Gillian Cottle

People look out for each other in Watlington

“The M40 cutting is important to me. The first time I drove through it, my son Charles was 5 weeks old and weighed just 5 lb. It was like coming into a different world, with Oxfordshire laid out in front of you. We were moving to Chalgrove at the time. I’ve never lost that feeling of awe driving through that cutting.

I grew up in Surrey and went to a convent school in Leatherhead until I was 18. I wanted to do something with sewing, but the school said I couldn’t do that as a career, so I learned shorthand and became a secretary and then a P.A.

I met my husband and we moved to Chalgrove for his work. We had three boys, Charles, Richard and Oliver. In 1993 we moved to Watlington, so that Charles could go to the Primary School here. I’ve been here ever since, and I’ve lived in four houses here – Gorwell, Watcombe Road, Chapel Street, and now Pauls Way.

It took a couple of years to settle in and make friends, but since then I have never looked back. The friends I made are still my friends to this day – I am fortunate to have such longstanding friends.

People look out for one another in Watlington, like when the boys were doing something they shouldn’t, I would be told – they hated it! And I would do the same for other parents. It’s a very safe community. There’s been some wonderful characters over the years who I have been lucky to meet and spend time with, such as James Robins, Mrs. Delici, and old Grace, the baker’s daughter.

I worked for Robinson Sherston Estate Agents in Watlington for 13 years, 3 days a week. I manned the office and helped with the viewings. Then, when the children grew up, I worked as a PA and Office Manager for IPC Europe in Wycombe for 7 years, as well as weekend work for Robinson Sherston, which I still do now. I really love working for Robinson Sherston – it’s the people you work with that make all the difference.

I’ve sewn all my life. When I was at school I was bullied for being short. My therapy was to go to the furthest part of the school field and make dolls clothes. My granddaughter plays with the doll and the clothes now. Then, because I was so tiny I couldn’t get clothes to fit, so I made my own. When Charles was born I started making baby clothes and christening outfits for people – I called it “Stitches for Titches”.

I was made redundant from IPC Europe, and I decided that I didn’t want to stay in the corporate world, so I started “Reels of Cotton” from my living room. It ran away successfully within months. Working back in Watlington makes me feel that I am part of the community.

The Youth Club is really important to me. I’ve been associated with the Youth Club for over 10 years and I fell into being the Youth Leader about 7 years ago. I have a great committee supporting me. I do that because I am passionate that the children of Watlington need a Youth Club. And I like being with the young people! Youth Club runs 6.30 – 8pm  in The Pavillion at the Recreation Ground and it is for young people aged 9 – 14. The Youth Club gives them the opportunity to play without it being super- structured. They are a lovely bunch – honest and polite. I like seeing them when I am out and about in the town. I like being a champion for them – kids often get bad press, which they don’t deserve. We are in desperate need of volunteers so would love to hear from anyone who would like to get involved – we are in particular need of a treasurer if anyone is interested to take that on.

I used to be involved in the Watlington Festival for years and years – that was a lot of fun. There were pram races and floats but it was killed by Health & Safety and a lack of volunteers. It was lots of work but it was great fun and got all the village together. I’ve also been involved with the Scouts, the PTA, everything really!

My ethos is that the more you put in to a community the more you get out of it and the more you feel like you belong. We’re all here to help one another. That is what makes Watlington so special, I think.

When I am not working, I like walking with my dog Bertie. One of the really good things about working from home is being able to have a dog and get out walking in the hills. You see things coming into bloom and the bits of nature you just don’t see in an office.

Recently I considered moving away to be closer to family, but I felt I had too much to lose – both my jobs, all my friends, the community, the youth club, and just the most beautiful place to live! Driving back through the M40 cutting I thought ‘I am not meant to leave Watlington!’.  I am really happy here.”


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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