Next Parish Council Meeting

The next parish council meeting will be held on Thursday 21st October 2021 in Hermitage Church and starting at 7.30pm. . 

The public are welcome to attend however, anyone wishing to speak in the open forum should let the clerk know, no less than 48hrs in advance to arrange participation.

For the protection of all concerned, HPC askes that only those who have been fully vaccinated attend meetings.

Meetings are generally held on the 3rd Thursday of each month, in the Adelaide meeting room at the back of Hermitage Church and starting at 7.30pm.

RBFRS Encourages the Installation of Sprinklers as part of National Sprinkler Week

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service is supporting this week’s National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) National Sprinkler Week campaign (17 – 23 May), promoting the benefits of sprinklers in keeping people and buildings safe from fire.

Sprinklers are widely recognised as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages.

Sprinkler systems can also protect property and increase sustainability, but more critically, they can save lives, including the lives of firefighters. The installation of sprinklers means that firefighters will respond to smaller incidents.

Research by the NFCC and National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) found that when a sprinkler system operates, they extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions. As a result, sprinklers reduce injuries by at least 80% and reduce property damage by 90%.

Tregear Thomas, Area Manager for Prevention and Protection, said: “Despite the misconceptions, sprinklers are highly reliable systems, which are proven to prevent the spread of fire or even fully extinguish it before the fire and rescue service arrive, as well as reducing the risk of injury.

“Sprinklers are a hugely effective way of saving lives and protecting property and the environment, so we would encourage building owners and developers to install sprinklers where possible to help reduce the impact of fire.”

Councillor Colin Dudley, Chairman of Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, said: “During this week it is important that we actively promote the benefits of sprinkler systems across Royal Berkshire. Sprinkler systems are an excellent means of containing or extinguishing fires before firefighters even arrive at the property, but more crucially and critically – they save lives.”

Despite the benefits of sprinkler systems, some may have reservations due to a number of misconceptions. Some of these are:

  • Sprinklers are hugely expensive.
    Actually, the cost of installing sprinklers is roughly equivalent to carpeting the same building in new buildings. However, damage from fires can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds – sometimes running into millions of pounds. Losses from fires in buildings protected with sprinklers, in comparison, is estimated to be one-tenth of those in unprotected buildings. Fitting sprinklers can save money in some areas – insurers will often offer premium discounts to premises with sprinkler systems, and policy excesses may be lower.
  • When there is a fire all the sprinkler heads go off at once. 
    Each head is independent and only the head(s) adjacent to the fire go off as the heads are activated by heat and not smoke.
  • Sprinklers can go off accidentally.
    Records show that the chance of an accidental discharge from a sprinkler is in the region of 16 million to one. They will only go off if there is a fire which increases the heat beyond the defined sprinkler trigger point (typically 135 to 165°F (57.2 to 73.9°C).

  • Water damage is as bad as the fire damage.
    A typical sprinkler discharges 55 litres per minute. A firefighting hose discharges over 600 litres per minute. You can expect a sprinkler to discharge less than 5% of the water used by the fire and rescue service.

To find out more about sprinklers and their benefits, download the Think Sprinkler Brochure.

Any business seeking advice on fire safety can also contact their local Fire Safety Office, the details of which are available online: Safety at Work website page.

Enjoy the great Berkshire countryside safely

Enjoy the fresh, spring air safely by following these top tips when out and about in the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

With more people enjoying the outdoors than ever before, Natural England have refreshed the Countryside Code , it has been revised to help people enjoy the countryside in a safe and respectful way. Here’s what you need to know:


  • Please respect those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside. Be sure to be nice, say hello and share the space.
  • Make sure you keep to the footpaths to help protect crops and wildlife.
  • Leave gates and property as you find them.
  • Slow down or stop for horses, walkers and farm animals and give them plenty of room.
  • Don’t block gateways, driveways or paths with your vehicle.
  • If you’re on your bike, give way to walkers and horse-riders on bridleways.
  • Keep away from machinery and farm animals.
  • If you’re worried about something, try to alert the farmer.
  • Although you might think you are being kind, feeding animals can cause them harm. Please do not feed livestock, horses or wild animals.

Bus shelter replacement opposite the school

With reference to replacing the bus shelter opposite the school, at its regular meeting last night (15th April) Hermitage Parish Council considered carefully all the points raised, and comments made, by members of the public and thanks them all for their contributions. A fuller statement will be published on the web site by close of play on Monday.

Consideration of the design of a replacement shelter was deferred to enable the council to prepare the statement mentioned above.

Please remember that parish councillors are volunteers and are not always able to provide a response to questions and comments immediately.

HPC began discussing the dilapidated state of the bus shelter opposite the school approximately one year ago. A decision was made to replace it and work to find a suitable new one began. For a number of reasons this took longer than expected as it had been thought that the new one would be put in place last summer.

In light of recent comments from some residents, the council decided to take another vote and again decided in favour of finding a replacement. Some residents have made it plain that they disapprove of this decision. When it was made councillors were aware that 22 people had objected to a replacement and seven supported it. Both of these are small proportions of the electorate of 1426 people. A petition was received with 71 names, of which only 50 were electors, but did not say what the petition question was. 

A decision on the design and materials of the new shelter will take place at a future council meeting. The previous bus shelter lasted for 53 years. If a £5000 replacement lasts as long, it will have cost less than £95 a year, less than 7p per elector per annum.

HPC is mindful of the antisocial behaviour that took place in the old bus shelter and has been in touch with Berkshire Youth, Community Support Officers and Thames Valley Police. When the new bus shelter design is being discussed ASB will be uppermost in consideration, particularly with the distress it has caused to the nearest neighbour.

Updates to West Berkshire community transport services in Newbury and Thatcham

13 April 2021

Following the announcement that Community Transport Service ReadiBus will soon cease to provide their transport services in Newbury and Thatcham, West Berkshire Council has provided an update on alternative services that are available for local residents who are unable to use public transport due to poor health or mobility issues. Community Transport Services provide transport for eligible people to attend medical appointments, go shopping or to visit friends and relatives (as Covid-19 restrictions allow).

Community transport groups operating in Newbury and Thatcham include:

  • Thatcham Volunteer Bureau: operates a Car Scheme for residents living in and around Thatcham – including Hermitage, Cold Ash, Crookham, and Woolhampton. Bookings can be made by calling: 01635 862306 between 10am and 12 noon Monday to Friday.
  • Volunteer Centre West Berkshire (VCWB): operates a Handybus and a Car Scheme within Newbury and the surrounding areas, contact:
  • Car Scheme on: 01635 49004 between 10am and 1pm Monday to Friday (people requiring assistance to attend medical appointments should contact the Car Scheme rather than Handybus)
  • Handybus (available from mid-April), phone: 01635 37111 between 9am and 1pm Monday to Thursday. 
  • Shopmobility (available from mid-April), phone: 01635 523854 between 10am and 3pm Monday to Saturday. 

Eligible residents using the Community Car Scheme or Handybus (minibus) will be asked to make a contribution towards the cost of the service. The fee will be discussed whilst making a booking.  When possible, service users are asked to give at least three days’ notice prior to a journey being made.

Information on all community transport schemes operating in West Berkshire, along with details on other local groups, can be found on the Council’s website https://info.westberks.gov.uk/communitytransport

Anyone with specific needs or requiring more information can contact the Council’s Transport Team by email: Transport@westberks.gov.uk or by phone: 01635 519394. 


Patient Info Sheet Issue No: 012 (March 2021)

Welcome to the Downland Practice patient info sheet.  This edition will concentrate on the following issues:

  1. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
  2. COVID-19 Vaccinations
  3. Volunteers COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

The current COVID situation is still very unpredictable, the surgery is constantly monitoring this issue and will adjust the service according to the severity of the COVID-19 spread of infection.   The current situation is being managed as best as we can, all patients must wear a face mask when attending the surgery (unless they are exempt).  Updates on the Downland Practice can be found at the practice website news section www.downlandpractice.nhs.uk.  

COVID-19 Vaccinations  

This vaccination programme will continue from the Newbury Racecourse for the immediate future, please note the vaccines are sent to the site not requested, we do not know the arrival dates of the vaccine till about a week before the clinic, this is why we cannot book clinics too far in advance.  Patients who have been invited to the mass vaccination centres (Oxford/Reading/Basingstoke) for Covid-19 vaccination are strongly advised to take this offer up as soon as they can rather than waiting for the practice to offer a vaccination.  If you have received a vaccine at a mass vaccination centre then they will call you forward for your second dose too book your vaccination at the below link.  Updates on the Downland Practice can be found at the practice website news section www.downlandpractice.nhs.uk


If you have had your first Covid-19 vaccination at the Racecourse or at a GP Practice then you will need to wait until you are called forward for your second vaccination by the GP Practice.  If you try and book your second vaccination with the above link this will not work unless you have had your first vaccination at the mass vaccination centre.  If you have a concern or any problems with the above link then contact  vaccinedq.issues@nhs.net or ring 0300 200 1000.  

Volunteers COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics

Thank you to all of the volunteers whom have come forward to assist in this project. 

Anyone who has contacted the practice about volunteering and has not received a reply should contact the Volunteer team at the below mail address.  Your help is much appreciated by the team at the Racecourse and the patients who are coming in for COVID-19 Vaccinations.


New Social Prescriber

Sadly Karen Thomas has resigned from her post of social prescriber, we wish her well in the future.  We do welcome Nicky Agar who will be taking up the post of social prescriber in April 2021.  This post will be based out of Compton and Nicky will be seeing patients who are in need of social care and input, we are looking forward to Nicky joining the team.

New Paramedic

Martin Hambling joins the Team in Mid-March 2021, Martin will be working closely with the GP’s to provide patients with on the day care.  Once Martin is established he will be screening all of the on the day requests from patients and he will be administering treatment with in his scope of practice, he will be fully supported by the Duty Doctor.  Martin will be undertaking the screening of patients via telephone call initially, if he then feels that they patient needs to attend the surgery then he will arrange for this to happen.  This is a big change for the surgery but the aim here is to free up GP time so that the GP’s can have more time for routine appointments.  Martin comes from a Primary Care background and is used to dealing with patients who need to be seen on the day for their primary health care needs.

Pharmacy Disruption June 2021

The Pharmacy will be undergoing some planned infrastructure work in June 2021.  This will involve the Pharmacy moving into a temporary accommodation that will be situated in the surgery car park.  It is anticipated that work will take about 6 weeks to be fully complete.  There will be some work required at the end of May and we will be updating our patients on the process that will change during this period.  We will still be processing medication from the Pharmacy during this planned infrastructure work in June 2021.  The temporary pharmacy will arrive around the 28 May 2021 and will be open for business on the 1 June 2021.