Local News July 21-28

Local News

Including summer-holiday suggestions, post-Brexit property, East Garston photo appeal, police and roadwork updates, ministerial changes, good causes celebrated, various congratulations, wildlife on Hungerford Common, Scouts’ exchange-rate woes, Newbury Town FC on the move, the Garston Gang, Aldbourne grant problems, keeping cool, twin-town news from Hungerford, Newbury and Swindon, library assessments, a bit of 80s jingle-jangle from Ulster, four people with seemingly nothing in common and the colour of Saturn’s clouds.

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Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Click here for details of the proposed ten-week closure of Blenheim Hill in Harwell.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (July’s 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.

If you need some ideas as to how to entertain your family (and yourself) over the summer holidays, have a look at the What’s On section of the Penny Post website and, in particular, at this special section, What to do in the Summer Holidays. If you have any suggestions as to things that should be added or any corrections to any information we’ve provided, please add a comment at the foot of the relevant post.

One hears of some odd things being stolen but not often a defibillator: and yet this happened this week at Chieveley. Very hard to see what anyone will do with it as I doubt there’s a thriving second-hand market for these things. Anyone with any information about this silly and selfish crime, call 101.

If you live in East Garston and have ever wanted to be part of a gang, your moment has arrived. The Garston Gang is a team of volunteers for a range of community activities including river clearing and minor infrastructure maintenance. A full list of current projects can be found here. The next activity for which support will be welcome is this Saturday, 23 July – meet at the the Jubilee meadow at 10.30am to help tidy the children’s playground.

There will be a coffee morning at the Newbury Town Hall on Saturday 23 July to raise money for the Newbury Weekly News’ Over 80s Parcel Fund.

An interesting though alarming article from the Newbury Weekly News here about the likely travel costs for Hungerford sixth-form students (estimated at being at least £500). The problem is triply bad: West Berkshire Council has withdrawn its travel subsidy; there is no longer any sixth-form provision in Hungerford; and education or training until 18 is now compulsory.

The Newbury Samaritans is hosting an awareness-raising event in Northbrook Street on Saturday 23 July from 10.30am.

Our local rail service may have its problems but these are nothing compared to those faced by Southern Railway passengers (or ‘customers’ as the company doubtless refers to them). The company seems to have given up the ambition of running a decent service. They blame this on the train guards’ industrial dispute but there’s clearly something more deep-rooted at work. The fiasco has claimed one local casualty with Devizes MP Claire Perry having recently resigned as Rail Minister.

Another local ministerial departure is that of Wantage MP Ed Vaizey from his role as Minister of Culture and the Digital Economy (two things that some people may think are mutually exclusive). This was perhaps less surprising as he is a long-term supporter of Michael Gove.

Meanwhile, Newbury MP Richard Benyon visited John O’Gaunt School in Hungerford which he described as ‘really impressive.’

A story here from Aldbourne about the workings or otherwise of the municipal grant funding process.

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.

Ex-PM David Cameron recently discovered that a female was sitting is his chair at Downing Street. It just keeps happening to him, doesn’t it?

Congratulations to everyone involved in organising the recent HADCAF arts festival.

Congratulations also to all those who have been involved in the revitalisation of the Hungerford Youth and Community Centre which as well as having had a facelift is now host to an increasing range of local clubs and activities. For more information, click here.

And congratulations once more, this time to Lambourn singer-songwriter Jenny Bracey who’ll be performing at the Tadstock Music Festival on Friday 26 to Sunday 28 August.

This one is looking quite far ahead, but any Bowie fans might want to make a note of this in the diary: a travelling exhibition of photographs of the late musical chameleon, many of them never before seen, will be taking in Swindon on Friday 11 November. Pre-booking is essential – click here for more information.

Some advice here from West Berkshire Council about keeping cool (no, not that kind of cool – there’s no advice from them I can see on that) during the current hot spell, particularly for vulnerable people such as the elderly and young children. All I can add to this is (1) I wish our house had been built in an age when planning departments demanded the use of proper insulation; and (2) our black cat likes having water poured on him when the temperature goes above about 30º but our tabby cat hates it. I don’t offer point (2) as a general truth nor as a piece of serious scientific evidence – I’m just saying.

And some more good advice, this time from Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue about the dangers of swimming in open water, a particular temptation during the current warm weather.

Apparently there are adders on Hungerford Common (as well as ticks, which are in many ways more dangerous). Advice from the Constable of the Town & Manor includes wearing socks and light-coloured clothing so insects can easily be identified. There are also cows on Hungerford Common, of course, but these present more obvious dangers.

Newbury Town FC seems once again to be faced with the prospect of losing its ground. The club I support, Charlton, was without its own ground for over ten years in the 80s and 90s and returned to enjoy a brief spell in the Premiership, so survival is possible. One of my favourite pieces of trivia is that the ball has burst in an FA Cup Final only twice, both times when Charlton was playing (their only two final appearances). Now that I’ve started with these syllogisms, I can’t stop: only twice in my life have I been to a pub with a large trampoline in the garden and only twice have I been to a pub that had a large Vietnamese pot-bellied pig in the bar. They were the same two pubs. Neither was called the Pig and Trampoline, which seems a sad waste of a wonderful opportunity. Who would not want to visit, or would fail to remember, a pub with a name like that?

Click here for some thoughts from a local expert about how the first post-Brexit month has affected the property market.

And click here for a recent statement from Oxfordshire’s council leaders about the plans for reforming the local council structures, something that might also be relevant in Berkshire.

A letter in the Newbury Weekly News this week from Rachel Haslam about the forthcoming arrival of visitors from all six of Newbury’s twin towns in early September: a major logistical challenge, I’d have thought. I suspect that town-twinning associations are more important than ever now we have decided to sever some of our more formal links with Europe. Hungerford welcomes its own visitors from the delightful Ligueil in the Indre et Loire over the August bank holiday. To find out more about either the Newbury or the Hungerford twinning association, click on the links.

And still with twin towns, Swindon’s latest twin is Ocotal in Nicaragua. A cookbook describing many Nicaraguan dishes has recently been published (£5) and is available from Gillian Wallis, with the proceeds going to help community groups in Ocotal. Contact gilliantiff@yahpp.com

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.

Details of the forthcoming (Saturday 13 August) Lambourn Flower Show, including an application form, can be found by clicking here.

Anyone with photos of East Garston which could be featured on the village’s website with the theme of ‘The Village in Summer’ is invited to contact the Parish Council.

If you thought that Brexit wouldn’t affect life in this part of the country, the recent misfortune of the 2nd Newbury Scouts proves otherwise. As reported in the most recent Newbury Weekly News, the fall in thePound since the referendum has knocked over £800 off the value of the money they’ve raised for a trip to Norway. If you’re able to offer any help, please email 2ndnewburyscouts@gmail.com . There are few things more irritating than someone being wise after an event like this but as a ‘Yes’ vote was less likely to make the Pound rise than a ‘No’ vote was to make it fall, it’s a shame they didn’t buy some Krone in mid June. One thinks of these things afterwards.

The library needs assessment commissioned by West Berkshire Council ends today, 21 July. You can click here for details of of how and why this has been conducted and for information about emailing your views to wendy.crosson-smith@redquadrant.com if you were unable to attend any of the events. 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: West Berkshire Mencap (thanks to Santander’s The Discovery Foundation); numerous local charities (thanks to the Thatcham Duck Race and Newbury Council’s Grant Aid awards); Swindon Therapy MS Centre (thanks to a Big Lottery grant); Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group (thanks to staff and customers at Bridgemead Sainsbury’s)

So to this week’s Song of the Week, a bit of jingle-jangle pop from a band which the late great John Peel felt had written the greatest-ever pop song, Teenage Kicks – step forward Northern Ireland’s The Undertones into this searing nostalgic spotlight. I never greatly cared for that song but I did like most of the ones on their 1981 album Positive Touch. It’s Gonna Happen is one of these. Haven’t listened to it for years and a very pleasant 3 mins 32 seconds it was too. It sounded to me a bit like The Smiths covering a Madness song, or perhaps vice versa: two not so shabby bands to be compared to. Wonderfully silly video as well.

This week’s Quiz Question of the Week is from something I read by chance somewhere or other this week: What do Adolf Hitler, Harold Macmillan, JRR Tolkien and  Siegfried Sassoon have in common? Last week’s was from the  the Roebuck in Marlborough and was what colour are the clouds around Saturn during the Saturnian winter? I’d have said yellow, don’t know why, but I’d have been wrong. They’re pale blue. Quizzes designed to expose and hopefully plug just these kind of yawning gaps in our general knowledge take place every Friday evening at The Roebuck – be there or be unaware.

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Brian Quinn
Local News July

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale