A former Marlborough woman who tricked a number of elderly and vulnerable victims into handing over large sums of money has been sent to prison for four years.
Lorraine Ellis, 56, of Kintbury, Berkshire and formally of Hungerford and Marlborough, was sentenced after admitting a total of 11 offences when she appeared at Winchester Crown Court last week.
Ellis, who had previous convictions for fraud, conned her victims into investing thousands of pounds into her wine business before making off with the money during a three year period starting in 2006.
The offences included:
• Conning an elderly couple and their vulnerable daughter from Swindon out of £24,000
• Convincing a young woman from Marlborough, whose father had recently died, to hand over £21,000
• Being given £1,900 from an elderly man in Hungerford who had recently been widowed
• Opening up two credit card accounts in the name of a gardener from Chester and amassing a debt in excess of £5,000
• Obtaining two mortgages for £105,000 and £156,000
• Fraudulently opening a Next store card and obtaining goods worth £110.
Detective Constable Keith Harford told Marlborough News Online: “Ellis is a confidence trickster who targeted elderly and vulnerable victims purporting to be in the wine business and conned them into handing over large amounts of cash to ‘invest’ in her business.”
“Ellis dishonestly obtained property and goods in excess of £280,000. The money still outstanding to the victims is in the region of £82,900.”
Wiltshire Police have revealed too some extracts from Ellis’ victim’s impact statements.
Victim One: “I initially thought she had a heart of gold, but I now realise she is a cold heartless person who was out to steal money from me. I honestly believe that she should go to prison, in order to put a stop to her behaviour and to prevent other vulnerable people becoming victim of her criminality.”
Victim Two: “Ellis befriended me, she acted as though she was a close trusting friend. She totally fooled me into believing she was a nice genuine person. She has lied to me, and taken advantage of me all for her own personal gain.”
A former Marlborough woman who tricked a number of elderly and vulnerable victims into handing over large sums of money has been sent to prison for four years.
Supporters of some of Marlborough's best-loved charities and community organisations have just over a week to help them grab a share of a £6,000 jackpot in the Frasers Budgens of Marlborough Community Giveaway.
The Community Giveaway is being staged by Oxfordshire-based retail group Fraser’s, who are opening a petrol station, Budgens convenience store and Subway outlet at Marlborough Business Park in the autumn.
Until Firday 7 September, a public poll will select nine finalists from three categories – Health, Wellbeing and Social; Communities and the Arts; Education and Young People.
The finalists will be invited to pitch their projects to a live voting audience at Theatre on the Hill in Marlborough on Thursday 27 September, when representatives from each community group are invited to pitch their ideas from the theatre stage to a voting public.
While there's a lot of money at stake, the emphasis will be on fun, with organisers insisting the event will be more like Britain's Got Talent than Dragon's Den.
The three community projects that receive the most votes on the night will walk away with cheques for £1,000. And all of the nine finalists will get a share of another £1,000 over the first three months of the new forecourt opening.
With just over a week of voting remaining, Marlborough Brandt Group are leading the the Education and Young People category with 32 percent of the vote, with Savernake Forest Scout Group, who have 28 percent, in second place. The Merchant's House Education Programme is in third place with 25 percent.
St John's School (12 percent) and Savernake ExplorerScout Group (four percent) won't secure a place in the final unless they can muster some more votes.
In the Health, Wellbeing and Social category, Wiltshire Air Ambulance have maintained their lead with 56 percent of the votes, Splitz - KidzPace are still in second place with 23 percent, and Carer Support Wiltshire have 15 percent.
National Childbirth Trust have four percent and SWIFT Medics have two percent. They need to rally the support of their friends for a place in the final.
And in the Community and the Arts category, Phoenix Brass Band, with 59 percent of the vote, have increased their lead over Marlborough Communities Market, who have 32 percent.
We Love Marlborough's nine percent is still enough to win them a place in the final, unless Kennet Accordion Orchestra, Kennet Valley Arts Trust, Marlborough Concert Orchestra and Marlborough Community Orchard can up their game.
Readers wishing to cast a vote, or to apply for a grant on behalf of their community organisation, should go to www.facebook.com/BudgensMarlborough and click the red 'vote' button.
Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town.
And not just any old circus, but Gifford's Circus. Gifford's put on a particularly 'Marlborough-ish' kind of show – part traditional English circus, part cabaret, part physical theatre.
Each show has a theme – Joplin came to Marlborough in 2006, with its 1960s theme reflected in costumes and music. Caravan (2008) was set around a horse fair and 2010's Yasmine was inspired by the life of legendary equestrienne Yasmine Smart, who played herself in the production.
Last year's tour was called War and Peace and explored Napoleon's disastrous intrusion into Russia from a Russian Aristocratic family's view. It is, perhaps, what you'd expect from founder and creative producer Nell Gifford, who has a degree in English literature from Oxford.
This year's tour is called The Saturday Book. Somewhat aptly for a town with a growing reputation for literary excellence, organisers promise a witty collection of vignettes, tableaus, stories and paintings based on an annual miscellany, published between 1941 and 1975, which provided literary and artistic commentary.
Writers included John Betjeman, Graham Greene, Laurie Lee, Philip Larkin, George Orwell, Siegfried Sassoon and PG Wodehouse, while LS Lowry provided pictures.
The show is directed by Cal McCrystal, who has worked with The Mighty Boosh and Sacha Baron Cohen, and whose Royal National Theatre's hit show One Man, Two Guvnors – on which he was physical comedy director – transferred has played the West End and Broadway.
The cast includes loveable clown Tweedy, a veteran of children's television and a star on both sides of the Atlantic, Bibi the Ethiopian horse-riding juggler, Ukrainian gymnastics troupe The Godfathers, while Francois Marietta and Sarah Schwarz will be providing ariel thrills above the ring.
There'll be animals too, including Sallyann and Ionut Ronescu’s Comedy Dogs, pony trick riding with The Victorians and Giffords favourite Brian the goose.
The Saturday Book opens tomorrow (Friday) at Marlborough Common, with performances at 5pm and 7.30pm, and runs until Monday, September 3.
Once again, the circus will be bringing a most unusual pop-up restaurant to the town. Artistes and audience members dine together on a three-course meal made from seasonal and local ingredients for £25 a head.
Circus Sauce is also serving afternoon teas at £11 a head, and it will open during the intervals, serving freshly baked cakes, traditional ice creams and beverages.
Performance tickets cost £21 for adults and £14 for children under 14. For a full list of showtimes and booking details, log on to www.giffordscircus.com
Pictures from show are now on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MarlboroughNewsOnline
Let down by child care during the summer holidays, Marlborough’s outspoken Tory MP Claire Perry found the perfect answer – take them to No 10 with her for a face-to-face meeting with David Cameron and let them roam the Cabinet room.
She reveals her novel action in her local newspaper column today (Thursday) and declares: “The whole experience points experience points up, once again, to how tricky it can be as a working parent to juggle things, especially during the long school holidays.”
Mrs Perry does not name which of her three children made the trip to Downing Street, but explains: “Last week I had a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss family policy – an area in which he has a personal and close interest.”
“I was all set to tell him about progress in our internet opt-in campaign and the work that I and other MPs have been doing on childcare affordability, but at the last minute my own childcare support system broke down and I arrived in Downing Street with two children in tow – fitting given the subject matter.”
“The Perry Two enjoyed seeing the Olympic kitbag cake in the hall, had a play in the garden, looked out for Larry the cat, an sat in the Cabinet room.”
“They have no idea how lucky they are just to step inside the famous black door and I am aware of how fortunate I was to be able to take them with me.”
“But the whole experience points up, once again, to how tricky it can be as a working parent to juggle things, especially during the long school holidays.”
It was a day for celebrating in the sunshine as manilla envelopes were ripped open and GCSE results pored over at St John's School in Marlborough this morning (Thursday).
There were hugs, shrieks and cheers among the general hubbub in the school's airy atrium.
But behind the scenes there was anger that 'political expediency' at the very top of government had dashed the school's hopes of another record breaking year.
Back in the atrium, a group of lads were participating in a round of back-slapping and bear hugging.
Among them were Connor Ford (in the red top) and Will Hendry (in the white t-shirt) who had recorded some of the school's best results – nine A* and three A grades for Connor, four A* and six A grades for Will.
Their mates hadn't done badly, either. Dan Ashby (left) scored four As with a smattering of Bs and Cs, Ed France (in the hat) whose results included three A*s and six As, Robin Utton, whose Ambitious but Rubbish t-shirt belied his A* and six As, and Jamie Goodhew, in the blue hoodie, who gained three A* and three A grades among his results.
In the shrieking and hugging corner, Polly Howard (left) also won a place at the top table with her eight A* and three A grades.
Her friend Tara Colsell-Hawes was too bashful to share her results, but said she was “very pleased with them”.
Hollis Butler and Hugo Gardiner, too, were all smiles. Hollis (left) was “really pleased” with his three As along with some Bs and Cs. Hugo was “very happy” with his three A*s, five As, two Bs and a C.
Emma Whitworth (left) was equally pleased with her three A*s, two As and five Bs, while Daniella Judd was celebrating two As, four Bs, two Cs and a D.
Outside, Phoebe Studdert-Kennedy (five A*s, six As), Saskia Hume (two A*s, nine As) and Sophie Litherland (one A*, two As, seven Bs and a C) were celebrating their clutch of results.
Phoebe – whose results put her in the school's list of top achievers – was the only student we spoke to who wasn't staying on at St Johns' popular sixth form to study A Levels... she'll be staying on to pursue the International Baccalaureate instead.
In the headteacher's study, Dr Patrick Hazlewood grinned when asked where he was going to put all the young people staying on at sixth form. “I really don't know,” he joked. “There'll be 420 of them. We'll find somewhere.”
He was in a less jovial mood about the English results, which headteachers across England are complaining have been marked too harshly as the government tries to curb 'grade inflation'.
“That political view is all very well,” he said, “but it has an impact on individual children, who have worked so hard. It's just not fair to them, or their teachers.
“The 186 students who sat English Language or Literature did pretty much as we would have expected, with 86 percent getting a C or above in Language and 96 percent getting a C or better in Literature.
“But of the 47 pupils who did the Combined English course, around 20 were awarded a grade below what we'd expected. We will be submitting a formal complaint and seeking remarks.”
Dr Hazlewood said the school had been expecting another record year, but if the controversy over the English results had mired the celebrations, the stats were still impressive, with 86 percent of students achieving 5A* to C grades, 82 percent achieving C or better in maths and 86 percent gaining two or more C grades or better in science.
Thirty percent of all grades were A* or A, and 100 percent of pupils took home GCSE certificates.
The highest scorers included Natasha Taylor (11A*), Megan Richardson (10A*, 1A), Claire James (10A*, 1A), Polly Howard (8A*, 3A), Connor Ford (9A*, 3A), Sarah Crookall (6A*, 5A), Hristiany Georgiev (6A*, 5A), Izzy Payne (5A*, 6A), Cherilyn Mawby (5A*, 7A), Christopher Baker (5A*, 5A) Will Ballard (4A*, 6A), Phoebe Studdert-Kennedy (5A*, 5A), Duncan Lorrain (4A*, 9A) George Martin-Johnson (4A*, 6A) and William Hendry (4A*, 6A).
[Click on pictures to enlarge or for slideshow.]
On a whirlwind tour of 14 towns and villages in her Devizes constituency, Tory MP Claire Perry arrived in Marlborough yesterday (Tuesday) to reveal what the voters think of the state of the nation.
They are apparently not fixated on the doom and gloom of coalition-imposed austerity, seeking instead solutions to local problems and leaving her in buoyant mood as to the future of the troubled government.
Proving too that the lady is certainly not for burning, Mrs Perry rejected criticism of her false announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant. And she rejected totally claims that she is under party pressure to settle the sacking squabble involving her former employee and friend Penelope Nurick.
As to the next session of Parliament, she told Marlborough News Online: “I am going back refreshed and with a good understanding of what is concerning people locally. I always say it is invaluable for politicians to get out and talk to their constituents – and better still to listen to them.”
“There will be a renewed vigour about some of the really big government changes around the educational report, around the welfare report, which are going well.”
“And I am hoping that the fantastic glow we had as a result of the Olympics – wasn’t it lovely for those two weeks when there wasn’t any sniping and even the BBC could not do it down and make us miserable.”
“Yes, I hope that continues for a bit because I think we have had a summer we should all be really, really proud of as a country.”
There wasn’t exactly a queue of Marlborough constituents awaiting Mrs Perry as she arrived dressed in a bright summer frock to take coffee at The Food Gallery in the High Street, where a poster outside heralded her unique “meet the people” tour of coffee bars, tearooms, hotels and pubs.
She talked to three people at one table, two at another, who preferred not to be photographed – admitting that some destinations had produced few voters to greet or beat her while at others she enjoyed an audience of 30.
“People always say they never see their politicians until there are elections and I am determined to prove them wrong,” she insisted. “So far it’s been great. We’ve been to seven or eight villages already and everywhere is different.”
“We have had conversations about milk prices, assisted suicide, the NHS, bus services, traffic, you name it. What’s so refreshing is that this is what people are talking about every day. They are not sitting around talking about some of the esoteric things politicians discuss.”
Yet nobody had raised the question of proposed train fare and petrol price increases, probably because most commuters were at work during the daytime, she suggested. But young people, many on holiday, raised issues such as the rising cost of sports equipment and others the issue of local bus services.
“Most people accept you shouldn’t have huge subsidies for bus services but, equally, there has to be a way if you are going out on a Saturday night to be able to get home,” she explained.
“This is a perennial problem and in a big rural area like Wiltshire we have to get public transport sorted out. There is some good innovation, ideas coming out from my conversations.”
She continued: “We were talking to people today about the assisted suicide debate, something I find very difficult. I see the logic but equally I think there are problems with coercion. I have many constituents who are absolutely opposed to any change in the law.”
“Somebody suggested I go and have a chat with the Prospect Hospice to see what they might think because they are involved in a wonderful way in people’s final days. It was a great suggestion.”
Then she added: “The emphasis has been on the NHS, the minor injuries problem (as at Marlborough’s Savernake Hospital). The lack of health care comes through again and again. This morning we went over to Malmesbury to look at their primary care centre which could be a template particularly for Devizes.”
She had deliberately tried to discover the state of the economy by holding her sessions in independent hotels and coffee bars, ignoring controversial chains such as Costa and Caffe Nero.
“Business is quite good,” she revealed. “Businesses are reporting they have had a good summer, tourism numbers have been up in some of the hotels. It has been a decent economic August.”
“It is different across the country. There is a sense that some parts of the country are doing better than others. Actually I’m interested in the business environment and another good reason for doing this tour is to get out and chat to as many local businesses as possible.”
“So it has been very productive. We shall do it again.”
So what about that Duchess of Cambridge goof when she took part in a Question Time debate at the Marlborough College Summer School last month?
“We had had a chat as a panel, very light-hearted and ahead of time, about the Olympics and the young royals, about how radiant the Duchess of Cambridge was looking,” recalled Mrs Perry.
“And I couldn’t think of anything nicer than that wonderful young couple be blessed with a new addition. It was said in a very light-hearted moment at a very, very good-humoured event.”
“As to media reaction to that, no-one got in touch and said it was appalling or unnecessary. It was just one of those light-hearted things. It just goes to show that people want their politicians to talk like real people. Sometimes they don’t.”
Her other consternation, the employment tribunal hearing at Bristol next week over the wrongful dismissal claim of Mrs Nurick, has been “postponed”, she revealed.
“I’m afraid I can’t comment on that as it is a legal matter but one that is of great regret to me because it is very difficult when you work with somebody whom you like and respect.”
Claims that she is under pressure to settle the affair privately because of the potential bad publicity were adamantly dismissed.
"Oh, it’s in the public domain”, she answered. “It’s been in the national and local press. I think most people understand that it is a private employment dispute and it is always unfortunate when things like that can’t be resolved without getting into the legal domain. It is what it is.”
Marlborough people are being asked to get their walking boots on when the town plays host to the Prospect Hospice Starlight Hike on Saturday, September 15.
Last year’s event raised £10,000 for the Hospice and this year, in order to grow the event even further, fundraisers at the hospice have opened the event up to men and women acknowledging that men are also looking for a challenge in support of Prospect Hospice.
Becky Gammon, the event organiser, explained: “We’ve renamed this event the Starlight Hike to reflect the fact that the event is very different to the Swindon Starlight Walk. Whilst the Swindon event takes place mainly on well-lit roads through the town, the Marlborough Hike goes along byways and footpaths in the countryside.
“There are a few slopes to climb, a couple of muddy tracks, and of course the whole thing takes place at night, which means you could find yourself walking through the Wiltshire countryside at night. We make sure that the whole walk is well-signposted and marshalled, of course, so that people can just enjoy themselves, but the 15km hike is still pretty demanding.
|Mayor Edwina issues her own the Starlight Hike appeal
Marlborough’s Mayor, Councillor Edwin Fogg, has given her personal support to the Starlight Hike.
“When I became Mayor I announced that I was going to revive the traditional Beating of the Bounds walk with a view of raising money for my chosen charity, the Prospect Hospice,” she told Marlborough News Online.
“Since then the Hospice have asked me to be an ambassador for their Starlight Hike. I felt that it would be a bridge too far to canvass support for another long walk for the same cause so soon after this one, especially as it was likely to involve participation of the same constituency of people.
“Therefore, I am appealing to people to support this worthiest of causes by walking or sponsoring the hikers who have signed up.
“We also recognised that it’s an event men might enjoy too, so we’ve decided, a first for our Starlight events, to open registrations to everyone. We’re hoping that ladies who took part last year might like to invite their male family members and friends along this time too.
“It would also be great to see local businesses getting involved, by entering office or workplace teams. Just give us a call and we can get you registered.”
The event is supported by St John’s School, where the 15k route starts and ends, and by caterers Pabulum, who will be supplying refreshments at the end of the walk. The Hike is also supported by Aspire Signs and Graphics who provided banners and graphics for the event.
A map and details of the route are available on Prospect’s website where you can also register for £15 per person, which includes your red, white and blue themed event t-shirt.
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net
The prize-winning Aldbourne Band treated supporters to a great Proms concert in St Michael’s, Aldbourne, on Bank Holiday Monday, and despite the rain raised more than £1,500.
The event is the band’s main fund raiser of the year, the proceeds coming from a huge home-made tea and cake stand as well as a raffle table with prizes provided by local businesses.
The £100 cash first prize from West Street Motors was won by Thomas Bilkey, much to his delight of his father, Paul, who plays soprano sax in the band and had bought his son the ticket.
Chairman James Sheppard told Marlborough News Online: “We are really pleased that so many local businesses and people support us. The Aldbourne Band was established over 150 years ago and the fact that it is still in existence and thriving is fantastic.
“We have a training band, a great supporters group with The Friends, charity status and competing at championship level against bands which have major sponsorship support, shows what can be done with commitment, enthusiasm and belief.”
The band can be heard on Sunday September 2 at the Pond in Aldbourne where it will be playing at the carnival church service starting at 6pm. This will then be followed by their last Pond Concert of the year during which the lowering of the carnival flags will take place.
Police do have the power to remove travellers or anyone else who puts up camp on private land, as was the case of travellers’ caravans that invaded the playing field at Marlborough College.
Inquiries by Marlborough News Online have revealed that Wiltshire officers used Section 61 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act when negotiating with the travellers.
“This gives the police powers to evict people from unauthorised encampments,” explained a police spokesman.
“We received a 999 call shortly before 17.00hrs on August 16th to reports of a number of caravans making their way to Marlborough. We were later informed they had converged on a private field belonging to Marlborough College.”
“We were also contacted by the college. Officers spoke to the travellers who stated it was their intention to move on Sunday. Wiltshire Police did not need to issue a Section 61 notice as the travellers left the site on Sunday morning.”
He added: “Wiltshire Police escorted the convoy when they left until they reached the Hants border -- north of Fordingbridge. There is nothing on the logs to indicate whether or not we informed any other police forces.”
Marlborough police had earlier intimated that they could not act against the travellers because they were on private land.
Subsequently, police received a call at 23.20 on August 18 to a report that two vehicles and a caravan were stationed at the green on Marlborough Common, which is public property under the jurisdiction of Marlborough Town Council.
The same spokesman said: “Officers arrived at the scene at 23.43hrs and were told that the travellers would be leaving in the morning along with those at Marlborough College.”
Officers returned at 10.30am on August 19 and the three vehicles had left the common.”
Marlborough town councillor Val Compton, who made the original call to Marlborough Police concerning travellers on the Common, said: “I’m quite surprised that Wiltshire Police do not appear to know what powers they have, nor what time they received calls, or even when their officers attended.”
“As I attended the Common on Saturday 18th myself in the early evening – when the sun was still shining, a party in full swing at the Rugby Club and two officers on duty at the gate opposite....it’s something of a worry.”
“The first phone call I received for assistance was afternoon, probably before 5pm. And I am quite sure my subsequent call was logged to the police via the 101 number shortly after – even if they were very unsure where Marlborough Common actually was.”
“I am not filled with confidence – we need the police to give us clear indications of what we can do to help ourselves and what they can do to assist us.”
As a parliamentary candidate, social enterprise manager and director, and as a teacher, Fiona Hornby is used to the controversy that surrounds social issues. After caring for her own mother for over ten years, she was determined to end the confusions and to help others deal with the difficulties of looking after parents in their old age.
So she’s set up MyParentCare Limited and her website www.myparentcare.org.uk has just gone live. It aims to provide a guide to the nation’s care home industry and a forum for views and ideas about how to improve it – as well as improve the more general lot of the elderly.
She’s been working hard in her home near Pewsey collecting together some forty thousand pieces of information about the care of the elderly.
The site lists care homes, care providers, nursing homes and local authorities. It is a work in progress – for instance at the moment it only carries information about care homes in England. Those in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will follow as soon as possible.
Fiona decided to start the website when a close friend of hers “fell apart” during the interminable and unsatisfactory process of getting one of her parents into care – a need which demanded urgent action but “she got lost amidst the rules”.
Too often as a local politician she has heard people saying “I don’t want my parent to go into a home. But I don’t know what to do about it. This site will tell you what you can do about it.”
The site is not just for those who already need care now: “If your parents are fifty-to-sixty now, if they do things now, they’ll have a much happier old age.” Fiona hopes to get enough registered users to generate a wealth of ideas and answers to those very frequently asked questions.
She wants the site to be both informative and campaigning. She cites “The sorry state of the care home industry…the best possible services are not being provided.” And she says “We have to do something about standards.”
“If we don’t start making a fuss, it’s never going to change. They’re mostly businesses, they’re going to do the cheapest option.”
She wants people to use the site to share their experiences. But all comments will be anonymous with a user name: “It’s really important that people talk honestly and anonymously – telling us the good and the bad.” (Legally she has to know who’s behind the user names.)
Fiona wants the site to engage with issues of the day. She may soon be campaigning on how the NHS changes will affect the care of the elderly, or about the government’s attitude (which may or may not be changing) to the Dilnot report on how care will be funded.
Up to her launch day, no one at NHS Wilthsire could tell her who will make the decisions about the need for nursing care after the Primary Care Trust is abolished in April 2013.
Five longboarders who rode from London to Cardiff in a bid to raise £10,000 for charity have paid tribute to the hospitality of the people of Marlborough – one of their official staging posts.
The sportsmen were riding longboards – which are skateboards with a longer deck and bigger wheels, and are designed for transport, as opposed to their shorter stunt-oriented cousins – along the A4 in a gruelling 176-mile challenge made tougher by the fact that they carried all their kit on their backs.
Setting off from London last Friday, Steve Matthews, Matthew Hernon, Will Aldington, Anthony Pierce and James Jones finally arrived in Cardiff on Monday (August 20).
And during their scheduled overnight stop in Marlborough they took time to visit the hipped mini ramp, wave to kicker, quarterpipes, tombstone, jumpbox and rollover of the town's skate park – designed by professional skateboarder Mike Foreman and considered to be one of the best in the UK.
Steve told Marlborough News Online this week: “We camped at Savernake, which was lovely, and the following morning we were greeted by some really nice people in the town, including a group of ladies who bought us bacon rolls from the Food Gallery.
“Marlborough is a great town and the people were very hospitable, I'm glad we chose to stop here. We were even given £40 in cash from lots of random passers by.”
“We completed the 176 miles in four days, finally reaching the millennium stadium at 6.30pm on Monday evening
“We're all covered in blisters and ache like you wouldn't believe. There are some big uphills past Marlborough, although I did reach 36mph a few miles out on a massive downhill section, a new personal best.
“The fundraising has nearly reached £5,000, which is amazing, and we were even mentioned on the Chris Evans' breakfast show on Radio 2 yesterday.
“Turns out we're the first longboarders to ever do the London to Cardiff: the fulfilment far outweighs the pain!”
Anyone who wants to add to the team's tally for Macmillan Cancer Support can donate at www.justgiving.com/London-Cardiff-Longboard
A solution to the mystery of the missing names of local heroes from two world wars on Marlborough’s war memorials is being promoted by former mayor Councillor Andrew Ross, who has spent years delving into the subject.
Since it is virtually impossible to amend or add to the names on the town’s numerous memorials – some believed to have dubious connections with Marlborough – he suggests the creation of a brand new memorial.
This could take the form of a Book of Remembrance on show at Marlborough Town Hall or a new war memorial painted panel of names that could go on show to the public.
“There is the possibility we could do both,” Councillor Ross, who chairs the council’s finance and policy committee, told Marlborough News Online. “And that ought to satisfy everyone.”
The issue has arisen following a letter to the council last month from an unidentified woman who asked for her late uncle’s name to be added to the war memorial at the A346/Barn Street roundabout. “I am grateful for anything that can be done so that his sacrifice is not forgotten,” she wrote.
But there are in fact war memorials too in three local churches, as well as at Marlborough College, and the names on them do not match and some, according to Councillor Ross, who has studied the subject, are possibly suspect as to their direct association with Marlborough.
This spurred the Mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, to suggest at the last council meeting that the council should adopt proposals made by the War Memorials Trust, though this course might involve expensive research.
Councillor Ross’s own investigation has discovered a total of 104 names. “And I believe I have identified 99 of them,” he said. “But the names are quite a mystery, some appearing to have obscure Marlborough links while others have excellent Marlborough connections.”
“Without seeing their war records or past council minutes it is impossible to know why some men are included and others are not.”
He has, for example, one amazing example of a Marlborough soldier not listed on the roundabout memorial – Private George Perritt, of Barn Street, who served in the Wiltshire Yeomanry and Sixth Wiltshire Regiment, who was killed in action in March, 1918, who listed on the French war memorial in Arras but not in Marlborough.
The new defunct Marlborough Times newspaper revealed a further six men, two from Manton together with a Marlborough College schoolmaster, Alfred Millard, who are not listed on the borough’s war memorial.
And the memorials in the churches of St Mary’s and St Peter’s provide 15 other names, plus a brass plaque in St Mary’s showing another seven names displayed at St Katherine’s, Cadley, as well as one from Ogbourne St Andrew.
His further research of 99 known names show that 78 were killed in action or died from their wounds, 16 died from illness, two were blown up, two sailors went down with their ships and one soldier was shot accidentally.
One of the sailors who died on the battleship HMS Bulwark was 16-year-old Arthur Northcott, whose family lived in St Martins, Marlborough. “I believe he was the youngest men named on our war memorial,” said Councillor Ross.
“The whole subject is to be debated at next month’s meeting of the Finance and Policy Committee and, I hope, some agreement reached about creating a Book of Remembrance and possibly a war memorial plaque in the town hall where it can be seen by everyone.”
They look charming, even a bit ethereal, as they float away with their glowing flames. Chinese lanterns are often a popular feature at a summer party – but they can kill livestock and horses and they can start fires.
Made of treated paper with a wire or bamboo frame, Chinese lanterns float off and land anywhere the wind takes them – often with their candles or solid fuel burners still alight. That is a very bad idea in an area of arable farms and thatched cottages.
James Sheppard, who farms just outside Marlborough, has very definite views on them: “They’re a little bonfire floating out into the countryside. What sensible person is going to do that?”
This week six fell on one of his fields of oilseed rape stubble that was due for ploughing. A couple of fields away there were sheep grazing. A seventh lantern fell into a field of recently cut straw. It was the only time this summer that James was relieved the straw had been soaked by rain.
Chinese lanterns with rigid wire frames can still be bought. The wire in these frames is especially lethal for animals – in the wild or on farms. Biodegradable lanterns are now widely sold. Their bamboo rings are said to burn up before they land.
However the ones that landed on James Sheppard’s fields had their bamboo rings intact. When these are taken by machines into bales of straw or hay, they break leaving terribly sharp splintered ends. These can end up lacerating the mouths or piercing the stomachs of cattle and sheep.
James Sheppard knows what damage these lanterns can do. He watched a cow dying in pain having swallowed parts of a lantern. She had to be put out of her misery.
Two years ago, the dangers Chinese lanterns pose in the countryside were raised at prime minister’s questions by a Conservative MP. But it seems to be one of those issues which would get the newspapers shouting ‘killjoys’ at politicians – so nothing has been done to control them.
James Sheppard would like Wiltshire to become a Chinese lantern free county: “Would you want to be responsible for the death of an animal?” And even if they are not seen to kill, they provide a litter nuisance that has to be cleared up: “It’s like throwing litter – long range litter. It’s such a pointless thing to do.”
If no politician – national or local – is going to be sensible enough to ban these lanterns or at least to control what they are made of, James has another idea. Each lantern should have to carry a small flame resistant tag with the sender’s phone number on it. Then farmers could at least contact the people who set them on their way and shame them into coming to their farms to pick up the litter.
A public “drop in” session is to be held at Marlborough Town Hall next month to give residents and businesses in Kennet Place details of the £233,000 flood protection scheme due to go ahead later this year.
The Environment Agency, Wiltshire Council and Marlborough Town Council have joined forces in the project following the 2003 disaster when unprecedented rain caused the river Kennet to overtop its banks.
Representatives of the agency and the two councils, who have signed a partnership agreement, will be on hand in the Assembly Room between 4 and 8pm on September 12 to share details of the scheme, which will directly affect four houses and five businesses in Kennet Place.
But there is some concern about the project, which involves building a wall on the bank of the Kennet, to protect hidden power lines running close to the river.
“I am hugely apprehensive about the visual impact of this wall going up,” newly-co-opted town councillor Val Compton, who lives in one of the properties, told Marlborough News Online.
“But it would be stupid to argue against such protection and we may well be thanking our lucky stars for it in the coming years. I just love the outlook and the river... so feeling a bit sad that it’s all change.
“However, we’ll get a little wildlife island opposite me and some say in the planting up in front of wall. With the water noise changing when the fish pass goes in, it will seem quite different in Kennet Place.
“Again, I totally support the idea because needs of wildlife, which is under pressure, has to take precedence over history. What we have in this beautiful chalk stream that runs through Marlborough is very precious.”
Wiltshire Council has contributed £41,000 to the project, Marlborough Town Council £36,000, the Environment Agency footing the remainder.
Mark Heelis, the agency’s flood risk advisor, said: “We are thrilled that this scheme has gained support from both Wiltshire Council and Marlborough Town Council. We could not have done it without their support.
“We are pleased to be able to deliver a long-lasting flood defence at Kennet Place, which will greatly reduce the flood risk to homes and businesses and enhance the local environment.”
Derek Wolfe, Marlborough’s town clerk, pointed out: "The council is very pleased to see this much-needed scheme finally coming to fruition. Once completed, the flood defences will enhance the lives of those members of our local community living and working in the vicinity of Kennet Place, by greatly reducing the risk of flooding and the devastation it can cause."
And Councillor Richard Pitts, who chairs the town council’s Amenities and Open Spaces Committee, added: "I would like to congratulate Mark Heelis on his fantastic work in seeing this project to this point.
“I am delighted that we have been able to go forward with the project, knowing that everyone has done their best to provide a viable solution for the flooding issues of Kennet Place.
“Although the majority of people do not see this as a real issue, when abstraction of Kennet water for Swindon comes to an end we can expect to see much higher river levels with a greater potential for flooding.
“This new stable door will keep the white horses of a raging Kennet firmly where they should be in the river -- long before they have thought about bolting up Kennet Place."
One retired farmer who’s now eighty, called this year’s grain harvest in the Marlborough area ‘the weirdest ever’. His son was restrained enough to talk of ‘pretty exceptional times’. A farmer to the east of Marlborough called the harvest ‘simply terrible’. Another farmer described it as a costly ‘stop-go’ harvest.
To find out what’s gone wrong, I visited two very different farms: a farmer at Wilton, David Lemon, and a farmer near Mildenhall, James Sheppard. And I discovered that it’s not just their own crops that are worrying farmers – in a globalised market for grain, a perfect storm has hit them and may well soon hit the rest of us too in the stark form of rising food prices.
The United States has suffered a terrible drought and much of the corn has been lost. It’s been too hot and too dry in Russia and parts of eastern Europe. And it was so cold in France and Germany that their oilseed rape crop was “frosted out in many areas – completely killed off.” So they planted abnormally large areas of spring barley instead which made the worldwide price of barley plummet.
In Britain it’s been – as if we didn’t know it – wet. But more importantly it was wet and sunless when the crops, especially the wheat crops, were trying to flower. That meant grains didn’t develop. And it was so wet that some farms were hit by a fungus that prevents proper development of the grain.
David Lemon farms over 3,000 arable acres in the Hungerford, Wilton, Easton Royal area – about a quarter of that is the family farm, the rest is managed land. As David explained, there are two parts to this story. First the dull and wet May and June, and then the delayed and interrupted harvest.
It’s the worst harvest he’s ever seen. In some fields it’s just been too wet for heavy combines to work without sinking up to their very expensive axles.
He has a sophisticated and efficient plant to clean and dry the grain and his two enormous combine harvesters allow him to make the most of the few dry days.
The costs of the harvest are rising all the time. When David came back to Wilton in 2003 diesel was seventeen pence a litre, it’s now sixty-eight pence and he’ll be using 17,000 litres in a fortnight in tractors, combines and the drying units.
His winter barley was fine. But the spring barley had about ten per cent of ‘tails’ – that’s grain that hasn’t developed or has shrivelled and is not even fit to feed to cattle. His wheat has about five per cent of ‘tails’. He’s never seen anything like that before.
Fortunately, the farm has recently installed a biomass plant to heat six houses. So he will at least be able to burn the ‘tails’ with some positive output. But he would, of course, rather it was malting and bread quality.
Last year’s harvest was great. But the yields David is getting this summer look grim. Barley: 9.25 tonnes per hectare last year and 6.5 tonnes this year. Wheat: 11.5 tonnes per hectare last year and 7.5 this year. The result of all this? “Bread is going to be more expensive. So is milk and meat.”
David can store six thousand tonnes of grain – but he says he’s going to be looking at some empty bins. However, as he took me round some of the fields, he was still able to assure me that “It’s a privilege to farm in this amazing countryside. As farmers you’re very lucky to be able to do what you love doing.” So saying, a very dark, almost black fox ran out of the last bit of standing wheat in the field.
I was to meet James Sheppard at his down land farm near Mildenhall at eight in the evening. He’s the Deputy Chairman of the Wiltshire National Farmers’ Union and Chair of the Marlborough branch. His is a family farm of 450 acres - all arable.
It was dusk and his day was not yet over. So the only way I was going to get to talk to him was to ride in the tractor cab as he rolled in a new sowing of oilseed rape. The ground is so soaked that he had to finish in case it rained again in the night preventing him getting back onto the field next day.
He’s never known a harvest like it and he too blames the wet and dull months: “What we need in June and July is sunshine. We didn’t realise how bad it was. It was the critical time for the wheat to flower – the process went on too long leaving no energy for the plants to create much flower.” And few flowers means poor ears of grain.
Then there were some fungus outbreaks. This fungus covers the ears as they form and prevents them getting the light they need for photosynthesis. “No one can cope with a whole string of exceptional circumstances.”
His oilseed rape has not yielded well. His winter barley has a low bushel weight. And the wheat yield is well down: "Last year my loaded trailer held ten tons of wheat, this year the same loaded trailer only weighs about seven and a half tons as the wheat has a lower bushel weight. The lack of sunshine and continual rain was the the main reason for the lower yields."
One of the great dangers of a poor harvest is that farmers have, as usual, had to sell crops ahead of harvest. When they do not harvest the contracted quantity or quality of grain, they have to buy in expensively to fulfil the contract.
He’s quite sanguine about this year’s exceptional weather: “You can’t farm for last year. Last year was very dry. You do the same as you do and keep growing the same crops and hope for the weather to be on your side.
James believes that eighty per cent of a crop’s yield is down to the weather. “We’ve great technology. But we’re continually battling the elements.”
Farmers cannot battle international market prices and commodity brokers who speculate on those prices: “The trouble with commodity brokers is that they’re one of the type of people if they see a margin they’ll buy and in doing so, put the price up. That leads to the position where people who aren’t farming make more money than the farmers.”
As I left him and the barn owl that was out and about, he was continuing rolling in the seed under the tractor’s impressive array of lights.
Nationally the harvest story may not be quite so bleak. The south west of England did have more than its fair share of the wet and sunless spring and summer weather. Up to Tuesday (August 21) it was reckoned that forty per cent of Great Britain’s harvest was in. But we will not know till the end of the second week in September – even later if the rains return in force – what the national yield figures are.
From the NFU’s headquarters, an advisor on combinable crops told me he had just spoken to an arable farmer in the north east of England who had not even started his harvest. His crops needed three days of sun to ripen and probably about five more dry days to be fit to harvest.
But he cautioned against being too gloomy too soon. He did say that on the evidence so far yields in the drier east of the country were holding up. Cold comfort for farmers in the Marlborough area.
And someone in the Bank of England is working out what this harvest and the wider world’s harvest will mean for the UK’s inflation – that and the price of oil, natural gas, electricity, train fares…. It may be a long winter of discontent over rising prices.
[Click on pictures to enlarge or for slideshow.]
Next month’s meeting of the Marlborough Area Board will showcase the support that is available for the area’s voluntary and community groups. The meeting will be preceded by a “market place” of stalls and displays from local groups.
Meeting in Marlborough’s Town Hall on Tuesday, September 25, the board’s normal business will be compressed to allow representatives of support organisations to explain how they can help local groups.
The Town Hall will be open from six o’clock to give people time to visit the “market place” before the meeting begins at seven o’clock.
Among those taking part in this special edition of the Area Board's series of bi-monthly meetings will be:
• Sandie Lewis from Wiltshire Council’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Support Unit.
• Simone Lord from GROW and Wiltshire Volunteer Centre. GROW is funded by the Council for the benefit of Wiltshire communities.
• Ellie Townsend from the Spice Time Credits Initiative will talk about recruiting and rewarding new volunteers.
• Christine Alexander who is the Aster Communities Development Facilitator.
• Emma Cooper of Wiltshire Council’s VCS Support Unit will talk about tackling financial exclusion.
• Sarah Cosentino who works for Wiltshire Council’s Digital Literacy scheme will explain how volunteer Digital Literacy Champions can be recruited.
• And Andrew Jack, the Marlborough Area Board manager will spell out how groups can apply for Community Area Grants.
The meeting will also hear from two Wiltshire Council representatives: Cabinet Member Councillor Lionel Grundy on the success of recruiting volunteers to help at Wiltshire’s libraries. And Laurie Bell, the service director for communications, will talk on maintaining the legacy of London 2012.
There has been some criticism locally of the poor response in the area to the recent Join in Local Sport campaign. So this will be a chance to question the council on its plans for the future of development of sports opportunities for the area.
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