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Cycling for charity – is it the new jumble sale?

The great revival in cycling over the last few years can be put down to many causes.  There is of course the inspiration of the success of British cyclists in international events right up to the Olympics.

Some people take up cycling for their health, some for the company and some to save on petrol costs.  And many, many more are now using their new pastime as an efficient means to raise money for charity – more appealing to many than the jumble sale.

Next Sunday (June 26) sees the annual Dartmoor Classic, a non-commercial Cyclosportive event organised by the mid-Devon cycling club.  And one of the teams taking part comes from the Pewsey Vale.

They call themselves the Fat Lads and are raising money in memory of two local people who died recently from cancer.  Patrick Walmsley was a popular and respected member of the local community who had been Chairman of Woodborough parish council and a regular player with the Wilcot cricket club’s Sunday side.

Sue Cordel lived in West Lavington for fifteen years, worked locally as a solicitor for Wincanton Logistics in Chippenham and was an active supporter of the Avonvale pony club.

The ten strong team (six of them are pictured left) of Patrick and Sue’s friends will be tackling the gruelling 65 mile circuit along the twisting lanes and over the exposed hills of Dartmoor and north Devon.  They won’t be lonely: the event has 2,500 entrants from afar afield as Merseyside, the Metropolitan Police Cycle Club and Shropshire.

There’s also a team from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Cycling Association.  But they’re doing the even more daunting 106 mile circuit.

The Pewsey Vale team has been in serious training since the beginning of the year.  One of the cyclists, David Rees who is a director at Pewsey-based Innecto Reward Consulting, finished the course last year in six hours and fourteen minutes.

David says: “We are really just a bunch of guys in our 40s and 50s who like beer and chips – so this event is a challenge. But we’re doing it for a very good cause.”

“The Prospect Hospice and the Dorothy House Hospice were a great support to Patrick, Sue and their families and we and to help provide them both, as well as Cancer Research, with funds to continue their excellent work.”
The Pewsey Vale team aims to raise £2,500 through sponsorship.  To sponsor them and find out more about the event go to

You can find details of other cycling events for charity in the What’s On section of Marlborough News Online.

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BBC’s Anna Quarendon is new chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group

Anna Quarendon is taking over as chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group (MGB).  She succeeds former diplomat Tim David who has come to the end of his four year term.

MBG was founded thirty years ago and its main aim has been to maintain and develop Marlborough’s link with the village of Gunjur in The Gambia.  Anna visited Gunjur in January last year and soon afterwards became one of the group’s trustees.

Anna is a senior producer at BBC Wiltshire and has lived in the county for last twenty-six years.  She’s worked for the radio station since 1999 and is currently producing the daily Morning Show.

For more about Anna Quarendon, see our profile of her in Marlborough News Online’s features section: “How the 80th birthday of Anna Quarendon’s mother was celebrated in Africa.”

Her appointment as chair was ratified at the group’s annual general meeting on Thursday. Anita Bew, who is the group’s secretary and first visited Gunjur in 1985 and since 1990 has been there at least once a year, told Marlborough News Online:

“I am delighted Anna is our new chair. She’s got lots of ideas – especially about fund raising. She’ll be a breath of fresh air – she’ll be great.”

One of Anna’s first tasks will be to welcome six Gunjurians on a month long visit to Marlborough. They arrive on Tuesday (June 21), will be staying with hosts in the area and learning about life here. 

They will spend time at the College and at St John’s School – and are going on a geography field trip with St John’s students to Lulworth in Devon.  They will be guests of honour at  MBG’s Summer Garden Party held next Sunday (June 26) in the beautiful gardens of the Master’s Lodge at the college.

Anna looks forward to their visit – and to her four years as MBG’s chair:  “I will not forget my visit to Gunjur, and I hope their visit to Marlborough will be similarly memorable.”

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get them here and it will take a lot of hard work to achieve some of the other ambitions we might have, but let’s be ambitious.  I hope we can make the next four years fruitful. I’m looking forward to it.”

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Make Remembrance Day a bank holiday says Tory MP Claire Perry

Marlborough MP Claire Perry today (Wednesday) introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons proposing that Remembrance Day be made into a permanent Bank Holiday in tribute to our armed forces.

She told Marlborough News Online: “Having one national bank holiday to pay tribute to our armed forces would be the best way to bring together the people of the United Kingdom to support the military now and in the future.”

“Many other major countries recognise the contributions of their current and former service personnel in this way and I think it is time that we did too.”

In the Commons, she declared:  “This Bill would consolidate and entrench long-term public support for our armed forces.  My constituency of Devizes includes many of the Salisbury plain garrison towns and is home to more than 10,000 members of the armed forces and at least the same number of service family members.”

And she added:  “My father, both grandfathers and my great-grandfather served in the British Army.  I am therefore particularly proud to wear a poppy in early November, sport various charity wristbands, attend homecomings and parades in both Westminster and Wiltshire, observe the silence at 11 am on Armistice Day, and to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday.

“Indeed, laying a wreath at the Devizes war memorial last November was one of the most solemn and thought-provoking moments of my new career as a Member of Parliament.”

“I am also proud to support armed forces day, introduced more than two years ago and held in late June.  I know that in all of this support I am joined by Members on both sides of the House and millions of people across the country.”

 “But I fear that with all of these initiatives and opportunities to show our support we have perhaps fragmented that support—diluted the brand.  And many events happen at weekends when working families—as I know for myself—can face as many time pressures as they do during the week, sometimes making their participation in weekend events difficult.”

“I am also concerned that while we have seen a real upwelling of support for the armed forces in the last few years, due in no small part to the tireless work of the Royal British Legion who are Britain’s ‘custodians of remembrance’, as well as the work of charities such as Help for Heroes—headquartered in my constituency—SSAFA and the Army Benevolent Fund, when our soldiers return home from their current operations it may be difficult to keep this momentum going and to ensure that we as a country deliver on our obligations under the military covenant.”

“A day set aside in our busy calendars for remembrance, support and celebration of our armed forces would help to keep the support alive in the future.”

She pointed that her proposal was not a “radical” suggestion as many other countries pay tribute to their armed forces with a national holiday, in particular New Zealand, where her husband was born, which celebrates Anzac Day.

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Rare black poplar trees found growing on Marlborough water meadow

A botanical survey has discovered rare black poplar trees growing on the 15-acre Stonebridge Meadow, which Marlborough town council bought for £150,000 six months ago in a bid to save the town’s heritage.

It did so on the initiative of ARK, which covered half the cost of the meadow thanks to the generosity of a group of private donors.

Now the council’s Amenities and Open Spaces Committee is to urge the council to go ahead, in partnership with ARK, with a major project to manage the land on the banks of the River Kennet and introduce new activities.

And part of the cost of the plan will come from selling off additional strips of land to the owners of four houses that border the site, the sale of which will part pay for the project, the vast majority of the funding coming from environmental grant awarding bodies.

The committee was told on Monday that the project, being managed in association with ARK, is currently the subject of an environmental impact study carried out by the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“The most significant finds on the meadow are eight native female black poplars on the southern bank of the river Kennet,” says a report by the Wiltshire Botanical Society following a visit to the water meadow in May.

“Although there are many hybrid black poplars in England, native black poplars are now very rare with an estimated 7,000 male ones and 600 female trees, most of which are old and decaying.”

“Other female black poplars have been found in the Cotswold Water Park and Gareth Harris of the Water Park Trust has been working on propagating these trees.  The trees in Stonebridge Meadow have low easy reach branches, which make them ideal as donor plants for propagation. They are also host to a rare gall (Pemphigus).”

Councillor Richard Pitts (pictured), the newly-elected committee chairman, told Marlborough News Online: “This whole project needs careful consideration and that is why we are seeking the best possible advice.”

“But it is important that we do not lose momentum in making it happen and we shall be recommending the town council to go ahead with the scheme when it meets at the end of the month.”

Claire Perry, Marlborough’s MP, visited the site last month at the invitation of ARK and gave her support for imaginative new uses for the meadow.

They range from the introduction of catch-and-release fishing for wild brown trout found in the chalk stream Kennet, itself a rare river, and a place for dog walkers to the introduction of banded Galloway cattle.

A management plan is now being worked on. Funding will also be an issue but it is hoped that the AONB and possibly the Heritage Lottery will make substantial contributions.

“Both ARK and the town council are very interested to hear the views of residents on how this meadow might be managed and encouraged to enjoy an even higher level of environmental diversity and quality,” added Councillor Pitts.

Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, told Marlborough News Online: “We are now jointly working on a management plan supported by funding from the AONB.  The plan will carefully consider the best use of the river and the land, with the preservation of wildlife habitat and green space as the priority.”

“The project at Stonebridge Meadows  is a continuation of the work ARK has been doing along the river to improve access for people at the same time as preserving this beautiful chalk stream.”

“As part of the process we will be interviewing local people to find out what they would like to see on the meadow, and we are establishing a Stonebridge Meadow Stewards group of local people who would like to  help to care for the river and land. This is very much a community project.”

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Claire Perry teams with TV’s Angela Rippon to promote Carers Week

Marlborough’s MP Claire Perry, who has has teamed up with TV presenter Angela Rippon to support this year’s Carers Week (13-19 June), has paid her own tribute to the contribution made by local people who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled.

The theme for Carers Week 2011, The True Face of Carers, calls for greater recognition for the diverse range of people nationally who have caring responsibilities.  The work they carry out is vital for their families and friends, and for their communities.

Claire and Angela have joined together to pay tribute to carers, and to urge that they receive more support for the demanding roles they play.

“Thousands of people in the Devizes constituency sacrifice not only their time, but also their money and their health in order to care for a loved one,” Claire told Marlborough News Online.

“Together they save this country an incredible £119 billion every year.  They deserve to be recognised for their contribution to both our local community and to wider society.”

“I am taking part in Carers Week to show my respect and appreciation for our carers.  I also want to let them know that there are services out there to help them.  Caring can be so incredibly demanding. It’s important that carers know that they don’t have to struggle on alone.”

Other celebrities supporting this campaign include Dame Judi Dench, Sir David Jason, Jack Charlton and former TV presenter Martyn Lewis.

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Police sergeant Vince is intent on keeping Marlborough safe and sound

One of the safest places to live in the country.  That’s the view of Marlborough by its latest police recruit, Sergeant Vince Logue, who has taken on the role of being in charge of the neighbourhood policing team.

He agrees with the comment made by Wiltshire chief constable Brian Moore. “He’s probably right that it is probably the safest place on earth,” he says.

“There is usually a minority of people in any community – an absolutely handful - who commit the majority of offences.  And we deal with them as effectively as we can.

“The detection rate for Marlborough and Pewsey is the highest for the whole of Wiltshire in regard to violent crime. It’s an extremely good picture that’s down to the current inspector in charge, Ron Peach, and his predecessor Andy Noble.”

Sergeant Logue, 40, a softly-spoken Irishman from Derry who has taken over following the retirement of Sergeant Ben Braine after 32 years in the Wiltshire force, has himself spent nine years on patrol in the county.

His career began as a security officer and store detective in London before becoming the first member of his family to join the police. Then, after serving eight years in another force, he transferred to Wiltshire.

A friend had invited him to the county for a weekend break and the countryside became an immediate attraction. “I thought it was a lovely place and decided that I wanted to transfer to the Wiltshire force,” he explained.

“I feel very comfortable here. Wiltshire as a whole is a lovely place to live – and Marlborough is one of the nicest bits of the county.”

As promotions followed, he has served in Warminster, Chippenham, Melksham and Salisbury, spending the past two years with the response team covering Devizes, Marlborough and Pewsey.

A single father, he lives with his two daughters near Devizes.

“There are no particular problems in the Marlborough area that concern us,” he adds.  “There are not that many calls here for police help as there are in Trowbridge and Chippenham. Marlborough certainly isn’t as bad as some other places.”

 But he is in no way complacent. His team keep a check on shoplifting and anti-social behaviour by teenagers, especially when they cause noise and nuisance late at night.

“The chief constable and the police authority do have a strategic plan for Wiltshire,” he points out. “Most of that is based around violence and violent crime and the management of offenders.”

“Serious crime incidences do come up from time to time, but there is not specific trend in this area.”

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Town came close to having no Christmas lights

Marlborough came within a whisker of not having Christmas lights this year, it was revealed last night (Thursday).

At the annual general meeting of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, estate agent Jonathan Conning, a committee member of the Marlborough Christmas Lights Association, revealed fundraisers had become so exasperated with trying to get retailers to make donations towards the festive display, they had almost given up.

“We'd be going back ten or twelve times to businesses with lights outside of their shops just to get a tenner. They'd be asking questions like 'why are the lights blue?' and we felt like saying 'give us ten grand and you can have whatever colour you like',” said Mr Conning.

“We held race nights which raised £300. That's a lot of race nights to fund the lights.

“We had donations from the entire business community of £1,000 last year – and £500 of that was from one donor.

“We asked all of the retailers to set up a direct debit of £25 or £30 a year to support the lights – we've had not one response.

“It breaks our hearts, because we put so much effort into it. I'm an estate agent. I don't benefit from Christmas; December is my worst month. Only one committee member is a retailer. We do it because we want Marlborough to be vibrant at that dark time of year.”

And Mr Conning revealed just how close the town had come to having no lights at all in 2011. “We came close to saying 'sod it',” he admitted.

“The idea was to not put any lights up this year, and to say 'okay traders, you don't want to support it, we totally understand'.”

It was revealed that a greatly-reduced Christmas lights display will be erected this year, funded entirely by Marlborough council tax payers – a decision Cllr Richard Pitts admitted would upset some voters and be accepted by many, admitting “We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't.”

The Parade will not be lit this year, and neither will the High Street shops behind St Peter's Church.

The main length of High Street will, however, enjoy a Christmas lights display after the committee 'turned the funding approach on its head' and asked Wheelers, the Pewsey-based company which erects, dismantles and stores the lights, what could be achieved with the £8,000 donation guaranteed by Marlborough Town Council.

Marlborough Christmas Lights Association was formed in 2007, when the role of putting up Christmas lights was relinquished by Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, which had faced exactly the same funding problems.

The blue and white lights display was inspired by the previous year's Oxford Street display, which Mr Conning described as 'classy'. In the first year £24,000 was raised to buy, erect, dismantle and store the new lights, but donations from the local business community have fallen year on year.

The estimated cost of providing a display this year was put at £20,000, including the erection, dismantling and storage costs of £10,000, insurance, and the cost of replacing each bulb every year – as changing a bulb once the display is up costs twice as much as changing every bulb prior to erection.

After the meeting, a huddle of retailers discussed a way forward, while Cllr Pitts offered to host a meeting to bring interested parties together.

  • More news from the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce AGM next week.

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Three Marlborough sites nominated for Queen’s diamond jubilee challenge

Three local playing field sites in Marlborough are to be nominated by the town council for the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge being held to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee next year.

The aim is to protect 2012 playing fields in communities across the country to secure recreational spaces for community events, some 20 sports fields in Wiltshire and Swindon being included in the project.

Prince William has agreed to be patron of the Challenge as a tribute to the Queen and to mark the London Olympics.

Marlborough’s Salisbury Road recreation ground, the Jubilee Field at Manton and the proposed railway walk from Marlborough to Swindon have been identified as the town’s candidates for the Challenge.

“The project has been conceived to stop people flogging off playing fields,” explained Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson.

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Great Western Hospital reacts to care failings highlighted in a snap inspection

An action plan has been adopted by Swindon’s Great Western Hospital following failings found by the Care Quality Commission, which visited the hospital unannounced in April and discovered shortcomings.

The inspectors concentrated on the hospital’s Neptune and Jupiter wards for older people and report their concern over the lack of “dignity and respect” shown to some patients.

“Overall, the hospital received positive feedback and recognition for the good standards of care being provided,” says a hospital press release.

“The report acknowledges the positive comments made by patients on how well they were being treated by our staff and the choice and quality of meals the hospital provides.”

However, the report highlighted some areas where the hospital needs to “focus on improving the care we provide”.

The key concerns were in relation to the dignity and respect of patients occupying extra bed spaces in some of the bays, where there is a need to ensure provision of equitable facilities for these patients by providing bed screens and call bells.

“The report also highlighted the need to ensure that the quality of care associated with nutritional assessments, documentation of nutritional care plans and access to call bells and PALS information is consistent across all wards,” adds the press release.

In response, Sue Rowley, director of nursing and midwifery, says: “The report provides a useful snapshot of care on two wards at GWH on a single day and highlights many areas where we are performing well, such as treating patients with respect, ensuring that they share accommodation only with people of the same sex, and that patients are offered a choice of food.

“However, the report does highlight a number of issues in relation to privacy and dignity and nutrition. We are disappointed that on this day there were some areas of our care which the Commission felt needed to be improved and we take that feedback very seriously.”

“We now have an action plan to address these issues. Our staff work hard to provide the best care for patients and service users and we will always look for ways we can do things better.”

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A glimmer of hope for Marlborough’s farmers’ market as it sadly closes down

The handwritten poster announced it was the end of the line and offered thanks to all the supporters of Marlborough’s own Farmers’ Market, which has filled the town hall once a month for almost 12 years.

And, inevitably, there was an air of gloom  about the place.  “I’m sad its ending because of what the decision reflects,” said Jo Ripley (pictured), the Friends of the Earth and Climate Change activist, who originally launched it while combating GM food production.

“Yes, we have scored a point as part of a bigger movement itself.  May be there was not enough local support.  There are always people who say they support farmers’ markets yet don’t necessarily get themselves here to shop.” 

But there was too a possibility of a revival of the market, thanks to the enthusiasm of Andrew Card, from Bourne Farm, Ramsbury, who believes that Saturday is the wrong day to stage the event.

“We’ve been one of the lucky ones,” he revealed as the number of stalls displaying fresh organic produce has dropped from 10 to seven and most have reported declining sales.

“Our sales have been increasing every time we have come here in the past two years.  And since we’ve diversified too.  There’s an awful lot of competition in Marlborough on a Saturday from the butchers and the market stalls out there in the High Street.”

“If you look at Hungerford, they do their farmers’ market on a Sunday.  And they are very busy indeed because there isn’t the same competition and same traffic problems either.”

“We have been thinking of the possibility of resurrecting the market on a Sunday and we would like to explore that.”

The idea was welcomed by Marlborough town councillor Richard Pitts, who helps out at the market selling bread from the Bedwyn Bakery, the only independent baker in the area, and an array of organic apple juice from local orchards.

“That’s something the council would support,” he said. “If there was enough public interest, then we would certainly want to keep the Farmers’ Market going.”

Bourne Farm’s success is put down to the fact that it has introduced new lines.  Apart from products from its traditional breeds of pigs and its own farm eggs, it has introduced organic vegetables grown in Devizes and an array of baked cakes and tarts.

However, stallholder Nick Venters, from Cherry Orchard Meats, Burbage, who has been selling his pork sausages, gammon and bacon at the market for a decade, believes there has been a turn in the tide.

“The novelty of farmers’ markets has worn off,” he explained. “The market here is not the only one affected. Business has declined for them all, and some of them in the Wiltshire federation have closed down.

“It’s sad – outrageous is a bit too strong a word -- that fewer and fewer local people bother to come. Most of those here this morning are tourists.”

Jo Ripley agrees that there has been a general decline, one reason being that the markets have influenced mainstream shops, especially supermarkets, to provide food, particularly meat, whose origin is now disclosed. They have improved too their relationships with farmers.

“We’re not exactly a food desert here in Marlborough,” she added. “We’ve got two good butchers, though unfortunately we don’t have a greengrocer any more.  And we’ve only ever sold organic veg so that we didn’t compete with them or the market stalls.”

Loyal customers at the Marlborough market are being given the contact details of the stallholders and there are plans to stage events in the town hall to give residents information of the organic farm producers in the area.

“People who don’t know necessarily that these producers exist locally can come and learn about them,” she said.

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Marlborough literary festival injects a host of new youthful delights

As well as a wealth of established writers, this year’s Marlborough Literary Festival will be a showcase for young authors, international talent and other varied cultures.

It is all part of the way the event, now in its second year, is evolving, writes Ben Budd.

Starting off with Lemn Sissay, champion of black poetry, whose very name is lyrical and whose poems have been described as “songs of the street”. He will bring his unique brand of verse to open the festival at Marlborough College on Thursday September 22.Lemn’s public art poems are emblazoned on buildings, in sculpture and on streets in London and Manchester. Some have even become landmarks.  

And as the first poet commissioned to write for the 2012 London Olympics, his poem Spark Catchers will be etched into a structure in the Olympic Park.

Lemn, who received an MBE from the Queen for his service to literature, presents for BBC Radio Four and the World Service and his artwork ‘What If’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts last year.  

Nikesh Shukla, who is appearing at The Merchant’s House on Saturday September 24, is a young London poet exploring concepts of Britishness and non-Britshness. He also writes about coming of age.

His Coconut Unlimited was shortlisted for the Costa First Book Award in 2010 and he is the resident poet on the BBC Asian network.Now, in the world of youthful performances – and their enthusiastic parents of course -- the Litfest is delighted to welcome Lauren Child back to Marlborough, to talk about the creation of her characters and illustrations.

The creator of Charlie & Lola, Clarice Bean and now Ruby Redfort, Lauren grew up in Marlborough and went to school at both St. John’s and Marlborough College. Her stories contain some of today’s best loved and most successful children’s fictional characters and her books sell millions of copies across the world.
Charlie and Lola is a BAFTA-awarded TV show and global sensation. Lauren Child will be at The Theatre on The Hill, St. John’s School on Saturday 24 September.

And if parents ever worry that your child isn‘t a reader, there is still hope for them, thanks to Ivan Brett. He will be talking about his first book, Casper Candlewicks in Death by Pigeon. This is a hilariously funny debut novel by a young talent who has been tipped as a major new voice in young comic fiction. Ivan is also appearing at St. John’s on Saturday 24 September.

 For a more adult and less squeamish audience, there will also be Richard T Kelly, of whom it has been said “he drags the gothic novel kicking and screaming into the new century”. Any fans of Frankenstein or even Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga shouldn’t miss his talk on Gothic fiction at the Marlborough town hall on September 24.

This is only a smattering of what‘s on offer at the 2011 LitFest. More children’s writing will be on offer, street poetry, international authors, debut novels and workshops for the young. Of course the showcase on youth is only a part of the festival.

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