Our last review predicted that 2011 was to be a year to remember and it certainly held a number of surprises.
During 2011 nearly 400 stories were covered and reported upon. Here we pull together just some of the main issues and events that the town website covered. Below are around 25% of the stories covered, showing what a lively place we live in! Click on the month name to see all the articles that month.
“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”
— Marianne Williamson
- What a story to start the year with. Just three days into 2011 Whitchurch had won the BT’s UK Race to Infinity to receive Faster Broadband. The town beat nearly 2500 other UK locations – a stunning achievement. It was announced the service would be available in early 2012. Backed by the Town Council, Sir George Young MP, numerous local businesses and organisations, the campaign team had not only won the Race but shown that working together can create a strong community spirit.
- Concern was raised that a £3000 publicly-funded project to distribute 2000 cotton bags to every household in Whitchurch had stalled and had to be rescued by volunteers.
- On a more positive business front, January saw a new shop move into the town with Velvet Rose being opened by Marsha Swanzy. Meanwhile Glassfoolery closed but the premises were later to reopen as Daisy Down Crafts. The Carnival Queen also officially opened the new Brockenhurst offices in the Square.
- Eleven giant fermenting vessels passed through the town on their way from Reading to Southampton docks, requiring a rolling road closure. These massive loads come through Whitchurch as the bridges on the A34 are too low.
- Steel shutters were installed at the Harvest Home as it moved closer to closure by the pub company Admiral Taverns. A campaign group was formed to try and prevent the loss of another local community amenity.
- The Potato Days returned to Whitchurch bringing many visitors to purchase seed potatoes. This event claims to be the biggest of its kind in the world.
- At the end of January the town website reported it had reached over 10,000 views a month after just nine months.
- At last some of the cotton bags appeared in some of the shops, coupled to a competition for residents and traders alike.
- Borough Councillor Keith Watts told the Town Council that the Royal Mail was in a “total shambolic state” regarding local delivery and parcel pickup and that he was launching a campaign to put pressure on Royal Mail to improve local service.
- The Millennium Meadow learned that it had received a Lottery grant of £47,000 which would be used for fencing, a power supply, new tables and seats, ground reinforcements and restoration of the historic sluices.
- The Primary School received a rating of ‘Good’ by Ofsted and were noted as being ‘very close to outstanding’ by the Inspectors. Excellent news.
- The Whitchurch Festival selected the Carnival Queen for 2011 at an event in conjunction with the Chill2This Youth Club. 12-year old Claire Miller took the honours along with attendants Chloe Miller and Alicia Holt. Abigail Davis was chosen as Carnival Princess with her attendant being Summer Coughtrey.
- A survey on housing development showed that most people wanted “smaller developments across the whole district creating extensions to Towns and Villages”. However only 38% wanted development dispersed to small places like Whitchurch, while 53% want new houses built on the outskirts of Basingstoke.
- More new business growth was announced as the Festive Cakes announced it was taking over the long vacant shop in Fairfields.
- A local family launched a campaign to raise funds for a £3000 special wheelchair for 4-year old Ruby who suffers Hip Dispraxia. It gained the support of many in the town who threw in their support, even including a waxing at the White Hart, where licensee Andy Moss was a ‘victim’.
- London Street was at last resurfaced, with Winchester Street planned for next month. However holes were dug in Bell Street as some residences were without water again for the second time in two weeks.
- The Parish Hall received its planning permission for alterations and improvements, including new windows to improve sound and heat insulation. Meanwhile the Hall’s committee was now without representation from the Town Council, believed to be the first time for many years.
- The Town Council gained a prominent place on the town hall forecourt with a fun ‘mayoral bollard’ based on an idea from Jenny James, wife of ex-Mayor Cllr Hugh James.
- Local youngsters upped the profile of their campaign to gain improvements at the Daniel Road Skate Park with an attempt to gain 1000 Facebook supporters.
- Three local residents received Community Awards in recognition of the support they have given the town – Val Newell, Beth Wright and Jean Watts were presented with their awards by the Mayor Cllr John Clark.
- The month started with the first ever Volunteer Fair, where over 20 community groups and organisations successfully met to promote active participation.
- In a fantastic welly-wanging event, Oaktree Nursery raised over £1000 towards Ruby’s wheelchair fund, with the children learning much about the needs of people with disabilities.
- Business in the town looks to be on the up, with a new greengrocers – The Veg Patch, run by Whitchurch resident Neville Bright. The shop was opened officially by the Mayor and Mayoress, before a draw for a £500 prize was made.
- In a story that made national news, local shops were asked to restrict sales of high-caffeine drinks on Fridays in an attempt to reduce anti-social behaviour.
- The Railway Station suffered unwarranted vandalism as new flower displays installed by ‘station master’ Kevin Durrant were wrecked for the second time. “A handful of idiots have ruined it for all” he said!
- The Annual Town Assembly was well-attended with comprehensive reports from the main organisations in Whitchurch, including a presentation on the importance of a Community Plan for the town.
- An 8-foot high wooden fence was erected around the Harvest Home and a petition started to encourage the planners to use the existing law to prevent demolition before a planning application is made.
- The end of the month finished with a plethora of Royal Wedding parties around the town in celebration of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
- The May Day celebration on the Meadow saw the official crowning of the Carnival Queen and Princess.
- Only 11 candidates for the 12 Town Council seats meant there was no election. However the national referendum on the voting system still took place.
- New tables, benches and a tryst seat were installed in the Meadow, the latter in commemoration of three local ladies who were key to its initial development – Alison Wall, Anna Nason and Gill Nethercott.
- A new Mayor was elected, Cllr Barry Jackman was appointed with Cllr Jackie Day as his Deputy. Three new Councillors were also welcomed to the Town Council – Cllr. Allan Vaughan, Cllr. Claire Isbester and Cllr. Mike Kean. An election will be held for the vacant position.
- The first locations on the route of the Olympic Torch Relay were announced, nearby towns to be visited including Reading, Salisbury and Southampton.
- Students at Testbourne scooped prizes for an environmental video in a European competition held in Hamburg, while another award winner this month were Hardy’s Plants who took their 16th Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, as well as winning ‘Plant of the Year’.
- The annual Pub Race was the largest ever with 30 teams taking part in fancy dress, raising funds for the Whitchurch Festival and filling the pubs with customers. Around £2500 was raised. Meanwhile the White Hart celebrated its 550th birthday!
- Rockus Music Festival hit Testbourne, billed as ‘Bad Music in a Nice Town’, and providing top quality entertainment for the whole family.
- The Coop suffered a break in and its large corner window smashed in, with cigarettes the main target.
- Six double yolked eggs were found in a single box of six eggs from the local Arnolds Farm, bought by local resident Nick O’Brien from the Old Paper Shop
- A lively public meeting arranged by local residents and CAMRA quizzed Cllr Golding of Basingstoke Council on his position over the Harvest Home. A robust message was sent that Whitchurch cared about its heritage and that the Borough Council planners were not using the legal powers they hold.
- Four candidates stood in the Town Council election to fill the one vacant seat and it was encouraging to see an 18-year old standing for such an important position. The winner was Dave Titcomb who took 35% of the votes, with the other candidates being Alan Bromley, Emma Sherman and Linda Sutton.
- A day of fun on the Meadow saw a workshop from Drum Runners, the return of the hi-Tech Wild Trek science laboratory and a call for volunteers, as the Millennium Green celebrated the completion of £50,000 of Lottery funded improvement works.
- A huge crowd turned out for the annual Parish Church Fete on the Lawns with around £5000 being raised for good causes and the upkeep of All Hallows Church.
- Network Rail came to town for a public meeting on the planned road closures later in the year. These are to allow for bridge rebuilding to accommodate higher freight containers.
- The first public ‘Town Plan’ meeting was held in the Town Hall. The Plan will set a vision for Whitchurch for the coming years and will be a basis for how the town may develop.
- Pouring rain regrettably halted the Carnival Procession to the disappointment of many, but thankfully the accompanying Fete managed to miss the worst of the weather, resulting in a fun end to the day.
- Whitchurch resident Tim Goddard received the St John Ambulance Hampshire First Aider of the Year Award, after saving the life of a 15 year old boy in a traffic incident. He admitted to ‘shaking like a leaf’.
- Another award winner was the White Hart, when a good crowd met to present the pub with their certificate in the CAMRA Pub of the Year competition. Andy and Julie Moss, licensees, said “it is the staff who make the pub”.
- Two young Whitchurch Explorer Scouts set off on their once-in-a-lifetime trip to the World Scout Jamboree in Sweden. Lawrence Fergus and Alice Buckley were representing the UK in sharing experiences with 38,000 other scouts from nearly every other country across the globe.
- The town’s 20th decorated bollard was officially unveiled – designed by 80-year old Pearl Friend from the Kingfisher Day Centre. A small reception was followed in the White Hart with Mayor and Mayoress, and a number of her friends.
- Traditionally a quiet month for news, August opened with the loss of the Union Flag – it was stolen from the Town Hall flagpole, and weirdly had been replaced by a child’s bicycle tyre!
- In a very disappointing response, Basingstoke Council said it would not use its powers to prevent demolition of buildings such as the Harvest Home when under threat. Instead they said they would rely on ‘hoping’ developers consult with local people. Whitchurch Town Council sent a strong letter of disapproval.
Cllr Keith Watts called the Basingstoke Council leadership “Spineless”.
- There was some very good news for the Parish Hall. They are to receive £4502 of public funding from Hampshire County Council towards their renovation work on the floor. HCC Cllr Tom Thacker was “delighted” as the funds go to “community buildings that might not otherwise survive”.
- Residents of Wells-in-the Field, led by Norrie Johnson, presented a 220 strong petition to Basingstoke Council calling for a footpath to be provided along the B3400.
- Local complementary therapist Liz Baldwin covered a 49-mile walk and cycle ride of the Test Way to raise funds to support a trip to Bosnia, while local dad Simon Dutton walked the 71-mile Wayfarers Walk to support aid for newly born children, both fantastic efforts.
- Whitchurch United commenced their run in the FA Cup that brought football fever to the town by beating Bemerton Heath Harlequins 3-2.
- A freight train avoided derailment when it hit a fallen apple tree at Whitchurch Newbury Street Bridge, when travelling at 65mph, delaying trains for several hours.
- A serious accident involving two coaches and a car in which an elderly lady died closed the A34 for a number of hours.
- FA Cup – the dream continues as Whitchurch United beat Brading Town 2-1
- The Parish Hall closed for its planned refurbishments, to include new flooring, windows, kitchen and toilets.
- The town’s only 24-hour ATM was removed by HSBC as they gave up their lease on their premises in the Town Hall. They also stripped out the offices and removed the large heavy safe.
- Debate continued over the housing requirements for Whitchurch with 350 being planned for the town. Questions were raised over infrastructure such as shops, surgeries, and transport facilities.
- Whitchurch Utd gained a new sponsor in B.Jackman Ltd then immediately moved another step towards Wembley by beating Brockenhurst 2-0
- Whitchurch Railway Station scooped a major award taking Second Place in the South West Trains Station Pride competition. Much of the credit must go to Kevin Durrant the smiling face behind the ticket counter.
- Confusion reigned when new timetables appeared showing bus services cut by Hampshire County Council which were being supported by Basingstoke Council. No one wanted to take responsibility but new timetables were later issued.
- After a very strong and well-supported campaign, the demolition of the Harvest Home started- a sad day for the town as a historic building was lost, which could have been saved by the Basingstoke Councillors and planners.
- The town learned of the very sad loss of 23 year old Liam Lyster who had helped with the start of the bollards art project and who had tragically died in a car crash.
- Cheers rang out as 18-year old Chris Miller returned from a cycle ride to Ben Nevis and back, including a climb of the mountain. Chris was raising funds for a much needed dedicated youth club in the town and was welcomed home by the Mayor and Mayoress, Sir George Young and a crowd of well-wishers.
- Whitchurch Utd held their heads high in the biggest football match they have played as they took a 2-0 defeat against Gloucester City AFC in their fabulous FA Cup run. The dream may have ended but they can be proud of their success.
- The Silk Mill’s longest serving employee retired after nearly 25 years. As well as working on the looms, Joan Fruen (68) had seen the Mill develop into a visitors centre. “You can’t get a better place” she said.
- The Whitchurch Arts Exhibition attracted a wide range of creative displays – paintings, sculptures, music – all showing the wealth of talent in the town and using the modern airy Gill Nethercott Centre to its best.
The primary school children created over 300 bollard designs to show off too!
- Elizabeth Baldwin returned from 2 weeks of voluntary work in Sarajevo working with war victims – “It was emotionally and physically challenging” she said.
- The demolition of the Harvest Home featured on BBC Radio 4 as part of a programme on the loss of community pubs an historic buildings. Basingstoke Council had failed to protect the building.
- Local Borough Councillors Keith Watts and Eric Dunlop had agreed with planners that Whitchurch should be planning for an average of 25 new homes per year until 2027.
- Three local residents were presented with Volunteering Awards by the Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane at a ceremony in Basingstoke for their volunteering activities in the local community – Gladys Butler, Joyce Dixon and John Buckley.
- Hallowe’en saw a spectacular Bonfire on the Meadow arranged by the Festival Committee, with associated fancy dress and guy competitions too, as well as pumpkin carving in the White Hart.
- The month ended with the evening bus from Winchester running for the last time – as a result of cuts to public transport by Hampshire County Council.
- The vicar of Litchfield, the Rev.Hamilton Lloyd sadly passed away, aged 92. He will be much missed. He was also vicar of Whitchurch from 1960-1971.
- Children from Whitchurch Primary School helped by the Mayor and Mayoress installed two decorated cycle hoops and a new seat at the Alliston Road Rec. They had chosen these facilities as part of their learning on community involvement and citizenship. Meanwhile the Rec also had its plaque as a Memorial for Peace renovated
- The Whitchurch Snow Crisis Line was launched at the Gill Nethercott Centre with many signing up to help others in bad weather.
- Hampshire County Council announced changes to the proposed cuts in Library hours following strong responses from local people to keep evening opening.
- Local tumbler Jordan Lucas took an excellent 4th place in the team event of the World Tumbling Championships, held in Birmingham. He also finished 15th overall in the world, the second highest ranking British gymnast.
- Whitchurch Daniel Park came top in the UK in a vote calling for it to be kept as open space in perpetuity as part of the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II celebrations, in a campaign rallied by this website. Meanwhile local users led by Callum Nicholson and supported by Cllr Keith Watts are campaigning for the skatepark to be repaired and upgraded.
- A campaign to convince the government to award medals to the Arctic Convoy heroes was relaunched. Convoy survivor Roy Dykes (92), an ex-Mayor of Whitchurch, is just one of 200 survivors still alive.
- Five worthy organisations received financial awards from Whitchurch Town Council – Testbourne Community Lunch Club, Victim Support, Whitchurch Association, Whitchurch Festival and Whitchurch Neighbourcare.
- Details of the Faster Broadband roll-out were confirmed by BT to the campaign team – with good news that they say 100% of premises will have an opportunity for a speed increase.
- The Christmas in Whitchurch launch, arranged this year by the local traders themselves, was the best ever. Crowds filled the Square as Peter Pan and the Mayor switched on the lights, followed by an evening of events and shopping, coordinated by Pauline Choppen from the Bridal Shop.
- The We’ll Meet Again supper in the newly refurbished Parish Hall again saw the Festival Committee put on a fine treat for the elderly of the town with great music and entertainment.
- Local archery enthusiast Peter Turner was presented with an award for his services to the sport by HRH Princess Alexandra at a ceremony in London’s Pall Mall.
- A heart-wrenching composition, ‘When You Come Home’, by Ben Van Rensburg is aiming to gain enough votes to reach the finals of the MTV Brand New for 2012 competition. It is well on the way.
- In a campaign to have the Olympic Torch Relay come through Whitchurch in 2012, the Town Mayor Cllr Barry Jackman appeared on BBC Radio Solent’s Breakfast Show, along with Christine Yeates who remembered when it came through in 1948.
- The first AGM of the Parish Hall since its reopening saw admiration for the refurbishments, but unfortunately the attendance was very low. Questions on the Hall’s failure to provide copies of important documents took up much of the discussion.
- Rosie’s Gifts won the Christmas Best Decorated Window Competition, winning the shield that had been introduced by our current Mayor when he was last in office in 2002. It also commemorates the Queen’s Golden Jubilee of that year.
- One of the first actions of the new Parish Hall Committee was to move their Saturday Market to Fridays – on the same day and at the same time as the Traditional Country Market already being held at the Gill Nethercott Centre. Eyebrows were raised.
- Salvation Army member Brian Sharp received a certificate from the Mayor and Mayoress for having played on Christmas Eve for the people of Whitchurch, and the Glory of God, for over 50 years. The simple but moving ceremony was under the plaque in the Square commemorating the historic events of the 19th century.
- The Mayor, Cllr Barry Jackman, presented a petition of over 2000 signatures to Sir George Young MP calling for the Olympic Torch Relay to come through the town and surrounding villages. The petition arranged by Andrew Reeves-Hall will now be passed to Lord Coe for consideration.
- A grisly crime at Bloswood Allotments saw a number racing pigeons killed as well as sheds wrecked and vandalised. Police are investigating this despicable crime. This also followed several garage break ins over the Christmas period.
- The year ended on a high for this website as for the fourth month in a row it beat its previous record, and recorded a staggering 20,269 views in December alone. For a site that is less than two years old it is remarkable.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
The website is overseen by Whitchurch Association
Registered Charity: 1118993
The volunteer website team would like to thank all those who have submitted news, events and other useful information over the year, and hopes that 2012 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
Compiled by: John Buckley / Andrew Reeves-Hall and lots of helpers and contributors