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jonathan-lord-mpWoking’s MP Jonathan Lord appears to be significantly out of touch with the views of his constituents, according to the local results of the Remain/Leave vote. While Lord announced months ago that he was in favour of Britain leaving the EU, the vote tally in Thursday’s referendum vote in Woking revealed a significant majority in favour of Remain. As it did in neighbouring Guildford, and in Epsom and Ewell (their MP is Brexit campaigner Chris Grayling) and Wokingham, parliamentary seat of longstanding Eurosceptic MP John Redwood, who was dubbed one of the “Tory bastards” by the-then Conservative prime minister, John Major, back in the 1990s for his anti-EU views. In Lord’s case, perhaps he should consider resigning from his Woking seat, where people were clearly worried about the impact of Brexit on their jobs in London, and stand instead for a seat in the north of England, where the locals are more likely to share his views.


IMG_3499This picture shows the way the recent floods have changed the landscape in Old Woking, at least for the moment. Parts of Millmoor common have become a beautiful lake, and the footpath to the common at Old Woking ends abruptly, as you can see.  But not all the flooding can be attributed to natural causes.  The pond at Kingfield Green appears to have spilled over, but this is due to a blocked and damaged storm drain that occurred when a new lamppost was installed, according to resident Richard Tidbury, below, of Pond House, who with several other residents have found their access blocked for a number of days as a result.  Mr Tidbury, whose wife has had a stroke and needs regular visits from carers,  said a number of agencies  were arguing about whose responsibility it was to fix the problem –  and meanwhile the Kingfield Green residents remain cut off.


It’s worth drawing the attention of all Paul Weller and Jam fans to a piece at the back of the G2 section of the Guardian today, in which Weller and Foxton talk about the making of their great song, Town Called Malice. Weller confirms, not for the first time, that it’s “partly about Woking, where I grew up, which had always been a depressed place. That line ‘rows and row of empty milkfloats dying in the  dairy yard’ was directly influenced by Woking. ‘Cut down the beer or the kids’ new gear’ was about how people were struggling. I remembered my mum and dad: I don’t think the swinging 60s ever hit Woking. They were forever rowing about not having enough money.” Among the early comments on  the Guardian article is one identifying the dairy yard as a Unigate one near Weller’s home in Stanley Road; and another from a starstruck one who received a tip that Paul Weller could be found in the Holly Tree pub in Addlestone one evening in 1981. He went there to find Jam bassist Bruce Foxton playing pool instead; but was only slightly disappointed.

WWF-UK this week at the HG Wells Centre has been putting flesh on its plans to build a new UK HQ on Woking’s Brewery Road car park. The low-rise, open-plan building with a curving roof will be built above the car park, “floated” in the architects’ words, so that few existing car park spaces will be lost – but at the moment there will no longer be any room for coaches, which may turn out to be a snag.  Included in the plans are an education and visitor centre, with the intention of attracting school parties, a public piazza and gardens, the retention of many of the trees around the car park, and re-landscaping of the canalside area. The rickety old bridge over the canal, above, is to be replaced by the council at the same time. WWF, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, wants to move from its “clappped-out” current home at Panda House, on an industrial estate in Godalming, and “express itself” in an eye-catching – and they hope, award-winning – green new building. Despite the recession, it has the funds to do it. There were about 100 people at the public presentation I attended on Wednesday afternoon, one of three being staged by WWF.  They were mostly elderly, mostly from Horsell, and mostly hostile – the same sort of people who successfully fought the proposed transfer of Surrey county council’s  HQ from Kingston to Woking a number of years ago. They will no doubt fill the letters pages of local papers with their objections over the next few weeks, even though the Brewery Road site has long been zoned for development. However, one resident who lives close to the canalside had to admit: “This plan is the best I’ve seen so far.”  To find out more about WWF’s intentions, there is a temporary email address:

February 2011 update:  Good news! Despite the grumbling from Horsell, WWF has gained planning permission for its Woking HQ

Going to the theatre or cinema in Woking should be an all-round, enjoyable experience. Unfortunately it often isn’t, despite the excellent New Victoria and Rhoda McGaw theatres, and spacious bar areas. First of all you have to pay to use the car parks at night – a relatively new imposition, but with Woking council now £150m in debt I suppose you have to grin and bear it. (However, it’s particularly hard on disabled people from outside the borough who have to pay the full whack). Then after the show, having queued to pay at the ticket machine, you can be trapped in the car park for up to 30 minutes trying to get out if everyone is trying to leave at the same time.  One way to reduce this problem would be to keep the theatre bars open for an hour or so after the shows,  to allow people who have turned up to see friends appear in amateur theatricals to congratulate them on their performance, socialise, and stagger the mass car park exodus. The current arrangements just leave the punter with the impression that he or she is being processed out of the place as quickly as possible: “Thank you for your custom, now on your bike.”  Well, if you were on a bike you might get out of the town centre more rapidly that way.  It doesn’t happen at the Electric theatre in Guildford, where the bar stays open after the show.  Something for the vast, money-making Ambassadors organisation to think about?

Psst? Wanna buy a local paper? The Woking News and Mail is still up for grabs, following the recent sale by the Guardian Media Group of nearly all its regional newspapers, including the Surrey Advertiser, to Trinity Mirror.  The reason that the sale of the News and Mail did not go through as well is understood to be the fact that Trinity Mirror already owned the competing newspaper in Woking. So, having decamped to Stoke Mill in Guildford to join the Surrey Ad, the News and Mail finds itself in the position of slightly less welcome lodger. Is it too much to hope that, assuming another buyer is found for the News and Mail,  the paper will eventually return to the town it serves?  Despite its recent rejig into a tabloid format, and the fact that it doesn’t give away all its stories on the web, its paid-for circulation is  down to 6,856, a fall of 10.9%, which places it below the Romsey Advertiser but just above the Beccles and Bungay Journal in a recent league table of regional newspaper sales Let’s hope a buyer can be found that recognises the role of the News and Mail and that of its freesheet sister The Woking Review as a historic asset to the town.


GEDC0616It’s time something was done to smarten up the Basingstoke canal and its surrounding area in Woking. At a recent meeting of the canal’s joint management committee last month one member of the public complained that the Woking section resembled “African Queen country.” It was certainly looking very overgrown in the summer. This may be partly due to the fact that it was closed to navigation for the last three years, until earlier this year. Even now the Deepcut flight of locks is closed and the St Johns flight is restricted because of water shortages. Such problems spurred the chairman of the regional branch of the Inland Waterways Association to describe the Basingstoke canal as a “national joke” at the same meeting last month. This is a bit harsh, for the canal is beautiful to walk or ride along, even when closed to boats, and is a haven for wildlife. As far as Woking is concerned, it is a wonderful green asset, along with Woking Park, and should be cherished more than it is. Efforts have been made to tidy the area around the footbridge from the Brewery Road car park, and these should be continued.  Something needs to be done about the rickety old bridge itself as well. The Basingstoke Canal Authority recognises the weed problem along the Woking stretch and says it has the matter in hand. As always, the problem is money.