June & July 2020
Congratulations and a massive thank-you to Debbie, Steph and Sue in the shop who are doing the most amazing job keeping everyone in Tackley supplied with a fantastic amount of food, and always a happy welcome for everyone. They are my three heroes at this difficult time.
Paddock to let
Ruth Kerry, Oxfordshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council has a paddock available to let for grazing in the centre of Tackley, extending to approximately 0.39 ha (0.97 acres) with water provision.
For further information, email [email address removed from archive copy].
An open letter to Robert Courts MP
Jenifer Wates, Woodstock
As Parliament has now reconvened, though in a partially virtual format, I believe it is timely for me to write to you to express my concerns about the tragic situation in which we find ourselves. These concerns are shared by many others, and this will therefore be an open letter which will be circulated.
When earlier in the year the news came from China about the impact of this virus, the government’s slow and incoherent response was worrying. A particular anxiety was the abandonment of the ‘test, trace, isolate’ programme, which seems to have been very successful in other countries. This could have avoided the indiscriminate lockdown, which has been so damaging to the economy and has had such differential effects.
We now learn that the government failed to heed warnings from expert committees over several years, about the risk of a pandemic and its likely impact. As a result of that lack of adequate preparation, it has become plain to see the results of 10 years of the politically motivated programme of austerity, including the underfunding of the NHS and the stagnation of standards of living for the less privileged. Clapping the dedicated NHS staff and care workers is all very well, but is a hollow response to their efforts when inadequate protective equipment means that they are putting their lives at risk, their pay in many cases has been frozen, and new immigration rules would threaten the recruitment of many who will be needed in the NHS and in social care.
The Chancellor’s bold interventions to support businesses and maintain employment have been welcome, but they do nothing for those who were changing jobs, worked in the arts or had zero-hours contracts. This makes it clear that a programme such as the Green New Deal would have much to offer in the future, with benefits to the huge climate emergency and to new forms of employment. When it comes to restoring the nation’s finances, reform of the taxation system is an obvious priority, and serious consideration should be given to the concept of a Citizen’s Basic Income.
We also see the result of the government’s lack of attention over many years to the dire shortage of decent housing, with many workers living in cramped conditions where so-called social isolation is impossible. As in Victorian slums, the spread of infection is inevitable, and we all suffer—a clear example of the principle that we really are ‘all in this together’, but perhaps not in the intended sense. It is high time the lessons were learned of the tragic Grenfell fire.
Meantime the closure of schools means that children from less privileged backgrounds will suffer most, with fewer opportunities for informal learning and inadequate access to online resources—as indeed current research goes to show. The announcement that computers will be supplied to those young people without them is welcome, but the possession of a computer does not of itself make it possible to study in a crowded home without quiet space, and where requisite skills and adult support may be lacking.
This government has the luxury of a solid majority in Parliament, but it will be a test of its professed intention to work for the common good when we begin the long and difficult process of emerging from this crisis. There have been many signs of good neighbourliness and of generous responses from citizens; my purpose in writing is to express my hope that we shall see no more of the divisive and inhumane policies of the recent past. It will no longer be acceptable to return to ‘business as usual’ at the expense of those least equipped to cope. The radical rethink required might best be enabled by following the example of Ireland in setting up a series of Citizens’ Assemblies to explore the possibilities.
Along with many others from all political parties, I ask you to do your best to ensure we take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change course. We must seek to work together, and cooperatively with other nations, in tackling not only the worldwide disaster of the pandemic, but even more importantly, the ongoing climate emergency. This is our chance to ensure that in the future, we will be genuinely ‘all in this together’.
Woodstock & District U3A
As I write, ‘lockdown’ has been playing havoc with the branch programme, as with those of so many organisations. Monthly speaker meetings have been cancelled or postponed; watch this space or our website for news of their resumption. The national U3A Day, planned for June, will now take place on Thursday, 1 October: note it in diaries and look for more information nearer the time.
Many of our individual interest groups have been hit. Our walkers and amblers had to content themselves with solitary strolls in the unseasonable but welcome warm spring weather. Incidentally, the spring issue of the national U3A journal Third Age Matters – an enjoyable add-on to membership – features a description of Chester U3A’s croquet group: might croquet have been compatible with ‘lock in’? Take a look, too, at the croquet section of U3A’s national website.
Other interest groups that normally meet indoors suffered a double whammy with the closure of Woodstock’s Ryegrass common room, home to many of our branch activities since its foundation. Added problems for book and play-reading groups came from the closure of county libraries which normally provide those groups with raw material. More cheerily, our recorder players again came up trumps, with Zoomed practice sessions and online group newsletters which cheerily feature music to practice, recordings and other items. One such missive, rather oddly perhaps, featured the fetching image of a Canada goose: descant, treble or tenor, I wonder?
Temporary station bridge
Robin Gibbons (Parish Council Rail Representative) and Richard Macrory
The new temporary bridge at the station is now operational.
As many will know, for almost 10 years the parish council has been working with Network Rail to try to find a solution that will make the crossing safe. Following extensive consultation with the village last year, Network Rail’s current preferred option is a subway a little south of the station that can be used by pedestrians, cyclists, and horse-riders alike. They are now surveying the practicalities, and planning permission would be required—so we might be talking about two years before it is built.
In the meantime, there continued to be unpleasant incidents of near misses with fast trains, and Network Rail decided, with the support of the parish council, that a temporary bridge had to be built. This has been authorised under special powers approved by the Secretary of State—no planning permission is required, and the bridge does not have to be disabled compliant. But authorisation has to be renewed every six months as it is intended only to be a temporary solution. For disabled users, Network Rail will provide a free taxi service. At present because of the coronavirus there are no stopping trains at Tackley, but once the restrictions are lifted, we will provide further details for disabled users.
In the meantime, cyclists and walkers wishing to cross the line must use the bridge as the unmanned crossing will no longer be open. We realise this may be an inconvenience for some, as it involves a slightly longer distance, but hope everyone accepts that it is worth it to have removed the risk of any more incidents or accidents on the crossing. And if you do use the bridge, please be careful as you walk along the platform, especially if you have a dog—the fast trains going through create quite a wind.
Railway safety warning
Matthew Thompson, Communications Manager, Network Rail
Network Rail has worked hard to ensure the safety of all who used the level crossing at Tackley. Recently this crossing was closed following the opening of the new temporary footbridge. However, since the closing we have had reports of people walking off the end of the platform and across the tracks, with young children. Cyclists have also been seen crossing the tracks with bikes. People have also climbed the fencing at the crossing and continued across. This must stop. This is a high-speed line and while services are currently reduced, this could increase at any time. Not only are you risking your life, but you also risk receiving a £1,000 fine for trespass. Please use the temporary footbridge provided for your safe crossing.
We reassure everyone in Tackley that the pub is financially secure during this COVID-19 crisis, and will be reopening once the government regulations allow—and more importantly, when we think it is a safe environment for our customers. The government’s current directive (as at 19 May) is that pubs will be allowed to open 4 July at the earliest. But, this is a situation that can change, so we will keep the village updated.
We have liaised with Barbie Vaughan on the matter of the Pop-up Pub, and the same criteria applies as with the Gardiner Arms. Again, we will keep the village updated.
Beer & Music Festival
The organising committee have agreed that the status of the Tackley Beer & Music Festival planned for June is currently ‘postponed’. This is because, if it is possible, we are going to try and put on the festival in late summer. We are monitoring the situation as it develops, and again will keep the village updated.
Martin & Jackie
Mrs LJ Murrey, Headteacher and Martin York, Chair of Governors
Following the decision on 20 March to close schools in England, life has changed significantly for all of us.
Our school is no different. Staff have adjusted to a teaching environment based on home learning, providing support to the families of our community’s critical workers, and caring for our more vulnerable children. Parents and children have adjusted to home learning and for our children not seeing their friends and classmates is a real sacrifice.
During these unprecedented times, lives have been turned upside down and for everyone this brings many pressures.
We are hugely grateful for the support of the community during this period. At the time of writing, your thoughtful and generous donations have enabled us to distribute over 50 food parcels to households in Tackley and our families in The Heyfords who are really impacted by the effects of the pandemic. Your generosity has also enabled us to extend this support from families whose children attend our school to many other households within the community.
This is making a real difference and not just in a practical way, but through demonstrating to those suffering real hardship that we are a community that supports and cares for each other.
We look forward to welcoming as many children back to school as soon as possible, but our overriding consideration is, and will remain the safety of the children and staff. The ‘new normal’ for schools may take some time to emerge, but whatever it is, we know that with your support we can and will make a success of it in Tackley.
Oxfordshire County Council
Household waste recycling centres are now open for essential use. This means waste that cannot be stored at home, or would cause harm to health if stored. There are new rules to ensure social distancing and the safety of residents and site staff. This includes reducing opening hours to 8 am to 4 pm to allow for cleaning, limiting the number and size of vehicles coming in, and accepting contactless payments only. For more, see the Oxfordshire County Council website.
- June Collier (Chair)
- Andrew Lines (Vice Chair)
- Robin Gibbons
- Les Summers
- Liz Marshall
- Paul Joslin
Business and meetings in ‘lockdown’
As residents will be aware, meetings of the parish council and the usual conduct of business are impossible in the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If there are matters that you wish to bring to the attention of the council, please contact the parish clerk by email. The clerk will pass on your concern to councillors as a whole, or to an individual dealing with the issue.
There was no meeting in April but a successful virtual meeting, via Zoom, was held on 11 May. In addition to the full council, several residents were ‘in attendance’. It is intended that the next meeting will take place on 8 June; it is likely also to be a virtual meeting, and details will be announced via Tackley Notices when known.
Draft minutes of parish council meetings normally appear on the village website two weeks after the date of the meeting. See there, also, some personal details of your councillors.
Copies of this report are also circulated via Tackley Notices.
The parish council election programmed for 7 May was cancelled, and as a result the majority of councillors will remain in office with the exception of Katy Layton-Jones. Katy has tendered her resignation and your council wishes to record its great appreciation of her work, in particular her dedicated involvement with planning matters.
Paul Joslin stood down as vice chair and Andrew Lines has been elected as his successor. Paul will remain a member of the council.
The temporary railway bridge at the station has now been opened and the foot crossing closed to everyone including horse riders. There have been worrying reports of individuals avoiding the bridge and crossing the railway at the platform ends. This is highly dangerous, is illegal and can to lead to a £1,000 fine. It also seriously affects other travellers whose trains have to be halted whenever there is a report of trespass, causing them unnecessary delay. Think also of the train driver faced with the results, on his driving cab windscreen of his train striking a trespasser. Do not cross the railway except by the footbridge.
It is planned to hold the annual footpath walks from 6 to 19 July. We hope this may be achieved within the present social distancing requirements but if this is not possible then the paths will be walked by your councillors and some other walk leaders. Full details will be published when available.
This has been the cause of some consternation during April and early May, but it has always been our intention to keep the village tidy and with the exception of the road verges this will continue to be the norm. The verges will be left un-mown until the wild flowers have seeded. This year in particular there have been some very pretty flowers and grasses growing in the verges.
Mrs Jan Read, formerly clerk to the parish council, has kindly agreed to be our allotment representative and liaise between the council and allotment holders. If you have concerns about allotment matters please talk with her.
There has been a renewed problem of dog waste left on paths and roadways within the village. This is disgusting, is not necessary and reflects unreasonably on dog owners as a whole. All dogs have ‘accidents’; clear up the mess that yours makes—always.
There are still properties with foliage growing over pavements. This is inconsiderate, making the paths difficult to use especially for those with mobility or sight problems. The parish council has issued any number of reminders about this problem. We are within our rights to instruct a contractor to cut back such foliage, and to make a charge for this.
Mutterings from your parish council chair
We are fortunate to be living in Tackley at this time, with a certain amount of freedom we certainly would not have in a town or city.
Thank you to all who got into the spirit of the scarecrows at Easter and the VE Day celebrations. I’m assured there are more celebrations to come when we are allowed out to play again, including a village photo, which we seem to have got into the habit of doing every decade. It may be in 2021 but what’s a year in a lifetime?
It’s been heartening to see so many people out walking and riding their bikes. Our footpaths and lanes have never been so well used. So many families, couples and individuals who before probably didn’t have the time to explore our beautiful parish.
And the opportunity to meet our new residents, too. There is something to be said for having a field with a public path; I meet so many people, though be it from a distance. I won’t remember all your names – I think it’s an age thing – but will know you all as ‘Tackleyites’ now. I do so hope this will continue once we are free of the restrictions, and ‘normal’ life will be just that little bit different.
We have the new ‘temporary’ railway bridge—a monstrous scaffolding structure, but functional and serves the purpose. We are all safe now until the underpass is constructed, which should be infinitely preferable to the permanent ‘watch tower’ that was once suggested.
We clap every Thursday for the fantastic key workers and NHS, not forgetting those special carers coming to care for our elderly residents.
The shop has been a lifeline. Thank you to Debbie, Steph and Sue, plus of course the ‘shop boy’ Geoff, who you will see Sunday mornings, enabling the ladies to have a well-earned day off. And not forgetting those who deliver and collect the shop supplies.
Thank you to the ‘Covid Volunteers’ who deliver every need from medical prescriptions to food and even the odd bottle of wine, but above all give reassurance with a smile to anyone of any age who needs something or someone.
Thank you to Pete the postie and his colleagues, and to the bin men who turn up every week without fail. To Lauren, our headteacher along with her team who open the school daily to care for those children whose parents are in essential jobs. Gill who keeps us supple with her Pilates sessions; Mariella for her freshly-baked food; and Mary, who keeps us up to date with village information.
I’m sure there are more doing deeds behind the scenes that we are not aware of but are important to our wellbeing and sanity; thank you all.
The parish council has moved into the twenty-first century, mainly because of the current situation, with its first virtual meeting in May. An interesting but successful experience. The next meeting will be on Monday, 8 June at 7 pm. Our clerk will publish the login details nearer the time.
We didn’t have the promised elections, and those of us who can are staying put until 6 May, 2021. Our new clerk Cherie is settling into her role and getting to know us and Tackley. We will continue much the same as usual with one exception: we have a vacancy for a new councillor. Katy, who has worked so hard for us over the last few years, has decided to stand down. We must thank her for the contributions she has made to day-to-day council business, but especially for her work dealing with the challenges of the new developments and planning. We wish her all the best in the future. She isn’t moving away, and I’m sure her successor will be knocking on her door for advice from time to time!
So we are looking for a new councillor to take her place. What does being a parish councillor entail?
Firstly, a desire to represent your village in the lower tier of government but in some ways the most important. An interest in the smooth running of ‘your’ village and steering it into the next decade. The way it spends your Council Tax. How it cares for your open spaces, recreational facilities, footpaths etc. Planning the development of the village for future generations whilst respecting its history. Keeping tabs on the airport activities, the bus service, and railway developments and timetables. The state of the roads and services; the local developers’ activities; liaising with our district and county councils; supporting the school; and getting to know and involved in village activities, clubs, fundraising etc.
You will need an interest in people and be able to talk to them in the street. People will come to you with problems, often unconnected with actual parish council business but you can usually help, advise, or point them in the right direction.
There will be full training, and your commitments are a full meeting once a month for about an hour, possibly longer if there is anything ‘interesting’ on the agenda! Followed two weeks later by a 30-minute surgery.
If you are interested in pursuing this interesting and fulfilling role in your community, send your details to our clerk or call me or another councillor for an informal chat first. I look forward to hearing from you.
Doing it for Jesus
Revd Marcus Green
Last year at this time I spent three weeks in Atlanta, visiting my sister. On that trip I bought two prints which now sit on my kitchen wall, two slightly comical animals looking out – with blue skies beyond them – as if from windows onto my breakfast table. A sheep in one, a goat in the other.
Jesus tells a tale about these in chapter 25 of St Matthew’s Gospel. He writes of sheep and goats being separated, being placed on God’s right and left. And to those on the right, the sheep, he says: I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was ill and you looked after me; I was in prison and you visited me. And he gets the response: when did we do this for you? For me – he says – why, when you did it for the very least, you did it for me.
One of the wonders of these terrible days is that I see a lot of sheep around, and I mean that in the best possible Matthew 25 sense! I see a lot of people helping others. Doing good. Talking to the lonely. Shopping for those who can’t do it for themselves. Taking time and not rushing past.
When we do it for each other, we do it for Jesus. And none of us are perfect, and all of us have off days, and all of us need others to help us sometimes. For sure. But these are days that are transformed by the simple human kindness that Jesus picks on and says is never just ‘simple human kindness’. It is beautiful and life-giving and transformative and godly. Thank you for playing your part in bringing light in these dark days. It’s how we will all get through okay.
As I write in mid-May, I’m aware things can change very quickly, so this is where we stand right now.
The fete is off. Thank you so much to all who have worked hard, but I fully agree that there is no way things can continue without knowing if we can safely hold the fete or not. So with great regret, this year’s fete will not happen. The fete is a terrific community event and a really important fundraiser—but this year, safety must come first. Here’s to a healthy 2021!
Our church building remains closed. The guidelines have changed a bit and now allow me to go in, but remain clear that public access is not permitted. I am staying out of all three buildings most of the time because I do not feel I should be going in when no one else can.
Church services remain online, and our short ‘Worship at Home’ video services are available on the homepage of sntchurch.com every week. These will continue, and I am delighted to note that so many people are watching them. The videos have included lots of church members recently, as well as singers and musicians recorded in isolation and performing congregationally by the wonders of technology! Current guidelines say we may be able to start public worship services in early July, and we will advertise here, online, via the Rector’s Ramblings emails and on posters if and when this happens. There is a feeling that many would like us to gather in the open air initially, and we are taking guidance on this.
The church building is closed, but God is with us wherever we are. His love never ends, and if we are low, he is the one who promises to raise us up. He is our refuge, and our hands are his hands to care for and protect each other. He is our strength and our song, and even when our bells and hymns are silent, our community spirit sings his praise, and his spirit will help us find that music this day and every day as long as we need breath to sing.
Rector’s Ramblings emails carry more news. To be included in this regular update, contact me on [email address removed from archive copy]. Or check our website.