Upton in Profile

Transcribed from the BBC Radio Oxford broadcast 9th November 1985.

Interviewer John Simpson

In conversation with Mrs. Audrey Stone, of Cherry Cottage, Upton.

JS: One of the things I’ve noticed, many of the houses are tucked away. You can’t actually see them, unless you go looking for them and I’ve come to one such house now to meet up with Audrey Stone, who besides being a local resident of a few years standing is also Chairman of the Parish Council. Audrey, how big actually is Upton? It seems to me not a very big village.

AS: Upton is a small village at the foot of the Downs, with about 450 souls. I think we are about a mile wide and a little over three miles long.

It’s also the sort of village you wouldn’t necessarily come to as it doesn’t actually sit on the main road.

It doesn’t. There are no main roads in the village. It’s all contained around our old Saxon Church. We are linked to villages to the South and to the East by a variety of footpaths. In the South we can go to Blewbury and East and West Hagbourne and by crossing the main road, the A417, we can go by footpaths and green roads to our neighbours Chilton and further afield to Compton and East lisley, and on to the Downs.

And this is very much walking country isn’t it, with the Downs just on your doorstep?

It’s walking and riding country, yes and we’ve worked very hard in the Parish Council to keep these footpaths and green roads open.

Are they used a lot?

They are used a great deal, yes.

And not only by local people I’m sure.

Oh no! People come from far afield to walk here.

If you get walkers, do some of them come in their cars, deposit their cars, then walk? If so, what happens to the cars?

Mostly they come to gain acess to the Downs so they tend to park either in the pub car park or at the end of the Lynch Way, which is one of our green roads and walk up from there.

So, no great problems.

No great problems, no.

Tell me a bit about the make-up of the village. What sort of village is it these days?

Like many villages, it’s made up of local people, people who have come here to work and go out each day to Harwell, Oxford, Didcot. We’re a good mix, a happy village I think and people aren’t backward in coming forward to say how they want the village to develop.

Yes, now that actually is quite an important point, because it’s quite a picturesque spot here, with the Downs, as I’ve said, right at your dooorstep and driving around I’ve noticed there’s still one or two of the very old cottages, superb brickwork and half timbered, so they’re still here and then you’ve got a mixture of modem buildings. Very important that everything sort of hangs together, because you could spoil it very easily.

Yes, very easily. The Parish Council and the village I think want it to remain a small village. We don’t want any more large buildings in Upton. We would like to see perhaps another group of local authority housing for the elderly and maybe a small group of houses for first-time buyers. We don’t want to become any larger. We don’t want to reach out to our neighbours.

Actually, walking around just now, there is some development going on at the present time.

A large house in the village, with an equally large garden, was sold in recent years and the garden, in the way of most large gardens, has been sold off. But we were able to reach a compromise over that. Ten houses were asked for and by much negotiation, we got it down to five and the village is happy with that.

The other thing I noticed was an extremely large playing field.

We have a playing field of 5 acres. It was bought by public subscription, Coronation year 1953 and is called “Coronation Field”. In those days, we had a village school. The children used the playing field and the local authority cut the field. With the closure of the school, the local authority stopped cutting the field and the Parish Council took it on. It costs a lot of money to keep it cut and tidy. We have a very old tractor, of Eastern European origin, which we manage to keep going and we pay a man to cut the field. It takes a large chunk of our precept.

It certainly looks very good though. As I came past it, it’s most noticeable that it was well kept.

Yes. we put a lot of work into it and some voluntary work goes into cutting around the swings and slides for the children.

I must ask of course, is it well used?

It is. We have two teams on a Sunday, the local pub team and recently, a team from Abingdon.

This is football, is it?

Yes, football on Sundays and recently the children were in trouble because they used the Village Hall surrounds for cycling with their bicycles and lots of bits of damage was caused, so during the summer holidays the Parish Council and the children and the older residents in the village got together. The children produced a plan for a small cycle track which they constructed themselves on a piece of playing field which we’ve loaned to them and it seems to work very well.

Having put all the hard work into building it, I’m sure they appreciate it now.

They do.

Also of course there’s the Village Hall, which again I would think is an important part of the village.

That was built by voluntary local labour some years ago and is run by Upton Amenities Trust. It’s not a Parish Council responsibility, although it stands on our land. It’s used a lot. It’s used for most things in the village of course, although the Methodists do have a large hall, which they rent. But, unfortunately, the Methodists don’t have a licence.

Well let’s just turn to yourself. How did you come to be here in Upton because I think you’ve been here a few years haven’t you?

We came in 1961 when my husband left the navy and obtained a job locally and found this piece of land and built a house on it.

It’s tucked away, this piece of land, fairly lucky to find it, I would think.

Very lucky! It came on the market at the right time and we were ready to come into civilian life and we bought it and we’ve been very happy here.

Did you know Upton before you came?

No, not at all, no.

In fact what were your impressions when you came, it’s a few years ago now isn’t it?

I remember coming into the village to look at another piece of land and thinking, is this village inhabited? No one came out to say “Hello.” I don’t know where they were that day. I thought to myself, could I stand living in a small Downland village after coming from a very busy service life, but we did and we’re pleased now we took the plunge.