Local News June 30 – July 7

Local News

Including police and roadwork updates, library consultations, Iceland, towns in bloom, Wiltshire rubbish confusions, dangerous zebras, photographic winners, various volunteers needed, Neighbourhood Wardens, wasted food, Fairtrade Marlborough, the weather in June 1916, the rapper trapper and a jumbo ark.

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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 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. There seem to be a particularly large number of road closures in and around Hungerford and the Lambourn Valley at present for various reasons.

Anyone who uses the M3 will notice that it’s being slowly turned into a ‘smart motorway‘ which will include the hard shoulder being used for traffic at certain times. Last year I had our car written off as a result of an accident on the A34 directly caused by the lack of a hard shoulder so it doesn’t seem to me to be a very good idea. Now a committee of MPs has advised that the plan be scrapped. Whatever the decision, the M3 disruptions seem set to continue for some time.

Meanwhile, the old railway bridge at Boundary Road has been removed altogether with the new, wider one scheduled to be in place later this year.

On the same subject, a report in the Newbury Weekly News this week about something that I’ve heard people mention before, that there’s a dangerous zebra in Hungerford High Street. Town mayor Martin Crane suggests that this is partly because of a phone box which blocs the view of people crossing from the Martins’ side of the pavement and that it should be moved. My understanding (probably wrong, like so many of the things I believe) is that moving a phone box is legally complicated: even though no one uses them any more they, like post boxes and pandas, are protected species and to do anything to them almost requires parliamentary approval. Maybe Ligueil would like another one?

Last Sunday, while on my way to the latest Newbury Talks, I briefly thought I was in Ligueil as most of the Market Square had been converted into a series of boules courts. Congratulations to the Newbury Rotary Club which raised over £2,000 from the event.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (June 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.

West Berkshire Libraries will be launching its Roald Dahl-themed ‘Big Friendly Read‘ Summer Reading Challenge on Friday 1 July.

Also kicking off on Friday 1 July is this years Hungerford & District Community Arts Festival (HADCAF) – click here for details of the wide range of events..

In addition, the following weekly events take place at the Lambourn Library: Kit 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 lambournlibrary@westberks.gov.uk or call 01488 71350.

Britain may have gone through the wringer a bit in the last few weeks but at least we aren’t living 100 years ago: Friday 1 July marks the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. British casualties on the first day alone exceeded 57,000 (roughly the present-day populations of Newbury and Thatcham) while the total casulties for the entire 140-day battle were over 1.1m (more than the present-day population of Birmingham). Various talks are taking place in the area to explain, commemorate and reflect upon this ghastly event.

If you live in Wiltshire and want to recycle household rubbish there seems to be some discrepancy between the actual and the publicised opening times of the recycling centres: you might want to click here to get a grip on it.

And on the subject of rubbish, there has been some reaction to the problem of Hampshire and West Berkshire residents no longer being being able to use each other’s recycling facilities, as raised in this column last week – see the letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News.

A reminder the revitalised Hungerford Youth and Community Centre is an excellent facility which is once again available for hire. For more information and to make bookings contact 01488 685 363 or click here to visit the website.

Channel 4 is looking for couples to take part in an episode of Come Dine with Me, to be filmed in the Newbury area from 3 October. For more information, phone 08712 003939 or email comedinewithme@shiver.tv

Congratulations to Ron Acred, Martin Wright and Christine Houghton for their respective first, second and third place prizes in the recent Eastbury Photographic Competition

Congratulations also to Marlborough photographer Pete Davies for winning the prestigious Fresh Group National Portrait Photographer of the Year Award.

And finally, a round of applause for the Aldbourne Band which recently achieved two second-place finishes in the 2016 French Open Championships in Amboise.

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. This will be happening at Hungerford Library on Friday 8 July from 9.30am to 12.30pm and at Lambourn Library also on Friday 8 July from 2pm to 5pm. The views of users of the Mobile Library will also be considered by means of a questionnaire on board. Click here for further details of this and the dates for visits to other libraries in the county. 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. Cutting a service is a lot easier than re-instating it: step forward Dr Beeching…

The West Berkshire funding crisis claimed some more victims this week with news that the Neighbourhood Wardens Schemes in Newbury, Cold Ash, Speen and Greenham will be discontinued.

On a more positive note, West Berkshire Council claims that its 2015-16 services were delivered on budget.

The battle to keep Wantage Community Hospital continues – click here and here for the latest news.

The long-running saga of the new house in Eddington moved to the offices of HM Planning Inspectorate this week. A decision as to whether the property will need to be demolished will be made with a month. Perhaps I’m being naive but the issue seems startlingly simple to me: if there are planning regulations (which there are) then buildings must comply with them (which this one didn’t). If the council is going to say afterwards ‘the house isn’t what we  agreed but you’ve built it now so we’ll just go with it’ then what’s the point of getting approval in the first place? Imagine if the legal system worked that way – ‘I know I shouldn’t have burgled the house, your honour, but then I decided I would.’ ‘Oh well, never mind, what’s done is done. You’re discharged.’

Marlborough achieved Fairtrade Town status earlier this year. You can read more here about what this means for suppliers, retailers and consumers.

Thanks to the archive pages of the Newbury Weekly News, as quoted and credited in the most recent Village Views, that a hundred years ago this week ‘the atmospheric conditions have been characterised by a lowness of temperature,’ a wonderfully leisurely way of saying that is was cold while also implying that something rather wonderful was happening. It reminds me of the notes read in court by a policeman after having nicked a friend of mine for riding a bicycle while drunk in Oxford in the early 1980s: ‘I could not but notice,’ he declaimed to the Beak, “but that the distance between the vehicle and the kerb was subject to considerable variation. On being questioned as to whether or not he was intoxicated the accused made no intelligible response.’ Fined five pounds – next…

No blog, article, broadcast or post this week can avoid strong opinions about England’s 2-1 defeat by Iceland in the second round of Euro 2016. These are mine. Firstly, it’s no secret to anyone who reads this column that my sympathies in the recent referendum were not with Brexit, which has put me in a slightly cranky mood generally and with anything patriotic in particular these last few days. Secondly, although I think that football and (a very close second, cricket) are the most wonderful sports in the world, indeed the only two I take any interest in, the English football team has been at best disappointing and at worst embarrassing these last 50 years. Only two really memorable performances stand out, the 4-1 defeat of Holland in Euro ’96 and that never-to-be-forgotten 1-5 victory against our old foes Germany in 2001. That aside, every tournament has existed for no other purpose other than allowing our generally repulsive national newspapers to build’em beforehand so they can then knock’em down afterwards. Thirdly, any team that has Kane taking corners, Sturridge on the right wing and Wiltshire in the squad at all after having played less than 200 minutes in the whole of last season deserves everything that happens to it. Fourthly, I don’t care if the French police over-reacted, England fans abroad and en masse are shocking. Fifthly, I generally support the underdog, although whether this is a fair way to describe anyone who plays England is open to debate. All of this will help explain the shouts of delight from our house at the final whistle. England were well-beaten. If we going to leave Europe, let’s do it big time. Wales v Iceland final, anyone?

West Berkshire and Wokingham Trading Standards is hosting a free business breakfast on Tuesday 5 July aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses which wish to protect themselves against the many and varied kinds of fraud.

The Canal and River Trust is looking for volunteers to help improve the bank of the Kennet & Avon Canal in and around Kintbury. Click here for more information on the organisation or email max.ward@canalrivertrust.org.uk if you want to help with this specific project. The work will take place on Monday 18 July and Wednesday 17 August.

Another call for volunteers, this time from Swindon to help with the Swindon Children’s Fête on Saturday 9 July and to help child refugees.

Volunteers also required in Thatcham to help implement the local flood-defence plan.

And still in Thatcham, this weekend sees the launch of the Hack Space Community Workshop.

It’s estimated that in Britain we throw away seven million tonnes of food each year, more than half of which could safely be eaten. Love Food Hate Waste is one organisation which exists not only to try to reduce this figure but also to introduce us to the safe and imaginative ways food can be re-used. LFHW will be hosting an event to expound these ideas at Shaw House in Newbury on Tuesday 12 July from 9.30am until 12.30pm. (The LFHW website also has a number of excellent recipes.)

If you’re lucky enough to live on the beautiful River Lambourn (as we are) or if you just want to find out more about how you can help sustain and preserve this almost unique chalk stream, click here for more on the various events, activities and initiatives throughout the summer organised by the RENEWAL Project and ARK (Action for the River Kennet) .

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including:  Phoenix Brass Band (thanks to the recent coffee morning at the Lambourn Catholic club; various local charities via the newbury Rotary Club (thanks to the boules tournament in the Market Square); St Julia’s Hospice (thanks to the recent Lambourn jumble sale organised by Charmaine McDermott); the Rainbow Rooms (thanks to the tea party organised by Catherine Moody and Maureen Heath); West Berkshire Advocacy (thanks to staff and customers at Newbury’s Sainsbury’s stores); MIND (thaks to the recent concert at Kingsclere in memory of Chrlie Shirvell)

So to this week’s Song of the Week: high time for a bit of Nick Lowe, I think, one of Britain’s greatest and largely unrecognised songwriters. He’s been around for ages and still going strong. So many to choose from – try the lively, thoughtful and entertaining I Want to Build a Jumbo Ark from his wonderful 1990 album Party of One.  

This week’s Quiz Question of the Week is inspired by a recent topical event and is this: Iceland has the world’s oldest what? Last week’s was (or rather were) from the latest monthly quiz held at The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat: many thanks to quiz king Nic Coome for supplying these. The questions were A seafood favourite to put a light in your eye and A modern musician who used to hunt for a living, the answer in each case being a pair of words that differ by only one letter. The answers are Winkle/Twinkle and Rapper/Trapper. The first sounds like a character from a Disney film and the second like, well, a rapper; or perhaps someone who catches rappers, like the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Maybe there’s also a folkie chokey where mandolin and fiddle musicians get incarcerated, perhaps if they start showing any leanings towards amplified music.

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Brian Quinn
Local News June/July

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