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Local News August 1-8 2019

Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s newsletter, Newbury’s Retail Park, Marlborough’s man sheds, Wantage’s leisure centre (or not), Thatcham’s parking charges, Lambourn’s drinking statistics, Compton’s firearms training, Swindon’s prescribing paramedics, Ramsbury’s gardens, East Garston’s speeding, East Ilsley’s survey,  Theale’s picnic, Cold Ash’s thought, police and travel updates, political officers, Sandleford, Boris the cow, Dusty the owl, JRM’s writing rules, Brontë mnemonics, a wedge of geese, 56.7º, free water, open water and peace, love and understanding.

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

Information on police, transport (including roadworks) and district councils can now be found on a separate page here.

Links to the websites for town and parish councils can still be found in the appropriate sections below.

Across the area (and further afield)

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on the question of  many West Berkshire council staff being banned from being politically active (this means that the person cannot hold any office in a political party, though they can be a member, and cannot canvass or get involved in any public political debate).

The legal position is governed by the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act which draws a distinction between ‘specified’ posts (covering senior managers) which must be politically neutral (few would disagree with this); and ‘sensitive’ posts which are assessed case-by-case by the council. This should consider if they offer regular strategic or substantive, rather than merely factual, advice. Quite why West Berkshire believed in February that it was necessary to restrict double the number of roles than was previously the case (and, in many cases, more than many other councils do) may never be known. What does seem clear is that we’re seeing another example of our old friend, the law of unintended consequences. By introducing this as a unilateral measure – rather than as, a contractual change which could then have been negotiated – the council risks repetitional damage, the more so as making changes in this way goes against its own policy. It also creates the impression that the council workforce was a seething hotbed of political agitators requiring censure, which undermines public confidence. It might also might cause people to wonder what the issues were that provoked such debate in the first place and whether they had anything to do with the council’s own policies.

As with other things, like the provision of recycling facilities, the problem would be solved if discretion were removed from the council. If I were running the country (Oh dear, here we go again – Ed.) I’d say that all municipal jobs should be ‘specified’. It may inconvenience a few people but it could be argued that anyone who was politically active should consider becoming a councillor rather than an officer. Most people aren’t politically active anyway. That would be consistent and unambiguous and would avoid divisive debates and frequent changes of policy which leave staff not knowing from one day to the next what they can and can’t do. Bizarrely, teachers – one group which many would think ought to display strict political neutrality – are exempt from the provisions of the 1989 act. Critics of the legislation claim that it is a poor and outdated piece of work which needs to be reviewed. If so, it will need to take its place at the bottom of a very full in-tray at number 10.

• The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has been looking at the issue of violence in schools. It has called for dedicated police officers to be placed in schools with a higher risk of violence and has described the government’s current violence reduction strategy as ‘completely inadequate.’ It’s also been suggested that all schools should have a dedicated officer. While the scheme is already happening in some areas, 10 out of 33 police forces in England told the Home Affairs Committee they had no safer schools officers. I’ve contacted the Office of the Thames Valley PCC to ask where this force stands on the issue and have been promised a response.

• Slightly bizarre scenes on the M4 earlier today when part of the motorway near Reading needed to be closed while police were forced to ask some geese to move on. I’ve only one criticism of the article. It refers to the geese as a flock. When they’re on the ground, a group of geese is a gaggle; when in the air, a skein, a team or a wedge; when flying close together, a plump. Judging by the video, these ones seemed be trying to do all three of these things at the same time. What’s the word for that, geese experts?

• Few things bring as warm a glow to an English person’s heart as thumping Australia at cricket (thumping Germany at football, a far rarer event, is pretty good too). It was all looking so good at lunchtime on the first day of the first test; less so now. Experts predict a series of low-scoring matches (and thus probably no draws) as most agree the bowlers on both sides are better than the batsmen. 

• Jacob Rees-Mogg has issued a list of words and grammatical forms which he does not wish his staff to use. You can read some comments about them from The Guardian and the Evening Standard. Some of these are justified; others are plain silly. He’s also specified that a comma shouldn’t be used after ‘and’: I think he means after ‘and’, the so-called ‘Oxford comma’ (didn’t he go to Oxford?).

More than anything else, it’s a massive missed opportunity. There are so many ghastly abuses of language, many emanating from government, that should be banned. Houses, polices and services, for instance, cannot (unlike letters, babies or pizzas) be delivered; people who travel on trains are passengers, not customers; going forward (in time) is a meaningless phrase as it suggests we have a choice of directions; a journey is a trip from one place to another not some wishy-washy measure of progress; infer and imply are separate though complementary words. This all matters in exactly the same way as a similar choice does for an artist or a musician selecting exactly the right colour or harmony from the many available to create the desired effect. In many cases, the result of such misused terms is deliberately to confuse the reader into thinking that something more impressive is being described. The more we accept this, the less likely it is that we can judge the accuracy of what it being said or the integrity of the person saying it.

• A reminder that residents of West Berkshire can now subscribe to the garden-waste collection service: more details can be found here. The cost is £50 for the first bin and there will, this year, be no part-year reductions. 

• Advice here from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue about keeping safe in open water during the hot weather.

• This year’s summer reading challenge from West Berkshire Libraries is now open with children aged 4-11 being invited to sign up to the annual Challenge to borrow and read any six library books between by the end of September. 

• One of the letters in this week’s Newbury Weekly News urges the nation to put its differences aside and rally behind Boris Johnson. ‘Once we are free and independent,’ the writer concludes, ‘we can challenge the government in the way for which our system has been designed.’ Two points strike me. The first is that the country is already free and independent and the suggestion that we will be more so after leaving the EU is specious. The EU exists to support and protect these principles, of which it is at least as good a guarantor as an unfettered national government. Many of the more enlightened and progressive reforms, such as on consumer protection and workers’ rights, emanated from Brussels, not Westminster. Secondly, our current system is very far from being the ideal vehicle to hold the government to account that the writer suggests. The fact that the government is made up of the largest party in the Commons, and draws its members from it, creates a hopeless web of divided loyalties. An MP who is in government is manifestly less capable of criticising the government or, at times, of representing their constituents than if they were unencumbered. The claims are as illusory as the £350m-a-week claim on the infamous battle bus.

• The animal of the week is Dusty the snowy owl chick which, as the NWN reports, has recently been born at Beale Park. This is what he (or she) will look like when older.

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include: a different view of the A34 slip road at East Ilsley from that suggested by Richard Benyon; criticism of the new road alignment at Bear Lane and Cheap Street; a reminder of how many of our political leaders have attended a particular school near Slough; and a dog that, quite understandably, dislikes ‘being dressed up.’

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Thatcham Parish Hall (thanks to the two recent fundraising events); Chilton Foliat Primary School (thanks to Daniel Martin); Hearing Dogs for the Deaf (thanks to Josh Carter); Hope4Harrison (thanks to the charity football match).

Hungerford & district

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

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

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

• It’s the start of the month, which can only mean one thing: Penny Post Hungerford will have dropped into the inboxes of our subscribers (click here if you would like to join them, being sure to tick the ‘Hungerford’ box). You can also click here to read this month’s packed issue which includes news from the Town Council, the Town and Manor, the High Street retailers, Barr’s Yard, the Youth and Community Centre, all the schools and the Chamber of Commerce as well as tips from the allotments, recommendations from the Bookshop, advice from the police, a steam sighting from Tony Bartlett and a short story from me. 

• One of the items above discusses yet another accident involving a car and a cow on the Common (which might be the first line of a limerick). I’ve since learned that the cow (which survived the incident) was called Boris. This seems an odd name for a female animal but I’m told that it arrived with it so it’s not the Town and Manor’s decision. It seems that there was also another cow in the same herd also called Boris, which makes me wonder if the previous owner had really got the hang of the purpose of names. The boxer George ‘the grill’ Foreman called all his sons George ‘so that they all had something in common’; perhaps personal vanity, something boxers are not generally short of, was also involved. Was the previous owner called Boris? Are we dealing here with a kind of shot at immortality – I may die but I’ll live on in my cows? Or is it a political statement? Are there any cows called Jeremy in the herd? More questions than ready answers as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Click here for interview with former jockey, international in-flight horse attendant and West Berkshire Councillor Dennis Benneyworth

• Church Way will be closed on Monday 5 August between Homefield Way and The A338 – diversion via Atherton Road and the A338 to allow for cable installation by Gigaclear. Click here for details.

• The unnamed road from Bell Lane to Lower Green in Inkpen will, for the same reason, be closed on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 August  diversion via Spray lane and the unnamed road to Upper Green. Click here for more details.

Lower Denford Road by Denford Mill Bridge will be fully closed to through traffic and non-motorised users, including pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, at Denford Mill Bridge until early September to carry out bridge deck replacement works. There will access-only traffic between the junction on the Common by the railway line and Mill Bridge, and from the A4 to Denford Mill: but the Bridge itself will be closed to traffic and pedestrians during this time. Diversions will be marked via Park Street, the High Street (A338) and the Bath Road (A4).

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.

• As mentioned last week, The Swan in Great Shefford, which has been closed since earlier this year, will be re-opening in late August, though probably under a new name. I dropped in today but just missed the new owners. One of the people working there said that the work was all on schedule. 

• Another re-opening, slightly sooner, will see a café return to Lambourn (since Davona and Honesty closed the village has been without one). Goodies will be opening next week in the High Stree just up from Universal Stores, where Honesty used to be.

• The East Garston speedwatch volunteers were out again between 16 and 23 July on the bottom road to the south of the village. 819 vehicles were recorded during the 18 hours of the survey with over a third exceeding the prosecution threshold of 35mph. Similar figures could doubtless have been recorded in Eastbury (where the problem is also the proximity of front doors to the road), where the residents have been campaigning for a reduction to 20mph. Police enforcement actions are also being carried out so please be careful.   

• If someone offers to sell you some farrier’s tools or a wrought-iron bench, then they may well be the ones that were stolen from two locations in Lambourn recently. Please see the Community Facebook Group for more.

• If you feel that more litter needs to picked up in Lambourn, here’s your chance

• A letter in this week’s NWN from a resident of Lambourn criticises the paper’s coverage of the town’s alleged binge-drinking problem. A note from the editor under the letter points out that the report was based on statistics supplied by West Berkshire Council. I’ve had a quick look at the report (you can see it here). The summary says that all the statistics, including this one, relate to the ‘the Lambourn Valley’ but the article applied it only to ‘Lambourn’. Possibly the figures are the same for the village as for the area as a whole but, even if so, it’s not exactly what the report said.

The report also has a wealth of other facts. The life expectancy (81.8 for males and 83.9 for females) is slightly above the national averages of 79.2 and 82.9 (the report didn’t provide these comparisons: I had to look them up) so the binge drinking, however defined, doesn’t seem to doing too much harm. It also says that ‘an estimated 28.6% of the population eats healthily.’ Really? How is that defined? I can’t see anything in the notes about this nor how it compares to the regional or national pictures. Without these comparisons and criteria, these kind of statistics lose a lot of force.

• Keep up-to-date here and also here with all the events at this summer’s Lambourn Carnival.

• The Nature Notes section of this month’s Great Shefford Parish News writes about the orchids which are currently in flower, some of them on verges which, to the author’s regret, the council may soon be cutting. I can offer him the reassuring news that  West Berkshire Council is re-considering its policy on this, managed verges of grasses and wildflowers being cheaper, prettier and more environmentally friendly. Town and parish councils such as Hungerford (to which such work has in some cases been devolved) are also considering this.

• The Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association has all but hit its target of £80,000 plus about 10% to cover the cost of the Good Exchange match funding. About another £6,000 needs to be raised which will doubtless lead to a couple more fund-raising events over the rest of the summer.

• Save the date: East Garson’s fête will be held on Saturday 31 August.

• The bit of the B4001 (the road between the B4000 and Chilton Foliat) under the motorway bridge between the junction with the B4000 and the turning towards Membury) will be closed until 19 August. Diversions will be in place directing you through Membury. This is to enable repairs to be carried out to the bridge.  

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

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

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 66th day of broadcasting – click here for more.

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.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also publishes the Hamstead Hornet – if you’d like subscribe, contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net.

Victoria Park has been recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the best in the world.

• An article in this week’s Newbury Weekly News considers the question of the infrastructure demands, the water supply in particular, required for the development at Sandleford. I understand that Thames Water made a similar objection in the past so this is not exactly news. It’s always been known that this or any other development will require infrastructure investment: whether it will get it to the extent residents want is another matter. The problems of identifying the various requirements and getting the developers to agree with these, or each other, has been going on for long enough to suggest real challenges. 

A more pertinant point, which the article touches on, is Peter Norman’s question of whether the whole development is consistent with the recently-declared state of climate emergency. It was originally conceived as a 2,000-home site and, as such, was considered more attractive than other sites such as at Shaw, but has since been scaled back to about 1,250. Does this still make it the best option? The climate emergency is, or should be, a game-changer for every council that has passed such a motion. They now surely need to be looking at every project which can still be modified and ask themselves, were the climate emergency to have been active at the time, if the same decision would have been reached. Applying this extra test is not easy but is vital if the exercise is going to be effective. There seem few better places to start than with Sandleford. The fact that it’s currently not in the five-year housing supply perhaps suggests that it’s being dropped, or at least that it won’t be completed in this period.

• A similar view might be taken of the equally beleaguered Highwood School near the College, work on which ceased in March when the construction company went into liquidation. Many questioned whether a school was needed here rather than elsewhere, such as near the Racecourse, the more so as Sandleford would have its own school and that, with no natural catchment area to speak of, most journeys would thus be by car. Indeed, a ‘kiss and drop’ zone was an integral part of the plans. Again, would this school pass the climate-emergency test? Although work had started circumstances have led to a definite pause, so it’s an opportunity for a re-think.

• The same paper reports (on p7) on a Newbury Town Council meeting on 15 July discussing the proposed extra car parking spaces at the Retail Park. The comments from the councillors show all too clearly the different shades of opinion, each one of some validity, which exist and how hard it is to reach an agreement which satisfies everyone. Once again, the additional issue of the climate emergency provides another criteria by which all decisions need to be judged. As the Retail Park is on private land, the owners can do what they wish about changing traffic flows (as they did a few years ago) without needing approval from West Berkshire. This matter came up because the proposal (which I understand has been approved, with conditions) had a development aspect as it involved a partial demolition.

• And still with the NWN, the paper is running a poll with the question ‘Should West Berkshire Council buy the Kennet Centre?’ 

• I mentioned last week that District Councillor Adrian Abbs had surveyed some cafés in Newbury to establish their policies on offering discounts where punters brought in their own cups (some did and some didn’t). He’s since confirmed some more consistent good news, that every one offered free tap water for people who wanted to fill up their bottle. Special mentions go to Coffee#1 in Parkway provided iced water and Pret on Northbrook street which offered filtered water.

• Newbury recently celebrated the most recent addition to its list of twin towns – Carcaixent in Spain – with a ceremony in the Corn Exchange.

• If you want to know which coffee shops in Newbury will offer the best discount (if any) for bringing your own cup, then Lib Dem Councillor Adrian Abbs has done a survey of 14 outlets in the town centre. The best discounts (0.50 off a standard latte costing between £2.40 and £2.55) are at Pret à Menger, Paul and Waterstones. The worst (no discount at all) are at McDonalds, Caffè Nero and Costa. 

• Last weekend Newbury Fire Station hosted an open day (not an ‘oped day as I said here last week) and the NWN this week has photos and a report on p7. 

• Newbury College opened its doors to over a hundred young school leavers earlier this week to give them a taste of college life and their future careers. The College has recently received a loan of over £3m from West Berkshire Council as part of its bid to create a university centre.

• The South Central Ambulance Service is hosting a Governors’ Workshop in Newbury on Monday 29 July in order to encourage people to come forward to work as governor for the service. More information can be found here.

• Click here for the latest information from Growing Newbury Green.

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.

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

Hampstead Norreys will be hosting a GreenFest sustainable living event on Saturday 7 September.

• The Thames Valley Police had advised that firearm training will be taking place in Compton from Monday 5 to Wednesday 7 August (though hopefully not continuously).

• It’s the first Saturday of the month which can only mean one thing: the pop-up Ashampstead Arms will be popping up in the Village Hall from 7pm: so pop along.

• The July Chaddleworth News is available here. If you want to subscribe or contribute, email chaddnews@gmail.com

• The August issue of West Ilsley Parish News can be found here.

• The results of the survey conducted among East Ilsley‘s residents in late 2018 have noe been analysed and collated and the results can be seen here.

• 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 the latest news from Woolhampton Parish Council.

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

Thatcham Parish Hall has recently held two fundraising events in order to ensure its survival. See the Facebook page for the latest news and to get in touch. One of the questions from the second of these, a quiz, can be seen below (The Song and the Quiz).

• One of the problems with having a leisure centre near a town centre, and within a reasonable walk of a railway station, is that people often use it as a car park. Such is the problem facing the Kennet Leisure Centre in Thatcham. This week’s NWN reports in detail on p21 of a debate at the Town Council about West Berkshire’s plans to charge nothing for the first two hours, a quid for the third hour and £10 thereafter. Critics claim that this will cause problems for people attending sporting events and for instructors. As with everything to do with parking, there’s no clear and easy solution. The other point is that the cars that stop parking there probably won’t magically disappear and so may crop up on verges and elsewhere. 

• The Woolhampton Show takes place on Saturday 10 August: more information here.

• Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan is seeking volunteers to assist with the work involved and is also requesting comments from residents. For more information, visit the NDP section of the parish council’s website.

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin. which includes a thought from Charlotte Brontë. (I always get the three of them mixed up: each wrote a major novel but I can never remember which was which. It only bothers me now because I just know it’s going to come up in the next pub quiz I go to. Is there a mnemonic for remembering them? Is there, in fact, a mnemonic for remembering how to spell mnemonic?)

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.

• Kier is issuing roughly monthly updates about the building progress at the new primary school is Thealehere’s July’s

• There is having a community picnic on Saturday 3 August – see here for more.

• The Stratfield Mortimer council is searching for a new parish councillorclick here for details.

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

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

Click here for the June/July 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.

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

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

• Information here on Marlborough’s LitFest (26-29 September). 

Marlborough News reports that the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group is holding a consultation survey and drop-in sessions with exhibits to update people on the latest moves towards the formulation of a final, approved plan. Comments must be made by Friday 2 August (so not long now).

Marlborough Rising Music Festival from Fri 9 – Sun 11 Aug is fast approaching and we’re delighted to be offering two tickets to a gig of your choice over the weekend

• The Marlborough Health and Wellbeing Group is planning to give more support to groups that help the elderly stay active and healthy. They’re hoping to imitate other Wiltshire towns that have successfully held wellbeing days and opened men’s sheds. The concept of men’s sheds was new to me so I looked it up. There’s an association – called, unsurprisingly, the Men’s Sheds Association, the aim of which is to create ‘community spaces for men to connect, converse and create. The activities are often similar to those of garden sheds, but for groups of men to enjoy together. They help reduce loneliness and isolation, but most importantly, they’re fun.’ We have two sheds but neither of them are the kind of place I like to spend any time. I think I have a men’s shed but it’s in my head.

• A Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem gave a talk in Avebury last week about life under occupation: Marlborough News has more.

• The same source has an excellent collection of photos from last weekend’s re-enactment of the Battle of Marlborough.

• The Savernake Forest has inspired a children’s book by a local author and illustrator.

• 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).

• And in the same village, click here to keep up to date with what’s going on at the Youth Club.

• The gardens at The Old Mill, Ramsbury will be open to the public on Sunday 4 August as part of the National Gardens Scheme

• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.

Ramsbury Primary School has won the award of top-performing primary school in sport in Swindon and Wiltshire for the fifth year in a row.

Wantage & district

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

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

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

• The long-awaited leisure centre for Wantage and Grove seems even further away than ever after the Vale Council admitted it had insufficient funds to build the centre. The reasons for the delay and where the fault lay was then discussed by the council in then usual political fashion: ‘Blame game erupts‘ as the Wantage and Grove Herald put it. Some, including the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group, have suggested that redeveloping the existing centre would produce a similar result and be a good deal cheaper. I’m not clear if this would be adequate for the considerable population growth in the area due to extra housing; a matter which is the backdrop to so many local debates.

• The Editorial column in the paper wryly quotes a Vale Council statement on the subject saying the Council intends ‘to consider evolving the approach to leisure services’. What does this mean, if anything? That isn’t writing: it’s typing.

• There is, on p7 of the Herald, what seems to be a slightly unfair article about the performance of the Thames Valley Police (TVP) as judged by her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC). The article lists a number of statistics (some of which are, admittedly, worrying), mainly about the non-recording of crimes which were uncovered by the inspection which was conducted after the previous inspection in 2017 (not 2018 as the article states) labelled the force as ‘inadequate’. However, the summary of the latest HMIC report says that ‘the Inspectorate found that the force has implemented a variety of improvements, resulting in a greater level of accuracy, over the past two years. The force now records an additional 13,800 crimes compared to the period audited during the 2017 inspection. Its crime recording accuracy rate is now 87.9% compared to 80.4% in 2017.’ Not brilliant, certainly, but improving.

• The Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust annual Ride and Stride takes place on Saturday 14 September from 10 til 6. It’s your chance to get the bike out, or your walking shoes (and dog or buggy), and visit some lovely old churches in the area (and raise some money for charity).

• The Grove Volunteer Litter-picking Group meets at Old Mill Hall in School Lane at 9am on the second Friday of every month. Equipment is supplied by Grove Parish Council. More details here.

Click here for information on this year’s Wantage Literary Festival which runs from Saturday 26 October to Saturday 2 November.

• Just over 100 years ago, Wantage was celebrating the end of WWI. As this article reports, this included dumping a 196mm howitzer into the brook near the mill.

• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted. The organisers are currently appealing for help to keep the service going – click here for details.

Grove Parish Council has need of three more councillors: email parishcouncil@grove-oxon.org.uk to find out more.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald turns its attention to the plans for the reservoir near Abingdon which will, depending on your point of view, be an environmental catastrophe, an expensive white elephant or the guarantor of a reliable water supply for decades to come. Her point is that it’s too early to judge the merits or otherwise (as MPs recently tried to do) until Thames Water has completed its long-awaited detailed design work and until a public enquiry has taken place. She also says that 85% of the world’s chalk streams are in England, mainly in the south east. I didn’t know that. I’m looking at one as I write, or what’s left off it: the Lambourn which here in East Garston is seasonal and generally dry from about now til January. 

• Ed Vaizey’s occasional column in the same paper has the headline ‘Time to offer equality in fertility treatment.’ Bang go his chances of advancement from Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Leader of the House of Commons: ‘equal’, and so also probably ‘equality’, is one of the words he has banned his team from using (see Across the Area above). What word JRM suggests people use to convey the idea of two or more things of the same worth, size or weight isn’t clear. 

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.

• Around 80 children will be putting their summer holidays to good use when they take part in a free Young Warden scheme.

• Swindon Council is running a two week campaign explaining how potholes are fixed and motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are being encouraged to join the hundreds of people already reporting them.

• South Swindon MP Robert Buckland was appointed Lord Chancellor last week and has already been ‘slapped down’ by Number 10 after suggesting that suspects in rape cases should be anonymous until they are charged.

Swindon Link reports that five paramedics from Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are the first in the country to have the ability to independently prescribe drugs after they all passed the national non-medical prescribing course.

• The Old Town could, according to the same source, be the latest area of Swindon to benefit from significant government funding after Swindon Borough Council submitted a bid to The High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZ) programme.

• Building has officially started on the new phase of Wichelstowe, the development south of Swindon.

Swindon Borough Council is working with a range of partners to host a various events and activities in the town centre over the summer.

People living in Swindon will get the chance to have their say on the town’s future transport needs, including options to improve traffic movements in the town centre and a new policy which sets out how new developments should make appropriate provision for the parking of cars, motorcycles and bikes.

• Major highway improvements designed to facilitate the construction of new housing communities have recently begun.

• Families in Swindon are being asked to complete a survey to help the council understand their childcare needs (survey closes on 31 August).

• Swindon is seeking to encourage the number of car-charging points through a new policy for new-build homes that will go out for consultation in July and August.

• Swindon Council  is introducing a trial collection (from September) of separate food waste recycling.

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

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week takes us all the way back to the wild days of 1974. Whatever the situation, whatever the problem and whatever the complaint, it’s a pretty fair bet that either Nick Lowe or Elvis Costello has written a song about it. This one was written by the former and covered, in 1978, by the latter: (What’s so Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? (Thanks to Mr Jones for reminding me of this during a recent email exchange).

• Which leads us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question came from the recent quiz at Thatcham Parish Hall to raise funds for its upkeep and is as follows: With which product might you associate the phrase ‘Strewth! theres a bloke down there with no strides! Last week’s question was: What is the highest temperature ever recorded on the earth’s surface (in Death Valley, California, in 1913)? The answer is a thermometer-snapping 56.7ºC.

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Brian Quinn

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