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 Summer 2008

 

Chairman's Report to the AGM

Libby MacIntyre 
Chairman Libby MacIntyre

It has been a busy year as we deliver against our objectives; to protect the amenities and further the interests of inhabitants of the area and encourage a community spirit. We have a strong and increasing membership and five Borough Councillors, representing residents on Elmbridge Borough Council. In addition Peter Hickman continues to represent us and Long Ditton on Surrey County Council. It is a great advantage having RA councillors to represent you directly without being constrained by a national party agenda. They make sure Council Officers are aware of your concerns, represent residents' interests in council end ensure the councils fulfil their obligations. You see all they do through our regular reports back to residents.  

We keep you fully informed through three main channels of communication. We provide the opportunity for face to face communication in our frequent Open Meetings, open to all residents whether members or not. You can hear directly from RA councillors and officers, ask questions and provide input. We also publish news in Thames Ditton Today, delivered quarterly to all homes in the area. Thanks are due to the volunteers who contribute material to it and produce it and to the many who distribute the magazine. We get regular feedback from residents on how much they appreciate it. We have moved firmly into the internet age with our excellent website. It gets over 6,000 visitors a month and provides people with many resources, and the opportunity to let us know what they are thinking as well as learning of local news. It's had plaudits from as far afield as the Isle of Man.

Planning

We live in a time of a voracious demand for housing and consequent development in our attractive and sought after area. Graham Cooke is doing a sterling job monitoring development applications, making representations where proposed developments are inappropriate and assisting local residents in making their voices heard. No community can stand still, but we want to make sure development is appropriate for the area and does not adversely affect its inhabitants. We make representations on a large number of planning applications and I intend to pick out just a few to illustrate successes, some disappointments and some salutary learning points. 

16-18 Embercourt Road: The final application of many for a 'single storey' development still with 6 apartments on two floors was refused by Elmbridge following efforts by residents and councillors. Alas, permission was granted on appeal.  

The Planning Inspector rejected issues related to high density. It seems we will now have to show that high density applications will cause harm rather than merely contravene the local planning guidelines. 

13 Queens Drive: Residents strongly objected to 3 applications for development at 13 Queens Drive. The first two were refused at appeal, but the developer continues to come back with proposals that do not appear to be substantially altered. We need to remain vigilant. 

The High Street: The properties from 25 to 31 the High Street are all owned by one company seeking to develop its holding. Permission to build houses to the rear of number 25 and to demolish and rebuild the office building was granted in 2001. However the work only really started to take shape last summer at which point it became evident that the buildings did not look like the plans, drawings and specifications submitted in the application. Persistent efforts by local residents (over 100 letters were received by the Planning Officer) and letters from the RA and the Conservation Committee resulted in meetings with planning officers and the issue of a rare 'stop order' until the developer undertook to rectify some, if not all of the concerns. This brought to light unsatisfactory shortcomings in the detail accompanying planning approvals in Elmbridge's Conservation Areas, and in Council staffing required to enforce their implementation. 

We have also opposed in particular attempts to reduce retail space in favour of accommodation. It is imperative to maintain the retail and office space in Thames Ditton to ensure that we have a real village and avoid the High Street becoming a dormitory.

 

Parking

Surrey County Council's public consultation process is still running its course. SCC sent out questionnaires to households, drew up different proposals and requested feedback from residents: there have been three presentations of the proposals by SCC officials in the library. These presentations were widely advertised by us to ensure people had the maximum opportunity to make their views known. Currently SCC is updating its proposals based on the feedback given; although we are still waiting for a further questionnaire to be distributed to a number of roads around the station. SCC tells us that it will continue to take account of representations until the final stage of the process at which point the Area Subcommittee will debate and agree a final proposal which will be put in writing to those in the affected areas for a final yes or no decision. At this point I would like to thank Peter Hickman for the effort he has put in and continues to put in to keep this on Surrey's agenda, make sure the process is thorough and provides full opportunities for consultation. 

Policing

We live in a relatively low crime area. The decision by Surrey Police in early 2007 to stop holding Police Community Partnership Group meetings concerned local residents. We invited the Elmbridge Neighbourhood Inspector Paul Yearwood, to address our July open meeting on future plans for consultation. As a result of that session it was agreed that Surrey Police would hold a short panel session to report back to residents and hear their concerns, just before our Open Meetings. This has the advantage of keeping local consultation going and we will continue to press for an occasional senior presence at those meetings. 

Highways & Drainage

Fortunately this year has not seen a major issue with flooding in the village at the height of the flooding elsewhere in the country. Our efforts to get Surrey to unblock some of the drains in the village meant that there was less standing water than previously around the village roads. Flooding around Esher Station has been a perennial problem and one that does not have a once and for all fix. However in February Cllr. Tannia Shipley succeeded in getting Network Rail, Surrey Highways to join herself and Peter Hickman and undertake an extensive review the whole area and agree a programme of work to keep the area clear. Local householders also have a part to play in maintaining drainage ditches on their property.  

One of my favourite website pieces was the imaginative "Dittons in Bloom". For some months last year Peter Hickman had been trying to get Surrey County Council to discharge their obligations to keep our streets and footways clear of weeds. In August the latest of a number of excuses was that they had no resources available because they were "heavily engaged in 'Cobham In Bloom'". We therefore photographed the weed growth round these villages as 'Dittons in Bloom.' This was picked up by BBC Regional news and local media. The exposure had the desired effect and over the four weeks that followed both Surrey and Elmbridge took action to clear the weeds.

 

Public Health

County Councillor Peter Hickman and Borough Councillor Ruth Lyon both sit on the SCC Health Scrutiny Committee and they, along with the Friends of Thames Ditton Hospital led by Karen Randolph, continue to challenge the Surrey Primary Care Trust's decision unilaterally to close the remaining NHS beds at Emberbrook. Breaking news is that the Chairman of the SCC Health Scrutiny Committee has received a letter from the Surrey PCT stating that the contract with Four Season for the 4 beds at Emberbrook Care Centre still existed unchanged. We know that it important to local people to have intermediate and postoperative care available locally and we are keeping the pressure on. Meanwhile the Friends have provided valuable equipment for local NHS patients that are reducing waiting times.

In conclusion:

We delight in supporting that spirit which makes this a special place to live, whether supporting the splendid Christmas Fayre and other events where residents socialise, or planting more bulbs to celebrate the Spring. We now look forward to another year and further change. Maureen Sheldrick is going to stand down as Elbridge Borough Councillor (and former Mayor) at the imminent election. She has served residents of Weston Green tirelessly since 1992 and we thank her very much for all her hard work. Finally, our Association can prosper only with the participation and support of its members and on behalf of the Officers and Committee I would like to thank you all. 

Libby MacIntyre

 

News from the Residents' Association

19 February - 20 May 2008

Elmbridge Borough Council Elections

Ruth Lyon

Our thanks to residents for turning out and voting for your Association. Turnout was higher than last year. Weston Green had the highest turnout in Elmbridge at 46.2%, with Thames Ditton at 40.1%. In Thames Ditton, Ruth Lyon was re-elected with 1345 votes, 75% of the poll. The Conservative polled 335 and Labour 107.  

Lorraine SharpIn Weston Green, your new candidate Lorraine Sharp was elected with 800 votes, 65% of the poll. Bucking a trend that saw a big national swing to the Conservatives, 12% in Elmbridge, the Conservative candidate campaigned negatively against the Association and polled a few votes less than last year (429) even though turnout was higher. There were no other candidates. 

Particular thanks to the many who made this success possible through their work - the manifesto deliverers, the tellers, those who put up posters and our agent, Peter Hickman. Unlike the political parties, we have no paid agents or staff and rely entirely on your voluntary support. Elsewhere in Elmbridge the Conservatives took 3 seats from Residents and Independents in Walton and Hersham and 1 from the Liberal Democrats in Long Ditton, to give them an absolute majority of 32 out of the 60 Borough seats. The implications of this will become apparent over the next two years.

Esher Station flooding solved

The last issue reported our councillors' continuing efforts to get all culverts in the system cleaned out thoroughly. There was progress over the past year but it was not until SCC and Network Rail tackled the 10-point February action plan, and in particular when SCC finally cleared the under-road culvert where fish had been recorded, that things finally dried out. Heavy rains during April enabled us to verify that this ninety-year-old trouble spot under Esher station bridge was now dry as a bone. So - thanks to all concerned, especially our indefatigable Councillor Tannia Shipley who has driven this issue along. It will now be important to persuade those responsible to carry out regular maintenance to prevent floods happening again.

Island rubbish

The Island was suffering worsening problems in getting their rubbish collected by Veolia, the Elmbridge refuse contractors. Bags were collected from each house on the island and ferried across to the slipway next to the Swan. When the river was dangerously in spate the bags were still collected from each house, and carried across the bridge. After requests from many Islanders, recycling bins were introduced on the mainland slipway. This seems to be where the problems started. Without any formal consultation, the collection of rubbish bags from the houses on the Island was withdrawn and council contractors provided bins both for general rubbish and recycling on the slipway. The bins were heavily used although parked cars sometimes blocked access by the collectors and there were problems with vandalism.  

Discussions with Council officials left Islanders with the view that the Council and Veolia were seeking to 'opt out' from collecting refuse from the Island. Veolia attempted to justify their reduced service on 'Health and Safety' grounds - e.g. the 'risky' ferry, even though their own staff were not directly involved with its loading and unloading!Islanders raised concerns at our February Open Meeting. 

Residents' councillors Ruth Lyon and Karen Randolph together with Martin Steel from the Island then made a démarche to council officials, who have since intervened positively when there have been problems. Collections by Veolia have improved (with a few glitches). Meanwhile ferry providers Taggs Boatyard consulted Health'n'Safety experts from Surrey County Council who stated that the only 'risk' in the waterborne process was from their staff not wearing life jackets. Soon remedied. 

Attempts by contractors and the Council to shave services in many small ways, which we are experiencing in more than one area (Church Walk is another), may result from the primary aim of the current Elmbridge administration to save money. A laudable aim: but whittling down essential services such as rubbish collection, particularly on an inequitable basis, is not the way to do it.

High Street shops

Lime tree Deli staff

Among the shops remaining in Thames Ditton High Street we have seven or eight that attract regular shoppers each day and they are a key focus for village life. We were therefore worried that Five Rivers Deli was closing down, but delighted to see the new LimeTree delicatessen that has taken its place. And deservedly well frequented it is proving to be. With good reason: they have some really nice things to eat in there! Your Editor is hooked on those figgy balls and sublime Gorgonzola. Sharon's delightful staff also serve tasty lunches and snacks. Most retail businesses here need more than one leg to stand on, and LimeTree will do bespoke dishes at your home or business too. So along with the Village Bakery, we still have a couple of congenial places to go coffee-housing.  

Worryingly for local imbibers the Wine Rack premises are sporting a "Lease For Sale" sign. We understand that Threshers are 'rationalising' across the country and Thames Ditton is not their most productive outlet. Moreover there have been recurrent problems with thievery and vandalism there over the past few years. We gather there's no buyer in the offing yet but if anyone wants an off-license / wine shop now's your chance.  

The message is: if you don't want to lose an essential part of village character, support your local shops. We wouldn't ask you to do this if they weren't any good. But they are good! So come on, get your bread, fresh fruit and veg, flowers, small groceries, scrumptious deli items, great cakes, hooch and gifts locally and chat with other villagers while you're at it.

School Ofsteds

February's Ofsted inspection of Thames Ditton Infants School confirmed that it remains a truly remarkable school. It scored top grading (outstanding) in every category. The report notes: "One parent described this as 'a fantastic school' and that is exactly what it is." A tribute to Head Janet Espley and her staff, all the parents who offer terrific support, and to the children themselves who love the school. There was another glowing Ofsted report for St Paul's Catholic Primary School in Weston Green: "This is an outstanding school," wrote the Inspector after March's evaluation. St. Paul's scored top marks in every category bar one, where minor improvement was needed. Esher College regularly gets a superb rating from Ofsted too. The community is very proud that we have such fine schools here in the state and voluntary aided sectors. 

Less happy is the situation that parents find themselves in when applying for school places, where the County authorities can seem overly complacent while we think as many as 20 local infants and juniors are allotted places miles from where they live. Our county councillor Peter Hickman is lobbying for more realistic forward planning as the population profile, and density, changes. 

Planning

Holm Oak

◊   5 Riversdale Road, Thames Ditton: an appeal to build a large extension was turned down as out of keeping with the form, design and general appearances of the run of houses. The Inspector judged that the extension would have an "oppressive, un-neighbourly and overwhelming impact." The details of this decision are a good precedent relevant to other cases. 

◊   27/31 Ember Lane: on 20 May the proposal to build twelve flats with accommodation in the roof space, underground gymnasium, swimming pool, and parking for 13 cars, plus 5 more cars at ground level was turned down (and will go to appeal). Both our Weston Green Councillors, plus Cllr Ruth Lyon and Maureen Sheldrick attended the hearing and there was an excellent turnout of local residents. 

◊   3 Harvest Lane: an application to fell the OakHolm Oak was rejected. The tree, one of two Holm Oaks seen from the High Street (the other is at the beginning of Watts Road), is an evergreen part of the scenery and subject to a Tree Preservation Order. Many residents spoke up for it. The Planning Officer judged that its loss would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the area, and there was insufficient justification for its removal. One longstanding resident told us that keepers from London Zoo used to visit to gather its leaves as a delicacy for their giraffes.

Crime and policing

Until recently the crime rate remained relatively low, with Thames Ditton recording three quarters of crime in the two wards. Of 41 crimes in March and April 6 were violent, 10 burglaries, 7 car theft or theft from cars and there were 14 cases of criminal damage. A number of burglaries here and in nearby wards saw windows forced or outbuildings entered. At teatime on 13 March police rushed to the scene of an armed robbery at Ladbrokes bookmakers on Hampton Court Way at Weston Green. They arrived minutes too late to catch the villains. Although a handgun was brandished the branch manager succeeded in locking himself behind a door, nobody was hurt and the robbers - two white males - failed to steal any money. 

A gang of hooded youths, some white and some Asian in appearance, robbed the off-licence in Thames Ditton High Street of drink and cigarettes early in the evening of 25 February. Over a dozen youths were seen walking rowdily along the High Street, and four or five burst into the shop to help themselves. They then proceeded to Thames Ditton railway station where a group of about thirty of them was reported, some brandishing knives. In early May prompt action by the burly manager of the off-licence resulted in another attempt being frustrated and a youth being arrested by police who were nearby. Other vandalism by a small group of yobs along Church Walk on two nights in March resulted in damage to garden lights and furniture.  

There have been serious sprees of criminal damage to cars parked on the streets and in driveways. In early May about six cars on High St and Station Road Thames Ditton had windscreens or rear windows smashed , and overnight on Monday 19th May over 30 cars (possibly as many as 50) were damaged in Weston Green Road, Thistledene, Parkwood Road and Alma Road. This is believed to have happened around 23.30 but apparently with little noise or rowdiness accompanying. Police are tracking down those responsible. 

Residents sometimes do not tell police of isolated criminal incidents, perhaps because they do not wish to engage in paperwork. But it is important that our local police have a full picture. Even if you do not need a crime reference number, you can always phone or email them with details - their contact particulars are on our website and in their newsletters. 

Meanwhile, on 14 April a Longmead man admitted lying on benefit forms to defraud the Council of over £13,000 and was given a suspended sentence of six months' prison, and a curfew. An antisocial nuisance who according to Paul Yearwood, Neighbourhood Inspector for Elmbridge, had "blighted the lives of residents in Esher and Weston Green for some time" was convicted on 2 April of assaulting another 17-year -old and tagged, ordered to complete 20 hours of specified activities, put under a curfew from 11pm to 7am and given an Asbo.

Highways, sighways

Apart from the overdue but now successful cleaning of culverts around Esher station, alas there is little good news to report on this front. Thistledene residents were outraged in March when, with 48 hours' notice over a weekend and no consultation, contractors laid a thin covering of cheap black slurry over their prized warm red tarmac pavements. Weeds are already breaking through it.  

Surrey Highways have also left residents shaking their heads when attending potholes. They will fill them only if they are more than a defined number of centimetres deep and have straight sides, ignoring neighbouring potholes in the same stretch of road while they are there. When the latter worsen to the dimensions of an actionable pothole, the process of inspecting and attending starts again. Taxpayers hoping for comprehensive rehabilitation of bad roads will be reassured to know that SCC have identified 611 roads in the county for 'priority attention' and will tackle 36 of them this year. A calculation on the back of an envelope suggests that it will take 17 years to do them all. 

Parking

The lines have gone dead. The two Highways officials who had been supervising the process of consultation and planning for Thames Ditton have moved on to other things and officials' attention has been centred elsewhere (Croydon, Walton). We still await the promised second questionnaire on the area around Thames Ditton Station. However, much work has been done; and led by Peter Hickman we will keep lobbying patiently for a sensible scheme that will gain majority support in the village. 

Cover photo

There are so many timeless scenes of village life in Weston Green and Thames Ditton that it is hard to believe we are no more than half an hour from the centre of London or from Heathrow. On the cover of this issue we have Scott Hortop's delightful late-afternoon photograph of the Old Red House across Marney's Pond. This handsome house dating from the early 18th century changed hands not long ago, having been on the market a short while for just under £2.5 million.

 

Maureen Sheldrick retires as Councillor 

Maureen Sheldrick

Dear All 

Never in my wildest dream did I imagine when I came to Weston Green in 1984, that I would be elected to represent the residents as their Councillor for 16 years. What I did discover was that it was a 'special' place not only by the setting in which it was located but that the people were also 'special'; they were extremely welcoming, something much lacking in other areas in which I had lived previously, except as a child. 

On becoming your Councillor I discovered even more; not only were you helpful and kind but full of detailed information about the area, most of which could never have been gained from reading books or other printed matter, this in turn enabled me to be a most knowledgeable Councillor, particularly when 'fighting' planning enquiries, in order to preserve the character and amenities of Weston Green and Thames Ditton. 

My memories are full of times not only when representing you within the Borough but times spent amongst you socially; and of your generosity, not only in the community spirit of the occasion but also financially, particularly in respect of Marney's and Milbourne ponds. They of course include the afternoons spent with Tannia in her kitchen making marmalade and jam, which we subsequently persuaded you to buy to aid such fund raising. 

I could not write to you all individually so by way of this letter please accept my most sincere thanks. I would not have achieved as much as I did without your help and kindness. THANK YOU - it has been a great privilege and pleasure to have served as your Borough Councillor. 

Maureen Sheldrick


Over 20 years ago Maureen became first, minutes secretary and subsequently Hon. Sec. of the Resident's Association. As Councillor her work for our community and for Elmbridge grew so much that she opted for early retirement from running three companies so that she could concentrate on representing us as fully as anyone could wish. She has sat on all the main Council Committees at one time or another!  

Passionate about defending our commons and green spaces, Maureen is applauded for her work towards the restoration and maintenance of the ponds, and also for successfully getting a ban on nightlong heavy lorry movements through the quiet streets around the Woodlands - her campaign to get it enforced continues. 

Maureen was an excellent and warm-hearted Mayor of Elmbridge. In that rôle she took especial pleasure in raising £70,000 for "Hearing Dogs for Deaf People." Maureen has given generously of her time in a host of small ways too, from aiding residents with problems caused by flooding, to helping an Australian adoptee track down his real mother's family. Last summer, a determined Maureen was the driving force in getting the stolen antique red tiles replaced along the pavements of Weston Green. Surrey Highways and their contractors were 'unable' to source replacements. But Maureen knew where to lay a hand on them! We are delighted to add that we can continue to count on her enthusiasm and counsel as a Vice President of the Residents' Association. 

Thank you, Maureen.

 

Upstream Struggle

'Seahorses in the Thames!' screamed a recent newspaper headline, marvelling in the discovery of the short-snouted version of the tiny creatures - once believed to pull Neptune's chariot - in the brackish river estuary in Essex. 

But there is another marvel of our village's aquatic artery which is just as rare - and, sadly, likely to remain so. The salmon, once prolific in the Thames, is now maintaining a profile as low as a Labour candidate at a local election. While not quite extinct (the salmon, that is, rather than the Labour candidate) the majestic salmo salar is proving elusive in the extreme, in spite of sterling efforts by the Environment Agency and concerned conservation bodies to re-introduce it to the river. 

It was not always so. The Thames was once so full of salmon that the fish was regarded as a poor man's food (along with oysters - how times change). But the onslaughts of the Industrial Revolution, including the building of weirs and locks to make the river deeper to enable boats to pass, plus the perils of industrial pollution and sewage, saw them off more than 170 years ago. One has to go back to 1833 to record the capture of the Thames' last native-bred fish. 

Since then, no salmon had been seen in the river for 140 years when, on November 12 1974, a single stray salmon from another river was found alive - trapped on the cleaning screens at West Thurrock Power Station. After that, only the odd stray salmon was seen every year. It looked like the end of the line for the 'silver tourist'. 

Baby salmonHowever, some things are worth saving: the salmon is one of them. In 1979, following umpteen committees and recommendations, the Thames Salmon Rehabilitation Scheme was launched. Its remit was ambitious: to demonstrate that London's river, known for 150 years as a running sewer, was clean again. So clean that salmon - nature's barometer of water purity - would once again be seen leaping outside the Houses of Parliament, surging their way up-river past Thames Ditton Island and Hampton Court on their way to their spawning grounds at the head of the river. 

The project was launched with fanfare, high hopes, a great deal of goodwill - and not very much money. Initially, immature salmon from other rivers were transported to the tidal Thames, where it was hoped they would head to the open sea, as all young salmon do, then return to spawn and raise a new generation. First results were hopeful: thousands of young fish were stocked and initially, having spent their first few years feeding and fattening in the open briny, they returned in substantial numbers, proving that the lower Thames was cleaner than even the optimists had thought.

Tens of thousands of juvenile salmon have been released every year since in a major stocking programme. In tandem, the Thames Salmon Trust, a charity partly resourced and funded by anglers, organised (at a cost of £3m) the building of 39 fish passes built into the weirs and other obstacles between the lower Thames, where spawning potential was not good, and the middle reaches of the River Kennet in Berkshire, a noted chalk stream thought to offer best spawning potential due to its water quality. (The nearest fish pass to Thames Ditton is to be found just upstream at Molesey lock.)

upstream struggleIn the early years all looked well. The numbers of returning fish increased. A prize was offered for the first angler to land an authenticated salmon on rod and line, and on August 23, 1983, one Russell Doig, a Londoner, caught a six-pounder. The triumphant publicity picture of Doig and his fish featured Tower Bridge in the background - a bit of PR cheek as the fish was actually caught at Chertsey. And in 1993, 338 fish were recorded - a record. Alas, the early '90s proved a high point. In 1996 anglers took just 34 fish in the season. And the bad news continued. In 2005, not a single fish was recorded as returning from the sea, the first time this had happened since the rehabilitation scheme launched in 1979. Just as disappointing, not one single salmon has been known for certain to spawn in the river. Every single returning fish so far has been one previously stocked.

The finger of suspicion has been pointed at many things. The near drought-summers of a few years ago decreased the water flow in both the headwaters and the Thames, meaning fish could not so readily swim upstream. Hot summers also warm the water and decrease the oxygen content available to all fish. Abstraction of water for housing and industry has increased significantly in the past couple of decades. And heavy rain and near flash flooding in the past couple of years has at times overwhelmed our aging sewerage infrastructure, leading to mass fish kills as raw sewage is pumped straight into our river. Natural predators such as pike and - increasingly - the normally sea-dwelling cormorant also take their share.

Now, 29 years and £6 million later, the project is not dead, but its future lies in the balance. The latest - and possibly last - attempt to save the salmon lies far upstream of Thames Ditton, in a stretch of the Kennet between Newbury and Hungerford. Here, on the bright gravel bed of this lovely river, the Environment Agency has experimented with direct 'sowing' of 20,000 fertilised salmon eggs, brought from the river Tyne in Northumberland. Some 5,000 juvenile salmon, about 2cm long, were also introduced. The hope is that the fish would head down river to the sea, through Thames the things you have to go through to breedDitton and central London, before returning after a couple of years to spawn anew.

Alas, first signs have again proved disappointing. "It's been incredibly disappointing," Darryl Clifton-Dey, who runs the project for the Environment Agency (EA), said. "There is still time for a turnaround. In 2003 we thought we were getting there. We tracked fish right back to the River Kennet, where we had put them in as juveniles. But we don't know if they actually did the business." 

If they did spawn, Clifton-Dey said, their progeny should be in from the sea soon. "But if they didn't, and if we haven't had a successful spawning by April 2009, when the five-year programme ends, we'll have to look again. We'll have to determine whether there's a future for salmon in the Thames." 

So, it's fingers crossed once again - especially for me. Because I really, really want to catch one... 

Andy Anderson

Andy is a former member of the Financial Times editorial staff

 

Photographer with the Light Touch

All photographs on this page are strictly copyright Scott Hortop

Scott likes dynamic motion: "This art installation is called 'Out of Order.' So I named the photo 'Why they were out of order' - part of last year's commission for Kingston Hospital. The participants were not all in the right place at the right time so this is four images combined."

Among the amazingly rich and diverse talents in this small community we number some top quality photographers. Scott Hortop, our voluntary photographer for Thames Ditton Today, is one of them. And not the only one who has emerged as a dazzling butterfly of the genre after an earlier pupation as Something Else. In his case, a tax adviser with KPMG for two decades.

corporate talk 
"In this shot for Pinnacle PSG I got office volunteers to talk rubbish to each other until they relaxed."
Scott didn't exchange a briefcase for a camera case overnight. "My father was a keen amateur and had all the darkroom equipment, but once married he didn't get to use it," he recounts, "so I used it. Because few kids had these facilities I did well at the annual Eisteddfod where the rules stipulated you had to do everything yourself!" Many years of amateur photography saw him progress from black-and-white photos through colour transparencies to full colour prints, and from the darkroom to image processing on the laptop, learning along the way to understand light, line and the principles of pictorial composition that distinguish a true photographer from the rest of us happy snappers. 

Scott's facility with web technology allied with camerawork led to his being drafted into KPMG's team that put together intranets and websites for clients. When the tech bubble burst at the end of the millennium, he was first to volunteer for a substantial redundancy package that gave him the confidence to try something 'completely different.' Scott undertook courses at the London College of Printing to acquire skills in Studio Photography, scanning and printing, an understanding of light in three dimensions, and business aspects of selling photos.  

how time flies 
"This one features the building where I used to work - shot on a crisp winter morningwhen I went back to look up old friends. How time flies!"
Meanwhile Scott steadily built up a portfolio of excellent photographs and gradually, a varied clientele in the world of business photography and in 'lifestyle' photography. The major part of his work comes from corporate photography in the City, and from portraiture, when customers want "something less sterile than you get from studio photography." Scott enjoys having other people around and prefers social or lifestyle photography to other areas of what can at times be a somewhat solitary profession: "When there is half an excuse I work with an assistant, Meeyoung Son. I can also take more risks in what I'm shooting because she'll always be ready to pick up a camera and get a shot 'in the bag'." Scott specialises in unposed photos, and will spend a great deal of time putting subjects at ease until they behave naturally, and barely notice he is there. "I like to take them doing interesting things - such as a graffiti artist in the act of painting graffiti on a wall - it was a wall made available for the purpose near the Hayward Gallery" - he adds hastily. 

As with the commissions for Kingston Hospital, Scott will often spend hours in position until suitable shots present themselves: "If I stay in some place long enough, enough interesting things will happen!" And they do. He doesn't miss accountancy at all. 

Keith Evetts 

See Scott Hortop's web site or call 0208 398 2735 
 

Men in White

1894 Surrey Championship side
The 1894 Surrey Championship winning team included four great Thames Ditton players: Back row: Maurice Read (first left), Tom Richardson (second left), George Ayres (third left). Middle row: Bill Brockwell (second right).

To celebrate this year's 175th anniversary of Thames Ditton Cricket Club, a book, "Men in White on Giggs Hill Green," has been specially written by former player and local resident David Harries. Richly illustrated, Men In White traces the history of the club from its very first match in July 1833 to the current day. To his credit, the author has ensured that long lists of statistics don't get in the way of a good story. 

Harries doesn't attempt to gloss over the enormously difficult times the club has faced. He acknowledges, with some justification, the important role Thames Ditton has played in the development of the club game. He also believes TDCC's future looks secure and that the Club is well placed to face the challenges of the future. 

As the book reveals, apart from Sir Alec Bedser - who has written the Foreword and had a benefit game on the Green in 1953 - many other famous names have played their part in Thames Ditton's remarkable history. 

Heathfield Stephenson, born in Esher, played for Thames Ditton before going on to star for Surrey and England. In 1861 he captained the first England side to tour Australia. His nephew Maurice Read, whose father owned a shop in the High Street, also played for Surrey and England. He scored the club's first century in 1889 and was granted the rare honour of a Test Match for his benefit. Tom Richardson, was included in the Six Giants of Wisden selected by Neville Cardus in its 1963 Centenary edition .He lived in Angel Road and was also a vociferous member of the committee. 

Other famous names from the 'golden age of cricket 'include Bill Brockwell (Surrey and England) and George Ayres (Surrey) whose father was publican of The Angel .A photograph of the 1894 Surrey championship winning team shows Read, Brockwell, Richardson and Ayres who were all in the side. In 1939 Eddie Watts (of Watts Road fame) took all 10 wickets for Surrey against Warwickshire. Along with his brothers Les and Ernie, he is specifically mentioned by Bedser in his Foreword. In the early 1950s vast crowds flocked to watch cricket on the Green. Regular benefit matches were held for Surrey players including Eddie Watts, Laurie Fishlock, Jack Parker and Bedser himself.  

From the early 1870s until the outbreak of the First World War the club was the heart of village life. Annual Concerts were organised and these continued until the 1950s when at least two concerts were staged, one to celebrate the Club's 125th anniversary.Until 1977 the club didn't have its own pavilion. Players changed at The Angel - its headquarters for 135 years - or in old Bell tents erected before each game. The late 1960s almost saw the demise of the club.  

It was in the mid-1970s that, due entirely to the determination of one man, the then President Douglas Manser, the club leased a site from the Milk Marketing Board, raised £15,000 and obtained planning consent for a timber framed building. In 1977, the first pavilion was opened with a celebrity match against Boardian Allstars, led by the legendary Denis Compton. It was watched by 2000 spectators. By the early 1990s, however, it was accepted that the pavilion, built 16 years earlier, was not up to the high standards required by the Surrey Championship. Thus in 2002, a project first launched in 1993 to set up a Pavilion Fund to build a replacement, was revived and in July 2004 the magnificent new two-storey brick pavilion was opened by Sir Trevor MacDonald.. 

This season the club is running four sides on Saturdays and two on Sundays. The colts section continues to thrive and there is also 'Quick' cricket for boys and girls. 

Geraint Morgan, President 

David Harries has been a member of TDCC since 1954. His daughter Kirsti and family now live just off the Green, and one of his grandsons joined the Colts this year and played his first match for the Club.Men in White on Giggs Hill Green is available from David Harries, the Old Post Office, Plaistow, West Sussex, RH14 0PT at £10 incl. P & P. Also from The Pro Shop, 52 High Street Thames Ditton. Cheques payable to Thames Ditton Cricket Club. All profits to Club funds.

Heartwarming and Wonderful

ENT equipment
Happy MEDICS thank Hospital Friends for ENT and other equipment on loan

One may grow cynical at the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent by major charities on TV adverts or irritating, wasteful mailshots; one may be inured to constant approaches by those who want your money; but charities that begin close to home are thriving. This is a splendid community when it comes to active, resourceful and enjoyable ways of raising money for outstanding causes near or far without the questionable overhead of professional management and advertising.  

The annual fairs, fetes and plant sales regularly produce the few thousands that are sorely needed by Scouts and Guides to continue their worthy activities. And they are great fun, as well as aesthetically pleasing on this greensward or that. They rely on the enthusiasm and drive of many individuals, as do the periodic funding campaigns run by Friends groups. By classical means such as quiz and entertainment nights the Junior School Friends have raised over £18,000 in two years, with the help of a sizeable grant from Surrey CC organised by Peter Hickman, to install a fine new play area at the school this May.  

The Hospital Friends are also very successful, raising several thousand pounds a year which has seen Chairman Karen Randoph on behalf of the friends presenting our local GPs with Ultrasound, ENT and now ECG equipment so that local NHS patients will have local treatment and a shorter waiting time. This equipment, worth around £80,000 in all, is 'on loan' with ownership remaining with the Friends so that the NHS cannot whisk it off somewhere else!

Peter Hickman and the Trim Trail 
Cllr. Peter Hickman opened the Juniors' Trim Trail; funced by Friends of the School with a contribution from Surrey's coffers

Many of these charitable fund-raising organisations make very good use of the Vera Fletcher Hall, where Ruth Lyon and Joan Leifer are well-practised in securing both class acts and some local sponsorship for good causes; or, like the Infants School Parents last year, some top-class comedy or other act can be organised by the protagonists themselves. Typically, a good 'do' at the Hall will raise £2,000 upwards for charity, and perhaps more if sponsored by the likes of Dairy Crest or Lodge Brothers. 'Cinderella' this year raised £3,400 for the Hospital Friends ECG equipment; other charities that have held successful fund-raising events there include Home Start Elmbridge, Shooting Star Children's Hospice and Great Ormond Street Hospital, Momentum - the Children's Ward at Kingston Hospital, and Karen Randolph's chosen charity Born too Soon. Resident Vivienne Harris annually raises about £2,000 at a quiz-night at the Hall for Cancer Research. Indeed the Thames Ditton branch of Cancer Research, whose nucleus numbers a dozen people, has been active in organising a wide range of activities for 35 years, in which they've raised something over £350,000. The local Esher branch is also active, and regular 'Good As New' sales held twice yearly in Esher College have raised about £70,000 for that charity over some eighteen years. We must also mention that of many local business connections, Lodge Brothers is very active in suggesting and channelling donations to Cancer Research. 

Moving outdoors, we have some very enjoyable summer events such as the Harry Hawkes 8, held this year on 7 September, which has raised about £70,00 for local charities over 24 years and is organised by TD Cricket Club. It attracts a wide entry of runners both fast and slow. Slow runners and slower head for the Towpath Trundle, originally organised by Margaret Godwin, a Weston Green resident, that since 1992 has raised well over a hundred thousand pounds for the Princess Alice Hospice - £17,000 this year alone.  

lucky dip 
lucky dip raises funds for the Guide Hut at the Giggs Hill Scout fair 2008

We like these steady annual efforts that may not seem huge in any one year, but which cheeringly accumulate very significant sums over the years. And you find many admirable individuals who have a go at something for charity, too. David Matthews, a keen cyclist, has entered the London-to-Brighton cycle race annually since 1989, his first year as a GP in Thames Ditton, raising over £500 each year for the British Heart Foundation from sponsors among his patients. That's approaching £10,000 in all now. "They are always on Father's Day so I never get my breakfast in bed," he notes. "I aim to complete the 56 miles in under three hours but I've never got it below 2h 45 min - I'm getting older! " He has never finished among the top leaders, but was once greeted by the commentator at the finish line with "..here comes the first cyclist across the line with facial hair" - an accolade of sorts? 

This Spring, Thames Ditton resident Shaun Wolfe ran back-to-back marathons, raising £2000 for children' hospital causes. He writes: "I finished the Paris Marathon in 4 hours 45 minutes and the following week I finished London in a slightly worse time of 5 hours. Then I had a few pints of Guinness at the George and Dragon to replenish my iron deficiency! No aches and pains but I think I'm going to have a bit of time off now." Neil Ridsdale also ran the London marathon, raising over £6,000 for Whizz-kidz. In March, Steve Evans from Thames Ditton, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease late last year, raised over £6,000 for the MND Association in a towpath cycle ride from Wimbledon to Godalming. 

Occasionally we have larger events. Cyclists will flood the village on 13 July, when the annual Capital to Coast challenge sets off from Esher College in Weston Green for Hove on the South Coast. The event is organised by Norwood, a charity for children and family services, and benefits other charities like Sparks (Elmbridge Mayor Nigel Cooper's chosen charity) and the Down's Syndrome Association. Then on 31 August we host the Great British Duck Race from Molesey Lock downstream, where you can sponsor a plastic duck for the charity of your choice. Last year, this raised some £100,000 for over 400 charities. 

Street Child Africa, our local based charity on Portsmouth Road has been going very successfully for ten years: last year they raised over £1m for indigent children in Africa. Despite their increasing size they don't omit to thank local sponsors such as all the fun of the Scout Fair on Giggs Hill Green - here, the Lucky Dip raised funds for the Guide HutBradley and Brown, Five Rivers Deli, Stitchery and Knight James. 

Local sponsors have also been making a fine contribution to the Thames Ditton Guide Hut Appeal (see separate article). Meanwhile, don't leave out the must-see performances at the Vera Fletcher Hall by Studio 7 Productions "Tell Me on Sunday, and Rainy Days and Mondays," a musical on Fri-Sun 25-27 July (Tickets £12 from Box Office 8942 6867) - the proceeds of this event go to the Hut Appeal - Raising The Roof!. 

There are countless other groups and individuals we could mention. Contributions large and small, and a good time enjoyed on the way. Well done, one and all. Isn't this a wonderful community?

 

For the Love of Greece

Monemvasia - watercolour by Joan Barton 
Monemvasia - watercolour by Joan Barton 

Since John and I spent our honeymoon in Athens and the islands, and the following year in Kastoria and the North, we developed a love of Greece. When in the early 1990s our sons branched out on their own holidays we visited the Peloponnese, inspired by Patrick Leigh Fermor's book 'The Mani.' The Byzantine churches and tower-houses in this almost uninhabited area were a revelation. I painted twenty-two watercolours of this unusual region of Greece. 

When I read last year of the awful devastation of the area by fires, I took those paintings out of storage and donated them to help the people, especially children, and to replant trees. Mrs. Constantina Kolokithas, Director of the Pelopponese Society, organised an exhibition at the Hellenic Centre in Paddington Street on January - the Greek new year. With the help of her husband with framing, and other friends including Michael and Renata Shaw, the pictures were hung and refreshments - including a New Year's cake - provided. 

The Orthodox priest blessed and cut the cake, and he bought a picture for the school. The children had also painted pictures showing their reaction to the charred trees and burnt mountains. Their pictures were hung below mine, providing a very moving contribution. I was accompanied to the Hellenic Centre by Miti Orchard who enlightened me about the Greek New Year cake-cutting ceremony and I had a very enjoyable evening with warm and friendly Greeks. The Greek Consul also attended. 

The evening raised £1,800 which will help to teach the children English. Mrs. Kolokithas expects to sell the remaining paintings at other venues in London. 

Joan Barton

 

Raising the Roof

Guide Hut Appeal

We've had terrific support from the local community since our original appeal in Thames Ditton Today. One very large donation followed by several other large and small donations, which together amounted to just short of £5,000, gave us a great start. Local businesses donated prizes for our Christmas Raffle and made us beneficiaries of the Christmas Fayre, which together raised over £2,500. The Brownies raised another £900 with their disco and panto; and stalls at village events and our toy sale have added another thousand to the pot. 

Thanks to help from Cllr Peter Hickman we managed to fix the immediate leaks that brought parts of the flat roofs down, and B & Q gave materials for new toilets that the girls were prepared to sit on, although we couldn't keep the spiders out! But the Hut has suffered serious lack of maintenance for 50 years. When we commissioned a full survey it became clear that to replace the main roof, renew the electrics, heating and plumbing, replace windows and rotten doors, install floors fit to sit on and a kitchen up to modern standards, plus redecoration, we are looking at a sum of nearer £50,000 than the £20,000 we had first thought.

After the flat roof repairs and the new toilets we have raised about £12,000. Additionally Jeremy at Stitchery has arranged for us to get new double-glazed windows supplied for free - we just need to pay to put them in - and the Michael Shanly Charitable Trust has promised £3,000 towards the main roof, provided we can raise the rest of the money in the next 6 months. That leaves us something like £3,000 before we can proceed with the roof, which we'd love to do before the winter sets in again.  

We are hoping that the good quality musical at Vera Fletcher Hall, "Tell Me on Sunday, and Rainy Days and Mondays," on Fri-Sun 25-27 July (Tickets £12 from Box Office 8942 6867) will go some way towards that target. Meanwhile an anonymous donor has offered to put up another £2,500 if other individuals in the village would match that. 

With all this support we are very hopeful that we'll have a sparkling new hut in plenty of time to start the centenary celebrations in autumn 2009. However, there is some way to go: if you would like to donate a kitchen or perhaps a new central heating system, please do get in touch! 

Bronach Hughes
020 8398 1628

 

By Hook or Crook

Mr Tod 
We track down the urban fox - photo Scott Hortop, costume Shirley Hortop

One never knows what will be the issue that drives peaceful villagers to pen or keyboard. Our article detailing the atrocities of the urban fox prompted a spirited defence of Reynard by resident Sarah Farrand. "Good Heavens!" she wrote, "any minute now I'll be reading about their predilection for snatching babies!" She advances the interesting theory that foxes were driven to urbanise when myxamatosis decimated the wild rabbit population and industrialised farming led to Silent Springs. "The problem of urban foxes is almost certainly manmade." 

A theme taken up from a different perspective by Cecily Preuss who writes: "In spite of your diatribe on foxes I still regard Man as the greatest predator of all." (Any man of worldly experience must here emphasise that the predatory rôle of Woman is equal). She points to the hedgehog population being cruelly ravaged by slug pellets. Although I believe dangerously toxic metaldehyde has been banned for several years, many of us have noted a worrying decline in local hedgehogs lately. Would readers please write in if they have sighted any?  

Meanwhile four or five readers shared a jaundiced view of urban foxes and noted what a nuisance they can be. Wildlife seems to be a gratifyingly lively and controversial subject! To prick an Editor's sense of mischief, a poet who prefers to remain anonymous sent in the following item for which I thank her:

Twitchers get the bird

The ring-necked parakeet is sweet, 
Though purists disapprove 
Of foreign birds that come in hordes 
And eat the treats that they put out 
For British birds they love. 
'Tut, tut' they splutter, 'Cull the lot.' 

How idiotic! The exotic 
Parakeet's a fine addition, 
With every right of overflight. 
May they target the despotic 
Twitchers of Thames Ditton 
With their droppings. Hit the spot! 

O hypocritic purists! You 
Love other foreign birds, 
For you allow the swift, the swallow, 
Goldcrest, hoopoe, goose and cuckoo, 
To immigrate. So it's absurd 
To exclude parakeets. What rot! 

You nimbies - what is their great sin here? 
Is it just that they're from.... India, 
While Truly British Birds are ... not?