Saturday 4th June 2011
The town has missed out yet again over the promised provision of new
public toilets, a subject that has been on the boil for many years but now
appears to have been pushed on to the back burner indefinitely.
The present lavatories in South Street are owned by South Kesteven District
Council but managed by the town council. They were built by the former Bourne
Urban District Council around 1930 and are now run down and badly in need of
Improvements were made in 1970 and 1982 but within a few years the building was
showing signs of serious neglect and South Kesteven District Council, which had
now taken over responsibility for the amenity, decided that the lavatories
should be closed. Spot checks carried out by the council revealed serious
vandalism and offensive graffiti and officers decided to shut the building until
it was cleaned and repaired, a situation exacerbated by reports that it had
become a meeting place for paedophiles and homosexuals.
They were closed in October 2002 but re-opened in April 2004 after a superficial
refurbishment costing £4,400 when the town council agreed to accept
responsibility for their future upkeep. A replacement block was promised as part
of the much heralded £27 million town centre redevelopment scheme, now shelved
after almost ten years of planning without a brick being laid and replaced with
the refurbishment of Wherry's Lane at one tenth of the cost. But no public loos
are included in the new scheme and the district council appears to have washed
its hands of the entire idea because the town council has been told that if
Bourne needs a new block then they should provide it for themselves which is a
far cry from what was promised eight years ago.
SKDC then agreed in principle to provide new lavatories, either by refurbishing
the existing ones or by replacing them with a new 36-foot toilet block to be
built at the entrance to the market square behind the town hall at a cost of
£100,000 with all the latest amenities such as disabled access, a baby changing
area and an attendant. Council leader Linda Neal (Bourne West) told The Local
on Friday 7th February 2003: "The toilet facility will complement any core
centre redevelopment. It will be a high quality provision and will be built as
soon as it is feasibly possible."
Since then the public toilets in the bus station were demolished in April 2007
and replaced with a hard landscaped area with seating and plants although no
adequate explanation was given. One excuse offered by the council was that the
building obscured the CCTV cameras in South Street while the town centre
manager, Ivan Fuller, suggested that the lavatories had become a focal point for
under-age drinking and vandalism and pulling them down would help the local
police monitor anti-social behaviour more easily.
SKDC has now distanced itself even further from the project and although it
provides and maintains public toilets for Grantham and Stamford, the town
council has been told that if Bourne is to have new ones, then they can have the
present building either on a long term lease or through a low cost sale of the
site. Such a project is likely to cost £100,000 or more, an expenditure that
would fall entirely on residents within the parish through the council tax
precept without help from elsewhere in the district. More importantly, it would
also provide a convenient escape for the district council from its original
Councils have no statutory obligation to provide public toilets and closure is
seen as an easy option in the face of public spending cuts. This does not help
the many people who need toilets when they are away from home, parents with
young children, the elderly and those with special needs and it is a mark of the
attitude of SKDC that when the South Street toilets were closed in 2002, one
cabinet member publicly advised anyone needing to spend a penny to use those in
the town's public houses and shops instead, a remark that caused such a furore
that the council was forced to re-open the lavatories, thus resulting in the
present arrangement in which the town council is responsible for their upkeep.
There is one other point to be considered and that is who do the South Street
lavatories actually belong to? They were built eighty years ago by Bourne Urban
District Council, whose coat of arms can be seen on the front. This authority
was then in charge of our affairs and the building was financed through the
general rate, forerunner of the council tax, which means that they were paid for
by the town. But by some bureaucratic sleight of hand, ownership passed to South
Kesteven District Council during the re-organisation of local government in 1974
when the urban council ceased to exist and the district council assumed control
of our affairs. Now this authority is offering the lavatories back to the town
council either to buy or rent which by any standards appears to be a form of
The district council's record on public lavatories in Bourne has been widely
ridiculed and five years ago, one contributor to the Bourne Forum said that it
should become one of those ancient country customs that are observed in many
other places in rural England such as tar barrel burning (Ottery-St-Mary,
Devon), the straw bear festival (Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire) and the coconutters
dance (Bacup, Lancashire). Brynley Heaven suggested that this annual tradition
might be known as Sealing of the Conveniences and he went on to describe such an
event which was duly reported by the Bourne Diary on 11th March 2006:
Every year on February 20th, the Mayor of
Bourne leads the town citizenry in the solemn ceremony of the sealing of the
conveniences. The Mayor, dressed in full regalia, including badger fur apron and
leopard skin accessories, parades up North Street, South Street and every other
main road to ensure that all public toilets are ritually locked and barred.
On being assured that none are available for the ungrateful public, the Mayor of
Bourne will intone the time honoured statement: "By the grace of God, and with
the practical assistance of many local authorities based elsewhere, it is my
humble and pleasant duty to report that if you need relief you may try a pub or
Sainsburys. Here endeth the solemn ceremony of the sealing of the conveniences."
At this dramatic and emotional climax to the ceremony, the loyal crowds of
townspeople, standing cross-legged, will then intone in unison to the Mayor:
"Your worship, we are but humble citizens who seldom venture out and do not
expect much out of life. We express our gratitude for the sealing of the
conveniences, safely for another year, to keep our lovely town free from lurkers,
perverts, tourists, shoppers, incomers, the middle class and other ne'er-do-wells.
Small grievances tend to become major quarrels and local authorities would do
well to heed public scorn when they abandon common sense as they appear to have
done with their management of the public toilets in Bourne over the past decade.
A new block for the town centre in the immediate future would go a long way
towards retrieving the esteem that South Kesteven District Council has lost.
Supermarkets are usually impersonal places with everyone going about
their business with little or no time for small talk, anxious to complete the
task as quickly as possible and get home. But they can also be the ideal place
to meet people and find out how they are doing. Oldies are especially ready for
a chat with shoppers who pass in the aisles as I found out in Sainsburys on
Saturday while my wife was busy at the cheese counter. A trolley collided with
ours and after a brief exchange about pensioners using them as a necessary
support, the elderly gentleman was soon regaling me with his life story.
He was 86 and a widower, with a walking stick propped inside his trolley that
bore evidence to his disability, and he told me that his body was now beginning
to feel the effects of old age, his arms losing their strength through
arthritis. "Look at that", he said, holding up his right hand. “It has
practically gone and the doctor says that the only cure is to have it cut open
from the wrist to the fingers and then sewn up again. But I've said no and I'll
put up with it. I have decided to carry on as I am until then end."
At his age, the decision was probably a wise one and I told him so. "Well", he
said, "I got used to putting up with things when I was in the army. I was just a
lad during the Second World War but took part in the Normandy invasion when I
was only 18 and I got through that safely."
As with so many veterans, military service seventy years ago was a necessary
experience for him because most were conscripted but their sacrifice is now
forgotten by the present generation who generally regard old men telling tales
of what they went through a bore and now in advanced old age, they will soon be
forgotten. But for one moment in Sainsburys, his face shone as he remembered
those dangerous but heroic times.
My encounter lasted only a few minutes and off he went to finish his shopping in
a crowded supermarket where everyone has a story to tell but few have time to
stop and listen. As my wife remarked afterwards, I was probably the only person
that he spoke to at any length that day.
Blue tits are thriving in Bourne Wood with the assistance of the Len Pick
Trust, one of Bourne's major charities founded through the generosity of the
late Len Pick (1909-2004), landowner and businessman, who left his £4 million
fortune for the benefit of the town.
In February, the trustees financed the installation of 57 specially made nest
boxes for use by woodland birds. Until now, these small wooden containers have
been at risk from woodpeckers which continually damaged them and so a more
durable material known as woodcrete was found, a mixture of cement, clay and
sawdust which is virtually indestructible and can withstand even the strongest
beak. They are also warm in winter for roosting birds and cool in summer,
allowing chicks to prosper with a small entrance hole that enables access for a
wide variety of species including great tits, blue tits, coal tits, marsh tits
The boxes, all numbered for identification, were duly installed by the Friends
of Bourne Wood who returned a few weeks ago to monitor their progress and the
results have surpassed expectations because they had been used by 36 blue tits
and 20 great tits. Only one had not been inhabited and oddly, that was No 13.
Research by the British Trust for Ornithology indicates that blue tits
have an average of just over seven chicks and great tits an average of six
which means that the woodland nest boxes have produced around 400 young in
their first year, feeding on the oak tree caterpillars that have been
particularly abundant at this time. But not all will survive to breed next year as many woodland and garden
predators eat them, including cats, sparrowhawks and some members of the
Local naturalist Bob Sheppard, who came up with the idea of the new bird boxes,
said: "The investment by the Len Pick Trust has been handsomely repaid and will
continue to do so for many more years." Andy Rowe, the trust chairman, was
equally enthusiastic. “We are delighted to have assisted in this project and it
is really pleasing to see such a successful return on our investment in such a
short time span”, he said.
Thought for the week: If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than
airplanes. - Charles Lindbergh (1902-74), American aviator who flew a
non-stop solo flight of 3,600 miles from New York to Paris in 1927 in the
single-seat, single-engine monoplane Spirit of St Louis.
Saturday 11th June 2011
has offered to help solve Bourne's shortage of garden allotments by establishing
forty new ones. They are part of a planning application now in the pipeline for
housing development on 3½ acres of agricultural land off Beaufort Drive to the
north-west of the town.
been a shortage of allotments for several years with a long waiting list for a
plot and no plans by either the local authorities or charitable organisations to
expand the current holdings but the offer to establish new ones has got off to a
most inauspicious start because the town council has decided that the scheme
will not benefit Bourne and may even have a detrimental effect.
have been submitted to South Kesteven District Council by James Wherry, head of
Wherry and Sons, the family seed company which has been associated with the town
since the early 19th century. Twenty new houses are envisaged, six of them
designated as affordable homes, and all individual plots would be available to
local builders who were having difficulties in finding suitable land because
most of it is in the hands of the big housing companies while the allotments
would be rented out either through the local authorities or an association of
are small plots of land let out at low rents to enable families grow fruit and
vegetables and have been part of the British way of life for more than two
centuries but have been enjoying a new popularity in recent years. They were
originally intended as an inducement to stop the drift of much needed labour
from the land to the towns and have been particularly useful during two world
wars when produce grown on the home front was a vital part of the food chain
while today they are also worked by people who have no garden of their own.
benevolent landowners have provided allotments in Bourne in past times and two
areas survive although their size is far less generous than those of past
centuries. The smaller of these, owned by Bourne United Charities, is at the
corner of Meadow Drove and Spalding Road where there are 13 plots that are all
occupied with a waiting list of 32 people. The other larger area of land is in
South Fen Road where there are 89 plots administered by the town council, and
again all are occupied with a waiting list of 77 people. All enjoy the benefits
of a rich, black fen soil and produce annual crops of vegetables, providing a
hobby for those with little garden space at their own home while also
maintaining the tradition of self-sufficiency.
agent, Mike Sibthorpe, told the Stamford Mecury that the town council had
recently identified "a substantial unmet need for allotment space" in Bourne
(May 27th). "The existing allotments are both fully tenanted and the waiting
lists for both sites stand well in excess of five years", he said. "There are no
proposals by public or charitable bodies to make more allotment space
Unfortunately, the scheme has not been well received because of misgivings about
the site for the new houses which has already resulted in protest letters to the
newspapers from readers who fear that it may threaten the approaches to Bourne
Wood, particularly if more land is turned over to housing on the western side of
the town, thus increasing the possibility of a ring road being built to cope
with the increased traffic.
council’s highways and planning committee voted against the scheme on Tuesday
after learning that the site has archaeological significance and may contain the
remains of a Roman burial ground and Bronze Age occupation. Members were also
told that the land itself was totally unfit for cultivation by gardeners because
it had a heavy clay content liable to flooding and was environmentally important
as part of the town’s green space, being an attraction for wildlife such as
badgers, birds and bats. The development could also create traffic problems
because of insufficient parking space which could lead to congestion in nearby
streets and particularly along North Road.
The need for
more new houses in Bourne is doubtful. But there does appear to be a demand for
more allotments and an additional forty plots would soon be snapped up by keen
gardeners, especially as they will be on the west side of the town, the present
plots all being situated to the east. But the weight of opposition does not
augur well for the applicant.
The application now goes
South Kesteven District Council which will have to decide whether building new
homes outside the designated area is a price worth paying in the face of such
opposition. The other factor to be considered is whether one development
depends on the other, whether the allotments will materialise if the houses do
not and which will be completed first. Many planning applications in recent
years have included community facilities along with residential development but
the houses always seem to take precedence while the amenities promised at the
committee stage are either a long time coming or do not appear at all.
the subject of study by a multitude of scholars through the centuries and a wide
range of books are now available containing the results of their researches.
There really is no excuse, therefore, for getting it wrong.
other small market towns, Bourne has a wealth of nomenclature relating to places
and localities whose origins date back to the mists of time and we even have one
name that is unique to our own locality, the Austerby. The etymology is
therefore of particular significance and we need look no further than Professor
Kenneth Cameron's excellent work A Dictionary of Lincolnshire Place-Names (1998)
for the definitive origins.
he tells us, is derived from the Old Norse austarr, meaning more
easterly, and the Old Danish by, meaning a farmstead or village which is
common in Lincolnshire. Early mentions include Austrebi (1167, Pipe Rolls),
Oustreby (1206, The Lincolnshire Assize Rolls), Oustirby (1327, The Calendar of
Charter Rolls) and 1354 (Additional Rolls in the British Museum) meaning the
more easterly farmstead in relation to Bourne.
contributor to the Bourne Forum has mistakenly claimed that because the Oxford
English Dictionary lists the word auster as dating from circa 1300 as
meaning the south wind, then Austerby is a settlement to the south because it is
more or less due south of Bourne Abbey which was a seat of learning in the 13th
This is a
neat but totally erroneous theory because the Austerby, by historical
derivation, is clearly the easterly settlement of Bourne and this has also been
confirmed by David Roffe, research fellow at the Department of History at
Sheffield University. He knows Bourne well, having completed histories of the
Abbey Church and Hereward the Wake and in 1985, he participated in the
excavations of the sheep meadow, later used as a bowling green, in advance of
the site being developed for the present vicarage.
area of study is the Domesday Book and beyond with particular reference to
Bourne which he dealt with during a lecture to Bourne Civic Society on May 9th
this year when he confirmed that the Austerby was indeed an easterly settlement
but was also a very important place containing four manors and was once regarded
as a district in its own right. The name was also known as early as 1086 which
is some years before the Abbey Church was built, thus disproving any direct
connection with the monastic institution which was not established until 1138.
means, we ought to be aware of every possible source when conducting research
but the origins of English place names should not be confused with the meaning
of words because the two are not always compatible. It is a simple procedure to
leaf through a dictionary or trawl Google like a bedsit nerd hoping to net a
morsel of information to support a dubious theory but this is a superficial and
unreliable approach yet Internet forums where they find space are riddled with
the results of such labours.
acceptable method is to read those scholars who have spent a lifetime studying
the subject because to ignore them leads to a most unsatisfactory and misleading
outcome. It is therefore hoped that the painstaking work by distinguished
academics such as Cameron and Roffe will put this latest piece of conjectural
nonsense about the Austerby to rest.
joined the town council following a co-option meeting on Tuesday evening to fill
the four seats left vacant in Bourne West after last month’s local government
elections when there were insufficient candidates to warrant a contest. Nine
people put their names forward and each was given the opportunity to tell
sitting members why they wanted to become a councillor before a ballot was held
to select the winners who were Greg Cejer, Paul Fellows, Roy McKinney and David
about their hopes for the future of the town and what they might do to help achieve
beneficial changes and it is to be hoped that they will bring new ideas to the council chamber and
a fresh impetus to its deliberations.
who missed out were Guy Cudmore, a former town councillor (2002-08) who had
already failed to win a seat for Bourne East during the last election, Jonathan
Hitch, Robert Kelly, David Parsonage and Phillip Rosser, but no doubt we will be
hearing from some of them when a vacancy again arises or when the next elections
so accustomed to our green spaces that life without them would be unthinkable
yet it is impossible to put a price on their value. Here in Bourne, for
instance, we have the woods, the Abbey Lawn and the Wellhead Gardens yet most
take them for granted without a thought for their intrinsic worth to society.
Now a new
government report, the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA), reckons that the
country's parks, lakes, forests and wildlife are worth billions of pounds to the
economy and the health benefits of merely living close to a green space are
worth up to £300 per person per year.
Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, said that for decades, the emphasis has
been on producing more food and other goods but this has harmed other parts of
nature that generate hidden wealth (BBC Online, June 2nd). She went on:
"The natural world is vital to our existence by providing us with essentials
such as food, water and clean air but also cultural and health benefits which
were not always fully appreciated because we get them for nothing."
singles out urban green space as being unbelievably important because it affects
the value of houses and even our mental wellbeing. But Professor Bob Watson,
chief scientific adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs (Defra) and co-chairman of the NEA, said that this did not imply an end
to development, but that costs and benefits of each proposed development could
be assessed more accurately in advance. "The report is saying that this has got
incredible value, so before you start converting green space into buildings,
think through what the economic value is of maintaining that green space or the
blue space, the ponds and the rivers."
more green space than most markets towns of comparable size and this is due
mainly to a strong charitable presence through which philanthropists from past
times gave their money for the benefit of the community. It has been as a result
of their legacies, now administered by Bourne United Charities, that we were
able to acquire the Abbey Lawn in 1931 followed by the Wellhead Gardens which
were established in 1956.
warning that all future developments should be closely scrutinised to ensure
that our green space is not denuded also has a resonance in the town where the
recent threat to Bourne Wood from unwanted highway and housing development is
still strong in the memory. Fortunately, that proposal raised sufficient anger
to stimulate a vociferous protest and was finally laid to rest in
space therefore appears to be secure for our future enjoyment and it is
unthinkable that any of it should be swallowed up by new housing. Apart from the
Bourne Wood incident, we should remember that this is exactly what was proposed
for the Abbey Lawn eighty years ago when BUC stepped in and bought the land for
the benefit of the town. When ruthless developers are on the prowl, therefore,
nothing is sacred and we must be constantly on our guard.
To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon
verdure is the most perfect refreshment.
- Jane Austen, one of the most influential,
honoured and widely read novelists in English literature (1775-1817).
Saturday 18th June 2011
rubbish collections promised by the incoming Conservative Party will not
materialise after all. This is yet another of those promises made to the
electorate before the general election and now watered down by the coalition
government after seeing the books which have revealed that the country cannot
afford the £132 million a year it will cost to implement.
Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, told the Tory party conference in 2008 that
weekly collections would be back if they gained power because a decent refuse
service was vital to help protect the environment and public health. This will
not now happen and it will be left to individual councils to find their own
not a good suggestion because most have run the gamut of ideas and although the
present wheelie bins are the best system so far, we have lost the weekly
collection that has been with us as a right since the 19th century, established
by the Public Health Act of 1875 which imposed new standards of sanitation on
local authorities in an attempt to stamp out cholera and other diseases spread
by contaminated waste which claimed large numbers of lives.
Weekly collections for domestic refuse were slow in coming and
did not begin in Bourne until 1911 when dustmen used a horse and cart but when
motorised transport arrived, householders were issued with galvanised bins which
were emptied by a collection lorry. In 1979, black plastic bags were introduced
and in 2003, plastic
boxes were added for paper and glass, but the entire system changed again in 2006 when wheelies were
issued to each house but with them came the fortnightly collections, silver bins for
recyclable materials one week and black bins with household waste the next.
the pre-election guarantee that weekly collections would be restored, the
government has now decided that it cannot force local councils to provide them
and so it will be up to the people to demand them and as councillors are
accountable to the electorate they should be persuaded to do so at the risk of
meantime, as councils try to find a better way, we are sure to get more
tampering with the system and perhaps even more bins for various items with food
left-overs a high priority, a slop bucket in every home, as the Daily Mail
put it (June 15th), an echo of those years of rationing and austerity during the
Second World War of 1939-45 when every scrap of kitchen waste was collected and
fed to pigs as part of the drive to produce more food. As it did then, this will
undoubtedly lead to bad smells and even contamination creating a health hazard,
especially during hot weather, and is not to be recommended in the interests of
therefore hoped that our own waste collection service does not go down this road
because it will be a bin too far and we could end up like residents of
Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire who are already being forced to follow a
strict new recycling regime by juggling nine separate containers which include a
silver slop bucket for food waste, which is then tipped into a green outdoor bin
for kerb-side collections, a pink bag for plastic bottles, a green bag for
cardboard, and a white bag for clothing and textiles, all of which has made the
borough council a laughing stock.
authorities have been grappling with this problem for more than a hundred years
but have still not found a satisfactory solution and the possibility of a
perfect system emerging in the immediate future looks bleak and we may well be
on the verge of another fiasco. The wheelie bins are already blighting the
street scene in many localities and so one of their first considerations when
adding additional containers to the service must be where home owners are
expected to store so many of them which will be a challenge to most, especially
those who live in terraced houses with little or no garden, properties that
abound in Bourne and are continuing to appear under the latest wave of
nominations for co-option to the four vacant Bourne West seats on the town
council last week and all were men, an indication that women are still lagging
behind in local government representation. During the May elections, for
instance, there were just twenty new women councillors elected to the 3,500
seats on local authorities in England which means that if female representation
continues to move at this rate, it will be more than 150 years before there is
an equal balance between men and women.
situation is causing some alarm among women's groups who see themselves under
represented both in Westminster and in council chambers across the land where
men outnumber them, in some cases four to one. The situation in Bourne is
slightly better where the ladies now occupy five of the 15 available seats on
the town council, thus making it three to one, while the new Mayor of Bourne,
Councillor Brenda Johnson, is the 15th woman to fill the office since it was
inaugurated in 1974.
a time when women were a rarity in local councils, the first to serve in Bourne
being Mrs Caroline Galletly (1865-1934) who became a member of the old Bourne
Urban District Council and was then elected chairman for 1930-31. In later
years, another milestone was marked by Mrs Marjorie Clark (1919-2007) who served
a term as chairman of the old Bourne Urban District Council from 1971-72 before
becoming the first chairman of South Kesteven District Council for two
successive years from 1990-92. Marjorie was also Mayor of Bourne twice, in
1984-85 and again in 1999-2000 at the remarkable age of 81. She lived to be 88
and became Bourne's longest serving councillor with 40 years of service to her
has also been Mayor of Bourne for an unprecedented three times. Councillor
Shirley Cliffe served in 1979-80, 1997-98 and 2008-09 and in addition, her
husband, the late Ray Cliffe (1925-2006), was mayor twice, from 1975-76 and
1991-92, so making Shirley our mayoress on two occasions, and so her civic
record is unlikely to be beaten in the foreseeable future.
ladies who have served as our first citizen were Mrs Margaret Cooper (1974-75),
Mrs Mary Parker (1989-90), Mrs Janet Sauter (1992-93), Mrs Lesley Patrick
(1994-95), Mrs Norma Woolley (2002-03), Mrs Pet Moisey (2004-05 and 2010-11),
Mrs Judy Smith (2005-06) and Ms Jane Kingman Pauley (2007-08).
being in the minority, women are beginning to have a dominant presence on some
local authorities, frequently chairing committees on our own town council as
well as taking the initiative in many controversial and community issues
concerning the town. Another woman is also likely to be mayor next year because
Councillor Helen Powell was elected deputy at the annual meeting in May which
means that by tradition she will be our mayor for 2012-13, so making five women
mayors of Bourne in six years.
It is also
worth noting that of the eight clerks to the town council in the past 37 years,
six have been women who have been in office continually since 1975, the latest
Mrs Nelly Jacobs who has held the post for more than ten years, having been
appointed in 2000 and has since brought a high standard of efficiency and
accountability to the conduct of the authority's affairs.
who do seek office, therefore, have an impressive record but there does seem to
be a general reluctance to stand and more female candidates during the last
round of elections would undoubtedly have reduced that gap even further. Those
who have been elected have proved their worth in the council chamber, bringing a
steadying influence to male domination and often, a great deal of common sense.
Home and family can be a big deterrent to anyone wishing to run for office but
as more community facilities become available to free them from these
commitments, it would be beneficial to find more women playing a role in the
administration of our affairs at all levels of government which would
undoubtedly be the better for it.
will have heard a cuckoo this year because their numbers are now in serious
decline. When we moved to this house overlooking the fen on the very edge of the
town almost 30 years ago, our favourite migratory bird sang early and late most
days. In fact, there were several of them and their song delighted the
neighbourhood morning and evening for many weeks because the call of the male
cuckoo makes this one of the best known though least seen of our summer
is traditionally April 14th or 15th when we can expect to hear it in these
islands for the first time although there is no hard and fast rule but we in
Lincolnshire are rarely so blessed and it is usually a week or two afterwards,
often even later, that their characteristic call comes to us from across the
countryside to remind us that they have arrived after their marathon flight from
Africa where they have wintered in warmer climes. Since then, the cuckoo has
become an ever more elusive bird because its numbers are in serious decline and
its song at this time of the year can no longer be guaranteed as an annual
2009, the cuckoo joined the official list of the most threatened species in the
United Kingdom and now the British Trust for Ornithology has revealed that the
country has lost about two thirds of them in the last 25 years. Fluctuations in
climate could be driving the birds further north because the population in
Scotland is much more stable than in the rest of the country but there is also
evidence that their numbers have been reduced by shootists on the Mediterranean
islands, particularly Malta, in Spain and in France, as it wings its way north
on its annual flight to England, but once here it will find that its habitats
are being denuded year by year because the intensification of agriculture and
the urban sprawl persist at an alarming rate.
programme has therefore been launched by the trust in an attempt to track the
birds to study their patterns of migration (BBC Online, June 7th). This
has involved catching and attaching tiny solar powered tags to their wings that
will send signals back to a satellite for 10 hours each day and so provide
valuable data about their habits and hopefully shed light on the cause of their
difficulty has been in catching the cuckoos but this was achieved by using a
stuffed female bird glued to a perch as a lure while a recording of its call was
played to attract a mate with a net to catch them when they respond. It has been
a painstaking task over several weeks but ten male cuckoos were eventually
caught in this way and five of them were large enough to carry the tiny tags
weighing just five grams secured to the birds' wings with soft straps.
like to tag many more but each tracker costs over £2,000", said Dr Chris Hewson,
research ecologist at the trust headquarters in Thetford, Norfolk. "But those
five should give us brand new information. At the moment, we don't know what
cuckoos do when they leave Britain, how they move around, where they go and when
but this programme will reveal a lot more information."
has been welcomed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. A spokesman
said that the reasons for the decline of the cuckoo needed investigation as a
matter of urgency. "Satellite tracking technology is helping us shine a torch
into these dark areas", he said. "The cuckoo is one of our most widespread and
familiar summer birds. We all associate its call with the onset of spring and
the idea of losing it is very worrying indeed."
for the week:
A voice so
thrilling ne'er was heard, in spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird. - William
Wordsworth (1770-1850), major pastoral poet and Poet Laureate who helped launch
the Romantic Age in English literature.
Saturday 25th June 2011
The town council is currently seeking
more land to add to the cemetery in South Road where space for future burials
may be under threat and this has prompted the suggestion that we ought to be
thinking about alternative methods for the disposal of our dead rather than the
continual use of valuable green space.
Cemeteries and church graveyards
have served a useful purpose in the past and the survival of these areas covered
with tombstones and sarcophagi are a reminder of those who went before but with
150,000 people being buried every year there will be a battle for more space in
the future, a situation that has prompted the present search for expansion at
the South Road site.
The town cemetery opened in 1855
when the graveyard adjoining the Abbey Church was deemed to be full. It
originally covered four acres but has since been enlarged, firstly in 1904 when
it was extended to 5½ acres and again in 1999 when land for more burials was
exhausted and a further two acres were added, creating what is known today as
the new cemetery.
The town council has estimated
that the present cemetery should be able to cope with the demand until 2020 but
provision needs to be made now for further space which may be required. An
additional 2.2 acres of grazing land on the edge of the Elsea Park estate to the
north, currently owned by the Kier Group, is therefore being investigated for
use as an extension but there are fears that it may be unsuitable because it is
close to a water table.
Existing regulations stipulate
that no burial can take place within 250 metres of a borehole or spring because
it could prove unhygienic for homes and businesses in the vicinity and the
Environment Agency has therefore requested that trial holes be dug to test the
viability of the site and these were carried out last week to enable a report be
sent to South Kesteven District Council which will need to grant planning
permission for change of agricultural use before the land can become a burial
Since the cemetery opened, the
rate of interments has increased with our expanding population and it now
contains 10,000 graves although this figure would have been far higher but for
the Parliamentary act of 1902 which legalised cremation in England and 70
per cent of those who die are now disposed of in this way.
But cemetery burials remain
popular even though the upkeep of our graveyards is expensive and many of those
that have slipped outside immediate church or local government control have
become overgrown and neglected. Although they remain important memorials to past
lives, they are also a reminder that this way of death is depleting our land
resources which are already under constant threat from housing development.
Major changes in the practices
surrounding the disposal of our dead have in the past been driven by necessity
and in view of the growing public awareness of protecting the environment, this
may be the opportune time to formulate a policy that no longer taxes our natural
resources. This awareness is already being accepted in some quarters with the
opening of green burial grounds in many parts of the country that take up far
Trees, benches and even rose
bushes are being dedicated instead of tombstones in our own cemetery while the
current campaign by conservationists to preserve the Victorian chapel near the
entrance as a columbarium and chapel of rest to hold burial urns and memorial
plaques will take this a stage further and we wonder what is holding up this
excellent scheme that will be so beneficial to the community while the town
council expends so much time and energy trying to find additional land for
The subject is a delicate one and
will not be readily tackled by our legislators and so we most probably face the
prospect of a very long wait indeed with the result that the problems now being
experienced by those who run our burial grounds are likely to increase as a
Every mainstream school in
Bourne has now joined the rush to
reach academy status despite it being uncharted territory and reserved in the
past for those that are failing. The Abbey Church of England Primary, Bourne
Grammar, the Robert Manning College and now Westfield Primary all want a slice
of the action. It is to be hoped that it will not all end in tears, as it did
some years back when there was a similar haste to become comprehensive with
disastrous results for many, including a drop in educational standards.
The latest applicant, Westfield
Primary, opened in September 1975 to cope with Bourne's increasing population on
the west side of town where residential development was underway. Facilities
were quite inadequate in those early days with only 90 pupils and insufficient
staff or accommodation. An indication of how bad things actually were can be
gained by the fact that there was no telephone for the first term and staff had
to share the use of one installed in a builders' hut on the construction site.
The builders were much in
evidence during the daily life of the school for the first two years but the
situation has vastly improved since then making Westfield much sought after by
parents anxious to find a suitable place for their children. Since then there
have been successful Ofsted inspections, the latest in 2008 when it was judged
as outstanding, and over the years the school has earned an enviable reputation
for delivering a caring, disciplined education with excellent academic and
Now it is going for academy
status, which according to the chairman of the governors, Ivan Fuller, will
bring major benefits because he told the Stamford Mercury (June 17th):
"It will assist us in providing a first class setting for our pupils and staff,
giving the school a greater chance to shape its future."
Our other primary school, Bourne
Abbey C of E, was the first in the town and in Lincolnshire to become an academy
last December followed by the Robert Manning College whose application has just
been approved to take effect when the autumn term begins on September 1st. All
are anxious to take advantage of the government mantra of more money and more
Bourne Grammar School announced
its intention to apply last October but has been unable to proceed because of
objections from Bourne United Charities which owns part of the land and provided
some of the money for its establishment under an agreement which dates back to
1921 when the present school was opened on the South Road site.
A detailed statement issued by
the trustees said that it was their express concern to protect the grammar
school in its present form and to ensure that places were available for children
who live within a three-mile radius and reach the necessary attainment level.
The main selling points of the application were that the school would benefit
from more money and increased independence but the case for becoming an academy
had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. There were also many legalities
relating to the rights of BUC which were a cause for concern, particularly over
their ownership of land at the school site in the future if the new status is
The trustees pointed out that the
many educational changes over the past 20 years had worked to a lesser or
greater degree because the 1944 Education Act provided a framework of recognised
parameters within which education operated. Academies had changed this by ending
financial and administrative accountability to democratically elected bodies
such as the town council and the local education authority.
The statement went on: "Is it
prudent to use our influence on education policy in the town to sacrifice a
known legal status to an initiative whose eventual outcome is unknown and
untested and over which we shall have little control? A grammar school is the
only way to ensure that there is a broad and rich opportunity for education in
the town at secondary level. There is no assured way back should academies prove
unsustainable either politically or economically. A significant number of
excellent grammar schools have decided not to apply for academy status. It is
thought that children have to be taken ‘as you find them’. A pass level at 11+
should be decided on and every child who then goes to Bourne Grammar School
should be nurtured and encouraged to be the best they can be."
However, after taking legal
advice, the trustees have now reversed their decision to enable the school
apply. They have also been given assurances about the future ownership of their
land on the school site and that the name of Bourne Grammar School will remain
unchanged and will be able to select pupils on ability. The original target
deadline of September 1st may have been missed but if successful,
academy status could still be granted early next year. Headmaster Jonathan
Maddox told The Local newspaper that he was delighted with the decision
which would enable the school move forward (June 24th). “A number of
hurdles still have to be overcome but we are optimistic that they will not stand
in the way of our continued success”, he said.
This will mean that all four of
Bourne’s mainstream schools will soon be academies which will enable them
implement their own admissions policy and curriculum, set their own pay and
conditions for staff and vary the length of terms and school working days.
These are far reaching changes
for schools that until now have been under the control of the local education
authority and not everyone regards them as a necessary undertaking, especially
when those involved already enjoy a distinguished reputation with excellent
results in their present form, but it is to be hoped that the doomsayers will be
proved wrong in the long term.
A new record has been set for the briefest
spell as a town councillor by Greg Cejer who was co-opted for the Bourne West
Ward on Tuesday 7th June but had resigned within a week. This is an unfortunate
occurrence because his experience would undoubtedly have enhanced debate but the
frequency of meetings has proved to be unacceptable because of other commitments
and so he has left without attending a single one.
Mr Cejer, a magistrate who is
also chairman of the local scout group and secretary of the Bourne Arts and
Community Trust which runs Wake House, told The Local that he pulled out
after discovering that council meetings are held on four out of every six
Tuesdays (June 17th). "I had anticipated one or two every six weeks and if I
commit to something I want to carry it through", he said.
The vacancy is now being
advertised. There should be a by-election but this will cost around £3,500 and
rather than dent its finances, the town council prefers to fill the seat again
by co-option. This is not the best way forward but the current legislation does
allow the public to call one provided that a request signed by ten electors is
handed in to the Town Hall within 14 working days, which excludes Saturdays and
Sundays. If this is not forthcoming, then a new councillor will be chosen by
sitting members through the co-option procedure.
There should be no shortage of
nominations because there were nine for the last co-option process to fill four
seats in Bourne West left vacant after the local government elections in May,
all of them male. Affirmative action is not an acceptable policy because each
councillor should be appointed on their merit but this would appear to be a
golden opportunity for another woman to join the town council where men
currently dominate by three to one.
We have learned, however, that
one candidate who has already made an unsuccessful bid to join the council
earlier this year, is making a formal application for a by-election and if that
succeeds then the field will be open to all. The irony is that if those who may
still be seeking to win a seat in Bourne West had been confident enough to stand
in the local government elections last May, then their appointment would now be
Thought for the week:
What is it we all
seek for in an election? To answer its real purposes, you must first possess the
means of knowing the fitness of your man; and then you must retain some hold
upon him by personal obligation or dependence. - Edmund Burke (1729-97),
Dublin-born statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher.