Woodstock & Bladon News

Homeowners and developers looking to boost the green credentials of their property can find out everything they need to know at the click of a mouse thanks to the launch of a brand-new online housing toolkit.

Packed full of the latest guidance on how to achieve low-carbon, low-energy homes, the Net Zero Carbon Toolkit is the brainchild of West Oxfordshire District Council, Cotswold District Council and Forest of Dean District Council.

Set out in a practical, easy to follow format, the toolkit is aimed at builders, architects and consultants as well as those looking to self-build.

Councillor David Harvey, Cabinet Member for Climate Change at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We are delighted to be launching this new toolkit today which we have produced in partnership with two other local authorities and leading experts in the field of net-zero homes. Covering everything from pre-planning, design and construction, even down to the types of products on the market, this is a one-stop guide for anyone looking to build a new property so they can include all the measures needed to make sustainable homes that are fit for the future.”

While following the guidance is not mandatory, the types of measures included in the document signal what the District Council would like to see included in future planning policy to tackle the climate emergency.

The guide also covers where carbon and energy gains can be made through retrofitting a range of measures to existing properties, such as switching to low-carbon heating systems and investing in renewable energy.

Cllr Harvey continued: “The Government has set a target for the UK to reach net-zero by 2050 but with 25 million homes being lived in right now, the big challenge is how older properties, which may be prone to cold and poorly insulated, are brought up to standard. A major focus of this document is how householders can modify their existing homes to help them cut heat loss and invest in renewable energy options to reduce the costs of running their homes and make them more sustainable.

“To help people plan and budget, the toolkit gives a breakdown of the likely costs for each element based on whether the homeowner is looking to undertake a cheaper ‘shallow’ retrofit, which could save around 30% of a home’s carbon emissions, or a ‘deep’ retrofit which could achieve up to a 90% reduction in carbon emissions.

“Minor modifications can start from as little as £20-£50 and while larger projects, such as installing solar panels, will require greater upfront investment householders should see an immediate reduction in energy bills, helping offset the costs. Homeowners can, in some circumstances, even receive income for excess electricity sold back to the grid.

“We have ambitious plans to get West Oxfordshire to net zero as soon as possible and this comprehensive guide is just one way we are driving ahead to achieve this aim. We want our residents and businesses to take full advantage of what’s contained in the guide, but we will be sharing the good news far and wide so others can make full use of the work which has been put together and start the process of decarbonising their homes.”

The toolkit has been funded by the Local Government Association Housing Advisers Programme, which supports local authorities seeking to innovate to meet the housing needs of their communities.

To encourage everyone to start making the best environmental choices and switch to low-carbon homes, the Net Zero Carbon Toolkit is available to anyone, including commercial organisations.

The document is now available for free download from West Oxfordshire District Council’s website: www.westoxon.gov.uk/netzerocarbontoolkit

This gastronomic festival will showcase the best produce from local and national stallholders offering high quality, tempting food choices from indulgent sweet treats to the most delicious organic fruit and veg, glorious bakes to the tastiest street food.

A reminder also that pre-booking is advised but not essential. We would love to see you this weekend and would appreciate any coverage using the hashtag #blenheimpalace

From Monday 23 August anyone aged 16 or 17 can receive a dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine at a walk-in clinic in Witney Town Shop, 3 Welch Way, Witney OX28 6JH.

The Pfizer walk-in clinic will be open on the following dates and times:

  • Monday 23 August (10 am to 7.30 pm)
  • Tuesday 24 August, Wednesday 25 August and Thursday 26 August (9.30 am to 7.30 pm).

No appointment is necessary to allow people aged 16 or 17 to have a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. People may be asked to show proof of age. Parental consent is not required.

The centre is the result of a partnership working between Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and West Oxfordshire District Council who, last month, set up a similar centre for adults in the same location.

Tehmeena Ajmal, Covid Operations Director, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I would urge young people aged 16 and 17 to attend the walk-in clinic in Witney to keep themselves and their family safe.”

Michele Mead, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council added: “The walk-in clinics have proved very successful in West Oxfordshire and we are pleased to offer Council premises and to work closely with our health colleagues to set these up quickly to react to the needs of our community. Ultimately, attending this walk-in centre will make West Oxfordshire safer for us all.”

People who attend the walk-in clinic for a jab will have their vaccination records updated online. Current JCVI guidelines indicate no second dose for healthy 16 and 17-year-olds is required.

The exhibition showcases the work of nationally recognised, regional emerging and midcareer contemporary artists that have been made through the pandemic. As such, there is an emphasis on the natural world and domestic life. The exhibition will feature Oxfordshire’s rolling rural landscape through the work of Rod Craig. Rachel Gracey brings us the peace to be found in urban green spaces, in her new work of Oxford’s Port meadow. Like life itself during the pandemic, these works are small. Tamsin Relly finds a joyful expression in her vibrant botanical watercolours, based in Oxfordshire, from Worton Organic Garden. Jemma Powell and Marice cumber bring us into the domestic realm – the world where tabletops are crowded with objects as the pressures of family life pile up physically and emotionally. Marice Cumber’s ceramics bring emotional release and self-realisation through work such as ‘The Cup of Time’. During a period when our own movement as individuals has been so restricted, these works serve as a reminder of the role that art can play in personal wellbeing – when life goes small, horizons are narrowed – and we have to look at our immediate surroundings. It is a reminder and celebration of the beauty that is readily available in our lives, of our capacity to be creative, and the joy and peace that that in itself can bring.

The artwork can be viewed both in person at the gallery (6 Park Street) and online at https://zuleikagallery.com/summershow2021/

The exhibition concludes on 23 August 2021.

Here at Woodstock Opticians, we like to support local business and individuals, so we are delighted to host a book signing for local author Fran Gabaldoni with his brilliant first book, Childish Ways.

Fran was brought up in Combe and his must-read novel is based in a Cotswolds village with lots of mentions of local familiar places.

So why not come along, meet Fran, get a signed copy of his book (or bring your own copy if you already have one) and meet the team at Woodstock Opticians on 25th June between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.

There will be a draw for a pair of sunglasses on the day.

An ancient fallen oak tree has been given a new lease of life as a stunning carved bench at Blenheim thanks to the artistic skills of chainsaw artist Matthew Crabb.

The 500-year-old oak came down beside a footpath in the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site’s High Park during the recent strong winds and was found to have root rot.

The forestry team decided to leave it in place as fallen trees contribute significantly to the biodiversity of the area, and provide a perfect habitat for a range of insects and small mammals.

As it was located so close to a footpath they commissioned Matthew to transform it into a bench that visitors can use to rest, relax and get their woodland wellness fix.

The design for the bench features giant oak leaves in keeping with its surroundings while the majority of the fallen tree has been left untouched to encourage wildlife.

“Each of our ancient oaks has an extraordinary tale to tell and we wanted to celebrate this particular tree’s legacy by transforming it into a place where visitors to High Park can sit and contemplate the world,” said Blenheim’s Head Forester Nick Baimbridge.

“Matthew’s skills really are incredible and he has created a truly stunning work of art that looks amazing and really fits into its wider woodland setting,” he added.

Based in Somerset, Matthew Crabb works mainly on large scale wood sculptures. The Blenheim bench took about 50 hours for him to complete.

“Every wooden sculpture that I create is part of a progression that inspires the next. I want to be impressed by the finished result as much as my clients are,” said Matthew.

“Each work of art is inspired by the particular properties and characteristics of the wood I am working with – therefore no two pieces are ever the same,” he added.

Matt started the Matthew Crabb Sculpture Studio in 2006. In 2012 he won both the Sandringham Cup and the English Open Chainsaw Carving Championship.

In 2015 he was commissioned to create a large wooden skeleton for English multimedia street artist D*Face , which was exhibited in Spain.

Blenheim estate is home to the largest collection of ancient oaks in Europe with some trees believed to date back over 1,000 years.

High Park was originally created by Henry I as a deer park in the 12th century. Around 90% of the woodland is made up of oak trees and it is thought that at least 60 of these oaks date back to the middle ages.

The area has been recognised as one of the most biodiverse habitats in the UK. More than 60 different birds including goshawks, peregrine falcons, spotted flycatchers and redstarts have been recorded along with 19 mammals like stoats, field voles, fallow deer, badgers and nine different bat species.

The site is also home to at least 243 different beetles; including 25 types of dung beetle.

Over 600 species of moth and more than 20 butterfly species have also been identified, along with 35 arachnids and 161 different ants, wasps and bees.

Among the seven different reptiles and amphibians present are common lizards, slow worms, grass snakes, great crested newts and toads.

In addition to the varied fauna, High Park also supports 275 types of plants and flowers and so far, a total of 334 fungi have been recorded.

Community groups looking to take part in this year’s Great British Spring Clean (28 May-13 June) are invited to contact West Oxfordshire District Council if they need help getting rid of their collected bags of litter.

The campaign is a key milestone in Keep Britain Tidy’s calendar, highlighting the problem of litter in the environment, and brings thousands of people together from across the nation each year to do something positive about clearing it up.

Councillor Norman MacRae, Cabinet Member for the Environment at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We anticipate a high level of interest from residents in this event as outdoor spaces have proved invaluable in maintaining our mental and physical well-being over the past year, providing many with a place of refuge outside the home. Litter picking also brings its own health benefits, encouraging more of us to get active and making people feel more connected to their community.”

According to Keep Britain Tidy, four fifths of participants in last year’s clean up event reported an increased sense of pride for their local area while 79% agreed volunteering helped improve their mood.

For 2021, the charity is calling on an army of volunteer ‘litter heroes’ to help them achieve a collective target of a million miles of litter picking (#MillionMilesMission). Members of the public can register, by pledging how many minutes or hours they will commit to undertake by visiting www.keepbritaintidy.org. All minutes and hours promised will then be converted into miles and counted towards the GBSC target.

Councillor MacRae continued: “We are delighted to be able to offer any group which is organising a litter pick an easy option for disposing of the rubbish once collected over the course of the Great British Spring Clean. Residents just need to contact us and we will arrange collection of the litter that has been collected.”

The collection service will apply to non-hazardous, general litter that can be easily contained within a black rubbish sack. Residents should report in incidents of fly tipping separately to the Council rather than attempt to move these themselves so that any potential evidence remains undisturbed. This can be done on the Council’s new website – https://www.westoxon.gov.uk/environment/fly-tipping/

Groups are encouraged to present the waste they collect at a suitable collection point where it can be stowed securely until it can be collected. Community spaces, such as local village halls and churches, with good vehicle access are ideal so long as permission of the relevant landowner has been sought first.

A collection can be arranged by calling West Oxfordshire District Council’s customer services team on 01993 861000 or by emailing customer.services@westoxon.gov.uk

Residents wishing to litter pick independent of a group are asked to put the waste they collect in their normal domestic refuse bin.

Last year West Oxfordshire District Council street teams litter picked 147kms of highway verges collecting discarded roadside rubbish.

Guidance on how to litter pick safely can be found at: www.keepbritaintidy.org

North Leigh Roman Villa Volunteers Commended as “Heritage Heroes in Lockdown 2020”

North Leigh Roman Villa Volunteers have been awarded a Commendation by the Heritage Alliance for outstanding heritage voluntary work in 2020.

The collective efforts of a group of 25 committed locals worked to promote North Leigh's Villa site as a resource for well-being and education throughout the pandemic. This was judged to be a perfect example of where English Heritage volunteers have made a massive difference in linking heritage sites with their community during the pandemic.

During the summer, the volunteers led a series of successful open mosaic days, hosting over 1,250 visitors which is near twice as many as the previous year. Visitors generously donated nearly £1,000 to benefit the site, and in spite of covid restrictions, the team of volunteers gave over 1000 hours of their time, including 290 on-site in 2020.

For over a decade, Ecclesiastical’s Heritage Heroes Awards have celebrated the wonderful contribution of volunteers in the heritage sector. More than a simple thank you, these awards are a great opportunity to demonstrate how volunteers can take ownership of the heritage around them and make a real difference.

The above outline shows the extent of the new development, which will substantially increase the town's population.

Blenheim's planning application to develop 250 homes on land 'North of Banbury Road' is currently out for responses on the West Oxfordshire Council website:

Click here to search for the application

In the search box type: 21/00217/OUT as the reference number to be shown all the publically available documentation for the proposed housing.

Residents have until 25 February 2021 to add their comments or objections to the proposal.

It is simple once on the planning website to add a comment of your own. Click the button with the blue speech bubble labelled “Make A Comment” and fill in the form.

I have reached out to Blenheim Palace, Woodstock Town Council, West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council for comment. This article will be updated in the event they respond with any information.

Update (12/02/21):

Another planning application with reference number 21/00189/FUL has appeared on the planning website for 180 houses in Old Woodstock. This application has the closing date of 4 March. Comments are open until that time.

Digital street photography exhibition celebrates chance encounters with strangers THE NORTH WALL ARTS CENTRE, OXFORD 2 – 20 February 2021

Have you ever stopped a stranger in the street and asked to take their photograph? Ian Taylor has, hundreds of times. Ian’s photographs are available to view online in a digital street photography exhibition, #TheExcuseMeProject, hosted by The North Wall Arts Centre, from 2 – 20 February.

#TheExcuseMeProject, so named because the first thing Ian says to the people he meets is “Excuse Me”, started in 2019 when Ian’s interest in street photography combined with a fascination about the fleeting interactions that we all have with strangers throughout our lives. Ian generated these interactions on the streets of Oxford, Burford, Woodstock and Chipping Norton simply by stopping people on the street, talking to them about the purpose of the project and memorialising that meeting with a photograph. Along with the picture, Ian also asked a few questions about the person. Hence, the finished image has a unique extra level of interest for the viewer that sets it apart from other street photography portraits.

Ian says: “I've often thought about the fleeting interactions we have with other people. It could be a quick comment about something you're both doing or maybe a delivery driver dropping off a parcel or maybe just a conversation with a stranger as you're waiting for a bus. I wonder if they remember it – maybe, maybe not – will it impact their lives – maybe, maybe not – will they even register that it's a noteworthy event – maybe, maybe not. But maybe it will. Maybe, just maybe that interaction will have more impact than you might think. Maybe it'll change a stranger’s point of view, brighten their day, or maybe you're the only person they'll talk to that day.”

“There’s no real posing or direction just a pure, honest, simple portrait. These people weren't expecting to be photographed today. There's an honesty in the way they look. No special preparation for a photo, just a normal day, just a normal person, just a slightly unusual request from a stranger – can I take your photograph?”

Ian managed to continue shooting pictures for the project throughout lockdown, whilst still abiding by social distancing rules, by taking pictures in his village. Ian wanted the lockdown pictures to be slightly different from the main body of work so apart from the usual “what’s your name? Where are you from?” and “what do you do for a living?” questions he added “how long have you lived where you live?” and “what’s something that you’ve done that’s amazing, unusual or that you’re proud of?” This generated some very unexpected answers but also gave the project much more of a community feel. “The resulting photos became a great record of my community in a really positive way that was unrelated to Covid,” says Ian.

The North Wall in Summertown was originally due to host an exhibition of Ian’s project pictures. Still, new lockdown restrictions have meant that it will now be exhibited virtually through The North Wall website, going live on the 2nd of February 2021, for 3 weeks. There is also a podcast on the website where you can hear Ian talking about his work and this particular project. All of #TheExcuseMeProject pictures can be found on Instagram @theexcusemeproject.

Would you like to be part of #TheExcuseMeProject? On Saturday 6 February from 10 am-12 pm, Ian will be offering 10-minute slots over Zoom to anyone over 18 who would like their photograph to be featured in the exhibition. Just like his interactions with people in the street, Ian will take your photo and ask your name, what you do and where you live. Your photo will then be added to the project gallery. Please email lairdn@thenorthwall.com to reserve your place.

Ian says, “I will continue shooting pictures in the way indefinitely as it’s such a unique way to provide any community with a unique record of its people and their lives. Sometimes we should all talk to a stranger – you never quite know what you might find out!”

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