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Waterstock Notes - February 2024

by Lorna Arthur

Flooding and sewage problems again . . . We started the year with the most rainfall we’ve seen in Oxfordshire for several years. This created a call out for sandbags to protect the low lying houses in the village, some of which were in serious danger of flooding. Unfortunately the storm overflow drains failed yet again and Angela returned from a break to find her garden and I think some of the house filled with sewage never mind the flooding. Susie heard from a friend in Waterperry that Thames Water had been discharging raw sewage into the river at Thame for over 50 hours! She warned that dogs and children shouldn’t be allowed to play in the floods as they might get poorly tummies ( or worse).

The Manistys reported the river at the Mill being possibly at the highest they’d seen for a very long time and the path leading to Bow Bridge was completely flooded. As I write the floods have receded, but we now have seriously minus temperatures bringing ice and bitter cold and possibly snow. Hopefully February will bring kinder weather – summer feels a long way off.

Bird Surveys In early January, Nick Marriner completed his last visit of 2023 (despite it being 2024!) He reported that this was his 20th visit to Waterstock in 2023 and was delighted that for a change it was a dry visit until the last hour when the heavens opened. He said; “As always, Waterstock is an amazing site and my most looked forward to survey every month. I have recorded 105 species this year, my joint 3rd highest tally since starting the surveys in 2015.” He has supplied us with a list of all his records since he started showing a current total of 131 different bird species - if anyone would like to see it please get in touch. He added “Thanks for all your support and letting me traipse across your land every month. Here's to a bumper 2024”.

Waterperry Opera Festival - 9-18 Aug really needs our support. Like many of you in the village, we and many of our friends have really enjoyed the informal and excellent quality opera and other performances provided by the Waterperry Opera Festival (WOF) over the past few years. They have managed to keep the ticket prices affordable despite the ticket revenue only covering half of the company’s costs. So they are very reliant on sponsorship and people becoming ‘friends’ or members of the company by making donations annually or monthly.

Waterperry Opera are keen to encourage anyone new to opera to come along and specialise in giving roles and opportunities to young opera singers. They also work closely with local schools and create special shows for children. If you went to this winter's performance of the Snowman, you will know that it was magical – our two year old grandson was completely enthralled.

John Wilkinson is now a keen ‘member’ of WOF and wants as many of us and our friends as possible to support them. And if you know of anyone or a company that might consider a sponsorship please let him know. A ‘friend’ only costs £5 a month and gives priority booking - an important benefit as many performances, sell out very quickly. To really help this wonderful local opera company flourish, please consider becoming members. This costs £21 a month. In return, as well as priority booking, you will be invited to a special reception and preview performances by some of the company at Waterperry House's sister house in London.

Lastly, as the company has increased in size, they have outgrown the accommodation available at Waterperry so any offers of beds for singers and creatives in Waterstock during the weeks of 9th to 18th August would be much appreciated. John W and the Manistys hosted some of the singers last summer and said it was a lot of fun.

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Following an article in Country Life, Waterstock’s Andy Peters' superb work as a ship’s figurehead carver has recently been featured in the Times, Telegraph and Guardian as well as his being interviewed on BBC 5 Live and on ITV.

The Times article is headed “Super Yacht Owners keep last figurehead carver afloat.” In the Telegraph: “Superyacht owners keep me in business”. Andy Peters says interest in his craft has waned in recent years
and he fears it may be gone forever once he stops. However, Superyacht owners who wish to have an element of maritime history worked into their decor have helped keep him in business.

Andy Peters said that, at one time, every major port would have had a ship’s carver to create the multitude of sculpture that decorated both naval and merchant ships. But now the 67-year-old is the last one who remains.

He started woodworking aged 11 and was a carpenter his entire life before turning his
attention solely to boats in 1990, earning a living through his business Maritima Woodcarving, mostly doing restorations for collectors and museums. Some of his works can sell for up to £30,000.

Carol Singing in village Lastly thanks to Nick Arthur for organising our annual carol singing around the village on Christmas Eve. He asks me to pass on a big thanks to everyone who sang and hosted
on Christmas Eve. We raised £165 for charity, and in light of the environmental focus that we've had in Waterstock this year the funds will be split between two charities that have played important roles enhancing our local ecology: the River Thame Conservation Trust and the Freshwater Habitats Trust.

Have a good month and roll on spring.