Including waste wars, planning disputes, crime survey, library assessment, bus changes, electric cars, local house prices, archaeology and arts festivals, police and roadwork updates, writing and reading challenges, the Remain march, a fake cat-lover unmasked, Saturn’s clouds, a steaming Scots’ Guardsman, possibly the greatest lyrics ever and a octopus.
If you would like to add your thoughts to anything in this post, please use the ‘Comments’ box at the foot of the page. Once moderated, your comment will be visible to other users.
• Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Click here for news of the planned road closures in Marlborough during next month’s jazz festival. Click here and here for updates on the delay to the major roadworks planned for Akers Way in Swindon. Click here for details of road closures in Marlborough as a result of the Jazz Festival on 16 July. The roadworks on the A339 in Newbury, which began in February, are now reaching their half-way point. Further delays can also be expected in Kiln Lane for the rest of the summer as a new gas main is laid. (Note for people living, as we do, in Lambourn Valley who may have heard of these mythical things: a gas main is a method, invented about 200 years ago, by which gas can be piped directly to homes rather than provided in cylinders which run out just when you’re half-way through cooking a meal for fourteen people.)
• Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (Julys update here for Hungerford and Lambourn; here for Newbury; here for Newbury Outer; here for Thatcham and area; here for Bucklebury & Downlands) & North Hampshire and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire. See also here for specific advice on what’s known as courier fraud.
• Still with law and order, the local Police and Crime Commissioner has launched a survey to gain feedback from Thames Valley residents in order to help shape the 2017 Police & Crime Plan. Click here for more.
• West Berkshire Libraries has launched its Roald Dahl-themed ‘Big Friendly Read‘ Summer Reading Challenge.
• The Hungerford & District Community Arts Festival (HADCAF) is now in its last few days – click here for details.
• In addition, the following weekly events take place at the Lambourn Library: Knit and Natter, Tuesdays 2pm to 4pm; Art Group, Wednesdays 10am to 11.45am; English Conversation Group, Fridays 2pm to 3pm; Book Group, second Tuesday of the month at 4.30pm. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01488 71350.
• Calling steam enthusiasts: The 7P 4-6-0 steam loco 466115 Scots Guardsman should be passing westbound through Hungerford at about 10.30am on Saturday 16 July and returning at some as-yet unspecified time that evening.
• A reminder that the bus services in the Lambourn area are changing later this month – click here for details.
• The Newbury Samaritans is hosting an awareness-raising event in Northbrook Street on Saturday 23 July from 10.30am.
• Also in Newbury, there will be an open day at Newbury Fire Station from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 16 July – click here for more information.
• West Berkshire Museum is organising a series of archaeological events in the remainder of July as part of the Festival of Archaeology
Click here for details of a Harry Potter-themed writing competition organised by Swindon Libraries.
• Five organisations have submitted plans to take over the running of the popular Lydiard Park after Swindon Council announced earlier this year that it could no longer afford to continue the current subsidy
• The rise (or fall) in house prices is of interest to many (and none more so than editors of several national newspapers who manage to associate the subject with just about anything). You can read here one view from a local agent. As the implications of Brexit and the likely cut in interest rates become clearer the situation will doubtless change.
• According to the Newbury Weekly News, over 900 vehicles have been turned away from the Smallmead Waste Management Park since residency restrictions were introduced on 1 July. Reciprocal restrictions – which slightly call to mind the tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions during the cold war – will soon see Hampshire residents being unable to use the centres at Newtown Road and Padworth. The article concludes with some observations from West Berkshire Council Leader Roger Croft to the effect that we don’t live an ideal world and that councils have been facing financial pressures recently (both of which I think we knew already) and that West Berkshire had been slower to react to the problem than had other councils. It seems to me that the decision as to who can and can’t use such facilities should be taken away from local councils altogether: if each council were to make a contribution based on their population then people should be able to take their recycling anywhere they choose. In the mean time we have people driving 40 extra miles to get to an unfamiliar centre, the real risk of fly-tipping, anodyne statements from council leaders and – if everyone is withdrawing funding from everyone else’s tips – a net situation that’s probably fairly cash-neutral.
• I never knew St Bart’s in Newbury was founded as long ago as 1446. Happy 550th birthday. Most of their buildings are certainly more recent which will presumably avoid their needing to write the kind of letters that I used to get from my old college until I managed to shake them off – heart-rending appeals for unimaginably massive sums needed to save the Master’s Lodge from suddenly falling into the River Cam, despite its having been there since 1448.
• Another story, and one which links property prices, local-council decision-making and schools, rumbles on with continuing disputes between the two Sandleford Park developers and West Berkshire council as to who should pay for what at this massive development. This seems unlikely to be resolved any time soon.
• There was a march in Newbury this week in support of the Remain campaign and which was opposing some of the problems and issues such as racism which have emerged as a result of the debate and, it’s claimed, have been exacerbated by the result. As one of the organisers rightly said in response to the social-media opposition to the event, ‘after a general election we do not expect opposition parties to shut for five years.’ There have been moves to have the result overturned, including through an online petition signed by 5 million people. Although I voted for Remain and think that the wrong decision was made, the decision has been taken and to try to overturn it will lead to worse evils as the post-election violence in so many other countries will testify. The fact that the referendum was badly timed, that the Remain campaign was complacent and the Leave campaign mendacious (as Mr Farage has admitted), that it was possible for such a momentous decision to be made when supported by only 37% of the electorate and opposed by two of the four countries in the UK and that it needn’t have happened at all, governments being elected to make these kind of decisions, are all beside the point. It’s happened and we have to accept it, just as David Cameron will have to accept that this will be his legacy (as much as both he and Theresa May are trying to claim otherwise).
• Perhaps the most serious accusation David Cameron faced in his final days is that he did not love his cat, Larry. His final, knock-about PMQs earlier this week included his brandishing a photo of the cat on his lap while he read cabinet documents. This article in the Telegraph, however, suggests that the ex-PM never wanted a cat at all, being more of ‘a chocolate labrador’ man, but was convinced that a cat would boost his standing in the polls. Didn’t do that much for Remain, did it? Remain is what Larry the cat is going to do, staying on in Downing Street now his unwilling owner has departed. let’s hope Theresa May either likes cats or, if she doesn’t, has the honesty to get rid of him. In these austere times, an animal with that provenance might fetch a bit on EBay; perhaps even enough to buy a pair of shoes.
• If you’d like to save money on your water bills (perhaps up to £180 a year), Thames Water is offering Newbury residents free visits from its water-saving experts.
• It seems that the planned double-yellow lines near the shop in Great Shefford will now not be being implemented (though the ones on the junction with the A338 will be), thanks in part to the local petition. I also learned at the same time that any petition which attracts more than 1,500 signatures has to be discussed in a full West Berkshire Council meeting.
• Details of the forthcoming (Saturday 13 August) Lambourn Flower Show, including an application form, can be found by clicking here.
• Good news for local drivers of electric or hybrid cars – a bay is available for public charging at the first- floor point at the Kennet Centre in Newbury: this is the end bay, the other being reserved for the Car Club’s electric vehicle. The chargepoint is operated by Chargemaster on the Polar Network. As with most public chargepoints, users will need their own cable to use the chargepoint. Chargemaster run a pay as you go scheme (see www.polarinstant.com) or subscription based service ( www.polar-network.com). Both are also available via mobile phone Apps. Charges apply: see links above for further details. Normal car parking charges also apply.
• Some thoughts here from Julie Mabberley of the Wantage & Grove Campaign Group on the subject of changes to local bus services, forthcoming roadworks and the changes to local healthcare arrangements as a result of the closure of the Community Hospital.
• The library needs assessment commissioned by West Berkshire Council requires that the appointed management consultants visit each library in order to obtain the views of its users. Click here for details of dates for visits to your local library (some of these have already happened). If you use these services at all or know anyone who does or if you worry that your children or grand-children might be deprived of the mind-expanding opportunities that libraries provide then do your best to be there to make you views known.
• With regard to this needs assessment, note the following important points. If you are unable to visit the library yourself you can still make your point of view heard by email@example.com. Even if you have already made your views known, such as in the recent consultation organised by West Berkshire Council before the cuts were announced, you need to do so again by contacting Red Quadrant.
• Please click here for details of a petition which will seek to ensure that the results of the needs assessment are fully published and discussed and that other supporting information is made publicly available.
• A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: Rally Around (thanks to residents of Bucklebury); Kennet School PTA (thanks to those who supported the recent summer event); Together for Short Lives (thanks to the cyclists from Beyer); several local charities (thanks to the Wantage Carnival); St Katherine’s School (thanks to the Savernake 10K run); the Injured Jockeys’ Fund (thanks to the Barbury Horse Trials)
• So to this week’s Song of the Week: For various reasons I’ve been thinking quite a lot about song lyrics recently. Like so many things they’re very hard to write if either you don’t care about the quality or don’t know what exactly you’re trying to say (which disposes of about 98% of the ones written these last 50-odd years). The best ones tell a story, make a powerful general point, make you think about them for a while afterwards or have interesting rhymes and rhythms that reflect those of the arrangement. Of all lyrics I’ve ever heard I think that I’d award first prize – on all these criteria – to Haitian Divorce by Steely Dan. In three verses, three choruses and a middle eight and without a wasted word or a lazy rhyme it tells a tale good enough to be the plot of a full-length movie: indeed this possibility might have been in Becker and Fagen’s minds as the song even contains a line of direction for an imaginary camera. That the music is beautifully crafted and superbly played goes without saying for this band. This is about as good as pop music gets.
• This week’s Quiz Question of the Week is courtesy of the most recent of the regular Friday evening quizzes at the Roebuck in Marlborough and is this: what colour are the clouds around Saturn during the Saturnian winter? Thanks to proprietors Will and Fiona for providing this. It’s certainly one question where someone can’t complain during the marking ‘no, no – they’re not that colour at all – I know ‘cos I’ve been there.’ Last week’s was Ringo Starr aka Richard Starkey received sole writing credits for two Beatles songs: name either of them. The two you could have had were Octopus’ Garden from Abbey Road and Don’t Pass Me By from The Beatles, aka The White Album. If there’s been a better, or even any other, song, written about an octopus I’d very much like to hear it. Actually, on second thoughts…
Local News July