Peter Davies 1935-2010
Peter Davies moved to Charney Bassett 33 years ago but his many activities were far wider than the village, being Tower Captain of the Wantage Bellringers, an annual commentator at the White Horse Show and having a keen interest in all things mechanical and electrical, both old and new. When his involvement as a consultant to the Nuclear Industry began to wind down, he firstly became “Financial Officer” of the Parish Council and then in 1994, he was asked to be Parish Clerk. Not one to be daunted by the challenge, he set about finding out how local government works and quickly established that Parish Councillors come and go but the effectiveness of a council is determined by the ability of the Clerk to advise, persuade and steer. However, being an efficient Clerk, members of the community can assume you have a magic wand and combining efficiency with tact and the patience of Job can be a challenge. Peter saw the value of email, the internet and the media for communication and used the local and national press to publicise several issues such as heavy lorries damaging old stone bridges while mindlessly following Sat-Nav directions. His knowledge and understanding of local government was recognised in the regular attendance of our District and County Councillors at Parish Council meetings and a good working relationship with our MP Ed Vaizey.
Peter was Parish Clerk from 1994 to 2009, only standing down in December due to his failing health. In those fifteen years the village has seen many changes that have moved us forward. The creation of Charney Hall & Field Trust as a charity, the purchase of the playing field, the installation of children’s play equipment on the field, the transfer of Charney Mill to the village, the development of the Village College and most recently, the Village Hall modernisation. All these and more were started or supported by Peter and his knowledge of “how to oil the wheels”. If Peter had to pick one item from the many improvements that he was involved with I believe he would have chosen the accreditation of Quality Status for the Parish Council. To achieve this, he became a fully qualified Clerk, he introduced and edited the Charney Chatter newsletter and he set up and managed the village website, writing many of the articles and taking many photographs of village activities. When the Quality status was confirmed at the end of 2007 we were the smallest council in Oxfordshire to achieve this and still today are among a minority of local councils that have been accredited.
Peter also found time to set up the Charney Army, an ad hoc group of villagers who carry out simple construction and maintenance work round the village and help keep footpaths clear. Peter recognised that the ad hoc status meant that anyone could be classified as a member and used this to ensure anyone who had a spade, fork, mower, chainsaw, strimmer and a few hours to spare could and should be enlisted into the team. As commander-in-chief, he will always be remembered as Captain Bunsen for his ability to start a bonfire with a match and his gas flame weeder. When the 2007 floods highlighted the need to improve drainage in and around the village he formed Project Chaffinch (CHallenge Avoid Further Flooding In CHarney). Peter knew the name was corny but it proved invaluable in publicising our cause when attention was focussed on more populated areas such as Abingdon and Oxford. His final achievement was to secure a £2000 grant from the District Council to allow Chaffinch to purchase equipment.
As Parish Clerk and in all his related activities, Peter led from the front but also set an example on what can be achieved by people working together. He died on February 8th aged 74 and will be greatly missed by everyone in our community. Our Church was too small for the 180 mourners` who came to his funeral on February 18th to say goodbye. His enthusiasm, patience and determination has shown us what can be achieved and the many changes that Peter helped to bring about will live on, inspired by his example.