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BREXIT: there are issues specific to people in our area that will have to be addressed - and that process…

19-11-2017 has steered clear of the Brexit debate - a largely national and for now, some would say, even a Westminster and Whitehall matter.   We are not going to make a habit of reporting on Brexit pros and process or cons and constraints.But we will keep a watch out for...

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Great Bedwyn: another community in need of affordable homes - but what about its social housing?


  The only additional homes to be built in Great Bedwyn ought to be "small 'affordable' ones".

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Marlborough St Mary's Primary School and the new crossing point over George Lane: "An accident waiting to happen"


  The opening of Marlborough St Mary's Primary school has - as was expected -  brought changed patterns of movement as parents and children walk to school.

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Bikes stolen from a shed in Wootton Rivers - Police appeal for information


Police are appealing for information following a burglary in Wootton Rivers, near Marlborough which took plae between 12 and 13 September.  Several items were stolen including:  X1 Fondriest bike X1 Colnago road bike Raleigh pedal bike Two sets of bike wheels Garmin 810 In addition several items of bike equipment including a tyre pump and bike lock were...

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Marlborough Hockey Club achieve Clubmark accreditation

16-11-2017 Sarah Kendall

With England Hockey Clubfirst accreditation held since 2006, Marlborough Hockey Club are now one of the first clubs in the west of England to have been awarded England Hockey’s Clubmark accreditation.

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Hockey: Marlborough Ladies First team have an important win - but tables are turned for the Seconds as goals…

16-11-2017 Vicky Moxham

  City of Bath Ladies Firsts       0  Marlborough Ladies Firsts       4       Following two draws in the last two games, Marlborough travelled to bottom of the league City of Bath looking for three points.   A minute of silence for the fallen was observed and then it was time for Marlborough to get...

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Handyperson - Marlborough College


  Handyperson     A vacancy has arisen for a Handyperson to work within Turner House (a boys’ boarding house).   You should enjoy and have a good knowledge of DIY and be able to undertake a range of general maintenance tasks including repairs and painting. Some heavy-duty cleaning tasks may also be required.  Relevant...

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Domestic Cleaner & Facilities Support - Marlborough College


  Domestic Cleaner & Facilities Support     We are looking for a reliable and enthusiastic person to join our team in General Services.  Reporting to the Domestic Services Manager, you will provide roaming assistance (as required for all areas) including: cleaning services around the College campus as well as driving for deliveries and...

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Gardener (Full Time) - Sheepdrove Organic Farm & Eco Conference Centre


  Gardener (Full Time)   Sheepdrove Organic Farm & Eco Conference Centre     Sheepdrove is a 2,500 acre working organic farm based in Lambourn.  It is home to our award winning Eco Conference Centre, guest accommodation and woodland burial site and Education Centre. The farm produces pasture-fed organic meat for the family Butcher’s shop in London and...

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Children and Families’ Worker - St Mary’s Church, Marlborough


  Children and Families’ Worker   St Mary’s Church, Marlborough      We are looking for someone who will help develop the work being done amongst children, families and young people in our parish, and who will contribute to our main aim “to make Jesus known” amongst the people of Marlborough.  Some experience in working...

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Mint Velvet women’s wear chain to open in Marlborough High Street

Number Ten, the High Street, has been let to the up-and-coming women’s wear chain Mint Velvet. Founded in October 2009, Mint Velvet already has a presence in Newbury, Cheltenham and Reading.

With over eighty concessions within major stores and nine stand-alone shops, Mint Velvet has now made the expansion of its stand-alone shops the main focus of its development and plans to open between twenty and thirty more shops by 2015.

Number Ten The High StreetNumber Ten The High StreetNumber Ten was formerly the Age of Elegance store, but has been empty since early 2008. It is a Grade II listed building and has undergone extensive restoration and redecoration.

A planning application for change of use from retail so the owner could let the ground floor as a café was turned down by Kennet Council in 2009. And last year the retailer Huttons pulled out of lettings deal at the last moment.

Mint Velvet’s website marks the Marlborough shop as “Opening soon” – watch this space.

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Marlborough students’ summer visit to Gunjur in The Gambia

Front row left to right as we look at it are Alexandra Vyvyan. Rosie Carter (Leader) James Moran (Asst Leader),  Back Row left to right are Jessica Shields, Eleanor Veysey-Thompson, Harriet Compton (Asst Leader), Georgina Thatcher, Samantha Waddell, Claire Gent and Hannah SewardFront row left to right as we look at it are Alexandra Vyvyan. Rosie Carter (Leader) James Moran (Asst Leader), Back Row left to right are Jessica Shields, Eleanor Veysey-Thompson, Harriet Compton (Asst Leader), Georgina Thatcher, Samantha Waddell, Claire Gent and Hannah SewardTen students from St John’s School and Marlborough College have left with their leaders Rosie Carter, Harriet Compton and James Moran for a four week visit to Marlborough’s Link Community of Gunjur, The Gambia.  They are the sixteenth group to make the summer visit and work in Gunjur since the first group went in 1985 led by the then Mayor Nick Fogg.

During their time in Gunjur this group will be living with local families, experiencing daily life in the village, learning about the country’s very different culture and Islamic faith - and developing lasting friendships.

Just as importantly, they will be working with members of the community to construct an extension to the central market.  This market, in many ways similar to the new Sunday market in Marlborough, is in the centre of the village and is a vital source of income for the women of Gunjur who sell their produce vegetables, meat and locally caught fish.  This money is used to support their families and educate their children.

The group aged between sixteen and eighteen years old are entirely self-funded and have raised £4,000 towards the materials for building the extension to the market.

They will be giving a presentation of their time in Gunjur on Monday, August 20 at 7.30 pm in Marlborough Town Hall.  Admission free, but there will be a retiring collection.

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Barbury’s Nigel Bunter prepares a pre-Olympic equestrian extravaganza

The marquees are up, the grass is looking amazing and the forecast is pretty good. Barbury’s eighth annual International Horse Trials are nearly ready for the off.

This year’s trials are going to be unique purely because they are so near in time and place to the London Olympic Games’ equestrian events at Greenwich. Spread out across the green downs, Barbury’s cross country course provides spectators with amazing views of the riders’ progress. Nigel Bunter checks Barbury's cross country courseNigel Bunter checks Barbury's cross country course

Nigel Bunter says the course is “Quite hilly – as is the Greenwich course – and has quite a lot of tight turns – as the Greenwich course has.” And this certainly accounts in part for the spectacular number of Olympic hopefuls who’ve entered for the trials.

They’re expecting eight hundred horses over the four day event (Thursday, June 28 to Sunday, July 1).  But all eyes will be on the Olympic riders and horses taking advantage of Barbury as a last run out before the Games start.

The British team and their horses will be there. There’ll be twelve riders from the United States – all vying for places in the final five-strong team which will be announced shortly after Barbury ends. Also taking part will be Olympic riders from Brazil, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

The British team – Kristina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, Piggy French, Mary King and Zara Phillips – may not take their Olympic mounts over the cross country course, but will certainly take advantage of the dressage and show jumping stages.

Nigel Bunter thinks they’ll wait and see what the weather’s like and how their horses are taking to the events, but one thing he can “almost guarantee” is the state of the ground. Barbury’s chalk sucks down any rain and the grass remains wonderfully springy.

This year the cross country course designer, Captain Mark Phillips, has made some alterations to the course with its inch tight approaches and landings. But no one’s saying much about the twenty-seven obstacles – even if they’ve ridden Barbury before, there needs to be some surprises when the riders first walk the course.

Certainly the Olympic cast list is having an effect on ticket sales. Advance sales for the Saturday and Sunday are up seventy per cent on last year. Nigel Bunter is delighted with the number of equestrian entries and with the ticket sales.

The trials’ ‘village’ is impressive – catering for not only for horses and riders but for the Wiltshire Show which runs in parallel with the trials on the Saturday and Sunday. The ‘village’ includes one hundred and five shops, a huge area of canvas stabling, fifteen electricity generators, three vast marquees - one of which will house the Festival of Food.

New to the Show this year, this marquee holds a hundred seat auditorium where a range of top chefs will show visitors how it’s really done. They’ll be led by Brian Turner of Ready Steady Cook fame. Also there will be a number of local food producers showing their best.

Another of the large marquees will be home to the whole event’s title sponsor: St James’s Place Wealth Management who are based in Cirencester.

Nigel Bunter makes a point of using local firms and employing local people for the trials and the show. The marquees are provided by Covered Occasions of Winterbourne Monkton and one of the hospitality marquees is being catered by Moran’s Catering of Marlborough.

On Saturday the Wiltshire Show features a blast from the 1980s – an It’s a Knock Out contest in aid of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance with teams from fifteen companies – most of them local. Then on Sunday the Show has the more traditional displays of hounds, pedigree livestock and birds of prey. And the Army will be there with an assault course of obstacles to test out some humans rather than horses.

It will certainly be the equestrian events as they reach their climax on the Saturday and Sunday that draw in the crowds. But if you’re there on Friday you can watch Olympic horses and riders going through the test that’ll face them at Greenwich. Add in the thrilling show jumping and cross country eventing stages on the Saturday and Sunday, and who really needs Olympic tickets anyway?

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Community choir hits a new high note with a Jazz Festival invite

Mayor Edwina Fogg presents the Waits Badge to the choirMayor Edwina Fogg presents the Waits Badge to the choirMarlborough’s Community Choir, launched 18 months ago on an ad hoc basis that anyone can join in at any time, has achieved a new distinction – being invited to take part in the Jazz Service at St Mary’s Church, Marlborough, on July 15.

The invitation is the highlight of a hectic summer during which the choir has also been invited to give a concert at Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival next year.

“We discovered them too late for the choir to have a spot of their own in this year’s festival,” said Nick Fogg, the Jazz Festival founder and consultant. “So we asked them to sing at our Jazz Service.”

And the choir, which can attract as many as 50 people attending impromptu sessions at St Peter’s Church, has now chosen to sing a Ukrainian hymn, Tibie Pieom, at the Jazz Service.

“It is a gospel version of Amazing Grace and we will sing it a gospel finale at the church along with audience participation,” said choir leader Vanessa Lafaye, a writer and photographer originally from Florida.

“It’s been quite a summer so far for the choir. We’ve sung in baking sunshine in the High Street when the Olympic torch arrived in the town, in the damp town hall for the relocated diamond jubilee picnic, and in pelting rain for the Manton Festival.

“Along the way we’ve acquired an honour from Edwina Fogg, Marlborough’s jubilee mayor, in the form of a Waits Badge, which is historically awarded to minstrels who serve a particular locality.”

She added: “The choir was thrilled to receive the award and for that to be followed by an invitation to take part in the Jazz Service. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to contribute to so many important occasions in the town.”

George Haslam, Joanna Peskett, Kerry and Tom McKenna will be taking part in the International Jazz Festival service aided by hymn singing led by the Jazzports.

It is at St Mary’s church at 10am on July 15.

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St John’s teacher Tom takes on challenge to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats

Tom Nicholls with the bike that he will ride to John O'GroatsTom Nicholls with the bike that he will ride to John O'GroatsIn a bid to raise funding for the new all weather sports pitch at St John’s, Marlborough, assistant head teacher Tom Nicholls will be attempting to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats over nine days next month.

Tom's aim is to cycle 100 miles each day and so raise £5,000 in sponsorship. He will be cycling alone through 16 counties and staying overnight in youth hostels before setting out again at 7.30am each morning.

He has been a PE & psychology teacher at St Johns for 17 years, and has been in regular serious training for several months in order to take on the gruelling challenge.

“I am stunned and so pleased to have had so many sponsors already, and want to sincerely thank everyone who is supporting me,” Tom told Marlborough News Online. He decided to take it on as a way to help the school raise the funds needed to complete the school’s external sports facilities, which have been under development since the new school building opened in December, 2009.

“I have always enjoyed a challenge, and I realised that this would be something I can do that will support the school and at the same time enable me to achieve a personal goal” said Tom.

“The new school is a stunning facility for our students and for so many members of the local community, and completion of the school’s external sports facilities are crucial and are very close to my heart.”

The all weather pitch will be the next phase in construction of the external sports facilities at St John’s, and work will start once sufficient funds have been raised. The current phase, the construction of six tennis courts is almost complete, and provided there are enough dry days to enable the contractors to finish the surface, will be usable before the school’s summer break.

Already more than £1,500 has been raised with donations ranging from £2 to £500, and Tom hopes to meet his target of £5,000 before he sets off in late July. Many of his Sixth Form students and St John’s parents, as well as his friends and family are supporting the ride.

Anyone wanting to sponsor Tom can donate online at: or can donate by mobile phone (to donate £10 text SJTN99 £10 to 70070).

Alternatively, anyone wanting help should contact Kate Hunter at St John’s on 01672 519575 for more information.

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Former mayor David walks his way back into Marlborough’s history

David ChandlerDavid ChandlerHe was born in George Lane, the seventh generation of Chandlers living locally.  And he knows the road takes its name from the now lost George Inn, which stood on the site of the current Catholic church.

There was a ford across the River Kennet where the Bridge Garage now stands and up the Salisbury Road were the Old Forge blacksmith operated near the  ruins of Marlborough Priory which, as a boy, he thought were haunted.

But what do you know about the name of the street where you live and its history, about Marlborough itself and the variation of its name down the centuries, Merleberge, Marlebowwow, Marlebryi, Mierleb, Malburrow among them?

And nothing whatsoever to do with the 17th century Churchillian soldier and statesman.

That’s why former Marlborough mayor David Chandler (pictured) has updated a book his father Jesse (1911—1985), a celebrated saddler who won the Queen’s racing favours, wrote in 1981.

And also because, like his antiquarian grandfather, he is fascinated by the past. “I suppose history is in my genes,” 74-year-old David told me at his home in Alma Place, itself named, of course, after the Crimean War battle of 1854.

So he spent six months research checking records and adding a considerable number of names created by new developments, as well as documenting eight enjoyable walks that will help you understand the history of the town, first referred to in 1086.

What still surprises him is how small the original town, recorded in charter granted by King John in 1204, was, though it was one of the most highly populated in Wiltshire, and how it has twice doubled in size by additions in1901 and again in 1934, the latter date when Manton was joined on.
Jesse Chandler (1911—1985)Jesse Chandler (1911—1985)
You can see the growth yourself from the maps that David has included in his remarkable pocket-size book, which has very much been a labour of love inspired by his family heritage, his father (pictured) in his robes as President of the Society of Master Saddlers.

David’s many discoveries include the fact that there are now only a handful of houses left in Bridewell Street, near the Marlborough College gym, compared with those his father recorded.

“That’s where the borough prison was,” he pointed out. “I didn’t know that as well as having a market and a fair a town also had a prison as part of its charter. There were 15 cells and some 300 prisoners were held there in 1843 after the agricultural riots.”

It is an illuminating example of the mass of information packed into David’s tiny book, my own delight being the discovery that Figgins’ Lane has nothing to do with an expletive used by D H Lawrence.

In 1700 it was known as Figginswell Lane after the name of a local landowner, Figgins’ Lane being a corruption of that, though in earlier 14th century times it was called Dame Isbell’s Lane after a chantry with lands, rents and endowments valued at £8 a year.

“I’ve seen enormous changes myself,” said David, who has twice served on the town council for a total of almost 18 years and he was Mayor of Marlborough in 1970-71.

“For the better? It’s certainly very different but I don’t think it’s for the worse. So many people have come to the town who have shown real interest in it and given so much.”

It is a comment that personifies his own family saga now encapsulated in his self-published book Place Names of Marlborough, price £9.99, and available at the White Horse Bookshop.

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Mayor Edwina goes walkabout to thank the town for its sparkling diamond jubilee support

Mayor Edwina Fogg by the winning window display - the Merchant's HouseMayor Edwina Fogg by the winning window display - the Merchant's HousePraise for Marlborough’s shops and businesses, including the oldest one in its welcome High Street, for their support for the town council’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee has come from Mayor Edwina Fogg.

And she herself has earned admiration for her exhaustive tour of all those involved to say a personal thank you, so much that she is planning to go on regular walkabouts to boost Marlborough.

“The tour took almost four hours,” Edwina told Marlborough News Online.  “Everywhere I visited, all the shops and business in the High Street and the side roads, were pleased to greet me.”

“Shop owners, staff and customers were delighted to receive some recognition of all their efforts to give Marlborough a festive image during the diamond jubilee weekend we staged and beyond.”

“Even people in the street were simply fascinated to meet the Mayor and took a great interest in what the council is doing to boost the town in these difficult times.”

And Councillor Fogg added:  “I am so amazed by the fantastic reception that I am contemplating regular walkabouts.  It’s one wonderful way of keeping in contact and making everyone feel good about themselves -- and the town too.”

That was particularly so at The Merchant’s House, a jewel in the High Street since 1653, which scored a double triumph in the presentation by the Mayor of certificates for winning her best shop window and best floral diamond jubilee displays.

Designer and artist Abi Gibbon, who creates the displays that grace the double-fronted Victorian shop windows of The Merchant’s House, received the certificates from the Mayor.Mayor Edwina Fogg presenting the best shop window certificate to designer Abi GibbonMayor Edwina Fogg presenting the best shop window certificate to designer Abi Gibbon

The Merchant’s House shop-window display has won the Mayor’s Certificate for the best overall display in the town for the diamond jubilee.

The presentation was made by the Mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, to designer and artist, Abi Gibbon who creates the beautiful displays which grace the Victorian double-fronted shop windows of the Merchant’s House.

“ I was flattered to receive the award, but our window displays are a team effort, so I accepted the certificate on behalf of all those involved”,” said mother of four Abi, pictured with the Mayor outside the former home of silk merchant Thomas Bayly.

Sir John Sykes, chairman of its trustees, also offered his congratulations. “We are very lucky to have Abi,” he said.  “The window displays are the first thing visitors see when they enter the house, and reflect the care we take to carry out the refurbishment of the Merchant’s House to the highest standards.”

Altogether some 28 shops, pubs and restaurants received recognition certificates for putting up floral displays to add colour to the High Street in a scheme organised by Marion Dale, secretary of Marlborough’s Chamber of Commerce.

The project was very much a bid to raise interest in Marlborough re-entering the annual Britain in Bloom competition, which it has won once in the past.
Mayor Edwina Fogg with designer Abi Gibbon, Sir John Sykes (2nd right), Clyde Nancarrow (right) and David Sherratt, ceremonial officer (left)Mayor Edwina Fogg with designer Abi Gibbon, Sir John Sykes (2nd right), Clyde Nancarrow (right) and David Sherratt, ceremonial officer (left)But, apart from Waitrose, Marlborough’s major supermarket, the Mayor was disappointed that some national chains, such as WH Smith and Boots, showed little initiative compared with Marlborough’s individually owned shops, which mostly took on a red, white and blue theme.

“There were about five shops that were much more imaginative and made the short list for the best window display,” said the Mayor. “But, in the end, we decided that efforts of The Merchant’s House really excelled and came out top in both categories.

“The effect overall was fantastic. That’s why I went walkabout and said well done to all those who made an effort – and that was very much appreciated.”

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Sunday is Marlborough’s big day as the new community market hits the High Street

Marlborough’s first not-for-profit community market hits the High Street on Sunday (July 1) when more than 20 marquees go up in an enterprise that may herald the regular street markets coming under permanent local control.
It will be a big day for the town as local organisations combine their efforts to fill the gap created when the traditional Farmers’ Market ceased trading last July after 13 years sited in the town hall.
From 11am to 4pm there will be an explosion of delights to eat and enjoy – many not seen before – that will provide a new buzz on a once a month initial basis, as well as creating fun events for children too.
And already the arrival of the community market is being seen as a base for a bid for Marlborough town council to take overall control of the regular weekday markets from Wiltshire Council, together - may be - with local parking too.
“It is going to be a very exciting weekend,” declared Councillor Richard Pitts. “We have 20 companies already signed up to come with their marquees as well as individuals too who are launching new businesses."
“If it all takes off properly – and I’ve no doubt it will get public support – we would then have the vehicle for going ahead with the market full-time. And that would be true localism.”Councillor Richard PittsCouncillor Richard Pitts
He has helped to focus attention on change through Marlborough’s Transition Town group supported by Marlborough Town Council, which is due to make a £3,000 grant to the new Marlborough Communities Market to give the enterprise a head start.
Transition Town has been working since February with Ellie Gill, the Wessex Community Markets organiser, to establish a new market in Marlborough that aims to revive the vital links that previously existed with alternative food networks in the town and its surrounding villages.
And to extend what they provide into new areas too such as Ramsbury Tea, who supply a range of Fairtrade products, as well as those who can offer attractive local arts and crafts to decorate the home.
“I am truly astonished by the high level of products being put forward,” said Ellie. “I always knew that the countryside in Wiltshire hid some talented artisans, food producers and artists as I am a regular customer at farmers’ markets and craft fairs. But to have so many in the immediate vicinity of Marlborough has come as something of a delightful surprise.”
So Sunday’s market, which will see the arrival of a 1934 red Routemaster bus with a kitchen on the lower floor and a small cafe upstairs, will be offering bread, honey, cooked foods and Middle Eastern mezze from Calne.
There will be textiles and sculptures, eggs and preserves, beautiful hand-woven shawls, handmade soaps plus cut flowers, herbs and perennials galore. New businesses have been encouraged to become involved under the market's Table for a Tenner scheme.
“And the reason for calling it a community market is because it will be run as a not-for-profit, social enterprise owned by the people o Marlborough and the surrounding villages, all profits going to benefit them and the community,” said Councillor Pitts.
The possibilities for Marlborough having greater control over its own future are also in the air with town councillors seeking to extend their limited powers under the new Localism legislation.
Councillor Nick Fogg, also a member of Wiltshire Council, has warned that despite attending two briefings on the Localism legislation he is still unsure how it will work, and he has warned the town council to be wary of what demands it makes.
“Wiltshire won’t be keen on a takeover,” he said. “The market is a little earner for them. Unless there is some statutory mean of getting the market permanently transferred to us, then we may be wasting out time attempting to do this.”
But Councillor Bryan Castle pointed out that Wiltshire had some years ago canvassed town councils as to what services they might like to take over in the future.  “And we ticked every box,” he recalled. “So we are on record as saying before that we would like to take over the operation of the Marlborough street market."
“There is no harm in us reiterating now that we would like to do so subject to all the finances and legal matters being agreed.”

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Thames launches £3.45m treatment project to improve the water in your tap

thames-water-logo-cmk.2.280pxthames-water-logo-cmk.2.280pxWork has begun on a £3.45 million Thames Water project to upgrade the treatment processes at the Marlborough sewage works – all part of its Care for the Kennet campaign to improve the quality of water in the River Kennet.

The vital upgrade programme, due to be completed in February, will also make the works more resilient in the event of heavy rain and will allow for future predicted housing  development and population growth in the area.The scheme is part of Thames’ community-based care campaign to protect the environmental health of the river, which is backed by local group Action for the River Kennet (ARK), the Angling Trust, WWF-UK and the water company.

Until the recent rains dramatically changed the landscape, the Kennet was suffering from one of its worst droughts with sections of the river becoming totally dry and fish stocks disappearing.

Richard Lewis, the Thames Water project manager responsible for the scheme, told Marlborough News Online: "Until now our Care for the Kennet campaign has focused on urging people to use tap water wisely: 'the less we use the more there'll be in the river', and all that."

"As well as continuing to be water-wise, we must also recognise that this upgrade is just as important in achieving our aim of enhancing and safeguarding the long-term environmental health of the iconic River Kennet, its fish and all the bugs, birds and other wildlife that call it home."

He added: "Even though the hosepipe ban has been lifted, we would still urge everyone to continue to use water wisely in order to further protect the health of this world-renowned chalk stream."

The project at Marlborough sewage works involves enlarging the site's inlet works, where sewage from local households first enters the works.

Engineers will also add in a high-tech new treatment process, a nitrifying sand filter, in which bacteria grows that converts ammonia in sewage into nitrate, as well as filtering out any solids.

The final part of the upgrade will be building a third new storm tank to act as an additional overflow chamber when heavy rain results in more water entering the works than it can cope with.

A third tank will provide additional capacity, significantly reducing the chances of heavily diluted storm sewage spilling into the river following exceptionally heavy rain on the rare occasions the tanks fill up and overflow.

Geoffrey Findlay, chairman of Action for the River Kennet, has given its backing to the project.

"We, of course, welcome any measure that will improve the state of the River Kennet,” he said. “And  we support Thames Water's campaign to encourage people to use water wisely, while continuing to press all concerned to address the issue of over-abstraction as soon as possible"

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Caffe Nero is “running rings around” the planners – and me too – admits Nick Fogg

Caffe Nero is “running rings around” Wiltshire Council in its fight for planning consent to approve its latest bid to open not one but three new coffee shops in the county.

“I have to say that is what they are doing – and I am one of those they are running rings around,” Councillor Nick Fogg told Marlborough News Online today (Thursday). “I take my share of responsibility for that.”

He is seeking urgent answers to questions to a survey Caffe Nero has commissioned on the “usage levels” of their new coffee shop, opened in Marlborough High Street in March before they applied for planning consent.

And on the economic health too of Marlborough High Street as a shopping centre, an area which has some 20 establishments offering food, who claim they have been badly hit by the arrival of Caffe Nero.

The company is now proposing to open coffee shops in Devizes and in Chippenham, where opposition is mounting to their arrival, as was the case in Marlborough, more than 60 people and the town council objecting vociferously to the new Caffe Nero establisment.

Mr Fogg, who is both a Wiltshire councillor for Marlborough and a member of the town council, called in Caffe Nero’s application for change of use of the former Dash fashion store, which meant it should have been decided at a meeting of Wiltshire’s east area planning committee.

But all that has resulted is delay with planning officer Peter Horton informing Marlborough News Online: “Caffe Nero have commissioned a survey of both usage levels of their Marlborough café and of the health of Marlborough High Street.”

Chamber of Commerce attacks failing Wiltshire planners

Paul Shimell, president of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, has joined the mounting criticism over the Caffe Nero planning application.

He told Marlborough News Online: “The delay, the lack of information to the public in general and the confusion over planning responsibilities is becoming a seriously worrying feature of the way Wiltshire Council is failing us.

“Is it any wonder that Caffe Nero has replied to all objectors that their way of opening a coffee shop and applying for planning consent later works wonders – and that they have been successful in all the appeals they have faced against their actions.

“What is also quite astonishing is that Wiltshire Council is willing to accept the results of a survey commissioned by Caffe Nero without question. It inevitably undermines the authority of the whole planning process, a totally independent survey commissioned by the council being the only logical way to act.”


 “The information should be with us by early next week.  We have taken the decision to delay taking the application to committee until this information is available.”

“If ever the application went to appeal, Caffe Nero would be commissioning this type of work anyway, so we took a decision to accept their offer to provide it up front.”

“The earliest possible committee is July 19, but this is dependent on Caffe Nero getting the survey work to us in good time.”

But Nick Fogg told Marlborough News Online: “My own feeling is that if such a survey was to be conducted it should have been done before Caffe Nero went ahead and opened in Marlborough High Street.”

“If they wanted to do a survey, which is obviously quite interesting to see, but they have gone ahead and opened without planning permission in the first place.”

“And now they are delaying the process of going through the planning process which is not right.”

He added: “Such a survey should in any case be independently commissioned.  If Caffe Nero chose to commission one and pay for it then we must wait to see the details before deciding its worth.”

“I would like to see the terms of the survey to start with.  They should be laid out for everyone to see.  We need to find out the whole point of it.”

“At the moment all we hear is that they are conducting a survey.”

While he supports Charles Howard, chairman of the East area planning committee, he pointed out: “Caffe Nero are very experienced at the art of obfuscation.”

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Deluge after that drought has amazing effect on reviving River Kennet (2)

Charlotte Hitchmough, Director of ARKCharlotte Hitchmough, Director of ARKAs Thames Water is about to end the hosepipe ban, Action Kennet (ARK) has revealed that the deluge of rain after one of the worst droughts in decades has boosted the sad state of the River Kennet.

Now it is planning to create a “ladder” to enable fish to climb back into the upper section of the rare chalk stream that lost its fish when the river ran dry months ago.

“The rain has had an amazing impact on the river,” Charlotte Hitchmough (pictured), ARK’s director, told Marlborough News Online. “The cold weather has meant that very little water is evaporating and the aquifer levels are rising.”


June 11 was the wettest day of the month

Eric Gilbert, who runs Marlborough’s own weather station, has revealed in a report for Marlborough News Online how dramatically the weather scene has changed.

“The year 2011was the second driest year I have recorded followed by February 2012 with 45 per cent of the long-term average and March that produced just 40 per cent,” he says.

“Now the scene has changed dramatically. April this year produced a total rainfall of 145.8mm and was the third wettest I have recorded and was followed by May being the wettest for four years with 52.4mm.

“June has followed the trend with 134  per cent of the long-term average already, with a total of 73.8mm in the first eleven days. The wettest day of this month so far, June 11, delivered 23.4mm, which is half the long-term June average in just one day.

“Going through my rainfall data over the past 29 years I find that the previous higher daily total was 41.7mm on August 22, 2010. The record for daily rainfall since my station started in 1984 was a total of 45.4mm on May 27, 2007.”





“The Kennet is flowing along its whole length, with even the winterbourne's full.  There has been so much rain that the levels in Marlborough today are 'above average' for the time of year.”

“And it's a great sight!”

But the problem ARK now faces is that the upstream section of the Kennet where graphic photographs showed whole sections totally dry during the worst of the drought.

That section, which was dry for so long, has no fish in it because they all died in the drought,” added Charlotte. “So although the river is full of water, it is not full of life.”

“One solution to this is to create a fish ladder in the middle of Marlborough to allow fish from downstream to make their way up to the headwaters again. ARK plans to build this fish ladder at the end of the summer ready for the winter spawning season.”

“It will be between Kennet Place and Town Mill, and will replace the steep drop by the bridge with a series of steps which the fish will be able to traverse.”

Richard Aylard, director of sustainability for Thames Water, has also revealed that the drought hit Kennet area may be one part of its territory where water meters may be installed on a compulsory basis in the future.

Thames Water is one of three authorities now able to lift the hosepipe ban whereas others that do not have huge surface areas of water are likely to keep it in place.

ARK believes the hosepipe ban did its work as “any drop of water we saved is a drop left in the river and will have helped the river to come back more quickly and flow better,” said Charlotte Hitchmough.

“In this area we have one of the highest water use rates in the UK, and we rely on a fragile groundwater source to supply our homes in the Kennet Valley, and homes in Swindon.”

“The same groundwater feeds the river too, so any we don't use is left to keep the river flowing.”

Everyone can reduce their water consumption all year round by signing up for the Care for the Kennet FREE water saving home makeover. Just call 0800 358 6665 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Caffe Nero: has Wiltshire Council become victim to a previous planning decision for Marlborough?

No. 10, The High StreetNo. 10, The High StreetAs Wiltshire Council’s decision over Caffe Nero retroactive application for change of use from retail to café for its new High Street premises languishes in a pending tray, fresh evidence has emerged of the criteria used in a previous change of use application for Marlborough. In January 2009, the appeal against Kennet District Council’s refusal to allow the ground floor of Number Ten, The High Street to be turned into a café, was dismissed.

Part of the report by the Inspector, Ken Barton, throws some very interesting light on how decisions are reached in such cases – and because Wiltshire Council inherited Kennet’s duty of care in planning matters for Marlborough High Street, it has direct application to the current Caffe Nero issue.

The Inspector identified the main issues at stake as being: “…the likely effects on the character and special interest of the appeal property [i.e. Number Ten] and on the character and appearance of the conservation area. A further main issue in respect of the planning appeal is the likely effect on the prime shopping area.”

At the time of the appeal Number Ten, the former Age of Elegance shop, had been empty for a year.  The main difference to the Caffe Nero case is that Number Ten is a Grade II listed building and the conversion involved some interior alterations to turn the top floors into flats and a new extension at the rear – replacing the existing ‘brick and corrugated sheet’ structure which was, in the inspector’s words, ‘in poor condition and in need of attention.’

The Inspector did not like some of the proposed alterations, saying they would change the character of parts of the listed building.  It would be interesting to know whether these same criteria were applied to the alterations now being undertaken at another High Street Grade II building – the former Ivy House Hotel.

However, more relevant to the Caffe Nero application is the Inspector’s argument over the effect of having another café in the High Street.  He quotes the Kennet District Local Plan as ruling that “within this area [of the town centre] change of use of ground floor premises to uses other than Class A1 [retail] will not be permitted unless certain criteria are met.”

Mr Barton does not itemise these ‘certain criteria’, but in the next sentence expressed his “reservations as to the potential contribution to the vitality and viability of the [town] centre” that would be brought by a new café, as he stated it, ”the likely effect on the prime shopping area.”  He went on: “The level of retail provision, however, is not high and I consider the loss of the appeal premises as a retail unit in this important location could have a material detrimental effect on the attractiveness, vitality and viability of the centre.”

The recession and the on-going economic downturn has reinforced the need to protect the obviously fragile retail base of the High Street – and that should impact strongly on the Council’s decision over Caffe Nero.  The Inspector’s optimistic view in January 2009 that “vacancy rates are not high” no longer applies.

In addition, there is a vocal number of people in the town who complain about the dominance of national chains in Marlborough as against the number of independent shops.  That is also something that should weigh heavily with the Council’s planners and councillors.
Mr Barton had not finished justifying his decision that Number Ten must remain a retail outlet rather than switch to becoming a café:  “An approval on appeal in this instance could also increase pressure on the Council to approve further applications for change of use from retail…with increased harmful impact on the vitality and viability of the centre.”

This statement is doubly important as in making planning decisions the Council must refer back to appeals in similar cases and the terms in which those appeals were either allowed or dismissed.

In case the owner tried to modify the proposed alterations to appease Mr Barton’s stringent views on the conservation of nineteenth century buildings and the effrontery of trying to open another café, he slammed the door shut: “It would not be possible to offset my concerns by any conditions that might reasonably be attached to a grant of listed building consent or planning permission.”

As will be obvious to readers of Marlborough News Online, this appeal verdict raises several issues in relation to the Caffe Nero case.  But most significant is the inspector’s point about losing retail outlets – a situation made much more relevant in the present economic climate.  And it is worth noting that the decision meant that that Number Ten remained empty for a further three-and-a-half years.

In terms of the Inspector’s arguments that is three-and-a half-years without another retail outlet in the High Street – not to mention the loss of the two flats or the effect on the conservation area of empty premises.

As Marlborough News Online has already reported, the owner of Number Ten complained to Wiltshire Council when Waitrose were allowed to open a café without gaining planning permission for change of use. Wiltshire Council’s response blurred the distinction between retail use (Class A1) and café use (Class A3.)

The Council’s Senior Planning Officer, Peter Horton, ruled that “the café element is ancillary to the main retail (A1) use” – that is to Waitrose’s main business of selling food.  This presumably opens the door to a café which sells beetroot juice drinks also selling beetroot, or a café that sells smoked salmon sandwiches also selling fresh salmon – all without permission for change of use.

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Mermaid's tail wows audience

Triton, Ariel and MermaidsTriton, Ariel and MermaidsCreating the illusion of the seabed in the theatre is simple – hang some strands of shiny material from the top of your set, scatter seashell props around the stage, bathe the lot in blue and green light and bingo, Neptune's Kingdom.

Or, if you have the vision and ambition of Curious Company's director Louise Rennie, you start looking for a venue with thousands of gallons of water and a dry performance space, then add synchronised swimmers and persuade your leading man to take a tumble – fully clothed – into The Drink.

That's how children and adults alike were captivated when East Kennet-based Curious Company brought their own unique take of a classic fairytale to the pool at Marlborough Leisure Centre.Ariel and the PrinceAriel and the Prince

Inspired by the ethos of the Cultural Olympiad – a place where the arts and sport mix to celebrate each other – and recalling the Busby Berkeley aqua shows of the early 20th century, actors and synchronised swimmers from the Calne Four Aqua Swim Team brought an aquarian fairytale to life over three sell-out performances in The Little Mermaid Aqua Show.

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale  of a young mermaid who gives up her life under the sea to gain a human soul and win the love of a handsome prince, The Little Mermaid Aqua Show featured  a talented cast including Paul Bradley as Triton, the owner of a booming opera voice and a revolving throne that would turn the judges of The Voice sea-green with envy; Russel Boodie as the Prince, who delivered a physical performance that was at times acrobatic and at times slapstick, while still managing to maintain the dignity of a romantic lead; and Jazz Mutch as Ariel, whose mesmerising presence in the pool was matched by her acting ability on dry land.

In a brave move, company director Louise Rennie chose to follow the Dane's original dark plot, rather than the saccharine version offered by Disney in 1989, and more familiar to the majority of the younger members of the audience, many of whom had come dressed as Disney princesses.

Synchronised mermaids Synchronised mermaids It was a gamble that paid off though – testament to which was the number of Disney princesses queuing after the show to have their photographs taken with Ariel, Triton, the Prince and even the evil Sea Witch Ursula (Emily Campbell).

The Little Mermaid Aqua Show, which also played to capacity audiences in Devizes, may well be going on the road again soon, if further funding can be secured. Flippers crossed, eh?

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John Jones of Oysterband fame walks the White Horse Trail – with three local folk gigs

John Jones, who sings with the award-winning folk-rock Oysterband, is taking to the White Horse Trail in July with a series of five gigs in five days – and a hundred miles of walking with his dogs and with his fans.  Joining him are his band, the Reluctant Ramblers - they’ll be performing gigs in Marlborough and Devizes and a session in a Pewsey pub.

John will be accompanied by his two dogs – deerhound-lurcher crosses with the length of leg that makes them anything but reluctant ramblers.  The darker one (in the photo) is Tarn and the lighter one, Celt. John Jones has already been on several summer walking-and-performing tours – including the Welsh Borders, Dorset and the Peak District. 

Why did John decide to mix walking with his folk singing? “I had the crazy idea of walking to gigs a few years ago and somehow managed to persuade reluctant musicians and a smiling but sceptical agency to help.” “Rushing from gig to gig, crowded motorways, increased stress levels and time wasted staring out of tour bus windows at inviting hills rolling by just made me think: walking 20 miles, setting up in a pub, church, canal-side…anywhere…was worth trying as a much-needed alternative. It caught people’s imagination.”

This year’s tour starts at Goring-on-Thames on July 16 and takes in gigs at Nettlebed, Wantage, Marlborough and Devizes and an informal session at The Crown in Pewsey, ending on Saturday, July 22 with a gig at  Westbury’s Village Pump Folk Festival.  He’s played in Marlborough before – an acoustic gig about two years ago at the Town Hall for Marlborough Folk Roots.

John and the band want as many people as possible to join them walking, listening and taking a pint or two of real ale or cider: “This year’s tour includes exhilarating walking by day and fun gigs at night. I hope as many people as possible will join me, for a short walk or a longer stretch, to say hello over a pint at lunchtime or evening, or just for a gig.” John stresses that it’s not an outward-bound experience or a route march – not more than twenty miles a day: “Once up on The Ridgeway the walking is easy under foot and the views tremendous...a chance for a really unique shared experience. And I will be debuting new songs especially written for the occasion!" Details of the route and how to join in are on the tour’s website.

However, for those with sore feet cars are allowed: once John and the walkers arrive in Avebury and have had some refreshment in the Red Lion, they’ll be driven in a small fleet of cars to the gig in Marlborough – full details below.

The Oysterband are on something of a roll this year.  Joined by June Tabor, the band won Best Group in the 2012 BBC Folk Awards – also taking Best Album (for Ragged Kingdom) and Best Traditional Track (for Bonny Bunch of Roses.)  And they are a top featured band for the Great British Folk Festival at Butlins Skegness at the end of November – currently being advertised with a prominent picture of the band and June Tabor.

They’ve just finished hosting a major festival at Catton Hall in Derbyshire.  It rained and rained and rained, but over two thousand fans sat through the rain: “They were really stoical – and enjoyed themselves.”  John is certainly hoping for a dry and sunny July.

What exactly is the Oysterband sound?  The shorter version runs: “Oysterband make a modern, folk-based British music, acoustic at heart, sometimes intense, sometimes rocking. Since 1978 they've toured in 35 countries - festivals, concerts, bars, rallies, jails, bring 'em on! - and made 12 studio albums. Music for the head, the heart & the trousers. And still improving in the bottle.” You can find the full, unabridged official history as well as a slightly more objective view on their website.

The day after John’s White Horses tour ends at Westbury, John and Dil will be re-joining Oysterband on the main stage for the final day of the Village Pump Folk Festival. This is the fourth year John Jones has led his fellow musicians on a walking tour.  He will be supported by his band the Reluctant Ramblers: Dil Davies is Oysterband’s drummer; Al Scott who produces for Oysterband, plays guitar and bouzouki; and Tim Cotterell who plays with bands including McDermott’s 2 Hours and with Martha Tilston and the Woods, will be playing fiddle, guitar and mandolin. Then there are the guests who’ll be joining along the way: in Nettlebed and Marlborough the Ramblers will be joined by Benji Kirkpatrick of Bellowhead.  And there’s the promise of a secret “special guest” as well – watch this space for details.

Monday, July 16: Nettlebed Folk Club -The Village Club, High Street, Nettlebed, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 5DD. 8pm. Tickets £13 - 01628 636620 (evenings before 9pm and weekends).

Tuesday, July 17: Wantage  - The Swan, 28 Market Place, Wantage OX12 8AE. 8pm. (Buffet before the gig at The Shoulder of Mutton - call Peter 07870 577742 to book a meal).

Wednesday, July 18: Marlborough - Marlborough Folk Roots - St Mary’s Church Hall, Silverless Street, Marlborough SN8 1JQ. 8pm.  Tickets £13 available from Marlborough Folk Roots, 2/3 Silverless Street Marlborough SN8 1JQ  tel 01672 512465 and from Sound Knowledge, Hughenden Yard, Marlborough.

Thursday, July 19: Pewsey - The Crown, 60 Wilcot Road, Pewsey SN9 5EL. 8pm.

Friday, July 20: Devizes - The Southgate, Potterne Road, Devizes SN10 5BY. 8pm.

Saturday, July 21: Westbury - The Village Pump Folk Festival, main stage, Saturday evening.

Photo credits:  black and white photos of John and his dogs by Alex Ramsay. Colour photo of John singing with the Oysterband by Michael Pohl.

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A bouncy inflatable Stonehenge comes to Marlborough -- thanks to Boris Johnson

Sacrilege at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (Image courtesy of Jeremy Deller)Sacrilege at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (Image courtesy of Jeremy Deller)An inflatable life-sizes bouncy castle version of Stonehenge is coming to Marlborough for a unique one-day visit on the Common on Friday, June 29, as part of a celebratory pre-Olympics tour of the country.

Called Sacrilege, the jokey art work, created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, is set to travel to London from Scotland as well as to a total 25 locations around the country and in the capital.

And everyone, especially children at 18 Wiltshire schools who have been told about  the one-off event, will be able to enjoy it -- for free -- partly thanks to Boris Johnson, the dashing Mayor of London.

“This amazing event is imminent,” Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, announced at a meeting of the town council’s planning committee last night (Monday). “People will be gobsmacked when they see it.”

She revealed that she had a call from Boris Johnson’s office last week informing her that Marlborough had been specially chosen to receive Sacrilege so that the art work could have a “homecoming” in the county of Wiltshire -- where the real Stonehenge exists.

“The fact that it will be on our Common is thanks to archaeologist and Marlborough resident Mike Pitts, who contacted me weeks ago about the possibility,” she pointed out.  “He has an added personal interest as he has played a part in excavations taking place at Stonehenge.”

A co-commission between Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and the Mayor of London, the inflatable Stonehenge proved to be enormously popular when, supported by Creative Scotland, it appeared in Glasgow earlier this year.  Now, with support from Arts Council England it will now travel around the country as part of London 2012 Festival -- this Thursday it will ‘pop up’ for the first time at the National Botanic Garden, in Carmarthenshire, to mark the opening day of the London 2012 Festival.Sacrilege at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012 (pic courtesy of Angela Catlin)Sacrilege at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012 (pic courtesy of Angela Catlin)

And its travels around the UK will finish at Preston Guild on September 9, the last day of the Paralympic Games and London 2012 Festival, the transient monument having travelled to Redruth, Exeter, Marlborough, Peterborough, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Gateshead, Milton Keynes, Bristol, and Belfast, plus 14 locations in different boroughs across London.

Jeremy Deller says: “A lot of my work deals with history, and Sacrilege is no exception, this is a way to get reacquainted with ancient Britain with your shoes off.”

In London, Sacrilege is being presented by Mayor Boris and the London 2012 Festival as part of Surprises, which sees the bouncy castle version suddenly appearing at different locations.

“You don't have to be a specialist in ancient British history or an acolyte of the summer solstice ritual to be aware of the unending fascination that Stonehenge continues to inspire around the world,” Boris declares.
Sacrilege at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (pic courtesy of Jeremy Deller)Sacrilege at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (pic courtesy of Jeremy Deller)
“Jeremy Deller's Sacrilege is a wonderfully witty, quite literal leap into that history and a fantastic example of the irreverence that are hallmarks of our great British humour and our incomparable artists.”

“I have no doubt it will be a great hit with Londoners as well as visitors to the capital.”

And Alan Davey, chief executive, Arts Council England, adds: “Deller’s playful and irreverent work is bound to capture the hearts, minds and inner-child of people across the country, and I’m delighted the Arts Council has been able to help make this fun-filled tour happen.”

“Sacrilege pleasing the crowds once more marks the start of a summer that I hope will be remembered as much for the excitement of its cultural experiences as for its sporting victories.”

As Sacrilege moves across the country the growing tribe of followers is being encouraged to “offer their images to the gods” by uploading photos of themselves on the installation onto Flickr to create gigantic on-line clan.
Sacrilege at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012 (pic courtesy of Angela Catlin)Sacrilege at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012 (pic courtesy of Angela Catlin)
To check opening times and local weather conditions for each venue, members of the public should follow Sacrilege on Twitter to receive updates direct from the heavens @Sacrilege2012.

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From Savernake Hospital these neighbourhood nurses are bringing the NHS home

Nurse Mandy Rose of the Neighbourhood TeamNurse Mandy Rose of the Neighbourhood TeamMARLBOROUGH NEWS ONLINE GOES ON THE ROAD WITH A NEIGHBOURHOOD NURSE:

The first call of the day was at a care home in West Overton where a young man had a pressure sore that needed attention. Nurse Mandy Rose calmed him down, changed the dressing, asked staff if there was anyone else who needed to be seen, said ‘good mornings’ all round – and we were on our way to her next call.

Mandy Rose works on the Neighbourhood Nursing Team based at Savernake Hospital. The service was set up some years ago by NHS Wiltshire – the Primary Care Trust – to spread and improve the treatment of people where they live rather than making them travel to hospitals or surgeries. It’s part of the Community Health Service for Wiltshire now run by the Great Western Hospitals Foundation Trust. They’re the modern equivalent of the District Nurses who were once employed by local doctors.

Altogether eleven teams cover the county’s more than eighteen hundred square miles. They are managed by seven coordinators. Cate Judd manages the Devizes and Marlborough areas.

They are only responsible for the healthcare of adults – that’s those over eighteen. And they are only contracted to provide specific care and treatments. Sometimes they are asked to do “non-contracted activities” which involves paperwork and cross-charging.

The team at Savernake has sixteen nurses – three of them full-time and the rest on shorter contracts. Alongside them, there’s a team of therapists who work in people’s homes and at the hospital – physiotherapists, occupational therapists and support workers.

The team’s area stretches from Rambsury to Pewsey to Vernham Dean to the edge of Royal Wootton Bassett – and sometimes follows patients to Hungerford and Andover. Mandy is one of five nurses who cover the more central part of the area around Marlborough. It is very important, she says, that patients know who is coming to see them – continuity of treatment helps ease worried or confused patients.Neighbourhood NursingNeighbourhood Nursing

They cover an area served by five surgeries and at any one time have a caseload of about five hundred patients needing some kind of health care at home. Patients are referred to the team by GPs, hospitals, care homes, carers, dentists and opticians – “By anyone who comes across a healthcare issue.”

The nurses use their own cars – and get mileage payments. Whether these keep up with the price of petrol is a moot point. Mandy drives about four hundred miles a month – but if they are working weekends when there are fewer nurses on duty, it can add a hundred or so extra miles. Our next calls will be at Merlin Court on the edge of Marlborough Common.

There are hurdles for the nurses to overcome. One of the commonest is the pass-the-parcel argument about who pays for treatment at home – NHS Wiltshire or the Council. Mandy wishes the government’s health reforms had brought in an amalgamated budget for the elderly covering both health and care: “And just let us get on with it.”

A man who cannot sleep and needs a special wedge pillow: should the pillow be on the care budget or on the health budget? Mandy thinks it’s a health matter because not sleeping will undermine his health.

Then there’s the problem of people needing treatment in Marlborough who are registered with a doctor in Ramsbury. It’s hard to believe in these days of digital communication, but sometimes nurses have to drive to Rambsury to fetch prescriptions because the Marlborough surgery cannot provide them or dispense the drugs.

We arrive at Merlin Court and Mandy has two dressings to change, has to check the records of a new patient and tend to an elderly man who’s had an unexplained fall and knocked a bit out of his elbow. He wants to look at the damage to his elbow and is helped into the bathroom to see it in the mirror.

She finds time to talk to the staff to make sure her patients don’t need anything else and that the fall was not down to a medical condition like a urinary infection. And she makes time to chat with the patients too.

Mandy has been with the team for five years: “So far it’s my longest stay in one job. I’ve been very lucky to be able to go where there’s a job I want to do – and not have to just take the next job.” She trained at Portsmouth. Qualifying in 2001, her first job was at Bath’s RUH just when it had to bring in outside managers: “Not a good time.”

So she went to a nursing post in Guernesy and then to Salisbury’s famous burns and plastic surgery unit. But they could not provide the training she wanted. So she re-trained at Leeds as a midwife – and then NHS changes meant there were no jobs for new midwives. So she went back to nursing first in Birmingham and then to Savernake.

Now Mandy is two modules into a five module training to become a fully-fledged Band 6 District Nurse which will mean she can become a line manager and look after a full caseload and liaise with GPs. The GWH are supporting her course as they know the average age of the nurse population is getting older and they want to be sure that in the near future they’ll still have highly qualified and experienced nurses.

The injured elbow has been dressed and we are off again toward the other side of the patch. “It can be a bit tiring, a bit trying in some situations – by and large it’s not too bad.”

On the up side, Mandy gets to see the Wiltshire countryside in all weathers and seasons. “I was crossing over the hill to Stitchcombe on my way to Ramsbury and a deer just stood there waiting for me to pass.” And just the other day, one of her colleagues stopped to help get a bunch of lambs off the road and into their field.

The nurses are much appreciated by their patients. They and their families often make gifts in recognition of the quality of care they’ve had. This goes into general GWH funds. But one grateful woman left the nurses a sum in her will for them to have for themselves.

We reached the other side of the patch. This call was to a fairly recently confirmed terminal case. So I waited outside.

Quite a lot of their work is about dying. Mandy reckons about eighty per cent of her patients are over seventy. “We’ve had that shift. Years ago people wanted to die at home. Then they wanted to die in hospital. Now it’s come back to dying at home. And if that’s best that’s fine.”

But it can cause tough problems at a tough time. Few people realise how difficult it is to fit proper beds and lifting equipment into a normal home and few people realise how many ‘strangers’ will suddenly start ‘trespassing’ on their home territory as the proper care is provided. All of that needs the nurses’ special skills.

Equipment is one ever-present strand of the nurses’ lives. There’s new equipment to use and as more people leave hospital sooner, Mandy and the team have to get used to more sophisticated equipment. Recently they had a patient who needed chest drains and the manufacturers came and showed them how they must be used.

A ‘phone call to Mandy asked if she could bring some extra supplies to one of her afternoon visits, so we headed back towards Savernake Hospital to collect them.

The team at Savernake have an excellent relationship with the Friends of Savernake Hospital who have provided them with some vital equipment and new time-saving (and money-saving) gadgets like the almost-instant INR blood test machines.

Mandy is surprised at how many people are now taking warfarin and need frequent blood checks – and the compact INR machines save nurses time and save the GPs and hospitals money. Each machine costs about £500.

Over a coffee back at Savernake, Mandy discussed the future. They were still settling in under the GWH regime and now the GPs were going to be commissioning them. The worry is that this might well increase their workload and she hopes the GPs will draw up a precise contract or else the balance between what can be done at the surgery and what needs to be done where people live will be lost.

Her next two calls were to complex cases of palliative care, so we agreed I should call it a day.

That famous book about the First World War judged that the British ‘tommies’ were “lions led by donkeys”. On my way home I was cheered to think that on the NHS’ frontline the lions are doing famously and make one feel safe and secure – it’s the donkeys in Westminster and Whitehall that make one worried.

Mandy drove off to her next patient. Perhaps with me no longer asking her endless questions as she drove expertly through the lanes, she was playing one of her CDs – The Greatest Hits of The Cure.

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