Every year we ask Witney’s children to get creative and design an official Christmas Card for the Mayor and this year is no different.
The Council is calling on all the children of primary school age living in Witney to help out. Your mission is to create a fabulous Christmas themed design. Below you can see some of the previous entries.
Entries can be submitted via email or post and we have provided a template for you to use. Please return your entries to:
firstname.lastname@example.org or Witney Town Council, Town Hall, Witney OX28 6AG
Once again Witney Town Council finds itself in the unenviable position of having to carry out the felling of a veteran tree that has become dangerous. The Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) in St Mary’s Churchyard has dropped several large limbs over the last 2 years, damaging and further endangering Grade II listed tombs, memorials, and other structures.
The Town Council, which is responsible for maintaining the churchyard, has been monitoring the tree’s health, but despite remedial works undertaken by the council’s retained tree works contractor, the decline in the health of the tree is irreversible. The huge tree is likely to be around 200 years old.
Following the most recent failures, Witney Town Council commissioned a firm of local Arboricultural Consultants, experts in managing and preserving the landscape and environment, to provide an assessment of the risks and available management options.
Unfortunately, the 18m tall tree has lost much of its vitality, the crown is thinning (over a quarter has been lost), and it presents a high risk of further shedding of fractured boughs, predominantly from the canopy. Following bat and other surveys that showed the tree was not being used as a habitat, it has been recommended to remove the tree completely.
Given the age and visual impact of the tree it is likely to leave quite a gap in the churchyard and there will be a lot of wood to remove as a result of the felling. There are hopes to repurpose as much as possible with St Mary’s Church hoping to salvage some of the wood to use for internal and external furniture. Meanwhile, the Town Council’s Estates team is investigating having a memorial bench created somewhere close by along with the possibility of work by professional woodcarvers installed on The Leys.
Councillor Owen Collins Chair of the Stronger Communities Committee remarked,
“The Cedar of Lebanon has been a presence on the Witney skyline for decades, so it’s an enormous shame that it is now both irreversibly unhealthy and thus unsafe. However, we’re committed to replacing the cedar, and making good use of the wood, so that after 200 years in Witney it can live on for many more years yet!”
Although not a true native of the UK, having been introduced in the late 1700s, the Cedar of Lebanon has become commonplace on large estates, and especially in Churchyards where their familiar evergreen branches have strong biblical connections.
Once the tree is removed the Conservation Officer has requested that a replacement Cedar of Lebanon is planted as close as possible to the original site. It should be good for another 200 years!
In a year where we cannot do things in the way we would choose, we are having to adapt and find new ways to do things. There will be wreaths on our memorial as there is every year, but no parade or service. People are being asked to observe the 2 minutes silence on their doorsteps or front gardens as a demonstration of gratitude and respect in their communities.
Among the large events we are hearing have been cancelled, we now know that the Christmas Light Switch-on organised by the Rotary Club of Witney and grant funded by Witney Town Council is not going to take place. This is down to the ongoing pandemic and potential spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The Switch-on, due to take place on Friday 27th November attracts thousands of people to the Market Square making it impossible to maintain safe social distancing and comply with coronavirus control measures in crowds of that volume.
The popular Children’s Advent Fayre run by Witney Town Council will not take place on Sunday 29th November either, as the nature of the activities makes sanitisation between users and sessions impractical.
The Town Council shares a deep sense of disappointment along with everyone that normally attends these important community events. Public safety and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic precludes traditional events that draw large crowds being held, for the best of reasons, but it is still hard to come to terms with the postponement and cancellation of so many.
In a year that is lacking so much cheer, Christmas has very definitely not been cancelled though. The Christmas lights will still appear in the Market Square and these will be turned on by the contractors once installed. This year, there will be an extra Christmas tree outside the Corn Exchange too. Councillor Luci Ashbourne has suggested that families and businesses across the town hold their own mini switch-on of Christmas lights at 6pm on the town’s traditional Switch-on night, so that our town is still illuminated. Councillors have also agreed to reinstate the Best Decorated House competition, so will be looking for the homes with the biggest impact in their wards from which to select a winner.
Councillor Ashbourne said,
“Although we can’t all be together in person, we’re determined that this Christmas, Witney’s community spirit will still shine through – literally!
We’d love as many people and businesses as possible to have their own switch-on on November the 27th, lighting lanterns, trees or fairy lights in their doorways, gardens or windows, to prove that even though we must stay apart, we can all still play a part.”
Councillor Owen Collins, Chair of the Stronger Communities committee added,
“It’s with enormous regret we’ve had to scale back the traditional celebrations this year, but public safety is paramount and sadly we had little alternative.
Despite the lack of events, I’m certain the lights themselves will look as beautiful and festive as ever, and I hope that the people of Witney will join us in simultaneously turning on their own lights – large or small – on the 27th of November and helping to provide some much-needed light in these dark times!”
Traditionally, in early August, the Town Council works with the Witney Branch of the Royal British Legion to finalise plans for Remembrance Day. In this extraordinary year, taking a steer from the Witney Branch, and in line with ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, Remembrance Sunday is looking very different for our town.
Recently, our local Royal British Legion Branch have written to inform us that County and Branch officials have been asked to pass on to members that they are not to parade and will not lay wreaths as they normally do for Remembrance Day this year. This has been a very difficult decision for them to take and they are hugely disappointed.
Even the poppy appeal has been cut back drastically by the charity, which fears putting some of its most vulnerable volunteers and veterans at risk. Street collections will not be going ahead in Witney this autumn, with the organisation looking to rely on contactless donations instead this year. If you would like to support the Royal British Legion in their fundraising efforts during this difficult time, there are lots of ways you can do so on their website including some quite unusual things. You could, for example, undertake a sponsored poppy run!
The cancellation of the parade, in particular, will be felt especially hard. Our Remembrance Day event is always extremely well supported by residents, and everyone who has ever attended can attest to the enthusiastic contributions of the various youth organisations, along with the church and Witney’s Town Band. Unfortunately, public gatherings of large numbers of people are currently restricted by Covid-19 regulations, and the safety of all involved is paramount.
Despite this, it is both proper and important to recognise the great sacrifices made for us by previous generations. Between them Witney Town Council and the Royal British Legion will ensure that the memorial is dressed with the wreaths that are normally placed there by wreath laying organisations in time for Armistice Day. However, there will be no road closure, no parade, and no service at the memorial, so acts of remembrance will be of a more personal nature. One suggestion has been that people observe a 2 minute silence on their doorsteps at 11am, much in the way that people clapped for the NHS.
The Town Council is also planning to work with members of organisations that normally take part to bring together a meaningful and respectful online presentation that can be enjoyed safely by all.
Witney Town Mayor, Cllr Joy Aitman remarked,
“As a Town we will always remember and honour our veterans and those who lost their lives for us. This year, as with many events, we must do so in our own personal way. Parades and services are important but the safety of our residents remains a priority. “
While you are out and about enjoying getting around Witney without a car, if you spot any problems connected with pavements, roads, footpaths and cycle tracks report the problem on the Fix My Street app.
This clever website will tell you the number of every bus route that departs from any bus stop in Witney! Clicking on the bus route numbers takes you to the next screen where it tells you when the next buses are due and where they are heading. (no guarantees that real time bus details are accurate!)
The stops are all listed alphabetically to make life easier so from Abbey Road to Wood Green School and all points in between, it is all an absolute doddle!
You can look up bus stops and times for other places too, not just Witney.
If you have not discovered this yet it’s a fantastic journey planner for a bike journey. You pop in your start and finish point and it will give you routes you can take that are either the fastest, the quietest or a balance of the two.
It will add all these extra snippets of data too:
Journey time: 41 minutes
Distance: 4¾ miles
Calories: 107 kcal [?]
CO2 avoided: 1.41 kg [?]
Quietness: Very hostile
Route has very busy sections
Traffic lights: 1
also available as an app
You will all be familiar with existing cycle racks around town, but we do have some new ones and some of the older ones have been replaced. You will also find some of the faded cycle lane markings have been repainted to make them clearer.
Locations of new racks:
• Bridge at the Mill St end
• Lower High St Shops, by bus stop to Oxford
• Corner of Welch Way by the flower bed
• Deer Park shops
• Fettiplace Rd shops, round the side
• Windrush Place, by the bus stop into Witney
• Church Green (near the Post Box)
• Mill Walk (around the corner from where Hacketts was)
• The Leys (along the avenue of trees nearer the church end)
• Market Square (Replacement rack to mend the broken one adjacent to where Bills was)
Cllr Ruth Smith said
“There has been demand for bike racks at these locations for some time and a few had run into snags and stalled in the past. This COVID-recovery active travel funding is a very welcome opportunity to make shopping and leisure easier for individuals and families, with cycle parking where it was noticeably lacking.“
If you are thinking of getting around on foot on Tuesday, we have put together a list of local walks, some of which you might know and others that may be new to you:
Lake and Country Park – access through Station Lane Avenue 2 or off Langel common behind the Leisure Centre and through the hay meadow.
Visit the Tiny Forest at Eton Close on Cogges – it’s still very little but growing well and a great place to spot some butterflies and creepy crawlies
Cogges or Madley into the town centre across Langel Common
West End to Marriotts across the field and Windrush and up Puck Lane
Alongside the Windrush from the back of the Mill past the Bathing Place and up to Dry Lane in Crawley
Deer Park Wood
Burwell to The Leys across the traffic lights on Ducklington Lane and along the lane beside Lidl.
This one sounds a bit odd, but consider a walk through our beautiful Victorian Cemetery. Here is a guide to help you discover some of the most interesting historical and unusual features there and another to help identify some of the wildlife.
Witney Town Council is once again supporting a Car Free day on September 22nd. We are encouraging people to leave their car at home (if possible) and discover some of the benefits of being car free.
Whether you’re looking to save money, reduce your energy use, or simply enjoy the health and social benefits of being car free, you are invited to participate in Car Free Day.
With the COVID-19 regulations in mind we would urge you to maintain social distancing while exercising and remember that some people will be using cars so make sure you follow road safety rules where there is traffic.
We will be posting some ideas and information to make leaving the car at home easy and fun!
A soft opening at Friday evening’s Witney Jazz Club night, allowed a small audience to experience the newly installed bar and coffee shop in the Corn Exchange.
Cllr Mel Jones, Chair of the Halls, Cemeteries and Allotments committee said,
“I am thrilled that we are now able to offer a bar in the Corn Exchange. This is a great new advantage for the hall and those wanting to use it. Well done to all that worked so hard to get it up and running.”
Named 1863 after the year the Corn Exchange was built, the bar was installed during the shut down of the public hall for 6 months during the Covid -19 pandemic and was a welcome addition to the facilities when the doors reopened. The bar is currently only available to customers attending events and other hall users but will be open to all as soon as possible.
Cllr Owen Collins, Chair of the Corn Exchange Working Party, who was at the Jazz night added,
“I’m absolutely delighted that Bar 1863 is now up and running – not only does it look beautiful aesthetically, but it will add so much to the Corn Exchange for hirers and visitors alike. The bar made its debut during a typically-terrific evening from Witney Jazz, and I’m pleased to say that like the musicians, it struck exactly the right note, and went down a storm.
The installation of the new bar and coffee shop is just the first step on the journey to a complete revitalisation of the Corn Exchange, turning this iconic building back into a thriving, vibrant arts centre for the whole community, and beyond!”
Witney has welcomed several new cycle racks across the town, installed by Oxfordshire County Council as part of its commitment to upgrading cycling infrastructure across the County, and funded from the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Grant. Working with the Town Council, the locations of the racks were identified to help cyclists access more areas for retail, leisure and work purposes during the Covid-19 pandemic. The investment takes account increased cycling and walking during the pandemic, particularly during lockdown, when motorised vehicle traffic was greatly reduced, and builds on the desire to encourage healthier travel choices.
Cllr Ruth Smith, Chair of the Town Council’s Climate, Biodiversity & Planning Committee said,
“I am delighted to see that the new cycle racks we applied for are beginning to appear across Witney in various spots. Some are near popular shopping areas and others in outlying residential areas near shops and bus stops. The toast rack style installations all hold between 2 and 6 cycles and will make shopping in town and connected journeys by bus, for longer commutes, so much easier. Please use them and enjoy!
Town council staff put hours into scoping out positions for these next racks, and working with OCC to get them finalised. Well done everyone. Thank you.”
Almost 300,000 bicycles are stolen every year in England and Wales alone and relatively few are reunited with their owners, so Witney Town Council recommends that all cycles parked in cycle racks are securely locked to deter thieves.
Temporary Emergency Road Closure at Witney, Church Green / Market Square
Oxfordshire County Council has been informed of a temporary emergency road closure on the Church Green / Market Square whilst pavement licensing to aid social distancing and provide support to businesses affected by COVID 19 restrictions works are carried out for public safety reasons).
A temporary Emergency Notice is being made to implement the temporary closure and will operate from 19 August 2020 up to and including 09 September 2020
A single Temporary Emergency Notice can last for 21 consecutive days maximum.
Access will be maintained for emergency service vehicles and for those frontages within the closure area, subject to the progress of the works and liaison with the works supervisor.
Further information regarding the emergency works may be obtained by contacting Oliver Murray of West Oxfordshire District Council on 01993 861000
Witney Feast will not take place this year. The difficult decision to cancel was taken by Witney Town Council after much deliberation at an Extraordinary Full Council meeting last night.
Working closely with the organisers, Bob Wilson Funfairs Ltd, in consultation with the Showmen’s Guild; and taking advice from other regulatory bodies, concerns remain about the impact the fair could have on the town, given the anticipated size of the crowd and the risk that poses to public health.
The disappointing news follows in the wake of the recent cancellation of St Giles fair in Oxford by the London & Home Counties Section of the Showmen’s Guild and Oxford City Council.
It is frustrating that in such an unsettling and unpredictable time, a well-loved and historic local fair such as The Feast is to be added to the list of abandoned and postponed events this year, but protecting large numbers of people in open spaces is challenging and complex, even when there is no pandemic to take into account.
Witney Town Council would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts and contributions to trying to find a way to allow the Feast to go ahead and looks forward to working together next year and a successful outcome for 2021.
Cllr Luci Ashbourne, Leader of the Council remarked,
“In these difficult and unprecedented times we are forced to make difficult and unprecedented decisions. As upsetting as it is to have to postpone this year’s Feast, the council were not confident that the risks to the people of Witney during this pandemic could be mitigated, and the safety of the public is paramount. We look forward to the return of our cherished fair when this dreadful situation has passed, which will surely be even more of a celebratory occasion than usual.”
Traditionally, the Town Council works with the Witney Branch of the Royal British Legion, local cadet forces and other organisations to plan for anniversary events such as VE, VJ and Remembrance Day. In this extraordinary year we are having to plan for very different acts of commemoration that take account of government guidance regarding the current COVID -19 situation.
Earlier this year, our local Royal British Legion Branch wrote to inform the Town Council that they would not lay wreaths, as they normally do, for events such as VJ day. This has been a very difficult decision for them to take and they are hugely disappointed.
Given the situation and the vulnerability of some of their veteran members, their decision is sensible and the Council completely understands and respect the limitations they have this year.
We are also mindful of the practicalities and difficulty of managing numbers and protecting attendees; members of the public, invited guests, volunteers and our veterans while gatherings of more than 30 people are not permitted by current regulations and guidance covering mass gatherings.
VE day, which was marked during lockdown, was a remote event with people encouraged to celebrate and commemorate at home.
While it is still not currently possible to invite people to an organised event that might potentially draw a crowd, the importance of these commemorations, albeit on a more personal level is recognised and acknowledged. For this reason the three public war memorials in Witney are accessible every day of the year with those on the Leys and Church Green, fully accessible to those with disabilities.
This enables and encourages people to visit a memorial at any time for quiet contemplation and to perform their own personal and private acts of Remembrance, as was the case on VJ Day on Saturday.
A simple low-key wreath laying was undertaken by the Mayor of Witney accompanied by the Town Clerk. Cllr Joy Aitman placed a wreath on behalf of the town. Other tributes had been placed by earlier visitors to the memorial and members of the public continued to attend throughout the day. Among these was veteran, Platoon Commander Russell Crawford (DLI, formerly OBLI) who had come to mark his respects at the memorial.
If you are not yet familiar with this new system it is worth following the link below to the main menu page and exploring all the links. You can find our minutes agendas and reports here too, along with detials of all our councillors and committees.