Thursday, 05 August 2021

Your letters...

Starter, main course and pudding...

Starter, main course and pudding...

Sir, — Three at a time. Is this the way to deal with the grey squirrel problem? What about the fox problem? — Yours faithfully,

John Manners

Tanners Lane, Chalkhouse Green

Freedom and democracy

Sir, — The crux of the issue when we vote in the EU referendum on June 23 is freedom and democracy.

Freedom should never be taken for granted and democracy is the best system to ensure freedom. Freedom is the most important thing in life and those who live or have lived under despotic regimes know this all too well.

The crucial feature of democracy is not that one can vote in who one likes so much as that one can vote out those whom one does not want.

In the European Union policy and laws are initiated by the European Commission, whose members are not elected by the populace and who cannot be removed by a popular vote. The European Parliament is unable to initiate legislation.

Those who fought and died in the world wars to save our freedom and democracy would be appalled if they knew how much we have given away “on a plate” to the European Union.

The EU, to be fair, is quite clear about where it is going, as stated in the five presidents’ report last year, and it is not going to remain as it is now.It is a ratchet process, which moves in one direction only, towards a European superstate. There is no provision for a member state to preserve the status quo and no means to reverse the ratchet, other than by leaving the EU.

This country does not have any veto and history shows that the views of member states are ignored by the European Commission if they differ from the commission’s views (despite what it may say).

The founders of the United States of America wisely insisted that all citizens must be able to speak the same language and required (and still does) everyone to pass an English test before naturalisation.

The EU, of course, has myriad languages and is not likely to be able to function successfully as a “United States of Europe” until people speak a common language, which may well take a long time!

The likely outcome is that sooner or later the project will fail and we would be wise to be out of it when that happens.

There is only one way to preserve our long-fought for freedom and democracy and that is by voting on June 23 to leave the European Union. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Ken Houston

Grange Close, Goring

Think of next generations

Sir, — I spent 11 years as a minister under prime ministers Thatcher and Major.

For much of that period I negotiated at different EU councils of ministers on the UK’s behalf. I saw the ups and downs first hand, so I am no starry-eyed EU idealist.

The evidence from independent national bodies, the Bank of England and international organisation has established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there will be a significant cost to the economy and jobs if we were to exit.

There are no “facts about the future,” so the extent and duration of that economic damage is bound to be a matter of opinion. I have heard it said that the “economic cost is worth paying”. I would be more sympathetic to that view if the people holding it were not so frequently of pensionable age — apparently content to let the next generation pick up the tab.

If sovereignty is used in the 19th century sense, it is undeniably true that the EU infringes on the UK’s national sovereignty but so too, among others, does the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the global financial markets.

There is much comment about rule by Brussels bureaucrats. Yet it was Margaret Thatcher’s drive that led to the single market and the regulations that flowed from it. It was Tony Blair who signed up to the social chapter after 1997. These were commitments by our prime ministers, not a load of bureaucrats.

EU immigrants pay considerably more into our national coffers than they take out. Nevertheless, in some areas, they do increase pressure on school places, housing and jobs.

Successive UK governments have not invested enough in school buildings: nimbyism and politicians of all parties have failed to create the conditions for adequate house-building and a generations-old British refusal to value skills education means that too few British citizens have the necessary skills.

If we were to leave the EU, could we realistically expect, or indeed want, all recent EU immigrants to leave the UK?

If, as a result of Brexit, many of the two million, largely elderly, Britons living in the EU returned to the UK, where would they live and where would enough NHS and care home employees be found to look after them?

What I find most surprising and distressing is the almost cavalier way in which the security implications of leaving the EU have been dismissed.

An erratic and unpredictable Russia; catastrophic civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya; a worldwide boom in terrorism; a weakened and perhaps unpredictable United States. What a time to believe that the UK would be better off alone!

Born in 1951, I have been truly fortunate. Unlike my father and grandfathers, I have not had to go to war. I have seen a steady rise in our country’s standard of living.

If we exit the EU on June 23, it may not make a lot of difference to me. I fear, though, for my children and grandchildren. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Eggar


It’ll be too late for apologies

Sir, — I happened to attend the same independent school in Aberdeen as Michael Gove and am somewhat surprised at his descriptions of David Cameron and George Osborne as “privileged elites”, presumably because they attended Eton College and Oxford.

I can assure Mr Gove that both he and I are seen in a very similar light by many in the north-east of Scotland who could not benefit from quite such a good education as we had there!

For my part I can claim a direct family contribution to the wellbeing of Robert Gordon’s College in that my late grandfather was chairman of the board of governors back in 1934 when the annual founder’s day commemorative event was instituted. In fact, he delivered the very first founder’s day oration.I do not mention this in any suggestion of “superiority” for pupils of that school instead of the importance of putting effort into getting something really worthwhile back.

By pure coincidence I have only recently responded to a call for “London Gordonians” to help fund a bursary for one pupil who would not otherwise be able to attend the college.

Reading Mr Gove’s Wikipedia entry, it is salutory to find the details of a very humbling apology he sent to his French teacher some 30 years after the event admitting misbehaviour and misjudgement.

It is just one of several apologies logged there. Such actions will regrettably be much too late if he discovers that the premises on which he has decided for Brexit result in an economic disaster for our country! — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Controlled by ideology Sir, — How can it be that Britain, with its centuries-old democracy and rule of law, which has been passed on over the years to many, now successful and independent Commonwealth countries, is under the control of an ideologically driven political and beaurocratic union which has been in existence for a mere 64 years?

Britain’s membership, of course, is for a trifling 44 years.

Some of our leaders, over this short period of time, are surely unlikely to go down in history wreathed in glory. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs V Wheeler

Bradley Road, Nuffield

Unconscious manipulation Sir, — Last month I received a pamphlet from the Electoral Commission, entitled “The 2016 EU referendum voting guide”.

I am unable to vote as I am not an English citizen and this letter is not on the politics of the in/out campaigns, but rather the unconscious duping of a public by subliminal neural influence.

The nervous system is stimulated by our senses, sending input to various parts of our brain which give the stimulus meaning.

We have three evolutionary brains — the earliest, the reptilian, the mammalian and the newest, the cortical brain, which process meaning differently in each of its three evolutionary areas.

Now to the pamphlet. What does the brain make of these cues which produce our responses at an unconscious level?

The covers of the pamphlet, which create mood and expectation, are in a retro neon sign, often in the past associated with entertainment from a time when entertainment was fun, stress-free and a time when joining the EU was a great idea (in its original form).

The colours used in the “stay” information page are in blues, with a clear uncomplicated font and easy-to-read format. This is clear and non- threatening in blue and pink to stimulate the brain to feel safe, clear and a little excited.

The information is accompanied by colourful pictures (saying a thousand words) of happy people and families, so we feel that this is what we will get if we follow the information on this page: health, happiness, belonging and prosperity.

The “leave” information is, by contrast, headed by a red banner (the colour of danger and thus a stress response) and the text is smaller and less well formatted, resulting in confusion and lack of clarity.

Smaller, less clear text, no pictures and a confusing format leaves the brain trying to conceive a mental picture of the outcomes of a decision which most people find difficult to do from short text alone.

Voting preferences aside, the layout, configuration and subliminal messages are clear and consistent so not a random mistake. Surely this is an unconscious manipulation of our right to clear and unbiased information?

Revisit the pamphlet, blur your vision so the facts are set aside and see which one you are drawn to. — Yours faithfully,

Veronica van Nierop

St Andrew’s Road, Henley

We’re voting on our future

Sir, — Some interesting responses to my last letter so let’s move straight to that Treasury report, shall we?

The report assumed that a UK post-Brexit could only trade with the world via complex trade deals in the EU style at the same tariff rates of eight per cent as opposed to World Trade Organisation tariffs of three per cent. Hmm.

But first there is a conundrum. I have an Apple iPhone made in China sitting on my desk. How can this be possible because the EU has no trade deal with either the USA or China?

Furthermore, if the EU is still a collection of nation states, how is it that the UK’s biggest export market is actually the USA, accounting for 36 per cent? The percentage of UK exports to all the EU countries is 42 per cent, which is 44-2, and this in turn accounts for roughly nine per cent of GDP, not everything we make.

As George Osborne was obliged to concede to the Treasury Select Committee, other trade deals are available and are actually working around the world right now. This was only fleetingly reported on the BBC.

But enough of such details, the big issue is that the vote on June 23 is not a vote for the past or even the present status quo. The EU is changing rapidly and is moving towards much closer political and financial integration. This is no secret.

In the event of a vote to remain, David Cameron has assured voters here that the UK will not be part of this integration process. Yet we are led to believe that the UK would still have a strong and influential position in the emerging “United States of Europe”.

This seems to be a remarkable leap of faith but again I invite the Remain camp to explain their vision of how this could work. If they are unable to do so then the likes of Trusk, Juncker and Barroso do seem to have a clear idea of how it would work, so invite them to enlighten us instead.

Looking to the future, the vote on June 23 is not so clear cut. A vote to remain is a vote for the UK as a satellite to the US of E unless the plan is actually for the UK to also proceed along the path of closer integration. A vote to leave is for the UK as an independent nation.

Both, it seems, have associated uncertainties and ambiguities. With the former, the UK would be bound by complex treaties but would we be at the heart of any real decision-making?

With the latter, the UK would be free to befriend and trade with whoever we liked, including our friends across the Channel in the new US of E, across the pond in the USA and all the Americas and indeed with many other nations around the world.

Much of the media is rather condescending about different models that a post-Brexit UK could emulate like those of Iceland, Norway, Canada or even Switzerland.

Actually the Swiss model is rather exciting and there is a reasonable chance that the UK, having the fifth largest economy in the world, could create a variation in tune with our own economy, a British model.

The vote is not about the past or the current status quo, it is about the future. Both options have inherent risks and offer different sorts of possibilities.

So let’s quit all the name-calling and consider this important issue objectively in the widest possible context for the future generations. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Birch


Forgotten achievements Sir, — I have seen, but did not have the patience to read, the many, extremely long, letters concerning the forthcoming EU referendum. I don’t want to add to these, lengthwise anyway, but I wish to make a couple of points regarding the EU, which are not often referred to.

The first concerns the attitude that we resent being told what to do by the EU.

I remember, in the early days of the common market, being told that we could no longer sell fresh chickens with the giblets (unpackaged) inside, as we had always done, the very good reason being that they go off quickly compared with the body of the chicken. They are now packaged inside.

More recently, we have been told that we must clean up our beaches, that sewage should not be pumped out into the sea. We have done this and one result is that, for example, charges for South West Water (with many beaches) have greatly increased to pay for the work, but it’s money well spent.

We arrogantly resented these two recommendations but it really needed an outside agency to remind us that we are not a country renowned for high standards of hygiene and that we must do something about it.

The second point concerns the money that we pay into the EU.

We are one of the richest countries in the EU and it is an important principle that the EU gives this money to where it thinks it is needed. For example, some of it goes to our farmers as a much- needed subsidy. But much of it goes to the poorer countries in the EU, particularly when they first join. This is an admirable attempt to help to encourage these countries to come up to the standards of the richest.

For example, some years after Portugal joined, I was told, when visiting Lisbon, that the new main road structure in Portugal, paid for by the EU, was hugely appreciated.

We should regard what we don’t get back from our donations to the EU as being foreign aid for very good causes and much more wisely used than our much-criticised foreign aid distributed elsewhere.

Finally, the bringing together of previously warring countries, previously unthinkable, is probably the most important achievement of the EU. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hollas

Queen Close, Henley

Let’s retake control of UK Sir, — I have been dismayed that most of your correspondents write only about the economic consequences of an EU exit, as these are far from known.

The are making presumptions based mainly on people or organisations that would prefer to deal with only one bloc as it makes life more convenient and easy for them.

Do we really believe that the Germans, French and others will not wish to continue selling and buy cars etc from us?

Even David Cameron has admitted that the UK’s “brilliant” economy was strong enough to survive whatever the result of the referendum.

“We can find our way whatever the British choose,” he said.

If he didn’t believe this, then he would never have risked a referendum.

Far more worrying is the social consequences of staying in. Our health service, both at GP and hospital level, is in dire straits, with an estimated £2 billion deficit.

Our schools, especially at primary level, are full and our housing situation is critical.

We need to build hundreds more schools and hundreds of thousands more houses to meet current demands.

With more than two million migrants already here, a net migration of 330,000 in the last year alone, and some 184,000 more EU migrants entering the country than leaving during 2015, is it any wonder our resources are being so stretched?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what is going to happen in the future with 500 million people across the Channel, many lowly paid, some as little as £1 an hour, but all with passports giving them access to Britain.

No need to mention the prospect of Turkey, Albania and Serbia hoping to join the EU in the future.

If we value our British way of life, then we must get out of the EU, close our borders to all except those we wish to allow in, whether from the EU, the Commonwealth or elsewhere, and take back the right to expel those we consider undesirable for whatever criminal or terrorist acts they have been involved in.If we don’t take back control of our country we will lose our British way of life forever, not just for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren and the generations to come.

Vote to leave on June 23. — Yours faithfully,

Brian Triptree

Ancastle Green, Henley

It’s not EU keeping peace

Sir, — On what basis does Enid Light hold that 70 years of peace in Europe is in no small way due to the existence of the EU (Standard, June 3)?

Can it reasonably be presumed that we would have been at each others’ throats again had the EU not existed?

European unity in defence aspects has been NATO, sustained by the perceived threat from the erstwhile Soviet bloc.

Nowadays it’s the expansion of the EU (and NATO) eastwards on to Russia’s doorstep that holds the possibility of future strife, if not handled carefully.

When the Iron Curtain crumbled, it was NATO membership that several east European countries applied for first, not the EU.

NATO has relied on a strong American presence in Europe. Understandably America now feels less motivated to be quite so involved in Europe, particularly given the low level of defence spending by European nations.

As the leading European NATO spender, we only just scrape through on the minimum commitment by now including such things as MoD civilian pensions in the figure.

If the EU showed some signs of evolving into a democratic federal structure, then one could not rule out future membership, though long after my time.

However, it is so basically flawed that we should not continue membership of what it is now and what it is continuing towards. Imagine that the civil service initiated laws for Parliament to rubber stamp rather than its proper role of advising our elected government and then implementing whatever that government has passed through Parliament. Acceptable? No.

So why tolerate an EU Commission that works in such a way?

Friendship, co-operation and trade certainly, but not EU membership. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Stronger together

Sir, — Last week, while campaigning in Henley, I was challenged by an undecided voter to give three good reasons for remaining in the EU.

I gave these as follows:

First, the EU arose from a profound desire to end the carnage and suffering inflicted on the people of Europe by two world wars.

Second, it is better to pursue co-operation rather than conflict and outright competition with one’s neighbours.

Third, in the face of global problems, the EU is stronger than the sum of its constituent nations.

Of course this amounts to sharing sovereignty but we do this already (e.g. the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organistaion, World Health Organisation etc).

Furthermore, I suggest that one of the greatest threats to our sovereignty comes from the power of giant global  corporations.

The UK cannot stand up to this without a strong partnership with our closest allies and democratic neighbours. — Yours faithfully,

Colin McCulloch

Draymans Lane, Marlow

Make sure you vote

Sir, — With all these claims, counter-claims and figures flying about, no wonder so many voters in this referendum are undecided or confused.

My advice is to blank out all that white noise and focus on what this vote is really about:

It is quite simply a choice of how we, the voters, are governed.

Voting to leave the EU means that once again Parliament will be sovereign with our laws being made and debated there by MPs.

These same legislators and government can be kicked out every five years if we don’t like what they are doing.

Voting to stay in the EU means opting to remain part of an economic and political bloc that aspires to be a single state. Laws are made by unelected committees and handed down to the member states by the European Commission.

The commission comprises one commissioner from each of the 28 member states. The commissioners are not elected and therefore cannot be ejected by voters.

EU laws take precedence over those made in our or any other member state’s Parliament. The bulk of these laws are directives that do not pass through any Parliament anyway.

The percentage of EU laws affecting the UK is in dispute, with quoted figures ranging from 15 per cent to 75 per cent, depending on who you listen to.

The reality is that an increasing area of our daily lives covering anything from light bulbs to law, fishing and agriculture is governed by EU rather than UK legislation.

That is the only way a construct such as the EU can operate.

Contrary to what many people believe, the European Parliament cannot and does not make any law. It can only advise the commission on the laws it hands down.

As such, it is relatively powerless.

The vote on June 23 does not belong to the EU or any political party but to each individual voter. As such, it is the most powerful and important vote we will ever have. Use it, don’t waste it! — Yours faithfully,

Nick Brazil

Hardwick Road, Whitchurch

PM can’t win either way

Sir, — With the polls thankfully now moving towards Brexit, David Cameron faces two futures.

If Brexit wins he will be gone in days, if not hours, but even worse for him would be a win for remain.

He would then go to Brussels for a public display of delight then, as soon as they are all out of sight of the media, his “friends” will take him round the back of the EU bike sheds for a kicking like he has never received before.

He will then be told to keep his mouth shut for the next few years while they row back on all the pathetic little concessions he was given.

One could almost feel sorry for him if it wasn’t so well deserved. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Collings

Peppard Common

Truly scary scenario...

Sir, — If you are an undecided voter in the referendum and you are fed up with the lies and literature from the Brexit and the Stay campaigns, just consider this.

If we vote to leave the EU we are likely to have a government headed up by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and co.

There is also the possibility of Donald Trump becoming president of the United States. If that scenario doesn’t scare you, nothing will. — Yours faithully,

Edward G Hallett

Longfield Road, Twyford

Witty and observant

Sir, — I just wanted to say thank you to Dick Atkinson (aka Mr B R Exiter) for his superbly observed “Marriage guidance” satirical take on the EU debate (Standard, June 3).

A hearty chuckle among all the flim flam of the usual arguments. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Pinches

Meadows Farm, Henley

P.S. I am not organising a fireworks display this year, despite your article last week. However, I do wish Councillor Will Hamilton and Lady McAlpine the very best of luck with their fireworks campaign which I wholeheartedly support.

Credit to Mrs Johnson too

Sir, — The headline on Jim Munro’s letter praising the offspring of Mr and Mrs Boris Johnson, which read “Children are a credit to Boris” (Standard, May 27), was sexist!

It totally ignores Mrs Johnson and the letter merely refers to her has his good lady — and indeed she was/is.Marina Johnson is the daughter of the renowned international journalist Charles Wheeler and a few weeks ago she “took silk”, no mean achievement.When MP for Henley, Boris’s busy life was widely publicised, including a report that during one family summer holiday he managed to write a book. I wonder who was looking after the children. — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light

Wargrave Road, Henley

Why site was unsuitable

Sir, — I am responding to the request by Laura Howard (Standard, May 20) for facts regarding the inclusion and then exclusion of Thames Farm within the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

I was chairman of the plan governance committee for the whole period of the plan preparation and the facts are as follows (I have checked them with Nexus, our planning consultants, to ensure accuracy of my memory).

When the plan began, all those landowners who had sites within the plan boundary were invited to submit their sites to a public consultation.

We ran an exhibition in Henley town hall and Thames Farm, and many others, attended to explain their plans to the public.

After this exhibition we ran a public consultation where the public were invited to comment on each site which had been put forward by respective landowners.Thames Farm, among others, received a positive response from this consultation.

All the results were being analysed and the working groups were finalising their criteria to choose which sites to put forward when the advice to remove Thames Farm from the plan was received by the working groups.

Our neighbourhood plan liaison officer from South Oxfordshire District Council had spoken to Nexus and then Nexus reported to the working groups that the Thames Farm site, in the opinion of the liaison officer, was at great risk of not meeting the requirements written in the district council’s core strategy and Local Plan (a key part of the process).

This meant that if this was the case then the plan could not be approved by the district council, or the independent inspector, and would fail.

This was discussed at great length by the housing working group and in the end it decided to follow the strong advice of the liaison officer and not put the plan at risk by including the site.

I cannot comment as to whether Thames Farm would have met all the criteria or not and have been included in the final plan version but I can explain why it was at first included and then excluded. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Chairman, joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan implementation group, Elizabeth Road, Henley

We can’t take extra homes

Sir, — Benson is likely to have an extra 241 houses dumped on the village in response to a planning application to increase the original authorised number of dwellings from 159 to 400 (Standard, June 3).

To many of us who live in this lovely riverside village, it seems that we are under siege from greedy developers who have no thoughts on how an extra 550 houses may affect the village and its infrastructure.

It would also seem that South Oxfordshire District Council is relying on all the houses being planned for Benson to help with its lack of decision making on the strategic plan, which it was supposed to develop for all of South Oxfordshire.

Where are the councillors who are supposed to plan for housing expansion and should be defending the countryside?

Most villagers do not want to see Benson turned into a small town as we do not have the infrastructure to sustain such a massive expansion, yet the council’s planning officer seems to think it’s acceptable to allow this to happen. Where will it end as there are still more applications in the pipeline?

Unfortunately, it seems most residents have lost faith in our politicians, both local and national, in doing the right thing and this current episode demonstrates that. — Yours faithfully,

D De Beger


Uninformed criticism

Sir, — It would have been much easier not to reply to Aldon Ferguson’s letter (Standard, June 3) as it seems such a waste of time.

But, as he appeared to be making a direct attack on me, I feel bound to respond.

As he stated, I am the human resources manager at Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre. This explains my interest in the case as my colleagues and I all stand to lose our jobs.

He gives no indication as to the reasons why he appears to be so willing to speak out against Hare Hatch Sheeplands and its planning issue but is so unwilling to find out the facts.

At no point have I questioned his knowledge of planning. I took the time to find out about his background and knew he was a chartered surveyor. My only point was that he didn’t appear familiar with the details of this case.

He accused me of re-stating the case for the garden centre and yet continues to write in general terms, taking no account of the specific facts related to this particular dispute. He appears not to have taken any time to make himself aware of the history, let alone the current situation.

Mr Ferguson also made a sweeping statement that not one of 11,000 people who have signed our petition has any in-depth knowledge of the planning situation.

Not only is this unfair on the many supporters who do, in fact, have a very good understanding of planning law but it is another example of Mr Ferguson’s reluctance to understand the issues.

Perhaps what is most disappointing is that Mr Ferguson has not taken the trouble to visit Hare Hatch Sheeplands and see the actual situation for himself. Once again, I extend an open invitation for him to arrange a visit.

Perhaps, with a better understanding of our position, we might benefit from his experience or maybe Mr Ferguson would be able to suggest that his “friends” on the planning committee take a more open-minded stance and stop wasting taxpayers’ money? — Yours faithfully,

Gill Saxon

Human resources manager, Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre, near Wargrave

Stop sniping from sidelines

Sir, — Aldon Ferguson accuses the 11,000 people who have signed a petition supporting Hare Hatch Sheeplands as “without any in depth knowledge of the planning rules”.

In my opinion, what Mr Ferguson demonstrates is a lack of any in-depth knowledge of the particular issues between the garden centre and Wokingham Borough Council. He writes in general terms in his capacity as a chartered surveyor. I suggest he would be better served taking the trouble to acquaint himself with the real facts of a planning dispute that has lasted several years instead of sniping from the sidelines.

At least he has the grace to say: “Hare Hatch Sheeplands does offer a service to the local community and it is popular.” On that he is correct. — Yours faithfully,

Andy Dicks

Retail operations director, Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre, near Wargrave

We need show of strength

Sir, — It is 30 months since Tesco announced plans to convert the former Queen’s Arms pub in Goring into a Tesco Express convenience store.

The planning committee of South Oxfordshire District Council will consider Tesco’s planning application at a meeting in public at Didcot Civic Centre in Britwell Road, Didcot, on Wednesday (June 15) at 6pm.

I hope that as many people as possible will attend the meeting to show the strength of opposition to the proposal. — Yours faithfully,

Maureen Lewis

Elvendon Road, Goring

Stranded by bus cuts

Sir, — It is good news about the probable continuation of the bus service in Henley (Standard, June 3).

What’s not mentioned is the fact that people in some rural areas will be abandoned. They rely on them just as much, if not more.

I have been told the mid-morning bus from Woodcote to Henley and back is to be discontinued.

Surely it could run, if only once a week, to allow people in these areas to do their shopping in Henley.

As a paying customer who needs to use the bus for this reason, I feel completely let down. If the final decision is to scrap this service then it stinks. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Gurdon

Rotherfield Greys

No parity in care of young

Sir, — Over the years we have heard much about parity of care and commissioning but is this actually so?

Imagine the outrage if local children and adolescents with heart problems, for example, were told by the NHS that they could not be treated until they were actually in crisis.

Yet, shockingly, only one in 10 of our children and adolescents with mental health problems currently receives any NHS help.

Report after report has confirmed that half of all adult mental health problems first surfaced before the sufferers reach the age of 18 and yet only seven per cent of the entire NHS mental health budget is allocated to the under-18s.

If this is parity of NHS services/care then I am Mr Universe. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Unproven treatment

Sir, — I refer to your article about a family selling colloidal silver as a health remedy (Standard, June 3).

I am astounded that you ran a promotion for this dangerous and unproven treatment.

There is no scientific evidence which backs any of the claims made in the article, plus there are many reported cases of argyria caused as a direct result of using this product.

How a reputable newspaper like the Henley Standard can run a story like this without challenging the nonsense peddled is quite astonishing. — Yours faithfully,

Rob Latimer

Short Street, Pangbourne

A question of degree

Sir, — Thank you for publishing my letter in last week’s Henley Standard.

Unfortunately, you introduced a change which made me look foolish in the eyes of your knowledgeable readers.

In my original letter, I referred to the steep hill in Peppard as having a 16 per cent gradient. You changed this to a “16 degree” hill.

A gradient of 16 degrees is 1 in 3.487 or 28.7per cent. There are no roads in Oxfordshire which are as steep as this and very few as steep in the British Isles.

The road sign on Peppard Common states 16 per cent, which is approximately one in six and is a nine degree slope.

I trust that you will publish a correction this week. — Yours faithfully,

K B Atkinson

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

The editor comments: “My apologies to K B Atkinson and other readers for this error. Perhaps I am over the hill…”

Encourage wildflowers

Sir, — To my eyes, the long grass between the gravestones at Fairmile Cemetery in Henley shown in your correspondent’s photograph looked more attractive than the bland mown area (Standard, June 3).

My mother recalled walking through fields as a child in the Twenties, with swathes of wildflowers and clouds of butterflies. Modern, high-productivity farming has almost obliterated that richness from the countryside.

It is great that the town council manages some of our open spaces so as to bring that lost wildlife into the town.

Wildflower areas can be managed to look attractive, as the lovely primrose and orchid bank on Greys Road shows.

Perhaps the council could work with bodies such as the county council, Henley wildlife groups and Plantlife, so that our parks, open spaces and roadsides have bluebells, celandines and wood anemones under the trees, banks of cowslips and verges and hedgerows with little wild daffodils, foxgloves, lady’s bedstraw, milkmaids and meadowsweet — a rich setting to our town and beautiful places to walk through, play in or to think of loved ones. — Yours faithfully,

M Hankinson

Northfield End, Henley

From spring into summer Sir, — The robin chicks did fledge and were kept completely hidden, away from the nest, until they had feathers enough to fly short distances.

Only then did three appear on the lawn with a parent, being shown the grain and water trays.

Now they are feeding themselves and one already has a tinge of scarlet on its speckled breast.

This robin pair is so hard-working and efficient that they are already incubating another brood in the same nest, for one is regularly flying into the ivy with food.

There is no way to distinguish male from female robins and indeed they sometimes make mistakes and drive off a potential mate as if it were a rival.

The Egyptian geese (pink bill and brown patch around the eye) have hatched five goslings and are proudly paddling around the islands opposite the promenade.

Their first brood was a heart-rending failure. They appeared on the canoe club lawn in March with eight balls of fluff but their frantic calls of “ney ney” (their other name is Ne Ne) signalled the loss of one gosling to crows.

The next day there were five, then three and then there were none.

Down beyond Temple Island the swans have five cygnets and at Benson Lock there is one but the parent swans seem too intent on refurbishing their nest rather than showing the cygnet how and where to feed. The walk from Wallingford to Benson along the towpath underlines the importance of reed beds.

Each patch of phragmites reverberates with the song of the reed warbler (and there is a very good café above Benson Lock).

The holly trees were covered with blossom this year; they are one of the few trees species which carry male and female flowers on separate trees, which is why not all hollies heve berries.

However, the famously ancient holly in Oxford Botanic Gardens was able to change sex when subject to stress. –—Yours faithfully,



Heroes who saved our dog

Sir, — I hope you will feel able to include this letter of thanks to two gentlemen who came to our rescue on Monday.

It was the hottest day of the year so far and we walked our dog on Maidensgrove Common, as we often do.

Returning to our car, we gave her a drink of water and she then took her usual place in the boot.

Only after I’d closed the hatch and heard the ominous sound of central locking doing its own thing did I realise that I’d left my keys inside.

The boot (nor any other door) would open and the temperature inside the car was rising.

We had to do something… and fast. A broken window would not be half as horrible as a dead dog… how long would it take for the AA to arrive? But the phone was inside the car.

My husband found half a breeze-block in the parking area and set about hitting a rear window with it as hard as he could but it refused to break.

On seeing a 4x4 coming in our direction, we flagged it down and briefly explained our dilemma.

Without hesitation, the occupants turned their car around and retraced their steps towards Russell’s Water and were back within 10 minutes armed with wedges of wood, a metal coat-hanger and a ball of string.

They got to work and another dog walker joined the rescue team and eventually there was a yell of success!

A big thank-you to these kind people. I simply do not know what we’d have done if they hadn’t happened along. — Yours faithfully,

Ginny Batchelor-Smith

Lower Assendon

Improved headline

Sir, — The main headline on your front page last week did not make sense.

The fraud does not belong to the OAPs. “Carer accused of fraud” would have been sufficient and much better English! — Yours faithfully,

Rosemary Ashton

Overgrown pavements are dangerous

Sir, — I find the state of the undergrowth going over this pavement not only unsightly but potentially dangerous.

The pavement leads down to the Tesco store in Henley from the roundabout, although I could be talking about numerous pavements in the town, which all seem to have the same problem. The dangerous part is when the bicycle lane is in use and pedestrians have no option but to walk on a often busy roads.

Are the owners aware? Do they really care? — Yours faithfully,

Neil Kane

Harpsden Road, Henley

Unusual sightings of wildlife by river

Sir, — I saw these young tawny owls while on walk by the river in Henley on Tuesday last week.

It was amazing to see the owlets in the wild, something you would never normally see, as they are predominately nocturnal. I also saw a wallaby! — Yours faithfully,

Nick Bee


We finished Three Peaks Challenge

Sir, — On Friday, 10 friends from Henley and Reading, namely The Walkabouts, took on the Three Peaks Challenge.

This is a nationally recognised challenge that involves climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon — the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales — in 24 hours.

After a gruelling 23 hours and 50 minutes, the group completed the challenge. Talk about cutting it fine!

The group consisted of former Gillotts School teacher Claire Ward and her husband Dick, Stuart Owen, who works at Chiltern House in Henley, Gillotts personal trainer Jonny Barrett and me, Lauren Fois, a local Pilates instructor.

We were joined by Chris and Sarah Read, Steven Woodgate, Hannah Owen and Richard Pennycott. We are friends who decided to tackle the mountains not only for a personal challenge but to also raise money and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Society.

This is a charity very close to a couple of the group members’ hearts after losing family to Alzheimer’s.

My grandfather was Eric Thurman, of the Turville Valley Stud, who passed away last year from this terrible disease.

So far, we have raised more £3,300. A huge thank-you to all who sponsored the team — it really helped to push us up those mountains.

If you would like to show your support, please visit teamwalkabout — Yours faithfully,

Lauren Fois


New logo shouldn’t ‘mislead’ voters

Sir, — In the news at the moment, the Electoral Commission not only examines the electoral expenses of the national parties, but also keeps a close eye on Henley’s own independent party.

We, too, have to report our election expenses. But it is not only finances that the commission monitors. It keeps a record of every emblem that appears on ballot papers.

Henley voters will be familiar with the Henley Residents’ Group’s emblem in use for 25 years.

In November, the commission wrote to us to say that it would be deleting our emblem because, in its opinion, the use of an acronym was likely to mislead voters as to the effect of their vote.

UKIP is okay, by the way, because everyone recognises it.

The acronym HRG is not recognised by the voters of Bristol or Carlisle, for example, and so might lead to confusion. We were assured that they would not question our graphics.

We did as requested and spelt out the name of the party on the emblem.

This emblem was rejected because of our graphics. The lovely smile under the acronym would be too small for Henley voters to read.

In no way were we beginning to feel paranoid about pressure from a national institution. But even simple graphics work does not come cheaply.

With fantastic support from one of our members, a graphic artist, we offered the commission another design and it was accepted!

So, voters of Henley, when election time comes round again, we hope all will be clear. — Yours faithfully,

David Feary

Treasuer, Henley Residents’ Group, Walton Avenue. Henley

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