Jeremy Irons Officially Opens Children’s Centre

JEREMY IRONS officially opened the new Chalgrove and Watlington children’s centre.



The actor, who lives in Hill Road, Watlington, cut a ribbon at the First Steps Family Hub’s launch ceremony on Friday.

The centre, which runs sessions at Watlington Primary School and from a purpose-built building in Chalgrove high street, was at risk of closure after Oxfordshire County Council withdrew its funding of £105,000 a year in April.

It was saved by volunteers who received grants from Watlington and Chalgrove parish councils and £30,000 from the county council.

Irons, 69, said: “It’s incredibly important, not only so that children can mix with others from an early age, but for the parents so that they can share worries, look at other children to see how they are doing in comparison and become more confident.

“They can take some of the strain off being alone in the house with the children and get to know others in the community.”

Irons, who is married to actress Sinead Cusack, added: “When we came to Watlington it was where my wife met other parents and our children met other children and we started becoming part of the community.

“This is an absolutely essential facility and has to continue — it would be disastrous if it closed. If public money can’t be found then it must be raised privately and I think that’s very tough but it’s the way of the world at the moment.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue getting help from public funds as the economy grows stronger.”

The centre runs stay-and-play play sessions, a songs, rhymes and music group called Tuneful Tuesdays, a toddler group and a creative club offering arts and crafts activities.

The new-look centre, which is owned by the county council and Chalgrove Parish Councils has been running since March under manager Lucie Hamilton and playworker Maria Berrell.

It can be hired for functions with the proceeds going towards the service. Mrs Hamilton said: “Over the past eight months we’ve been trying to develop our services.

“We felt that it was important to rebrand the centre in order to have a fresh start and separate it from what it used to be.

“We’re so proud of our little team and extend huge thanks to all the local mums who come in every week.

“The community is unwaveringly dedicated to the cause and we owe a lot to the parish councils for their contributions. We have grown at least 50 per cent since March.”

Watlington’s county councillor Steve Harrod said: “It’s important to have these kinds of services and I’m impressed that residents got together and put forward a business plan.”

Jeremy Irons Hosts Horticultural Show for Watlington in Bloom

From The Henley Standard

watlington in bloom

ACTOR Jeremy Irons hailed Watlington’s “scruffiness” during the town’s horticultural show on Sunday.

About 350 people attended the show, which was organised by Watlington in Bloom and held at a barn in Hill Road belonging to Irons and his actress wife Sinead Cusack.

The show, which was the first to be held in Watlington for more than two decades, took place at the same time as an open gardens afternoon.

Irons, who presented the prizes with his wife, said: “I have always thought that part of Watlington’s charm is that it is on the edge of being scruffy.

“It’s not a toy village like something you might find in the Cotswolds but it’s rather nice because of that.

“It’s a working village — people are busy and don’t always have time to look after some of the alleyways, so sometimes they get a bit overgrown and you have to hack your way through them with a machete.

“However, with a little amount of effort on all our parts, it can be lifted out of scruffiness. It has a wonderful charm and a day like today brings us all together to be surrounded by beautiful plants.

“This year has been an enormous success for Watlington in Bloom and I hope we will build on it next year.”

Cusack told the crowd: “I don’t think the barn has ever looked as pretty as it does today, so all you kids and everyone who made these beautiful arrangements of flowers deserves to be congratulated. It is a fantastic array of excellence.”

Classes were judged by Peter Thompson, Watlington’s mentor for the Britain in Bloom competition, and John White, a judge from Chalgrove.

Jenny Stillwell won best entry with a spray of flowers. Kerris Hennstridge and Lara Spicer won best children’s entry with their miniature gardens. Diana Kean won overall best in show and Linda Nicholson was runner-up.

The demand for the open gardens was so great that the group ran out of programmes. Eighteen venues were open to the public during the afternoon, including the town’s old burgage plots and private gardens.

Tim Horton, chairman of Watlington in Bloom, said the group would now consider holding the events annually.

“A lot of people said they loved seeing the horticultural show back in the town and I think whatever we do in the future it was nice to have that response,” he said. Just under £1,000 was raised by the two events but Mr Horton said: “The real intention was to celebrate the town and have a really good day.”

He thanked Tom and Gill Bindoff for setting up the show and Watlington in Bloom co-ordinator Terry Jackson and her husband Keith for their help throughout the weekend. Pat Fewell, who organised the open gardens event but was unable to attend as she was recovering from an operation, was thanked in her absence.

Watlington is to compete in the national final of the large village category of Britain in Bloom this summer after achieving its greatest success yet in the regional competition last year.

The regional judging will take place on July 15 and the national judging on August 6.

Mr Horton said: “We are now heading for our true tests. Clearly we have many tasks to do but will have no complaints about watering daily if the sun shines like it did at the weekend.”

Published 08/07/13