Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last Blog Entry

Well, that's it from me! This blog is called Mayor of Newbury, and I'm not anymore. Adrian is hoping to start his own blog, so keep your eyes peeled for that - it may be attached to the Town Council's website (

When I finish this paragraph and press 'publish' it will seem so final - therefore I may well start another blog soon (if I get withdrawal symptoms) though I'm not sure what form it will take, and it may be anonymous; having been careful with what I've said for the last year it will be fun to be able to say what I like! Thanks for reading, I hope it has been informative. Dont forget you can email me on

Mayor Making 2007

It doesn't feel like a year has passed since I became Mayor (actually it isn't a year, just 51 weeks!), but today was Mayor Making again, and I donned the robe and chain for the last time and processed with the Councillors from the Town Hall to the Corn Exchange for the time honoured tradition of Mayor Making.
I still find it hard to deliver a speech in front of so many, but I got through it. By the time we exited stage left to change robes I felt quite light - not just the lack of heavy robes and chain, but the end of the responsibility too. I sat back on stage without the robe and hat for the first time in eleven consecutive Mayor Making ceremonies, and then processed back to the Town Hall for the last time. It is a sad day for me, to be breaking off my connections with the council after so long, but I also feel relieved, and I'm looking forward to having more time for myself and my family.
I'm pictured with my successor, Councillor Adrian Edwards - the robes look a little shorter on him!

Friday, May 11, 2007

My Final Reception

Last night at the Town Hall I hosted my final reception.

About 50 guests came - a whole range of people who had been involved in my Mayoral year in various capacities. It was poignant to see some councillor colleagues for the last time in an official capacity at the Town Hall, and it had the feeling of an end of an era - several comments were made about the co-incidental timing with Blair's resignation speech, and the end of my ten years on the council. Joyce had printed this entire blog and stuck it up all around the council chamber - hundreds of photos of my official engagements over the last twelve months.

It is also sad to say goodbye to the staff, many of whom I have now known for a number of years. I handed some gifts to the civic staff and we all tucked in to a curry from the New Greenham Tandoori. A number of Stuart's partners from Gardner Leader came too, and kindly sponsored the drinks for the reception.
I persuaded Joyce and Carol, my civic manager and attendant to pose for a photo - two wonderful women who usually take these blog photos rather than appear in them!

Bussock Wood Charity Coffee Morning

Yesterday I went along to the charity coffee morning run by the friends of the West Berkshire Community Hospital. Former council colleagues Mavis and Peter Greenhalgh were helping run the raffle and cake stalls.

Bussock Wood is a beautiful Georgian country house on the edge of Snelsmore Common just north of Newbury. The owners Mr and Mrs Palmer (descendants of the Biscuit Barons!) were gracious hosts. Mrs Palmer kindly showed me some of the wonderful paintings she has collected in her 57 year marriage - each one with sentimental attatchments.

The hospital friends do a fantastic job of fundraising. When Peter Greenhalgh was Mayor they set out to raise a million pounds for extra medical equipment, and it took them just over a year. They still fundraise three years on, and continue to provide state of the art equipment to make our new hospital one of the best around. Pictured from the left are Mavis Greenhalgh, Sylvia Galbraith, Mrs Palmer and me.

First Meeting of the new Council

On Wednesday evening I chaired the first meeting of the new council following the elections. It is a curious position to be in, as it was the last time I will take the chair, and for many of those around the room it was the first meeting they had been to.

For the first time the political parties are nearly equal in number - just one seat between them, so it will make for interesting meetings in the next four years. Before the meeting started all the Town Council staff came along for a group photo with new councillors, and to introduce themselves. All the full and part time staff came (except the town crier who is on holiday), it was an excellent turn out. We also had all bar one councillor present.

I had met most of the new councillors in the two 2.5 hour training sessions I helped Graham Hunt to run in the last couple of days - they seemed keen, and I wish them well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Newbury Art Group Exhibition

Also last Friday, I was asked to open the Newbury Art Group Exhibition at the Town Hall. This is the first time they have held the exhibition in the Council Chamber, and it certainly looked very at home in its new setting.

Newbury Art Group has been around in its present form since just after the second world war, and its predecessor was started in the 1890s. There is work from dozens of keen amateurs on show - many watercolours and acrylic, but also some mixed media. There were some very accomplished paintings of local landmarks and country scenes.

I popped back to the Town Hall on Sunday, and vice - chairman Alan Sporne told me that they had had over 200 people visit the exhibition on Saturday, and that it was going very well. The exhibition is on at the Town Hall for the rest of the week (except Wednesday I believe).

Friday, May 04, 2007

Launch of Open Studios Exhibition

Today I was a guest at the launch of this year's Open Studios exhibition at New Greenham Arts.
I thoroughly recommend this free exhibition to all art lovers - the quality of the work, and the variety of materials and styles used are stunning. This is a taster of the work to be seen when visiting the artists involved in their own studios during the month of May. West Berkshire and North Hampshire are extremely well endowed with talented professional artists, and as ever Pat Eastop has produced a beautifully illustrated catalogue and well presented exhibition. The exhibition was opened by Lord and Countess Carnarvon, and we were all treated to a buffet lunch at the New Greenham Tandoori next door.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Beating the Bounds by Bike

On Sunday afternoon we joined about 60 other people to go on a cycle ride round the town's boundary. Beating the Bounds is a traditional part of parish life, but it is not usually done on a bike! Spokes, the local cycling group organised the day and the route, and Spokes member and Town Council Chief Executive, Graham Hunt lead the way.

We started and finished at the Starting Gate pub, which is on the boundary, and set off Southwards off-road by Speen Moor, and over the canal. Unfortunately at this early point my younger son Louis fell off his bike and badly scratched himself. He limped home with Dad, and we met up again at the end when we all had sausage and chips in the pub garden.

The weather was glorious and the countryside was looking its best with fresh leaves and blossom everywhere. It was a very sociable afternoon, and whole families came, with ages ranging from 7 to 70 cycling, and younger ones on tag-alongs or child seats. It felt great when I was near the back and looked up to see a line of cyclists as far as the eye could see! I thought I'd be very stiff the next day, but wasn't at all!

River Lambourn Fun Day

Straight after the lunch at the Rugby Club we drove to the Almond Avenue recreation ground to attend the River Lambourn Fun Day, organised by the Kennet Valley Countryside Project.

The KVCP are gathering information from the public about the river, in the hope of obtaining a grant to restore and enhance the stretch that runs through Newbury. The river Lambourn is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because it is a very high quality chalk stream with a variety of flora and fauna. The Newbury stretch is the last mile or two of river before it joins the river Kennet, and it is the most vulnerable as it goes through residential and business areas. In addition to the threat to wildlife from people and development, the American Crayfish and mink have destroyed habitats of a number of species.

The Third Newbury Scouts helped out with refreshments and putting tents up and down on the day - which kept my sons busy. There were a number of activities available, and I had a go at fly fishing - on dry land! We also listened to a tale from the story teller.

Feltre vs Newbury Under 14 Rugby Match

On Saturday morning Stuart and I went with Rod and Garry and Kath from the Newbury Twin Town Association, to watch the under 14 rugby match between the Newbury and Feltre teams at Newbury Rugby Club.

I have to confess this is the first rugby match I have ever watched, but it was consistently entertaining, and the teams were very evenly matched. The final score was 10 all; two tries to each team. Feltre scored a try in the final minutes, and the lad who took the kick narrowly missed, so it was extremely close. The Feltre team stayed with the families of Newbury team members, and spent Sunday visiting London. The Newbury team will make a return visit next year.
After the match I presented a shield to the Feltre coach, and we all had a hot meal.

10th Anniversary Reception

Last Friday was the 10th anniversary celebration of the Town Council. Joyce organised the event, and we invited past staff and councillors, and many people from organisations involved with the council over its first ten years, from undertakers and community organisations to past Civic Awards winners and neighbourhood wardens.
The chamber was packed with familiar faces, some I hadn't seen for a while. People came from far and wide, and all seemed to enjoy catching up on old times.
I presented Councillor Barbara Peel with a unique 'Deputy Mayor' medal, as she is the only deputy in the last ten years not to go on to be Mayor. I also presented Councillors Peel, Peter Greenhalgh, Julian Swift-Hook and Vera Barnet, and Civic Manager Joyce Lewis and mace bearer Rod Thomason with new 10 year service medals. Barbara presented mine. Together with Councillor Clive Hillman, we are the only councillors and staff who have been with the Town Council since it began.
I am pictured with Brian Sylvester, the Town Crier, cutting the celebration cake.

Newbury Society

The Newbury Society invited me to attend one of their regular evenings at the United Reform Church in Newbury last Thursday evening. David Saady gave an illustrated talk about the Kennet and Avon Canal - firstly about its interesting history of creation, delapidation and restoration, and then a series of pictures of a journey along the canal from Reading to Bristol - something I'd love to do one day.
Pictured from left, David Saady, me, Jeremy and Elke Holden-Bell.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

History on Your Doorstep

Last night Louis and I went to the West Berkshire Museum to visit the opening of the History on Your Doorstep exhibition. The exhibition is in a newly refurbished room upstairs, and explanatory panels explain how villages can set up their own historical societies, and individuals can research the history of their street or area.
I found some lovely aerial photographs of my house and surrounding area before housing estates were built, and a wonderful invitation from a Newbury Mayor Elect for lunch at the Mansion House in the 1790s. Louis and I then wandered around the rest of the museum, stopping to take in the video of the Civil War Battle of Naseby, and some of the old maps. There is always something of interest to see, and its good to see the old favourites too!

The Sampson Family Celebration Concert

On Saturday night Stuart and I were guests of the Sampson family for their concert at the Methodist Church in Northbrook Street.
Geoffrey Sampson, his children Robert, Sally, Janet, Phillip and Helen and numerous grandchildren put on a concert in memory of their wife, mother and grandmother Mary Sampson, and to raise funds for the Berkshire Cancer Centre. All the family are musical - many perform in brass bands, and the guest stars of the concert were the excellent Test Valley Brass Youth Band, with members as young as eight. The other brass band were the aptly named Rusty Brass, made up of family members and friends of Helen Sampson, who came together just for the concert. One member of Rusty Brass was my cousin's husband who confessed in the interval that he hadn't had his trombone out of the case for 10 years (hence the name!). Despite this, they played well, and it is a testament to Mary and her family that they willingly made the effort.
Family members and other friends played piano and guitar solos, and read poems, but the most moving part was the 'Sound of Music' medley sung exclusively by the family. It was so touching to see the teenage grandchildren looking embarrassed, but singing their best for their grandmother.
Pictured are the trombonists from the TVB Youth Band dressed as nuns for their 'Sister Act' number 'I will Follow Him'.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bowling the first wood of the season

This afternoon I continued a time honoured tradition of Mayors of Newbury by bowling the first wood of the season on the bowling green in Victoria Park. I dont know how long this tradition has lasted, but the Bowls club is only two years younger than the position of the Mayor of Newbury, being 409 years old this year.
It is a lovely sunny day, and the park was full of families and young people picnicing and relaxing. The club members were welcoming, as ever, and clearly keen to have their first match of the year.

Healthy Fun Day at Greenham Community Centre

This morning I was a guest at the fun day organised by past Mayor and health visitor Martha Vickers. I had a look around the stalls inside the community centre - interesting information on healthy eating, composting, cycling, walking, neighbourhood wardens etc. There were copious bowls of delicious fresh fruit available (yum) and a fascinating display showing the amount of salt, sugar and fat in familiar foods like snack bars and crisps. The stack of actual sugar cubes in a Mars Bar was shocking!
Outside I had a go at the drumming workshop, and watched a great cookery demonstration by a young professional chef - quick tomato soup and bruschetta - I had a taste of the soup too!
The day went on till 4pm - I hope plenty of the locals took the time to come along and enjoy the activities on offer - it was a well organised event that deserved a wide audience.

Mayor of Thatcham's Final Reception

Due to prior engagements I have been unable to attend the final receptions for the Chair of West Berkshire Council, and the Mayor of Hungerford, so I was pleased to be able to go to Alexander's do - especially as it was at the wonderful Szechuan Restaurant in Thatcham.

It was a lovely evening - the staff at the restaurant were very friendly, there was a chinese dragon dance, and the food of course was delicious. Stuart and I sat on a table with Alex's predecessor Phil Dray and his wife, and the headteacher of the Kennet School Paul Dick and his wife, who were all very good company.

Alex made a lovely speech at the end of the evening - mentioning my prowess at paper plane making(!), but more importantly the large number of things Thatcham has achieved in the last 12 months - it certainly has been an exciting year for the town, and for Alex.

Civic Award Winners - Mr and Mrs Summers

Last Thursday morning I met Les and Ann Summers - the winners of this year's Civic Award. They were unable to make it to the prize giving a few weeks ago, because they were visiting some of Les's 12 brothers and sisters in Cornwall!
Fellow judge David Danielli of Vodafone also came to meet them (on the right in the photo). they were such a lovely couple - Ann has such a fantastic attitude to their situation, and Les has a great sense of humour, which must help them both cope with his Alzheimers. Hopefully the publicity surrounding them winning the Civic Award will help raise the profile of this illness further.