Blewbury News

Vale of White Horse District Council Update

June 18, 2020

Hello from Hayleigh & Sarah

Hello! It is still hard to believe how much things have changed in the past three months. Just as we had started to adapt to lockdown life, it seems that the Government are now easing the restrictions at pace. As we try and adapt to the “new normal”, we hope that you and your families are keeping well, staying safe and taking on the changing situation at a pace which suits you. We’re now looking ahead at a summer period without the usual village events that we all so enjoy. However, we hope that Blewbury residents are still able to make the most of the sunny weather over the next few months, by spending quality time with family and friends in a socially distant way.

As the council itself is now also returning to a new kind of normal, we’ve decided to stop our regular coronavirus-focused updates and return to our monthly updates in the form of newsletter articles and parish council reports. We will of course continue to keep you updated on the council’s response to COVID-19 through these monthly updates, as well as on our dedicated councillor Facebook Page: Cllrs Hayleigh Gascoigne & Sarah Medley. As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any issues or concerns – our email addresses are and

Community Hub

Whilst we don’t know how long the UK’s response to and recovery from COVID-19 will take, we do know it’s likely to be some time so the Vale of White Horse District Council is making some changes to its community hub services to make sure the response is sustainable over the coming months: Lines will now be open from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm.

Both the staff and community groups have responded positively to the challenges of this crisis to make sure our vulnerable residents receive the support they need. Amazing work is being done by the volunteer groups in our communities as well as the staff at the Vale who have done what they always do, which is pull together, be solution focussed and support each other.

To contact the Community Support Team:
call: 01235 422 600

Remember, for the most up-to-date coronavirus information relating to district council support and any changes to services, please take a look at the dedicated Vale webpage for updates:

Volunteers’ week

1-7th June was National Volunteers’ week and this year more than ever before, we have seen the positive impact that volunteers can have on our local communities. Within days of lockdown starting, charities and voluntary groups in our districts were helping those in need. As it became clear more support was required hundreds of residents set up informal help groups in their local communities to make sure their most vulnerable and isolated neighbours were able to get help. They used the powers of social media to recruit other volunteers and to get the message out to those who needed it. They also used more traditional methods to reach people, such as telephone calls, door-knocking and posting home-made leaflets through their neighbours’ doors. There’s no doubt these local heroes have saved lives in their communities – they have been the backbone of the country’s response to the crisis.

Black Lives Matter

The deeply saddening news from the US about George Floyd’s murder, and what it represents, sends a clear message that racism still runs deep within society and our communities. For us personally, this event, and the reaction to it, has given us a chance to stop, reflect and really think about what we can do in our roles as part of this agenda. It is our duty. We all need to stop, to listen and to educate ourselves, to play our part in shaping a fairer society.

Back in December 2019, the Vale of White Horse District Council passed a motion to update their equality policy to condemn all hate crimes and to adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, and the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) definition of Islamophobia. At the time, Cllr Hayleigh Gascoigne gave a speech in support of the motion, using the opportunity to reflect on her personal experience of racism. The video of Hayleigh’s speech is publicly available on our Facebook Page:

At the Vale of White Horse District Council, we believe in equality, fairness and inclusion. Passing this motion was just a small part of a bigger picture. The recent letter from both South and Vale district council leaders highlights that we are fiercely committed to giving a voice to and representing all who suffer discrimination, persecution, hatred or injustice. We have copied the text of the letter below, or it can be read online at

An open letter from Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, and Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council.

As we come to the end of Volunteering Week, we wanted to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude, on behalf of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils, to all of the incredible volunteers who have stepped up to the plate over the past couple of months to make an enormous difference to their communities.

It was just over two months ago that the government announced the lockdown to try and control the coronavirus and keep the public safe. The method required to keep us safe also meant a significant number of very vulnerable people were suddenly completely unable to carry out the kind of normal day-to-day task we used to take for granted. This also applied to a whole new group of people who never previously needed any support with their lives.

Within days of the lockdown being announced, a staggering number of people had, without being asked, leapt to their feet to make sure everybody in their local community had what they needed. They set up shopping and food delivery services, they collect prescriptions, they walk dogs, and they are even just there to have a friendly chat with people who feel isolated and lonely.

It’s incredibly heart-warming to see the selflessness and care with which these wonderful volunteers go about their work.  In local government we talk a lot about community, which is a word that can mean different things to different people, but we believe in the past two months we’ve seen what that word really means.

Not only did these incredible volunteers step up to the plate at the start of the lockdown when their neighbours – and countless people they’d never met – needed them, but they continue to do so, day in, day out, tirelessly. We’re incredibly proud to be able to help link these volunteers together and to provide a service to ensure they are able reach the people who need them.

It’s quite difficult to put into words the depth of the gratitude we feel for all the volunteers in our district helping our communities make it through these difficult times, but on behalf of our councils and council staff, we’d like to say an enormous thank you. You are the best.

The importance of that selfless care and solidarity among communities has been thrown into sharp focus with other events in the world at the moment. Like many of you, we share in the sadness, horror and anger at the death of George Floyd in the US, and at the unfolding events that have followed.

On the surface it might not appear to be a local issue, but discrimination exists everywhere and this loss of an innocent life highlights just one of the ways it can manifest itself.

Time and again around the world, innocent people are persecuted, discriminated against and killed purely because of the colour of their skin or where they were born. It’s devastating that we’re well into the 21st Century and this remains an issue. 

We share in the global outrage about this issue and it’s wrong to remain silent. At South Oxfordshire and the Vale we are fiercely committed to giving a voice to and representing all who suffer discrimination, persecution, hatred or injustice.

We practice equality, fairness and inclusion, and we believe in everybody – whoever you are, you are most welcome here. Through many of our services we work hard to ensure marginalised and isolated members of communities get all the support they need. 

No one need accept injustice, no one is without a voice, but sometimes they need others to help their voice to be heard, and so we stand with all of our residents in saying we are absolutely committed to help create equal society for all.

Stay safe, continue to take care of each other, and please take care of yourselves.

Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council

Updates on County Council cycle projects
The county council has announced some urgent improvements they’re going to make to Oxfordshire’s cycling infrastructure, including the following pledges for our districts:

  • New cycle parking in all market towns.
  • Installing dashed markings to highlight cycle areas.
  • Extra cycle racks at Thornhill park and ‘pedal’
  • Removing A boards from narrow high streets.
  • Refreshing existing cycle lanes (where required).
  • Additional grass cutting on cycle routes.

Of particular note for our district is the plans for the Science Vale Cycle Network. You can sign up for monthly updates via the county council’s transport bulletins page

Personally, we feel that this first round of improvements don’t go nearly far enough to address the huge deficiencies in cycling provision in the area around Blewbury, as there is clearly a lot of work to be done to make cycling more inclusive and accessible to cyclists of all ages and abilities. We are however encouraged to see that the County Council is now welcoming feedback from residents on how the next phase of government funding should be used, and we urge all Blewbury residents to fill this in to highlight areas for improvement in or around the village:

 Car Parking
Parking charges have been re-introduced in district council car parks across South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse since Monday 8 June.  South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils have allowed people to park for free since 26 March to support key workers and those who need to shop for essential food or medical supplies during the Coronavirus pandemic after travel restrictions were put in place.

However with many restrictions now lifted, and following the government’s announcement that outdoor markets and car showrooms can re-open on 1 June and non-essential retail on 15 June, the councils will now re-introduce parking fees in order to improve the availability of parking spaces as people start to visit local shops again.  This will also help to encourage people to consider using more sustainable travel methods when visiting our town centres.

Car parks will operate as normal, meaning that motorists must display a ticket or have a valid online or text payment confirmation, including during any free hours offered in the charging period.  Normal rates will apply.  New permits will be issued or re-issued to anyone whose permit would’ve normally expired since lockdown began. NHS staff and care workers who display the official HM Government COVID-19 parking pass can continue to park for free. To claim a pass, they need to contact their employer who will issue a permit to park in all council car parks.

Remote committee meetings starting to take place
A number of meetings have now taken place including the Planning Committee, the Oxfordshire Growth Board and the Climate Emergency Advisory committee.

Councillors are using Microsoft Teams to take part in the meetings and members of the public are able to watch online via a link. For details on how members of the public can submit statements or questions to be considered by a committee or council meeting please visit

Once councillors and officers have got used to the new process and are confident that meetings can be carried out effectively and within the guidelines, the councils will look to introduce online public participation by live video. The first meeting of the Full Council will take place online on 15th July.

Oxfordshire Growth Board
The Growth Board had its first remote meeting on 2nd June, during which Cllr Emily Smith (Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council) was voted as the new Chair in line with the informal agreement to rotate the role. Cllr James Mills, the Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council is the new Vice-Chair.

The Growth Board scrutiny panel also held their meeting, as is usual, the week before.

The Growth Board will be circulating a newsletter in the next couple of weeks, to explain how the current pandemic has affected the board’s work, in particular the work on the Growth Deal. In the meantime, you can watch the recording of the growth board meeting here.

Climate committee meeting

The Vale had its first remote Climate Emergency Advisory meeting, which took place on 1st June. You can watch back the live recording here.

Although live public participation is not yet set up, members of the public can submit statements. Abingdon XR submitted their statement urging the District Council to do what was within its power to improve safety and provision for cyclists and asking the Vale to put pressure on the Oxfordshire County Council to begin urgently using their government funding to create local, safe cycle spaces.

To view the agenda for the meeting, and read the report on the work programme progress for the climate agenda, in light of the COVID-19 situation, read here.

Air pollution reduced by more than half in parts of southern Oxfordshire as walking and cycling increases

World Environment Day was on 5th June, and South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have announced that following lockdown there has been a marked reduction in air pollution in our districts – down by nearly 60 per cent in one location.

The lack of traffic and the increase in walking and cycling has helped improve the local air quality across southern Oxfordshire. There has been a marked reduction in Nitrogen Dioxides (NO2) in our air. NO2 is created by the burning of fuel from our cars and can be the cause of breathing difficulties, especially for those with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma. It can also contribute toward a number of other negative impacts on our health.

Councils remind residents to recycle responsibly

Thousands of residents in southern Oxfordshire have found their recycling bins unemptied each week because they have put the wrong things in them. Putting non-recyclable items in recycling can contaminate a whole truckload, which is then rejected at the recycling facility. This turns neighbours’ recycling into rubbish and ultimately wastes energy and raw materials by removing these items from the recycling process.

Bin crews in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse districts have stepped up monitoring of recycling bins in recent months as the lockdown has meant an increase in household waste, which has meant an increased risk of people putting the wrong items in recycling bins. To remind residents about what can (and can’t) be recycled, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have devised a new recycling quiz available here:

During one week of recycling collections in the past month there were 2,211 reports of wrong items found in recycling bins in the Vale of White Horse. Bins found with incorrect items for recycling were left unemptied.The vast majority were rejected because residents had put black or coloured bin bags into recycling bins. Crews cannot see what is in them and so won’t empty the bin. The next biggest category of rejections was because food was found in the green bin. Food contaminates recycling making it unrecyclable. Food can be collected in food bins and taken to a separate facility where it is transformed into electricity and fertiliser.

Textiles, like old T-shirts and odd socks are another reason for crews to leave recycling bins unemptied. Although both councils collect textiles for recycling at a different facility, they must be left in a tied carrier bag next to the green bin. Other non-recyclable items which are regularly found by bin crews in recycling bins are polystyrene, plastic toys, garden waste, electrical items, wood and nappies. These items cannot be sorted at the recycling centres and shouldn’t be put in the recycling as they can contaminate a whole truckload of recycling.

Recycling should be in the green bin loose or in clear bags so the crews can easily identify that the contents are recyclable. If they see non-recyclables, crews will leave the bins unemptied, record the reasons and leave a tag on the bin explaining to residents.For more information about what can and cannot be recycled please see our website:

Blewbury School Announces Phased Re-Opening

May 25, 2020

Our school will start the first stage in a process of phased re-opening from Wednesday 3rd June, following government guidance and Public Health England recommendations. The first children to return will be from reception and years 1 & 6.

And the winner is…

May 21, 2020

In May, Bulletin readers were invited to choose their three favourite lockdown-themed cartoons by Elphin Lloyd-Jones. For a chance to win a bottle of bubbly, they were also asked to suggest a topic that could be illustrated in a new cartoon. The results are now in!

Coronavirus Update from Oxfordshire County Council

March 30, 2020

Before I start this report I must applaud the work done by the volunteer groups working in the parishes, towns and cities throughout the County and beyond, who have sprung into action during this emergency to ensure the elderly and vulnerable are not alone and are receiving assistance when needed.

I recently attended the start up meeting of the Harwell Parish Helpers and was very impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication. All our volunteers are much deserving of our praise and appreciation and if you feel you can give even a small amount of support to your local volunteer group, please do.

These are unprecedented times; we all need to take care and follow the latest Government advice. Staff at the County Council are working flat out as we cannot simply close down or ask everybody to work from home, we are there to support and protect Oxfordshire’s residents particularly the vulnerable. We are prioritising our work and where possible staff are working from home. There are some areas that will see an increase in demand at a time when some of our staff will become ill with the virus. There will be some changes as we have to prioritise our work to key areas.

The main area of work in Social Care both adult and children’s has to continue on a 24/7 basis protecting around 7,000 residents. We expect the number of people requiring care to increase as informal carers become ill and are unable to continue care. This work is vital as it’s important we keep as many people as possible out of hospital.

We are working closely with the NHS to provide care and facilities for those patients that do not require acute care to be cared for away from hospitals or at home freeing up beds for those that most need them. This includes the group that we need to shield from the virus who are thought to be most at risk across the county.

The Government are shielding the extremely vulnerable approx. 1.5 million across the country full details can be found on the website: Extremely vulnerable.

Currently those people identified by the NHS as extremely vulnerable will be contacted by the NHS by letter, email, text or all 3 to say that they need to isolate themselves at home for the next 12 weeks. They will be asked if they have any help to collect prescriptions and food, this may be supplied by one of the brilliant local groups that have been set up. If they don’t have any help then they will be told to contact the council who will arrange a contact which again may come from one of the local groups. As you will see from the document these are certain groups within the population but there may be others that need help such as those in self-isolation which is where all the volunteers will help. If somebody thinks they should be on the list and haven’t been contacted by Sunday 29th March, then they should contact their GP or hospital clinician.

To assist in the logistics across the country there are Local Resilience Forums, we are in the Thames Valley Based around the Police authority area. These are where the blue light services link in with the NHS and local authorities to consider the high-level strategy. These then delegate down to the County to work with WODC and other Districts to coordinate the local hubs. The Government have seconded military planners to assist in the hubs which is where all the local community groups come into the local networks. This is about all working together to ensure that we do not duplicate provision or even worse miss a vulnerable resident

The organic growth of the community networks or hubs that we are seeing being set up is fantastic. These groups are providing some excellent services to local residents who are self-isolating or do not have relatives locally. It’s important that they are community led but we need to avoid duplication, so the County Council and Districts are working with Oxfordshire Volunteers to list them all and provide support where needed.

If you are approached by people wishing to volunteer, they can register at:

Unfortunately, there are some cases of people taking advantage of the vulnerable residents so Trading Standards are working with the Police monitoring the situation and will take action should there be a need. Should you be aware of anything please do not hesitate to contact me.

This is a very fast-moving situation so please use the OCC, NHS and Government websites for the latest information.

I would like to say a big thank you to all the residents who continue to work to help us get through this difficult time. I will send any updates as they become available.

Above all please take care, stay safe and follow the advice.


County Councillor Mike Fox-Davies
Hendreds and Harwell Division

Blewbury Bulletin: now available to download

March 25, 2020

Partly in response to the virus outbreak, but mostly because this is the 21st century, the Bulletin is now available as a digital download. Just click on ‘The Bulletin’ in the top menu bar and select ‘Download the Bulletin’.

Coronavirus in Blewbury

May 15, 2020

Follow the link above for a digest of the coronavirus-related news items notified to the Blewbury Bulletin so far. This will be updated as new information becomes available, and will include announcements on how the outbreak is affecting local services and facilities.

Sustainable Blewbury

July 4, 2020


Blewbury Garden Market and Apple Juicing

We had hoped to open our Saturday morning Garden Market this month, with our helpers maintaining 2m distancing.  But sadly no: we can’t run it as too many of our volunteers are vulnerable or shielding and therefore can’t work the stall or supply produce to it. We’re hopeful we may be able to restart in the Autumn, depending on government advice, but it may be that we have to sit this year out. Hugely disappointing, of course, but we want everyone to stay safe. If anything changes we’ll keep you informed. But look out for stalls at individual houses as you walk round the village.


Following an email sent round to everyone who receives our newsletter, 90 people have now signed up to be Members of Sustainable Blewbury. This is great news for a small village. If you’d been meaning to ask but didn’t get around to sending an email, it is not too late. Send a request to with your name and email address. It’s as easy as that! We also need more people for our committee (also known as the Core Group) to help organise events. If this is something you’d like find out more about, please email the secretary.

Wildlife Corridor and Wilding project

We have been working with Beeswax Dyson Farming, the owners of the Churn Estate, since 2018. We had cleared and improved Rubble Pit Lane and wanted to create a wildlife corridor along the track connecting it to Cow Lane (a wildlife corridor provides cover and food for insects and small mammals crossing the open fields). Beeswax planted a very large number of hedging bushes and trees along the track in 2018, and in early 2020 we cleared grasses and nettles away from the young trees and replaced trees that had died (photo at the top).

There are a lot of ecological projects planned on Beeswax land, the first of which, in conjunction with Natural England and SB, involves the conversion of the seven-hectare field immediately east of Cow Lane and north of Frying Pan Wood into a wildlife area (it is currently growing cereal). This autumn, half of the field will be drilled with wildflower seed and the other half with wild bird cover (wheat, barley, rye, etc.). This area will be open to everyone as long as dogs are kept under control so as not to disturb the nesting birds.



Champion 375 petrol lawnmower – currently not working, so new owner would need to resuscitate it. Ian Bacon 07789 000499
Sandersons dark green linen for upholstery/curtains. At least 6m on roll. Child’s stairgate by BabyDan – ‘Guard Me’ model. Bought from John Lewis and v little used. Instructions included. Melanie Longhurst 07867 500031
Metal-framed bed and mattress. Good condition. Needs assembling.  Simon Wallis 07790 605204
3m x 3m Freestanding Cantilever Garden Parasol in good condition. Jean Richards 851123
2 small Qualcast electric lawnmowers, 2 vacuum cleaners (Sebo upright + Miele cylinder) both with spare bags. Hercules bow saw, ideal for lopping branches and other arboreal work Chris Whatmore 851055
To freecycle your item please send a short description, email and phone number to Lydia Inglis (

To find out more about Sustainable Blewbury go to
To receive our free bi-monthly Newsletter, email
us at

Post Office news

July 1, 2020

Blewbury Post Office is scheduled to reopen after its refurbishment on Thursday 25th June. The builders are confident that all work will be complete by then and at the time of writing all is well, but we never know?

We will initially reopen Monday to Fridays, mornings only, 8.30am to 12noon, with a 10 minute break at approximately 10.30am. Maggie will be back for Monday mornings and hopefully Carl will be able to start work soon.

All Post Offices will be closed on Friday 31st July, as head office have given us all a day off! We will obviously be closed on the August Bank Holiday Monday. We hope to reopen in the afternoons in September, but will assess the aituation then! Please note that ‘licky’ stamps are not on general sale, but you may buy them and use later!

Kitty’s eggs and honey are on sale at both the post office and my driveway at Tadcombe, Besselslea. There may be plants and/or produce from the garden market at times.

Love from Karen, Maggie & Carl

Blewbury WI news

Hello to everyone. Hope you are keeping well and staying safe.
Some of us at Blewbury WI continue to connect, via Zoom, for our “monthly meetings” and “coffee mornings”.

Audrey Long of Blewbury History Society joined us, via Zoom, to discuss “What did you do in the big lockdown, Granny?” We sent her our thoughts and hopes which she will put into a “Diary” so that this unprecedented situation will not be forgotten. Graeme Gettings led us in a good “Doodle Art” session and our next project will be a “Desert Island Discs” session, which should prove to be very interesting!

There are no signs of our next monthly meeting being face to face. In the meantime we are remaining positive and adapting to the “new normal” Our lovely Secretary hosts and arranges all the Zoom meetings and all the Members, very much, appreciate all her hard work. Let’s hope that the next Blewbury Bulletin in September will be an unlocked Bulletin?

For more details please contact our Secretary, Kath Butler, on 01235 851299 or visit our web page, where you will find more information. Love from Cilla.

Blewbury Local History Group

The History Group assists in many enquiries from people outside the village relating to people who used to live here and, on occasions, we are asked what exactly the group has in the history room. Most of the time this is by prospective new members and when they are told you see eyes widen.

So, here is a taster. Artefacts? Hundreds of them including the Miser’s Coat, the original Enclosure Act plan, Milk bottles from the diaries, gasmasks, cast iron machinery plates, coins, metal detector finds and the like. Photographs? Thousands – and all scanned so we can produce a CD for you. Books? A library, all indexed, including research, as well as antiques from the many authors who lived here. Paintings, maps, scrap books from the 1950’s of newspaper cuttings relating to the village. The list is endless, almost. And our latest project is to scan ALL the tens of thousands of documents we have to a searchable format by word.

In the 1960s Peter Northeast spent a lifetime at the Berks Record office and then typed up everything he found related to Blewbury. This includes the memoires of people living here and describing the buildings as they were then. All unpublished of course. The records describe land, buildings, demolished buildings, owners of buildings and land, inheritors of the same and style of interior of buildings. In fact, if you live in Blewbury in a building that was here in the 1950’s then there is more than a good chance yours is mentioned. Some wonderful history and sometimes surprises to dispel the word of mouth ‘legends’ that have sprung up. We do hope that as the volunteers (and you could be one) finish this then we can make the documents available to all.

We don’t hold meetings in person at present, it’s via Zoom and if you would like to join then drop us a line. We do hope that soon we can open the doors again to the History Room and invite all the new members who want to see the treasures.

Mark Palethorpe ( and Audrey Long ( phone 850427