BRAKESPEARE: Man fined for having sex in Ely Cathedral grounds as Fenland goes bonkers for conkers

Lunch at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel in March is also up for grabs, while UKIP gets set to elect its new eastern region leader.

Eat’s a great competition

HERE’S a generous offer open to all my readers today – the chance to enjoy a sumptuous Sunday lunch for two at one of Fenland’s leading venues.

Rob Skoulding, manager of the Oliver Cromwell Hotel, in March, has offered the prize to celebrate the re-opening of High Street, March, after it was shut for gas works.

The closure devastated trade for many of Rob’s fellow traders along the High Street and I promised to help publicise the fact that for him, and many others, it is again business as usual.

Rob, who when I spoke to him this week was giving serious consideration to entering the political arena to fight for the town in the light of threatened car park charges, believes both March residents and businesses deserve better from their political masters.

We shall wait and see but, in the meantime, Sunday lunch!

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To be in with a chance of winning this prize either drop me an e-mail or send me a letter or postcard with the correct answer to this question:

How many days was High Street, March, closed for the gas works to be completed?

Write to me c/o Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard at 51 High Street, March, PE15 9JJ, or e-mail

I’ll draw the winning entry in 10 days and notify the lucky entrant.

Swallow my leader

WHILE on the subject of lunch, it might be difficult to fit in for those attending a Peterborough hotel on Sunday to listen to the four candidates vying to be UKIP leader.

Hustings for the eastern region take place at the Best Western Orton Hall Hotel, but with a 12.30pm for 1pm start lunch could be a hurried affair.

UKIP county councillor Peter Reeve is getting very excited about the �occasion, even pointing out to supporters the hotel has a “bar and restaurant that are open all day”.

Your diarist has only ever met one of the candidates, David Campbell Bannerman, when we lunched together in Fenland earlier this year and rather liked him.

I recall he had a neat collection of political one-liners which had me chuckling for the rest of the day.

The bare facts

HOW very unfair, you may conclude, that a young man should be fined �130 for having sex in the grounds of Ely Cathedral when, but a year ago, a similar incident at Windsor Castle produced nothing more than a police caution.

In the case of Windsor, the couple’s identity was even withheld, although we do know the couple were drunk and, although watched by scores of onlookers, were not arrested by the Queen’s Royal Protection Squad members for a full 20 minutes.

Described as “respectable people with respectable jobs”, the couple were kept in police cells overnight before being cautioned for outraging public decency.

Unhappily, perhaps, Stephen Neal will have to carry the stigma of arrest and public vilification for some time after his appearance before Ely magistrates for similar behaviour.

Legal eagers...

LAWYER magazine reports that the newly-merged Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire county councils’ legal departments have appointed a director of legal services.

The job has gone to Cambridgeshire’s Quentin Baker, who was up against his counterpart at Northants, Penny Osborne for the top post.

Quentin tells the magazine: “Going forward, I and Penny will be reviewing our circumstances and making sure we have the structure that best meets the needs of our teams.

“There are lots of economies of scale to be gained, such as through purchasing single case management systems,” he says.

“There’s also a benefit for services. We can have greater depth of specialism. The two authorities have an external spend of �2million – if we could cut that by �500,000 we’d be happy.”

The sort of optimism, of course, that helps to win you the top job.

Lime & reason

MOST of us will, at some time, have been bothered by something over which we have no control and just sat back and done nothing about it.

Not so John Brierley, of College Gardens, March, who grew exceedingly tired of five lime trees outside his home which created “excessive shading” and shed leaves into his front garden.

He has applied to have the trees felled, claiming they have not been looked after by Fenland District Council on behalf of their owners, Cambridgeshire County Council.

A couple of hurdles in his way, of course, one being the offending trees are subject to Tree Preservation Orders.

The second? He has had to apply to Fenland Council for permission to fell them.

The council has yet to reach a decision but it’s a comfort to know Mr Brierley hasn’t had to spend any of his own cash to date – the application lodged with the council is labelled ‘no fee’.

March Town Council has no objection to his proposals but I’m still intrigued by one document in the case to which �neither I, nor you, are entitled to access.

The report is headed: ‘Confidential Information In file at Fenland Hall’.

Course work

SINCE 2005, hare coursing has, as you may recall, been illegal.

But I remain amazed by the numbers still involved, the relative youth of those taking part and the costs of policing.

Last weekend alone, two separate clampdowns by Cambs police resulted in 11 arrests, including a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old, both passengers in a Subaru Legacy tracked by the police helicopter and stopped near Deeping St James.

“The latest incidents show the value of the force helicopter in rural policing,” says Sgt Jo Reeves. “We were able to search a much larger area in a short time.”

Some have never reconciled themselves to the outlawing of hare coursing.

Researching its history this week to explain to a young colleague its origin, I see many country organisations still insist on calling this reprehensible practice a “rural sport”.

Meanwhile, Sgt Reeves says they will continue to hunt the hunters and say this year has been a record year for arrests “mainly due to the fact people have been calling police to report suspicious activity”.

They’re just bonkers over conkers

TO Wisbech, where the Lions staged the annual Fenland Conker Championships which attracted a respectable 60 �competitors to the Oasis Centre to watch various battles commence.

Congratulations to David Evans, from the Funlanders’ team, for winning the men’s title, and to Sue Burgess, of March Catholic Church, who retained the ladies’ title she won last year.

“This was the first time in 10 years that anyone had managed to retain their title,” said one of the organisers, Ray Hill.

Entrants came from far and wide, including Peterborough, Whittlesey, Littleport, March, King’s Lynn and Holbeach, as well as Wisbech itself.

Former world champion Ady Hurrell, of Whittlesey, also took part but luck was against him... he didn’t even manage to get past the quarter finals.

Mr Hill described the men’s singles final between Mr Evans and John Ellis with some excitement.

“John did not get a chance to show his skills as David Evans smashed his opponent’s nut with the very first strike of the match to the amazement of the spectators,” he said.

Four Lions members will be heading to Oundle on Sunday for the world conker championships, which your diarist first attended as a youngster.

It promises, as always, to be thrilling encounter.

Among those attending from Wisbech will be Kevin Rodgers, whose withdrawal from Friday’s competition was relayed to me by Lions Club members from March.

“Wisbech Lions could have won this year but their star player, Kevin Rodgers, was injured during preparation for the competition,” said Trevor Stockbridge.

“While drilling holes in the conkers, Kevin slipped and drilled his finger instead.”

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