Onboard and Online: Highways England Community Forum (A303-Bypass)

Those of you who keep an eye on the Salisbury Journal may have picked up on Highways England’s plans to set up a Community Forum to engage with those bodies and, possibly, some specific individuals who might be able to contribute too it.   Understandably, it isn’t open to everyone, as that would have been too unwieldy and would have been a nightmare to organise.

The Parish Council will be represented on the Forum, which meets for the first time, in Amesbury, on Thursday 1st February 2018; although we have not yet received a formal confirmation of this from Highways England.  Back in September, you will recall their arrangements were equally chaotic and last minute.   More importantly, we haven’t yet see Terms of Reference for the group, or an Agenda for the forthcoming meeting.  As soon as we do, we will make you aware of as much as we can through the medium of this website, with key bits of information (such as this notice) posted on the village noticeboard.  Please be aware that there may be too much information to make it all available on the noticeboard, so please ask a Parish Councillor to help you get access to it if you don’t have your own internet connection.

We understand that one of the key things that Highways England want to use the Forum for is to understand what they term “legacy issues”.   This means the sorts of things they can do mitigate the effects of road-building and the road on the local community.   These are likely to impact on issues at all levels.  Some will affect the whole community from Amesbury to Berwick Down and a mile or two north or south,  some will affect Winterbourne Stoke and Amesbury lying on the direct path of the A303, others will affect villages further north and south of the road and others will affect those with businesses (farms, pubs, petrol stations, etc) lying on the path of the road.   The Parish Council is likely to wish to have input on most, if not all, of these (the exception might be those issues that ONLY effect those communities outside the Parish) and we wish to put forward the consensus view of the village.

When it comes to the village, based on what has happened during other roadbuilding schemes, it might be possible to get Highways England to assist with schemes that a small village like ours might otherwise be unable to afford; for instance by making use of unused or unwanted construction materials that might otherwise cost money to remove from site. The trpes of schemes we have had suggested by villagers already include:

  • A small, multi-purpose “village hall” or room (s) that could be used for meetings, small events, changing room, etc.
  • A playing field/football pitch/events area
  • Village allotments
  • A village orchard
  • A new wood
  • Narrow the A303 east of the village up to the new connection with the A360, construct a protected (ie physically separated) bridle path/cycle trail that links directly to Stonehenge without the need to cross the A303, or the A360, at grade.
  • Create green bridges (rather than conventional bridges) across the new A303 wherever Byways cross the road within the Parish and eastward to Stonehenge.  These encourage the movement of wildlife and people in the landscape.
  • Help in promoting new businesses and diversification of existing ones; if needed.

The idea being to make use of land freed up by the removal of the A303 to the west of Scotland Lodge Farm and the route to the east of the village.  We suspect that there are many other ideas out there and we want to hear them.

Please don’t add your ideas as comments to this post – they will be deleted!  Instead, pop across to the Forum (register if needed) and add your comments here:  How Can the Village Benefit From the Bypass

If you want to have a say, but don’t want to do it online, please just pass your point to the Parish Clerk, or a Parish Councillor, in writing.

The Winter Bourne Returns

One of the joys of living in Winterbourne Stoke is the unusual nature of the River Till – it’s a spring-fed winter bourne.  What this means is that during the late summer and autumn, water in the river disappears as the springs that feed it dry up.  Rain in the late autumn and winter percolates down through the chalk into the aquifer and when the levels there are deep enough, the springs begin to break and the river Till runs again.

That is exactly what happened earlier in the week and we now have water flowing from north of the bridge on Church Street, through the village and onwards to Berwick St James and into the Avon river system.

Being a winter bourne gives the higher reaches of the Till a much more diverse ecology than the lower reaches.  In the spring and summer, with water flowing, the upper reaches are very similar to the lower Till – large trout and grayling come up river to spawn and feed, closely followed by their predators including herons, egrets and kingfishers.  In winter though, with loss of the river there are massive changes in the ecology and the upper reaches of the river resemble the many other dry valleys that surround the village.  However, that resemblance is only superficial, as the river bed and margins hold a variety of dormant animal and plant species that are awaiting the return of water so they can grow and flourish.   That annual cycle has begun, once again.  The life-giving waters of the River Till have returned.

Gone Phishing

Christmas is coming and so are the crooks.  In the last week, we’ve seen one email account hacked and a new phishing attack.

You should all have a fire-walled computer and be running one (and only one) good anti-virus program that is regularly updated.  You also need to be aware of the behaviours the crooks try to exploit using social engineering.

If you get an email that is from someone you don’t know, don’t open it.  Ignore it.  A genuine sender will find another means of contacting you.

Never click on a link in any email from any source, but especially banks and building societies, that says there is a problem with your account.  If the email is addressed to your email account (Dear fred.blogs@moneybags.co.uk), that’s a fair bet to be a con.  Even if it is addressed to you by name (Dear Mr Bloggs), use discretion.  Preferably, search for the companies email using a web browser and contact them by phone or email to the number or address you find there.

Hovering your cursor over a hyperlink in an email will flag up the real URL of the recipient.  This again will give you an indication of whether or not this is a genuine site or not.

Take the latest phishing attempt on BT customers.  You may receive an email like the one below:

So, its purportedly from someone with the username lenmurray61@btinternet.com – that’s odd for an email from a large company.  There would normally be further details in the signature block.  Here we just have BT Team.  The email is addressed to “Dear Subscriber”, not a named individual and its not even clear if its been sent to your email address.  Hovering your cursor over the Click here to verify hyperlink, produces the grey pop-up box shown.  This shows the real address to which you are being directed (https://crazicrow.co.uk………..).  This really doesn’t look like a BT site, now does it?

If you click on the link you will probably asked for your BT email account and password and guess what, you will be told that your account has been verified.

A few days later, the crooks who are now armed with your email account details and password will take over your account and lock you out of it.   They will search you emails for banking details and other bits of useful information and will try to hack into other accounts you might have – like your online banking.  As a ridiculously high percentage of internet users use the same simple password for every site they visit, the chances are they are on to a winner.  they will have a very merry Christmas indeed – at your expense.

Please be careful out there

Our Enterprising Ladies

It’s always nice to be able to report a good news story and doubly-so when it promises to bring pleasure to the village for years to come.

A month or so ago, several of our village ladies got together and discussed what they would like to do to bring a bit of colour to some of the verges around the village.  This initially started with them looking at the old planter near St Peter’s Church – which had seen better times and was suffering a little, having been hit by a passing delivery truck; probably more than once.   They approached the Parish Council to ask if we could replace this damaged planter and provide a second for a near-by site and in return, they offered to look after them.   At the September meeting of the Parish Council, there was unanimous agreement to fund this and the ladies were given the go ahead to choose two suitably robust planters for the village.

Now our ladies don’t let grass grow under their feet and within a couple of days they had not only purchased the two planters planters at a considerable discount, they had roped in one of their sons as a ‘delivery driver’, filled the planters, sited them and bought a third planter and all well within the budget the Parish Council had set aside.  Of course our enterprising ladies haven’t stopped there and we were then asked if they could get two more planters to replace the old ones along the High Street/A303 – for many years looked after by the late and much-missed Brian Jones.  These had been damaged by stone strikes, strimmers and simply the wear and tear of sitting alongside such a busy road.   Again, we had the offer to look after them, so,of course, we’ve said yes.

The evergreen shrubs will give some much needed winter colour and they have been under-planted with spring bulbs, so should be a riot of colour in the early part of the year.

So a huge thank-you to Heather, Karen, Maggie and Teresa (and profound apologies if we have left anyone out!) not, of course,  forgetting Sam.  If anyone else wants to “adopt a planter” and has a public space in mind on which to site it, then do get in touch with the Parish Clerk and we will see what can be done.

Winterbourne Stoke Cut Off From The (Digital) World: The Dark Ages Return

The irony of this post is not wasted upon us, as those it is of most interest to are the ones least likely to be able to read it at the moment.   Over the last couple of weeks, BT Openreach contractors have been beavering away, making the final infrastructure provisions to bring the fibre-optic cable from the BT exchange in Shrewton to the DSLAM (the new green box) on the verge of the A303 close to the entrance to the Manor House.

Yesterday (19 July 2017), they were mole-ploughing in the ducting for the fibre on the south of the B3083 close to the junction with the A303; a matter of a few hundred metres at most.   What could possibly go wrong?

 

Despite carefully surveying the route, the contractors appear to have put the mole-plough through the old and festering aluminium telephone cable, thereby cutting off Winterbourne Stoke from the outside world.

BT first told us that they were waiting for specialist engineers to arrive to work out where the break was and that it wouldn’t be fixed until Friday 21st July.  Later in the day, a relative of a vulnerable villager who is reliant on a land-line service for emergency situations, was told it was going to be fixed either last night, or this morning.  As of  0900 on 20 July, the telephone lines lie silent.

What is quite frightening is just how reliant and vulnerable we all are when it comes to communications.  Yes, many of us have mobile phones as well as land-lines, but the coverage in the village isn’t perfect and they can’t always be depended on.   Some facilities, like emergency alarm systems for the sick and elderly, only work with a land-line (or fibre) so when the telephone line fails, we have no back-up.

We have villagers awaiting phone calls relating to urgent medical appointments.  Because the lines have been cut, the caller simply hears the phone ringing and ringing and ringing.  They can’t get through or leave a message.  Relatives may try and call family members and also can’t get through.

The broadband fails as we do not have fibre. People who normally work from home, can’t.  Files can’t be uploaded or downloaded – deadlines can be missed.

Of course, if we had a reliable mobile service, mobile broadband would be an option for some – at a price.  Even then, many have this facility on a mobile phone, but may not have the facility or knowledge to “tether” a desktop or laptop to their phone.

One of the most important reasons for our drive to get fibre to the village was to allow us some redundancy in communications.   We will get there, and we hope it will be soon.

If any villagers need to send urgent emails or files whilst the village is cut off, please contact a Parish Councillor and we will see what we can do to help.   Similarly, if you can read this and we are still disconnected from land-lines,  please check on your neighbours to see if they have any communications problems we might be able to help with.

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.

An Evening at St Peter’s

Thank you to the Churchwardens of St Peter’s Church for allowing the Parish Council to host a meeting for parishioners to discuss their concerns about the Highways England route proposals last night (26th January 2017) and for turning on the heating so early  – it probably saved a few parishioners from hypothermia.  Thanks to Neil MacDougall, Chairman of Berwick St James’ Parish Meeting, who came along as an observer and who resisted overwhelming temptation to join in at every turn.   Thanks also to our MP,  John Glen, who gave up his evening to attend and made many of us wonder why anyone would voluntarily choose to become a politician.

Particular thanks though, to all those who turned out on a bitterly cold evening, who sat, listened, thought, and contributed questions and ideas.   We seemed to have a fair cross-section of the village: from north to south, east to west and the middle.   It was never going to be an easy meeting to try and organise, run or even attend, as across the village opinions on route are split in a non-binary way; as our door-stepping exercise over the weekend showed.

It isn’t just a question of north or south. Some villagers must opt for one route or another because of the huge impact on their personal circumstances,  others have opted for a route on the basis of their own understanding and knowledge.  Still others have no clear preference, or want to have a preference but can’t get answers to their fairly basic questions from Highways England.  Some because they can’t get answers, would prefer to stick with the status quo and some think the whole idea of a bypass is an enormous waste of money and are happy with the A303 as it is.   We know already that of the many villagers who want to go ahead with the bypass, a proportion are torn between the two routes, with their head saying one thing and their hearts the opposite.  This spread of views appeared to come as a bit of a surprise to some last night and was why the Parish Council did not want to host a discussion of  “which route is best” as it would have been highly emotive, it would have constrained discussion and could have so easily turned to frustration and even anger.  So thank you again, to all who came, for your forbearance, politeness and good humour.  Thanks again to John Glen MP, who was put on the spot for answers, time and time again, and who must have gone away with a shopping list of questions to seek answers to as long as your arm.

It’s going to take a while for us to distil out all the detail from the many questions and comments made last night, but we will do so as soon as we can and make them available both here and on the Parish Noticeboard, or directly to all who wish to see them, before the Parish Council send them off to Highways England.  But the big issues that came out were these:

  • The majority felt that a bypass would benefit the village.
  • There was an urgent need for 3D models and ground level fly-thrus, even at this stage, to give villagers a better idea of the routes and their impacts.
  • There was near unanimity that Highways England had failed to provide sufficient information to answer the most fundamental of questions posed by parishioners:
    • Will either route improve, or at least not make any worse, those environmental factors (noise, pollution, light, etc) that affect me and the village on a daily basis?
    • Which of the two routes offers the greatest environmental benefit to me and to the village?
  • Most of those present felt it was unreasonable for Highways England to ask us to state a preference for one route or another, until these questions were answered, and that they needed answering well before 5 March 2017.
  • There was a feeling that the design of both routes was driven more by the need to get rid of spoil than by good design principles, but that better design and creative use of the spoil to provide noise mitigation could be beneficial.
  • There was a general view that heights of the viaducts was being driven by the desire to get rid of spoil and was being justified by their impact on the River Till SSI.  There was near unanimity that the SSI status should be revoked at the point of the proposed crossings to allow lower viaducts to be built.
  • There was unanimous dissatisfaction with both the route proposals in regards to their connections to the current A303 back into the village and to the A360.  Both designs were believed likely to encourage rat-running north to Shrewton and south through Berwick by traffic keen to avoid the northern part of the A360 and the Airman’s Cross roundabout.  This was felt to apply to vehicles approaching Winterbourne Stoke on both bypass routes from the north and south.
  • There was unanimous concern about the impacts the construction would have on the community and the local area.  Early reassurance about mitigation measures was needed.  Again it was felt that insufficient detail as to the likely scale of impact had been made available

If we’ve missed any issues here, be assured they were all captured last night by our scriveners and will appear in due course.

Thanks, yet again to all who participated.

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