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Local News May 10-17 2018

Including shoplifting statistics, misleading parliament, water questions, Wash Common’s library, Hungerford 2036, Oxenwood, Sandleford, Greenham, the Magic Roundabout, annual parish meetings, the Ramsbury Flyer, repair cafés, police and roadwork updates, council links, crafty craft, croquet, grant deadlines, dog owner in court, cats and cucumbers, pothole abolition, defending the daleks, old Dixie, new mayors, eight letters leading to five and 6,566,406 journey combinations.

Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Police, transport and council contacts

Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Please click here to visit Traffic England’s site for information on motorways and major strategic roads (which include at A34 and the A419). The ‘Map Layers’ toggle can be used to display different levels of information.

• You can also visit Roadworks.org for similar information: this also provides the ability to toggle layers and select dates (it defaults to today’s date but you can adjust this) and other preferences. (It seems that West Berkshire at least – see link above – gets its feed from this source).

• The A338 will be closed between the Tally Ho in Hungerford Newtown and the M4 between 8pm and 5am on 14 to 18 May.

• There will be a number of closures on the main railway line between Pewsey and Theale in 2018 as a result of the electrification project.

• A reminder again that to sign up to receive the information provided by the Bedwyn Rail Passengers Group is a very good way of keeping abreast with (and having a way of making your complaints known about) the ever-changing railway arrangements and closures during the electrification process (and at other times, come to that). Please contact Steve at steve@meip.co.uk.

Neighbourhood policing updates. For the Thames Valley Police’s ‘Your Local Area’ page generally, click here. For specific areas, click here for Hungerford and Lambourn; click here for Newbury Town Centre; click here for Newbury Outer; click here for Bucklebury and Downlands; click here for Thatcham, Aldermaston and Brimpton; click here for Wantage and Grove; click here for Wiltshire East (including Marlborough); click here for Swindon and other parts of Wiltshire; click here for Hampshire.

• Please click here for more about the tri-service station in Hungerford and policing in the area generally.

• A number of community minibus and car schemes provide transport services for – but not exclusively for – older and disabled people. You can click here to find more about the range of services (and volunteering opportunities) in West Berkshire. Click here for services in Wiltshire and Swindon.

District, town or parish council contacts. To view the contacts page for Hungerford TC, click here; for Newbury, click here; for Thatcham, click here. If you live in the Vale of White Horse area, click here (and here for Wantage); if you live in Wiltshire, click here (and here for Marlborough). For Swindon, click here.

Across the area (and further afield)

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes a defence of the dalek-like rishing bollards at Newbury Racecourse; a criticism of the lack of media information about the local elections in West Berkshire last week (not surprising as West Berkshire was not one of the councils holding elections this year); praise for the West Berkshire Museum; and a debate about the role and efficiency of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

• There’s also an interesting letter which refers to regular correspondent Barrie Singleton’s trenchant views about the state of the democratic system in this country. The writer points out that while Amber Rudd was forced to resign for misleading parliament, no such action was expected of Boris Johnson for having misled voters with the startling lies he (and others) told during the Brexit campaign. The conclusion was that lying to parliament was a no-no but doing so to the voters was fine. The cynic in me might say that were politicians to be disbarred for telling lies when trying to get elected then parliament would be empty. One problem is that candidates seem to be constantly fed their lines by their central office and are doubtless under orders to recite these a certain number of times a day, like a dark spell, regardless of what question they’ve been asked. Any lie or error (which come to much the same thing) is thus repeated in so many places that it soon seems to be the truth, particularly when it is picked up by our mostly ghastly national newspapers and turned into an eye-catching headline. There seems no obvious solution to this apart from making it a capital offence for a parliamentary candidate to use social media or emails during an election campaign. I appreciate this might be a hard piece of legislation to pass, and even harder to enforce.

• As if to prove this point, a report in this week’s NWN refers to ambitious claims by West Berkshire Councillor Jeanette Clifford that ‘one day we might banish potholes from West Berkshire forever.’ What she also managed to do is mention twice that the roads in the area had improved since the Conservatives took office. Did she believe this to be the case herself of had she received a message from Tory HQ saying ‘We understand you’re about to talk to your local paper about potholes. Please make sure you blame one of other parties for this problem.’

• And still on this theme, you might want to have a look at this story which was leaked to the BBC on Friday 11 May which reveals that Conservative MPs have been receiving advice about how to seem human and relaxed on social media.  I’m sure it’s not restricted to that party.

• It was announced this week that there is to be a long-overdue overhaul of the way rail fares are calculated in the UK. The figure of 55 million different possible tickets has been quoted in more than one place but I think it could be far higher. There are 2,563 stations in the UK which means 6,566,406 different journey combinations, counting the return trip in addition to the outward one. However there are a huge number of other variables including class, child fares, time of travel, day of travel, how far in advance the ticket was booked, the routing and the effect of changes, return tickets and railcards. I would guess that one would need to multiply this figure by at least 12 and probably more. The imminent risk was perhaps that the number of permutations would soon exceed the number of particles in the observable universe, at which point the computer calculating it would presumably explode.

• For some reason the question of whether or not cats were frightened of cucumbers came up while we were entertaining last week. There being two cats on the armchair and a cucumber in the fridge I put it to the test. No reaction at all. A quick internet search, however, produced a rather different result

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Lambourn Walking Football Club (thanks to Clive Cox); Brighter Futures (thanks to Dave Young and Colin Crowther); Daisy’s Dream (thanks to Woolton Hill Village Market); Brendoncare (thanks to Richard Saxby).

Hungerford & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.

As is the case every month, the best and most varied round-up of events in and around the town can be found in May’s Penny Post Hungerford. This month’s issue includes a report on the recent Town Council meeting (including the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor swapping roles), the launch of the Hungerford 2036 neighbourhood plan, news from the High Sreet, Barrs Yard and the Chamber of Commerce, a look ahead to forthcoming events, a feature on local cricketer Lauren Bell, book reviews, gardening tips and advice on GCSE revision and planning an outdoor event.

• Two of these deserve special mention. The first is Hungerford 2036 which has now officially launched. It must be stressed that community engagement is vital for the success of a neighbourhood plan.  Appeals for volunteers and opinions will be made by the Project Team and will be given wide publicity here and elsewhere.

• The second is to congratulate Keith Knight for have helped steer Hungerford through an eventful year (matters arising included Salisbury Road, the subsequent judicial review, the threat to the library, the temporary closure of the Post Office and the above-mentioned neighbourhood plan) and also to congratulate Helen Simpson who has become Mayor in his place. Her first action was to remind her elder son (who was leaving after witnessing her election) ‘to make sure he did his homework.’ Good advice for people of all ages. You can read an interview with Helen Simpson here.

• The Newbury Weekly News this week covered the matter of shoplifting in the town, which also came up at the recent Hungerford Town Council meeting. Statistics such as those quoted by the police representatives can be looked at several ways: click here for a slightly different view on this regarding the very similar figures which were reported for a slightly earlier period at the Town Meeting in March.

Lambourn Valley

• Please click here to visit the village websites or Facebook pages for Lambourn, East Garston, Great Shefford and Boxford.

• If you want a round-up as to what’s been happening and will be happening in the upper part of the Lambourn Valley, I can do no better than recommend you have a look at the recently-published debut edition of our new Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter which you can read by clicking here. Matters covered range from reports of annual parish meetings to dancing tips, from seasonal gardening advice to news from the local primary schools and from upcoming events to musics on the subjects of cheese and chocolate.

• The Lambourn Annual Parish Meeting took place on 9 May and included an excellent presentation on the proposed neighbourhood plan. You can read our report of the event here.

• Calling all golfers: in support of the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association there will be a golf day on Friday 17 August. Click here for more information.

• The NWN reported this week that a burst water main caused ‘homes in Eastbury and Lambourn’ to be without water on the rather warm bank holiday earlier this week. Excuse me, but we had the same problem in East Garston as well. The article said that Thames Water was delivering water from the Eastbury Plough but I’m not aware they tried to do the same at the Queens. When I was driving to Shefford to get some bottled H2O I wondered how long it would take without mains water before normal life ground to a halt. I reckoned two days would be about right. We have a river flowing through our garden. Could one drink the water safely? Would it need boiling or filtering? I’ve heard of Weil’s Disease, spread by rats, and liver fluke, which I think comes from sheep poo. Are these risks? Are there sheep kept upstream of East Garston and near the river? People have lived near and presumably drunk the water for centuries when there were probably a lot more rats and sheep around than there are now. Is it more of a problem now because we’ve lost some immunity or is it just that we’re more aware of these things? Then there’s the stuff which runs off fields. Is that dangerous? (I was discussing this last night with a friend from the village in the Queens Arms, where we were sampling the pizzas from their new pizza oven, and he was wondering the same thing, so it’s not just me.) I don”t know the answer to any of these questions. Does anyone else, just so we all do the right thing the next time the taps run dry?

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its fifth day of broadcasting – click here for more.

Newbury & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Newbury Town Council: and here to see NTC’s archive of monthly newsletters.

• Following the meeting on 3 May to discuss its response to the most recent Sandleford Park proposals, Newbury Town Council will hold a further meeting on Monday 14 May. Subject to the coditions and limitations in this article, members of the public are welcome to attend and to make their views known.

• If you want to have your say on the proposed Local Development Order for Greenham Business Park over the next 25 years, you need to click here and submit your comments by Monday 14 May.

• There’s a slightly less imminent deadline for applications for Newbury Town Council’s Grant Aid applications – Thursday 31 May. A total of £25,000 is available. Click here for more information.

• See this week’s NWN (pp6-8) for a report and pictures of the recent Crafty Craft race.

• It’s hoped that Wash Common Library will re-open later this year, so bringing the number of libraries in West Berkshire back to where it was before the cuts were announced.

• The Family Fun Day will take place in Victoria Park on Sunday 13 May. Click here for details.

• Contrasting prospects for two local football teams: while Thatcham Town is preparing for a Wembley cup final, it looks as if Newbury won’t even have a ground next season.

Thatcham & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• The spat (I can think of no better word) between West Berkshire and Theale Councils over the planned school continues, with accusations by the former that the latter made ‘misleading and inaccurate claims’. You can read West Berkshire’s view of the matter here.

• Congratulations to all those who took part in the recent litter pick in Thatcham, 15 bags of rubbish and recycling being collected.

• See this week’s Newbury Weekly News (p24) for a report on the recent Civic Awards in Thatcham.

• I’m told the Watermill’s touring production of Burke and Hare is one of their best ever. I know several of the shows are sold out but I learn from the Cold Ash Community Bulletin that some might be available for the show at the Acland Hall on Wednesday 16 May. These are available from the Post Office.

• A reminder that Thatcham Market takes place every Friday from 9am on The Broadway.

Marlborough & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.

Click here for details of the rather brief (ends 21 May) consultation about car-parking charges.

• Wiltshire Council has earmarked two outdoor education centres (including Oxenwood near Marlborough) for closure but, as Marlborough News reports, has been forced by public pressure to extend the deadline for local groups to come up with a business plan for running them themselves. The Gazette and Herald has also covered the story here. This seems to be another example of councils which are faced with cuts failing to make a reasonable provision of either time or information in order for an orderly re-arrangement of responsibilities to take place. The experience of various such community asset transfers (such as the soon-to-be-completed one involving Hungerford Library) shows that this can be done. Councils should be meeting people half way and not being forced into discussions. Penny Post wrote something on this subject a couple of years ago: many of the points still seem to apply.

• Marlborough, like Hungerford (see above) has a new Mayor. Click here to read an interview with Lisa Farrell.

• Marlborough may soon have 20mph zones, despite the point made by one resident that due to the various traffic and roadwork issues that seem to affect the town more or less every day, vehicles often don’t exceed this speed anyway.

• Due to the wet weather, cars will not be allowed into Westwood for the Bluebell Drive this year.

• Richard Saxby, who works for Brendoncare, will be doing a skydive to raise money for the Brendoncare charity on Saturday 12 May. You can read more, and donate, by clicking here.

• And speaking of flying, click here for details of forthcoming trips on the Ramsbury Flyer.

• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.

Wantage & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Grove Parish Council.

• Wantage’s Annual Town Meeting took place on 23 April. The minutes will appear here in due course.

• Grove’s Annual Parish Meeting took place on 18 April. You can click here to see the minutes.

• If you’re a dog owner in the Vale of the White Horse area who doesn’t clean up after their pet, you might want to read this cautionary tale

• As we’ve had cause to mention before, the repair cafés which are now more and more in evidence are wonderful things. There was one in Wantage last weekend which penny went to and she received some good advice about how to repair a kitchen drawer which was damaged in a rather complicated and slightly unbelievable small domestic fire we had here. Many things are designed not to be repaired; many shops don’t offer the service; many people have never acquired the skills; and in any event we’ve become seduced by the idea of disposability . These events help address these issues. You can read more about them here.

Swindon & district

• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.

• A blue plaque is to be put on the house in Swindon where long-serving Swindon Town manager Sam Allen lived.

• If your journey around the Magic Roundabout was recently slowed down, this might be why…

• And speaking of that strange and slightly unsettling interchange, an article here from Wired pays homage to this ‘glorious’ creation, this ‘swirl of movement.’

• If you fancy trying your hand at croquet – a game that’s both charmingly genteel and ruthlessly cruel – click here for details of an open day and Swindon Croquet Club this weekend.

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week is back. I was listening to some of The Band’s songs this week, one of which was The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. This version is from Martin Scorcese’s film The Last Waltz, often regarded as one of the best musical documentary movies ever made.

• Which leads us tumbling into the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s is more of a cryptic crossword clue and was told to us by someone with whom we were having luch earlier this week in the Queens Arms. The clue is HIJKLMNO and the answer is five letters long. As a clue, one of the paragraphs in this post has been exclusively concerned with this topic. Last week’s question was: Who scored a hat-trick in a European Cup Final and still ended up on the losing side? The answer is Fenrec Puskas who scored three in Real Madrid’s 5-3 defeat by Benfica in 1962. (Since then, Benfica has been languishing under the Curse of Bella Guttman – a suitable title for a gothic novel or Hammer horror film – which is in fact a strange story of sporting superstition which you can read about here.)

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Brian Quinn

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