Issue 122

1st March
1st June 2014

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

Front Cover by Micky Thompson

I took the cover picture for this issue last March. while walking the Ridgeway. The two lambs and their mother are backlit by the low Sun making them stand out and since the landscape is in the distance it does not detract from the main subject but puts the little group into context.

The Ridgeway as you will all know is the high chalk ridge on which is an ancient long distance track first used in ancient times. I suppose that they took to the high ground because the valleys were full of streams and marshes which made traveling much more difficult. I have been walking the ridgeway myself recently for similar reasons.

How many of you know about H.E.A.T. (Hungerford Environmental Action Team) that organise a communal walk the first Sunday of the Month and meet outside the Town Hall in Hungerford High Street at 10AM. For further information contact: Jill 01488 686440 / Paul 01488 684172. I went on the February one which was about five miles. An interesting walk in the sunshine with pleasant people, but a little soft under foot. Let’s hope that the rain lets up soon.

The Hungerford camera Club new season starts in the 1st May which would be an excellent time to join the club if you have been thinking about it. You can naturally come along before that and check us out. It is free until you officially join, so nothing to loose.

Message from the Chairman of CHAIN

When will the rain ever stop, seems to be what everyone is saying this Winter, but we have been so lucky in Hungerford compared with some areas. At least so far it has been fairly mild with no problems with snow or ice.

What a wonderful Christmas Lights display this year. As usual Rod Desmoules and his team produced the best display in the South of England.

Chain have wonderful volunteers and we have sadly lost two of our stalwarts over the last few months, George Halliday and Peter Mortimer. They will both be greatly missed and we all send our condolences to Betty and Joan.

Some of our Office Volunteers are retiring over the next month. We are saying goodbye and thank you to Gill Moore and Daphne Wilson. We will be having another tea party to thank all our volunteers in April/May so look out for more information. If anyone has a couple of hours a week or month to spare, please let the Chain Office know on 683727 or myself on 683302.

We are still in need of drivers, either using your own car or driving the Handybus or Chairman Vehicle. So please if you have any spare time let us know and help people get to their hospital or surgery appointments or to be able to take a trip to the shops.

Hopefully by the time you read this Spring will have started to arrive and the rain will have stopped.

Best Wishes, Janette Kersey



I thought I would mention the weather, not as cold as in previous winters is it!

So yet another wonderful edition for you, not due to me but all the varied contributors that go to make this such a ‘Local’ thing. Thank you all.

Unfortunately we have not been able to draw to your attention the plight of the future of Scouts and the Cubs in Hungerford, as the vital meetings were held about a fortnight before this edition but maybe you should still contact Helen to see if you can help and e-mail or 07711851574.

Talking of volunteering here are two recommendations for you to get out and about for an hour or two a week. At CHAIN we are looking for Handy Bus drivers, check out on this website ‘Volunteering’ which is all about us, and the Bruce Trust at Gt Bedwyn are looking for DIY type people / boat cleaners (same as at home, but on a boat) for 2 hours on a Friday or Saturday morning, and it’s not every week, just when you can spare the time.

I am a volunteer at both of the above Charities and get so much enjoyment, fresh air etc. and your efforts go straight to the point that helps, not to some £100k salary!!!

I commend (amongst many other articles) to you Sarah Brinkley’s article on the future of Hungerford’s education issues. Come on parents & future parents, think ahead and get involved, it will be too late if you don’t get active now!

Do also read the Mayor’s bit please.

Welcome back to Margaret Wilson for her Town Diary efforts, it’s the fullest for a long time. Look if you want to be included don’t wait for us to contact you, get a message through to Margaret or me, I also enter ther events to the Hungerford What’s On Diary on the web. So on the MAIN Menu click on What’s On and the Weekly events to check out the dates. Here is another Calendar link run by Penny
Oh yes our What’s On & Weekly can be downloaded and opened up in spread sheet, so that you can modify as needed and then print it, something that is truly unique!

Thanks & best regards, David Piper 01488-6831

Letters, articles and adverts should be sent to me by the 7th of the month preceding
publication, i.e.7th May for the issue on June1st. but don’t leave it until the last
minute, there might not be space.

If you send something to me I try to acknowledge within 3 days.          

Hungerford Mayor

Seeing Red “To make a positive contribution” was why I wanted to join the Town Council some 5 years ago. And with the first task I was set, town benches, we made great strides in renovating many quite quickly. Other missions such as to obtain some brown tourist direction signage, has taken over 4 years to achieve. Yes, if there is one thing every Councillor requires is patience and persistence and not let the red mist appear when faced with seemingly unreasonable administrative delays from a higher authority..

Our revised Town Plan has repeated many of the objectives set out in the first and though now adopted by West Berks Council, many seem to have been assigned to the long grass and we need to apply continued pressure for them to reappear on the Agenda. Whilst we recognise that WBC is constrained by rules and regulations that often are not of their own making, sometimes their procedures obstruct progress in real time. We can expect, however each request to be considered seriously and not dismissed as just another whim from the ‘far west of the County’. I believe that when we work as a team, that is the Council, Town and Manor, Chamber of Commerce and other Hungerford entities, our views and aspirations can be translated into realistic expectations even in these times of dire financial restraint.

Painting the Town Red Our plans to commemorate the Centenary of the start of WW1, include a combined service of Remembrance and a town-wide floral display lasting many months. For this to be a success, we are asking every household to grow some red poppies in their gardens and will be judged in the Hungerford in Bloom annual competition. Displays of red poppies and other species in red will be seen in the hanging baskets and troughs around the town centre. Farmers and others who have land close to the surrounding roads are also encouraged to grow some red flowering plants to generate a truly magnificent red carpet. Do you have a patch of land that you could use?

An experiment in Education? The ‘consultation presentations ‘at the Town Hall for the proposed “all through school;” at John O’Gaunt were well attended but have raised as many concerns as they have calmed. Where were the options? Absence of these gives rise to the charge that the decision has already been made. The dramatic change to the status of John O’Gaunt school requires very careful planning but currently, there is no site plan of even the first buildings for the embryonic Primary school. If the start date for this school is to be met i.e. September 2015, time, as well as money, is short and that begs the question of whether enough care can be given to the plans in that timescale to avoid damaging the education of the children involved. Whilst a budget of £2.75m sounds a lot, when you compare it to the £500,000 spent on one new classroom for the Primary school, can it really be sufficient to meet the urgent needs of John O’Gaunt and a new primary school?

The Town must be sure that the children that attend the new arrangement when agreed, get the very best education and not be the victims of a failed experiment.

Cllr Martin Crane
Town Mayor of Hungerford

Chain’s Page

CHAIN is helping in our community.

We provide transport to Doctors, Dentists, Chiropodists, Hospital appointments, and more. We ask clients to make a donation towards the cost (at least 40p per mile please). Our drivers collect their clients (from home) and escort them to the appropriate clinic, stay with them and then take them back home. Please contact the office on 683727 open 9 to 11am Monday to Friday

CHAIN own a ‘’Chairman Vehicle’’ (currently a Vauxhall Combo estate), which will hold someone in a wheelchair plus a couple of passengers. The ”Chairman” can be booked through the Office and we will either provide a driver or train a family member to drive the vehicle themselves. We ask clients to make a donation towards the cost (at least 40p per mile please).

CHAIN runs the HANDYBUS which is owned by West Berkshire Council.
Our team of drivers take people on shopping trips, Hungerford Market day and to Newbury etc., to the Hydrotherapy Pool in Swindon, and trips to other clubs, also to the CHAIN Lunches in Croft Hall and the CHAIN Pub Lunches.

CHAIN organise Lunches in the Croft Hall bi-monthly, and with a team of helpers dish up a lovely hot meal to about 30 people every other month. Please contact the office or look out for notices in our notice board under the railway bridge, if you are interested in coming contact must be made to the Organiser. This information can be found in CHAIN MAIL.

There are organised monthly CHAIN Pub Lunches , the office can give you details, or look out for notices in our notice board under the railway bridge. We use the Handybus and give you a door to door service! Contact must be made to the Organiser

The CHAIN Office is open Monday – Friday 9 – 11am and the volunteers who man the office are there to help you with any bookings or other queries. 01488 683727

CHAIN produce a quarterly magazine (free) called CHAIN MAIL, packed with lots of useful (and useless) information! CHAIN MAIL is delivered to all houses in Hungerford and close area. Yet another dedicated band of CHAIN volunteers do the deliveries, please look on the back page for Distribution Details.

I hope this gives you all a flavour of what CHAIN does for you in our community. It is run as a charity by Trustees whose names and contact numbers are available on the notice board.

CHAIN always need volunteers, as car drivers, for our special wheelchair vehicle and the Handybus, or as a volunteer in the office. So if you have a few hours to spare then please contact the office on 683727 open 9 to 11am Monday to Friday, or click ‘Contacts’ for a full list.

Thank you


CHAIN was established in 1977 and has grown into an effective group of volunteers that cares and gives a variety of help to those in need. Membership is open to all Hungerford residents interested in furthering its objectives.
All CHAIN volunteers are automatically recorded as members.
In 2003 CHAIN was awarded one of the first QUEEN’S GOLDEN JUBILEE AWARDS for voluntary service in the community.

The group’s prime objective is to undertake voluntary work and related activities for the benefit of people who are sick or disabled or who are otherwise in need – be they young, middle aged or elderly – living in the town or rural district of Hungerford. As an extension of their primary aim, CHAIN offers advice and guidance to people willing to undertake voluntary service and assists them with the provision of voluntary work by putting them in touch with individuals or with voluntary or statutory organisations seeking help.

A small committee is elected at an annual meeting (open to all Hungerford residents) overseeing the policy and day-to-day management.


The Animal Charity, the Blue Cross, has been around since 1897 when it was known as Our Dumb Friends League. During the First World War this charity did a tremendous amount of work caring for the horses injured in battle. Whilst a red cross was used to mark human casualties, a blue cross depicted animal casualties. Today, the Blue Cross helps to treat animals of owners who would struggle to pay veterinary fees. It has many roles including rescue centres nationwide, animal behaviour specialists and is involved in education.

One of the, perhaps, lesser known services provided is the Pet Bereavement Support Service. This service is run by volunteers nationwide and provides an invaluable support service for those who have lost a beloved pet or are struggling to know ‘when the time to let go is right’. Making the decision to have your animal ‘put to sleep’ or euthanased does not always feel comfortable and many people will struggle with their emotions at this time. Perhaps one of the commonest emotions is the feeling of guilt that so often follows after a pet has had to be euthanased. This, of course, is not the only reason someone calls the Support Service as everyone is a unique individual with a different experience.

The Pet Bereavement Support Service is open every day of the year from 8.30 a.m. until 8.30 p.m. It is a confidential service and is completely free of charge.
If you have lost a pet, whether recently or some considerable time ago, and are struggling to come to terms with the grief or need someone to listen to your concerns about another pet, don’t hesitate to ring 0800 096 6606 where there will always be a fully trained, empathetic and non-judgemental person on the end of the phone who will give you all the time you need and understands and appreciates there may be silences and tears. Sometimes the request may be a practical one or, as one caller said:

‘Thank you so much for the opportunity to open up and just let go’.

Support line (8.30 am –8.30pm) – 0800 096 6606
Email Support line –
Pet Memorials –

Sybil Clayton

Bits 1

Also on this page…The Bruce Trust…Our Poetess..Village Agent ..Charity Walk

On Saturday, March 15th please come and join us, with your Friends and Family, at the Town Hall for “SHOWTIME” which will take the form of an informal Cabaret Supper..

The cost will be £25 a head…..7.00pm for 7.30pm and will be over by 10.30pm.,,,Supper, Licensed Bar and Raffle

A Casserole of Venison will be on the menu together with a Dessert.
Why not book one of the 15 tables of 10 for this wonderful Local Community occasion.

All proceeds will go to Hungerford Rotary Charities, many of which are very local.

Tickets are available from
Crown Needlework or Fare Wise Travel on the High Street.

Dear CHAIN Editor,

As we are now several weeks into the New Year I wonder if you would be kind enough to please help us continue to spread the word about a couple of things for The Bruce Trust that you have helped us with previously.

We are still working through our Winter Maintenance Programme, preparing all the boats for the new season, and are continuing our appeal for people to donate tools to the Trust that they no longer use that we could put to very good use on the boats. A list of what we are looking for can be found at and then “tools”. We are also still running our appeal for funds towards our winter maintenance and if anyone would like to donate they can visit and search for The Bruce Trust.

Finally, our new season begins at the end of March and as always we are looking for more volunteers and pairs of hands to join our friendly team to help with maintaining and cleaning the boats at weekends ready for each new hire group. No previous experience is needed, the hours are flexible and there’s always a cuppa and piece of cake available. If anyone would like to know more they can contact me on or 01264 356451.

Thank you so much for your support and help. Rebecca Bruce

Afternoon Stroll

I lean on the gate of the fields that surround me
Watching the sheep, everywhere, so peacefully grazing
The wonderful tranquillity stirs up some emotion, but why?
Is it the elusive sun’s rays working their miracle from an azure sky?

The oaks, so majestic, could tell many a tale
Of snatched illicit romances while farmers were toiling
I stroll down the lane, never changed over the years
Knowing, quite soon, primroses, violets and bluebells will appear.


West Berks Volunteer Village Agent Scheme.

Aiming to put older and/or socially isolated residents in direct contact with community, voluntary, and statutory agencies that offer help and advice and to assist them in engaging in local activities.

If you would be interested in becoming a Village Agent for the Hungerford area please contact the co-ordinator (Gill Comley) on
07775-366812 or 01635-49004(Daytime)

Rotary “Annual Charity Sponsored Walk”

Sunday 11 May 2014

“Why not walk to raise money for your own good cause or charity”. Our “Annual Charity Sponsored Walk” is an event allowing individuals or groups to generate sponsorship income for their own favourite charity, club, school, church etc by walking a route marshalled by the Rotary Club of Newbury.

This year the walk takes place from Inkpen Village Hall starting between 11 am and 12.30 pm with a choice of either 5 or 8 mile routes taking in the highest point in SE England at Walbury Hill.

Details and sponsorship forms are on the Newbury Rotary website at or can be obtained by emailing or by telephoning 01635 42027

Start between 11 am and 12.30 pm.

Suggested £1 contribution to Rotary charities for entry.
Turn up on the day. Inkpen Village Hall, Upper Green, Inkpen, Berkshire RG17 9QH

Hungerford Area Bus Services

For the last edition of Chain Mail, I mentioned that bus service 47 (Lambourn to Swindon) had been withdrawn and the route covered by the extension of Service 90 (Hungerford to Lambourn).

This opens up a range of possibilities for those living in Hungerford and villages in the Lambourn Valley between Great Shefford and Lambourn as well as those on Ermine Street (B4000) between Shefford Woodlands and Lambourn. Villages in the Vale of the White Horse such as Ashbury, Bishopstone, Hinton Parva and Wanborough can now be reached by a direct bus, such as the ones due to depart Hungerford at 09.55 and 11.40. Return buses from Ashbury are at 12.19, 14.19 and 16.44 and from Bishopstone 7 minutes earler. On Saturdays they are at 14.19 and 16.19.

In addition the fascinating National Trust Property, Ashdown House can be visited from April onwards (tel: 01494 755569 for details). Journey time from Hungerford is 39 minutes. Return buses from Ashdown House would be some 5 or so minutes after Ashbury and would need to be pre-booked (see penultimate paragraph).

For those who like country walking, the Ridgeway National Trail can be accessed (it is about two miles beyond Ashdown House). From there walking 31/2 miles west will bring you to Foxhill and what was the Shepherds Rest pub which was the only one on the Ridgeway path. It is now an Indian Restaurant named the Burj; however drinks and snacks can be had, such as samosa (£4). Indian beer is available on draught and traditional British beers in the bottle. A walk start time of 10.30am off the 09.44 from Hungerford should bring you to the pub between 12.15 and 12.30pm.
Return transport is provided by the 46 bus service to Hungerford from the bus stop a few yards west at 13.44 from where the 90 bus at 15.25 (15.35 – Saturday) would take you to the villages between Hungerford and Lambourn.

Alternatively if you walk east, West Isley can be reached in 143/4 miles (about 61/2 hours ) where the Harrow pub is situated, and the 6 bus at 17.00 or 18.40 can take you to Newbury arriving at 17.35 or 19.15 from where trains at 18.05, 18.26, 19.03, 19.19 and 19.27 (18.10 and 20.19 – Saturday) would return you to Hungerford.

For those who would like to experience the Ridgeway but do not want a long walk, simply walk west for 3/4 mile to Waylands Smithy (a long barrow) or 2 miles to Uffington Castle (an earthwork). On your return there is a public footpath on your right some 450 yards before reaching the road (look for it on the way out), which leads to Ashbury where the Rose & Crown pub could quench your thirst!

If undertaking any walks you would find a map useful, if not essential. Ordinance Survey Explorer Map 170 or Landranger Map 174 are admirable publications and would ‘fit the bill’ perfectly. They are readily available from bookshops and outdoor activity shops including the Hungerford Bookshop.

If travelling on the 90 bus between Hungerford and Lambourn, other than from Hungerford, Hungerford Newtown Care Home or Lambourn such as the villages between Hungerford Newtown and Lambourn it is necessary to pre-book by telephoning the GoRide company (who operate this service) on 0330 3308489. Printed timetables are available from libraries, tourist information offices as well as West Berkshire Council, Hungerford Town Council and GoRide.

Bus users will be pleased to know that the West Berkshire Travel Guide has just been re-published and can be obtained from the outlets mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

Paul Frances

Hungerford Surgery

Free NHS Health Check Everyone is at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes or kidney disease. The good news is that these conditions can often be prevented – even if you have a history of them in your family and a health check will help you be better prepared for the future and be able to take steps to maintain or improve your health. Patients aged between 40 and 74 years of age, who have not been diagnosed with any long term health conditions, are invited to take advantage of a free NHS Health Check at Hungerford Surgery.

We have a dedicated Health Care Assistant who has already carried out over 200 health checks in the last 12 months and even if you’re feeling well, it’s worth having your NHS Health Check now. Please ring the surgery on 01488 682507 to make a 20 minute appointment at your convenience. If you are outside the age range and concerned about your health, you should contact your GP.

Travel Vaccinations A reminder for those of you planning a trip abroad in 2014 that Hungerford Surgery can help with travel advice and vaccinations appropriate to the country you plan to visit. It is simply not worth taking the risk of skipping your travel vaccinations as infectious diseases can spoil your holiday and have long term health consequences. It is important to plan this at least 6 – 8 weeks ahead of your expected travel date so don’t delay and contact the surgery on 01488 682507 today.

Minor Injuries Unit at West Berkshire Hospital GP surgeries in the Newbury and District area were decommissioned from providing a minor injuries (minor cuts, sprains, burns, infections etc.) service to patients in 2008. Although we argued against this on behalf of our patients at the time, and continue to do so, the service was withdrawn and there is no longer a requirement for local surgeries to maintain regular nursing cover during normal opening hours.

This means that whilst our nurses are happy to help patients whenever they can, we don’t always have a nurse on duty and / or available to treat minor injuries and we therefore recommend that patients attend the Minor Injuries Unit at West Berkshire Hospital, London Road, Newbury in the first instance.

Mike Hall Practice Manage

Virtual Museum

St Lawrence’s Parish Church, 1814-16

It was exactly 200 years ago that our great Parish Church of St Lawrence was rebuilt.
It stands on the site of two earlier churches. There are written records of the first church from 1147, but that was replaced (perhaps 100 years later) by a stone church in the Early English style. A drawing of the church shows it to comprise chancel, clerestoried nave with aisles, north transept and embattled west tower.

By the early 1800s, this building had become so dilapidated that parts were in danger of collapse. It was hoped that the trouble could be overcome by rebuilding the tower and some other parts, and by thorough repairs elsewhere. In 1811 a special Act of Parliament enabled the raising of £3,000 for necessary repairs. A start was made: the tower was rebuilt and the north aisle of the nave was enlarged; but this task was barely completed when a large part of the building collapsed. There was clearly no alternative but to build a completely new church.

In 1814 a further Act of Parliament was obtained, authorising £6,000 to be raised. In the end the new church was to cost £30,000. The remaining portion of the old church was demolished, and in its place a new Georgian Gothic building was erected, designed by the Bath architect, John Pinch the elder.

Standing so close to the Kennet & Avon Canal, which had been opened just a few years earlier in 1810, it is not surprising that it was built in Bath stone. Transporting the Bath stone to Hungerford was the largest of the early contracts for the new canal company.

Many of the monuments present in the Early English church were preserved and transferred into the new building, the most notable being the stone effigy of Sir Robert de Hungerford, founder of The Chantry of the Holy Trinity (1325).

The new church was consecrated at special service including a “Grand Selection of Sacred Music” on 30th August 1816.

St Lawrence’s Church underwent a major restoration in 1880, carried out by Messrs Wooldridge of The Wharf. Today it is a Grade II* Listed building.

For more on this or any other aspect of Hungerford’s fascinating history, visit the Hungerford Virtual Museum –

Hugh Pihlens

The Old Codger

The Old Codger’s Column…….

I really don’t know where to start for this issue there is so much going on that I could rant for hours and hours…..first though……………..

Why can’t this government admit that they, and their predecessors have dropped a clanger in regard to NOT dredging rivers and streams getting farmers to keep ditches clear, and planners to not giving adequate drainage when large areas are concreted over, The namby pambys will look after flowers and wildlife and other things all to the detriment of humans!!!!!!!!! I know the balance is fine, but it reminds me of the Basingstoke Canal that can’t be navigated due to the ‘Bats in the tunnel’, well before the tunnel was built there were no damned bats any way!! I bet that Richard is glad that he is no longer the Minister at the EA (what)?

There is just too much theory going on these days and not enough practice.

Yes I admit to reading the DAILY MAIL and I do agree with some of their outrageous headlines, the latest being to divert some overseas aid to our country where the floods are causing such hardship. I cannot for one moment envisage truly what they are going through, and it won’t end when the waters finally subside. Farmers and their livestock, crops that are ruined or can’t be sown, and the poor people whose homes are ruined and the ongoing cost of no, or very much higher insurance premiums. It all must be a true nightmare. For goodness sake get your finger out Cameron!

I see Nigel Farage has been to Newbury. I met him on a Steam Train holiday last year in Harrogate. A most polite man, as I was queuing at the bar (The Old Swan) for a bottle of wine he asked me if he could ‘jump the queue’ to get his pint before his meeting. I think me being a well and truly OAP, I might investigate his politics closer. This current lot (like the last lot) have not worked wonders for us old uns, and the promises they make are always years ahead before they come to fruition. Come off it David, time is precious to us, we might not be around in 2016. At our age there are only 30seconds in the minute anyway!

Driving Licences,
Euro Health Card,       I have to apologise for the incomplete address in                                                              CHAIN MAIL….This link works as I have tested it!
Tax Returns,   
The clue is in       w h a t e v e r       , its the “” that makes it genuine

Have you visited our website yet (of course you have this why you can see this!) and that other local website that I commended to you in the last issue for happenings along the Valley to the north of us, just enter that into Google. Both run by Locals for the Locals.
Please contact me, through my e-mail

Bye Bye & keep safe.



Gardening by Stacy


There are many features which make up a well-designed garden from hard-landscaping to plants and shrubs. One decorative feature which can get a bad press is the climbing plant. Many people are worried that climbers can damage brickwork or will take over the garden.

However this group of plants has a valuable role to play. Climbers can be used to hide an eyesore, provide habitat for wildlife, soften the impact of walls or fences and of course provide scent and colour.

Climbing plants are divided into two categories- the clinging/aerial rooting and those which need support. Ivy is notorious and feared for its aerial roots which adhere to brickwork yet, being an evergreen, it provides shelter for a wide variety of creatures. It also has a number of different cultivars with variegated leaves, golden hues or large leaves to add interest. Boston Ivy has sticky pads which allow it to cling to a vertical surface and it can quickly overwhelm a building.

Fortunately there are a number of climbing plants to suit all sorts of garden aspects and I have several favourite from them. For a south-facing wall which retains heat there is the evergreen Trachelospermum jasminoides with its white scented flowers in the summer. Or why not try Actinidia kolomikta, the ornamental Kiwi. This is deciduous but its large almost heart shaped leaves look to be hand painted in tones of green, cream and pink. Both of these plants have rather an exotic look which belies the fact that, grown in this aspect in well-drained soil they will survive the British winter.

Of course nothing says English country garden more than the Rose and it is possible to grow a climbing Rose even in shade. Rosa Madame Alfred Carriere will do well on a north-facing wall and has creamy white flowers which brighten a dull area, while Rosa Zepherine Drouhin, the Thornless Rose, produces scented cerise flowers. Equally a wide variety of Clematis will grow in shade. Clematis montana Elizabeth will do very well but it is very rampant and needs a good support so only plant if you have a large space to fill. Clematis alpina Blue Dancer only grows to around 2m high and flowers in April. Plant with a summer flowering variety such as Clematis Pink Fantasy (also 2m) to extend the season of interest. But if you want something with a bit more spice for your dull corner the climbing nasturtium Tropaeolum speciosum shows off its bright red flowers against evergreen shrubs.


Actinidia kolomikta         Clematis alpina Blue Dancer        Tropaeolum speciosum

Stacy Tuttl

Nature Notes by Hawkeye

Winter Weather

This unusual wet weather must be very confusing for our birds, mammals and flowers, let alone us. It must be the wettest winter and autumn on record and spring does not start officially until March 21st.

On the South Coast, Daffodils were flowering in January at the same time as Snowdrops and Aconites were starting to bloom in Berkshire. Berkshire is famous for Snowdrops but nobody mentions the beautiful yellow Aconite. It is a winter flower, exactly the same as the Snowdrop and it is almost exactly the same size about 4 inches. However it is a member of the Buttercup family and as far as I know it is not cultivated as a garden flower.

I believe our English Aconite is not poisonous and it was used for homeopathic remedies in the olden days. Perhaps the Aconite is overlooked because it is a woodland flower and thrives when there is no canopy. It grows in my wild garden and I have propagated it by splitting it, after it flowered of course.

Driving around the Hungerford area I noticed Primroses were flowering on the grass verges. Being a Salopian I thought they were spring flowers but I am now living in Berkshire and they obviously flower earlier 150 miles to the South. Being intrigued by the sightings I looked them up in a book and found they are supposed to flower from January to May in the U.K.!?

Last year Snowdrops were flowering at Welford Park in the last week of January and they were this year but some were under surface water which must rot the bulbs. Snow and frost is good for winter flowers but not excessive water. Snowdrops thrive in wet woodlands as this is their natural habitat.

Can you believe that Rooks started building their nests in December. I went to church on Christmas Day and the Rooks were building their nests in the rookery next to our church.
Surely it has to be too early and gales will damage the nests.

Also on Christmas day I heard a Chiffchaff sing. A chiffchaff is a warbler that usually migrates to Africa for the winter. Chiffchaffs were called Leaf Warblers to differentiate them from Willow Warblers. The great Naturalist the Rev. Gilbert White first ‘split’ these two warblers. Later naturalists changed the name of the Leaf Warbler to make identification easier. Leaf Warblers only sing “chiff chaff” and this is the only way to positively identify them in the field. Willow Warblers have a melodious or sparkling descending warble.

Warblers are a speciality of the Hungerford Marshes. They should arrive in March and flit around the banks of the Dun for several days before setting up territories and nesting.

Sedge and Reed Warblers tend to stay around the reed beds but Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs use the Hawthorn Bushes and then fly to their nesting sites, usually the same area as previous years. Warblers are quite approachable while singing and are the commonest summer visitor.

Identification of these tiny little birds is relatively easy. The diagnostic features are listed in most bird books and on the internet. They can give everyone a lot of pleasure when they sing. But most birders dismiss willow warblers and leaf warblers as “chiff – willows or willow – chiffs” because it takes too much time to make an absolutely certain identification. Also the old adage that only chiffchaffs have black legs has been proved wrong.

The Spring Dawn Chorus will soon start and this is something to cherish and test your identification skills. It is usually the male birds that sing in order to attract a mate.

Last year I noted that Blackbirds start the dawn chorus at about 5 a.m. Different species started at different times, presumably they wake up at different times because they are different “animals”. Although I am a keen naturalist and love birds I do tire of the dawn chorus. In my opinion, getting up at 7 am in March and April is sufficient for anyone to enjoy bird song.


P.S. There is an excellent article on Badgers in the Bridge Magazine and I urge everyone to read it.

Hungerford Library

In Spring we will be celebrating LibraryFest 2014 across West Berkshire. It starts on World Book Day, 6 March, and ends on World Book Night, 23 April. There will be lots of exciting events for adults and children in Newbury, Theale and Hungerford Libraries. Come in and ask for a brochure.

If you have contributed to our ‘Wish You Were Here?’ project you will see your postcards forming part of an art installation in Newbury Library as part of LibraryFest. This project is funded by Arts Council England as a way of using art to reach isolated and vulnerable people in the county. Watch for local events at other venues in your area.

On 19 March at 7:30 Stephen Rayner will be coming to talk to us. ‘Go Wild in your Garden’ will give you advice and ideas on how to create a garden that attracts wildlife and still be a stunning garden. Tickets are FREE from the library.

As you may be aware many of the West Berkshire libraries are having to change their hours. From 1st April Hungerford Library’s hours will be:

Monday – closed all day
Tuesday – 9:30 – 5
Wednesday – 9:30 – 4
Thursday – closed all day
Friday – 9:30 – 7
Saturday – 10-12:30.

We are continuing to offer our very popular IT Lessons for beginners of any age. The course consists of a series of 6 one hour, weekly sessions. Each session is 1:1 and is tailored for the needs of the individual student. Don’t be afraid if you know nothing about computers! Our excellent volunteers will take you through whatever you would like to know. Please contact the library on 01488 682660 for further information or to book a place.

Our RhymeTime sessions are on Wednesday mornings at 11:00 for children under 4.

We have several groups that meet regularly. Perhaps one will appeal to you!

Craft and Chat takes place every Friday morning from 10-12. Come along to this free session and bring your knitting or other crafts, enjoy a chat and a cup of tea while sharing your interests with others.

Art Group meets every Tuesday, 2-4pm. If you are interested in art and would like to share your skill or learn something new come along. It is not teacher led, but it is a good opportunity to enjoy your hobby in the company of others.

Our Book Group and Creative Writing Group meet once a month. Due to changes in our opening hours, new times for these groups have yet to be decided, so please contact the library if you are interested in either of these groups.

Several of our groups are proving to be very popular and at certain times the library can be very busy; this may mean that some of the areas of the library are not easily accessible. Every effort is made to avoid this happening, but if you find you are unable to reach the books you want, please let one of our staff know so we can help. The popularity of the groups reflects the benefit we are providing to the community and, although we regret the inconvenience to other customers, we feel that the benefits far outweigh this temporary inconvenience.

WiFi has arrived! It is free to library members.

All of our sessions are FREE. If you are interested in any of these activities please contact Hungerford Library on 01488 682660,

We have regular half term activities for children and other events for grown-ups too! Check our website or watch for posters in the window.

Do you find it difficult to visit you local library because of age, disability or other special circumstances? You might benefit from our At Home library service where a library volunteer will choose and deliver books or audiobooks to your home. Contact the At Home Library Service on 01635 519827 or email

Check out our on-line services for access to audiobooks, ebooks and emagazines, as well as ordering and renewing books.


Steam by Tony Bartlett

The December ‘Salisbury Christmas Diner’
was unfortunate to be running on one of those days of severe weather which ruled it out for a visit to Andover, whereas the out-of-area Cathedrals Express to Winchester had made a fine sight travelling through Micheldever station in bright sunshine a fortnight earlier. There have also been two ‘light engine’ movements (i.e. without a train) in this quarter – both particularly significant in being routed through Reading station. Britannia Pacific ‘Oliver Cromwell’ crossed the Vale of White Horse’ while making for Bristol, and GWR ‘Nunney Castle’ looked stunning crossing the Common in bright sunshine on its way to the Southall Steam Centre.

So it would seem that steam trains are likely to be coming our way again, and the programme already refers to the ‘Berks & Hants Aquae Sulis’ passing through here outbound to Bath on Saturday 12th April – albeit using only the west curves at Reading. Before then, the St. David’s Day Cathex to Cardiff takes the Reading-avoiding Southern route through Salisbury – a case of “I wouldn’t start here (Waterloo) if you want to get to there (Cardiff)”! In fact the bulk of steam trains will be seen to the south of our area with a number of seaside specials taking the Basingstoke-Winchester route to the South Coast.

Since moving to Hungerford in 2006, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a steady variety of steam trains passing through my home town, with other options only a (vigorous) cycle ride away – that is until the Reading embargo last year. I grew up in East Anglia with steam trains as the norm in the 1950s, saw their ‘decline and fall’ through the 1960s, and rejoiced at their re-emergence with the ‘return to steam’ in the 1970s as a heritage and leisure pursuit. So in a small way, the absence of steam in the last few months has served to remind me not to assume that heritage steam haulage will continue, to cherish each new opportunity as it arises, and to celebrate what we have enjoyed in the past few years.

On arriving in Hungerford my digital camera was ‘compact’ and my image editing skills were rudimentary. Now I use SLR cameras with multiple lenses and other accessories which provide far superior image data for me to work on. Also using the factual data they capture, I have built up records of what steam trains I have seen, and where and when.

A review of these past few years sees locomotives representing each of the four railway groups and Standard designs from the nationalised British Railways – some as brief visitors but notably the two Southern Railway Pacifics ‘Clan Line’ and ‘Tangmere’ as regular performers throughout, with the newly-built ‘Tornado’ putting in a strong showing before the Reading freeze and the blazing hot summer (remember that?) intervened.

No doubt we each have our own highlights, but the Hungerford Station 150 celebrations in 2012 probably marks the peak of steam enthusiasm in the area, with a large crowd enjoying the festivities and being treated to the sight of a steam express stopping to pick up passengers for a day-trip to West Somerset. Please refer to my latest slideshow on the Chain Mail web-site for a pictorial review of local steam over the period 2006-2012.


Roger Day

An Airman’s VC

About four years ago I inherited an amazing cache of over 200 letters written by a number of my relatives during the First World War. One of the letters, dated 4th September 1916, was sent to my great grandmother in Ramsbury and contained a piece of flattened brass tube. The letter explained that the tube was a souvenir taken from the wreckage of a ‘Zepp’ that crashed near Cuffley north of London. It had been written by Fred Ludgrove, my great grandmother’s brother, who lived at Hornsey about 8 miles from the crash site.

The discovery intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the crash. On the night of 2/3 September 1916 a force of 16 German airships approached the eastern counties of England. Their target was London and it was the largest airship raid of the War. The airships encountered adverse weather conditions forcing some to drop their bombs on secondary targets. A number of British pilots were ordered to intercept the raiders and at 23:08, Lt William Leefe Robinson took off in his BE2c from Suttons Farm aerodrome.

At 01:10 he spotted a Zeppelin, but unfortunately lost it in clouds. However, about fifty minutes later, as he was returning to base, he saw another airship (SL11) caught in the beams of searchlights. It was being fired at from the ground, but without much success, so Leefe Robinson decided to dive below the craft and fire at it using his upward pointing Lewis gun. Despite the early hour thousands of people had been woken by the noise and were watching the events unfold from the ground. Robinson fired a complete drum of specially developed explosive ammunition into the belly of the airship, but to his dismay it had no effect, so he sprayed another drum of ammunition along the side of SL11, once again nothing appeared to happen. On his third attempt he decided to concentrate his fire at one spot and seconds later the rear section of SL11 burst into flames. The massive craft fell to earth near the Hertfordshire town of Cuffley killing all on board. In the days that followed thousands of people from London and the surrounding area visited the site taking home parts of the wreckage as souvenirs.

This was the first German airship to be shot down over mainland Britain and Leefe Robinson became a national hero. Within days he was awarded a Victoria Cross by King George V and promoted to Captain. In 1917 he was sent to the Western Front, but was captured and spent the remainder of the war in a German prison camp. He returned to Britain in December 1918 but succumbed to the influenza pandemic and passed away on New Year’s Eve.

Telephone 01488 682377 or email

HAHA by Belinda

An Allotment in Hungerford…………

Considering the precarious history of the Marsh Lane site we’re amazed to be starting our sixth year! The extremely wet weather stopped us from doing our planned winter jobs so, as usual, we’re playing catch-up. So much for the lessons we learn every year.
Still, I’d rather be clearing and tidying in spring when there’s more wildlife to watch on the plot! As well as the usual garden birds, we regularly see terns and red kites flying overhead, along with the neighbourhood kestrel. The afternoon we watched a barn owl fly majestically across the site was amazing and this year I’ll be looking out for a sparrow hawk and even a kingfisher which have been spotted by another plotholder!

As allotmenteers it pays to know a little about the local wildlife. We’ve learned the hard way that each plant has its own beastie to contend with – If you grow it they will come! – leek moth, carrot fly, brassica bug… We use different-sized netting to protect different veg – mesh has to be small enough to stop what you’re trying to protect against and, where necessary, be large enough to let the friendly insects in for pollinating.

Oh, but the slugs! The big slugs in the compost bin aren’t the problem – it’s the little ones that live underground that do the most damage. We’re using nematodes on our potato patch this year, so hope our harvest will be less holey.

Three (4?) things on my wish list for when we have a permanent site:
A Pond: Encouraging more frogs and toads to the site would be a great help against the slug and snail problem
Hedgehog Homes: I’d love the site to be a safe haven away from traffic and in return the hedgehogs would help with pest removal.
Bat Boxes: Bats eat a huge amount of insects and it’s lovely to see them swooping about when we stay for a late summer evening.
Bird and Owl Boxes: Garden birds will clear caterpillars and bugs and it would be perfect to have a resident owl to eat mice and shrews.

We welcome any wildlife that can help in our fight against the bad guys! We were among plotholders lucky enough to see a grass snake on the site last year. Not so good for the snake as it kept getting caught in netting and had to be cut free. The large lump which prevented it from manoeuvring turned out to be a toad – ugh, don’t ask me how I know that! Very interesting to see and hold a snake for the first time, but not so welcome if they’re going to eat our friendly toads!

If you fancy the idea of growing your own contact HAHA on 0754 118 7274
Our Marsh Lane allotment life is recorded online through my blogs:

HEAT activities


Monthly Walks: 1st Sunday of the month, 10am, Town Hall steps

Green Drinks: Last Thursday of the month, 8pm, The Plume of Feathers Inn

Love Food
Hate Waste FREE TRAINING: Saturday 15th March, 09:30-13:00, contact HEAT to book your place.

Swap Shop
FREE EVENT: Saturday 29th March, 11:30-13:30 (donations accepted from 11:00), The Croft Hall, RG17 0HY

Get involved If you’d like to get more involved with HEAT we’d love to hear from you. Even if you only have a few hours to spare sporadically, there are a variety of things to do, from computer work to helping run events.

Email: Website:
Facebook: Hungerford Environmental Action Team – HEAT


Health by Liz

The Secret of the Silkworm

Over a quarter of a century ago, an enzyme was discovered when it was noticed that silkworms were able to digest tough mulberry leaves and also escape from their cocoons by dissolving them. Liz Chandler from Natures Corner looks at the health benefits of this remarkable enzyme.

The silkworm enzyme, called Serrapeptase, is actually produced by a friendly bacterium found naturally within the silkworm. In the 1970’s it was isolated and is now fermented naturally for commercial use, ensuring that the silkworm population is not affected.

Serrapeptase dissolves non living tissue such as blood clots, scar tissue, mucous, cysts and arterial plaque and is a powerful anti-inflammatory and viable alternative to orthodox non- steroidal anti-inflammatories. In Europe it is commonly used for inflammatory and traumatic swellings, but its application is wide ranging and it can be helpful for a variety of conditions from sinusitis to fibromyalgia. A testimonial from a lady suffering with Interstitial Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) explained how Serrapepatse eased a bad flare up. She says ‘I was in excruciating pain and unable to walk or sit down comfortably. After a few days of taking the Serrapeptase the pain eased and after a week, it was gone altogether’. Other symptoms that the enzyme can help with include, blocked sinuses, leg ulcers, flaky skin, dandruff, eye problems, general pain, post-operative recovery and joint stiffness.
Serrapeptase exhibits no side effects making it a logical choice in the fight against chronic pain and inflammation.

The story of the silkworm has unfolded and the secret has been revealed.
For advice on how to use it wisely, call into Natures Corner or telephone 01635 33007.

Our Community

Jan Update 2014

We have started the year working on our priorities in the area.
On Wednesday 15th Jan, we conducted a mobile phone/Seatbelt operation on the High Street in Hungerford. Within an hour, we caught two motorists not wearing a seatbelt and issued them both with a ticket. Special Constable, John GILLESPIE joined the team for the afternoon to offer his assistance.

We also conducted a speed enforcement operation on the same day outside Wyevale Garden Centre on the A4. We will continue to conduct these checks as we issued eight speeding tickets in the space on 30 minutes. The following week we issued a further 12 tickets for excess speed at the same location and a ticket for a driver not wearing a seatbelt in the High Street in Hungerford.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind people to ensure that their vehicles are suitable to drive on these early frosty mornings. Please make sure that your windscreen is clear from frost and you have de-misted before starting your journey

PC Teresa MILLER ran an overnight operation to combat rural crime in the Lambourn Area on Thursday 23rd January. Officers seized a vehicle on BAYDON ROAD for no insurance and obtained several pieces of intelligence that will help to continue our ongoing work to reduce crime in the rural and isolated areas of our patch. We received no reports of any crime in the area on this night.

PC Claire DREWITT and PC Teresa MILLER have also worked alongside Sovereign Housing officers this month to deal reports of their tenants using drugs in their homes. A female in Kintbury was issued a warning after evidence of cannabis was found at her home. Although drugs is not currently a priority in the Hungerford Area we are very keen to hear from anyone with information.

Andrew GAINEY, aged 25 years old, from Kintbury has been charged with shoplifting from the CO-OP in Hungerford after he stole beauty products on the 2nd January. Mr GAINEY has been placed on bail to attend a court hearing in April.

PCSO Lee BREMNER is looking forward to a new Have Your Say Meeting at Herongate Leisure at Charnham Park in Hungerford on a Tuesday evening once a month. She will be there from 1730-1830. Her first visit will be on 4th Feb and she will be present there again at the same time on March 4th.

Obviously, the adverse weather conditions have caused problems across the area. We hope to have seen the back of the rain for a while. The frequent places such as Eastbury and Lower Denford seen worryingly high levels of water.

Please be careful on the roads at the start of the year. Ensure that your vehicle is fit for the cold and the ice.

Attempted frauds – West Berkshire

Friday 24 January 2014, 9:32am
Thames Valley Police are reissuing their warning to residents of the Thames Valley to be on their guard for fraudulent phone calls purporting to be from banks/police officers and requesting bank and card details.

On Tuesday 21 January, an elderly lady from Ermin Street, Shefford Woodlands, and an elderly lady from Lancaster Close, Hungerford, both received calls. Fortunately they realised that it was a scam before any money could be taken from their accounts.

The most important three things to remember are:

• Your bank and/or the police will never ask for your PIN
• Your bank will never attend your home to deliver a replacement card or to collect cash
• Your bank and/or the police will never collect your bank card
This type of fraud is known as courier fraud or visiting and often targets the elderly and vulnerable. The victim receives a phone call from fraudsters who say they are from their bank or the police. They tell the victim that they are calling because there has been suspicious activity on their account and advise them to call the bank from the number on the back of their card, which helps the victim believe the call is genuine.
The victim disconnects the phone and dials their bank or police, however the fraudster has kept the telephone line open so even though a number is dialed, it is not connected and the victim is still on the phone to the fraudster, who then gains their trust and asks them to either say or key in their pin, before telling them their card will be collected and a replacement delivered.

Once the fraudster has all the information they need, a courier is sent to collect the card from the victim, and a replacement is delivered at the same time, which is not a genuine bank card.

The offender has obtained the person’s name, address, full bank details, the card itself and the PIN. The bank cards are then used fraudulently without the victim’s knowledge.

Police advice is that if you receive such a call, end it immediately.

If you receive this type of call, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040,
or via their website. In an emergency, dial 999.


Jack Williams

This year, 2014, is bound to be a time of commemoration, and thoughts will turn to the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the Great War (as I first knew it,) and now more readily, the First World War .Plans are already in place to decide how our town will remember this war, and whilst war was declared on Germany on Aug 4th 1914, we await some guidance from Central Government before decisions are made. So for a period I will leave my exploration of the High Street and give some thoughts on our Town War Memorials.

Information is readily available to me concerning the 1939/45 War, and as an opening gambit, I will detail the story of the 12 acres of playing fields which were dedicated as a War Memorial in Aug 1949.The Avenue of Remembrance, with 28 trees, to commemorate the men who lost their lives, is very well established, and on a Summer’s evening with the setting sun shining up the Avenue, is one of the most moving sights in our town. This together with the three and a half ton Sarsen stone from a local source, on which the names of the fallen are remembered, makes it a quite splendid memorial.

The late Mr Geoffrey Turner , who in 1948 lived at Hungerford Park, gave the massive wrought iron gates, which with the brick pillars and wrought iron surrounds, makes the whole area a befitting memorial .From the names recorded I remember Bill Rogers, Albert (Wink) Walter, Bob Gibbs, Ron North and Donald Amor, and knew of several of the others.

Richard Amphlett, who was an Ambulance man serving in Hungerford many years ago, carried out the research, and I am indebted to him for his booklet (which is available in the Library) and also for the many conversations which we shared.

Hungerford Twinning Association

 – twinned with Ligueil, France

This coming year is once more our opportunity to host a party of our friends from Ligueil, over the August bank holiday week-end, and we are already planning events. We want to make sure that as many local people, and organizations, as possible take part and there is an open invitation to join us.

Last year our cyclists and support team for the charity bike ride were welcomed and accommodated overnight by members of the Ligueil cycling club, before the return journey, and we hope to make a similar arrangement for this year’s event. We have close ties with the schools in Ligueil and are currently discussing the probability of a French school group visiting Hungerford for a day in early May, as part of an educational visit, and linking with our schools and youngsters in Hungerford. We have recently set up a closed Facebook page for members, and aim to encourage more interaction, and maybe even return to the sports tournaments that used to be held between our two towns, so if you think you can get involved please get in touch.

We always receive a warm welcome when we visit Ligueil (as we will do next year), and try to provide similar hospitality in Hungerford when the French visit us. If you think that you might be able to offer accommodation, or help with arrangements please get in touch so that we can give more information, without any commitment at this stage. We have members of all ages and would particularly welcome families with youngsters at our local schools, who could make friends with similar French families and practice their language skills.

It really is a fun, and very friendly, group and our annual membership is still only £10 per family.

For more information contact Penny Brookman – chairman – 01488 683314

A Beginner’s Adventures in Bell Ringing

I’ve admired the sound of St Lawrence’s Bells calling out to me every Sunday, since I first moved to Hungerford over 9 years ago. And whilst out walking around the church, I’ve often wondered what mysteries lie behind the little door at the foot of the bell tower. Some time ago I read an article, in this very magazine, written by a Hungerford Bell Ringer and it included an open invitation to go along and have a go. This piqued my interest and, once I’d plucked up enough courage, I contacted the Hungerford Tower Captain, Mark Robins, and was invited to pop along on the very next Sunday morning.

It was with some trepidation that I found myself passing through the mysterious little door at the foot of the tower and climbing the stone spiral steps as the bells rang out above. I waited for a pause in the performance and stuck my head through the door into the ringing chamber to be warmly greeted by Mark and the rest of the merry band. And a more diverse, friendly and supportive band of people it would be difficult to find. Ranging in ages from 14 to 90 and all with fabulous stories to tell.

And so my new hobby began. Mark quickly arranged a couple of 1 to 1 sessions to enable me to practice and gain some control over the bell before letting me loose on the rest of the band at group practice. With the clapper tied off (so my creative ringing wouldn’t bother the neighbours), Mark demonstrated how to ring and explained the difference between back stroke and hand stroke, pointing out everything that I should attempt to emulate on my first go. And so, with trembling hands, I took hold of the tail of the rope and readied myself to take control as Mark pulled the bell over its balancing point. I let the rope pull my hands over my head, as it rose with the swing of the bell, until it slowed as the bell reached its balance and I pulled smoothly down again.

We practised both types of stroke, with Mark catching the rope in between, and then progressed to putting them together. Mark was always ready to regain control should I go awry. I quickly progressed to joining the group practice (much more challenging when the other 7 bells join in!) and within a few weeks I was able to ring some simple called changes during the Christmas services. It was great fun to ring on Christmas Eve! It really felt like Christmas had arrived.

I’ve now rung at 4 other towers and have just started ringing for Sunday Services. There have been some slightly scary moments and I have much to learn, but with the on-going encouragement of the rest of the Hungerford Ringers, usually over drinks following practice, I hope to make this a life-long pursuit.

If I’ve inspired you to have a go, and I very much hope that I have, please contact Mark Robins on

Minna MacKenzie


The Hungerford Education Plan – To Be or Not To Be?

In May 2012, I was interviewed for the post of Headteacher at John O’Gaunt School. I arrived; new suit, shiny shoes, appropriate proportions of nervousness and excitement, 20 years’ experience in four large and successful comprehensive schools in the South of England and a passion for education. John O’Gaunt immediately felt ‘right’; it was welcoming, the children and staff ambitious and it had begun its journey of improvement. In short, I wanted the job. During the interview I was asked many questions: How would I improve teaching and learning? How would I tackle challenging behaviour? How would I develop links with the community? Would I still want to teach? And perhaps the trickiest, what would I sing as my act in the X Factor competition? (Asked by the delightful Jade, now in Year 11). I was also challenged about the future of the school, how I would raise numbers in Year 7 (as the school had a deficit budget)?

I have previous experience of exactly this situation, taking a school from 78 Year 7 students who made the school their first choice in 2009, to 218 in 2011. Obviously this was a much bigger school, but it didn’t have a new build or huge investment; it just raised standards and worked closely with its community. When a school has previous under achievement or a bad reputation, it is very difficult for the community to repair any faith it had in the school. One parent of a Year 5 child told me, ‘I won’t send my child to John O’Gaunt because I went there thirty years ago and I was bullied.’ I don’t doubt that this man’s feelings are very real, but the school has changed; step over the threshold, come and see for yourself.

When I took up the post as Headteacher, I spent the first year clawing under the skin of the Hungerford community and its school, to establish what was effective about the school, how the children felt about their school, where the strengths of the staff lay, what the families of the area were like, how the financial deficit had come about. I believe in values based leadership, that as a Headteacher I should make decisions based on the educational values held by the school. Last year we established our values by asking our children, staff and governors and came up with the following: John O’Gaunt School is:

Passionate about learning
Proud of our achievements
Ambitious for our students
Supportive of our differences
Caring for ourselves and each other
Determined to be the best we can be

We make our decisions and actions based on these values; this is our way.
This year the Hungerford Education Plan was published to tackle two issues; the need to raise numbers in Year 7 (520 secondary aged children would make the school financially viable, at present we have 440 – not an impossible leap over 5 year groups, I am sure you would agree). The second issue is the shortage of places for primary aged children in the future, as a result of birth rates, movement in and out of Hungerford and proposed new housing developments. The plan puts forward one option; John O’Gaunt School opens as a 4 – 18 school, Hungerford Primary stays as it is.

Let me clear up the first myth – this was not my idea. A number of people believe I arrived and decided this was the right thing to do to a town. I didn’t. But, what do I think about it?

I believe that John O’Gaunt School deserves investment from the Local Authority, which I must say, has been extremely supportive of us in the last 18 months in a number of ways. Five years ago our school was promised a new sixth form block and performing arts building that never materialised, despite plans being drawn up and a huge amount of time and effort by the school and its governing body. When a promise doesn’t come true, what does a community think? What do the children of the school think? We’re not worth it? We are not as important as the school that does get investment?

John O’Gaunt School needs modernisation; it needs windows, roofing, heating. In an ideal world, the money fairies would come with £50 million and build a brand new school, but do you know what? If the results are not any better, it won’t make families choose us. This is my priority – raise standards. But, with a moderate investment we can create innovative learning spaces, double the size of the library, build an outside classroom and rearrange areas that inspire creative thinking. To the man who came here 30 years ago, yes it is the same building, but it is not the same school.

The gesture of investment will give confidence to our school and the community. In addition if we continue to develop links with our primary school partners and build a climate of trust and opportunity, I believe that as standards go up, so will our numbers in Year 7. As a Headteacher I know this is true and as a mother of 3 children I know that is why I would choose a school.

If our school receives part of the money, then Hungerford Primary should receive the rest, to continue Phase 2 of their building project (we have been told £2.7 million is allocated to the proposal). If you have seen the first part – it is fantastic. Gerry Heaton and I are very keen to work closely together over the next few years to offer primary children access to science, technology, art and PE facilities. At present we are working on a reading project, Rainbow Choir, we have Year 5 children invited up for a circus skills workshop in February, run maths masterclasses and are planning a Year 6 and 7 outdoor activity day with our fellow Primary Headteachers for June.

I do not want John O’Gaunt School to be in competition with Hungerford Primary, which I believe would be very real if the proposal were to go ahead. Hungerford is a small town that must not be fractured by a postcode lottery catchment scheme. Our families must be able to choose with confidence, to live in a town with a good educational structure, where every child is happy to go to school, is encouraged to be creative and take risks and who leaves confident, successful and ready for their next phase. With the evidence that is on the table today, and having sat in many rooms discussing the proposal, I believe that the solution is to invest in both Hungerford schools separately and develop strong learning opportunities between them that will benefit both age groups. John O’Gaunt School is determined to the best it can be; I know that Hungerford is too.

Sarah Brinkley Headteacher


Blasts from the Past

From the Parish Magazine dated July 1880.
“A devotional Commentary on the Four Gospels has just been published, which is well worthy of the attentive study of those who would learn, mark, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures. It will be found very suggestive of topics for meditation, and seems admirably calculated to fulfil the design of the author, which is to encourage young people to form the delightful habit of reading daily a small portion of the Holy Scriptures, and this deliberately and with devout attention. It is the work of a well-known Clergyman in this neighbourhood and is entitled “Practical Reflections on the Holy Gospels.” The price is extremely moderate. It is to be obtained from Mrs Franklin’s Library , and elsewhere.”

“Girls Friendly Society.—The Anniversary Festival of the Newbury Deanery Branch was held at Newbury on Wednesday, June 23rd, when upwards of 180 members spent a most happy day. Proceedings commenced with Service at St Nicholas’s Church at 3 p.m. after which the members and associates adjourned to the Town Hall, where a substantial tea was provided. By kind invitation of the Rector of Newbury the party next proceeded to the Rectory grounds where they amused themselves with games, etc., a band of music adding greatly to the enjoyment of all present. In connection with this branch of the Society, Mrs Gardiner had kindly offered to members not in service three prizes for needlework, and our readers will learn with great pleasure that the first prize was gained by Elizabeth Clements of Hungerford Newtown, whose work not only surpassed all the other competitors, but was considered by the Judges to be so beautifully done that an extra five shillings was awarded her over and above the original prize offered. We are sure our readers will wish the Society every success in the various plans it adopts for benefiting its members.”

From the Parish Magazine dated July 1881.
“The Agricultural Show of the Marlborough and Pewsey Vale Society held in Hungerford Park on June 7 and 8 was most successful. The Town was prettily decorated and the Exhibition was very attractive. It is estimated that 4,000 persons were present on the first day, and 7,000 on the second. £345 was taken at the gates; more than double what has been received at any previous meeting.”

From the Parish Magazine dated July 1882.
“An excursion train to the Crystal Palace and back is advertised for Tuesday, July 4, in connection with the National Temperance Festival which is held there on that day. Fares from Hungerford –London and back, 5shillings; Crystal Palace and back, including admission to the Festival, 6shillings & 6pence

More from the usual past next month. Fred Bailey

Legal Spot

Inheritance Tax – Death on Active Service Exemption

This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and in the last hundred years, many thousands of people, men and women, have died as a result of the injuries sustained or diseases contracted whilst on active service.

Usually when someone dies, Inheritance Tax is payable on their estate but where that person has died as a result of injuries or disease which they suffered whilst on active service, their estate should be eligible for the death on active service exemption. Such service includes anti-terrorist operations. This exemption can still be claimed if death is many years after the event.

Where the service person or war veteran is married at the date of their death and leaves their estate to their spouse, the Inheritance Tax spouse exemption will apply and so the death on active service exemption will be lost.

It is, of course, necessary to prove the link between the death and the original injury or disease and families should look for documents which will support a claim for the exemption. Information likely to be of assistance will include details of war pensions, and any records of military injuries or illnesses and full medical records. Families should also seek to ensure that the death certificate reflects all causes of death and is not shown as attributable to “old age”.

All applications are considered on their merits by the Ministry of Defence.

If Inheritance Tax has been paid where the exemption should have been applicable, it may be possible to reclaim the tax paid, together with an award of interest.

Please contact us if you would like information about applying for an exemption.
MacAuley & Co. 01488 682348

P.s. We are very fortunate to have join us a very experienced Solicitor who is now dealing with our Probate, Wills and private client work her name is Christine Harley.

Church Bells


On Thursday, 8th January 1914, the first peal was rung by a band formed solely of ringers from the Army and Navy. It was rung at St Mary Magdalene Church in Gillingham, Kent, a garrison town overlooking the River Medway and close to the naval dockyard at Chatham.

The band consisted of:
Warrant shipwright William Austin Cooke RN
Lance Sgt Frederick Augustus Holden Royal Marines Light Infantry from HMS Implacable
Stocker Alfred Arthur Playle, HMS Endeavour
Private Frederick J Souter, Essex Regiment
Corporal George Gilbert, Royal Engineers
Musician Victor Albert Jarrett, Royal Engineers
Private Archibold Percy Randolph Gibbs Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Lance-Sergeant James Bennett, Royal Marines Light Infantry from HMS Duncan

Subsequently Sgt Holden transferred from the Royal Marines to the Royal Navy Air Service in 1917 and thence to the RAF, newly formed in 1918.

The peal board commemorating the event (pictured left) was unveiled in November 1914, by which time the First World War was underway and one of the band members (Percy Gibbs) had already lost his life at the front.

So, to those representing the three Armed Forces bell ringing guilds (including Hungerford’s Tower Captain, Mark Robins) it was an event that could not be allowed to pass without being marked in some way. Duly, on the morning of Wednesday 8th January 2014, a band of eight met at Gillingham to ring a peal of the same composition in honour of the original band and its achievement. The peal was conducted by Mark Robins, who reports that it went well with quite good striking throughout.

This was a fitting tribute to the 1914 band, who met on that day with the First World War just around the corner and unaware of the sacrifices soon to be made. Indeed it may be considered remarkable that so many of the band members survived the war and some continued ringing into the 1950’s and possibly ‘60’s. In fact, one of the members of the 2014 band recalls that the first peal he ever rang (in 1953) was conducted by Victor Jarrett, a member of the original 1914 band.

It is intended that a new peal board be made recording the centenary, to accompany the original.


The Journalist Club @ JOG

On Thursday the 22nd January during lunchtime, Iris Lloyd, author of ‘BRON, PART 1, DAUGHTER OF PROPHECY,’ came to visit the eager young journalists of John O’Gaunt School and gave us some tips about writing reports and how to grasp a reader’s interest. We then discussed how the JOG journalists are going to capture all the news at John O’ Gaunt, including events like ‘World Book Day’, the upcoming circus skills workshop on February 28th and various learning activities around school.

We will be getting involved with photography and other multimedia to give us a real experience of journalism e.g. The Swimming Gala, House matches and tournaments and other events.

***Stop Press***

We are holding an event to raise funds for the school, on Saturday 1st March @ 8pm. The ‘Murder Mystery Night’ performed by ‘Mystery Murder INC’ is £15 including a three course supper.

There will be a licensed bar and raffle available. Tickets are available at John O’Gaunt School office, or Crown Needlework situated in the Hungerford High Street.

Kick Boxing Comes To J.O.G

On Tuesday 28th January, Earl Jesse came to John O’Gaunt School to teach the girls as part of our Raising Achievement Programme. Years 8 and 9 took on the challenge first from 5pm till 6 pm, then 10 -11 from 6pm till 7pm. It started with an intense cardio vascular (heart) exercise. This included press ups and jumping squats. They then moved onto punching where the pairs got taught the foot positions and types of punches. The punches were jab, cross and a combination of both. The kicks proved to be difficult, as they moved on to turn kick, where they had to right leg and right pad. The rising kick was a bit like the Can-Can! You had to kick both pads with both feet, alternately.

There was one final kick that Earl taught and it was where you had to step into the kick. For example, step in with the right leg and kick with the left. Francesca Curran year 10 said, “It is a useful skill to use in life and keeps you fit. We had lots of fun whilst learning something new.”

Jess Pike YR10