Our 2020 in Henley

At the start of 2020, we were all looking forward to another ‘normal’ year of life in our wonderful town and all that it offers. The curve-ball of Covid-19 threw that all out of the window but the strength of our community shone through and looking back over the year, there have been some great positives that we hope will continue this year and beyond.


Resident Steph Maxwell won the top prize on BBC’s new First and Last show. She spent her winnings on a trip to New York.

Another man was found in the river by rowers near Fawley Court.  He was the third person to have sadly died on the Henley reach of the river in the last six months.

Sue Ryder Nettlebed Hospice announced it would close.

There were two near serious accidents in January.  A cyclist narrowly avoided being hit by a large piece of glass which dropped out of a window and smashed on to the pavement from the flat above Patisserie Franco Belge. YMCA resident Kaleigh was hit by a car on zebra crossing on the Reading Road.  This prompted Oxfordshire County Council to finally repaint it the following week.

Henley Army Cadet Jasmine Barrow put her into first aid skills into action, when a car overturned in front of her. Jasmine was awarded with a National Praiseworthy First Aid Certificate.


Zzoomm started the installation of their full fibre broadband network throughout the town. Oxfordshire County Council finally started the refurbishment of the promenade on Riverside by fitting new bollards over 2 years after the terrible accident when Philipp’s wheelchair got stuck in the deep ruts and fell in the river.  The Town Council declares a Climate Emergency and formulates a programme of initiatives and a new 20mph limit was introduced on roads around the town centre and outside schools.

A public meeting to discuss the new bridge lights proposal was well attended at the Town Hall and afterwards a new planning application was submitted and the Town Council recommended approval.

Two men in Greys Hill/Church Street near Trinity church and another young man on St Andrews Road were attacked by four masked youths.  Two arrests were made afterwards.

Herald Community Champion Awards were won by Keith Whiting (Community Champion), Lin from Sainsbury’s (Customer Service Champion), Hilary Arthur (Charity Champion), Brian Dix (Heart of Gold Neighbour), Luke Harding (Top Teacher) and Olivia Belcher (Young Sporting Superstar).  Three special awards were presented to Rachael Dobson, Petra Hughes and Charlie Turner for giving life-saving treatment to Jose Goumal who collapsed in Bell Street in April 2019.


An incredible £42,000 was raised at a fundraising black-tie ball at the Town Hall for Ben Clarke, a six year old boy who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to pay for work at his home to make it fully accessible.

Town Council accepted a donation of Slovenian hay rack to strengthen the twinning relationship with Bled.

Former Henley Detective George Hyde stars in second series of Sky One’s The Heist.

Henley Sea Cadets won a national football competition and hundreds of children enjoyed an ocean inspired Henley Youth Festival.

A dog sadly died after suspected paracetamol poisoning on Gillotts Field.

On 6 March, The first death from Coronavirus was confirmed at the Royal Berks and two confirmed cases in Oxfordshire were announced.

With the announcement of the UK going into lockdown on 16 March, a group of residents swiftly set up the Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group who recruited and coordinated a network of volunteers covering the whole of Henley who each in turn formed a WhatsApp group.  NOMAD’s Henley Food Bank saw a huge surge in demand.

Surgeries converted from face-to-face appointments to telephone ones.  Big queues formed at Waitrose and Tesco and car park charges were suspended. Schools closed but they worked together to ensure that key workers’ and vulnerable children could attend.

Road communities started to come together to enjoy bingo, food swaps and music.  Berkshire Road enjoyed music from different residents and saxophonist Art Themen lifted the spirits in Wharfe Lane in the evenings.  Gary Boys launched his music request show raising money for the NHS.

Henley Mayor joined hundreds of people for the start of the NHS applause every Thursday at 8pm.  Rainbows appeared on houses, pavements, fences all around Henley.

Other residents enjoyed making fun videos.  The Campbell Family created the hilarious Campo Corona Diaries which saw the family enjoying Joe Wicks’ daily fitness workout, homeschooling and homeworking around a family.  Graham Bell was missing the ski season so he made a ski run inside his house on an adapted set of cut-off skis down from the loft, two sets of stairs before arriving in the kitchen!

Many events had started to be cancelled but the biggest blows to Henley came in late March when Henley Festival and Regatta announced their cancellations.  The summer in Henley was certainly very different this year.


Greys Road zebra crossing was finally installed after many years of campaigning by Councillors and schools. Peppard Lane bridleway reopened after being resurfaced.

With many people being furloughed from their jobs, people looked at other things to do and businesses started to look at diversifying or being creative.  Local blazer company, Collier and Robinson were one of these.  They changed production to make urgently needed hospital scrubs.  Many residents made face masks too.

The Herald partnered with jeweller David Rodger Sharp to run a competition to have your  rainbow designed turned into a piece of jewellery. It was won by Megan Bowsher with her clever paintbrush design.

A Gainsborough house was burgled with the victims being threatened with a weapon.

Wokingham Council refused planning permission for the bridge lights for the second time.

Throughout April, the NHS applause continued.  Trombonist Carol Jarvis and vocalist Ceri Ann Gregory who previously lived unknowingly just doors away from each other performed an uplifting version of We’ll Meet Again.  They met through the Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group.

With many people working from home, businesses turned to Zoom for their meetings.  Henley Town Council held their first online Full Town Council this month, one of the first in the county.


Young and old joined together outside for socially distanced street parties to mark 75th anniversary of VE Day celebrations.  Legendary Royal British Legion fundraiser, Brian Hughes died.

Town Council launched online store Henley Basket to support local shops and Councillor Ken Arlett continued as Mayor for second consecutive term. The proposed public toilets at skatepark were put on hold after the public consultation only had 85 people complete the survey.

Chelsea Fringe moved online with painting, pilates, book club, poetry events and a virtual tour of the Fairmile vineyard.

Clive Hemsley withdrew from bridge light project after Wokingham DC refused planning. Red crosses appeared on trees in the Parkside woodland as part of planning application for 8 apartments.

As well as rainbows, other residents looked to lift the spirits by doing creative things.  Alfie and Caroline created Spoonville-on-Thames, a village of spoon people on their front garden in Elizabeth Road.  Big Ted in Berkshire Road also brought smiles to children’s faces as he enjoyed painting, cleaning windows, gardening, sunbathing and much more.

Kirsten Hesketh published her debut novel  Another Us based in fictional Henley (Hambley).  Community and wellbeing champion, Val Stoner died.  Val started the Be Well Centre at the Kings Arms Barn, helped create the wellbeing glade and the Wishing Tree on Marsh Meadows.

Henley Lockdown Festival organised by JJ from Eight Ray music saw 48 hours of music, fitness classes, cookery workshops, interviews, magic and hosted by Graham Bell raised £22,000 for Riverside Counselling.


Henley WW2 veteran Dick Charlton celebrated his 100th birthday, receiving over 200 cards after an appeal on the Herald.

Red Lion hotel owners applied for change of use to residential institution (Class C2) which was later withdrawn.  It was then put up for sale for £7.5m.

Proposal put forward by Councillor Sarah Miller to trial the closure of Market Place on market day.  Most retailers were against this. Henley Town Council Neighbourhood Plan Committee started the review of potential new housing sites.

Literary Festival announced its plan to go online which would go on to draw bigger names who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have travelled to Henley.

Man carrying knife in town centre was thankfully quickly arrested.

The Herald joined together with Henley Royal Regatta to invite residents to have an Oarsome Street Party on what would have been Regatta Saturday.  St Marks and Gravel Hill in particular really went to town creating a Stewards Enclosure, Leander, boat tents and Temple Island.

Shops enjoyed good trade on first day of opening after lockdown ends on 15 June.


Henley Festival put on Car Park Party on Lion Meadow a 3-day event of comedy, theatre and karaoke.

SODC agreed new powers on planning process. Head of Planning now has the final say on planning applications that have been Called-In by the town’s District Councillors. The third planning application submitted for 8 apartments at Parkside was turned down again.

The Herald launched a petition to ban HGVs cutting through Henley to support the proposal for Oxfordshire County Council to introduce a 7.5T weight limit.

Riverside pavement was resurfaced after the bollards were installed in February. The public slipway on Riverside was levelled for car parking without permission. Travelling community illegally parked in River & Rowing Museum car park.

A new air pollution monitor was installed in Greys Road on a 12 month trial which would provide live data.

The Henley Society completed their historic house signs project thanks to the Herald and their sponsor Southern Plant who offered free use of a cherry-picker to remove and reinstall the sign on   Caxton Terrace in Station Road.

Two incredible challenges were completed in June.  Henley Mermaids (Laura Reineke, Fiona Print, Joan Fennelly, Susan Barry and Jo Robb) completed the channel swim challenge on 22 July in 17 hours 43 minutes.  Nine-year old Samuel Marriott who has Cerebral Palsy completed a 9km marathon raising money for SpecialEffect who make adapted games consoles.  Afterwards he was presented with an adapted Nintendo Switch.

Pubs and restaurants reopened on 4 July with social distancing rules in place.


Jeremy Irons opened Autism at Kingwood‘s gardening project at Watermans allotments.

Bosley Patch market garden featured on a special Mary Berry Countryfile programme with Tamsin telling Mary about the challenges and opportunities she’d faced this year.

A Camfaud concrete pump HGV lorry broke down on the corner of Bell Street and New Street and brought gridlock to the town. Afterwards Herald sets up BBC South news to come and film HGV campaigners.

St Mark’s residents join together to renovate old road sign.   Henley Rugby Club unveiled new Invesco community tiger turf.

Little four-year old Bea Fox lost control of her bike on the towpath and ended up in the river.  She was saved by Oli Henderson and Dr James Hartley who jumped off a nearby boat to save her.

Ear, Nose and Throat outpatient services moved into the top floor of Townlands Memorial Hospital after it had been empty since it was opened in 2016.

World’s best-selling crime writer John Grisham delighted the Literary Festival audience with how he started writing and when he got the call about his book The Firm being made into a film.  The talk was nearly thwarted though after a fire alarm went off in his apartment about 10 minutes into the interview.


Pub in the Park came to Henley with a weekend drive-in party which saw Kaiser Chiefs, Soul II Soul, Squeeze, Gabrielle, and Scouting for Girls perform.

A cyclist was seriously hurt in a road traffic collision on Reading Road, near to the junction of Mill Lane.

Developers and owners of 13 sites presented their proposals for the Neighbourhood Plan Review. District Council approved conversion of Anderson House in Newtown Road to a block of flats despite Town Council objection.

Environmental Agency ruled that the infringement of slipway on Riverside is not a flood risk.  Town Council sought legal advice and awaits a decision on enforcement from SODC.

Town Council introduced a new bench policy at Fairmile cemetery. Town Clerk had to apologise afterwards about the wording on the notice and handling of new policy.

Bell Bookshop welcomed Richard Osman to sign copies of his new novel the The Thursday Murder Club.

Gainsborough residents received awards for making a difference from Soha Housing for the recognition for their work in the community.


International hotelier Grace Leo and Singapore-based shipping entrepreneur and hotel investor Tim Hartnoll bought The Red Lion Hotel.

Sir Clive Woodward visited Henley Rugby Club for a Daily Mail article on how the pandemic is affecting junior rugby clubs.

The Noble family offered gift of land for social housing. Parkside planning application for apartments again refused by SODC. Three more housing sites put forward for Neighbourhood Plan Review.

Henley Mermaids channel swim recognised with town plaque at Red Lion Lawn proposed by the Herald and paid for by the Henley Mayor.

Post Office was broken into and arrests were made.

Kenton launched Kenton for Keeps Appeal to raise £35,000 with the help of Pam Ayres, Mary Berry and Simon Williams.

Thames Farm development came to a standstill due to a problem with surface water drainage. Developer Taylor Wimpey originally planned to drain the surface water through soakaways but on investigation they discovered the chalk bedrock was prone to developing sink holes and therefore wasn’t feasible.  They submitted a planning application to SODC to install a new pipe system which would run across Reading Road, down to Mill Road and into the Lashbrook.

Resident, Brian Green’s Tech firm Ribbon Communications gave funds and volunteers to plant 500 trees around 40 Acre Wood and surrounding the Henley College playing fields, off Tilebarn Close.

The riverside Meadows were awarded their seventh consecutive Green Flag.

New Henley Hopper town bus service started, operated by TK Travel to run on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Majestic Wines was the first store to open in new Gardiner Place development and the walkway between the development and Market Place is reopened after 2 years.

Herald organised Halloween Haunted House Trail with 25 houses taking part. Monica Barczak Levy’s house on Gainsborough Crescent won the competition with a prize from Lawlors The Bakers.


DJ Gary Boys launched Christmas appeal for NOMAD to buy toys, food and raise money for a new vehicle for the charity.

A small Remembrance service took place with wreaths being laid on the Town Hall steps.  Richard Pinches from Meadows Farm Studios live streamed it for residents to watch at home. New book on Henley WWII servicemen who lost their lives was published by Mike and Lesley Willougby from the Henley Lest We Forget project.

Travellers parked up on Henley Leisure Car Park and left a mess.

Anna Brandis who won the Mayor’s Christmas card competition switched on Christmas lights in small ceremony after Christmas festival was cancelled.

New creative media facilities were unveiled at The Henley College supported by £500,000-worth of government investment, secured by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Neil Ainsworth said fond farewell after 15 years at The Argyll pub.

Community legend Michael Pooley, founding member of Rotary Club of Henley Bridge, former chairman of the Regatta for Disabled, and Chair of the Henley Visually Disabled Group died.

Tim Peake shared his space stories for the Literary Festival and disclosed his biggest fear was not going into space after all the preparation.

Gravel Hill paved area gets bloomin’ good makeover with new grass area and planting scheme.

Former Mezo restaurant owner in Market Place was fined £22,000 for breaking a number of food hygiene and health and safety laws.


December brought different Christmas initiatives this year.  The Herald partnered with Councillor Paula Isaac to invite school children to make Christmas cards for Care Home residents.

Children receive over a £1,000 worth of toys from DJ Gary Boys appeal.  The Herald worked with NOMAD and Bagatelle for families to choose toys from a special list.

35 houses signed up for the Herald and Chiltern Centre Festive Trail. Simon and Lydia Trendall’s amazing house in Noble Road won the competition to win a Henley Larder hamper.

Christmas parties for the older residents were all cancelled so Councillors David Eggleton and Paula Isaac worked with Wilkins and Soha Housing to provide Christmas hampers to surprise those who would normally attend. Councillor Sarah Miller writes special Christmas song for Henley.

Refurbishment of the Red Lion hotel started with the signs being taken down. Premier Inn put forward a proposal for a station car park hotel.

Freemans Meadows is protected for future generations after residents worked with Henley Town Council to obtain Village Green status for this green space.

SODC backed weight restriction order to keep out HGVS cutting through Henley.

Man arrested after two school girls were approached on their way to school.

Notable historic builder and former mayor, Charles Clements headstone restored after local resident, Dr Michael Redley found it broken in the summer after researching him.  Henley Mayor was saddened to hear about this when he listened to Dr Michael’s talk for the Henley Archaeological and Historical group and agreed to pay for the restoration.

With Covid-19 dominating most of the 2020 news, it was a historic day in Henley on 16 December when the first patients received the first batch of the Covid-19 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.