Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Your letters...

Subtopian border

Subtopian border

Sir, — As if local bobbies weren’t busy enough already, newly posted notices announce that, because of vandalism, officers will periodically patrol the several hundred yards of fencing lately erected along the lane bordering the Gillotts School grounds.

Tastefully done in wood and three-strand smooth wire, that fence with its lockable gates reinforces the message (previously given on misspelled signboards) that the school field is out of bounds to all walkers.

One supposes that, over the last 40 years or so, there have been numerous untoward incidents involving pupils, visiting dogs and their droppings (dogs that is). It may even be that insurance claims have been lodged, or are feared.

So today only illiterate hounds (and, of course, foxes, squirrels, birds, rabbits, muntjak and moles) are likely to be in the area, while those drifts of crisp packets, bottles and other packaging that pet owners must have scattered along the margins will cease to trouble the school authorities.

A word of caution, though. That fence merely indicates a boundary and, like territorial markings released by dogs and cats, provides no real barrier. Indeed, its thin wire is already slack in places, perhaps where the reckless have nipped through to retrieve pets, or even where naughty pupils have sought to reach favourite trails through the adjacent spinney.

Barbed wire or a lightly mined border strip would certainly have drawn harsh criticism and weightier potential claims, so, on balance, this was not an utterly unreasonable way to spend the rather large sum such a new feature of subtopia must have cost.

To argue that some of that money might have been better spent on, say, helping children abroad who lack classrooms, sports fields, pens and papers would be foolishly emotive. After all, charity begins at home and, as Robert Frost observed, “good fences make good neighbours”. — Yours faithfully,

Robert Stephenson

Manor Road, Henley

New homes need roads

Sir, — Calling in to look at details of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan in Market Place a couple of weeks ago, I was rather taken aback to see quite a large chunk of the Gillotts School sports field earmarked for the development of 33 houses.

This would make Gillotts Lane rather busy with a possible increase in traffic of up to 50 or 60 cars unless the school is hoping for an exit in Blandy Road.

But there are no plans for new roads to serve this area or the Lucy’s Farm site (125 houses) or Highlands Farm.

I was not aware that Gillotts headteacher Catharine Darnton and management were seeking to sell off such a huge chunk of the field.

It even appears with the new fence around, they have somehow appropriated the copse separating the bridle path and the sports field. How did this happen?

It would have been courteous to have informed residents of Blandy Road of these plans. I cannot see how the school can maintain the copse without having to sell even more land.

I would also like to inform readers that affordable housing, which the Government keeps talking about, means the average price of a house plus 25 per cent. Hardly affordable, I should think. — Yours faithfully,

Anne Johnson

Blandy Road, Henley

Nick Walden, chairman of governors, responds: “I do not know for certain where the housing figures quoted by your correspondent originated but I suspect that they arise from a submission made several years ago by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), as then owner of the land, to the South Oxfordshire core strategy.

“As many readers will know, the school was identified in the strategy as one of six possible sites in or around Henley to accommodate housing.

“But there are no current plans to dispose of any part of the site or to build houses on it, which is why we have not consulted with residents of Blandy Road or elsewhere.

“One of the major reasons why we became an academy, however, was to take ownership and control of our site and manage it better than the council had done.

“Any prudent landowner would take steps to delineate the boundary and prevent unauthorised access. More importantly, we have a duty as an academy to understand the condition of our site and its buildings and to plan for the medium to long term.

We are currently undertaking a detailed investigation of options for the development of our facilities over the next five to 10 years. Very significant investment will almost certainly be required and possible sources of funding will be identified and examined. Our professional advisers will make a presentation to the governors in December.

“We are starting with a clean sheet of paper. Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out but previous studies by the county council showed that there may be an opportunity to release part of the school estate with a potential use for residential development, helping to fund the renewal of the school’s facilities.

“Should any plan turn out to be feasible, it will only be implemented if it enables us to continue to improve as a school and to provide the best possible education and opportunities for the young people of Henley for the foreseeable future.

“Our survey is timed to ensure that we are able to contribute constructively and with accurate information to the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, a blueprint for the town for the next generation.

“Although all the talk is about housing, it is also essential that the plan addresses educational provision and that we contribute to this component.

“The current work on our site plan will enable us to play a full part in the very important discussions which are about to commence.”

Different perspective

Sir, — Victoria Heriot says that she is “very disappointed” that Challenge Henley might not be returning to Henley next year (Standard, September 20). I note that she lives right in Henley where the church, the pubs and the shops were open and she could easily get to them.

She might feel very differently if she lived along the triathlon cycle route where she would have suffered “house arrest” and experienced considerable difficulty getting out of her home or receiving visitors.

Moreover, she says that “people spend money in the town”. If she were running a business along the route, such as a pub or a restaurant, far from people spending money, she would be lucky if anyone turned up at all.

I agree with her that Henley is “very lucky to have so many amazing events” but not at the expense of extensive road closures. — Yours faithfully,

Caroline Bowers


Challenge complaints

Sir, — We have become aware that Oxfordshire County Council does not consider the Challenge Henley road closures a problem as it has had only two letters of feedback.

It is not always easy to know who to write to but the people we would contact are: Peter Ronald, principal technician network co-ordination, whose email address is peter.ronald@oxfordshire.gov.uk; Mark Kemp, deputy director for environment and economy, whose email address is mark.kemp@oxfordshire.gov.uk; and Councillor Rodney Rose, deputy leader, whose email address is rodney.rose@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Alternatively, you can write to any or all of them at: Oxfordshire County Council, Speedwell House, Cambridge Terrace, Speedwell Street, Oxford, OX1 1NE. — Yours faithfully,

David and Mary Sarson

Lambridge Wood Road, Henley

Pyromaniacal paper menace

Sir, — I can sympathise with Claudia Rowberry’s plight surrounding these awful Chinese lanterns (Standard, September 27).

I, too, have had some frightful encounters with them.

Many great inventions have come from China, including paper, woodblock printing and compasses, but lanterns are not one of them!

Why anyone would want to launch flaming bags of terror into the sky at the mercy of the winds is beyond me.

On the wider level of concern they may become ingested by livestock or, even worse, affect an aeroplane in flight.

Clearing up these bags of paper and wire from our countryside is one thing but to have people releasing them without thought for the consequences or the mess it would leave if a Boeing 747 were to crash into our beloved Chilterns is quite another. One evening during the summer some careless youths launched some of said lanterns during a rather noisy (and no doubt alcohol-fuelled) soirée. If it wasn’t for Jeremy Paxman on Prime Minister’s Questions, I do not know how I would have ignored the raucousness!

The following morning I was shocked to find two burnt-out lanterns on my property, one of which had fallen into my pet tortoise’s garden pen.

In his 37 years, he has never seen anything like this and nearly would not have made it to 38 if his tortoise house that I spent months crafting had been set alight.

I implore readers to use safer, more conventional ways of celebrating parties, such as buffets and karaoke. Then there should be no need to send these dangerous pyromaniacal paper abominations skywards. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Duffy

Witheridge Hill

I saw German bomb land

Sir, — I have followed with interest your doodlebug story.

I can confirm that one did come down and explode in a small valley opposite Garsons Farm in Checkendon, just a few hundred yards from what is now the sawmills of Norman Cox & Partners but during the war was a base for US troops waiting for D Day.

At the time of the incident it was being used as a German prisoner of war camp and much later housed former Polish soldiers, some of whom had married local girls, and their families.

I was born in Stoke Row and well remember as a young lad watching with my mother and older brother a doodlebug passing overhead, coughing and spluttering and dropping rapidly (obviously low in fuel), going in the direction of what was then the Star Brush factory at Kit Lane and the Black Horse pub at Scots Common.

As young lads, we were soon on our bicycles going to the very spot where the V1 had landed. It had done no damage and had missed the German prisoners of war!

I remember the blast had taken all the green leaves off the surrounding trees and made them the size of confetti several inches thick on the ground. — Yours faithfully,

John Pitt

P.S. Ordnance Survey No. 171 between 84 and 85 across and 65 and 66 down, marked Yewtree Brow, is the spot where the doodlebug landed.

Doodlebugs did land here

Sir, — I disagree with your correspondent Pat Doyle about doodlebug landings (Standard, September 20).

I have a map showing strikes as far inland as Leicester (one), Shropshire (one), Cheshire (six), Derby (three), Lancashire (eight), Oxfordshire (four) and Berkshire (12).

Also the engines did not always cut out over London as we gave false information through the double-cross system as to where the doodlebugs were landing, so the flight time was adjusted, which helped London avoid some strikes.

Then there is the recollection of my father who heard the unique sound of the doodlebug before it hit. Dumb bombs do not make the same noise. He says one landed in Checkendon. — Yours faithfully,

Tyrone Trimmings


Missing squirrels

Sir, — Like Tim Meikle (Standard, September 30), we have also noticed a lack of squirrels. Normally I would have at least six busy in the garden but I have seen none.

My husband’s theory is they have been taken by the red kites through the summer. — Yours faithfully,

Eileen Wood


...but they’re a menace

Sir, — I was interested to read Tim Meikle’s letter about grey squirrels. There is a simple explanation to his question.

Last year was a very poor year for all kinds of fruits, including acorns and beech mast, which squirrels feed on. In addition, it was a very long, cold winter.

The consequence was very low squirrel numbers this spring.

This year, however, there is an abundance of food, fruits and nuts, so squirrels should have plenty to eat this winter. The consequence will be high squirrel numbers next spring.

Does this matter? Yes, it does as squirrels cause terrific damage to many of our native trees, including both oak and beech, by stripping the bark, severely damaging the trees.

In addition, squirrels predate many of our woodland birds, causing a drop in their populations.

Grey squirrels are not native animals, they have no natural predators and they do tremendous damage to our woodlands, our native red squirrels and our native birds. Great efforts need to be made to reduce their numbers. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Henley tree warden, Berkshire Road, Henley

Successful auction

Sir, — Thank you to the people who attended our auction of promises on Saturday night. We felt the night was a great success and a good time was had by all.

We managed to raise a whopping £2,786, which we will split equally between the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust, Headway, the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group, Bishopswood School and our new residents’ group.

We would like to thank everybody who was involved on the night. It is really important in these early stages that we have support and spread the news of what we are trying to achieve in order to gain more support from residents.

The Gainsborough Residents’ Association is now up and running and we have grants starting to come in now from various local authorities but we would still encourage more people to join as it is open to anyone.

If anybody would like to get involved they can contact myself or David Eggleton.

Once again, many thanks for your support — it really means a great deal to us. — Yours faithfully,

Paula Isaac

Chairman, Gainsborough Residents’ Association, Gainsborough Road, Henley

Fantastic fund-raiser

Sir, — Last Friday, we held a Macmillan coffee morning in Wood Lane, Sonning Common. We had an amazing response to our posters advertising the event.

Thanks to everyone who donated, came along for a cuppa, cake and chat and took part in our fund-raising. We raised the fantastic sum of £429. Thank you all again. — Yours faithfully,

Linda Webb and June Fisher

Sonning Common

Has my sunflower got the most heads?

Sir, — I believe it is about time for the annual head count (sunflowers that is), so I would like to start the ball rolling with my own multi-flowered plant.

At the moment it has 20 fully formed heads full of seeds with four more showing colour as they open.

Many more little buds are present but will not have time to develop fully.

I doubt that my plant will have the most heads but at least I will be first to submit such a photograph. — Yours faithfully,

Mr R E Cooke

Northfield End, Henley

I thought this puff ball was a football!

Sir, — I saw this puff ball on Stoke Row sports ground and thought it was a football! I picked it and showed it to all my friends. None of them had seen such a big one and they suggested sending a photograph to you. It is now on show at the arts and crafts exhibition and sale in Stoke Row Chapel.

I was going to eat it until my friends said it should go on show.Puff ball tastes very good, sliced and fried in olive oil, so a fungi expert has told me. You can also have stuffed puff ball by slicing off the top and filling the inside and even a puff ball burger! — Yours faithfully,

Judy Fox

Stoke Row

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