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June 2014

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Fathers Day gift ideas - page 16 Lichfield’s only trade show - page 24

Folk forged precious links with the Maasai people of east Africa during an exotic event at Elford’s idyllic Walled Garden. Read about it in the July issue of ‘Village Market’ Giant leap: David Loshiye showed how it was done.

Superb display - Elford’s idyllic Walled Garden

He lived the high life while destroying his victims’ lives

Mark William Lewis goes to jail for £478K fraud

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Fradley fraudster gets 6.5 years

Two victims have died - another was taken seriously ill to hospital he took pensioners’ life savings - he took a beloved father’s legacy off his bereaved son - he invited himself into people’s homes for coffee, smiling and ‘grooming’ them while plotting all along to fleece them


who had been sold fraudformer Fradley busiulent property investnessman who defraudments. ed pensioners out of The second group had their life savings has been been sold worthless jailed for 6.5 years. investments in Mark William Lewis (50), solar panel comformerly of Barlow Drive, ponents and a was sentenced at Stafcompany Lewis ford Crown Court, on had claimed May 28. to have set He had pleaded up, Comguilty at an earlier paresolar. hearing of defraudcom. ing eight people The out of a total of crimes in £478,000. the secAllegations ond group The initial inwere committed while dictment comLewis was out on poprised 39 counts lice bail. involving 20 He was first arrested people who on suspicion of fraud on had allegFebruary 8, 2011. edly been Lewis was sentenced to defraudfour and half years imprised of a onment in respect of the total of first group of 12 counts. £992,606. He received a further term Not guilty verdicts of two years in prison to run were recorded in reconsecutively for the second spect of 23 of the group of four counts. charges. The credit In what has he received for been an exMark William Lewis: his victims pleading guilty traordinary case, saw him as a favoured son. Now before the triLewis first apthey see him for what he really is. al and the six peared at Canmonths he spent inside on renock Magistrates Court, in April mand, means Lewis should be last year. out on licence in around two Then he faced 24 counts variyears and three months’ time. ously of fraud and deception In closing, Miss Hancox involving a total sum of around praised the, “quiet dignity”, with £2.2 million. which his victims had watched Travesty of justice the proceedings. Both the police and Crown She said none of them could Prosecution Service have come be blamed for being tricked and in for heavy criticism for their taken in by Lewis. handling of the case. Nor it seems was anyone safe Lewis’ victims claim it has from his lies and cunning. been a travesty of justice. The fraudster even preyed on Recorder, Miss Sally Hancox, his closest family and friends. last month said that in the beThe deception was so comginning the case, “had not been plete unwitting victims came to dealt with as smoothly as it treat him like a son. should have been”. He returned their kindness by Defence barrister Anthony Bell cheating them out of every pensaid his client was not guilty of ny they had. selling fraudulent investments, Homes put at risk but of the lesser crime of obtainHe persuaded some victims to ing credit by fraud. re-mortgage their homes to fatMiss Hancox did not agree. ten his pockets. She dealt with the charges in Not even being arrested two separate groups. stopped him wrecking lives. The first involved the people

The crimes he committed while on bail point to him being a pathological liar without the scintilla of a conscience. He made contact with both of his latest known victims while working for solar energy companies, named in court as Wiltshire-based British Eco, and Solarontime, from Shropshire. It was stressed in court that the businesses had no involvement in Lewis’ fraud. Once Lewis had their customers’ trust he ‘groomed’ them to return later with his own investment scheme to defraud them. But long before Lewis met these victims he was already on the run from people after him for money. Lewis had been a financial ad-

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visor with Willenhall’s First Stop Property Shop Ltd. International fraud While there he talked people into investing with Longdon Green-based, Ocean View Properties (OVP). The company set up by Colin Thomas, of Yoxall, sold overseas resort properties off-plan, which were then never built. A major international criminal investigation ensued. More than 1,000 Britons lost a total of £45 million when OVP was dissolved, in 2009. There is no suggestion Lewis was in on the alleged fraud. But in May, 2008, he and his wife, Joanne, set up three companies of their own. Turn to page 22


‘VM’ Bennion bye, bye the


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Meadowview Antiques

The Mease Valley’s hugely unpopular MEP has been blown out his seat on the Euro gravy train


here were cheers across the ‘VM’ area when Haunton farmer Phil Bennion lost the seat he never won. His party was almost totally eradicated from the European Parliament in last month’s elections. Electoral slaughter Of the 1,197,161 votes cast for the four top parties in the West Midlands, Bennion and his colleagues only took 6.3 per cent. The Lib Dems’ collapse was put down to the electorate being unable to trust them to keep their promises. The controversial Liberal Democrat only became an MEP thanks to Europe’s bizarre version of democracy. Clifton Campville’s former parish councillor got his ticket on the ‘gravy train’ to Brussels in February 2012. That was because his predecessor, the popular Liz Lynne, quit her seat. The Lib Dems’ dismal 12 per cent vote in the 2009 elections meant the party only secured one Euro seat in the West Midlands. MEP by default But being second on their list of candidates gave Bennion the right to take over when Lynne left despite him never having won anything. He has stood and failed several times in the UK’s general elections. He was also ousted from his seat on Lichfield District Council, in 2011. He succeeded in making himself massively unpopular in the ‘VM’ area when a move was made to put colossal wind tur-

‘WANTED’ no longer: Phil Bennion.

bines on his land, near Haunton. There was public outrage at his attempt to cash in on the subsidies the public were being forced to pay people like him through their energy bills. Massive turbines The German firm that attempted to put 420ft-tall turbines on Bennion’s land pulled

Supposedly green: farmer Bennion forgot to mention the diesel fumes.

out of the planning process at the very last moment when it seemed they might not get the result they wanted. That cost the district’s council tax payers a wasted £90,000. Community halls were packed as hundreds of resident rallied to stop the farmer wrecking the Mease Valley landscape. Furious neighbours They were up in arms over the effect his turbines would have on the sick and elderly living nearby. It was said people seeking respite at Haunton’s convent would also suffer. Before long the local nuns’ religious community around the world had joined in the campaign to block the turbine plans. Bennion has always been coy about the money the machines would make for him. But it was believed he stood to earn £80,000 a year. He told the ‘VM’ that he wanted the turbines on his land to help, “save mankind”. Silent on profits Since money was not an issue for him, he was asked if he would donate his profits to the community. He did not respond to the challenge. He also produces the supposedly ‘green’ biomass fuel, miscanthus. He claimed this too was part of his effort to protect the environment. What he failed to point out was that at the time he was sending HGVs belching out ‘greenhouse’ gasses on 200mile trips to get the material to his customer.

Clock Repairs & House Clearance

Middleton Craft Centre, Middleton, Staffs, B78 2AE Tel: 01827 282 113


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Two tousel-haired Tory party tw*ts!!! Boris Johnson (left) and his Tory party chum Michael Fabricant both share a passion for HS2: Boris thinks ‘VM’-area people are talking ‘b******s’. And Fabricant thinks they are all, ‘mugs’.


he ‘Boris bubble’ burst with a bang when he insulted every resident of the ‘VM’ area. Michael Fabricant’s popped and began wheezing flat when he called them all, “mugs”. No one who listens to the news will have been surprised when Staffordshire’s acrylic blond Parliamentary buffoon fell from grace. After the ‘selfie’-obsessed MP repeatedly made a clown out of David Cameron it was inevitable. ‘B’ is for Boris But when Boris started talking ‘b*******s’ with added nastiness I confess being surprised. When the bluff blond Bullingdon Club graduate inherited Michael Hesletine’s Henley constituency, in 2001, he turned out to be a pretty awful MP. He has always got away with it thanks to his quick wit and slick repartee. He was a happy-go-lucky privileged funster with a silver spoon stuck up his fundament whom everyone loved. His madder outpourings were seen an uber-intelligent toff who wanted the proletariate to think he was kind, approachable and well, just like them, really. Even if, unlike him, they were not filthy rich. And perhaps it was his immunity from the realities of life that led to his mask slipping last month. Telling us that if we objected to HS2 on environmental grounds we were talking, “b******s”, was pretty offensive and not funny. Yew what!? And when he claimed trees only lived for 60 years my infant greatnephew spat out his pureed prunes and burbled in disbelief: “Is that really the sort of b******s they’re teaching at Oxford now?” But, Boris, when you insulted us for being upset over our properties being devalued, you were bang on the money! But how dare you make a joke about hard working families seeing tens of thousands of pounds slashed off the value of their homes by your hideous HS2. When members of the Bullingdon Club went out in their penguin suits to smash up restaurants it wasn’t a problem was it?

People of your ilk simply reach inside their silk-lined jackets for the cheque book and laugh it off. And no doubt some of your friends will make fortunes out of the building of your unwanted and obscene rail project. But a lot of people in our neck of the soon to be bulldozed woods are already suffering hardship because of you. They cannot move to new jobs because they cannot sell their homes. The crippling policies of your Bullingdon buddy, George Osborne, have left many people unable to pay their mortgages, or repair their houses. Unsaleable homes And the houses so many people invested in to give them a nest egg in retirement will now become unsaleable, because of you and your kind. And another thing, don’t you dare call us NIMBYs. We are to a man, woman and child, NIMBYANIAEEs - and don’t you forget it! When your tonsorial doppelgänger, albeit he seems to use more hairspray (or lard) than you, met us in Boley Park, we told him plain and simple: “Not In Our Backyard And Not In Anyone Else’s Either.” HS2 will not fix the north/south divide. It will not run at 250mph, as your lot boasted. It will not bring business north, it will migrate it south. It will not connect with the European high-speed network. Even Birmingham will be on a spur. The existing rail infrastructure will have to be cut to pay for it. It will only be people like you who can afford a ticket. It is not even going to stop in Staffordshire to pick people up. Vast debts But it will, just like HS1, saddle the taxpayer with a vast and unaffordable debt. Fabricant, who called someone a, ‘tw*t’, on-air, may be right saying HS2 cannot be stopped. But what he may not have spotted was that when he betrayed his constituents he sent his own career screaming into the buffers.

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Paid £,£££s-can’t change light bulb

Two streetlights go phut - pensioner goes flying - a parish council tells Tagg’s team about it (NOTHING HAPPENS) a villager tells Tagg’s team about it (NOTHING HAPPENS) Tagg’s own contractors pass the road and spot the fault and still NOTHING HAPPENS!!! Yet again people are left at risk.


Tagg match: anyone asking Simon Tagg to sort out a safety hazard may be in for a long and very hard fight.

ounty councillor Simon Tagg takes £20,572 a year off taxpayers in allowances alone and he cannot even fix a light bulb. After two Whittington street lamps failed last February, on The Green, an 87-year-old pensioner tripped in the dark and went flying. Deadly trip Falls like that can kill elderly people and there are a lot of pensioners in the village. Elsewhere in the country councils fix streetlights within three hours if there is a public danger.

Non-urgent repairs are done within five working days. Whittington’s lights had been out for five weeks when Whittington and Fisherwick Parish Council (WFPC) told Tagg’s team about it, on March 31. The team raised a report number (14216868) but a month later the lights were still out. Twenty-nine days after WFPC made its report a friend of the pensioner had a go. ‘Tagger’ flummoxed A Tagg-teamer told him they could not, “raise a report numInbuilt danger: villagers were appalled when the county highays department built a ‘traffic calming’ chicane opposite a gate leading out of Bit End Field. Children often emerge from the gate onto the pavementless side of Fisherwick Road. Instead of taking traffic away from the danger zone, the chicane forces traffic going in both directions to skim past the opening. Despite the obvious danger the bureaucrates refused to remove it.


ber”, because he had not given them enough information. He gave them more information - the anonymous pen-pusher said it was still not enough. So he told the ‘VM’: “For heaven’s sake! The Green is 100 yards long, it has four street lights and half of them are out. You’re kidding! “Can these people really not work out which ones they are?” He told Tagg’s team to try doing what they were being paid for and gave up in disgust. They then sent him the report number they had sent WFPC, which they said they could not raise without more information. A fortnight later someone did come out and fix the lights. But Tagg’s contractors, E.on, told the pensioner’s friend it was they who found the fault, on April 15. They said the Taggers did not tell them about WFPC’s report until the day after. Waiting E.ons But the man from E.on said they were not allowed to fix the fault and had to ask the network provider, Western Power Distribution (WPD), to do it. He then told the pensioner’s chum an investigation was underway to find out why WPD did not get the job done until May 9. Councillor Simon Tagg then revealed that WPD could have left the job until May 27, had they

Magical mystery tour: the sign in the foreground shows how it was for years. It took a hit and run case and media exposure to force ‘highways’ to twist it round the right way.

wanted to. So in some counties when safety is at risk the lights get fixed within three hours. Under Tagg’s jurisdiction it can take three months. The pensioner and his friend were not impressed. Nor is it the first time the county highways department has put ‘VM’-area residents in peril. Every time the common factor has been their refusal to act on information sent in by the public. Killer returns Villagers were furious when ‘highways’ reinstated a death trap that killed three people. The department ordered the obliteration of road markings

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warning drivers of the accident black spot on Lichfield Road, near Whittington. Yet when villagers sent the alarm to ‘highways’ they were ignored. Eventually they told the ‘VM’ to have a go. Cars were hurtling towards each other at a combined closing speed of 120mph out of a blind dip near a hidden junction. Elsewhere, a blind pensioner was knocked down by a hit-andrun driver speeding along a single-track road. ‘Highways’ had twisted a road sign through 90 degrees sending Alrewas traffic the wrong way. Sign of stupidity For years vehicles bound for the A38 were being sent in a circle through the narrow lanes, near Whittington. Horse riders with injured mounts, cyclists and pedestrians all told of their narrow escapes. “Highways’ were told about it ad nauseam - and did nothing. The ‘VM’ sent them photographs - they insisted the sign was correctly aligned. The ‘VM’ then had to send them diagrams to prove they were talking utter rubbish. Not hard, was it? A chap came out and, with a twist of the wrist . . . fixed it! ‘Highways’ are also notorious for botching road repairs. Car after car driving down a single-track lane near Clifton Campville was having its wheels wrecked by a 5ft-long pothole. The deep fissure was impossible to see or avoid at night - it was a lethal threat to bikers. Villagers fearing a tragedy complained and were ignored. They sat watching their TV shake as cars slammed into the chasm just feet away from them. Each morning their hedge was adorned with wheel trims. The suspension shattered on one car, which had to be taken away on a lorry. Waste of money The council at last sent out a crew, whose botched repair popped out again the next day. The piles of gravel it created sent cars skidding after they slammed into the Clifton pot. ‘Highways’ made yet another dismal effort in Whittington. Gravel spewing from a botched ‘repair’ on a downhill slope was sending cars sliding across a junction into the paths of other vehicles. A road engineer who watched the crew fix the hole said they were incompetent, or did not care. The patch was breaking up almost before they left the site. ‘Highways’ also installed two ‘traffic calming’ chicanes on Whittington’s Fisherwick Road. One near Cloisters Walk was meant to slow the traffic outside a gate to Bit End Field.

Youngsters coming out straight onto the pavementless road needed protection. But ‘highways’ put the chicane on the opposite side of the road. Now traffic from both directions is skimming past the hidden entrance and the youngsters face double the danger. Chicanery ‘Highways’ put the other chicane outside St. Giles Hospice. That forced two streams of cars travelling in opposite directions into a single lane on the inside apex of a blind bend. The outcry was so great, ‘highways’ had to dig up their own stupidity and remove it. And all the chicane they left has done is provide an exciting challenge for speeding farmers. Residents living near Bit End Field are complaining bitterly about huge tractors and trailers hurtling down the road, jinking right and left through the ‘traffic calming measures’. “Cars simple fly through the chicanes,” said one worried villager. Last year a colossal red potato harvester driving in the dark without proper running lights forced a motorist off the road and onto an embankment.

Now you see it: you cannot see the blind dip on the Lichfield Road. But you can see very clearly the broken white line saying it is safe to overtake.

Now you don’t: the car is hidden in the dip. But you can see the walker on your side of the road whom you need to avoid. The speed limit is 60mph.

And now it is too late: you have moved out to stay clear of the walker, the silver car has popped up from the dip - your closing speed is 120mph.

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It was the one they knew was coming

Twelve-year-old road accident victim praises the young driver of the car he collided with and calls for the people in power to act now on road safety


n air ambulance was scrambled when a Whittington schoolboy was hurt in a traffic accident. Emergency crews feared Toby Farnsworth (12) had suffered lifethreatening internal injuries. Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital was put on stand-by to receive the incoming casualty. Police closed off Main Street while paramedics rushed to the scene to save Toby’s life. His mother’s prayers were answered when it was discovered her son had miraculously escaped serious injury. Saw it coming But it was an accident people had long predicted would happen as road safety in the village went from bad to worse. Now Toby is using his terrifying ordeal to call for changes to be made before someone does get killed. Residents feared a child would eventually be hurt when the police were called on to tackle the chaos in Main Street, on March 16, 2012. During busy periods busses were either picking up or emptying out dozens of excited youngsters onto Main Street. Double-parked lorries were making deliveries to the local Tamworth Co-operative Society store. Threat to life Impatient drivers were mounting pavements used by mums pushing prams and people were parking cars across junctions. Matters were made even worse by motorists parking on the blind bend adjacent to the Co-op shop. Just metres beyond that is a blind junction that the drivers of 17-tonne delivery wagons reverse into to turn around.


One lorry dropping goods at the Co-op even mounted the pavement outside, felled a concrete streetlight and then drove off without stopping. Deadly danger The column smashed down across a pedestrian area and damaged the ramp handrail leading to the shop’s front door. Despite the police intervention the problems have continued. There are complaints that the traffic on Main Street is getting worse year by year.

One outstanding exception to the bad driving was the young woman behind the wheel when Toby had his accident. He said: “I went out into the road from behind the school bus. “I couldn’t see the car coming. “I couldn’t hear it either because of the noise being made by the people coming off the bus. Careful driver “My friends told me the car driver was going really slowly and carefully. “I know it gave her a terrible shock. I want to say sorry to her. “If she’d been going quickly, or not paying attention, I might not be here now. “She ought to get a medal.” The ‘VM’ understands the driver was a 17-year-old, from Shenstone, who had only just passed her test. Close shave The traffic and narrowness of the road means that cars have to drive past the busses with only inches to spare. A witness told the ‘VM” that the young woman had no chance to avoid the collision and was not

Young campaigner: Toby Farnsworth wants something done about the danger to Whittington’s school students.

to blame for the accident. Toby landed on her car bonnet and then slid off. Potentially fatal A wheel went over one of his legs but did no serious damage. His other leg hit the front of the car, dislocating the knee cap. Toby said new parking restrictions, making Main Street ‘one way only’ and routing all busses through the village via Back Lane must all be considered in finding a solution to the problem.

History of danger in Whittington: villagers have campaigned to stop delivery drivers double parking outside the local Tamworth Co-operative Society shop, creating a traffic pinch point. When they do traffic meets head-on on the apex of a blind bend.

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No time for regrets


Wigginton couple would love to miss the farming life they left behind – but they never can find the time. The crippling economics of dairy farming eventually forced Joan and Keith Riggal off the land. Then they were asked to leave their local authority owned farm. Yet like many canny country folk who had seen their agricultural margins decimated by the supermarket economy, they had already begun diversifying. Chaaaarge! But they never expected their fledgling business to zoom off at a mad gallop when they started focusing all their efforts on it. Mrs. Riggal, said: “’Our horse feed company, the ‘A-Man’, just snowballed the second we were free to put all our efforts into it. “We both enjoyed farming. And I think we’d miss it too, if we had any time to spare.” The couple, who married in 1970, began in life in rearing beef, at Hemswell, Lincolnshire. For Keith it was more than a job, it was a passion. Rearing animals and occasionally showing them was among his greatest pleasures. They eventually turned to dairy

farming, quietly developing their A-Man business as they went along. The company’s close connections with its rural customers and the countryside are a huge bonus for the Riggals. And everyone who goes there to shop for their equestrian needs, city folk included, can be confident in the knowledge they are talking to experts in top quality forage. The business, founded in 1997, is sited just outside the village of Wigginton, near Tamworth. They sell a wide range of top quality feeds and bedding for horses, along with hoof products, fly repellents and even tail disentanglers. Everything you need The couple are also now selling large quantities of pet and farm animal foods for everything from guinea pigs and cats, to dogs and ducks. And they provide home comforts too, in the form of logs for people’s living room fires. Their home delivery service is the icing on the cake. For information about the AMan people should ring 01827 66678, or log onto www.a-man.

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‘VM’-area cafe that goes the extra mile for overseas farmers celebrates an upturn after weathering the bank-driven global financial meltdown.


Jamie’s doing a Fairtrade

ozens of hungry customers descended on a favourite ‘VM’-area cafe to help people overseas. They flocked to Doughnuts & Dollars on World Fair Trade Day to support the movement that helps farmers and producers get a fair price for their goods. Backing Fairtrade There is no greater supporter of the scheme than Jamie Lowe,


who runs the Whittington eatery. It was she and other local businesses who, in 2012, helped the village become the first in the county to gain ‘Fairtrade status’. Tasty support Ms. Lowe, said: “Every spoonful of sugar, cup of coffee or tea, or sachet of tomato sauce we serve helps people overseas. “Whenever there is ‘Fairtrade’ choice for any product we use it.

“It’s something we firmly believe in and so we were delighted and very grateful to everyone who came along to support our special event.” Ms. Lowe said it was great to see her customers supporting local business too. Local produce On her Fair Trade Day menu were sausages and bacon from the ‘Woodhouse Farm and Gar-

den’ community interest company, based near Whittington. All of it was eagerly devoured. Ms. Lowe also has hundreds of people to thank for supporting her business. Doughnuts & Dollars opened as the global financial firestorm caused by the greed of rich bankers was destroying jobs and companies all over the UK. She said that at times it had been a struggle to keep going with so many people either being made redundant or being forced to take wage cuts. But now, said Ms. Lowe, her business was enjoying a very encouraging upturn. Demand is also increasing rapidly for her ‘outside bar’ service. She said: “We started it up two years ago. On the rise “This year it has really started to take off. “Among the dates in our order books are the Whittington countryside fair and Lichfield’s Proms in the Park. “We will also be providing the VIP bar at the Canwell Show.” Doughnuts & Dollars is one of 36 parish businesses and organisations that support Fairtrade. They include Downes & Daughters (estate agents), Whittington Pharmacy, the Dog Inn and Coton House Riding Stables.

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‘VM’-area’s record-breaking beauties

Taste of summer on sale a month earlier than last year


ints’ blissful summer bounty has set an all time record.

Summer visitor: Gina Scarpete Xafa would never dream of missing her annual trip to Hints.


The first plump ripe red strawberry was plucked from the plant earlier this year than ever before. It was due in part to the warm winter. But it could never have happened without the skill and care Elaine and Simon Clarke and their team lavish on their plants at Manor Farm Fruits. Harvest Their first harvest, on April 24, came a full month earlier than in 2013. The team

has also had yet another reason to celebrate. They have just won Asda’s ‘Most Consistent Quality Award’. Ms. Clarke, said: “Our early crop goes to supermarkets, restaurants and markets. Super award “Winning recognition from such a key company has given us a huge boost. “We are all feeling very proud about what we have achieved.” Manor Farm also produces a wide range of other fruits to tempt people’s taste buds. They include raspberries, gooseberries, red and blackcurrants, loganberries and blackberries planted over 12 acres. Yet the star performer for fruit fans who love a day out will always be the strawberry. But the hundreds of pickyour-own enthusiasts who converge on Hints each year will have to wait until the second half of June before Manor Farm’s 41st season opens and they can fill

their punnets. Mrs. Clarke promised to make a public announcement about the date as soon as she could. In the meantime her team will be working flat out to satisfy the huge demand for Manor Farm’s fruits. Super-saleswoman Gina Scarpete Xafa has been coming to Hints for the past 11 years. The high-flyer holds two university degrees and speaks fluently a range of languages. She told the ‘VM’ she and her husband, who runs Manor Farm’s packing sheds, had never considered moving to the UK. Beautiful homeland “I would miss my beautiful Romania too much,” she said. But she added she would never miss her summer seasons in Staffordshire either. Manor Farm Fruits planted their first crop in 1972 and is now one of the area’s longest established growers. Visit www.manorfarmfruits. for more information.

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From page 3

Should have been a ball.

Joanne and Mark Lewis ran Alfie’s DIY, Alfie’s Overseas and Alfies Property Development from 55 Tamworth Street, Lichfield. Before the end of 2008, angry OVP investors were on the doorstep searching for Mark Lewis. Doors were kicked open by people trying to get at him - threats were made against his family. Man hunt Furious people were also battering the door of the Lewis’ home, in Barlow Drive, Fradley. A lorry driver dumped tonnes of rubble onto their driveway. Investors in Alfie’s Property Development (ADP) were also after Mark Lewis. On March 20, 2009, two people who had put in £20,000 tried to get their money back. The cash supposedly went into refurbishing Shingles Cottage, on Abnalls Lane, Lichfield. Mark Lewis bought the house for £250,000, on June 19, 2008, with money borrowed from Link Lending. Suspicions rising By August, 2009, the investors were anxious about the total of £24,000 that was owed them. There is absolutely no suggestion that Joanne Lewis had any part in any wrongdoing. It was in innocence that, on October 13, she wrote to the investors, signing herself as ADP’s, ‘managing director’. She said: “All is going well, however (the project is) behind schedule, as previously mentioned. “I do not see that the full amount will be available on time at this stage. “I have an amount that is maybe more achievable to get to you for November and a further amount as soon as the project is finished, which is looking towards January (2010).” In November, 2009, a £45-aticket charity ball Joanne Lewis was putting on in aid of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital was cancelled. Take your pick She told ticket holders it was because of marital problems. She told the hospital is was because of a family bereavement. But an advisor she hired to help with the event told the ‘VM’ it was because she had told Joanne Lewis to cancel. The advisor said she only took the job because Joanne Lewis claimed comedian Billy Connolly would be appearing. But, she said, no acts had been booked and the event had no pos-


The happy couple: Mark and Joanne Lewis spent a fortune on their extraordinary Mediterranean wedding. But eventually they were both being pursued by people to whom they owed thousands of pounds.

sible chance of succeeding. Joanne Lewis left Alfie’s Lichfield shop, as had her husband, and could not be located. She left behind her debts totalling tens of thousands of pounds owing to the ball venue and suppliers, her landlord, her company’s employees and tradesmen and consultants. In January, 2010, the ‘VM’ was told an attempt had been made to sell Shingles Cottage. It had allegedly been offered to a woman living nearby at a £50,000 discount, on condition she paid in cash at short notice. It was further alleged that the woman took the money to the house only to find it had been repossessed. The allegations were denied. Investors crushed The house was sold but failed raise enough to pay off Mark Lewis’ mortgage. The people who invested in his refurbishment scheme lost all their money. They also lost £65,000 Mark Lewis persuaded them to put into OVP. Since mid-2008, Mark Lewis had also been selling Alfie’s prop-

erty investments to other people. By late 2009, ten of them were alleging he had defrauded them. The total sum they claimed he owed was £347,000. But by this time he could not be located. Franchise purchase A few months earlier, around August 2009, Joanne Lewis had bought her husband a £5,000 franchise with Wokingham-based, British Eco. Alfie’s shop windows had featured large promotions for the solar energy company. On December 16, 2009, the ‘VM’ told its managing director, Tony O’Connor, there were multiple allegations of fraud against his franchisee. The paper raised concerns that Lewis might target British Eco’s customers. Mr. O’Connor, said: “We know of issues with Mr. Lewis’ previous life. “We’ve met him and his wife. We know Alfie’s owes people money. Knew about his past “We spoke to him yesterday. We know of issues with his previous life - he was an employee of Ocean View (OVP).” Mr. O’Connor explained that

Shingles Cottage: the investors lost everything. The house was repossessed.

Alfie’s promoted British Eco. “We do affiliate business with them,” he added. Mr. O’Connor said he had complete faith in Joanne and Mark Lewis and would stake his reputation on their honesty. It was barely a month later, when Jo and Jeff Coupe, from Rugby, saw a British Eco advert in the Guardian newspaper. The company sent Mark Lewis out to see them. Around the same time the ten Alfie’s investors owed £347,000 were beginning a civil action against him in the High Court. The Coupe’s inquiry also coincided with Joanne Lewis receiving a County Court Judgement against her over a £1,942.42 debt. In June, 2010, the High Court group’s solicitor contacted Mr. O’Connor. Lewis untraceable The lawyer had been unable to track Lewis down. So he asked the managing director to let an agent be present when Lewis came to his offices. This was so court papers could be served on him. It was later claimed that the meeting was cancelled so service could not be made. On June 16, British Eco’s work on the Coupe’s house was at last signed off. Some time later a man from the company visited the family. Mrs. Coupe, said: “We know it was one of the bosses. “He was large and balding. He wanted to take photographs. “We thought they would be used in British Eco’s advertising.” Meanwhile a spokesman for the High Court group also contacted Mr. O’Connor. He sent the managing director copies of the affidavits that had been submitted to the judge as evidence of Mark Lewis’ fraud. O’Connor told the spokesman he would contact his franchisee’s customers to ensure he had not been trying to sell them investments. It was about that time when Lewis returned to the Coupes’ home, in Rugby. Mrs. Coupe said he came to help with connecting their British Eco installation to the National Grid. In August the ‘VM’ contacted O’Connor once more. More come to light He was told about further allegations of serious fraud made against Lewis. He was also told the alleged victims’ losses ran into several million pounds. And he was told that Lewis was communicating with his victims via his British Eco email account. The paper also told him of fears that Lewis might use the access he had through the company to target more victims. Mr. O’Connor restated his trust in Lewis and resisted a suggestion

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that he should investigate. But, on August 24, 2010, Mr. O’Connor wrote to the High Court group’s spokesman. He said: “Following my discussions with him (Lewis) and contact with a number of leads and customers who Mark Lewis contacted in his role as our franchisee, I have not been able to identify any examples of Mr. Lewis using British Eco clients to secure further financial investment.” Franchise terminated He wrote once more to the spokesman, on September 6, 2010, saying: “Mark Lewis has now had his franchise agreement formally terminated. “I have no further interest in this matter so please do not feel the need to update me on your progress.” A month or so later, Lewis returned to the Coupes’ Rugby home. He said British Eco had gone bust and O’Connor had gone to America. Mrs. Coupe, said: “He told us he had set up his own business,, and asked if we wanted to invest in it. “On December 22, 2010, we signed up for a £4,000 stake.” On February 28, 2011, Lewis was arrested on suspicion of fraud and released on bail. Mrs. Coupe, said: “In May, 2011, Lewis gave us a small amount of interest on our £4,000. “He persuaded us to let the £4,000 roll-over and add another £1,000. We received some interest on the £5,000 too. Completely taken in “By now we were hooked - he convinced us it was safe to invest much larger sums over a much longer period.” Lewis eventually took their entire life savings of £100,000. In court he only admitted to taking £60,000. Mrs. Coupe said that had British Eco warned them about the allegations against Lewis, or even told them his franchise had been terminated, they would never have fallen for the fraud. On December 4, 2013, Tony O’Connor rang the ‘VM’. He said Lewis’ victims were naive in letting themselves be

duped. He also said he had terminated Lewis’ franchise with, “a heavy heart,” and felt that he had been, “misunderstood”. Not responsible Mr. O’Connor also said Lewis told him the only complaints against him arose from the alleged Ocean View Property fraud, for which he was not responsible. Yet the managing director also said he had read thoroughly and fully understood the High Court affidavits, which clearly had nothing to do with OVP. Mr. O’Connor was told that Mr. and Mrs. Coupe felt that he had been under a moral obligation to warn them about Lewis. Mr. O’Connor asked the ‘VM’ to set out their views on paper so he could take advice before making a statement. British Eco statement His ‘legal secretary’, Jacqueline Sheppick, wrote back: “We wish to clarify that neither Mr. O’Connor, nor British Eco have been in contact with or associated in any way with Mr. Mark Lewis since the termination of his franchise, in 2010, and have no knowledge as to his activities, whereabouts, contacts, clients, relatives or current employer. “Furthermore, Mr. O’Connor and British Eco were, and remain, in no way connected to or involved with any fraud that may or may not have been committed by Mark Lewis at any time, and are unaware of any allegations appertaining to fraud having ever been notified to them by any of their customers, either at the time of Mark Lewis’ tenure with them or for that matter since the termination of his franchise a number of years ago. “Mr. O’Connor and British Eco wish to make no further comment or statement concerning your letters, the content of which concerning Mr. O’Connor and British Eco are inaccurate and a distortion, nor on any matters pertaining to Mark Lewis and/or any of the alleged fraud which Mark Lewis may or may not have committed. “Please consider this a formal request to cease and desist in

Alfie’s, Lichfield: the Lewises left owing between them hundreds of thousands.

making any further contact with Mr. O’Connor, British Eco or its associates regarding this issue and to desist in your harassment immediately. “This includes, but is not limited to, contact made via telephone, email, post or any other medium. “Failure to desist and any attempt made by you or anyone representing you to contact or attempt to implicate Mr. O’Connor, British Eco and any of its associates may result in action being taken against you.” While Lewis was on police bail he also targeted a Mrs. Maureen Firth, from Birmingham. Crime on bail Lewis used a lead provided by Shropshire-based, Solarontime, to gain her trust. He talked her into making a worthless £5,000 investment. But the company’s director, Mr. Ashley Allum, said Mrs. Firth rang them trying to locate Lewis. The instant he realised what Lewis had been up to he insisted that she should ring the police. Meanwhile, he contacted all of his customers to make sure Lewis had not been trying to swindle them too. Lewis was a salesman for Npower when Mr. Allum met him. Lewis later offered to do some freelance selling for Solarontime. Mr. Allum did discover Lewis had been in jail. What he did not know was that he was on remand after being charged with fraud. “He told me it was because of the OVP case,” said Mr. Allum. “He claimed he was released because he had done nothing wrong - he was suing the police for wrongful imprisonment.” Yet more lies Lewis arrived at Mr. Allum’s premises, in St. Martins, near Oswestry, in a sleek and expensive new Audi motor car. Then the car seemed to disappear. He claimed it had been wrecked in a crash. Mr. Allum, said: “We gave him £1,200 to buy a car to keep him going.” Lewis bought a Nissan which he registered in Joanne Lewis’ name. Once Lewis’ fraud had been exposed the company tried to recover the car. But it was alleged that Joanne Lewis had already sold it. Lies, lies, lies Mark Lewis told the same car wreck lie to the Coupes. He had in fact stolen the Audi - he paid for it with a cheque, drove to his bank and immediately emptied the account. He was found guilty of the crime, on April 13, 2013, in the Wolverhampton Crown Court. He received a 12-month supervision order and was ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.

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ark Lewis whisked a large party of friends away to a holiday paradise to attend his marriage to Joanne, on July 27, 2007. Nothing was too good for his guests who enjoyed the luxury of five-star hotels for the two-day extravaganza. Lewis even bought clothes and shoes for them to wear to his register office ceremony. Afterwards mountains of food accompanied waterfalls of Champagne. A lavish blessing was staged the next day aboard a private luxury yacht. Nuptial cruise The happy couple sailed off on an unforgettable ‘honeymoon’ night as they cruised the crystal azure waters of the Mediterranean. Their guests set off for a feast at another five-star hotel to await their return. Free drinks flowed while the party-goers swayed to the sounds of a free disco. One of Mark Lewis’ closest friends, whom he later allegedly cheated and made homeless, took the couple’s wedding photographs. Shane Moore told the ‘VM’: “The whole thing must have cost an absolute fortune. “When we came back to England Mark gave Joanne a brand new Audi Q7 as a present. “It must have been me who paid for it.”

Present for the missus: Mark Lewis had a passion for Audis - paid for and stolen.


Go-slow ambulance service fined £2.6M Insiders say system is obsessed with ‘box-ticking’, not good outcomes T

he ‘VM’ revealed last month how a man badly hurt in Whittington waited an hour for an ambulance. Witnesses said the official explanation for it was untrue. Then the West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) was fined £2.6 million for not meeting response targets. Costing lives WMAS’s former chief executive said England’s failing services were costing 2,500 lives a year. Roger Thayne said poor response times were a problem - so too were poor medical techniques and the lack of defibrillators. A woman who saw the man in Whittington fall off his bike feared his neck had snapped. He was unconscious in the street and bleeding heavily. A resident, in Back Lane, dialled 999. She said the ‘call taker’ kept telling her to move the casualty. It was against everything she knew about spinal injuries. A second 999 call was made 20 minutes later, just before paramedics turned up.

But it took a full hour for an ambulance to arrive. A WMAS spokesperson said the first 999 caller indicated that the man’s injuries were non-urgent. She said that view was confirmed by paramedics. But people who were there said all that was untrue. They said both 999 callers stressed the case’s urgency. They also said the paramedics did not downgrade the emergency, they reinforced it. And the paramedics told them there was no ambulance because none were available. Roger Thayne left WMAS, in 2006, to be replaced by Anthony Marsh, who has received an honour from the Queen. Discontent within Now a medical service insider has told the ‘VM’ that WMAS staff morale is at rock bottom. He said: “Under Thayne call takers were medically trained. “Now they’re not. They’re just people who simply tick boxes. “A medic would have sent an ambulance immediately to the man in Whittington.” The whistle blower said Roger

Thayne was ousted for being, “too innovative” - he made other services look bad. “Ambulance response times were 12 per cent better than the national average. Era of excellence “The cost to the taxpayer per call-out was 50 per cent lower. “The resuscitation rates for heart attack victims was 400 per cent higher than the average. “Thayne set a response time target of just five minutes. Now it’s eight. “Thayne’s critics jeered at his, ‘shoot and scoop’, policy for recovering casualties. “But they should have called it his, ‘shoot, scoop and give proper treatment fast’, policy - it saved lives! “Thayne also had ambulances dispersed around the area, not hanging around at the station. “Then they were in the areas where statistically there was the greatest chance of an emergency. “The police are now doing the same thing. “It makes perfect sense to put officers closest to the known trouble spots.”

He said in Thayne’s time crews took their breaks wherever they were when it was quiet. But now, he added, they can take them back at the base where they began their shift. He said, “a crew might drive to Lichfield from Birmingham to take a five minute break. “While they are doing it their vehicle is effectively out of action.” Last month the ‘VM’ also revealed how ambulances were being kept waiting for hours at hospital A&E units. Crazy rules This was because of rules forbidding a crew to leave until hospital staff sign for their patients. The insider claimed A&E staff ignored the ambulances. He said: “They keep their heads down to avoid more work while they are fighting to keep up with what they already have. “Marsh’s response to the £2.6 million fine was to say more money needed to be thrown at running WMAS. But the whistle blower said: “It isn’t money that’s needed, It is better organisation.”

Critical timing for 3rd business show


he ‘VM’-area’s now renowned annual business exposition could not be coming at a more critical time. Markets are reviving across all sectors of a UK economy ravaged by the most catastrophic financial meltdown in history. No hiding place Globalisation meant that no one was immune from the chain reaction, sparked by the U.S. housing sector, that dominoed its way around the world tearing down once seemingly indestructible institutions in its wake. But now at last some optimism is gradually returning. And yet it is fragile and eminently reversible. Grass roots initiatives such as the, ‘Business Connect Show’, first held in 2012, have a vital part to play in consolidating the gains companies are now seeing. The third annual event, which will be held at Lichfield Rugby Club, on Tuesday, June 10, is dedicated to helping local companies find new markets and customers. Equally important is its role in providing businesses with an op-


portunity to network and offer each other mutual support. It has proved key in helping entrepreneurs to keep moving forward during the long dark years of recession. But now it has a new and exciting function as an engine for advancement for those business people determined to make the most of what the burgeoning recovery has to offer. Opportunity Especially important for business start ups are the special stand rates available to them. Get involved - ring 07561 49221.

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‘Scrapmen crackdown’ - poor police response

Did slow communications let bad traders get away?


aw-breaking scrapmen in the ‘VM’ area had plenty of time to skedaddle when the cops and council went on their trail. On May 20, the police joined forces with Lichfield District Council (LDC) to crack down on rogue metal dealers. But when their volunteer lookouts tried ringing in reports about their targets’ activities some gave up in frustration at being unable to get through. Put on alert Neighbourhood Watch members had been put on alert and told to report seeing any scrapmen out on the streets. It was stressed that the joint operation would run for one day only, between 9am and 4pm. People were told to dial ‘101’ and recite the special code, “130 of 20th May”. A Neighbourhood Watch spokesperson said afterwards: “I am aware that some people had difficulty reporting via 101, and gave up in frustration. “This should not happen and will be brought to the attention of managers. I can only apologise.” It seems some calls did get through since it was claimed that as a result of the operation, “several vehicles were located. “Action was taken where there were licensing issues, or a lack of insurance, etcetera.” Elsewhere in the country press officers have been shouting out the results of their joint police/council anti-illegal scrapmen crackdowns from the roof tops. The numbers of vehicle stopped, the nature of the offences committed and the penalties handed out have been given in great detail. Councillor ‘Scrap’ But LDC’s ‘Mr. Scrap’, Councillor Colin Greatorex, has always been strangely coy about giving out any information. He is also responsible for the reporting system that members of the public can use whenever they see scrapmen operating illegally. But is has been claimed that it appears to have been deliberately designed to be ineffective. Boley Park residents have been campaigning vigorously to put an end to the nuisance and danger of scrap collectors operating outside the law. The police have themselves is-

sued many warnings about the crime associated with them. The problem has escalated with the rising price of raw materials. Everything from manhole covers and church roofs, to bikes and graveyard urns and plaques are fair game for thieves. Yet the campaigners have complained that when they do report a scrap dealer, Greatorex’s team say nothing can be done about it unless one of their officers is on site to witness the offence. And since the scrap vans are mobile the chances of someone getting to scene in time are effectively nil. But in any case, the campaigners have claimed, when they ring up it is either impossible to get through to one of Greatorex’s officers, or they are told no-one is free. Why not LDC? The residents also have also said that while councils elsewhere in the country were only too keen to provide full details of the licensed scrap dealers operating in their areas, Greatorex’s team have been unwilling to co-operate. Changes in the law should have put a stop to the scrapmen problem. Dealers are now supposed to carry documents proving how every item on their vans came to be their possession. They have to have permits too, issued by the local authority. Quiet! It’s the law And they must not use amplification to attract people’s attention. Yet the ‘VM’ is still receiving reports of dealers breaking the law. The only thing that seems to have changed is that some of them are now using real bugles instead of loudhailers. Both are illegal. The Boley Park campaigners have claimed a partial triumph in that dealers working their streets no longer use amplification. And they accept that on this occasion the public was told about the police/LDC operation, even though the details were sparse. And yet they are suspicious about the timing of May’s operation. A spokesman said: “Could it have anything to do with Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner coming to LDC’s offices on the 29th of May to answer questions from the public?” It is Greatorex’s council’s official policy to refuse to answer any of the ‘VM’s press inquiries.

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A firkin of fun

And a garden full of roses on Elford’s annual ‘Folk and Real Ale’ family day - Saturday, July 5.


ut away too much Festival ale and it will be you the ‘Lady of Elford’ will be gazing down upon. Burton Bridge’s dark amber and aromatic ale weighs in at a whopping 5.5 per cent ABV. Sink two of those from the firkin and you will be singing your lungs out before you know it. Beer and skiffles Which will be perfect because July’s event in the Elford Walled Garden is aimed at blending an inpouring of real ale with an outpouring fabulous folk songs. The gates will open at 1pm. By 2pm the musical entertainment will be underway. Organiser Dick Cowley promises there will be something on the programme for every taste. And the line-up suggests he is right. The Elford Singers will be the opening act. The excellent Tamworth Male Voice Choir will follow in second spot. But then the flow takes a sharp left-hander when the extraordinary Ghanaian Ras King Bobo (pictured) starts letting rip.


The Claret folk group will bring things back down to earth. The Lighthouse Company, Jane Hill, Alan Davies Pro Tempore and Morag and Co will also be appearing. The festival will end in a crescendo when Elford’s own, Walled Garden Wailers, get on stage to lead the last few songs. There will also be something at the bar to start everyone’s lips smacking too. It is hoped there will be at least 20 different real ales to try. Aficionados will be able to kick off with a ‘Fruit Bat’, pour down a ‘Pursers Pussy’, pop in a ‘Wasp Nest’, experience ‘Hop Til You Drop’, sip some ‘Nemesis’, savour ‘Village Idiot’, start a little ‘Moongazing’ and end up with a ‘Pig On The Wall’. Fine feast Wines, ciders and soft drinks and cream teas will also be available.

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‘Lady of Elford’: village volunteers saved several fine female figures from crumbling decay. Today they lend the walled garden an elegance that echoes the enclosure’s grand past. It was once the kitchen garden of a Georgian hall sitting at the heart of a splendid 600-acre estate.

Peter Coates, from Alrewas, will be supplying the burgers, sausages and pork for the barbecue. But the day will not just be all about song, food and drink. Visitors will be able to try their hands at boules and croquet. Children will have free games to take part in. Artwork will be on display with an opportunity for devotees to snap up a bargain. But the real star of the show will be the Grade II listed garden itself. Hard work & devotion It took volunteers years of hard work to salvage it from decades of neglect until it at last reopened

with a royal fanfare, in 2011. Cash from the team’s folk and booze bash will go into looking after it and making sure it remains for future generations to enjoy, free of charge. In June the gardens, including the rose beds, are looking at their very best. There is a scented sensory garden too - all areas are wheelchair accessible. Parking will be free with special provision being made for people who are disabled.

Folk craic smash hit

New bigger better venue - and a bigger better crowd to go with it - the new era’s looking good!


he ‘VM’ area’s legendary ‘folkies’ moved their gig to a bigger home and still it was packed out to bursting. Out with the old Martin Ryan and Stef Dzuiba had for years staged their monthly Doghouse Folk Club in Alrewas’ Crown Inn. But when the pub was refurbished earlier this year it instantly became clear that mixing chattering diners and traditional tunes was a terrible idea. But then the musicians found a new, better and bigger home at the village’s British Legion Club. In with the new And on their opening night the place was packed. Irish-born mandolinist Martin Ryan, said: “Didn’t we have a smashing night?

Folk from the floor: an extroardinary range of guest artists take to the stage during the ‘open mic’ sessions. It is an excellent gig for people just starting out as well as seasoned professionals

“The room was full to capacity by 7.30pm. “We started 15 minutes early thinking we may as well since we can’t get any more people in anyway. “It is the best room we’ve ever had for our folk night events. “The set-up at the Crown, which stopped us carrying on there, did us a great favour. “On top of that the Legion club’s stewardess, Jayne, and the two lovely barmaids, Kelly and Danny, were so helpful, enthusiastic, and welcoming. Bags of talent Mr. Ryan said they were overwhelmed by the number of floor singers who came along to have a go. “We thoroughly enjoyed the wide variety of styles and songs”, he added. He said in future they were going to set up a system to ensure everyone who wanted to play would get a chance. He added that each month three floor singers would be selected from the hat and be given a ten minute slot each. The folk club usually closes for summer. Clamouring for more But when the crowd in May were asked if it should shut in June there was a near riot. So the next Doghouse Folk Club will be staged on Tuesday, June 3. Despite the huge improvement in the venue and the club’s ever growing popularity, entry is still free. The only contribution people are invited to make is to buy a £1 raffle ticket.

Blooming Barton


arton-under-Needwood will be showing off its summer finery this month. The village’s Garden Festival will be run over the weekend of Saturday, June 21. From 1pm to 6pm each day there will be more than a dozen beautiful gardens open for people to explore. Teas and music will be available in the vicarage garden and in several other locations around the village. The young at heart should bring their teddies along to enjoy the seven ‘teddy bear’ rides operating in the village churchyard. And inside the Tudor Church of St. James will be an exhibition of arts and crafts. Scarecrows in on it The festival also incorporates a celebration of that rural crop guard, the scarecrow. Ingeniously engineered sacks stuffed with straw made up to look cast members from the Wizard of Oz will be sited around the village. People must buy a £3.50 programme to enter the events, which will be available

from the church, Post Office, or any ‘open garden’. Children can enter free. Teddy bear special A ticket to go on the five teddy rides will cost £5. A ‘teddy passport’ and ‘brave teddy’ sticker are included in the price. Plants will be on sale at various gardens.

What treats await: Barton gardens open their gates this month.

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Titans of the tile game There has been celebration and sadness at the Elford Sports and Social Club. A massive cheer went up when the dominoes team took top honours in three major contests. The tile-kings’ trophies include the Mercian League Cup, the Ron Lewis Cup and the Guide Dog Cup. Not satisfied with their three wins, they also completed their glory winning campaign by being runners up in the Barry Holmes Cup and the Doubles Shield in the Shadow League. Sad farewell The one sadness is that it will not be Ann Rowley’s job to look after the silverware. A spokesman said everyone was sorry to hear that their popular stewardess had called time on her 14-year stint behind the bar. “Ann has kept the place running like clockwork,” he added. “She will be leaving her job at the end of June.” Job vacancy The committee now wants to hear from people who would like to take on the steward’s role at the premises on The Beck. For the successful candidate it will mean looking after one of the ‘VM’ area’s busiest social clubs. It has an excellent programme


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of regular activities. The organisers are also renowned for fund raising events, including a recent auction that brought in £350 for the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen Family Association. Packed programme On the menu for June will be ballroom and sequence dancing each Saturday night, from 8pm to 11pm. There will be bingo every Tuesday evening. The games will start at 8.15pm. The club’s ever popular auctions will be staged each Monday throughout the month. And there will be whist drives on the Thursdays of June 5 and 19, and July 3. People wanting information about the steward vacancy, or club events, should ring 01827 383461.

Turning on the magic I

Success built on reputation: chef Chris Gill’s food is about the finest culinary traditions and styles in English and European cuisine. Tamworth can expect excellence.

t seemed like the end of an era for loyal restaurantgoers when Tamworth’s family-run premier town centre eatery, Christopher’s, was sold. It was 2000 and head chefproprietor Chris Gill and his family wanted to concentrate on running The Peel Hotel, on Aldergate, which they eventually bought. Then, in 2009, they decided to develop their small hotel restaurant into a business in its own right. New beginnings ‘Christopher’s’ was re-born under the Peel Aldergate brand. Since then its reputation and popularity has grown and grown. And now the family is to expand into the ground floor of the road side town house that sits at the front of the 20-bedroom guest accommodation complex. Diners are already looking forward to the new eatery opening its doors in mid-July, Until then the existing restaurant will remain open as a private dining room and meeting room perfect for parties of up to 25 people. The new Christopher’s will build on their established reputation for honest, unpretentious, professionally

cooked English and European food. During the day, customers will find a slightly different more bistro style to their offering. Christopher’s will be open for breakfast between 7am to 11am, for lunch from noon to 4pm and dinner from 5pm to 9.30pm. Coffee and cake will be available during the day. There will be lighter more relaxed options for those not looking for the more traditional fare for which the restaurant is renowned. Afternoon tea will continue to be offered - the business has already has a deserved reputation as the perfect venue for private afternoon tea parties for up to 28 people. Traditional values The restaurant’s traditional Sunday lunch menu will remain, but with extended opening hours. Last month the family received an extra boost as they worked towards their exciting new venture. Christopher’s and the Peel Aldergate four-star accommodation business both received TripAdvisor ‘Certificates of Excellence’. These awards are given solely on the basis of positive customer comments sent in to the organisation’s website.

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Cuts cost listening pleasure


riends of the Burton Wurlitzer (FBW) have seen their concert audiences dwindle because of cut backs in the care sector. Hundreds of thousands of fans have over the years enjoyed hearing the instrument in Burton Town Hall played by some of the country’s finest organists. Chance to socialise For people living in care these recitals are not only a chance to listen to their favourite music they provide a crucial opportunity for social interaction too. But an FBW spokesperson said: “We are concerned that attendances from care homes have been dropping. “Some homes have stopped coming because of the cost of transport and staff shortages.” Now FBW is taking steps to


The price of transport costs and staff cuts are preventing vulnerable people from enjoying one of life’s great pleasures. A move to help them come back to their favourite Wurlitzer concerts will be music to their ears.

reverse the situation and make sure their concerts remain accessible to all. They are also extending their concessions to a new section of the community. Inviting more people Their spokesperson, said: “There is a group that we have not accommodated in the past. “These are the people who live in their own homes and are supported by a carer, or a care package from social services - it has been a serious omission.” From now on they too will be able to enjoy the same concessions available to people living in care homes and warden assisted accommodation. The extra mile FBW has even gone further. Anyone bringing a member of one of these groups to a concert

will be seen as a carer and receive a complimentary ticket. And it does not matter whether the person doing the driving is a relative, friend, or the neighbour of someone living in a care home, or being cared for in some other way, whom they would like to see enjoying an FBW concert. Double benefit On top of the concession, drivers will also be given a free parking space at Burton Town Hall. It will be a treat for anyone who has never been to one an FBW recital. The Burton Wurlitzer is regarded as one of the finest of these instruments in the UK. And the hall’s superb acoustics set it off to its very best advantage.

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Other members of the public are also welcome to attend the concerts. Everyone welcome They will be invited to make a recommended donation of £4. The next FBW Wurlitzer concert is due to take place on Thursday, July 10. The organist will be Norman Scott, a highly accomplished musician and a favourite with the Burton audience. Concerts will also be held on: September 4 (Arthur Tipper); November 6 (Nicholas Martin). Timing is everything All concerts commence at 2pm and end at 4.15pm. Further details can be obtained by ringing 01283 430035, or 07762 233303. Website:

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‘The Village Market’, 9 - 11 Main Street, Whittington, Lichfield Staffordshire, WS14 9JU. Editor: GL Griffiths. t: 01543 432341. e: Published by Village Market Micronewspapers Ltd.


News from the rural communities in the Lichfield, Tamworth and east Staffs areas, Staffordshire, UK.