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Tottenham House development plans: it's the new buildings that are stirring up objections


The planning applications for the restoration of Tottenham House and for the extensive developments on the estate that surrounds it, have raised fears among local residents about the scale of new building that is planned and its effect on surrounding villages.

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Police appeal for information after Marlborough burglary


Police would like to hear from anyone who could help following an unsuccessful burglary attempt at a business in Marlborough on Monday of this week (12 February).   

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Marlborough Rugby youngsters achieve call-up to England squad


Two of Marlborough Rugby Club's up and coming young players have been selected for the England Under 18s squad to tour France this coming Summer.

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Electrician Team Leader - Marlborough College


  Electrician Team Leader     An excellent opportunity has arisen for an Electrician Team Leader to lead our existing small team of Electricians, undertaking appropriate repairs, maintenance and improvements in a variety of interesting College buildings, set in a pleasant environment. Ideally, you will come from a multi-site background with experience of electrical...

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Yet more of the High Street's independent retail sparkle is extinguished - Lighting of Distinction to close after more than…

15-02-2018 Sue Round

Lighting of Distinction, with its vast range of lamps and light fittings as well as all things electrical from toasters and kettles to radios and clocks, will close no later than May.  Following hard on the heels of East it is the latest casualty in Marlborough’s High Street.

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Future of the Three Horseshoes in Burbage

14-02-2018 Gary Rawlinson

Sirs,  You are correct in saying that any new owner of the Three Horseshoes in Burbage could seek to run the business down and that permission for 'change of use' can be given if it can be shown that the pub is unviable (Wadworths are selling the Three Horseshoes, Jan...

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Brexit tales: disguising EU funding


  Next month Brexit will be a year away - how have we got to this position?  Partly it is simply a matter of the British Government's failure to acknowledge and explain the benefits the EU has brought us over the years.It is still happening.  Claire Perry MP sends out a...

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An invitation to join the Raspberry Marlborough

14-02-2018 Geoff Brickell

Marlborough's first 'Raspberry Jam' is being held on Sunday, March 4 - part of worldwide celebrations to mark the sixth birthday of the Raspberry Pi mini computer. 

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Marlborough in Bloom 2018 - going for gold again

14-02-2018 Sue Round

Having achieved Gold in the 2017 Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘South West in Bloom’ competition this year’s Marlborough in Bloom Committee are not going to rest on their laurels.  

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Dates for your diary: rail services suspended as electrification work approaches Newbury


The electrification of the line from Paddington as far as Newbury - but no further - means temporary closures of the line between Pewsey and Theale with train services from and to Pewsey and Bedwyn suspended for various four-day, mid-week periods during the year. 

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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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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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Unpublished documents reveal new NHS property company – will it own Savernake Hospital?

Savernake Hospital MarlboroughSavernake Hospital Marlborough

The map of the Conservative-led coalition’s new health service for England is very gradually becoming clearer.  But the sheet of that map which includes Marlborough still omits one vital feature:  come April 2013, who will own Savernake Hospital once the Primary Care Trust (PCT) has been wound up?

The Health Service Journal has seen documents revealing how the new NHS Property Services Ltd (known for short as ‘PropCo’) will take over NHS properties now owned by PCTs across England.  The shape of this new company matters locally as it may come to own Savernake Hospital.

At present our PCT – NHS Wiltshire – owns Savernake Hospital and pays its annual Public Finance Initiative (PFI) charges.  The PCT also receives the rent from other NHS healthcare providers that use parts of the hospital – like Great Western Hospital Foundation Trust and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Over the past months, replies from the Department of Health to letters from interested local parties have not revealed who ultimately own Savernake Hospital.  Last summer guidance from Whitehall suggested Savernake and its PFI might transfer to the GWH.  That outcome has not been confirmed.

It has been said that those PCT properties deemed to be (in the Department’s jargon) “service critical clinical infrastructure” can be handed to the relevant providers such as community care providers. This might still mean GWH (which manages Wiltshire’s community healthcare) could take over Savernake. But GWH probably does not lease enough of Savernake to qualify under that policy and the financial burden of the PFI may rule out that solution.

These documents reveal for the first time the size of the property portfolio transferring to PropCo.  Once valued at £2 billion it is now said to be worth between £4.5 billion and £5 billion. This implies the inclusion of many more ‘big ticket’ properties such as those with PFI contracts attached.

It is also now clear that PropCo will be taking on about two thousand five hundred PCT staff. And that the company’s chief executive and chief operating officer will be employed on “very senior manager” contracts with salaries to match.

Coalition ministers are happy to back an interim framework for PropCo lasting two to three years – “until the full commercial model can be developed.” At that point it is very likely that PropCo will be sold off.

This would be quite a simple task as PropCo will be, as health minister Simon Burns told Parliament, “one hundred per cent owned by the Secretary of State for Health.” PropCo was registered with Companies House last December, with two civil servants as its directors and one £1 share in the name of the Secretary of State.

Before a sell-off can happen, PropCo will have to become commercially viable – which means raising rents for those who occupy and use its properties including the many GPs whose surgeries are currently owned by PCTs.

Until the precise details of PropCo are made public the future ownership of Savernake will remain unclear.  But as Savernake Hospital is now home to valued healthcare services and as no one will want to pay off the remaining years of its multi-million pound PFI contract, it will surely have an assured future – whoever owns it.

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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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Marlborough jazz festival bookings take off despite the austerity blues

Clare Teal, starring again at The Marlborough Jazz FestivalClare Teal, starring again at The Marlborough Jazz FestivalThe economic blues may have hit the country but it is not affecting next month’s Marlborough International Jazz Festival when performers from 22 countries arrive to delight music lovers.

With the box office now open for the weekend event being staged on July 13, 14 and 15, initial reports indicate that jazz lovers want to shrug off austerity and enjoy themselves.

“It’s early days yet but we are taking a lot of phone bookings and the online books are already up on last year’s figures,” festival founder and consultant Nick Fogg told Marlborough News Online.

“That’s pretty remarkable give the economic climate. So it’s going well.”
And he added: “People do have to spend money on something despite austerity, and may be that rather spend it elsewhere, they’re coming to Marlborough for the jazz festival next month.”

“You can never know the real reasons but it’s working for us.”

There are plenty of highlights to attract maximum audiences, not least that it is an international event.

“We’ve got 22 countries involved this year, which is a figure on a par with last year,” said Mr Fogg. “And the list runs all the way from America and Australia all the way down to Zimbabwe, and you can’t get further down the alphabet than that.”

“Ours is an international festival and that is one of its great attractions. I always enjoy our Africa bandstand. I defy anyone to keep their feet still when they’re performing. And that’s a fantastic thing to have.”

One of the most remarkable events will be the revival of The Queen’s Suite, a unique tribute to Her Majesty written by Duke Ellington, the legendary American jazz pianist, composer and band leader.
The Queen meets the DukeThe Queen meets the Duke Ellington composed it in tribute to Queen Elizabeth after he met her at a music festival in Leeds, only one vinyl copy of the suite being recorded and sent to Buckingham Palace.

Now it is being revived at the festival as part of Marlborough’s own contribution to the Queen’s diamond jubilee events.

“That is attracting great interest,” said Mr Fogg, whose wife Edwina, Marlborough’s new mayor, will be present at event. “There is a Duke Ellington Society in the UK and they’ve put it on their website for all their members.

“So we’re going to get lots of Ellingtonians here in Marlborough.”

Clare Teal, the queen of British jazz singers, is making a return visit to this year’s festival along with Darius Brubeck, son of the late American jazz pianist Dave Brubeck.Dazzling new acts include Flap, from Australia, one of whose members has been voted the Australian Jazz Musician of the Year, and, from Israel, the Sarah Gillespie trio with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon.

“Getting Flap to come to Marlborough is a real coup,” said Mr Fogg. “And as for the Sarah Gillespie Trio they always have a uniquely original show that’s never the same. They’re all very talented.”
Brewin Dolphin are the festival’s lead sponsor again this year

For festival website go to and for phone books ring 01672 515095 or 08443 350 822.
Darius BrubeckDarius BrubeckLaura ZakianLaura ZakianSarah Gillespie trio with saxophonist Gilad AtzmonSarah Gillespie trio with saxophonist Gilad AtzmonFlap!Flap!

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Claire Perry promotes anti-porn petition as shock report reveals massive child abuse

Claire Perry, Marlborough's MPClaire Perry, Marlborough's MPTory MP Claire Perry, who has led the campaign for curbs to protect children from internet pornography, is redoubling her efforts in the wake of a shock report to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee.

The Committee has itself announced its own inquiry in the wake of evidence from Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner, revealing the massive impact access to porn is currently having on children in all communities across the country.

She told the committee that her two-year survey of the problem had shown that that girls as young as 11 were expected to have to perform sex acts on rows of boys for up to two hours at a time in parts of London.

And she added: "As one police officer who was the lead in a very big investigation in a very lovely, leafy, rural part of the country said to me: 'there isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited."

"The evidence that has come to the fore during the course of my inquiry is that that, unfortunately, appears to be the case.  We should start from the assumption that children are being sexually exploited right the way across the country."

"In urban, rural and metropolitan areas, I have hard evidence of children being sexually exploited.  That is part of what is going on in some parts of our country.  It is very sadistic, it is very violent it is very ugly."

Mrs Perry, mother of three children whose Devizes constituency takes in Marlborough, told Marlborough News Online: “A petition is currently underway plus another meeting with No 10.  Now is the time for real action not just headline grabbing in my view.”

The petition calling for an opt-in solution that is being organised by Premier Christian Media and Safermedia who have been running a campaign parallel to Claire’s called Safety Net (  

Safermedia have been the charity who have worked with Claire since the beginning and Premier was the sponsor of the report.

“Their aim is to reach 100,000 signatures and I believe they are very close to reaching their target --reaching some 96,000 signatories last week,” added Claire.

“As for the consultation, a review process is underway being led by people at No 10 and the Department of Culture Media and Sport but they have yet to finalise all the details of the consultation.”

She hit the headlines last year by chairing a cross-party parliamentary inquiry by 60 MPs into the way the major internet providers have rejected all attempts for them to introduce filters and blocking devices parents can use on their children’s computers.

They have been accused of refusing to act across the board  because of the vast sums of money they earn by propagating pornography on the internet.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Select Committee, said he had been shocked to discover, following the recent sex exploitation case in Rochdale, that the number of child victims now actually ran into thousands.

“This is clearly not a case just relating to one northern town, but a national issues that requires thorough investigation,” he declared. “The serious questions raised require immediate answers.”

“We will, therefore, extend the tie we have allocated to this issue and widen our inquiry so we can deal with the causes – and solutions as a matter of urgency.”

Although Mrs Perry has pressed No 10 to take action, all that has happened so far is a consultation with internet service providers, though Talk Talk has now decided to offer all its four million subscribers a blanket opt-out filter to protect children.

Mrs Perry’s inquiry discovered that 73 per cent of UK households now have access to the internet while 52 per cent of children say they use the internet alone in their bedrooms, thus making it difficult for parents to monitor effectively what they log on to.

“Eleven per cent of children in the UK have seen sexual content on websites and 2 per cent have seen sexual content online or offline,” Mrs Perry reported.

“Further small-scale studies have found that almost a third of 14-16-year-olds first looked at sexual images online when they were aged 10 or younger while 81 per cent of children in the same age group look at online porn at home.”

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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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We’re as clean as a whistle reveals Marlborough town council finance chief

Andrew Ross, Marlborough town council finance chiefAndrew Ross, Marlborough town council finance chiefA clean bill of health has been given to Marlborough Town Council’s finances by independent auditor Nigel Archer, the council’s finance and policy committee will be told on Monday.

The auditor’s overall conclusion to an eight-page survey states: “We are pleased to report that no major issues have been identified during the course of our visits or the year – any matters arising have been discussed with officers and details have been embodied in the text of the detailed report for members’ attention accordingly.”

And as the committee prepares to consider its annual statement of accounts for the past financial year, chairman Councillor Andrew Ross declared: “I am even more pleased that we have produced a small surplus this year of £18,000 and brought our reserves back over the £300,000 mark, a level that is suitable for a town council of our size.

“At no stage during my five years as finance chairman has the independent auditor ever issued any warnings. We are clean as a whistle, in the pink, which is exactly what I expect.”

But Councillor Ross, an retired accountant, warned once again that many Marlborough residents held the misguided belief that the council had far greater powers than it did and an annual income far in excess of the £400,000 it basically receives from its precept plus income from property letting.

The sum is but seven per cent of the total council tax levied by Wiltshire Council, which has a budget of £800 million, plus the precepts charged by the police and fire services in the county.

“Unfortunately too many people believe we have powers way beyond the ones we hold as a town council,” he pointed out. “We are basically managing just a small proportion of the town and have but two spending committees.

“The vast majority of our expenditure is used on maintaining the green areas in the town and the fabric of the town hall. And we have a modest staff that runs the administration as well as five groundsmen.”

The accounts show that income from letting the town hall has risen from £25,000 to £31,000 and it is hoped that this will increase if planned regular film shows go ahead this year.

Councillor Ross also referred to the controversy over a proposed £l million programme to upgrade the town hall by way of taking a low interest rate government loan repayable over 50 years. However, this was just an illustration of action the town council could consider.

“It was basically an example of what possibly could have been done if the project was undertaken in one hit,” he explained. “Had it been accomplished, it would have actually saved the council money.

“But it never ever was approved as town council policy and people have been mislead into thinking it was.”

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Marlborough’s own strolling player Nick Fogg reveals Shakespeare’s hidden history

Nick Fogg at Stratford Waterstones Book Launch of 'Hidden Shakespeare'Nick Fogg at Stratford Waterstones Book Launch of 'Hidden Shakespeare'“Walking in Shakespeare’s footsteps? Yes, absolutely.  That’s a good way to put it,” says Nick Fogg, born in Stratford-upon- Avon where the very town itself totally trumpets the genius of the world’s greatest dramatist.

He has been breathing in the myths and mysteries of Shakespeare’s life since his own early days in Stratford.  That has resulted in three books and now, at almost 70, his fourth and most important tome, a biography called Hidden Shakespeare.

Nick returned to his native Stratford on Saturday, for his book’s official launch in Shakespeare’s own birthplace, the evocative timbered house on Henley Street owned by the Bard’s father, as well as signing copies for devotees in Waterstone’s.

And as the sun shone for once, he recalled how his introduction to Shakespeare was inevitable and how his mother, Ann, now a fragile 101 and in a care home, used to be the cashier in the restaurant at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

“The quick route from the restaurant to the door from which she exited was across the stage,” he told me.  “She would stop in the middle and take a little bow when she crossed the stage.”


More than 50 people attended the civic launch of Nick’s Hidden Shakespeare.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Stratford, Councillor Keith Lloyd and his wife, Elaine, were there, so too Professor Stanley Wells, Editor of the Oxford Shakespeare, the Revd Dr Paul Edmondson, Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, and Richard Mullins, former stage door keeper at the RSC and his wife, Maggie.

And, of course, Nick’s own wife, Edwina, the diamond jubilee Mayor of Marlborough.


Such is the reverence that honey-tongued Shakespeare still produces.  Indeed, as Nick writes: “I’m proud to have given my share of genius to William Shakespeare – and there are compensations in so doing.”

“One of my companions on the school bus was a rose-cheeked lass called Sue Hathaway.  When I came to man’s estate, the barmaid in my local was called Judith Quiney – the married surname of Shakespeare’s younger daughter.”

“I must mention also my sister-in-law is a descendent of Shakespeare’s Aunt Kate and that therefore my genes must mingle with his through my brother’s children.”

“Even when I became the Mayor of my adopted town of Marlborough, I couldn’t escape the Bard.  One of my predecessors, John Walford, was sued by the poet’s father for debt.”

But though he estimates that we know more about Shakespeare than any other Elizabethan apart from the Queen herself, the Shakespeare blood line has disappeared.  Much of what know is based on aural history passed down probably within the 50 or 60 years after Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and that provide the only clues to his identity.

Which is why Nick follows in Shakespeare’s footsteps like a faithful hound, sniffing, searching, seeking out but scraps of additional knowledge not previously accounted for by scholars and Shakespeare lovers over past centuries.

It is these that Nick has assiduously followed up with extensive research over the past three years that has given him access to an enormous amount of historical detail on which to base honest conjecture in unravelling possible distortions while trying to discover the truth.

For instance, was Shakespeare, he of the auburn hair and hazel eyes, a covert Catholic?  Was this is why he poached deer and rabbits from the estate of Protestant activist Sir Thomas Lucy?

Why did he suddenly disappear to London, a three-day journey away possibly made with a passing troupe of actors, leaving behind his wife and three children?

How did he survive in such a dangerous city full of violence and vagabonds, rioters against immigrant weavers, criminals hung, drawn and slaughtered, bear baiting a popular rival to the theatre, itself at the mercy of State intervention?

Nick has used his prodigious knowledge and understanding -- he quotes Shakespeare as if he is has just come off stage himself -- that comes from a lifetime’s obsession.

He has talked to students galore about Shakespeare since his early days teaching English in an East London school, later at Marlborough College, has run Shakespeare tours of the South Bank, lectured at the international Shakespeare festival held in Stratford, Ontario, at the Edinburgh Festival too and Marlborough’s own literary festival.

As he dissects and examines every angle, you begin to understand that it is a true labour of love, one he kept alive by ensuring that he wrote something every day while compiling Hidden Shakespeare – “Otherwise you find yourself in despair and depressed that it all gets too big for you,” he explained.

In many ways his book is a history of the theatre itself as he reveals that Elizabethan playwrights cheerfully lifted each others plots and scenarios – Ben Jonson described the poet as a bee going round other men’s flowers – most plays written by two or more authors, like today’s collaborating TV scriptwriters, while Shakespeare was unique in largely working on his own.

“Shakespeare is almost alone amongst his contemporaries, the epithet genteel applied to him,” added Nick. “And that is particularly significant.  He wasn’t a bruiser, there isn’t any record of him getting into any kind of bother with the authorities.”

Nevertheless, he exposes a certain lack in the Bard’s education.  “Shakespeare often got quite a lot of his geography wrong,” he explained.  “He makes Milan into a seaport and gives Bohemia a sea cost and he populates Germanic Vienna with Italians.”

“There are one or two instances where he seems to use an Italian source where there is no known English translation.  So that’s quite fascinating and raises the question of whether Shakespeare actually understood Italian and knew about Machiavelli’s The Prince, used in his Richard III, which wasn’t translated into English until the 1630s.

“So one of the things I stress is that Shakespeare is a genius, he has the largest word power of any man who has ever lived.  But he was equally a genius of his time as well.”

“The Elizabethan age was the apotheosis of the English language.  It reached its greatest heights of expression in Shakespeare’s time.  He was part of a great mountain range of hugely talented writers and received just the right amount of education for his purpose.”

“And his background was exactly perfect.  His father was a glover by trade.  Ben Jonson’s stepfather was a bricklayer, Christopher Marlowe’s father was a shoemaker.  It is from this rising artisan class that these amazing Elizabethans came.”

He is convinced that Shakespeare speaks to him, but that is nothing mystical.

 “He is a great dramatist who speaks to all ages,” he declares.  “He is both a contemporary figure and a universal figure, though it is quite difficult to sort out which is contemporary and which is universal.  That is why I decided I had to write down all my thoughts and what I knew.”

“I didn’t want them to get lost.  It might be mad but I wanted them to be passed on.”

And Nick, perhaps like Shakespeare, shrugs off the word satisfaction with a joke at the end of his labours and brilliantly successful mission – “It’s the nearest we chaps can get to childbirth,” he said.

Hidden Shakespeare: A Biography by Nicholas Fogg (Amberley Publishing, £20) available in Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop.

Picture:  Richard Morris

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