People really care about the community
“I was born in the foothills of the Rockies and raised in Edmonton, an oil town in Canada. When I was 13 my parents divorced, and I went to live with my mother at my grandparent’s house in Woodley, near Reading. Eventually I ended up in Shinfield, where I got involved with the Reading National Trust Volunteers, as I have always been interested in the environment. It was there I met my husband Keith.
We found Watlington on a November day with the National Trust Volunteers. It was so foggy that we missed the turning at Christmas Common, and found ourselves here. We thought it was so pretty we immediately went to the estate agents and picked up details of properties!
I moved in to the Marlbrook estate 28 years ago, with my husband Keith and my daughter Heather from my first marriage. Clara was born here. Both Heather and Clara went to the primary school in Watlington and still have friends from there.
When we moved in, our cat, Pinklepurr, escaped and went missing. Keith had to go round knocking on doors on a stormy winters night, looking probably a bit menacing in his jacket with the hood drawn up leaving just a slit for his eyes, and that’s how we met some of our neighbours! Pinklepurr came back so it was a happy ending. We have found everyone to be very friendly here. People say hello in the street, and know my name.
When the National Trust heard we were moving to Watlington they asked us to form Friends of Watlington Hill. Lord Esher, whose family had given the Hill to the National Trust had the idea of a “Friends Group” – so we spoke to him and agreed to start it – we’ve been running it ever since. We do mainly scrub bashing, clean the White Mark, and maintain the paths, under the instruction of a National Trust Ranger.
As part of that, the National Trust gave us tools and made it clear we could use these for the benefit of people in Watlington, so we helped with the clearing of the churchyard before they got their own tools.
We also have an allotment. There was a meeting called by the Parish Council, and Alec Powell and I went to suggest we enter the In Bloom campaign. We were all sat round the table and Mr. Beatty asked for someone to chair it. I was the last person to be asked, everyone else said no – so I took it on! We won Best Large Village in Thames and Chiltern District every year for several years and also got through to the Nationals where we achieved a Silver Award. The thing I was most proud of was that I run it with an ecological ethos. We were nominated for two environmental awards in the Nationals, where we were up against big cities with major parks and staff to run them, so just to be nominated was a big achievement.
I also worked at the schools as a TA and I am on the Parish Council. I do love the architecture here, as well as the way it is such a good community. I have been very involved with the Neighbourhood Plan, and did the Design Guide for that, helping future developers build houses that are in keeping with Watlington. Like the little quirky alleyways that we have, making sure that these would be extended through future developments. These paths help encourage people to walk or cycle to school, which is a great opportunity for children to engage with nature and notice the birds nests, the plants, flowers and insects.”
Watlington Folk is a documentary project by photographer Nicola Schafer. Watlington is blessed with pretty buildings and beautiful countryside, however it is the people who live here that truly make the place. This project aims to capture that through a series of portraits of the people who live here together with their “Watlington Story”. For more information, please contact Nicola through her website http://www.nicolaschafer.co.uk