Kimberley Bennet

It’s a unique place

“We came to Watlington 10 years ago. We were living the other side of Henley and wanted to buy our first home. We visited and it was love at first sight – the character of the houses and the backdrop of the Chilterns. But more than anything, it was the fact that people would say “hello” and “good morning” to each other. Before I moved here I was commuting – no one talks to each other or makes eye contact. Now I’ve become that person that will chat about the weather with a complete stranger in the street.

When I first moved here I was pregnant with my first, I didn’t know anyone and I had a slight panic. But there was a lady called Daisy who took me under her wing – she had been a dinner lady at school and knew everyone. Also, Wendy from the Galley kitchen shop – I went in there to buy a tea pot and got chatting to her.

After I had my son, I started going to Chunky Monkeys play group and I met so many people – I was really welcomed – and I’ve never looked back. I made friends for life there.

I do think it’s a unique place – visitors here are “wowed” and my sister even moved here after visiting me! Days like the Christmas Fair where the whole community comes out are magical. The High Street looks like a film set. Father Christmas has his grotto. It makes such wonderful memories for my children.

I’ve never missed a Remembrance Parade since I have lived here. The funny thing is, it never seems to rain. It’s always cold, with clear blue skies. It’s incredibly moving – I feel an overwhelming sense of belonging. Lots of people go through life never feeling like they belong somewhere. Seeing my children grow up and being part of this through Cubs and Beavers is important, because I want to instil these values of community involvement in my children.

I firmly believe you get out of a community what you put in. I want to be a good role model for my children. I’ve sold cakes on a Saturday morning, been on stalls at fairs representing various organisations dressed up as Elsa, and been an Elf at Santa’s Grotto. Recently I’ve been helping at the Children’s Centre and meeting a new generation of children. Everyone is busy but if everyone does their little bit it all helps make the world a nicer place. I hope my children follow suit and have that sense of belonging.

You might not know everyone by name but you certainly recognise faces, and that gives our children a sense of freedom and independence – more than you could get in larger places. People are looking out for each other and if children were misbehaving that would probably get back to you – and that is how it should be.

I feel we are on the cusp of change, with the possibility of more housing development. But I think because we have such a strong community we will be able to overcome and embrace the challenges and hold on to the community spirit.”

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



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