Local News May 26 – June 2

Local News

Including libraries (again), Splash Park opening, photographing fires, Hungerford zebra, Lydiard dogs, Bedwyn busses, Flying Scotsman, bees, lottery proposals, David Rendel obituaries, social care survey, children’s library competition, electric cars, police & roadwork updates, the official Vatican pope density and Bowie’s protégés in full cry.

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

The fate of the local libraries  continues to remain shrouded in uncertainty, secrecy and confusion: not a great combination when trying to get things done. There have, as expected, been several letters in the Newbury Weekly News about the council’s refusal to publish details of the legal advice it received concerning the library closures. You can keep up to date with events at the Hungerford and Lambourn libraries through their ‘Friends of…’ pages. You can also click here for an interview with Hungerford Liibrary friends Helen Simpson and Andrea Mulholland about the issue.

Still with the Friends of Hungerford Library: a children’s competition – We Love our Library – Do You? – has been organised to support and encourage this vital service. It’s open to anyone under 16 with four age groups (three to five, six to eight, nine to 12 and 13 to 16). Entrants simply need to write or draw something about their local library on a sheet of paper no bigger than A5 and hand it in to the Hungerford Library by Friday 17 June (being sure to provide your name, age group and contact details). There are prizes for the winners and runners-up and an exhibition of all entries is planned.

West Berkshire Council has recently updated its 2015-19 Strategyto reflect achievements and the challenging financial outlook‘.

You can make your views known to West Berkshire Council about your experience of adult social care here.

Hungerford may soon be having a long-awaited additional pedestrian crossing in Bridge Street. The discussions with West Berkshire Council have been continuing for over three years so Mayor Martin Crane’s advice – ‘don’t hold your breath’ – is probably wise.

The library cuts have grabbed much of the headlines: but there are other service such as public transport which are at least as important. We must not forget that further cuts will take place over the next two financial years so expect further service losses in these and other areas. The time to prepare for these is now. That includes, I suggest, the council making information available about the true costs and issues of running these services rather sooner than it has done this time round. I’ve already made this point before and make no excuse for doing so yet again.

With the cuts to bus services that are already in place, walking your child to school is something that might be forced on you. There are also good reasons for doing it, though – click here for the view of charity Living Streets.

There’s an increasingly strong case to be made for the fact that councils such as West Berkshire are too small to enjoy all the economies of scale that the present austerity and current expectations generally demand. Various councils in the area are taking steps to join forces in certain areas but it might be worth looking at something more permanent. (You can read the conclusions that Vale of White Horse Council has recently come to by clicking here.) A recent story in the Newbury Weekly News seems to confirm this with the announcement that as West Berkshire Council has stopped contributing to a cross-border recycling and household waste group, West Berkshire residents will from the end of June no longer be able to use the tip at Smallmead, just across the state line in Reading. Clearly frontiers are always going to cut some people off from a particular service but surely the more there are, the more likely to is to happen. There are also fears this will lead to more fly-tipping.

One point on which West Berkshire and Reading councils are in agreement concerns their joint challenge to the government over the regulations concerning the contributions developers must make to the cost of affordable housing. The previous judgment in their favour has recently been overturned by the Court of Appeal. You can read West Berkshire Council’s view of the matter here.

Various obituaries have recently been published for the former Newbury MP David Rendel who died last week. Here are three to choose from, from The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the Liberal Democrat Voice.

I write about bees here from time, often regarding petitions to stop the government and large corporations massacring them with unnecessary and expensive pesticides (that’s a very simplistic and not entirely objective summary, I admit). Two other apian stories here: the latest bee-keeping blog from local hive-mistress Jan Doyle; and a report on a visit to St Mary’s and St Peter’s in Marlborough by Fiona Robertson of the Wilshire Bee Centre.

Visit the Penny Post YouTube site to see a video of The Flying Scotsman passing through Hungerford station in a nostalgia-inducing cloud of steam earlier this week. You can read more about local heritage railways by clicking here.

There’s a consultation process under way about dogs in Lydiard Parkclick here for more.

If you want to find out more about electric and plug-in hybrid cars (EVs and PHEVs), this year’s EV-Event will take place in Northbrook Street, Newbury on Saturday 28 May.

The bus services between Marlborough and Bedwyn have been amended on Saturdays (with effect from this Saturday, 28 May) to reflect changes to the rail timetable, which can be downloaded here.

Still in Marlborough, click here for details of the Community Action Days leading up to the Marlborough in Bloom judging (19 July).

There was a fire last Thursday in the Bar Sport in Newbury’s Bartholomew Street, just opposite Hogan’s Music from where I was picking my son up from a drum lesson. There were about fifty people on the opposite pavement and although there was nothing much to see almost all of them were taking photos or videos. I haven’t owned a camera since I was a child and can’t remember the last time I took a photograph. I’m aware that this makes me something of an oddball these days. When I see a photo of a person or place I know or an event I took part in I’m often struck by the differences between the image and my own recollection. I generally prefer my version which, though perhaps not more accurate, is often more comforting. There are a billion photos taken every minute worldwide (I’ve just made this up but it seems about right), most of them probably selfies or pictures of babies and kittens. I wonder how much of what we see we’re capable of remembering without photos to remind us: that is, if we ever look at most of the photos we take, which I rather doubt. Or does the act of taking a photo help cement the image in our mind, so perhaps making the photo itself irrelevant?

The floral displays in Newbury will be dominated by red, white and blue this year to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday (and also to make any French or Dutch visitors feel at home).  AA Milne’s dormouse would have strongly approved.

And while on the subject, Eastbury’s Flower Festival & Open Gardens takes place Saturday 28 May from 2pm to 6m, throughout the village but mainly in and around St James’ church.

And still on photos, if you’re renewing your passport make sure the photo isn’t over-exposed (ie too light). I speak from bitter recent personal experience. The curtains in photo booths are flimsy affairs and if they aren’t fully closed, daylight can get in.

There are plans to set up a Hungerford Town Lottery. Visit the Hungerford CHAIN website to answer a brief questionnaire.

The new Splash Park  in Victoria Park will be opening on Friday 27 May.

Congratulations to John O’Gaunt pupil Evie Chester who has recently won a place in the next round of Radio 2’s ‘500 words’ short story competition.

Please click here for more information on the various reactions to the cuts in West Berkshire, including links to some of the organisations which have been set up to oppose or mitigate these.

Congratulations to the many Wantage residents who helped transform a terminally-ill woman’s garden last week.

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: various local causes (thanks to the Burghfield May Fayre); St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester (thanks to Poppy Airey and Grace Cussans); Give & Gain Day (thanks to Waitrose, Newbury); Guide Dogs for the Blind (thanks to pupils at St Bartholomew’s, Newbury); Will Featherstone (thanks to pupils at Bradfield Primary School); Newbury and District Cancer Care (thanks to participants in the Park House Fun Run)

For the Song of the Week we’ll nip back to 1973 if it’s all the same to you and spend five minutes in the company of the sequinned pop glam kings that were Mott the Hoople. Their career was famously revitalised by covering Bowie’s All the Young Dudes (I think they also had the opportunity to do Drive-in Saturday, an even better song of his). I’ve chosen not this but a slightly later ditty from their album Mott, Hymn to the Dudes. The influence of Bowie’s lyric writing extends beyond the title as can clearly be heard  (and, indeed, seen as the lyrics are superimposed on the video) but MtH were also very much their own band by then. And the clothes – my god, the clothes

And so the Quiz Question of the Week comes round once more. Last week’s was How many popes are there per square km in the Vatican City? (There are two possible answers to this). The answer depends on whether you regard the previous incumbent, Benedict XVI (ex-Benedict to his friends, I suppose), as still being a pope or not (the last voluntary renunciation happened in 1294 so there’s not a lot of form to go on) and, indeed, whether he still lives in the Vatican City (which I don’t know, but I imagine he must pop in from time to time). As the Vatican City is 0.44 sq km, there are therefore 2.3 popes per sq km if you only include the current one or 4.6 popes per sq km if you include both – in fact, there are considerably more popes per sq km in the Vatican than there are Australians per sq km in Australia. Will this statistic help advance the case for the Vatican City being accorded full test-match status by the cricket authorities? When this long-overdue announcement is made, remember that you heard it here first. As for the question for you to grapple with this week, pub quizzes now generally name and shame anyone caught Googling but this restriction can’t be enforced here. So, without recourse to Google or your other search engine of choice, this week’s question is in what year was Google founded? Thanks to The George in Lambourn for that one from their recent quiz (the original question was ‘in what decade…’ but I thought I’d make it a bit harder for you). I was nine years out with my guess, by the way.

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Brian Quinn

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