Our Favourite Stories of the Decade

Here are some of our best memories of the decade. Please suggest more of your own in the comments below.

In 2016 Ray Collins set up the Ray Collins Charitable Trust to help people in need in and around Wantage, making financial donations and providing community Christmas and Easter lunches to break the cycle of loneliness.

In April 2018 Chris Capel from Eastbury realised a lifetime dream by launching the 4LEGS community radio for the Lambourn Valley which has broadcast over 500 shows celebrating local life and community endeavours.

In 2012 Newbury Primary School teacher Sarah Gardner took a VSO year out in Upper West Ghana. The conditions of life there so moved Sarah that she left her job to set up the Action Through Enterprise charity which has provided 1.2 million school meals over the past 7 years for children who don’t get enough to eat at home and often have to walk 2 hours each way to school.

Marlborough Bee Road project, aiming to increase joined up, pollinator friendly foliage and help stabilize and grow bee populations, was launched by Marlborough Space for Nature and Transition Marlborough. They are actively seeking people with Bee friendly gardens, farms and public spaces to get involved.

Mikayla Beames from Childrey near Wantage became a beacon of generosity when her diagnosis of brain cancer in 2011 at the age of four inspired her to help other children. With the support of her family and volunteers, the Team Mikayla charity was born in 2014 to grant wishes for children with cancer. Mikayla herself was awarded a WellChild award in 2016 by Prince Harry who returned to Oxford Children’s Hospital in May 2019 for a tour by Mikayla.

Local animal lover Aimee Wallis set up the Corvid Dawn bird rescue sanctuary in 2014 and has saved nearly 2,000 British wild birds (bluetits, sparrows, swallows, starlings, Jackdaws, rooks, ravens, crows and jays) as well as ex-battery hens and turkeys, a few hedgehogs, a couple of pigs and some friendly sheep.

Kennet Radio‘s FM license for Newbury and Thatcham area was acheived due to the hard work of dedicated volunteers, led by Julian Swift-Hook. Formed in October 2012 as a not-for-profit voluntary organisation, they had to apply in 2013 and 2014 to obtain a license to continue their good work. They have been broadcasting on 106.7 FM since March 2018.

In September 2018 Hungerford teenager Ben East became the first person under 15 years old in the UK to throw the javelin over 70m. There are still only a couple of throwers in the world in his age group that have thrown any further.

Ranked by Country Life as Britain’s third worst eyesore in 2003, Didcot power station chimneys were finally removed in 2019.   The main chimney had been 200m tall with six surrounding cooling towers standing at 114m, blemishing views of the undulating Vale of the White Horse.

The record breaking audience of the Women’s World Cup on the TV in June 2019 has led to a huge rise in girls and women playing the sport. Successful local clubs include Wantage Town Ladies FC  and Newbury Ladies FC who are always keen to take on new players.

The Action for the River Kennet (ARK) continued their good work to preserve one of Britain’s most important chalk streams including reconstructing eroded riverbanks and building fish passes allowing fish to swim upstream and spawn in the winter months.

Swedish student Greta Thunberg inspired a generation of climate activists including our local student climate strikers to force governments around the world to act more quickly on climate change. Locally we have also seen the rise in popularity of Repair Cafes, zero waste shops and campaign groups like West Berkshire Climate Action Network.

The Newbury Community Furniture Project has continued to support low income families and other vulnerable people with their initiatives. Since 2010, they have collected 137,140 furniture donations, reused 540,268 items and supplied 239 283 items to those in need.

Local train services that faced cuts have actually been improved thanks to the lobbying of Bedwyn Train Passenger Group who have also persuaded GWR to mitigate some of the fare rises caused by the new timetable. Anyone using the service is strongly encouraged to sign up to the BTPG’s mailing list.

Painting and hiding rocks is an American craze that quickly rose in popularity this decade here in the UK. There are several groups in our area including Wantage Rocks, Lambourn on the Rocks, Newbury Rocks and Rocks of Marlborough with thousands of members who enjoy being creative. The phenomenon has given many parents a free activity to keep their small people entertained in the school holidays.

Greenham Trust has continued to make so many good things possible by donating over £58 million since 1997 to improve the lives of local people with nearly 5,000 local good causes benefitting. They also fund amazing outdoor art events in Newbury.

Local people can access dialysis, cancer care and other live-saving treatments closer to home thanks to The Rosemary Appeal (which raised over £5.5m for West Berkshire Hospital) and Brighter Futures which fundraises for Swindon Hospital.

With cuts in council services over the decade, volunteers have had to step in to deliver vital services. In January 2017 Meryl Praill set up Newbury Soup Kitchen that feeds up to 80 people a week, getting through approx 485 litres of homemade soup and 365kg of donated meat each year. West Berkshire Library Services were threatened with closure until communities undertook to run them themselves. John Wilmott launched Smarten Up Hungerford to clean, paint, plant and weed the town.

In 2012 retired Maths teacher Howard Grace from Newbury made a film called Beyond Forgiving about the reconciliation between a South African mother and the Liberation Army commander who ordered a massacre which led to her daughter’s killing. Howard regularly facilitates events with the film, also the protagonists, to promote the concept of ‘Shared Humanity’ which can bring us together as human beings.

In 2013 the Wantage Town Team were working to reduce the number of empty shops in the town including 15, Mill Street which was in very bad condition. Thanks to refurbishment by volunteers this is now home to The Mix, a thriving community centre run by Sustainable Wantage that offers resources, classes, repair cafes and a Community Fridge & Store cupboard.

In 2013 The Tally Ho in Hungerford Newtown was rescued by a team of locals when property developers wanted to convert it into private homes. It is now a thriving community pub.

Thatcham Football Club’s stellar 2017-18 season led them to the final at Wembley, winning the FA Vase in style against Stockton Town. In the same season they also won the Hellenic Premier Division, leading to promotion to Southern League Divison One. Long may the Barcelona of West Berkshire fly the flag for the local area!

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Penny Post


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