14 months while the redevelopment of Market Place Mews takes place (Standard, August 19).

This will result in heavier vehicular traffic using the entrance facing Mount View.The pedestrian crossing on King’s Road, which is used regularly by people including the elderly (some on mobility scooters), young mums with pushchairs and children, directs pedestrians down to the car park, the library, Waitrose and the town.

There is currently no proper footpath leading from the crossing down to these facilities, so there are two options — walking on the road or crossing to the footpath by the library.

It is only a matter of time before there is an accident resulting in somebody being knocked over. There is a need for a footpath for pedestrians. — Yours faithfully,

Christine Brown

Clements Road,


No decision made on gym

Sir, — I appreciate Dr Ian Tiffin’s comments about Freemans Meadow in Henley and the update about the current situation there (Standard, August 26).

We have approached the whole project of updating Makins recreation ground and Freemans very carefully and have even been criticised for consulting too much.

I believe that all the input from residents has been hugely valuable as it is guiding our decision-making and fully justifies the time invested. I would like to emphasise that absolutely no decisions have been taken about the detail of the developments at Freemans.

As you reported, we made the decision that the focus of the meadow is the children’s playground, developing a picnic area and planting to enhance the space. We won’t have tennis courts or similar.

My comment about the football posts was in response to the question posed and, as with every response to our consultation, the comment will be included in our deliberations.

With regard to the outdoor gym, I emphasised that my comments were based on the considerable feedback that I and fellow councillors have received about having outdoor gyms in the town.

I also stressed that there is a report to be presented to the town council’s recreation and amenities committee and that no decision had been taken — such comments are not always included in news reports. Freemans is one of three hugely valuable green areas in the town and it is our responsibility to make it attractive and appealing to as many residents as possible, while recognising its location in a residential area.

We have taken extensive professional advice in addition to the public consultation and we are working very hard to develop the right solution.

We will be discussing Freemans in detail at the next parks sub-commitee meeting on October 14 at 9.30am and I do hope Dr Tiffin can join us and share his thoughts.We do discuss a lot more than that which is reported in the paper so I do hope to see him there. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Sam Evans

Henley Town Council,

Reading Road,


Memories connected

Sir, — I thought it was funny that two of your articles connected in a round about way (Standard, August 19).

The first article was about Makower & Co’s plans for its land in Greys Road, Henley, and the second was on the subject of Lord Marks’s plans for Holmwood in Binfield Heath.

When I was a child, a family friend, Mr Offord, was butler for the Makower family at Holmwood.

It was real life Upstairs, Downstairs with a lovely big kitchen where Janina Biebel, the cook, used to make beautiful butter icing cakes and it was here I had my first taste of cottage cheese.

Janina lived with her husband, both of them from Poland, upstairs in the servants’ quarters. I remember how beautifully they decorated their Christmas tree.

Another Polish family lived in the house across the road — real refugees from the war.

The grounds were lovely, a lawn with a magnolia tree in the middle spread to beautiful woodlands with rhododendron bushes.

When the family was away we could have a quick look at the hallway with its sweeping stairway, the dining room and the drawing room.

Later in life, for a while, I cleaned the offices of Cooke, Sutton & Co in Bell Street. Mr Cooke became the owner of Holmwood.

My sister and I found out that Mrs Cooke took in paying guests so we were planning to arrange a stay when Mr Cooke, due to ill health, sold Holmwood, so I never got to spend a night there.

It would have made a nice small hotel where people could enjoy its peace and quiet.

Lord Marks has already spoilt Holmwood with its new driveway and the ugly way the original one is closed off.

The building he is to build is certainly not in keeping with Binfield Heath. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Coleman

Abrahams Road,


Rambling contradictions

Sir, — I have always read Thought for the Week with interest while disagreeing with most of the theology expressed.

However, there is a point where interest is replaced by annoyance.

The bizarre, rambling contribution from Lt Col Peter Blaker (“Dying and the hereafter”, Standard, August 26) is a prime example of this and I wonder why you thought fit to publish it.

The article was full of contradiction and non-think, which must be a great embarrassment to many of his fellow parishioners at the Church of St Nicholas.

For instance, Lt Col Blaker believes that there is no past and no future in the after-life but is sure that he will enjoy classical music there, ignoring the fact that if there is no past there can be no enjoyable memory of what is heard and if there is no future there can be no eager anticipation.

He refers to “trillions and trillions” of souls “stacked up” in Heaven, but later makes it very clear that the “admission ticket” is repentance for sin and a faithful reliance upon “the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross”, this being “the only way into the presence of the Father either here or in the world to come”.

This stringent condition excludes the very great majority of the world’s population, past, present and future, including many who are merely nominal Christians.There will hardly be trillions and trillions in Heaven and why does he assume his friends will be there, together with people he does not get on with?

He also asserts that the “God of the Christians” is also the loving God of other religions, including those “who have worshipped Him down the human ages in different ways”.

Monotheism is fairly recent in human history. Are sun and tree worshippers included in the list of those deserving of an “admission ticket”?

Finally, and sadly, Lt Col Blaker appears totally relaxed in accepting that his God will condemn unbelievers, presumably however sincere they may be, to an eternity of “terrifying” exclusion.

I am sure he is a decent man but many otherwise nice religious people happily believe in the rightness of the appalling. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road,

Sonning Common

EU needs to be careful

Sir, — The connection between Apples’s Irish tax bill and the UK’s Brexit decision has seemingly not yet been made by our media so I’ll make it now, as someone who just a few weeks ago campaigned shoulder to shoulder (literally) with Theresa May to Remain in the EU.

The decision by Brussels to require Apple Inc to pay many billions of euros of additional corporation tax to the Irish government encapsulates the whole mess that the EU clearly is in.

At the top level, “Brussels bureaucrats” have decided it’s only fair for Apple to have to make this huge retrospective payment.

Yet how much consideration did Brussels give to the many individuals, mainly located in the US, who sacrificed their early years and finances to try and often fail to create winning business formulae of the type that HP, Apple, Facebook, Wikipedia and Google have exemplified, often via the provision of free services to the end-user?

Much is currently made of the threat to the world from multi-national corporations but at the same time pretty well everyone is drinking merrily from their well — most certainly all of Europe does!

I encountered my first computer, an English Electric KDF9/Kidsgrove Data Facility 9 (great branding), back in 1962. Only two problems — it occupied two rooms and wasn’t actually working.

Later in my career I benefited from American IBM and DEC computers with which usable business computing technology actually appeared and, as a small British company that adopted them, we conquered the world of international banking systems.Europe must surely look to the Americans as if it’s an occasionally living museum and a cause of huge frustration.

We should be very very careful not to be overtaken by the Chinese who are succeeding in producing such a collossal economic revolution despite their earlier more egalitarian objectives having seemingly been placed into abeyance, at least for the moment. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road,


Improved rail timetable

Sir, — Since my letter last week on rail investments, local rail groups have been advised of the latest early draft timetable for May 2017.

Based on diesel services continuing on the mainline as we wait for electrification, it can be expected that the existing rush hour schedules, with through trains to and from Paddington, will continue into that period. This is good news for those who travel together and want seats!

We would still see improved frequency of daytime off-peak services between Twyford and Henley.

We will continue to push for further improvements as infrastructure allows.

For outline information, residents are welcome to contact or on Twitter @Henleytrains — Yours faithfully,

Neil Gunnell

Henley Trains,

Blandy Road,


Celebration and sadness

Sir, — Tomorrow (Saturday) the Harpsden branch of the women’s section of the Royal British Legion will be holding a party at Harpsden village hall to celebrate 70 years of service to the Legion and the ex-service widows and dependants.

You will probably have read in the national press of the problems we have been facing since the Legion’s board of trustees decided to shut down the women’s section. It seems they consider we are not cost efficient.

It has been decreed by corporate men in grey suits that we should no longer have any say in how our branches are to be run.

Their decisions were made in secret and we had no knowledge until the bombshell hit us last January.

I have written letters to the board and other senior people but to date have not even had the courtesy of an acknowledgement, let alone a reply.

Like very many other branches throughout the United Kingdom, members at Harpsden took a vote to close.

Our branch finished on Tuesday but before we go we are having a party to celebrate the 70 good years we have been in existence, the friendships we have made and the work we have done to raise tens of thousands of pounds to help the service and ex-service community who have suffered hardship.

It will be a mixed day of celebration and sadness. The party is at the village hall tomorrow from 2.30pm to 4.30pm. — Yours faithfully,

Gillian Spiers

Chairman, Hon Treasurer,

Women’s section,

Harpsden Royal British Legion

Great book, great writer

Sir, — Last year, as the Henley Literary Festival drew near, I reminisced about one of my favourite childhood (and adult) reads — My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

This year, I wish to write about an author few have heard of but whose legacy has spread far and wide, John Muir.

He was affectionately called John of the Mountains, a Scotsman who, at the age of 11, emigrated with his parents to Wisconsin.

He became a prolific writer and chronicler, explorer and campaigner — a man whose achievements millions know and take pleasure in yet few know his name.

John Muir was born in 1838 and died in 1914.

It was thanks to his campaigning that the first national parks were established after he famously guided President Roosevelt through Yosemite.

Was he an inspiration to our own Beatrix Potter? Perhaps, as her efforts do mirror his.

He wrote and published at a time when James Joyce was crafting his modernist works, The Dubliners and Ulysses.

Joyce, like many classic writers before him and indeed at that time, began by being published in journals, magazines and newspapers.His work first appeared in print in America before a nation recognised “her son”.This is still happening a century later with Roald Dahl and J K Rowling, among others.

But where the works of Joyce line our shelves (let’s be honest, mostly unread and gathering dust), Muir’s are absent.

I urge you to seek out the small tome John of the Mountains, the Unpublished Journals of John Muir, edited by Linnie Marsh Wolf and published by the University of Wisconsin Press (ISBN 0-299-07880-9).

It is such an accessible read full of discovery, descriptive narrative, adventure and, most of all, heartaching beauty. It is a love affair with the natural world, a crib sheet on how to see the beauty and magnificence around us.

If you read nothing else by John Muir, I urge every lover of literature to seek out this one book and honour a great man and a great writer.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” — John Muir. — Yours faithfully,

Edward Sierpowski

Crisp Road,


Get ready for referendum

Sir, — The Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan will be subject to a village referendum on Thursday, September 29.

Voting will follow the usual procedures for local elections and can be done in person at the village hall, by postal vote or by proxy.

It has taken more than four years of hard work and community participation to reach this milestone.

The final version of the plan, which has now been formally approved by South Oxfordshire District Council and an independent examiner, will be on display in the village hall on Sunday, September 25 and also on the plan website ( prior to the referendum.

We urge all residents of the village to ensure that they are on the current electoral register and entitled to vote.

The last date for registering to vote with the district council is midnight on September 13.

Requests for postal voting by registered electors will be accepted by the council up to 5pm on September 14 and for proxy voting up to 5pm on September 21. — Yours faithfully,

Alastair Morris

On behalf of the Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan working party

Support the Paralympians

Sir, — As we welcome back the victorious Team GB, it is sad to think many Paralympians are going to be denied the opportunity to compete in the Paralympics, which are due to start next week.

Even if they do make it to Rio there looks likely to be major cutbacks.

Any disability is life-changing and the superhuman effort these competitors put in is incredible, so please don’t prevent them from achieving their goals due to poor ticket sales and mismanaged funding.

The International Olympic Committee should ensure that all avenues are explored to get these athletes from all over the world out to Rio.

If you are disabled one of your first thoughts every day is: “How is my disability going to prevent me from doing what I want today?” — Yours faithfully,

Lisa Drage

Norman Avenue, Henley

Perpetual staff reunion

Sir, — Were you an employee of Perpetual until 2001? If so, and you remember the good times that we all had under the leadership of Sir Martyn Arbib, you might like to know that a Perpetual reunion is being organised for Saturday, October 22 at Phyllis Court Club in Henley. If you would like to attend and want details, please email

Tickets cost £50 each, which includes a buffet and band. They are selling fast for what should be a cracking evening.It’s a great opportunity to catch up with your old work colleagues at the venue where we had some fantastic Christmas parties. We look forward to seeing you there. — Yours faithfully,

Phil Chappell, Juanita Willmer and Lizzie Micuta

Organising committee

Nervous time at the top

Sir, — I just wanted to thank you very much indeed for the excellent coverage of our club’s matches.

Not a week has gone by without a headline. Sincerely, we are very grateful. Thankfully, we managed to pull off another win on Saturday to cement our position at the top of the table. Nervous times! — Yours faithfully,

Jane Burtt

Communications officer,

Harpsden Cricket Club

Tractor run’s record sum

Sir, — This year’s 10th Chiltern Vintage Tractor Run raised a record £6,599. I have been asked many times “How do you raise so much from this one-day event?”

The answer is straightforward — everybody involved in their own way contributes to this fabulous total.

From the teams that produce the morning bacon rolls, right through to the marshals, landowners, venue hosts, technical support crew and willing volunteers.

There are also many drivers and their families taking part who really do go out of their way to raise amazing totals through sponsorship.

Over the last 10 years we have had so many wonderful people support this event, without whom this fund-raising would not be possible. Thank you.

Since the Chiltern Vintage Tractor Run started, it has raised a total of £34,395 (including Gift Aid).

All of this has been donated to the Thames Valley air ambulance, a very worthwhile cause. — Yours faithfully,

Gary Anderson

The Ferguson Club

Thank you for donations

Sir, — I would like to say a huge thank-you to the people of Henley who generously donated prizes for my World Challenge raffle event.

These included restaurants, shops, cafés, golf clubs and Hobbs of Henley.

Without their donations, my raffle would not have been possible. — Yours faithfully,

Caitlin Stevens

Gravel Road,

Binfield Heath

Jail these fly-tippers

Sir, — We thought your readers would like to see what was dumped just up the lane from Russells Water last week — builder’s waste etc.

We just hope the perpetrators of such acts are tracked down and given maximum (imprisonable) penalties. — Yours faithfully,

Mark Williams

Russells Water

Saddened by destruction of old trees

Sir, — It was with great sadness that I watched the destruction of the mature trees on the site of the old Henley courthouse in Northfield End.

It begs the question how did the developers of the flats in this old building obtain permission to destroy these trees?

The greenery helped to control the severe pollution caused by traffic in this area, especially during busy times when the “intelligent” traffic lights system holds stationary or slow-moving vehicles in a queue.

The trees were also a roosting place for birds; owls could often be heard and seen at night high in the branches. Shame. — Yours faithfully,

John Moore

Northfield End, Henley

Visitors mystified by unusual ‘club’

Sir, — I recently enjoyed the company of friends from New York who, on strolling along the river in Henley towards the River & Rowing Museum, came across this sign to the “toilets & bowls club”.

Understandably, they enquired what sort of club this was.

Despite living around Henley for many years, I have to admit that I was stumped to explain but we mutually agreed that a club of this nature may be more appropriate near their New York home in Flushing Meadows.

Perhaps readers know more about this unusual club? — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hodges

Station Road, Henley

P.S. Perhaps there is some connection with those afflicted by The Wind in the Willows?

Angling for something...

Sir, — Here’s a local fisherman in my garden last week, name Harry the heron. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Forster

Elizabeth Road, Henley

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