Including West Berkshire’s affordable homes target, A339 roadworks announced, keeping tabs on Tull Way, Hungerford’s library, Marlborough’s police station, Newbury’s railway bridge, bi-mode trains, good causes celebrated, roadworks, council contacts, emotional health, sewage repairs, pub closures, community transport, three away fixtures, the respective costs of HS2, Neymar and West Berkshire Council, solar-powered parking meters, a German hangover and a meeting across the river.
Stop press…The Save the Baydon Lion team will be holding a Q&A surgery at BYPA Hall in Baydon on Saturday 5th August from 3pm to 7pm to answer any questions you may have regarding bringing the Red Lion pub into community ownership and the current business plan. The team will be available to answer your questions as well as an opportunity to confirm your investment or register your pledge. Alternatively if you would like to arrange a personal meeting to discuss your investment further please contact the team through their website and this can be arranged at a suitable time.
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• 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.
• 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.
• According to this report, West Berkshire Council is ‘well short’ of hitting its 2020 affordable homes target. The Lib Dem Councillor Lee Dillon said that the council had ‘a long way to go to be even half as good as it wanted to be,’ a phrase which doesn’t make the situation seem very healthy.
• The Emotional Health Authority is an West Berkshire Council initiative aimed at helping children and young people who require professional emotional support. Click here for more.
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• You can click here to read the latest Penny Post Hungerford, published on 1 Aug. This includes news from the High Street and Barrs Yard, updates from the Town Council, the latest on the library and the Post Office, the winners of the 2017 Hungerford in Bloom, a book recommendation (which I’ve already taken advantage of), gardening tips, a children’s writing competition and our very own August Quiz with the chance to win a meal for two and a bottle of wine at the soon-to-be-reopened Three Swans.
• Work continues in East Garston after the main sewage pipe running through the top of the village burst twice earlier last week. Humphreys Lane is currently closed as a result.
• Still in East Garston, click here to take part in a survey run by the Parish Council about speeding on the road running past the village. Please reply by Saturday 26 August.
• A further reminder about the excellent Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) which provides children registered with the scheme with one free, age-appropriate book per month from birth to five – so, up to 60 books in all. The Imagination Library in the Lambourn Valley area is operated by the local affiliate, Helen Hastle. For more information, visit the website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07881 613 472.
• Residents of Newbury will have an estimated nine months of town-centre roadworks to look forward to next year after plans to make changes to the Sainsbury’s roundabout and adjacent roads were approved by West Berkshire Council earlier this week.
• More immediately, work has started on replacing the footbridge at Newbury Station due to the electrification of the line.
• Please click here for information about becoming a Dementia Friend, an initiative started by the Alzheimer’s Society and supported by West Berkshire Council.
• This year’s Summer Reading Challenge for children is now under way in West Berkshire’s libraries – click here for more information
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• It looks very much as if Marlborough Police Station is shortly going to close. It will be replaced by a ‘touchdown site’, a phrase which – like so many borrowed from North American sports – serves more to confuse than clarify. I shall let Marlborough News Online take over the story at this point.
• And still in Wiltshire, a statement here from the Council about the recent decision to make changes to its waste and recycling services.
• We mentioned recently about the bi-mode trains that will soon be used on the line between Bedwyn and Newbury and then on directly to London: it had been feared that, post-electrification, a change would be needed at Newbury. According to this statement from Devizes MP Claire Perry, it seems that the service will also be extended to Pewsey. If so, that might see the end of the currently frustrating arrangement whereby almost all journeys to destinations west of Bedwyn need first to involve a journey east to Newbury or even Reading. Ms Perry was, of course Under-Secretary of State for Transport between 2014 and 2106, a job that she admitted afterwards she had often been ‘ashamed’ to be doing. I think she was mainly referring to the fiasco of Southern Rail, a company which we happily don’t need to have any regular dealings with round here. Hopefully she won’t have any cause to feel ashamed of or to retract this statement.
• Have a look at The Ocelot by clicking here for information about theatre, music and art in the area.
• So, Prince Philip has just taken part in his last formal engagement, at the age of 94: a reminder to all of us of the ever advancing retirement age. According to the BBC, he’s carried out 22,219 such tasks, which averages out at one a day for nearly 63 years.. Many of these must have been amazingly tedious. (And as for this being ‘local’ news, I’m sure some of these were in this area.) I’m no rabid monarchist but am reminded of a conversation I had with some French friends some years ago at which they were lecturing me at how undemocratic our head-of-state system was. “That’s true,” I said, “but you have Chirac.” There was a deafening silence.
• The matter of Gallic excesses made me think about Neymar‘s proposed transfer from Barcelona to PSG. I started writing something here involving this which then expanded into some thoughts about HS2 and West Berkshire Council’s budget. I sensed it was getting a little bit off the point, even by the fairly elastic criteria I apply for defining what constitutes ‘local’ or ‘news’ in this column. So, at Penny’s urging. I put it in a separate post. Those who wish to digress in this way, please click here.
• A reminder that West Berkshire Council has once again announced a series of its popular Bikeability cycling classes for children over the summer.
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• The Tull Way Flood Alleviation Scheme in Thatcham is designed to protect over 250 properties. You can click here to read the blog about how this is going.
• Also from West Berkshire Council, news here about the local Children and Family Services.
• Details of buses serving Lambourn can be found here.
• I wrote last week about the imminent demise of The Malt Shovel in Upper Lambourn and remarked that this was but the latest in a series of such closures all of which have followed a fairly similar pattern. There’s a letter from a Mr Jackson, who seems to know what he’s talking about, in this week’s Newbury Weekly News which sheds some light on this depressing trend.
• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.
• Those parking in the Vale of the White Horse Council area will soon be able to make payments by credit or debit cards once the new solar-powered pay-and-display machines are unveiled.
• The infinite number of ‘what if’ questions that historians and others often ask themselves can only be answered by finding and visiting the appropriate parallel universe. Until then, one has to rely on conjecture. Here’s one ‘what if‘ from the Didcot and District Archaeological and Historical Society which reflects on how the railway network in this part of the world could have been very different if not for the opposition of local landowners to some of Brunel’s favoured plans.
• And, talking of steam engines, there’s a chance here to win a family day out at the Didcot Railway Centre to see the world-famous Flying Scotsman.
• Politicians in Swindon have been rallying to the defence of the town after its allegedly unflattering portrayal in a C4 TV programme about police work.
• For fans of Swindon Town, relegated to League Two in May, the new season begins this Saturday with an away trip to Carlisle. This journey would, if made by rail, involve at least two changes, take at least five and a half hours and cost at least £65 each way.
• Two leagues below Swindon – two years ago they were four leagues below them but the two clubs are currently on rather different trajectories – supporters of Hungerford Town face a slightly less daunting journey, to Dartford, when the National League South season kicks off, also this Saturday. (By the way, if you fancy entering the Penny Post August Quiz, you might find the above-mentioned link useful.)
If Reading is your team then we hope you’ve got over last season’s play-off defeat to Huddersfield. You haven’t? Oh, sorry to have brought it up. You are also away, to QPR, also on Saturday 5 August.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the boxing event at the Northcroft Leisure Centre); The Ichthyosis Support Group (thanks to the recent sponsored walk along the Kennet and Avon); Swings and Smiles (thanks to the charity quiz night at Englefield); St John the Evangelist School (thanks to the summer fete); The Newbury Blind Ckub (thanks to John Lewis); Cancer Research (thanks to Frances Small of Hungerford Care Home); City Arts, Time to Talk and Citizens Advice West Berkshire (thanks to the Newbury Weekly News); Stand up for Cancer (thanks to Bill Bailey).
• And so it’s time once again open the door and offer a cup of coffee to the Song of the Week. I’m not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan but he’s written one song which makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time. Like a select few others, including Haitian Divorce by Steely Dan, Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel and Not the One by Al Stewart, it is also a taut summary of the plot of a full-length film: or, in this case, an episode of The Sopranos. So, boil that kettle, make that coffee and cue up Meeting Across the River.
• And so we come to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week we have two to choose from: our regular monthly quiz and a special railway quiz. You can enter either (or both) depending on whether you’d rather win a meal for two at the newly-renovated Three Swans in Hungerford or a family ticket to see the Flying Scotsman at Didcot Railway Centre. Last week’s question was: Which book shop is staffed by Mr Black and Mr White and frequented by Miss Hangover? The answer is the Black Books, the three main characters being Bernard Black, Manny Bianco and Fran Katzenjammer; a word which, I’m reliably informed, is one of the ones Germans use to describe a hangover. It’s not of course a real book shop but the subject of a superb TV series starring Dylan Moran, Tamsin Greig and the Ridgeway-walking Bill Bailey.