Items of general interest to the village.

Winter Has Come: Water Levels

It ‘s that time of year again.  December 1st; which for those of you who don’t necessarily revel in such things is the first day of the meteorological winter.  For the last four winters, we have been monitoring water levels in the Tilshead borehole as a means of getting an early warning of flood levels in the aquifer that might affect the village.  Today marks the start of the 2017-2018 monitoring season and there will be weekly updates appearing on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday of each week between now and the end of March 2018.  They will be published in the “Notices” section of this website.

The water level in the Tilshead borehole this morning was 79.23 metres. That’s the lowest level on 1st December since 2015, when the level was exactly the same.  This years level will be shown, as always, in red, last year’s level is shown in green, the 5-year average is shown in black.

Nobis villa in agro?

Our apologies for using a Latin title for this post, but we hope you will soon see why.  Back on the 31st of July we published a news item entitled “What Lies Beneath” having seen Wiltshire Archaeology at work in the field that runs alongside the Winterbourne Stoke to Berwick St James road, close to the boundary between two villages and close to the River Till.

What we didn’t say at the time and have resisted saying in public until now  is that we had an idea what they might have stumbled across – but little hard evidence.  Our hypothesis was based purely on the area where the ground penetrating radar was being used, the known history of the Till Valley, the clusters of springs along the route of the Till and what appeared to be “missing” from the local archaeology.

Having seen Wiltshire Archaeology at work, we turned to Google Earth to see if there was anything there that might confirm our suspicions.  In the Pro version of Google Earth, you can examine the latest images of an area, but also historical imagery.  Those images taken in winter, with low sun angles, are often very good at showing up ground features that aren’t obvious at other times of the year.  If you get really lucky, you can sometimes see ground features because of the different rate of growth of crops that overlay stone foundations.  We weren’t that lucky, but we did find an image taken on 26th January 2005 that had some possibly interesting features.

It’s quite hard to see, but at the end of the large arrow, there seems to be a large rectangular feature about 60ft by 20ft in size, which runs pretty much East-West in its longest dimension.   In other words, it has a similar footprint to St Peter’s Church.   To the East are two or three much smaller square foundations.

This had all the features of a Romano-British site, but we still didn’t want to set hares running because of a phenomenon called pareidolia.  The human brain is very prone to ‘seeing’ familiar images of shapes, people and animals when you look at a picture or view –  Donald Trump’s image on a piece of burnt toast, clouds that look like flying saucers, etc.  Although we thought it might be a Romano-British site bang on the route of the proposed southern bypass, we still weren’t sure.

So back to the title: Nobis Villa In Agro? – Do we have a villa in the field?

On Friday, following the announcement of the northern bypass preference, we asked Highways England consultants what had been found and they offered that it was “possibly a Roman-British site”.  However, that was their working hypothesis and still needs to be confirmed – they noted that the site could be much more recent than that and the truth is only likely to be uncovered through excavation.

The reason for mentioning this now, is of course its potential for developing local tourism in the future.  Mosaic floors (and that is a huge stretch of the imagination!) are very good at bringing in the tourists and boosting the local economy.

We’ve also noted the ground penetrating radar being used north of the A303 more recently, suggesting that even more interesting sites are turning up there as well.  All the archaeological work that has and is being undertaken as part of the Highway England planning will be published and we will provide links to all that directly affects our Parish.  It’s then up to us how we best exploit it.

Putting In The Ducting

Anyone who has been looking for signs of BT activity on the Shrewton road over the last couple of weeks would have found it hard to spot anything at all.  However, today there were a few signs that things are moving forward.

First of all, some BT subcontractors were spotted feeding ducting or possibly cable into one of the access chambers that were installed last year.

Further down the road, another contractor was pumping out another access chamber in the road at the foot of a BT pole:

However, they don’t appear to have brought the mole plough back yet, as the yellow plastic poles are still in the verge:

There is no evidence that they have installed any of the poles for which they had sought permission for traffic controls.  That might suggest there is a bit more work to be done over the next couple of weeks.  Apologies for the poor quality of the photos; they are stills from a windscreen video.

The Village Events Committee

Thanks largely to the organisational efforts of Steve Fair, the Events Committee was given a new lease of life back in June, with the election of a new committee at a very well attended meeting at the Solstice Rest:

Chairman:    Peter Stoner

Secretary:     Ryan Davis

Treasurer:    Angie Carr

We are assured the minutes will follow in due course.   The first meeting was followed by another, last night (3rd July), to firm up on a few ideas for events over the summer.  Please pencil in the following dates for your diary.  As soon as they are confirmed, we will publish more details and add them to the events calendar on the website.  So, the first part of the cunning plan is to hold an event over the weekend of 5/6th August 2017.  The Events Committee is hoping to lay on a barbecue and an event for kids on the Saturday afternoon, with a quiz and some music in the evening.

On the Sunday, the plan is to hold a Bacon-Butty-Breakfast and Car Boot-type sale.  All will be welcome to come along and buy, but sellers will have to be restricted to villagers due to the limited space available.

Other events are in the planning stages for later in the year, including a Christmas Party for the children.

Look on the Forum if you are a budding Quiz star, as the Events Committee are trying to establish if there is any interest in having a quiz night.  Similarly, if you have a bright idea for other events villagers might like to get involved in, please feel free to start a Forum topic off yourself to help judge local opinion.

Mended Stile

We are delighted to be able to say that the stile into the meadow at the southern end of Church Street has now been mended, and very robust it now looks as well.  For the first time in many years we have an upright that is tall enough to provide some useful support, nice thick treads that don’t flex as you stand on them and rounded ends so you don’t gouge your shins or knees on the corners.


Thanks to Druid’s Lodge Estate for fixing it so promptly on this occasion.  Wiltshire Council have been advised of the repair.

A303: Latest Comments from UNESCO/ICOMOS On The Highways England Proposals

A second UNESCO/ICOMOS Advisory mission to consider the emerging proposals on the Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme occurred in February 2017. The mission report acknowledges the responses to the first advisory mission recommendations, particularly on processes, archaeological investigations and assessments, but notes that some matters are yet to be implemented. This second mission recommends that a non-tunnel by-pass to the south of the property be re-considered and that further work should also occur on longer tunnel options, particularly in relation to portal location and potential impact on the overall Stonehenge cultural landscape and the setting of the property.

The full report is not yet available, but is sure to raise further concerns and questions locally.  If a southern, above-ground route is going to be pushed-for, nationally and internationally, by the bodies responsible for the World Heritage Site, we all need to consider where the best route for this might actually lie; if the idea starts to be taken seriously by government.  The F10 route, referred to below, follows the same course between Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St James as does the southern bypass route offered in conjunction with the tunnel; with all the same issues for us as the by-passed village and for Berwick St James.  However, there are many other alternative routes that have been proposed, historically, that would take the A303 to the south of Berwick St James, with some of them offering possible partial solutions to the A36 congestion problems as well as those on the A303 – and they are also likely to prove cheaper than the existing tunnel solution, let alone a longer one.

Onboard and Online: The Events Committee

Apologies for the somewhat short notice, but we have just been advised that there will be a meeting of the Events Committee at 7:30pm on Monday 12th June in the Solstice Rest.  We understand that all villagers are welcome to attend.

For those of you who are new to the village and are unaware of what the Events Committee is , or does, or perhaps have lived in the village for a while and still aren’t too sure about things, we have attached the groups constitution here: WS Events Committee Constitution.


Broken Stile

Please be aware that the stile into the meadow at the southern end of Church Street (Footpath WST010) collapsed on Tuesday evening (6th June).  One of the steps and two of the vertical posts, which had rotted through at the base have been removed as they were a danger to the public, dogs and livestock. The remaining parts of the stile are also rather unsound.

The deteriorating state of the stile has been reported to Druid’s Lodge Estate on several occasions over the last year and has been reported to them again following yesterday’s failure.  It has also been raised with Wiltshire Council, as the duty to maintain the Public Rights of Way network is shared between Wiltshire Council, as the Highway Authority, and the landowners/occupiers of the land over which the path exists.  We have also raised the general issue of the lack of maintenance on footpaths from the village.

Hopefully, the stile will be replaced in short order.  Meanwhile, please take great care if you decide to climb over the remaining part of the stile before this is done, as we do not think it is safe and cannot recommend doing so.

Onboard and Online: Volunteers Needed For The Old Rectory Garden Opening on 25th June

STOP PRESS – The Dutton’s have just advised that they will waive any entry charge for residents of Winterbourne Stoke for the NGS garden event on 25th June

Just a reminder to all that Jonathan and Olivia Dutton are opening their garden at the Old Rectory under the National Garden Scheme (NGS) for the first time this year on 25th of June.  It will be open from 2pm to 5pm.  Admission is £5 (which goes to the NGS – children free).  They will be selling plants (hopefully!) and cream teas, with all the money raised from this going to St Peter’s Church funds.  Parking space has been kindly offered by Druid’s Lodge Estate.

As you can imagine (quite apart from all the work that goes into getting the garden looking pristine on the day!), catering for the possibility of 300-400 visitors is quite a challenging logistical exercise involving erecting tables, chairs, doing the catering, organising and directing the parking, selling the plants etc etc.

Consequently, Jonathan and Olivia would be very grateful for volunteers to help with teas and parking.  If you can help out please contact Olivia or Jonathan directly on 621247

Hopefully, if this years garden opening is a success, it will be repeated in future years; not only offering an attractive afternoon out, but also providing some much needed funding for the church.

A Pangyric On Ian West As Our Outgoing Wiltshire Councillor for the Till and Wylye Valley

The following is an extract from the opening statement at the Winterbourne Stoke Parish Council Meeting on Monday 8th May 2017, in appreciation of Ian West.  The complete version will be published in the Minutes of that meeting.

…there were two elections last week, the second of which was for the Till and Wylye Valley Unitary Division Division of Wiltshire Council. Ian West who stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate was beaten into second place by Darren Henry representing the Conservative Party.

I think we should reflect on the fact that Ian West has represented this area for so many years. He first became a parish councillor at the tender age of 21. He joined the Liberal Democrats (or at least what was then the Liberal Party) over forty years ago; in 1974. Over the last 22 years as a counsellor he was both leader and Chairman of Salisbury District Council and he served four years as a member of the Wiltshire Police Authority. He has served the community as the Wiltshire Councillor for the Till and Wylye Valley and has sat on the Southern Area Planning Committee and the Amesbury Area Board.

Over the years he has invested an awful lot of time and effort in the wider local community and not just our own small village. This part of south Wiltshire owes a huge debt of gratitude to Ian for all he has accomplished over the years – and those accomplishments have been many.

Ian will be a very hard act to follow and no doubt Darren Henry, his successor, will be measured against the yardstick of Ian. We wish Ian the best for the future, knowing we still have his services for the next Parish Council term. We also wish Darren Henry the best of luck and we hope that Ian has left him, somewhere in the recesses of County Hall, a halfway decent pair of shoes in which he can walk his first mile.