Including Newbury’s exception, Hungerford’s hashtag, Brimpton’s refreshed plan, Thatcham’s relaxed covenant, Marlborough’s double award, Wantage and Grove’s delayed leisure centre, Swindon’s Brexit spat, Bradfield, Basildon, Bucklebury and Hermitage’s future constituency, Brightwalton’s poster, traffic and police updates, road closures, dangerous lunatics, yellow paint, yellow trousers, a lot of moths, shadow profiles, bold pigeons and a decoy fox, the cost of policing, colour blindness, peeks in two mail bags, Sweatbox comes home, the Flying Scotsman, the biggest pumpkin and Keef’s hankie.
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). See the Hungerford & district section below for details of the imminent road closure in Lower Denford.
• Railway closures: the next stage of Newbury electrification work runs from Monday 8 to Thursday 11 October. Services will be affected between Theale and Pewsey. For more information, click here. The good news is that four-day closure planned for November will now not necessitate the closure of the line during the day as the work can be done overnight. If that changes, the above-mentioned website will have details and we’ll mention it here.
• Click here to read a letter from GWR to the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group on the subject of the recent engineering works and related matters.
• 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.
• For information on flood warnings and alerts, click here.
• 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)
• According to an article on p16 of the most recent (1480) Private Eye, the extent to which Facebook is able and willing to collect data about us is even greater than was previously suspected, if that’s possible. So-called ‘shadow profiles’ are built up about a user based on information gleaned from a wide range of sources, including other Facebook subscribers. These can’t be accessed by users and requests to view it are refused on the grounds that it’s part of ‘confidential’ algorithms. It safest to assume that even if you whisper something into a hole in the ground it will eventually form part of the data that Facebook collects about you, and sells on to others.
• I see that there’s another royal wedding taking place in Berkshire this weekend, not on quite such a grand scale as the one in May but large enough to cause some security issues, and thus costs. This article on the BBC website looks at who is going to pay for it. The estimated cost is about £2m, which poses an odd problem for the Thames Valley Police. The force is, again according to this piece, able to claim back the costs of policing unexpected and exceptional events but only is these cost more than 1% of the force’s annual budget. As that is £370m, the cost of tomorrow’s event will not be covered by this.
• The question of whether or to what extent public money should be used to subsidise events organised by wealthy organisations made me wonder how much was spent on policing football matches and who paid for this. According to this piece from The Standard, this cost the Metropolitan Police £7m in 2015-16 for matches in the capital, only about 5% of which was recovered from the clubs. (Clubs in Manchester contribute a good deal more.) This seems like a huge sum but it covers all matches (say 22 per season, including cup ties) for all 11 London clubs – about 240 games in all, or an average of about £30,000 per game. Obviously a club like Chelsea might get on average 15 times more spectators than AFC Wimbledon but is a good deal more than 15 times richer and so perhaps should pay more. Chelsea might argue that they are already paying taxes to cover just this kind of thing; also that security and policing is, like the NHS, something that should be available to all. Police forces know how many matches will take place each year and can budget accordingly. The same can’t , however, be said for royal weddings.
• West Berkshire Council has released a statement referring to a recent survey published by the Centre for Cities. West Berkshire’s summary of the findings is that ‘Newbury is mentioned as a exceptional case because its economy is strong and self-sufficient as it does not rely on these links as towns of a similar size do.’ What the report actually says (qualifying its statement that ‘few towns have strong economies in their own right and only weak links to cities’) is ‘There are a few exceptions to these patterns…towns, such as Chippenham and Newbury have strong economies in their own right but weak labour market links to cities. Despite this, they are able to sustain low unemployment rates.’ The word ‘exceptional’ is not always synonymous with ‘an exception’, though it can be made to appear to be. I’m not sure what the significance of the ‘weak labour market links’ is but clearly West Berkshire Council doesn’t think this is a good thing.
• Click here for another announcement from West Berkshire Council, this time about an open day on Thursday 25 October organised by The Public Protection Partnership which provides a list of approved care and support services in conjunction with Adult Social Care across West Berkshire.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes: another view of Jack of Newbury; criticism of Newbury Town Council’s recent consultation; some thoughts about clapping after jazz music; what appears to be the first salvo in the next general election campaign; and a letter which I think is in support of cyclists but which is so ornately written and strangely punctuated that’s it’s impossible to be certain.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Swings and Smiles (thanks to the recent charity ball); The Newbury Weekly News Over 80s parcel fun (thanks to numerous donors including the Greenham Trust); Bloodwise (thanks to the West Berkshire Classic Vehicle Club); The British Heart Foundation (thanks to the Thatcham Festival); The Good neighbours Network, Age Concern and Timebanking UK (thanks to Hampshire County Council); YoCO (thanks toJames Forster and Lee McGavin); The Care Workers Charity (thanks to Bluebird Care Swindon).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• Click here to see the October edition of Penny Post Hungerford which, as ever, provides the best and most varied round up of what’s going on in and around the town. Let us know if you want to have anything included in next month’s edition.
• It’s very hard to find anyone who has a good word to say about pigeons particularly if, like me, you’re a Londoner, or if you work in a shop in Hungerford. For reasons that don’t seem clear, these winged rats have recently become both more numerous and more fearless, often strolling into shops and then, when challenged, flying into a panic causing mess, damage and chaos. “The problem of droppings outside the shop has certainly got worse in the last four or five months,” said Alex Milne-White, co-owner of the Hungerford Bookshop. “Recently one actually came in. Fortunately Emma managed to throw a towel over it and get it out before it did any damage.” It’s hard to know what to do about them. Culling, including with falcons, is expensive, divisive and temporary. Using decoy falcons doesn’t seem to work either: the one mounted on the parapet of the shop near the bridge (which has recently been joined by a rather surreal decoy fox) seems only to attract them. Hungerford Town Council is looking into a plan which involves every building in and around the High Street adopting the same measures (probably a mixture of spikes and nets), the logic being that if even a few places are unprotected then the birds all congregate there. I imagine that one of the things that attracts pigeons is a plentiful supply of food, so making sure any discarded food is disposed of in a pigeon-proof way would help. This would also go for anything fed to the ducks on the canal (to whom you should not give bread). If anyone has any bright ideas, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
• I dropped in to the Celebration Festival at the Hungerford Nursery School and it was absolutely rammed with people of all ages, many doubtless current or past pupils. This is another opportunity to mention the financial axe that is currently hovering over the school. Please click here to see the latest news of the campaign, which includes a link to an online questionnaire or, if you’s prefer, one simple question that they’d like you to answer to help make their case.
• The following day was the Hungerford Food Festival which I, and I think everyone else who attended or exhibited, enjoyed enormously. There’s one correction I need to make to the coverage of the event in NWN (p19) – the event is organised by Penny and Dani Winslet, not Penny on her own. You can see a lot more photos, and videos, at the Food Festival’s Facebook page.
• And speaking of Hungerford Town Hall and the NWN, the article on the front page of the Hungerford edition correctly refers to the forthcoming Hungerford Trade Showcase as taking place on Thursday 18 October – however, the venue has been changed and it’ll now be at John O’Gaunt School. Click here for details.
• We mentioned last week about the proposed removal of the shelter at Hungerford Skate Park. This has now happened. Click here to read Hungerford Town Council’s reasons for taking this step.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News (p21) refers to the discussions surrounding a planning application for a change of use in Priory Place (at the top of the High Street) for conversion to a pizza parlour. There has been some uncertianty about this as, some weeks ago, a notice in the window saying that this was happening was removed, leading many to think the plan had been shelved. An application has now been submitted and bother Hungerford and West Berkshire Councils will be considering it. You can see the application by clicking here.
• A planning application has also been received for a larger and more central vacant property in the town, the old From the Heart shop on the corner of the High Street and Everland Road. The applicant is Coffee#1 – a name which could never have existed in the days before social media – and you can see the plans here.
• With the Remembrance Day events on the horizon, Hungerford has managed to get its memorial spruced up, thanks to a grant from the War Memorials Trust. Click here for more.
Lambourn & Downlands
• The October issue of Penny Post’s Valley of the Racehorse newsletter was published last week – click here to see it. Let us know if you want to have anything included in next month’s edition.
• If you see someone in a local hardware shop buying tins of yellow paint then they might be from a local horse-trainer’s yard. Why? The reason is that recent research has suggested that, although the orange stripes placed on the jumps enable a (non-colour-blind) jockey to see them coming, the colour is no help to the horse, for whom orange is just another shade of green. Yellow, on the other hand, horses can see more clearly than we can. This article from the BHA explains the matter more cogently than I can. I also spoke to one local trainer who was sceptical about how much safer this change would be. A steeplechase can involve a large number of horses, often tightly bunched: a jockey will often not see much of any colour on a jump, be it orange or yellow. He also suggested that, although the horse might well see yellow more clearly, this (to them) very bright colour might make them jump too high over the fence which can increase, rather than reduce, the risk of falls. Many trainers and owners will doubtless be watching the results of any trials with interest.
• I also recently learned something I didn’t know, that colour blindness isn’t a black/white thing (if you see what I mean). Most of us, and particularly men due to the way genetics work, are on a spectrum. Birds can see a number of colours that we can’t, both because of having a wider spectrum of sensitivity but also having more cone cells in their retinas. For them, therefore, what we see as two shades of green might be for them as the difference between yellow and blue. I find this impossible to get my head around. If you want to go colour bonkers, this article has more to say on the subject.
• On Monday 15 October there will be a talk at the Lambourn Royal British Legion from Professor Gary Sheffield on ‘How the First World War Shaped the Modern World.’ Click here for further information.
• If you fancy a walk in a good cause this Sunday, be at Brightwalton Village Hall between 10.30 and 11.00am on Sunday 14 October. Even if you don’t want to do the walk, click here to see the lovely poster that’s been done for it – reminds me a bit of those classic railway adverts.
• The most recent Chaddleworth News has recently been emailed to me. It’s now in colour but is a PDF rather than a newsletter so I can’t provide a link. It has news of the recent harvest auction (including a photo of the Parish Chairman’s eye-catching yellow trousers), sad news about the closure of the shop, forthcoming village events and the latest from several local groups. If you’d like to receive this, please email email@example.com.
• Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Lambourn (also Newbury, Calcot and Thatcham) by the Berkshire School of English.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 27th day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• The Market Square in Newbury was recently closed for resurfacing, which has prompted the Newbury Weekly News to ask your opinion as to whether the town centre should be permanently pedestrianised. The survey is, I suggest, rendered slightly meaningless by not making clear what streets it’s suggesting this would affect. I’m also confused by the options, which in each case also offers a reason: ‘No, it would cause traffic chaos in rush hour’ and ‘Yes, it would make Newbury and much nicer place to visit for shopping and leisure.’ In months to come, when the way the questions were framed will have been forgotten, the results of the survey, unofficial though it is, may be quoted as indicating that ‘x% of people said they didn’t want it pedestrianised as it would cause traffic chaos.’ This wouldn’t be a fair conclusion as some people would have voted ‘no’ for a different reason. On the scale of things it’s a tiny point but is another reminder that a statistic on its own is virtually meaningless. I would probably tick ‘Don’t know’, the third option as my view of the matter is utterly different depending on whether I’m walking or driving.
• The same paper refers to a survey by TNT Direct which places Newbury as one of the UK’s top 1o emerging tech hubs. You can read the report (originally published on 23 August 2018) by clicking here.
• The Michaelmas Fair will be back in Newbury from Wednesday 17 October – click here for details.
• There are still some tickets available for this year’s Newbury Best in Business awards on Friday 2 November. Click here for more information.
• Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Newbury (also Thatcham, Calcot and Lambourn) by the Berkshire School of English.
• You can keep up to date with the progress of work at Market Street and The Wharf by clicking here.
Thatcham and district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Cold Ash Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Bucklebury Parish Council.
• This week’s NWN has, on p25, a report and photos of the blue plaque recently unveiled outside The King’s Head to commemorate where Britain’s first mail coach changed horses in 1784. Mail coaches were the superfast broadband of their day: the new system of stages that was first used in Thatcham cut the journey time for mail between London and Bristol to 16 hours.
• And, from the same paper (p22), confirmation of what was reported a few weeks ago, that the restrictive covenant that restricted the activities that could take place at The Moors has been relaxed, freeing the way for it to be used by charitable and community groups.
Congratulations to all those who took part in, and won prizes in, the recent Thatcham Photography Club competition for local students. Click here to see the prize-winning entries.
• Click here for information on the fireworks display on Friday 9 November organised by Kennet and Francis Baily Schools.
• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.
Theale and district
• Please click here for the latest news from Theale Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Aldermaston Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Brimpton Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Englefield Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Burghfield Parish Council (though the website is currently ‘under construction’).
• Local MP Richard Benyon, quoted in this week’s Newbury Weekly News (p4) , has branded as ‘ridiculous’ the proposal by the Boundary Commission to move several villages in the east of his Newbury constituency (including Bradfield, Hermitage and Bucklebury) into the neighbouring Reading West as part of the nationwide exercise of reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and harmonising the sizes of the constituencies. When I interviewed Mr Benyon and the other candidates before the 2015 election he placed this very reform at the top of his wish-list; now it is happening. He stresses that his opposition is not motivated by concerns about how people might vote so I’ll take him at his word. He talks instead about the ‘sense of community’ that these changes will threaten. This seems odd: for I have never heard anyone define themselves or their ‘community’ on the basis of a constituency, except perhaps at election time. The district or parish council, the police area and the health authority are more important, more visible and less subject to boundary changes. Many people are in any case quite hazy about where they fit into any of these administrative divisions: for most of us, our ‘community’ comprises the people we see, work with or interact with in various ways. Partly due to social media and the internet, these are more likely to be based on shared interests than on geographical location.
• The article points out that these and the other proposed changes must pass through both houses of parliament, although with the government ‘being bogged down by Brexit’ – an understatement if ever I read one – it was hard to say when this might happen. There could be another election before that happens, I suppose.
• Berkshire’s fire service needs to save about £650,000 over the next three years and it’s expected that this will result in the closure of the two stations in Pangbourne and Wargrave.
• There was a good turnout at the Mortimer West End quiz night last weekend which, like so many such events, raises valuable funds for the upkeep of the local village hall. If you missed the event, see ‘The Song and the Quiz’ section below for one of the questions.
• I was looking for something on the Aldermaston Parish Council website and came across the PC’s Community Resilience Plan which gives information about what to do in the event of a local emergency. There’s obviously a fairly specialist kind of emergency that can happen in that particular village. There was one section I could see about the Atomic Weapons Establishment which covered what to do in the event of ‘Fire, radiological leak or civil unrest during a demonstration’, events which could all presumably happen at the same time. The AWE itself recently came in from some scathing attacks from government inspectors, with questions being asked as to whether it was fit to deal with issues such as radioactive waste. I then came across this site which provides reviews of what it is like to work at a particular place. Disgruntled ex-employees might tend to give these a negative slant: then again, people can be disgruntled for a good reason. AWE scores a not terribly encouraging 2.2 out of 5. The first three comments I looked at were’Best job’; ‘Good employer but slow to change’; and ‘Dangerous lunatics.’ I think that provides what might be called a wide range of views.
• The North Wessex Downs AONB is running a public forum in Bradfield on Wednesday 17 October: Farming tomorrow – prospects for farming in the AONB. This will doubtless involve some discussion on the proposed Agriculture Bill. Click here for more information on the event. It’s requested that visitors pre-book so the organisers have an idea of numbers for catering and documents. Tickets are selling fast so book now to avoid disappointment.
• Brimpton will be updating its parish plan and a survey of residents will take place late this month. Click here for further information.
• Click here for the October/November Englefield Parish News.
• There’s currently a vacanvy for a parish councillor in Englefield – click here for more information.
• Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Thatcham (also Newbury, Calcot and Lambourn) by the Berkshire School of English.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• There’ll be free parking in Marlborough High Street on Friday 19 and Friday 26 October.
• Congratulations again to Will Beattie from Ramsbury who won the pair of tickets in the recent Flying Scotsman competition organised in conjunction with Steam Dreams. You can read a report of his trip here. The post also includes some pictures taken by local photographer Tony Bartlett.
• The Kennet River Dental Practice – the NHS service at the Marlborough surgery – is to cease operating from 31 December 2018, for reasons that marlboroughnews explains here.
• Congratulations to the green-fingered of Marlborough for their success, once again, in the recent South West in Bloom competition.
• Click here for the latest on the futures Braeside and Oxenwood outdoor education centres.
• It seems that the planned 108-seater cinema in Marlborough will be open by the middle of next year.
• I mentioned last week about Action for the River Kennet’s (ARK) latest Moth Night on Monday 15 October at Stonebridge Wild River Reserve. This led me to wonder what the collective noun was for moths. Anna from ARK contacted a moth expert on our behalf and the conclusion was that there isn’t one that’s widely accepted. So, if you go on the walk and see a lot of moths you’ll just have to describe them ‘a lot of moths.’
• It must be said that the ‘News’ section on the Wiltshire Council website is rubbish. For instance, the most recent post when you search for ‘Marlborough’ is from March 2018. Come on, guys – there must be something happening you want to share. Your neighbouring councils post several things a week.
• 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.
• For anyone looking forward to the new Wantage and Grove Leisure Centre, the headline of this week’s Wantage and Grove Herald would have made alarming reading: World on New Leisure Cenre is Halted.’ The problem appears to centre on the future payments made by the government to local councils under the New Homes Bonus – which pays authorities on a fixed rate depending on how many homes are built or brought back into habitable use – which may in future be cut.If this is a publicity stunt by the Vale of White Horse Council then it seems to be working. Government funding arrangements for local councils seem to change as often as the weather.
• The statement made by Councillor Roger Cox, the Leader of the Vale of White Horse Council, made on 10 October touches on this matter, as well as the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and the Five Councils Partnership. You can read it in full here.
• Turning back to the Wantage and Grove Herald, Julie Mabberley’s column (p8) highlights the bewildering, off-putting and inconsistent methods by which some local councils permit questions to be put to councillors.
• The Wantage youth club Sweatbox has now relocated to its new home on the Centre Site at King Alfred’s School. Click here for more information and details of forthcoming events.
• Click here for the latest (1 October) e-newsletter from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group which includes new planning applications, the latest on the Vale’s Local Plan, local roadworks and a report on the recent Oxfoedshire CCG board meeting, which was attended by members of the WGCC.
• South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils are giving those who are part of the paid-for service the opportunity to put out the equivalent of one extra bin’s worth of garden waste (around three large 80 litre bin bags) during October. Click here for details.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• In a bid to support Swindon and Wiltshire’s local businesses with the outcome of the UK’s forthcoming withdrawal from the European Union (if we all had to type that out in full every time I bet there’d be a lot less written about it), a local company will be hosting drop in sessions in partnership with Brexit Hub. Click here for details.
• The first Swindon Big Knit will take place at the Orbital Customer Service Hub on Saturday 27 October from 2pm to 4.40pm. Click for more information.
• The little spat described in this article in the Swindon Advertiser between a Labour Swindon councillor and the leader of Swindon’s Conservative council perfectly exemplifies the problems that local councils face in trying prepare for B****t. West Berkshire Council was a few months ago criticised for not producing a risk assessment: the same argument is happening further west. One summary of this might be that the Council is producing something but they haven’t shown it to anyone because it isn’t finished; and it can’t be finished because no one knows what’s going to happen; and so nothing will get published until after it’s happened, even though the whole point of doing it is to prepare for this.
• Click here to see what was in the Editor of the Swindon Advertiser’s in-tray from local letter-writers this week.
• Swindon Council is still seeking the views of residents on its waste-collection strategy, which will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet on 5 December. The online survey is due to close on 19 October but residents will have the chance to give their views on the draft Waste Strategy at a number of upcoming drop-in events. Click here for more.
• The work on resurfacing the Coate Roundabout, delayed from August, will start on Monday 15 October and last for about eight days. Click here for more information.
• The Swindon Labour Group has called on Swindon Council’s ruling Conservative administration to abandon their proposal to end plastic recycling collection. This article in Swindon Link points out that Swindon’s recycling rate is currently 38% (the national target is 50% by 2020) and that this move would reduce it still further.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is here once again. This week I had a cold. I also read an article in which Keith Richards was asked what made him most unhappy. I imagined he’d have quite a few to choose from but he opted for the fairly benign ‘being caught with a cold but no handkerchief.’ That in turn made me think of his song Happy from the peerless Exile on Main Street album. (For a description of the extraordinary circumstances in which this masterpiece was recorded, I urge you to consult KR’s autobiography, Life.)
• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is one of the ones posed at the recent Mortimer Village Quiz Night in order to raise funds for the Village Hall (click here for more information on the venue) and is as follows: How much in kilos did the world’s heaviest pumpkin weigh? Just to show the scale of what we’re dealing with here, the quizmaster said that the answer could be to the nearest 100 kilos. Last week’s question was: For what animal is a dare, a flutter or a universe the collective noun? The answer is (according to my research) a moth: but as mentioned above (‘Marlborough & district), a local expert has since told me that there is no collective noun for these animals. Whenever I need to describe a lot of moths (which isn’t often) I’m going to stick with a ‘universe’ and see if it catches on.
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