Village News

BELL RINGING NEWS FROM BLEWBURY TOWER

June 29, 2018

What an exciting month it has been.

A successful quarter peal was rung on the morning of May 19th to celebrate the Royal Wedding and the 10 year anniversary of Revd. Jason St.John Nicolle. As well as our normal Sunday service ringing the bells are rung for special services and last month there were two of these. A choral evensong on 20th May to mark Revd Jason and Maranda’s 10 years in the Benefice and then on the following evening for The Archdeacon’s Visitation for the Admission of Churchwardens.

The most exciting event of the month was the launch of Project Resound. It was lovely to see so many people attend the launch and meet the artist, Rachel Phillips, who is so enthusiastic about the project. There will be lots more about this in the months to come.

Our regular Friday practices continue, we are always pleased to see visitors, and were delighted when a couple from Adelaide came to join us for a Friday practice.

Fundraising Dave sets new world record

March 23, 2018

On April 29th, fitness trainer Dave Whitlock set a new world record by completing 4696 consecutive chest-to-floor burpees in a 12-hour fund-raising marathon at Blewbury Village Hall.

Beating the previous record of 4546 by a massive 150, Dave saw his wish of raising money for two village causes – the Village Hall itself and the Blewbury Pre-school Playgroup – come dramatically true. “Both facilities are vital to the village of Blewbury,” said Dave before the big day. “They are the heart and soul for events and for families. The pre-school has seen generations of Blewburians pass through its doors and I want it to be able to do the same for many more.”

Despite the gruelling physical punishment, Dave still managed a smile for cheering supporters as he held up his new world-beating score (see picture, taken from the live Facebook feed). He also smashed what he always said was his real goal, which to raise £2,000 for his chosen causes. At the time of writing, the total collected on his JustGiving page stands at £3,175, and it’s still open for business!

Two things you may not know about food waste

June 1, 2018

Last month a parish councillor visited Agrivert’s ‘anaerobic digestion’ facility in Wallingford, which processes 20,000 tonnes of food waste from our area each year.

Caddy bags are delivered by lorry, then fed into a machine which mechanically removes the waste from its packaging. It is then macerated and digested anaerobically in large sealed tanks. This process creates enough energy to power 4,800 homes (via biogas, converted in gas engines into electricity). It also creates enough nutrient-rich fertiliser to cover 2,500 acres of local farmland. The whole process captures 4.5 million m3 of methane every year, which is equivalent to removing 71,000 cars from the road.

There were two clear messages from the visit: firstly, there is no benefit to using compostable bags in your food waste bin (the process isn’t warm enough to compost the bags, and the plant is designed to remove all packaging, so you might as well use whatever bag you have to hand, including any plastic ones lurking in your cupboard). Secondly, there is still a huge amount of food waste going into black bins in our area. The waste from our black bins is incinerated (an energy-hungry process), whereas this plant converts our waste and effectively recycles it for a new purpose, so please do your bit and chuck your food waste in a caddy!

The pothole problem: OCC’s response

May 10, 2018

At the request of a Blewbury resident, local MP Ed Vaizey recently asked Oxfordshire County Council to comment on the current state of local roads. Here is the official response from their Infrastructure Delivery manager, dated May 8th:

Dear Mr Vaizey,

Thank you for your email dated the 27th March regarding the condition of roads in and around Oxfordshire and I apologise in the delay in responding to your queries.

I appreciate that road conditions in Oxfordshire, and indeed across the whole country are far from ideal and share your concerns but assure you that the council is doing all it can to both ensure that the budgets that are made available to the council are used as effectively as possible and in seeking to attract additional funding from government and other sources to address the current shortfall in budgets.

Oxfordshire is not alone in maintaining a highway network in decline, with recent surveys showing that over 17% of all local authority roads are considered to be in poor condition. Whilst, the position in Oxfordshire is slightly better than the national average with only 13% of roads considered to be in poor condition, this still represents 362 miles of road that are in need of significant repair which we recognise is not good enough. It is currently estimated that to resurface all the roads that are in poor condition in the County would cost approximately £132 million. The council however, only receives around £13m per year from Government to maintain all of its highway assets including roads, footways, bridges, street lights, traffic signals etc.

With many significant demands on council budgets, and in particular those relating to adult and child social care, it is difficult for local authorities to significantly subsidise the money provided by central government for highway maintenance. With almost all highway authorities reporting a significant backlog of maintenance, it is clear that there is not enough money in the system to maintain local road networks in a good condition using traditional methods, indeed with the money made available to the county, the council is only able to fund approximately 15-20 miles of resurfacing each year. It is imperative therefore that highway authorities use this challenge to drive efficiency and innovation, whilst also seeking to increase the funding available.

The council therefore has to take a prudent view in the way it maintains its highway and to this end, the County Council has a Highway Asset Management Plan that seeks to balance the costly repair of roads that are already in the poorest condition with cheaper resurfacing schemes on roads to prevent them also falling into disrepair to prevent potholes occurring in the first place and the need for more costly repairs on those roads at a later date. This however, still leaves many roads where pot holes are occurring to which the council needs to react to ensure that the roads are kept safe.

The County Council has therefore also invested in a “Dragon Patcher” a couple of years ago and have recently introduced a second one. This machine is the first of its type in the country and is enabling the council to fill potholes at a cost of approximately £20 per pothole compared to the almost £90 using previous methods. This machine therefore plays an important role in allowing the council to afford the cost of repairing potholes that it may not otherwise have been able to afford to repair in the past and ensures that the Council is able to undertake the right repairs for each pothole.

The ability to fill more potholes than before ensures that the road is sealed as far as practicable. Water ingress into the carriageway substructure is a major factor in the deterioration of roads, as when the water freezes it expands and breaks up the fabric of the highway. The use of the Dragon Patcher therefore will significantly help in preventing more rapid deterioration of the highway network and ensure that the funding that the council has available can be targeted at addressing the backlog of maintenance that the council faces.

The Council works closely with other authorities and the Department of Transport both in sharing good practice to make all highway authorities more efficient and effective, and in informing the need for additional funding. I am pleased to say that the Government has recognised the pressure placed on authorities from potholes and has recently allocated an additional £2.7 million pound to Oxfordshire to help address the current problem with potholes that have arisen as a result of the poor winter. This will help extend the amount of proactive work that the council can undertake over the next few months. The Council has an excellent history of success in bidding for additional money from Central Government for highway improvements and maintenance over the last decade and we will continue to make such bids as and when opportunities become available.

Whilst this additional money is welcomed, it is still not enough to get on top of the problem within Oxfordshire and so we will continue to be seeking opportunities for additional investment and innovative solutions to undertake maintenance more efficiently to ensure that the needs of the County and its road users are met.

With regards to council investment in other schemes, such as green areas, whilst I cannot comment on the approaches taken by South Oxfordshire District and Didcot Town Councils, the investment that Oxfordshire County Council has undertaken in improvement schemes such as Harwell Link Road and Backhill Tunnel at Milton Park were undertaken following successful bids to Government for these schemes to help offset the impact of growth in the County, and for which the money secured was ringfenced for this purpose. The Council were therefore unable to reallocate this funding to other urgent activity such as road repair.

I regret that I am not able to provide you with assurance that the condition of roads will significantly improve in the near future however, I hope that the above has reassured you that the Council, and other authorities, are actively taking steps to try and address this issue.

Blewbury’s 500 Words Winner

March 3, 2018

In the last Bulletin I was delighted to report that some Class 6 pupils would be writing stories for the BBC 500 words competition, and the Editor kindly agreed to publish the winning entry from the School – thank you Chris.

This proved much harder than expected with all 31 class members submitting a story to be judged, attaining a standard that was simply incredible! We had joint runners-up in Gabriel Reeves and Beatrice Elsmore-Wickens (Beatrice read her story to the class in a manner which would put most BBC presenters to shame), but the winner, with a beautifully crafted piece entitled “Open your eyes”, was Imansa Kokkuhannadige. You can read Imansa’s story below.

Congratulations to all. The entries will be submitted to BBC Radio 2 for them to judge, so good luck Class 6 and thank you.

Michael Evans, Parent Governor

Open Your Eyes by Imansa Kokkuhannadige

It’s all Melinda Russell’s fault! I wouldn’t be like this. I’ve heard what people say, that I look half dead! I can’t see anyone but I recognise their voice. Mum and dad have barely left, my little brother, James, came with gran and granddad and so have my best friends Ruby, Gemma and Ariana. Anyone who has visited has either sobbed while holding my lifeless hand or telling me what’s going on and how much they love me. I’ve been unconscious for 3 months (or so I’ve heard). But it feels a lot longer. You don’t know how it is! It’s almost time.

Now like I said it’s Melinda’s fault. My friends and I were going up and down the slide. But when I was just about to go down, I heard the footsteps of the bully (Melinda). She told me to move but I stayed put. She said if I didn’t move she’d push me. No movement from me.

Unfortunately, she stayed true to her word. Down I fell. I became half dead when I hit my head on the rocks. (They hadn’t been moved by the infants.)

One of my visitors was Melinda, she cried and sobbed and told me how sorry she was, she also told me that from then on she would be nice.

Remember when I said it was almost time, well the doctors think I would probably never wake up again so, so their taking the life support off. They’ve given me an hour.

It’s been 30 minutes. Mum said.

Everyone here is waiting and hoping that I will open my eyes and they’ll have tears of joy rather than sadness. But I’ve tried, I really have, to wake up. I’ll stay forever still. Everybody is sobbing and crying, telling me how much they love me, saying how much they will miss me and how great I am. I bet the bed will be sopping wet (and me to!). Oh, it’s terrible, if I were able to I would be crying too.

Someone’s on me. It’s my sweet little brother James! “Cami, please open your eyes, I want you to hug me, I want you to tell Mum and Dad not to cry, that it’s going to be all right”. Oh James I wish I could, but I can’t.

“James, sweetie, get off your sister”. Mum mumbled as she stroked my hair.

Oh no. It has been an hour! The doctors have come, to take off the life support!

“Camilla! No!”

Everyone is sobbing and crying even more! I think it’s time. Here is my last thought, even if no-one sees or hears it.

I’m Camilla Godwin, no, wait, yes!

“Camilla’s eyes are open!”

“Camilla is alive”

My eyes are open and alive!

A Better Bus Service for Blewbury

April 20, 2018

The new Thames Travel 94 bus timetable went into effect on 16 APRIL– and it offers very good news, with more services and more opportunities to get to and from Didcot quickly. There is:

  1. a new morning commuter service
  2. a revised school service, designed to make the journey from Blewbury faster
  3. a better connection with the X32 from Oxford in the middle of the day
  4. and the last three buses to leave Didcot will do a reverse loop and come straight to Blewbury via East Hagbourne, reducing the evening journey time from the station to 19 minutes.

The full timetable is available on the Thames Travel website, at https://www.thames-travel.co.uk/service-changes-april-2018/ That web page explains all the changes and allows you to download your own copy of the complete timetable. Or, for a simpler version, showing only the Blewbury and Didcot Station stops, click here.

We are very lucky not only to be keeping our buses but also having an improved service. Please do use it – 15 minutes to the Orchard Centre and 20 to the station is very good timing … especially when you consider that you don’t need to find/pay for parking! Please also try the Friday morning minibus to Wallingford run by the DVTG – it’s a lovely bus for doing errands or just having a quick break in Wallingford on market day: if you want to use it and haven’t already signed up or need more information, contact dvtgbus@gmail.com, or ring 01235 851763. You can buy your tickets at Blewbury Post Office or Savages.

Maranda St John Nicolle and Jo Lakeland, for the Downland Villages Transport Group (DVTG)

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 peter@peterrutt.com.

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 Campaign to Protect 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)

Zak Hits the Big Time

November 12, 2017

Blewbury’s Zak Corderoy, 18, has just completed his rookie year on his ZX6R , coming second in the TSGB Elite 600 Championship.

We are excited for 2018 as Zak will be entering into the BSB paddock to compete in the Pirelli National Superstock 600 class as he will be racing against Europe’s fastest.

As Zak put it in a recent Facebook post: “All in all a real good season, finishing the last full season in Thundersport 2nd in the elites on my little stocker ain’t so bad, we’ve had some stiff competition throughout the year and we’ve fought hard, and haven’t given up. This year has been a massive learning curve on the 600 and we’ve done very well as a team and next year is looking very exciting.”

Everyone at Zak Corderoy Racing would like to thank family, friends and sponsors for their continued support.