Issue number 101

1st December
1st March 2009

Please click a heading or just scroll down to read the articles, click the Up arrow to return here

Front Cover by Micky Thompson

Cover photograph this issue was taken at last year’s Victorian Evening. There isn’t, photographically speaking, much light about, but the very fact that it is moody lighting, as it would have been back in the Victorian era, that makes the picture. It is this mood that helps to give the scene it’s appeal.

The photograph has been taken with what photographers call ”available light”. This is when no flash or other auxiliary lighting is used, and the photograph is captured with only the light that is evident. If this picture had been taken using flash, everything there would be crisp and clear, but all the mood and atmosphere would have been completely washed away.

So how is it done? Well, because there is not much light, the exposure time will have to be quite long, using a slow shutter speed. This will, unless the camera is kept still during the exposure, result in blurred shaky pictures. This is why I used a tripod, to keep the camera steady. Another point to remember when taking this kind of photograph, is that the subject has to be still as well, unless movement blur is desirable. Notice some of the blurry people walking past. The slow shutter speed can be speeded up by increasing the ASA/ ISO speed, but the higher the speed the greater the graininess of the picture. So don’t put the camera away, just because the evenings are drawing in, get adventurous and creative, wrap up warm and get out there with the camera.

Drop in and say Hi. My contact phone number is 01488 686946



Message from the Chairman of CHAIN

I can hardly believe that I am writing this report again in readiness for our Christmas issue. As I am writing this (end of October) it has been snowing so I hope it isn’t going to be a long cold Winter. By the time you read this the Town’s Christmas Lights will have been switched on and I am sure the Town will look as wonderful as ever thanks to Rod Desmoules and his team. Don’t forget the Victorian Extravaganza on Friday 12th December between 5—9pm. This is organised by a small committee and they certainly deserve your support.

There are lots of Christmas parties taking place in December for different clubs and organisations but these would not happen without the hard work of just a few people who make sure that the parties do take place and you all have such a good time.

Chain has been pleased to support a regular weekly run to the Hydrotherapy Pool in Swindon. This has helped many people over the years and if anyone is in need of this type of therapy then please contact Betty Grant on Hungerford 682607.

The Blue Badge scheme for disabled drivers or passengers is a great help to lots of people. If you think you may be eligible please contact Social Services to obtain the necessary forms.

Christmas is a time when we must all make an extra effort to look out for our neighbours. If you know of anyone who is on their own then pop round, have a chat and a cup of tea it could make all the difference.

I would like to thank all the Chain Volunteers for the many hours they have freely given to Chain during the past year, this includes Drivers, Office Ladies and Chain Mail Links. Where would we be without you!

On behalf of everyone at Chain I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

Janette Kersey. Chairman



Stating the obvious, it’s Christmas in a few weeks time and then some more holidays for the New Year.  Easter next year is Good Friday April 10th (20 days later than this year).

One of the many joys of being retired is that my week feels like a week of Sundays, and with that in mind a little ‘Christian type’ message to you all. If someone doesn’t turn up to their regular haunt, club, lunch, Church, social, or whatever meeting, and they have not let anyone know, ask around and contact them if need be, to check on their well being, not just for Christmas, but all the year round! And neighbours look out for your neighbours, one day it might be you that needs it!

Please think of this as your magazine and feel free to write in on any subject, be it a letter, a half page article of interest or just factual information, of or on, events. If it’s a TOWN DIARY type matter I am part of the team that enters the ‘data’ to Hungerford’s web page, so come on people, it’s just costing you your time! There are not that many FREE things in life but this is (believe me!).

Tony and his team from A&M Electrics have again brightened up our town for Christmas. Well Done!
So we’ve lost 4 wonderful volunteers, can we please have four more?
Some articles included in this issue
The Mayor replies regarding  BW’s letter in the last issue, & my apology  to them.
Betty Grant’s goodbyeeeeeeee.  Thank you so much Betty for all your efforts of the past.
Hungerford Twinning news………
A hug in a bowl,  what next?
A new article contributor, all the way from Newbury, welcome  Liz.
Goodbyeeeeeeeeeee Ron………….& Richard’s Bus!!!
More from B.B. on….love the philosophy of ambiguity & idiosyncrasies……..
In Living Memory

Articles for publication should be sent to me by the 7th of the month preceeding publication, i.e.7th February  for the Spring issue on March 1st.

If you send something to me I will always acknowledge within 3 days. No reply from me then I have not got it, so please re-send.                    Thanks & regards  David Piper.

Tel: 01488-683152                                                    

Hungerford Mayor


t was very sad that we lost Gerald Ward who passed away in October. The Ward family have been great benefactors to Hungerford, he will be sadly missed.

The Christmas lights as I write, are being put up and the trees will soon arrive, a busy time for the Councillors.

We had an election in October and Shelagh Parry has joined the Council. We wish her well in her future endeavours.

Concern about policing has been in the press and I am glad to say that Hungerford Policing is up to full capacity with 24/7 Police presence in the town. Just to remind those who have to park on the pavement. Please leave enough space for mums and their pushchairs to get past. Also it should be remembered that disabled carriages also need room to pass.

The Council has spent a lot of time clearing St Saviour’s Cemetery and with the help of the community service team the grounds are looking more respectable. We still have two more years to finish the full refurbishment.

This year the Council have agreed to have sets of 5 different Christmas cards which are on sale at the Council offices and in the offices of Newbury Building Society. These cards are of Hungerford Christmas lights and are a bargain at £3.50 a pack. The profit will be for Hungerford good causes within the Town. We have 200 packs and they are going fast.

Currently we have over 90 requests for allotment sites and we are actively sourcing sites for the town.

Just a reminder that the Council office in the Library building is open from 10am to 2pm Monday to Friday, and Clerks Jennie or Claire will be pleased to help with town matters for you.

I would like to invite you all to The Mayor’s Christmas Carol Service at St Lawrence’s on Sunday 21st December at 6.30pm .

May I on behalf of Hungerford Town Council wish you a merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

Peter Harries Mayor of Hungerford

Letters & e-mails

Dear Editor,
With tongue in cheek?
How to call the Police when you’re old and don’t move fast anymore.

George Phillips of Gold Coast, Australia was going to bed when his wife told him that he’d left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window. (Does this sound familiar!) George opened the back door to go turn off the light but saw that there were people in the shed stealing things. He phoned the police, who asked ‘Is someone in your house?’ and he said no. Then they said that all patrols were busy, and that he should simply lock his door and an officer would be along when available. George said, ‘Okay,’ hung up, counted to 30, and phoned the police again. ‘Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you don’t have to worry about them now because I’ve just shot them.’ Then he hung up. Within five minutes three police cars, an Armed Response Unit, and an ambulance showed up at the Phillips’ residence and caught the burglars red-handed. One of the Policemen said to George: ‘I thought you said that you’d shot them!’ George said, ‘I thought you said there was nobody available!’
(True Story) I LOVE IT -Don’t stuff old people about!!* J.B.

Dear Editor,
I have to take issue with your CHAIN maths problem! The magazine printed:

There are 7 girls in a bus, each girl has 7 backpacks, in each sack there are 7 big cats. For every big cat there are 7 little cats. How many legs are on the bus? The answer given over the page is
1582….clearly too few for the question asked.
There are 7 girls: HUMAN LEGS = 2 x 7 = 14
Each girl has 7 backpacks, therefore: TOTAL BACKPACKS = 7 x 7 = 49
Each backpack has 7 big cats, and (7×7) little cats therefore:
TOTAL CATS PER BACKPACK = (7 x 7) + 7 = 49 + 7 = 56
The total number of cats on the bus is therefore: TOTAL CATS ON BUS = 49 x 56 = 2744
The total number of feline legs on the bus is therefore: TOTAL FELINE LEGS = 2744 x 4 = 10976
The total number of legs on the bus is therefore: TOTAL FELINE LEGS + TOTAL HUMAN LEGS = 10976 + 14 = 10990
…..I think CHAIN are going to need a bigger bus!!! If you only give the girls one backpack each, your printed answer is correct (and the bus is not quite so full).

Regards D.T.

Ed’s Comment…………The original maths problem was sent in by a CHAIN MAIL contributor !!!!

An apology to Hungerford Town Council. Regarding the letter from ’BW’ in the previous issue of CHAIN MAIL, and the letter from the Mayor (below this). I do apologise for attributing the blame to our local Council, not realising for one moment that it was West Berks Council that were the ’culprits’. However, hopefully BW’s letter has highlighted the tripping points around the trees, and that no one else suffers the same fate. Recently I was in Carlisle and they had a much safer solution to protecting the street trees by using a BRADSTONE (MK) type kerb block that gradually sloped upwards. However my apologies once again to HTC, and I will check with the Town Clerk’s office in the future before publishing.
Best regards David H. Piper.

Dear David,
May I refer to Letters & e-mails , page 4 of the 100th edition of CHAIN, in particular to your lead-letter from BW?
It is clear that no editorial fact-finding has taken place before publishing this letter, and I take issue with this as it much maligns this Council, erroneously. Your Council is a fervent supporter of CHAIN and this will continue to be the case, but blatant factual errors do leave your editorial exposed.
The trees have been planted by the Town & Manor and the kerbing fitted by West Berkshire Council. They required kerbing on the advice of an arborist due to the damage caused by road salt. None of this work has been instigated by Hungerford Town Council.
The rubbish bins have been in place for a considerable time and again these have been put in place by West Berkshire Council.
As BW is the only complainant regarding these ‘traps’, maybe he just had a bad day, and has duly vented his wrath in the wrong quarter before checking liability. It would be prudent for BW to be informed through your office of his errors, and an apology in the next copy of CHAIN proffered to this Council.

Yours sincerely, Peter Harries Mayor

Dear Old Codger,
A plea to cat owners. How many people realise that cats need a supply of fresh clean water to drink? Traditionally it as always been thought that they like milk to drink, which is true, but water is also essential.
I have a low bird bath in my garden which is patronised by several visiting cats. They must come from quite a distance, as none of us in the Square has a cat—in fact most of us discourage them because of our tiny strips of garden, which are not designed for cats, if you know what I mean!
Incidentally, to keep cats from using your garden for toilet purposes , sprinkle a few drops of eucalyptus oil on used tea bags, and scatter them among your plants.
Yours sincerely, J.B.

Dear Editor
Just a little note to ask, is there anyone living in the Hungerford area collecting Plastic Milk Bottle Tops for Disabled people? If so please ring 683522 I have a quantity.

Regards S.E

Bits 1

Ron Rowland
An appreciation and thanks

Ron has indicated that he feels that the time has come to ask that he be taken off the list of volunteer car drivers.

His time, energy and organisational skills have been given to Chain for 26 years as Car driver, Chain Mail Editor and Chairman (and at times odd job man).
It was Ron who led the committee towards being presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service organisations.

So thank you Ron we wish you well in all your future endeavours.

Thanks also to Eric and Daphne Hayden – drivers who have removed to Haywards Heath.


Another wonderful CHAIN PUB Lunch at the Wheatsheaf Chilton Foliat. The next is at the Three Swans 1st December. Call Alan Pollitt 01488 682606

Heard on the grapevine…………….
That the Macmillan Coffee morning held in Priory Avenue back in September raised nearly £200, and that a lovely lady newcomer to Hungerford kindly contributed some jams & marmalades to the proceeds. Thank you all so much. B.B.


A Christmas present idea……………(two in fact)

Norman Hidden’s “Aspects of Medieval Hungerford”, published by the HHA, and hopefully(!) it will be ready for early December, for about £8.00 [as we go to press the publication date and the exact price are not yet confirmed].

Hungerford – A Pictorial History – Dr Hugh Pihlens (Revised and enlarged edition), which includes the original 170 captioned photographs that were in the first edition, plus a further 48 new pictures covering the period from 1930 until modern times, for £17.95. Both on sale in Hungerford Book Shop.
The first talks for the New Year are (copied from the HHA website ):
January 21st: David Stubbs: “The South West Coastal Paths – a Legacy”
February 25th: Dr Ivan Johnson: “Work Activities through Time”



From an edition of the SAGA magazine…………Optimistic forward planning????……….

Cruising for Company
Cheerful F, 89, n/s GSOH, booked on P&O liner, for Feb 2011 WLT find fellow traveller for companionship on cruise. Wilts. Box xxxxxx

F=female, n/s = non smoker, GSOH = good sense of humour, WLT=would like to


Age Concern

This article summarises the main features of Pension Credit. What is Pension Credit? Pension Credit provides older people with a minimum level of income and gives extra cash to people with modest incomes who have made savings for their retirement. Pension Credit has two parts: the ‘guarantee credit’ and the ‘savings credit’. Some people will get both the guarantee and the savings parts while others will receive either one or the other. Both parts are based on people’s income and other circumstances.

How does the guarantee credit work?… The guarantee credit is available to people aged 60 or over. It tops up someone’s income to a set level. The guarantee credit is set at standard amounts; from April 2008 it is £124.05 a week for a single person and £189.35 for a couple. The amounts are higher for some disabled people, carers and homeowners with certain housing costs.

Example…………….Sandra Wood’s only income is her state pension of £90.70 a week and she has no savings. She gets £33.35 Pension Credit to bring her income up to the guarantee level of £124.05.

What about the savings credit?……….The savings credit is available to people who have reached the age of 65. The maximum amount is £19.71 a week for a single person and £26.13 for a couple.

You could be entitled to some savings credit if you:
• are single and your income is more than £91.20 but less than around £174.00 a week or
• are one of a couple and your joint income is more than £145.80 but less than around £255.00 a week
• if you are disabled, a carer, or a homeowner with certain housing costs you may still get some savings credit even if your income is above these levels.

Brief information is given here about calculating the savings credit – it aims to give you an idea of the calculation but does not cover all circumstances. The savings credit is based on what is called ‘qualifying income’ which includes the main types of income that pensioners have. But if your income includes any ‘non-qualifying income’ the way that savings credit is calculated will be different to the information given below. See later in this article to find out more about how income and savings are assessed.

Single people………If your income is more than £91.20 a week but less than £124.05 you are likely to be entitled to savings credit. You will normally receive 60p savings credit for every £1 of income you have over £91.20.

Example………….Christine Smith has a state pension of £90.70 a week and an occupational pension of £10 a week. She will receive £23.35 guarantee credit to bring her pension income of £100.70 up to £124.05. She will also receive £6.00 savings credit (60p for every £1 of the £10 pension income over £90.70) making her total income £130.05. If your income is exactly £124.05 you will normally receive the maximum savings credit for a single person of £19.71. If your income is more than £124.05 but less than around £174.00 the maximum savings credit of £19.71 is reduced by 40p for every £1 of income you have over £124.05.

Example………James Brown has an income of £144.05 from his state and private pensions. This is £20 more than the guarantee level of £124.05 so the maximum savings credit of £19.71 is reduced by £8 (40p for every £1 of the £20). He will receive savings credit of £11.71.

Couples……….If your income is more than £145.80 a week but less than £189.35you are likely to be entitled to savings credit. You will normally receive 60p savings credit for every £1 of income you have over £145.80.

Example……….Naresh and Mira Gupta have state and occupational pensions totalling £165.80 a week. They will receive £23.55 guarantee credit to bring their pension income up to £189.35. They will also receive £12.00 savings credit (60p for every £1 of the £20 pension income over £145.80) making their total income £201.35. If your income is exactly £189.35 you will normally receive the
maximum savings credit for a couple of £26.13. If your income is more than £189.35 but less than around £255.00 the maximum savings credit of £26.13 is reduced by 40p for every £1 that your income is over £189.35.

Example…………Freda and William Jones have state pensions of £145.05, an occupational pension of £46.30 and £20,000 savings (assumed to produce an income of £28 as explained below) making a total of £219.35 a week. This is £30 more than the guarantee level of £189.35 so the maximum savings credit of £26.13 is reduced by £12 (40p for every £1 of the £30). They will therefore receive
savings credit of £14.13. If you are disabled, a carer or a homeowner with certain housing costs the maximum levels of savings credit are the same but you may still get some savings credit even if your income is more than £174.00 as a single person or £255.00 as a couple. For more information about who counts as being disabled or a carer for these purposes, or if you are a homeowner, see Age Concern’s more detailed factsheet on Pension Credit referred to at the end of this article.

How are savings and income assessed?….Pension Credit is based on an assessment of your income and savings and some of the main points of the assessment are given here. For couples the income and savings of you and your partner are added together to work out your entitlement to Pension Credit. For Pension Credit £6,000 savings is ignored and there is no upper limit. Savings over £6,000 are assumed to produce an income of £1 for every £500 over £6,000. For example, someone with £10,000 savings is assessed as having an income of £8 a week from those savings while someone with £20,000 is assessed as having an income of £28 a week. (The limits for people living in care homes are different and not covered here). Some types of savings and capital are ignored, including the value of your home. Similarly, some types of income are completely ignored or partly ignored – for example Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance are not taken into account.

The calculation for savings credit is based on ‘qualifying income’. For most people ‘qualifying income’ will be the same as the income used to work out their guarantee credit. But Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, contribution based Jobseeker’s Allowance and maintenance payments are not ‘qualifying income’ and will not count towards the savings credit. If you have any of these types of income the rules for working out your savings credit will be different to those explained earlier and you will need more information to find out about your own position.

What if my circumstances change?……….Most people over the age of 65 will receive a Pension Credit award lasting for up to 5 years. (The Government has said it will change these rules so that people over 75 will have an indefinite award of Pension Credit). During this period you will not need to report changes in your savings or pension income to the Pension Service, and your Pension Credit will be automatically up rated every year. The Pension Service will automatically increase the amount they take into account from your state and private pensions. If your income goes down during this time you can ask for your benefit to be reassessed. During this period there will still be some changes that you will need to report such as: a change of address, becoming widowed or going to live in a care home.

How do I make a claim?……………You can make a claim over the phone or ask for a claim form to be sent to you (see the phone number on page 21 ). You could also ask for a form in person from your local Pension Service or advice agency. Sometimes the Pension Service or an advice agency may help you fill in the form. Pension Credit can be backdated for up to a year.

Will the Pension Credit affect my Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit?…..If you are awarded guarantee credit you will also receive the maximum allowable Housing and Council Tax Benefit (for more information see Age Concern Factsheet 17 Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit).

If you receive savings credit only, you should check with your local authority to see if you also qualify for some Housing or Council Tax Benefit (HB/CTB). If you are already receiving HB or CTB when you are awarded savings credit, the amount of HB/CTB you receive will be reduced (but you will still be better off overall after claiming savings credit). Your ongoing entitlement to HB and CTB will only be reduced from the date when your local authority are informed of the award of savings credit, and will not affect the HB and CTB you have already been paid.

Where do I get more information? For an application form, ring the Pension Credit Information Line on 0800 99 1234, Monday to Friday, 8am – 8pm, Saturday 9am – 1pm.

This article gives a brief overview of how the Pension Credit will work. For more detailed information see Age Concern Factsheet 48, Credit Pension which is available from Age Concern’s Information Line. Further copies of this article are available from the Age Concern Information Line on 0800 00 99 66, 7 days a week, 8am-7pm. If you would like to receive this information in large print phone 0800 00 99 66 (free call) or write to Age Concern FREEPOST (SWB 30375),Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7ZZ.
Find out more about Age Concern England online at
Please note that the inclusion of named agencies, companies, products, services or publications in this article does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement by Age Concern. Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, Age Concern cannot be held responsible for errors or omissions.

All rights reserved. This article has been reproduced with permission from Age Concern England.


Your Safety

Bogus callers…………Fear of crime should not stop you enjoying life to the full. Overall, older people are less likely than other age groups to be victims of crime. However, one type of criminal may try to target older people. Bogus callers, also known as distraction burglars, try to trick their way into your home so that they can steal your money and valuables while your attention is elsewhere. Simple steps for safety at the door Most callers are genuine and mean you no harm, but bogus callers can often seem very plausible and will try to fool you. If you read this carefully and follow the advice given, you will be less likely to be fooled and more likely to feel safe and secure at your door.

Password schemes…….All electricity, gas and water companies have a doorstep password scheme. If you haven’t already done so, set up a password with each of them today. Choose passwords that are unique and you will remember.
Safety and security in your home…………..Fit a door chain (and, where you can, a spy hole). This makes it easier for you to identify who is at the door without fully opening it. If you do not currently have a chain, arrange to have one fitted as soon as possible. Your local Age Concern group may be able to help you find a local home security scheme or a handyperson who can do this job for you.

Do not keep large amounts of money in the house. It is safer in a bank or building society account. Do not leave money lying around where it is visible from outside or where it can be easily found. Do not leave valuable items in view or where they can be easily found. Items of sentimental value, such as jewellery, may also be those that most appeal to burglars. It may be worth getting a small safe for your home. Before you go to the door Bogus callers often work in pairs. One of them will try to keep you talking at the front door while the other tries to get in through the back door or a window. Close and lock the back door and any accessible windows – before you go to the front door. Take your time – don’t be forced to make a decision. It is your home and you can decide who comes in. Don’t let any caller try to pressure you into making a quick decision. Think carefully first and if you are unsure, do not open the door.
Safety and security at your door………..Look through your spy hole or window When someone knocks on your door or rings the bell, try to check who they are before opening the door. Think before you act – if you are concerned about what you see or hear, do not open the door

Think – safety first………..Sometimes bogus callers pose as someone needing help, perhaps a glass of water or access to a telephone. Put yourself first. Do not feel you are rude or uncaring by saying ‘no’ – your own safety is important. Check the caller is who they say they are, Bogus callers will often say they represent an electricity, gas or water company or another organisation such as
the council or a charity. Check that a caller is who they say they are. Ask for the password you have set up with the company All electricity, gas and water companies offer a doorstep password scheme. Contact your companies and set up a unique password with each of them that you will remember. When a representative calls they will give you your unique password.

Your doorstep checklist………..Is my door chain on? When you first answer the door, keep your door chain on. While checking the caller’s identity, keep your door chain on. If you are unsure, keep your door chain on, tell the caller you will check their identity with their company and close the door. Does the caller have an identification card? If the caller does not have an identification card, keep the door chain on, ask the caller to go away and close the door. If the caller persists, dial 999 and ask for the police. If the caller does have an identification card: You are in control, you make the decisions. Remember, it is your home and you decide whom you let in. If the answer to any of the above questions is no, or you are still unsure, do not open the door and do not let the caller in. Ask to see the card and check it carefully – keep your door chain on close the door while you examine the card to see if it looks genuine. Does the card have an expiry date and is it still valid?

Does the photograph on the card match the person at the door? Check the photograph
is it the original – has anything been stuck over it? If you are unsure do not open the door Keep the door closed and the caller outside. A genuine caller will not object to you leaving them on the doorstep and closing the door, even if it is raining. Do not use the telephone number on the caller’s identification card. If the identification card is not genuine then the telephone number on the card will not be genuine either. Find the company’s telephone number in your phone book or on a bill, or call directory enquiries. Telephone the company and ask them to confirm they have sent someone out to you. The company will ask you for information about the identification card and what the caller looks like. The company may also ask for the date of birth or password of the caller. If you need to, get more information from the caller with the door chain left on. Dial 999 if the company does not know the caller, ask for the police and tell them what has happened. Tell the police if the caller is still at your door. The police will tell you what to do.

Rogue traders. Do not agree to any cold caller doing any work for you. Some cold callers will offer to do roofing, building or driveway resurfacing. Some cold callers will vastly overcharge for unnecessary, shoddy or non-existent work. Never accept an offer to drive you to withdraw money, there have been instances where older people have been driven to their bank or building society, to withdraw money to pay the cold caller’s charges. Do not accept an offer to be driven from anyone you do not know or do not trust. If you are pressurised to hand over money, keep your door closed, dial 999 and ask for the police. Need some work done? If you think you may need to have work done on your house or driveway, ask for quotes from two or three reputable companies. Friends and relatives may be able to recommend companies or trades people they have been pleased with.

Age Concern Berkshire provides the following services across West Berkshire.
Home from hospital (hospital aftercare) ; Befriending, West Link ; Dementia & memory loss support ; Handyperson ; Gardening ( one off tidy up service ) ; Silver Surfers (Computer Club) ; Pensions & Benefits Advice ; Information & Advice Line .

All rights reserved. This article has been reproduced with permission from Age Concern England.

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The Old Codger

The Old Codger’s Column…….

Well I reckon that the Icelandic Government cannot complain about their banks being seized under our terrorism laws.  What did they think, when they held to ransom, funds taken from our savings accounts & Town Hall monies. Did this not cause country-wide unrest and consternation? Has it not caused hardship & disruption, and how the Devil does the Icelandic government think that they should sue our Treasury?  I’m not a Gordon lover after HE raided so many of our pension funds, but this time I say  ‘Well Done’. I write this some weeks before you see this in print and things might well have changed, but I’ve still got a lot of money ‘’locked’’’ up until the FSA gets it sorted!

Still on the subject of money/credit crunch/recession doesn’t Robert Peston get on your nerves? 1; Never answering the question with a yes or no, and then giving an explanation that’s so loose it could  be the answer to almost anything,

2; Never actually being positive when the odd improvement happens. Talk Doom & Gloom you will get Doom & Gloom. As for those presenters who think we don’t know (without stupid examples) what ‘up & down’ & ‘Liquidity’ & ‘U turns’ mean without them talking to us in a lift, pouring water or doing it in a car!

Why oh why do these television companies have to (expensively) send the in house ‘anchor’ man to the latest hot spot, when the on-the-spot local man has been doing the job well for years (& without pretentious illustrations/examples)?

And on my usual theme:

One last thing, if you see any problems with Street Lighting, Gritting & Snow clearance over the coming months please phone Streetcare in Newbury  on 01635 519080, if you don’t, no one else will.

Please contact me through David’s e-mail,

Or to CHAIN Office…..address on outside back page and title your words/thoughts as…….Old Codger column  please …….

Bye Bye & keep safe

Gardening by Stacy

Gardening on a Budget

 At times like these, when we are being careful with spending, gardening might seem like an expensive hobby. It’s all too easy to trot off to the garden centre in the Spring, fill a trolley and spend a small fortune. The seed and plant catalogues are coming through the door, trying to tempt you with their delectable, colourful wares, and who wouldn’t be tempted by all that colour and the promise of summer in the midst of winter?

   Take heart, however. It is possible to maintain your resolve to spend less and have a beautiful garden next year at the same time. If you do order from a plant catalogue try to combine an order with that of a friend or group of friends. You will save on postage and packing by spreading the cost plus the catalogues often offer free gifts for different levels of spend. For example one of my plant catalogues has the following offers:-

Any order- 1 Bay Tree at less than half price

Spend £15 and receive free Impatiens

Spend £39 and receive free Begonias

Buy 3 packs of mini-plants and get 4th pack free

Divide the costs and the free gifts between you and you are doing well.

    Getting plants for a bargain is great and for free even better! When you divide up plants, pot up any extra plants and start a plant swap with friends and neighbours. Or have a look online. There are many seed and plant swap networks which are running so look for one near you. I usually have a plant sale when I open my garden during Hadcaf week but I am wondering whether to try a plant swap this time also. If anyone is interested in taking part please let me know as it could be fun to pass plants around the neighbourhood.

     Joining the local horticultural society is an excellent way to not only meet people with similar interests and get advice but also to exchange plants and seeds. Societies usually have better buying power too, with some having preferential rates with particular nurseries or suppliers.

I love car boots sales and have picked up so many interesting things there at a snip. There are of course individuals selling excess seedlings in the spring (usually tomatoes!!, but if you didn’t get round to sowing any early enough, that’s perfect). However there are often small growers who have excellent plant knowledge, grow unusual or old-fashioned varieties and sell for really reasonable prices.  Local growers include Sheila from Long Lane Newbury, who sells beautiful Delphiniums and Geraniums, and Yvonne from Ramsbury, who has a large selection of perennials, including Penstemons and Echinaceas. Its good to support local small businesses and to get to know your suppliers.

     My two favourite sources of plants in and around Hungerford are the St Lawrence’s Church fete in the summer and the Shalbourne Plant fair in Spring. I’m afraid I am always at the front of the queue at Shalbourne because there is nothing like it!  I browse the large plants lined up outside, itching to hand over the money, but no sales until the fair opens officially! Last year I bought some large box plants which I used at my Newbury show Show garden in September. The tables are set up around the village hall, usually the small pots are on the right hand side as you go in the door, followed by perennials, while on the left hand side there are vegetables, fruit bushes, and grasses etc.  Finally at the far end of the room there is a home-made cake and preserves table, which my husband makes a beeline for. Last year he bought me a “Clootie dumpling”- he had heard me rave about this great Scottish delicacy so often!

      Of course I have realised that I don’t want to encourage everyone to visit the Shalbourne fair, so I am hoping that by the time Spring comes round this article will be a distant memory and I will have the run of the plants!! You’ll see me on my way home. I’ll be the one driving the mobile garden!  

Stacy Tuttle

Nature Notes by Hawkeye

“Where to see the most birds in the shortest time?”
or “A trip to Lower Farm, Newbury”

On Monday October 27th I decided to go birding for the morning. It was a clear sunny day, ideal for bird watching. There are a number of nature reserves in the Hungerford area but they all seem to specialise in particular species or flowers and none have huge quantities of birds. Then I remembered my favourite, the jewel in the crown, Lower Farm Newbury. This abandoned quarry has been turned into a lake and lies at the end of Newbury Racecourse. It attracts large numbers of good birds from September to March and is a unique habitat for West Berks. Furthermore it is close to the Discovery Centre in Thatcham. In my opinion, the Discovery Centre is an ideal place to take grandchildren to introduce them to the natural world.

Lower Farm was converted into a nature reserve by Tarmac in 1996. They built a bird hide there and planted some 4,000 trees. Obviously the trees are 12 years old now and an attraction in their own right. But, the bird hide is the main attraction for me. It means I can watch birds seated on a wooden bench in the dry and eat my sandwiches in comfort. I always go there on a week day as I have always found it unoccupied then. An empty hide is perfect for leisurely birding as you can consult your Field Guide without feeling embarrassed. Although here you can actually consult a book that Newbury and District Ornithological Club have provided, I believe. I’m sure they manage the site as they have their information on the walls of the hide. The book is known as the “AA Book”. However the proper title is ‘The Complete Book of British Birds’ and is written by a team of RSPB Experts. It is the best book I know for casual birdwatchers or beginners.

There are literally hundreds of birds here during the winter months. I particularly like all the different ducks and gulls. It is sometimes a challenge to identify the female ducks if you have not been bird watching for a while. If you use the female mallard as a guide and learn all her features then you soon get up to speed with your recognition and begin to enjoy birding. I dislike listing birds I’ve seen but on the 27th the following ducks were present and indicates the importance of the reserve: Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Wigeon Teal, Golden Eye, and Pochard

Also on the day I visited there were several Great Crested Grebes swimming around. I am sure they will stay here and perform their well known “Weed Dance” or courtship routine in late winter. In the past I have had to travel to Coate Water in Swindon to see this. In my opinion there will be several displays throughout February as the Grebes time their courtship to breed in early Spring. They normally raise two broods each year. The young are striped and are often carried on their Mum’s back.

There are more Cormorants at Lower Farm than can be seen fishing at Chilton Foliat by the road bridge. In late winter there are usually large flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing at Lower Farm. It is also a good place to see Coots and Moorhen in large numbers as well as Canada Geese and Mute Swans.

The reserve is approximately 10 miles from Hungerford and can take as little as 25 minutes by car to get there. It is sign posted from the bottom of Hambridge Lane. However it is a little tricky finding it if you have not been there before. You have to drive up to the Tarmac quarry and turn right for the reserve’s car park. From the car park you have to walk through the small gate on the right before the bridge.

A place you must visit in winter as I understand it will form part of West Berks Council and BBOWT’s joint project “LIVING LANDSCAPE FOR ALL.”


University of the 3rd Age…..Newbury U3A

Situated in West Berkshire, Newbury U3A caters for all older people, not in full time employment, living in the locality of Newbury. It offers them an opportunity to join any one or several of a wide range of interest and activity groups and to meet other people who are discovering that the Third Age is an age of freedom and adventure.
Our site aims to meet the needs of three groups of visitors:
* Potential members interested in knowing more about us and how they can join;
* Existing members who want information on events, groups and so on (often when they have lost their newsletter!),
* Members of other U3As who want contact information or to learn more about us.
It does this by providing contact details and details of our interest groups and events.
We have some 460 members who between them run some 50 interest groups. Any member with enthusiasm and basic organizational skills can start a new Interest Group at any time if there is sufficient support amongst their fellow members.
Annual Subscription is £15.00 (fifteen pounds) a year. Some groups make a small charge to cover their own expenses and normally a small amount is paid (30p) to cover tea and coffee supplied by host leaders.
If you are a potential member, we hope you will have found an activity or activities that really interest you and want to join us. If you have not, but believe we ought to run an additional activity or activities that would interest you, then let us know. We may be able to see if enough interest is shown by existing members to make it viable.
We try very hard not to disappoint Members and do our best to meet and respond to changing requirements and circumstances. However, please remember we are a voluntary organization and all our activities are organized and run by our Members. Maybe the only way the additional activity you want could happen is if you are prepared to set it up or help set it up and run it.
If you studied our Groups list, you may have noticed that ‘Music I’ is ‘missing’. Activities come and go for a variety of reasons, e.g. Group Leaders and/or Members move on. For that sort of reason we have a few activity groups ‘on hold’ at present pending sufficient interest and/or people prepared to run them.
Whatever your needs, please let us know whether or not we have met them; we welcome your views and comments.

NEWBURY U3A OFFICE Arcade House, The Arcade, Newbury, RG14 5AD
Telephone: 01635 524099E-mail:

Antiques & Collectables 2, Architecture, Art, Art Appreciation, Art History, Badminton, Bird Watching, Calligraphy, Chair-based Exercises, Civilisations, Crochet, Digital Photography, Embroidery, Flower Arranging, French,
Gardening, Genealogy, Good Read, Knitting, LatinLuncheon club, Music II, Music III, Needlecraft 2, Needlecraft I,
Opera (listening to), Patchwork, Play Reading, Poetry (English), Psychology, Reading Shakespeare, Rummikub, Savings and Investment, Science/Technology, Scrabble, Singing for Fun, Spanish, Table Tennis, Theatre Group,
Travel Group, Walks – Mid-week, Walks – Amblers, Walks – Pub.


University of the 3rd AGE…………….U3A. Marlborough

We are situated in Wiltshire and U3A in Kennet offers all older people, not in full time employment, living in the Marlborough District and its surrounding locality an opportunity to share in the activities of its Interest Groups and to meet other people who are discovering that the Third Age is an age of freedom and adventure.
Any member with enthusiasm and basic organizational skills can start a new Interest Group at any time if there is sufficient support amongst their fellow members.
There are regular national and local newsletters that keep everyone in touch with the latest U3A development, interests and events. Local bi-monthly meetings give everyone a chance to meet and discuss their views as well as to listen to very interesting and entertaining guest speakers.
Annual Subscription for 2008/09 will be 10 pounds a year. Some groups may make a small charge to cover their own expenses and normally a small amount is paid (30p) to cover tea and coffee supplied by host leaders.

As a temporary measure, for information about U3A in Kennet Contact our Membership
Secretary: Mrs Rosemary Hawes – tel: 01672 512950

Philosophy of Ambiguity

More of………..For those who love the philosophy of ambiguity….( as well as the idiosyncrasies of the English language)

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

If a deaf person signs swear words, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

Is there another word for synonym?

Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

Why do they lock petrol station lavatories? Are they afraid someone will clean them?

If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

How is it possible to have a civil war?

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word “lisp” to have “s” in it?

Why are haemorrhoids called “haemorrhoids” instead of “assteroids”?

-growing our links with Ligueil, France

The sight of a town being ‘twinned’ with a foreign counterpart, is not unusual and whilst , on occasions, you may wonder why the overseas town has been chosen, not many of us consider the matter much further.

Hungerfordians need no reminder that our twin is Ligueil in France. It is proudly announced on our name sign on the approach to the town from any direction. But what does it mean and how does it impact on us in Hungerford? The answer to the latter is that to most, it has no direct bearing on our day to day lives but it could if you choose and would like to become involved.

The Twinning movement was started shortly after World War 2 and was based upon the premise that by understanding overseas cultures better, it would lead to a more harmonious world. Hungerford was drawn into this scenario in the late 1970’s when the then Mayor Jack Williams researched the prospect and concluded a Charter of Twinning with Ligueil in 1981, signed aptly on St Valentine’s Day. This was witnessed by over 1,000 people in the town.

Since then, the Hungerford Twinning Association (HTA) has sought to develop the links with that French town through both official and personal contacts over the years. Local pupils in several schools have been encouraged to communicate directly with their counterparts- a process made that much quicker with the advent of the internet.

But perhaps the most noticeable feature of the twinning would be the bi-annual visit to Ligueil of members of the HTA and their families and on the alternate years, a visit to Hungerford from a party from Ligueil. This year a party of over 40 from Ligueil were hosted by members of the HTA and with a day trip to Bath, a group bar-b-cue and several personal excursions, a great time was had by all .Plans are progressing well for our visit there in May 2009.

Many town-twinning arrangements have eroded over the years and it is therefore testament to the HTA that our links with our French friends have continued to flourish with many new friendships being established each year. One of the fascinating effects of being a member of the HTA, is that it also provides an introduction to other Hungerfordians with similar interests through a series of meetings and social gatherings. In November, for example, a group will be dining at the Palm restaurant and in December will be promoting the work of the HTA by serving French food under the arches of the Three Swans during the Hungerford Victorian Extravaganza
A programme of other events is being drawn up for 2009 and will in future be highlighted in the CHAIN diary.

For more information about these events or how to join the HTA,
contact Chairman Penny Brookman on 01488682065

Hungerford Victorian Evening

People packed pavements where progress is slow,
It’s frosty and dark so you go with the flow –
Gently edging towards the sound of applause,
Someone has spotted dear old Santa Claus.

He is giving the children rides on his sleigh.
With happy red faces they laugh all the way.
The reindeer are resting so they’re pulled by a horse,
When you’re a child and its dark it doesn’t matter of course.

Outside the Town Hall stands a real Christmas tree
Decorated with lights, and some parcels I see.
What a magical scene on this Victorian night
With the street decorations sparkling and bright.

The Church in Bridge Street has opened its doors wide
We listen to carol singing whilst standing outside.
The noise of the funfair competes for the crowd,
Speech is impossible ‘cos the steam organ’s too loud.

The smell of the steam and the coal and the oil
And thud of the engines is worth all the toil
To the top of the street for the men and the boys,
When everyone else is shopping for toys!

All shops are open; the antique shops are too,
The Book Shop is busy with a festive long queue.
At the end of the evening before you hasten away
Sample roast chestnuts and watch the fireworks display.

Freya Basson

Health by Liz

Beat the Burn

Digestive diseases, imbalances and lifelong disorders are on the increase in the UK.

Liz Chandler, of Natures Corner, Newbury, looks at some of the factors affecting our digestion.

Day in, day out, year after year, we put our digestive system through stress and offer it junk food, irregular meals and stimulants. Then we seem surprised when it doesn’t work properly.
Our digestion is an amazing system. During an average lifetime we eat 45,000 kilos of food and drink 55,000 litres of fluid. Some of us may well have read that the small intestine is the length of a double decker bus, but the overall sophistication of the system is easily taken for granted – until it goes out of sync.
Our stomach contains very powerful hydrochloric acid (HCl), which aids both digestion and sterilization. As we age, levels of HCl tend to decline leaving us with problems such as heartburn and indigestion, bloating and flatulence. Aside from age there are other factors that affect our ability to digest and absorb food:-

Stress, Overeating or eating too quickly, Irregular eating,
Eating late at night, Food sensitivities.

People who believe they produce too much acid tend to relieve their discomfort after meals by taking antacids – alkaline products designed to neutralise the amount of acid in the stomach. In fact the problem usually lies in the stomach lining, where tiny lesions allow bacteria called Helicobacter pylori to take hold and make the lesions worse. Once this happens, even small amounts of stomach acid can irritate the lining and cause discomfort and acid reflux. Antacids merely relieve the symptoms but can cause further problems. Firstly the stomach is now not able to break down foods and kill bacteria and secondly, because the stomach needs to keep the acid at a certain, very precise, level, the brain will send a message for the stomach to work harder and produce more acid, causing more discomfort. Manuka honey is extremely beneficial in these circumstances, as its anti viral properties will fight bacterial viruses such as Helicobacter pylori and in addition, will soothe the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Centaurium is also a helpful stomach bitter, that strengthens the oesophageal sphincter, aids digestion and relieves acid reflux. Another powerful anti inflammatory and natural healer is Aloe Vera Juice, which works within the intestinal tract to help break down impacted food residues and cleanse the bowel.

Finally, it would be wrong to neglect the issue of gut flora and the benefits of taking ‘beneficial bacteria’, known as probiotics. The food industry supply probiotics as food, usually in yogurts or drinking yogurts, but it is worth making the distinction between the probiotic potency of foods and the probiotic potency of supplements (powder or capsules). To get the equivalent of a potency of a two billion bacteria supplement, we would need to eat one litre of probiotic yogurt.

An important fact to remember is that we are  NOT what we eat, but what we digest and absorb.

Our Community

Hungerford Police November Update

We have had several incidents on the Common involving injuries and the death of cows caused by undue care and attention of drivers, I would like to ask people driving along the Common to be aware of the speed limits. I have personally witnessed drivers trying to nudge the cows out of the way with their vehicle. This is totally unacceptable behaviour, and if you do have an accident with a cow you must report it to the police. Failure to do this is an offence under the Road Traffic act 1988.

Bonfire Night has just gone and it reminds me, ready for next year, about some of the current laws that follow:
You must be 18 years old to have fireworks in your possession. You must not set any fireworks off between 11pm and 7am. You must have a licence to have professional fireworks in your possession. Persons may not sell fireworks without a valid licence. Although fireworks are an enjoyable experience, if abused they can be extremely dangerous. If you witness anybody breaking these laws please get in contact with us straight away on 999. People abusing the firework laws could be fined £5000 or face prison.

There has been a series of incidents occurring at Hungerford Railway Station during last month. This involves groups of youths gathering in the evenings, and behaving anti-socially, combined with other offences that have happened on the trains themselves. If you see any groups of youths on the platform, please call us on 0845 8 505 505. We have been working with members of British Transport Police in order to combat the problem, but information from the public is always of use.

We have set dates to target driving offences, including the use of mobile phones and seatbelts in and around the Hungerford area. Leaflet drops have been done in Hillside Road and Tarrants Hill regarding parking. Could people bear in mind that pedestrians have to be able to get past with a pushchair, and disabled people with a mobility scooter.

PCSO Debbie Randall 08458505505 or mobile 07970145703
Neighbourhood Policing Team


Library News

DID YOU KNOW – 2008 is the National Year of Reading ?

Since the new Library opened on the 4th Jan this year, almost a thousand new members have been registered and many more have visited us for free Internet use, tourist enquiries and collection of Travel Tokens. If you are thinking of joining the Library, now is the time to do it! Enrol before the end of this year, and you will be entitled to borrow a DVD or Playstation / WII game without charge on the day that you sign up. Please bring proof of address, e.g. Utility bill or Driving Licence.

DID YOU KNOW – anyone living in West Berks over 60 can register at the Library for their free Travel Tokens? With proof of age and address we can then issue the amount due to you at any time.

DID YOU KNOW – we have started a Book Group at the Library ? If you are interested, come along and join us on the last Tuesday of every month from 6-7 pm or phone the Library (01488 682660 ) for further details.



Community Action for Savernake Hospital

Just a little update…………October 18th 2008:
The PCT’s petition for leave to appeal was formally recorded as having been submitted to the House of Lords on 7th October (as it was lodged at the House of Lords on 28th July after Parliament rose for the summer recess it has not been formally dealt with until now) and has been referred to an Appeal Committee. This is a committee of three Law Lords who will grant or refuse leave to appeal on the papers alone. This process should take six to eight weeks, so we should have decision one way or the other around the end of November. The latest we would expect to hear is by Christmas.
You can now get instant news (and hopefully views) from Friends of Savernake and they are reporting on the campaign – CASH page


Hungerford “Rotary Youth Leadership Award” (RYLA) July 2009

Do you know somebody who has, OR, are you between the ages of 18 (as at July 2009) & 25, and believe you have leadership potential which is either unrecognised or yet to be developed? If so the Rotary Club of Hungerford may be able to sponsor you on the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA). Selected young people are given the opportunity of a week’s training experience in Snowdonia each July under expert supervision and guidance. You must be physically fit and keen to realise your potential in this context. Interested? Please contact Hungerford Rotarian, Robin Kellow, on 01488 682745 for further details on the selection process.


Christmas parcels for the over 80’

We are again very fortunate to receive Christmas parcels for the over 80’s from the Newbury Weekly News.

These will be distributed to all listed Over 80’s on Saturday 13th December, and many grateful thanks go to the CHAIN drivers who undertake the delivery . (After last year’s downpour we hope for better weather!).

After organising this happy event for the last 10 years I am now handing the reins over to David and Janet Long who have very kindly offered to carry on the listing and distribution. So if in 2009 you become 80 years young then please ring 682931 when your names will be included in that year’s delivery.

With sincere best wishes to you all and happy memories of the past 10 years, do enjoy your parcels and have a truly blissful Christmas.
Betty Grant


Hungerford Round Table…Santa Foat

Shalbourne 30th November ,
December, Inkpen 1st & 2nd , Chilton Foliat & Eddington 3rd , Great Shefford 4th ,
Hungerford 5th,8th,9th,10th,11th,
Kintbury 13th & 14th,.

Friday 12th Hungerford Extravaganza – HRT Stall (NO Santa Float) ,

Tree mulching will be on Sunday 11th January 2009.. Outside the Town Hall



Hungerford Town Band

Christmas Concert …….. is to be held in
The Corn Exchange on Saturday 13th December at 7.30pm.
Tickets available from Crown Needlework or band members.


A Victorian Christmas in the Parlour

A seasonal entertainment to delight and amuse withPippa Longworth & Karl Daymond
Take a break from those hectic Christmas preparations, sit back and enjoy a magical evening of festive tales, fun, laughter and some of the most beautiful music ever written for the voice, presented by two international stars.
The Croft Hall 7.30pm Tickets £7.50 from
Newbury Building Society. or tel. 684038

In Living Memory……Hungerford Panthers

We had seen it on the cinema news reels; it looked exciting and within our reach. In the 1950s teenagers in London were making use of undeveloped bomb sites as cycle race tracks. Here in Hungerford, a number of friends began to race each other on open spaces using their every day bicycles. This was hard on the bikes, also cumbersome.
It was not long before the refuse tip, sheds and even hedgerows were being searched for frames, wheels cranks etc. in order to make “racers”, and some of the machines were quite expertly built. To shorten the wheelbase for tight cornering, the front forks were laboriously hammered straight, wide “bullhorn” handle bars inserted, all stripped to become as light as possible. For those who could afford it, larger low gear freewheels could be obtained from Arthur Chivers cycle shop in Bridge Street.
This momentum saw the birth of organisation, and Hungerford Panthers Cycle Speedway Club came into being. Some of the early members being apprentices in the building trades, were so useful when the Trustees of the Town allowed a track to be incorporated into the War Memorial Playing Field. I mention John North, Rex Smith, David Cook, Bryan Geater and there were others of course. I remember the expert and dedicated leadership given by Bert and Mandy Mansbridge, and the enthusiasm of supporters at home and away league matches. Other events were attended for short displays of riding, also taking part in the Carnivals. I know that Bryan rode in the Berkshire team and still keeps in touch through the Veteran Cycle Speedway Riders Association.
Hungerford had a good track, and organisational skills. This led to the holding of the National Championship meeting on the Common in 1962 or1963 (put me right someone), when Raynes Park Tigers beat Lindale by ten points to become Champions.
I am indebted to my good friend Bryan Geater, who lent me the Oct. 2008 issue of The Track Record, a magazine for veterans of the sport. Bryan was a Berkshire County rider, and is justly proud of his cycle speedway record.



Steak and Ale Stew – a hug in a bowl!

Winter is just about here and the time for chilly fresh afternoon walks along the canal, marsh or river. What better to welcome you back home and warm those cockles than a hearty stew bubbling away, ready to be feasted on within minutes of walking through the door! Make this in your slow cooker if you have one – get all the work done in the morning and relax in the evening. We’ll be making this on Victorian Extravaganza night so we can come back and warm up with a bowl of this!

It’s ironic really that some of the tastiest meats are actually the cheapest – it’s the longer cooking that brings out the flavour and tenderizes these often less “popular” cuts. In this world of rushing around, getting back from work and snatching something quick for dinner, stews are often overlooked as too much hassle. Nothing could in fact be further from the truth. It takes minutes to prepare and tip into the slow cooker and can be cooking all day while you go about your business!

Steak and Ale stew for me is one of the easiest and most satisfying stews to cook. It is, at its most basic – braising steak, some plain flour, seasoning and ale. Here’s how we do it at home – it’s an absolute favourite. Experiment with adding different root vegetables, and different brands of ale. The brand of ale makes a huge difference to the final taste of the dish, so try different ones to find the one you prefer.

PS The alcohol from the ale evaporates over the long time it’s cooked. If you are in doubt, or on a strict diet, try using a low alcohol one instead. We like this with mashed potato and freshly cooked greens. Or, use as a pie filling for a comfort food classic!

Steak & Ale Stew: (feeds 3-4 people with mash & veggies!)

Dredge about 2 tablespoons of plain flour over approx 1lb (approx ½ kilo) of diced braising steak, and mix well so every cube of meat is coated. Slice one large onion how you like it – thick, thin or diced – it doesn’t matter – and brown in a frying pan with a little oil. After a couple of minutes, when the onion is soft, tip into the slow cooker, preset to high. Peel and chop 2-3 large carrots into quite big chunks and add these to the pot. Tip in your “floury” steak, and pour over about three quarters of a 500ml bottle of your favourite ale.

The meat needs to be just covered by the liquid in the pot. Add in a dash of balsamic vinegar (about a tablespoon), and another tablespoon of demerara sugar. Give it a stir, season with salt and pepper and leave it to bubble away for 4-5 hours.
When it’s done, the meat will be meltingly tender and full of amazing flavour. If you don’t have a slow cooker, follow the same instructions as above, but put into a lidded casserole dish and then into an oven preheated to 160 C/GM2-3 for around 2 hours. Yum!

Jo Romero

We are trying ours with some ‘’Duchy of Cornwall Ale’’ ! Ed.

Sometimes called …..Richard’s Bus…….

I wonder if people are aware that there is a wonderful facility in Swindon for people to swim or have a Jacuzzi in thoroughly warm water. We all know that swimming is one of the best exercises for the body as the water supports limbs and the heat relaxes muscles thus helping various ailments or just even “old age”. The Chain Handy-bus leaves every Wednesday morning for the Hydrotherapy Pool. Some people elect to be picked up from their homes ,others are picked up outside Martins in the High Street. The journey takes about 40 minutes passing through Aldbourne ( itself a very pretty ride) and then along the A417 into north Swindon. The staff are very kind and welcoming. They put music to suit for one to swim by. We have 45 minutes in the pool ( and/or Jacuzzi) then a shower and home. The cost is £4 per trip for both the bus and pool. You build up good friendships with people who you see on a weekly basis and share news and views with. So much so that a Xmas lunch is organised for former participants and existing users at the Swindon Wyevale Garden Centre where home cooking is the norm.

You need a recommendation from your doctor that swimming in warm water would help your particular condition or situation. People have attended with spinal problems, hip and knee replacements, any arthritic condition, rheumatoid arthritis, recovery from most operations ( after wounds have healed). There are two sets of changing rooms with showers. The pool caters for many types of disability and many age groups and schools. They never stop fund-raising and are supported by Chain. They run swimming competitions and challenges for their specific groups. Much of Swindon industry and churches pledge money as the Local Authority down-sizes its grants. They are open at week-ends. I cannot stress how beneficial it is to be a regular swimmer and visitor.

I have been going for 6 years a am eternally grateful for the drivers of the Handy-bus, for Chain for organising it and the Pool for just being there.

Each week Richard Grant is on the Handy-bus as an aid to people getting on and off. I should like to pay tribute to Richard’s thoughtfulness and care to his charges. Well done , Richard!

Please contact Betty Grant on 01488 682607……………. Gwynneth Bullock

Blasts from the Past

From the Parish Magazine dated June 1874.

“Hungerford Working Mens Club.— A Cricket Club has been formed in connection with this Institution, open to all members of the Hall, and has provided a healthy and pleasant amusement for the long evenings. The days of practice are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. A match is to be played with Kintbury Club on Saturday June 6, wickets to be pitched at one o’clock. A large Bagatelle Table has been purchased on the share system, and is now in the Hall. One share has already been paid off. A present of books towards a proposed Lending Library for the Winter has been received from Mrs W.H. Dunn. Mr Clifford, of Charnham Street has been elected on the Committee in place of Mr F. New, retired.”

From the Parish Magazine dated June 1876.

“The Drapers of the Town have happily agreed to close their Shops on Thursday afternoons at five o’clock. This will be a great boon to those in their employment, and a very slight inconvenience to their customers. It is to be hoped that other tradesmen will be disposed to follow their example.”

From the Parish Magazine dated June 1881.

“On Saturday May 28, the new Coffee House in High Street was opened under very favourable auspices. After a meeting at the Corn Exchange presided over by G. C. Cherry, Esq., which was largely attended by inhabitants of the Town and neighbourhood, the company proceeded to the Coffee House, and the opening ceremony was gracefully performed by Mrs Wroughton. The premises, which have been appropriately fitted up, are very commodious for the purpose. There is a large Refreshment Bar facing the street, of very bright and attractive appearance, and at the back of this is a roomy dining-room in which hot dinners are served daily at nine pence and a shilling. Up stairs there is a Ladies Coffee Room nicely furnished, and two good bedrooms. In the rear of the premises there are five bedrooms for single men, the charge for which is eight pence a night. All sorts of American drinks, tea, coffee, cocoa, lemonade, soda water, etc., are sold at the bar; a list of prices being exhibited in the window. Under the superintendence of the managing Director, Mr T Fidler of Newbury, there is no doubt that the management will be all that can be desired, and it is hoped that the establishment of the Coffee House will be a great boon to the Town and neighbourhood.”

From the Parish Magazine dated June 1892.

“The past season has probably been the most successful that the Hungerford Football Club has yet experienced. A more ambitious match list than that of last season was gone through with gratifying success. Of 21 matches played. 15 were won, 4 drawn and only two lost. The list of wins includes victories over Marlborough (twice), St Marks Swindon, and Stratton Rovers. The season was brought to a close with a six-a-side tournament which attracted an large crowd of interested spectators, silver medals being offered as prizes for the winning team and bronze for the second, and the excitement was intense when Hungerford beat Reading G.W.R. in the final tie by a goal, and so proved themselves best of the 13 teams entered. The Rev. J.F.C. Denning has worked energetically as Captain to maintain the efficiency of the Club, and prospects are decidedly bright for next year.”

More from the Archives next month. Fred Bailey

Church Bells

Bell Ringing at St. Lawrence Church-part 5

With Autumn now upon us and Christmas just around the corner, St Lawrence Bellringers move into a busy time of the year.  In the last edition I explained the basics of change ringing and some of its historical origins, This time, I shall go easy on the technical stuff and let you know what we have been up to recently and what lies ahead in the run up to Christmas and the New Year. Bellringing is a group activity like many others but, unlike some, when we are actually ringing, no-one speaks except for the conductor and everyone is focussed on what they are doing, leaving no room for small talk.  So, we arrange a variety of social activities, most of which include bell ringing. 

Ringers are quite keen on outings where we arrange to visit other towers and ring their bells and St Lawrence tower is particularly big on these, with a reputation for laying on excellent hospitality and interesting towers and bells.  Most recently, we ran an outing to North Devon, centred on Ilfracombe.  So, one Friday in September, with around 25 ringers from the Newbury area in tow, we set off heading West, arriving in time for a quick ring en-route to the hotel.

On the Saturday, we toured the towers in the surrounding picturesque Devon hills ending up near Barnstaple and followed by dinner at a local restaurant before retiring for the evening.  Of course, with us being away on Sunday morning, our own bells were silent, but just this once, we were able to perform service ringing at both Holy Trinity and St James’ parish churches in Ilfracombe.  Unfortunately, they have insufficient ringers for regular Sunday ringing, so the locals were very pleased to hear both sets of bells being rung. For me this was the highlight of the weekend, which was followed by an excellent carvery Sunday lunch, after which we set off for the M5 and home.  Apart from our outings, we also enjoy a friendly drink with a visit to the Hungerford Club following our Wednesday evening practices.  Once a month there is a Newbury district practice at a local tower, where we can mix with others both while ringing and over a drink afterwards and annually, we have an area ringing competition which includes a buffet tea.  The winning band goes on to represent the Newbury area in the much more serious Guild Competition in October.  That gives you just a taste of what we get up to both with rope-in-hand and without. 

But now, I shall let you know what we will be up to in the Autumn and Christmas seasons.  Firstly, there is Remembrance Sunday which some may remember, calls for us to “half muffle” the bells, which produces a mournful quite emotive sound.  On Saturday the 8th, we will be attempting to ring a full peal of Stedman Triples, half muffled and including ringers from a number of towers in the area. In our fifth year now, this peal fixture has become an annual event at St Lawrences’ and should see some of the most precise and musical ringing you will hear.  The following day, Remembrance Sunday, we continue to ring half-muffled for the service and also attempt a quarter peal for Evensong.  Another tradition in the making is that for a couple of years now, we have rung a method known as Grandsire Triples but also with a unique sequence of changes that was composed by a soldier, who was also a bellringer, while serving in the trenches in the First World War.  He was Sgt Albert P Wakley from Burton on Trent and, although wounded, he survived the war only to succumb to the Flu Epidemic shortly afterwards.  A most fitting tribute I hope you will agree.  Towards Christmas there are a couple of weddings to add to the normal Sunday ringing and another peal is planned for 9th December in the morning.  That brings us into the Christmas season where we ring for as many services as possible including midnight mass and, as we resurrected last year, ringing in the New Year. 

Well that will do for now and next time, I shall return to the more technical stuff with a further insight into change ringing.   M.R.