Monday 1st February - Preshute School. I very much enjoyed my visit, being shown around by Mrs Hicks and meeting Mrs Joyce White, a school governor and former Mayor. Also, having the chance to talk to the children. I was so impressed by the standard of behaviour and their keen interest in everything. I couldn't believe that there were 200 children in such a small space but, all the pupils were so attentive and charming. My congratulations go to Mrs Celia Hicks and her dedicated staff for attaining an excellent Ofsted report. I gather that she is retiring at the end of the academic year - she will be a hard act to follow but, will certainly have left a school with a reputation to be proud of. We wish her a happy retirement.
Wednesday 2nd February - Altzheimer's Association. I was invited to host a table for a Gala Dinner in the beautiful room in Devizes Town Hall along with the Mayor of Devizes. There were 10 tables of carers and their partners or parents with dementia. We were treated to a lovely dinner with spring daffodils on each table. All those waiting on tables were staff from the Alzheimer's Association and had given their services free. A talk was given on how to eat well. I enjoyed talking to carers who were all very upbeat. I think the whole occasion was appreciated by everyone who attended.
Tuesday 9th February - it was with great anticipation that we were all taxied up to Savernake Hospital from the George Lane car park on a lovely sunny day (a relief after such a wet Monday) to witness HRH Duchess of Cornwall officially open the new Prospect Outreach Centre. The Duchess is the President of Prospect Hospice.
The Outreach Centre project was achieved by the amazing effort of raising over £260,000 and the foresight of Kevin McNamara, Director of Strategy at the Great Western Hospital, to charge only a peppercorn rent. I was honoured as the Mayor, by being presented first and introduced by the Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Sarah Troughton. The Duchess was escorted around the unit by Mrs Angela Jordan, Prospect's Chief Executive. It was clear that she enjoyed talking to everyone, especially the patients whom she put at ease with her quiet charm. During her tour, she was shown the counselling room with its soft furnishings, watched a collage being made and chatted and thanked volunteers who give so much dedicated time to the hospital. Before she left, she signed the register and was presented with a beautiful cream posy of flowers by a young pupil from Ogbourne St George who made the most elegant curtsy.
Savernake Hospital is very dear to us all in the Marlborough area so the effort that has gone into this project will not only help to give this building a new impetus but, support patients in overcoming and working with their disabilities which is to be applauded.
Tuesday 10th February - today I attended two meetings. One as a representative to the Stonebridge Management Committee with Action for the River Kennet where we discussed projects and the maintenance in Stonebridge Meadow and then down to the Football Club to discuss land for a possible football pitch. Before the day finished, I had a quick look at Cooper's Meadow to get ideas for future projects.
I now go off to Spain for a week to tend a very different garden.
I returned from Spain with a suitcase filled with Seville oranges, large oranges and lemons too, all from the trees in my garden. I also tackled the prickly pears which had taken over but, are now dying with a fungus
Saturday, 20th February 2016 - today saw Councillor Marian Hannaford-Dobson and me playing bingo with the local MENCAP Group. Marian actually managed to win a prize. I wasn't so lucky!
Thursday, 25th February 2016 - Councillors were invited up to Greatwood for a guided tour to learn more about how looking after retired race horses was combined with a work programme with schools helping disadvantaged children. Sasha Thorbek-Hooper, Fundraising Manager for Greatwood, who clearly has wide expertise in this field, took us round. It was apparent right from the start that helping to look after these beautiful animals in such a happy environment really contributes to building up confidence in these children's own abilities.
The Town Council congratulated and praised Greatwood for its work with young people and the educational programme it provides, enabling many to eventually work in that field of employment or simply find their way back into society with confidence, believing they can contribute. We were fortunate to be able to meet and talk to many cheerful youngsters as the mucked out stables and fed the chickens. "It takes courage to grow up to become who you really are". EE Cummings.
I had great pleasure on behalf of the Town Council, in presenting the Co-founder and Managing Director, Helen Yeadon, with a cheque for £928 which will go towards ongoing programmes.
Friday, 26th February - Friday saw me in the wilds of Wiltshire along farm tracks, wandering around looking for Winkworth Farm whilst hoping I was not lost forever. I was invited to the North Wilts Annual Awards and Celebration of Guiding and Achievements so, it was a relief when a glimmer of light appeared in the distance. (More signs please).
I was greeted and made to feel very welcome.
The event was attended by Sir Mike Pitts and the Mayors of Malmesbury, Swindon and Chippenham along side Guides and their Leaders from around the county. I was particulary proud when four young Guides from the Ogbourne St Goerge Unit, which is counted in the Marlborough division, went up for the Baden Powell Challenge Award - the highest award a Guide can achieve. I was honoured to have a photo taken with them afterwards. I have to be honest and say I knew little of the guiding movement in Wiltshire so to see so many dedicated Leaders go up for 10, 20 even 30 years' service awards was very impressive. Sir Mike spoke with affection of his Skipper (Scouts) and camping days. There was an interesting exhibition and I was shown a picture of the camping ground which is owned by the county. We were also treated to some delicious hot chips served in cups and a large bowl of fruit.
So, I quote the Guiding promise which is something we all could aspire to for better communities and a better world to live in:
I promise that I will do my best
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve the Queen and my community
To help other people
To keep the Guide/Brownie Law