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COVERING WOKINGHAM, FINCHAMPSTEAD, EARLEY, WINNERSH, SHINFIELD, WOODLEY, TWYFORD & SURROUNDING AREAS

WOKINGHAM.TODAY

THE VOICE OF THE BOROUGH

THE NEW NAME FOR THEWOKINGHAMPAPER

Thursday, November 26, 2020 No. 289

70p

SANOFI PUSH FOR COVID-19 VACCINE

EXCLUSIVE

By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokingham.today

FREE

VACCINES to combat coronavirus and help return lives to normal are being developed at unprecedented speed by a company with its UK base in Earley.

Sanofi, which works to prevent infectious diseases, has been developing two potential vaccine candidates and says there are grounds for positive optimism for its work. One candidate has been developed with GSK and taps into existing technology used in seasonal influenza vaccines. Sanofi’s team helped develop an antigen, a protein that helps the body’s immune system start fighting Covid cells and based on recombinant DNA technology. It had initially been developed to tackle the flu. GSK’s team have worked on an adjuvant, which enhances the immune response, and reduces the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, making it easier to manufacture the large quantities needed to help vaccinate the world. Sanofi’s second vaccine developed in conjunction with Translate Bio, started clinical trials in September. The vaccines will both need approval from appropriate medical bodies. If granted, they can upscale production of the first to produce up to one billion doses next year. The UK Government has committed to purchasing 60 million doses of this – enough to vaccinate almost half the country from the effects of Covid-19, while Sanofi has pledged to work with the World Health Organisation and GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance) to ensure that it can be supplied across the world as part of the COVAX Facility, a global initiative covering 172 countries. � Continued on page 8

CHRISTMAS GUIDE INSIDE

DESTRUCTION EARLEY residents have been left furious after a developer ripped up woodland in Swallows Meadow. Last week, the trees were torn up and destroyed as

part of “routine work”. Now, residents and councillors are working together to halt future developments on the land.

� Find out more on page 5

FIVE GUYS PLANS P2 WINNERSH BRANCH

TWO SCHOOLS P38 TOP OF THE FORM


2 | NEWS

HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH US Due to the coronavirus, our offices are closed to the public. The best way to contact us is by emailing us Email news@wokinghampaper.co.uk

Newsroom: 0118 327 2662 Advertising: 0118 327 2662 Write to: Wokingham.Today, Crown House, 231 Kings Road, Reading RG1 4LS Editor • Phil Creighton Reporters • Jess Warren, Charlotte King Sports reporter • Andy Preston Graphic designer • Charlotte Simpson

From the editor This is the last week of the current lockdown before we return to the tiers system. You will be pleased to know that Wokingham.Today will continue to publish every week. We thank our advertisers who are sticking with us through these strange and difficult days, and for you for continuing to buy your favourite local newspaper. Restrictions will remain in place for some months. We are making every effort to ensure that your favourite local newspaper is available to you in printed form throughout this period – you will be able to buy Wokingham.Today from all good supermarkets, newsagents and petrol stations as normal. They are essential retailers and we, after all, are essential reading. There is also a digital version of the paper, which will be available on Friday evenings. And our website is updated seven days a week. At times like this, it is important that the community has a local voice and we are proud to be yours. The best way for you to support us – lockdown or not – is to buy a copy each week. Thank you for your support. THE Wokingham Paper Ltd publications are regulated by IPSO – the Independent Press Standards Organisation. If you have a complaint about a Wokingham Paper Ltd publication in print or online, you should, in the first instance email: pcreighton@wokingham.today, or telephone: 0118 327 2662. If it is not resolved to your satisfaction, you should contact IPSO by telephone: 0300 123 2220, or visit its website: www.ipso.co.uk. Members of the public are welcome to contact IPSO at any time if they are not sure how to proceed, or need advice on how to frame a complaint.

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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

Entertainer joins winter toy appeal THE SALVATION Army has teamed up with toy retailer The Entertainer to deliver presents to children who need them the most in a year when many family budgets have been hit hard. The Big Toy Appeal invites customers – online or in-store – to gift a present to a family in need at Christmas. And for every toy donated, The Entertainer match gift, doubling the number of presents. This is the appeal’s third year with nearly 60,000 toys and books being donated so far. In recent months, the Army has offered a range of support, including food banks and hot meals for people self-isolating, those shielding or simply unable to afford to cook. As a result, additional financial pressure to provide presents at Christmas will likely increase family hardship further. Tony Daniels, director of community services for The Salvation Army, said: “The pandemic has brought some extremely difficult situations for families throughout this year. Christmas always brings extra demands on family budgets, but this year we’re anticipating it will be even more difficult for many. “The Big Toy Appeal allows us, with The Entertainer, to bring Christmas joy to families who need it the most right now.” And the project is welcomed by the toy shop’s founder, Gary Grant. “The financial difficulties we are facing this year will mean overwhelming difficulties for families trying to give their children a joyful and magical Christmas,” he said. The appeal closes on Saturday, November 28. Gifts can be bought online via www.TheToyShop.com and www.elc.co.uk websites. The company has Entertainer branches in Bracknell and Reading.

Burger chain plans branch on flood zone BURGERS could be coming to Winnersh thanks an American fast-food chain. A planning application has been made to Wokingham Borough Council to turn parts the Showcase Cinema car park into a branch of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The chain, which launched in the US in 1986, came to the UK in 2013, and has 113 branches over here. Five Guys specialises in customisable hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as grilled cheese and vegetable sandwiches. A range of toppings are available and the company says that there are more than 250,000 possible combinations for its meals and 1,000 different combinations for its milkshakes. The company plans to build a restaurant with external seating area, associated hard and soft landscaping and car parking spaces. It would be on the corner of the car park as it faces the roundabout, and would not include a drive-through lane. It would be 246 sq m in size and create 20 full-time and 20 part-time jobs. If approved, the opening hours would be 10am to midnight seven days a week.

Although the Showcase Cinema car park regularly floods if the adjacent River Loddon bursts its banks, the proposed restaurant is well away from the sections that are regularly underwater. A report on the flooding, produced in August by Lanmor Consulting, says that the site of the proposed restaurant would have a 0.1%-1% risk of flooding, defined as a zone 2 area by the Environment Agency. It adds: “the area the site is shown to be in an area not considered to be prone to groundwater flooding”. The report also says: “The proposed building and pedestrian access onto Reading Road will be safe from floodwaters during times of extreme flooding including allowances for climate change. However, there were two major floods, which caused parts of the Showcase Cinema car park to be closed, in December last year and February this year. Winnersh Parish Council has commented on the application, expressing concerns over the loss of shrubs and borders. This, it warns, has “potentially no mitigation measures for

additional surface water”. It also has concerns over whether the cinema has enough car parking available, and also on flooding: “The frequent flood events are not indicated on the historic flood map”. Winnersh borough councillor Prue Bray (Lib Dem) has concerns, saying that the flood assessment data only goes up to 2007, and ignores the floods of 2009 and 2014, which saw the roundabout completely covered in water. She also warned: “The restaurant will be located on the corner of the site closest to the roundabout. “The design includes a red block, which is very prominent. Will this be a distraction for drivers on the roundabout?” And fellow Lib Dem councillor Paul Fishwick said: “The proposed building of the restaurant is located on land which is currently shrubs and therefore permeable. “The removal and loss of this landscaping will result in a larger impermeable area. “Are there sufficient flood mitigation measures contained within the proposals to take account of this change?” Five Guys did not respond to requests for comment.

Speak up over knife crime SILENCE won’t stop violence. That’s the warning from a charity set up as an anonymous bridge between the police and the public. Crimestoppers has launched a new campaign aimed at reducing knife crime after reports soared by more than 300% in four years – and information on gun crime has risen by a third. It wants people to speak up anonymously to help save lives: there has been a 93% rise in hospital admissions for knife attacks on under-16s since 2012. But Crimestoppers says that more than half of all violent incidents are not reported to the police, which prevents them from dealing with the issue. It is working with violence reduction units across the country to support a public health approach to tackling violence, including promoting youth service Fearless.org.

Annabelle Goodenough, regional manager at the charity Crimestoppers, said: “Violence in all its forms has a significant impact on communities; from victims of domestic abuse, to young people carrying knives, its ripple effect can fuel the fear of crime, tear apart families, and overstretch our health service who have to deal with the resulting physical and emotional trauma. “A public health approach recognises that violence is a preventable problem requiring a society-wide response. “We’re supporting this through early intervention and education to help prevent violence happening in the first place.” Resident who know people carrying weapons, threatening or harming others, can report the information anonymously. � For more details, call 0800 111 555 or visit Crimestoppers-uk.org


Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

Joan Rackley when she taught at Polehampton Infant School, Twyford

Joan’s received a card from her old neighbour EXCLUSIVE

Joan Rackley celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday

By SUE CORCORAN news@wokingham.today A RETIRED teacher who as a child watched her royal neighbour being wheeled out in her pram has celebrated her 100th birthday with a card from the grown-up version of that baby, the Queen.

Joan Rackley, who taught at Polehampton Infants, Twyford, lived her early life near Buckingham Palace, in Belgravia. Her father was butler to a household in Eaton Place. Joan’s daughter Patsy Smith said: “Our mother said she remembers seeing the nanny wheeling out the royal baby. The Bowes-Lyon family, the Queen Mother’s, were neighbours. “The Queen’s 100th birthday card was from the very baby our mother saw being wheeled round London.” The family’s royal experience continued when they moved to Mapledurham House estate, west of Reading, where Joan’s father, Frank Burr Enfield, continued his work as a butler. “Queen Mary came to visit Mapledurham. She was served afternoon tea by my grandfather, who saved the day when an outdoor paraffin tea stove nearly overturned on the royal visitor,” said Patsy. Joan went to Henley Grammar School, excelling at sports, becoming hockey and tennis captains. She failed to get her deportment [conduct and behaviour] award when she slid down the banister rail, landing on a member of staff. Leaving school in 1938 she worked as an untrained teacher and then, after war broke out, at the Ministry of Food at Reading

Town Hall. She sent out ration books and fire watched on the town hall roof during air raids. Later she joined the Women’s Land Army at Suttons Seeds, Earley, helping produce seeds so everyone could dig for victory growing vegetables. She enjoyed looking after the working shire horses Laddie and Jolly. Her family are interested in tracing other Land Girls in the photo. Email this newspaper at news@wokinghampaper.co.uk to be put in touch. After the war Joan trained to teach and, in 1948, married Ted Rackley, a Post Office engineer from Caversham who had served in the REME. They lived at Charvil where they loved gardening. Joan taught at New Town Primary and the former Grovelands Primary in Reading. She later went on to teach at Polehampton Infant School for 16 years until retirement in 1980. The couple’s three children all went to the school, the girls going onto Maidenhead High and Robert to Maidenhead Grammar. Patsy was assistant head at Furze Platt Junior School until her retirement, Linda, now

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Linda Deacon and a retired teacher, is in Sussex and Robert, a transport manager, is in Yorkshire. Patsy’s husband, Chris, taught mostly in Maidenhead, as a violin teacher travelling between schools and deputy director of East Berks Music Centre, and then later as a class teacher at Alwyn Infant School. Joan was an active supporter of Girl Guiding in Twyford. After Ted’s death in 2002 Joan eventually moved to a bungalow behind Polehampton Infants. To celebrate her 90th birthday she had a flying lesson and piloted a light aircraft over the Sussex coast, having never been in a plane before. She remained active but, with the onset of dementia, she moved in 2014 to Harwood House Nursing Home in Cookham Dean. Due to lockdown restrictions, she celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday at an online Zoom meeting with her family including some of her nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She was shown a specially made slideshow of old photos set to some of her favourite war time songs.

Armed robbers ransack elderly couple’s home TWO older residents in Woodley have been subjected to an aggravated burglary where the robbers had a firearm and a quantity of cash was stolen. The incident took place on Monday, November 16, at a home on Clivedale Road, between 6pm and 6.35pm. However, Thames Valley Police think it could be linked to a man claiming to be a police officer knocking on the door of a neighbouring property just two days beforehand. In Monday’s incident, two men rang the doorbell of the home, forcing entry and demanding money from their victims, a 70-year-old man and a 69-year-old woman. Police said that as the offenders ransacked the home, the female victim managed to escape, taking refuge in nearby shops where she was able to call the force. The first offender is

Warning over gas poisoning ‘YOU MUST do more to protect yourself from carbon monoxide’, residents have been warned. November is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month,

described as a tall man carrying a firearm. He was dressed in black and was wearing a balaclava. The second offender is described as being shorter than the first and was also wearing black clothing and a balaclava. Nobody was injured as a result of the incident. In a statement, investigating officer Detective Sergeant Ian Seymour, based at Loddon Valley police station, said: “This was a terrifying incident for the two victims who were threatened and then had their home searched. “Thanks to the quick thinking of the female victim, she was able to protect her husband from the offenders and escape the house so that she could contact the police. Her actions were extremely brave and commendable. “We are carrying out a full investigation into this incident, and our officers have been in

the area carrying out enquiries. “As a result of this, we have received information that on Saturday, November 14, a white man knocked on the door of a neighbouring address, identifying himself as a police officer. “We do not believe that this man was who he claimed to be, and we are investigating whether this could be linked to the aggravated burglary offence. “If police make enquiries at your address they will be in possession of a warrant card which can be produced on request. “The man may have been using a light blue Ford Fiesta. If you have any CCTV images which could relate to this, please get in touch. If you have any information at all which you think could be linked to either of these incidents, please call us on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 43200379730. “Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or make a report online.”

and according to Oil and Renewable Heating Technologies (OFTEC), over a third of Berkshire homeowners do not have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors installed. “The long term effects of CO poisoning can be devastating, but fortunately there are simple steps we can all take to protect

ourselves,” said Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC. CO is both colourless and odourless making it hard to detect, and it hospitalises more than 4,000 people each year. OFTEC is now encouraging Berkshire residents to install CO alarms in their homes and regularly check their devices.


4 | NEWS

Support for sexual abuse victims VICTIMS of sexual abuse are being encouraged to seek support. Victims First, managed by the Office of the Police and crime commissioner for the Thames Valley, is working with Thames Valley Police to reassure people they can come forward and seek support. Some rape crisis centres across the region have seen a decrease in people looking for support due to fear of not complying with Covid-19 restrictions. Detective superintendent Rebecca Mears, head of protecting vulnerable people at Thames Valley Police, said: “Our priority first and foremost is to protect people. Whatever the circumstances surrounding a sexual assault taking place, we urge victims to come forward and seek the necessary support and, if possible, report the offence to us so that we can take action to protect others. Please do not be concerned.” Eddie Fitzpatrick, manager of a Victims First hub, said she recognised the difficulty in coming forward, but wants to reassure people of the available help. “If you’ve experienced rape or sexual assault, we will support you, regardless of when or where the incident happened, or whether or not you’ve chosen to report it to the police,” she said. “Please contact us and one of our Victims First Officers will work with you to get the support you need.” � For more information, or to seek support visit: www.victims-first.org.uk or call 0300 1234 148 .

Four men charged over van tool thefts FOUR MEN have been charged with theft, after tools were stolen from parked vans. John McDonagh, 27, of Featherstone Road, Ealing; Michael McDonagh, 23, of Lyndhurst Road, Tilehurst; Patrick McDonagh, 21, of Uxbridge Road, Hayes and Gerrard Ward, 22, of the Meadway, Tilehurst were charged on Friday with two counts of theft from a motor vehicle and one count of going equipped for theft. On Wednesday, November 11, a van parked at the Coppid Beech Hotel in Bracknell was broken into, and £3,000 worth of tools stolen. And a van outside Serco in Reading was broken into and £1,800 worth of tools stolen.

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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

Counter terrorism police launch extremism awareness campaign By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokingham.today A NEW campaign aimed at nipping extremism in the bud has been launched by Counter Terrorism Policing.

ACT Early is a preventive programme, asking families, teachers, friends and community leaders to keep an eye on people for changes in behaviours that could lead them being drawn into harmful activities or groups. This includes being radicalised by terrorists or extremist content online. Counter Terrorism Policing says that in just 18 months – between January 1, last year and June 30 this year – 17 children were arrested in relation to terrorism offences, with the youngest being 14. In the same period, more than 1,500 children under 15 have been helped by specialist programmes aimed at moving them away from the dangerous material they have been exposed to. With coronavirus preventing many people from attending regular events and clubs, such as youth

groups and sporting activities, police fear that people who need help are currently not on people’s radars. It is with this in mind that ACT Early has been launched. Its centrepiece is an easy-to-use website that offers help and advice for those wanting to support loved ones before they completely immersed in their extremist views. Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, said: “There has been a sharp increase in extremist material online in the last few years, and Covid-19 has meant that vulnerable people are spending a lot more time isolated and online, and with fewer of the protective factors that schooling, employment, friends and family can provide. “In my opinion that is a perfect storm, one which we cannot predict and that we might be feeling the effects of for many years to come.” He added: “There is something we can do right now to try and stop this. It requires parents, friends and family to help us by acting early, by talking to their children about what they view online, and sharing their

concerns and seeking support if they fear someone they know is in danger of being radicalised. “Asking for help is a difficult and emotional step, but we must see it for what it is – action which won’t ruin their lives but may well save them.” This view was echoed by the Head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East, Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes. “Research tells us that family members are most likely to see the early signs of radicalisation,” she told Wokingham.Today. By people using the resources from the ACT Early campaign, “it gives us a much better chance of intervening and provide that muchneeded support to put people on a positive course in their lives. “The website raises awareness and provide information to families, give advice on what to do and where to go next.” Every effort is made to protect both the person contacting the police and the individual who needs support, as DCS Barnes explained: “We treat all information as

Anti-bullying activist says Priti Patel has set a bad example AN ARBORFIELD boy who has become the face of an anti-bullying campaign said he’d like to interview Priti Patel. Charlie Kristensen recently launched a charity single with West End stars in aid of The Diana Award, and wants the home secretary to talk about his campaign. Ms Patel, who was found to have bullied and sworn at civil servants, refused last week to resign from office. Charlie, who studies at Hurst Lodge, said: “I would love to hear your story Priti Patel, to understand why you are the human you have chosen to be.” He told Wokingham.Today he thinks Ms Patel is “giving out the wrong message” and that the older

generation is setting a “bad example” for children. “How can we change the world, when someone with the power to change it is doing the wrong thing,” he said. “It shows bullying can happen anywhere. You can be nine or 90, because it’s a learnt behaviour.” Ms Patel declined to comment on Charlie’s request for interview, but reiterated her statement made last week. “I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people. It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone. I am very grateful for the hard work of thousands of civil servants who help to deliver the Government’s agenda,” she said. “I care deeply about delivering on

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absolutely confidential. We never tell a person where it came from unless we have had permission to do so. “Agencies can come together to determine how best to work with an individual – there are all sorts of ways we can help individuals – education, work, health and other sources such as charity groups and local authorities. There are so many different support services available.” But above all, Counter Terrorism Policing wants people to take action as soon as they have concerns about their loved ones, and that you wil not be wasting police time. The message is that you could be saving lives rather than ruining them. “The key to this is that the earlier they come in to other agencies, the better the chances getting them help,” DCS Barnes said. “There may not be anything wrong with the person you are concerned about, but if there is, the Act Early website will give you the right information and direct you to the right organisations to help if there is.” � For more details, log on to www.actearly.uk

Charlie Kristensen (10) has become an anti-bullying champion for The Diana Award Picture: Chris Keenan

the commitments we have made to the people of this country and I acknowledge that I am direct and have at times got frustrated.” As part of his campaign, Charlie said he hopes more people will talk about their experiences to help the cause. “We can’t do it in silence,” he added. “The only way to make a change is to stand up and change it. And if that takes a 10-year-old boy, so be it. I’m going to keep this going.” Charlie’s single, You Will Be Found, features musical stars across the country, including Michael Ball. He won over the hearts of the West End theatre industry last year when, encouraged by his performance coach West End performer Jacqueline Hughes, he launched his #CheerUpCharlie campaign to help others. Following this, Charlie was

trained as an ambassador by The Diana Award, which runsa national anti-bullying programme. Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Charlie and all his West End Friends for their support. “Charlie’s courage in the face of his own bullying experience is an inspiration to us and the thousands of young people who will hear about his story. He reminds us daily how important it is to do the right thing, not the easy thing. “He is a fantastic anti-bullying ambassador and everyone at The Diana Award is proud of him.” Charlie added: “Everyone who listens to the song says it should be at number one — but to do that, people need to download it rather than stream on Youtube.” Since its release, Charlie has been a guest on BBC Breakfast, ITN News, ITV Meridian and BBC South Today.


Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

NEWS | 5

To advertise call 0118 327 2662 Swallows Meadow has been shredded by the developer Picture: Steve Smyth

Earley residents condemn ‘environmental vandalism’ EXCLUSIVE By CHARLOTTE KING cking@wokingham.today EARLEY residents are devastated after a local woodland was “destroyed” last week — blaming the owners for “environmental vandalism”.

Swallows Meadow, which backs on to Lower Earley Way, was cleared without warning on Tuesday, November 17. The land, originally owned by the University of Reading, was recently sold to Lower Earley Properties, a wholly owned subsidiary of parent company Jansons Property. “All the trees just started coming down one by one,” said Karen Milligan, who lives on Bassett Close. “They literally demolished the woodland within hours. “Over lockdown, we found a lot of people using the area for walks and it’s just unusable now.” Ms Milligan’s dismay was echoed by Cllr Clive Jones,Lib Dem leader of Earley Town Council and borough councillor for Hawkedon. “I’m really disappointed the contractors didn’t let people know that it was happening,” he said. Lower Earley Properties said the work was routine landscaping to clear “poorquality scrubland and vegetation”. But people are also angry about the impact on animals

Lexicon teams with foodbank A BRACKNELL shopping centre has teamed up with the town’s foodbank to support families this Christmas. The Lexicon is donating 250 £10 gift cards to the charity ahead of the festive season,

living in the undergrowth. “We’ve fed the deer and the foxes every night there for the last 30 years,” Ms Milligan said. “Three years ago some of the nearby woodland was cleared out and it took 18 months for the animals to come back.” Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, Conservative borough councillor for Hillside, is also angry about the damage caused by Lower Earley Properties. “To me, it’s environmental vandalism,” she said. “There are jays, deer and pheasants which all live in the woodland. “Barriers of trees provide acres of woods for wildlife, and they’re far nicer to look at for the community.” According to Cllr Jones, contractors conducted an ecological survey of the site and concluded that no animals were living in the area — but this has been met with anger. “No animals, not even a single mouse? What a load of rubbish,” Cllr Jones said. “We don’t have an awful lot of green space left, so we need to try and protect it as best as we can.” Another resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, called the destruction devastating and said that it’s “preposterous” to claim no animals live in the woodland. A spokesperson for Lower Earley Properties said the survey was carried out by an independent consultancy earlier this year.

“We will publish the full ecological report in the coming months as part of any public consultation on our plans for the site,” they added. However, residents are also devastated about the impact on their quality of life because with the woodland gone, noise pollution has increased. “We live right next to a main road and the M4, and they just started putting up a sound barrier to reduce the noise but now that’s all pointless,” Ms Milligan said. “By taking away the tree barrier, the noise here has just been horrendous.” According to Ms Milligan, a team of local residents are banding together to reclaim the woodland walk by clearing the debris and making it safe for people to use. A petition has also been launched by Cllr Andrew Mickleburgh, Lib Dem borough councillor for Hawkedon, to try and halt any developments on the land. It pledges to “robustly oppose” any future housing or related proposals in Swallows Meadow. According to Cllr Jones, Earley Town Council is also seeking to have the woodland designated as a Local Green Space to protect the area from development. At the time of writing, Lower Earley Properties had not announced plans to develop on the site. A company spokesperson

which is expected to be difficult for many. Claire Mather, Bracknell Foodbank manager, said: “It isn’t just about giving out food. If people are struggling to put food on the table, they will also be struggling to buy other festive essentials, which is where we as a community can

step-in to help.” Sue Boor, head of marketing at The Lexicon said: “This Christmas is likely to be tougher for more people locally, so we wanted to do something that might help put a smile on someone’s face.” � For more information, visit: www.bracknell.foodbank.org.uk

said: “We are now looking at how best we can bring forward development at the site to make a positive contribution to the local area. “We are at a very early stage in the process but look forward to engaging constructively with the local community, Earley Town Council and Wokingham Borough Council in the coming months.”

Town council calls for climate friendly homes across borough EARLEY Town Council has joined a chorus of voices criticising the Government’s proposal to shake-up the planning system. Earlier this month, we revealed that Wokingham Borough Council had submitted concerns to the Planning for the Future consultation. Earley Town Council said that the plans would produce some of the most damaging, irreversible impacts on the community in decades. “We must have a planning system that listens to our residents and reflects local needs,” said Cllr Clive Jones, the Lib Dem leader of the town council. “Our submission calls for the right types and number of homes to be built in the right places to a high standard that will properly address our Climate Emergency.” He said that the town

council had “argued persuasively” that the proposals would fail to achieve this call, and had practical ideas as to how this could be changed. This view was supported by Labour councillor Sheena Matthews, who said: “The Planning White Paper fails us in imposing algorithm-generated numbers that undermine local democratic control. “So-called ‘gentle densification’ is a threat to our green spaces and the quality of life of citizens and won’t help people needing affordable homes.” Cllr Jones added: “I can assure everyone that we will continue to monitor and lobby the Government on planning and other vital matters on behalf of all residents”.

Reading crash dash-cam appeal

that the drivers involved both sustained injuries to their neck, hip and lower back and were taken to hospital. They have since been discharged. The vehicles were a black Volkswagen Golf and a black Vauxhall Corsa. Investigating officer, PC Jamie Payne, of the Joint Operations Roads Policing Unit urged anyone with dash-cam footage to call 101, and quote reference 43200376780.

POLICE are appealing for witnesses after two cars were involved in a collision in Reading’s town centre. The incident took place around 9.35pm on Saturday, November 14, on the IDR at its junction with the A329 and the A33. Thames Valley Police said

� To read the town council’s submission, visit: www.earleytc.gov.uk


e

6 | NEWS

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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

CORONAVIRUS LATEST University researches Covid-19 language barrier NEW RESEARCH funded by the British Academy revealed that Chinese students have been discriminated against during the pandemic. Linguistics researchers at the University of Reading and University of Birmingham say that communication issues and stigma have caused problems for international students in the UK. The team will study real testimonies from Chinese students, who make up the largest proportion of international students, to better understand how language barriers let them down. With public messaging key to managing the spread of Covid-19, sociolinguistics expert Professor Rodney Jones wants to understand what has made it difficult for students to access much-needed information. He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for everyone, plunging us into lockdown and requiring us to take in endless guidelines and information about the virus and how we can stop it spreading. When language and cultural barriers, and the stress of being in an unfamiliar place, are added to this it becomes immensely tough.” As co-leader of the project, he hopes to better understand the problems faced by people living in other cultures, and how they can be supported more effectively. Dr Sylvia Jaworska, associate professor in language and professional communication, and co-leader of the project, said many Chinese students faced discrimination due to the virus originating in the Hubei province. She said: “Many students found themselves effectively trapped in the UK this year, forced to navigate a global crisis alone while essential information they needed to do so was difficult to obtain. “The problem is clear, but how to solve it is less so. By hearing from those affected, we hope to provide some widely-applicable solutions to ensure no one is excluded from vital communications.” Wang Yi, one of the University of Reading students involved in the research, said the project would offer an opportunity to study communication challenges. The project was awarded £10,000 funding in the British Academy Special Research Grants: Covid-19.

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Top of the shops: Villagers’ effort to help community EXCLUSIVE By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokingham.today MORE THAN 300 bags of shopping have been collected for the community thanks to a village church – and they are now preparing to donate Christmas hampers.

Kind-hearted members of Shinfield Baptist Church teamed up with Helping Hands Shinfield to offer support to residents who needed extra support during lockdown, or during school holidays. The scheme initially started in March in response to the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, but has kept going across the year. The project is being co-ordinated by SallyAnn Hunt from Shinfield Baptist Church, along with Sarah O’Neill from Helping Hands Shinfield and South Reading and Rachel Walker, who inspired the village to create a school meals scheme and has been volunteering since the spring. During the quieter summer months, donations were shared with local foodbanks as the number of people requesting help reduced. But the project has had a busy few weeks. Mrs Hunt, one of the Fairmead Road-based church pastors, said: “We have a team of volunteer drivers and one of them asked, just before half-term, if we could do something for families who were not getting free school meals during the holidays. “We hastily teamed up with Helping Hands Shinfield and arrange a bigger team of drivers from the church and the community and we asked, via Facebook, for

donations of food and if any local households needed extra help at this time.” As a result, so far, they have helped 49 households across the village, delivered 300 bags of shopping and received £2,000 in donations. “It has been bonkers busy these past few weeks,” Mrs Hunt said. “It was at times overwhelming as so many people wanted to help be involved and do things. “I think this pandemic has caused people to really want to do something to help out which is wonderful.” Now the focus is on the festive season – the church and its partners are planning the Shinfield Christmas Hamper Project. This will see it donate Christmas Eve boxes, a food parcel and a bag of Christmas treats. Children from the village’s primary schools are being invited to give a gift for other youngsters to enjoy. And the church will give out children’s Christmas storybooks, and a Christmas card. “We are really excited to be doing this because not only is it giving us an opportunity to love people in our community who are struggling but it is proving to be a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together and help the community give to others,” Mrs Hunt said. “We are acting as a conduit between the community and those who need help.” The church welcomes donations of food. � For more details, send an email o: sallyann@shinfieldbaptist.org.uk or log on to www.shinfieldbaptist.org.uk

Leaving lockdown with the facts

T

HE borough is preparing to exit lockdown restrictions next week and re-enter a three-tier system. Previously, tiers were decided using infection rate per 100,000 people as a key measure. The prime minister said this time, tier allocation will also consider the current and projected pressure on the NHS locally.

Reading

158 per 100,000

37 3

30

14 2

West Berkshire 99 per 100,000

Wokingham

114 per 100,000

New three tier restrictions NEW RESTRICTIONS will be in place next week. Returning in a tougher reincarnation, three tier rules have changed since it was imposed earlier this year.

Tier one Under tier one — medium risk, the 10pm curfew has been extended to 11pm, with the rule of six returning for indoor and outdoor settings. Those from separate households, or support bubbles, must keep two metres away from one another. People will be asked to reduce their travel as much as they can, and work from home where possible. Spectators will be allowed to attend sports events and live performances, but in limited numbers subject to capacity. And hair and beauty salons will be allowed to reopen.

Tier two

Under tier two — high alert, household mixing indoors is banned, with the rule of six applying to outdoor settings. Pubs and restaurants will still be allowed to operate until 11pm — but alcohol can only be served as part of a substantial meal. Sports, live events and hairdressing salons can continue as in tier one.

Tier three Under tier three — very high alert, household mixing is banned both indoors and outdoors, including in pubs, restaurants and private gardens. Outdoor public spaces will be subject to the rule of six. Eateries will be closed aside from takeaway and delivery. Indoor entertainment venues will also be closed. Hair and beauty salons are allowed to open.


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CORONAVIRUS LATEST

n

Slough

69

345 per 100,000

40 Boredom packs

7 2

4

Windsor and Maidenhead

7 3

116 per 100,000

KEY

Bracknell Forest 107 per 100,000

Number of positive covid-19 cases reported on November 23 Number of covidrelated deaths between November 7-13 Data: Public Health Berkshire

Borough council checks on 7,000 in second lockdown THE COUNCIL has called 7,000 residents to check on their wellbeing in the second lockdown. At the start of the month, 14 staff at the borough council were redeployed to support frontline colleagues. Within a 10-day period, staff made contact with 90% of the borough’s clinically extremely vulnerable residents by phone – each person averaging 30 calls per day. And the adult social care team has also called all residents known to them who are vulnerable in other ways, to check their support is in place and their needs are being met. The team has visited all

those over 75 and aims to reach all those over 65 soon. “The ability to be flexible in how we work has been vital to our success in dealing with Covid-19 to ensure our vital frontline services continue and all our residents have the support and help that they need,” said Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services at Wokingham Borough Council. “This goes for those all staff – those who have been redeployed, those who may now have increased workloads as a result of others being redeployed and all those carrying on their great work in these difficult circumstances.”

The calls so far have generated more than 100 referrals to The Link Visiting Scheme, to support with social isolation. All have been contacted by The Link and regular welfare checks have been put in place. There have been 151 referrals to One Front Door, run by Citizens Advice Wokingham for support with accessing food, medication or basic care needs. And there have been 40 referrals to the council’s adult social care — where the need for formal support has been recognised, or risk identified. � For support, call the One Front Door, run by Citizens Advice Wokingham on 0300 330 1189

LOCKDOWN can be lonely – the call to stay in except for essential travel or exercise means many people have run out of things to do. Now, a housing association is stepping to the rescue, by sending activity packs to some of its most vulnerable residents. More than 500 of the packs have been compiled, and are for those living in Sovereign Housing Association’s housing for older people schemes. They contain colouring pads, paint by numbers sets, puzzles, pencils and pens. Tracey Scutter, wellbeing officer at Sovereign, helped create the packs’ contents, before the company’s concierge team hand-delivered the parcels. “This is the second bundle of packs that our Concierge team have distributed to our residents since March,” she said. “With the support of our communities team, it’s really made a difference to our residents, some of whom have found the last few months quite difficult. “It’s been great all working together as one.” The initial idea for the packs came from Diane Humphries, Community Development Officer for Sovereign, who said: “It’s been fabulous working alongside other Sovereign teams on this. It’s amazing what we can achieve together, and I know the activity packs will be most welcome by residents at this time.”

How to get help in Wokingham borough: To access the ‘One Front Door’ service, call Citizen’s Advice on 0300 330 1189 Those calling from a mobile phone should enter if prompted: 0118 978 7258


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Earley-based pharmaceutical company’s initial vaccine trials show ‘positive optimism’ � From front page

In August, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said: “Equal access to a Covid-19 vaccine is the key to beating the virus and paving the way for recovery from the pandemic. “This cannot be a race with a few winners, and the COVAX Facility is an important part of the solution – making sure all countries can benefit from access to the world’s largest portfolio of candidates and fair and equitable distribution of vaccine doses.” Alok Sharma, the MP for Reading West and also business secretary, said in July: “Our scientists and researchers are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine at a speed and scale never seen before. While this progress is truly remarkable, the fact remains that there are no guarantees. “In the meantime, it is important that we secure early access to a diverse range of promising vaccine candidates, like GSK and Sanofi, to increase our chances of finding one that works so we can protect the public and save lives.” Dr Ian Gray, is the medical director for Sanofi’s UK vaccines division, as well as its country medical chair. Since June last year, the company has its UK base in Thames Valley Park. Earlier this week, he said that much of the research on the vaccine candidates had been conducted in Sanofi’s labs worldwide, and: “We have dedicated people in the UK working with the Government’s vaccine task force, which includes clinical trials and also deployment.” As Covid-19 is a previously unknown virus, Sanofi – like other pharmaceutical companies – effectively started with a blank sheet of paper when it came to finding solutions. “We started off with a map of the structure of the virus to understand how to stimulate the immune response to it,” Dr Gray said, outlining the early stages of the pre-clinical phase. “The guys in the laboratory were working with each other to try and understand how it works. Once you do, you can set in motion how to elicit an immune response in a cell. If we start seeing some responses, we can start bringing it into what we call a preclinical phase.” This included testing its safety in the early stages. Once satisfied, the team can then launch clinical trials, for which there are three phases. “It demonstrates not only the effectiveness of the vaccine and how it works, but also the safety of the vaccine,” Dr Gray said. “Once it goes through those three phases of clinical trials, it has to go to regulatory submission with the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). They assess the dossier we submit to them with all the information around the clinical trials, the manufacturing process, and the structure of the actual vaccine.” If it passes, Sanofi and its partners will then receive a licence allowing the vaccine to be made available for use. The impact of Covid-19 on our lives,

including lockdowns, has meant that vaccines to the virus have been fasttracked – but corners have not been cut. Dr Gray said: “The process usually takes 12-14 years, we’re doing it in 12-18 months. The difference is that we’re doing a lot of the trials in parallel, combining phase one and two into one trial, still looking for safety and efficacy. When we reach that end point, we’ll start phase three at the same time, we will start our manufacturing process to be able to have vaccines to be able to deploy into the countries that are needing, or wanting, the vaccine. “It’s really at warp speed, we’re working at a pace that is unprecedented.” And throughout it all, the companies working on v a c c i n e s “have been t r a n s p a r e n t t h r o u g h o u t the whole process, publishing results when they’re available for the world to see”. One of the proposed vaccines uses mRNA technology, which has never been used in this way before. Other trials using similar methodology have shown strong results, with up to 90% success rates reported, including the University of Oxford’s candidate, details of which were released earlier this week. Dr Gray is excited by these results. “It’s neat tech – this is a new approach,” he said. “There are different platforms used by different manufacturers. We’re using two technology platforms, one we’re focusing on the RNA, the other on a protein subunit platform, basically a recombinant protein vaccine. “We’re working on two approaches – versatility is key,” he said. “We already have a lot of experience in one technology, which is recombinant protein technology; it is currently used to manufacture one of our seasonal influenza vaccines in the US and the UK – we’re repurposing that for the Covid vaccine. “The mRNA vaccine approach is a new technology for us. We’re working with Translate Bio, a company dedicated to this type of technology. “We’re utilising their technology, and they’re utilising our expertise in vaccine development and roll-out.” It’s been a massive exercise in teamwork: “We have two core teams working with each other, it’s a real collaboration. The one thing that the pandemic has done is that it has brought together companies, academics and institutions for the first time – various groups working with industry and academia on vaccines.” Next month, Sanofi will be the last of the big companies to reveal the early results of their phase one and two vaccine trials. Does this bother Dr Gray and his team? Not a bit. “The most important thing is that we

Teams from Sanofi have been working across the globe to produce two potential Covid-19 vaccines. The UK team is headed up by Dr Ian Gray, pictured inset Picture: Getty

do this right. The time and dedication we’ve spent on developing these vaccines is really critical to success. “This isn’t a race for a vaccine. “This is a race to get ahead of the virus. “We want to make sure that’s crystal clear: this is not a competition to be first, last or middle. It’s really about making sure we get a vaccine that’s proven to be effective for use in populations in the UK and outside of it. “The movement of positivity within the vaccines’ development is in the right direction.” And when the vaccine is available, people should be confident in what has been developed.

“People should have complete confidence in the vaccines – whatever they’re taking for prevention for infectious disease,” Dr Gray said. “They’re doing a service to the wider public. It’s something I feel very strongly about, especially now in this season of flu. “We all have social responsibility to make sure we protect ourselves, our loved ones, our families and our communities. We have to look at the bigger picture.” With one eye on his role as Sanofi’s country medical chair, does Dr Gray have satisfaction with his role in helping tackle coronavirus? “Now, more than ever, this is a time for pharma companies working on prevention and future measures to have a voice. “We really have an opportunity now to really show the value of, for example,

Sanofi’s role in prevention, in working with public health to address the issues that we’re currently seeing with the NHS and try and relieve some of the pressures they are experiencing. “For me, being part of the solution to the pandemic gives me a great sense of joy, because I see the results in other manufacturers, I see that the community has come together as a unit to really try and find a solution. “They’ve been daring, taking risks, and I applaud the industry for exploring this new unknown together in a transparent way. “I feel privileged to be part of this and I do hope that we continue, as a community, to find solutions and keep building solutions beyond the pandemic, for other diseases and other interventions that public health is crying out for.”

Urgent call for plasma donations PEOPLE who have had Covid-19 are being asked to respond to an urgent call to donate blood plasma – and potentially save lives. NHS Blood and Transplant has opened the doors of its new plasma donation centre at Kennet Place, on Kings Road in Reading. So far, around 50 people have signed up, but the NHS is hoping that more will come forward. Donations collected at the centre will be used in clinical trials to determine whether the antibody-rich blood plasma found in people who’ve had coronavirus – known as convalescent plasma – could be an effective treatment for the virus. The plasma is transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response. The antibodies could slow or stop the virus spreading, which could save lives. Once the trials are complete, it will confirm if it can be rolled out across the NHS. Donna Blofield, donor centre manager, said: “We would love to see

people in Reading offering to donate so we can book them into donation appointments now. Donation is safe and easy, and you could save lives. Your body quickly replaces the antibodies afterwards.” Anyone over 17 who has had COVID-19 can offer to donate blood plasma donor. Donating is easy - it takes just 45 minutes and the whole appointment, including time for snacks, lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, there is a need for more male and BAME donors to come

forward as their plasma is more likely to contain the higher levels of antibodies required. People who needed hospital treatment are especially likely to have high antibody levels. The Reading donor centre is now one of a number centres around the country. By the end of this year, there will be 42 plasma donation points across England so that 80% of potential donors can reach one within 45 minutes. To volunteer to donate plasma visit www.nhsbt.nhs.uk


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Construction helps fix up unemployment levels THOUSANDS of local people have found employment during the pandemic thanks to construction projects. This is because developments in the greater Reading area, including in Wokingham borough, have helped fund a programme called the Employment and Skills project over the last 18 months. The programme aims to match people with job opportunities created by new commercial developments in the area, and it was launched by Reading UK in partnership with Reading Borough Council. To date, the project has delivered 40 work experience opportunities, 11 apprenticeships, 226 job opportunities and 60 school visits in the area. In total, it has helped 1,700 people step into the job market or into self-employment. The programme targets people who face barriers when accessing the job market, such as those facing long-term unemployment, people over 50, and single parents. And in the future, it will also include those impacted by Covid-19. “The Employment and Skills programme helps Reading UK deliver against its mission to create a more inclusive economy in the town and is a project of which we are very proud,” said Adam Jacobs, chair of Reading UK. “Thanks to all the partner organisations who have helped in the programme so far and we look forward to developing it further over the next two years.” Cllr Jason Brock, leader of Reading Borough Council added: “Reading has a thriving economy and remains a major player both regionally and nationally, but there is little doubt the ripples from Covid will be felt for many months to come at least. “Through initiatives like this, we do all we can to create pathways into long-term employment for those who face barriers through no fault of their own.”

Southern Co-op grad scheme celebrates two-year anniversary EXCLUSIVE By CHARLOTTE KING cking@wokingham.today A RETAILER is celebrating two years of a new scheme that has seen it help train more than 80 apprentices.

The Southern Co-op has continued with the apprenticeship programme during the coronavirus pandemic, with 12 of its staff members, known as colleagues, completing their training this year. It aims to help people learn new skills over a 13- to 24-month programme that combines study with practical work. With Southern Co-op’s head office based in Portsmouth, six of its head office colleagues have completed the Operational/Departmental Manager Level 5 apprenticeship with five achieving a Distinction grade. A further three colleagues completed qualifications with the Association of Accounting Technicians. In its branches of The Co-operative Food, there have been nine duty managers who have completed the Retail Team Leader Level 3 apprenticeship with six of those achieving a Distinction grade. Three have been promoted to the role of store manager. Linda Masterman, diversity and inclusion manager at Southern

Co-op, said: “We have so many hardworking colleagues across our retail stores, funeral homes, coffee branches and at our head office. “The success of the apprenticeships scheme is further proof of this. “It's been a tough year for everyone but they have managed to juggle work and complete a qualification and never given up – although I'm sure at times they felt like it. “Well done to everyone involved.” James Knott completed an Operations/Departmental Level 5 which led to a promotion to Availability Manager. “The best bit was actually putting the theory into practice the following day when I returned to my day job,” he said. “For me this was the best way to learn, without question and, in my opinion, beats my university education.” James Knott and Kelly Tolhurst MP at a Parliamentary reception last year

Bus company launches special awards

Rising demand for tech experts across South East TECH experts could be flocking to the South East, according to Tech Nation. Demand for the company’s Global Talent Visa for Digital Technology has risen by nearly 50% in one year, with 41% of applicants based outside of London. And it coincides with a growing appetite for tech specialists in the South East. Over the past three years, there’s been a 260% rise in demand for employees with cyber skills, and a 91% increase for those with AI skills. “The UK is a global talent magnet for Tech founders,” Stephen Kelly, chair of Tech Nation said. “It provides rich opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up, flourish and scale a business.” Despite the pandemic, interest to work in the UK’s tech sector has never been higher, Mr Kelly says. “Attracting tomorrow’s tech leaders to the UK is crucial to continued growth of the sector, the UK’s place in the world, and driving the nation through recovery to growth in the digital age,” he added.

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READING BUSES is thanking its staff who have gone the extra mile this year. The specially launched awards are open to nominations from customers, as well as employees and managers within the firm. The closing date is Wednesday, December 2.

THE LOCAL business community is starting to feel the pinch of lockdown, says Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect Berkshire’s economy, business owners and their employees are facing uncertainty. According to Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, who conducted a survey of 400 businesses across Berkshire, nearly three quarters (73%) of local enterprises are continuing to work throughout the crisis. Nearly a quarter (23%) reported not being financially impacted by the virus. And a third (33%) of businesses surveyed

Content Guru delivers new features for Microsoft Teams

expect at least half of their workforce to work from home in the future. Jacinta George, business environment lead and board director at Thames Valley Berkshire LEP said: “The findings of the survey are continuously being used to discuss steps that can be taken by a range of organisations to help businesses in the recovery phase of the current crisis.” Thames Valley Berkshire LEP runs its Business Growth Hub to offer support to businesses. More information can be found here: www.berkshirebusinesshub.co.uk And it also created Berkshire Opportunities to help job seekers in their search for careers, training and education.

THE FRIENDLY neighbourhood communications provider, Content Guru, is offering new services to its customers. The Bracknell-based company delivers communication solutions for businesses across the globe, and it has expanded the features which integrate with Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is used by businesses up and down the country, now even more so as people return to working from home. And now, Content Guru has delivered some new features: � Front office users can now transfer calls to back-office experts, and vice versa. � Users can dial external numbers through Microsoft Teams. � Agents now have full control to mute, unmute, hold, resume and transfer calls through Teams. These are all available through the company’s storm programme. Martin Taylor, deputy CEO and co-founder at Content Guru, said: “Microsoft Teams’ powerful and intuitive collaboration tools have become incredibly popular since the Covid-19 pandemic enforced mass homeworking across the globe. “For businesses to continue as usual, it is key that contact centre agents are able to work with the wider organisation to gather the information needed to solve customer queries.”

� For more information , visit: www.berkshireopportunities.co.uk

� For more information, visit: www.contentguru.com

� To nominate someone, visit: www.readingbuses.co.uk/gemawards

Businesses are feeling the pinch warns group

� For more details, log on to www.southernco-opjobs.co.uk/jobs


Tech lawyers help cut email spam A BID to boost internet security and cut down on spam has been helped thanks to a Thames Valley-based specialist technology law firm. Boyes Turner, which has offices in neighbouring Reading, acted for Spamhaus, an industry-leading, realtime cyber-security and spam prevention dataset provider, on a new licensing deal with ICANN, a not-forprofit organisation headquartered in Los Angeles. It co-ordinates website addresses, ensuring there is one global internet, which is secure and stable. The deal will enhance ICANN’s operational capacity to safeguard the internet and prevent spam. The Spamhaus Data

Feeds have been licensed to ICANN and will allow it to produce abuse reports, security metrics, predictive abuse metrics, risk scores and research papers. Domain names included in Spamhaus feeds may be provided to law enforcement or the ICANN compliance department for evidence of DNS abuse or misconduct. Boyes Turner said that that the deal comes as Spamhaus reported a 29% surge in the number of botnet Command & Controllers – servers controlled by

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cybercriminals – in the second quarter of 2020. The law firm’s head of technology, Mark Blunden (pictured), and solicitor, Calum Parfitt, advised Spamhaus on the deal. “Spamhaus currently protects over three billion mailboxes and is responsible for blocking the vast majority of spam and malware sent out on the internet,” Mr Blunden said. “The deal with ICANN extends that, allowing ICANN to enhance its research capacity.” An ICANN spokesperson said: “The Spamhaus Data Feeds will be an important addition to our efforts to ensure the security, stability, and resiliency of global identifier systems.”

LEP grows team to help recovery THERE’S some new kids on the block at Thames Valley Berkshire. The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has three new appointments to its team. Tim Page is heading up economic strategy and research, and will help Thames Valley Berkshire LEP work towards its Strategic Economic Plan and Local Recovery and Renewal Plan.

Resilience is the plan for Reading UK AS THE coronavirus continues to impact the local economy, some are turning their attention towards the future. Reading UK has launched its very own recovery and renewal strategy to help

He has more than 25 years of experience in research, and previously worked at the Trades Union Congress. And Sue Sharp and Jessi Loftus have both been appointed as enterprise coordinators at the LEP. They will be supporting and developing the Berkshire Enterprise Adviser Network across Berkshire, including in Wokingham.

businesses get back on their feet post-pandemic. After consulting with the local business community, the strategy ‘Powered by People’ aims to build a more inclusive and sustainable local economy. And it has three main priorities: � Providing more employment, skills and training opportunities for

The Network works with young people and provides them with access to employers for career development. And enterprise coordinators support schools and colleges when networking with the business community. “I am delighted to welcome Tim, Sue and Jessi to the LEP team,” said Alison Webster,

local residents � Crafting a more resilient economy fit for the future � Making the area a great place to live, work, and visit Adam Jacobs, business chair of Reading UK said: “As part of its longstanding mission boosting business and enhancing visitor perceptions, Reading UK has been at the forefront of economic development and promotion of Reading

CEO of Thames Valley Berkshire LEP. “They are strong additions to our existing team and will help us to deliver the strongest possible Local Recovery and Renewal Plan, which will in turn generate economic growth in Berkshire as we come out of the challenges of this pandemic.”

as a place. “Our Reading 2050 Vision is our guiding light and while Government support is always welcome, we musn’t wait to start addressing the challenges we face locally.” Reading UK has also launched the Recovery hub to explain the strategy’s priorities. � For more information, visit: web.livingreading.co.uk/ recovery


12 | NEWS

Have a say in borough’s house-building future RESIDENTS can have their say in the development of the council’s draft housing strategy. Created as a framework, the document will set out the borough’s strategy for future development, including social and affordable homes. If approved, the draft strategy will then be accompanied by a more detailed action plan — updated annually. Cllr John Kaiser, executive member for finance and housing said creating vibrant, inclusive communities is at the heart of the plan. “All of our residents have the right to live in a safe, stable and comfortable home. “It has become even more important that the council understands and helps to address the economic and housing issues that have arisen during the current pandemic.” He added: “We have done some really good work in the last few years such as delivering more than 1,000 new affordable homes through our strong partnership with registered housing providers, developing ambitious regeneration programmes in the council owned housing estates at Phoenix Avenue and Gorse Ride in Finchampstead and delivering new supported housing schemes for our most vulnerable residents.” And he said the council is on track to do even more in the future, by delivering more than 1,000 new homes over the next four years — mainly for social rent and low cost home ownership. The draft strategy also aims to manage the need for new housing in the borough while protecting the quality of the environment, accommodate a growing older population, tackle health issues and social isolation and ensure house building in the borough is as environmentally sustainable as possible. Cllr Kaiser is encouraging residents to take part in the consultation to help the council “get it right” during the next four years. It is open until Monday, December 13, and available at: www.wokingham.gov.uk by searching current consultations.

Christmas light switch on goes virtual PEOPLE may not be able to celebrate together this year — but one community has found a new way to enjoy the festive season whilst staying apart. The traditional Carol Concert and Lights Switch On in Woodley Town Centre has been cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions, and is going virtual instead. Brian Fennelly, Woodley Town Centre Manager, has created a film of the Woodley Lights and Carols to make sure everybody can celebrate the festive season while staying safe. And he is inviting all of Woodley to stand on their doorsteps this Saturday and watch the virtual Switch On together. “Bring a phone or tablet or even bring a TV,” Mr Fennelly said, “and join in the biggest and loudest Woodley Christmas Lights Switch On ever.” The event is at 6pm this coming Saturday (November 28). � For details on how to get involved, watch the event trailer by logging on to: bit.ly/WoodleyLights2020

Sign up as Covid Marshals THE BOROUGH council has launched its Covid Community Information Champion initiative and it needs the public’s help. It is asking residents to volunteer as Champions and spread key coronavirus messages in their communities. This is to ensure people are up to date with the latest Covid-19 information across the borough. � To sign up, visit cutt.ly/mhiYVss

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‘Greedy’ council is charging for virtual fair says business owner EXCLUSIVE By CHARLOTTE KING cking@wokingham.today WOKINGHAM Borough Council has been “greedy and cynical” with its Virtual Christmas Fair, according to a local business owner.

Julie LeFevre, who makes needlesculpted figures and decorations for her business evieandteddy, is outraged at the council’s decision to charge businesses to advertise on its digital marketplace. And she claims it’s making thousands of pounds at the expense of local retailers. The decision is also being questioned this evening by Lib Dem councillor Imogen Shepherd-DuBey at a virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s Executive. She will ask: “I can see that Wokingham Borough Council have decided to start up a Virtual Christmas Market for small local traders on a Facebook feed, for

which they are, rather shockingly charging £20 to £50 to use. “Considering that there is clearly no website development and this looks like a very minimal service, I am wondering what value it offers.” Sellers fee to Wokingham Borough Council depends on the size of their business, and allows them to advertise their wares once a day. “I don’t think it’s justified, given what’s going on with lockdown,” Ms LeFevre said. She believes there are around 1,000 businesses advertising at the Virtual Christmas Fair on Facebook. “At just £20 per company, the council would be making over £20,000 — so it’s raking in a huge amount from these adverts,” she said. The charge goes towards covering Facebook advertising costs, Ms LeFevre said. But there are actually around 40 businesses signed up. This could reach a total of roughly £1,000 — not £20,000.

Joy cafe extends free meal scheme JOY is the main item on a Wokingham cafe’s menu this year, as it extends its free meal scheme over Christmas, writes Charlotte King. Earlier this year, a number of local businesses offered free school meals to make sure children had access to food throughout half term. And Joy Cafe is determined to make a difference during the festive season too. The Wokingham town centre eatery is working with Share Wokingham to extend its free meal

offer — as part of a wider charity appeal. “Joy Cafe were offering free meals over half-term but there wasn’t a huge uptake on it,” said Claire Revie, Share Wokingham volunteer. “We realised that a lot of embarrassment came from coming in and asking for something for free, so Share Wokingham has worked with the cafe to put together vouchers for people to use this Christmas. “It’s quite nice to give people a bit of a treat as well, to give them

Ms LeFevre believes that the borough council has “seriously overcalculated” the fee and is “ripping off” local businesses. “I think it’s a very cynical ploy to charge people who are struggling to get things off the ground, especially at this time of year,” she said. “A lot of us are on our knees as it is, not able to do what we normally do. “We are trying to find ways to make money just to get by and pay our bills.” She would be happy to pay the fee if she knew the money was going towards a charitable cause. Ms LeFevre has contacted the borough council to express her anger. In a letter she said: “I am shocked and disgusted that in the current climate when small businesses need all the help they can get, Wokingham Borough Council is taking away from the very small profits we make.”

She is now asking the council to remove the admin charge and allow business owners to advertise for free at the Virtual Christmas Fair. Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business said the virtual market was set up after a planned in-person Ice Rink & Christmas Market event was cancelled. He said: “The small admin fee charged allows us to ensure customer safety when using the platform we’ve provided – stallholders have to provide evidence of insurance, hygiene certificates etc. “The 40-plus stallholders who have signed up also get help creating their social media posts, data on the best times to post and promotion via our social media.” He added: “We have received very positive responses on the virtual market – with some suggesting it should become an annual event.”

a choice of what to eat.” The meal vouchers are only one part of a borough-wide Christmas appeal, organised by Wokingham Foodbank, Share Wokingham and First Days Children’s Charity. To support families this winter, the three charities are working on a joint project to distribute Christmas gifts and stockings to vulnerable children, alongside festive food hampers to families who need them. And the charities feel their work is more important than ever right now. “The demographic of those in need has changed this year,” Ms Revie explained. “People who’ve never needed to ask for help before now need it. If anything, Covid has been a real leveller.” “And while it was really great

over half-term when all of these companies stepped up to help vulnerable families, they were the ones that missed out on business,” she added. Ms Revie hopes the stockings and food hampers will be distributed from mid-December, and they will be delivered by Share Wokingham volunteers. In the meantime, the three charities will also continue to provide their year-round support and are asking for donations of brand new toys and gifts for children aged up to 17 alongside Christmas food and treats for families.

Residents sign up to home heating schemes this winter THE COUNCIL is encouraging residents to look into three different schemes that could help keep their homes warm. As the winter months approach, households across the borough may find themselves eligible for funding to improve insulation and energyefficient improvements. “As people start to turn their thermostats up it’s the ideal time for us to think about our homes and whether they could be more energy efficient or less expensive to heat.” said Cllr Gregor Murray, executive member for climate emergency. “Not only is heating our houses a major contributor towards carbon emissions it’s also an increasing concern to many of our residents who are seeing crippling energy bills grow each year and don’t realise that installing insulation in their homes could save them hundreds of pounds and be effective for years.” Three schemes are open to

residents; the Help to Heat scheme, the Green Homes Grant and the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery (LAD). The council-run Help to Heat programme offers free or heavily subsidised cavity wall and loft insulation to qualifying households. Eligibility includes receiving certain benefits and having a household income below £35,000 after taxes. Or being on a list for people vulnerable to cold. This includes residents over 65 or with children under five or with a range of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease or cancer. Mrs Pearce, a local homeowner having works done as part of the help to heat scheme said she was pleased to hear the scheme was available in Wokingham. “I had insulation installed at my previous house under a similar scheme in a different area,” she said. “Having the work done made a huge difference to my home making it

Mrs Pearce is having work done to her Woosehill home as part of the Help to Heat scheme Picture: Stewart Turkington

much warmer during the winter and even cooler during the summer months. I was really pleased when I heard something similar was being offered here and phoned up to find out more.” The Green Homes Grant is a government-run scheme open to most homeowners and landlords. It includes vouchers up to £5,000, or £10,000 where households receive certain benefits, to part fund energy efficient and low-carbon heating improvements. Cllr Murray said he was pleased the council was successful in its joint bid with Bracknell Forest Council for £900,000 of

� For more information on how to receive a Christmas stocking or hamper and for details on how to donate, visit: www.firstdays.net/christmasgiving and www.facebook.com/sharewokingham

Green Homes Grant funding. This, he said, could even be used to install solid wall insulation to park homes. And the LAD scheme, also run by the council, helps households with an income of less than £30,000 make improvements to their homes. The council will offer residents a survey of their home before being offered work from this scheme. This, along with the Help to Heat scheme, is being rolled out across the borough in partnership with local business Insta Group Ltd. The company’s representative, Bob Smith, said he was pleased to be helping residents. “We’ve been working in the industry for years all over the country and know that most people simply don’t understand the difference good insulation can make to the home,” he said. “They also believe that the work will be incredibly disruptive when in reality it can be installed really quickly and, in the case of most cavity wall insulation jobs, even from outside.” � For more information, visit: greenhomesgrant.campaign.gov.uk


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14 | NEWS

Churches light up Crowthorne High Street CHURCHES across Crowthorne will be lighting up the village streets this year. For the last 30 years, the Christmas lights have been owned by Newman’s and Abbots along Crowthorne High Street. But with the closure of Newman’s shoe shop, there was concern among Churches Together in Crowthorne that the lights would be abandoned this year. The group’s vice chair, Barry Bailey, said: “There was a strong probability that this year, without either Abbotts or Newman’s in the High Street, that the lights would not be erected. “In conversations with Crowthorne Parish Council it was evident they would be unable to fund the lights. “After months of negotiations, Churches Together in Crowthorne have acquired the lights and will be coordinating them this year, and for the foreseeable.” Mr Bailey said Crowthorne Traders had given the lights to the seven churches, with enough money to maintain them for three years. He said the churches are now committed to the project and will be planning fundraising activities too. “Churches Together in Crowthorne are delighted that we can bless the community in this way,” he added. “Had it been a normal year, we would have also had a switching on ceremony, carols and the late-night shopping event.”

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Twyford designer to open new shop

an online store too,” she said. “But we’re just concentrating on opening the shop at the moment.” The store’s owner hopes that

the website will be up and running from early next year. Styling services will also be on offer too, because Mrs Willson-Copland plans to use her background in interior design to offer home styling advice. And she hopes that Victoria & Co. will fill a gap in the local market. “There’s not a lot of homeware places around Twyford, aside from chains like IKEA and The Range,” she said. “I think Twyford is lacking places where you can just go and have a browse. “I want to be able to offer items in Twyford that I don’t really see anywhere else.” According to the store’s owner, the community response has been incredible. “When I put an announcement up on Facebook about the new store, I had loads of positive comments,” she explained. “People have also been coming to visit the site, which is

still in progress, saying they’ll be in when we open up shop. “They’ve just been so nice, coming and knocking on the door to find out what’s going on.” And the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t hindered Mrs Willson-Copland when setting up shop. “Lockdown has given me a month to do up the store and it means that when people can get back out again, there’s a new place for them to shop local which is great,” she said. “My Dad, my husband and my friends have all pulled together to help me get everything in shape. It’s been a real team effort.” Mrs Willson-Copland plans to open Victoria & Co. on Thursday, December 3 — the day after England’s national lockdown is due to end. “It’ll be perfect timing, so I’m trying my hardest to get as many hours of work in as I can to get it done,” she added. Victoria & Co. will be opening at 11 High Street, Twyford.

He added: “The news that there may be a Covid-19 vaccine on the horizon may help in a number of months time, but we must have a clear back up to help our children should the need to cancel exams become a reality." Cllr Prue Bray, the Liberal Democrat lead for education, echoed Cllr Ferris’ concerns, calling for fairer marking than the 2020 results. Cllr Ferris said the Liberal Democrat education minister in Wales, Kirsty Williams cancelled both GCSE and A-level exams because it is “impossible

to teach the children the majority of the curriculum”. This, he said, would make it unfair to children sitting exams who had not learnt the subjects properly. Instead, a range of coursework and tests are being put in place in Wales. National Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Daisy Cooper said the Government must cancel exams in England. She said: “It is vital (education secretary_ Gavin Williamson follows the move made in Wales, otherwise the secretary of state risks leaving

our young people in the lurch once again.” Executive member for children’s services, Cllr UllaKarin Clark said she is hearted by the way school leaders have worked through the pandemic. She said everyone wants to see pupils recognised for their hard work, and knows schools are working hard to ensure the best chance. “Current government policy is that those assessments should go ahead,” she added. “Schools are working to do their best for every child.”

EXCLUSIVE By CHARLOTTE KING cking@wokingham.today TWYFORD will soon be looking even more glam, thanks to a new interior design business.

Victoria & Co., a home decor and design shop, is opening its doors on the village high street next month. The store’s owner, Victoria Willson-Copland, has been working in interior design for years and is now pursuing her dream of running her own business. “I always thought it’d be really cool to open a shop,” she said. “When I found the store in Twyford I thought it’s now or never. It’s time to stop holding off and just do it. “When we open it’ll be like a dream come true.” Victoria & Co. will offer interior design services as well as home furnishings and gifts. From lamps to vases and

Victoria Willson-Copland will open her shop next week as lockdown ends

mirrors to ornaments, Mrs Willson-Copland aims to provide everything one needs to “glam up” their home. “We will also eventually run

Lid Dems support call to cancel summer exams WOKINGHAM Liberal Democrats are supporting the call to cancel exams across England, after Scotland and Wales made the controversial decision earlier this month. Cllr Lindsay Ferris, leader of the Wokingham Liberal Democrats, said he believes a clear message must be sent to English children about GCSE and A-Level exams this coming summer. He told Wokingham.Today:

Fatima AllaSaouiki and Hajar Moukhlis serving meals

Cash boost for homeless charity A HOMELESSNESS charity that supports people in the borough has been given a cash boost. Sadaka, a volunteer led charity, was given £3,264 by the Morrisons Foundation to help fund PPE for its team. Founded three years ago, the charity provides hot meals, a foodbank, second-hand clothes and book bank on a weekly basis to anyone struggling financially or experiencing homelessness in Reading and Wokingham. During that time, the volunteers have served more than 9,000 meals and currently

WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

supports 50 people every week. Zobia Kalim, treasurer at Sadaka said: "The funds will go a long way towards protecting our volunteers, who are giving their time, care and efforts to help others in these difficult times, during the pandemic. Further, being able to provide PPE like gloves, masks and hand sanitisers to our service users, who would not be able to afford such protection, is a godsend.” Joseph Scargill, Morrisons Foundation specialist, said they are delighted to support Sadaka in keeping its volunteers safe.”

“As it has been very difficult for teachers to teach the majority of their subjects, we feel it may well be the time to indicate that exams will not take place in 2021. “We do not want a repeat of 2020 where changes were made at the last minute. “It would be extremely unfair on our children here in Wokingham borough, if at the last minute the exams were cancelled.”

Thames Water launches support scheme A NEW partnership will help vulnerable people receive emergency help when needed. Age UK Berkshire says it is adding Thames Water’s priority service to its information and advice line service. This, it says, will make it easier for the charity’s service users to receive extra support in emergencies. Thames Water customers who have long-term health conditions, mobility issues or qualify for a state pension can join the free priority services register – a secure database of customers who would struggle to get by should their home’s water supply be disrupted. In such circumstances, Thames Water’s care team can deliver bottled water directly to their homes if they are unable to get to a collection hub. The system also gives them advanced warning of planned work which may risk an interruption to their water supply and provides tailored communication services. The joint project aims to help

up to 500 Age UK Berkshire service users a year. Olivia Johnson, partnerships lead at Thames Water, said: “We aim to keep our taps running every day of the year, however many of our older customers might need an extra helping hand if something goes wrong with their water supply and we have support measures in place to help them if it does. “Working in partnership with Age UK Berkshire is a fantastic opportunity to reach out to those customers who may not have access to the internet or prefer accessing advice on the phone to encourage them to sign up to our priority services.” And the project has been welcomed by Age UK Berkshire. Its chief executive, Fiona Price, said: “The Thames Water priority service is really beneficial for the older people we support and by working together our aim is to make sure that older people have access to this valuable service should they need it.”

A customer on the priority services register receives bottled water

Douglas, 93, an Age UK Berkshire service user from Reading, is one of the people who have benefited from the register. He said: “I thought I would never need this service that Age UK Berkshire helped sign me up to. But we had a recent issue

with water supply in my area and Thames Water called me and delivered water directly to my door. I didn’t need to worry, it was a great help.” � For more details, log on to www.thameswater.co.uk/ priorityservices or call 0800 009 3652


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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

Another busy week at the Tree

By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokingham.today IT’S BEEN another busy week for The Giving Tree as Wokingham once again continues to show how generous it is.

The festive appeal has been adapted to be Covid-safe while also ensuring that more than 2,500 children across the borough will have a visit from Santa on Christmas Day. The request this year for gift vouchers for children rather than physical presents. The charities and their kind volunteers will be very busy using the vouchers to buy the presents which the children have asked for. They will be distributed by local charities who work closely to ensure that the presents fall into the right stockings on December 25. To take part, visit a Giving Tree, take the tag, buy the requested voucher and return it to the place you took it from.

Louise Jedras at The Giving Tree with some of the selection boxes

One of the main trees is in Tesco’s branch in Finchampstead Road, Wokingham. The store’s community champion, Louise Jedras, said: “Last Friday, I delivered 42 gift cards that had been returned to Tesco Wokingham in the first week of the Giving Tree. “Our store is also donating a selection box along with each gift card

to pass on to the children.” And organiser Gill McKernan is also pleased with how the early days of the appeal has gone. “I am absolutely over the moon with the response from the wonderful, kind and caring local people. Their generosity is overwhelming and so appreciated by all the charities. On their behalf, I would like to say a massive thank you.” The appeal has received the backing of Wokingham Borough Mayor, Cllr Maclolm Richards. “We all know that Christmas is a time of joy and of giving, and I am delighted that there will be a Giving Tree 2020 at Tesco Wokingham this year, though trees will also be positioned at other locations as well,” he said. “The Giving Tree gives an opportunity for shoppers and residents to pick a gift tag off a tree, to obtain the gift voucher requested and return it to the store. “The gift vouchers will then be distributed to local charities for them to buy a present, so that no local children need go without a gift over Christmas. It certainly helps to spread joy and happiness, particularly at the current time, with the limitations of travelling or spending time with family and loved ones.”

Find a Giving Tree at Tesco Wokingham, Tesco Warfield, Tesco Martin Heron, Morrisons at Woosehill and Newbury Building Society

Borough recycles 8,000 tonnes of food SINCE its launch, the borough’s food waste scheme has diverted 8,000 tonnes of peelings, bones and teabags from landfill. Started in April 2019, approximately half of borough residents are now recycling their food waste. With roughly 1.65kg each week. This equates to more than 500 tonnes each month and an annual reduction of 52,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents — the measure for carbon footprint. It has helped to boost recycling rates by 7% and reduced the amount of rubbish being sent to landfill by 5,288 tonnes. And it’s created enough energy to power 32,288 homes for a day or 88 homes for a year. Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for environment and leisure, said: “Our residents continue to show strong support for recycling as much, and in as many ways, as they can. “Our food waste recycling services continue to grow in popularity with residents, helping drive up the borough’s recycling rate. “We continue to look to improve our recycling service as we aim to hit our goal of a 70% recycling rate in the borough to help make Wokingham carbon neutral by 2030.” All food waste collected is taken to an anaerobic digestion processing facility in Oxfordshire. “There, the methane released from food waste is captured and

Wokingham children 60% satisfied with life

turned into energy, and a fertiliser is also produced. The council is now encouraging anyone who already has a caddy and doesn’t use it, to start the process. “No amount of food waste is too small to put into your food waste caddy to add to our recycling efforts,” said Cllr Batth. “Any residents who were delivered a caddy last year, but did not start using it, should consider changing that today. “Any additional food waste recycling now will provide a cumulative boost to our recycling numbers and help us on our journey to be a carbon neutral borough.” Residents who want a food waste caddy or need more food waste liners can collect from the council’s Shute End offices, Woodley or Lower Earley Library and the Ryeish Green sports hub. Collections take place on the same day as residents’ kerbside general waste and recycling collections. Items that can go into the food waste bin include all cooked and uncooked food, tea bags and coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, banana skins, apple cores, pet food, out of date food not in its packaging and cooking oil in sealed plastic bottles. Residents can line their caddies with plastic bags, newspaper or kitchen towels, or leave it unlined.

CHILDREN in Wokingham are reasonably satisfied with their lives, according to a recent report. But across the South East, more than one in five are unhappy. The Children’s Society, a charity which helps young people facing abuse and neglect, has surveyed the wellbeing of secondary school age children across the country. As part of its annual Good Childhood Report, it is working to highlight how the wellbeing of children aged between 11- and 16-years-old is in decline. According to the charity, children in Wokingham scored their life satisfaction at 6.4 out of 10. Those in Reading and Bracknell Forest scored the same, and children in West Berkshire recorded slightly higher results at 6.5. Across the entire South East, The Children’s Society reported that 22.2% of respondents scored their life satisfaction as five out of 10 or lower — that amounts to nearly 112,000 children. And the coronavirus pandemic is not to blame, with the findings taken before the virus hit UK shores. “It’s heartbreaking to learn that even before Covid, so many children in the South East felt dissatisfied with their lives,” said Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society. He fears that the pandemic is taking a toll on young people’s wellbeing. “As a society, we need a better understanding of how children are feeling and what is causing this in order to decide how best to send this worrying trend into reverse,” Mr Russell added. The Children’s Society is now calling on the government to introduce a regular national measurement of children’s wellbeing, whilst asking local councils to carry out regular assessments too.

� For more information, visit the council’s website.

� To access the 2020 Good Childhood Report, visit: www.childrenssociety.org.uk


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Poppy Appeal raises £23,000 despite coronavirus restrictions DESPITE the coronavirus pandemic, Wokingham residents have again given generously to the Poppy Appeal, writes Phil Creighton. More than £22,000 was donated – an astonishing amount when there was just a tenth of the usual number of collection points. Organiser David Dunham said: “It was much harder for people to get poppies this year as we were very heavily restricted on where and what we could do. “Where we would normally send out approx 400 tins and trays, this year it was 46. “We also had great support from Tesco, who allowed us to collect from there in a controlled way and it worked very well. “Henry Street Garden Centre, Squires Garden Centre, Nationwide Building Society and McColls Newsagents were truly amazing as well, and all our other sites were also of great support.” In all, they have raised £22,957.47 – down on previous years, but still an impressive show of support for the appeal which helps former servicemen and their families. “We hope that we can get back to normal for next years Appeal which is a special one nationally, and for us in Wokingham, marking 100 years,” Mr Dunham said. “Wokingham Branch was formed on June 25, 1921, one of the first in the country, meaning that Wokingham was also one of the first places to hold a Poppy Appeal. “We will be looking to mark this with events and are looking for business support and any companies that may have a charity of the year could possibly support us.” In addition to the donations, residents also filled up the Field of Remembrance placed outside the town hall. These will be placed at the War Memorial outside the Red Cross Centre in Denmark Street.

Council signs race charter Station bridge fenced off

� To find out more about the Race At Work Charter, visit: www.bitc.org.uk/race

Borough council launches free mental health workshops THE COUNCIL has launched a mental health service to support residents on the road to recovery. The Recovery College provides web-based support for anxiety, low mood, stress, mental wellbeing among other topics. The sessions are run by people who have worked in mental health settings, but not clinically trained, and use Microsoft Teams as a platform for discussion and activities. The group workshops aim to help residents manage their lives, form stronger social relationships and enhance the skills they need for living and working, said the council. Sessions are open to anyone over 18 living in the borough and does not require a referral. “This year in particular caused many of us to feel unsettled, worried and anxious,” said Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services at Wokingham Borough Council. “Maintaining good mental health and wellbeing has always been important, and more so amid a pandemic. I’m so proud of our officers at Wokingham Borough Council and Public Health colleagues for their commitment and creativity, coming up with ways to enrich and streamline our service offer, breaking barriers and reaching out to everybody. “The Recovery College has been a great success in many areas of the country and I’m thrilled to be able to celebrate its launch in our borough too.” A prospectus can be found on the council’s website, detailing each session type, along with registration information. Sessions are free. � For more information, log on to: www.wokingham.gov.uk/health/health-services-andadvice/wokingham-recovery-college or call 0118 989 0707

Inset: Cllr Tony Lack, Wokingham town mayor places a cross outside the Town Hall

IN AN effort to improve equality in the workplace, Wokingham Borough Council has signed up to the Race at Work Charter. It has joined more than 200 organisations who have also done the same. The Charter outlines five key principles to make sure employers address any barriers to Ethnic Minority recruitment and progression. And by committing to it, the council has committed to: � Appoint an executive sponsor for race � Capture data and publicise its progress � Ensure zero tolerance of harassment and bullying � Make equality in the workplace the responsibility of all leaders and managers � Take action that supports ethnic minority career progression. “There is no place for racism in the workplace or in society for that matter,” said Cllr Parry Batth, interim chair for the Wokingham BME forum. “I know that our borough is brimming with talented and innovative individuals from our Ethnic Minority communities, who deserve the same opportunities in their career.” Cllr John Halsall, leader of the council added: “We are proud to have signed the Race at Work Charter and hope this further demonstrates our commitment to tackle racial inequality in the workplace. “At Wokingham Borough Council we believe that everyone should be entitled to the same opportunities and we hope our allegiance inspires other local businesses to follow suit.” The council will announce the executive sponsor for race soon.

NEWS | 17

COMMUTERS undertaking essential journeys were left puzzled last week when the historic bridge at Wokingham’s railway station was fenced off. The pedestrian crossing over the railway tracks is a Grade II listed structure and was originally opened in the late 19th century. It is unusual as it uses iron from recycled rails. A 2017 inspection found that there were cracks in the stonework, damp in the stair tread, paint loss throughout and corrosion causing loss of thickness on the full length of the stairs. A planning application was lodged earlier this year, but rejected. At the time, Network Rail said that as the bridge is in a poor condition, its works will “ensure the asset continues to be safe for general public use as well as eliminating risks to the running services, passengers and all railway users”. Under these plans, the timber deck and stair treads would have been replaced with a Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) alternative, a composite material created using a plastic reinforced by fine fibres made of glass. Network Rail says that this will be used instead of wood as it has a long-life span which would extend the life of the structure. As planners rejected the proposals, Network Rail has gone back to drawing board to find a solution that protects the crossing for years to come. A spokesperson said: “In advance of the works, we are planning to maintain a route for pedestrians to cross the footbridge. “The footbridge will be fully closed occasionally to allow surveys to be completed and for the duration of the refurbishment once the council has approved our plans.”


18 | VIEWPOINTS

WOKINGHAM.TODAY THE VOICE OF THE BOROUGH

All of us must stand up to bullies IT IS disappointing that Priti Patel remains our home secretary. Bullying has no place within the workplace, even if that workplace is Whitehall. Last week’s report into Ms Patel’s conduct is not an isolated incident. And it is also the second time that the Prime Minister – who has form himself over the Darius Guppy affair – has failed to take action when one of those around him have been found lacking. Ms Patel should not be an MP. After she was forced to resign from Theresa May’s cabinet in 2017 for settingntry, she should have stepped down from public life. She didn’t, and it is a detriment that our leaders have effectively up unauthorised meetings with another couturned a blind eye to both her behaviour then and her behaviour now. It is therefore pleasing to see Wokingham resident Charlie Kristensen be prepared to stand up and take affirmative action. The youngster, who has been bullied for his love of the arts, says that Ms Patel is sending out the wrong message, and setting a bad example for his generation. He has invited her on to his podcast so they can discuss the finer points of her behaviour. Sadly she has declined to take part – a shame, as we all have a duty to stand up to those whose behaviour needs challenging. At the same time, it shouldn’t be children who show us adults how to behave. This is another sorry episode for this shambolic government. We deserve better.

CHURCH NOTES

Joy

J

OY, not a word most would use to describe the year 2020. Apocalyptic perhaps, unprecedented definitely, but joy? The definition of JOY is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, for most there has been very little joy this year other than the fact the year is nearly at the end. In the midst of the pandemic Joy came to Wokingham in the form of a small takeaway shop. Anyone who has been to visit the Joy Café not only has the chance to partake in a great coffee and a crepe but also to savour the joy that the owner has about the food and drinks he serves and for his customers. He literally loves to share joy. Joy can be found in a coffee and a crepe. However, as lovely as they are, they cannot provide eternal joy. Only God through his son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit can produce eternal joy. Those that have put their trust in Jesus Christ and believe he died on the cross to save them from their sins have eternal joy. The Bible says in James 1:2, “When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy”. Our natural response is to think that living through difficult circumstances does not then create joy but those that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ can experience joy at its fullest by appreciating that God is in control and he has a definite purpose in mind for his people. As we approach Advent may we be reminded that we can find eternal joy in the baby born in a stable. Claire Revie from Norreys Church, writing on behalf of Churches Together in Wokingham

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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020 We love to hear from you! Send us your views on issues relating to the borough (in 250 words or less) to The Wokingham Paper, Crown House, 231 Kings Road, Reading RG1 4LS or email: letters@wokinghampaper.co.uk We reserve the right to edit letters Views expressed in this section are not necessarily those of the paper

What if we want to give our blue bags away? Your news item 'Top up your bin bags here', while informative, makes no mention of the fact that some residents have a complementary issue - a surplus of blue bin bags. I have several rolls leftover from previous years but it appears Wokingham Borough Council does not allow residents to freecycle them or even give them to neighbours. By banning redistribution of bin bags WBC is only encouraging people to use them for waste that ought to be recycled, such as blue bin bags. The council should provide an incentive to residents to dispose of their surplus bags responsibly by offering a cash payment for unused rolls which can be claimed at the locations where the extra bags can be bought. I have been told that they can be exchanged for Greenredeem vouchers but for many people these are of limited value and not worth the hassle of taking them to the centres. A greener Wokingham will only be achievable by a more clear-sighted approach by the council to domestic waste management. Malcolm Inglis, Wokingham

an integrated movement of vehicles that may be powered by radiation, microwave or whatever transpires. That needs good roads. Any idiot who wants cars off the road, should first look at how people will get around, the growth of the population and inadequate public transport – just imagine all the new estates around Wokingham, not designed for buses, but cars. The award of cycleway monies to Councils is always welcome. As I learned a few years ago, Councils can allocate such free gifts to ‘anything’. This week introduces a new pedestrian hazard – that of hoverboard scooters – the pair of wheels one stands between, and hopefully balances on the little platform. What is important, is whether such devices are to use cycleways, and not pedestrian walkways. Reg Cliﬞon, Wokingham

Spending cash

Bike power I was pleased to see the extensive coverage in last week’s paper on facilities for walking and cycling in the Borough. It is rare that an opportunity like this comes along where a small shift in resources could benefit so many different aspects of our community. More of us getting around on foot or by bike will reduce road congestion, improve mental and physical health and wellbeing, slow down climate change, improve air quality and encourage footfall with local businesses. All while saving money for those who do it. To do this efficiently we need to understand where people need to travel and how best to enable them to do so, not just make changes on an opportunistic basis. Routes need to be direct, continuous and safe if we expect them to be used, and for people of all abilities. Motorised traffic, cyclists and pedestrians need to be properly segregated where the hazards dictate. It is good that Wokingham Borough Council says it will develop a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) for the whole of the Borough in 2021. Writing the plan is just the start – we need in parallel to look at rebalancing investment towards implementing it. The much welcomed £6m which the Council has spent since 2014 equates to less than 2% of the roads and transport budget – £6 per resident per year – less than half that targeted elsewhere in the country. Some might see this as a competition between motorists and non-motorists. It is not - most of us are or can be both. Every child who walks or rides to school, every worker or gymgoer leaving the car at home, makes space on the road for those who cannot. And lockdown has shown us how even a small reduction in traffic reduces peak time congestion. If we do this, we all benefit. Adrian Be‫מּ‬eridge, via email

Since the start of the pandemic I've been regularly walking in Gorrick Wood. The recent rain has formed large puddles on some of the tracks, creating attractive reflections of autumn colours. The two pictures were taken several days apart and show the same place in different conditions, each beautiful in its own way. John Harrison, Wokingham

Thanks Wokingham.Today I wanted to thank Wokingham.Today for its recent coverage of the need for more safe cycle routes. Cycling and walking are not only a convenient way to make short journeys, they also offer significant benefits to the environment, by helping to reduce pollution and congestion and they are also a simple way to help people improve their health. I am pleased to be working with both Reading and Wokingham Borough Councils and the Government to help improve the network of local routes and I look forward to working with individual residents and community groups. I would like to thank a number of community and environmental groups for their interest in improving the range of safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians. This initiative has real potential to help those who have to drive by reducing congestion. To fill in my cycling survey, visit: mattroddamp.com/content/cyclingsurvey-1 Ma‫ מּ‬Rodda, MP for Reading East

Human rights I have, for many years, thought the Human Rights Act was to protect us against dictatorship among other evils. I am frequently wrong, of course. Why is it that churches are having to pressurise the government for consideration of their right to provide religious nourishment to the people?

The experiences of this year have manifested a considerable gulf between self-interested politicians and the public – examples being old people and the promised care system. It has led me to question why we still have MPs – rather like local councillors who are out of control once elected – when a group of ‘gauleiters’, (still a valid description of political selfaggrandisement), has taken control of our society. I think we need to note how the Chinese are inviting us to the beautiful area of Wuhan for a China holiday – what a thought, until one sees that they have not any cases of community virus transmission since May. I can offer the reason they have “killed it” – just discipline the public. Sadly, as confirmed when I was out walking on Saturday, among the persistent bunch of non-distancing transgressors, we stand no chance of clearing out the disease, subject perhaps to good results of vaccination/s when and if we get same. I turn now to the issue of cycleways and the incredible waste of money they are, just like Smart Motorways – both killers in their own right. May I comment first on the declared policy by, I believe, Grant Shapps – it is a good idea to get cars off the road, coupled with the intent to force the sale of electric cars onto the public. The road system was always considered the main vital communication system in the country. As technology advances, we may have

Let’s say you are putting aside money every month, saving up to buy a new kitchen that will cost £8,000. So far, you have saved up £7,000 in your kitchen fund, and it is in an interest-earning account, even better. You dream of that new kitchen in a few months’ time. Wow, it will be fab-u-lous. You happen see a car that you like, it’s a great price, £6,000. You need £2,000 for a deposit and then you can purchase the car with a loan of £4,000 from the car finance company. You think, “A-ha, I can just borrow the money for the deposit from my kitchen fund, I can have my cake and eat it too. I get the car now, and I can continue to put money aside for my kitchen.” You buy the car, and you are happily driving around when a month later, all of a sudden, there is a serious water leak in your existing kitchen. Oh no! Your insurance covers the basic repair, but you urgently need a new kitchen. Hmmm… you no longer have the kitchen fund that you need to replace the kitchen. You are very sad, looking at the soggy kitchen cupboards. You cannot sell the car to replace the kitchen, because you need it to travel to work. You are going to have to save up again for the new kitchen. Well, this is how the Wokingham Conservatives are managing Wokingham Borough Council's Finances. They have taken out lots of borrowing. The council also has lots of assets, but they cannot sell them because they need them to run the council. Having assets does not mean that the council will have the money when they need it and still have to pay off their debts at some point. The Conservatives say that internal borrowing is not really borrowing, because it is all the council’s money anyway. They say the loans from banks are fine because the council has assets worth more than the loans. Is this complacency justified? What are the effects of internal and external borrowing on the council’s finances? What happens if you already have lots of borrowing and something


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unexpected happens? Under the direction of the Conservatives, Wokingham Borough Council has borrowed from its kitchen fund, and it calls this ‘internal borrowing’. They are planning to have internal borrowings of £201 million, and external loans of £476 million in March 2023. That's a total of almost £700 million borrowings in two-and-ahalf year’s time. Using the internal borrowings for current projects costs £2 million in lost interest and the annual finance cost of the external loans this year is almost £8 million. They are big numbers. This is fine so long as there is not an unexpected event. Your unexpected event was the water leak. The council’s unexpected event might be the financial hit from Covid-19. If it loses income, how will it pay the interest on the loans from banks, how will it replenish its ‘kitchen fund’, and how will it repay the loans from the banks and elsewhere? These are the questions you need to ask your local Conservative councillor. Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey and Cllr Maria Gee, Shadow Lead and Shadow Deputy Lead for Finance, Wokingham Borough Council

Failure How Wokingham Borough Council’s ruling Conservatives serves (fails) its residents has been a concern of mine for many years. I raised this issue with the leader of the council last January who replied that he shared my views. To progress my concerns I took a motion to council

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and after three attempts, over a sixmonth period I eventually managed to get it discussed at a council meeting last week. Success at long last last? The motion to council was as follows; The continued failure of council meetings to conclude the agenda business suggests that the existing democratic process has failed. As a direct result of this Wokingham Borough's Residents and their Borough Council elected Members have been let down very badly. To correct this serious democratic failure and get the Council back on track this Council must immediately programme in as many additional Council meetings as is required to get Council business up to date. My third attempt was partly successful but before a full and proper debate could be completed the meeting was terminated which would also suggest the existing system is nor fit for purpose. It is so obvious that the current way the council does business has failed. We can do better and our residents deserve better but it seems that serving our residents better is not a Conservative aim. Simply put I was suggesting that we hold additional council meetings now with restricted agendas to deal with the backlog while at the same time instruct the Council to review its current procedures. Once that has been set up the work on how business in a modern council should be conducted can be looked at in detail As there was insufficient normal time to fully debate my motion the

tonyjohnson That was the week

Conservative Councillors insisted the meeting could not be extended. They then voted to reject the motion while at the same time they tried to stop a recorded vote designed to identify who voted for/against by name. They failed. Earlier that evening the same councillors also voted to prevent a record of Councillors attending committee meetings if they are not on that committee being kept. The outcome is residents will have no idea how active their elected councillors have been in representing them. After 20 years of Conservative rule, perhaps the time has come to use the only thing they truly understand – where to put their X on the ballot paper next May. Anyone but a Conservative is something they will understand as nothing else seem to matter to them. Cllr Gary Cowan, Independent Borough Councillor for Arborfield at Wokingham Borough Council.

Council tax exemptions Over the last year I have been calling on the Conservatives to make care leavers exempt from Council Tax until the age of 25. In September’s Council meeting I was told this was not the time to be “messing around” with such a change. However, I am pleased to say the Executive have finally announced they will be making this change. Young people leaving care face significant challenges, currently exacerbated by Covid-19. Since 2018 the Council has been legally obliged to

At least until Sir Philip’s claims for constructive dismissal and ‘protected disclosure' (whistleblowing) get heard.

Standards, wot standards?

Pritt Sticks

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T WAS a week when Boris Johnson, by defending a minister who wasn’t being compared to Ms Whiplash, ended up gumming up the civil service.

It was a week when Sir Kier Starmer’s refusal to whip his predecessor, along with plenty of froth from a leading Trade Unionist, ended up gumming up the Labour party. It was a week when Sir Ed Davey’s press releases had about as much bite as my great gran’s oft-mislaid false teeth had and which ended up with her gumming her food. And it was a week when the Doily Express was out-gumming the Torygraph in their paroxysms of purple prose over Nicola Sturgeon – who’d barred Glaswegians from Edinburgh (coincidentally).

Claiming the moral low ground As Home Secretary, the right honourable Priti Patel is clearly a good person to have around. Plenty of gumption, respected by senior Tory MPs, knows how to resign – what’s not to like? Err, apparently she shouts and swears at top civil servants. One of which was Home Office boss Sir Philip Rutnam (KCB), after he’d raised concerns about her behaviour. Apparently nothing changed so he resigned. Sir Alex Allan (also KCB), the private secretary to former PM’s John Major and Tony Blair, resigned last week when current PM Boris Johnson (who’d appointed him to oversee ministerial standards of behaviour) didn’t take action over his report. Boris’s urging of Tory MPs to “form a square around the Prittster” was followed by news that Sir Alex had been blocked from interviewing Sir Philip. So “the Prittster” has stayed and should perhaps now be known as the Pritt stick.

Ministerial conduct wasn’t the only trouble the old Etonian was having with standards in public life last week as stories of chaotic Covid contracts, parlous PPE procurement and artless administrator appointments all poured out. In order to prosper, it seemed all one needed was to be a close associate, mate, friend of a friend or just meet a minor minister down at the pub. In early November the London Review of Books' essay on Cronyism and Clientelism was a compendium of Covidious crepitude. ‘The Conservative Woman’ (an online news and views source) called the government’s Covid-19 deals into question, asking how come a “confectionery wholesaler and an opaque private fund owned through a tax haven” were two of the three biggest beneficiaries of PPE contracts. But matters didn’t stop at contracts as the Good Law Project made clear with cross party support for a judicial review over lack of transparency, as the details hadn’t been published as required by regulation 50 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

High-paid ‘help’ Another lawsuit was filed last week over three appointments to senior posts in Covid-struck Britain without the usual public appointments interview process. Baroness Mary Harding, wife of a Conservative MP and herself a Conservative peer, was given the job of sorting out NHS Test & Trace, then when that didn’t go to plan she was put in charge of the National Institute for Health Protection. The hon Kate Bingham, wife of a treasury minister and cousin of Boris, was hired to sort out the Vaccine Taskforce and promptly ran up a PR bill of £670,000. Mike Coupe, a former supermarket worker and colleague of Harding’s, has been given the job of director of NHS Test & Trace. Perhaps unsurprisingly in Parliament last

support care leavers up to the age of 25. Yet, in Wokingham, until now these same care leavers currently have had to pay Council Tax as soon as they turn 21, on top of learning how to manage a household, job, studies and other bills, and often without the support of family or other networks. They can easily find themselves struggling to cope with their personal finances. It is disappointing for these young people that this decision to exempt them fully from Council Tax was not made back in 2018 when the law changed, particularly as the cost of the exemption is not material for the Council, but could be life-changing for the individual. Sadly, this announcement will be too late for many care leavers. I have been calling for the Conservatives to make this change immediately – and not leave it until next year. With Covid-19 there are many young people struggling – and removing the worry about escalating council tax debt for all our care leavers is the least we can do. Cllr Rachel Burgess, Labour member for Norreys on Wokingham Borough Council

Lights fantastic How lovely it was to see the Christmas tree and lights in the town centre looking bright and sparkly. Just what we need to cheer us up in these strange coronavirus lock down days. Wendy McLean. Wokingham

week, ‘cronyism’ cropped up frequently in the Commons debate on Covid-19 while in the Lords debate on PPE procurement a Conservative peer referred to ‘a tawdry chumocracy’.

It gets worse In an innocuously titled article 10 days ago the BMJ (British Medical Journal) made the point that “When good science is suppressed by the medical-political complex, people die”, following up with “Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health”. This hit the news in Scotland last week and in just one English online newsfeed – The London Economic. But with the BBC muzzled by new management, not forgetting Boris’ threat of a license review, and with other mainstream media being a bit slow on the uptake it’s all pretty much top shelf material. For now.

Singing the Blues Sadly, the consequences are that Boris Johnson’s government has become a byword for disintegrity on an industrial but far from industrious scale. “Don’t ye’ know there’s a panic (sorry, pandemic) on”? only works for a short time. These matters have persisted for months, and aren’t being resolved by good government. And while the PM sets himself a high standard in emulating the words and/or actions of Winston Churchill – one can’t help wondering whether that’s the warrior statesman of 1940 – 41 or just the self-absorbed incompetent of 1915 Gallipoli?

A lighter note In everyday use, a Pritt Stick is a block of adhesive in a twistable casing that resembles a lipstick that’s easy to apply. In government use, a Pritt stick is a twistable lipstick in an adhesive casing that resembles a block that's hard to remove. Apparently she won’t be, so you’ll have to be. Resigned, that is. caveat.lector@icloud.com

VIEWPOINTS | 19

WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

ullakarinclark From the executive

Supporting children with free school meals

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AM SURE that many of you were as pleased as I was to hear that Wokingham Borough Council has been provided with more than £208,000 as part of the Covid Winter Grant Scheme. Announced by the Government on Sunday, November 8, this money is aimed at supporting children and families who may be struggling as a result of the second lockdown or who may struggle over Christmas and over the winter months. It is particularly welcome that the council is able to use its local knowledge to identify who is most in need and should benefit from the grant. This means that we can target and help those most in need. It also ensures that we can provide help and financial aid quickly and in some cases on the same day. And finally, it means that we can decide what form the support takes, and tailor the support to the specific requirements of those who need it most. It is important to say that this scheme is not designed to directly replace the additional free school meal provision that was made earlier in this pandemic. I am acutely aware that some of the families with children who qualify for free school meals are among some of our most vulnerable, and I am determined we ensure that no children are at risk of going without food during the winter school holidays. We will make funds available from this grant to support over 2,000 children and young people in the borough who qualify for free school meals. We are currently working out the detail on how the support will be distributed. One option is to provide food vouchers via schools to eligible children for each holiday week. The vouchers are designed so they can only be used for food and groceries. Any surplus of the fund will be used to support vulnerable families and children as well as nearly 100 care leavers. I recognise that there are families with children who do not qualify for free school meals and there are others who will struggle over the winter. We continue to work with the Citizens Advice Bureau who are our front door into our Covid Community Response, to identify the best way to reach other families and individuals in need. This will include possible distribution of funds through voluntary organisations who are already providing support for those who need it most. I see every day the hardship faced by many families as a result of this pandemic and I will continue to support those who need our help during this difficult and unsettling time. If you need help, please ask us. Contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Wokingham Borough Council and we will do all we can to support you through this difficult time. Cllr UllaKarin Clark is the executive member for Children's Services at Wokingham Borough Council


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rachelbradley Think local

I’m dreaming of a right Christmas

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Is this the end of the Sunday roast? An increasing number of people are eschewing the traditional meats in favour of a plant-based Sunday roast

ANDS up, who’s got the tree up already? Mine will be going up at the weekend and I’m totally happy with that fact.

What the heck, I’m delighted. Scrooge and The Grinch may be great movies but they’re no friends of mine. I love the tinsel and the trimmings. I love it all. Even on an average year I like to squeeze as much into Christmas as I possibly can and my festive binges usually start on the first weekend in December. My son’s birthday is at the end of this month so once that’s been celebrated (he’s 18 this year, how did that happen?), the boxes come down from the loft and the merriment begins. Mr Bublé croons away while I crack open the sloe gin and we all get together to reminisce about who made what Christmas decoration back in primary school. My youngest always puts the very old, and slightly faded, Angel on the top of the tree. And I know that this year he won’t need a ladder or a lift to reach the top. Because in among all the traditions, things change. Some of us get taller, we all get older, and hopefully a little wiser. And this year I feel I’ve got a lot more grateful.

Fuzzy Yes, 2020 has been a bit of a write off and most of us are wishing Christmas be here so that we can get on and welcome in the new year. But maybe we need to do what we did in Christmases past. We need to slow down. Maybe we need to reign things in and take stock. Usually about now I’d be browsing the shops in the warm fuzzy glow of the Christmas lights. I’d be visiting Christmas markets, warmed by mulled wine and mince pies, and as a family we’d be starting the celebrations early with friends coming over. I’d be planning my trip up north to spend time visiting family. I’d be totally spent (money included) before Christmas Eve and running on empty as the new year begins. But that’s not to be this year. Even if I could go out I’m not sure I’d want too. The hustle and bustle doesn’t hold the same appeal. It just doesn’t feel right. So although I can’t go to Christmas this year, I’m happy to bring Christmas to me. It might be coming a little earlier than usual but it’s a smaller, quieter, more homemade Christmas. And this year that feels just about right.. Rachel is founder Gossip Girl Gang, a networking group for women in business in and around the borough

MORE THAN 60% of diners in the South East believe meat in a British roast dinner could become a thing of the past by 2030. According to research commissioned by allplants, the UK’s plant-based food delivery, more than 1,200 people expect roast chicken, pork, beef and lamb to decline in popularity. And nearly one-in-five Brits claim to have never cooked a Sunday roast for their family. But vegan alternatives aren’t popular with everyone. A third of 25- to 34-year-olds say they’re open to a vegan alternative, compared to a quarter of over 55s. Food historian and writer Polly Russell said the Sunday lunch remains the most significant meal for many people every week. She explains: “The Sunday roast is still much-loved but the form it takes is evolving. As more people

seek to minimise eating meat, whether for environmental, health or animal welfare reasons, it’s not surprising that they are increasingly open to new meat-free, vegetarian and vegan options. “And although the way we shop for and prepare food has changed radically within living memory, coming together over a meal continues to be a valued part of everyday life.” Jonathan Petrides, founder of allplants, says he’s encouraged to see a desire for plant-based food to increase. He says: “More and more, people are deciding that meat is no longer the star of the show. The easier and more excitingly delicious it is for people to eat plants, the more likely they are to experiment with adding their own healthy, meat-free twist to traditional meals like a Sunday roast.”

It’s good to talk IF THERE’S been one thing that 2020 has been good for, it’s podcasting. Research by the BBC shows that during the first lockdown, 3.4 million people turned in to its BBC Sounds app, and they were responsible for a record 136 million plays of on-demand radio programmes and podcasts between April, May and June. So it’s no wonder that the podcast scene is booming. Now a new podcast for Wokingham is being launched, from the team behind Buzzpodcasts.co.uk. They said that they have been hard at work behind closed doors for most the year, creating content for its new series. This has included talking to independent local businesses, traders, shops and local

musicians, singers and bands. Based in Camberley, they’ve been recording from a studio set up in the Willows Coffee House in Basingstoke – but they’d love to find somewhere in Wokingham that would work for them. So far, they’ve created more than 300 free podcasts and are now looking for people to get in touch for its forthcoming attractions. They are looking for everything from businesses to entertainers to get in touch and share their story. Head of presentation at Buzzpodcasts, Roger Noble, says: “Everyone has a story to tell, and people want to know the local information, so this a perfect way of putting it across to a rapidly increasing audience day-by-day.” For more details, email Roger@smjmediagroup.uk

WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

Are you sitting Then Jo ca By SUE CORCORAN news@wokingham.today ALL parents who fall asleep while reading bedtime stories to their children after a busy day now have an expert helper for the job.

Retired teacher Jo Davis has stepped in to give a captivating reading of a Winnie the Pooh story, thrilling her online audience. Dressed as Kanga Kangaroo, she read Eeyore has a Birthday complete with different voices and characters for Eeyore the donkey, Pooh Bear, Piglet and Owl. And she also raised more than £120 for charity Oxfam which is working to help in the Covid-19 crisis. Jo, from Charvil, was attending her first-ever meeting of Oxfam Reading Area Group, when she heard they needed a storyteller to fundraise through an online story session. “I said I would do it. I love telling stories and miss doing it with the children at school,” she said. Jo retired in the summer from St Nicholas Primary, Hurst after being there for 12 years. She has also taught at Willow Bank Juniors, Woodley, Shinfield Juniors where she was deputy head and Yellow Brick Nursery at Woosehill where she was head. She has also been a Wokingham Borough Council literacy consultant. “AA Milne books are suitable for everyone, young and old,” she said. “In one Eeyore has a birthday has a very mature message. “All sorts of things went wrong, but Eeyore helped his friends make the best of a situation.

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O, one minute I’m a free, independent human soul with a body and clothes to my name; the next minute, I’m trapped who knows where with my head reeling and my leg snapped in two.

It was a pack of boys who did it. After the losses they’d suffered in the pandemic, for them, nothing was ‘too low’ anymore. So they’d come after me. I’d ran for my life until I was cornered. The only thing between me and safety was a high, brick wall. Wisteria covered it and statues adorned it. I’d climbed up easily enough but, when I’d swung my legs over the top, they’d knocked something loose. I’d fallen off the wall, the pain had exploded and the displaced object had landed on my head. Next thing I know, I’m surrounded by these strange creatures shining a light on me. They sound like people but they don’t look it. I don’t understand a word they’re saying; all I know is that I’m being taken away. Now all I can see is the stars and the moon. It’s a clear night, but then it has been since I woke up here, too long ago for just one night. I’m warm and comfortable but I can’t tell what I’m lying on. It feels like a bed but the material is something else. The soft moaning and sighing around me suggests there are other people here, but I can’t see them at all. I’ve tried to get up many times, only my leg is too stiff and painful to move. Every time I

Retired teacher Jo Davis has been reading on

“I gave Pooh Bear a west country accent. It’s the only accent I can do – I come from Plymouth.” Joining in the session were toy versions of Milne characters which Jo has gathered. Viewers praised her encouragement and enthusiasm for reading. Covid-19 has hit many of Oxfam’s fundraising events. Reading Area

Starst think to call out for help, I hear the same voice whispering. “Stella, relax. You’re in good hands…” So I lie here and think – not about family, I have no real one to think of – but I ponder about what’ll happen next and what’s happening now in the outside world (outdoors as I appear to be, this does feel like an enclosed space with a roof on it). Sometimes I nod off, hoping as I drift that this is all a dream, yet I come back to find myself exactly as I am. To keep the despair at bay, I let myself go, staring up at the starry sky and taking it in. Sometimes, it does look beautiful… Every so often, I smell food coming: sweet honey, juicy fruit and warming spices. The creatures offer it to me. I don’t always have an appetite but I reach for it anyway. It’s always so delicious, perhaps because of the dark. Slowly, the tension melts. I don’t realise I had any until it’s gone. I do feel relaxed, perfectly content to lie on my back and watch the sky. At times, the stillness is broken by intermittent shooting stars. Once, the northern lights appeared, sending out radiant beams of blue, white and green. And my broken leg? Ha, what broken leg? I forget it even existed. The creatures come again. But I


Get ready for the Covid

RECIPES • IDEAS • NEWS • WHAT’S ON • CRACKER JOKES • FUN


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Celebrating a Covid Make your own decorations

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SING fruit, fabric scraps, and utilising Facebook marketplace are all frugal ways to save money decorating their Christmas trees this year. Penny-pinching gurus fromNetVoucherCodes.co.ukha ve revealed some inventive ways to decorate trees for free and bring the family together by creating and crafting decorations. Using scraps of paper and old magazines is one way to bring your tree to life but will also help to keep more money in Brits’ own pockets. Taking inspiration from years gone by, using dried fruits such as orange slices are also a great way to add colour and also fragrance to the tree. NetVoucherCodes.co.uk recently surveyed 4,566 people and a fifth (20%) have already put their Christmas tree up, and a further 33% plan to have their festive decorations up before the end of the month. A spokesperson for NetVoucherCodes.co.uk said: “After the year we’ve had, people need something to lift their spirits and to look forward to. There’s been a massive increase in people getting their trees up in November this year. “Brits might think they’re out of festive luck, but the good news is, there are plenty of ways to decorate your Christmas tree for free. “You don’t need a lot of expensive decorations to have a beautiful Christmas tree this year. It is so easy to enjoy a beautiful tree without spending a penny.” Here is NetVoucherCodes.co.uk’s advice on decorating your Christmas tree for free.

Use dried fruit Beautiful, fragrant and budget-friendly, this tip is an old-fashioned way to decorate the tree. If you have fruit that is starting to turn and go bad, then dry it. Most fruits can be dried but cranberries, apple slices, and orange slices are most traditional and they can be dried in a dehydrator or oven. Once dried, they can then be strung with thread and a needle to create a sweet decoration for your tree.

Use scrap paper Growing up, many of us will remember making

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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

Join Santa online

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paper snowflakes as a child. Why not get the scissors out and make them again? Use scrap paper or leftover magazines to make colourful snowflakes or snowmen. Or you can cut out pictures you like from magazines of scenery, celebrities, or just pictures of items you are interested in. You can use dental floss or string to hang them from your tree.

Use old fabric scraps If you have fabric scraps sitting around, such as old or damaged clothes, or bedding then you can always tie them into bows to use on the tree. This is so simple. Just cut them up and tie them to the tree.

Check online marketplaces and trading sites The internet is full of free and for trade sites. Facebook marketplace and Gumtree are often the go-to sites, and this time of year, lots of people are giving items away such as old decorations. Make sure you are Covid compliant when picking up items you source through Facebook, but it is a free way to pick up some nice secondhand decorations.

Look in your garden and local parks Chances are your garden and the local park is full of natural items that would make pretty decorations for your tree. Curly branches, pine cones, acorns, and flowers would all bring your tree to life this Christmas. You can even use some glitter or paint to add some personality to the decorations.

ANTA may not be able to travel this year, but he’s found a new way to spread some Christmas cheer. To mark the holiday season, Santa and his elves are sending out videos to children up and down the country with the help of local entertainers, Circus Scene. “We’ve been figuring out what we can do with the help of technology and we’re very fortunate to know Santa personally,” said Cathy Valentine from Circus Scene. “And he’s promised to help with everything.” With a visit to Santa’s Grotto off the cards, Circus Scene has organised A Video From Santa, a new initiative which allows children to receive virtual visits from Mr Claus. Alongside videos to reassure children that Santa will be out and about to deliver presents this year, children can also receive personalised, pre-recorded greetings. “There are certain kids who aren’t really allowed out or have barely been out this year, so this helps a little,” Cathy said. “If there’s one thing kids have it’s imagination, and imagination is not cancelled.” Santa has also signed up to read bedtime stories, and is making virtual visits to schools up and down the country in the run-up to Christmas, too. And the videos have proven very popular so far. “We’ve actually been quite surprised, even overwhelmed, with the amount of interest,” Cathay continued. “It’s been brought on by necessity, but it’s great that it’s possible to have fun and have a good laugh, and make a bit of a difference.” Santa is already busy sending out videos and making virtual visits to children across the country, and he has a special discount for Wokingham.Today readers. There’s 10% off on pre-recorded greetings and story readings with the code WokinghamPaper10. To find out how to arrange your own virtual visit from Mr Claus, visit: avideofromsanta.com

We also offer scheduled Day Trips for individuals to book in the Wokingham area. We collect from convenient places on the High Street, nearby retirement homes and en-route. Why not call for our free Day Trips brochure, or

see www.candytours.co.uk for details. We are proud of our stylish minibuses which all have air conditioning, reclining seats and high ceilings for passenger comfort. Our drivers are known for their friendliness. Give Candy Tours a call on 01252 265 263 to see how we can help make your day out run smoothly! � For more information visit www.candytours.co.uk


Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

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Celebrating a Covid

Windows on the season

Doorstep carollers

The Christmas story can be retold in windows Picture: Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Homes are asked to sing on their doorsteps Picture: donnaskolnick0 from Pixabay

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HIS YEAR’S Christmas season will be like no other thanks to the coronavirus. But a new initiative from Wokingham’s churches will spread some festive cheer and help retell the Christmas story. They have launched Wokingham Windows, and are inviting residents to get creative. Over five weeks, starting from Monday, November 30,

Dolphin School OUR School offers children the freedom to learn both in and out of the the classroom. We have seen some unusual times over the last six months, but parents at Dolphin have been delighted and reassured

there will be different themes, each based on parts of the Nativity. Participants create a display, which when lit at night looks like a stained glass window. The first theme is Mary being visited by the Angel Gabriel. Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem will be the subject for the week commencing December 7. The Shepherds and the Angels will be the theme from December 14. For Christmas week, the

by the continued excellence of teaching, whether online or in school. A stimulating and inspirational curriculum is delivered by outstanding teachers who want children to fulfil their academic potential, but

focus will be on the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable. The season comes to an end from week commencing December 28, with the theme being the coming of the wise men. The Revd Hannah Higginson, associate priest, of All Saints Church in Wokingham, said: “Churches Together in Wokingham are encouraging people to decorate a window in their home with scenes from the Christmas story over the

festive period. “The idea is that everyone can get involved, whether isolating or not, and whatever the next few weeks have in store. “There are different themes for the weeks leading up to Christmas and we are encouraging folk to ‘like’ the Facebook page and post images of their windows for all to see.” For more details, log on to www.facebook.com/ wokinghamchristmas windows

also enjoy their learning. Ours is a school that truly nurtures the individual and allows our boys and girls to develop and grow in their own unique way. � To find out more visit: www.dolphinschool.com

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to get people singing this Christmas. With festive church services likely to be severely curtailed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is hoped that people will take to their doorsteps on Christmas Eve to become a carol singer. Currently, churches are closed for services, but even when lockdown lifts there will only be room at the inn for no more than 30 people – and communal singing is currently not permitted. But with millions of people usually attending Christmas services, including midnight masses, Christingles and nativities, churches want to ensure that there is at least some opportunity to sing the Christmas story. In neighbouring Reading borough, the 13 churches that comprise Churches Together in Caversham, are inviting every home

Feathers and Fur Passionate about Birds of Prey, have an obsession with Owls or just simply love anything to do with wildlife? Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre is a Bracknell based independently run Falconry Centre with a wonderful

to come out and sing at 6pm on the night before Christmas, and it is hoping that the idea will catch on across the country, including Wokingham. “We are producing a Christmas card that we are sending to every house in Caversham – 16,000 addresses in the RG4 postcode area,” said the Revd Andy Storch, curate at St John the Baptist Church. “The card will tell the Christmas story in the words of the timeless carol O Little Town of Bethlehem, printed inside. “It invites us to return to our doorsteps, as we did for the NHS clap, at 6pm on Thursday, December 24 – Christmas Eve – to sing that carol together.” The Churches Together in Caversham website www.cavershamchurch.org.uk

collection of Birds of Prey and Owls. With a passion for British birds the centre is home to Barn Owls, Peregrine Falcons, Snowy Owls, Buzzards and many more stunning birds. Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre offers fabulous gift vouchers for their amazing

Hands on Experiences including the Half Day Session and the Family Owl Encounter. These gift vouchers have a years validity and make wonderful Christmas presents and gift ideas. � For more details, visit www.feathersandfur.co.uk


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Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

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Celebrating a Covid

Enjoy a Covid-safe visit to the Twilight zone

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OOM calls with Santa, festive food and drink and theatrical talent have been added to Reading’s Twilight Trail this Christmas.

The socially distanced light and sound installation in the historic Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens is running from Tuesday, December 8, until Sunday, January 3, with pre-bookable slots. And the Twilight Trail is connecting children of all ages with Snow Princesses and even Santa Claus himself, direct from their homes to yours, via Zoom. Throughout the month WePop, the team behind Reading’s Après Ski pop-up and Oktoberfest, will be running a festive chalet bar alongside local food stalls selling churros and sausages. Theatre group, Rabble, are creating a special piece based on their internationally acclaimed Henry I trilogy, and Reading Rep has recorded a new version of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to accompany the Forbury Hill Flames installation. On Monday, December 21, lighting will be dimmed, volume reduced and numbers per slot limited to create a sensoryfriendly, accessible day for families. And a wheelchair-accessible route and water bowls for service dogs will be available across all dates. The Twilight Trail, created by

Oak Tree Day Nursery At the award-winning Oak Tree Day Nursery in Finchampstead, the interests of each child aged between six weeks and nearly five years old are nurtured and supported by a dedicated team of professionals. From imaginative learning spaces and state of the art ICT,

Yes Events, will include state-ofthe-art installations and something special involving the Maiwand Lion. Zsuzsi Lindsay, Reading place of culture lead at Reading UK, said: “We have had such a fantastic response to the Twilight Trail from individuals and organisations locally, so we are thrilled to be adding even more Christmas cheer with Father Christmas, the Snow Princesses and some suitably festive food and drink options. “And we are really pleased to be able to offer a specially adapted afternoon and evening for a neuro-diverse audience on December 21, so that as many people as possible can enjoy this magical experience.” Cllr Karen Rowland, cultural lead for Reading Borough Council, said: "I’m delighted that Reading Council, alongside our partners at Reading UK and Abbey Quarter BID, are able to offer this exciting Christmas event. “After such a tough year and as we emerge from a second lockdown, we are honoured to be part of a fantastic local partnership which will brighten our town and bring holiday joy and cheer to many with this unique attraction. I really cannot wait to go myself and I’m looking forward to my Zoom with Santa." For more information, visit: WhatsOnReading.com

toys and equipment to an outdoor area named ‘Oak Tree Oasis’ where children can explore their surroundings, develop physical skills and take part in an array of ecoactivities, colleagues at the three-times Ofsted-rated ‘Outstanding’ setting are committed to giving

Festive events in Reading will be Covid-safe this year – and full of fun

children the best possible start in life. Oak Tree opened in 2002 and is part of the employee-owned Childbase Partnership. � For more information please contact the nursery on 0118 973 3231 or email on Oaktree.nursery@ childbase.com.

Right at Home Right at Home’s Twyford office has rapidly developed a reputation across Wokingham District as a homecare provider with a difference – as a care provider, and an employer. Today, Right at Home Twyford is a multi-awardwinning company rated

Outstanding for Caring by CQC, winning 5*Star Employer Awards in 2019 and 2020 following nationwide anonymous surveys of Care Givers, and the most highly recommended homecare company in the area, rated 10/10 by clients on the respected homecare.co.uk website.

Demand for its services is growing fast, and the company is hiring more super people to expand capacity. Information on services & jobs: www.rightathomeuk.com/ wokingham � For more Information on services and jobs: www.rightathomeuk.com/ wokingham


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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

The show must go on

S What’s your favourite cracker joke? Picture: Al Lambe from Pixabay

Groaners wanted ... THE SEARCH is on for some festive groaners. A greetings card company is looking for the world’s worst Christmas cracker jokes. From punishable puns to jokes that are cheesier than a post-dinner cheese board, thortful.com has launched a vote for favourite festive funnies, and also welcoming submissions to see who can out-joke the classics. The winners will end up in its Ultimate Christmas Cracker Jokes Index For those in need of inspiration, thortful has compiled some old favourites Why are Santa's deers always wet? Because they're reindeers! How does Santa keep track of all the fireplaces he's visited?

TundeKugler Photograpghy Looking for the perfect gift for this Christmas? Give the gift of a magical memory to those you love this Christmas with TundeKugler Photography Christmas photo vouchers are suitable for family photography sessions, maternity, newborn, children and cake smashes. Sessions are fun, relaxed and

He keeps a logbook What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations? Tinsillitis What do you call a blind reindeer? No eye deer Who hides in the bakery at Christmas? A mince spy What did Adam say the day before Christmas? It's Christmas, Eve. What did the snowflake say to the fallen leaf? You are so last season Why did the turkey cross the road? Because it was the chicken's day off. What is Santa’s favourite pizza? One that’s deep-pan, crisp and even What do you get if you lie under a cow? A pat on the head To submit jokes or to vote for them, log on to: www.thortful.com/ christmas-cracker-jokes

never rushed, in order to produce wonderful natural expressions and moments you can look back at for a lifetime. After the session we provide you with a wonderful range of photographs to choose from your online gallery in the comfort of your home, once chosen we will then produce a set of perfect high resolution images. Photography sessions

TRICTLY Come Dancing favourite – and local legend – Debbie McGee has joined the cast of Cinderella. The Theatre Royal Windsor pantomime will be going ahead, just a couple of weeks later than originally planned. The show also stars Kevin Cruise, Steven Blakeley and Basil Brush. Sadly, Britt Ekland will no longer appear due to a pre-existing medical condition that prevents her from travelling to the UK at this time. Debbie will be starring as the Fairy Godmother, a role she has performed in other pantomimes in recent years. She is excited about joining Windsor’s show, which will include traditional comedy capers, a sprinkle of fairy dust, dazzling dancers, colourful costumes – all adapted to meet the latest coronavirus restrictions, meaning audiences can have confidence that the theatre is safe. Also joining the cast for their very first Windsor Panto will be Alice Fillary in the role of Cinderella and Dominic Sibanda as the handsome Prince Charming. Joe Thompson-Oubari returns to play

are taken in our courtyard studio in Eversley, Hampshire. The Christmas photo vouchers have a six-month expiry date giving plenty of time for the recipient to book at their convenience, sessions are available weekdays and Saturdays. � If you would like to purchase your gift voucher, make an online enquiry at www.tundekuglerphotography. co.uk or call on 07724692282

Dandini and Rhiannon Bacchus, Billie Hardy, Sarah Kacey, Jamie Corner, Milo Quinton and Nathan Vaughan-Harris complete the line-up. Cinderella’s co-directors Anne-Marie and Jon Woodley said: “Sadly, Theatre Royal Windsor has had to close its doors once again, but The Show Must Go On. “We have been working hard on plans to reschedule this year’s pantomime. “The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has confirmed that rehearsals can go ahead during the lockdown period, so we are aiming to be back open just as soon as possible ... the curtain will rise once more and Cinderella shall go to the ball.”

The safety measures include socially distanced seating with a limited number of seats available. Audience members will be required to wear masks throughout. Staggered arrival times and one-way systems will be in operation throughout the building, as well as an in-seat service allowing audiences to order drinks, snacks and merchandise all from the comfort f their seats. The show will run from Thursday, December 3, through to Sunday, January 10, with a relaxed performance at 1.30pm on Tuesday, December 8. � For more details, or to book, log on to theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Woodley Goldsmiths Andrew Buck, the owner of Woodley Goldsmiths, with his team of goldsmiths, design and manufacture bespoke jewellery and wedding rings; they also carry out repairs on the premises. The stock comprises contemporary silver, gold and platinum, diamond and gem-set jewellery, wedding rings in 9 or 18ct white or yellow gold, platinum and

palladium to titanium and steel, plain or diamond set.

Watch batteries and straps are fitted while you wait. Watch brands include Dreyfuss & Co., Rotary, Bulova, Bering, Guess, Seiko, Citizen Eco-Drive, Sekonda Seksy, Ted Baker and Accurist. Christening and general gifts for all occasions. Valuations for insurance and probate. Open 9am–5.30pm Monday to Saturday. � For more information visit: www.woodleygoldsmiths.co.uk


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Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

Celebrating a Covid

Help musicians this Advent

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GROUP of musicians, many of whom have lost all their work due to Covid-19, have produced an advent calendar of music to bring Christmas cheer. writes Sue Corcoran. One of the musicians is Helen Styles, musical director of Twyford Singers, Maidenhead’s Tuesday Singers, Laudamus choir, Surrey – and, most recently, an online choir of vets. The calendar freelance musicians also include an award-winning concert pianist, a West End star, a Royal Opera House soprano, instrumentalists, and new and established ensembles. They’re known as the Musicians Mums. The group began online to help with the challenges of being a musician and mother. Now many of them face financial difficulties caused by Covid-19 closing so many music events. “The music world has been utterly decimated by Covid-19,” said Helen, adding: “Women have been bearing the brunt of this.” Female musicians who have been on maternity leave have been unable to claim Government Covid-19 payments, she said. She was fortunate to be teaching. She added: “The arts contribute a huge amount to the economy.” She criticised the Government advertisement last month which suggested the pictured ballet dancer could retrain for cyber technology. The ad was later dropped.

Helen Styles with her children Katie (left) and Beth. Helen has launched an online advert calendar to support musicians

“Musicians have to train so hard, it was quite galling,” said Helen. Helen appears on the online advent calendar, on a date to be discovered, singing with her two children Katie and Beth. She wrote her own song. “It’s very short but quite effective I think. Later I hope to teach it to the choirs I’m involved with.” During the first Covid-19 lockdown the trio broadcast their Sing a Song a Day for more than 120 consecutive days through

Facebook. They taught the songs so watchers could join in with singing it. The Royal Philharmonic Society recommended the “inspiring” sessions. Helen, who moved into full-time music after working as a vet for years, has just started the online vets’ choir for veterinary surgeons and their colleagues. “They have odd and unpredictable working hours. It can be a very lonely profession. It’s been very popular,” she said.

Free parking this December SHOPPERS across the borough will be able to make use of free parking in the run up to Christmas. Starting next week, each Saturday, parking will be free in borough council-owned car parks in towns and villages. The move has proved

popular in recent years with traders and shoppers as the council encourages residents to shop locally during the festive season. This, it says, is especially important for independent businesses dealing with disruption due to Covid-19.

Parking will be free on Saturday, December 5, 12 and 19. Maximum stay limits and disabled parking bays will still be enforced and any vehicles breaching these regulations will be subject to the usual Penalty Charge Notices being issued.

Helen, of Maidenhead, has managed to keep much of her work going. In addition to leading her choirs online, she teaches her violin and viola students online. You can preview the advent calendar December 1 window for free at www.musicaladvent.com. The calendar costs £24.99 for a gift membership. The person ordering gets free membership. Sales of the calendar will help support the performers financially.

Warings Bakery MAKE it a Warings Christmas - Every year we sprinkle a dusting of Christmas magic over the bakery to create an abundance of festive treats that capture the essence of the season. Our craft bakers work hours that would put Santa’s elves to shame, creating melt-in-the-

Daily artistic countdown to Christmas

WOKINGHAM’S Living Advent Calendar will go ahead this year. However, instead of events that people can attend, the special performances will be broadcast online. The change is due to the coronavirus pandemic – lockdown and the rule of six prevents large gatherings. Instead of a nightly event, every morning at 9am, there will be a new video to enjoy. Each will be a best-of from the past seven years. Organisers from Wokingham Town Council are promising a range of musicians, barbershop ghroups, bands, theatre and dance groups. It’s a variety show featuring local talent. Wokingham Town Council and ‘more arts’ said that they would like to thank all the venues, businesses, organisations, charities, performers and volunteers who have helped stage every event over the last seven years. Cllr Sally Gurney, who chairs Wokingham Town Council’s Arts and Culture committee, said: “The Wokingham Living Advent Calendar always makes a dark December evening come alive. “We’ve a wealth of talent here in Wokingham and it’s a fantastic opportunity to show this off and bring a smile to everyone’s face each evening and spread a bit of cheer to Christmas this year.” She added: “Sadly we can’t be out at local venues this year but do join in from home, and yes that means singing too.” To watch the events, which run from Tuesday, December 1, through to Christmas Eve, log on to www.wokinghamadvent.org.uk or search facebook for wokinghamadvent.

mouth mince pies, deeply decadent cakes and rich fruit filled puddings to take centre stage on the Christmas table. View our online Christmas brochure or visit us in store to discover our festive treats for 2020. � To find out more visit: www.waringsbakery.co.uk


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Celebrating a Covid

Recreate Christmas market food at home

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T’S official: many annual Christmas Markets have been cancelled. But that doesn't mean the festive fun is postponed till next year. Far from it.

Christmas markets are famous for their foodie Yuletide celebrations, and with the festive season just around the corner, recipe box company Gousto has shared a selection of German Market-inspired recipes for you to recreate.

Mulled Wine Is it even December if you’ve not stood feeling slightly soggy with a lukewarm mulled wine in hand? Combine a bottle of red, with honey, orange slices, honey, chilli, ginger and gently heat on the stove for five minutes. The essence of Christmas is captured in this festive mulled wine recipe. One important thing to remember when making your mulled wine – don’t boil or heat it for too long. You’ll cook off all the alcohol and be left with tasty, but boozeless, mulled grape juice. Serves four � 1 bottle red wine � 4 tbsp honey � 2 oranges � 2 chillies � a large, thumb-sized knob of ginger

Optional Ingredients: � 1 lemon � 8 cloves � 2 cinnamon sticks � 2 star anise � 1 tsp nutmeg � 1 tsp allspice

Riverways Farm RIVERWAYS Farm is a familyrun free-range egg farm, where the Hens health & happiness is a priority. We have pigs, pygmy goats, ducks and geese and our herd of

� mulled wine syrup � 75ml brandy or 250ml port

Slice the oranges into quarters, halve the chillies, peel the ginger (scrape the skin off with a teaspoon) and cut it into a few large pieces. Add the wine, honey, orange quarters, chilly halves, ginger pieces and any optional spices in a large pot and stir to mix in the honey. Cover with a lid and heat gently on the stove for 5 minutes or until hot. Remove from the heat and ladle into heatproof glasses. Tip: The mulled wine will lose some of its alcohol content when heated, so add brandy or port once it’s been heated if you like your mulled wine nice and strong.

Festive Pizza (aka Flammkuchen) What is Flammkuchen? A traditional German thin crust pizza. Gousto has created a festive spin on the classic, topped with bacon, sprouts, mozzarella and onion marmalade – this pizza is as Christmassy as it comes.

Festive treats, clockwise from above: Mulled wine; Festive pizza; Currywurst-Dog, Chips & Speedy Sauerkraut; and Cinnamon Swirls Pictures: Gusto.co.uk

Preheat the oven to 200°C/

180°C (fan)/ 390°F/ Gas 6. Put a large baking tray in the oven to heat up, this will stop the pizza bottoms from going soggy. Add the tomato paste and dried oregano to a bowl with a generous pinch of salt, pepper and sugar. Add 5 tbsp cold water and give everything a good mix up – this is your tomato sauce. Trim the ends from the sprouts, then finely slice. Chop the smoked bacon into bite-sized pieces. Drain and pat the mozzarella dry with kitchen paper – squeeze as much liquid out as you can.

Reindeer who enjoy meeting new people by the shop. We sell freshly laid eggs of all sizes from our ‘Egg Box’ seven days a week. Throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas, our reindeer will be in the paddock

near the shop. Why not come along and see them, you can even sit in Santa’s sleigh for a photo. We are operating within social distance guidelines � To find out more visit: www.riverwaysfarm.co.uk

� 1 mozzarella ball (125g) � 1 tsp dried oregano � 90g british dry cured smoked streaky bacon � 1 onion marmalade pot (40g) � 1 wholegrain mustard pot (21g) � 2 flame-baked pizza bases � 2 tomato paste sachets (64g) � 1 mayonnaise sachet (30ml) � 100g brussels sprouts � Pepper � Salt � Sugar

Tear the drained mozzarella into rough, bite-sized pieces. Add the pizza bases to a baking tray. Divide the tomato sauce between the pizza bases and spread it evenly all over them with the back of a spoon. Top with the torn mozzarella and dot the onion marmalade all over. Top with the sliced Brussels sprouts and chopped bacon. Season with a pinch of pepper. Put the tray in the oven for 13-15 min or until the cheese has melted and the bases are crisp – these are your Christmas bacon and sprout pizzas. Meanwhile, combine the wholegrain mustard and mayonnaise in a bowl – this is your mustard mayo. Serve the Christmas bacon and sprout pizzas with the mustard mayo to the side.

Cinnamon Swirls

A popular German Christmas Market dish is the Kürtőskalács, a Hungarian pastry that’s baked over the fire and then coated with cinnamon sugar. Gousto’s Cinnamon Swirls are the next best thing, they will spice up your festive season with a sublime Christmassy smell, enjoy the dessert or for an indulgent Christmas day breakfast. � 1 sheet ready-made puff pastry � 50g butter � 2 tangerines � 3 tbsp brown sugar � 2 tsp ground cinnamon � 1.5 tsp ground cloves � ½ tsp nutmeg � 2 tsp ground ginger � ½ tsp allspice � 3 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°c/ 160°C (fan)/ 350°F/ Gas 4 Mix your spices. Zest the tangerines into the spice mix. Melt the butter in a pan over the stove or in a microwave.

Smell the mix – if it’s not bringing you enough Christmas nostalgia, add extra spices of choice. Unroll the pastry and spread about two-thirds of the butter on to it. With a sieve, sprinkle sugar evenly over the top, then sprinkle about half of the spice mix. Roll the longest edge of the pastry inwards, making sure it’s tight. Brush the final edge with butter to make it stick. Using a sharp knife, slice into 12 pieces. Place on a baking tray and use the remaining butter to brush the tops of the swirls. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Juice one of the tangerines and mix with icing sugar – this is your glaze. Paint the cooked swirls with the glaze and enjoy. � For more recipes, log on to: gousto.co.uk


Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

g comfortably? an begin ...

Could you make-up the stars for Pinewood? If you’ve ever dreamt of styling for the stars, you may be in luck. The Iver Make-up Academy is looking for people to join next year’s bursary scheme. The academy, based in the world-famous Pinewood Studios, offers leading courses in make-up and hair for film, TV, theatre and fashion. And it has opened applications for schemes in January and April. “Iver Academy is a unique environment to develop your skills for a career in film, TV, fashion or theatre,” said Liz Tagg-Wooster, principal of The Iver Academy.

“We’re incredibly proud of our graduates and the pathway we put them on.” There are two bursary spots offering up to 80% off the course fees available - one for the scheme starting in January, and one for in April. A graduate of the bursary scheme added: “I would never have been able to access such amazing tutelage without the IMA bursary.” All applicants must be at least 18 and state their intentions by Friday, December 4. For more information, log on to www.iveracademy.co.uk

Keith’s tips for safer driving

nline bedtime stories to help raise funds for Oxfam’s work

Group co-chair Ruth Gibbs, from Wokingham, said: “Jo’s story reading was captivating. We are very grateful.” Anyone who missed Jo’s story session can email oxfamreadingarea@outlook.com to find out how to see it. The Oxfam group is now encouraging everyone to go their fundraising treasure map at Oxfam

truck don’t care; their reason can’t be that bad. They’ve made a triangle around my bed. I feel like I’m floating. They hold their hands over my bad leg and start chanting in low, hushed voices. I hardly listen; my focus is now entirely on my injury. Thousands of hot needles are pricking it all over; I wish they would stop. Then the pain is numbing; I can’t feel any part of it. My body is like a bag of metal rods, pulled end-to-end by magnets. My leg is no longer bent awkwardly, but whole and straight. Something falls away – maybe the splint, if there was one. The chanting echoes into silence. The hands are withdrawn and I fall. The stars fade away into blackness. Am I falling asleep again? It’s happening too quickly to think about. I fall further than perhaps I should, through the air, down through the bed, going, going… The ground is wet and cold; I open my eyes … it’s my old street. The sun is rising over the neighbour’s roof, shining on the concrete pavement I’m lying on. I get up this time, inch by inch, no pain or stiffness to stop me. I look around and – what’s this? My old childhood home? How did I get here? It’s just as I remember; a small, terraced house with a lawn and a paving-stone path to the front door.

Reading Area Group’s Facebook page. Ruth has spoken about the charity’s work at Wokingham area schools including Keep Hatch Primary, St Paul’s Juniors and Walter Infants. She is now available for talks by Zoom for other schools and community and church groups for a small fee. � To arrange a talk, email: Oxfamreadingarea@outlook.com

There’s a sign beside the gate: ‘For Sale – Abandoned Property’. Well, that’s not going to be the case anymore. I check my pockets, looking for my valuables. My fingers find the small, metal key I’ve used a million times. I go to the front door and try it; the lock opens with no resistance at all. I step into the hallway. “Hello?” I call out, though I don’t expect an answer nor do I get one. Good, I think. The last thing I need at the moment is to have to answer questions. I go to the little bathroom at the back to rub some hot water on my face. Everything looks the same – rooms, furniture, the decorations, even the little bits and bobs displayed since I was a child. There’s nothing at all to indicate or explain what I’ve just been through. Except one small thing. I find it in my reflection in the bathroom mirror above the sink. For a moment, I’m puzzled. I don’t remember getting or wearing a pendant last night. Yet there it is. On a short, thin chain hangs a small, crystal bauble as round and black as my pupils. In its centre is a tiny, white, metal star. As I turn my head, the bathroom light catches it and makes it twinkle, like the stars I saw in that place. I smile proudly. I think I’ll keep it as a souvenir – and take up astronomy… � By N H Taylor. This entry was the winner of the Wokingham Writers Group autumn challenge,

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THERE’S nothing worse than sharing the highways with a roadhog. Or someone who doesn’t know what an indicator is. We’ve all experienced those people who you’d struggle to call knights of the road, but sometimes we also make our own faux pas. Following last week’s Road Safety Week, a Wokingham driving instructor has prepared five tips to help us stay on the straight and narrow. Keith Gambles, who runs WDS, says that there is no need to speed, even during lockdown. “Just by taking a few extra minutes to plan your trip really can make all the difference” he said. “It’s all too easy to think that road safety is something that just learner drivers need to think about. “Just by following my top tips, the roads will be a lot safer.” Take time to relax: even before you step foot in the car take some deep breaths. Don’t drive when you are feeling angry or very stressed, as this will only increase the likelihood of you speeding. Give yourself time: If you always leave for your journey at the last minute, it’s natural that you may think about speeding to get you to

Herculean Ears Once again we’re back in lockdown And we’re smiling through our tears But you’ll be at an advantage If you’ve got bigger ears The best ones to adorn your face Will stick out at an angle Then upon each drooping lobe An earring you can dangle With prominence and glory Displayed so everybody sees The benefit of lugholes Stuck at forty-five degrees First you fit the hearing aid Snugly tucked behind each ear This electronic gadget That enables you to hear Then you need your glasses So you thread them through your hair Wedged up against the hearing aid There’s little room to spare But now here comes the problem To save the human race

your destination quicker. By allowing yourself some extra time, it will ensure that you can stick to the speed limit and will drive safely. Relaxing music: the link between music and driving is an obvious one, so ensure that you are listening to calming music. You could even make your own driving playlist, so that you always have a selection of songs ready. Pay attention: By keeping an eye on your speedometer will ensure that you know when you are speeding. If you have cruise control on your car, use it. You can then set it at the legal limit. Or if fitted set the speed limiter, then you can’t exceed the limit Check the traffic: Before you set off on your journey, check the latest traffic news. That way you can change your route should you need to. If you get stuck in traffic, it can lead to speeding the rest of the journey to make up the time. Is it worth it? How much time do you save by going faster? The answer is not much. Driving 35mph instead of 30mph you will only save four minutes during a 30-minute journey. Also at 30mph a pedestrian has a 80% survival rate if hit by a car but at 35mph it is just 50%. A mask is stretched between your ears To cover up your face Now add to that a visor Hooked on ears with arms of plastic To irrevocably tangle On the mask with the elastic So with ears out of alignment And claiming Herculean status They’ve got to grow an inch or two To support this apparatus To save our little ‘shell-likes’ From the strain of mask and visor We’ll be the first ones in the queue For the vaccine made by Pfizer Failing this there’s Darwin’s theory Future evolutionary years When out of shear necessity We’ll all grow bigger ears Jean Hill

We love receiving reader’s poetry. Email your submissions to letters@ wokinghampaper.co.uk

angelagarwood Honest motherhood

Homeschooling with the dragon

W

ELL the inevitable finally happened.

A case of coronavirus in Maia’s year meant she had to isolate for two weeks. I was not expecting this. I’m not sure why, it’s a worldwide pandemic but for some reason my brain sort of assumed children at Maia’s lovely little primary school were somehow magically exempt from ever catching the virus. They weren’t, and one child did. I was getting ready for bed one night, I glanced at my phone and had several messages from friends “Have you seen the email? *crying emoji*”. No, I had not. It was 10pm. My daughter was to be kept at home for two weeks. Two weeks. Maia took the news surprisingly well, though was not too chuffed to learn staying home indeed meant staying home. “We can’t even go to the park?” We got cracking with homeschooling on day one and I quickly found myself morphing into the evil-teaching-monster I’d become during the first lockdown. Less patient and encouraging, more snappy and pedantic. If she took her time answering a simple maths question, I wanted to scream. If she spelt a word incorrectly on what was meant to be a final draft of something, I’d whip out the Tipp-Ex and correct it for her. I don’t think we’re meant to do this. It probably chips away at their creativity, having their words Tipp-Exed out. This was all squeezed in during pockets of time when Leo was either feeding, asleep, or awake and contented. God knows the damage I’d done to my poor child’s general enthusiasm for these subjects. She seemed to enjoy the English assignments, and when she’d finished writing out the story of “Supercarrot” (a fruit and vegetable based Super Hero story, co-written with her mother) she decided to write it out all over again, making it into a book with illustrations. The book was then carried around with her everywhere she went. Which wasn’t all that far as she was still in isolation.

Contracted The story was based on a comic strip we’d created during week one. I say “we” because I basically took over the whole project. In a bid to get it all done as quickly as possible, for both our sakes, I practically spoonfed her plot ideas and we worked together to come up with the adjectives, adverbs and “contracted words” we were asked to include. I left the drawings to Maia, though felt awful and slightly stupid for getting annoyed when she coloured in her strawberries orange. “But why didn’t you do them red?!” I protested. “I don’t know Mummy”. I don’t know why I cared so much. I became quite protective of the comic strip pages. They were left out on the dining room table and every time Maia sat down to re-hydrate, I’d genuinely worry she was going to knock her glass over onto them, ruining our masterpiece. I’d slide the paper down the table a little, ensuring no spillage could reach them. That’s how ridiculously invested I was in this particular piece of work. I took photos of Maia’s work once a week to send to her teachers, as suggested by the headteacher. I found this weirdly satisfying. I was quite proud of both our efforts, and by the end of the two weeks felt like we’d bonded somewhat doing all the exercises together. Even if she did secretly want to lob small objects at me on several occasions. I have learnt, for next time, that it is possible to homeschool without too much drama, and it can actually be quite enjoyable. Having said this, it is completely forgivable to morph into a teaching-dragon should the mood arise.


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PARISH NOTICEBOARD

Parish and borough council meetings Assume meetings are online – contact councils for details Thursday, November 26 Wokingham Borough Council. Executive meeting. 7pm. Details: www.wokingham.gov.uk

Tuesday, December 1 Winnersh Parish Council. Recreation and Amenities Committee. 7.30pm. www.winnersh.gov.uk Woodley Town Council. Planning and community. 8pm. www.woodley.gov.uk

Wednesday, December 2 Ruscombe Parish Council meeting. 7.30pm. Details: www.ruscombeparishcouncil.co.uk Wokingham Borough Council. Extraordinary executive meeting. 7pm. Details: www.wokingham.gov.uk

Monday, December 7 Hurst Parish Council. Parish council meeting. 7.30pm. Sonning Parish Council. Planning committee. 7pm. Winnersh Parish Council. Planning committee. 7.30pm. www.winnersh.gov.uk Wokingham Borough Council. Building control board. 7pm. Details: www.wokingham.gov.uk Wokingham Without Parish Council. Full council meeting. 7.30pm. wokinghamwithout-pc.gov.uk

Tuesday, December 8 Arborfield Parish Council. F&GP budget meeting. 7.30pm arborfield.org.uk Barkham Parish Council. Parish council meeting. 7.30pm. Barkham Village Hall, Church Lane RG40 4PL. Earley Town Council. Planning committee. 7.30pm. Earley Town Council offices, Radstock Lane, Earley RG6 5UL. Sonning Parish Council. Council meeting. 7.30pm. Sports Pavilion, King George V Playing Field, Pound Lane RG4 6XE. Swallowfield Parish Council. Parish council meeting. 7.30pm. www.swallowfieldpc.gov.uk Winnersh Parish Council. Parish council meeting. 7.30pm. www.winnersh.gov.uk Wokingham Town Council. Full council. 7.30pm. Details: www.wokingham-tc.gov.uk Woodley Town Council. Full council. 8pm. woodley.gov.uk

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FROMTHECOURTS � A WOKINGHAM woman who pleaded guilty to possessing drugs has been given an 18-month conditional discharge. Laila Evelyn Burden, 60 and from Pattern Ash Drive, admitted the following charges, all from March 13, 2019: • Possessing 73.75 grams of the class B drug amphetamine • Possessing 71.094 grams of the class B drug cannabis • Possessing 2 tablets of the drug MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine). A hearing at Reading Magistrates Court on October 29 ordered Burden to pay £85 costs and £20 to victim services at a rate of £20 per month. The drugs have been confiscated and destroyed. � A WOODLEY man who was found to have drugs in his possession while on a trip to a pub has been fined £280. Graham Paul Sydney Lovejoy, 32 and from Beechwood Avenue, pleaded guilty to the charge of having a quantity of the class A drug cocaine when he was stopped at The Chequers in Woodley on July 31. At his hearing, held at Reading Magistrates Court on October 29, Lovejoy was also ordered to pay £85 costs and £34 to victim services. The drugs have been confiscated and destroyed by police. � AN EARLEY man who drove while under the influence of drugs

WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

Cases heard in Reading and Slough Magistrates Court in recent weeks He was ordered to pay compensation of £1,170 at a rate of £50 per month from November 30.

pleaded guilty when he appeared at Slough Magistrates Court on October 29. Liam Ian Gary Hickman, 28 and from Collins Drive, had been stopped by police on the A4 Bath Road in Charvil on April 12. A test revealed that he had 11 micrograms per litre of blood of the drug Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, a form of cannabis, in his bloodstream, above the prescribed limit. He was also found to have 217 micrograms per litre of blood of the drug Benzoylecgonine, a form of cocaine, and 24 micrograms of cocaine per litre of blood. He was banned from driving for 18 months, ordered to pay £85 costs and £34 to victim services. He may pay at a rate of £20 per month from November 30. � A CROWTHORNE man has pleaded guilty to stealing a cash register from a pub in Bracknell. Peter Anthony Terrance Hughes, 35 and from Carlisle Court, appeared before Reading Magistrates Court on October 30, where he admitted to taking the till from The Weather Vane pub on Wokingham Road on March 17.

� A CROWTHORNE man has been banned from getting behind the wheel for a year after pleading guilty to drink driving. Joe Cumber, 28 and from Corsham Way, was stopped by police while driving a van along Sandhurst Road, Crowthorne, on July 10. A breath test revealed that he had 47 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeding the prescribed limit. His ban will be reduced by three months on completion of a safe driving course and Cumner was ordered to pay an £80 fine, £85 costs and £34 to victim services. � A WOODLEY woman who abused a disabled parking space has been given a nine-month conditional discharge. Samina Kousar, 25 and from Chequers Way, pleaded guilty when she appeared at Reading Magistrates Court on October 30. The offence took place in Abbey Square, Reading, on October 10, 2019. Magistrates heard that Kousar had parked in the disabled bay, blocking the usage of the space from a disabled person. In her car, she was displaying a badge of a form prescribed under section 21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, and using the vehicle in circumstances

where a disabled person's concession would have been available to a disabled person's vehicle. Kousar must also pay £85 costs and £21 to victim services. � A 23-YEAR-OLD from Lower Earley who admitted assaulting another man has been given a 17-week jail sentence, suspended for 12 months. Toby James Driver, from Chatteris Way, appeared before Reading Magistrates Court on November 2, where he pleaded guilty to actual bodily harm of his victim. The incident took place on February 15 in Reading. He was ordered to pay compensation of £604, £122 to victim services and £85 costs. Driver also pleaded guilty to a second offence of resisting arrest, for which he was ordered to pay £200 compensation. � A LOWER EARLEY man who jumped a red light has been given a £50 fine and three points on his license. Alexis Bruno Alfred Simmons, 24 and from Pimento Drive, pleaded guilty when he appeared at Reading Magistrates Court on November 2. The court heard that on January 10, he was on the Bagshot Road in Bracknell, where he failed to stop at traffic lights, despite the red light being illuminated for 2.3 seconds. In addition to the fine, Simmons must pay £40 costs and £32 to victim services.

Council defends plans for new town centre gym By JOHN WAKEFIELD news@wokingham.today PLANS to convert the former Marks & Spencer store in Wokingham’s town centre have been defended by Wokingham Borough Council.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that it is proposing to convert the site into a gym run by an unnamed national operator, and two smaller retail units. There will be office space on the first floor and the 45-space Rose Street car park will be kept. However, it will be one of a number of gyms that have opened around the town hall in recent years. Nuffield Health took over Virgin Active near Elms Field, Anytime Fitness took over the former Blockbuster Video store, Argos is to become Energie Fitness, eActiv opened in Peach Place earlier this year, taking over from Curves, and there is also SAB Fitness in The Workstation on Broad Street. The scheme has been welcomed by council leader Cllr John Halsall, who said it was an excellent development and was just what Wokingham needed. “I think everybody in Wokingham wants to get healthy and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with our health and wellbeing strategy – get people healthy.” However, comments received for the application are more mixed. One resident said that the “proposed

grey brickwork is not in keeping with the historic Rose Street buildings”, and that “the traditional soft red brick building materials give identity to the town and would be better for the overall character of Rose Street”. Another welcomed the plan, saying it would be highly beneficial and a “great addition to our new high street”. A third said: “Wokingham does not need another gym, but needs the Help for Hero's (sic) shop for those of us who want to recycle ‘pre-loved’ items”. The owners of Healthy Women (Wokingham) Ltd, which operates eActiv that opened in July in Peach Place, have objected, saying the new gym is four times larger than their premises. “We were told by Wokingham council that if we took the lease for our gym, the council would not allow a second gym to open so close to ours,” they note. “It should not include an 8,500 sq ft gym that would destroy our business.” Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor, executive member for regeneration at Wokingham Borough Council, defended the decision to convert the former M&S store, which is currently operating as a Forces Direct charity shop specialising in secondhand furniture. “We’re incredibly proud that we are continuing to invest in our local high streets despite the difficult times we are in,” she said. “Unlike many town centres

Wokingham has continued to thrive and has seen many new businesses open up or sign up for units this year. “Our proposals for this site have been carefully thought through to support the town centre. “Including retail units facing onto Peach Street and the remainder of the site used for offices and leisure, both of which are clearly shown to bring footfall back to town centres.” She added: “We’re surprised by the comments from eActiv Health Lounge as we made it very clear during our negotiations that there would be no such exclusivity clause in their contract, specifically excluding it during conversations with lawyers so this would not be in doubt. “The council are very aware of the continued growth of the leisure sector which is shown by the number of gyms interested in locating to the area as the borough grows. “eActiv is a fantastic business and with their unique three-minute circuit approach, alongside their wider offer which includes activities such as Pilates, flotation sessions and nutritional advice, they offer something completely different to anywhere else in the area. “We are confident that they will continue to thrive in the town,. regardless of competition.” The planning application is number 202757 and can be viewed at planning.wokingham.gov.uk


Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

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COUNCILNEWS Free school meals call AN ONLINE petition calling on the council to provide free school meals during the Christmas holidays amassed nearly 500 signatures. Presenting it to the virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council, Labour group leader Cllr Andy Croy said: “the speed with which the signatures was collected was the fastest I have even seen. “It is only the restrictions imposed on us by Covid19 that stopped a far higher number of people signing in person.” The petition, he added, was launched when “the Conservatives were prevaricating over whether or not to ensure that children in receipt of free school meals should be supported in the Christmas holidays”. Cllr Croy reminded the chamber that there had been developments since, including the council being allocated money to support families and the freedom to choose how that support is provided.

He called on the council not to consider vouchers, based on advice from the manager of Wokingham Foodbank, Annette Medhurst. He said that Ms Medhurst had told him: “Cash is the best way forward to support struggling households. There is dignity in the household being able to choose their own food and where it can be brought from.” Vouchers would cause problems for those without smartphones, computers or printers, he said. “By trying to invent some sort of Wokingham Borough Voucher we risk a lot of effort being put into developing a tool to replicate something cash already does,” he added. The point of the Borough response and our planning must be to give families not just food but to give families all the dignity we would wish for our own families.

Holiday meal update WHAT Wokingham Borough Council did during half-term to help children who usually receive free school meals was a question posed by resident Anne Chadwick. She asked Cllr UllaKarin Clark, the executive member for children’s services on Wokingham Borough Council, for details and whether she “shared my concern?” Cllr Clark reiterated the council’s position that “no child or young person should go hungry” and “the Council is committed to ensuring support is available for those families who need it at this very difficult time”. She said that the council had been “working closely with our voluntary sector partners throughout this pandemic to ensure that access to support is available where needed”. This included assessments of need before the half-term. “Support networks were working well, and so we took the decision to concentrate our efforts on planning support over the difficult winter months,” she continued. “We have welcomed the

announcement of Winter Grant Scheme funding from the Department of Work and Pensions to support families from December through to March 2021, and we are moving swiftly to put channels in place to deliver support where it is most needed.” Following on from this, Juliet Sherratt wanted to know what the council was doing to ensure that “no child suffers holiday hunger”. Cllr Clark said: “We will work closely with our front line services, our partners (including schools, early years settings and health), and the voluntary sector through the Citizens Advice Bureau to understand how we can best identify those children who are not in receipt of free school meals who need our help.” She added that “We must not let any child in the borough go hungry”. Ms Sherratt asked for more details for Christmas. Cllr Clark said that it was too early to provide details at this time, “you just have to bear with me” she added, promising something would be in place for the holidays.

Request for crossings WOKINGHAM residents are calling for two new pedestrian crossings to be installed in the town. Cllr Nick Fox, the Labour town councillor for Norreys East, had been due to present a petition to the virtual council meeting, held online on Thursday, November 19. However, he was unable to do so and Cllr Rachel Burgess, Labour borough councillor for Norreys, stepped in. In all, 145 people signed the petition calling for a safe crossing point to be installed on Rectory Road close to Waitrose’s entrance. The second would be sited on Wiltshire Road between Crutchley Road and Bishops Drive. “There is clearly considerable

support for crossings at these two locations,” Cllr Burgess told the chamber. She added that residents made the same points “over and over again”. These included fast-moving traffic, and that the roads are being treated by drivers as ring roads or bypasses “with no consideration to pedestrians by drivers”. “There have been near misses where residents or someone they know has narrowly escaped an accident,” Cllr Burgess said. “We need to be encouraging people to walk as much as possible, people must be free from the worry that their walk will involve a dangerous crossing – we must put pedestrians first.”

WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

PHIL CREIGHTON reports from a virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council held on Thursday, November 19

‘Wokingham’s finances are WOKINGHAM’S finances are “in extremely good health”.

That’s the message from council leader John Halsall, who was addressing concerns raised by opposition parties over the management of residents’ money. He made the comments in a leader’s speech devoted solely to the issue during a virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council, held on Thursday, November 19. “I consider it is a matter of extreme importance that our finances are well-managed and just as important, that the actual state of our finances are properly understood by Council and by our residents,” he said. “If the public has no confidence in our financial management, they have no confidence in the Council and the loss of confidence in this Council at such a crucial time in our history would be disastrous.” Cllr Halsall criticised “cheap political headlines” and the “proffering of alarmist messages and pervasive political propaganda intended to mislead”. He said that despite the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the council is not following the path of others that have made “claims of insolvency or mass draconian service and staff cuts”. “Our financial strength and financial standing is not something that has materialised overnight,” he continued.

“In 2002 we, the Conservatives, inherited what can only be described as a financial crisis following a period of mismanagement by the Liberal Democrats. “We had perilous balances at only £2.3 million, an uncontrolled overspend of £1 million and had to act quickly to arrest a genuine fatal decline into insolvency.” Over the past 18 years, the Conservatives had, he said, “been devoted to restoring, maintaining and enhancing this Council’s financial wellbeing”. “We were financially strong and resilient coming into this Covid-19 and that was despite years of austerity from 2008, when we faced continual escalating statutory care costs and severe reductions in Government funding,” Cllr Halsall said. “It is this financial resilience that has enabled us to step up in the ways we have needed to for our community throughout this pandemic. “This is not just me making fanciful misleading statements in the way that some have chosen to do. This is our financial track record and financial health is based on facts and on the reports of external experts.” The council’s investments were generating £7.2 million per annum “a not inconsiderable sum” according to the council leader. “Because of that income, all of the borrowing the Council has ever had to make to

‘Coronavirus cases is well below England average’ A REQUEST for an update on the coronavirus situation in Wokingham borough was made by Wokingham Town Council Conservative councillor Phil Cunnington. Responding, Cllr Charles Margetts, the Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Services, said that there had been an increase in cases but the borough was “well below the England average” for the number of people infected. “In response to this second wave position the council has stood up its emergency response procedures some weeks ago led by the Chief Executive,” he said. “The Corporate leadership team now meet daily to oversee this and have redeployed staff to support this.” He added: “I would like to personally thank the officers from across the council and the voluntary sector for their efforts here to protect us all from this Virus. “We are in this together and to keep

deliver on all our capital schemes since Wokingham Borough Council has existed such as roads, schools, affordable housing, regeneration, is of almost no cost to our Council Taxpayer. “Well, £7.52 for a Band D to be precise. “What’s more, we have accumulated realisable assets of almost £500 million.” The theme was picked up on by Cllr John Kaiser, the deputy leader of the council and also in charge of the finances. “It has been frustrating listening to the lies and rumours about the council’s finances during this time when people have many fears, illness, loss of jobs and income and in some cases deterioration of mental wellbeing,” he said. “Families have been unable to meet with the most at risk such as grandparents. “Statements to scaremonger at such a time is not only irresponsible but lacking any sense of feelings or respect for all those who benefit and rely on the many services delivered by Wokingham Borough Council. “Rest assured my intention is to run the councils finances in such a way creates savings and investments which make available money so when we get back to normal, whatever that will look like, the council will still be in a position to deliver those services at the same time having supported the resident of the borough throughout this very difficult and challenging time.”

infection rates down it is vital that we keep to the rules and minimise social contact. “Remember that support is available from WBC and partners via the One Front Door and where possible WBC services are still open.” Mr Cunnington wanted to thank councillors, officers and volunteers for “doing such a good job for Wokingham”. He also asked for an update on Shinfield View, where there had been an outbreak in which five people had died. Cllr Margetts said: “I would like to pass on my condolences to those families”. He added that it had placed “tremendous pressures” on the staff.

Earley flooding update requested by former cllr FORMER Conservative borough councillor Norman Jorgensen asked for an update on flooding to Egremont Drive in Earley. “The culvert and bushes at that point makes a restriction to water flow in the

He added: “All of this has been going on at a time that key income to the Council has dried up, most notably leisure and car parking and we have been diverted away from delivering on savings initiatives. “I have found this extremely challenging, to ensure the needs of our vulnerable are met and trying to manage the council’s resources responsibly.” And the borrowing “has provided income critical to funding our response” “We have always borrowed sensibly and continue to do so,” Cllr Kaiser said. “We have

stream which causes the flooding. “I wrote to you and the Council at the time, asking that the restriction is removed so that residents are not flooded every time there is heavy rain. “I was pleased to hear from an Executive Member that works are planned.” He asked for an update. Cllr Parry Batth, the Executive Member for Environment and Leisure, said that tree clearance works are required. “Following investigation of the flooding issues at Egremont Drive the Council will be removing the concrete culvert in the ditch next to the footpath. In order to do this, there is some tree clearance works required. “This is as a result of the roots of three trees growing into the culvert and exacerbating the blockage, preventing water from flowing downstream. Following inspection by the Council’s Tree Officer, who is satisfied with the removal of the three trees, in the interests of reducing flood risk to nearby properties, it has been arranged for the trees to be removed.” He added: “Subject to weather conditions, it is hoped that these works will be completed by Christmas.”


NEWS | 33

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Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

COUNCILNEWS

PHIL CREIGHTON reports from a virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council held on Thursday, November 19

Sandwich boards debate lacks filling

e in extremely good health’

used this to generate income and continue to have assets far in excess in value than our borrowing liabilities.” There was also praise for the council tax collection rates, which are “holding up” despite Covid, and the council’s housing companies generating a profit of more than £650,000. He also said that the town centre regeneration scheme “as secured committed rental in excess of 87% of its retail assets, some of which is not yet built, and has secured rental income way in excess of the cost of borrowing. “Retailers are still flocking

to take up units in our Town Centre, even in current times. Again, we buck the trend.” Concluding, he praised officers and politicians for their work over the years. “I am extremely proud to say that I currently preside over a local party that has demonstrated over many years the highest levels of financial responsibility and financial acumen,” he said. “The work we have done and continue to do should be recognised for its incredible success and not blemished by populist politics that brings the Council into disrepute and discredits all

those that have given so much.” In a statement shared after the question was asked, Cllr Lindsay Ferris, the leader of Wokingham Borough Council’s Liberal Democrat group, said that he first raised the issue of debt in February 2017. “The figure of £700 million mentioned in the Question (from Cllr Howe) is derived from Wokingham Borough Council’s own Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP), dated Feb ruary 2020. “The table on page 84 shows the projected levels of both External & Internal

Borrowing scheduled for the Council over the coming years. The combination of these two figures is the total borrowing projected by the Council and therefore its borrowing level. “It is hurtling towards £700 million – the exact figure is £676.8 million. He added: “We believe the Ruling Conservatives have been deficient in looking after the finances of WBC. “While the Council may have been able to manage to make payments during a time the economy was doing well, it has major problems now that we are in the middle of a major recession due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. “Currently, the major revenue streams for WBC Council Tax, Business Rates, Commercial Rents, Car Parking Revenue, Leisure income – are all badly hit. “While the Government is providing some monies to support the Council to cover the costs of Covid-19 it is not enough to cover all the additional costs and loss of revenue. “This makes our concern about rapidly rising levels of borrowing, and the cost of financing that debt, even more significant. “Should we be privileged to take control of Wokingham Borough Council next May, we will control, consolidate, and in time cut the levels f borrowing and ensure the Council’s finances are brought onto a more even keel.” � Letters page 18

A MOTION aimed at clearing Wokingham borough of pavement clutter was voted down by the Conservatives at a virtual meeting of the council, held on Thursday, November 19 – although they pledged to look at boosting existing policy. Lib Dem councillor for Wescott Ward, Cllr Maria Gee, said that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead prohibits the use of advertising boards on the highway. Bracknell Forest and Reading Borough Councils charge for permits for pavement advertising, with clear design and placement rules. “We need coherent and wellthought-out policies, procedures and practices,” she said. “What should our policies, procedures and practices be?” She added: “We need this policy that supports all our residents to lead happy, healthy lives, that protect our children and vulnerable residents, and that nurture our communities and town centres and help them to thrive. “This will require some considerable thought and discussion after tonight. That is the process that this motion will start.” Speaking against it, Cllr Pauline Jorgensen said: “Although I am in support of ensuring that pavements are not obstructed impacting disabled residents, parents with buggies and the like I am forced to oppose this motion.” She said that the council already had a policy in place relating to A-boards outside shops and businesses, meaning there was freedom of movement for both disabled people and those with pushchairs, as well as ensuring access for emergency services at all times.

Councillors turn down motion for additional meets A MOTION aimed at extending the number of council meetings to bring them up to date was voted out by Conservatives. Independent councillor for Arborfield, Cllr Gary Cowan proposed a motion that said: “the continued failure of recent Council meetings to conclude the agenda business suggests that the existing democratic process has failed. “As a direct result of this Wokingham Borough's Residents and their Borough Council elected Members have been let down very badly. “To correct this serious democratic failure and get the Council back on track this Council must immediately programme in as many additional Council meetings as is required to get Council business up to date.” This was the third time that the motion had been presented but it had not been debated before as council meetings ran out of time. Seconding the motion, Cllr Jim Frewin said that council meetings often ran out of time.

Cllr Clive Jones (Lib Dem) said: “I totally share his conclusion that the existing democratic process has failed in recent months, resulting in our residents being let down. “The EU motion that we finally got to at the September full council, first came to the council in October 2019, nearly a year before. “The motion on Heathrow debated in July was nearly a year old. “Why has it taken so long for these motions to be debated? The Conservatives didn’t want to talk about them.” He argued: “How can this be acceptable in a modern-day democracy, how can the manipulation of rules as practised by the Conservatives by right or acceptable?” And he added: “The Conservatives refused extra time at a number of council meetings to stop the council debating motions on the agenda. They have done it again tonight. Is it because they didn’t want to debate free school meal provision in the borough.” Speaking against the motion, Cllr

John Halsall said that the ruling Conservatives had worked to make council meetings include more business, including starting earlier and removing items to free up time. Conservative councillors had also, on occasion, withdrawn questions to help create space in the meetings. Cllr Lindsay Ferris raised a point of order to state that the Lib Dems had minimised questions asked in this meeting to allow time for “five or six very interesting motions”. Cllr Halsall then pointed out that a lot of scrutiny of the council took place in committee meetings before the full council meeting took place. Following some technical issues, Conservative Cllr Chris Bowring warned that the council could be inundated with motions if Cllr Cowan’s motion passed. “There clearly has to be some limitation on the number of motions that can be processed and I believe two per meeting is a perfectly reasonable number.” He argued these should be one from

the administration and one from the opposition. Cllr Stephen Conway said that he agreed with the sentiments of the motions, while Cllr Andy Croy said it was a shame that the meeting had been cut short as there were important motions to discuss, and as a result would be supporting the motion. And Cllr Prue Bray said she been a councillor for 20 years and “have rarely heard such time-wasting twaddle as I have tonight” and would support the motion. Cllr John Kaiser said that the council couldn’t do much more scrutiny: “We are a very open council” and many motions referred to agenda items that had already been made policy, such as the free school meals during Christmas holidays motion, which was on the agenda but not debated. The meeting ran out of time, and went to a named vote. Opposition councillors voted for the motion, but the Conservatives voted against so the motion failed.

“In the event that an A-board is considered to be causing a nuisance or an obstruction to the free passage of the public, the Council will remove them without notice to the owner,” she said, adding that she felt this was enough. “I would suggest however that we immediately adopt one part of Maria’s proposal, the policy will be expanded to include bollard covers and we will put the policies out to public consultation to ensure that the views of disabled bodies, impacted residents and shopkeepers are captured and any substantive issues with the current policy are dealt with.” Cllr Charlotte Haitham-Taylor affirmed the council’s commitment to all residents; right to navigate pavements safely, particularly those who are partially sighted. She said that most businesses in the borough respect this and that in the past two years there had been just eight complaints made. “This council will continue to support our residents and shops,” she added. Cllr Wayne Smith said that Cllr Haitham-Taylor had said much of what he would have said. Summing up, Cllr Imogen Shepherd-Dubey, the Lib Dem lead for equality, diversity and inclusivity, backed the motion, saying that social distancing was made harder by the A-boards on Wokingham town pavements. “There appears to be no active regulation or control of these street signs. Many are put in awkward or inappropriate places and some are too small or too big for where they are placed. Wokingham Borough Council has a duty of care to ensure that our streets are safe for everyone to use.” The motion failed.

Petition asks for new police station A RENEWED call for Wokingham to reopen its police station has been made with the presentation of a petition to Wokingham Borough Council. Cllr Maria Gee, Liberal Democrat councillor for Westcott, said: “People in Wokingham Town are fed up with the increasing vandalism in the town. We miss having a local police station and an obvious police presence in the town, particularly at night. “Fewer police on the streets and the lack of a station makes criminals more confident that they will not be caught, resulting in more opportunistic crime. “The vandalism to the Wokingham Town centre Christmas tree, the theft or vandalism of CCTV systems, and antisocial behaviour and drug-taking in our parks, are examples of vandals and criminals thinking they can act without being caught.” She said that more than 500 residents had signed the petition and that it would also be presented to the home secretary Priti Patel.


34 | SOCIETY

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community groups, clubs and societies INTHECOMMUNITY NewsSendfromyouryourreports to news@wokinghampaper.co.uk Sue Ryder appeal

Chrispen joins All Saints Church THERE’S a new face at a Wokingham church. All Saints in Wiltshire Road has welcomed Chrispen Gumbs, as a priest in training. He joined earlier this month and Wokingham has been chosen as the venue for his parish placement. Mr Gumbs has served as a lay reader of the Diocese of North-eastern Caribbean and Aruba, in the parish of St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Anguilla. He now lives in Wokingham with his family, and is working for All Saints on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. “I am really happy to be working with All Saints because it has now become like my family church here,” he said.

CLASP Wokingham SHOPPERS at a Woosehill supermarket were able to learn more about the work of CLASP last week. The store hosted a display in an A-frame placed at the entrance, detailing how the self-advocacy group helps people with learning disabilities. And customers were also able to make donations via a collection bucket. Staff, including Katie (pictured) were happy to help. Debs Morrison, CLASP manager, said: “Thanks to Morrisons and their customers for their support.” For more details, log on to wokinghamclasp.org.uk

THE SUE Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice has launched its second appeal as funds continue to decline this year. The charity is experiencing a £2 million shortfall each month, and has now launched a winter appeal to make up the difference. Maria Turnbull, hospice director, said the pandemic has hit the charity hard, and more people need support with end of life care. “We received a wonderful response from our supporters to our emergency appeal earlier in the

Easthampstead Rotary EASTHAMPSTEAD Rotarians are currently launching four Rotary Youth Competitions for local schools and youth organisations. These will include Young Artist, Young Writer, Young Photographer and now, Young Environmentalist. Supporting our Environment is an established focus for Easthampstead Rotarians. Two years ago, guided by park rangers, 100 native hornbeam, oak and wild cherry saplings supplied by The Woodland Trust were planted by the Rotarians assisted by their families and friends from Wokingham including volunteers from Emmbrook School, 1st Emmbrook Scouts, and 2nd Woosehill Guides. Last week, Easthampstead Rotarians Bruce Irvine and Peter von Bergen visited Savernake Park and Lily Hill Park to check on the saplings. Bruce (pictured with a sapling) who led the initiative reported that “many of the saplings are growing

Wokingham Lions BORED with lockdown? Why not join a host of families and friends at the next online Great #Woky Pub Quiz tonight (Thursday) at 8.15pm? The quiz is live streamed over the Facebook page of the Wokingham Lions Club.

year. This, paired with the emergency funding that we received from the government, covered our funding shortfall until the end of June 2020. “Unfortunately however, our struggle continues. “Our fundraising events remain cancelled for the rest of this year and our high street shops have now closed for a second time.” She said the charity’s funding gap is unsustainable and needs support from the public to continue. “Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice is playing a vital part in the Coronavirus effort – all of the staff

here want to use their skills, expertise and experience to help patients and their families in the months ahead as well continue to relieve the pressure on the NHS,” she said. “However, in order to keep our services running through the winter and beyond we urgently need to secure more funding now. “We know that times are tough for everybody at the moment, so please be reassured that every bit really does help.” � For more information, or to support the appeal, visit: sueryder.org/winterappeal20

well, still fitted with their tree guards”. He added “The survival rate of well over 50% is very pleasing, with twothirds of the Lily Hill Park saplings doing well. All those who helped with the tree planting should feel well-rewarded for their efforts, and hopefully the Rotary Club will be encouraged to start tree planting again after lockdown."” For years, Rotarians worldwide have focused on projects in six areas of focus: fighting disease, providing clean water, promoting peace, supporting education, and growing local economies. To these has now been added Supporting our Environment. Championing the new area of focus, global head of Rotary's Environment task force, Ian Riseley, said: “I’m delighted that our great organisation has recognised that the environment is a worthy and

appropriate destination for our project activity.” The local tree planting by Easthampstead Rotarians is also in harmony with environmentally sensitive HRH The Prince of Wales. On his website he wrote: “Trees bring nature to the heart of our communities, help clean and cool the air, reduce flooding, and improve people’s physical and mental health. “Urban trees in particular play a pivotal role in creating healthy and economically successful communities and places for people and wildlife to live.” Helping those in need in our communities over recent months, we are looking forward to helping our communities and environment for our children and their children. And new ideas and new members are always welcome. For more information, call Brian on 07720 321 526, or log on to www.easthampsteadrotary.org

Lion Ian Grange is ready with a fresh set of questions, submitted by members of the club. This week’s quiz will invite donations to Diabetes UK Reading and District Group (www.readinganddistrict.diabetesu kgroup.org). This is a support group for people with diabetes in the

Reading and Wokingham areas, as well as their carers, and those who want to know more about it. Jennifer Ackroyd, chairwoman, Diabetes UK Reading and District Group, said: Diabetes is one of the fastest growing health issues all over the world. “We have to do as much as possible to help prevent this, by educating people in any way possible. “Our volunteers support people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as their families and carers. “We meet six times year, and everyone is welcome to attend the meetings.” Ian said: “We hope you can join us for our next virtual pub quiz. It’s fun, and a great way to bring together family, friends and neighbours. It’s all free, but donations to support local charities are very welcome.” Further quizzes are scheduled for 17th December and 28th January. Donations can be made at www.wokingham lions.org.uk/donate. To join in, visit fb.com/ wokinghamlions/video.

WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

helenabadger volunteer corner � The League of Friends of Reading Hospitals

raises funds for the patients and staff of the Royal Berkshire Hospital. A committee of trustees run the league. They meet every two months to discuss the general running of the League and to make decisions on hospital giving projects. The role is fully participating and we are looking for someone happy to support the League’s fundraising events and two retail outlets. We are looking for a secretary to the trustees who is well organised, has good communication skills and is familiar with IT. The role will involve: organising trustee meetings, booking venues, sending agendas, dealing with hospital project applications, producing minutes, managing generic trustee correspondence, keeping records of trustees, past and present and ensuring this is compliant under GDPR and The Charities Commission and entered on their website. Experience with Charity Commission requirements, as laid down in the regulations, plus a working knowledge of GDPR would be helpful. � HCCV manage Holt Copse a seven-acre wood

in Wokingham on behalf of Wokingham Town Council who own the wood. Work parties take place on alternate Saturday mornings between October and March, and on some Tuesdays and Fridays during the same period. Activities include coppicing and planting trees, clearing scrub, building bridges and paths and checking and monitoring bird nest boxes. No previous experience is necessary, young and old people are equally welcome and many youngsters do the volunteering part of their Duke of Edinburgh award by helping HCCV. HCCV work parties are fun, stress-free and rewarding. Although you may get wet and muddy you are never cold, you get a real ‘buzz’ from doing healthy, physical exercise and it gives you an appetite. � The Wokingham Cancer Support Network has

been established to support people living in and around the Wokingham borough that are affected by cancer. Meeting other people with similar experiences can be invaluable. Self-help and support groups offer a chance for people to talk to others and come together to share experiences and concerns. The aim of this project is to support people in a number of ways including direct peer-to-peer support, monthly meet-up groups, an online chat facility and an information/signposting hub. We are looking for Cancer Champion Volunteers who will be recruited and trained to deliver support in the home or where needed. At the moment, this support with be virtual, over the phone or via video call, with the aim to meet up in person in the future. As a volunteer you will receive professional training to support you in your role. You will be asked to make a regular commitment to help a person you will be matched with. This will vary around discussions and needs of the person being supported. � These are just some of the latest opportunities on our books. Contact us: tel. 0118 977 0749, email volunteer@wok-vol.org.uk or visit our website www.volunteerwokinghamborough.org.uk to find out more and have a look at all the roles we have to offer.


Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

Fresh hope for gaol campaigners as sale falls through By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokingham.today

Matt Rodda outside Reading Gaol – he wants the site to become an arts and heritage venue

THE sale of Reading Gaol has been nixed following the withdrawal of the preferred bidder.

Last week, the Ministry of Justice announced that the proposal, which would have seen the historic site at risk of being converted into housing, was back to square one. Artisan Real Estate had been due to buy the site, but its withdrawal means that there is a fresh chance for the site that Reading Borough Council could acquire the gaol as part of a proposal to turn it into an arts and heritage centre. Reading East MP Matt Rodda, whose constituency includes parts of Woodley and Earley, has written to prisons minister Lucy Frazer, calling on the department to change tack and set up a meeting with himself and Reading West MP Alok Sharma, who has also supported the campaign. “I believe it is now the appropriate time to carry out a thorough reassessment of the Department’s policy of allowing the site to be redeveloped for luxury flats,” he wrote. “I believe the gaol should be considered as a world heritage site because of its importance as part of Oscar Wilde’s art and legacy and as the burial place of King Henry I, whose tomb lies in

the ruins of Reading Abbey, which sit under the gaol.” He added: “The campaign to save the gaol and to preserve it for arts, heritage and community use has significant public support. More than 8,000 people signed a petition to save the site and Alok Sharma and I spoke in favour of saving the gaol when around 1,000 people joined an event outside Reading Gaol in 2019.” Speaking to Wokingham. Today, Mr Rodda was delighted that there was new hope that the historic site could be saved. “I’m pleased as this is an opportunity for a complete rethink by the Government, and I call for them to look at this again,” he said. “I’d like the Ministry of Justice to work with Reading Borough Council to offer the site to them. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to think through the process and find a much better future use for the building.

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“We don’t need any more luxury flats, but we need more recognition of our history and heritage.” Historic England has supported Mr Rodda’s campaign: “They recognise that this is a national and internationally important site.” This includes the possible burial of King Henry I in the car park, and Oscar Wilde being the prison’s most famous inmate. Now, Mr Rodda is calling on the community, including Wokingham borough residents, to “reboot” the campaign to save the gaol. “It’s a great opportunity for local people to come together and campaign for the site’s future,” he said. Mr Rodda has launched a virtual petition aimed at showing the Ministry of Justice the strength of support for saving the Gaol. It can be signed at w w w. m a t t r o d d a m p . c o m / stopreadinggaolselloff

RSPCA call for help as it prepares for its ‘toughest Christmas yet’ A CHARITY that protects animals is warning that it could be facing its toughest Christmas yet. The RSPCA said that last winter it took in more than 7,000 animals every day and received more than 2,000 calls every day, detailing allegations of cruelty and neglect. And last Christmas Day, the charity received more than 950 calls – the highest number since 2013. During December, it received 63,000 calls, making it the busiest Christmas period for at least four years. And in Berkshire, it dealt with 799 incidents across the winter period – 269 in December alone. Now it fears that the financial strain from the Coronavirus pandemic could mean a rise in pets being abandoned and neglected, putting more pressure on the

charity’s rescue teams. To help, the RSPCA is asking supporters to Join the Christmas Rescue. Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, said: “Christmas may be different for many people this year but for the RSPCA, our teams will be working day in, day out, as usual, rescuing, caring and rehabilitating those animals who need us the most. “Last year, we rescued thousands of animals over the winter months and we fear that due to the pandemic, we could be facing our toughest Christmas yet as we are braced for a rise in abandoned and neglected animals needing our help.” He added: “It’s been a tough year for everyone, including charities, so now more than ever we need your help to continue our vital work saving

animals and giving them a voice. “Our frontline teams are out throughout the winter but they cannot do this alone, which is why the RSPCA has launched its Join the Christmas Rescue campaign to show how we can all help animals. “From our animal rescuers, hospital and centre staff, and our volunteers to every supporter who picks up the phone to call us when an animal is in need, or donates to help us continue our work – every one of us is vital to make sure we can rescue the animals who need us the most.” The charity says that £25 can help keep our Animal Rescue Teams on the road and £50 could help feed all the rescued animals in one of its centres for a day. For more details, log on to www.rspca.org.uk/xmas

Got tummy trouble? Talk to your GP RESIDENTS who have continual tummy troubles are being urged to visit their GP for a check-up. The NHS and Public Health England have teamed up to launch its Help Us, Help You campaign, with an emphasis on reaching people who have persistent issues such as diarrhoea, bloating or discomfort in the tummy area. If the symptoms last for three weeks or more, they could be a sign of cancer. The NHS says that its figures show that 14,181 people are diagnosed with cancers in the abdomen in the South East every year, which includes

ovarian, kidney and bowel cancers. More than four in 10 people would leave it longer to get health advice than they normally would have before the coronavirus outbreak – delaying can have serious consequences for some cancers. Hospitals have put extensive measures in place so that patients can get safely tested and treated, including by rolling out Covid-safe hubs and introducing treatment swaps that require fewer trips to hospital and have less of an effect on cancer

patients’ immune systems. Vaughan Lewis, South East Medical Director for NHS England and Improvement, said: “If you or a loved one has one of these symptoms, please don’t ignore them. “Our message to you is clear – you are not a burden and we are here to safely treat you so please don’t delay – help us help you and come forward as you usually would for care. “Cancer is easier to treat when it is caught at an earlier stage and so coming forward for a check could save your life.” For more details, log on to nhs.uk/cancersymptoms

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36 | LEISURE

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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020


Thursday, November 26, 2020 WOKINGHAM.TODAY

Teen attacked by gang in town centre A TEENAGER was threatened and attacked by a gang trying to steal his phone. The victim, a 14-year-old, was walking in Broad Street towards the railway station at around 5.20pm on Monday, November 9. Police said that he was approached by a male followed by a group of approximately four people. They shouted at him before demanding he hand over his phone and hitting him on the back of the head. This caused a lump to the back of his head — but did not require hospital treatment. However, he was able to run away and nothing was stolen during the incident. The next day, an 18-year-old man from Bracknell was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery and was released on police bail until Monday, December 7. Investigating officer PC Victoria McNicholas, of the Priority Crime Team based at Loddon Valley police station is appealing for witnesses. Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting the reference 43200368009. A report can also be made on the police’s website. Alternatively, call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Motorist warns of criminal gang stealing keyless cars in borough EXCLUSIVE By JESS WARREN jwarren@wokingham.today ORGANISED THIEVES are targeting cars with keyless entry systems across Wokingham, police have warned.

During the last few weeks, residents across the borough have been reporting their cars stolen on community social media pages. And police say thieves are intercepting radio signals within the owner’s home to hack the motor’s system and gain entry. Also known as relay theft, burglars only need to be a few metres from the car keys to capture the signal. The process can take as little as 20 seconds. Now, Thames Valley Police is encouraging motorists to do everything they can to protect their vehicle. This includes keeping the keys

further away from the car — deeper within the house — and storing them inside a signal-blocking pouch or case, sometimes called a Faraday. Drivers are also advised to turn off their key fob’s wireless signal and use a steering wheel lock. Police are also encouraging people to park in their garage or as close to the house as possible. Colin Wells, who lives in Woosehill, had his BMW stolen on Tuesday, November 10. His neighbours CCTV footage showed two people involved in the operation. “Police think it’s an organised group,” he said. “They’re taking the cars and either putting false plates on them and shipping them out of the country, or chopping them up for spares to sell on eBay.” Mr Wells decided to fit a Ring doorbell and sensor light two days after the theft, but wished he’d done it sooner.

“It’s given us some peace of mind,” he said. “It wouldn’t have stopped them but it might have been a deterrent, a big light switching on like that.” He said he hadn’t heard of a Faraday box beforehand, but encouraged drivers to be proactive and look into them. “Even people aware of them were commenting on my post, saying they hadn’t got round to buying one yet — but were going to now,” he said. Once it arrives, Mr Wells plans on storing his keys towards the back of the house — away from potential thieves. He also mourned his new golf clubs, stored in the boot of the car. “I hadn’t got round to sorting the insurance on those,” he said. “The paperwork was on my desk. It’s almost worse than the car being taken.” His message — take a more proactive approach to protecting belongings. The same night, another BMW was stolen from Larkspur Close,

Care home enjoys Indian celebration RESIDENTS of a Finchampstead care home have enjoyed a passage to India. Staff at Warren Lodge in Warren Lane organised a day of armchair travel. During the event, there were activities to try, decorations to enjoy and an Indian-inspired menu. Across the day, there was a chance to learn about the country, see some Bollywood dancing and watch a travelogue film about the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. Centre manager Goce Kostadinovski said: “We were lucky enough to have some beautiful jewel-coloured fabric donated to us, which we used to decorate the dining room tables together with lanterns we had made. “Staff were able to dress up in costumes lent to us. “Our residents loved the bright colours that certainly cheered up a wet and dismal day.” He added: “The chef worked his usual magic with a deliciously tasty menu that everyone, even the more sceptical, enjoyed.”

Donate commute funds to charity COMMUTERS who are entitled to compensation for delayed railway journeys are now able to donate their refunds to charity. South Western Railway can now send Delay Repay funds to Action For Children. The repayments are compensation for rail passengers whose journey has been delayed by 15 minutes or more. The rail operator says that that average pay out is £6.97. Christian Neill, deputy customer experience director at South Western Railway, said: “We do hope that our customers will be supportive of this new initiative and help support the vital work of Action for Children. “Delay Repay compensation is typically a small amount of money, but even the smallest donations can make the biggest difference when it comes to helping vulnerable children.” And the charity was grateful for the new source of donations. Locks Farmer, Action For Children’s director of fundraising and marketing, said: “The coronavirus crisis has exploded into the lives of many vulnerable families who are now hanging by a thread as they face one of the bleakest winters of their lives. “Our key workers are at the front line of tackling child poverty and are working incredibly hard to deliver lifechanging support to thousands of families desperate to keep their kids clothed and well-fed. “This incredible new initiative will enable us to support even more of our most vulnerable children, through the generous donations of SWR’s customers.” � To claim Delay Repay for a South Western Railway journey, visit: www.southwesternrailway.com/contactand-help/refunds-and-compensation

off Simon’s Lane. Owner, Jessica Booker, said police found video footage of it being driven towards Twyford. “It’s made us think a lot more about how we protect our next car,” she explained. “We had it three years and always kept the keys at the back of the house. We’re looking at different options now.” Ms Booker said she’d heard there were similar thefts happening in Crowthorne a few weeks prior. “It really needs more awareness,” she said. “It made us think about how we’d always assumed it’s a safe area.” Three nights later, another car in Woosehill was stolen. Despite storing the keys in a Faraday pouch and using a steering wheel lock, owners had their Range Rover taken — having only owned it three days. Thames Valley Police were unable to comment as more information has come to light.

Applications open for primary school places PARENTS can now apply for primary school places for next September. The process can be completed through the council’s website, where parents can find a full guide on starting infant or primary schools. The application process applies for children born between Thursday, September 1, 2016 and Thursday, August 31, 2017. Parents can choose four schools, and list them in order of preference. But this must be done by Applications must be completed before Friday, January 15, or may affect the allocation process. Every school in the borough has a set of rules, known as admissions arrangements, to help allocate places — which can be found on the

borough council’s website. “Starting school is an important milestone in a child’s life and I’d urge parents to complete applications as soon as they can to help make this transition as easy as possible,” said Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children’s services. “There’s a wealth of excellent schools in the borough and parents may need time to assess all their options.” Every address in the borough has

at least one designated area school. This school is given the highest priority for admissions and the council recommends parents include this as one of their choices. The council provides a map of the catchment areas on its website. Children that attend a nursery or foundation unit that is part of a primary or infant school are not automatically transferred up, and there is no guarantee they will get

a place in that school. Parents can list any infant or primary state school, even if it isn't in the Wokingham borough. But to apply to a private school, parents must contact the school directly. Notifications of children’s places will be confirmed on Friday, April 16, on national offer day. This can be viewed online for those who apply this way and sent out by letter for those who cannot apply online. Parents of children with additional needs can find out more about information by visiting the council’s local offer webpages. � To apply for primary places, visit: www.wokingham.gov.uk


38 | SCHOOLS

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FROMTHECLASSROOMS

WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

We welcome contributions from pupils for this page– email stories, pictures and prose to news@wokinghampaper.co.uk

Schools retain ranking in Sunday Times list A PREP school in Finchampstead and a primary school in Woodley are still some of the best schools in the country. The annual Sunday Times Parent Power listings, published today, places Waverley Preparatory School in its listing of the 100 best prep schools. The Waverley Way school has dropped a little on its 2019 showing: it is in 55th place, compared to 22nd last year. However, it was in 48th place in 2018, so its overall position is fairly similar. In the state primary schools, St Dominic Savio RC Primary School in Woodley was joint 221st in the list

of 250 schools, down slightly from last year’s joint 193rd position and 2018’s 184th position. The Sunday Times said it ranked schools by aggregated average scaled scores achieved by children in reading, grammar and maths in SATS exams taken in 2019. Alan Smithers, writing in the article accompanying the tables, said: “In its 28 years, Parent Power has recorded huge improvements in primary school performance. Its top 500 shows that schools of all types all over England are helping their pupils to succeed and, in many cases, to overcome social disadvantage.”

Students from Waingels College in Woodley celebrate the planting of crocus bulbs, which will flower in the spring

Interact Club’s planting to raise polio awareness By AIMEE WALLACE, Year 12 Waingels Student What the Interact Club did: On Tuesday, November 17, the Interact Club planted 500 purple crocus bulbs in the red zone garden to raise awareness for Polio. This is part of the Rotary Club’s campaign to eradicate Polio which has had huge success in the past with roughly seven million purple crocus bulbs being

Sporting prowess on show for new videos PUPILS from an Ascot school have been showcasing their sporting prowess, as they were filmed for a national contest. The Year Seven students from LVS Ascot were demonstrating 30 sports challenges for the Independent Schools Association’s national Limitless Skills Series. More than 110 schools have signed up to contest, designed to encourage primary and secondary pupils at independent schools across the UK to stay active. Known as ‘skills’, are accessed via an app called TopYa!. Over the four-week contest, pupils record themselves on their mobiles and then upload their video to the app to receive feedback from the TopYa! team of virtual coaches. Points are awarded for each video submitted and are fed into leader boards. At the end of the competition, prizes will be awarded to each week’s winners Scott Brand, national sports officer at the Independent Schools Association, said: “We approached LVS Ascot to take part in filming as the school plays such a vital part in ISA’s national sporting programme.

“As well as playing host to one of our annual flagship events, the ISA Girls Football Festival, they also represent and attend all our major sporting events, so we were delighted when they agreed to take part in the video tutorials for the Limitless Skills Series 2020. “ISA’s Limitless Skills Series is a fun, engaging campaign to get kids across the UK active. The series is designed to harness technology and engage children, transforming their time spent on-screen into time spent being physically active. “We’re seeing the best engagement from schools where teachers are also taking part, as all their pupils want to ‘beat the teacher’.” And LVS Ascot was pleased to take part. Its principal, Christine Cunniffe, said: “It was brilliant to see the enthusiasm from our Year 7 pupils as they took part in the filming, demonstrating 30 of the 40 challenges in the competition. “We’re looking forward to the rest of the school getting involved and climbing up the leader board as each weeks’ challenges go live.” For more details, log on to www.isaschools.org.uk

planted every year across Britain and Ireland. What is Polio? Polio is a life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. It’s highly contagious and spreads from person to person, often causing muscle weakness and paralysis if it infects the person’s spinal cord. Poliovirus is most commonly spread through contact with faeces and contamination in conditions of poor hygiene.

What do the purple crocuses symbolise? The crocuses are purple which frequently symbolises pride, success and dignity but in this case, the purple represents the colour of the dye used to mark the finger of a child who has been immunised on mass polio vaccination days. The Rotary Club’s involvement: When the Rotary Club first pledged for a polio free world in 1985, there were 125 polio endemic countries with

hundreds of new cases every day. Today there are just two countries with reported cases of polio, but there is still a long way to go before the disease can be fully eradicated. This partly includes more than 2 billion doses of oral polio vaccine to more than 400 million children. There has to be zero cases of polio for three years and zero positive environmental samples before the world can be certified polio free.

College creates industrystandard makeup studio By MARIE WILLIAMS news@wokingham.today MEDIA Makeup students have started learning in their brandnew studio at Bracknell and Wokingham College that they helped to design.

The industry-standard studio features bespoke counters, cabinets and furniture for the room, as well as large mirrors for when students are working on someone. Natural light and LED light sources have also been installed to help students see how make-up techniques stand up to different lighting — such as stage spotlights versus paparazzi flashes on the catwalk. And the photography area will help students build a portfolio for personal websites. Liz Guthrie, Media Makeup teacher from Activate Learning said: “I am delighted with the new makeup studio at Bracknell and Wokingham College.

Leilana Butler applies makeup to Mackenzie Martin

“We have drawn on the strength and expertise of Activate Learning to create a bespoke, light and bright makeup studio. “I had amazing support for this project from Activate Learning colleagues at Reading College and here at Bracknell

and Wokingham College. “The inaugural cohort of learners were also involved in the planning. “Working with a team of specialist designers and constructors we have ensured furniture and surfaces were built to a comfortable height for our

specialist work. I and the learners love our new space, developing it has enhanced learners’ teamwork and problem-solving skills and given them a real appreciation of how much effort has gone into creating this wonderful facility.” Ethan Brown, 16, from Bracknell, said: “I love the new makeup room, the bright, sleek design makes the room look clean and professional. The mirror and lights make the room bright, so we can see exactly what we’re doing, it’s perfect. “The new facilities will make my makeup section very organised and I will know exactly where everything is, the counters really make a good workspace. “The large mirror gives me a good idea of what I’m seeing and doing, when I’m creating a makeup look. The tables also are very good for write-ups, giving me a lot of space to have all my work out in front of me.”


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LEISURE | 39

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Barnardos to host festive event JAZZ-POP singer-songwriter and radio presenter Jamie Cullum will be performing in a charity show next week. Barnardo’s Kidsmas Live Concert, will be broadcast live on Tuesday, from St John Smith’s Square in London. Hosted by the charity’s ambassador Natasha Kaplinsky, the event will raise money to support vulnerable children and young people across the UK. Jamie Cullum will perform his latest track How Do You fly. And poet Hussain Manawer has penned Christmas Tree — an exclusive new poem reflecting the challenges of 2020 while offering hope and inspiration during a difficult time of the year. The hour-long event will feature performances from choirs including the St Margaret’s School Choir from Aberdeen, Scotland, the Brent Music Service Choir from London, England, and the Merthyr Barnardo’s Young Carers’ Choir from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Jamie says: “While this year has been particularly tough for everyone, I’m really

thankful to be able to spread some festive cheer at Kidsmas Live while also helping to raise vital funds for Barnardo’s. “The concert is a wonderful opportunity to get involved from home with a great charity and do a little bit to help others.” Mr Manawer said: “Christmas is such an important time of year, and while this year it is likely to be a little different, we still need to maintain a sense of positivity and festive spirit. “That is why I am really pleased to be involved in Kidsmas Live, because helping connect with those feelings is especially important for young people in need. Like the whole of the UK, Barnado’s has had a tough year, and missed out on lots of its vital fund-raising.” The event will run from 6.30pm until 7.30pm. � To register for free virtual seats, visit: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kidsmas-liveregistration-126210251259

Maestros put on charity show MUSIC CHARITY Berkshire Maestros is hoping to inject some joy into the living room with its online extravaganza to see out the year. On Friday, December 11, it will host Play Your Heart Out – an 11-hour live event on YouTube (www.youtube.com/c/ bmaestros) featuring a myriad of music and entertainment. The broadcast will involve hundreds of youngsters from across Berkshire, with a mixture of solos, group performances, interviews, and some fun moments. There may even be bagpipes. Dawn Wren, CEO of Berkshire Maestros, said: “We want to see 2020 off in a really positive way to celebrate the amazing things our staff and students have achieved this year despite the incredibly challenging circumstances. “We are so proud of the resilience, adaptability and determination we’ve seen from everybody to keep the music playing. Play Your Heart Out will be a fantastic chance for everybody to not only showcase their talents but also celebrate that we can do music.” Berkshire Maestros concerts usually fundraise to develop music education programmes for

children across the county. Play Your Heart Out is no exception – it will be free to watch with requests for donations towards its latest project, which aims to bring a live band into primary schools. Greenham Trust and fundraising platform The Good Exchange are supporting the event as part of their Double Matched Day initiative. This means each donation on the day will receive Double Matched Funding of £2 for £1 pledged — up to a total value of £5,000. Chris Boulton, chief executive of Greenham Trust, said: “We had so many fantastic applicants this time around that it was difficult to narrow it down to the final 10. We know the positive impact of music on children and young people and felt that local charity Berkshire Maestros’ fundraising project fitted very well with our Double Matched Day selection criteria based on the scope of its project and the strength of their fundraising plan. “We look forward to working with them on their preparations and show.” � For more information, and to watch the event, visit: youtu.be/vvjhlBCIp2M

N AWARD-winning theatre group is performing Five Pints and a Pig, two groups of short plays, to ensure their shows continue to go on. Undaunted by the virus, Twyford and Ruscombe Theatre Group, has amassed a cast of 20 actors for the production. The plays will be released online, three at a time. Each group of plays will be available for 24 hours at great value – £1 a ticket. The group has produced the plays as audio versions. That’s something the group experienced earlier this year. They were half way through rehearsing Ladies’ Day by Amanda Whittington when the first Covid-19 lockdown started. Determined to carry on, the actors met on Zoom and recorded their own parts. Then their former sound expert, David Goddard, now retired to the south coast, put them together and added sound effects. The group reviewed the production with David. “He can tweak the timings and volume etc to make it sound perfect. He has done this for our current smaller plays as well. We couldn’t have done it all without him,” said group member Jocelyn Robinson. Ladies’ Day attracted over 100 listeners and excellent reviews. Jocelyn, co-director of Five Pints and a Pig, added: “This time we are performing five pint-sized plays, a maximum of 15 minutes each. They were all shortlisted in a play writing competition. “My husband Gavin found a sixth play so we could involve some youngsters. “Our cast is aged from about 12-80.

Gavin and Jocelyn Robinson are codirecting the audio play

Audio-only has advantages. For instance, it means you can have a couple, one aged 30 and the other 70. The audience can’t see you.” She says the plays will be fun and entertaining – and available worldwide. Jocelyn has directed four of them and Gavin two. The first three plays can be listened to from Friday December 11 at 8pm until Saturday December 12 at 8pm. They are: � Chilled Wine by Dorothy Lambert: Three girls meet in a pub to catch up and discuss their relationships. � An Awesome Award by Nicholas Rickard: A TV award ceremony a few years from now. � The Lady and The Tyger by Trace Crawford: A man is reading poetry on the beach when he is accosted by a very unusual woman. The second three can be heard from Friday

January 22 at 8pm until Saturday January 23 at 8pm. They are: � Menage a Trois by David Evans: A husband and wife are setting off on a charity parachute jump. � Once more unto the Breach, dear Vernon by Mark Waghorn: Vernon is an actor who reflects on how he reached this point in his career. � Thirty Love by Dorothy Lambert: Two old pals meet in a pub. � An Awesome Award is by arrangement with Lazy Bee Scripts. The other plays are by arrangement with Pint-sized Plays. For tickets, visit www.twyrusdrama.org.uk Normally the group performs at Loddon Hall, Twyford. Their 2019 Cinderella was the National Operatic and Dramatic Society’s best South East regional panto. SUE CORCORAN

Norden Farm organises concerts for care homes

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ORDEN FARM has launched concerns for care homes as part of its support to the community during lockdown. The project, which starts today, sees professional musicians perform safely for residents of local care homes into December. The free concerts are led by local musician and composer Rob Castell, who is joined by Jason Tebble and Luke Harris. Mr Castell said: “I’m really keen to play these gigs. It’s a win-win situation really. I’m desperate to gig as I haven’t done so all year. I also get to hang out with my musician mates who I’ve missed a lot. “I’ve also really wanted to bring some joy to places that are struggling – music can do just that. Sadly my father-in-law passed away from Covid-19 in a care home earlier this year and I know what a challenging time it’s been, both for residents and staff. “So we’ll be putting on the fingerless gloves and bringing the party — from a safe distance.” The trio will be performing safely outside – in carparks, gardens and wherever the music is in earshot of residents and staff. The repertoire will be a combination of old

classics, rock and roll music plus Christmas tunes. Faye Driza, home manager at Cookham Riverside Nursing Home said she was hearted to bring a concert to residents. “We were also excited at the prospect, as prior to the lockdown in March we had

monthly live music performances of various kinds and had been missing them a great deal,” she explained. “I think that our residents will really enjoy this performance and it will make them feel that they have got involved and joined in with the outside world again. I expect to see spirits lifted and faces lit up. “Listening to music is a universal experience, we’ve seen residents who are withdrawn and uncommunicative enlivened by listening to music. The shared experience and friendships that it brings can have a really positive benefit.” The project, funded by the Arts Council, has been supported by maidenhead councillors. Norden Farm’s chief executive and artistic director, Jane Corry said: “The pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone, but especially for staff and residents at care homes. “The pressures they have been under have been intense, especially as visits from loved ones have been reduced so significantly since the first lock down. We believe that live music can lift the soul and so wanted to use that to create some moments of joy for care homes.”

Reading-based festival organiser launches new support scheme A READING-BASED live music promoter has launched a new membership scheme to help support them through the pandemic. Heavy Pop, which organises award-winning multi-venue festival Are You Listening? and

Down at the Abbey has started its Friends with Benefits scheme. A spokesperson from the company said it has lost 100% of income during the pandemic, due to both events being cancelled this year. They said: “Despite these

challenges, our commitment to supporting the local community, developing stand-out cultural events, and finding the artists of

tomorrow is stronger than ever. “To help us through what will no doubt be a difficult time ahead, we are launching a tiered membership scheme, Friends with Benefit' with some great offerings to our loyal supporters.” The tiered scheme includes a range of benefits, such as a 10% discount with local indie business partners, advance ticket discount codes, door price discounts, regular draws to win free gig and festival tickets to their events. � For more details, visit: www.heavypop.co.uk


40 | LEISURE

wokinghamlovesmusic Chris Hillman

bit.ly/wokingham lovesmusic

W

E’VE got the blues this week – and that’s a good thing. Musician Mark Harrison is head of our hit parade, featuring some of the biggest names in music, and some great up-and-coming ones too. He’s previously appeared at the Wokingham Music Club and now he’s here on our playlist of Wokinghaminspired music curated by Chris Hillman from White Star Records. You can listen for FREE via Spotify. There’s a special page set-up at bit.ly/wokinghamlovesmusic Mark Harrison – What Son House Said Here’s a London-based blues artist who has visited Wokingham previously to perform some great gigs at the Wokingham Music Club (WMC) with his distinctive finger picking style guitar playing, strong voice and self written story telling songs. Mark Harrison This track from Mark’s The Picture: Andrew Panoramic View album is a great example of those Merritt songs and shows why that album has received extensive critical praise and plays on many radio station including BBC Radio 2 — www.markharrisonrootsmusic.com Sarah Jane Morris – On Solid Air Continuing the WMC theme here’s a track suggested by Stan Hetherington who runs the club. It’s a classic John Martyn song that Sarah Jane recorded with her long-time collaborator Tony Remy for their album of John Martyn songs, Sweet Little Mystery. Sarah Jane and Tony were due to perform their Songs of John Martyn show at WMC in April but unfortunately that was one of those events that had to be cancelled due to the virus — www.sarahjanemorris.co.uk Focus – Hocus Pocus This legendary band performed a brilliant Wokingham Music Club show in 2018. They were booked to return again this month but unfortunately yet another casualty of the virus — focustheband.co.uk Andy Fairweather-Low Wide Eyed and Legless – Another legend who was due to play at Wokingham Music Club this November with his band The Low Riders with one of his biggest hits — andyfairweatherlow.com Will Wilde – Love That Burns Contemporary blues artist Will Wilde who has visited Wokinghgam Music Club and Wokingham Festival. Here’s his tribute to the late great Peter Green — www.willharmonicawilde.com The Honey Pot – Walk A While Psych pop folk single from the band formed by Icarus Peel & Crystal Jacqueline released on Wokingham based record label, Mega Dodo Records — www.facebook.com/thehoneypotband Quantum Pig – Dirty Old Engine From the Progressive Music Award nominees debut album, Songs of Industry and Sunshine on Wokingham based White Star Records – quantumpig.net Moth Man – The Water A new Reading and Manchester based band on a new record label called Billywitch Records, an offshoot from Wokingham based Mega Dodo Records — www.facebook.com/mothmanbandpage Split the Dealer (Feat. Deva St. John) – XV Recommended by Wokingham rock photographer Andrew Merritt, this track is an example of modern indie pop at its best — www.facebook.com/ splitthedealer www.facebook.com/dayvasaintjohn Mother Vulture – Tell Me This ‘hectic blues punk’ band from Bristol featured at the recent Jamma Presents: The Everyman Everyjam event — www.facebook.comMotherVulture

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WOKINGHAM.TODAY Thursday, November 26, 2020

plasticfreehome Dave Lamont facebook.com/PlasticFreeHomeUK

Keep Wokingham tidy... please

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S a family of four, I’ve lost track of how far we have walked this year, but it’s a fair distance. Through some beautiful — and often remote — parts of Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey, as we live pretty close to all three. Throughout a very challenging 2020, nature has provided us with a sanctuary; a safe haven. Somewhere to relax and unwind with our two wonderful children. So, this month, we decided to give back in a different way. Some of our favourite routes have been those on our doorstep, taking us through the villages of Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Shinfield. At times though, we have been dismayed by the noticeable amount of litter along some of the busier roads, and surprised by some of the items we’ve spotted. After all, I’m sure we all remember the iconic and long-lasting Keep Britain Tidy campaign, first launched in 1960. Four decades later, why are we still talking about the issue? From leaching micro plastics into the environment to posing a deadly hazard to wildlife, it’s time to tackle the problem once and for all. A couple of clicks and our new litter pickers had arrived, and last weekend we spent a couple of hours out and about on our first litter pick. “How many pieces of litter do you think we’ll find today?” our eldest son asked.

We settled on a joint guess of 100 before setting off. Unbelievably, by the time we got home again we had collected more than five times as many items of litter — yes, more than 500. From rope and a car wing mirror, through to Lego pieces, a pair of gloves, face masks, crisp and snack wrappers, glass and plastic bottles, food and drinks cans, scrap metal, car parts, pens, carrier bags, wipes and even a phone charger. The whole experience was both disheartening and rewarding at the same time. I have a hope that the new sealed recycling bags, soon to be introduced by Wokingham Borough Council, will make it harder for rubbish put out for collection to be blown around, creating

litter. Time will tell if that proves to be the case. Meanwhile, if you are interested in introducing a new element to your regular exercise routine, search online for “Adopt a street in Wokingham”. The Council will provide you with free grabbers, hi-vis jackets and sacks as part

of the scheme. Or, do as we did and just buy some cheaply online. We didn’t feel the need for vests but it’s a personal preference and may depend where you are picking. If and when the world returns to normal, you may also want to search Wokingham community litter pick. There are many fantastic groups, covering areas ranging from Woodley and Earley, to Arborfield, Finchampstead, Winnersh, Sonning, Twyford and the town centre. And don’t simply assume that any litter you pick is sadly destined for landfill. Most of the non-recyclable waste collected from homes in Wokingham, Reading and Bracknell is taken to the Energy from Waste facility located in Colnbrook. There it is safely incinerated, and used to generate electricity which is fed to the National Grid. � To find out where your rubbish goes, search online for: Re3 What happens to my waste?

For more tips and advice, join the online group at www.facebook.com/ plasticfreehomeuk Got a comment or question? Email plasticfreehome@gmail.com

Feeding garden birds this winter

W

E ARE a nation of bird watchers. From the red breasted Robin to the resident Great Tit, Blue Tit, colourful Goldfinch and Chaffinch, Blackbird, Starlings, Sparrows and more, we can’t get enough of these creatures. Small garden birds need to eat regularly, particularly during cold weather when they use up a lot of energy keeping themselves warm. So now is a great time to put out high-energy, nutritious bird foods containing fats and oils, which will help them maintain their energy levels through the cold winter nights.

Pyracantha Pictures: Squires It’s also great to have shrubs with berries in your garden, as birds love to feed on the berries and on insects found on berried plants. Attractive shrubs like Cotoneaster and Pyracantha also provide shelter and nesting areas for birds. But berries are not just good for birds – hedgehogs, squirrels, mice,

badgers and even foxes will all happily munch on them. “As well as providing food, berry bearing plants will also bring a splash of colour to your garden when a lot of trees are bare.” said Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres. “You’ll have striking berries in the winter then beautiful blossom in spring, and some plants have evergreen leaves year-round. Try Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Orange’ which is an upright shrub with glossy green leaves and orange-red berries, or Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ which

has delicate white flowers in May followed by distinctive red berries in winter.” Other tips to help the birds this winter include providing a variety of seeds, nuts, grains, fruits and fats to satisfy the needs of a range of bird species. This can be put out in small amounts regularly, to ensure that it is always fresh. Birds bathe even in cold water, so gardeners recommend leaving a fresh clean water in the bird bath each day. And to prevent the water freezing,

float a small ball on the surface. In the winter months, shelter is also important. To help little birds thrive, residents can plant a hedge or add a nesting box. When gardening, advice is to not be too quick to tidy up. By leaving dead vegetation to stand, this will provide shelter for birds and the insects they feed on. � For more information, visit: www.squiresgardencentres.co.uk or visit Squire’s Garden Centre on Heathlands Road, Wokingham, RG40 3AS


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PUBLIC NOTICES WOKINGHAM BOROUGH COUNCIL PLANNING APPLICATION The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 AND/OR Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Regulations 1990 The following application(s) have been submitted and are advertised for the reasons below: Application

Address

Reasons for Advert Description

202701

21 The Terrace, Wokingham

Conservation Area

Householder application for the proposed erection of a rear garden gate (Retrospective).

203049

Headley Road East, Woodley

Major Application

Full application for the proposed erection of various boundary fencing.

ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984 WOKINGHAM BOROUGH COUNCIL (EVERSLEY ROAD, ARBORFIELD) (TEMPORARY PROHIBITION OF DRIVING) ORDER 2020

ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984 WOKINGHAM BOROUGH COUNCIL (WARREN ROAD, WOODLEY) (TEMPORARY PROHIBITION OF DRIVING) ORDER 2020

NOTICE IS HEREBY given that on the 19th November 2020 Wokingham Borough Council as Traffic Authority made an Order under Section 14 (1) (a) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 the effect of which is to prohibit any vehicle from proceeding along:

NOTICE IS HEREBY given that Wokingham Borough Council as Traffic Authority proposes to make an Order under Section 14 (1) (a) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 the effect of which is prohibit any vehicle from proceeding along:

Eversley Road, Arborfield between its junctions with Swallowfield Road and Link Way. The application is available to view online at wokingham.gov.uk � Planning � Search planning applications and typing in the application number above. All libraries in the Borough have internet access in order to view this page. Comments on the application can be made online from this web page. Any comments must arrive on or before 20th December 2020. Any comments made are not confidential and can be seen by anyone as they form part of the public record. The comments, unless offensive, discriminatory and/or racist, will appear on the Council’s website within 24 hours and include the submitted name and address. Due to the high volume of comments received we do not provide individual responses. Date: 26th November 2020

THE PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL OF RUSCOMBE AND TWYFORD REGISTERED CHARITY NUMBER 1143142 PURPOSE FOR WHICH MONEY OR OTHER PROPERTY WAS GIVEN: - THE FACILITIES BLOCK PROJECT AT ST JAMES THE GREAT CHURCH, RUSCOMBE NOTICE is given that money and other property given for this purpose cannot be used for that purpose because it has not proved possible to obtain Planning Permission. If you gave money or other property for that purpose you are entitled to claim the unspent portion back. If you wish to do so then you must tell the Treasurer, Keith Hay of St Mary’s Church Centre, Station Road, Twyford, Reading, RG10 9NT within 3 months of the date of this publication.

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If you wish money or other property to go to a similar charitable purpose and to disclaim your right to return of the money or other property, you must ask the person named above for a form of disclaimer.

The alternative route for all vehicles affected by this restriction shall be via A327 Reading Road and Arborfield Cross Relief Road or by this route in reverse. Works requiring this restriction will take place between 30th November 2020 and 11th December 2020. The reason for these prohibitions is to allow Gigaclear contractors to undertake BDUK Superfast Broadband work in safety. Access for residents and businesses within the boundaries of these restrictions will be maintained at all times. The restriction imposed by the Order shall only apply during those periods when traffic signs complying with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 are lawfully displayed. The restrictions contained in the Order shall come into operation on the 30th November 2020 and shall continue in force for a period not exceeding 18 months or until the works have been completed, whichever is the earlier. . Dated this 26th November 2020

If you do not either make a claim within the three months or sign a disclaimer, the Charity Commission may make a Scheme applying the property to other charitable purposes. You will still be able to claim the return of your money or other property (less expenses) but only if you do so within 6 months from the date of any Scheme made by the Commission. Dated this 26th November 2020

SERVICES

Mark Cupit Assistant Director – Delivery and Infrastructure Wokingham Borough Council Civic Offices Shute End Wokingham Berkshire RG40 1WL

SERVICES

Please recycle me ! It’s good news for everyone

Warren Road, Woodley between its junctions with Old Bath Road and Western Avenue. The alternative route for all northbound vehicles affected by the restriction shall be via Western Avenue, Reading Road, A4 London Road, A4 Shepherds Hill and A4 Bath Road. The alternative route for all southbound vehicles affected by the restriction shall be via A4 Bath Road, A4 Shepherds Hill, Reading Road and Western Avenue. Works requiring this restriction will take place between 14th December and 18th December 2020. The reason for these prohibitions is to allow Network Rail contractors to undertake installation of vehicle incursion fencing in safety. Access for residents and businesses within the boundaries of these restrictions will be maintained at all times. The restriction imposed by the Order shall only apply during those periods when traffic signs complying with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 are lawfully displayed. The restrictions contained in the Order shall come into operation on the 14th December 2020 and shall continue in force for a period not exceeding 18 months or until the works have been completed, whichever is the earlier. Dated this 26th November 2020 Mark Cupit Assistant Director – Delivery and Infrastructure Wokingham Borough Council Civic Offices Shute End Wokingham Berkshire RG40 1WL


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MOTORSPORT

BOBBY SHINES AGAIN IN REMARKABLE RACING SEASON

� Continued from back page

“To race with the owner Charles Graham was an amazing opportunity and a huge highlight.” Bobby and Charles led Team BRIT to a fifth placed finish in their final race of the season. “We had an interesting race,” Bobby continued. “It started raining the day before during testing. “We qualified in seventh place and so we gambled and made the call to go on slicks because the track was drying. “I worked my way through the field and ended up taking the lead in our class, and before I had my pit-stop and handed over to Charles, we were in second place overall. “That strategy call allowed us to take advantage of the situation and put the car in a great result, so we ended up finishing in fourth. “In the second race, Charles started for us. The rain came and every team was panicking and put wet tyres on, but when I drove half a lap in, we realised it was too dry. “We made another charge and managed to get into fifth but if we had more time I think we could have got higher.” As well as being able to compete alongside Charles Graham, Bobby outlined racing in the team’s Aston Martin as one of his memorable moments this time round. “The main highlight for me this season was being able to drive the Aston. “In my first year, I was racing in the 116 so to make that massive jump to the Aston Martin V8 Vantage with three times the horsepower was a huge jump to make. “My result at Brands, getting driver of the day and finishing in third was another huge highlight. “And also the last races with Charles were such an honour. “He has been a really successful driver and to be driving with someone of that calibre and someone that has been part of my journey has been an honour and I can’t wait to see what else we can do as a team next year. “The Aston has improved me as a driver, driving something with that much power, you have to keep on top of it. It has taught me a lot about car control.

Team BRIT’s Bobby Trundley standing in front of an Aston Martin Picture: Darren Cook Scruffy Bear Pictures

“I wanted to be able to show him what I could do in a car and I hope he’s able to work with us again next year.” Bobby is keen for the team to keep striving for improvement as he continues to prepare for what will be his third season with Team BRIT. “The ambition for next season is to maintain our form

throughout last year and mature as a driver and a person. I want to keep improving, there are always places we can improve. “Team BRIT has grown massively. I don’t know what the plans are for me to race in next year, but I’m excited for what is ahead.” “We want to get more people

who are disabled interested in motorsport. “If they want to get behind the wheel and race, we can offer them the opportunity. “The team has gone from stride to stride and I’ve loved every minute. I've got to keep myself fit and healthy, keep my head in the game, so that I can be ready

for when the new season starts.” “We want to get more people who are disabled interested in motorsport. “If they want to get behind the wheel and race, we can offer them the opportunity. “I got told because of my autism that there would be certain things that I wouldn’t be

able to do, like get a car, get a license and get a job. “But I’ve proved them wrong. I’ve got a licence, I’ve got a car and passed all my motor vehicles qualifications. “I want to show people that if you have a passion, you have to follow what it is. “And whether you have a physical or mental disability, you can still follow those passions and do great things. “It’s been a huge motivation to go out and prove people wrong that have doubted me, I often wonder what they would think if they saw me now. The new season should start around March. It all depends on the covid situation but hopefully we can run the whole season in full. “Last season we were only able to run five races whereas we usually have seven or eight. “We want more track time, and to have as much as we possibly can. “That will help us to improve massively both as a team and also as individual drivers.”

ROCKETS LOOK FOR REDEMPTION AFTER DEFEAT ROCKETS are hoping to bounce back after they suffered a double defeat when they face the Lions this Saturday.

The team will be looking to put their previous two defeats behind them this weekend when they host Barking Abbey London Lions at the John Madejski Academy on Saturday evening, 6pm tip-off. Rockets have lost their last two games after suffering defeats to Derby Trailblazers last Sunday in Nottingham by 91 points to 85 and prior to that were unable to weather a Hemel Storm losing out

103-112 in a thrilling match-up. Rockets Head Coach Alan Keane knows his team are competing well but are currently having too many sequences of play on the back foot. In his third season in charge, the Irishman said, “In both games against Derby and Hemel we have shown some really good things,” said Keane. “I have been very happy with how we have played but we are still very early on with this group and we know there are certain areas we can be a lot better in

especially in key parts of the game.” “We have had a lot of disruption with injuries and absences so far this season but that is not an excuse nor should it be a factor in how we compete and play although it will be good to get everyone back on the floor, something we are hoping for very soon as I believe this team will really shine during this eventful season. “Saturday sees us welcome Barking to Reading and it will be great to have James (Vear, BA London Lions Head Coach)

and his young, energetic team to play. We are expecting a tough game especially after recent performances against Worthing and Loughborough.” Rockets go into this weekend’s match-up with better news on the injury front but look set to be without the services of veteran forward Sam Toluwase. American guard O’Showen Williams and Australian guard Ben Dixon both featured in last Saturday’s loss to Derby and the Reading team will be hoping their rehabilitation continues in positive fashion this week.

Academy prospect Latrell Maitland looks set to remain on the sidelines with a fractured rib and it will be a game time decision as to whether Kivuvu Live makes it into Keane’s 12 after illness.


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FROM THE SUMAS AIM TO STAY SHARP AS MIDDLE THEY PREPARE FOR RESTART FOOTBALL

With Dick Sawdon-Smith

CHANGES TO THE PENALTY KICK

T

HE highest profile for changes to the Laws this season, has been for handball but there are 15 changes altogether.

These include changes to the taking of a penalty kick and also to the Kicks from the Penalty Mark, often called the penalty shoot-out. It’s probably best if I take them separately starting with the penalty kick. Before that however, it’s worth recalling the change that was made last season to the goalkeeper’s movement at penalties. Previously the goalkeeper had to keep both feet on the goal line until the penalty taker kicked the ball. The change was a slight concession and the goalkeeper can now step forward with one foot, providing the other foot remains on or above the goal line. If the goalkeeper moves off the line with both feet before the kick is taken, and the ball goes in the goal, then a goal is awarded. That has always been the case. The Law change occurs when the kicker misses. Previously if the goalkeeper has come off the goal line, the

kick would be retaken. That is no longer the case unless the goalkeeper’s movement had affected the penalty takers kick. If the ball misses the goal altogether, then the game restarts with a goal kick. If the ball rebounds from the goalpost or crossbar, then play continues. If the ball is saved by the goalkeeper who’s come off the goal line prematurely, then the kick is still retaken. There are other benefits for the goalkeeper. Previously if a goalkeeper committed the offence of coming off his goal line and saved the ball, it would warrant a yellow card. Now the referee only has to issue a warning for the first offence. Also, if the goalkeeper and the kicker commit offences at the same time. the goalkeeper will not now receive a yellow card, but the kicker will. No matter where the ball goes, the game restarts with an indirect free kick to the goalkeeper’s team. The law makers feel the goalkeeper’s offence, would be caused by the penalty taker, feigning to kick the ball.

By ANDY PRESTON apreston@wokingham.today WOKINGHAM & EMMBROOK manager Dan Bateman wants his side to stay sharp during lockdown while ‘non-elite’ sport is prohibited.

It is expected that grassroots sport will once again be able to commence in England from Wednesday, December 2. And as a result of the latest break in play, Bateman wants support from the Hellenic League to help players with fatigue as they prepare for a packed fixture schedule. “We can’t complain about it because every other team in the league is in the same boat,” said Bateman. “But I do think there are some things that the league could do to alleviate some of the issues. “I’m keen for them to allow the teams for the rest of the season to be able to use their full squad of 16 players and be able to make five substitutions. “That will help with fatigue, prevent injuries and allow us to manage the workload on the players. “The difference with us is that our guys all have full time jobs before they think about football. “So being able to use the extra two subs per game would make a huge difference especially when it’s likely that we will have two or three games a week to catch up. “If you asked every club at our level, I’d be surprised if there were any clubs that would be against that. For me, that would be a common sense approach.” The Sumas boss wants the ability to be able to use the full capacity of his squad, and give opportunities to younger players from the Allies squad to reduce the chance of fatigue and injury.

Sumas in action against Chalvey Sports earlier in the season Picture: Andrew Batt FootballinBerkshire

“The guys have an awful lot of commitments, so we need to do all we can to help us in this season because it’s not a normal situation,” he continued. “It would allow us to bring in some younger guys and utilise our Allies squad. It makes sense but ultimately we need the powers that be to agree and make that decision. “They will still want to finish the season in May and want to play all of the cup competitions. So any period of bad weather over the winter and then we will end up having to play three games a week. “You can’t expect the same group of lads to be able to play three times a week as well as managing everyday life so we need all the help we can get from the league to relieve that situation. “Even at a professional level, playing three times a week has a huge impact with injuries so when you come down to our level, it’s even bigger considering that

professionals are dealt with by professional medical teams and have their aspects of everyday life managed for them. “It's unprecedented times, we have to get through this season but we have to be flexible about these rules. The team have been using innovative methods to stay fit while they are not permitted to train or play matches, competing against each other in order to maintain their fitness. And Bateman wants his side to stay as sharp as possible to be able to cope with the demands of an inevitably busy fixture schedule when football can resume. “We’ve been using Strava and have group challenges for the team. Stuff like who can run the furthest in a week, who can run the fastest 5k. “We’re trying to keep that contact up. It’s not a replacement for actually playing football, you can’t replace that level of intensity and the short, sharp bursts that you need in a game. “I expect that the first few games after lockdown will see some strange scorelines. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see some very high score lines with each team tiring at different rates and at different times in the game. “For us, we need to get up to match sharpness as quickly as possible and I think you will be able to see the teams that have done more preparation and have tried their best to keep themselves sharp during lockdown and they will be the ones that are able to take advantage.” “It’s important to alternate the training to do shuttle runs and get in the practice of short, sharp changes. “I think the teams that do that best will be able to excel and kick on as quickly as possible.”

WOODLEY UNITED COACH WINS COUNCIL AWARD WOODLEY United FC Youth coach Stephen Moody has been awarded a Woodley Town Council Citizens Award in recognition of his drive, enthusiasm and commitment to the development of youth football in Woodley. Stephen joined Woodley Town as a player in the early 2000’s but was forced to retire due to injury. He then decided that he decided he wanted to coach players, and in particular youngsters, and embarked on gaining FA coaching qualifications. Having gained his qualifications, Stephen is currently the highest qualified coach at the club. Initially Stephen started his coaching career at under 7 level in 2006, taking the team

through to under 18 football. As a result of their long involvement with the club and Stephen's coaching, some of the players that had been coached at the club since young ages have managed to break into the club’s men’s teams, with one making his first team debut as a teenager this season. Following the creation of Woodley United in 2015, Stephen was very instrumental in overseeing the growth and development of the club’s pre-school – under 7s section. He helped from player development, coach recruitment and education and the design of the club’s coaching DNA and session plans for the younger age groups. These plans are child centred

and the club continues to receive positive feedback from parents on how their children enjoy the sessions. Under Stephen’s guidance, participation has grown from seven children in January 2016 to more than 200 children now playing football from pre-school to under 9 football for the club. The recruitment of coaches has included giving opportunities to the club’s 16-18 year old players to start their coaching careers and aid them with school education activities. “Presenting Stephen with a Woodley Town Council Citizens’ award will be a tremendous recognition of the service he has given to the local community,” said club president Mark

Rozzier. “Even more so given he does this while commuting to London for work and travels twice a week to Woodley from Bramley, in Hampshire, where he now lives to coach, and manages an under 7s team.”


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RUGBY UNION

FORMER RAM WILLIAMS WINS FIRST INTERNATIONAL CAP FOR WALES By RICHARD ASHTON sport@wokinghampaper.co.uk FORMER Rams RFC junior Johnny Williams admitted he was ‘ecstatic’ to make his Wales debut in their 18-0 Autumn Nations Cup victory against Georgia on Saturday.

The 24-year-old former Forest School student has endured a tumultuous yearand-a-half in which he has overcome testicular cancer, but turned in a fine display at Parc y Scarlets to complete an inspirational recovery. Reflecting on the occasion, Williams revealed: “I was so excited, so proud to have earned it – it’s been a goal of mine since the age of six, so to finally do it was so surreal and to get the win as well (was great). “It’s a shame my family couldn’t be there and it’s not at the Principality Stadium, but it’s still huge and I can’t believe it’s finally happened.” He continued: “While singing the anthem I was thinking

about all the friends and family who have given support to me over the years, my girlfriend Hannah, and all the sacrifices I’ve had to make and what I’ve been through – it’s crazy. “To finally represent Wales is an honour and I’m ecstatic to finally get my cap.” Williams learnt his craft at Rams as a Mini and Junior before moving onto play for London Irish, Newcastle Falcons and latterly Scarlets – who he joined in the summer – and he was also a starter in England Under 20s’ World Championship final win against Ireland back in 2016. He also scored a try for England in an uncapped contest against Barbarians last summer, but with his father Gareth being a fervent Welshmen, Williams said: “I’ve always been a huge, huge supporter of Welsh rugby even if I don’t have the accent.” Starting at inside centre Williams enjoyed a solid debut and played a key role in helping secure the Rhys Webb score which finished off the game

with his side’s second try, his powerful running across the gain line allowing time for the ball to be spread out wide for the touchdown. Fellow centre, Nick Tompkins, was certainly impressed as he said: “He’s good isn’t he? You tell him to run at something and he goes 100mph. He’s awesome to play with. He’s young, spirited and works hard – what more could you ask for? “It’s class to play outside him – he opens up space for you. “He’s doing well, working hard, doing everything he needs to push the guys ahead of him.” And Wales coach, Wayne Pivac, concluded: “Johnny was one of the people who had a role to play there and I thought he did a very good job. “He was certainly excited heading into the game and he was excited in the changing rooms after the game. “He thoroughly enjoyed it and enjoyed the workload. Former Rams Junior Johnny Williams (second from left) won his first international cap for Wales last weekend “By and large, he did a good Picture: Welsh RFU job.”

FOOTBALL

READING FC

FANS TO BE ALLOWED ROYALS SUPPORT FOR BACK IN TO STADIUMS GAMBLING AWARENESS � Continued from back page

In his announcement on Monday evening regarding new measures on covid restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “In tiers one and two, spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden added: “This is a big step forward for sport. “Bringing back grassroots sport was my number one priority, so I’m pleased we are reopening sports and gyms in every tier, in recognition of the significant health benefits. “I’m also delighted we are

able to get the turnstiles turning sooner than expected, taking a cautious approach and starting with the lowest risk areas first. “I’m confident that sports will take every step to ensure their fans are safe and fans will play their part and look out for each other until we can safely get everyone back in.”

READING WOMEN FC

ROYALS WOMEN TAKE TO INTERNATIONAL STAGE READING WOMEN will be represented heavily on the international scene during the latest international break with 10 players on duty for their nations.

Five Reading players have been called up for international duty for Wales, with captain Natasha Harding, Rachel Rowe,

Jess Fishlock, Lily Woodham and Angharad James all called up to the squad as they face Belarus at Rodney Parade on Tuesday, December 1. Defender Emma Mitchell will represent Scotland in their UEFA European qualifying matches against Portugal and Finland.

Royals goalkeeper Grace Moloney has been selected for the Republic of Ireland team that will host Germany. Meanwhile, three young Reading players: Sophie Quirk, Emma Harries and Rhiannon Stewart have each been called up for the England Under 19’s squad.

READING FOOTBALL CLUB have signed up to support Safer Gambling Week to try and help raise public awareness.

Safer Gambling Week 2020 takes place this week and aims to start conversation about what it means to gamble responsibly and marks the third consecutive year that the campaign has been supported by the Premier League and English Football League. The Royals will show their support for the campaign as their shirt sponsor, betting company Casumo, will change its shirt sponsor for Reading’s trip to Millwall. The campaign has highlighted the five key responsible gambling behaviours: Only spend what you can afford, set your limits for time and money, gambling is not the answer to any problem, gambling when angry or upset is not a good idea, gambling shouldn’t interfere with your personal relationship. The campaign has also attracted the support of the

Reading’s shirts featured this logo on the front instead of their usual Casumo shirt sponsor against Millwall on Wednesday

EFL, Sky Bet and BetVictor, who will dedicate advertising space in on big screens throughout the country and across their social channels. A Casumo spokesperson said: “We view social responsibility and responsible gambling as the core of our business and strives to ensure

that our players are prevented from at-risk and problem gambling. "We promote a safe and fun environment and ensure that gambling is seen just as entertainment. “We proudly offer and recommend our PlayOkay limit to all our players. “PlayOkay is a useful tool that allows you to control exactly how much money and time you choose to affordably spend gambling.” A Safer Gambling Week spokesperson added: “We are delighted that Reading are supporting Safer Gambling Week. "We want to take the message about safer gambling even further this year, and are hoping that this will be our biggest campaign yet. “The continued engagement and support of football clubs is enormously helpful in highlighting the week and triggering conversations about what it means to gamble safely throughout the year.”


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A GAME OF TWO HALVES: ROYALS COLLAPSE SEES CHERRIES TAKE POINTS SECOND HALF DISASTER SEES

LOSING STREAK CONTINUE Bournemouth 4 Reading 2 By ANDY PRESTON apreston@wokinghampaper.co.uk

READING were left to rue a fluffed chance to end their losing run as they let a two-goal lead slip on Saturday. An impressive second half fightback saw Bournemouth take the win and three points last Saturday.

RAFAEL 3: His error for the fourth goal summed up Reading’s collapse in the second half. Was beaten too easily at his near post for the equaliser and has made several in errors in the past couple of months in contrast to his usually consistent displays. OMAR RICHARDS 6: Got forward well in the first half and performed well enough defensively as Bournemouth’s main threat came from the other wing. MICHAEL MORRISON 5: Similar to the rest of the defence, a solid first half to shut Bournemouth out but was culpable as the Royals collapsed in the second. LIAM MOORE 5: Returned to the line-up after injury and looked solid in the first half. But Reading’s lead and defensive stability collapsed in the second half and he should have done better to get across and clear the cross from Kelly which led to Bournemouth’s first goal. TOMAS ESTEVES 6: Dealt with Danjuma brilliantly in the first-half but lost his man far too easily which led to the equaliser. Was replaced in the 60th minute by Tom Holmes. ANDY RINOMHOTA 6: Provided his usual energy and vigour in midfield but Bournemouth took control in the second half and got the better of the Royals midfield.

JOSH LAURENT 6: An impressive first-half display as he constantly won the ball back from Bournemouth to put Reading on top but couldn’t deal with Bournemouth’s control in the second half as the game switched. ALFA SEMEDO 8: Went on a sublime solo run early in the game to win the penalty and got in good forward areas throughout the first-half. Had a good chance to score with a header but didn’t make good enough contact, and picked up an injury before being replaced in the 80th minute. SONE ALUKO 6: Scored his first Reading goal in nearly two years to give Reading a 2-0 lead, but was a bit wasteful in possession and with his set pieces. OVIE EJARIA 7: Provided the creative spark which Reading had been missing in their last three games and cut open the Cherries defence for Aluko’s goal. Tired in the second half and was replaced by Yakou Méïté. LUCAS JOÃO 7: Scored his ninth Championship goal of the season as he converted early on from the penalty spot. Was very unlucky not to snatch a late equaliser as Begovic scrambled to keep out his header which would have made it 3-3.

The Royals went ahead after just four minutes as Lucas João scored from the spot, before Sone Aluko doubled the lead just before half-time. But Reading endured a disastrous second half as a quickfire double from Dominic Solanke and Arnaut Danjuma levelled up the game before Lewis Cook scored a sublime goal to put Bournemouth ahead. Solanke then capitalised on a Rafael error to secure the points with a fourth goal late on. Captain Liam Moore and Ovie Ejaria returned to the starting 11 having missed the three consecutive defeats which saw Reading’s form dip drastically before the international break. Bournemouth fielded a strong side, featuring several players who played in their Premier League campaign last season despite Josh King missing out after testing positive for Covid-19. Recent form may have suggested Reading would come into the game void of confidence. But they showed little sign of that and were awarded a penalty just three minutes into the match. Alfa Semedo showed superb footwork as he dribbled his way past two defenders into the box from the touchline and knocked the ball past Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who brought down the Reading midfielder. Lucas João stepped up to take responsibility and strolled up to the ball before blasting the ball into the bottom left hand corner despite Begovic diving the correct way to try and make amends for his foul.

Jefferson Lerma then burst into the box, looking to replicate the run of Semedo, but threw himself to the ground as the ref pointed for a goal kick. Semedo continued his lively start as he constantly got in good forward positions and drove forward and got into the box to meet Omar Richards cross but didn’t make proper contact with his head after he leapt well to win the ball. Rafael was then tested for the first time as a shot from David Brooks stung the gloves of the Brazilian stopper but was a comfortable enough save at a good height. Ovie Ejaria provided a creative threat going forward showing his side what they had been missing prior to the international break as he found Sone Aluko, who won a free kick but overhit his delivery to waste the chance. Despite Bournemouth’s possession, the Royals looked more potent on the break as Joao feigned to shoot before playing the ball to Aluko who was shrugged off the ball by Lloyd Kelly. The Cherries main threat this season had been from Arnaut Danjuma but the young Royals full-back on loan from Porto, Tomas Esteves, did an immense job to nullify his game in the first half. And the Royals found their clinical touch just before the break as Aluko scored his first Championship goal in nearly two years. Ejaria moved forward and breezed past a defender before slipping a perfectly weighted through ball to find the penetrating run of Aluko who planted the ball into the bottom right corner. Rafael was called into action again in stoppage time of the first-half as he flew to his right to palm away Junior Stanislas’ free kick to preserve the two goal lead. The Cherries fired back less than 10 minutes into the second half as Kelly drilled an inviting cross into the six yard box which was converted by Dominic Solanke from close range.

And Bournemouth’s momentum saw them grab an equaliser just three minutes after their first goal as Danjuma got the beating of Esteves with a run inside of the defender and squeezed the ball past Rafael at the near post. Veljko Paunović made a double change as Tom Holmes and Michael Olise replaced Esteves and Aluko. Joao worked some space for a shot as the Royals looked to retake the lead but he scuffed his effort straight at Begovic. A frantic last 25 minutes ensued as both sides searched for a winner. Olise looked to create for the Royals and had the beating of Danjuma who fouled the Frenchman wide on the right, just outside of the box. Olise took the resulting free kick but completely wasted the chance to get the ball in the box as his short pass was read and easily intercepted. Yakou Méïté made his return from injury as he took the place of Ejaria in the 74th minute. And the Cherries’ turnaround was complete in the 77th minute as they continued to heap misery on the Royals in a calamitous second half display as Lewis Cook picked out the top corner from 25 yards with a stunning strike which hit the underside of the bar on its way in.

Reading came inches away from an equaliser in the 84th minute as Joao’s powerful header was clawed off the line from Begovic. But Reading’s dreadful second half got even worse as Bournemouth sealed the points in the 89th minute. Rafael made a mess of his clearance as he hit the ball at Solanke, and the striker wrestled possession from the keeper who was left stranded before the Cherries forward converted into the unguarded net. Reading have now lost four consecutive Championship games as Bournemouth leapfrogged them to take their top spot. The tea, were in action last night against Millwall a match report is on our website. BOURNEMOUTH: Begovic, Stacey, S Cook, Kelly, Rico, L Cook, Lerma, Stanislas, Brooks, Solanke, Danjuma SUBS: Gosling, Mepham, Surridge, Riquelme, Travers, Ofoborh, Simpson, Kilkenny, Anthony READING: Rafael, Esteves, Moore, Morrison, Richards, Rinomhota, Laurent, Semedo, Ejaria, Aluko, Joao SUBS: Olise, Baldock, Méïté, Gibson, Southwood, Holmes, Tetek, Watson GOALS: Lucas João 4′ (pen), Aluko 43′, Solanke 56′, 89′, Danjuma 59′, Cook 77′


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FROM THE PREVIEW: READING TO TILEHURST HOST HIGH-FLYING ROBINS END

With Olly Allen

Return of fans to the Madejski edges ever closer Reading lost out in their last meeting with Bristol City at the Madejski Stadium in January Picture: Steve Smyth

By ANDY PRESTON apreston@wokinghampaper.co.uk

THE ROYALS are back in front of the Sky Sports cameras again, but will be hoping to break the curse of recent defeats on TV when they host Bristol City on Saturday (12.30pm kick off).

Reading have featured on TV several times in the last few weeks following their superb start to the season, which saw them have, at one point, an impressive seven point lead at the top of the Championship. However, their form has dramatically dipped with successive defeats against Coventry City, Stoke City and Bournemouth – which was last weekend’s featured Championship game on Sky Sports.

But Veljko Paunović’s side will have a shot at redemption when they face high-flying Bristol City at the Madejski Stadium in their final game before fans can return. The Royals had a fall from grace as they fell down from first to sixth place in the table after their defeat to Bournemouth. They were overtaken by five more sides in the same weekend, including Bristol City who jumped up to third after Famara Diedhiou’s goal ensured they took the points against bottom side Derby County. The Robins were the only side to keep pace with Reading as they both made an immense start to the season, but Bristol were a point above the Royals ahead of the midweek fixtures.

Last night, and after we had gone to press, Bristol hosted Watford, while Reading were away to Millwall (report online at Wokingham.Today) The Royals have faced Bristol City 98 times in league and cup history, with both sides equal at 39 victories each, and 20 draws. From December 2010 through to January 2017, Reading had the upper hand over the Robins with seven consecutive wins. Since then the Royals have beaten them just once in their last six meetings. The Robins took the bragging rights in both meetings last season, beating the Royals 1-0 at Ashton Gate and defeated them by the same scoreline at the Madejski in January after a winner from Jamie

Paterson. And Paterson has been Bristol’s most clinical threat this season, with three goals and two assists from 12 games. Meanwhile, Lucas João continued his super scoring form despite Reading’s faltering form as he netted against Bournemouth to claim his seventh Championship goal in 11 games. Similar to Reading, Bristol are also under new management this season after Dean Holden took charge of the club in place of Lee Johnson, who had been manager of the club for four years before he was dismissed in July. Holden first joined as caretaker head coach of the Robins before taking up the role on a full-time basis in August.

PAUNOVIĆ ANGERED BY ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ SECOND HALF READING MANAGER Veljko Paunović was left frustrated after an ‘unacceptable’ second half saw the Royals surrender a two-goal lead against Bournemouth. Goals from Lucas João and Sone Aluko put them ahead, but the Royals collapsed in the second half as the Cherries knocked four goals in during the second half. Saturday’s defeat saw Reading off the Championship’s summit, and condemned Paunović’s side to their fourth consecutive defeat. “It was a game of two completely different halves,” said Paunović. “It was unacceptable what happened in the second half and we have to analyse why this happened. “We have to acknowledge a great adjustment from our opponent.

“They scored two amazing goals to equalise and the third goal was a fantastic goal from distance.” He added: “We had a very good performance in the first half and we have to look at how we can sustain that and be more effective when teams are fighting back. “Before our second goal, we had opportunities that we have to convert. “They had a lot of quality in the final third which affected us. “Both of their goals to level came from our right side, we were conceding in that area so we had to adjust and I feel that after that, we did a good job there. “It probably would have been a tie if we hadn’t conceded the third goal.” The Serbian boss is keen for his side to return to form and end their losing run.

The side were in action last night against Millwall. As this took place after we had gone to press, a match report is on our website. “We have to stay positive, we believe in our team and we showed how good we can play. “We continue to look to improve and find our form as soon as possible.”

I

REMEMBER the last time I was in the stands at the Madejski Stadium. It was March 3 – Reading’s FA Cup fifth round tie against Sheffield United. I missed the first goal because the turnstiles were not working properly. In the concourse at half-time, I joked with a friend about coronavirus. I felt proud of my team for battling hard and taking a Premier League side to extra-time. It was a special night under the lights with a packed crowd, and above all else was a very entertaining game. But then football, and the world, shut down. When the sport returned in June, supporters were restricted to supporting from home – replaced by cardboard cut-outs and fake crowd noise. I am saddened to say that I have almost become accustomed to the image of empty stadiums when watching matches on television. But this week there was a slice of good news as the government announced that supporters would be able to return to grounds in small numbers when England’s current lockdown ends next week. A maximum of 4,000 people will be allowed in stadiums in tier one, up to 2,000 people in tier two but sadly none in tier three. The last eight months have certainly not been quiet from a Reading perspective. The Royals have gone from potential playoff challengers to being on the metaphorical beach too early, and then champions elect to now horrendously out of form. That’s not even touching on the financial uncertainty that continues to hang over the club despite football returning. Of course the biggest change of all was in the dugout. We have had to watch on from afar as Mark Bowen was ushered out of the door in the same undignified way he was ushered in.

In came Veljko Paunović, who proved you really can fall in love with a Serbian man you had never heard of a month previously. It almost feels as if Paunović is merely a figure of the imagination, seen only in pictures but never in the flesh. Forgive me if that sounds bizarre, but the fact that supporters have not been able to be in the ground to welcome Pauno to the club, to see him on the touchline or to applaud him and his team off after a game has felt a little bit odd. The closest we have come is STAR’s excellent fans forum with Paunović a couple of weeks ago, in which his intelligent and personable nature came across. I eagerly await the first chant in his honour. I know the virus has not gone away. But this is hopefully the start of a return to ‘normal’ life and as Oliver Dowden described it, “a big step forward for sport”. It will not be the same as before – even if fans do defy the government’s order not to sing nd shout. There will be facemasks, hand sanitiser and social distancing, but it will still be football. It will still be that matchday feeling, that escapism and that release. Perhaps we need that more than ever.


By ANDY PRESTON apreston@wokinghampaper.co.uk THE LONG wait for fans to return to stadiums looks like it is finally on the horizon.

It is expected that fans will be able to return to football grounds from in the lowest-risk areas of the country when the fourweek lockdown ends on

By ANDY PRESTON apreston@wokinghampaper.co.uk WOKINGHAM racing driver Bobby Trundley says he is grateful for his Team BRIT colleagues as another successful season with the racing team ends.

Published by The Wokingham Paper Ltd, Crown House, 231 Kings Road, Reading RG1 4LS. Printed at Reach Watford © The Wokingham Paper Ltd, 2020

Team BRIT supports people with physical and psychological challenges in accessing motorsport, and has allowed Bobby, who has autism, to achieve his dreams and to compete in several racing events with great success. In a shortened season due to Covid-19, Bobby and Team BRIT completed in their final race of the season ahead of the second lockdown. “Just before it occurred, we had our last race of the year which was absolutely mega – I loved it,” said Bobby.

Wednesday next week. A maximum of 4,000 fans will be permitted to attend outdoor events, while 2,000 people will be allowed in tier two areas, while those in tier three will have to remain armchair spectators. It has been a patient wait for sports fans across the country who have not

“It was a relief to finish the season. “We were testing when the government announced that there was going to be another lockdown coming the next week so we knew we had to make sure our last race would be a good one. “I didn’t have Aaron Morgan with me as usual, but instead I had the CEO of Daytona Motorsport Charles Graham racing in the car with me. “That was really special because I went through Daytona Motorsport doing the D-Max throughout the country and that helped me to get involved with Team BRIT. � Continued on page 43

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been able to attend fixtures since March, with the end of the 2019/20 campaign and the beginning of this season being played behind closed doors. Later today (Thursday) areas will find out which tier they will be categorised in – and it’s hoped we’ll be in tier one. � Continued on page 45

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