Review of the Year - January
December 30, 2009
With Woolworths standing empty in Wokingham’s Peach Street many traders said they were nervous about the future after a quiet Christmas.
Traders feared there would be a big drop in business in January after the Christmas rush as people began to tighten their purse strings.
John Piasecki, owner of Hudson Bay in Denmark Street, said: “The final few days before Christmas were quite good.
“I’m not getting ecstatic but they were okay.
“It was probably our worst Christmas this century and if the papers are anything to go by, worse is yet to come.”
Other traders reported seeing significantly fewer shoppers in the town already this year.
John Wellington, joint owner of Wellington’s Jewellers in Denmark Street, said: “The volume of shoppers in town seems to be less.
“I’m not sure if they go for all the offers at The Oracle in Reading, but certainly there appears to be fewer people around.”
Mike Holmes, owner of Wokingham Photographic in Denmark Street, said: “We were in the day after Christmas all the way up until New Year’s Eve and back on January 2.
“Our online sales were okay over Christmas but Christmas as a whole was disappointing.”
Tributes were paid to the last surviving veteran of both World Wars, who died in Sindlesham aged 108 on Saturday, January 10.
William Stone, who lived at Lord Harris Court retirement home in Mole Road, had been suffering from chest problems before his death.
Mr Stone was born in 1900 in Kingsbridge, South Devon, and signed up to the Navy on his 18th birthday, following two older brothers into the naval tradition.
He was later Chief Stoker on the HMS Salamander, on which during the Dunkirk evacuations in 1940 he made five trips to the beaches to rescue soldiers from the shores.
He reported vivid memories of a torpedo narrowly missing the ship.
In November 2008, Mr Stone had laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day with the two other surviving veterans from the First World War, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch.
Both veterans also died in 2009.
A 105-year-old brainbox headed back to school almost 40 years after retiring to see his name lent to a new room.
Staff at Easthampstead Park Conference Centre were so impressed by Rhys Lewis’ long service to Easthampstead Park College they decided to hold an unveiling ceremony for the new Lewis Room in January.
Former head of history Mr Lewis, of Emmbrook, worked at the college building, which is now the conference centre, for 20 years until he retired in 1970.
Mr Lewis was supported at the unveiling ceremony by friends, family and Councillor Pauline Helliar-Symons, mayor of Wokingham borough, and Cllr Bob Edger, mayor of Bracknell Forest.
Wokingham is one of the wealthiest and healthiest boroughs in the UK, but one family reported living in desperate conditions more akin to a Third World country in January.
The Penn family, of Eustace Crescent, told of their misery caused by chronic dampness and mould adorning the walls of their three-bedroom council flat.
The Wokingham Times reported how the walls were stained with watermarks from leaking guttering and the drainage system regularly breaks, meaning the family had to keep plugs in their sinks due to the smell.
The conditions were a shocking contrast to the rest of the borough, which regularly tops charts for being one of the healthiest and wealthiest places to live in the country, boasting some of the highest life expectancy levels.
The family had fallen behind in their rent payments and said the council would not consider moving them until they had paid off the debt.
A lack of sleep, fatigue and aching muscles were brushed aside when a quartet of darts fanatics arrowed their way to a new world record for the second time in January.
Four members of The Waggon and Horses darts team spent more than 30 hours at the oche aiming to break their own world record and raising money for charity.
The foursome, who were split into teams of two, threw an estimated 21,000 darts as they played 342 games of ‘501’ while walking a combined 19.4 miles to and from the board at the pub in High Street.
The efforts of Richard Saunders, Lee Hannant, Paul Taylor and Andy Brymer means they smashed their previous world record of playing the game consecutively for 25 hours and 34 minutes, which was set in January 2007.
Town centre manager Brian Newman resigned his post after two years in the role.
Mr Newman had organised new events such as Wokingham Food and Drink Festival and set up a traders forum.
Ambitious plans from a re-launched community group would have had spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancaster bombers in the skies above Winnersh.
The Winnersh Community Partnership revealed a list of grand plans for the village in the future in January, including an air show.
Amrita Auch, secretary of the group, explained: “The idea for the air show came from the Aviation committee at Woodley Aviation Museum.
“The early thinking is that we may be able to do something at Bearwood College, but that isn’t confirmed yet.”
The group was also looking in to the possibility of a number of other events in the Winnersh and Sindlesham areas.