Category Archives: News

Quit village speeding. Slow down before it’s too late

Speed Limit what?
Speed Limit what? (Photo credit: mahiskali)

Just the other day, in my capacity as a parish councillor, I was asked by a concerned resident of the village to bring up an item on speeding at the next meeting. It transpires that a rather well-known individual was allegedly recognised by them speeding through this part of the shire – one Mr Jeremy Clarkson – presenter of BBC TV’s Top Gear programme, author and newspaper columnist.

A quote from a piece that Jez wrote on the Top Gear website a few years back talking about radar detectors and the joys of driving fast gives us some insight, if any were needed, into his attitude towards speeding: “…the real reason we are attracted to radar detectors has absolutely nothing to do with safety. It’s because, theoretically, they allow us to drive at one million mph through a village,  safe in the knowledge that Plod isn’t hiding round the next corner in his Fiat van […]

“[…]Only the other day, on the television, I joked that I’d never buy a car because it protected pedestrians well in an accident. There are, I explained, more important things to worry about, like how fast it goes and what it looks like. And, of course, the next week, I had a barrage of mail from people whose children had been run over and killed. Each one made me feel absolutely fucking dreadful.”

And so it should Mr C. On rural village roads, with blind bends and build-outs, close to schools and other amenities speed limits are set with everyone’s safety in mind. The total length of a speed restriction on a stretch of village through-road might only be a few hundred yards or so. What’s the point of speeding through it? Something will slow you up on the way through so why not drive smoothly through at the speed limits. Just exercise a little patience and consideration? You’ll get out and on your way in no time.

The same goes for all the selfish gits – most of whom are residents old and new – whose lives are apparently so much more important than the safety of the kids, parents, the elderly, cyclists, horse riders etc that also use the road. Not to mention their own personal well-being. Tractors coming round blind bends with the sun behind them on bright winters’ mornings tend to be almost invisible and provide a fairly terminal barrier when hit head on at speeds even as low as 20 mph.

Castor church to host Peterborough’s first Rock Mass

Castor Church Rock Mass
An exciting rock music-based spiritual event is coming to St Kyneburgha’s Church, Castor on Friday 9 March. The church is the venue for Peterborough’s first Rock Mass.

An exciting rock music-based spiritual event is coming to Peterborough in March. St Kyneburgha’s Church, Castor is hosting Peterborough’s first Rock Mass on Friday 9 March.

Starting at 7:30 pm, the combined concert and service at the popular village church is designed to appeal to teenagers but there is no minimum age – all are welcome. The mass will feature rock, pop and blues music along with a traditional Eucharist – with a twist.

Central to the mass is the theme of love. The service will focus on the theme through music from bands like Kings of Leon, Florence and the Machine, Led Zeppelin and Free as well as live music from local rock outfit The Odyssey.

The music sets will be punctuated with short spoken passages and the necessary religious and spiritual aspects of a mass and singing accompanied by the live band.

Commenting on the event Rector of St Kyneburgha’s, Rev. Canon William Burke said: “It has long been an ambition of mine to hold a rock mass in the church. The spiritual well-being of our young people is vital in an age where there are so many distractions.

“What better way to encourage youth of all ages to get in touch with their spiritual side than through the music that speaks most to them? It promises to be a very exciting evening.”

Beer and a curry will be available after the mass. The service is free to attend but there will be a £3 cover charge for drinks and food and a collection for the Teenage Cancer Trust .

St Kyneburgha’s is one of England’s finest parish churches. It has great acoustics and has been used for several live blues gigs promoted by the nationally recognised Shakedown Blues club. The Shakedown Blues team is fully supporting this event with professional PA and sound mixing, staging and lighting. The mass will also be filmed by an independent film production company.

Tickets for the Rock Mass are priced at £3:00 each or two for £5:00, available through the Parish Office. Phone the Parish Office on 01733 380900 or email It’s likely to be a popular event so early booking is advised.

70 years today since Churchill’s ‘worst disaster’ – Lest we forget

English: The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - J...
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On 15 February 1942 the Japanese Imperial Army over ran Singapore – the British Empire’s jewel in its South East Asian crown – and took prisoner over 100,000 British and Commonwealth military personnel in the process. My dad was one of those. What followed was over three years of privation, maltreatment, torture, disease etc.  Almost unimaginable by today’s standards.

My dad served as an officer with the 2nd Battalion The Loyal Regiment and was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore in February 1942. He spent the following three years being moved around from Changi to Keijo in Korea then to Omori and Tokyo in Japan. He survived appalling treatment (although he was relatively lucky compared to those in forced labour camps on the Thailand/Burma railway for example). There were many others throughout SE Asia. He was also lucky enough to be in the first wave of POWs to be liberated.

He embarked on HMS Speaker to Manila. From there he was flown to San Francisco then shipped home. He remained in the Loyals at a holding depot in Preston until late 1946 when he was de-mobbed.

I recently watched a programme on BBC 2 Scotland about the fall of Singapore. If you’re interested you can watch it here. Ever had the feeling that you shouldn’t watch something because you know it’s going to irritate you but you watch it anyway only to discover that you were right.  It isn’t surprising that, as a Scottish/Australian co-production, this programme was going to be biased in favour of the Jocks. And on the whole its big picture was accurate – but the devil is in the detail. Heroic Scots and plucky ‘Diggers’ betrayed by ineffectual British ‘brass’ and traitorous native and Indian army deserters with not an English unit in sight. Not entirely true.

At one point the narrator gleefully points out that the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were the ‘only jungle trained unit’ to fight in the Malaya campaign. Nonsense. While it is true that their CO Lt Col Ian Stewart insisted they were well-trained in jungle warfare techniques and well acclimatised to the tropics and fought valiant rearguard actions as the British retreated down the Malay peninsula and back to the Island, they were not the ‘only’ unit trained to do so. Lt Col Elrington’s 2nd Battalion The Loyals were also well-trained jungle troops but were frustrated by poor senior staff decisions and retained in ‘Fortress Reserve’. When they were eventually sent into action the retreat had already begun. They were forced back by poor leadership at brigade level and eventually ended up back on Singapore defending their own barracks. They too were let down by allied troops, in this case Australian forces that abandoned positions leaving their lines fatally exposed.

While the Argylls may have been the last across the causeway from Johore to Singapore before it was blown up, the Loyals fired the last shots at the enemy before Percival surrendered. They were all brave men – heroes all – and should never be forgotten. While this episode of WWII might not be as ‘fashionable’ as some they fought and died just as hard.

A fete worse than death?

This weekend sees another Castor Summer festival, village fete and church patronal festival.

It will all start tonight with a £10 dinner and dance with the One Eyed Cats  providing the entertainment.

The fun will continue tomorrow with the Scouts Big Breakfast from 8:00 til 10:00, the U30s vs  O30s footy at Ailsworth rec and the fete in the afternoon.

The weekend is rounded off with spiritual reflection at the patronal service at St Kyneburgha’s.

See you there.

Budding snappers to create a picture of Castor life

Keen photographers are being invited to take part in a venture that could help build up a picture of village life in Castor.

Linden Homes – developer of Drover’s Mead – is challenging the people of Castor and those who have an association with the village to capture its best bits on film.

The images will be judged by a Linden Homes panel. Prizes will be awarded for the best before a selection of the top photographs are displayed in the sales and marketing suite.

Linden Homes sales and marketing director Steve Garton said: “We believe this will be an excellent way of not only engaging with the local community but will produce some fabulous images which we may even be able to us as part of our promotion of the village as a fantastic place to live.”

The competition is open to all ages, and the photos can depict all aspects of village life. Entrants can submit up to three emailed JPEG images by sending them to

Prizes will include £250 photographic voucher for the winner and £150 for two runners-up.

Deadline for entries is Friday 15 July 2011.

Personally, I’m not keen on promoting the unsympathetic over-developement of villages, as this can lead to the destruction of that which makes it an attractive place to live in the first place. However, I do applaud the sentiment that it can build up a valuable photographic record of modern village life for future residents to enjoy so fill your boots.

Oundle Festival of Literature line up announced

Section of the traffic light controlled single...
Image via Wikipedia

The ninth Oundle Festival of Literature gets underway on 12 March.

Its diverse lineup of events and writers includes Whittlesey actor Warwick Davis, popular historian Michael Wood, historical novelist Simon Scarrow, sports writer and Daily Telegraph columnist Sue Mott and food writer Rose Prince.

It looks like there really is something for everyone. Looking forward to it.

Selznick and Scorcese: The Invention of Hugo Cabret in 3D shoots in Castor

Nene Valley Railway - Castor
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Driving home last night a bright light suspended in the sky caught my attention. From the top of Love’s Hill it looked like a UFO hovering over Normangate field. Further investigation revealed that it was a large flood light illuminating a section of the Nene Valley Railway at the bottom of Station Road.  The railway and the trees and brush either side of the track were thrown into stark relief against the moonlit night.

Villagers out and about over the past few days have  spotted a film crew in the area. It turns out that they were setting up to film parts of Martin Scorcese’s new 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick‘s Hugo Cabret. That’s what the flood lights were for.

Rumours that Jude Law is in area have been rife.  Sorry to disappoint. According to a spokesman at Nene Valley Railway, the crew was only filming technical shots of moving locomotives and rolling stock for the movie. None of the film’s stars were involved in the shoot, he said. Two wagons from the railway have also been taken down to Shepperton Studios where they have been used in filming on set.

The movie should be something to look forward to. The screenplay is by John Logan – who wrote screenplays for films including Gladiator (2000), Sweeny Todd (2007), The Last Samurai (2003), Any Given Sunday (1999) and The Aviator (2004) and is producing the screenplay for Bond 23. It is adapted from the children’s story The Invention of Hugo Cabret by author and illustrator Brian Selznick. Directed by Martin Scorcese the film has a stellar English cast including Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths and Sacha Baron-Cohen. It is due for release in December and with a production team and cast like that on board it can only be a hit. Surely.

Anyway, it’s just another moment of stardom on the silver screen for Castor. See the post Pierce Brosnan Drank in my Local from 26 June 2010.

Save our pubs – use ’em or lose ’em


Nearly 900 pubs closed down in rural Britain last year. It’s a clear indication that traditional village life is under threat of extinction in many parts of the country – including ours.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has revealed that 893 pubs closed in rural areas last year, with 195 new boozers opening – leading to a net loss of 698 in 2009. The previous year, an estimated 650 country pubs called last orders on their businesses.

This is despite ICM polling commissioned by the Federation showing 82% of country dwellers say a pub is an important part of a village, including 46% who say it is ‘very important’.

Village shops are also in rapid decline with around 400 closing in 2008, while schools closed at the rate of one a month in rural England between 1997 and 2008.

The Federation said the mass closures reflected a declining demand for services in villages where local families – the core customer base – had been priced out of the area by wealthy commuters, pensioners and second home owners.

Federation chief executive David Orr said: “The cornerstones of traditional village life, such as the local school, the shop and the pub, are disappearing from the rural landscape at an alarming rate. 

“Rural towns and villages need to have mixed, working communities, otherwise there is a very real danger our countryside will become little more than a theme park for weekenders.

Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive, added: “Along with local shops, post offices and schools, village pubs are pivotal to the life of local communities across Britain. Pubs act as much more than a social venue. They are a focal point for sports teams, local groups and meetings. In addition they provide a range of community services like post offices and shops.  We need a climate that allows these community businesses to thrive.” 

Mike Benner, CAMRA chief executive, said: “There is a pressing need for the Government to support community pubs and other local services, which is why CAMRA has praised moves by Nigel Adams MP to bring forward a new Parliamentary Bill with the potential to empower local communities threatened with the loss of local landmarks such as the pub. 

“Such potentially groundbreaking legislation could help to redress the current crippling UK pub closures, but there is still a huge amount of work to be done to prevent rural communities from losing their irreplaceable social hubs.”

Part of the problem is the ‘Tesco-isation’ of every aspect of our lives. Cheap booze, cheap tellies, microwave curries. Many people now prefer to sit indoors sipping a chardonnay and munching their microwave dinners, watching strictly or updating Facebook – rather than spend a couple of hours in the pub actually talking to people. Pubs are under threat because they can’t compete on price with the supermarkets. But they can compete as a social hub – and we don’t really want to bring about the redundancy of face to face human interaction.

Over the years many pubs have gone; The Wheatsheaf (house), The Barley Mow (flats), The Dragon (house), The Fitzwilliam Arms (now Fratellis). The by-pass has reduced passing trade but the population of the village can still sustain two pubs.

I have it on good authority that one of our two remaining pubs could close if the lack of use continues. And the first to complain when it goes will be those that live locally but never involve themselves in village life and visit the pub once a year for a Christmas pint.

So – use it or lose it.


Cold case Castor

Damp area at Castor Hanglands NNR, England
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The village is turning into a location from Waking the Dead or Midsomer Murders – take your pick. 

Last week two men were arrested and subsequently bailed in relation to the murder of Peterborough girl Sally Ann McGrath. She was last seen at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough in 1981 before her body was found by a local gamekeeper in Wild Boar Spinney, part of Castor Hanglands – just up the road.

 The body had lain undiscovered for some time before it was found. It had been in a shallow grave and when it was found it had been partially uncovered and pulled around by foxes. That was back in 1981 and the case has remained unsolved. But the case has been re-opened because of new evidence possibly linking it to a series of other rapes and assaults that occurred in and around Peterborough from the mid to late 1970s. 

But this wasn’t the only murder to darken the mood of the villages that year. In November 1981 Bill McCullough, a well-known local businessman, was found murdered in his bed – shot in the head while he slept. 

This was the notorious ‘Kiss of Death’ murder. McCullough had met a former beauty queen and businesswoman Muriel while on holiday and after a whirlwind romance they married. 

Things soon turned sour though when she realised that he wasn’t as cash rich as he had promised her he was. She arranged his murder in a contract-style killing. She kissed him goodbye and left home on a business trip on the day the murder was carried out. 

It was soon discovered, however. Liverpudlian scallies asking for directions in The Wheatsheaf stood out a bit from the local crowd. And, as the beneficiary of McCullough’s life insurance, the finger of suspicion soon pointed at Muriel. 

Police enquiries led them to shooter James Collingwood. Both he and Muriel McCullough were arrested and subsequently sentenced to life prison sentences. 

But there have been other slayings tenuously linked to the village. The killer of a Peterborough cabbie, who directed the driver to a secluded country lane before stabbing him to death, was seen walking through the village shortly after his nefarious deed. 

Later, in December 2002, there was a gruesome discovery of a man’s body at Dead Man’s Hollow, Upton. He was wrapped in a green blanket and a cream-coloured bedspread, and was wearing a blue T-shirt, a dark jumper, trousers, socks but no shoes, and a jacket with brass buttons. The man had been shot in the head, stabbed and then set alight. 

After a year of forensic work he was identified as an Armenian gangster called Sako who had been wanted for murder in Russia and Belgium. Two Armenians, one of whom worked with Sako at a factory in Kings Lynn, were convicted of his murder almost three years later. 

1981 might have been a year inept contract killers, black widows and a fear of strangers, but it was also the year I was taking my ‘O’ Levels so it all kind of passed me by at the time.

The things I find at work

It’s funny what you come across as part of the working day. I found this the other day. 

According to a survey carried out by TNS Omnibus on behalf of charity partnership Toilet Twinning for World Toilet Day (I bet you didn’t know there was one), the smallest room in the house is a hive of activity. In addition to the obvious, people tend to do three different things while they’re on the loo. 

A quarter of us (8.9 million) take our phones in with us – to chat, text, email or update Facebook and Twitter. I confess to checking Facebook and posting the odd toilet tweet. 

Toilet going is seemingly a social experience as 5.5 million people (14 per cent) confess to chatting on the loo. Women are apparently more likely to chat in person – because when they’re out they ususally go to the loo in groups, while men tend to chat on the phone – because they don’t. 

It also seems we’re partial to toilet playtime too. One in ten (3.6 million) of us reach for a personal games console, crossword or Sudoku. 

But reading is the nation’s top toilet habit – with 12 million people (32 per cent) reaching for a newspaper, book or magazine. I for one enjoy a good read in the bog because it’s the only place in the house that I can get any peace and quiet. 

Toilet Twinning’s survey was commissioned with a serious message in mind. One in three people worldwide lack a clean and safe toilet to use. Toilet Twinning is a partnership between development charities Tearfund and Cord to improve access to decent sanitation, clean water and prevent the spread of disease in some of the world’s poorest communities.