Councillor Chris Humphries chairing the Area Board meeting at KVHAt a regular meeting of the Marlborough Area Board (MAB) on Tuesday (November 27), Wiltshire Councillor Chris Humphries remained as chairman – despite disquiet expressed from a fellow councillor and from the floor. And it now looks as though he will stay as chairman until the end of March – the end of the Council’s year.
Councillor Humphries was recently censured by a Wiltshire Council standards hearing over several incidents of bullying towards Mrs Julia Densham, a council officer who was then the MAB manager. He has since been suspended by the Tory party group on Wiltshire Council and has left the Tory party to continue as an independent councillor.
The chairman’s situation was raised by James Keith of the Parish Forum who had expected Councillor Humphries to make a statement at the start of the meeting. Councillor Humphries then read out the statement he had made to the parishes he represents.
He said that as far as he was concerned ‘business continues as normal’: “I may not be liked by all, but who is?” And he reiterated his intention to stand as an independent candidate in next May’s elections to represent Aldbourne and Ramsbury on Wiltshire Council.
Wiltshire Councillor Jemima MiltonCouncillor Jemima Milton, who had given evidence on Mrs Densham’s behalf, said she was “saddened we have to discuss this”. She reminded the meeting that the Council Leader, Jane Scott, had been urged by the standards hearing to ask MAB Councillors to consider the ‘appropriateness’ of Councillor Humphries continuing as chairman of the Area Board.
Councillor Milton thought he should resign and said she was “sorry my fellow councillors have not stood up for the council’s staff.”
Marlborough News Online understands that at an earlier meeting Councillors Nick Fogg and Peggy Dow overruled Councillor Milton. They took no decision on Councillor Humphries’ role on MAB and wanted to take soundings amongst MAB regulars. Councillor Dow was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Councillor Humphries responded to Councillor Milton saying he had been elected for a full term and then launched a bitter attack on her. He said Councillor Milton had a ‘vendetta’ against him and that she was ‘bullying’ him (but he would not report her): “This is not the place to consider your campaign against me. You should consider your electorate and not your views on me.”
Val Compton spoke from the floor in support of Councillor Milton. Councillor Nick Fogg (who is MAB’s vice-chairman) said this was “A very painful issue”. Councillor Humphries had told him he wanted to stay on as chairman and that “he didn’t feel he had done anything particularly wrong.”
Councillor Fogg said he had found it “Difficult to gain a consensus on this.” The advice he had from Council officers was that the MAB chairman is elected for a whole year: “There’s no way he can be taken be taken from the chair by any proper means.”
He added that Jane Scott had referred the matter to the Council’s solicitor so he could advise Councillor Fogg – but he had not been contacted by the solicitor.
After the other business of the meeting was over, several people privately expressed their dismay at the way the matter had been handled by MAB’s councillors and at the attack on Councillor Milton.
Councillor Jemima Milton told Marlborough News Online: “I am saddened that Chris Humphries felt the need to make untrue comments about me. I wish he would accept and understand how his behaviour affects others.”
Santa's GrottoFather Christmas will be taking time out of his busy schedule to make an appearance at the switching-on of Marlborough Christmas Lights on Thursday (November 29).
Santa will be greeting children in his grotto, and will be giving the crowds a wave from the Town Hall balcony just before the lights go on at 7pm.
The countdown to the Christmas lights – funded and organised by the Town Council – will climax with fireworks bursting in the sky as the town's Citizen of the Year – whose identity is a closely-guarded secret – pushes the plunger that will bathe the town in a glow of festive light.
But the festivities start far earlier. Marlborough Communities Market – celebrating a successful first six months – will start trading from 45 stalls at 3pm.
Cllr Richard Pitts, who is on the Marlborough Communities Market committee told Marlborough News Online: “Our traders have got together to thank the folks of Marlborough for supporting them so much over the last six months, and they have pledged a truly spectacular hamper that is going into a raffle that will be drawn at our last market of the year on December 16th, by our lovely Mayor, Edwina Fogg, at 2 o’clock.
“The Hamper Prize will include a turkey, speciality stuffing and award winning chipolatas, venison burgers and organic vegetables, as well as handmade chocolates, cheeses, stollen and sweet treats.
“On the artisan side you’ll have stocking fillers and presents galore as producers are donating jewellery, woodwork (expect a hand-crafted cheese board from local wood), fabric covered notepad, glasswork, artwork and so much more.
“For a chance of winning this amazing prize, all you have to do is look out for volunteers selling tickets on the night for a £1 each, or pop along to the Transition Stall where they shall be selling tickets as well as handing out our fabulous Bags for Life, that have our Ten Guiding Principles Poster on one side and the logos of our very kind sponsors, Withy King, Brewin Dolphin and David Owen on the other.”
At the same time, the doors of the Town Hall will be thrown open to welcome visitors to We Love Marlborough's arts market on the ground floor, where local artists and craftspeople will be offering handmade gifts, from Christmas tree and table decorations to jewellery, glassware and paintings.
There'll also be the chance to buy tasty sausage and mash, or tea, cakes and mulled wine.
Christmas Lights 2011And on the first floor Santa will greet children at his magical grotto, while while professional artist James Aldridge will be helping youngsters – and their families – to make Christmas crowns.
For the first time, We Love Marlborough have offered parents the chance to pre-book an appointment with Father Christmas, to avoid lengthly queues for families and children, and the organisers have announced that most early slots (from 3.15pm to 5.30pm) have already been filled.
There will be plenty of action around the town. Marlborough Chamber of Commerce has invited shopkeepers to stay open until 8pm for a Late Night Shopping experience, while Ducklings toyshop will be helping children to write letters to Santa, and take a ride on a bouncy castle, from 3pm. There will also be a charity cake stall outside M & Co.
The High Street’s newest business, estate agents Smiths Gore, are also opening their doors to potential customers tonight.
The company is staging a Christmas lights switch on party and declaring: “Please pop in to warm up and join us for a drink and mince pieces.”
Edward Hall, the man in charge at No 42, announces there is good reason to celebrate. “We have sold or put under offer all the houses on our books,” he says. “On my Christmas list is more instructions.”
“There are buyers wanting to move to Marlborough, and the surrounding villages, but there is a shortage of houses to see”.
Musical entertainment will be provided by Phoenix Brass Band, and by the Marlborough Community Choir, who will be performing on the steps of the Town Hall from 7pm to 7.15pm. The traditional school s choir compeition takes place in St Mary's Church from 6pm, and children from the winning school will be helping to turn on the lights.
The Communities Market, Town Hall events and Late Night Shopping all finish at 8pm.
The canal-side Barge Inn at Honeystreet, near Pewsey, is to reopen on December 14. It was closed in October when the lottery-funded community project that had been running it declared itself insolvent.
The freeholder of the Barge Inn, Ian McIver, plans to have the new tenants signed up in time and is sure the reopening date will be met.
Mr McIver has been completing what the Barge’s quirky website calls ‘Phase 2 of the refurbishment programme’: “We look forward to welcoming you back for another season, with a whole new cast and set.”
Mr McIver told Marlborough News Online that he thinks the interior will now look more like a pub and less like a wine bar: “I hope people will like it.”
Work is also underway on landscaping the beer garden – though the heavy rains have not been helpful.
Meanwhile new information has emerged on the lottery funding paid to the Barge Inn Community Project (BICP) which covered, among other things, a twenty year lease on the pub which is now void. When the insolvent BICP had to close the pub, staff were made redundant.
A Freedom of Information Act request by Marlborough News Online to the Big Lottery has revealed that in total BICP received £488,920 from Big Lottery programmes.
This was divided into ‘Village SOS Round One’ funding which provided £39,930 (on proof of expenditure) for development and a £10,000 advance towards capital costs and towards the salary of the Village Champion. BICP did not, as MNO had previously reported, receive from the lottery a £50,000 feasibility study.
‘Village SOS Round Two’ funding has totalled £434,010 – which included the Village Champion’s salary of £32,942.02. In addition there was a £5,000 grant for marketing and, from another lottery programme, £9,980 for a yurt on the Barge Inn’s campsite.
The Big Lottery told MNO: “The Village SOS round two grant is still open as we are still investigating the extent of the breaches of the grant agreement to allow us to take appropriate action.”
They do know, however, that BICP breached two of the grant conditions: ‘the project has discontinued and the grant holder is insolvent.’
The Big Lottery has also confirmed that no lottery funds were used towards some of BICP’s other aims such as building a village shop, a new toilet block for the campsite, site drainage – or for the dismantling and rebuilding of the nineteenth century wooden barn which is going ahead. Mr McIver is paying for this to provide the Barge Inn and the village with an arts and entertainment venue called The Barefoot Barn.
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce will not be actively supporting the proposed boycott of Caffe Nero ahead of its planning appeal in January.
Committee members, who in April this year voted to write to Wiltshire Council objecting to the firm's retrospective planning application, agreed that it was not within the organisation remit to arrange or promote the boycott of a business – even one that had broken planning regulations to be there.
Individual members, the committee noted, were welcome to observe the boycott.
Forget the internet – Marlborough is the place to go for your Christmas shopping. That's the message as the town prepares for its biggest night of the festive season - the switching on of the Christmas lights.
The Christmas lights will be switched on at 7pm on Thursday, November 29 – and there will be an unprecedented selection of gifts on offer from 3pm to 8pm.
While shopkeepers throw open their doors for a spot of Late Night Shopping, the centre of High Street will be dominated by the 45 stall-strong Marlborough Communities Market, which will be replicating its popular monthly local produce market, but with a distinctly festive theme.
A cornucopia of locally-produced festive fare is promised, and stallholders have donated goodies – including a turkey, speciality stuffing and award-winning chipolatas, venison burgers and organic vegetables, handmade chocolates, cheeses, stollen and sweet treats – which will be offered in a prize draw.
Organisers will also be giving away a free Marlborough Communities Market jute bag to 500 lucky shoppers – perfect for carting away Christmas gifts!
Meanwhile, the Town Hall will be fit to burst with 22 stalls featuring local artists and craftspeople offering handmade gifts, from Christmas tree and table decorations to jewellery, glassware and paintings at We Love Marlborough's Christmas Art and Gift Market.
Upstairs at the Town Hall, Santa will be welcoming children to his grotto while professional artist James Aldridge will be helping youngsters – and their families – to make Christmas crowns.
And for the first time, We Love Marlborough are offering parents the chance to pre-book an appointment with Father Christmas, or a place on one of the workshops.
Organiser Louisa Davison said: “Last year Santa was the busiest he's ever been, and as no-one likes to queue we're making it possible for parents to pre-book a slot for their children to see Father Christmas between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.
“Hopefully this will reduce the waiting time for the youngest children. Bookings from 6pm to 8pm can be made on the day, at the Town Hall.”
For more information, or to book a place on the Christmas crowns workshop, or an appointment with Santa, log on to www.welovemarlborough.co.uk
- Other activities include a bouncy castle and letter writing to Santa from 3pm to 8pm at Ducklings Toy Shop in Hilliers Yard. The annual Children's Choir Competition takes place from 6pm at St Mary's Church and Marlborough Community Choir will be performing on the Town Hall steps from 7pm to 7.15pm. The lights will be switched on at 7pm by Marlborough Town Council's Citizen of the Year, whose identity is - for now - a closely-guarded secret.
Mayor Edwina Fogg presenting Major Simon Puxley with rum dePraise for the “complex and sophisticated role” played by the 4Military Intelligence Battalion in Afghanistan came from Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, at the town council’s civic dinner on Friday.
It was the fourth occasion in honour of the soldiers in the official adopted vital military unit, many of whom have just returned from their crucial role in Afghanistan.
Welcoming them, the Mayor recalled: “Most of you will be aware that, in 2008, Colonel Ben Kyte contacted us to see if we would be interested in forming a link with 4MIB.”
“We were thrilled and honoured to have been thus chosen and the relationship was affirmed when, in 2011, Freedom of Entry into Marlborough was bestowed on the Battalion.”
“Wiltshire has, of course, always had a very close connection with the military. At Bulford Camp yesterday, a full force gale sweeping over the parade ground made an anecdote from the First World War come alive for me.”
“In 1914-15 some 32,000 Canadians, many of them Newfies, trained on Salisbury Plain. There was much disruption by floods and gales so that tents were continually being blown down.”
“The Canadians left for France in February 1915 and many of them reported back that conditions in the trenches were not nearly as bad as they had experienced in Wiltshire.”
“Imagine me then, my tricorn hat refusing to stay put, my hair in total disarray, making me the least tidy person at the parade, presenting, with Colonel Nick Baker, company medals. The weather though, failed to dampen spirits or spoil an occasion which saw the soldiers receive their just recognition of a tour in Afghanistan, in which 4MI played such a significant part.”
“Major Simon Puxley, an honoured guest this evening, introduced me to the soldiers and outlined each individual’s task in recent operations. This gave me a huge insight into the complex and sophisticated role played by the Battalion and why intelligence units are so crucial to contemporary military strategy.
“There were many proud families on the parade ground. One of them, the mother of a young soldier, approached me afterwards to thank me and to say how the families valued the support from the town.”
“The relationship between Marlborough and 4MI continues to flourish, as witnessed by the huge numbers who came to the Remembrance Day Parade, long may it continue.”
Including the military guests, more than 100 people attended the town hall civic dinner, which raised £700 for the Wiltshire branch of the Royal British Legion.
It was also a presentation occasion, Mike Fogg, brother-in-law of the Mayor, presenting a litre ceramic Nelson ship’s decanter of Pusser’s rum to Major Puxley for the Officer’s mess.
Mayor Edwina presenting Dennis Compton with a bottle of ABV Blue Label Pusser's rum for the Wiltshire branch of the Royal British LegionIt was one of two similar presentations to other members of M4 plus the presentation of a bottle of ABV, Blue Label Pusser’s rum to Dennis Compton for the Wiltshire branch of the Royal British Legion.
Pusser's rum is the former daily issue of the Royal Navy, which was terminated, on theJuly 31, 1970, known to the Navy, as Black Tot day.
On board ship, stores are controlled by the purser, but over the years, generations of Jack Tars, corrupted this to Pusser, hence, Pusser's rum.
To compensate the sailors’ for the loss of their daily tot, the Admiralty set up a new charity, the Royal Navy Sailors Fund, otherwise known, as the Tot Fund, to provide amenities, for serving personnel.
Then, in 1979, the Admiralty approved the re-blending of Pusser's rum, for sale to the public and in appreciation, a substantial donation on world wide sales, accrues to the Sailors’ Fund.
To date the Pusser's Rum annual donations have exceeded £1 million.
“It is hoped that both the Officers’ mess and the Warrant Officers & Sergeants mess, will open their Nelson decanters, on an appropriate occasion and that the decanters will then be replenished, annually, in perpetuity,” Mike Fogg told Marlborough News Online.
“Many brands of dark rum, present a naval or sea faring image, but only Pusser's Rum, can claim to be the original and genuine rum of the Royal Navy.”
Devizes MP Claire Perry is to visit Gunjur in The Gambia for a week in January. Marlborough’s link with Gunjur has been looked after for the past thirty years by the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG). Mrs Perry will be accompanied by her daughter Eliza.
Dr Nick Maurice, one of the founders of MBG and now its director, says: “This will give great encouragement to our colleagues and friends in our partner non-governmental organisation TARUD, the Gunjur Link Committee and the wider community of Gunjur - and will particularly bring a feeling of solidarity with women in the community.”
She and her daughter will stay with a family in a compound in the village, and will experience Gambian generosity and hospitality as well as the difficulties arising from the village’s lack of running water and electricity.
She will see some of the development projects in which MBG have been jointly involved: the pre-school, the women’s vegetable gardens, the water and sanitation programme, and the anti-malaria and health education programmes.
While in Gunjur she will be formally opening the new market place built this summer by young people from St John’s and Marlborough College.
She will also spend time with the UK High Commissioner to gain an understanding of the region and of the wider political context in which MBG operates.
At Westminster, Mrs Perry chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group which works with government to encourage links between communities in UK – whether towns, schools, hospitals or businesses – and communities in the developing world.
Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, Richard Shaw, Philippa Davenport, Kate Hosier, and Janet and Neville Hobson, of the Marlborough Community Orchard committeeIn an English tradition dating back centuries, town councillor Richard Pitts planted a plum tree on Sunday to commemorate the marriage of his nephew Charlie Taylor to Fran.
The couple, who live in York but are frequent visitors to the town, took place in August. The tree will form part of the community orchard on Marlborough Common.
A number of community volunteers turned out on the blustery Sunday morning – the second day of National Tree Week – to plant pear, plum, damson, quince and medlar trees, although in nothing like the numbers for last month's planting of the Jubilee apple trees.
“It's symbolic, isn't it?” said Cllr Pitts as he shovelled the last spadeful of soil around the roots of the Victoria Plum.
“It's an English tradition going back centuries. The tree grows as the marriage grows. And it bears fruit, representing all the children Charlie and Fran will have... maybe.”
Cllr Richard PittsThe councillor then put his spade to good use helping Marlborough Communities Market to plant a Nottingham Medlar.
The medlar is one of the orchard's most uncommon fruits – and not one likely to be found on supermarket shelves today, although the Tudors couldn't get enough of them.
Large white blossoms give way to a rock-hard fruit with russeted skin. Eaten raw they are tart, but once bletted – left to rot until soft and brown – they make excellent jelly with a taste resembling toffee apples, according to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
On the other side of the orchard, the committee of the Community Orchard committee were planting a Merryweather Damson. Native to the UK, the fruit is today less far popular than its close relative, the sweeter dessert plum, but makes tasty jam.
“By the end of the year we will have planted 198 trees in two years,” said Marlborough Community Orchard committee chairman and food writer Philippa Davenport. “We are creating a living larder – local food for local people.”
The trees, and their sponsors, are: Jeffrey and Alison Galvin Wright (Quince 'Vranja'); Charles Taylor (Plum 'Victoria'); U3A in Kennet (Pear 'Conference'); Marlborough Choral Society (Damson 'Merryweather'); Marlborough Community Orchard (Damson 'Merryweather'); Marlborough Communities Market (Medlar 'Nottingham'); Marlborough History Society (Medlar 'Nottingham'); The Trustees of the Merchant's House (Damson 'Merryweather'); North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Plum 'Czar'); Visit Wilshire (Pear 'Beth').
Communities Market committee members Ellie Gill, Alexandra Wax, Gerald Payne and Richard Pitts Happy couple Charlie and Fran Taylor, pictured at their wedding in August
Transition Marlborough is winning its fight against Wiltshire Council’s arbitrary blanket ban on wind farms – turbines are claimed to produce the cheapest form of green energy available – across the county.
An urgent plea made by the group a month ago – and spread by Marlborough News Online – has resulted in objectors to the council’s Core Strategy responding to a consultation exercise called for by a planning inspector.
And the positive stance has been announced as the Sunday Times today highlighted the growing local council rebellion against wind turbines – six so far -- in what it described as a “war against wind farms.”
While the Wiltshire consultation was open to anyone in the country to give their views, the results show a surge of positive local responses, the planning inquiry inspector having to revise his schedule and take the inquiry into the new year.
“We’re really pleased with the results – the huge volume of responses even took the planning Inspector by surprise,” Dr Sam Page, chairman of Transition Marlborough, told Marlborough News Online. “It took a couple of weeks for council officers to process them all and upload them to the Wiltshire Council website.”
“The result was a fantastic endorsement of wind power in Wiltshire - more than 600 people said they thought separation distances were unfair and not based on sound evidence. “Unlike respondents who supported Wiltshire Council’s amendment, those in favour of clean energy were spread across the length and breadth of Wiltshire.”
“The largest numbers of individual responses coming from Marlborough, Bradford-on-Avon, Salisbury, Calne, Pewsey, Chippenham and Corsham.”
“Local community groups also responded collectively to the consultation, representing thousands of local people in support of renewable energy. These included submissions from the Wiltshire Federation of WIs and the CPRE.”
The vast majority of responses favouring separation distances came from addresses within a five kilometre diameter of the county’s only proposed wind farm at West Ashton, which has yet to be submitted for planning to Tory-controlled Wiltshire Council.
The consultation also attracted attention from across the UK from over 200 individuals and groups concerned that if the amendment were to stand, it would set a dangerous planning policy precedent, which might be followed by other councils.
Dr Page added: “Transition Marlborough is very pleased that Marlborough was strongly represented in the response to this consultation and are grateful to ffinlo Costain, of the Pewsey Environmental Action Team, and to Marlborough News Online for spreading the message.”
What happens now?
“The huge number of responses has caused the planning inspector to revise his schedule, and he has told us he now expects to hold the ‘pre-hearing meeting’ in January, which suggests that the public examination won’t take place before February at the earliest,” explained Dr Page.
“We will also be passing on all our feedback from the campaign to Wiltshire councillors in due course. A Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance Facebook page is under development in order to keep the debate going, and we will circulate details in due course.”
Meanwhile, Marlborough Transition is seeking the help of volunteers to help prepare their case for the planning inquiry hearing, in particular someone to act as co-ordinator.
Anyone interested can keep up to date through the website www.wiltshirecea.org.uk and follow the debate on Twitter at @wiltshirecea.
Fish pass in floodThe Kennet is one of 43 rivers on flood alert in the south west -- with the ironic result that last night’s storm will delay the completion of the flood protection project in Kennet Place, Marlborough.
Two artificial dams created to allow the arduous work to proceed have had to be removed following the opening of the sluice gates to Coopers Meadow, to ensure the faster flow of water.
The Kennet Place section of the river is already a metre deep putting work on the £233,000 project on hold. And it will probably remain so with another deluge expected over the weekend.
The Environment Agency, which planned the project, issued its flood alert, one of 43 in the south-west, on Thursday. It affects the River Kennet and its tributaries from Berwick Bassett down to Newbury, including Winterbourne Monkton, Marlborough, Ramsbury, Hungerford, Denford, Kintbury and Newbury.
It also covers the River Og, the River Aldbourne, the Froxfield Stream, the River Dun and the River Shalbourne.
But with the aquadams having been removed from the river, there ought not to be “any real risk,” says the Agency.
“The dam in Kennet Place was the first to be emptied and removed, the one above the fish pass was next,” Kennet Place resident Val Compton, told Marlborough News Online. “Until now they had served their purpose, but the purpose has changed, now flood prevention has overridden everything.”
“For the first time ever we now have water flowing over the newly created fish pass. The first aquadam emptied out and deflated, lying limply like a huge wounded black dragon of the river.”
“It seemed almost sad -- but within a few days in can hopefully be refilled and re-deployed to allow work to continue.”
“Next, upstream above town mill bridge, the aquadam that has been in place since work started on the fish pass was deflated. This was the really exciting one, as water flowed for the first time ever over the new creation.”
“It was a dramatic moment as the dam began to empty and the weight of a mini tidal wave then pushed the dam to one side and came crashing over the steps of the fish pass.”
“The noise, although a different tone entirely to the old mill race, was nevertheless music to my ears.”
“To see the river alive once more and flowing as it should was such a relief - if only temporary - but this is how it will look when we have peak flows.”
Marlborough police reported that a number of trees in the area were uprooted by last night’s storm. All roads are now clear and open and there have been no reported injuries to people.
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has issued a statement on the progress of the flood alleviation project, which is jointly financed by the Agency, Wiltshire Council and Marlborough town council.
“The project is progressing well and we aim to have the majority of works completed before the end of December,” it revealed. “We will then have the final landscaping finished by late January/early February, weather permitting.
“If there are any changes to this we will ensure resident are kept informed.
“In terms of project progression, we have now completed the piling work along the riverbank. During this work we constantly monitored the level of noise and vibrations and I hope that we were successful in minimising disturbance to local residents.”
“We are now in the process of ensuring the area around the line of piles is kept dry to allow our workers to safely begin installing the cladding for the flood wall.”
“This cladding will include timber panels so that the flood wall fits in with the aesthetics of the area. In addition we will also begin installing non-return valves to the drainage outfalls which enter the channel along Kennet Place.”
“These valves allow water to drain into the channel but close as the river level increases and so prevent flood water from escaping. We aim to have the cladding and valves completely installed before Christmas.”
Marlborough has escaped the worst of the deluge weather station records reveal
With yet more rain forecast, the current downpours are reminiscent of the autumn of 2000 when the River Kennet over-flowed its banks and created localised flooding.
Those are the facts according to Eric Gilbert, who runs Marlborough’s only weather station. But he still points that that Marlborough may, as in the past, escape the worst of the predicted deluge.
“Marlborough has been fortunate in that the extreme rainfall that has fallen to the west and north of Wiltshire, and elsewhere, has not occurred here,” he told Marlborough News Online.
“The daily record for my station -- some 45.4mm – fell on 27 May 2007. And we haven’t reached that peak yet.”
“In October, November and December of 2000 rainfall totals were very high at 150mm compared with 121mm in 2012, 143mm (92mm so far in 2012), and 142mm, which is 169 per cent of the long-term average, an overall excess of 178mm, the equivalent of seven inches over three months.
“In the year 2000, the total rainfall for the year was 1,097mm and, to date in 2012, a total of 919mm has fallen,” he added. “We shall have to wait to see what happens.”
Coopers Meadow in flood - 25th NovCoopers Meadow in flood - 25th Nov
The Swift Medics team: Dr Jonathan Glover, Dr Sam Bracken, Dr James Dunn, Ruth Willoughby, Dr Dan Bawden, Dr Alex Cross, Dr Ed Valentine, Dr James Mapstone. Picture by Kevin Hall, Hallmark Photography, CalneWiltshire’s highway heroes Swift Medics raised £3,000 – and launched a lottery with the hope of raising a whole lot more – at a fundraising event on Saturday.
The £3,000 proceeds from an auction and raffle is the equivalent to around a third of the cost of training and equipping a new doctor to the Marlborough-based charity.
The team of volunteer doctors provide potentially life-saving emergency care at the scene of serious road traffic accidents and other life threatening medical emergencies. They receive no funding from local or central government or the NHS.
The fundraising dinner, at Bowood Hotel, attracted 100 guests, who bid for auction lots including a ride in a 193mph Ferrari California, courtesy of Swindon supercar dealership Dick Lovett, a Watlings bracelet, a Pia fresh water pearl necklace, a photo shoot with Hallmark Photographers, drum lessons with musician Tom Wheeler, who has performed on Radio 1s Live Lounge, cases of wine, and paint balling.
Charity trustee Bob Holman also used the event to launch the Swift Medics lottery, part of the UK charity lottery Unity. Participants – who can win up to £25,000 – nominate Swift Medics when they register to play, and 50 percent of the proceeds go directly back to the charity.
For details, log on to www.unitylottery.co.uk/SWIFTMedics To find out more about the work of Swift Medics, log on to www.swiftmedics.net or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SWIFTMedics
Charlotte HitchmoughThe West Country floods may be causing heartache for many but they are good news for the River Kennet and its wildlife so long as they don’t last too long or get any worse.
That is the positive message from Charlotte Hitchmough, director of Action River Kennet (ARK), who gave an upbeat report to the organisation’s annual meeting in Ramsbury last week.
She told Marlborough News Online: “It has been great to see so much water in the river after the 18 months of drought. Stretches of the Winterbourne, which have been dry for over two years now have water in them.”
“All the fallen leaves and algae that accumulated on the river bed is being cleaned out by the fast flows.”
And she added: “The climate forecasters suggest that these extreme weather patterns may become the norm, with very dry and then very wet spells. Extreme weather events are not ideal for chalk streams.”
“Flood water brings dirty road and field run off into the river, as well as the contents of overflowing sewers. The very fast scouring flow is beneficial to clean the gravels river bed ready for fish spawning.”
“But if the floods stay for too long the fish eggs -- and even the fish themselves -- get washed down stream. Strong winter flows are also essential to kick-start the growth of stream water crowfoot, which is an essential component of the chalk stream ecology.”
“But too much flow for too long and it all gets washed away. So, we hope that the current weather will settle down, for the sake of the people and the wildlife.”
Speaking at the annual meeting, naturalist Peter Marren challenged the Environment Agency to explain how the upper Kennet, which has no fish in it, could be classified as a river in 'Good Ecological Status'.
River keeper John Hounslow gave an account of the last year on the river, which has experienced above average rainfall in every month except one since April.
While this has helped the river to recover, there has been a steep decline in fish stocks, particularly grayling, and a lack of healthy weed growth.
He remains concerned that each time there is a drought the river recovers less well, and is in a steady state of decline.
A new electrofishing survey and ARK's regular redd (trout nest) surveys of the river show that the wild trout population in the reach has increased since the last survey three years ago.
“This is especially encouraging at a time when the rest of the river generally declined in health during the drought, and shows the effectiveness of the work we have done,” said Charlotte.
“It's been a good year for us with both the Care for the Kennet Campaign and the Stonebridge Lane wild river reserve projects winning national awards.”
“Our membership has increased, we have more active volunteers and we have run more projects, notably the recently completed ambitious fish pass in Marlborough.”
“ARK are now 'catchment hosts' for the whole Kennet, and after a successful first year, the World Wildlife Fund has offered to fund us to perform this role again in 2012/13.”
Overnight rain on Sunday brought the River Kennet within an inch or two of reaching part of the Town Mill development in Marlborough and causing extended flooding on Coopers Meadow.
And parts of Marlborough College’s grounds were also hit by the Kennet, at his highest level following its worst drought in decades earlier in the year.
The sluice gates area on Coopers Meadow was bubbling with water pouring through while its army of ducks were enjoying new pools on the edge of the footpath. The effect was much the same at the site of the flood protection project, now halted by the latest deluge.
“Let’s hope the worst of the storms has passed and we shall escape any serious damage,” said one passer-by on his way to work. “These houses seem to have escaped by the skin of their teeth.”
Kennet Place resident Val Compton reported: “The trigger hasn’t tripped into sending the Environment Agency automated message to say we’re on a flood warning.”
“I am watching and photographing gauges to see if water is rising or falling at the moment – having remained steady all weekend and risen very sharply overnight. the usual bits of town mill are under water.”
“But no danger to them as the houses are built on stilts to accommodate flood water.”
A 'Caffe Nero pays Zero' boycott campaign has been launched by Marlborough town councillor and local activist Val Compton following the revelation that the coffee chain pays no corporation tax whatsoever.
“Their legal way around the tax system, in order to avoid paying is foxily clever,” she told Marlborough News Online. “But it denies this country revenue it so desperately needs. “Even pensioners on quite low incomes are taxed – they have no way around it – but just pay up and shut up.”
“However, with clever accountants and a top legal team, companies like this aren’t interested in “joining in” or pulling together, just how to get around that system. Well perhaps Caffe Nero have just shot themselves in the foot.”
Councillor Compton, admired for her campaign to save Savernake Hospital, has already used her personal blog and long list of contacts urging people to boycott the coffee shop that opened in April without planning consent.
And she is being supported by former Marlborough mayor Councillor Peggy Dow, one of the Wiltshire councillors who opposed the granting of retrospective planning consent for Caffe Zero’s outlet in Marlborough High Street, due to be resolved at a planning inquiry in January.
“History tells us that Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” Councillor Dow told Marlborough News Online. “It’s bad enough that the company blatantly ignores planning rules with the result that local councils across the country have had to pay the cost of holding planning inquiries.”
“We simply can’t allow any national chain company named after Nero to use a legal tax loophole by registering itself on the Isle of Man and in Luxembourg to pay not a penny in corporation tax when it generates profits of £39.9 million.”
“We’re going through the roughest economic recession the vast majority of people have seen in their lifetime in which all ordinary families are being hit by austerity with economists telling us the worst has yet to come.”
“Communities throughout the land need to boycott the likes of Caffe Nero, Starbucks and Amazon who treat their customers – and the country – with such contempt.”
Councillor Compton is using an extract from last weekend’s Sunday Times story about Caffe Nero’s legal way out of paying corporation tax – it is estimated that the UK is now losing up to £10 billion a year through various loophole schemes – as a 'Say No to Caffe Nero' poster she is urging independent retailers in particular, as well as residents, to display.
One significant reason is that Caffe Nero has claimed it is adding to Marlborough’s vitality and viability as a town by increasing the footfall in the High Street. But that claim would be undermined if a boycott resulted in a dramatic drop in customers.
“Either people will be brave and print off and display posters or design their own which would be great, or they’ll do that very British apathetic thing... of letting someone else fight the battle for them,” said Councillor Compton.
And she added: “Ever since Caffe Nero muscled its way into Marlborough I have had a problem with them being on the high street. I’m not against all multi-national companies and certainly will support those who behave responsibly and become part of the local community like Waitrose.”
“Caffe Nero, however, was a bit like having an undesirable family moving in. You very quickly picked up on the arrogance, the swaggering response to the fact they had no planning permission, was not to even bother opposing them as they’d won so many planning appeals.”
“Like that undesirable family, about whom you may feel a bit suspicious, Caffe Nero with their swish corporate image, attracting the sort of people who like the sophisticated yet slightly sterile surroundings – had something that has indeed proved a bit suspicious.”
“I will never support businesses I feel are immoral or downright selfish money grabbers. I will never drink Nero coffee and I urge other people to just consider, before they go into Caffe Nero, if there is another business where there money could be better spent.”
“In short Boycott Caffe Nero!”
Nigel Kerton, who retired todayThe end of an era was marked today (Wednesday) when Nigel Kerton, the Gazette & Herald's Marlborough reporter since articles were bashed out on typewriters, filed his final story.
Nigel - who reckons he's filled 2,000 front pages for the Gazette & Herald, along with 500 each for the Swindon Advertiser and the Western Daily Press - stumbled into journalism aged 17, when he popped into the offices of the Mercury in Weston-super-Mare to scour the jobs pages.
He was asked if he fancied a job on the paper, doing some administrative work and assisting the journalists, and told to go off and write a 500 word article on a subject of his choosing.
“It was easy,” recalls Nigel. “I came from Lyneham, where my mum and dad ran a village shop, and I was new to Weston-super-Mare with its bright lights and a theatre. They liked the story and offered me a five year indentureship.”
Nigel's first day on the Mercury – a Monday in 1964 – started at 8.30am. “At 8.45 I was given a notebook and a pencil and told to go and interview a woman whose husband had died. It was a baptism of fire.”
And while many young journalists dread the prospect of talking to relatives about the loss of a loved one, Nigel reckons it has become his favourite part of the job, and at the start of his second stint with the Gazette 15 years ago – following a ten-year sojourn at the Western Daily Press in Trowbridge – he insisted on the reinstatement of the obituaries column.
“I love listening to people about their lives, and I think I'm particularly good at empathising with people who have lost loved ones in tragic circumstances, because I've been through it: my mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's, drowned herself in the sea at Torquay in 1980.”
The journalists at the Weston Mercury taught young Nigel the craft: putting people at ease during interviews, and letting them tell their stories in their own words.
“They were gentleman reporters with copper plated shorthand,” recalls Nigel. “Journalists who would record every word at a council meeting, when reporters had the time, and newspapers had the space, to do that.”
But four years later a career move summoned Nigel back to Wiltshire: he was offered a job in the Swindon Advertiser's Marlborough office.
“I loved Marlborough,” says Nigel. “I used to cycle down from Lyneham as a kid. The Adver's editor, Fred Hazel, heard I had a girlfriend back at Lyneham, and offered me the job.
“I was one of two reporters working at this 15th century building in Kingsbury Street [the office closed by Gazette & Herald owners Newsquest in October last year]. I thought the Adver was the paper I was working for, but I also had to write for the Gazette.”
The following spring – March 1969 – Nigel and Joy were married at St Peter's Church in Clyffe Pypard. Their first home was a flat above a shop in The Parade – now occupied by More Than Pine – before moving to Poulton Hill, and then to The Mead, “Kennet's biggest cul de sac” and the Kerton family home for 19 years.
Nigel and Joy have two children – Paul and Claire – and four grandchildren, aged between 12 and 23. And between them they've acted as Nigel's unofficial news-gathering team throughout his career.
When Nigel first came to Marlborough, the journalist Bob Wise advised him to “never join anything.” The reporter promptly threw himself into community activities.
He formed the Gardening Club 35 years ago, and joined the carnival committee 25 years ago. He's been the chairman of the New Road Centre, which works with 30 special needs adults every week, for eight years. And ten years ago, he and Joy revived the Jubilee Centre Christmas lunch, which is now held in the Town Hall and caters for 60 elderly residents from the town.
In the millennium year the Rotary Club awarded Nigel the Centenary Community Award for Vocational Services to the Town – "I don't suppose anyone else will get that honour for another 100 years," laughs Nigel – and in 2007 Pewsey Parish Council gave him an award for Outstanding Services to the Community.
Recently, Nigel – who has attended local government meetings for nearly half a century, and describes himself as apolitical – has considered leaving the press bench for a seat in the council chamber, by standing as an independent candidate for Marlborough East in the next Wiltshire Council elections.
“I've been described as a socialist, but I'm only a socialist so far as every journalist is a socialist, by fighting for people's rights and championing causes,” insists Nigel.
“I had a brief courtship with the Conservative Party,” he says, “and was interested in joining the majority group on the council.
“But in the light of my colleague Chris Humphries' experience, where he was not supported by his colleagues [Cllr Humphries was suspended from the Conservative group following a reprimand for mistreating a member of the council's staff], I decided that I didn't want to be part of that group.”
“I'd like to join the town council too,” he adds, “but not until somebody provides me with a whip and a chair. At the moment I feel the body has no useful future. Good ideas are thrown out and bad ideas kept in because of the views of those on the majority group.
“Personally, I don't think party politics has a place in local councils.”
Nigel leaves the Gazette just a week before his 65th birthday. He intends to spend more time with his family, exploring southern England in his campervan, and continuing his work with community organisations in Marlborough.
“I've enjoyed my career in journalism; there's no better job in the world,” he says. “But I suspect I'll be busier than ever before. So I guess it's 'goodbye for now', rather than 'farewell for ever'.