Sunday, 27 September 2020

Your letters...

Councillors are a disgrace

Sir, — I read your article concerning the memorial benches being removed from Fairmile Cemetery in Henley (Standard, August 28) and was disgusted.

I also read Martin Jones’s letter and understand his fury.

There seems to be a trend in the UK for removing memorials of different descriptions, so I suppose our town councillors didn’t want to miss out.

But this is shameful as they are simply exploiting this situation as a cash call.

After removing and destroying your memorial, they will sell you a replacement for up to £1,000. Shameful.

Then you will be charged a 20 per cent per year maintenance fee — even more shameful.

The council will decide where in the cemetery your bench will be placed. Who the hell do they think they are?

I think our councillors have lost their way. They need to back off and remember what they are elected to do and that does not involve busying themselves with heartless new policies that are not needed or wanted.

They need to think up another way of raising money as this is clearly their intention. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Caldecott

Harpsden Road, Henley

Leave our benches alone

I am an 82-year-old woman and have many lost friends who have been laid to rest at Fairmile Cemetery and I visit there whenever I get the opportunity.

I read that the town council intends to remove the memorial benches and I am absolutely disgusted.

Memorials of any description mean so much to the families that have placed them and the sentimental aspect can never be replaced.

I find it unbelievable that our councillors are ignorant of this fact.

I have seen many changes in Henley over the years and most of them are not for the better, so I would suggest our councillors place their efforts on more challenging problems that exist in our town and stop going after easy targets in order to generate profits from the people of this town.

The whole idea of removing memorials is revolting and they should all be ashamed of themselves. — Yours faithfully,

Valerie Howes

The Close, Henley

Scornful and belittling

Sir, — I am an elderly lady and have lost many people that were dear to me, so I understand the sentimental value contained within memorials and I have placed many of them over the years.

It makes no difference what form your memorial comes in — a statue, a tree or, as in this case, benches — they are all extremely important to the people that placed them.

I have no idea what our councillors are thinking of when they suggest removing memorial benches from our cemetery.

They are acting without care or consideration and their actions will cause a great number of people upset.

I am writing to offer the support of my friends and me to Martin Jones and I urge the entire town to offer their support to everyone that has placed benches at Fairmile Cemetery.

With regards to councillors scorning and belittling people who have not obtained special permission to place their bench at the cemetery, may I remind them that the cemetery is a public place, paid for by the taxpayer.

Even though the public pay for all of this, you still have to buy a plot at extortionate costs when the day arrives that you need one, so quite how the council considers that we require its special permission is a mystery to me.

The councillors have displayed most cruel behaviour and need setting straight.

What is the world coming to? — Yours faithfully,

Lillian King


Where’s your compassion?

I cannot believe that a group of councillors can be so insensitive.

I have a memorial bench for a parent at Fairmile Cemetery and the council has, very thoughtlessly, placed a notice saying my bench is going to be removed.

My bench is in good condition and has been in place for many years.

I do not agree that benches have been placed on other graves as this makes no sense at all. This is one of the poor excuses dreamt up by the council to collect revenue.

This new policy, as the council likes to call it, is to enable it to provide new benches at a cost determined by the council when my bench is perfectly safe, stable and to my liking.

I would like to add that it is not a cheap bench manufactured by a DIY outfit, but a grade A oak bench.

Henley Town Council should have far more thought and compassion for town residents who have loved ones at the cemetery.

The council charges an extortionate amount of money for a plot for a loved one and now it wants to cash in on a bench or a memorial tree. How disgusting! My bench was bought in memory of my loved one and will stay by their side.

If you touch my bench there will be legal consequences. — Yours faithfully.

Annie Smythe


Heartless and distasteful

I write in response to Martin Jones’s most concerning letter regarding Fairmile Cemetery.

As a long-term resident of Henley who has loved ones buried there, I find it rather distasteful and most inappropriate of the town council to attempt to apply its powers by threatening to remove benches donated by families and friends of the deceased.

The emotional and personal attachment by the donor of such is an important and comforting memory of the people they dearly loved and will miss in their lives. It is this dignified act of kindness that forms an eternal point of remembrance for them.

Furthermore, I wish to point out that the cemetery is a public area for those wishing to pay their respects.

I therefore hope that whoever decided to embark on this idea will now come to realise how upsetting and heartless their act of zealousness has been and kindly suggest that their plan of unnecessary action is withdrawn immediately. — Yours faithfully,

J Ryz


You’ve gone much too far

I have lived in Henley for most of my life (58 years) and have seen the town go downhill in more ways than I care to mention.

In many cases, this is due to generations of second-rate councillors that think they know best and that they can do as they please. This time they have gone too far as they have no right to start removing people’s benches from Fairmile Cemetery.

I honestly think that our town councillors believe that they are here to rule over us. Well, they are not, they are not the law and we are not here to be told what we can and can’t do by these dictators.

They intend taking away benches and then selling us new ones — what an insult.

Then to rub salt in our wounds, they want to charge us ridiculous fees every year for maintaining the benches and bring in yet another new rule uinder which they decide where our benches will be placed at the cemetery.

Don’t these fools understand that when visiting people’s graves, you want to sit down next to them and talk to them and feel that you are there beside them, not sit on a bench halfway across the cemetery because the councillors have told us that is where your bench is going to be placed?

Who do these councillors think they are?

They should spend their time cleaning up the town and repairing footpaths instead of sticking their noses in where they are not required or wanted.

It’s high time the people in Henley stood up to these councillors and tell them where to get off. — Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Bird


Outrageous behaviour

I have lived in Henley for most of my life and have many friends and family members, including my brother, buried at Fairmile Cemetery.

After reading your article and the letter from Martin Jones, I am absolutely outraged.

This is yet another example of councillors interfering in things that they have no real understanding of, although you would think that most people would understand the emotional attachment that comes with placing a memorial bench at the cemetery.

I think that our councillors have seriously overstepped the mark on this occasion and the hurt they are about to inflict on people simply confirms their total lack of compassion and understanding.

I have more than 50 years’ experience in joinery and have taken the trouble to visit the cemetery and inspect the benches that are located there.

Although some benches require repairs, the majority are of good quality and are in good condition and, at the very worst, all they require is a coat of varnish. This is no reason to remove all the benches from the cemetery.

The idea of removing and destroying people’s benches and to then charge them an extortionate replacement fee is quite disgusting.

It is also unkind to tell people that their bench is to be placed in a set location within the cemetery that may be located far away from the person they intend visiting.

I think our councillors need to have a serious rethink with regards to this matter before they cause major upset within the town. — Yours faithfully,

Ronald E Crook

The Close, Henley

Vile and disgusting

I have lived in this town long enough to realise that our councillors are for the most part a waste of space, waltzing around thinking they are the bee’s knees, when the truth of the matter is they couldn’t come up with a sensible idea or an answer to a problem if their lives depended on it.

With reference to their latest policy, where they want to remove memorial benches and then sell you a replacement for up to £1,000 and then charge you £200 every year for maintenance, they have gone completely over the top, even by their own poor standards.

To make matters even worse, they won’t allow you to place the bench next to the grave of the person it is dedicated to, they will tell you where your new £1,000 bench is going to be placed.

This is a disgrace and our councillors are vile. They should hang their heads in shame.

I visit the cemetery regularly and although I have never placed a bench there, I often use them when taking my mother to visit lost family members and if she cannot sit down, then I cannot take her anymore as she is very frail.

I cannot believe that our councillors are that ignorant that they thought they could get away with enforcing this revolting policy. Who do they think they are?

I will not forget this vulgar policy making and I will make it my business to ensure the people of Henley are reminded of it when the next town council elections arrive.

I intend running a social media campaign exposing these insensitive controlling fools for trying to place this repulsive policy on us.

How dare they suggest removing memorials? I am absolutely furious.

I would like to finish by inviting Martin Jones to please contact me as I am keen to meet you in order that we can expose this vile action in every way possible.

Thank you for printing my letter — it is nice to know that we can still rely on some things in this town. — Yours faithfully,

Henry M Scott


Atrocious nonsense

I am a lady of 92 years and when I can I visit Fairmile Cemetery and, as you can imagine, I know many people who have been laid to rest there.

The idea of removing memorial benches from the cemetery is atrocious.

I am not sure who these councillors think they are. Do they have no shame?

Benches have been placed there by people that love and care for those they have lost and now the councillors intend removing and destroying those benches. They disgust me.

I have never heard of any policy that would anger so many people to such a degree and I cannot begin to understand what our councillors were thinking when they decided to implement this nonsense.

When I visit my brother’s grave, I sit on a bench that is placed close to his grave. If that bench is removed, or a replacement is placed far away from his grave, I will no longer be able to visit him as I cannot stand for any length of time.

Please leave these benches alone, we don't need you messing with such things.

Our councillors should spend their time doing more productive things and not upsetting people.

Finally, I call upon our Mayor to step in and do something with regards to this matter.

I have heard that he is a kind-hearted man, so this is his opportunity to demonstrate it. — Yours faithfully,

Jeane Roberts

The Close, Henley

Is cemetery a business?

As a regular visitor to Fairmile Cemetery, I am disgusted by the council’s decision to remove the memorial benches supplied by the public.

These benches hold precious memories and a place to sit and think of their loved ones.

For the council to remove these benches and to charge a ridiculous fee of £600 to £1000 for a replacement in the current bad financial time is outrageous.

I did not think the council could sink so low as to take money off the public for a bench and then a 20 per cent maintenance fee each year. This is yet another money spinner for the council.

Is the cemetery a public place or is it yet another commercial business?

Maybe the council should think about the grieving people rather than being too lazy to move the benches to mow under them.

Where are they planning to put all these new benches? Let me guess — tucked away in a corner so no maintenance is required. — Yours faithfully,

D Froud


Shame on councillors

After reading the article on your front page last week and the letter from Martin Jones, I was sickened.

I then visited the cemetery and discovered that the notice placed on benches does, in fact, stipulate that they are to be removed.

There is no mention of them being assessed on a bench-by-bench basis as the council stated in its response that you also published.

So this bench-by-bench change of direction was clearly some form of immediate backtrack on the part of councillors.

Instead of conducting any form of partial backtrack, I would suggest that councillors reverse this revolting policy immediately and direct their efforts towards rectifying things in the town that do not require decision making that affects people’s emotions and feelings.

I am horrified and our councillors seem so heartless. I believe that the Mayor should have stepped in and stopped this horrendous process the very second that one of his councillors suggested it. Unless, of course, this policy is the Mayor’s idea, in which case he should step down.

Finally, to all councillors, shame on you, shame on you, shame on you. — Yours faithfully,

J Bishop

Greys Road, Henley

Insensitive, unforgivable

I write in response to the article pertaining to the benches in the cemetery being removed.

Having an overcharged sense of self-importance is one thing, but I do believe that our councillors have completely lost their senses.

The reprehensible notion of councillors wanting to remove benches simply to sell grievers a replacement is unforgivable.

If it were my decision, they would all be ejected from the town council with immediate effect.

The monetary aspect of this action is abhorrent enough but still concerns me far less than the unfeeling inconsideration that has been applied.

It is simply insensitive and unkind and treats all those who have placed benches in the cemetery with complete contempt.

If there are benches that require repair or attention, then why doesn’t the council offer to conduct such repairs and, if some benches are beyond repair, then by all means remove those?

To remove all the benches is outlandish and our councillors need reprimanding.

With regards to the particular bench that was pictured on the front page of last week’s edition, I can only assume this was used in jest, as only a complete fool would try to sit on that — it wasn’t a bench, it was a pile of scrap timber.

I think on this occasion our town councillors need to concede that they have made a complete hash of things and to step back or, failing that, step down. — Yours faithfully,

M Allen


Sales should have gone on

Sir, — I was incensed to read that Sue Ryder has not yet put its former hospice, Joyce Grove, and grounds on the market (Standard, August 28).

Why in heaven’s name have they stopped the very lucrative sales?

Surely these could have continued, harnessing the loyal support of many volunteers until such time as the house was sold.

This is a disgrace. — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Godfrey

Birch Close, Sonning Common

Road looks like runway

Sir, — The new lighting along the road by the former Thames Farm, Shiplake, is excessive. The road now looks like an airport runway. — Yours faithfully,

Pauline Dixon

Lower Shiplake

HGVs are bad for us

Sir, — More than 30 years ago heavy goods vehicles were banned from driving through Wargrave to protect the buildings.

At the time I was living in Reading Road, Henley. I did notice an increase in heavy lorries and their effect on our cottage and was surprised that there did not seem to be the same concern for Henley’s historic buildings.

Now there is far more road traffic and I sympathise wholeheartedly with the residents in the town centre who are physically disturbed by the increase in HGVs using Henley as a shortcut rather than use the strategic roads that are designed for such heavy traffic.

It is quite alarming that so many of these pantechnicons are so large and ungainly that they cannot easily turn into New Street from Bell Street without mounting the pavement.

Your readers might be interested in watching a BBC South clip which shows just how dangerous this is. (

If a lorry has to mount the pavement (sometimes on both sides of New Street) it is obviously too big for the roads in Henley and for pedestrian safety and should be banned.

Despite the danger of being hit by one of these huge lorries, there are other casualties that can affect everyone in Henley.

The damage to pavements from these vehicles driving over them causes them to fail; paving slabs crack and the path becomes uneven with trip hazards, especially for the frail and visually impaired. How many broken hips can be blamed on uneven pavements?

We already have problems in the town with traffic air pollution and these goods vehicles worsen the problem.

The tiny particles emitted from diesel vehicles are extremely damaging to everyone’s health.

We all breathe them in and they stick to our airways and lungs and remain in our bloodstream. Children who regularly breathe particulate-laden air can lose as much as 20 per cent of their lung capacity by the time they are eight years old.

Just ask any of the primary school headteachers in Henley how many children have inhalers.

Hopefully, there will come a time when there will be fewer polluting vehicles on the road and we can all breathe clean air.

In the meantime, for the sake of the health and wellbeing of all of us, young and old, Oxfordshire County Council must stop these HGVs from using Henley as a shortcut. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Barnett

St Katherine’s Road, Henley

Blight of modernity

Sir, — Once upon a time there was a most attractive market town called Henley-on-Thames.

It was light, quiet and airy. The people who lived and visited there enjoyed the facilities and the freedom with which they could walk around the town.

All has changed. Today, walking around Henley requires eyes in the back of one’s head because there are so many huge lorries turning from Bell Street into New Street, going up on to the pavement.

The same is true walking along Thames Side and then left across the bridge. The same is true if one comes over the bridge the other way and turns left down what is still Thame Side.

It seems it is impossible to get away from these huge HGVs, which now appear to be everywhere in Henley.

As well as being dangerous, these vehicles generate substantial pollution, traffic jams which in themselves produce extra pollution and substantial noise.

They are unquestionably a blight on the lives of those who live in Henley and those who are visiting. No doubt they’re doing damage to our lovely old buildings as well. Some may argue that the road through Henley is an A road. However, it was designed and built in a completely different era.

Today, there is a purpose-built strategic road network available for HGVs and indeed other traffic moving to and from Reading. The M4, A404 and then the M40. That is the purpose of those roads.

I have no doubt that many distribution companies look on the “rat run” through Henley as saving time, diesel fuel and other costs.

However, it is quite unacceptable these costs should be at the expense of Henley residents in terms of pollution, noise, damage to the town’s infrastructure and considerable danger to those on foot or bicycle.

It is high time that Oxfordshire County Council paid attention to this problem and actually did something to alleviate it by banning HGVs. — Yours faithfully,

Sir Ian Prosser

New Street, Henley

Cyclists need to take care

Sir, — I refer to your article regarding the cyclist Graham Gibson who came off his bike due to a temporary bridleway blockage to enable the farmer to safely move his cattle (Standard, August 28).

I use bridleways daily as a horse rider and a walker and I appreciate the need to proceed with caution as there are many other users, including dog walkers, people with small children or pushchairs, farmers, maintenance crews etc.

I therefore believe that anyone who thinks it is safe or sensible to career along any communal byway at “18 to 20mph” has only himself to blame.

Let’s be grateful that Mr Gibson only hit a bit of string and not a toddler running out from behind a tree.

Perhaps this incident will encourage him to take greater care in future. — Yours faithfully,

Rosie Doncaster

Newnham Hill

Mask rule is ignored

When I went into a shop on Tuesday, the person in front of me entered without a face mask on.

I asked the person on the door to challenge him. He replied that it was a police job to enforce the law.

I would like to think people have more sense about face masks but obviously not.

How can we beat the virus if people disregard the law? — Yours faithfully,

Lewis Every

Swiss Farm, Henley

Careless cinema staff

Sir, — My husband and I went to the Regal Picturehouse cinema in Henley on Saturday evening to see Tenet.

We were shocked by the lack of attention to covid restrictions.

No member of staff was at the door but four people were behind the bar, doing nothing, as there were no customers and, in such a small space, they were certainly not observing social distancing rules.

We spoke to one of them and asked to see the seating plan for the evening.

To our amazement, there were three people sitting immediately in front of us. We asked to be moved and were told we could only have the seats on the far end of our row.

When I expressed my surprise that people should be sitting so closely together, I was told that they couldn’t do anything about it as, in so many words, commercial considerations were important.

Given that the front four rows were completely empty, we were puzzled as to why so many people in the cinema seemed to be in rows D and E.

When we went to our seats, we could see that we were the only people in the cinema wearing face masks.

This, despite the fact that at the end of the adverts on the screen came a summary of what the cinema was doing to keep us safe, which specifically stated that face masks should be worn.

No member of staff came into the cinema at any time before the film began to check that social distancing and face mask use was in operation.

The thought came to me that if the Regal was so casual about this, perhaps it was also casual about the cleaning regime.

We did not have a comfortable evening and will not be returning until such time as we can feel completely safe.

We have been members of the Regal since it began and are frequent filmgoers. We have always sung its praises and been grateful to have such a good cinema in Henley.

Our experience on Saturday night was very disappointing. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Ducker

The Hamlet, Gallowstree Common

A Picturehouse Regal spokesman responded: “The safety of our customers and staff is our top priority. 

“We are sorry to hear that there was confusion over the allocated seating system.

“All booked seats, whether booked online in advance or in the cinema, have at least 1m between them in line with government guidance.

“Sometimes this may mean that there are other customers behind or in front but that is because the distance between the seats complies with the guidance.

“If there are significant empty seats/rows in the screen then we are happy for customers to move to feel more comfortable, as long as it is within the guidance.

“There is always a gap of two seats either side between households and the guidance states that every row can be used.

“In addition we want to assure all customers that when they book tickets and seats online, the website automatically takes into account social distancing and will not allow you to complete your purchase if your seats are too close to another household. 

“We also have a number of safety measures in place to help keep our staff and customers safe. All staff have had thorough training on the new measures that are now in place. These include:

A ‘meeter and greeter’ to welcome all customers at peak times. 

An enhanced cleaning policy whereby all areas of the cinema are cleaned hourly throughout the day.

Hand sanitiser stations throughout the cinema for customer and staff use.

Staggered start times of films to ensure that there is safe entry and exit.

Staff  have been provided with face coverings as part of their uniform and we have added screens at our kiosk areas

Customers are required to wear a face covering while in the building but can take them off to eat and drink

A social distancing plan has been implemented throughout the cinema and we have allocated a maximum number of staff for each area.”

Farmers can sort badgers

Sir, — I assume Patricia Edwards, who wrote about a proposed badger cull in Oxfordshire (Standard, August 28) does not rely on keeping cattle for a living or like hedgehogs or ground-nesting bumble bees. Badgers love both.

The badger is a handsome beast but a lethal killer nonetheless and can spread bovine tuberculosis among cattle, leading to their compulsory slaughter.

I, too, do not think the licensed badger cull is the answer. I believe the solution is to lift the protection on badgers altogether so those farmers who have a problem can sort the matter out quietly themselves, as they always used to. — Yours faithfully,

Mark Hatt

South Stoke Road, Woodcote

Thank you to Laura...

Sir — I stupidly fell off my bike on Friday for the first time in probably 40 years while trying to avoid a puddle.

I just wanted to say a huge thank-you to Laura, who along with her little one and dog, stayed with me until my husband arrived. I was in quite a lot of discomfort and I really appreciated her help.

I am very grateful to the other passers-by who stopped to check on me too and also Darren at Townlands Memorial Hospital who bandaged me up. — Yours faithfully,

Josie Colin


...and to Jeannine

Editor, — I would like to thank the lady called Jeannine who found my handbag at Tesco in Henley and kindly returned it to me.

I am so grateful and say a heartfelt thank-you for your kindness and honesty. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs P Parker

St Mary’s Close, Henley

Better with no lyrics

Sir, — Thank goodness the BBC decided to drop the words of Rule, Britannia at the Last Night of the Proms.

Since early childhood and until quite recently I have erroneously been belting out “Britons never will be saved”.

I always thought it rather strange. — Yours faithfully,

Derek I Hammond

St Andrew’s Road, Henley

Safe and fun cricket event

Sir, — On bank holiday Monday, I was involved with Kidmore End Cricket Club’s annual game between the chairman’s XI and president’s XI.

Despite the unpredictable weather prospects, as the afternoon progressed, so the number of family groups within the ground increased.

Children of all ages were doing what comes naturally while the adults enjoyed picnics.

With marquees and picnic tables provided, social distancing was eminently achievable in the considerable areas adjacent to the pitch.

To see about 200 local people enjoying the safe, friendly, clean and hospitable environment is a testament to the community of the village and the club itself.

Long may it continue. — Yours faithfully,

Kevin Lavender


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