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Columnist John Bone with his take on Newmarket's week

The battle lines are drawn up for a contentious war over the huge solar farm around villages in the Chippenham area in 2021.

I’ve already expressed my doubts about total opposition to such a scheme. In the wider picture I see some merit and a certain inevitability. But over the holiday it crossed my mind that there is another way of seeing the whole issue and it is a way that seems so fanciful that opponents will dismiss it as simply silly.

Let me explain. Put yourself in the position of an inhabitant of the beautiful and culturally rich valleys of South Wales in the late 19th century when England and its Industrial Revolution were hungry for coal.

Solar panels could cover farmland surrounding local villages
Solar panels could cover farmland surrounding local villages

It did not take long for those enchanting valleys to look like the mouth of Hell that as we pillaged the pits to fuel our Fleet, our factories, our farm machinery and our kitchen fires. We forgot those valleys and they have never really recovered. I remember visiting the once-lovely Ebw Vale and feeling appalled and ashamed.

Is it entirely insane to draw a parallel with Chippenham today?Renouncing filthy coal the nation needs clean, renewable power and sunny Suffolk’s borders look a super spot. Is it our turn to be despoiled for the greater good? To play our part in saving the planet?After all, when sun-power goes out of fashion, as it will, the farmland will still be there to be more readily restored than Ebw Vale ever was.

Call me barmy if you like but admit there is a certain poetic symmetry in my theory.


As if things weren’t bad enough here’s a dismal thought for the property market in 2021. We are used to agents quoting rateable values, eco statistics, post codes and all the rest of a home’s virtual statistics.

But as Matt Hancock and his advisors hedge their bets on infection rates, can we expect soon to see properties that are not only ‘in a sought-after’ village but also in ‘a desirable Covid-19 lockdown area’? Being in Tier 2 could be worth thousands.

If drinks parties were not a pleasure of the past, would we hear whispered gossip about some bounder sneaking in from a deadly Tier 5 zone?


Flouting Covid rules has a criminal similarity with drink and drug-driving. It is a case of endangering others with a blithe disregard for human life or health.

Over the years, our society has come to see drink-driving as a sin against us all and we act to denounce those who endanger us.We intervene to keep a drunk from his or her car. We stop it happening. Have we yet reached that stage with Covid? I admit I have witnessed the most flagrant breaches including a dozen people holding a family reunion in a public place, fondly kissing and cuddling where others were trying to get past them. I did nothing.Now if I had suspected any of the drivers was drunk it might have been different.


It was already great, useful and glamorous but the East Anglian Air Ambulance Service did not need the Duke of Cambridge to secure our esteem welcome though he was. This is a moment amid so much turmoil to pause and give thanks for a service we have paid for with our pennies and pounds for 20 years.

It is hard to believe there was a time when some injured fen farm worker had little hope of speedy rescue or when a driver in a ditch far from hospital would, quite simply, die for lack of a life-saving lift.

In its 20 years the service has completed 30,000 missions. There can be no region in England where such a service is needed more than ours with its sparse, scattered population. If you have any booze left in the house from Christmas and New Year, drink a toast to the East Anglian Air Ambiance Service and drop a fiver in their bucket.


It was an inspired idea for the National Horseracing Museum to stage an exhibition of sports talk and how it has infiltrated our everyday language without our realising the original sense of our words.

Seafarers’ talk is even deeper in our conversation (do you know where ‘on the fiddle’ or ‘show a leg’ come from?) but sport is a big influence in the conversation of people who never read the back pages. It was equally inspired to take children from All Saint’s primary to see the show.

I wish more of us realised how the words we use casually every day are rich with the history of our forefathers, every sentence stuffed with geography, politics, religion, warfare, farming, art and all aspects of lives lived longago surviving in today’s talk. That knowledge would bring more respect for one of the best blessings England has given the would – our language.