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Mayors Blog

Mayor's January Blog

January for the Town Council is a time for planning the new year. The outside staff are cutting back shrubs and overhanging trees as well as catching up on some TLC on the town's benches, fences and litter bins. The Estates Manager has already ordered the bedding plants for our gardens, hanging baskets and tubs for spring planting. Apparently we are going to have "hot" colours this year interspersed with some cool cream and whites, I really can't wait to see them.

The planning committee has already been busy this year considering lots of applications for new signage for some businesses, extensions for existing homes and applications for new builds. Amended draft proposals were debated by the committee concerning the land adjacent to Rabley Wood View. Sangsters in partnership with Wilts Council want to build houses on the recreation ground that serves Rogers Meadow, the Thorns as well as Rabley Wood View. As you can imagine the residents of these three estates are not very happy about it and have protested loudly. The planning committee felt that the new draft proposals did not meet local demand which is for low cost smaller homes and also that traffic difficulties in the area had not been addressed by the new proposals.

River OggThe planning committee is still awaiting an update and final plans from the Crown Estates on the proposal to build 220 houses on the Salisbury Road site. On a happy note the Tennis Club has finally received planning consent for their new tennis courts. These courts will be situated adjacent to the Swindon Road on the north east side of the common within the Golf Club's perimeter; the club does amazing work with the youngsters in the town and will be a very welcome addition to the town's sporting facilities.

It is not widely known but Marlborough Town Council own a meadow situated at the end of Tin Pit and behind Rabley Wood View. The river bank in the meadow has now been opened up for the public to enjoy walking by. New fences are in place marking a walkway down to and along the river bank. The entrance to the meadow is through a gate at the end of Tin Pit. I do hope that residents will use and enjoy this public amenity.

Councillors at Tin Pit next to the River Ogg

 

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Mayor's February Blog

 

I have recently attended meetings in Devizes on forward planning for our town. The government has decreed that Wiltshire as a county has to build 42,000 houses before 2026 and Marlborough's share of that number is approximately three hundred new homes.

I know this sounds a lot for a small market town like Marlborough to absorb but, two hundred and twenty new homes are designated for the Salisbury Road site opposite Tesco which leaves us roughly eighty more homes to reach government targets. There are several small planning applications in the pipeline at present which will account for a number of our quota. As the rest do not have be completed until 2026, one hopes that small infill slots over the next ten years can accommodate most of this number. We are very lucky that the town is not one of the three Principal Settlements in Wiltshire which will take the lion's share of Wiltshire's quota and that we also sit within an AONB (Area of Natural Beauty), so we are afforded some protection from massive development.

The Town Council has already objected to the proliferation of luxury retirement homes being built in our town and we continue to state clearly that this type of development makes our community top heavy. We continue to press for affordable starter homes which we all know are in short supply.

I spent a very pleasant evening at North Wiltshire Girl Guiding Awards in the Legends Lounge of Swindon Town Football Club. Eight girls from the Marlborough area did very well indeed with four of them being awarded the Baden Powell Award and a further four awarded the Chief Guides Challenge in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff of Wiltshire. There were at least two hundred girls representing packs from north Wiltshire, and it was delightful and very interesting to hear the challenges that these girls take on and about their many overseas trips.

The Baden Powell ChallengeGuides Chief Guides Challenge

I did mention in my December blog that the Town Council has applied for a Community Asset Transfer for Coopers Meadow - an asset which is currently owned by Wiltshire Council and now being transferred to Marlborough Town Council. I also asked that if anyone had any ideas to enhance the meadow to let me know. So far, suggestions include enlarging the play area, adding seats and tables for picnics and something recreational such as a trim trail for older children.

All good ideas and I think if these are combined with the lovely river walk (which really looks at its best in the spring and summer thanks to ARK (Action for the River Kennet)) plus a visit to see the lambs then it would all add up to make a pleasant afternoon out at little or no cost for Marlborough families. Anyway, please keep the suggestions coming in. Nothing is set in stone yet and we really do appreciate your suggestions.

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Mayor's March Blog

March has just flown by in a whirl of activities with most of the Town Council committees gearing up for the year ahead and it's a time for bringing to fruition all the plans made over the winter months. One of these which is very dear to my heart is CCTV and it will be up and running in the latter weeks of April (look out for the press release). It has been a long time coming to our town but well worth the wait as I am totally convinced that it will act as a deterrent to many visiting would-be criminals. 

Early in March I entertained a contingent of French students who were on an exchange visit to Marlborough College. I showed them the Town Hall, the Mayoral robes and chain but, like most young people, they were most interested in the cells below the Court Room and the Victorian stocks displayed there which given half a chance they would have locked each other up in! 

On the 9th of March Marlborough, in common with most cities and towns in England and throughout the Commonwealth, raised a flag on the Town Hall to commemorate Commonwealth Day 2015. I read a message from Her Majesty the Queen and there was a further message from the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. Days like this serve to remind us of our long traditions, of loyalty and the ties we enjoy with Commonwealth countries. 

Click the photos to expand them

Mayor and French Students croppedCommonwealth Flag captionedCouncillors Commonwealth Day captioned

Full Council on the 9th March dealth with many issues facing the town including some legal ones concerning the Mop Fairs and Jazz Festival, a strategy for the town's three water meadows and a report on a meeting between the signatories of the Community Covenant and 4MI Batallion. Council also discussed the Annual Parish meeting which is on 27th April 7.00 pm (hope you will come along), policies for our small grants scheme and for charging for use of the town's outside spaces such as The Common, The Priory and Wye House Gardens. 

The High Sheriff of Wiltshire is appointed by the Queen to uphold and support the Crown, the Judiciary, Law Enforcement, all of the emergency services as well as local authorities. Once a year, the High Sheriff holds a service in Salisbury Cathedral known as 'Rule of Law' to celebrate these many organisations which are all asked to form a parade in the Cathedral. He was kind enough to invite me to take part in this. I was duly lined up to process with all the other Mayors of Wiltshire, of which there are many, all dressed in our traditional red gowns complete with our insignia. The procession also included representatives of all the other authorities and concluded with the Judges, all suitable robed and bewigged (very impressive). It was a splendid day and I am so pleased to have taken part in it, although it was a little awesome to be in such august company. It was a spectacle I shall remember for a long time. 

At the Planning meeting on the 23rd March, the Crown Estate's agents gave a presentation to the Council outlining the 220 houses and a hotel that they hope to build on the Salisbury Road just opposite Tesco. They outlined the route through the new estate and the fact that the houses would all be built on the lower slopes of the hill to safeguard the view from the higher spots in the town. At the same meeting Marlborough College announced plans to build a much needed replacement for Preshute primary school on land they own to the north of Barton Park and College Fields. These plans would also include the building of possibly one hundred new homes. The Town Council now awaits full planning applications for both of these developments. 

On a lighter note, I am staging a choir concert in the Town Hall on 1st May 2015 at 7.30 pm. Choirs, including our own local Community Choir, will take part in what I'm sure will be a very enjoyable evening. Choir tickets will be available in the White Horse Book Shop and the Town Council Office. It's all in aid of my charities Macmillan Nursing and Leukaemia Research. Do come along - it promises to be a very good evening.

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Mayor's April Blog

April has been particularly busy with a lot of loose ends to tie up before the new Mayor takes up her post. The Council met to discuss a strategic strategy for the coming year. There are so many projects in the pipeline that, like any business, the Council has to prioritise them and provide a reasonable time line in which each project should be completed. This proved to be a very rewarding exercise with broad agreement from all Councillors and staff alike.

The town's Planning Committee continues to have long agendas. The projects that have caused most concern this year have been the Crown Estate's Outline Planning Application for the Salisbury Road development of two hundred and twenty houses plus a hotel, the proposed development of thirty-six houses on the play area of Rabley Wood View and a possible development application to build a new school and up to a hundred houses on the land north of Barton Park. I must stress that these first two applications are yet to be determined by Wiltshire Council and in the case of land to the north of Barton Park, the land in question is still to be considered as to whether it is even suitable for development.

The Asset Transfer of Cooper's Meadow from Wiltshire Council to the town is well under way. The Town Council will be considering some of the very good ideas that have put been forward to improve this important community asset to make the meadow a welcoming destination for all the town's residents.

The Annual Parish Meeting was held on the 27th April, sadly only thirty eight people attended. This is a meeting for the people of the parish to come forward and put their views on the Council's work over the last year. Only four people asked questions, two gentlemen asked about parking and yellow lines, while two ladies seemed to be questioning the advisability of spending money on childrens' play areas. Luckily all questions could be answered satisfactorily, the yellow lines in question are to be implemented as soon as possible and the money for the play area and trim trail comes in the form of what is known as Section 106 funding. This is money contributed by developers for the good of the town once their developments are occupied. The proviso on this funding was that it must be spent on recreational facilities for young people.

AprilBlogLibrary2I have visited the Bodleian Library in Oxford to inspect the Vicar's Library housed there. The Vicar's Library is a collection of 237 books bequeathed to the town by Rev William White in 1678 for the use by the Vicar of St Marys and under the trusteeship of the Mayor and Corporation of Marlborough. There are some extremely rare volumes housed there, all contained in individual moisture proof boxes and kept in a temperature controlled room. Marlborough Town Council gave the collection to the Bodleian Library Oxford on permanent loan in 1985. Each Mayor as trustee of the collection is free to visit and inspect these lovely old books. I found it well worth the effort and really enjoyed the day.

AprilBlogAletMy civic duties this month included a visit to Yeovil Town Council where I enjoyed a tour of the town and the military establishments connected with it. On 24th April, I attended the Annual Dinner at the Headquarters Intelligence Corps in Chicksands, Bedfordshire and a reception on the 30th April at County Hall Trowbridge hosted by the Chairman of Wiltshire Council. I have also visited all the public houses in the town with the Mace Bearers and the Town Crier whose duty it is to taste each publican's ale to see if it is of good quality. This is a very old tradition going back to the days when the Borough Council granted the Inn Keepers a licence to serve ale.

Twenty-four years ago, the Town Council bought the Merchant's House in the High Street (it used to be W H Smiths) and handed it over to trustees headed up by Sir John Sykes to restore the house and to establish a museum for the town. On the 14th May, the Town Council attended the Merchant's House to formally receive the rent. The Trustees of the Merchant's House will pay to me as the Mayor a bag of pepper corns as the rent due for the coming year. It is all very colourful and very nice to think that our small town has created a new tradition which, one hopes, will be enjoyed for many years to come.

This will be my last blog as Mayor and I would like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my monthly accounts of a Mayor's life. I leave you in the capable hands of my friend and colleague Councillor Margaret Rose. It has been a real pleasure and privilege to be the Mayor of Marlborough.

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A Life Change

After my own Mayor Making ceremony, which I found quite emotional, my first civic appointment was to attend Chippenham’s Mayoral investiture and it was interesting to compare the two and meet with fellow Mayors from across the county – we are often collectively known as the Chain Gang!

I am honoured to have been made Honorary President of MENCAP. The AGM, held at the Conservative Club which hosts many of the charity’s meetings, was light hearted with a cheerful crowd. We all said a big thank you to Mrs Jenny Smithers and Bryan Castle who have been involved with this group for more than 20 years and were standing down from their roles as Secretary and Treasurer. Both have been hard working and truly dedicated to the group.

MargaretRoseBrainTumorTShirtOn Saturday, 23rd May, I spent the day with my Mayoress, my daughter Mary, collecting funds in our High Street in aid of my chosen charitable cause for the year - The Brain Tumour Charity. With the help of other volunteers including 3 young soldiers from the 4th Military Intelligence Battalion, we raised an impressive £941.60p. My thanks go all my volunteers and to those, of course, who contributed. 

Bank Holiday Monday.  In Marlborough, that often means the chance to go to the Common to browse at a car boot sale. This latest and successful one was run by the Rotary Club. How lucky we are to have this amazing open space which not only allows events such as this and many others but, provides parking too.

The following Tuesday was my first Full Council meeting. With its long agenda including the election of Committees and their Chairs, it was a test of endurance for most Councillors, especially with a controversial planning issue during the Planning Meeting that followed. However, we always cheerfully recover.

Wednesday. It’s a great pleasure to chair the Common User’s Group (aka CUG). This is an environment that I understand. The group meets about 3 – 4 times a year and is made up of representatives of those clubs based at the Common as well as dog walkers and others who have an interest in its guardianship. The Town Council appreciates the advice the group can offer and it helps inform decisions about the future of this special area. It was very interesting to hear about the Marlborough Model Flying Club, to see firsthand the problems rooks cause to the beautiful greens and to know that the project to level the ground adjacent to the Rugby Club is almost complete and that the new grass is growing well. I think if we can sort out the problem of parking in Frees Avenue, it might turn this country road back to what it was.

GWHAppeal1On Thursday, 28th May, Mary and I were invited to the Great Western Hospital to support the Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal which is a massive endeavour and looking to raise £2 .9 million. This will enable cancer patients in the catchment area to be treated at the GWH saving a long trip to Oxford which will, undoubtedly, enhance their recovery. We were told that 53,520 hours - equating to around 6 years - are spent by patients each year travelling to receive treatment. We all released pink and orange balloons to launch the Appeal. I will certainly want to raise the profile in Marlborough of this worthy cause and hope that they will be invited to do a presentation here. Also, I gather Savernake Hospice is hoping for an official opening fairly soon, another cause very dear to our community.    

 On Friday, I met with two talented young women – Anna Friend and Cheryl Heuston - who have volunteered to help me run a family event in Priory Gardens on Sunday, 5th July. We are going to host an Enchanted Picnic with stalls and entertainment for children and their parents. Watch out for more information over the next few weeks.   

So, only a few days into my Mayoral year and my feet have hardly touched the ground – it really is life changing.  Being your Mayor promises to be an exciting challenge for me and one I am proud to accept and I shall try to represent Marlborough in the very best way I can.

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Flaming June!

GavelMonday, 1st June. The month started with a Planning meeting with a difference as we were filmed and recorded. There were difficult decisions to be made about a road closure for the Jazz Festival. Sadly, there was no compromise this year.

Then followed the Amenities and Open Spaces Committee which has responsibilities for all Town Council-owned open spaces where we rely on Richard, our Grounds and Estates Manager, to keep us updated. This covers a wide spectrum from maintaining children’s play areas to planting beautiful flower troughs in the High St as well as the maintenance of Cooper’s and Stonebridge Meadows.

Lydiard House Lydiard Park - Swindon 2 geograph 3121581On Tuesday, 2nd June, I went to Lydiard House at the invitation of The Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Mrs Sarah Troughton. The event focused on ‘Cadets in the Community.’ This highlighted the important benefits that young cadets and their adult instructors bring to the community and employers. Speakers included Col Mark Nash, Commandant Wiltshire ACF who had formerly been attached to 4MI, the Battalion with which Marlborough is closely connected.

It was also a huge pleasure to send warmest congratulations to Col and Mrs Napier on their 70th Wedding Anniversary. I do hope that they had a wonderful celebration with family and friends and have many more years enjoyable marriage ahead.

Wednesday, 3rd June. Today, I chaired the Marlborough Christmas Lights Switch On meeting and it always staggers me how much has to be put in place to get an event like this off the ground so that everyone has a good time and feels safe. 

MiB logo 400pxWednesday, 4th June. A Marlborough in Bloom meeting. What seems like a genteel group is actually packed with people of steely determination all striving to do well in this year’s competition. We are looking to everyone to support us in making Marlborough a winner.

mencap logoSunday, 7th June. Today was the Mencap Summer Party at Kennet Valley Hall with a rounders match with no known rules. This was played with great enthusiasm and gave great pleasure to all who played, the Mayor getting a cheer when she actually managed to hit the ball!  Cllr Alec Light was a splendid bowler. As President, I gave the presentation to Mrs Jenny Smithers and Cllr Bryan Castle for their dedication to Mencap members over many years. I also presented a prize tankard to the winning team. Afterwards, we were served a delicious tea, partly sponsored by Tesco. Sarah Hart, Tesco’s Community Champion is taking over as Mencap’s Secretary was very hands on. Manager, Nick Helps, was also there and he had cycled from Chippenham to join us. The sun shone and the loving care that the minders gave to their charges all helped to make the day special for them and us. The memory of this happy day will stay with me.mencapgroup

This is a community working at its best - To labour and not to ask for any reward.

Summer Arrives

Our Mayor with James Gray MPSunday, 14th June. It was all go with the ongoing Victorian Cemetery tidy up. We are a small loyal group with Anne providing cakes for refreshment. I find the whole atmosphere very therapeutic and we all enjoy each other’s company and our achievements. Then it was back home as my own garden was open to the public to raise money for the Church. Next was a Civic Service in the beautiful Malmesbury Abbey where Wiltshire’s Mayors paraded in with the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, the High Sherriff, Lady Gooch and local MP, James Gray. The choir sang the Coronation Anthem ‘I was Glad.’ The sermon was given by a Lay Preacher - a local vet.

Monday, 15th June. Magna Carta – The Great Charter. This was Wiltshire Council celebrating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of this famously important document. Enormous Barons from towns all over the county descended on Salisbury. There was a splendid reception in the Guildhall and afterwards we were invited to join the parade. The Baron heads and costumes were mostly painted by Wiltshire’s schools and colleges and were magnificent with each town putting in their own personal artistic touch. As Mayor, I led our town group with painted banners depicting scenes from all around Marlborough. Our own Baron, influenced by Merlin, was designed and painted by students from St John’s Academy. How talented the young people of Marlborough are. 

MagnaCarta2captionedWe listened to a dialogue, beautifully read, about what Magna Carta stood for and its importance even in our lives today. This Magna Carta document has never left Wiltshire and is in the prized possession of Salisbury Cathedral where it can be viewed by everyone.

The evening ended with a very large Baron lighting a fire work display - a spectacular flame of wild horses and other displays emerging from the fire.

This was an event I shall never forget. I was very proud to represent Marlborough as its Mayor and be part of this historic event. My congratulation go to Jane Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council and her team together with Salisbury City Council for their hospitality.

marlbconcertorchestracustomLogoOn Saturday, 27th June, I had great pleasure attending The Marlborough Concert Orchestra’s Summer Concert where its enthusiastic conductor, Roselise Gentile, spurred the orchestra on to give of their best. The pieces of music played were varied and challenging.

armedforcesdayOn Sunday, 28th June, I went to Trowbridge to the Wiltshire Armed Forces and Veterans Celebrations. We were met at the car park and escorted around Trowbridge Park to view all the WW2 exhibits with each group presenting with pride. I watched the start up of the Spitfire and there was many a tear in the old RAF Veterans’ eyes. The hospitality was generous and we ended the day with The Rev Tony Gilbert, Wg Cdr, Ret’dtaking the service with the collection going to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

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July

mbg-logo-brandtWednesday, 1st July. I was invited to The Marlborough Brandt Group’s AGM where Director, Dr Nick Maurice, gave a rousing speech. Gambian members of the MBG partner organisation, the Kombo Sillah Association, based in Bristol were there as well as students from Marlborough College and St John’s Academy. A thought provoking address was given by Dr Isatou Touray of Gamcotrap on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This sensitive issue cannot be swept under the carpet but, has to be an ongoing campaign through education to communities to overcome the prejudice of tradition. 

scoutThursday, 2nd July. I was invited along to the Marlborough Scout Group’s AGM and listened to a talk on Child Sex Exploitation (CSE). There were also two young scouts, Megan and Mel, giving a preview of their forthcoming trip to Japan for a Scout Jamboree. What fabulous work our scouts and their leaders do. Tunisia-1-minute-silence

Friday, 3rd July.  Alongside fellow Councillors, members of staff and a representative from the police, the Mayor’s Chaplain, Dr David Campbell and I read prayers. We stood for 1 minute’s silence in respect of those victims of the terrorist attack in Tunisia the week before.  The flag was flown at half mast.

Sunday, 5th July. We had been gearing-up for Alice’s Enchanted Picnic for weeks. This took place in Priory Gardens and was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Caroll writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I made a Herald Rabbit and he stood at the entrance looking very regal!

The weather was kind to us and a large crowd gathered - Mums, Dads and Grannies too. All watched wonderful performances from the Marlborough Academy of Dance and Drama. The younger students danced as little white rabbits and the older ones gave us an interpretation of the lost Alice through jazz dance.

Anna Friend, our Artistic Director, co-produced the whole event with MTC. Her enthusiasm enabled her drama students to enter into the spirit of the Lewis Carroll story. They wore amazing costumes which really portrayed their individual characters as they mingled with picnickers and enjoyed the occasion. Wilton lent us some beautiful painted boards of Alice scenes which all helped to create the perfect atmosphere.  Cllr Alexander Kirk Wilson and Richard Jones, one of our MTC groundsmen, wore white rabbit suits and collected money for the Mayor’s Charity.

We appreciated all support given us, particularly the sponsorship from Tesco, all of which helped to make Alice’s Enchanted Picnic such an enjoyable community and family day.

Alex the White RabbitMayor in WonderlandAlice and Bubbles

 

MiB logo 400pxMonday, 6th July saw a Marlborough in Bloom community clear-up day where I with other volunteers pruned roses, hoed weeds in the Priory Gardens, and weeded cobbles in Patten Alley and litter picked throughout the town.CMUGsitemeeting8july

Wednesday, 8th July gave us a walk around Cooper’s Meadow with the new User’s Group. We took on board views and suggested improvements to the area, while looking too to protect the habitat of the water vole, a protected species. 

Tuesday, 14th July.  We all stood on the Town Hall steps waiting for the South West in Bloom judges, Jane Pagano and Kim Parish, to arrive. They were greeted with the Town Crier's welcoming voice ringing in everyone's ears and the bells of St Mary's also adding to the day's excitement.

DSC 1640The judges watched a photographic presentation by Eric Gilbert and listened to a running commentary by our Town Clerk about all the community work going on in Marlborough and its beautiful areas, with the High Street leading the way with its colourful baskets and tubs. The judges were then escorted around Marlborough by Anne and our Grounds and Estates Manager, Richard Beale.

With our In Bloom Chairman, Anne Crawley, dressed all in lemon and your Mayor in lime, citrus colours were the in-vogue colours for this year's theme. The little citrus touches in shop windows encouraged by new committee member, Diana Cooper, were evident. One shopper was overheard commenting that the shops certainly like citrus coloured clothing! Lots of window displays included small bouquets of flowers and bowls of lemons too.DSC 1662

A special champagne lunch was generously donated by the Polly Tearooms and a vintage Rolls Royce, complete with chauffeur, drove the judges on to see the It's Your Neighbourhood projects.

DSC 1673It was a fine day and the judges enjoyed seeing what Marlborough in Bloom was capable of achieving with community involvement. It only leaves me with judging the childrens' paintings from St Peter's school.

We are all now waiting until 24th September to hear what our efforts have scored.

Friday 17th July  My Mace Bearers escorted me to the Castle & Ball to join the celebrations and opening of this year's International Jazz Festival. Councillor Nick Fogg welcomed everyone, and my Chaplain, Rev Dr David Campbell, offered up a prayer which sounded very much like a song, cleverly using the words from a well known ABBA song! The BBC's Young Jazz Musician of the Year, Alexander Bone, officially opened the event and St John's Academy Jazz Band played too, which was appreciated by all.

In the evening I enjoyed a reception in the magnificent garden at the Merchant's House hosted by Wiltshire Life.

Thursday, 30 July - The Mayor’s Team versus Marlborough Cricket Club.

Punchs Book of Sports 1The Mayor’s team arrived slightly shambolic but, enthusiastic on a lovely summer evening at Marlborough Cricket Club and ready to take on the opposing team.

Some team members arrived without any cricket gear, one Councillor looking as if he had just stepped out from the Indian Raj and (I suspect) neither one having much knowledge on how to play or the rules of the game.

We were fortunate to have 2 members from 4MI Battalion to add gravitas and give some format to the batting order. The opposition were in first and we made some fine catches but their hitting prowess proved to be too good and they soon chalked up runs which was never going to be easy to beat.

Cllr Cook, when he could find some pads that actually fitted him, managed to hit a respectable 6 and avoided having his teeth knocked out from flying balls. We had hoped to have put Cllr Kirk Wilson in as the night watchman but, as he was bowled out in style for a duck it was not to be. The Marlborough Club team played very well and deserved their win. The game was played in good spirit and I presented the cup and thanked Marlborough Cricket Club for their invitation asking for 3 cheers for the Mayor’s Team who had played to the best of their ability. 

 

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