Including Newbury’s bus station on the move, Marlborough’s rail service and gridlock, Wantage’s Easter lunches, Swindon’s paper moves out, Hungerford’s self-appointed sign-cleaning supremo, a B8 on the B4009, Newtown cut off, Thatcham’s Mayor off to Wembley, parish meetings, police and roadwork updates, tweet in haste, dogs or bears, viagra, Paddington in the valley, broadband in the Vale, golates in Wiltshire, local councils’ news services ranked and Westminster’s Hocktide virgin.
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.
• 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.
• There will be some level-crossing closures in the Thatcham area later this month – click here for details.
• Great Western Railway has has reset more than a million customer accounts after discovering hackers had successfully breached a small percentage of them.
• 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)
• Two examples this week of how tweets are, or can appear to be, troublesome for their senders. The first concerns local MP Richard Benyon who attended the Hocktide celebrations in Hungerford this week. a ceremony which rejoices in a a number of strange terms and ceremonies probably unmatched by anything save the laws of cricket and the administrative arrangements of the House of Lords. “Were you shod?” one follower asked, “and, if you were, did you put up a good fight?” “Only Hocktide virgins are shod,” the MP reminded him, before adding “I’m wondering what my 15,000 followers who might not be up on Hungerford traditions make of this conversation.” Some comments, on the other hand, can appear harmless (and may, in another age, have been seen as such) but are now anything but. A local Conservative West Berkshire councillor recently fell foul of this application of ‘decide in haste and repent at leisure’ with a tweet that was, at best, very ill-advised. I’m not going to embarrass him further by naming or quoting but you can get your dose of schadenfreude in this week’s NWN. Many others have fallen foul of Twitter’s immediacy.
• Never a week goes by without some kind of planning issue raising its head. This week the Newbury Weekly News has reported on an application for a change of use near Hampstead Norreys after the owners of a grain store off the B4009 had applied for, and had a approved, a B8 use which covers wholesale warehouses, distribution and storage. The story caught my eye (and can catch yours if you turn to page 10 of this week’s paper) as I’d driven down that stretch of road only yesterday and hit quite a large pothole. I wasn’t clear from the article exactly what the site would be used for – ’13 to 22 vehicle trips a day’, an Amazon delivery centre and a classic car collection were all mentioned – so I called the Chairman of the HN Parish Council to see if he could shed any light. He wasn’t at all sure himself. Once the application has been granted there’s then no limit on the amount of traffic that can use it, which makes the council’s estimate of ’13 to 22 vehicle trips a day’ rather meaningless. I’m not clear to what extent the granting of an application has to take into account the state of the roads but that surely has to be a factor. The B4009 doesn’t to me seem suitable for a great deal more traffic than it currently supports. These things have to go somewhere, I guess, as long as we continue to crave and demand the production and delivery of more and more stuff (which moves onto a rather different point which I’ll resist the temptation to develop here.)
• Instead, I’ll go back to the question of roads and, in particular, the road signs. Some of these are so filthy that they go beyond being merely ugly and are actively dangerous (and pointless – what’s the point of a road sign if you can’t read it?) The ones on the B4000, the ‘top road’ between Membury and Newbury, are particularly ghastly. More than once I’ve vowed to clean them myself except that I’d probably be breaking some by-law. So, a huge hats off to local window cleaner and singer (not generally at the same time) Adam Winslett who, inspired by the recent clean-up day in Hungerford, took matters into his own hands and cleaned some of the signs in and around Hungerford. I made some enquiries and it seems that cleaning road signs is West Berkshire Council’s responsibility but that this was something they were cutting back on. I found this an interesting choice of words as I don’t see how it’s possible to cut back on something which never seemed to have been done in the first place.
• I wonder if confusion caused by trying to read an illegible road sign was the cause of the recent car crash on the A338 just north of Hungerford which resulted in the destruction of a telegraph pole and the temporary catapulting of the residents of Hungerford Newtown back to the pre-telephone and broadband age while the connections are fixed.
• Every week when writing this section I visit the websites of the various local councils (West Berks, Swindon, Wiltshire and Vale of the White Horse) in the Penny Post area to look for any news, initiatives, announcements and the like which might be on interest and which, like a good gun dog, I can retrieve and lay before you in this post. After doing this for a few years I’ve formed some opinions about these sites which have not really changed much over this time. I thought I’d give these by own personal marks out 10 reflecting how useful and frequently updated the information is. My opinion only, you understand: nothing official about these rankings. Drum roll, trumpet fanfare – here we go:
• West Berkshire: 8/10. Vale of the White Horse: 7/10. Both of these generally have at least three new articles each week covering things ranging from free training programmes to grant funding and from social-care initiatives to changes to recycling arrangements. There could probably be a few more things and matters relating to council decisions (which West Berks does more of) are often a bit slow to go up. But, in general, pretty useful. Verdict: The people here seem to bother about this and regard it as important.
• Next we come to Wiltshire Council (I’m generally interested in news about the Marlborough area). 2/10. The material is OK but there’s not very much of it and weeks often go by with no changes. Verdict: Could do better.
• Finally, there’s Swindon Council, to which I can give no more than 0/10. Almost every time I go there the message is ‘Sorry, there is currently no news.’ Beyond pathetic. Verdict: Hello? Is there anyone there?
• Town councils also have their own sites with equally varying results. As the budgets here are much smaller and the councillors unpaid it’s perhaps unfair to grade them in any way. The two that seem the best are Hungerford’s and Thatcham’s.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes a recommendation to vote for councillors on their merits, not their party; several further thoughts on who was (or wasn’t) responsible for the financial crisis of 2008; one resident’s explanation of why he doesn’t want to pay about £20 to have his green bin emptied; more thoughts on badger culling; and a photo of two dogs which I only know to be dogs because it says so in the caption – they look more like bears to me.
• A remainder that community groups with projects of environmental benefit can claim up to £1,000 through the 2018 BBOWT Dorothy Morley Conservation Award.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: the Thatcham Memorial Foundation (thanks to the recent quiz at The Swan); New Life (thanks to the tennis marathon at David Lloyd gym in Newbury); many local charities (thanks to those who are taking part in the London marathon); Royal Berkshire Hospital’s babies in Buscot Ward (thanks to John O’Gaunt pupil Lucy Harrington’s poster design); West Berkshire Mencap (thanks to Downer & Co); Markborough Area Poverty Group (thanks to Marlborough Town Council); Prospect Hospice (thanks to David Wilson Homes); Uplands School (thanks to the North Wilts Tae Kwon Do Club)
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• For the latest and most comprehensive round-up of all things related to Hungerford, see the April Penny Post Hungerford by clicking here. This includes a report on the Town Council’s activities, news from the High Street and Barrs Yard, a look ahead to Tutti Day, John O’Gaunt’s recent achievements, book reviews, gardening tips, astronomy, revision tips, April fools, local thesps in action, collectors, clutter and canoe races.
• Congratulation to all those who took part in the annual Hungerford litter pick last Sunday – at one point they ran out of bags.
• Another year, another Tutti Day. Hungerford’s unique celebration took place this Tuesday: you can read more here (the piece also contains a link to a video of last year’s event and to an article about the history of Hocktide). There’s also more on pages 1 and 6 of the Hungerford edition of this week’s Newbury Weekly News.
• See above for a big round of applause to local singing window cleaner Adam Winslett’s recent road-sign heroics.
• The life of World War Two veteran William (‘Billy’) Bailey was recently celebrated at a memorial service in Hungerford. Click here for more.
• Short notice I know, but the Great Shefford Annual Parish Meeting will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday 12 April at the Village Hall. You can click here to see the agenda.
• Slightly more notice for the annual meeting of East Garston Parish Counci which will take place on Tuesday 24 April and will include a talk from Henry Oliver, Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB.
• The launch of the 4 Legs Community Radio Station draws ever closer (Friday 13 April is the day). There’ll be launch events leading up to this at various locations in the four villages – click here for more. Among other attractions you’ll get to hear Penny and me discussing some of the items in this article and other local matters between 10am and 11am.
• For many years now the Watermill Theatre’s touring productions have started their run at the East Garston Village Hall and 2018 is no exception – click here for information on Burke and Hare on Wednesday 18 April (very few tickets still available, I’m told).
• Another entertainment event at the same venue: the acclaimed Paddington 2 will be showing at East Garston Village Hall this Sunday with one of the actors, local resident Nick Lumley, giving a brief introduction.
• A reminder about the quiz to raise funds for Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association at The Swan on Friday 20 April.
Newbury & district
• Newbury Town Council has launched its Newbury in Bloom 2018 campaign which aims to create an attractive and sustainable environment making Newbury a greener, cleaner and more pleasant place to live together with promoting horticultural excellence, improving the appearance of our town and environment. For more information, visit the Newbury Town Council website.
• Work will soon be starting on relocating the bus station from its current location to The Wharf. The whole business of the redevelopment of this area – ‘the transformation of Newbury’s southern gateway’ as the NWN puts is – is still seen as controversial for reasons including the free gifting of the land to the developers, the lack of provision for coaches and the tiny percentage of affordable homes that the project will eventually provide (or, as many of the statements say, ‘deliver’). You can read West Berkshire’s statement on the first phase of the development here.
• Another CAT (community asset transfer) has taken place, the cat on this occasion being the Corn Exchange theatre.
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• There will be some level-crossing closures in the area later this month – click here for details.
• There’s been no opposition from Thatcham Council about the revised application for 75 homes off Tull Way, despite concerns from some councillors and residents.
• If you want to find out more about hypnosis, The Fisher Room in Cold Ash is the place to be on Tuesday 24 April where Tara Ecomomakis will be giving a talk on the subject.
• Thatcham’s Mayor-making ceremony (which sounds as if it could be a pre-school arts-and-crafts project) has been rescheduled from its planned date of Sunday 20 May as this clashes with the rarer event of Thatcham Town’s visit to Wembley to contest the FA Vase Final against Stockton Town. Mayor Ellen Crumley is a regular supporter of TTFC. The FA Vase replaced the FA Amateur Cup in 1974, the latter having been contested sine 1893 so making it one of the oldest football cup competitions in the world. The current holders, as if you didn’t know, are South Shields.
• The nominations are now closed for the vacant seats on the Thatcham Town Council and West Berkshire Council. You can see these by clicking on the links (note you’ll have to click on the very fuzzy images to be able to read them). The elections will take place on Thursday 19 April. Click here to listen to Kennet Radio’s Election Special (from 8 April) if you need help deciding who to vote for or what the main issues are.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• The consultation about proposed 20mph restrictions in the town is now live and will be until Friday 27 April – click here for details.
• Yet another good article in Marlborough News, this time about the prospects of the town being re-connected to the rail network any time soon or at all. According to this piece, the prospects seem bleak as it would appear that several towns, including Wilton and Wooton Bassett, are higher up the list as they already have a railway line and merely need a station (easy to see how this is a cheaper option). The article also points out how the presence of a rail link can increase property prices by over 25%, something that developers and first-time buyers will take different views about. More worryingly for rail users in Wiltshire (and perhaps West Berkshire too), the pressure being applied to provide faster services to the west country may result in fewer trains stopping at ‘minor stations’, something with the excellent and dynamic Bedwyn Train passengers Group will doubtless be looking into. The article also discusses the possibility of a tram to Swindon on the old railway line.
• Better news, however, for those who would like to see a cinema return to the town.
• As we’ve had cause to mention before, few creatures on this planet are as mind-bogglingly useful to human wealth, health and happiness as bees which are responsible for pollinating and so ensuring the survival of a large number of plants (with honey as a welcome by-product). Click here for news of an initiative by Marlborough Downs Space for nature and Transition Marlborough to raise awareness of these vital and threatened creatures.
• The headline ‘Roadworks leave town in gridlock‘ was only likely to be about one place round here – step forward, once again, Marlborough. I think the town needs a railway station (see above).
• I mentioned last week about a pilates class near Marlborough which was partly provided by goats. At the time I wondered if it might not have been a delayed April Fool. Here it is on Auntie BBC’s website, if that proves matters one way or the other.
• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury. How’s the town twinning with Rome going, guys?
Wantage & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.
• Click here for a look at the plans for the Kingsgrove estate in Wantage.
• I was forwarded a Neighbourhood Policing newsletter for the Wantage area the other day. Topics covered included thefts from vehicles, a new rural crime initiative, a safety talk at King Alfred’s, inconsiderate parking, have your say meetings and witness appeals. If you would like to receive these (this advice goes for anyone in the Thames Valley area) you can find out more about, and sign up for, Thames Valley alerts by clicking here.
• Congratulations once again to the Ray Collins Charitable Trust which dished up 40 Easter lunches for vulnerable local residents.
• Nearly all households and businesses in southern Oxfordshire can now access superfast broadband, according to new figures announced by the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire partnership.
• Nearly 30 organisations have so far applied to participate in the Wantage Summer Arts Festival but there are still spaces left. If you would like more information, please email email@example.com by April 15.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• The second phase of a scheme to alleviate congestion at the busy Mannington Roundabout will start next week during off-peak hours.
• Residents in South Swindon are being asked to air their views on plans to redevelop the old Pope Brothers site at 13 Cricklade Street.
• The Swindon Advertiser is the latest local paper in the area which is moving, or is planning to move, to new premises. With fewer and fewer now doing their own printing, smaller locations are now becoming more common. This article has some recollections of past times on the paper, as well as a few photos of the monstrous equipment that was used to create the printed word back in the day.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week comes round again. In fact this exact song may be coming round again as I think I mentioned it before but it’s worth another listen – Hateful by The Clash from their pretty damn’ near perfect album London Calling.
• Which leads us neatly up to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question comes from the recent quiz held at The Swan in Thatcham in aid of the Thatcham Memorial Foundation and is as follows: Viagra is now available over the counter but only from one chain of shops – which one? Last week’s was In what sense is today the 365th? When I remind you that I was writing this on 5 April it should be easy to spot that it’s the last day of the financial year. Why the financial year should end on a day that’s not the end of the month is something I’ve never understood. I thought it might be the 100th day of the year or something remotely logical but I’ve just checked and it’s the 95th. On the face of it, its timing seems as irrational as the scoring system in tennis or the system for electing US presidents but I suppose there’s a good reason for it. Anyway, until the revolution comes, we just have to put up with it – that and so much else.
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