Local News May 4 -11

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Including a new Mayor and Deputy in Hungerford, election day for some, Crafty Craft, Hocktide, two different bells, another CAT, consultations in Newbury, flood relief in Thatcham, signs in Chaddleworth, click-too-quick syndrome strikes again, good causes celebrated, roadworks, police news, one quiz closes and another opens, football news, rubbish driving, shorthand envy and the pope/Australian ratio.

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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.

Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. There will be road closures in and around Lambourn on Good Friday due to the Lambourn Open Day. Click here for details of roadworks in Ackers Way in Swindon which are set to continue until late May. Click here for information on forthcoming closures on the A34. Burys Bank Road between Thatcham and Greenham will be closed on Saturday 6 May.

Please click here for details of long-term roadworks on the M4 between J12 and J13 and which will result in some overnight closures between 31 March and 22 May (note that the M4 will not now be closed this weekend 5-8 May as previously advertised but will be closed the following weekend and possibly the weekend afterwards).

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.

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.

The Hungerford Town Council Full Meeting took place in the Town Hall at on 2 May. Among the many items covered were the election of a new Mayor (Keith Knight replacing Martin Crane) and Deputy Mayor (Helen Simpson replacing Keith Knight), further thoughts on the possible reaction to the housing development in Salisbury Road and the pros and cons of the town creating a Neighbourhood Plan. You can read a full report here.

We’d also like to echo the support and appreciation expressed at the meeting for outgoing Mayor Martin Crane for his five years of service.

Congratulations also to Margaret Wilson whose two decades of service to Hungerford Town Council and other causes in the area  were recognised with a Freedom of the Town award in a ceremony on Tuesday.

At the above meeting I was sitting next to John Garvey of the Newbury Weekly News: watching him take notes made me regret that, unlike him, I never learned shorthand. At university I briefly developed a half-baked scheme of my own devising which one day in the library I used quite extensively. The minimum requirement of any shorthand system is that you should be be able to understand the results: sadly, that was not the case with mine. Back to longhand.

A Town Plan is being considered in Newbury and residents have until the end of May to reply to an initial consultation on this.

The public is in Newbury is also being asked for comments on proposed changes to the busy A339/Bear Lane junction near Sainsburys.

It’s election day today for local councils in Wales, Scotland and some areas of England (though not West Berkshire) – 4,851 seats up for grabs in all, with each party doubtless ready to claim that the results are ‘hugely significant’ (if they’ve done well) or ‘of no relevance’ (if they’ve done badly) to the general election next month. If you are in an area which is democratically on heat today you probably know all about it, but here’s a quick guide to what’s going on.

I always thought elections had to take place on Thursdays, but it seems from this that although they almost always do this is just a tradition.

A reminder that the Hungerford Post Office in Martin’s (and Martin’s itself) has now closed. An outreach service is available in the Library from 9.45am to 1.45pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays (opening and closing 15 minutes earlier from what some of the signs may say). You can click here to see a brief video about the new service in action on day one.  You can also click here for more information, including a link to the Post Office’s site with details about how retailers can apply to run a post office.

Good news for residents of Thatcham with news that plans for a third flood basin north of Floral Way are set to be approved.

Well done to all those who took part in the Crafty Craft race on bank holiday Monday which attracted the usual range of unfeasible looking vessels and impractical looking costumes. You can see some photos on pp6-8 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. Penny participated as land crew for the fastest Junior Team and en route made a short video

Congratulations to all of you who took part in the Ramsbury Parish Boundary Walk (all 23 miles) last weekend: all the 78 people who completed the course earned a free drink at The Bell.

Some of you may remember that The Bell kindly donated a generous prize for the PP Xmas Quiz in 2016. The Hungerford Arms did likewise for our April Quiz and congratulations to Amanda Smith for being the first correct winner out of the hat (or Easter bonnet). Click here for the answers.

And speaking of The Bell – this time the book, not the pub – click here for a review of Iris Murdoch’s masterpiece in the Hungerford Bookshop Book of the Month. Plenty of other reviews there as well.

The combination of a very mild start to April followed by some savage frosts last week has caught many plants by surprise, perhaps none more so than the vines. Winding Wood Vineyard in Wickham was just one that suffered. This article discusses the damage done to the harvest nationally (at least half is estimated to have been lost) as well as some of the eye-catching (if not always successful) methods viticulturists use to try to protect their crops.

If you were caught up in traffic chaos in and around Marlborough last week and want to know why, here’s the explanation…

This week saw the annual celebration of Hocktide in Hungerford. Here is our video of the Tutti Day anticsYou can also click here to read more about this ancient ceremony.

Lovers of Italian food will be able to sample some wines and seasonal deli products at a series of pop-up run by Gastro Nicks in the Hungerford Town Hall on 5. 6. 19 and 20 May. Click here for more.

We’ve recently written a fair bit about CATs  (Community Asset Transfers), the process by which buildings, facilities or services are transferred from one authority to another (usually downwards from a District Council) to save money. The Marlborough Christmas Market can now be added to this lengthening list. Hopefully this will solve last year’s problems when an eleventh-hour deal was needed to secure the two parking sites necessary for the Christmas tree.

It can sometimes be frustrating when you’re stuck behind a rubbish or recycling lorry but this video, promoted by Biffa and Vale of White Horse Council, shows some extraordinary footage of just how idiotic and impatient some drivers are. One obvious  moral of this is that if you are tempted to drive up on the pavements to get past a bin lorry, assume that you’re being filmed.

There have been several stories of large planning developments in the area, most of which have run into opposition or problems of various kinds. Outline Planning Permission has recently been submitted to Swindon Council for around 2,400 homes to the east of the town.

A new bus service has been launched between Newbury and Thatchamclick here for more.

Click here for more information about Newbury in Bloom 2017 (which includes two additional categories compared to last year).

My take on Hungerford Town FC’s remarkable first year in the National League South can be read here. In other football news, Reading (already assured of a play-off place) conclude their league fixtures this Sunday with a trip to Burton Albion. Swindon’s miserable season is over: they are now licking their wounds and contemplating playing the likes of Accrington Stanley and Crewe next time round.

Final reminder that if you have any of the old paper fivers stashed away anywhere you have until 5 May (ie tomorrow if you’re reading this hot off the press) to spend them before they cease to be legal tender.

If you were planning to go to the Annual Meeting of Great Shefford Parish Council on Thursday 4 May, this has been postponed. A new date will be announced and publicised (including on the village website) as soon as the details are known.

Community groups in East Garston have until 30 June to apply for grants of us to £500 – click here for more.

Drivers in the Hungerford and Lambourn Valley areas be warned – the police are currently having a crackdown targeting people driving without seatbelts or while using mobiles.

We covered the story about the dispute between Chaddleworth PC and WBC about the brown signs relating to The Ibex which had caused a level of fuss, bother and expense out of all proportion to the problem this these may or may not have caused. We’ve seen some of the subsequent communications and it seems that sanity has been restored.

We’ve all sent emails to people we didn’t intend to  almost always this is when we have been writing about them, rarely in a complimentary way). This can at best be toe-curlingly embarrassing, at worst commercially disastrous. I must have done it but I’ve obviously managed to blot the memory out so I can’t share any instances with you. You may well have some of your own. It’s also disconcerting to receive emails about yourself in this way. Some years ago I was asking a printing company some reasonable questions (or so they seems to me) about a complicated job. I unexpectedly received a reply that had been sent to me as well as the writer’s colleague which merely said ‘we’ve got a really strange one here!’ It’s often easier to absorb the intelligence that that’s the impression you’re giving and then make no further reference to it. This is what I did, although the temptation to make an arch an oblique reference to the message (‘…I don’t want to be really strange about this, but…’) in a later email was almost overwhelming. A  recent local case of the ‘click too quick’ syndrome has come to light here. Even before I got to the end of the article, I didn’t think that this would stop Mr Green from continuing to write in. I don’t know the background to this. Complaints to official bodies can be vital and they can be misguided. What’s important is that we are able to complain if we need to, however irksome this can sometimes be for the recipients.

And another story from the ‘could happen to anyone‘ section. We’ve all seen something that made us laugh so much that we chocked on our sushi and then knocked ourselves out on the kitchen worktop, right? (That’s his story, anyway.) It’s never happened to you? Really? In that case, click here and enjoy the experience vicariously.

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Prospect Hospice (thanks to Marlborough Golf Club); Mary Hare Foundation (thanks to the Newbury & District Agricultural Society); the Sick Children’s Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital (thanks to the Braddy family from Wantage); Dementia Awareness (thanks to Bluebird Care); the Bill and Melissa Gates End Polio Now initiative (thanks to the Rotary Crocus Campaign)

The  Song of the Week is back again. I enjoyed last week’s word-association-football-match-box approach so I’ll do it again. Today is the fourth of May, or May the fourth as the Americans have it, which leads to all those ‘May the Fourth be with you’ jokes in reference to the dreary Star Wars films. Star Wars starred Carrie Fisher (or the first one did anyway), whose mother Debbie Reynolds starred in Singin’ in the Rain, a vastly better movie in every way. So let’s have a quick look at Mr Kelly in his most famous moment in the title song – get your umbrellas open and click here. Apparently he performed it while suffering from flu and with a temperature of 103º so extra respect is due.

And as usual, we finish with the Quiz Question of the Week. Once again I haven’t got anything for any recent pub quizzes to hand (if you organise any of these, send me a question from a recent quiz and I’ll feature it). Instead I’ll point you towards our own latest quiz with a chance to win a month’s free membership at Seeds2Glory Fitness Studio. Last month’s question was How many popes are there per sq km in the Vatican City? The Vatican City is 0.44 sq km. The last time I checked there were two popes: the current one, Pope Francis I, and the previous one, Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus. This means there are 4.54 popes per sq km. The Vatican City is thus more densely populated with popes than Australia (population density 3.2 per sq km) is with Australians. My brain is reeling slightly at this statistic so I’ll leave you now and go and have a lie down.

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Brian Quinn

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