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Hills gives half a million to wildlife projects

Wildlife projects and areas of biodiversity in Wiltshire have received a £500,000 grant from Marlborough-based Hills Group Limited.

The money has been granted to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust by Hills from funds available through the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF).

Mike Hill, chief executive of Hills Group, said: “We are long-term supporters of the Trust and have made this contribution to mark the occasion of their 50th anniversary. The funding will ensure that wildlife habitats are created and protected for future generations to enjoy.
“As a company we care about the locations that give us our living and do our best to give something back. It is a strong principle of ours and one which has benefited all communities in Wiltshire for a number of years.”
Gary Mantle, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Director explained: “We have set ourselves a target of raising £1m in our 50th Anniversary year so we can keep protecting Wiltshire’s precious wildlife and help communities enjoy their local reserves. We have challenged our members and supporters to raise £500,000 and we are absolutely thrilled that Hills have agreed to match this with their £500,000.
“We will spend the Hills money at our reserves across the county, which include some of the best wildlife habitats in Wiltshire. For example, at Blakehill Farm we will reseed the meadows with green hay to increase the number of wildflowers and at Ravensroost Wood we can now install dormouse boxes.

"In the wood at Cloately Meadows we will start coppicing to provide the right conditions for butterflies to thrive and at Markham Banks a new bridge means we can use ponies and sheep to graze our meadows.
“And it’s not just wildlife that will benefit. At our Lower Moor and Langford Lakes Nature Reserves we will be improving our visitor facilities to make sure local people can easily access and explore their local reserves.
“Hills generosity inspires us to achieve more and more for Wiltshire’s wildlife and communities and we are extremely grateful for their continued support and encouragement” said Gary.
Since 1996 the Hills Group has contributed more than £5.3m to the Trust through LCF to support the conservation of biodiversity and the provision of public amenities in the region.

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Lots of interest at charity auction

A family pass to Charlie´s Farm in Colderton, trout fishing at Wilton House, tickets to Barbury Horse Trials and meals at local restaurants are among the prizes at a charity auction, as Pewsey businesses join forces to raise money for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

Pewsey accountants Farrant Frost and chartered financial planners Aisa Professional are hosting the charity auction at the Bouverie Hall, Pewsey on Friday, 18 May from 7pm to 10pm.

A fully licensed bar will be provided by the French Horn and a light buffet comes courtesy of Chequers Bistro. David Harrison from the Jubilee Auction Rooms will wield the gavel, and many Pewsey businesses have donated lots for the auction.

"We wanted to arrange a community event to raise money for a great charity, as well as trying to promote and support local businesses," explained event organiser Jenni Frost, of Farrant Frost.

"We´ve had some incredible donations from local businesses and attractions, as well as national organisations, including signed merchandise from Manchester United, Arsenal and EastEnders,” said co-organiser Colette Sowerby, from Aisa Professional.

"We are so excited about hosting a real community event. It´s great to bring local businesses and local residents together for such a good cause, and to have an enjoyable evening out."

Ticket, priced £5, and are on sale at pubs and shops in Pewsey or from the website, where a full list of auction lots can be found.

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Chance to win Lloyds tour at business ball

A tour of the iconic Lloyds of London building and meal for four in the city is just one of the prizes being offered at a charity auction for businesspeople in Marlborough this month.

The money-can't-buy opportunity will be offered at the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Olympic Jubilee Ball on Saturday, May 19.

Other prizes include:

  • Golf for four followed by lunch
  • Tickets to the Marlborough College gala performances and £160 towards a course at the summer school
  • Two tickets to Wembley to watch the England autumn international
  • John Lewis vouchers worth £250
  • Marlborough Jazz Festival Stroller Tickets
  • A year's free advertising on Marlborough News Online, worth £100
  • A portrait by the artist Yvonne Cannane
  • A photography voucher for £149 from Peter Davies Photography

The black tie event is being held to mark passing of the Olympic torch through Marlborough on May 23 and the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations in June.

Ticket holders will enjoy a champagne reception, three course dinner, live music and a charity auction in aid of Marlborough-based Swift Medics.

Proceeds from the auction will be donated to Swift Medics, a charity of volunteer doctors from hospital and general practice who provide what is known as ‘pre-hospital emergency care’.

The Medics provide emergency care at the scene of serious road traffic accidents and other life threatening medical emergencies including falls from a height, serious burns and incidents where casualties are unconscious or trapped.

The event will be held on Saturday, May 19 from 7pm to 1am. Tickets are £40, available from Chamber president Paul Shimell at Specsavers or from committee member Effie Robins of Joules. Both shops are on High Street, near the town hall.  

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Simon's green business dream

A Marlborough man who lost his job with computer giant IBM has set up his own business, recycling unwanted PCs.
Simon Crisp (34), the founder of Green Machine Computers, collects old PCs and electronic equipment for free and refurbishes them be used by families on  low incomes, students, or anyone in need of a computer for around £100.
And for each machine put back on the market, the company donates a percentage to charity – Marlborough-based Afrikaya and Helen & Douglas House are among the recent beneficiaries.
Simon said: “Being made redundant was a complete shock and almost broke me.  To make it worse I was a long term temp, so got less than a month’s pay redundancy.
“It was tough at first as we had no income at all, two young children and an older one at senior school. After a week of stress and worry about looking for a new job I decided I never wanted to work for one of the big IT companies again and decided to start my own.”
Simon decided to start  Green Machine Computers after spotting a gap in the market, and because he was annoyed that “the machines that often got destroyed at work at the end of their lives were often better than the ones I had at home, yet company policy seemed to be remove these from circulation to be dismantled."
“If you're on benefits and your washing machine blows up you’re pointed to a company like Refurbiz in Devizes, which offers second hand nearly new white goods for a low cost, but there is not a company, that offers this for computers,” said Simon. 
“That’s when Green Machine Computers was born.”
The firm, which is now six months old, has collected and refurbished computers from around 30 companies, schools and charities across the area. 
Recently,  Green Machine Computers – which operates from a workshop at Membury Business Park, near Lambourn  - was able to offer a laptop and mobile phones to a community in the Gambia. 
The laptop was donated to Abdoulie Joku, a member of the Parent Teacher Association at a nursery school in the Gambia with which Afrkiaya is working. 
Geoff Miles from Afrikaya explained: "Abdoulie is trainer in the Gambian Army and has recently started an IT course to improve his career prospects when he leaves the army. 
"He asked us if Afrikaya could provide him with an old laptop to enable him to take best advantage of the course, otherwise they had to share 1 between 6 of them, and Simo kindly donated one."
To donate or buy a computer, log on to or call Green Machine Computers on 01488 670350.

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Balloon festival celebrates big 4-0 over Savernake

The first major event in the ballooning calendar celebrated its big 4-0 in the skies above the Savernake Forest this morning.

The 40th annual Icicle Meet saw around 30 hot air balloons take off from Warren Farm, near St Katharine's, over the space of a couple of hours – a vast improvement on 2011 when only six were able to take flight in windy conditions.

The ascents were a welcome sight to spectators and organisers after the pilots decided not to attempt lift-off on Saturday.

 Organiser Pete Bish explained: “The perfect conditions for the Icicle Meet are clear blue skies and hard ground.”

“The weather on Saturday was deemed unfavourable, but as the forecast for the following day was better the pilots opted for a Sunday launch.”

The annual event – held on the first weekend of the year after New Year's Day– is well-known within the ballooning community, but unlike many balloon festivals it is not advertised as a public event.

As a result, members of the public who do pop along find themselves in the midst of the action as balloons are unpacked from trailers, burners are noisily fired and the colourful canopies are inflated.

Among the star attractions at this year's event was the BT Olympics balloon, branded to promote the communication giant's sponsorship of the 2012 games.

The first Icicle Meet was held near Newbury in 1973, when John Noakes of BBC's Blue Peter filmed in a balloon.

In 1978 it became the largest hot air balloon meet ever outside the United States with 85 balloons making 179 flights, and in 1989 a record 143 balloons flew.

In 1993 the event moved to Warren Farm, when 97 balloons took flight.  A year later the event hit the headlines when an airship crashed into a tree in the flying field.  The crew were rescued by the fire brigade. 

It's not a race... but for the record this was the first balloon up

Inflating a balloon is a team effort

There was snow in the air... if only from the Snow Business balloon

The Union Flag on the tether of another balloon made for this interesting Olympic-themed picture

The BT Olympics balloon in flight

A cluster of balloons over the Savernake Forest

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Thurs 10th May: Viyella fashion show at Town Hall

Clothes shops Viyella and CC will be showing off their spring and summer collections in a fashion show at Marlborough Town Hall on Thursday, May 10 from 7pm.

The event, which will be held in aid of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, will also feature makeup tips from Clarins.

Tickets, priced at £5, are available from Viyalla and CC at 8/9 High Street, Marlborough or on 01672 514855.

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Marlborough’s Waitrose pioneers the way ahead for 80,000 John Lewis partners

Andy Davies, ebullient manager of Marlborough’s Waitrose, will be missing today (Tuesday) from the supermarket he has made the magnet for shoppers over almost five years and one of the chain’s most successful.

Instead he will be on a train heading for London and the Victoria headquarters of the John Lewis Partnership on a mission to enhance the careers of the 80,000 partners, who are all part of Britain’s biggest department store group.

His talents have been recognised with a boost in his career with a six months secondment to roll out across the business a pioneering system he has developed in Marlborough to give them the flexibility to change and expand their careers.

“It’s Marlborough in the forefront again – absolutely,” he told Marlborough News Online. “We piloted the project with 25 members of my team here, from senior partners right through to non-management members.”

“What is exciting about it for me is that it keeps alive, on a day to day basis, that spirit of partnership that our founder Spedan Lewis created for the group, which is only set to grow as we get bigger and bigger -- and better -- at what we do.”

It is exciting moment too for Richard Clare as he takes over from Andy (pictured right), who presented Richard with his first manager’s badge in the Marlborough Waitrose store before departing on the eve of the Easter weekend.

Richard only left the Army – he was an infantry staff officer in The Rifles looking after finances – in March last year and became a partner at the Marlborough Waitrose last July.

It was for family reasons that he decided to leave and discovered that Waitrose was looking for store managers at an officers’ association symposium.

“It seemed to me a fabulous opportunity,” said 35-year-old Richard, who lives at Kintbury. “Yes, it’s obviously very different from bullets and bombs.  It’s baked beans now but it’s still about the managing process.”

“In the Army life is about drills.  And we save lives too.  Here in Marlborough it’s about drills too that us efficient and leading the partners through that process.  That’s where there really is a synergy between the two.”

It will be an extremely busy six months standing in Andy Davies’ shoes – he is due back in October – since this summer will see major events in the town to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the launch of the Olympic Games.

“So there is a great opportunity for me to get behind the activities that will be going on and help the town celebrate those occasions in style,” said Richard.

Looking back, Andy recalls that it was only a year ago that he organised the revamp of the Waitrose store with the introduction of new energy-saving refrigeration and new products too, as well the store’s new cafe.

He has also seen changes in shopping patterns as a result of the recession, customers now shopping more frequently for fewer goods – there have been fewer of those overflowing trolleys at the checkout – but no reduction in overall takings.

“We now have a much more dynamic store which has done extremely well,” said Andy. “It has been a more positive year and this week the 220 partners will celebrate with their own AGM here in Marlborough, look back on the year and toast the success of the branch.”

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Chamber of Commerce plans Olympic Jubilee Ball

Marlborough businesses will be celebrating a red, white and blue year in their town with an Olympic Jubilee Ball.

To mark passing of the Olympic torch through Marlborough on May 23 and the Queen´s diamond jubilee celebrations in June, Marlborough Chamber of Commerce is holding a black tie event at Marlborough Town Hall.

Ticket holders will enjoy a champagne reception, three course dinner, live music and a charity auction in aid of Marlborough-based Swift Medics.

Swift Medics is a charity of volunteer doctors from hospital and general practice who provide what is known as ‘pre-hospital emergency care’.

The Medics provide emergency care at the scene of serious road traffic accidents and other life threatening medical emergencies including falls from a height, serious burns and incidents where casualties are unconscious or trapped.

The event will be held on Saturday, May 19 from 7pm. Tickets are £40, available from Chamber president Paul Shimell at Specsavers or from committee member Effie Robins of Joules. Both shops are on High Street, near the town hall. 

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Traders warned of the return of the Tea Towel Scammer

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce is warning business owners to be wary after the return of the tea towel scammer.

The con-man visits retail premises and persuades junior shop staff to pay from the till for low-cost items that have not been ordered.

According to one trader, who alerted the Chamber of the con man's return to the town: “His scam normally works by asking for the manager.

“If the shop assistant says he or she is not there, he’ll tell them the items have been ordered, and he needs immediate payment as he is in a hurry.

“His ID clearly looks fake,” added the trader.

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New Business Park filling station given welcome planning approval

The delayed plans by Fraser Garages to open a petrol filling station with car wash and convenience store selling local produce on the Marlborough Business Park were given welcome approval on Monday by the town council.

It’s planning committee backed the initiative of the Oxford-based company, which runs a chain of six garages, to go head to head in competition with Deans, the London Road garage that serves local motorists.

As the only garage in Marlborough, Deans has been described and heavily criticised for charging the highest prices in Wiltshire – currently £144.90 a litre for diesel and £138.90 for leaded petrol.

“I am very impressed with the people who run Frasers,” Councillor Nick Fogg told the planning committee.  “We used to have four or five filling stations in Marlborough, but now we have only one.”

Councillor Peggy Dow added: “This will be an asset for the town.  We desperately need another filling station – and one with cheaper petrol than is currently being charged.”

And in opening at the Business Park – on the site in front of the Savernake Forest Dental Practice – it will enjoy support from the 220 houses planned by the Crown Estate for a site on the opposite side of the Salisbury Road.

Both Mr Fogg and Mrs Dow are also Wiltshire councillors who have been pressing the unitary authority to take legal action against Deans owner Mr Zubair Dean for failing to repair a grade II listed property adjoining his garage.

An emergency prohibition notice was served on him in April last year, which gave him 28 days to carry out urgent repairs to the property, subsequently ordered by conservation officer Pippa Card to be boarded up.

She wrote to Marlborough town council in August declaring that a final chance was being given to Mr Dean to restore the property, which had been used for housing, or face legal action.

She indicated that their had been a transfer of the ownership of the property and it was not known who was now responsible for its upkeep.

A month later still nothing had happened and Mr Fogg again hit out at Wiltshire for failing to act, one reason said to be its lack of funding to take on legal cases and enforce the repairs to a property described as being of “national importance”.

And another town councillor claimed that a legal notice had not been served because Wiltshire had no address for Mr Dean or possibly his son, which would normally be available at Companies House.

Then the garage – and another Dean filling station on the road to Hungerford -- were put up to rent, the 'To Let' sign still on display at the dilapidated premises.

Now it is believed that an offer to buy the Marlborough garage site, on the edge of River Kennet, and redevelop it, is believed to have been made, but no details have been revealed.

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Marlborough’s premier Castle and Ball re-opens after a £1 million refurbishment

The Castle and Ball, now Marlborough’s premier hotel and restaurant, is back in business, re-opening today (Saturday) after a two-month refurbishment costing close to £1 million.

The historic coaching inn that dates back to 1670 now has additional bedrooms to cope with tourism following the controversial sale of the Ivy House Hotel, on the opposite side of the High Street, to Marlborough College.

 “We are clearly committed to Marlborough by the fact that is our most expensive refurbishment to date costing close to £1 million,” Gordon England, regional manager for owners Green King/Old English Inns, told Marlborough News Online.

“We are absolutely delighted to be Marlborough’s premier hotel and we are looking forward to a prosperous and exciting future ahead.”

The Castle and Ball, originally called The Antelope at the time of the Spanish Armada, now has a total of 37 bedrooms, two more than before, both fitted with en suite showers instead of baths.

The original 35, some with four-poster beds, have all been upgraded with new decoration and carpets.  Some have been upgraded to a higher standard than before offering superior accommodation to some of the 84 people the hotel can accommodate when fully booked.

Only nine bedrooms are currently available, the rest coming on stream during the rest of March with a double room costing £89 a night with a £10 or £20 additional charge being introduced at peak times.  This includes a full English breakfast or alternatives.

“We are treating the Castle and Ball as a research and development project by raising its splendid bedrooms to a higher status,” said Mr England, who controls 14 hotels in five counties.

The new general manager in charge of a team of 30 members of staff is Nigel Forrester, who has been recruited from Whitbread Hotels, the biggest chain in the country.

And chef Adam Barrett and his staff have a new kitchen to prepare meals for those attracted by the hotel’s distinctive and newly gilded sign with gold leaf.

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