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.

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

The Saga of the Pedestrian Crossing on the A303

As most of you will be aware, the pedestrian controlled crossing on the A303 was put out of action around the time of the summer solstice by a less than attentive car driver.  It was clear that replacing it was going to take a little while, as the Siemens control box was crushed out of all recognisable shape.

It is fair to say that Highways England were fairly quick off the the mark in installing a set of temporary lights, but first managed to create a traffic hazard with them and then managed to block the pavement.   Worse still, the batteries failed every couple of days and it took a few more days for them to be replaced.   Eventually, these lights were replaced by a smaller, yellow set.  Not small enough, as one of them was destroyed by a passing truck after only a few days.  At least the batteries seem to last a bit longer…

The Parish Council, along with some of you, have been chasing Highways England since the outset for updates, using the only routes available to us – Highways England’s generic email address and 0300 telephone number, with absolutely no response.  We raised not only the pedestrian crossing, but the general state of the road, the “Keep Clear” box at the end of Church Street and a collapsing fibre duct close to the western gate of Manor Farm (having just got superfast broadband in the village, it would be rather ironic if these trunk fibres were cut or damaged!).

Wiltshire Council also approached Highways England on our behalf – and as far as we know met with a similar lack of response.  John Glen MP was also copied into some of the correspondence, but even that didn’t seem to help.

At the start of September, we got hold of the email address of the CEO of Highways England, Jim O’Sullivan.  At first, this seemed to get a reaction and the complaint was passed to the High Level Correspondence Team, we were promised an update within 15 working days and of course – absolutely nothing happened.  When the second light was hit on 5th September, we wrote to him again – still nothing. So, the CEO of Highways England didn’t appear to be able to get an answer out of his own employees.

At the start of October, after many more fruitless emails and phone calls, we wrote again to Jim O’Sullivan and copied our email to BBC Wiltshire – which is why Andy was at the end of Church Street with a reporter at 7:00am last Tuesday.   Oddly enough, with the threat of publicity in the air, Highways England managed to produce an update and projected timescale for repairs for the BBC, within a few hours.  As Andy said on the 7:30am news when first told of this – “…this wouldn’t have happened without the intervention of BBC Wiltshire.  Thank you BBC!”

Finally, today, we got a formal response from Highways England.   This is what it says:

 

A303 Winterbourne Stoke

Nick Harris
Operations Executive Director Bridge House
Walnut Tree Close
Guildford
Surrey
GU1 4LZ

www.highways.gov.uk

6 October 2017

Thank you for your recent correspondence addressed to Jim O’Sullivan, regarding your concerns with the maintenance of the A303 in Winterbourne Stoke. I have been asked to reply to you as this issue falls within my area of responsibility.

Please accept my apologies for the delay in dealing with your concerns. I understand Tim Ashton, the Business Services Team Manager in the South West, has made contact in this respect; I would like to reaffirm our commitment to improving the quality of our service in the future.

We understand the important role the pedestrian crossing plays in keeping road users safe in Winterbourne Stoke. Following the damage to the traffic signals, the installation of temporary signals has been particularly challenging. The width of the road and pavement provide very little space to safely site the equipment. We have tried as far as possible to limit the potential obstruction to both the carriageway and footpath. Installation of the permanent signals is currently scheduled to take place on 18 and 19 October.

We have investigated the lack of a response to your reports of the defective pavement. An administrative error prevented your report from reaching our maintenance team, for which I sincerely apologise. We have taken steps to ensure the error is not repeated. A maintenance service manager will be visiting the site today to carry out an inspection and arrange for any necessary repairs.

The road surface through Winterbourne Stoke is subject to regular inspections to identify defects which may need attention. Priority is given to any defects which are causing an immediate hazard, with other issues being prioritised based on their severity. We also seek to coordinate and combine works where we can to minimise the impact on road users and the local community.

We have identified that the eastbound lane of the A303 requires resurfacing as its skid resistance is starting to deteriorate. This work is currently scheduled to be carried out in February 2018. While we have no current plans to resurface the westbound lane in the immediate future, we are looking into the feasibility of refreshing the “Keep Clear” road markings.

Yours sincerely

Nick Harris
Operations Executive Director

So, there you have it.   Of course, the temporary lights have failed again today and it has proved impossible to contact anyone by phone…

A final thought for you all.  Highways England are the body charged with organising the construction of the bypass and the Stonehenge Tunnel, possibly the UK’s most sensitive road scheme of all time, of commissioning it and running it when complete.   Their seeming inability to repair a damaged set of lights, or even give an early indication of when that might be achieved, hardly fills one with confidence they can cope with a bigger issue.  Completion of the repair on 18-19 October might help restore confidence, a little.

URGENT: Email Malware On the Loose

It seems that a few villagers have fallen prey to an email malware attack.  If you receive an email, seemingly from someone you know (from within, or outside the village) and it has similar content to the one below, delete it.

Joe Bloggs

Reply to: J BLOGGS

Horrible Trip..Help Needed !

How are you doing?. I’m in terrible condition right now and i really need help. Let me know if you can help out of this bitter experience.

Regards

joe

Please note that my new email address – jbloggss@outlook.com  This email will stop in due course!

Now read the email again, but carefully this time.   Does it use the sort of language you would expect from your friend Joe?  Are the words the sort of words they would use?  Is the use of capitals correct?  Is the punctuation the sort they would normally use?  Does the “new” email address look correct – think very hard!

In this case, the email address is the give-away.  It might be subtly wrong, as here, by having an extra “s” in Bloggs, or it might be very different: joe.bloggs@conman.com

What’s going on here is a bit of social engineering.  The crooks want you to accept the new email address  as being Joe’s new one and for you to add it to your address book.   Very soon, you will like as not get a very personal email from “Joe” asking you for money, or some personal information which could be used to target YOU!

Ideally, try and spot this type of email from the preview and don’t open it in the first place.  Delete it straight away and call the person from whom you seem to have received it – they may not be aware and it’s possible that the email comes from a third party anyway.   If you don’t have up-to-date anti-malware running on your computer, you might want to think again. That said, your best defence is often being alert!

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.

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.

A303: Highways England Drop-In Sessions

Highways England are hosting a number of what they are calling Drop-In Sessions at a number of venues in the coming days and weeks.   The aim of these is to allow the public to see the latest proposals on the Amesbury to Berwick Down Scheme, including the Winterbourne Stoke bypass.

The sessions we have been made aware of are as follows:

Location                                                                   Date                                                             Time

The Manor Barn
High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ               Saturday 16 September 2017                   11am to 5pm

Antrobus House
39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH                 Friday 22 September 2017                       2pm to 8pm

Antrobus House
39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH                 Saturday 23 September 2017                  11am to 5pm

The Manor Barn
High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ               Friday 29 September 2017                       2pm to 8pm

A303: Northern Bypass for Winterbourne Stoke and Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme

Today’s announcement of a northern bypass for Winterbourne Stoke is something of a curates egg – it’s only good in parts. As a village, we were offered two poorly thought-through bypass route options by Highways England, with no information that supported either as a rational choice and were then asked to state a preference. Both route options seemed likely to result in adverse effects on the lives and health of at least some villagers, on local businesses, the local ecology and the archaeology. This has proved un-necessarily divisive and I feel Highways England have treated local residents in a very shabby fashion. The northern route that seemed likely to have the least adverse impact on the greatest number of villagers on the basis of the information that we ourselves uncovered, has now emerged as the preferred choice.

So, at a very superficial level, there will be sense of relief by many in the village, that the blight of traffic jams on the A303 may finally be solved. But we’ve been in similar situations before and we won’t be convinced that it will happen until the work actually begins. We are not celebrating just yet.

Whilst being unimpressive at the parochial scale, the plan also fails at every other level. We are lucky enough to live in a globally unique landscape. The government had the opportunity to protect it for posterity by removing the A303 from this part of south Wiltshire entirely. Taking the route south of Amesbury and meeting up with the A36, or by going north onto the southern edge of the Salisbury Plain Training Area might have achieved this at a lower cost than the current proposal and to greater ecological and archeological benefit. They have chosen not to do this. Shame on them.

Sadly, the archaeological emphasis has focused on the rather narrow interests of English Heritage and Stonehenge. Even the World Heritage Site is an artificial construct – the archaeology doesn’t stop west of the A360, or south-west of the Longbarrow roundabout. If the government wanted to do anything other than pay lip-service to history, this would have been taken into account; it hasn’t been.

Motor vehicles have been around for a little over a century and it seems unlikely that transportation needs are going to remain the same for the next century. So it is incredibly short-sighted to damage this unique landscape further with tunnel portals, signage and a bypass.

Locally, even if the work does go ahead on an already delayed schedule, we are still faced with years of traffic jams and pollution until the bypass is completed. Until that is done, Highways England need to implement two simple measure that would prevent most of the traffic chaos in the area – erect temporary sight-screens along the northern side of the A303 to prevent motorists and their passengers from seeing Stonehenge and slowing to take selfies, and closing Byways 11 and 12 to motorised traffic and maybe installing a temporary footbridge over the A303 at Byway 12. English Heritage and others would surely complain about the first idea, but it would only be temporary, it would improve Health and Safety for motorists and it would prevent much of the rat-running that blights all our lives on a daily basis.

So, the news today will not be to the liking of all villagers. That was always going to be the case from the moment two options were put on the table. As a Parish Council, we now intend to do our best to ensure the impact of the bypass is minimised for those most exposed to it, and to find ways of benefitting the village as a whole as a result of its construction.

URGENT: Are You Having Problems Signing-Up For Fibre

We heard earlier today that one villager, living on Church Street, had been told by an Internet Service Provider that they could not get superfast fibre broadband on their phone line.

Unless you happen to live on the Berwick Road and have a phone number beginning 01722, all phones in Winterbourne Stoke are connected back to the Shrewton exchange via the old green cabinet and the new cabinet (Shrewton 7), which are located outside Manor Farm on the A303.   So all villagers, for example, those living on the A303 (High Street), Church Street, Brook Close, Meadow View and St Peter’s Close, should be able to get connected without any problem.  What’s going on is a bit of a puzzle

We’ve already got BT looking into this one case, but if you have had a similar response in the last week from any Internet Service Provider,   please can you let us know, by email as soon as possible and we will pass the information on to the team responsible for this particular scheme.   We need your name, address and phone number. 

We haven’t forgotten those who live on the Berwick Road either.  There is at least the possibility that a self-funded scheme could be used to connect back to the Shrewton 7 cabinet and the Shrewton telephone exchange.  We will hopefully know more in the next week or so.

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