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Recreational cyclist sets out to ride the 'Ride London' 100 miles challenge for Alzheimer's around the 2012 Olympic course.


Self confessed 'not particularly fit person', 47 year old Mark Waring-Jones will take on the 100 mile challenge on Sunday week - 29 July - in aid of Alzheimer's Society.

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'Bigger & better' trains but a cut & worse bus service: can that be sensible?

19-07-2018 Dr Sam Page

Sirs,  In January 2019, Great Western Railways will be introducing new, five-car, bi-mode, Intercity Express Trains (IETs) running between Bedwyn station and London Paddington. These new trains, capable of running on both diesel and electric, will mean that GWR is able to continue to operate direct services to Bedwyn, Hungerford and...

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Special school holidays event: Swindon Museum & Art Gallery's free family archaeology day

19-07-2018 A Correspondent

If you thought Swindon only started with the railway age, think again!  The town's Museum and Art Gallery holds a rich collection of archaeological finds made in the area from the Stone Age onwards.

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NHS is saving money: some medicines available over the counter will no longer be prescribed

19-07-2018 A Correspondent

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is following new guidance from NHS England that means medicines available over the counter for the treatment of 35 minor, short-term conditions, will no longer routinely be prescribed. 

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Preparations to start at Great Bedwyn for introduction of new trains


For GWR to run their new five-car bi-mode Intercity Express Trains (IETs) between Bedwyn and Paddington, they need to make a short extension to the turn-back siding at Bedwyn. Bi-mode engines can switch from electric to diesel power - and so travel beyond the electrified line, which ends at Newbury.

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St John’s Year 11 Prom - students celebrate in style

19-07-2018 Sue Round

Over two hundred Year 11 students from St John’s Marlborough celebrated finishing their GCSE exams last Friday July 13. 

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Dinosaurs, fossils, rockets and much more at Ramsbury Primary School

19-07-2018 Sue Round

Pupils at Ramsbury Primary School have enjoyed a week of science and outdoor learning activities covering all aspects of the science curriculum.

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Golf, Tennis? Next Murray or McIlroy? Come and try both on Sunday


'Try out Marlborough Tennis' new courts' is the appeal to anyone interested in turning their Wimbledon watching skills into court action.  This Sunday, 22 July, Marlborough Tennis' new courts on Port Hill will be open to the public - wannabe Djokavics or Kerbers, or anyone else who's sights are set...

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Finance Manager - Marlborough College


Finance Manager      An opportunity has arisen for an experienced and qualified Finance Manager in our busy Finance department. Overseeing the day-to-day running of the Finance Department, ensuring that the main accounting records (Payroll, Fees, Purchase Ledger, Fixed Assets, Nominal Ledger, Cash Books) for the College & Enterprise Company are maintained on a...

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Marlborough meeting discusses Wiltshire Council's options for special schools

17-07-2018 A Correspondent

Wiltshire Council are holding a three-month pre-consultation on the future of the county's special schools - for children with Special Education Need and Disability (SEND).  On Monday (July 16) a meeting was held in Marlborough to discuss the consultation and to hear the views of Wiltshire councillors and parents.

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2012 not quite the wettest year on record for Marlborough but still the second worst deluge

Flooding lapping the edges of Town MillFlooding lapping the edges of Town MillThe paths on either side of the Kennet as it flows through Coopers Meadow are flooded, the water has risen to within inches of the Tower Mill homes and, at Stonebridge Meadow, the islands in the middle of the Kennet have disappeared.

Yet, despite the deluge that has given Britain its heaviest recorded rainfall in the west, Marlborough has in fact escaped the worst of the downpours that have flooded acres of the West Country yet failed to drive intrepid Christmas and New Year shoppers indoors.

The year 2012 has not been the wettest ever in Marlborough, but the rainfall figures collected by Eric Gilbert at his weather station set up in 1984. But it was a close run thing – coming in at second place.

“Rainfall in 2012 was unusual but not exceptional,” he reveals. “With a total of 1112mm -- some134 per cent of the long-term average and plus 279mm, it was the second wettest since my station started in 1984,” he reports.

“2012 bears many rainfall similarities to 2002, which was the wettest year with 1146mm when, as occurred this year, October, November and December totals were similar and well above average.”

And he explains: “During the 1990s, the North European climate entered a warm period with rising sea surface temperatures.  Much of our weather arrives from winds travelling over the western sea areas where they pick up moisture and the warmer air holds greater quantities of moisture.”

Islands have disappeared on the Kennet at Stonebridge MeadowIslands have disappeared on the Kennet at Stonebridge MeadowCoopers Meadow floodedCoopers Meadow floodedPath to Town Mill floodedPath to Town Mill flooded“Experts calculate that we now have four per cent more moisture in the atmosphere than in the 1990. Substantial daily rainfall of 10mm and above occurred 45 times in 2012, a record as the previous high of 41 was set in 2000.”

“The trend has risen by about four occurrences since the 1980s. The incidence of very heavy daily rainfall exceeding 20mm totalled eight occasions in 2012 when the average is in fact four.”

“Further evidence of greater moisture in the atmosphere is the occurrence of wet days when daily rainfall is equal to or greater than 1mm.  Again the trend is upward with an increase of 4 occurrences annually since the 1980s.”

“Additionally the trend for annual rainfall is rising giving an annual average increase of around 15mm since 1984.”

A wooden simulated otter truly in the deep following the delugeA wooden simulated otter truly in the deep following the delugeDecember nevertheless was outstanding with  rainfall total of 155mm making it the wettest since 1984.  With an aggregate of 28.0mm on December 19, it was the second wettest day in 2012.

In fact, the December daily record for rainfall of 39.5mm was set on December 20 in 1989.  The highest daily rainfall for the Marlborough weather station was set on May 27, 2007 when 45.4mm was recorded.

The statistics have provided a fascinating period for 70-year-old Eric Gilbert, who started recording meteorological statistics when a teenager with a simple maximum/minimum thermometer and logging other details from a domestic barometer, graphed on sheets of squared paper.

“Only much later, when my career indicated a longer residence in Marlborough, did I start to build a quality weather station in 1984,which required manual recording,” he says.  “Towards the end of my teaching career I spent six years as deputy head at St Peter’s Junior School in Marlborough followed by 14 years as a head teacher in Swindon.”

“In 2009, I installed the most advanced wireless equipment consisting of an extensive range of instruments.”

He is convinced that climate change is now a fact.

“A look on my website at the temperature details for spring, or the annual data, shows quite clearly the rising trend,” he reveals.  “There are other rising trends such as rainfall.”

“I enjoy working with statistics and graphs.  My recordings now extend to almost 30 years, which makes more useful and relevant comparisons possible.”

And he adds: “The reasons for the disappointing year of 2012 is principally due to the unusually persistent southerly position of the Gulf Stream, the boundary between warm, moist Equatorial air and cold air from the Arctic.”

“Experts are not sure what the reason is for this phenomenon but suggest it might either be due to the warmer surface temperatures of the Atlantic or the melting of the Arctic Ice.”

“My data is forwarded monthly to the Climatological Observers Link that has connections with the Meteorological Office. The readings are taken daily at 0800 GMT. There is also added interest and satisfaction in supplying a range of data for requests from local people, students and businesses – and Marlborough News Online.”


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New Year CBE honour for top British executive seeking green solutions for the planet’s future

Steve Visscher, CBESteve Visscher, CBESteve Visscher, one of Britain’s top research executives seeking a sustainable “green” future for the planet, who lives in Lockeridge, Marlborough, has been awarded the CBE in the New Year honours.

He is deputy chief executive and chief operating officer on the Swindon-based Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSC), and receives the honour for services to the support of scientific research.

“It’s a nice day despite the rain, a real pleasure to receive this award,” 57-year-old Mr Visscher told Marlborough News Online. “It came as a real surprise and I am delighted for my wife and family.”

“And I am delighted too for all my colleagues at work.  It is recognition of all the tremendous work they do. Sustainable living is so crucial to the future for all of us.”

“ We lead the world in the biosciences.  If we had an Olympics in them, then we would end up with a bagful of gold medals.”

Born in Newport Pagnell, the son of a Dutch father and English mother, Mr Visscher trained as an accountant and worked in the civil service before taking on a role with research councils 30 years ago.

He has extensive experience of the UK Research Councils.  He has worked for BBSRC since 1994 and previously for its predecessor research councils and associated institutes.

Before becoming deputy chief executive, he was BBSRC's executive director, with particular responsibility for funding policy, including the Research Councils UK project on reform of the dual support system, resource management, large capital projects and operations.

He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and a Fellow of the Institute of Internal Auditors.

He has lived in Lockeridge for 20 years with his wife, Ann, and their two sons, Ross and Gregory, both now in their twenties.

BBSC’s work is in a world-class research arena seeking to achieve its full potential for industry, economic growth and society as a whole through the development of new “green” solutions and sustainable energy.

The virtually unknown world of bio-economy, including bio-energy, is worth trillions globally and could bring major benefits to the UK as well as creating thousands of jobs in the coming years by moving us away from fossil fuels and towards industrial renewable energy.

Funded by the government with a budget of around £500 million, BBSRC has announced outline plans to launch two new schemes in 2013 and 2014 to develop the UK's industrial biotechnology and bio-energy research community and to support the translation of new ideas into essential commercial applications.

It achieves this by supporting research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes so that BBSRC research -- and the students and scientists it funds -- can help society to meet major challenges.

These are in the fields of food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives, the investment under-pinning the important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

Mr Visscher accepts that too little is known about BBSC’s enterprise and the vital work it does, the more so as the UK's share of the global industrial biotechnology market is expected to reach £4-12 billion by 2025.

“We try to put out our message as best we can, but we can always do better,” he said.

No doubt his New Year  gong will help to spread the story of our supreme biosciences based in Swindon.

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Publish online all those companies like Caffe Nero who escape any taxes due, Chancellor is urged

Val ComptonVal ComptonAn urgent plea has gone to Chancellor George Osborne asking for the government to publish online a list of all those major companies who pay no corporation tax on their profits made in the UK because they are registered in tax havens.

It is the latest development in the boycott campaign against Caffe Nero in Marlborough launched by independent town councillor and local activist Val Compton in the wake of the outcry against Google, Amazon, Starbucks and others who make multi-million profits in the UK.

Caffe Nero, which made record profits of £39.9 million last year, has come in for even more criticism because of the cost to the community of public inquiries being held after it opens new outlets without seeking initial planning consent, then appeals when permission is refused.

And Claire Perry, Marlborough’s Tory MP, has joined in the campaign against Caffe Nero, who opened in the High Street in April without planning permission, after receiving a letter from Councillor Compton seeking her political support.

Mrs Perry is personally writing to the chief executive of Caffe Nero, which faces a public inquiry at Marlborough town hall on January 15, and has advised Councillor Compton to write directly to the Chancellor.

And Councillor Compton has now told the Chancellor: “The public would benefit from a complete list of companies to be published online by the government, in order that many of us who wish to shop only with ethical, well behaved companies, can easily check.”

“We can then choose retailers who will be benefiting this country by the proper and rightful payment of tax.  Other ethical standards such as the sourcing of goods etc, is covered in various publications.  It is the use of tax avoidance and evasion that should be made clear.”

And she declares:  “The tax situation for the very poorest in the community generally has no wriggle room for non-payment whatsoever.  Why should these huge bully empires feed off the expertise of armies of accountants and lawyers who actively search for every available loophole to avoid supporting the country in which they trade?”

“It is so morally wrong and unacceptable that we need, as a nation, to stand together and say, ‘Enough is enough – our business will go elsewhere,’ whilst the government tackle what will be a prolonged process of shutting down loopholes and collecting the tax.”

“In the immortal words contain in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado – I would like to hear you, George Osborne, say, ‘I’ve got them on a list.’”

“The song goes on to mention ‘Society offenders who might well be underground’, I really can’t think of anything more appropriate for 2013. This could be an all time hit with a small amount of re-writing.”

Councillor Compton points out to the Chancellor the fury that has followed the case of Starbucks and that it was only when the public turned their backs on the coffee chain that Starbucks offered £20 million over two years.

She adds: Here in Marlborough, we are dealing with a smaller version of Starbucks in Caffe Nero, who pay no corporation tax on their last record earnings of £39.9 million because they are registered in the tax haven of the Isle of Man and also in Luxembourg.

“But their escape from paying corporation tax is equally matched by their arrogant attitude to the planning regulations, opening new outlets without gaining planning consent in advance (which unfortunately also happens to be legal) and then seeking retrospective approval once they are up and running and have made their mark.”

“The arrogant attitude means that the community is forced to pay for planning inquiries to be held when Caffe Nero appeals against refusal, in this case for change of use, by the local authority.”

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A giant turkey surprise for Sarah as her ticket wins the Communities Market Christmas prize

With at least eight coming for Christmas lunch, Sarah Hicks had yet to order or buy a traditional turkey and all the trimmings.  But now she doesn’t have to bother to do so.

She is the winner of the £300 grand hamper raffle visitors and supporters had a chance to buy tickets for at this month’s Marlborough Communities Market in the High Street – and it has now been delivered to her door in nearby Herd Street.

“It’s the biggest surprise I’ve ever had, just wonderful,” she told Marlborough News Online.  “I hadn’t bought a turkey yet.”

“Now I’ve got  a huge one with all the trimmings. And lots of really lovely other gifts too. It’s going to be a great day.”

Marlborough-born Sarah and her husband David will in fact be enjoying cheeses, plants, jewellery, soaps, a mushroom kit as well as vouchers from some of the fresh produce stallholders who are a vital part of the market.

Two of Sarah’s three children will be at the Christmas Day lunch along with some of her grandchildren and probably her mother too.

Her winning ticket was drawn on Thursday night at the Transition Marlborough solstice celebration by its chairman, Dr Sam Page, and the Christmas hamper later delivered to Sarah’s door by Transition Marlborough activist and town councillor Richard Pitts (pictured at the handover).

Cllr Richard Pitts presenting Sarah Hicks with the winning prize in the grand hamper raffleCllr Richard Pitts presenting Sarah Hicks with the winning prize in the grand hamper raffleIndeed, Sarah is a member of the Transition group and someone known for her work in the past helping to organise the annual carnival on Marlborough Common.

“Sarah was delighted when I arrived with the hamper,” said Councillor Pitts. “And I am very pleased that she won it.  It could not have gone to a more community aware person.”

The Community Market is also hoping to have its own Christmas prize – a share of the £1,000 in the Budgens Community Giveaway for December along with We Love Marlborough.

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Invitation to Come A-wassailing

The anicent tradition of wassailing will be revived in Marlborough in the new year, as Marlborough Community Orchard volunteers attempt to 'wake up' the apple town's apple trees to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Wassailing has its origins in pre-Christian Britain, when the Anglo Saxons would hold a mid-winter feast and offer toasts of 'waes haeil!', which loosely translates as 'be thou hale' or 'good health'. 

In the middle ages, peasants would visit the house of the lord of the manor, hoping for a share of the fine food and drink he would be enjoying. Over time, the wassail became carolling. 

Meanwhile, in the West of England, wassailers would toast the health of the trees, to ward off evil spirits and ensure a good harvest. 

Cider was poured over the roots of the trees and cider-dipped toast tied to the branches for the robins, tree guardians.  Then the wassailers would bang drums, blow whistles, and sing a song:

Wassaile the trees, that they may beare

You many a plum and many a peare,

For more or lesse fruits they will bring,

As you do give them wassailing.

Marlborough wassailers will be meeting at 4pm on Saturday, January 5 to revive this ancient tradition. Wassailers are asked to bring a torch or lantern, a pan lid and a wooden spoon. 

Led by the reverend Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, wassailers will process from Priory Gardens to Culvermead Close, then on to St Mary's Churchyard, 'waking up' the apple trees on the way.

Mulled cider and apple juice will be served at the church at 5pm, with rousing songs led by the Marlborough Community Choir. 



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European market comes to Marlborough High Street

Catalan sausages and meatsCatalan sausages and meatsA taste of European cuisine will be coming to Marlborough High Street on Sunday (December 23) as a continental market pitches up in town.

Traders from France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Holland, Poland and many more countries will be wearing traditional costumes, selling high quality products including Brittany biscuits, olives, Italian nougat, delectable cheeses, sausages, tartiflette, charcuterie, fresh bread, croissants and more.

The touring market runs from 9am to 5pm. For details log on to

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In local election year Councillors’ tenure and ‘casual vacancies’ become vital issues

2013 is local election year in our area and in a little over three months’ time we will be voting in our councillors. All Wiltshire Council seats and about 2,000 parish and town council seats will be up for grabs on Thursday, May 2.

If you want an entertaining taste of town and parish council politics you’d better start reading your Christmas gift copy of JK Rowling’s first novel for adults: The Casual Vacancy. It’s all about what one of her less than public spirited characters thinks of as “the smallness of local politics”.

On her first page, Ms Rowling explains that a ‘casual vacancy’ on a council “is deemed to have occurred (a) when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time; or (b) when his notice of resignation is received; or (c) on the day of his death…”  And her book opens with a very sudden death.

Back in the real world, the election of unitary councillors – councillors elected to Wiltshire Council – will be especially important for the Marlborough area.  Not least because once installed they are there for the duration – unless they cause a ‘casual vacancy’.

Following the controversy over the Chairman of the Marlborough Area Board, Councillor Chris Humphries (Aldbourne and Ramsbury), who was censured for bullying a female member of Wiltshire Council’s staff, suspended from the Tory group and then left the party and became an Independent, the question was raised at the Marlborough Area Board as to when a Wiltshire councillor could lose their seat or an Area Board Chairman their chair.

The first answer is that under present rules there is no provision in Wiltshire Council’s constitution – nor under law – to remove a unitary councillor from office.

Under the previous standards regime, Wiltshire Council’s Standards Committee could suspend a councillor for up to six months, and the Standards Board for England (killed off by the coalition government) could disqualify a councillor for up to five years. These powers were removed by the Localism Act 2011 which took effect early in 2012.

It is, of course, still possible for a councillor to disqualify him or herself. They can be convicted of a criminal offence carrying a prison sentence of three or more months; they can take a paid job with their local authority; or they can simply not turn up to meetings for six months – unless given exemption by the full council.  And, as we have seen, they can resign their seat, fail to take it up at all, or die - causing one of those casual vacancies.

So the only real sanction against a Councillor rests with the political parties who can remove a member of their group from a committee, suspend members from their political group and, in extremis, call for them to be ejected from the party.   Those who label themselves ‘independents’ do not even have those sanctions to fear.

It is tempting to imagine all sorts of far-fetched scenarios that could make these rules look a trifle silly. Someone on an accelerated path to dementia but who remains undiagnosed and turns up once every six months could still be considered to represent their constituents as a Wiltshire Councillor…and so on.

The answer about Area Boards is even stranger. There is no procedural method of removing the Chairman of an Area Board. They - and their deputy - are chosen for a full one year term by their fellow Wiltshire Councillors for that area.

The appropriate paragraph of Wiltshire Council’s constitution states: “With the exception of an election year, the chairman and vice-chairman of an area board shall remain in post until their successors are appointed.” The rules make it clear that these are not elected positions, but are appointed positions – despite the fact that the constitution also lays down a voting procedure for Chair and Deputy Chair. The positions are not voted for by ordinary electors.

These rules are specific to the Area Boards. All Wiltshire’s Area Boards are generally considered to be committees of the Council and have to run their meetings in accord with Council rules.  

But the Area Boards are unlike any of the Council’s other committees in that a member of a regular Council committee could be removed from that committee by their political group or by a vote of the full council.  

This means that the ‘Independent Person’ at the Standards Hearing Sub-Committee which censured Councillor Humphries, was unwise or simply wrong to recommend that Jane Scott, the Council’s Leader, should “request the Marlborough Area Board to consider the appropriateness of Councillor Humphries continuing as chairman of the Area Board in the light of these findings.”  

Even if the other three Wiltshire Councillors on the Marlborough Area Board had considered the matter, even if they had agreed it was inappropriate for Councillor Humphries to continue as Chairman, they could not have done anything about his position as the Area Board’s Chairman.

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That Beautiful Kennet calendar for the year ahead set to raise £1,000 for ARK

Swans on the KennetSwans on the KennetWith almost 500 sold so far and hopefully more as the New Year approaches, the Beautiful Kennet calendar produced by Philip Perkins is set to raise at least £1,000 for Action River Kennet (ARK).

His passion for photography and support for ARK have produced too a wave of admiration for his unique enterprise, although the 67-year-old telecommunications consultant from Ramsbury remains critical his own possible over-optimism by producing 750 calendars in total.

“But it’s been fun and I’ve learned a few tricks by becoming something of a retailer,” he told Marlborough News Online. “It’s been really motivating to help ARK in this way.

“If only we can find a way of selling another 100 or so by the end of January, that would be wonderful. And if we make £1,000 profit at the end of all our efforts, then I shall be very satisfied.”

Mr Perkins has been on constant patrol of the shops, post offices, pubs and inns topping up their supplies of his iconic calendar, and with his wife, Chris, took a stall in Marlborough town hall at the last Communities Market event.

“We sold 10 calendars, making a further £80 for ARK,” he revealed. “Everyone who has seen the calendar has remarked how beautiful it is.  And I am amazed at the difference it makes to talk to people about it.”

“A lovely lady from Clatford hadn’t heard of the calendar but as soon as I mentioned it and showed her a copy she purchased six of them on the spot.  I find it helps to mention too that there is a full-sized mailing envelope enclosed, so that copies can be sent to friends and family.”

The solo effort is also being used by Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, to give as a gift to its key supporters, calendar sales also being boosted by display on ARK’s own newsletter.

In Marlborough the Beautiful Kennet calendar, priced around £9.99, is currently available at the White Horse Bookshop, Mayther’s the Craft Shop at St Peter’s and The Outside Chance pub in Manton.

Inklings, in Hungerford, is also selling it along with Kaleidoscope, the shop known as From the Heart and Cobbs Farm Shop on the A4.

In Pewsey you will find it at the Gallery & Art Centre, as well as Thomson’s Deli, and at Avebury the Henge Shop is stocking it. So too the Post Offices in Aldbourne, Burbage and Great Bedwyn

Ramsbury Post Office and the Crown & Anchor Inn are two other outlets. So too The Red Lion Inn at Axford, the Horseshow Inn at Mildenhall and the Stores & Post Office at Shalbourne.

Take your pick!

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We all need to play the role of the welcoming Inn Keeper in these difficult Christmas days

Rev Canon Andrew Studdart-KennedyRev Canon Andrew Studdart-KennedyMadame Tussaud’s caused considerable controversy in 2004 by creating a Nativity Scene whose wax work characters included Victoria and David Beckham as Mary and Joseph, with Kylie Minogue as the angel Gabriel.

Tony Blair, George W Bush and the Duke of Edinburgh were the Wise Men whilst the shepherds included actor Hugh Grant and comedian Graham Norton.

Even though it was intended as a bit of fun, it was hardly surprising that at the time, since it was seen as mocking the Christmas story, lots of people thought the stunt was in very poor taste.

Eight years on the wax nativity scene has faded into well-deserved obscurity, its cast of characters feeling equally dated.

In contrast the traditional Christmas Nativity Scene has an utterly timeless appeal to it and illustrates an important feature of the Christmas story, namely the way it is ever old and ever new.

There is something about the story that allows it to withstand an almost endless re-telling. We are encouraged to imagine ourselves as part of the scene, and to open ourselves up to the kind of wonder and curiosity that the original shepherds and wise men experienced.

What would it have been like and what part might we have played?

It always surprises me that the one character who never appears in Nativity Scenes, either traditional or contemporary, is the Inn Keeper. He is always off stage and yet has such a crucial part to play in the story.

But it’s a part we can all play, for the Inn Keeper encourages us to offer hospitality to strangers who are down on their luck – the more so in these difficult days of austerity affecting so many -- and thus to make room for other people in our lives.

That is just one of the ways that the story can work for good in Marlborough in 2012 and 2013.

We can, and must, make room for other people whenever we can.

Christmas speaks to us all because the infant Jesus expresses both the potential and the fragility of our human condition; the truth that one earthly life (of Jesus) is a scene of God’s love for the world, means that all earthly lives can be the same. May we live up to our potential in the coming year.

Andrew Studdert-Kennedy,

Rector of Marlborough

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One women among four candidates being short-listed as Wiltshire’s new chief constable

Patrick Geenty, Wiltshire's temporary Chief ConstablePatrick Geenty, Wiltshire's temporary Chief ConstableShort-listing takes place tomorrow (Friday) in the selection process to appoint Wiltshire’s new Chief Constable by a panel of five people set up by the newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson.

Only four people have applied for the fixed, five-year post, which has an initial salary of £133,068, with Patrick Geenty, the county’s temporary Chief Constable for the past year, consider the front runner.

He is the only candidate from within the Wiltshire constabulary, the county in fact being the first nationally to establish its own police force under the County Police Act of 1839, the three others including one woman seeking the prestigious post.

The candidates will face an interview panel of five people headed by 59-year-old accountant and former local councillor Mr Macpherson, who was the first person nationally to be elected PCC last month on a poll of just 15.8 per cent under the controversial new legislation.

Joining him will be Jane Scott, Tory leader of Wiltshire Council, Mike Strathdee, manager of Drug and Housing Initiative Services in Swindon, Geoff Pears, independent human relations expert, and David Renard, deputy leader of Swindon borough council.

“The panel have been selected in order to make the appointment process clear and transparent,” a PCC spokeswoman told Marlborough News Online.

And the same panel will play the role again when the new Chief Constable is appointed on January 7.

In the appointment procedure documents, Mr Macpherson declares: “We are proud to have the oldest county force.  Coincidentally, it (Wiltshire) was the first to return an elected Police and Crime Commissioner.  In common with the Constabulary motto, I also want it to be the best.”

“There are now 2,045 employees, comprising 1,062 police officers and 839 police staff.  The annual budget is £104 million, made up of £64 million central grant and £40 million precept.”

And he adds: “Policing Wiltshire is a challenge. Wiltshire people, and those who represent them, demand high standards of effectiveness and value for money.  The Commissioner and Chief Constable will work extremely closely to met, and where possible to exceed, these high expectations.”

“We must share an understanding that change in working practices across the organisation is needed to adapt to current conditions and to anticipate future demands.”

“Structural changes have already been made that will enable us to better serve the people of Wiltshire by protecting them from harm.  I see strategic alliance and with local partners, particularly the two local authorities, as the key area for development.”

“I need a Chief to drive change at pace. Together we need a team who bring new ideas and innovation, and who will implement the Crime and Policing Plan effectively.”

Mr Geenty is seen as the leading contender to become Chief Constable, based in Devizes, though no details are yet available of the other candidates and their experience at a time when police morale is a low level.

He joined the police service in 1983 and served in Gloucestershire and Humberside before joining Wiltshire as assistant Chief Constable in April, 2009, and was left in command when Chief Constable Brian Moore was seconded to the troubled Border Agency after making Wiltshire one of the safest counties in the country.

Mr Moore, holder of the Queen’s Police Medal, then announced that he would not be returning to Wiltshire after serving as Chief Constable for four years.

Mr Geenty had been temporary Deputy Chief Constable since the death of David Ainsworth, the previous deputy, in March this year before being put into temporary control.

A spokeswoman later announced that all four candidates have been short-listed for selection but said it was "inappropriate" to identify them.

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Prayer for Newtown children adds poignancy to nativity play

Neve Anderson as Maurice the mule in Away In A MangerNeve Anderson as Maurice the mule in Away In A MangerPrayers for the victims of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and for those who survived the tragedy, brought an opportunity for reflection to an otherwise joyous nativity play at the St Katharine's Church, in the Savernake Forest, on Tuesday.

Aged between four and 10, the performers of St Katharine's Primary School are the same age as the children caught up in the massacre across the Atlantic. 

And if Marlborough's children were only vaguely aware of the events of last weekend, the brief prayer – led by the Reverend Michael McHugh - added a moment of poignancy for the parents and grandparents of the 90 or so performers.

In a quirky telling of the Christmas story, the children performed Away in a Manger, in which Maurice the mule (Neve Anderson) chased away a hen, a mouse, a bird and a spider from the manger from which he wanted to munch his hay.

But when a baby was laid in his manger, the stable suddenly became much, much busier.


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River Kennet’s new high point at Marlborough

Kennet's Christmas Day flowKennet's Christmas Day flowUPDATE: At 11.15 on New Year's Day, the River Kennet's recorded level at Marlborough was 0.59 metres. That is getting very close to the river's recent high point at this measuring station of .69 metres on 17 March 2008 when flooding did occur.

The level of the River Kennet at Marlborough was recorded by the Environment Agency as 0.48 metres at 12.15 pm on Christmas Day. 

While the river was flowing fast and looking very full, there was no sign of flooding (as at noon) – except into adjacent water meadows.

With the heavy rain of the past week the level has hovered around 0.42 metres.  During the ‘drought’ earlier in the year the level was hovering around 0.04 metres – though the ‘level’ readings are not the same as the river’s depth at various points as it passes through Marlborough.

The typical river level range at the Marlborough measuring point is between 0.04 metres and 0.37 metres. But even at 0.42 metres the level reaches into the range at which the Environment Agency says there could be flooding.

The Kennet’s highest level recorded at Marlborough is 1.00 metre and its level reached 0.69 metres on 17 March 2008 – when flooding did occur.  The new flood defences will certainly cope well with 0.48 metres.Christmas Day sun (just about) on the River KennetChristmas Day sun (just about) on the River Kennet

And though there have been loud complaints about Thames Water extracting water from the Kennet, with this sort of rainfall and at Christmas Day’s level, the more water that is extracted, the less is it likely the river will flood in our area.

You can check the Environment Agency's recorded levels for the River Kennet at Marlborough on their website.

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An MBE for Marlborough’s carry on regardless special constable Mike Tupman

Special Constable Mike Tupman, MBESpecial Constable Mike Tupman, MBEMike Tupman, Marlborough’s special constable who refuses to retire, even at 70, has been awarded an MBE in the New Year honours “for services to policing and to the community of Marlborough.”

Modest man that he is, Mike told Marlborough News Online: “I’m absolutely godsmacked, over the Moon, astounded – it’s unbelievable.  These things usually go to deserving people.”

He has served as a special since 1985 and though they are normally expected to retire at 60, Mike was granted special dispensation to carry on working at the age of 64, despite suffering a heart attack eight years ago.

“And I’m carrying on regardless,” he declared. “I’m fully fit and strong.  They will have to kick me out.”

“When you’re 55 they call you in and say its about time you went.  But I was fit and strong and five times I passed the medical and when Elizabeth Neville was chief constable I said to her I’d like to continue – and here I still am.”

A war-time baby born in Northampton, he spent his early years in Leicester, then worked for 33 years for Cadbury’s in Bourneville as a sales executive, eventually being posted south to Wiltshire as divisional manager for chocolate and settled in Burbage almost 40 years ago with his wife Marelene.

He became a special policeman on the recommendation of the Burbage locally bobby after looking for another activity when an injury prevented him from playing football.

“I’ve absolutely loved the area and being part of the community as a special,” he said.  “Wiltshire and Marlborough have been so good to me and my family.  Marlborough is a fantastic place and we’ve enjoyed every minute here.”

Mike, who has two daughters and four grandchildren, aged from 12 to 19, added: “Being a special has been thoroughly enjoyable.  Marlborough is a relatively safe place but it is a crossroads and you never know what is going to happen there.”

“It has its moments especially when people have had too much to drink but apart from that being on patrol makes you a a real part of the community.”

So you will find Mike on the beat twice a week doing 15 hours patrolling the streets of Marlborough that he loves.

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Claire Perry to advise Cameron on internet protection for children – and more

The Prime Minister has announced that he’s made Devizes MP Claire Perry his adviser “on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood”.

The announcement was made in an article Mr Cameron wrote for the Daily Mail spelling out the government’s response to Mrs Perry’s campaign to protect children with access to computers by imposing a total block on internet porn - so that people would have to opt in to view internet porn sites.  After a consultation, her plan for a block was not accepted, but the government has proposed an alternative solution.

As Mr Cameron wrote in the Daily Mail:  “With our system, when people switch on their new computer, a question will pop up asking if there are children in the house. If there are, then parents will be automatically prompted to tailor their internet filters… with our new system, every parent will be prompted to protect their child online. If they don’t make choices, protection will be automatically on.”

“No other Government has taken such radical steps before. And once all this is in place, Britain will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world – bar none.”

“To get all this underway, I have appointed Claire Perry MP to be my adviser on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood.  Claire is a passionate campaigner for internet safety and mother of three. Her job will be to see this through, to get internet companies on board, to do what it takes to protect children and young people online.”

Mrs Perry responded to her appointment:  "I am absolutely delighted that the Prime Minister has asked me to be his adviser on preventing the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.”

“I am very much looking forward to helping the Government introduce more robust filters for internet content in our homes, working to improve age rating information on music videos, helping to improve education for parents and children about online safety and making sure the other excellent recommendations of the Bailey Report are implemented".

The report by Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, was published in June 2011. It put forward a list of moves to protect children from sexual images and commercialisation.  His list included rating for music videos, covering up ‘sexual images’ on front pages newspapers and magazine covers, and getting retailers to sign up to a ‘family friendly code of practice’.

Mrs Perry will continue in her government job as PPS to the Defence Secretary.

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No OneFest in 2013, organisers confirm

OneFest, the Marlborough-based music festival which last year positioned itself as the first big date in the gig-goers calendar, will not be back in 2013.

Instead, organisers told followers on Facebook and Twitter this week, the festival was 'taking a break', and would be returning in 2014.

The inaugural HoneyFest was organised in 2011 in support of the Barge Inn community project at Honeystreet, near Pewsey.

When the festival and pub went their separate ways in 2012, the festival – which was held on a cold and wet Saturday in April at Rockley – dropped the H and Y and was renamed OneFest to avoid confusion with any future festivals at the pub.

The festival attracted a unique outdoor performance of the opera Dr Dee by Damon Albarn, the maestro behind Britpop champions Blur, cartoon band Gorillaz and more leftfield works like 2007's Oriental pop-opera Monkey, Journey to the West, and received attention from the national music press.

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Christmas congratulations for Claire Perry on her efforts to extend mainline train electrification

Support for Claire Perry’s bid to extend electrification on the vital mainline trains services to London came from Marlborough town council last night (Tuesday) with a motion of Christmas congratulations.

The efforts of the local Tory MP to persuade the government to add another 80 miles of electrification to Westbury were praised by Councillor Richard Pitts, who told colleagues: “It is very important that we support Claire, who has been working very hard with Pewsey and ourselves in trying to get the electrification pushed forward.”

Moving his motion, he asked: "Would this council join with me in congratulating Claire Perry MP on her success in persuading the Department of Transport to look into the benefits of electrification of the railway line between Newbury, Bedwyn and Westbury?”

“We as a council recognise electrification as vital in the promotion of our town as a commuter, tourism, business and trading centre and as an important way of reducing road congestion and carbon emissions.”

“Would we agree to support Transition Marlborough's travel group and Bedwyn Transport Passenger Group's efforts to co-ordinate bus services between Marlborough and the three stations in the area -- Bedwyn, Pewsey and Swindon-- as this will increase job opportunities for people without cars?”

“And call upon Wiltshire Council to reduce the proposed cut to the Bedwyn bus and instead implement the alternative timetable for the Marlborough – Bedwyn -- Hungerford service, that incorporates seven minute waiting times at Bedwyn and Hungerford stations, to increase the likelihood that passengers will meet their connections?”

Councillor Pitts referred to positive answers in the House of Commons Mrs Perry had obtained from Transport minister Simon Burns on a review taking place that would also include freight as well as passenger trains on the line to and from Paddington.

“May I reassure her that we place great importance on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the rail network?” Mr Burns replied.

“I can confirm that freight is included in the review that I have asked for on the Newbury to Westbury line.  I do not want to hang around on this matter, because it will get bogged down in bureaucracy.  I hope that officials and Network Rail will report to me by February 2013.”

Councillor Val Compton called for the serious parking problems in Great Bedwyn, where elderly and disabled people were being “locked into their own homes” by cars blocking their drives, to be part of the issues being raised.

She was supported by Councillors Caroline Jackson and Gordon Francis, the latter pointing out that it was the Great Bedwyn situation that highlighted the issue in the first place.

“The notion of the Department of Transport to electrify the line only to Newbury was very ill conceived in the first place,” he added.  “I rather suspect that someone in Whitehall looked at the map and thought Newbury is the biggest station we can stop electrification there.”

“We know because we are local that that is a nonsense in itself.  So it makes tremendous sense to push the electrification to Westbury.”

Councillors Pitts and Compton are now to prepare a letter setting out the town council’s case to go to Wiltshire Council to seek its support for the campaign.

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