Local News Oct 10-17 2019

Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s newsletter, Marlborough’s busses, Lambourn’s library, Elton’s digesters, East Garston’s quiz, Thatcham’s flats, Brightwalton’s walk, Newbury’s parking, Stratfield Mortimer’s footpaths, Aldermaston’s Rec, Burbage’s school, Wantage’s relief road, Swindon’s bright lights, Boxford’s village hall, police and travel updates, good causes celebrated, grant awards, a rejected CAT, humility in spades, parental choice, London Road, referendums, a climate workshop, local Brexit preparations, dirty signs, three socks, four alpacas, seven foot seven, a large mop, a free ship, a few issues, getting Smith out of the well and Feargal Sharkey.

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)

• The London Road Industrial Estate is the subject of a letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News. The writer seems perfectly to sum up the issues involved as I understand them to be.

• Another letter refers to local Lib Dem leader Tony Vickers’ suggestion that a referendum should require a two-thirds majority. I don’t agree with this. In my view, referendums should be illegal: we elect governments to make decisions. The only logical way at scoring these things, if we have to have them, is to say that anyone who doesn’t vote must be happy with the way things are and so is voting for the status quo. Those seeking a change thus have to get 50% of the voters, not 50% of those who voted, to agree with them. Too late now, of course.

• The whole of p4 of this week’s NWN is concerned with leaked West Berkshire Council documents relating to what will happen in the district post-Brexit. Theseseems to be a local version of the notorious Operation Yellowhammer government summary that was revealed a month or so ago. They warn of a range of disasters, some of which are ‘worst-case’ (whatever that phrase means these days). However, with three weeks to go til 31 October and the national picture still as clear as it was in 2016, the reality is that no one has the faintest idea what will happen. The newspaper also lists 12 questions it has asked the Council, all of which have been refused on grounds that could equally well apply to any such request. There is, however, a very revealing remark made by Thames Valley Police when citing its reasons for not supplying the information: one of these would be that to do so ‘would reveal which forces have plans in place and which do not.’ This tells us that some police forces have not yet made any preparations. I can understand why these ones would not this to be public knowledge.

• The same paper quotes a withering assessment (originally made about two weeks ago to The Evening Standard) by Newbury MP Richard Benyon of the recent parliamentary performances by Jeremy Corbyn (perhaps to be expected) and Boris Johnson (perhaps less so, even though Mr Benyon and 20 other Conservative MPs were recently de-whipped by him). He said that the PM had qualities of charm, self-deprecating wit and humility ‘in spades.’ We’ll have to take your word for that, Richard, particularly re the last one.

• Moving a bit further afield, my eye was just caught by the strange story of the wife of a US diplomat who was involved in a fatal road accident in Northants and then fled the country. President Trump – who each time he speaks seems set a new standard of bizarre pronouncements – has said that she won’t be returning to the UK to face charges and is quoted by the BBC as saying ‘The woman was driving on the wrong side of the road, and that can happen. You know, those are the opposite roads.” Oh well, that’s all right then. Is that was diplomatic immunity was designed for?

• This week’s Wantage and Grove Herald reports that the police recently stopped an 18-tonne lorry near Abingdon due to ‘a few issues.’ This turned out to be a masterly understatement. The issues were that the driver had no licence, no insurance and no certificate of professional competence; while the lorry had no road tax, no registration document, no operator’s licence and no tachograph. 

• Tickets for the West Berkshire Climate Change Conference on Monday 28 October are now available.

• The Community Champion Awards recognise the valuable contribution of local residents to communities across the district. Organised by West Berkshire Council, the awards are an opportunity to say thank you to people who have done something special for their local community. Nominations are now open for the 2019 awards.

• Click here for details of the volunteering projects being undertaken by the West Berkshire Countryside Society, which include a range of woodland, riverside and heathland management tasks.

• The animal of the week is in fact four animals, the alpacas Winnie, Apollo, Conway and Hermes who recently had their shed in Burhfield stolen (see Theale Area below). 

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes, aside from the letters mentioned elsewhere, a correction about speeding statistics, a question about the Market Street pavements and a continuation of the endless and inconclusive debate about the pros and cons of Brexit.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including the Poppy Appeal (thanks to Village Properties in Tilehurst); The Downs School (thanks to recent sponsored walk); Christian Aid (thanks to shoppers in Newbury); numerous local causes (thanks to Greenham Trust); Seeability and Tadley CAB (thanks to Aldermaston Parish Council).

Hungerford & district

Latest news from Hungerford Town Council, Shalbourne Parish Council and Inkpen Parish Council.

• The October Penny Post Hungerford was published a couple of days ago: click here to see it if you missed it. As well as the usual round-up of the latest from the Town Council, the Town and Manor and the Chamber of Commerce, there’s a look back at the recent Food Festival, news from the tennis club, the Nursery School, the AONB and CHAIN, the monthly recommendation from the Bookshop, racing news from local trainer Pat Murphy, news and offer from the high-street shops and Barr’s Yard. We also raise our eyes and look at the October night sky and some red kites. And there’s a competition. And lost of other stuff. And, yes, you can start sentences (and finish them) with ‘and’.

• In particular, I’d draw your attention to the Hungerford Town Council Update for September/October 2019 which gives an overview of what was discussed at the recent meeting, what has been accomplished in September and what is in the in-tray for October. Unlike council minutes, which need to serve a specific legal purpose as a document of record of what was said at the event, these reports provide context for the various issues and webslinks for where further information can be found.

• The weekly Wednesday market has been extended onto the Town Hall steps and into the building itself. For more information, including how you can procure a stall, please click here

• Not for the first time, Hungerford Town Councillors have drawn West Berkshire Council’s attention to the disgraceful state of some of the road signs in the area (not just in Hungerford). This goes beyond aesthetics as many are so overgrown or so dirty as to be actively dangerous. Hungerford has a voluntary group, Smarten Up Hungerford, which does its best but some of these are in dangerous places and require serious branch-lopping work, as well as a bit of elbow grease, to make them clear and visible.

• Age Concern Newbury & District has launched a meals on wheels service for Kintbury and Hungerford  on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you or anyone you know would like to use this service, or if you’re able to be a volunteer driver for the deliveries in the Newbury area, please get in touch with Age Concern through their website.

Lambourn Valley

Latest news from Lambourn Parish CouncilEast Garston Parish CouncilWelford Parish Council and Great Shefford Parish Council.

• We mentioned last week about the proposed plan to use sewage digesters, rather than a connection to the main sewer, in nearby Elton: also that, in the light of concerns expressed by the campaign group, the proposed arrangements are currently being reviewed. A similar issue caused a powerful and ultimately successful campaign in nearby Weston in 2015. From this incident the Environment Agency emerged with little credit. Aside from basing some of its conclusions on data taken from the wrong stretch of the Lambourn, the agency also admitted that its advice had taken into account the high cost for the developers in connecting the properties to the main sewer. Now, call me old-fashioned if you like but it seems that the name of an organisation ought to give a powerful hint as to its primary responsibility. Note the prominent presence of the word ‘Environment’ in this name. That’s what it needs to focus on. Bank managers and shareholders will do the job of looking after a developer’s profit margins.

I spoke to Action for the River Kennet, a charity and campaign group which is deeply involved in local waterway maintenance, about this issue. What, I asked, was the problem with these digesters? The Director, Charlotte Hitchmough, confirmed that ARK’s position was, and is, that all developments should be connected to the main sewage system as this is managed, monitored and maintained to national and accountable standards. She pointed out that digesters such as the one proposed are to a certain extent outside this system. They can fail, particularly if used intermittently or incorrectly (such as by pouring bleach) and this failure may not be immediately noticed: moreover, although the water may, as the makers be claim, be safe to drink, digesters do not remove the phosphates from the water, which conventional sewage treatment largely does. Too much phosphate can lead to algal growth in the water with catastrophic consequences for the rest of the eco-system. All in all, digesters do not seem like the answer, particularly if the results are going to end up in an SSSI-protected river or (which ultimately comes to the same thing) into the water table that feeds it.

• The same organisation will be meeting local landowners and flood groups later in the month with the aim of co-ordinating information and activities about the matter of water- and river-management in the Lambourn Valley. The results of these discussions will be published on the ARK site in due course. 

• I went to an excellent talk at Lambourn Library last night given by the writer Jon Stock, aka JS Monroe: under the latter name he’s written several psychological thrillers including Find Me, which gave me mental goosebumps to just the extent that a good book of this sort should. One of the techniques he mentioned in his talk was, very early on in a book, to put his main character in a hole of some kind which, as well as forcing him to think about how the character would cope, also helped set the tone of the novel. This reminded me of a story my dad told me years ago about the thriller writer Edgar Wallace, many of whose later books were largely written by underlings; much as celebrated Renaissance artists would sketch the outline and then leave their apprentices to fill in the detail. It seems that one day Wallace’s writers got themselves into a terrible pickle with the hero bound hand and foot and suspended by a fraying rope half-way down a rapidly rising well, a situation from which they had to extricate him but couldn’t work out how. In desperation, they summoned The Master. Wallace duly arrived and scanned the pages leading up to this impasse. Then he gestured to the typist. The underlings were breathless with excitement: what flash of inspiration would the great man produce? “Paragraph,” Wallace said. “‘After Smith got out of the well…'” I can assure you that such moments in Find Me are handled with a good deal more polish.

• Before the talk, the Friends of Lambourn Library’s AGM took place. The Chairman, Sue Cocker, gave a report on the considerable progress made since the dark days of 2016 when it appeared that the shutters were about to be pulled down. The operational model of 50% volunteers and 50% paid staff seemed to be working and it was pointed out that elsewhere in the country many similar schemes relying entirely on volunteers had failed. In addition, all the key indicators – members, items borrowed and visits – were increasing after several years of decline. The final business was the re-election of the officers. There remain three vacancies on the committee and the Friends welcome hearing from anyone, of any age, who would be happy to join what is by all measures and estimations a successful organisation. Please contact suecocker@hotmail.com

• If you didn’t get the most recent East Garston News, you can click here to read it. As well as a warning about Nottingham Knockers there’s also information on the recent Macmillan coffee morning, an appeal for a new governor at Shefford School and information about the forthcoming Harvest Festival 

• The Lambourn Bonfire party will take place at the Sports Club on Saturday 2 November.

• The East Garston Quiz this year takes place on Friday 22 November. Contact Ed James to book your slot for this event which is usually a sell out: further details here.

• Click here for details of the online petition to try to make the stretch of the A338 between Hungerford and East Grafton safer.

Click here for details of flu clinics at Lambourn Surgery. 

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 73rd day of broadcasting – click here for more.

Newbury & district

Latest news from Newbury Town Council, Chieveley Parish Council and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

• Newbury Town Council was encouraged by the turnout at its first climate workshop on 28 September. The Climate Emergency Working Group, headed by Chris Foster, will report to the council’s Policy and Resource Committee on Monday 14 October and then issue a summary of the outcomes of the workshop and the future plans.

• The debate continues as to how car parking charges should be organised in Newbury, the three objectives of encouraging shoppers reducing congestion and increasing revenue being mutually incompatible. The NWN has something on this on p6. There are other approaches, one of which has according to Private Eye been adopted in the London Borough of Havering: parking charges there have been introduced but only in wards represented by opposition councillors. This seems a wonderfully direct way of rewarding political loyalty.

• A letter in the NWN describes a battle one reader had over a parking ticket. I can’t understand how the appeal was lost as the photograph clearly says that the ‘max stay one hour’ restriction, which was the one breached, doesn’t apply on Sundays. If the sign is meant to say something else then it should be taken down and redrafted. There is no reason why local councils will want to make parking signs unambiguous as there’s a lot of money to made from doubt and confusion. And don’t bother to ask a policeman: I did that a few years ago, in London, after being perplexed by a sign full of double negatives. “Several people as me that,” he said, “but I don’t have a clue what it means, I’m afraid.”

• Newbury Town Council has launched a public consultation on the Design Statement prepared by the Town Council’s Canal Corridor Working Group. This describes the history, character and functions of the canal and recommends design guidelines, design principles and planning policies to influence future development along the canal corridor. The Public Consultation runs until 27 October.

• Newbury Town Council has welcomed the commitment from Sutton Estates to re-open the pathway at Speen Moor as soon as possible. However we share their concerns that the bridge and the barriers are being damaged by vandals and that this could delay matters.

• Sad news from Hamstead Marshall, where The White Hart has closed only seven months after re-opening earlier this year. Having been there several times and read a number of rave reviews from others who had, it’s hard to see what the owner, Stella Coulthurst, could have done differently, particularly as there had been such a vociferous online campaign to prevent the pub from undergoing a change of use. However, a perfect storm of lower-than-expected visitor numbers, staffing challenges (doubtless not helped by the Brexit uncertainty regarding foreign workers), additional accommodation competition resulting from the new Premier Inn in Newbury and the well-publicised challenges faced by pubs nationwide has forced her once again to close the doors. The on-site brewery, which produced superb beer, has also closed. What happens next is uncertain. When there’s something else to report, we’ll let you know.  There will be a ‘final bash’ at 5pm on Friday 11 October (drinks only) to which all are welcome.

• If you have a few hours to spare each week and live reasonably close to Boxford, the Village Hall Committee has need to a caretaker/maintenance manager who can keep an eye on the hall, recreation ground and playground. See here for more information

Chieveley Parish Council is updating its emergency plan – click here to get involved.

• The Step Up 4 Good fun runs take place on Sunday 13 October starting at Newbury Racecourse. More information can be found here. Greenham Trust is looking for more volunteers for the event – if you can help, please email events@greenhamtrust.com or visit the volunteer registration page of the website.

• 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.

• Newbury-based Falkland Cricket Club has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise the final £50,000 needed to finish the club’s new pavilion.

• Click here for the latest news from the development of the University Centre at Newbury College.

• Click here for the latest NTC News from Newbury Council.

• Click here for the latest information from Growing Newbury Green including the Newbury Apple Day on Saturday 5 October.

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

Latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council, Compton parish Council, Ashampstead Parish Council, Chaddleworth Parish Council, Brightwalton Parish Council, West Ilsley Parish Council and East Ilsley Parish Council.

• Some advice here from the East Isley Parish Council website about bonfires (equally applicable to other parishes).

Chaddleworth’s Village Hall needs the support of anyone who has ever used it, or might use it, for the wide range of events which it hosts. A new roof and ceiling – fairly serious issues as I think you’ll agree – are required and the committee has been able to get this supported by The Good Exchange, which means that your donation will be match funded. Click here for further details.

Brightwalton’s Annual Working Party, which performs maintenance work around the village, takes place on Sunday 20 October and the organisers are keen to recruit some extra volunteers. Click here for more details.

• If, however, you want to walk around Brightwalton, but not work, the annual walk takes place on Sunday 13 October. Last year this helped raise over £5,000 for local causes. 

• The October issue of West Ilsley Parish News can be found 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

Latest news from Thatcham Town Council, Cold Ash Parish Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Brimpton Parish Council and Woolhampton Parish Council.

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

• The NWN reports that revised plans to replace historic buildings in Chapel Street with flats have once again been objected to by residents, Thatcham Town Council and West Berkshire Council’s Planning Department. 

• The Nature Discovery Centre is looking for volunteers to work with the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust to provide a series on nature therapy sessions at the Centre. Click here for more information.

• The programme for the 2019 Thatcham Festival has been released – more details here. The festival runs until Sunday 20 October (ie it’s started) and includes talks, music, art exhibitions and activities for children. 

• One of the events associated with this is Thatcham Apple Day on Sunday 13 October.

• 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. 

Theale and district

Latest news from Theale Parish Council, Aldermaston Parish Council, Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council, Englefield Parish Council and Burghfield Parish Council.

• If someone knocks on your door and offers you a hut designed to house four alpacas then the chances are very high that it’s been stolen from Amners Farm in Burghfield.

• The registration of three footpaths in Stratfield Mortimer is progressing. For more on the issue of registering rights of way, please see this post.

• The recent meeting of Aldermaston Parish Council covered a number of issues. Most planning permissions were not objected to, sometimes with conditions, apart from one south of Madia’s Way that was objected to on the grounds of problems with the proposed access and that it is an’ over-development, outside the settlement boundary and not sustainable.’ Speed monitoring has taken place, with The Wharf being the worst area. The work on the Recreation Ground is nearly finished and will help reduce maintenance costs in the future.

There was also news of a rejected CAT (community asset transfer) with the PC deciding not to take over the bus shelter opposite AWE from West Berkshire as there was no financial contribution. CATs rarely come with a purse round their necks: it seems more often to be a case of the higher council effectively saying ‘we’re not going to look after this any more but if you want to deal with it then you can have it.’ Councils may give one-off grants for capital expenditure (for instance for a mower) but will rarely pay ongoing costs as this is usually the very obligation they’re trying to shed. What they should be expected to do, however, is bring the item up to a satisfactory standard before the transfer (as West Berkshire did with the Library building prior to the transfer to Hungerford Town Council, and as the Town Council is doing  with its street lights prior to their transfer to West Berks). I’ve since learned that this shelter is sound and the cleaning is done by AWE. The PC seems well advised to leave matters as they are.

• Kier is issuing roughly monthly updates about the building progress at the new primary school is Thealehere’s August’s. Still no sign of September’s (or October’s).

• Click here for details of forthcoming events in Burghfield.

Click here and here for the September 2019 updates 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 August/September 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

Latest news from Marlborough Town CouncilAldbourne Parish Council and Great Bedwyn Parish Council.

• You can click here to visit a consultation from Public Health Wiltshire, the results of which ‘will be used to help inform local priorities for the next three years.’ 

This article in Marlborough News looks at the issues surrounding the axing of the early-morning bus service between Swindon and St John’s as a result of Wiltshire Council’s decision to stop the subsidy and the introduction of a similar service by a different company. It seems that about half of the regular users of the service were not from Wiltshire but Swindon and had chosen to go to a school in a different catchment area.

• The same source quotes farming leaders in the South West criticising the region’s MPs for not doing enough to support their interests in the run-up to you-know-what. I’m sure the map graphic that the NFU provided is very informative but if I see another diagram with options or arrows of different sizes going between the UK to the EU I think I’m going to have a seizure. 

• One organisation that Marlborough News suggests is ready for Brexit is the Great Western Hospital. However, at the foot of the article the author suggests that all is not well with the provision of medicines in the Marlborough area although the reasons for this aren’t yet clear. As for GWH, this article in the Gazette says that there have been waits of up to 24 hours for patients to be moved from A&E to wards. This issue seems less to do with Brexit (though that is getting blamed for a lot of things) than with a long-standing issues about capacity, demand and expansion.

• And finally from MN, Burbage Primary School has appointed a new Head and taken over the running of its pre-school.

• Click here for details of the online petition to try to make the stretch of the A338 between Hungerford and East Grafton safer.

• The Bedwyn Train Passenger Group campaigns on behalf of people using rail services from Bedwyn, Kintbury or Hungerford (and, as necessary, their replacement bus services). As this article reports, the group’s recent discussions with GWR have resulted in some improvements to these local services which will take effect when the new timetable is implemented in December. 

• The second of Marlborough’s two Mop Fairs takes place on Saturday 12 October.

• Congratulations to the Aldbourne Band which finished in the top 10 at the British Open last month.

Great Bedwyn Pre-school is looking for toys and equipment for a new toddler group.

• The Bedwyn Cinema is returning to the Village Hall. As result of recent fundraising, a high-resolution video projector and four-metre screen have been installed and recently-released films will be shown each month, usually on the third Thursday. Tickets are available from the Post Office and Village Stores. 

• 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.

Wantage & district

Latest news from Wantage Town Council, Grove Parish Council and Letcombe Regis Parish Council.

• Click here for details of the surgeries held by local District Councillors Jenny Hannaby and Jane Hanna until late November.

• Oxfordshire’s communities are being asked by the Oxfordshire Growth Board to give their views to help ensure growth is managed in the best way in the county, an aspiration which many in the area feel is not happening as well as it might and which has put the Vale of White Horse in an awkward position with regard yo its Local Plan (see below). You can find out more, and participate in the survey, here.

• Councillors in the Vale of White Horse have decided to adopt the Local Plan which, the council claims, it inherited from the previous administration but disagreed with. It seems it had little choice. Local MP Ed Valley, Oxford City Council and the government were all talking darkly about delays, disruption and lost grant funding. At the meeting on 9 October, Part Two (which deals with detailed allocation issues) was adopted: Part One had been agreed in 2016. The spotlight now switches to neighbouring South Oxfordshire which will be making a similar decision today. The Communities Secretary has upped the ante by saying that if the plan isn’t agreed, the council could have its planning decisions taken over by Whitehall 

• Britain’s tallest man, Paul Sturgess (7′ 7″) was in Wantage this week visiting the Cafe primary School.

• Local MP Ed Vaizey has used his column in the local papers to defend the system of private education (by attacking the policy adopted by the Labour Party at its 2019 conference to abolish them). I’m interested by his comment that he defended parent’s ‘freedom to choose how their children are educated.’ Choice is, of course, the great god of the consumer society. To a large extent, an economy measures its worth by how much choice is available. We are all first and foremost customers rather than passengers, patients, pupils or some other more specific and more useful term. As well as leading to some awful abuses of language, this obsession also extends to situations where the choice is illusory, such as on trains, or where the big players have created something that looks awfully like a cartel, such as with the banks.

As to whether parents should have the same complete freedom of choice as to how their children are educated as they have in what colour jumper they put on, opinions differ. Against the argument of choice it could be said that society ought to have a say in what is or isn’t taught. Private schools do not, for instance, need to follow the National Curriculum. By extension, Mr Vaizey’s remarks could also be seen as endorsing, purely on the grounds of freedom of parental action, faith schools, some of which deal with in can politely be termed extreme points of view. As matters stand, the choice is available to any parent who can space the average £17,000pa, if they are not able to obtain a bursary or an assisted place.

Whether abolishing private schools as Labour proposes will solve more problems than it creates is uncertain. After all, successive promises have been made to have a thorough reform of the House of Lords but it still remains stubbornly unelected and unrepresentative. Perhaps this all tells us more about politicians than it does about education: it’s easy to make an eye-catching pre-election pledge but equally easy to break it afterwards. 

Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group. One of the items which the group has mentioned in a recently-received email, and which will doubtless appear on the website in due course, is that the funding from central government for the Eastern Link Road through Crab Hill ‘seems to have reduced from £7m to less that £2m’, which casts doubt on whether the full section of the road will be built.

• Grants are available from Wantage Town Council as a result of the new Homes Bonus. Groups can apply for a minimum of £1,000 (and up to 50 per cent of the total cost) towards projects which benefit the local community. 

• On Monday 13 October, Wantage Town Council will debate the motion that HMS Queen Elizabeth and its ship’s company be given the freedom of the town. I don’t know what the connection between the ship and its crew is with Wantage is but there must be one for this honour – which requires the recipient to have provided eminent services to the town – to be being considered. I didn’t know that a ship could be given the freedom of a town, particularly one about 60 miles from the coast. The ship is 280 metres long and 70 metres wide so, if decides to exercise its rights of visitation, access and in particular parking might pose problems. As for the ship’s company, that numbers 700 people. If this goes through the local pubs had better stock up on pemmican and rum. 

• The new primary school on the Kingsgrove estate is on course to open in September 2020, with capacity for up to 420 pupils as well as 26 full-time nursery places.

• Organisers of community events in the Vale are invited to apply for some of the £10,000 worth of festival and events grants on offer from Vale of White Horse District Council. 

• There will be two services in Wantage on Monday 14 October to commemorate Verdun Pierpoint and those who lost their lives in HMS Royal Oak in 1939.

• The wonderful Vale & Downland Museum is looking for a new trustee: more details here.

• 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. 

• 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.

• Click here for information on the location of defibrillators in and around Wantage.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald returns to the familiar issue of the health provision, or perhaps lack of this, in Wantage since the Community Hospital ‘temporarily’ closed in 2016. She points out that nearly half a m million pounds and since then been spent on maintaining the building.

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

Swindon & district

Latest news from Swindon Borough Council.

• Hundreds of jobs will be cut at Honda Logistics site in addition to the 3,500 redundancies already expected when the main manufacturing plant closes in 2021.

• A month-long project in Swindon to promote mental wellbeing for children and young people has been launched.

• If you notice that the lights at the Greenbridge Roundabout seem an odd colour, it’s not your eyesight going weird. The colour changes are to demonstrate support for a number of charities – more information here.

Parents and carers with children entering primary or secondary school for the first time next year are being advised by Swindon Borough Council that they now (by 31 October) need to apply for school places for them.

• Traffic engineers are looking at ways of reducing congestion in Rodbourne, following feedback from local residents.

• A new literacy programme inspired by one of Swindon’s most iconic landmarks is now underway in the town.

• Swindon Council will launch its online community lottery to support local good causes in November.

• Two major road schemes in Swindon will benefit from more than £45m in government funding.

• Swindon is one of 100 towns set to benefit from a share of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund.

• If you live, work or travel around Swindon, you’ll remember the successful Beat the Street from last year. The physical activity challenge is set to return to Swindon for 2019 until early November.

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

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week this week results from a conversation (see Lambourn Area above) I had today with Charlotte Hitchmough from Action for the River Kennet. She mentioned that he had recently met Feargal Sharkey, former singer with the Northern Irish band The Undertones and, more recently, a champion of the English chalk streams such as the ones which ARK helps look after. This reminded me of what a wonderful jingly-jangly pop band The Undertones were. Their 1981 album Positive Touch fair knocked my socks off so I’ve selected one of the songs from that, It’s Going to Happen, which comes complete with a rather zany video. Still sounds as fresh and as bright as…well, as a chalk stream on a summer’s day.

• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s is: Which is the only US state that does not have a straight line as part of its border? (Slightly trick question in a way – sorry.) Last week’s came from the recent Back to School Quiz at The Castle and the Red House, in aid of Swings and Smiles, and was as follows: You’re packing for a business trip early in the morning. You will be away for one night. You can’t switch the light on because you don’t want to wake your partner. You have ten grey socks and ten blue socks but you can’t see them because it’s dark. All socks are exactly the same except for their colour. What is the minimum number of socks you need to pack to ensure you had at least one matching pair? This had me scratching my head for a bit and received a wide range off answers at both versions of the quiz. In fact, as I worked out after looking at the problem the other way round, the total number of socks is irrelevant: the number you need to take to be sure to have a matching pair is the number of colours plus one. In this case, therefore, grab any three socks and you’ll be fine. Or turn on the light and apologise to your partner later. Or wear odd socks – it’s all the rage.

Brian Quinn

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