Village News

40 Years On: Gawain Reunion

January 20, 2018

It is forty years since our performances of Richard Blackford’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in St Michael’s Church.

It was the first in the series of five community operas specially commissioned for Blewbury between 1978 and 1996, framed by performances of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde in 1970 and 2009. There are more than 150 names in the Gawain programme – singers, orchestra, back stage, supporting roles – about forty of whom still live in or near the village.

We still have Green Knight’s costume, mask and axe, a recording of the opera by the Royal College of Music Junior Department, recordings of BBC programmes about our production, including a one-hour programme by Natalie Wheen, and many photos and press cuttings.

We invite anyone who was involved (and anyone who might be thinking of continuing the tradition…) to the Barn at Hall Barn, Westbrook Street (by kind permission of the Cochrane family) for an evening of memories, from 6 to 8pm on Sunday 28th January – nibbles supplied but please bring a bottle or soft drink. And do bring any photos or other records you may have.

Sir Gawain, now a father of three, King Arthur, now a grandfather, Green Knight, now a great-grandfather, and Morgan le Fay, now a great-grandmother many times over, will all be there… Please tell anyone you know who was involved in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight but may not see this Bulletin. Ron Freeborn, Peter Saunders

Oxford-Cambridge Expressway

November 20, 2017

Highways England will announce a decision on the preferred route for the proposed expressway by summer 2018.

The Expressway Action Group (EAG), which is campaigning against the proposed southern route – through greenbelt and the AONB in south Oxfordshire, and potentially affecting numerous villages including Blewbury – is pressing for a full consultation before the preferred route is announced.

The EAG is looking, in particular, for any environmental / wildlife evidence we can supply. We have submitted the landscape character assessment commissioned as part of our Neighbourhood Development Plan, but if anyone has specialist experience in this field and can help further please contact Peter Rutt, EAG co-ordinator, on 07889 390031, or email

Landowners and others who support a new motorway through south Oxfordshire argue that upgrading or improving the A34 is impractical or impossible. In order to challenge this claim, the EAG wants to commission and submit a report from a recognised roads engineer showing evidence that the A34 improvement is both possible and worthwhile. Again, if anyone has experience in this field and can help, please contact Peter Rutt.

It will be much easier to rebut the argument for a southern expressway before the preferred route is announced – please help now, if you can.

Parish Council

Editor’s note: 

The schematic above is taken from the Government’s Strategic Study Stage 3 report, published in November last year. A version of it also appears in the the National Infrastructure Commission’s latest report, published on November 17 2017, which can be accessed here

Various local bodies have interpreted this schematic in different ways: for the views of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, click here. For the views of the Vale of White Horse District Council, click here and read pages 28-34.

William Dent Robinson 1911 – 2017

December 14, 2017

William Dent Robinson, one of Blewbury’s oldest residents and the sole surviving member of the original staff of St Birinus School, Didcot died peacefully in his sleep at home on 4th December. He was just three weeks away from his 106th birthday.

William’s family were from Cumbria though William spent much of his childhood in Leicestershire after his father became the head of a village school there. After attending Reading University, in 1933 William joined the then co-educational Didcot Secondary School at its Manor Crescent site (now part of Didcot Girls School). It was here that he met his future wife, Winifred, who taught Mathematics. Three years later when Berkshire County Council decided to segregate the boys from the girls, William was a founder member of the staff of Didcot’s newly built St Birinus Secondary Modern School for Boys.

William took a break from teaching to serve in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He undertook wireless interception and intelligence work near the front line in Europe. He took part in the D-Day landings and in 1945 he was close by when the German Belsen concentration camp was liberated and when Field Marshal Montgomery accepted the German surrender on Luneberg Heath, North Germany on 4 May prior to VE Day. After a subsequent posting to India and Singapore, in 1946 William returned to Didcot to resume teaching at St Birinus School. He oversaw the Geography Department and was also acting Headmaster for a year and for two decades was Deputy Headmaster. In the early 1950s William oversaw and participated in one of the UK’s earliest post-war pupil exchange visits with a German school – to Bad Harzburg. He was also active in the National Union of Teachers and was a member of the local examination board for Geography before retiring in 1973, just before Didcot became part of Oxfordshire.

After that William enjoyed cycling, walking, reading, writing, doing The Times crossword and gardening at his home in Blewbury where he lived for over 75 years. He also kept a close watch on the local weather, having his own meteorological records dating back over 60 years. After his wife Winifred’s death in 1992, William was involved in the John Betjeman Society, the British Legion and the Methodist Church. Until 2016 he continued to visit family in Cumbria each Summer and still maintained close links with former pupils and teaching colleagues from St Birinus School.

William could very clearly recall the celebrations at the end of World War One and he often reflected on the many changes that had taken place over his lifetime – the jet age, space exploration and the IT revolution. As a former Geography teacher he enjoyed Google Earth and was also fascinated by satellite navigation. But he always said the most amazing thing in his lifetime was Man’s landing on the Moon!

William is survived by his son Nick and daughter-in-law Linda.

It’s Official: Savages is the Business!

November 13, 2017

Savages has beaten off four other nominees to win Best Established Business at Didcot First’s 2017 Business & Community Awards.

Commenting on the award, which recognises and rewards excellence amongst local businesses, community groups and young enterprise, the Blewbury-based company told the Bulletin that it is ‘delighted’.

‘We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to everyone at Didcot First for giving their time to organise these awards and a fantastic evening. We would also like to say a huge thank you to all the hard working members of our team and the local community for their valued custom and support over the years who have enabled us to receive this honour and make Savages what it is today.’

Picture shows (l to r) Richard Savage, Jane Cranston (High Sheriff of Oxfordshire), Emily Savage, Glyn Hall (President, Didcot Chamber of Commerce, who sponsored and presented the award)


December 31, 2017

Thank you to everyone who voted for the project in the Aviva Community Awards.

Unfortunately, we again failed to reach the final, but will be getting a £100 consolation prize. Much more positively, the project has received £2280 from Blewfest and £8500 from the Definitive Rat Pack. Many thanks to the whole Blewfest team and to Sheila Loy, George Long and the Rat Pack team for these magnificent contributions from two outstanding village events.

Buoyed up by these donations, we will be identifying a builder in the New Year who can do the work at a sensible price. We will be discussing a start-date and, depending exactly how much we have in the bank and success with funding applications, whether to do the job in one go or in phases. We won’t be able to afford everything we would like to do; nor can we afford to hang around indefinitely hoping to raise all the money we need. We need to get on.  With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.  Steve White

Sustainable Blewbury


Annual village leaves clearance on 3rd December: For the second year we turned this chore into an enjoyable family event. There was a very big turnout – more than 50 people pitched in to clear the footpaths of slippery, wet leaves quickly and efficiently. Many of the children wore leaf crowns made earlier in the afternoon at the school. Afterwards, The Blueberry offered hot drinks and juice to go with a wonderful array of home-made cakes. Some of the leaves will be used to make leaf mould for mulching at our permaculture orchard garden. The rest will be made into composta at Agrivert at Benson.

We’re very grateful to The Blueberry for their warm hospitality in sponsoring this event, everyone who made and donated delicious cakes, David Hollick and team for collecting all the bags of leaves, Becky Costello and Blewbury Primary School for getting the children interested and involved, and the Parish Council and PTA for support.

Thermal imaging: Every winter we borrow a thermal imaging camera from the Vale of White Horse District Council in order to help anyone who wants to improve their home’s insulation. It’s a double win – for the climate and for your bills. We can also check the effectiveness of any insulation improvements that you have made. We’ll have the camera during January – if you are interested in having a survey, contact us as above. This is a free service offered by volunteers from Sustainable Blewbury.

Hedge-laying: Work has started to lay the hedge along Pound Furlong Lane, the footpath connecting Cow Lane and Rubble Pit Lane (which leads up to the Chalk Pits). When that is completed work will move to the last stage of completing the hedges around Tickers Folly. Anyone who would like to join the group should contact either Alex Musson ( or John Ogden (

Thanks: Sustainable Blewbury has had a very busy and varied year – there’s a summary in our latest monthly newsletter, available via a link on our web home page. We would like to thank all of the many people who have given their time and effort in different ways to make our events, projects and other activities successful.

To find out more about Sustainable Blewbury, go to If you’d like to get involved in what we do, or to receive our free Newsletter, contact us at


Hello to everyone.  Just a reminder of our forthcoming events in January 2018, to which all new members will be welcome.   Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Healthy New Year to everyone.

  • Tuesday, 9th January Coffee at Style Acre. 10.30am.
  • Tuesday, 9th January Scrabble at Rosemary’s.   30pm.  Please phone first.
  • Wednesday, 24th January WI  Monthly Meeting in the Vale Room. Speaker, Neil Stewart : Beating about the Bush in Africa.  30pm.
  • Friday, 26th January   Talking Science lecture at RAL Harwell. 1.30pm.  Last Day of the Dinosaurs. Professor Phil Manning.
  • Monday, 8th January Mah Jong at Judy’s 2.30pm.  Every Monday afternoon thereafter.  30pm.
  • A reminder that there will not be a “Lyn’s Walk” in January, because of the New Year’s Day walk to Aldworth.
  • Friday, 5th January    Craft Evening at Liz’s.  00pm.  Please phone first.

For more details of any of our events, or if you wish to join us, please ring Karen on 850219 or visit our web page, where you will find more information.       Love from Cilla.


Your Local Village Gardening Club

Our annual social on the 2nd December at Upton Village Hall was a great success with great food and plenty of fun and games.

Our full programme for 2018 will be circulated in the Blewbury Bulletin and in the Upton News (online) but in the meantime just another reminder, please make sure you have the following dates in your 2018 diary.

16th June – Visit to West Green House Gardens, Hartley Witney, Hampshire

7th July – Annual Summer Show, Blewbury Village Hall

11th August – Visit to Royal Horticultural Gardens, Wisley, Surrey

2nd November – Annual General Meeting, Vale Room, Blewbury Village Hall

8th December – Annual Social, Upton Village Hall

On behalf of the Committee Members of the VPA, Season’s Greetings and very best wishes for the coming New Year to all the residents of Blewbury and Upton.

And finally,

DID YOU KNOW ? If you have a small garden you should place your bright, colourful flowers or larger-leaved plants nearer the house rather than at the end of your plot of land because the eyes are immediatey drawn to bright colours and bigger objects. If you put them at the end of the garden they will have the effect of making it seem smaller than it is. Happy Gardening Eileen


The Christmas break will be a hard earned one for both pupils and staff at Blewbury school, with the Children looking forward to a visit from Santa, and the Staff some well-deserved R&R, as it has been another busy term.

Those parents with children at Blewbury School will know that there are common themes which run through the school’s curriculum. This academic year the topic is “Innovation”, and it has been warmly embraced by the pupils. Each term the theme is broken down into subdivisions and the last term has been labelled “Farm to Fork”. Children love inventing things, and when given the opportunity to design their own bread they relished the opportunity (no pun intended). When I was informed that I would be on the receiving end of some marshmallow and chocolate loaf, I was not lit up with anticipation, however, the reality was quite different, and I can now see a career in food technology ahead for some very imaginative students. If bread was not your thing, then perhaps pizza may be more tempting. The dough was made from scratch with basic ingredients, but the only limit to the topping varieties were whether they were edible (well, that was the brief anyway). I learned of many new, never considered, bread ingredients and pizza toppings including edible glitter and other such sparkling delicacies.

The purpose of all of this is, of course, education and what a fun way to learn. Take, for example, the science of bread. Adding simple ingredients to make a more complex compound and studying the material change. Then comparing that to melting a pan of chocolate and cooling it again so it returns to its original state. There is plenty of maths involved too. Measuring, weighing, working out quantities and being precise in the calculations (particularly of the edible glitter). Reading and writing too, documenting new recipes and observing the findings and results, as well as the design of the finished product. Our students were also give the opportunity to study different breads from different cultures, thanks to some wonderful input from our overseas link schools who shared their own local recipes and ideas with our school.

In addition to the academia there has been traditional Christmas activities too, including a carol service which incorporated carols from around the world and a musical nativity production which identified the plight of refugees and donated all collections to UNICEF. Foundation year took a trip to the Cornerstone and Key stages One and Two made a journey to the Watermill theatre to watch a performance of the Borrowers.

Food to fork has been a great theme for last term, but I must say I am really looking forward to the New Year theme which will be entitled “What did they do for us?”. The pupils will study Ancient Civilisations and will look at many aspects of technology passed down through the ages and used today. It will also give me an excuse to blow the dust off the Monty Python videos at the back of the cupboard.

Have a wonderful Christmas.   Michael Evans, Class 6 Link Governor




It’s been a different month as far as Bell Ringing is concerned.

The bells were silent for two weeks on both practice nights and Sunday mornings due to the performance of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which was a truly amazing performance, congratulations to all those involved.

Richard and Gill Loyd were part of the Old North Berks Branch (ONB) team of 10 ringers who took part in the Guild’s 10 bell striking competition. The team were placed 1st and will take part in the national competition in May 2018 a first for ONB! Many congratulations.

We now head to the festive season, do listen out for the bells. We will be ringing for the Carol Service, Midnight Service on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Morning.

As has become tradition on Boxing Day Morning a team of 8 ringers will attempt a ¼ peal. This year it will be in memory of Mr William Dent who died recently (he would have been 106 yrs. this Christmas). The end of 2017 will hear the bells ring out the old and ring in the New Year.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.