The start of 2021 saw Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announce a national lockdown on 4 January with schools closing. A Ford Ranger pickup drove into the river by Hobbs on Station Road. The driver was unhurt but was later charged with driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The Herald launched a laptop and tablet appeal for families struggling with homeschooling. Generous donations of new laptops and tablets were made by Courtiers, Henley Manor Care Home and Bremont along with many residents offering their old ones. Lawlor’s Bakery announced their closure after 65 years trading in the town due to the impact of the pandemic. It was later bought and saved by David Rodger-Sharp who also then opened a bakery and sushi shop on Duke Street. Snow lifted everyone’s spirit on 24 January with lots of families enjoying sledging. Jo Bausor was announced as the new Chief Executive of the Henley Festival, taking over from Nick Mattingly. Councillor David Eggleton resigned from the HRG party over the Council’s bin proposal to spend £19K on new bins rather than refurbish the old ones.
John Grout received four awards from Rotary International for “going the extra mile” in community service. Swiss Farm applied to build 24 luxury holiday homes which later were withdrawn. Adam Toop, a vintage boat collector bought part of Hobbs boatyard on the Wargrave Road to make a future home for the Rose Toop Collection of unique and highly regarded vintage boats and artefacts. Simon Spearing was appointed the new Kenton theatre manager. Royal Regatta announced postponement of the Regatta to August and Henley Festival followed with an announcement to move to September. The winners of the Herald’s Community Champion awards were surprised on their doorsteps as the awards party had to be cancelled. The winners were Gary Boys, David Eggleton, Tom Fern, Charlotte Sutton, Amelia Legg and Kelly Chapman. The Henley Mermaids who completed the English Channel swim in relay in 2020 announced they would attempt to be the first women team to complete the Bristol Channel swim in July.
Thames Water were fined £2.3m for leaked sewage into the Fawley ditch. Councillors Will Hamilton and David Eggleton appealed for Henley Womble volunteers to keep the town and river free from litter. After over 2 months closed, the schools reopen. Henley Women’s Regatta announced new July dates. Bremont watches opened their new state-of-the-art HQ, The Wing on the Reading Road. Thamesfield Care Home announced closure. Town Council decided to pause redevelopment of the land next to Tesco after Sport funding bodies confirmed they would not support the project. New columbarium in one of the old chapels at the Fairmile cemetery was unveiled after £150K renovation by the Town Council. The National day of Reflection on 23 March marking the anniversary of the first lockdown was made with the Town Hall flag flown at half mast and a minute’s silence respected.
Well-known cyclist, Simon Richardson, sadly died after crashing on this bike on the Marlow Road. The shops and pubs reopened on 12 April with new shop Sofas & Stuff opening in the old Laura Ashley shop on the Reading Road. Henley Boating Company was given the licence for Red Lion Lawn for boat hire and hospitality. The Swifts Support Group installed first nesting boxes on public buildings. Henley Royal Regatta announced the event would be 5 not 6 days as planned. The Neighbourhood Plan review committee agreed that the controversial Lucy’s Farm site would not considered in the revised plan. Two new pedestrian crossings got the green light on Gravel Hill and Marlow Road (opposite) Swiss Farm. Town Council agreed to open a public consultation for £275K Adventure Golf Course on the old putting green at Mill Meadows.
A young boy was injured by a Red Kite who was trying to steal a biscuit out of his hand. Residents also reported more nuisances of Red Kites stealing food from plates. The Herald Red Kite story was picked up by The Times newspaper and resident Anna del Nevo was interviewed by Adrian Chiles on Radio 5 about her experiences. Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak retained his seat in the County Council elections. The River & Rowing Museum submitted a planning application for their education rooms to be converted into offices to secure their future. The Town Council decided to refurbish the bins instead of buying new ones. Councillor Sarah Miller became Henley Mayor for 2021-22. Thames Valley Police announced that 24 hour response officers would be based again at Henley Police station along with the Henley Neighbourhood police team.
New parking charges came into effect giving 1 hour’s free parking in the Kings Road and Greys Road car parks and Sunday charging was introduced. Henley Car club was launched with two cars giving residents easily accessible low cost car hire. Henley Tennis Club got planning permission for floodlighting to allow all year round court use. A car rolled into the river from the Hobbs boatyard after the handbrake failed. Luckily no one was in the vehicle at the time. A new history information board was unveiled about the Grade 1 Chantry House (behind St Mary’s Church) which dates back to the 1460s. Town Centre Manger, Helen Barnett resigned from Henley Town Council. Two young men were assaulted and robbed in Greys Road car park. A planning application for a new Premier Inn was submitted on the train station car park site. A public meeting hosted by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss end of life palliative care beds when a proposal to have 2 specialist beds at Wallingford hospital was outlined. Henley Lions U15s won the National Cup Championship on penalties.
Taylor Wimpey submitted a new drainage planning application for Thames Farm for a piped system along the Reading Road which would be pumped out into a watercourse on Jubilee Park. Shiplake College Junior Quads won at Henley Women’s Regatta. Kam Hulait, a well known and loved member of the ‘Top Shops’ community was sadly killed in a road accident. Western Avenue celebrated 100th anniversary of their houses with a street party. Millie, the cat survived after getting stuck in a car engine. Henley Mermaids’ attempt at the Bristol Channel was curtailed due to high tides at just 6km to go. After Councils and Church dismiss ownership of church step railings, local resident Clive Hemsley went ahead and fixed them. Councillor Paula Isaac resigned from the Town Council. Adventure Golf course at Mill Meadows got the go ahead after public consultation with 57% voting for the new project. All Leander crew win silver medal in Quad at Tokyo Olympics.
The Relais Henley at Red Lion opened its doors after refurbishment by new owners in time for Henley Regatta. England rugby coach, Eddie Jones visited Henley Rugby Club to spend morning with the Juniors. Five-day Royal Regatta returned with new Covid safe layout. Shiplake College Junior Quad won Henley double and local girl Natasha Harris-White won first Royal Regatta trophy in all Leander Club Women’s Quad. Leander won 8 trophies. There was a house fire in Park Road which luckily no-one was hurt. Former Town Sergeant, Cliff Austin died. Gillotts Students celebrated GCSE results at postponed Prom. Henley Scan opened a shop on the Reading Road. Trad Boat Festival enjoyed a busy Bank Holiday weekend with a Little Dunkirk Ship which was salvaged from sinking winning best in show.
Big crowd came out for a day out at Henley Farm & Country Show. New housing sites were unveiled in revised Neighbourhood Plan. Hawks player, David Hyde tragically died after collapsing after the match against Old Albanians. A pedestrian was seriously injured by a car at Duke Street traffic lights. A large amount of cannabis was recovered from the Imperial Hotel. Greener Henley organised the first Henley Big Green Week with lots of events and activities. Tom Buckley, an independent Councillor was co-opted on to Henley Town Council. Swiss Farm residents objected to no notice being given for a planning application for a new 5G mast to be installed outside the campsite. This was later refused by SODC. Olympic rowers enjoyed a heroes’ return with row past and open-top bus tour of town. Henley Festival goers enjoyed five nights of music, art and entertainment with headliners including Madness, James Blunt and Sophie Ellis-Bexter. The Beer Festival was back this year too in September at Henley Rugby Club.
Town Councillors voted not to introduce mooring fees to Eyot Islanders after they appointed new mooring enforcement company as residents complained. Henley Literary Festival 2021 went hybrid with dual face-to-face and online events with headliners including Duchess of York, Rob Beckett, Tom Allen and Dr Sarah Gilbert. Adam Toop submitted the planning application for new vintage boathouse on Hobbs boatyard. Friends Emma and Jess cross the line together to win Women’s Henley Half Marathon. Craig Buckley appointed as new Town Centre Manager. Taylor Wimpey withdrew their Thames Farm drainage planning application. Henley Spitfire restored parts were on display in Market Place to mark 80th anniversary of flight. A fire broke out in the basement of Savills on New Street.
Civil parking enforcement came into effect with 23 fines in first 3 days. AFC Henley awarded County Grassroots Football Club of the year. Town comes out to remember the fallen on Remembrance Day. Planning application submitted for a new house at Friar Park. Barclays announced the Henley branch will close in March 2022. Misery road works on Hart Street caused town to gridlock for 5 days. Lucy Herbert won national ballroom dancing competition in Blackpool. Parkside Woodland and Harcourt Close planning applications were dismissed. Upton Close residents fed up with their road flooding due to blocked drains after complaining to Oxfordshire CC for months. Town comes out to enjoy Christmas Festival with entertainment on new Market Place stage. A plaque was unveiled at the Top Shops to remember Kam Hulait.
Henley Pet Shop celebrated its 40th anniversary trading in the town. Make Henley Shine announced new team behind lighting up Henley bridge. Taylor Wimpey submitted construction management plan for grouting ground works. Thames Farm Action Group said a new planning application for this should be applied for, for this work. The festive season saw lots of events in the town. Mike Hurst entertained guests at Mayor’s Christmas party for Henley’s older residents. Delighted children saw Santa’s sleigh tour the town again this year. Nick and Jo Roberts were announced winners of Herald’s festive house competition. Hamptons won the Christmas window competition. The first winter entertainment festival, Glow Henley took place at Leander with East 17 headlining the opening party. Vandals smashed a car in Mill Meadows car park with heavy cones. In sport, Jill Campion retained her British Masters squash title. Santa Fun Run was back with a new course starting at Leander. Revised Neighbourhood Plan submitted to SODC for approval. Henley Town Council removed concrete from Friday Street slipway after over a year of asking Sorbon estates to remove it.