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Crofton pumping station to re-open on Friday, August 19

Good news for one of the Marlborough area’s most popular tourist attractions: Crofton pumping station on the Kennet and Avon Canal near East Grafton is to re-open to visitors on Friday, August 19.

The station had to close to the public soon after its very successful ‘in steam’ weekend at the end of July. It was discovered that the domestic water supply from a deep borehole to the station (including its café), the two adjacent cottages and to passing canal traffic was contaminated.

Initially, the range of refreshments available in Crofton’s popular café may be limited.

Crofton houses the world’s oldest working beam engine – a Boulton and Watt engine installed in 1812. Alongside it is a second ‘younger’ beam engine made by Harvey & Co  installed relatively recently – in 1846.

The station started work in 1809 pumping water up to the canal’s highest level – the section between Crofton and Burbage which was above any reliable local water source.

Crofton’s engines will be in steam over the August Bank Holiday weekend - August 27, 28 and 29.  If you stay around long enough when you visit Crofton on those days you will see both engines working at the same time – a dramatic sight and a dramatic noise. The beam of the older engine weighs six tons; that of the more sophisticated Harvey engine weighs four and a half tons.  They pack an awesome punch.

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To Kill a Mockingbird tops the poll as Marlborough’s favourite novel

To Kill a Mockingbird, the remarkable classic written half a century ago by Harper Lee, is Marlborough’s favourite novel to read while sunning yourself on the beach or sitting in a deckchair in the garden.

That is the outcome of a competition held by the White Horse Bookshop to mark the 21st birthday of Vintage Books, which specialises in paperbacks of classic novels ranging from Pride and Prejudice and Cranford to Cider with Rosie and Atonement.

And with miniature birthday cakes on hand for customers to enjoy, the bookshop yesterday provided the prize of a free novel to Becks Rossiter, the Australian-born landlady of the Waggon and Horses pub at Beckhampton.

“To Kill a Mockingbird was the overall book that most people chose as their favourite novel,” bookseller Debby Guest told Marlborough News Online. “And we chose Becks’ entry because it was the best description of the novel.”

Becks, originally from Sydney, explained: “It was the book I was brought up on. My mother believed every child should read it as it taught us about tolerance, about understanding and walking in other people’s shoes.”

“It’s a book I love, one I must have read six or seven times.  It’s just one of those books that should be in everybody’s lives, absolutely now with the riots that have been going on.”

And it was an appropriate choice for Becks, who took over the management of the Waggon and Horses in February.

For the historic Wadsworth pub, on the old coaching route to Bath, is famous as the inspiration for a scene in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.

“It is believed to have been the model for the inn where Tom Smart stopped in The Pickwick Papers, written back in 1836,” added Becks. “This implies that Dickens may well have passed by here during a visit to Bath in the 1820s.”

The joint runner-up novels in the Vintage competition were Birdsong  by Sebastian Faulks and The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.

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Debut time for St John’s School student and his first novel

Former St John’s School student James Aitcheson will be the centre of attention at Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop on Wednesday – signing copies of his debut novel, Sworn Sword.

He went on to study history at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and out of that came a fascination about Britain’s medieval decades and, in particular, the Norman Conquest.

And that is the subject of his novel, which is set in the early months of 1069.

It explores the upheaval and bloody times that followed the Battle of Hastings, as seen through the eyes of one of the invaders, an ambitious and oath-sworn knight named Tancred.

And he points out: “The Norman Conquest was a time of rapid change on a scale that’s difficult to imagine today.  But while the tale of 1066, King Harold and Hastings has been recounted many times before, what happened in the years that followed is less well-known.”

“I wanted to capture a sense of what it must have been like to live through that turbulent age.”

It has been a long road for James, who lives in Mildenhall, to see his first novel published.

"I first had the idea for Sworn Sword about five years ago, while I was studying history at Cambridge and researching for my final-year dissertation on the Norman Conquest,” he adds.

“So to see the finished novel now in print and on bookshelves is simply amazing.”

Sworn sword is published by Preface Publishing at £12.99. James  will be at the bookshop from 6pm.

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Runner meets mayor in record attempt

Marlborough's mayor has played host to a Midlands runner in the latter's bid to become the person to have met the most civic leaders.

The meeting with Alexander Kirk Wilson brought the mayoral tally of runner Mark Dabbs to 110.

Having already meeting the mayors of Salisbury and Devizes, and the Red Devils parachute display team at Netheravon, the Running Ambassador – an unofficial title bestowed on him by the Wolverhampton Express and Star – presented Marlborough's mayor with a book of photographs of the town and a watercolour from his home town of Walsall, and received a shield bearing the town's arms in return.

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We are here to help in tough times says Waitrose’s community champion

You could call it green gold – all those little tokens you see piling up each month in the plastic boxes in Marlborough’s Waitrose.  And in these tough times the supermarket is conscious of the part it plays in donating £1,000 a month to local charities and community projects

That’s why Janice Kingstone (pictured), an all-rounder at the store where she has worked for 28 years, is being given extra time to play her official role as Community Matters Champion, one she has taken up with pride and enthusiasm.

“It is important and something we are passionate about,” she says.  “You do need time to do it properly.  You can’t sit on a till and concentrate on the community as well.”

“The funds we donate are something of a lifesaver for some organisations, especially in these difficult times.  The trouble is you want to help everybody.  That’s why those we do help – three different ones every month – are voted on democratically.”

A special forum of staff, known as partners in the John Lewis organisation, decide in advance the charities and projects that are to benefit.  They come from 12 categories, ranging from education, welfare and environmental projects to care for the sick, the elderly and Marlborough’s Christmas lights appeal.

What each organisation receives is according to the actual weight of the green tokens customers put in the boxes.  Last month, for example, the Aldbourne Band received £287, Oare Church of England primary school £415 and Aldbourne Youth Council £298.

And now 59-year-old Janice, who has worked in virtually all sections of Waitrose, including the wine department, for which she received special training, is being given time by manager Andy Davies to visit some of the charities.

The aim is to discover more intimate details about their operations and have a closer understanding, other members of staff being invited to play a role too whenever possible.

One of them is Wiltshire Air Ambulance, perhaps the most favoured Waitrose appeals, especially by children attracted by its helicopter logo, a link with the RNIB is being planned along with others groups.

“We’ve got a big appeal coming up for St John’s Ambulance, who want to buy a defibrillator for the town,” says Janice.  “It’s an organisation which one of the lads working here helps whenever he can.”

She hesitates when you suggest that being Lady Bountiful must make her feel good.  “I always feel good when I wake up in the morning,” she insists.  “I’m glad to be alive and to be able to help others.

“Our tokens are like green money when you think about it.  Our customers certainly do like the system.  And if people from the various charities come in to shop, then they can put their green token into the appropriate slot.

“It’s a two-way thing really, a way of giving that helps us both.”

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Cyclists celebrate the last train

The 50th anniversary of the last train to travel between Swindon and Marlborough will be marked on Saturday, September 10 by cyclists.

The former railway line between Coate and Marlborough is now a cycle path, and is well used by particularly horse riders, runners, walkers and cyclists.

It passes through Chiseldon and down the Og Valley to Marlborough, giving access to a variety of circular routes and providing a gateway to the North Wessex and Marlborough Downs.
The route is managed by Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, which relies on grants, donations and volunteers to maintain it.

The Friends of the Railway Path wants to help Sustrans promote, develop and maintain the railway path to encourage a wide variety of users and make it an interesting place to visit.

They plan to do this by encouraging and coordinating volunteer maintenance along the path, securing funding for maintenance and development, and producing material describing the routes accessible from the path, and its history and environment.
Three special events are being held to mark the launch.
On Saturday, September 10, enthusiasts will cycle along the path from Coate to Marlborough and back – a distance of about 22 miles – marking the 50th anniversary of the last passenger train to use the railway line.  Cyclists will meet at 10am in the car park at Coate Water, and expect to be back by 4pm.

On Saturday, September 17, members are holding a workday to cut back ivy and small trees and tidy the path. Volunteers should meet at the Barnfield Lane access to the path in Marlborough (grid reference SU 202 691) at 10.30am.

And on Saturday, October 22, the group will hold an exhibition celebrating the history of the path and looking to its future, in Marlborough Town Hall from 9.30 am to 2.00 pm.

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No copycat riot problems reported by Wiltshire police in local areas

No copycat disturbances have been reported in the Marlborough and Pewsey areas following the riots in London and other major cities, Acting Inspector Mark Gale revealed tonight (Wed).

And at the same time he issued a 10 point list of precautionary safety measures to be taken to protect premises in cases of trouble.

Wiltshire officers from the local neighbourhood policing teams are actively involved in engaging with young people, he told Marlborough News Online.

“To date there has been no  intelligence to suggest any disorder will take place within the East Wiltshire area,” he said in a statement.  “There have been a couple of very minor incidents elsewhere in the  county but these have been localised and swiftly contained.”

As reported by Marlborough News Online last night, Wiltshire has sent 25 police officers to assist in the Met operation in London as part of mutual aide arrangements.

“It is very much business as usual across the county and I can assure you all that the delivery of your local policing service will be unaffected,” added Inspector Gale.

“There are a number of key messages which I have been asked to circulate, emphasising the current situation.

They are:

    Wiltshire Police will continue to maintain an active presence on the streets and in our communities to enforce the law.
    Wiltshire Police will take decisive action against any criminality or disorder in our communities.
    Wiltshire Police has good relationships with all our communities and we have the support of the public to maintain order and people's safety.
    The public can help us too by being vigilant and reporting any issues to us immediately.
    Wiltshire Police has plans in place to respond and deal with any outbreaks of disorder.
    Our partner agencies are supporting us as part of a coordinated approach to managing crime and disorder in our communities.
    Wiltshire Police has sent 25 public order trained officers to London as part of mutual aid arrangements to help the Metropolitan Police Service, but it will be business as usual in Wiltshire.

And he pointed out: “In addition there is also specific advice in relation to our business community.  Below is some advice about precautionary measures you may wish to take.  “However, please note that this is regular precautionary advice that we would give at any time to  businesses about security matters.”

    Ensure staff report any suspicious activity to security and/or police.
    Consider regular checks of the building and surrounding area.
    Identify areas that are vulnerable to forced entry
    Make sure all service doors are kept locked and secure when not in use.
    Ensure your CCTV system is fully operational.
    In case of an emergency, is there a record of the names of keyholders who can be contacted?
    Consider removing high value goods from display windows overnight.
    Consider keeping as little cash as possible on the premises.
    Ensure that your premises are secure and if fitted your alarm systems are fully operational.
    In the event of a non emergency, call Wiltshire Police on 0845 408 7000. In the event of an emergency, call the emergency number 999.
    If you manage retail premises which are part of a large group, follow instructions given from your headquarters.

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Marlborough could become a Transition Town

Marlborough could join a growing band of communities adopting Transition Town status in a bid to tackle problems like peak oil and food miles.

Residents are being invited to a public meeting at which issues will be thrashed out and solutions discussed.

The push is being made by members of Marlborough Climate Pledge, and several town councillors are backing the drive.

The Transition Town movement is described as 'a social experiment on a massive scale' and 'the first viable viral movement in decades'.

In transition towns, like-minded individuals find community solutions to their reliance on oil, and how their communities will respond as oil becomes more and more expensive, and eventually diminishes.

They believe in stronger communities with locally produced food, a strong local economy, good public transport links, green energy and a good local health service.

In many cases, local groups have supported the formation of community agriculture groups, car clubs, neighbourhood carbon reduction clubs, urban orchards and even their own town currencies like the Stoud Pound, which can only be redeemed with local businesses, encouraging people to shop locally and keeping wealth in communities.

And in some cases, communities have started local energy companies, clubbing together to finance and run small-scale wind or solar farms, or hydro plants.

Transition Town Lewes's own energy company, for example, is building Britain's first community-owned solar power station after launching a share issue to raise £306,000 from investors to pay for 544 solar panels on the warehouse roof of the town's brewery.

Since Totnes in 2006 – the first Transition Town in the UK – 190 have been set up nationally, including Gloucester, Stroud, Cheltenham, Minchinhampton, Cirencester and the Forest of Dean.

Over 370 exist worldwide, with over 800 'mullers' considering transition status, including Ambridge – the fictional town on Radio 4's The Archers.

The meeting will be held at Marlborough Town Hall on Monday, September 12 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

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Police issue warning on two scams operating in the Marlborough area

Police have been alerted to two scams operating in the Marlborough area – one involving computers, the other a household cleaning service – and issued a warning to residents.

The scams, so far mainly affecting people living in the Manton area, have been reported to Police Community Support Officer Mark Braithwaite (pictured), who has not logged one of them before.

This is an out of the blue phone call informing computer owners that a virus has been detected on their machines and offering help.  The caller asks you to type in www.ammyy or, which eventually asks for your bank details to make a charge of £185.

The scam – from an Indian call centre – can seriously damage your computer, as well as raid your bank account, some vulnerable people in the past losing thousands of pounds from scams elsewhere.

Wiltshire Police revealed this afternoon (Tuesday) that it is supporting the Met Police’s appeal for officers to help it tackle any riots that might take place tonight (Tuesday).

“There isn't a statement at this time,” a spokeswoman told Marlborough News Online. “I can tell you that at this point we haven't sent any officers to Avon and Somerset or Birmingham, but we will be sending 25 officers to The Met today.”

“I haven’t come across this particular one before, but these scams are happening all the time and everybody has to be vigilant about what is going on,” PCSO Braithwaite told Marlborough News Online.

“I suffered from one scam myself with my computer at my home here in Marlborough.  Luckily I was protected by a network system.  And that’s what you want when these scams appear.”

He urges computer owners to contact BT, Sky, Virgin or whatever service operator they use whenever they receive suspicious calls or offers.  For there are fears too that scams may be a means of funding terrorism.

“Anyone can feed terrorism without knowing it,” he warns.  “Some groups get their funds from old and vulnerable people.  It can be their way to supply themselves with cash.”

“Terrorism does benefit from it as well as ordinary criminals.  So the message has to be, Do Be Careful.”

The cleaning scam involves a Dorset-based company called Enterprise Cleaning Services, already exposed on the BBC Watchdog TV programme by an undercover reporter, which offers carpet cleaning for just £8.99.

“People should be aware that on the internet this is known as the bait switch technique, which is illegal,” said PCSO Braithwaite.  “At £8.99 you get what you’ve paid for.  If you want to pay more money for what is on offer, then that’s down to you, but it can escalate dramatically.”

It is one of a number of cold call scams, including people being told that they have won a prize or an inheritance but first of all have to send £200 or £300 to unlock it.

“Some of these scams, which are happening all over the country, are very successful unfortunately,” added PCSO Braithwaite.  “One person in Marlborough lost £9,000 and there have been other cases where people have lost up to £40,000 or £50,000.”

There are also rogue builders who fail to give customers the seven day cooling off period on contracts they are entitled to under the law, and then cash in.

The latest case, in Ealing, West London, has revealed that a plumbing company charged a disabled pensioner £14,400 for five hours’ work to clear a blocked drain.

“And a lot of people locally do become victims of this kind of crime,” says 42-year-old PCSO Braithwaite, a former pupil at St John’s School, Marlborough, who has served in the force for seven years.

“There are various scenarios where people can be cold called and asked if they want their lawn cut or a tree treated.  It starts off at £50 and at the end of the day it can develop into £500 or £600.

“Some people are too easily led, some live on their own and are very lonely, so they’re happy to have a bit of communication.  And some people just don’t know better.”

PCSO Braithwaite invites anyone concerned about a possible scam to contact him at Marlborough police station (0845 408 7000 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Wiltshire Council’s trading standards can also be contacted on 0845 4040 506.

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What’s NEW with our local NHS and what’s to happen to Savernake Hospital?

Next month the Health and Social Care Bill goes back to the House of Commons after the government’s rethink.  MPs will have 160 government amendments to consider. This Bill will have a direct and radical impact on how the Marlborough area’s NHS provision is run.

Marlborough News Online continues its reports on the NHS’ restructuring by interviewing Marlborough area GP Dr Jonathan Rayner about the new organisations and about Savernake Hospital.

Dr Rayner has been a GP at the Ramsbury and Wanborough medical practices for the past twenty years. He’s married with three children, sits on Aldbourne Parish Council and he leads the East Kennet part of the clinical commissioning group (CCG) for north and east Wiltshire that in April 2013 takes over the commissioning of health services for our area from the Wiltshire primary care trust (PCT).

When Marlborough News Online spoke to Dr Rayner about the progress in the coalition government’s root and branch restructuring of the NHS, general practitioners’ frustration with the process of change was clear.  That’s not only because the process is moving at what Dr Rayner calls ‘a glacial rate’ and the government keeps altering the rules.

He and his colleagues are still unclear how much autonomy they will have.  The coalition’s white paper indicated that power would reside locally. But now, Dr Rayner believes, more will be ‘dictated from above’. In addition: “More and more limitations are being placed upon us – we have to keep very nimble.”

“The bits [of the changes] the patients are most interested in are still to come.”  For instance the CCG’s use of Savernake Hospital has not yet been discussed “because we’ve been far more involved in the nuts and bolts of setting up the consortium.”

Dr Rayner acknowledges that “Savernake hospital has been under-utilised”. However, he warns: “Whether we can put in the sort of services people in Marlborough want is another matter – because of the economics.”

He describes as ‘a huge burden’ the PCT’s payments for the private finance initiative (PFI) agreed in 2002 which funded the enlargement, refurbishment and equipping of the hospital.  He says the question of who will take over those payments in the re-shaped NHS has been kicked into the long grass and he does not expect any resolution within the next eighteen months.

How far have the plans advanced for the CCG that will cover the Marlborough area? “ It’s difficult“, he said, “to finalise our structure when the government keeps changing its mind.”

But progress has been made.  The CCG now has a name: NEW Consortium – where NEW stands for North and East Wiltshire.  And under the government’s latest regulations they will probably have to tack on an ‘NHS’ – maintaining the NHS branding is important to the government.

NEW Consortium has a chairman, Dr Simon Burrell from Corsham.  It is about to get a manager.  And it has an interim board of six GPs.  Other members of the board, including patient representatives, will follow.

The NEW Consortium will be one of three CCG’s to replace NHS Wiltshire. The others cover the south of the county and the west of the county. But the plan is for some services, mainly back office ones, to be centralised - covering all three CCGs.  This could include human resources, payroll, information, relationships with other health bodies in Wiltshire and governance.

They have not decided where their headquarters should be. To save money they might decide to have a ‘virtual HQ’ with the centralised admin services in Devizes – where the current PCT is based.

If that all sounds very complicated, there’s much more complexity to come – with scores of new quangos to be established across England.  The Department of Health has yet to produce a diagram – known to management buffs as an organogram – showing how the new NHS and its many organisations will work.

But policy experts at the Labour Party have had a go.  If you want to start understanding how it is supposed to work you can check out their organogram at: on an FT blog which includes before and after diagrams or in The Guardian.

The funds the CCGs will have to buy health services from hospitals and clinics will be very tight. Now there’s a real fear that many PCTs across England are not making the necessary savings from their current budgets to meet the coalition government’s £20 billion cut in NHS spending by 2015.  A survey by the General Practitioner journal shows there might be a large shortfall which would mean the CCGs inheriting huge debts.

That scenario takes us back to the present PCT – known as NHS Wiltshire – which when it was formed late in 2006, inherited a debt of £64 million that it is still paying off. This debt was due in part to the overspend by Kennet and North Wiltshire PCT in modernising and then running Savernake Hospital.

History better not repeat itself: that huge historic deficit inherited by NHS Wiltshire arose when Wiltshire was divided into three PCTs.  Now the county is going to be divided into three again – this time into three clinical commissioning groups.

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Town council backs new tourist information centre plans for next year

Marlborough town council is still intent on setting up its own tourist information centre following Wiltshire Council’s dramatic decision to axe the centre in the town’s library as part of cost cutting measures.

Plans for an emergency TIC, based temporarily in the Mayor’s Parlour at Marlborough town hall, were rejected after the town council had voted a loan of £6,240 to a group of volunteers wanting to cater for tourists this summer.

But on Wednesday the town council voted to set up a Community Interest Company to run a new TIC next year and decided to seek out residents willing to play a role in boosting tourism in the town.

The initial aims of the organisation would be to find a permanent home for the TIC and prepare a sustainable business plan that ensures long term viability.

The go ahead decision also gave an opportunity for Tory councillor Stewart Dobson to set right the record following his previous comments that he was opposed to “handing over cheques to strangers seeking profits without a proper financial basis”, a reference to the two Wiltshire Council employees who ran the library-based TIC until it was closed.

“I believed it is important that it should now be minuted that the private individuals who have played such an important part in the TIC committee were not motivated by any desire to set up their own business from which they could profit,” he told fellow councillors.

Any future TIC employees will in fact be paid on a self-employed basis.

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