2011 looks as if it will be a good year for Whitchurch, after a terrific 2010 which saw community spirit and the concepts of working together come to the fore.

Here is a review of the highlights which come to mind, not only for austerity but also because they show what a great and lively place it is we all live in.

“The well-being of society …
depends upon the internal attitude of the people who compose it.”

JANUARY

  • Community spirit came to the rescue when snow and ice hit the Town making pavements treacherous leading to local residents obtaining a trailer of sand to clear many of the paths, led by the Town Mayor Vince Bradbury.
  • SWT announced station improvements across the area, but see later news…
  • After a long and high profile campaign to keep the HSBC branch open, local residents and the Town Council met outside the bank as the doors were finally closed. Flowers were presented to the leaving staff.
  • The potato days again attracted many keen growers and buyers from around the country to the annual event at Testbourne School.
  • Local popular author Richard Adams (spot his photo in the banner!) won the inaugural Whitchurch Arts Award, for Inspiration.

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FEBRUARY

  • An announcement came that the Parish Hall was to be sold by auction. It was hoped it would remain in community ownership.
  • Despite last month’s positive statements on rail improvement by South West Trains, they announced this month that Whitchurch Station’s ticket office is to suffer drastically reduced hours.
  • A protest with banners and placards led by local residents called for establishment of a well-made footpath between Whitchurch and Wells-in-the-Field.
  • Linda Cowley organised a fund-raising party at the Gill Nethercott Centre in support of the creation of a Tryst-Seat on the Meadow.
  • Laura Tyler became the town’s first Whitchurch based scout to gain the Queen Scout Award for around 17 years.

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MARCH

  • The Railway Hotel was demolished despite numerous calls for its retention. Whitchurch has always been known for its wide variety of pubs, but this is now at serious risk as pub closures reach an all time high. No planning permission for a Change of Use had been granted.
  • The town held its first GreenAware Week with films, talks and a Green Fair, all focussing on the environment. The Week ended with the atmospheric Earth Hour event in the GNC where Whitchurch joined the World in switching the lights off.
  • Whitchurch Arts held its first Exhibition of the year in the GNC with a theme of ‘Green’ and ‘Energy’.
  • Local residents were honoured with annual Community Awards for their contributions to the good of the town – Jordan Lucas, Stanley Alderman, Harriet Titcomb, Denyse Coles, Mike Stead, John Buckley and Cathy Saint
  • The Whitchurch Business Centre run by Working4Whitchurch closed, with a cost to taxpayers of over £30,000 during its 2-year lifespan.

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APRIL

  • Election Hustings chaired by the vicar Kelvin Inglis saw all four General Election candidates answer a series of searching questions in a session organised by Andrew Smith on behalf of Christian Aid.
  • The Somerfield store closed to enable a refurbishment by its new owners the Coop.
  • As a result of some election literature by a political candidate in the local elections, the Whitchurch Truth website site was launched by local residents – to stand up for telling the truth when standing for public office.
  • Amongst other items, the annual Town Assembly, organised by the Town Council, urged local residents to get involved in commenting on on dog mess issues otherwise a ban may be imposed on walking dogs in certain areas.
  • There were Ballot paper red faces as the Borough Council Conservative candidate was listed as a LibDem and a reprint was required!

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MAY

  • The new Carnival Queen Joanne Ashton, crowned just hours earlier at the May Day celebrations on the Meadow, duly launched this website – the town’s first official site – owned and run by the people of Whitchurch.
  • Top quality film equipment was installed in the GNC enabling feature films selected by the community to be shown for the first time, complete with full-surround sound.
  • The new Co-Op store was opened, after an extensive refurbishment, by Brian Wheeler who has starred in Star Wars and Harry Potter movies.
  • Sir George Young was re-elected as our MP, while Keith Watts took the Borough Council seat, increasing his majority considerably.
  • Town Councillor John Clark was inaugurated as new Mayor with Councillor Barry Jackman as his deputy.
  • Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, celebrated his 90th Birthday with Whitchurch Arts at the White Hart.
  • An air-quality survey was performed on the Meadow by studying the kinds of lichen present, as part of a national programme.
  • In the third election of the month, first-time candidate Linda Thomas won election to the Town Council.
  • The month ended with record entries the the Festival’s Pub Race as around 30 teams in fancy dress raced around all the town’s pubs including a special bar run by CAMRA at the demolished Railway.

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JUNE

  • North Hants Bikes opened their shop in Church Street, having moved down from the Kingsclere road.
  • Twangfest brought the crowds into town and 17 local bands performed on two stages at Testbourne.
  • The Town Council joined the cyber-age launched its new website www.WhitchurchTownCouncil.org.uk
  • Two England painted bollards appeared in Bell Street as football fever started gripping the town when the World Cup got underway – the fever was to be short-lived as England crashed out, but the bollards lived on.
  • Local Whitchurch resident Jonathan Taylor, who is licensed to survey newts, set up 22 traps throughout the Meadow to find out which kinds called the place home.
  • An unauthorised car park opened at the Railway Hotel and Basingstoke Council were urged to take enforcement action!
  • After much speculation the Parish Hall was sold at auction to the existing tenant, the Parish Hall committee for £50,000.

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JULY

  • The annual Parish Fete on The Lawn drew in the crowds as the summer weather took hold – with a heat warning being issued.
  • The colourful Carnival procession brought out the crowds and finished at the primary school for the first time.
  • The Mayor made a presentation to the The Salvation Army’s Household Troops Marching Band who had returned to mark the right to demonstrate riots of 120 years previously.
  • Open air theatre returned to Whitchurch with WADS production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed on The Lawn. Around 500 people attended.
  • The primary school achieved the Silver Eco School Award, while Testbourne students were off to Japan to compete in the Kid Witness Global Films Awards.
  • Despite further objections the planners approved the car park at the Railway site for a temporary period of three years to property developer Lochailaort.
  • Norman Morris, who presented regular, and popular, Punch and Judy shows in the Gill Nethercott Centre and the Millennium Meadow passed away.
  • The end of the month saw the official launch of the Community Art Project with a well-attended walk around the first decorated bollards and a reception in the White Hart.

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AUGUST

  • New viewing platforms and lots of new planting sponsored by Veolia and Tesco were installed down at the Millennium Meadow and officially opened by the new Town Mayor and Mayoress.
  • Children of all ages went pond-dipping on the Meadow and had their finds examined at a mobile laboratory, and projected onto a giant screen.
  • After a long wait the play area at Park View also opened for use to the pleasure of the local children.
  • The Testbourne students came home from Japan having won first prize for their video in the Global Citizen Award. Meanwhile Bob Flaherty of Street Video regrettably closed its doors after nearly 20 years in the town.
  • New cycle racks were installed outside the Silk Mill while plans were discussed about becoming a plastic bag free town.
  • The town lost another pub when the Harvest Home closed its doors at the end of the month.

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SEPTEMBER

  • Troubles with the town’s ATMs came to the fore as they all stopped working!
  • The town website added Facebook and Twitter to its repertoire as numbers using it continued to rise beyond expectation.
  • Two Whitchurch pubs made the new edition of the best-selling Good Beer Guide – the Bell and the White Hart, run by Paul and Jan McGarvey, and Andy and Julie Moss respectively.
  • There were several crimes in the area including the theft of a horse lorry and three car break ins, including the loss of birthday party presents. Meanwhile questions were raised about the long overdue distribution of the town’s cotton bags, held by a local resident.
  • The Meadow again hosted Dog Day run by Thelma Cornwell to much success and doggy enjoyment.

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OCTOBER

  • Long awaited landscaping work on the Gill Nethercott Centre landscaping took place.
  • Local resident Mike Stead took part in the Brompton folding bicycle world championships at Blenheim and got soaked to the skin as the heavens opened.
  • Working4Whitchurch’s Mr Cooper said he would distribute the Rainbow Guides designed cotton bags by mid-October to many’s pleasure as they were dated 2009.
  • More painted bollards appeared in the town, brightening the street scene. The project gained interest from other towns wishing to follow Whitchurch’s example.
  • The Whitchurch Arts Off the Walls Exhibition attracted visitors from afar and featured work from Jeff Phippen who was to regretably close his House ‘n Home shop. Organised by Jude Price it also raised funds as part of World Mental Health Day.
  • Nearly 20 community groups came together at a meeting arranged by Beth Wright to look at planning and working together for the next year.
  • Although the The Parish Hall AGM was poorly attended ambitious plans were announced for both refurbishment and a full range of top quality events to make it a major events venue in the town.
  • The list for planned housing sites was published with a promise for further consultation.
  • A meeting was held to examine the need for a new business-focussed group in the town to help develop trade. Meanwhile a new gift shop opened. Rosie’s started trading from the old Street Video store.
  • Cinema in Whitchurch continued its success with Toy Story packing in the audience at the GNC.
  • Various (rubber) bugs invaded the Millennium Meadow – a fun hunt for children during half-term.
  • After carving pumpkins and the fancy dress judging a huge crowd gathered on the Meadow for the superb Halloween Firework display put on by the Festival Committee, led by Neville Bright.
  • This site’s Facebook group really took off over October gaining over 400 members. A nightly photograph snippet competition led to Wendy Withers taking the top prize of dinner and wine at the White Hart.

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NOVEMBER

  • The Town Council offered support to a team of residents – Mike Stead, Andrew Reeves-Hall and John Buckley – who wanted to bring faster broadband to Whitchurch, and a campaign was launched.
  • Whitchurch Fairtrade was officially launched in H’s Coffee Shop by the Mayor and the town is now well on it’s way to receiving official Fairtrade status.
  • Meanwhile those cotton bags dated 2009 that had cost over £3000 had still not appeared and 2011 is now looming.
  • A new fashion venture between Pauline Forster bridal wear designer and Keith Taylor of Watership Alpacas was launched with a range of fine coats, jackets and dresses using local alpaca fleeces.
  • After a major burglary on Lynch Hill Park, Tesco Express was the target of thieves who ran from the shop with baskets of drink, steaks and chocolates.
  • The Festival’s Community Party in the Parish Hall provided food and entertainment for 100 of the town’s seniors, funded from generous donations into the Festival funds throughout the year.
  • The Faster Broadband campaign shot Whitchurch from obscurity into a top UK contenders position.
  • The Blue Ginger opened after a refurbishment and a new menu under the management of Tito Fernandez.
  • Testbourne Community School received the news that it had been rated as ‘Outstanding’ in its Ofsted report – a tremendous achievment by the hard working staff and pupils under head teacher Hilary Jackson.
  • This website now just 8 months old, reached just under 10,000 hits in a month, a record!

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DECEMBER

  • 300 people met in the Square for the official switch on of the Christmas lights by the Mayor, this year with the added attractions of a town crier, in the guise of Andy Moss of the White Hart, carol singers from Singing For Fun, and a related Gift Fair at the GNC run with Rising Fives.
  • The Broadband campaign was visited by Sir George Young as the 50% vote mark was passed and the team’s phase of door-knocking to encourage votes began. The town was maintaining its 5th place in the UK. He “applauds the initiative taken in Whitchurch”.
  • ATMs hit the news again with an application for a new one at Tescos and a local petition to show support was started by Cllr Keith Watts.
  • A public meeting in the GNC heard from Town and Borough Councillors how residents should respond to the consultation on future housing in the town.
  • Snow hit the town but the pavements were soon cleared as the result of the new salt bins provided.
  • The broadband campaign hit the 75% mark, the level at which BT have said they will ‘engage’ with communities. This is a tremendous success. Lots of volunteers came forward to help in a door-knocking campaign, led by Christine Brown and John Rampton and others.
  • Youngsters clambered through the snow on the Millennium Meadow for two Dinosaur Hunts
  • Tescos was again the scene of a crime, with an attempted burglary just two days before Christmas, although this time they left empty handed. PC Paula Deery asked for information.
  • The Whitchurch Welfare Trust announced that it has distributed over £5000 to good causes in the town throughout 2010.
  • With just 1 day to go, the town’s Broadband campaign reached the top of the UK Leader Board in the ‘race to Infinity!
    What a Fantastic Finale…

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The website is overseen by Whitchurch Association
Registered Charity: 1118993

The website team would like to thank all those who have submitted news, events and other useful information over the year, and hopes that 2011 will be an even better year for the town.
To contact the team, to offer support, or to submit news or events, please email Whitchurch Town Website

Andrew R-H, John B, Mike S, and lots of willing volunteer helpers.