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'Mort in a month' challenge for students

A group of thirty Marlborough students have set themselves a deadly serious challenge – to put on a theatre performance of Terry Pratchett's Mort in just one month.

In doing so the sixth form students, who are studying for the International Baccalaureate at St John’s, aim to raise funds for an Alzheimer's charity, in recognition of the condition that has afflicted the author.

On 17 October, exactly one month from the first script read-through, the first performance of Mort – which is being directed, produced and choreographed by the students – will be unveiled to the public at The Theatre on the Hill at St John’s.

Published in 1987 as part of the Discworld novel collection, Mort was written by Sir Terry Pratchett and was later dramatised by Stephen Briggs.

The performance tells the story of young Mort who is sent away by his father to become an apprentice with a tradesman, who turns out to be Death himself.

In a twist of fate, Mort decides to save a princess whose time it was to die, drastically altering a part of Discworld’s reality. From this point, there begins a dramatic race against time for Mort to save the princess’s life.

The play offers a combination of comedy as well as a thoughtful insight into human nature. Mort is a production that both children and adults will find compelling and entertaining, with a thought provoking message that will appeal to everyone on a different level.

Mort in a Month rehearsals, day 1Mort in a Month rehearsals, day 1Common to all Pratchett novels, Mort contains some wicked one-liners. Certain to get the biggest laugh of the night is: "It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever. Have you thought of going into teaching?"

The idea to produce a play was proposed by Year 13 students Charlotte Farrow and Sam Hutchings and will be brought to life entirely by Sixth Form students at St John’s, some of whom are performing, some taking backstage roles and others responsible for ticket sales and marketing.

International Baccalaureate students are required to complete a minimum of 150 hours non-academic Creativity, Action and Service activities in order to receive their Diploma, and for the IB students involved in the production Mort will become part of their final qualification when the leave the school.

Principal Dr Patrick Hazlewood, who is a strong advocate of the International Baccalaureate said: “I am not surprised to see our sixth form students taking on such a big challenge, and I hope that students and their families will support their aim to raise a substantial sum for Alzheimers Research UK. I have every confidence that they will be able to put on a high quality performance, despite the extremely tight deadline.”

As well as being a huge amount of fun, the aim of this production is to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, a charity for which Sir Terry himself has done a lot of work with over the years.

So why take on this enormous challenge in a month? IB student and Mort press officer Charlie Linney said: “It’s simple: IB students think big, and when we work together, the sky’s the limit!”

The play will have two performances, on Wednesday 17 and Saturday 20 October, starting at 7pm. Tickets are on sale at £6 for adults and £4 for concessions.

Booking forms are available from St John’s Reception and student services, from The Theatre on the Hill pages of the St John’s website or by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Could you lend Olympic medalist Shelley a pooch?

Shelley RudmanShelley RudmanWinter Olympics hero Shelley Rudman is appealing for help to complete her latest challenge – a sponsored walk through Marlborough's Savernake Forest.

The world cup champion and winter 2006 Olympic silver-winning skeleton bobsleigher is hoping someone will lend her a canine companion for the Best Paw Forward walk in aid of Cancer Research UK. 

Shelley’s commitment to her sport makes it impossible for her to own a dog so she’s looking for a temporary canine companion.

“I don’t have a dog of my own at the moment, but would love to take part in such a great fundraising event if someone has a dog I can borrow...I promise I will give it back!” said Shelley. 

“Growing up in Pewsey, we had four beautiful dogs and I would love to have one, but sadly my training schedule and competing in North America doesn’t allow me the time.”

The sponsored dog walk is the first regional event outside of London organised by Cancer Research UK.

Organisers are hoping to attract hundreds of dog walkers to the Savernake Forest on Sunday, September 23 between 11 am and 4pm to raise much needed funds for Cancer Research UK. Entry is £10 per dog and is open to walkers of all ages.

To sign up for the event log on to

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Brit award winner plays Sound Knowledge gig

Ethan JohnsEthan JohnsWith a reputation for showcasing up-and-coming bands, Marlborough record shop Sound Knowledge will be playing host to a far more established artist in November.

Ethan Johns is a Brit Award-winning record producer, engineer, mixer, musician, and songwriter who has worked with such artists such as Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne,The Vaccines, Laura Marling, Tom Jones and Crosby, Stills & Nash to name but a few.

Having worked alongside some of the biggest names in music, Ethan has been drawing inspiration and decided to put out an album in his own right.

Twenty years in the making and produced by his legendary producer father Glyn Johns – who has worked with Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan – the album is keenly anticipated in the music business.

Ethan will be performing songs live in Azuza and signing copies of his album in Sound Knowledge on Friday, November 16 from 6.30pm.

Lucy RoseLucy RoseMeanwhile, Lucy Rose – a regular guest vocalist with Bombay Bicycle Club – will be playing a live show and signing copies of her new album, Like I Used To, on Friday, September 28 from 6.30pm.

Vogue magazine has described Rose as “One of indie music’s breakout stars for 2012”.

Attendance to both gigs is free by registering on the Sound Knowledge Facebook Page

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Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town

Ella, Ceri and Hannah from Gifford's Circus urge the crowds to roll up, roll up! Ella, Ceri and Hannah from Gifford's Circus urge the crowds to roll up, roll up! Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town.

And not just any old circus, but Gifford's Circus. Gifford's put on a particularly 'Marlborough-ish' kind of show – part traditional English circus, part cabaret, part physical theatre.

Each show has a theme – Joplin came to Marlborough in 2006, with its 1960s theme reflected in costumes and music. Caravan (2008) was set around a horse fair and 2010's Yasmine was inspired by the life of legendary equestrienne Yasmine Smart, who played herself in the production.

Last year's tour was called War and Peace and explored Napoleon's disastrous intrusion into Russia from a Russian Aristocratic family's view. It is, perhaps, what you'd expect from founder and creative producer Nell Gifford, who has a degree in English literature from Oxford.

This year's tour is called The Saturday Book. Somewhat aptly for a town with a growing reputation for literary excellence, organisers promise a witty collection of vignettes, tableaus, stories and paintings based on an annual miscellany, published between 1941 and 1975, which provided literary and artistic commentary.

Writers included John Betjeman, Graham Greene, Laurie Lee, Philip Larkin, George Orwell, Siegfried Sassoon and PG Wodehouse, while LS Lowry provided pictures.

Gifford's Circus, in all its artistic gloryGifford's Circus, in all its artistic gloryThe show is directed by Cal McCrystal, who has worked with The Mighty Boosh and Sacha Baron Cohen, and whose Royal National Theatre's hit show One Man, Two Guvnors – on which he was physical comedy director – transferred has played the West End and Broadway.

The cast includes loveable clown Tweedy, a veteran of children's television and a star on both sides of the Atlantic, Bibi the Ethiopian horse-riding juggler, Ukrainian gymnastics troupe The Godfathers, while Francois Marietta and Sarah Schwarz will be providing ariel thrills above the ring.

There'll be animals too, including Sallyann and Ionut Ronescu’s Comedy Dogs, pony trick riding with The Victorians and Giffords favourite Brian the goose.

The Saturday Book opens tomorrow (Friday) at Marlborough Common, with performances at 5pm and 7.30pm, and runs until Monday, September 3.

Once again, the circus will be bringing a most unusual pop-up restaurant to the town. Artistes and audience members dine together on a three-course meal made from seasonal and local ingredients for £25 a head.

Circus Sauce is also serving afternoon teas at £11 a head, and it will open during the intervals, serving freshly baked cakes, traditional ice creams and beverages.

Performance tickets cost £21 for adults and £14 for children under 14. For a full list of showtimes and booking details, log on to

Pictures from show are now on our Facebook page at

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How the Olympics reinforced the volunteering spirit – one volunteer’s view

Practising what she preaches, Rose Seagrief took two weeks leave from her day job to join the Olympic Gamesmakers, the army of volunteers that helped out during London 2012. Rose is the manager of Wiltshire Community Land Trust, which assists volunteer-run groups in Wiltshire and Swindon to set up community land trusts to own and manage their own assets and facilities.

Now, as the Paralympics approach, she looks back on her Olympic experience.

Rose, who lives in Chippenham, was made a team leader at the Greenwich Park venue.  She was in charge of between five and twelve volunteers, usually different people every day.  “We did whatever needed doing.  We welcomed people at the gates, scanned their tickets, saw them to their seats in the 20,500-seater stadium, managed queues at the food stalls, made sure all the toilets functioned, answered questions about anything and everything, and high-fived happy punters as they headed home.”

Her team members ranged in age from eighteen to well into their seventies: “They were amazing. Whatever they were asked to do, they did it. It made no difference how early it was, how late lunch was, how many stairs had to be climbed, or which portion of the anatomy ached that day, off they went, willingly and with humour. And somehow, at the end of every day, we had always enjoyed ourselves.”

The volunteers in her team were amused by the names given to certain things: “We didn’t have exits we had ‘vomitaries’, which I think we can blame on the Romans. Best of all, the horses that took part in the equestrian events were called ‘Equine Athletes’, while those the modern pentathletes drew lots for were termed ‘Sports Equipment’. How rude! I don’t blame one or two of the latter for throwing their riders.”

Rose and her team enjoyed the spectators too: “Kids and adults alike were wide-eyed and brimming with excitement. Seasoned equestrian experts spurred us on to make sure no-one moved a muscle while the finely-tuned dressage horses went through their paces. But young and old, in the know or otherwise, each and every one erupted with whoops of delight when Team GB made the medal podium.”

She won’t forget in a hurry the ear-splitting roar that went round the stadium when Samantha Murray won the final silver medal of the Games. Or how, as they left, the spectators thanked the Gamesmakers:  “How good that felt!”

Rose Seagrief Rose Seagrief Wiltshire Community Land Trust is an umbrella body that works with volunteer-led community groups in Wiltshire and Swindon who want to take on ownership and management of local assets such as affordable housing, workspaces, land for growing food and for recreation, wildlife reserves, pubs, shops and a range of community facilities and local services. So it is no great surprise that Rose takes a lesson in volunteering from her time among the horses, riders, spectators and fellow volunteers at Greenwich:

“There is no question that we can all be as proud of our volunteering tradition as we can of our sporting prowess, both celebrated so loudly over the past few weeks. That celebration will no doubt continue on to the Paralympics, but when those are done and dusted, quietly and mostly unsung all those Gamesmakers and many more besides will be back in their own communities continuing to give generously of their skills and energy, making life a little better for everyone.”

And if you are interested in the work of the Wiltshire Community Land Trust you can phone her (01380 850916) or email her: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Mustn’t grumble... Wiltshire folk among the happiest in UK

People in Wiltshire are the fourth happiest in the country according to the results of a recent national survey.

With a happiness score of 77.1 percent, Wiltshire was beaten only by Anglesey (77.3), Rutland (80.8) and Eilean Siar, Orkney & Shetland (82.8).

The unhappiest people lived in the local authoprities of Swansea (65.8), County Durham (65.3) and Blackpool (63.5), which had the dubious honour of being named the unhappiest place in Britain. 

The first national well-being survey showed that, nationally, those who are married, have jobs and own their own homes are the most likely to be satisfied with their lives.

As a general trend, people were the most satisfied with life in their teenage years and when they reached retirement age, with happiness levels dipping during middle age.

Those aged 16 to 19 and 65 to 79 reported satisfaction levels considerably higher than the UK average of 7.4 out of 10.

People living in built-up or former industrial areas, such as South Wales, the West Midlands or London, tended to be less happy, while rural areas, such as Orkney and Shetland, and Wiltshire were the happiest.

The results were obtained after researchers asked adults aged 16 and over to rank themselves between 0 and 10 to a number of questions, including:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

The scheme aims to provide a better understanding of how society is doing, and could help form future government policy. Prime Minister David Cameron described the survey as crucial to finding out what the government can do to "really improve lives", but Labour ridiculed the survey as a "statement of the bleeding obvious".

Welcoming the findings of the survey, Wiltshire Council leader, Jane Scott, said: “This doesn’t surprise me as the enthusiasm and the happiness I saw from our communities celebrating the Jubilee and the Torch relay was fantastic.

“More than 50 percent of people in the county came out and I think it shows what a strong community spirit we have in Wiltshire.

“We live in a beautiful county which is one of the safest and healthiest places to live, with low unemployment.

“However we must not rest on our laurels and, although the survey suggests older people and teenagers are the happiest groups, we must continue to work hard with our partners to support them.”

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Bottoms up for the Burbage Beer Festival

Twenty five different cask ales, including ten from Wiltshire, and 15 casks of cider will be on offer at the 16th annual Burbage Beer festival this weekend.

Punters enjoying the 2011 Burbage Beer FestivalPunters enjoying the 2011 Burbage Beer FestivalThe festival starts at 6.30pm on Friday, September 7, running until 11pm. From 8.30pm local band Humdinger will be providing musical entertainment.

Punters can run off fuzzy heads from 10am on Saturday with the traditional six-a-side football tournament, then it's back to the bar on Saturday night from 6pm to 11pm, with musical entertainment from 7.30pm, courtesy of Devizes-based Fat Freddy's Cat.

The festival will be held at Burbage Sports Club, East Sands, Burbage. Tickets cost £6 for one night or £7.50 for both, and the tariff includes a souvenir tankard. Drink tokens cost £1.50 each and will buy a half pint of beer or cider, while two tokens can be exchanged for a quarter bottle of wine. Soft drinks are also available.  

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2,322 people visit Communities Market

Amanda Fearon of the 2012 Taste of the West medal-winning Ramsbury TeaAmanda Fearon of the 2012 Taste of the West medal-winning Ramsbury TeaTwo thousand, three hundred and twenty two. That's officially the number of people who visited Marlborough's popular Communities Market yesterday (Sunday). 

That precise figure comes courtesy of volunteers from Transition Marlborough who, armed with clickers, used scientifically-approved methods to count the footfall of visitors as they browsed stalls. 

For lovers of statists, here are a few more: 

  • 39 – the number of stalls at the biggest market so far. The food section in Marlborough High Street boasted 28 stalls, while the inaugural arts and crafts market inside the Town Hall had 11.

  • 98 – the percentage of stallholders who came from the SN postcode area, in keeping with the organisers' hyper-local ethos. A fair proportion were from Marlborough's SN8 postcode area.

  • 11,000 – that's (roughly) how many miles at least one of the visitors – a New Zealander – was from home. Other visitors came from Japan and Bermuda, and from within the UK there were shoppers from London and Cardiff.

  • 4 – the number of cars left in Marlborough High Street overnight, despite the presence of No Parking signs. The problem led to the marquee being placed some distance away from the Town Hall – the organisers' preference was to have the two abutting.

Dewi Williams of Marlborough Mushrooms, winner of the Local Hero Award in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Food AwardsDewi Williams of Marlborough Mushrooms, winner of the Local Hero Award in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Food Awards“Overall it was a really, really good day,” say Ellie Gill from Marlborough Communities Market. Trade was slightly slower than at previous markets, and we suppose the rain may have put some people off.

“Many traders sold all their stock although, thankfully, not until the end of the day. Our regular stallholders are better able to gauge the event, rather than selling out in the morning, and there was a constant flow of customers all day.”

Organisers are promising even more stalls in October. “We have more interest from traders than we have space to accommodate them,” said Ellie. “New to the market next month will be the The Cotswold Curer, a producer of free range British salami, and Paul's Poultry, an award-winning pie maker.”

The Cotswold Cooks will also be back in October, selling teas, cakes and savouries from their 1950s themed beach hut.

Amy Ball and Scarlett Camm of Shyroom, a new business which sells 'up-cycled' jewellery Amy Ball and Scarlett Camm of Shyroom, a new business which sells 'up-cycled' jewellery As the nights draw in, the market will be operating winter hours. From Sunday, October 7 the hours of trading will be 11am to 3pm. November's market will be held on the 4th, with a special Christmas Lights market on Thursday, November 29 – the night the town's Christmas Lights are switched on – replacing the December 2 event.

A Christmas market will be held on Sunday, December 16. For details log on to

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Longboard charity trekkers pay tribute to friendly Marlborough

Longboarders at Marlborough skate parkLongboarders at Marlborough skate parkFive longboarders who rode from London to Cardiff in a bid to raise £10,000 for charity have paid tribute to the hospitality of the people of Marlborough – one of their official staging posts.

The sportsmen were riding longboards – which are skateboards with a longer deck and bigger wheels, and are designed for transport, as opposed to their shorter stunt-oriented cousins – along the A4 in a gruelling 176-mile challenge made tougher by the fact that they carried all their kit on their backs.

Setting off from London last Friday, Steve Matthews, Matthew Hernon, Will Aldington, Anthony Pierce and James Jones finally arrived in Cardiff on Monday (August 20).

And during their scheduled overnight stop in Marlborough they took time to visit the hipped mini ramp, wave to kicker, quarterpipes, tombstone, jumpbox and rollover of the town's skate park – designed by professional skateboarder Mike Foreman and considered to be one of the best in the UK.

Steve told Marlborough News Online this week: “We camped at Savernake, which was lovely, and the following morning we were greeted by some really nice people in the town, including a group of ladies who bought us bacon rolls from the Food Gallery.

“Marlborough is a great town and the people were very hospitable, I'm glad we chose to stop here. We were even given £40 in cash from lots of random passers by.”

“We completed the 176 miles in four days, finally reaching the millennium stadium at 6.30pm on Monday evening 

“We're all covered in blisters and ache like you wouldn't believe. There are some big uphills past Marlborough, although I did reach 36mph a few miles out on a massive downhill section, a new personal best.

“The fundraising has nearly reached £5,000, which is amazing, and we were even mentioned on the Chris Evans' breakfast show on Radio 2 yesterday.

“Turns out we're the first longboarders to ever do the London to Cardiff: the fulfilment far outweighs the pain!”

Anyone who wants to add to the team's tally for Macmillan Cancer Support can donate at

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Is the price of milk due to rise? How the milk crisis looks to a local dairy farmer

In the war that’s broken out between some of Britain’s dairy farmers and the big dairy processors something’s got to give.  Either we pay more for our milk, or the processors get less, or farmers are forced out of business.

The crisis has not gone away, it’s just taking an August break from its place in the headlines. A voluntary code of conduct for milk contracts has to be completed within weeks and the cuts in prices paid by the processors and some supermarkets have almost all been cancelled or postponed.

Farmers are still demonstrating outside milk processing plants. They obviously think the crisis will return soon – and they’ll be hit in the end with cuts to the price at which they sell their milk.

Tom Maidment and some of his Holstein heifersTom Maidment and some of his Holstein heifersTom Maidment’s family have been dairy farming in the Vale of Pewsey since 1887. They have lived through ups and downs in milk production and Tom takes the long view on the current crisis in the prices paid to farmers by the big milk producers.

He believes it’s a perennial problem. He remembers his father telling him how, before the war, he’d get an annual post card summoning him to London to sign the contract to sell his milk to United dairies’ plant near Paddington.

No negotiation – take it or leave it.  If he wanted his milk to leave Pewsey station each day and get a monthly cheque from United Dairies, he had to sign the contract.  And if he didn’t sign, United Dairies almost certainly had a drawer full of alternative dairy farmers willing to sign.

Those were hard times – his father took over the farm during the 1930s slump.  Then came the war and the post-war Labour government’s legislation to stop the nation ever having to import food again – learning the war’s dire lessons – and the birth of the statutory monopoly of the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) which brought stability to dairy farming.

The MMB vanished when the Tory minister Gillian Sheppard refused to legislate to maintain its monopoly.  It was replaced by a nationwide co-operative which the dairy farmers’ other political villain, Labour’s Stephen Byers, ruled to be uncompetitive.

“Since the MMB went, farmers haven’t had enough strength in the market place.”  But it was not all bad news.  Out of that double display of politicians failing to support farmers, there emerged in the south of England a co-operative called Milk Link.  It is a flourishing co-operative with a membership of 1,500 British farmers.

As a member of this co-operative, Tom is largely insulated from the present cuts in the price paid for milk.  He gets 27p per litre and he accepts that the co-operative has to take a premium to invest in its future and keep its equipment up to date.

There are three dairy farms around the village of Wilcot. Tom has five hundred cows in his pure-bred Holstein herd.  Of these about one hundred and eighty are in milk at any one time.

Unlike arable farmers who sow and reap well within a twelve month cycle, dairy farmers have to invest ahead. It takes three years from insemination to rear a calf and get it into milk.

Looking at the industry as a whole, Tom says there are still “Enormously powerful milk buyers, under enormous pressure from retailers, putting unsustainable pressure on farmers.” And he cannot understand the increasing profit on milk sales taken by the retailers.

In 1996 retailers’ profit on milk averaged 2.6p per litre.  It’s now about 13p per litre.  And over that time farmers’ costs – in electricity, cattle feed, bedding, vets’ fees and so on – have risen massively. “I don’t”, says Tom, “see why the fundamentals of this tussle should change.”

For most dairy farmers, buyers will still write contracts and set prices. Will the promised code of conduct change things enough?

The current crisis was said to be caused by the fall in the world price for cream. This is vital to processors because the more low fat milk we buy, the more cream they have to extract from whole milk and the more cream they need to sell on to meet their business plans.

There is some scepticism about the claims by some supermarkets that they pay their farmers well and look after them.  Many of their contracts demand a fixed amount of milk every day of the year. This forces farmers to change calving regimes and keep cows inside for more of the year – which forces their costs up considerably.

Just over the horizon there may be change on the way. In 2015 the EU’s national production quotas will disappear and countries will be able to produce as much milk as they want. Already the Republic of Ireland, with its long established and secure base of co-operatives, is planning to step up its milk production.

Britain has lost about twenty thousand dairy farms since 1996 and produces well below its annual EU quota of fourteen billion litres. Some people forecast another four thousand dairy farms may be lost soon. Giving farmers a fair return so they can invest in herds and equipment should be a political aim if in the future we are not due to import much more of our milk.

However, if that all sounds pessimistic, Tom and is wife Molly are “fairly positive” about the future of British farming. It was during the 1970s and 1980s with the surpluses and the Common market’s various food ‘mountains’, that British farming “lost its zing”:  “The tide changed – as it does.” 

Now it’s changing again: during the current recession they’ve seen a real increase in interest amongst young people in farming as a career.  “Young people are becoming positive about farming again.”

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Community orchard a-peels for a 'core' of volunteers

Children from St Mary's Infants celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee by planting an apple tree as part of the Community Orchard projectChildren from St Mary's Infants celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee by planting an apple tree as part of the Community Orchard projectMarlborough Community Orchard is a-peeling for a 'core' of volunteers to help with various activities on and around the next Marlborough Apple Day.

The project needs volunteers to help run a number of events – including the exhibition of apple-themed art at the Town Hall –  on Apple Day (Sunday, October 14) and also to act as fruit buddies, tending the apple tress that have already been planted.

Marlborough Apple Day is a fundraising event for The Marlborough Community Orchard project, conceived in 2010, with the aim of creating 'a town in an orchard'.

The vision of this scheme is to bring English apple varieties, especially local varieties, back to the attention of the public and to return them to the landscape for all to enjoy.

Thirtyfive saplings have been planted so far and pledges for 91 more have been made. The majority are rare varieties of apple native to Wiltshire that were in danger of dying out.

To join the apple core, email your contact details to Kate Hosier at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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