Including parking challenges in Hungerford, Her Imminence in Marlborough, Family Day in Newbury, neighbourhood plan in Lambourn, the Mayor on the streets in Thatcham, beating the bounds in Ramsbury, voter ID in Swindon, golf in Shefford, police and roadwork updates, median and/or mean broadband stats, council links, wolves under the bed, cows on the rampage, bees on the up, Munching Molly and Trashosaurus on the road, care-home workers in the air, tug of war ropes, a disappointing hat-trick, using the echo circle, a relegation averted, the latest Scottish invention and the return of Cardinal Pell.
Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.
Police, transport and council contacts
• Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Please click here to visit Traffic England’s site for information on motorways and major strategic roads (which include at A34 and the A419). The ‘Map Layers’ toggle can be used to display different levels of information.
• You can also visit Roadworks.org for similar information: this also provides the ability to toggle layers and select dates (it defaults to today’s date but you can adjust this) and other preferences. (It seems that West Berkshire at least – see link above – gets its feed from this source).
• There will be a number of closures on the main railway line between Pewsey and Theale in 2018 as a result of the electrification project (including between Monday 23 and Thursday 26 April).
• A reminder again that to sign up to receive the information provided by the Bedwyn Rail Passengers Group is a very good way of keeping abreast with (and having a way of making your complaints known about) the ever-changing railway arrangements and closures during the electrification process (and at other times, come to that). Please contact Steve at email@example.com.
• 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.
• Please click here for more about the tri-service station in Hungerford and policing in the area generally.
• 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.
Across the area (and further afield)
• It’s local election day today for some of us: as not all local councils have their elections at the same time, only Swindon and Basingstoke and Deane in this area are casting their votes this year.
• Scotland has been responsible for a staggering range of inventions the more so considering its size. These include television, bicycles, steam engines, golf, telephones, adhesive postage stamps, international time zones, tarmac, passenger steamboats, pneumatic tyres, the Encyclopædia Britannica, the Bank of England, gas lighting, ultrasound scans, postcards, the decimal point, lime cordial, colour photography, Penicillin, Bovril, lawnmowers, logarithms, mackintoshes, marmalade, refrigerators, radar and Dolly the cloned sheep. To this list must now be added what I believe to be the world’s first legal obligation for retailers, supermarkets in particular, to raise prices and keep the proceeds as a result of the new minimum alcohol prices. I’ve sure other interpretations of this policy exist, one of which can be found here.
• I’m not a Liverpool fan though I know a number of people round here who are. None the less, my nerves were shredded after that extraordinary semi-final against Roma last night. 0-0 in the final? I don’t think so. 7-3 (1960) is the record to aim at, guys. (See also the ‘Quiz Question of the Week’ below.)
• West Berkshire Council has announced that it has the ‘best rural broadband and highest median download speed in the UK.. You can read more here. I’m a bit confused by the ‘median’ speed in the headline as the article then goes on to talk of ‘mean’ download speeds. Mean and median mean different things, however. Then the article adds the phrase ‘best-case’ to the definition. It claims that West Berkshire has an ‘average mean best case download speeds of 355 mbps.’ I’ve just tested ours and it’s 36.87. If the 355 is a mean then there must be some people who’ve got broadband so fast that it’s downloading stuff before they realise they need it: if it’s the median then half the connections are even faster. I’m no great expert but is there a decimal point in the wrong place?
• In case you’ve wondered how your weekly wage compares to the average for your area, and how this compares to other places in the country, have a click here to visit the BBC website for this article based on information recently released by the Office for National Statistics.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes some further criticism of the £50 ‘green bin tax’; some sympathy for Richard Benyon’s current possible reliance on local bus travel; instructions on how to use Newbury’s echo circle; some pleas for people not to park in disabled bays; and further thoughts about the economic and political of the 2008 crash. mercifully, no one has written about Brexit this week: or, if they have, these haven’t been published.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Water Aid (thanks to shoppers in Newbury); St Mark’s School in Cold Ash (thanks to the Easter Hunt); Stroke Care Newbury and West Berks (thanks to Nikki Thomson); Gloucester House (thanks to Georgina Kemnitsz-Prior); MS UK (thanks to Ellie-Rose Bennett); West Berkshire Community Hospital (thanks tyo greenham Trust and the Rosemary Appeal); Little Princess Trust (thanks to Darcey and Evie Billyeald andf Esther Bodkin); The Alzheimer’s Society (thanks to Chris Corcoran); Hungerford’s ICE Youth Club (thanks to the Probus Group).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• The Neighbourhood Area for the parish of Hungerford has been agreed and designated for the forthcoming Neighbourhood Plan – you can read the official statement and see the documents on West Berkshire’s site by clicking here; and can see the information that Hungerford itself produces by clicking here.
• The Newbury Weekly News this week has another piece on the 30-home development near Hungerford Station. The main issue it touches on is the fact that the permissionn for the Oakes Bros site to be used as a car park expired in 2016. This may be true but it’s a technicality: it would certainly be interesting to see on what grounds the site might be closed and what the public reaction would be. What the article goes to to discuss is the fear expressed by some residents that this will cause parking problems in Hungerford.
It’s certainly a risk. The loss of the Oakes Bros site as a result of the development will remove about 95 spaces. Salisbury Road, when built, will be 100 homes and it’s reasonable to expect that out of the 200 or so adults there perhaps a third will want to use the station and feel that it’s too far to walk. Then there’s the probable growth in demand as a result of extra houses in addition to Salisbury Road (and there will be more) and people coming from further afield to use Hungerford station. The more the rail service improves – and after the introduction of the bi-mode trains next year this seems likely – the more obvious this problem will become.
All in all – and I admit these are very rough figures – the result of all this might be a shortfall of about 200 parking spaces. As each car-parking space is about 5m long, this means that an extra 1km of roads in Hungerford will have cars parked on them that currently don’t. I very much doubt that 1km of extra parking spaces exists anywhere near the station. Clearly some people will change their habits but one upshot is likely to be that people who need to use the station after about 8am won’t be able to park at all or will have to do so inconsiderately. This will in turn irritate local residents who can’t park near their homes.
Finally, there’s a wider issue: should people in West Berkshire, or specifically in Hungerford, have any greater rights than anyone else? There’s evidence to suggest that a lot of cars that park in Hungerford come from some way way off, attracted by the cheap parking rates. I live in West Berks but not in Hungerford. I could with slightly more effort go to Newbury station. On the other hand, someone just down the road from Hungerford in Froxfield or Chilton Foliat could more reasonably claim it’s their local station even though they live in a different county. Should there be some residential entitlement system? How far should this extend? Who would enforce it? Above all, would it make any difference?
All these and other issues have been considered by the various councils, Network Rail and other bodies for some years. There is no obvious solution. West Berkshire Council has suggested that by the autumn a review of its policy on this matter will have been revised (which will presumably also include a decision on whether the land allocation near the station can be changed from commercial to residential); but it can’t magically create empty and suitable land near the station. Hungerford Town Council has long been trying to resolve this problem for some time: the temporary use of the Oakes Bros land, though welcome, has only postponed the issue and perhaps even made it worse; for when it’s removed (as it it will be) it will seem to be a failure or a retreat on the part of the above bodies. It’s therefore superb timing that Hungerford’s neighbourhood plan (‘Hungerford 2036’) has at this very moment started its work. (Click here for more on the issue generally.) This is exactly the kind of maztter that it can, and should, concern itself with. If you have any view, no matter how unconventional, on how this issue can be addressed, please contact Claire Barnes at Hungerford Town Council on firstname.lastname@example.org who will pass these on to the Neighbourhood Plan Project Team. Some imaginative solution (and probably several) will be needed. This is an ideal time to start thinking about and discussing them.
• The next Full Meeting of Hungerford Town Council will take place on Tuesday 8 May at the Corn Exchange complex. The agenda will be published here when it’s available. One of the items will be the resignation and (if they stand again and are re-elected) the re-appointment of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and the Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee.
• Thanks to Keith Knight for his invitation to the Mayor’s Reception at the Hungerford British legion earlier this week. A good evening with food, drink and a lot of chat. In his short speech he mentioned that in the last year he’d attended over 100 functions and over 150 meetings. It’s worth pointing out that, in Hungerford at least, councillors are not paid.
• There’s an article in this week’s NWN (p21) about a woman walking a dog who was chased by cows on Hungerford Marsh. It seems that these were young cows who hadn’t yet learned how to conduct themselves, though I doubt that was much consolation to the terrified dog walker. Jed Ramsey, the CEO of the Town and Manor which owns the Marsh and manages the herd, suggests that people should be particularly careful if walking dogs near cattle and adds that the official advice from both the NFU and the Countryside Code is that if the cattle turn nasty you’re better off letting the dog off its lead and allowing it to evade the cows itself. On the same theme, there are also now cows on the Common (which is also owned by the Town and Manor). Please observe the same caution, particularly if with a dog and particularly if driving: last year a car hit a cow, the cow died and the driver was prosecuted. There are warning signs about cattle on the Common. Please observe them. (Hilaire Belloc in his superb Cautionary Verses had something to say about being chased by cattle, and also about warning signs. The instructive tale of Sarah Byng can be found by clicking here.)
• Congratulations to Hungerford Town FC who escaped relegation on the last day of the season. Their second year in National league South proved rather tougher than their first.
• If you want a round-up as to what’s been happening and will be happening in the upper part of the Lambourn Valley, I can do no better than recommend you have a look at the recently-published debut edition of our new Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter which you can read by clicking here. Matters covered range from reports of annual parish meetings to dancing tips, from seasonal gardening advice to news from the local primary schools and from upcoming events to musics on the subjects of cheese and chocolate.
• A further reminder that the Lambourn Annual Parish Meeting will take place on Wednesday 9 May at 7.30pm in the Memorial Hall. The agenda will be published here when available. One of the main items up for discussion will be the proposal for Lambourn to adopt a Neighbourhood Plan (NP), which will provide “a community-led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area.” You can click here to read more about what a development plan can (and cannot do) and why it’s so important that the community be involved in its creation. This meeting in Lambourn is an important first step.
• Calling all local golfers: in support of the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association there will be a golf day on Friday 17 August. Click here for more information.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its fourth day of broadcasting – click here for more. It’ll be starting at 10am, not the usual 9am, this week. We’ll be talking to several people about matters ranging from organising music festivals to hospital volunteering and from the challenges of running a country pub to the experience of being a firefighter.
Newbury & district
• Congratulations to Anna Holmes of Speen who has been named as the MS Society’s Volunteer of the Year.
• Congratulations also to those who won (and were nominated for) the Rising Stars awards organised by the West Berkshire Training Consortium.
• Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council about the Market Street development and the Wharf Street bus station.
• More here, this time from Newbury Today, about the rising bollards at the Racecourse which are to be taken up and sent off to whatever dark corner of some warehouse such unwanted items are banished.
• The Family Fun Day will take place in Victoria Park on Sunday 13 May. Click here for details.
• As mentioned on p7 of this week’s NWN, the Wolf Conservation Trust in Beenham will cease all public activities from 1 September 2018. This is not due to any lack of success the venture has had but rather, it seems, because both the owners and the wolves are reaching retirement age. The aim of the trust was to support conservation work and to provide a more positive image of wolves: for many, the very word sends a slight tremor down the spine. When I was very young (perhaps too young) I read a book called Warrior Scarlet about a boy in bronze-age Britain in which wolves featured in a regular and sinister way. I don’t think any other childhood book had as deep an effect on me. For about a year I firmly believed that there were two wolves, visible only to me, who lived underneath my bed in our flat in Earls Court. I, and certainly my parents, needed the Wolf Conservation Trust to have been spreading their more upbeat views of the animals then
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• Harts Hill Road, the main route from Thatcham to Bucklebury, is closed, perhaps for for about five months, to allow for a replacement of a water main.
• You can meet the Mayor of Thatcham and her town councillor hunsband, as well as representatives of the local police, in Thatcham Broadway this Saturday 5 May between 10am and 12 noon.
• A reminder that Thatcham Market takes place every Friday from 9am on The Broadway.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• Marlborough News has some welcome announcements about the take-up of empty high-street properties in the town.
• From the same source, click here for details of the rather brief (ends 21 May) consultation about car-parking charges.
• You can read here an article about Lisa Farrell who is, as Marlborough News describes her, the ‘very-soon-to-be Mayor of Marlborough‘. They probably know her better than I do so I’m going to adopt more formal title and refer to her as ‘Her Imminence.’
• There might be another explanation for the behaviour of the cows who chased a dog-walker on Hungerford Common this week (see above) – according to this story, the cows may have merely been trying to preserve the local bee population.
• Due to the wet weather, cars will not be allowed into Westwood for the Bluebell Drive this year.
• Richard Saxby, who works for Brendoncare, will be doing a skydive to raise money for the Brendoncare charity. You can read more, and donate, by clicking here. He’s not the only person in this sector who’s taking to the air – see the ‘Wantage’ section below.
• Click here for information about the annual Beating the Bounds in Ramsbury on Sunday 6 May, a long-established tradition that ensures that a neighbouring parish like Aldbourne hasn’t nicked some of their land while they weren’t looking. Nowadays it’s more of a good excuse for a walk
• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.
Wantage & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Grove Parish Council.
• Local care-home manager Lisa Duffy has taken to jumping out of planes to raise money for the centre for which she works. Read more here.
• There’s an interesting article here about John Harris, a Wantage-born missionary, who did much to expose the horrors of life in the Congo during the colonial period and became an active campaigner for self-determination.
• In the ‘Quiz Question of the Week’ last week I asked what item of sporting equipment is 1.5 inches wide and 110 feet long. Wantage and Grove will be hosting the UK National Championships for this sport during the summer so if you want to you can click here to find out what it is. Otherwise the answer’s at the foot of the page.
• The Vale of the White Horse Council has said that it is more than on target to meet its quota for the supply of housing land for the next five years.
• Two food-waste trucks, Munching Molly and Trashosaurus, recently made trips to the local primary schools that chose their names.
• Wantage’s Annual Town Meeting took place on 23 April. The minutes will appear here in due course.
• Grove’s Annual Parish Meeting took place on 18 April. You can click here to see the minutes.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• The second phase of a scheme to alleviate congestion at the busy Mannington Roundabout has started and will continue during off-peak hours until about the end of June.
• A reminder that if you’re voting in the local elections in Swindon today (Thursday) you need to take ID with you. This is the result of a pilot scheme to ensure the integrity of the process. Some groups have suggested that this is not a good plan or that it’s not addressing some of the real problems facing democracy. You can read one of these viewpoints here.
• A warning here about a conman preying on elderly people in the Swindon area.
• There’s normally something each week about the under- or over-enforcement of parking fines in certain areas. This time it’s the turn of Victoria Road in Swindon’s Old Town.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is with us once more. I read recently that Cardinal George Pell, who knows more about various historical abuses in the Catholic church than he has so far felt inclined to share, has finally returned home to Australia to answer some of the charges. It’s possible, though unlikely, that he might have been inspired to do this by listening to Tim Mincin’s song Come Home (Cardinal Pell).
• Which leads us tumbling into the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: Who scored a hat-trick in a European Cup Final and still ended up on the losing side? Last week’s came from the recent very successful quiz night at The Swan in Great Shefford which raised £570 for the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association. Many thanks to local quizmaster-in-chief Martin Smith for setting and supplying the question. It was: What item of sporting equipment in 1.5 inches wide and 110 feel long? The answer is a tug of war rope. Like all questions, so easy and obvious when you know the answer
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