Rowde Parish Council Takes on The Kremlin!

What in the wonderful world of fudge cake is going on here? Aside the appalling attention to primary school grammar, have you ever read such a bizarre Facebook post from a Wiltshire parish council?! Seems like either Rowde Parish Council’s Facebook page has been highjacked by a lone Councillor eager to battle ze Ruskies, Rocky Balboa-style, or the entire council are out to lunch!

It stems from one villager, questioning why the Ukraine flag is flying from their village flagpost, when other invaded country’s flags have not been given the same honour. The opinion comes across rather wonky, I agree this much, only so much space on a flagpole, and in this era where everything sensationised hinges on this one conflict, and refugees of other nations are being shown the door to make way for Ukraine ones instead. When, of course we support the Ukraine refugees and of course we sympathise with their predicament, as we should anyone from any country which has faced such atrocities.

But, this is a tiny Wiltshire village, why has its parish council gone all Tony Blair on us, and taken on the world’s problems when it exists to deliver on local issues, and local issues only?

Would it not have surfficed to just explain to the disgrunted villager the flag is there to show support for the Ukraine refugees, as it should be, and get on with processing farmer Barleymow’s application for a new barn roof, rather than start flaffing on about international politics and picking a side in a conflict which is clearly not as cut and dry as it’s made out to be?

Suggesting the Ukraine was invaded “without provocation” is not only questionable, but is unnecessarily stating which side of the fence a supposedly impartial parish council is on the issue, when there’s no valid reason to cast assertions or get involved at all; that’s the lunacy of the shebang, without regards to the consequences.

Did Putin not threaten to act if we waged retaliation for his invasion? Admittedly he might not be sauntering down Marsh Lane,
browsing Rowde All About It Facebook page, and Russians wouldn’t attack our county anywa….hold on, just got to sneeze… ahhhh-skripallll!…sorry about that, where was I?

Ah yes, it’s a concerning bandwagon to enforce an entire village to jump on, what with a prime minister who willingly handed top secret Nato documents to ex-KGB lieutenant-colonel, Alexander Lebedev, without his security detail or Foreign Office officials, at the height of the Skripal poisoning crisis, hand his son a lifetime peerage in the House of Lords, and still deny Russian money laundering through Londongrad funded Brexit and the Conservative election campaigns despite the Pandora Papers revealling irrefutable evidence it did, because, take a breather…. none of it has anything to do with the day-to-day runnings of a Wiltshire village!

So, a poll is added to the local Facebook group in which 86% said they’re happy to keep the flag flying. All’s fair in love and democracy, I agree with the outcome, but comments flare in a witch hunt for the person who questioned it, calling them a “bully” and the poll even has the option to vote that they’re “unpleasant trouble,” of which a remarkable 1% voted for; could that be our Rocky?! Cue, Eye of the Tiger….

It’s all gone a bit pitchforks at dawn in a sleepy village, in a country of free speech, like a poor man’s reenactment of a Simpsons cartoon.

Forgive me for suggesting it’s neither here nor there for a parish council to involve themselves with international politics, but it does raise a valid point. Rather like Christians wearing a symbolic cross when it’s likely to be the worst symbol Jesus would wish to see if he returned, if I’d been lucky enough to have claimed asylum from escaping a war-torn country, I’d favour facing my new life with a clean sheet, archiving the bad memories, and wouldn’t wish to see the flag of the troubled nation I’d just come from, not in favour for honesty and respect from those around me. But that’s subjective and ill-conceived, thankfully never having to have been in that situation.

In order to fully assess whether flying the Ukraine flag is welcomed by the refugees parhaps actually asking the refugees themselves might be a solution; just a thought. Otherwise, this is isn’t Rowde at all, but Bizarro World!


Swings and Roundabouts; Hope for Dilapidated Playgrounds in the Devizes Area?

A lengthy but worthwhile report on the state of our playparks and those intending to do something about it….

August 3rd 2019, and I’d had enough of marching to parish council meetings, emailing Wiltshire Council and talking to brick walls, unsure if I did the latter, but it certainly felt like it. So, I published my rant about a village playpark left to dilapidation for well over three years.

Both swings had been taken down, and a dangerously sharp metal baseplate is all that remains of a broken bouncy chicken, the want of repairing these, what’s essentially half the play equipment in the community playpark, has been lost in a tangle of red tape. Wiltshire Council own the site, and in their so-called “transfer of assets,” which roughly translates to passing the buck to local busy-bodies, Rowde Parish Council asked they repair the broken equipment beforehand, and because of the delay the playpark was conveniently brushed under the carpet.

February last year I bugged Councillor Laura Mayes with it, who claimed to have secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground, despite all I wanted was them to fix the existing equipment, and she ran with it as a major pledge for her election campaign.

Am I here to bring you a fairy-tale ending? Only on paper.

It sprinkled optimism, the children who originally played here have grownup and had children of their own in the time it has taken Wiltshire Council to fix a swing and replace a bouncy chicken, and they’ve STILL not done it; you hold out hope they’ll build you a whole new railway station?!

I’m told the transfer of assets is just weeks away, but after six years of waiting, ranting and election pledges as broken as the bouncy chicken, I’ll believe it when I see it.

All about priorities, isn’t it? Swings and bouncy chickens aren’t going to get Mr Kruger to Westminster any faster. Playparks hold no interest to me personally either, councillors; my children long grown out of them, but maybe there’s something wrong with me, the part that gives a hoot.

The part which recalls the joy my children once had, the joy I once had, playing in the park, that most other adults seem to have so easily forgotten; particularly those who seem to consider those little people are not of voting age. Aside, playparks provide essential wellbeing and psychical education for our youngest, they learn social interaction there, dexterity and balance.

My brother and I on a 1970s style health & safety inspected slide!!

They need prioritising, particularly if you enjoy a Facebook rant on how teenagers are terrorising your neighbourhood. Tenaciously they’re linked; literally swings and roundabouts, I’ve heard some residents in Devizes want their community parks to be closed as they attract rowdy teenagers. There’s anti-social behaviour because nothing is provided for them to do, and by cutting off activities for the youngest you believe will solve it for the next generation? Why not cut off your nose in spite your face too?!

Not all Doom and Gloom

Devizes Lions supported this new playground at All Cannings School last year

Enraged residents taken to local Facebook groups is a near everyday scenario, last one I saw was the fence and climbing equipment behind the old barracks had been removed, but as usual such threads only produce a barrage of speculation, whereas at the beginning of the month, Councillor Jonathan Hunter was encouraged by my grievance on the issue, and set up a report to investigate the state of all playparks in Devizes. These minutes are published, but as with most Council meetings, who really trudges through billions of insignificant applications for an extension to a greenhouse or a churchyard which needs its weathercock cleaning?!

So, here’s the results of Devizes Town Council findings, you need to tell me if they’re accurate, because I get confused with so many playparks which one is which. Hearsay tells me Dowse Road is in desperate need of repair, Wadworth and Spitalcroft Roads are still chained up, and one on Festival close is closed too.

We all should note with importance, again it’s this transfer of issues argument, where the Town Council have taken responsibility for a number of playgrounds and the report explains, “at the time of the transfer, many of the areas were closed due to maintenance issues and the Open Spaces team have been gradually working their way through the list of closures to reopen them where they can. The sites that have not been opened have more serious safety concerns and need a decision by this committee how to proceed.” So, should you choose to go through the proper channels rather than whine-hole on Facebook, this is the reasoning you’ll likely get, if any.

Okay here we go, just give me second to correct the councillor’s basic grammar and don’t forget to call them out to me, if they’re tugging their own tugboats!

The report flagged three playgrounds in need of major attention. Wadworth Road, they say is currently closed because during the last inspection much of the equipment was flagged as unsafe. Part of the issue with the equipment on this site is its wooden construction as there is some rot. However, to undertake core test sampling with reports is about £250 per sample and each piece of equipment will need to have several tests and there is a high probability it will fail; therefore, in officers’ opinion, given the costs to simply test for something that is likely to fail, officers suggest that there is some local consultation with residents as this is another site where young people gather and have been involved with anti-social behaviour.

Festival Close was closed when it was taken over from Wiltshire Council as it has failed safety inspection as a result of shrinking safety surface. The cost of replacement is £11,269. However, a number of residents are not in favour of the playground being reinstated and therefore the site may benefit from some local consultation.

One of three on Massey Road was closed when Devizes Town Council took on the site, with all of the wooden equipment beyond cost of effective repair. Given the proximity of this play area to the two others on the estate, officers decided to remove the equipment and return the area to a green space, which was welcomed by the residents.

The others are apparently open, some with advisories.

Alan Cobham Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is some shrinkage of the play safety surface, but at this time no action is needed.

Avon Road: Recreational Field Avon Road

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Some equipment has been replaced over the last few years and there are no outstanding issues.

Bellvedere Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Brickley Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Last year some of the safety surface was replaced with a loose rubber crumb. It was the first time the Council had trialled these systems and officers are not fully convinced it would work on all our sites where a safety surface is required.

In recent months the issue of dogs being exercised in the area has come to the fore as owners are not clearing up. Signs have been put up a couple of times, telling owners not to bring their dog into the recreation area and therefore tensions are running high from both sides, with dog owners who say they have used the area for years without incident and parents of children complaining they can no longer let their children use the area.

Editor note: Hi me here, just to point out, this is down to community and moral obligation, rather than council responsibility, like having a conscience and not allowing your dog to shit where children are playing; basic manners and stuff like that!  

Byron Rd:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Cowslip Close Cowslip Close:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers poor play value with just two pieces of equipment. The play area was closed for a while and during this period officers did not receive any complaints.

This site may benefit from local consultation on its future, with local residents. An estimated cost of a small play area is £60,000.

Dowse Road Wadworth Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. The safety surfacing is at the end of its life and does need to be replaced this year. The cost of this is £13,675.

Dundas Close:

This barely a play area as it consists of a single metal hoop. The area provides little in the way of play value and there is a good quality Aster owned play area. There was an approach a few years ago to turn the area into a community garden, but the project was never taken forward.

Fruitfields:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Hillworth Park:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is one piece of fitness equipment that failed last year and this is due to be replaced in the summer.

Massey Road 2:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers limited play value with just two pieces of equipment.

Massey Road 3:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Newman Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Osmund Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Palmer Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding maintenance issues but over the last year the site has been a centre of young people to gather in the evening, resulting in anti-social behaviour.

Palmer Road2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk1:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Skate Park Green Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

The Small Green:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. In the not-too-distant future, the safety surfacing will need to be replaced as it is starting to break up, no price has yet been obtained for this work.

White Horse Way:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

So, there you have it, maybe you know different. The Council goes on to say, the budget for playgrounds has been doubled to £40,000, but it will only cover ongoing repair cost and improvements rather than finance of new play areas.

Encourage your kids to look after what they’ve got. It only partially falls on the council, another major part is to be played by the residents too, to respect others. If you’re dog owners have some respect for parents, if you’re teenagers hanging out in the park, I know what’s it’s like, I’ve been there too; but try to remember what it was like when you were little, how much you enjoyed the playparks. Should you now prefer the odd spliff there after dark, all’s fair in love and war; but respect the area for the little ones too, by not creating a ruckus and drawing attention to yourselves by net curtain twitchers. Everyone, in my opinion, needs to allow some give and take; kids will be kids, and we were all one originally!


Trending…..

The Life of Brian, in Rowde

So, it’s finally come to pass, beginning to look a lot like autumn and a Halloween weekend crammed with events I feel I should attend conflict against the general drizzle looming outside. Having a soaking every morning at work I’m dubious to continue past summery wanders up the hill to Devizes, coupled with my newfound knowledge it’s actually easier to get to the Sham from Rowde via public transport and I really felt like a cider or five.

While I appreciate the killons (that’s a zillon zillions) of invitations I get per weekend, I opted for the easy route and headed for The Cross Keys in Rowde, a local I neglect in pursuit of trekking the county gig hunting, yet which holds many fond memories, including my own wedding reception!

A grand open-plan Waddies, The Keys served the village community with historically a mixed bunch of landlords, some, it must be said, far more dedicated to the task than others. Given an interior paint job complete with retro movie and rock n roll stencils the new owners have recreated the friendly and down-to-earth welcoming atmosphere. They boast a new chef and the continuation of an affordable Sunday carvery, the legacy of the previous owner.

But I’m not here on chance, or for a roast potato; the Rowde landmark opens itself back up for a live music event, and I’ve not heard of the billed “Life of Brian Band.” Promising pop-rock from the sixties to the noughties and boasting the frontman, conveniently called Brian to avoid any Monty Python quips, as a former guitarist for Kate Bush. Okay, I’m game.

Usual wobbly photo from yours truly; always the mark of a good night!

Took a while to kick off, as best things to come to those who wait, plus with their usual drummer absent, Jim from Rowde band Eazilyled made an outstanding adlib performance between this couple of, shall we say, matured and proficient gents, on lead and bass guitars. Eventually cracking open with The Temptations’ My Girl, and following with a plethora of well-defined Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kinks classics, including a wonderfully delivered Waterloo Sunset, Brain and his bass player skilfully executed a grand show of anthemic rock n roll and blues pop covers.

Though there was nothing ground-breaking going on here, it was a rousing and professional sporadic pub band clearly and nostalgically loving every minute of the spotlight. That makes it for me, the sheer expression of bliss and fun, particularly from the bassist. It gives the impression they’re in their element, and they were, rocking out. The couple bouncing off each other with slight banter and dexterous guitarwork, with drummer Jim challenged to improv the next moves from this refined double act, blessed the Cross Keys with an exhilarant evening; here’s hoping for more.

Arguably the noughties where underrepresented, but I don’t believe this mattered one iota to the punters, as Beatles and Stones works for every generation. Plus, alongside we had guaranteed crowd-pleasers from Cream, Free, even the Travelling Wilburys, at times soul with Wilson Pickett and Sam & Dave covers, an especially adroit couple of flashes of the Police’s Roxanne and Message in a Bottle, and some memorable moments with the Who’s Squeeze Box and Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly. What they did they do with charm, professionalism and enjoyment, and one can’t ask for more than this.

A blessing to know the Cross Keys is on top form, and I’d welcome more live music nights, encourage Paul, the landlord to get in touch with some recommendations, if he so wishes. Because while one might trek to towns and cities in want of live music, our villages need some love and attention too, saving stranded people some taxi fees or steps on their FitBits!


Trending…..

Save Furlong Close Campaigners Protest in Rowde

Rowde villagers joined for a socially distanced and peaceful protest today, in the centre of the village to show their support for the Save Furlong Close campaign.

More show of solidarity than protest, if “protest” is now a dirty word and standing up for your rights is to be considered illicit. It was good to meet those heading this campaign to deflect the closing of Furlong Close, home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.

Reflecting on a thought I’d said in previous articles on this campaign, campaign leader Trish specified how the residents of Furlong Close were a big part of the village community and would be missed if it was to close down. We also discussed that while the red tape between Wiltshire Council and the owning charity HFT continues, the opinions of both locals and residents are being ignored.

We’ve covered the tragic plans on Devizine at length, in the past; hearing direct from Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, who has family at Furlong Close. The Gazette & Herald ran an edition with a wrap-around page campaign, and over a staggering 44,000 have signed the petition, therefore I do not wish to go over the same ground. We know this is a terrible decision, we are aware the residents do not wish to be dispersed and move into isolated and lonely single accommodations they’re unfamiliar with, we only need a workable solution.

Yet with the backing of many local councillors, Anna Cuthbert and Lib Dem candidate for Bromham, Rowde and Roundway, Mark Mangham in attendance today, the backing of the media, and in particular, the local people, I sincerely hope we can turn this around and end on a feel-good story. The show of hope and solidarity today proves this is possible. Mark said it was, “humbling to be among the campaigners, many related to residents and from beyond Wiltshire. Many Rowde residents are volunteers. This is what community feels like!”


Trending…

Rowde Artist, Alan Watters Charity Lockdown Beard Shave!

My ‘CUT OFF’ date is now imminent!” Rowde artist and editor of the village magazine, Alan Watters tells me. There’s no telling where he will stash a sandwich for later feasting if this really is to happen. But what we can confirm, the lack of lockdown trimming has given him the Santa look, which may have been all the fashion four months ago!

“I had vowed that I would cut my lockdown beard for charity when we were rid of the virus but if I wait until then I will most probably be tripping over it! I have decided therefore to cut it after I get my second vaccination which I have just been given as next Thursday.”

“Two causes dear to my heart are Children with Cancer UK and Headway, the brain injury charity. For more info and to help me reach my targets of £500 for each please please follow one or both of the links below. Stay safe.”


https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/alan-watters1 (Children with Cancer UK)


https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/alan-watters2 (Headway)


Wiltshire Council Leader Advises Tory Candidates to Block Correspondence With Save Furlong Close Campaign

It has been some time since we’ve covered the disgraceful fiasco at Rowde’s Furlong Close, where residents with learning disabilities face closure of the HFT site, their home, and undefined, separated relocation.

The reason being, the situation had fallen into a political stalemate, as HFT ceased all dealings with Wiltshire Council. It seems HFT are no strangers to closing sites down, and equally Wiltshire Council’s reaction is lacklustre. I cannot decide who is really to blame in all this, but something certainly doesn’t add up; perhaps they’re both as bad as each other, and the clock is ticking for May 19th when closure is planned. You know me, I’ve been concerned my anger at this issue will lead me to publish speculation, and the last thing I want is put forth misleading information.

Now, it seems, via a Tweet from The Save Furlong Close campaign group, in a memo released on Easter Sunday, Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead advised councillors and future Conservative candidates to block all correspondence with Save Furlong Close Campaigners, in fear it’s being used as “an election matter.”

This is very concerning, while both sides battle the politics out, the Save Furlong Close campaigners are merely worried for the future prospects for the residents there, and least deserve a voice. So, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article, by Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, which outlines the history and current situation.

I merely offer to endorse their rightful campaign and promote it as much as possible. If then, residents of Furlong Close are indeed moved out, it will be a terrible day for Wiltshire, and a shameful reflection on a county council, but if this happens and I stood there and did nothing, it’s a shame I would partly bear too, and I have no intentions of that happening. I hope our readers and supporters will agree, and I fully believe, with the permissions of the campaign group, we need to arrange a socially distanced peaceful protest, as soon as feasible. So, WHO IS WITH ME? Watch this space, but here’s Mark’s outline of the happenings in Rowde.


SAVE FURLONG CLOSE

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

(Mahatma Ghandi)

Save Furlong Close

For the last 30 years, Furlong Close has been home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.  The residents live in 5 bungalows in a cul-de-sac at the edge of the village of Rowde, sharing a community hall, workshops and gardens (including a market garden and pens for sheep and rabbits).  It is a short walk to the centre of Rowde and a short bus ride to Devizes.  Many of the residents have lived at Furlong Close for more than 20 years.  They are happy and settled, have formed life-long friendships and are a close and caring community. 

In October last year, however, it was announced that Hft (the charity which owns and operates the site) and Wiltshire Council (which funds the majority of the residents) had “jointly” decided that everyone was to be “moved on” by June 2021, the site shut down and the land sold off for development.  The shocked families were told that there would be no consultation or discussion; it was a “done deal”. 

Already reeling from the emotional impact of the pandemic and cut off from the support of their families, the residents were fearful and anxious.  Their disabilities make change extremely stressful for them and being forcibly evicted from their home of 20+ years would cause them great trauma and distress.  For some, the trauma would be life-shortening.  My cousin, David, who has lived at Furlong Close for 18 years, was left in fear of the future and telephoned his 95-year-old mother, Audrey, many times a day, often in tears, to ask her where he would go and who would look after him.  Sadly, Audrey passed away in March, spending the last months of her life wracked with worry about what would happen to her beloved and vulnerable only child (https://twitter.com/savefurlongcl/status/1374671484187242507).

So, why is Furlong Close facing closure?  At first, Hft and the Council said it was “not about money”, but was only about doing the best for the residents.  It was said that “moving them on” from their settled and happy homes would be an “exciting opportunity” for them, but no-one could quite explain how breaking up a happy community and scattering them to new and strange places would be either “exciting” or an “opportunity”.   Certainly, it was an “opportunity” which none of the residents or their families wanted.  Subsequently, it became clear that it was in fact “all about money” after all, with Hft accusing the Council of grossly underfunding the site over many years and refusing to pay the full costs of care.

Faced with this cruel threat to the well-being of our vulnerable relatives, the families organised and the local community rallied to our cause.  People became angry.  43,000 people, from Wiltshire and beyond, signed a petition.  Legal proceedings were commenced by the family of one resident, to seek to have the decision set aside as a breach of her human rights.

Faced with this local anger, Wiltshire Council promptly threw Hft under the bus.  It claimed that the “joint decision” was nothing to do with it, but solely a matter for Hft.  Hft responded angrily, accusing the Council of “lying” and trying to “hide behind” it, and gave notice that it was withdrawing services, not just from Furlong Close, but from Wiltshire as a whole.  With Hft and the Council each pointing the finger at the other, the situation deteriorated into what has recently been described by a judge in the pending legal proceedings as “a shambolic mess”.

As the clock ticks down to the termination of Hft’s contract for the site on 19 May, the residents and their families fear that we are being hung out to dry.  Hft has offered the Council the chance to buy or lease the site and bring in another operator, but neither has taken decisive action to make this happen.  Many suspect that the Council is just playing for time, to try and kick the can down the road until after the Council election in May.  Meanwhile innocent and vulnerable people are suffering and the families are calling on Hft and Wiltshire Council to act now to save Furlong Close. 

Please, if you want to help:

Thank you


After 2 Years: Silverlands Playpark Update

August, two years ago I got on my high horse and exposed the dangerously damaged playpark equipment in Rowde‘s Silverlands Road.

Sadly, over this time the main remaining piece of equipment, the climbing frame, was taped off, leaving the children with one “wobbly” bench left in working order.

Also wrapped in red tape was the Rowde Parish Council’s ability to do much about it, being owned by Wiltshire Council. Unfair to hand over such an asset in such a state of dilapidaton, the issue was lost in limbo.

My emails to Wiltshire Council and in particular, Cllr Anna Cuthbert fell on deaf ears. Seemed despite the article recieveing over 3k hits, it was still superficial to bother to reply.

Enough to leave a soul feeling despondent towards any realisation complaints have any effect on the progress of our county council.

But today I’m glad to be able to update it with positive news. After one final push, contacting councillor Laura Mayes, who promised to “look into it,” an agreement has been met, and working with Rowde Parish Council Clerk, Laura has secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground. Please contact her with ideas on what could be included.

So a massive thanks goes to Rowde Parish Council and Cllr Laura Mayes this week for their sterling efforts. Thus proving, over time, a long time abielt, things can be put into action!


Rowde Villagers Rally in Support of Residential Centre Facility

Stop the closure of HFT in Rowde

Sign the Petition here.

It was a wonderfully professional-looking cake, we bought for a birthday of yore, from the residents of the nearby facility for adults with learning disabilities, now known as HFT Rowde. Making this a tricky piece to balance. While one doesn’t want to criticise a charity, as villagers and townsfolk of Devizes rally to get a decision to close the facility by the central office of the charity HFT overturned, there’s a notion this is not in the best interest of the residents.

HFT divisional director Emma Bagley explained they have, “been supporting people at our residential, day and supported living services at Rowde, which is a campus site, for many years.” It has, in fact, been running the facility for only five out of twenty-eight years it has been active. Furlong Close was first opened in 1992 as Care (Cottage and Rural Enterprises Ltd,) which was pioneered by Peter Forbes in the sixties. The site endorsed an “independent living” model, revolutionary at the time, consisting of four purpose-built bungalows, each with two associated one-bed flats and it was made possible by a generous £1.25m gift from Birmingham’s the Dofra Masonic Lodge.

The director outlined, “it has long been recognised that campus sites (group homes clustered together in the same site and usually sharing staff and some facilities) do not offer the best outcomes for most people. Our regulator, CQC, and Wiltshire Council do not support this model of care and a campus style site would not be registered by CQC, should a provider propose to set one up now.” Causing me to ponder, in which case, why did they take it over in the first place, if it’s so unsuitable?

Some background notes provided by a relative of one of the residents considered of the “airy, spacious, and homely” purpose-built homes, made to accommodate wheelchair users, and each with private outdoor space as well as free access to the grounds, “demonstrated the Gold Standard of what care for learning disabled adults should look like. That vision stands today, but is being systematically destroyed by regulation and drastic underspending on adult social care over many years and governments.” Irrefutably, the grounds are idyllic in a desirable location, with a central hall for social events, and a horticulture workshop, chicken runs, an orchard and even a sheep grazing area. Rumoured in the village, HFT attempted to sell part of the land some years ago. Herein lies my understandable concern, and if you mess with anyone who made me a cake, you mess with me!

It’s as if HFT perceive the site as “Craggy Island,” some barren garrison cut off from the mainland. Yet villagers know as well as the excellent facilities used by residents, for day service users and training purposes, Rowde is not far from town, and the residents of Furlong Close are known and liked in the village. They are welcomed here and valued, often taking jobs in pubs and cafes, or cutting the churchyard grass. This is not an isolated, campus style residential care home, rather it is home, which many residents have lived in since it was built.

HFT expressed, “HFT and Wiltshire Council are committed to finding services that follow best practice and support people to live as independently as possible in smaller, community-based settings where people have more independence, choice and control over their lives.” Now, I ask you, is there anything I’ve outlined about life in Furlong close which would make you consider it not meeting these conditions?

Furlong Close, Rowde; yeah, doesn’t fit the “model.” Looks kind of nice to me.

“For this reason,” they continue, despite the grey area outlined, “we have made the decision to close our service at Rowde. The targeted closure date is the end of June 2021 after a careful transition process has taken place to support people to find new support. However, this is dependent on all of the people living at Rowde successfully moving to their new homes. Wiltshire Council and other out of county commissioners will be consulting with the people supported at Furlong Close to conduct a detailed assessment of their individual needs, to secure them a new home and/or support in line with their assessed needs and best interests.” Consulting, yes, consulting is good. Did anyone think to consult the actual people living there, you know, prior to the decision being made? Might’ve been a thoughtful option.

HFT make a point in saying, they’re “working closely with local authorities to support the ongoing assessment process. In addition to this we are closely monitoring the impact of the closure on the health and wellbeing of individuals.” Described akin to livestock here, the bombshell was delivered to residents, their family, and staff in the form of a letter, dated October 13th, preceded by some phone calls. Could they pinpoint Rowde on a map?

I apologise if I am slamming a charity doing great work with disabilities, their website glosses a firm and assertively caring approach, though my comments asking why on their Facebook page were promptly deleted, but I cannot see it another way. It is cruel and inhumane, a content and settled community of extremely vulnerable learning-disabled adults, some elderly and suffering from underlying health problems and dementia, are being turfed out of their homes to be relocated at the cost of the Council; something is fishy here. Is HFT a charity, or a business with an eye on a right good earner for WC?

I’ve had a similar issue with an eminent charity when I wanted to donate profits from a forthcoming book project. I was told I had to guarantee them a fixed donation or I would be liable for the rest, under the guise they have a corporate identity to uphold. I expressed concern the book would not raise the thousands they asked for, and I left feeling uneasy and upset, being more like a business deal than fundraising. Villager Mandy Humphreys has initiated a petition to get this decision overturned. She says “it’s very hard in this climate to effectively protest, no marches allowed, no properly public council meetings.”

I put my suspicions to Mandy, “it seems to me, HFT may be non-profit making, perhaps not, but it’s almost as if it’s a ‘business in disguise,’ they use a charity status to their advantage, as do public schools who collect as a charity then run a simple outreach program and get a better tax deal.”

“Exactly,” was the short answer, others I have spoken to rebuked it, thus it becomes political. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, and need to focus on the issue in hand.

“My question is,” Mandy sustained, “if HFT think this is in the best interests of the residents, then why are they not closing all their campus-based centres? The residents are really upset, some have lived there since it opened and were told that it was their home for as long as they needed it. Just awful.”

And it is too, I ponder, as I receive a friendly “morning” from a passing villager off for his morning walk, in which it would seem he counts every step he takes. He is resident at Furlong Close. He takes the same route every day, he is pleasant, always stops to talk. Though I fear putting him off his count if I chat, he takes a mental note of the number and initiates the conversation! He continues on his way. He seems content, appears happy. Please, please, sign this petition, whatever the reasoning, and while it is not for me to criticise those decisions made from professionals, something about this whole affair feels inhumane and ill-thought out regardless of if cruelty was the intention, or profit is on the agenda or not.

Alan’s Fine Art Christmas Cards for NHS Charities

Local artist Alan Watters has launched these wonderful pencil-signed greetings cards, with all profits from his website going to NHS charities only until the end of October. The cards are individually pencil signed and sold in packs of ten for £12 (+ £3 UK P&P.) But hurry, Alan says they’re going fast!

Limited edition prints are also available, making a great Christmas present idea. Click here to order.


Rowde Artist Alan Watter’s NHS Portraits

Rowde artist Alan Watters has finished a portrait in the ‘Free Portraits for NHS Heroes’ initiative as featured on BBC news recently. The subject is Christina Whicker, an IAC nurse at Boston Pilgrim Hospital. Alan says he’s about to start another, “as I find it difficult to say no!”

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Alan is also a part time support worker confined to 12 weeks self-isolation and wishing to still do something to help the fight against the Coronavirus. “I thought I could produce limited edition pencil signed and numbered prints from some of my recently created original artworks and sell them at a modest price but with 100% of the profit going to causes fighting the virus, the major benefactor being ‘NHS Charities Together.”

So, he’s knocked up a website where you can view the prints, here. “I have a little way to go to reach my target of £1000,” Alan explained, “so please have a look and help if you can.” There’s a wide-range of fine art on show here, some life sketches, celebrity portraits, cute animals and also some thought-provoking imagery. Most prints are £25, for a limited period it’ll also include a pencil signed greetings card featuring the image of your choice.


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Rock Hopping in the Free Rowde

When apathetic to galivant to a gig, and not for want of staying in my village, there’s always the Cross Keys in Rowde. Hum, been a while, historically had its ups and downs. Last report I did here things were looking up; food-wise, a few craft fairs and various goings-on. But it’s changed hands again, and the one thing it lacked other than the sporadic Splat of the Rat, live music, has returned to the agenda by the new landlord.

Arm twisted, I’m back in the watering hole where I had my wedding reception and the kid’s christening parties. Little visually has changed, punters included. No bad thing, village hub. The landlord tells me they’ll be renovating the restaurant area, but if it isn’t broken. For the functional the main pub is perfect, aesthetically it’s apt. Although the change for the evening is the pool table area, where guitars and drums swim amidst wires and foot pedals. Devizes band Rockhoppaz are due to kick off a season of performances here. This is good, heard of but not seen these guys yet.

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Holding a preconceived idea, largely based upon the name, I was mistaken to assume I’d be knocked over by rock verging on metal, which though not my cuppa, I’ll endure to support live music in my village for sure. Pleasantly surprised then to hear this matured four-piece’s repertories, though while varied, were largely based on rock and punk-mod classics.

Tuning teaser being Johnny B Goode, the age range of songs went from contemporary back to rock n roll. Commencing with the Kaiser Chiefs, we heard Dandy Warhols and Primal Scream covers, we were cast rearward to Buzzcocks and The Jam, and plopped into a pinnacle of Rolling Stones and Kinks. It was this era where I thought the band reigned, with an awesome Brown Sugar. Yet the range was achieved in its entirety with equal passion and skill, but when lead singer, Jim Smith rolled out an adroit version of Neil Young’s Rockin in the Free World, I changed my mind.

I questioned this namesake preconceived idea to the band during their beer-break, pointing out drummer, Ian “Tef” Martin’s AC/DC tee-shirt. Oh yes, I was told, they’ll be playing an AC/DC cover in the second half. What ensued was a potentially everlasting musical trivia conversation, indicting their passion was their motivation, and herein lies the spirit of Rockhoppaz, I feel.

They’re not the next big thing, just a bunch of guys satisfying an appetite on the pub circuit, but as far that notion travels, lead Jim Smith, aforementioned drummer Ian Martin, guitarist Chris Downing and “Big” Ben Robinson bassist pull to its bumper, and would do your function a huge favour, for their thirst and talent rubs off on the audience; punching above the average pub circuit band’s weight.

In various incarnations they’ve been around for a while, previous band names being more profane, they say, causing me to think they once had a punk vibe about them. They’ve played the Opportunity Centre charity fundraiser at Wadworth Brewery, The Yeoman, The George in Frome, Melksham’s Pig & Whistle and our trusty Southgate, they’ve gigged the Midlands, Windsor and Bath. The Cavalier, Devizes has them on November 2nd, their next local gig.

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As for the Cross Keys, I hope it’s the first of many, and with the great pub-grub and Sunday roast menu retained, I wish them all the best. The landlord calls for more, monthly, with local mod-rockers, Cover Up appearing next. I’d like to see some local heroes with some original acoustic booked too, happy to recommend the usual suspects. There is a notion cover bands will undoubtedly satisfy the regulars at The Cross Keys, but said originals will bring others in. It’s not a long walk from Devizes, I do it the other way many weekends, and that’s uphill, pal! That said though, getting a bit autumny innit, so nice to know live music has extended out to Rowde.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Devizes First Scooter Rally; A Historic Weekend

Chatting to Gouldy of the Daybreakers, due to play Minety Festival the following day, we mutually complimented the setup at The Devizes Scooter Rally. Pleased for his input, as there was always a risk, being this is my first scooter rally, that any review would be comparable to a festival. Prior to the event, I admit I was mindful to this, telling myself not to hype it, as it’s a scooter rally, not a festival. Yet Gouldy described the archetypical rally as lesser in design and setup than your average festival. Given this notion I encouraged The Scooter Club to embrace wider appeal; they were in agreeance, it wowed and will undoubtedly go down in Rowde’s history.

This paid off, for two years in the planning, and some bumps between us along the way, the Devizes Scooter Rally was uniquely designed and executed with individualism and panache, binding a positive festival vibe with the style of a scooter rally, surely producing an event to shame other similarly labelled events; and all for the first time too.

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Booking The Tribe, Swindon’s hip hop-reggae whizzers, popular on said festival scene, was attributed to this notion; partly my suggestion, but to open wasn’t. Perhaps this wildcard could’ve fitted later, yet, their wider appeal indeed took the younger’s interest, even if not digested by traditional scooterists. They played an arresting and dynamic set as always, rapper AJ Mayhew joining the slight crowd for a dance momentously inspiring for the younger.

More so, it was the plentiful choice of food stalls, bars and side attractions which blessed this event with that genuine festival feel, as opposed to the average rally’s hashed barbeque, hosted by the least drunken skinhead, and the bar being the pub across the road! All slight, but there were fair stalls, rides and a bouncy castle to keep young ones amused. Food stalls of pizza, noodles, burgers, hog roast varied catering, retro clothes stalls and the Vespa Owners Club had travelled afar to join many local ventures such as Vinyl Realm holding their first stand.

Aside the brilliant homemade bar, with pumps and Pimms, which was reasonably priced even for a pub, let alone event, choices were also available, from separate coffee or Prosecco bars, and the strikingly Caribbean yet local rum distributor Muck & Dunder’s mobile bar, which I could make my second home!

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So fruitfully the Scooter Rally developed, combining the favourable elements of festivals and scooter rallies equally to create what they wished, done their own, localised way. Villagers and Devizes residents mingled with widespread scooter aficionados in a joyful ambience. Meeting enthusiasts who’d journeyed from the North, or Exeter, was amalgamated with strictly Rowde branded humour, such as parish councillor, dubbed “Rowde Mayor,” John Dalley, who had his head shaved by Tracie Lawson of Devizes Beauty Boutique for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.

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Late Friday evening, drinks may’ve flowed, but chatting to DSC Colonel, Adam Ford, there was little doubt, though the monumental organisation thrusted into an event of this calibre, that he’d do it all again, next year. For when it came together, a fabulous time was had by all and full marks must be awarded to all members of the club.

To nit-pick there will be lessons learned, the PA needed a little hoof, least villagers only went to their Facebook group to inquire where the wonderful music was ascending from, rather than complain. This came to a head at the concluding act, Bad Manners tribute, The Special Brew, who worked professionally through technical faults to bring a madcap finale we’ll be talking about for years to come. Lighting and washing facilities for those camping, may also have been on the hitlist, though elements ramp the ticket stub, and it was ever kept a reasonable price.

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Friday then, and local folklore heroes, The DayBreakers followed the Tribe, with their wonderful brand of folky-retro-pop. South-coast’s ska legends Orange Street headlined with a tight and proficient set of ska and two-tone classics, they simply astounded, leaving us with little doubt the weekend was a winner.

Trilbies must also be raised to the solo effort from renowned DJ Terry Hendrick in the marquee, who both filled in whenever necessary and bought each evening to a climax. Neither angered by my pestering, browsing his astounding collection of seven-inch rarities, he even allowed me a little taster on his wheels of steel!

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Local retro covers band, Cover Up did a grand job opening Saturday’s live music, upon the return of the scooterists on a ride-out across Devizes and villages, parking by the stage for browsing devotees. For me, the highlight was always to be Swindon’s Erin Bardwell Collective, whose rock steady and boss reggae classics appropriately fit the sunny afternoon breeze. As well as Double Barrell, Let Your Yeah be Yeah, and Jackpot, there was a sublime cover of Horace Andy’s Skylarking, a blend of Harry J’s Liquidator with Staple Sister’s I’ll Take you There, and just one of their own songs, a new one called Just Loving You.

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The Start bought the event to boiling point, Essex’s finest gave us a loud and proud varied performance, shelling us with iconic Two-Tone and sixties to eighties mod-rock anthems which defined the eras. The Start were confident and highly enjoyable, rousing the crowd for Special Brew. If it was an unfortunate technical fault, worry didn’t project dismay, they battled through and such was the unabridged event, it mattered not.

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What a marvellous weekend, possibly the most bizarrely enlightening the village has ever seen, unless you different? Detroit USA, Kingston Jamaica, London, New York and Coventry; all established places on the soul & reggae map. Thanks to Devizes Scooter Club, we can now add Rowde to that map!

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Rowdies Going Down the Pub

I’ve been thinking recently about how good the sitcom Cheers was back in its heyday, it broke the perception that going down the boozer was something typically English and in the US you don’t get the same community spirit. Similar with Moe’s bar in the Simpsons, the US has a parallel ethos, your local watering hole is a fundamental asset in modern life, a community hub; social media just doesn’t compare I’m afraid. Fair to presume it’s the same whatever part of the world you are, sometimes you want to go “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Steady, it must be called  Rowde for a reason!

 

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From the moment I moved here I’ve loved the Cross Keys, standing on the site of the original timber-framed, thatched pub which burnt down in 1938, it’s a spacious tavern which was bulging with punters when I first stepped in, the 2006 World Cup being broadcast from Germany and plates of sausages and of chips were shared.

 
“We’re doing a lot for the World Cup this year,” Kelly tells me as I prop up the bar. Her name’s been above the door for the past couple of years, and she and her team are thoroughly dedicated to amend any chequered reputation it once may have had. Winner of Wadworth’s Best Neighbourhood Pub contest last year, and a runner up in Claire Perry’s quest to find the best local pub, it’s easy to see why.

 

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There’s a varied timetable of events and happenings, the August bank holiday sees the return of the popular Splat the Rat, but Kelly, in contrast is holding a “Ladies Night,” on the 29th June, where a DJ, a Drag Queen and something called “Hunks in Trunks” do, erm, whatever it is they do. Not for me I’m afraid, but that’s our point; a village pub needs to be for all, and that’s exactly what the Cross Keys is achieving, for it’s villagers, and it’s well worth the mere couple of miles travel for those in Devizes; come on over, we don’t bite.

 
On the subject of biting, the Cross Key’s grub is most alluring for visitors, and it’s spot on for a fair price. Continuing from the previous owners rep for an awesome carvery, the Sunday carvery is still popular. It’s the everyday menu of homecooked, locally sourced (G&W Butchers, Poulshot Lodge and Fine Food Company) pub classics which Kelly is most pleased with, adding the attention to wider vegetation and glutton-free options.

 

 

“We had a build-a-burger night, which was popular,” she told me, planning on returning the occasion. That said, checking out the skyscraper styled burgers already on the menu, I wonder if there’s need!

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Once you’ve had your fill, it’s good to know the pub also runs a fitness class (!), and here’s exactly what I mean about being the hub of village life. While it’s one thing for a town pub to put on great live music, a village or community pub needs to be so much more. Kelly, still open to music events, with free hire of the function room, but from aforementioned fitness classes, to the cup cake night and from the popular craft fayres and workshops with wonderful crafters Twiggy Owl Designs and others, to bingo and quiz nights, notwithstanding a fine gin menu, the Cross Keys has everything you could want from a village pub, and continues to strive to impress.

 

 
Bringing the community in is what it’s all about, such as the amazing idea of “Dementia Friends,” on 2nd July, which will be a fun, hour session learning more about the condition and what how to make life ‘friendlier’ for those affected by it. You can’t knock that, just welcoming the elders of Rowde for tea or coffee is brilliant in itself.

 

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We held our wedding reception there back in ermmm, whenever it was again, and the kid’s christenings, so I’m overjoyed to see it still running efficiently in these hard times. Hats off to Kelly then, for maintaining our hub; I wish her all the best and hope there’s many more happy years with her name above the door.

 
Check out the Cross Keys website, book for the carvery. Like them on Facebook.

 

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