Thursday, 05 August 2021

Your letters

We must save those beds

We must save those beds

Sir, — I am very pleased to hear that you are starting a Save Our Beds campaign (Standard, May 29).The Chilterns End care home and valuable land around Townlands have now been disposed of and Henley has waited 10 years for this new hospital with beds.I attended the meeting at Henley town hall last week, the second in the public consultation process to discuss the new proposals to remove all 14 beds from Townlands Hospital.It had not been publicised in last week’s paper, so only about 10 people came to listen and contribute.We tried to prevail against the intransigent members of the Oxfordshire Clinicial Commissioning Group who maintain that, as professionals, they know what is best for Henley.I would liken it to the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Henley people think they are getting a robust new hospital and what they are really getting is a white elephant building with the top floor now empty and ready to be used for anything other than rehabilitation beds.The commissioning group is telling us that is what we all want, deserve and need. We are supposed to capitulate and say, “silly old us, we are only lay people after all, how could we possibly presume to have valid ideas?” The commissioning group will always be able to shout down any non-medical attendees at meetings and refute anything they suggest.My points are: 1. The proposal to treat nearly all patients at home seems a good one until you factor in the considerable numbers of elderly patients who are too unsafe to be left at home alone for long periods or overnight. A couple of weeks of rehabilitation as an in-patient is the only safe way, I believe, to get them back on their feet and may even be cheaper in the long run.2. The proportion of elderly in the population is increasing throughout the UK and this is particularly the case in Henley. They are, as usual, those least likely to be given a voice. Most wouldn’t have been able to find out about the last meeting, for instance, as it was only publicised online.3. From 30 years’ experience as a GP myself, I am very conscious that elderly people can end up with second rate, underfunded community care. I fear this is what will happen here, as we all do.The fancy new proposals for rehabilitative care at home are unlikely to be funded adequately and this would be prohibitively expensive if done properly for so many patients.A physiotherapist at Townlands said she can treat 12 patients each day on Peppard ward but with travelling to provide rehab at home, this is reduced to four patients per day, necessitating employing two new physiotherapists. At the meeting we were told there were no plans to recruit more district nurses, physiotherapists or occupational therapists; the ones we already have would just work smarter, harder and faster. Really? 4. For the (deemed to be) few patients who will have to have rehabilitation as in-patients, five random beds are yet to be contracted in the Orders of St John Trust care home. It has not been built yet. It will not have a rehab gym and is, to my mind, a poor and slightly ridiculous substitute. Imagine a patient recovering from a hip operation or chest illness placed next to residents suffering with dementia and looked after by health care assistants rather than nurses. A ghastly proposal for all concerned, I think.When more than five beds are required suddenly, say, in winter, will some poor patients have to be turfed out quickly to accommodate additional patients? The NHS crisis experienced last year will not be a one-off.5. The “overwhelmingly positive” emergency multi-disciplinary unit model at Abingdon and Witney Community Hospital has been trotted out to us as “proof” of the effectiveness of step-up and step-down care. It is not the case.Throughput with their beds has been seriously interrupted, I am told, because the present lack of funding/availability of community care means patients cannot be discharged home when they are ready. Nobody mentions this bit, of course.The commissioning group is pretending this is a public consultation but it is just going through the motions of trying to make us feel we are making all the decisions jointly with them.When it all goes wrong a year or more down the line and people are left precariously at home or being admitted back to general hospitals, it will be Henley’s fault for allowing it to happen.In years to come, some of those who have orchestrated the new “health campus” will have moved on to other posts, remaining personally unaccountable for the mess they have left behind in Henley.A ward has been purpose-built on the first floor for 18 beds. Let’s use it until we see how well the home care model works with the passage of time. — Yours faithfully,

Lady Stewart

Chiswick





London Planning is ill-conceived

Sir, — I attended the meeting at Phyllis Court Club and listened with an open mind to the presentation by the Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group.After the presentation, we split into groups to discuss what we had heard and form questions for the panel.Details of the rapid access care unit ambulatory care system had been vague, with references to step-up and step-down beds and use of the Orders of St John care home to provide these beds.Alarm bells were already ringing for me as there are no studies available to show that this model of care works, although some aspects of it might be useful for certain patients, where care could safely and easily be given in their own homes.During the discussions around my table, somebody pointed out that the ambulatory care system would be available on only three days per week.When questioned, Dr Andrew Burnett, the South-East locality director for the commissioning group, who was heading my table, confirmed this fact.At no time had this been made absolutely clear during the presentation by the commissioning group. Neither was it mentioned during the subsequent question time from the floor, nor in the various consultation documents.I had been mistaken in naively assuming that the rapid access care unit would be open at least five and preferably seven days a week.We therefore have a situation where an entire ward is being closed this autumn and there is, as yet, no signed contract with the Orders of St John to provide the five beds outlined with appropriate staff trained to care for patients in the way they would have been cared for on Peppard ward.There are no details of how the very large numbers of new staff will become available, so that rapid access care unit patients can be safely and successfully cared for in their own homes.Following the closure of Peppard ward and during the period of the building of the care home, patients will be sent to other hospitals, such as Wallingford or Abingdon.The only access to care we will have, apart from the minor injuries unit, is a rapid access care unit which is open for three days a week.This will apparently provide a next-day service and even then only if patients are fortunate enough to need it on an “open” day. It seems that this unit will be empty and closed on more days than it is open.Does this all sound like a well-conceived plan? — Yours faithfully,

Vivien Pheasant

Lower Shiplake



We mustn’t be fobbed off

Sir, — Just what is going on? This replacement hospital has taken years and years to get off the ground and only then down to the untiring efforts of the Townlands Steering Group.No sooner does it appear that the hospital will actually be achieved than the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group feels that it can now dictate just what will be provided.First Oxfordshire doctors were to be responsible for the patients therein, in spite of the distances they would have to travel.Now we are told that there will be only five beds instead of the 14 that are currently well used and not in the hospital at all.The original War Memorial Hospital was built on land freely given for that purpose and funded by the people of Henley. This was taken over by NHS and then decommissioned on a promise of better facilities at Townlands. We have fought for years to achieve this and we do not want to be fobbed off now. — Yours faithfully,

M E Grant

Henley



Keep great care going

Sir, — At present there are 14 beds on Peppard ward. They provide 24-hour care for the patients.Many people do not wish to go to the Royal Berkshire Hospital where they do not have their own doctor looking after them and it is very difficult for friends to visit them due to the lack of public transport. Care at home for elderly patients does not cover night-times and a friend of mine found that the “package of care” was rushed with no continuity of person, which was difficult. Townlands was promised to the people of Henley after the War Memorial Hospital was closed and the funds from the sale were to be used towards a new Townlands to provide local beds for local people with their own doctor to look after them close at hand. I have written previously saying that I have personal experience of the comfort this was to me and my family when my husband was there for the last few days of his life. I agree with the comments of Bob Montgomery and Justine Hutchinson in last week’s Take Five — 18 beds is not too many with the growing population of this area. Also it saves ambulances having to go to Reading and relieves the pressure on the Royal Berks, which is considerable. Do keep the marvellous care at Townlands going. — Yours faithfully,

Mary Romanes

Market Place,

Henley



Hospital is invaluable

Sir, — I hope you are being inundated with letters such as this. My husband suffered a fall a couple of years ago which resulted in him not being able to “weight bear” on his leg for eight weeks.If it hadn’t been for the wonderful treatment and facilities at Townlands I don’t know what we would have done. Being there meant I could easily visit daily as could our friends, many of whom could take a short stroll to see him. The staff were wonderful.We did notice during this two months that the majority of the beds were full so how they can justify cutting down to five beds now is beyond me. This is an exceedingly valuable local facility and, as with lots of local needs, it seems that decisions are made by people who don’t live in the town and haven’t a clue what is going on or what is needed.Fight on — you certainly have our support. — Yours faithfully,Raelene and John Clarke Henley Stick to the promiseSir, — Congratulations on the launch of your Save Our Beds campaign.The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is placing great emphasis on providing a service at the new Townlands that will satisfy the needs of older people who prefer to be cared for at home rather than in a hospital. Hence its belief that fewer beds will be needed.However, the number of available beds is not an issue solely for older people. It will affect anyone, young or old, in the Henley area needing an overnight bed and nursing care.We were promised a new hospital. What is proposed is an outpatient clinic with a few beds in a care home. These are not hospital beds.If this outcome is not what you want, please use the period of consultation to clearly express to the commissioning group what it is that you do want and support the Henley Standard’s campaign. — Yours faithfully,

Don Barraclough

Blandy Road,

Henley



Unconvinced by rationale

Sir, — I applaud your campaign to keep the beds at Townlands and will be joining it along with other members of the Labour Party here in Henley as this is an issue on which the whole town can agree.The recent meeting at Phyllis Court Club was a puzzle to me. As an architect, I have often stood up before public consultations (including in that very hall when I presented the plans for the Phyllis Court riverside pavilion), so I have sympathy for the speakers, who put the case for the ambulatory care model very well. But there are at least three puzzles: 1. I know from when my practice was bidding last year for a similar facility in Reading that the provision of community beds remains part of current NHS best practice, seen as complementary rather than opposed to an ambulatory care model. In particular, there is a great demand for community beds from the Royal Berkshire Hospital (our nearest large hospital) as a step-down so that patients can be transferred closer to their homes before they are well enough to go home.2. When the top floor of the new Townlands was proposed by a member of the public as an appropriate location for the 18-bed Peppard ward, it was explained from the podium that this was precluded by fire escape requirements. This is puzzling as this floor is shown on the original planning permission as hospice beds.3. A further puzzle is the timing. Peppard ward will be bulldozed in November but there was no evidence presented of how the new facility could possibly open six months later, given that we are still apparently at a consultation stage. Nor was it explained how Wallingford is going to accommodate the extra patients and staff during this hiatus.I am deeply unconvinced by the rationale the commissioning group offered to Henley.We are simply not getting what has been promised and I urge Henley residents to join this campaign and hold the commissioning group to its promises. — Yours faithfully,

Cornelius Kavanagh

(Former Labour candidate for South Oxfordshire District Council),

Fair Mile,

Henley



Listen to the opposition

Sir, — Having followed the correspondence concerning Townlands in the Henley Standard over the past few months, the lasting impression is a feeling of total frustration and an ever-increasing realization that the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has a total disregard for the requirements of the residents of Henley and the surrounding area.The views expressed both at the meeting held at Phyllis Court Club and in the letters pages have not only not been addressed nor adequately answered but, it would appear, completely ignored.Surely, by now, the strength of feelings expressed by the residents should have been acknowledged and the original plans complied with and the original design concept implemented. — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop

Ewelme



Let’s change their mind

Sir, — Great thanks to the Henley Standard for starting the petition regarding the Townlands consultation. Thank you for raising awareness on this important matter. Could readers please note that there is a Townlands Steering Group public meeting in the town hall on Tuesday at 7.30pm?The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group will present its latest model of healthcare to be based in Townlands Hospital. The original Townlands plan was for the beds currently in Peppard ward to be transferred to our new  hospital. Townlands is due to serve 90,000 people in Henley and with an “ageing” population, the commissioning group must make a convincing case for its new model of care.It is currently carrying out a consultation with Henley and the surrounding parishes and this is one of the last chances to have your say. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak

Henley Town Council,

Elizabeth Road,

Henley



Reduce beds gradually

Sir, — I read your Save Our Beds article and listened to the protests at the recent Townlands meeting at Phyllis Court Club with some amazement.The positions of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and, if he still represents the Townlands Steering Group, Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak and others appear totally and needlessly polarized. First, let us remember that living in an economy which is £1.5trillion in debt, we are very lucky to have a new hospital at all.Second, at the meeting at Phyllis Court Club, the medical representatives who gave up their evening and preparation time to speak to us subscribe to the Hippocratic Oath and, despite the reaction of some of the gathering, were genuinely trying to help us.Third, clearly there are two important issues at stake. The first is the proposed ambulatory healthcare for the growing ranks of Henley’s elderly people and the second is a continuing need for a number of beds locally for those ill enough to need hospitalisation.I believe the case for ambulatory healthcare was made clearly and eloquently. I am convinced of this because I have experienced it.Last summer I had an orthopaedic operation which went badly wrong. A second operation was needed to remove snapped pins. And bone infection set in.I needed six weeks of anti-biotic injections and normally this would have meant another six weeks in the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital.However, by inserting a pick line in my arm, our excellent district nurses could give me injections at home, leaving me free to work and enjoy home life throughout.Ambulatory healthcare is but an extension of what I experienced last summer. There is no doubt that many people can be treated in this way and will greatly benefit from it.It is a sound idea and, with a financial black hole in the health service, a vastly cheaper way than wholesale hospitalisation with better results. So we should be wary about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.However, there is no doubt, too, that there is a continuing need for beds locally.Actually no one knows how quickly ambulatory care can be put in place and we can only rely on the medical experts to make as accurate an assessment as possible.Similarly, no one knows what level of beds will be required and how they will be affected by the ambulatory care.However, with one entire floor of the new Townlands unoccupied owing to Sue Ryder’s disappearance, I would have thought one ward of 18 beds reducing by stages to whatever number would be quite possible and would give the ambulatory scheme a chance to get established, while the ward of 18 beds would get a chance to reach optimum occupancy. — Yours faithfully,

David Silvester

Luker Avenue,

Henley



I’m waiting to respond

Sir, — I hear the feedback from the town and the surrounding villages to the consultation by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group on the future of Townlands Hospital.Indeed it is impossible not to be aware of the strength of feeling in the town or of the Henley Standard’s campaign to “Save our beds”.The key issue in all this is that we get the best 21st century healthcare for the people of this area. This is why I was among those responsible for ensuring that this consultation took place in the first instance when the commissioning group was, at best, ambivalent. Having secured this consultation, it would be bizarre for me not to wait for the outcome before commenting on it. I have asked for a copy of the feedback and the group’s response as soon as it is available. At that point, I will review what new is being proposed and will respond accordingly. In the meantime, I firmly believe it would be premature for me to try to second-guess the outcome of the consultation. I remain fully committed to Townlands and to it providing what is in the best health interests of the people of this area and will continue to put pressure on the commissioning group to ensure we get that. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

Henley MP,

House of Commons



Don’t cure the symptom

Sir, — Janet Walters missed the point (Standard, May 29).It’s not the Bell Surgery’s appointments system that is the problem but its quality of care, of which the failure of the former is merely a symptom.

My wife and I left the Bell Surgery in April after 51 years, during the first 50 of which the care we received was of the very highest standard. In leaving, we have joined many other patients who we understand have left the practice since January. This is a major problem and one that I hope Janet Walters, as chair of the Bell Surgery patients participation group, is addressing as a matter of urgency. — Yours faithfully,

Colin Alexander

Broadplat



Drs Langley, Rushton, Knight and Cunningham, of the Bell Surgery, respond: “We are very sorry to read of Mr Alexander’s dissatisfaction with the quality of care provided by the Bell Surgery. “Following the retirement of two of our most experienced GPs, Dr Collett and Dr Stephens, we are aware that some patients have been affected by a lack of routine appointments and that it is sometimes difficult for patients to be able to see their preferred doctor. “We value the feedback we have received from patients as part of the patient satisfaction survey and we are taking steps to improve the services we provide. “Over the last year, we have appointed two new partners, Dr Knight and Dr Cunningham, both experienced GPs who have worked in the area previously, as well as a new practice manager. “In addition, our new appointments system allows more patients to be seen on the same day as well as being able to pre-book appointments. As always, anyone with an urgent medical need will be seen on the same day. “We welcome any comments from patients to help us deliver a consistently high standard of care. Please feel free to contact us directly.”



Third bridge Nimbys

Sir, — I write in response to Councillor David Bartholomew’s letter (Standard, May 22) in which he announced that the wishes of Sonning Parish Council for a third bridge across the Thames are at odds with those of seven other parish councils within his electoral division. Well, of course they are, Cllr Bartholomew. I am sure that many of those councillors from Oxfordshire queue through our beautiful village every day to cross our bridge to get to work and to get their children to school and to get on to the motorway and to the hospital.Of course they all choose to protect their own little villages while they inflict daily insult on our village life and historic buildings, slowly eroding the brickwork on the beautiful and historically important Lutyens House, barraging our delightful Grade II listed 18th century bridge by adding to the 16,000 car movements per day, vibrating the bricks to crumbling point.It makes our village a dangerous place for the many elderly residents, school children and young mothers who wish to cross the small narrow roads while dodging cars being driven at totally inappropriate speeds.The attitude of those collective councils is narrow-minded Nimbyism.May I suggest that the next time their members plan to drive through our village that they instead take the more direct route through Reading — please.By the way, Cllr Bartholomew is correct in stating that the Lafarge gravel lorries are prohibited from using Sonning bridge but still every day many large and heavy vehicles do cross our lovely little bridge unlawfully, adding to the misery.Please, Cllr Bartholomew, “smell the coffee”. A third bridge would ease the bottlenecks in this area. — Yours faithfully,

F Boyd-Carpenter

Sonning Lane,

Sonning



Dangerous girl drivers

Sir, — Three times recently I have had to take evasive action to avoid speeding cars coming towards me on my side of the road on the narrow winding lanes between Henley and Dunsden.

In the last incident it was only the quick thinking of the lead cyclist of the group coming towards me who prevented a collision. He put his arm out to stop the driver in the middle of overtaking his group on a blind bend. The oncoming car was, of course, on my side of the road.

Incidentally, in each case the cars were driven by young, apparently carefree girls. Sadly, they may not be in that state for long if they continue to drive with no thought of what might be coming towards them round the next bend. — Yours faithfully,

Margaret Simister

Thorne Close,

Henley



‘Chemtrails’ just vapour

Sir, — Oh how I guffawed on seeing Val Stoner’s letter (Standard, May 29), asking people to search chemtrails on the internet.I had been discussing this insane conspiracy theory over dinner just the previous night.Firstly, let me say that, while the internet is an amazing thing, it contains as much (if not more) misinformation and disinformation as it does actual information.I appreciate that it can be hard to tell the difference between these things when all are presented as fact but asking the right questions and applying the right logic help to filter this.Now, back to these supposed “chemtrails”. They are, in actuality, contrails (condensation trails, also called vapour trails) from the engines of jet aircraft.They are produced by the water vapour in the exhaust of aircraft engines but can also be triggered by changes in air pressure in wing-tip vortices or in the air over the entire wing surface.Contrails are made of water in the form of a suspension of billions of liquid droplets or ice crystals. Depending on the temperature and humidity at the altitude the contrails form, they may be visible for only a few seconds or minutes, or may persist for hours and spread to be several miles wide.According to the chemtrail conspiracies, though, we (the “Sheeple”!) are being sprayed with chemicals that are supposed to be affecting us.Depending on which theorist you read, it’s to control population numbers, or control minds, or even to tenderise us ready for the aliens (and many other daft ideas)! It’s being enacted by governments, the New World Order, the illuminati, the “Military Industrial Complex”, or, even, the aforementioned aliens. I mentioned earlier about asking the right questions to help filter internet information. Here are a few aimed at this hugely flawed conspiracy theory: Why are they “spraying” four to six miles up when whatever they are spraying will drift randomly for hundreds of miles before reaching the ground? Wouldn’t spraying at night from a lower altitude be more accurate and undetectable? Wouldn’t putting these chemicals in our food or water be even more efficient and targeted? How do the perpetrators of this spraying avoid being sprayed themselves, especially taking into account the randomness of high altitude spraying? Why aren’t the people letting us know about the mind control chemtrails if they were affected by them? How are all these chemicals being prepared, shipped, loaded on to aircraft and dispersed from thousands of planes all around the world every day without a single person being able to produce actual evidence? There is a way to see what that plane is that is leaving a vapour trail in the sky at www.flightradar24.com This will show you, in real time, how crowded the world’s skies are with commercial aircraft and even enable you to identify that flight overhead. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Brickhill

Goring Heath



Don’t be conned, Val

Sir, — Does your correspondent Val Stoner really expect us to believe that every now and then the bad guys go and secretly load up chemicals into all the planes from all the different companies going overhead on the same morning? That would be a complicated business, especially when some come from far away.

West-east stripes come from flights going from America to Europe and the Middle East and north-south from flights from Luton and points north.The website planefinder.com will help you to wave to some of those who won’t even touch our continent. Try looking up “Contrails” instead, then sit back and enjoy the show resulting from engine heat in a sub-zero atmosphere. — Yours faithfully,

Neil Gunnell

Blandy Road,

Henley



Most cyclists carry a pump

Sir, — I was amazed to read that Henley Town Council is even thinking of spending £1,790 on providing free air to cyclists (Standard, May 29).It is clear that no one on the council is a cyclist. We all, or almost all of us, carry our own pumps at all times, along with spare inner tubes, in case of problems. A municipal pump will be a total waste of our money. — Yours faithfully,

Leslie Plumb

Queen Street,

Henley



Pump idea is wasteful

Sir, — As a regular cyclist, I always carry a pump and spare inner tube as one never knows when a puncture is going to strike.I was therefore somewhat surprised at Councillor Will Hamilton’s proposal to install a municipal cycle pump in Henley at a cost of £1,790. It sounds like an idea for cyclists put forward by a non-cyclist. If the town council’s coffers are overflowing then I would suggest a donation to the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust or some other worthwhile cause. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Kempton

Shiplake



‘Pay’ rise of 58 per cent!

Sir, — It seems that no sooner have the new Conservative members of South Oxfordshire District Council been elected than they feather their own nests.Your readers may be interested to know that every district councillor receives an allowance of £2,900 per annum. Not unreasonable. These self-denying volunteers incur costs when otherwise working selflessly and free of charge to look after our best interests.I understand that the independent reviewers charged with having a look at the amount said it ought to be £3,500, a 20 per cent increase.I’m not sure if the rest of the world has seen a 20 per cent increase in their income in the last eight years but, hey, if you have influence, why not use it? Oh, but surprise, surprise, when the new district councillors met for the first time on May 21, flushed with the overwhelming endorsement of the electors, they decided that this was not enough.They were told that neighbouring Vale of White Horse councillors get £4,575, so this was the amount that was put to the vote.There were 33 district councillors present, 30 of whom were Conservative.Result: 30 Conservative councillors voted in favour of their 58 per cent pay rise. Guess who were the ones who dared step out of line? The three non-Conservatives, of whom Henley’s own Stefan Gawrysiak is one.So there’s to be an extra £33,000 added to the council tax bill that could otherwise have been spent on...Please remember, you get what you vote for. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End,

Hambleden



This wasn’t in manifesto

Sir, — The reason for the reduction in the number of councillors proposed by South Oxfordshire District Council a couple of years ago was that with fewer councillors the cost would be lower.However, as soon as the new council met, the very first thing it did was to increase councillors’ allowances by 58 per cent, well above the recommendation of an independent panel that was appointed to review and report on this matter and which had suggested a 21 per cent rise.As a result there is less local representation and greater cost than ever before as the total cost is now more than it was before the change to the councillor numbers was made.I don’t remember any of the Conservative candidates in the recent election saying anything about this plan to increase their own pay but, then again, they wouldn’t, would they? — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Peter Dragonetti

Chairman,

Goring Heath Parish Council



What a slap in the face

Sir, — The announcement on the change of chair for Henley in Bloom (Standard, May 29) beggars belief.To reduce the committee from five to three lends itself to ask the question why. I hope that there is a massive outcry over this from the public and especially the sponsors, so much so that the newly formed town council reverses its decision rapidly.I am so pleased that Councillor Dave Eggleton refused sit on the committee unless as a councillor where he has the ability to vote.

Please do not forget that, under the stewardship of Councillor Kellie Hinton, Henley is the first UK town to be entered into three competitions at the same time.This achievement requires involvement, commitment, dedication, good communication skills with everyone involved and keeping the interest/commitment of all the volunteers, not to mention the support of her family.When a chief executive or managing director takes on the position they do not go in all guns blazing and make radical changes, especially where a project is in progress and is very successful. To repeat the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Cllr Hinton, who is my nephew’s partner, has for the past three years worked consistently towards helping Henley win gold in the Britain in Bloom competition, so much so that the town received the invitation to compete in Entente Florale and has for the last five months been working closely with everyone involved in meetings and briefings.Let us not forget that this is all unpaid and during the main months of the competition it is not unusual for Cllr Hinton to dedicate many days and evenings per week, including weekends, ensuring that Henley has the best chance of winning.Can the new chairman make such a commitment? Will we see the new chairman at Sprouts, the brainchild of Cllr Hinton to involve the children of Henley in gardening? Will the new chairman be at the Hit Litter Days or helping the Gardening Buddies to name but a few activities that Cllrs Hinton and Eggleton have attended in the past year?Interestingly, before writing this letter I reviewed old issues of the Henley Standard and would be keen to know if Councillor Simon Smith, the new chairman, or Mayor Lorraine Hillier responded to the call for Bloom volunteers in the January 12 edition. This would give us an idea of their interest in the competition as the newly elected committee members.

Henley in Bloom is not political but the new Conservative ruling group of the town council have made it so. Let us hope that its actions do not cost Henley gold this year. This is just another reason why the voting system in the UK needs to change. Cllr Hinton attracted more votes than many of the Conservative councillors elected at last month’s elections. Perhaps if the local elections had not taken place at the same time as the general election the results would have been very different. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Hinton

York Road,

Reading



Very special sportsman

Sir, — Les Clark dominated the sports pages of the Henley Standard for three decades.He was the most natural sportsman I have seen away from the professional arenas.In fact, there are many of us who thought that’s where he belonged, certainly as a county cricketer and possibly more.Les died last month after a long illness. His funeral at the Reading Crematorium was so well-attended that as many people stood outside the south chapel as were sitting inside.We had come to pay our respects to a humble man who was loved and admired by us all. He was a fine footballer until an ankle injury and early middle age prevented him from pursuing the game.But his ability as a cricketer would sometimes leave those of us who played with him just speechless.Les was born and raised in Stoke Row. He played both football and cricket for the village sides until age finally caught up with him 15 years ago. For most of that time he was the team captain and how lucky we were to have such a gifted yet generous man in charge. We all looked up to Les, no matter that half the team came from the driving new worlds of IT, media and sales (and one of whom became a judge) because he was so many levels above us as a player.That included the Oxford Blue who once took 10 wickets in a match under Les’s captaincy — I wrote the match report for the Henley Standard in 1987, I think.Les was content to play in village cricket where his friends were. He captained me for six seasons until my already woeful eyesight told me my time was up. But Les, who was the same age as me, never had an issue with that: his hand-eye co-ordination was extraordinary and his reactions, right up until he was in his late forties, were scary. I remember once staring open-mouthed at a catch he made standing at very silly short leg-slip. He knew the batsman’s tendency to pull to the leg if given the right ball so he instructed the bowler accordingly. First ball: the bat gave an almighty pull-swipe which, by the laws of physics, would have penetrated any normal human’s ribcage and come out the other side but in this case was smacked straight into Les’s waiting hands.Les could take apart a good bowling attack with a demoralising 50, or even a century, but if the opposition wasn’t so good he would not be a bully and seek to humiliate them, he would give others a chance to get in the game — even I was promoted to Number 7 on a few occasions and allowed to bowl a few overs.But on those rare occasions when the attack came close to his ability he would turn on a thrilling display of batting, the sort of thing we have enjoyed from Andrew Flintoff and, more recently, Ben Stokes.By the time I came to Stoke Row in 1986 Les was 36 and was bowling at about medium-fast which was enough to deal with most village cricket.If required, he could still sling down a sharp one, but only if he thought the batsman was capable of dealing with it. Goodness knows how fast he had been in his twenties. Les valued effort, commitment and courage as much as skill in his team; he would rather see a less-gifted player giving his all than a talented one sitting back. His humility was natural, his sense of fair play undiminished throughout his life. He believed the game should be played properly within the rules and especially within the spirit of cricket.Stoke Row villager Graham Whittaker, a friend and playing colleague of Les, gave the the eulogy at his funeral. It was an affectionate tribute which all of us there from his playing days would recognise.The heyday of Les’s captaincy and our team was really from the mid-Eightie to the mid-Nineties and most had since dispersed to other parts of the country, or the world.Even so, one luminary of the team, Charles Hoatson, now a media emperor in Australia who left the village in 1992, wrote a tribute for Graham to read. I paraphrase: “I work with some of the best cricketers in the world but none of them is as good as Les was. He had a way of making people who weren’t natural sportsmen like me think they could be good.” Charles does himself a disservice because he was a good sportsman but I wasn’t. Under Les’s captaincy and encouragement, I moved from poor to mediocre and eventually, the height of my achievement, average. With my eyesight, that was a hell of a thing to do, so thank you, Les. Away from the pitch he was a convivial companion, joining us all on an almost daily basis in the Cherry Tree in Stoke Row, or the old Crooked Billet.Later years saw us move on a less frequent basis to the Rising Sun at Witheridge Hill as both Stoke Row pubs changed their nature. Les had a life beyond sport but discussion would almost always be about it in some way. I don’t believe he ever played rugby but he was a true sports enthusiast and enjoyed following it as much as those of us who had.We had some spirited Saturday afternoons in the village during what was the old Five Nations tournament.Les had other interests too. I would often get stuck into conversations with him about music and he loved his horse racing.Now he has gone, taken cruelly early. I doubt there’s a local sportsman who knew Les who won’t regret his passing; he had no enemies, every opponent was a friend.When my time comes, if I get the turnout and response at my funeral that Les had at his then I think my life will have meant something. Les’s certainly did. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Rowbottom

Stoke Row



Last chance for royal tea

Sir, — June is here at last and that means a plethora of social events as the Henley season really gets under way.There are lots of outdoor-related activities, which are great for those of us who are still very active and mobile.However, we also need to spare a thought for those within our community who are perhaps a little less sprightly as the years take their toll.This year is also a particularly special one for many of our older residents, marking as it does the 70th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the Second World War.

There is still a good number of local people who were present and participated in the very first celebrations of both VE and VJ days but as time moves on that number is dwindling.Clearly both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh fall into that category, so to coincide with her 89th official birthday, the Henley Business Partnership and Home Instead Senior Care have got together to stage an afternoon tea party for older people.This will take place on Sunday, June 14 from 3pm to 5pm at the d:two centre in Market Place, Henley.As well as a splendid high tea (and possibly the odd glass of wine), participants will be treated to entertainment from Kitty Mazinsky, including our very own version of the Last Night of the Proms, with the support of the brownies.

There will be a few words from our new mayor and a prize raffle.It’s all free, courtesy of sponsors, the Henley Business Partnership, Home Instead Senior Care, Time Finders, Orchard House and Signature Cliveden Manor but time is running out.We are nearly fully booked but if anyone over the age of 65 has missed the first round of publicity we could probably squeeze them in — as long as we know by Monday (June 8). So if are quick you can book your place with Gail Lewis on 01628 638416 or by emailing her at gail.lewis@ thehenleypartnership.co.uk or by popping into the town hall and picking up a form or by signing up at the Over-60s club in Greys Road car park. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Westgarth Director,

Home Instead and Henley Business Partnership



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