Local News April 18-25 2019

Our round-up of local news across the area this week including the real saviours of Hungerford’s library, East Garston’s meeting, Lambourn’s open day, Marlborough’s report, Letcombe Regis’ skeletons, Wantage’s festivals, Thatcham’s youth club, Chaddleworth’s school-run, Swindon’s skaters, Newbury’s bus timetables, Stratfield Mortimer’s ponds, police and travel updates, road closures, Ex-Benedict, painting Sir Tom, a digital do-do, the Titanic, climate protests, democratic deficits, a battlefield ceremony, a midnight train and a pig-nosed vampire rat. 

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.
  • Please be particularly aware of major disruption at M4 J13 until June 2019. Click here for more information
  • Further information on major road projects can also be found on the Highways England website.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • For information on flood warnings and alerts, click here.
  • 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. Click here for services in Wantage.
  • 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)

• The council elections loom ever nearer: click here for information from West Berkshire and here for Vale of White Horse on how these will be conducted. Wiltshire and Swindon will not be holding elections this year. (If you want to know which councils hold elections when – it’s not straightforward – click here.)

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News has a front-page story about the Conservative Party’s election material which claims that the party was responsible for ‘securing community services in Hungerford…including the Library.’ This claim is completely inaccurate.

West Berkshire’s original inclination as a result of the cuts (imposed by a Conservative government) was to close the library or to reduce its staff mainly to volunteers. The recently-formed Friends of Hungerford Library did not feel that its alternative views had been taken into account in the plans that West Berkshire Council announced on 30 January 2017, and said so. The Council later admitted that its communication of the matter could have been better. It was not until later in 2017 that the current model (by which Hungerford Town Council took ownership of the building, that it was run by a charitable trust and that the Library Service was continued) was agreed. This was an imaginative and innovative solution that was entirely the work of Hungerford Town Council (mainly the then Mayor Keith Knight, the then Deputy Mayor Helen Simpson and Town Clerk Claire Barnes, as well as many people who were involved in the Friends of the Library group, including Peter Harries). Council officers, particularly Paul James, did become very supportive of the plan: but its inception owed nothing to West Berkshire Council. Anyone wanting to read more can click here to see the article we wrote at the time (often updated, and with links to previous and subsequent posts: it was a long-running, complex and at times divisive issue).

The NWN article ends with a comment from Councillor Dominck Boeck which puts a completely different spin on the situation. He also makes the startling claim that in Hungerford the work was done by ‘innovative and hard working and Conservative party members,’ the clear inference being that only members of that party were involved in this process. This is plain wrong. He also  said that ‘elected members’ were ‘heavily involved’ in this. I’m not sure which elected members he’s referring to. Hungerford’s councillors are technically elected, though effectively co-opted: some of those, particularly the two named above, were indeed ‘heavily involved’. If, however, he’s referring to District Councillors James Podger and Paul Hewer (neither of whom are standing this year) then I’m not aware that they played any particular role in this. Hungerford Library was saved as a result of the efforts of Hungerford Town Council and its staff, the Friends of Hungerford Library and, later, certain officers at West Berkshire Council. For anyone else to claim credit for this is deeply misleading. 

• Aside from exposing another unedifying example of political life, the whole episode of Hungerford Library (and many other organisations) makes one realise how unprepared local councils were for the cuts (even though the signs must have been obvious for some years). For decades they had run many services and their immediate reaction on being told they could no longer afford to do so was to close them: it simply didn’t seem possible that anyone else could take them over. As a result, there was no information available on the costs, leases, contracts, obligations and other details of these services, all of which facts the newly-formed volunteer groups needed to squeeze out of West Berkshire and other councils by slow and often unwilling degrees.

A senior West Berkshire councillor said recently that the cuts had been almost beneficial in the way they have galvanised the activities of the voluntary sector and parish councils. This could have been more happily phrased, but I see what he was driving at. David Cameron was groping toward this idea in 2010 with his vision of the ‘big society’, which was quickly ditched. It’s a pity, for it might have provided a useful framework for debate and action about a situation – the shedding downwards of responsibility for a wide range of services – which has now come to pass, almost entirely as a result of policies which his government set in motion. However, in most cases this transfer has been done as a last resort, rather than as part of some well-understood and national problem. It might also have sparked a debate on whether we were prepared to pay more taxes to retain these services in the old way. That, I concede, is unlikely, as I can think of no political party which has been elected on the basis of raising taxation.

• The Newbury Weekly News also has further criticism of West Berkshire Council, this time of its processes rather than its politics and on this occasion by none other than its former leader, the Conservative Gordon Lundie. The issue concerns what he claims was ‘wrong’ procedure in handling the change of use connected with The Malt Shovel in Upper Lambourn. I was aware of the closure of the pub and its proposed conversion (also of the expected dismay that was felt in some quarters) but this story is about a quite separate aspect of the matter. Have a look at the paper and decide for yourself.

• And still with the NWN, the paper has a good deal of information about the various parties and candidates contesting the elections with, this week, articles on the policies and plans by Labour and the Greens (the Conservatives and the Lib Dems were covered last week).

• I was looking at the awful footage of Notre Dame in flames and thinking about the stunning stained glass windows there. Amazingly, most of them seem to have survived. The building occupies a pretty important place in the average French person’s mind and I’m struggling to think of an English equivalent. Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s or York Minster are impressive but only St Paul’s is distinctively identifiable. Its main claim on our affections is probably its survival during the Blitz, captured in a famous photograph, when so much else around it was destroyed. However, it’s not that beautiful. Any other nominations? Before anyone suggests Big Ben, I don’t think cuts it either, being quite recent (mid-19th century, the same sort of age as Notre Dame’s spire which was burnt this week) and tainted with the dysfunctionality of the building to which it’s attached. It’s also in very poor condition, as is the whole Palace of Westminster: between £3.5 and £6 billion needs to be spent on the whole place PDQ if it’s not all to slide into the Thames, burst into flames or perhaps just gradually fall to pieces.

• The student climate-change protesters were out again in Newbury last Friday. This took place during the school holidays, so undermining the rather feeble accusations that have been made by some people that they are only doing this at all to get a couple of hours off school. Click here to read the text of a speech made by a nine-year-old student at the most recent event and here for reports on previous ones. See this week’s NWN (p15) for more.

 • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has committed a big faux pas by emailing over 300 journalists by using cc rather than bcc, so allowing them to see each other’s details. The Minister said that this was ’embarrassing’, which is about the mildest word one could use as this is the department responsible for our data protection laws. Those at the top of the DDCMS tree are doubtless already studying the article written late last summer for Penny Post by Nick Richards of local data experts Laudis which details some of the fines handed out under the new GDPR regulations. More have been added since. I suppose the DDCMS will have to fine itself.

• The quiz night I mentioned last week (which was in the Croft Hall in Hungerford in aid of St Lawrence’s Church) did not result in the hoped-for victory: contrary to the hopes of our captain there was no section devoted to early-20th century suicidal lesbian poets, nor even a single question. Nor, contrary to my hopes, was there anything on the Fourth Crusade. I was pleased that we were asked for the sister ships of the Titanic: this was not a question I could have answered six months ago but it came up in the East Garston quiz in the autumn, suggested by quizmaster Ed James’ elder son who knows more about that unhappy ship than most other people (the Olympic and the Britanic were her sisters, BTW). The prize was  won by Deputy Mayor Keith Knight’s team, for the third year in a row, I understand. Congratulations to them and to Nigel Perrin for setting the questions.

• If the Roman Catholic Church needs any fresh ways of making itself appear defensive and hypocritical, it found it last week in a pronouncement last week from ex-Pope Benedict. According to this report, he claimed that the widespread and constantly increasing catalogue of clerical sexual abuse should be blamed not on those who committed the crimes but on the sexual liberation of the 1960s. With more or less justification, that decade has been held responsible for a number of things but this accusation is truly startling, even if one leaves aside the fact that abuse of all kinds by Catholic priests had been going on for centuries before then, my father having been one of their victims. A friend of mine at university – his brain addled with chemicals that did find their first expression in the 60s – wrote an essay in his first-year exams claiming that the Italian Renaissance was inspired by the writings of Adolf Hitler, a silly anachronism for which he was rightly sent down. Something of the same ought to happen to Benedict: though how does one sack an ex-pope? Nothing in all the dusty tomes at the Vatican can provide a precedent, for there is none. 

• If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021, regardless of any deal that the UK government may or may not make with the EU. Click here to see the help that’s available with the application process from West Berkshire Libraries.

Healthwatch West Berkshire is running two online consultations about the future of healthcare provision in the area. Click here for details. You have until the end of the month to make your views known. 

• The animal of the week is…well, take your pick from any of these ones. If I had to vote, I’d go for the pig-nosed vampire rat myself. 

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes several on the subject of Brexit; several from various political parties; a further tribute to Councillor Marcus Franks, who died earlier this month; the surprising suggestion that there’s ‘a lack of debate’ on climate change and that any measures might in any case be ‘unnecessary’; and an statement from West Berkshire Council about its policy on electric-car charging points.  

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Marlborough LitFest (thanks to Brewin Dolphin); Guide Dogs for the Blind (thanks to several pupils at St Bart’s); Asthma UK (thanks to Darren Lovegrove); Arts Together (thanks to David Wilson Homes).

Hungerford & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Shalbourne Parish Council.

Shalbourne’s annual parish assembly will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday 18 April in the Kingston Room.

• Hungerford’s Town and Manor and its associated traditions and customs are unique: in no other town in the country has such an organisation survived. Hocktide, which culminates in Tutti Day on Tuesday 30 April, is nearly upon us. Click here to read more about this (the post includes a link to an article going into the history of the Town and Manor and Hocktide in a bit more detail).  

• As mentioned last week, the best coverage of matters in and around Hungerford can be found in the latest Penny Post Hungerford which many of you will have received earlier this month. In case you missed it, click here. The May issue will be published slighter later than usual, on Wednesday 8 May, this due to the bank holiday and the consequent timing of the Hungerford Town Council meeting.

• Click here for more information on this year’s Hungerford in Bloom

• A reminder that any community groups wanting to apply for grants from Hungerford Town Council are invited to do so. Note that this year all grant applications are being handled by The Good Exchange which will mean that any sums donated by the Council will be doubled through matched funding. Click here for more information. Grants are made throughout the year by the Council but the main batch of awards are in the early summer, so if your organisation hasn’t already registered with The Good Exchange you should aim to do this before the end of April. You can also click here for a list of last year’s grants including contact details for the organisation and what the money was used for.

Shalbourne’s May Day Fair will take place from noon to 4pm on Monday 6 May on the Sports Field. Visit the Parish Council’s website for more information, including details of the dog show.

Lambourn Valley

• Please click here for the latest news from Lambourn Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from East Garston Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Great Shefford Parish Council.

• The Lambourn Open Day will take place on Friday 19 April – click here for more – and for a change it looks as if the sun will be shining. With an estimated 10,000 visitors expected, prepare of traffic delays and local diversions.

• The April edition of The Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter was published last week: if you didn’t get it, click here

• The latest East Garston News has also just arrived, with the enticing title of Snails on the M4? All is revealed here.

• East Garston held its annual parish meeting on 16 April and you can read a full report here

McColl’s in Lambourn is raising money to send a sick two-year-old on holiday. Draw date 21 April. £40 for the winner and the rest will go to Sunny Days. Click here for more or pop into the shop.

Click here for details of how can volunteer at Lambourn Library.

• East Garston Amenities is organising a theatre trip to the Watermill on Thursday 20th June to see The Importance of Being Earnest. Full details here.

• East Garston Parish Council has need of a Clerkclick here for details.

Volunteers are still needed to help run Great Shefford’s youth club. 

• The Lambourn Annual Parish meeting will take place on Wednesday 24 April, 7.30pm in the Memorial Hall.

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 53rd day of broadcasting – click here for more. See this week’s NWN for a report on its first birthday last week.

Newbury & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Newbury Town Council: and here to see NTC’s archive of monthly newsletters.

• Please click here for the latest news from Chieveley Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

• The Statement of Persons Nominated for the election to Newbury Town Council can be found here.

Click here for a competition to win a wonderful prize donated by the recently re-opened White Hart Inn in Hamstead Marshall.

• Congratulations to all involved in the long-running struggle to have Wash Common Library re-opened and so return West Berkshire to its full library complement. Click here for the latest news, including information of a fundraising quiz on 9 May.

Newbury in Bloom 2019 has been launched – click here for details and the entry form.

• There will be some changes to the Newbury and District Bus timetables and services from Tuesday 23 April – click here for more.

• I swim 5km a week at Hungerford Leisure Centre and am pretty pleased (I think you mean ‘smug’ – Ed.) with that. Local swimming teacher Jess Taylor is, however, planning to swim 5km a day, for a week, (about the same as swimming the English Channel) to raise funds for continuing the life-changing swimming sessions for a pupil of hers with cerebral palsy. I don’t think I could match that. Click here to donate to her campaign.

• A major road improvement project for Newbury is expected to continue until the autumn – click here for details

Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Newbury (also Thatcham and Calcot) by the Berkshire School of English.

Compton & Downlands

• Please click here for the latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council (where there are currently two councillor vacancies).

• Please click here for the latest news from Compton Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Ashampstead Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Chaddleworth Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Brightwalton Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from West Ilsley Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from East Ilsley Parish Council.

• We’ve mentioned several times about the battle between Chaddleworth and West Berkshire Councils about the latter’s school-transport policy, by which about half the parish is entitled to free transport to The Downs in Compton and the other half isn’t. The Ombudsman has been invoked; individual residents have been asked to make their own representations; and, according to the most recent emails I’ve seen, there now appears to be a discrepancy in the way West Berkshire has been considering eligibility. There’s also confusion as to the maps that were used and the way the distances were calculated between the various locations, West Berkshire’s figures between schools and houses seeming to vary depending on who has supplied the information. More on this as it emerges. The policy, which is also applied to other parishes in West Berkshire where is doesn’t appear to have been as divisive (though this is perhaps because people feel that it’s not worth complaining), threatens to undermine a small but important aspect of local democracy, that all residents of a parish be treated the same way in such matters. Chaddleworth Council is challenging the district on this and other matters, which is exactly what a parish council ought to be doing.

• The April newsletter from West Ilsley Parish Council can be found here.

• Stallholders are wanted for Brightwalton’s Fete on 5 May.

• The Hampstead Norreys annual parish meeting will take place at 7.30pm on Monday 29 April in the Village Hall. Click here to see the agenda.

• A reminder about Hampstead Norreys Community Shop’s eco-bricks project which re-purposes your one-use plastic. You can read more about this by clicking here.

• If you want to subscribe to Chaddleworth News, please contact chaddnews@gmail.com.

• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thacham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.

Thatcham and district

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Cold Ash Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Bucklebury Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Brimpton Parish Council.

• Please click here for details of Thatcham’s civic events in 2019.

• The Statement of Persons Nominated for the election to Thatcham Town Council can be found here.

• Thatcham Town Council has created a shortlist of locations for its next blue plaque and is inviting residents to help make the final decision. More information will soon be available on the Town Council’s website

• Everyone has their own view about the pros and cons of the area they live in and young people are no exception. Their opinions tend be more extreme than are those of people whose views are modified by wider experience but that doesn’t mean that they’re irrelevant. Indeed, as they often lack a more formal way of expressing themselves to the local community, their thoughts are quite likely to translate into peer-pressure inspired action which can be seen as disruptive or anti-social, so deepening the divide between teenagers and adults. Recent attempts to improve this have included the establishment of youth councils in Wantage and Newbury (with one being created in Hungerford) and the revitalisation of youth clubs, institutions which have suffered particularly badly from recent funding cuts. A report in this week’s NWN (p25) mentions research conducted by the Thatcham Outreach Vision Project which refers to some of the perceptions of the town by its younger residents and some of the steps taken to address this by the Town Council and others.

One organisation which in heavily involved in this issue, at least for people of up to 13, is Thatcham Youth which arranges a wide range of activities for its members. Click here to visit its website and find out how you can get involved, donate or volunteer. All such organisations are aware that there are always more things they would like to do: however, ensuring that there are enough trustees, volunteers, equipment and funding are practical concerns which over-ride everything else and often prevent more ambitious projects being considered. Thatcham Youth is fortunate that the Town Council has guaranteed its funding for the there next three years: although this only covers about a third of its costs it provides some much-needed security. The Town Council is wise to make such an investment as much evidence, as well as common sense, shows that the earlier in life positive intervention takes place the fewer problems (which can be very expensive for society to address) emerge later.

Thatcham Town FC are still the FA Vase holders (and will remain so until this year’s final on 19 May) but, perhaps more importantly, have ensured their survival in the Southern League. Manager Danny Robinson explains here how he’s hoping for a further improvement next season.

• West Berkshire Council should by now have started work on flood defences at Dunston Park and South East Thatcham.

• Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan is seeking volunteers to assist with the work involved. If you’re interested in helping, please contact bernard.clark@tvt.biz.

• A one-bed flat is currently available through the Thatcham Parochial Almshouse Charity: see our Property Available post for more details.

• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thatcham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.

• The Cold Ash Annual Parish Meeting takes place at 7pm on Thursday 25 April at the Acland Hall. 

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin

Theale and district

• Please click here for the latest news from Theale Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Aldermaston Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Englefield Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Burghfield Parish Council.

• The Statement of Persons Nominated for the election to Burghfield Parish Council can be found here.

Click here for the latest from Highways England about the progress of the work to tuen the M4 from J3 to J12 into a smart motorway.

• If you’ve were in Stratfield Mortimer earlier this year you may have seen groups of people working in the ponds on the fairground – click here to visit the parish’s website to see what they were up to.

Burghfield Parish Council has developed a questionnaire to help determine ‘its vision and strategy for the future of Burghfield.’ You have until Monday 20 May to make your views known.

• The Padworth recycling centre has announced that its opening ours will be extended from April. This is for a trial period only so, if usage in the new times doesn’t take place over then following six months, the hours will revert.

• Click here for information about Burghfield’s plans to create a community hub.

Click here for the April/May 2019 Parish Magazine from Englefield Parish Council.

• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thacham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.

Marlborough & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council (featuring a new-look website).

• Please click here for the latest news from Aldbourne Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Great Bedwyn Parish Council.

• Marlborough Town Council’s 2018-19 Annual Report is available – click here to read it.

• Wiltshire and Swindon will have a new Police and Crime Commissioner from May 2020 as the incumbent Angus MacPherson has announced he will not be standing for re-election.

Marlborough News reports that, in May, volunteers will be in Aldbourne for an archaeological dig to find the remains of the huts used by the American ‘Band of Brothers’ airborne unit during their stay in the village before they took part in Operation Overlord’s D-Day assault on Normandy.

• Marlborough mother Wendy Oakey is keen to repay Great Ormond Street Hospital for the care it gives her eight-year-old son who suffers from chronic nasal problems and will be holding an event at Marlborough Bowls Club on Saturday 18 May to raise funds. More details here.

• Click here for some initial information from Marlborough News about August’s Marlborough Rising music festival.

• The same source reports how artist, Duncan Shoosmith, who lives near Marlborough has been crowned Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019. The main photo shows him painting Tom Jones: ‘a warm and very funny man,” Shoosmith recalled, ‘ but he rarely shuts up so sketching him was hard work…’

• If you’re in Great Bedwyn, keep your eye on the Village Hall Facebook page here for details of what’s going on there, including films (featuring new state-of-the-art equipment).

• 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. (Be prepared for a long wait for it to load.)

• Please click here for the latest news from Letcombe Regis Parish Council.

• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted.

• 26 skeletons have been discovered near Letcome Bassett during work by Thames Water. These are estimated to be about 3,000 years old and so will be of more interests to local archaeologists than the local police.

• A survey has been launched by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to help them gather information about the future of health provision in the Wantage and Grove area (which has been the subject of much debate recently). This has the support of the recently-formed Wantage OX12 Stakeholder Group. Click here to make your views known (you need to have completed it by 6 May 2019).  The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group has some thoughts and suggestions here which you might want to have a look at before completing the survey.

• Some of the participants have been announced for this year’s Wantage Literary Festival which runs from 26 October to 2 November.

• And before that, there’s the Wantage Summer Arts Festival to look forward to (15 June to 14 July). Click here for details. There’s a fundraising event for this on Saturday 27 April, a tribute to the singer and actor Mario Lanza.

• It was announced this week that the OVO Energy Women’s Tour professional cycling race on Wednesday 12 June will pass through Wantage.

• This week’s Wantage & Grove Herald writes, on 98 of the ‘democratic deficit‘ resulting from 70% of  wards in Oxfordshire being uncontested (fewer candidates than seats available): in the Vale of White Horse, for instance, only 13 out of 67 parish or town elections will be contested. I suspect that the figure is even higher in West Berkshire. This article in Democratic Audit suggests that the problem more serious still, with 300 district-council seats being either uncontested or already guaranteed to a particular party. The article suggests that this problem has almost entirely disappeared in Scotland and Northern Ireland where the single transferrable vote is used.

• The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group is drawing our attention to the latest move in the vast and controversial project of the Abingdon reservoir. Opinion differs as to whether the theme is needed now, or at all, and other or not it would be better to concentrate on many other options to solve possible supply shortages. The Group Against Reservoir Development’s (GARD’s) point of view is that the overall case is far from proven. There’s currently (another) consultation on the subject: please click here to visit it and have your say on this important subject. You have until Friday 26 April to do so.

• The Ray Collins Charitable Trust is already thinking ahead to 2020 and planning its calendar. For this, photographs are needed – click here for details if you have any you’d like to submit.

• And the same organisation has a more immediate plan afoot, organising its seventh annual Easter dinner for local people living in social isolation on Easter Sunday at Grove RFC. There are still a few spaces left, so get in touch if you know anyone who might appreciate this, Volunteers are also needed.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald asks some questions about the controversial Help to Buy scheme which ‘appears to be simply putting government money in the pockets of developers.’

Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.

• Click here for details of some forthcoming events in Wantage.

Swindon & district

• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.

• A taskforce has been set up to help minimise the impacts of the closure of the Honda plant on the the town and the Honda staff. Click here for details.

• Congratulation to local historian Graham Carter whose book about Swindon’s past, A Swindon Time Capsule: Working Class Life 1899-1984, has won the 2018 Alan Ball award.

• I can also recommend Angela Atkinson’s Secret Swindon, published by Amberley in 2018.

• A reminder about an initiative by which difficult-to-recycle plastics can now be dropped off at Tesco supermarkets, thanks to a partnership with Swindon based Recycling Technologies.

• Swindon residents are invited to a series of free workshops with Swindon Borough Council planners and surveyors to discuss their home-building projects. The next two are on 10 June and 8 July.

• The organiser of Swindon’s biggest extreme-sport event is campaigning for more skateboarding facilities to be available around the town.

• Here are some images of spring snapped my members of the Swindon Camera Club.

• Click here for information about this year’s Swindon Spring Festival which runs from 8 to 19 May.

• A free scheme has been relaunched in a bid to boost revenue in the town centre and encourage residents to shop locally.

• Click here for details of events and activities at Lydiard Park over the Easter holidays.

• The Council’s town centre car parks are now free on Sundays. Click here for more.

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week is a classic piece of 70s soul, Gladys Knight and the Pips’ Midnight Train to Georgia. Although not technically a Motown record (they’d left the label shortly before) it’s very much of that style, with throbbing bass, gospelly organ, punchy horns, Greek-chorus-style backing from the Pips and – above all – a soaring, heart-string-tugging performance from Ms Knight that in places really does make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. If you want a bit more of this kind of stuff, then the Motown Magic night at The Castle in Newbury on Saturday 27 April could be just the ticket.

• Which takes us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s comes from the quiz I mentioned (in Across the Area above) at the Hungerford Croft Hall last week, and was: Who is the only English monarch since the Norman Conquest to have been crowned on a battlefield? Last week I directed you towards the questions which, if you answer them correctly, could win you a generous prize donated by The White Hart in Hamstead Marshall (and I do so again). Click here for details

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Brian Quinn

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