Woodstock & Bladon News

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!”

WOBL Cover for January 2021

In case you missed it, the January 2021 issue of the Woodstock & Bladon News is available to buy as a download for the first time. January's issue features environmental good news from Bladon, a history of Woodstock Pharmacy, and some beautiful art by pupils from the primary school — plus updates from our councillors, museums, and clubs and societies. Please click here to make your £1 purchase.

Steep rises in COVID-19 cases in Oxfordshire have prompted the government to place the county into the new tier 4 level of restrictions from Boxing Day, joining many neighbouring areas in the south-east of England.

Tier 4 is the highest alert level in the national four-tier system, and it means that Oxfordshire residents must stay at home, except for a limited number of purposes. These include essential work that cannot be done from home, buying food, taking exercise, or getting medical treatment. In tier 4, you cannot meet other people socially indoors, unless you live with them or are part of a support bubble.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “We are in a very serious situation, which means that people are once again being told to stay at home. The new variant of COVID-19 spreads extremely quickly and these rules are being applied for our own safety and protection. The numbers of cases across the county have risen very steeply and we have also seen sharp rises in hospital admissions.

“When we compare our current situation with that of just a few weeks ago, we can clearly see how quickly things can change and how aggressively the virus can spread if we let our guard down even by a fraction. We have seen during 2020 that this virus thrives on human contact. That seems to be even more the case with the new variant, which is 70% more transmissible and is increasingly becoming the dominant strain across the country.

“Tier 4 is a stark warning that we need to be extra vigilant. Unless we all take personal responsibility as individuals and families throughout the coming weeks, we risk creating a situation in the early weeks of 2021 that will see further steep rises in the number of cases at exactly the time of year when viruses thrive. This means putting even more pressure on our NHS at its busiest time of year.

“The COVID vaccine has started to be rolled out to the over 80s and health and care staff across Oxfordshire. However, it will be some way into 2021 before this begins to provide protection to larger numbers of the population and make a material difference to the overall situation.

“I would therefore urge everyone to adhere to the new tier 4 rules and to take every precaution. We need to protect ourselves, our communities and the NHS as we enter 2021.”

Cllr Michele Mead, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Obviously I am very disappointed that we have had to move to Tier 4 but it is essential that we all stick to the rules so everyone can stay safe.

“The vaccine programme is rolling out rapidly so hopefully this will be the last time we see these severe measures being imposed. In the meantime, remain vigilant, follow the rules and stay in touch with each other, particularly the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Current cases

The number of cases in Oxfordshire stood at 236.5 cases per 100,000 of the population as of December 18. This represents a rise of 86% since December 11. There were 1,636 cases up to December 18 compared to 878 in the week ending December 11.

What are the tier 4 rules?

Stay at home, except for permitted reasons. This includes shopping for food and other essentials, exercise, education, childcare, collecting prescriptions, medical appointments, essential work, and to attend a place of worship. Everyone who can work from home should do so.

You cannot meet other people indoors or in a private garden, unless you live with them or they are part of your support bubble. You can exercise or meet in a public outdoor place with people you live with or your support bubble (or as part of a childcare bubble), or with one other person at a safe social distance.

You must not travel to other areas, other than for legally permitted reasons, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Shops selling non-essential goods and market stalls not selling food must close.

Cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs must close but they can serve takeaways, click and collect and delivery orders. Personal care, hair and beauty salons must close, as should tattoo, massage and spa venues.

Entertainment venues, indoor attractions and leisure facilities must close. Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend health appointments. If they cannot work from home, they are advised not to go to work and claim any support where eligible. Further information can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-4-stay-at-home

Clinically extremely vulnerable people

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend health appointments. If they cannot work from home, they are advised not to go to work and can claim any support where eligible.

Libraries and cultural services

The Oxfordshire Museum and Oxfordshire History Centre will need to close. The county’s libraries will also close but some will provide a limited number of services, including IT access, which must be booked, online services, home library visits and click and collect.

Registration Services

In line with national guidance the county council’s Registration Service will only be conducting wedding or civil partnership ceremonies in exceptional circumstances such as the iIlness of a couple or member of family due to attend ceremony. This would also include a military deployment at short notice, life threatening surgery or debilitating illness as well as for couples where one of them is seriously ill and not expected to recover.

Christmas Tree

Residents are being encouraged to recycle their real Christmas trees.

Householders already signed up for garden waste collections can simply put them out on their next scheduled garden collection from Monday 18 January. Trees should be cut up and placed inside their licensed garden bin.

However, if the garden waste bin is full, the tree can be cut up and left next to the full bin for collection. Trees larger than 90cm / 3ft should be cut into manageable pieces before being put out.

Cllr Norman MacRae, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “Last January more than 9,800 tonnes of garden waste, including Christmas trees, was recycled in West Oxfordshire. Let’s do even better in 2021.

“Putting your tree into the garden waste bin makes disposing of it quick and easy but if you’re not signed up, we’ve organised collection points across the district.”

Anyone, including those who are not garden waste customers, can take their tree along to one of the Council’s collection points on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 January.

Saturday 16 January 9am-11am Black Bourton Rd Car Park, Carterton

Saturday 16 January 1pm-3pm New St Car Park, Chipping Norton

Sunday 17 January 9am-11am Witan Way, Car Park G, Witney

Trees will be taken to the composting facility that processes garden waste.

A masterplan for the redevelopment of Hanborough Station is on track after a £15,000 cash injection was approved by councillors.

The idea for the plan came from a key recommendation from a report prepared by independent consultants last year.

The aim is to see a range of improvements introduced to boost its importance as a key transport hub, reducing pressure on the A40 and integrating into a wider transport strategy for the area to promote active travel including walking, cycling and the use of a bus service.

Cllr Jeff Haine, Cabinet Member for Planning Strategy at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “This masterplan will map out the huge potential of Hanborough station which is becoming increasingly important in the overall development of the surrounding area.

“Hanborough has always been well placed as a link to Oxford, London and Worcester and we can now start to realise its key role as we look to support housing growth and the visitor economy.”

The Council’s Cabinet approved the £15,000 funding which will come from the unallocated Housing and Planning Delivery Grant and will be used to match-fund a £15,000 contribution from Oxfordshire County Council.

Cllr Alaa Al-Yousuf, who represents Freeland and Hanborough, added: “Hanborough is already a busy station and will become more so in the future so this plan is essential for its development and that of the wider area to include an active transport strategy.”

Earlier this year saw the formation of the Hanborough Station Sub-Group, part of the North Cotswold Line Task Force, which brings together five county councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The task force is hoping for additional trains between Hanborough and Oxford.

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