Including planning issues in Hungerford, Marlborough and Wantage, winged enemies of democracy, Post Office outreach, police horses on the record, A34 progress, mixed news for our local football clubs, care crisis warning, good causes celebrated, roadworks, police news, new busses, old fivers, new Italian pop-up, old steam engines, Hocktide, the Gerry Rafferty/Uma Thurman connection (if there is one) and a papal density.
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• Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. There will be road closures in and around Lambourn on Good Friday due to the Lambourn Open Day. Click here for details of roadworks in Ackers Way in Swindon which are set to continue until late May. Click here for information on forthcoming closures on the A34.
• Please click here for details of long-term roadworks on the M4 between J12 and J13 and which will result in some overnight closures between 31 March and 22 May.
• 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.
• 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.
• The Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Hungerford Town Council took place in the Town Hall at on Wednesday 26 April to discuss the reaction to the approval of the 100 homes off Salisbury Road and the proposed neighbourhood plan. You can read a report of this here.
• A reminder that the Hungerford Post Office in Martin’s (and Martin’s itself) has now closed. (Who is moving in is still a bit of a mystery.) An outreach service is available in the Library from 9.45am to 1.45pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays (opening and closing 15 minutes earlier from what some of the signs may say). You can click here to see a brief video about the new service in action on day one. You can also click here for more information, including a link to the Post Office’s site with details about how retailers can apply to run a post office. Congratulations are due to Hungerford Town Council for having procured this seamless continuation of the service, something that the Post Office recently admitted very rarely happened when a branch closed.
• A reminder that Hungerford Library will be needing trustees if, as expected, it converts itself into a CIC or CIO (discussions on which continue to go well). There’s been a good response so far from potential trustees but more may be needed. Click here for details.
• The Strange Case of the Vanishing Post Box in Hungerford remains unsolved (see the last few Local News sections). Just because there’s nothing to report this week do not think for one moment that the case is closed or the matter forgotten.
• An even darker felony is at work in Hungerford, perpetrated by our old friends the pigeons. They have always been drawn to nesting on or near the railway bridge, something that some spikes had until recently prevented. However, these have got damaged and, until Network Rail fixes them, the pigeons are back in force. The big issue here is that they are, from this reclaimed stronghold, now pooing on people who are reading Hungerford Town Council’s notice board under the bridge. I think we can all agree that this constitutes a contempt for democracy that cannot be overlooked. With this action the pigeons have crossed a line and a robust response will be justified. A no-fly zone needs to be put in place and enforced. Sanctions may need to be imposed. No action can at this stage be ruled out.
• The Thames Valley Mounted Police Section visited Hungerford this week. Penny, armed with her camera, caught up with the two officers and had a brief chat with them about what it takes to join their ranks. You can watch this by clicking here.
• This week saw the annual celebration of Hocktide in Hungerford. Penny also made a video this which awaits editing and this should be posted next week. You can also click here to read more about this ancient ceremony.
• Lovers of Italian food will be able to sample some Sicilian wines and seasonal deli products at a series of pop-up run by Gastro Nicks in the Hungerford Town Hall. The first of these will be on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 May from 11am to 4pm.
• As mentioned before, it’s important not to get the two major ‘Salisbury Road’ developments in the area mixed up. Hungerford’s is referred to above: for news on progress of the larger (167-home) one in Marlborough, please click here.
• Further planning ructions, this time in Wantage, where changes to proposed plans for a care home have attracted local criticism.
• Meanwhile, also in Wantage, a petition has been handed in to the Oxfordshire Care Commissioning Group opposing the withdrawal of promised funding for GP services in at a time when around 5,000 new homes are being built in the area.
• This week saw the launch of Heathwatch West Berkshire’s report The Final Transition – When Parents and Carers Can no Longer Care which highlights the lack of investment and planning in providing for children who have been cared for by parents who themselves become too old to cope. The event took place at a site in Newtown Road which had been promised by West Berkshire Council as a site for sheltered housing 11 years ago although no development has yet to begin. For more information, click on this link (which includes an interview with Healthwatch West Berkshire’s Andrew Sharp) or visit Healthwatch West Berkshire’s website.
• We’ve written several times about the A34 and the repeated calls for steps to be taken to improve the safety record on this road which looks like a motorway and is treated as if it is one, but which isn’t. Newbury MP Richard Benyon promised some months ago that he would try to get something done and earlier this week he chaired a meeting at the House of Commons on the subject. You can read more here. Meanwhile, the Campaign for Better Transport has argued that improving rail links would reduce the amount of freight in particular that needed to be travel by road. It’s ironical that a good part of the A34, particularly the by-pass around Newbury, is laid on top of a railway line, long-since Beechinged, which used to link the midlands directly with Southampton.
• A new bus service has been launched between Newbury and Thatcham – click here for more.
• If you have any of the old paper fivers stashed away anywhere you have until 5 May to spend them before they cease to be legal tender.
• We mentioned last week about the Royal Scot steam engine which was passing through the area earlier this week hauling the Cathedrals Express – here are some photos of her in action.
• A reminder that if you have any questions that would like us to put to all the local General Election candidates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. This week’s Newbury Weekly News devotes a page to covering the early skirmishes in the campaign.
• A reminder also that there are council elections in Wiltshire and Hampshire (but not West Berkshire: Swindon will be holding parish-council elections) on 4 May. Residents of Nythe, Eldene and Liden Council in Swindon can find out more about their parochial candidates here.
• If you like to set out thoughts in rhyme but fear you’ve not the talent (or the time) to try to get your work more widely read then why not click through to this link instead? Details will be revealed of a Swindon-based poetry competition which closes on 30 June.
• Anyone who lives or works in Newbury should be aware of the Newbury Vision Conference on Thursday 4 May which will provide an opportunity for the various proposed plans and developments affecting the town over the next decade to be explained and discussed.
• Click here for more information about Newbury in Bloom 2017 (which includes two additional categories compared to last year).
• Nobody can deny that Hungerford Town FC has had an eventful first season in the National League South. A slightly unexpected promotion was followed by their being everyone’s favourites for relegation, instead of which they have spent the entire season in the top third of the table and reached the Bucks& Berks Cup Final. Off the field, £35,000 needed to be spent on ground improvements by the end of March if they weren’t for that reason to get relegated. Various fundraising activities were organised and local goodwill was called in with the result that the work was finished on time. The club is currently sixth and still with a chance of reaching the play offs. However, whether they do or whether they don’t now makes no difference. The National League (the one above the National League South) is the only one in the FA pyramid that insists on its ground requirements being met by all the teams that take part in the play offs from the two leagues below. Hungerford’s ground does not quite meet these standards, though could quite easily do so. This was appealed against by Hungerford and three other clubs in the same situation but was recently rejected. The loss will be the National League’s as they will be drawing their promoted clubs from those with the best grounds, not necessarily the best teams. There is a suggestion that the FA considers this regulation incorrect and will demand that it be changed in the future. This makes Hungerford’s final fixture of the season this Saturday a pretty damp squib.
• A further confusion existed over the venue of the Bucks & Berks Cup Final against Maidenhead which was to take place next week. The county association had mysteriously decided that this should take place at Maidenhead’s ground (even though everyone knows that cup finals take place at neutral venues) and also a few days after Maidenhead’s almost certain coronation as National League South champions, a combination that would create a party atmosphere Hungerford would have to overcome in addition to the team itself . The association has since relented on both these points and said that the final will be played ‘some time in July at a venue to be decided.’ (On the subject of Maidenhead, one of the main reasons they’re pretty much run away with the league is because of the goal-scoring exploits of their centre forward Dave Tarpey. One of these was caught on video: it’s rather good. I suspect he’ll be playing for someone else next season.)
• As for other local teams, Swindon have been relegated to League Two. Reading need one point from their last two games to guarantee a play-off place and a chance to return to the Premier league. In League One, Oxford Utd can realistically finish no higher than eighth.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: causes too numerous to list (thanks to those who took part in the London Marathon); The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the Peter Baker Foundation and the Greenham Common Trust); over 50 charities in the area (thanks to the Greenham Common Trust); over 30 charities in the area (thanks to the Co-op); the national Anti-Vivisection League (thanks to shoppers in Newbury)
• The Song of the Week is back again. A bit of word-association-foolball-match-box here. I read somewhere that this weekend sees the birthday of Uma Thurman. This made me think of Quentin Tarantino, who directed her in Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill films. Tarantino also, of course, directed Reservoir Dogs, probably the most famous scene in which had Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You as the soundtrack. One half of this band was Gerry Rafferty who also recorded a number of solo LPs. Of these, 1978’s City to City is probably the best. The big single from this was Baker Street, but we’ve all heard that 500 times. Even better in my view, and describing as eloquently the demons with which Rafferty wrestled throughout his life, is Mattie’s Rag. All I need now is a link between Gerry Rafferty, or someone called Mattie, and Uma Thurman to make the circle complete. Can’t think of one. Any suggestions?
• And as usual, we finish with the Quiz Question of the Week. The Penny Post April Quiz is now closed (winner to be announced next week). I haven’t got anything for any recent pub quizzes to hand (if you organise any of these, send me a question from a recent quiz and I’ll feature it). The above-mentioned Gerry Rafferty/Uma Thurman link might qualify as a quiz question but I don’t know if it has an answer. So instead I’m going to ask you something that I’m pretty sure I’ve asked before but I love it so much that I’ll ask it again: How many popes are there per square Kilometre in the Vatican City?