Bourne Diary - July 2011

by Rex Needle

Saturday 2nd July 2011

There is widespread speculation over the future of Bourne Youth Centre, a prestige building in Queen's Road opened in May 2004 at a cost of more than £400,000, and Lincolnshire County Council has done little to allay fears that its present role may be coming to an end.

The centre is a valued community facility for young people in the town but now likely to become a victim of the latest spending cuts because children's services throughout the county are under review and that includes the future of youth clubs such as this.

Unfortunately, councillors and officials are either reluctant or unable to explain the situation in simple terms and appear to lack the required skills to communicate. An example of this comes from Patricia Bradwell, the executive councillor for children's services, who gave this statement to The Local newspaper when asked about the future of the youth club (June 24th): "We have met with the Bourne management committee and will be arranging an event to take things forward with voluntary groups and the committee. This builds on the concept of the Big Society where we work collaboratively with communities, partners and other agencies on the use of facilities and the development of high quality youth provision in Bourne and across Lincolnshire."

The youth club employs two members of staff whose future is dealt with in another confusing explanation from "a county council spokesman" who told the newspaper: "There is a selection process taking place which could see some redundancies. Staff will be working in a different way and not solely linked to specific centres. Youth community development workers will be working with voluntary groups and communities to continue quality provision at the centres. Targeted youth support workers will also be working and supporting children with complex needs."

What these two statements actually mean in relation to Bourne Youth Centre is anyone's guess. They are part of the tendency of government, and indeed official bodies, at all levels, to cloak unpalatable truths in ambiguous words and phrases that require semantic analysis to understand. In this case, all that the youngsters want to know is whether their youth club is to be closed or not but after reading them they will be none the wiser. My own interpretation is that its present role is to end and the premises used for other purposes while staff will lose their jobs or be asked to take on extra work and volunteers will be needed to replace them if youth services are to continue, albeit at a reduced level. If that explanation is incorrect, then it is the fault of those who made these tortuous pronouncements in the first place.

The county council and many other local authorities really should subscribe to the Plain English Campaign which has been trying to stamp out gobbledygook, jargon and misleading statements since 1979 on the premise that everyone should have access to clear and concise information, which these most certainly are not. Readers of the newspaper are not alone because even the youth club's management committee remains in the dark. "We just want to know what is going to happen", said the chairman, Mrs Dorothy Alexander. "The kids who come here are quite upset because they do not know what is going on. We just don't know which way to turn."

The result of all this confusion is that there are many rumours circulating around town and all speculate on either closure of the centre or a reduction in its activities, one source even claiming that the building is to be used by young offenders which, if true, would be a total denial of its original aims.

Buried in all of this official verbiage is a clue to what is actually happening and what the future holds for Bourne Youth Centre. Unfortunately, no one knows what it is and we can only recommend that the county council obtains a few copies of the campaign's free guides to plain English and crystal clear communication for distribution to its councillors and staff before they make further pronouncements.

If the centre is left to volunteers to run then the wheel will have turned full circle since the youth movement began 75 years ago because the clubs we know today stem from the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations which was held in 1936, a landmark in the strengthening of the voluntary principle of youth work in Britain.

The programme was interrupted by the Second World War of 1939-45 but in the years that followed, its influence on local authorities played a major role in the setting up of youth clubs across the country. The training of youth leaders, often at universities and university colleges, was seen to be of paramount importance and the number of young people who flocked to join the new clubs was evidence of the need that existed for a formal and organised way of spending their leisure time.

This resulted in the formation of the Bourne Victory Youth Club which met at the Victoria Hall in Spalding Road [demolished in April 1967] but surprisingly it foundered after a few years through lack of support. There was a resurgence of interest, mainly from the local political organisations, with both the Conservative and Labour parties starting youth clubs but youngsters wanting something to do rather than a political ideology often joined both to take advantage of the leisure facilities they offered. Yet another attempt was made in 1961 with the opening of the Under 21 Club and although it initially attracted 60 members, interest flagged and that too closed down within a year.

Poor organisation and a lack of support from outside bodies were blamed for these closures but the need for a youth club in the town remained and the following year, Bourne Urban District Council, under the chairmanship of Councillor Dr John Galletly (1899-1993), decided that a new club should be launched with the official support of both the urban and county authorities. A public meeting was therefore called at the Vestry Hall in North Street on Thursday 1st February 1962 to discuss the project and the large attendance was evidence of the support it would receive. Nevertheless, it took some time to come to fruition but Bourne Hereward Youth Club finally opened in November 1965. Membership was available for young people aged between 14 and 20 and activities included games, talks, a car maintenance class, judo and outdoor pursuits such as camping, canoeing and rock climbing with weekend get-togethers for young people from other parts of the county.

The club later moved to the Congregational [now the United Reformed] Church hall in Eastgate and in 1977 it was granted a lease of the Vestry Hall in North Street, then owned by Bourne United Charities, until 1986 when it moved to a row of prefabricated huts that had been used as temporary classrooms in the grounds of the old secondary school, now the Robert Manning College, where it remained for the next eighteen years, changing its name to Bourne Youth Centre. In 2003, Lincolnshire County Council decided to replace the huts with a brand new youth centre which opened its doors on Monday 13th September 2004 with an official opening the following March.

If a new centre was necessary seven years ago then the same demand must be evident today but the economic climate has changed dramatically in the intervening years and supply is regulated by what the budget can afford. The youth club, and many other popular community amenities such as the library, may therefore become victim of the public spending cuts now being imposed across the board with far reaching effects on the benefits the town once enjoyed.

Genealogy continues to be a consuming passion for people compiling their family tree and the Internet provides a wealth of information relating to our ancestors through the various web sites devoted to archives relating to many aspects of life, particularly census returns, military records and the official UK birth, marriage and death certificates.

Schools have largely been ignored but now the Bourne Abbey C of E Primary Academy has begun the painstaking task of transcribing the school admission registers from past times. There are restrictions on the publication of recent records under the Data Protection Act of 1998 but this leaves sufficient information now being made available for anyone trying to trace children who attended the school from its formation in 1877 until the early years of the 20th century.

Christine Rice, the schools ICT manager, said that work is well advanced on records from 1877 onwards and it was intended to transcribe the original handwritten information into a readable computer format and so make the information available online. The most useful of these to the genealogist are the pupil registers which give the date of admission and withdrawal from the school, name, and date of birth, name and address of parent or guardian, last school attended, date and reason for leaving although teachers sometimes omitted to fill in all the columns.

There is an added advantage to the project in that the school archives also provide a valuable learning opportunity for pupils and create a lasting legacy from which they will benefit. The school's history has a direct connection to their lives and a good example of this is the Year 5 pupils who have been examining the attendance registers to enhance a Victorian project while Year 6 have been studying the attendance of evacuees who came to Bourne for their studies of the Second World War from 1939-45.

Schools produce rich historical records such as attendance registers, log books, programmes promoting drama productions, photographs, letters, issues of the school newsletter, and other items which document not only the life of the school, but also often reflect the history of the community or nation. "It is now hoped that these exciting and informative archives will serve many researchers into local and family history in the years to come", said Mrs Rice. "We have had several emails of interest already which is very positive and makes the job worthwhile."

The records already available include the school's admissions from 1877-1975, 1916-1928 (boys) and 1917-1932 (girls) and you may access the information available so far and learn more about the project though the school's web site which is listed in the genealogy section in Bourne Links.

After many years of neglect, the footpath connecting Church Walk with South Road is finally being given a makeover. Volunteers from the Abbey Church have been busy in recent days weeding and clearing the rubbish that has collected and giving the area a general tidy up.

The work is being done now at the prompting of the Bourne in Bloom committee because the judges are due to make their annual inspection on Monday to find out how clean and tidy the streets are being kept. This annual competition has been with us since 2006 and Bourne has been successful in the medium-sized town category each year, winning two silver followed by three silver-gilt awards but the coveted gold has always been elusive and there are hopes that it might be achieved this year.

Church Walk is an attractive pedestrian way, often used but rarely cleaned, a situation that has now been rectified, although the railings on the west side have still not been replaced, having been cut down to supply metal for the manufacture of munitions during the Second World War of 1939-45 leaving unsightly stumps protruding from the concrete bases. There has been talk of installing elegant black and gold railings similar to those erected alongside the Bourne Eau outside the Abbey Church last year as part of the town centre improvement scheme but, of course, this has never materialised.

Elsewhere, flowers are blooming, in South Street, North Street and in the town centre, the work of a dedicated band of volunteers including schoolchildren and scouts while several local firms are also contributing time and effort. Many trade premises such as the Angel Hotel and the Nag's Head, are also adorned with hanging baskets, the owners knowing that success for Bourne will reflect on their custom. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not shared by everyone including some tenants of buildings in a very prominent position and it is a pity that although they make their living from this town, they chose not to join in this annual rush of civic pride.

Thought for the week: Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out values all the utilities of the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century.

Saturday 9th July 2011

There has been much talk of the Big Society and the need to encourage towns and villages to join in and although the idea has been with us for a year or more many still do not understand exactly what it means.

The most concise definition comes from Dame Helen Ghosh, Home Office permanent secretary, who told M Ps: “We in central government need to focus on doing the things that only government can do and what we need to facilitate is that, at the most local, most individual level, people both identify and solve problems in the way that they wish to solve them."

Even that does not pinpoint it exactly and Lincolnshire County Council is now trying to put the message across more explicitly by explaining that it quite simply means more power for the people at local level where they can run their own affairs but, more importantly, they will be expected to do it for nothing.

"The county has always had a thriving Big Society, a huge network of dedicated individuals and local groups working together to improve life for others", says a front page article in the latest issue of its free sheet County News (Summer 2011). "Now the county council, with its public and voluntary sector partners, has launched a drive to make it even stronger."

Council leader Martin Hill (Folkingham Rural) said that volunteers who gave their time freely were at the heart of our communities with more than 500 people currently lending a hand at libraries and heritage centres while administrative and other assistance was also given across the county to community car schemes. "They deserve not just our thanks but also the practical support we can provide", he said.

It is now the aim of the council to build on this by increasing volunteering and community participation throughout the county with two major conferences during the summer and greater consultation with parish councils, faith groups, charities and other organisations while giving additional support for less active areas, thus encouraging them to shape their own futures through more participation and decision making at grassroots level.

"Everything from planning to health to anti-social behaviour, transferring power to local people whenever we can", said Councillor Hill. "Most of us know unselfish people who work tirelessly for others for no personal reward but we must never take that goodwill for granted. That is why we are looking for new ways to support our Big Society and make it even bigger in the years ahead."

The Big Society therefore may be a good idea but appears to be an official ruse to pass paid appointments on to volunteers, thus reducing public spending, although the job losses will not affect the centre of administration at County Offices in Lincoln where highly paid employment with generous pension and holiday entitlements are sacrosanct. Instead, the weeding out will be done in the purlieus of the shire, in our town halls, schools, libraries, youth clubs and the like. The sceptical might even suggest that the policy is not so much an encouragement to recruit more volunteers, rather a cynical method of exploiting those who are willing to serve without remuneration and in doing so will help protect the employment of those at the centre of power.

Voluntary work is the mainstay of any community and without it, society itself would be the poorer. The government provides only the basic structures for living and the rest is up to us and so those of altruistic motives who offer their services for purely humanitarian and charitable causes enhance not only their own self-esteem but also the organisation with which they become associated. The work of the volunteer therefore is the difference between a basic and a sophisticated society, making life more pleasant and amenable for those around them.

Bourne already has a commendable record in this sphere and many of the community projects we take for granted are run by volunteers, men and women who selflessly give their time and often money running clubs and organisations, helping the sick, the elderly and disabled, or merely popping in next door in time of need, all tasks motivated by a love of our fellow man and carried out without thought of reward.

Their work is particularly valuable in those activities involving our young people, the scouts and the guides, the youth clubs and junior soccer teams, the parent-teacher committees and a host of others that have become interwoven into the fabric of our lives yet we accept them without a second thought. There are many fine examples of this altruistic work in Bourne with our churches, the Outdoor Swimming Pool, the Heritage Centre, the Butterfield Day Care Centre and Wake House, all of which exist purely through the work of volunteers, but there are many other organisations that would collapse without selfless service.

A head count of all volunteers in the town at the moment would reveal that they are predominantly older rather than younger, many of them retired, but few youngsters, especially teenagers, are among their ranks. Young people are on record as saying that they are bored and that there is nothing to do in Bourne but an evening or two, and perhaps the odd weekend, of voluntary work with one of our many projects would provide them with the challenge they were looking for if only they were prepared to give it a try.

A continual complaint about Bourne is the amount of litter in the streets. Much of this is due to the large number of fast food outlets in the town centre and immediate vicinity and customers, especially late at night after the public houses have turned out, appear to have an irresistible urge to drop the wrappings once they have eaten their supper. The result is that the pavements and gutters in the busier areas are strewn with fish and chip papers, pizza boxes and soft drink cans and bottles together with the inevitable cigarette ends although the detritus in some gutters is of a far more unsavoury nature.

The result is that the streets in the early morning, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays, are often a mess and give a bad impression to visitors who immediately condemn the local authorities for allowing this to happen whereas the blame lies with the people who live here.

There is no excuse for even one scrap of litter in the streets because sufficient bins are provided within the parish by South Kesteven District Council, all located at convenient points and easily identified by their black and gold livery. It has been said that there are not enough of these waste receptacles yet no one needs to walk more than a few yards without finding one.

In fact, a report from the town council has now revealed that there are currently 60 such bins in use and all are emptied regularly. Yet the litter persists and so council members have been walking the area to check that each is in a suitable position and being used as intended. All that is needed now is the co-operation of the public and Bourne's litter problem would disappear overnight.

It is only fifty years ago that the first litter lout in Bourne appeared before the local magistrates at the Town Hall accused of dropping a fish and chip paper in North Street, marking the beginning of a campaign to clean up the nation’s streets following the introduction of the Litter Act of 1958 which had been made law the previous year.

The culprit was prosecuted on Thursday 1st October 1959, a 28-year-old man from Morton whose name I will not give to save him any embarrassment for such a dubious honour if he is still with us, but suffice it to say that he was truly repentant, so sorry in fact that his mother wrote to the court on his behalf pleading for leniency because her son had been ill and was not fully acquainted with the new legislation.

Nevertheless, Bourne Urban District Council, which was then responsible for maintaining our highways in a reasonably clean state, pressed for a conviction and the accused was fined 10s. which is only 50p in today’s money but was then a tidy sum at a time when the average weekly wage was around £3. The council clerk, Douglas Reeson, who prosecuted, told the court that bins had been placed in conspicuous places around the town in the hope that this would make the public more litter conscious and the authority intended to summons all offenders in the future. His evidence was corroborated by a police constable who had seen the accused throw the fish and chip paper down although there was a bin only four yards away and another within ten yards.

This vigilance was to be commended at a time when litter was becoming a major problem for local authorities throughout the country but unfortunately, the honeymoon for the Litter Act is now well and truly over. The clean streets from the years which followed its introduction are less frequent and the vigilance which was once the watchword of the populace has disappeared. The disciplines of personal behaviour have relaxed with the changing social climate and street litter, once mainly the province of the careless and thoughtless, is now often a deliberate act.

Residents of the Austerby have little hope that the vexing problem of pupils from Bourne Grammar School jamming the road with parked cars every day during term time will be resolved in the foreseeable future because the latest report on the progress of this dispute contains scant encouragement from those empowered to find a solution.

Firstly, the school has made it quite clear that there is no space on its own site in South Road for additional car parking which does not bode well for the recent decision to apply for academy status because this will most certainly attract more pupils from a wider area who will want to come in by car. Secondly, Lincolnshire County Council, the highways authority, does not intend to do anything until September, the start of the new school year, when a period of consultation is due to begin "to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to respond".

This problem has been an annoyance to residents of the Austerby for many years but Brian Thompson, highways spokesman for the county council, told The Local (July 3rd): "We should not rush this and simply move the problem elsewhere."

Yet that is exactly what will happen if the most likely remedy is eventually implemented with the imposition of parking restrictions along the kerbside. Of course the culprits will go elsewhere, as they did when road works were recently carried out in the street. Outspoken campaigner John Glen, who lives in the Austerby, told the newspaper that the problem needed to be sorted out as a matter of urgency. "But", he added, "those who can effect this process appear to be in no hurry and it will continue to cause misery for residents until it is resolved."

Consultations by government at all levels are notorious for the time they take and in this case, the prognosis indicates delays well into 2012 although that may well prove to be an optimistic forecast. Indeed, the annoyance might be allowed to fester indefinitely through lack of an acceptable outcome because if there was one, surely it would have been implemented a long time ago rather than being kicked into the long grass.

The nub of this particular predicament is that everyone is avoiding tackling those who are responsible for causing it while the victims continue to suffer. Schools no longer have disciplinary control over their pupils as they did in the past. The power of this guiding hand has been enfeebled by society's liberal attitude towards the younger generation that has spawned a rebellious attitude towards authority. In years gone by, conduct such as this which seriously inconvenienced the rest of the community, if it occurred at all, was immediately stamped out with a simple edict from the headmaster at morning assembly, but those days have long gone and now it is the tail that wags the dog.

Thought for the week: Many young people no longer seem to have any concept of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. - Michael Patterson, of Boston, Lincolnshire, in a letter to The Times, Saturday 2nd July 2011.

Saturday 16th July 2011

The Wellhead Gardens are one of the town's most attractive amenities, a haven of peace and tranquillity just a short step from the town centre. The 21 acres of meadow were developed in the years following the Second World War as parkland open to the public under the terms of a bequest from Alderman Thomas Whyment Atkinson together with the War Memorial and surrounding fountains and landscaped lawns.

The entire area is administered by Bourne United Charities and enjoyed by all, walkers and office workers having a sandwich lunch or even a secret tryst. Ornamental cherry trees line the main path, a magnificent sight when they flower in the spring, while another avenue leading to West Street has horse chestnut trees that bloom with a mass of red candles during May. Graceful weeping willows line the banks of the river which runs through the grounds and the southern edge of St Peter's Pool, their long and slender yellow branches covered with brilliant green leaves cascading over the water and providing a colourful display in springtime, hanging like silken drapes gently brushing on the surface.

Now Bourne United Charities has won a prestigious award for maintaining high environmental standards, notably at the Wellhead Gardens and the Abbey Lawn where several projects had been completed with the help of volunteers in recent months to enhance the opportunities for plants and wildlife and to reduce nuisances such as litter. The success also means that the institute will now arrange visits to Bourne every six months to safeguard future standards and ensure that this public open space remains a pleasurable experience for visitors.

The success is the result of close co-operation with the consultancy firm Greenhawk Environmental and an award certificate from the British Standards Institute for its measure of excellence in environmental management was presented during a ceremony at the Red Hall last month to the chairman of the trustees, Trevor Hollinshead.

One of those directly involved with the project is Kevin Day, aged 50, founder of Greenhawk, who specialises in environmental management systems which coincides with a love of wildlife that has been with him since an early age. He was born and brought up in the town, a pupil of the old Abbey Primary and Bourne Secondary Modern schools and now lives here with his wife, Amanda, and their 15-year-old son, William. He is also a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and is always keen to learn more about our local flora and fauna and so the project with Bourne United Charities has presented a golden opportunity to study the Wellhead Gardens which has produced some remarkable results.

His observations in recent months have produced sightings of kingfishers and sparrowhawks, snipe, redshank, fieldfare and waxwing, and on one occasion a little egret spent several days patrolling the old cress beds. Kevin has also spotted unusual wildlife a little further afield because he writes: "Another predator in the shape of a grey heron spent much of the winter skulking around the park’s waterways and was probably responsible for the loss of goldfish in the memorial garden ponds and some of the small rudd along the river stretches. There was also evidence to suggest that an otter had visited the stretch of water near Baldock's Passage at some point because a carp of 5lb. or more was found half-eaten on the side of the bank. Otters have been seen further downstream in the Eastgate area and they are known to travel considerable distances in search of food so it is perfectly feasible that one has found its way into the park."

Kevin says that more than 65 species of birds have been recorded in the Wellhead Gardens in the last two years and the list grows month by month but none of this would be possible without the careful management of the area by the staff at all levels and as the work continues, there are sure to be more wildlife surprises in the years to come. Meanwhile, his fascinating articles about the Wellhead Gardens may be read in full on the Bourne United Charities web site which can be accessed through Bourne Links.

One improvement to the Wellhead Gardens that has been suggested several times in recent years is the installation of lamplights along the main path between South Road and St Peter's Road. Cast iron standards in black and gold livery, similar to the other street furniture around the town, would enhance this excellent amenity, especially on summer evenings, and extend the usage of the park into the twilight hours.

The ideas was first mooted when the town council invited suggestions to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 and the Civic Society suggested that lighting the path would be a suitable celebration. The idea surfaced again when the future of The Croft in North Road was being discussed two years later because the main driveway of this imposing house in North Road contains three Victorian cast iron gas lamps rescued by the owner, the late Andrew Cooke, from the railway station at Bourne when it was demolished in 1964 and converted to electricity to light the way for visitors on dark evenings and there was some discussion around the town as to whether they could be salvaged for this purpose.

Nothing came of it on either occasion and the developers of The Croft have promised to incorporate the lamps in their plans for the retirement housing scheme which is now underway but there is no reason why replicas should not be made for the Wellhead Gardens where the main walk is among the most popular in Bourne, frequented by townspeople and visitors alike, but they can only enjoy it in the daytime because it is impossible to find your way through on dark nights.

There are, of course, problems, because lighted public places attract an undesirable element in our society, such as drunks and gangs of unruly youngsters, but progress should not be dictated by such negative drawbacks which can be dealt with by the police and we should dwell entirely on the benefits that such an innovation might bring to the town.

The other addition worth considering is a bandstand for although most towns do have one as a centrepiece for outdoor concerts, here in Bourne these summer occasions of music in the park are held on the steps of the War Memorial, and although this can be an attractive venue on hot, sunny days in July and August, a traditional covered enclosure similar to those which sprang up around the country in Victorian times would be a most welcome addition to this very popular open space.

Both of these suggestions would be expensive undertakings and hardly a priority at this time of public economy but as the long-term future of the Wellhead Gardens is now under constant review, perhaps the trustees of Bourne United Charities could add them to their list of things to do when the financial climate improves.

The prevalence of gobbledegook in pronouncements from Lincolnshire County Council was highlighted by this column two weeks ago when obscure statements were made about the future of our youth centre and now another example has appeared in The Local newspaper concerning signs relating to Bourne Wood (July 8th).

The short news item on Page 2 runs to only seventeen lines yet manages to confuse from start to finish and it is doubtful if even the writer had any idea of what it was all about because readers remain totally baffled.

The report says that the wood is to lose its brown tourism signs after a county council review and will be replaced with others coloured black and white. Joanne Johnson, who is described as the council signs manager (yes, indeed), is then quoted as saying: "By displaying the signs we are effectively recommending the businesses, so we must do so with up to date knowledge. Some businesses have chosen not to go ahead with the re-vetting and others have jointly agreed that, for traffic management reasons, a change to a black and white sign is more appropriate."

What on earth is all of this about? Apart from the revelation that the county council employs a signs manager, the rest is totally unintelligible even to regular visitors to the woods such as ourselves. Perhaps the authority would now take up my suggestion that it joins the Plain English Campaign which has been urging local authorities since 1979 to stamp out official jargon and misleading statements on the premise that everyone should have access to clear and concise information on subjects of public interest which this clearly is not.

The exhibition of trophies and memorabilia at the Heritage Centre which marks the life and times of international racing driver and designer Raymond Mays and the BRM continues to attract attention from around the world and earlier this month a group of enthusiasts from South America turned up to pay homage.

They were members of Scuderia Rodriguez, Mexico's Legion of Honour in motor sports, who were particularly interested in the success of their countryman, Pedro Rodriguez, who drove the BRM from 1968-71 in many international events and eight of his magnificent silver trophies are on show in the Raymond Mays Memorial Room, including the winner's cup for the 1970 Belgium Grand Prix at Spa.

Rodriguez (1940-71), who was born in Mexico City, began his career by racing bicycles and then motor cycles, becoming national champion in 1953-54, but three years later he made his debut in cars and was soon clocking up successes at the wheel of a Ferrari. By 1967, he had become a permanent fixture in Formula One, driving for BRM in 1968, 1970 and 1971. He was considered to be one of the bravest drivers on the international scene, surviving several hair-raising episodes on the track, but was killed on 11th July 1971 at the age of 31 while driving an Interserie sports car at the Norisring circuit in Nuremberg, Germany, where a bronze memorial plaque commemorates his death.

The Mexican party, headed by organiser Carlos Jalife, had been to the German track to pay their respects before driving on to Bourne to see the trophies won by their hero which are part of the collection in the care of the Civic Society at the Heritage Centre based in Baldock's Mill in South Street. They were entertained throughout the day by chairman Brenda Jones and other members and they also met local man Ben Casey, former BRM employee who was chief mechanic to Rodriguez during his spell driving the company's cars and who was made a brother of the Legion of Honour.

The Raymond Mays Memorial Room was opened in 1999 and the display includes the racing goggles worn by Raymond Mays, some of his trophies and an impressive display of old photographs reflecting his career. But the main attractions are the four large glass cases crammed with silver trophies which were added in 2005, a collection comprising 63 cups, salvers and rose bowls won by BRM and its drivers, a veritable history of the company that produced the first all-British car to win the world championship in 1962 with Graham Hill at the wheel.

The eight trophies won by Rodriguez include the Spanish Grand Prix Formula 1 at Barcelona in 1971when he came 4th, the Austrian World Masters Formula 1 at Osterreichring in 1970 (4th), the Austrian Grand Prix at Graz in 1970 (4th - silver cup and salver), the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg in 1970 (4th), the Austrian World Masters Championships at Osterreichring in 1970 (4th). the Spanish Grand Prix Formula 1 at Montjuich in 1971(4th), the Belgian Grand Prix in 1970 (1st).

Thought for the week: He always carried Tabasco sauce with him in order to enliven his food and liked to wear a deerstalker in which he became recognizable at racing events. - from the biography of Pedro Rodriguez (1940-71), Mexican Grand Prix motor racing driver who was killed on the track at the age of 31.

Saturday 23rd July 2011

An optimistic tale is related by The Local newspaper on its front page (June 15th) that our ailing town centre is experiencing "a turnaround" with the opening of new shops in empty retail units but the story fails to relate that despite the current economic climate, more are on the way and will need to be filled.

Traders have for some years been bothered about the large number of empty premises scattered around the streets and a check by this web site in November 2010 suggested that twenty shop properties in the town centre area had either closed, were available to let or their future was uncertain. The newspaper claimed that this alarming figure has been reduced to a mere six but this week’s issue (July 22nd) adjusted it to ten although this may still be an under-estimation. Whatever the number, it is encouraging to know that some new businesses are moving in, even though one of them is yet another charity, St Barnabas Hospice, which is taking over No 16 North Street that has been vacant since last October.

Any new opening is welcome news in the midst of the current economic gloom but we must not forget that South Kesteven District Council, in its wisdom, is about to build more shops in Bourne at a time when high street trade has been badly hit by competition from supermarkets and the growing influence of Internet shopping.

The new retail units are planned under the guise of a town centre redevelopment although in reality it is little more than the long-awaited refurbishment of the run down and neglected Wherry's Lane which has been a disgrace for well over a decade. In addition, the new project will enable the council get rid of two major properties which were ill-advisedly bought for extravagant sums with the hope of integrating them in the original scheme and which they still have on their hands and serving no useful purpose.

The number of new shops has not yet been revealed but as the two sites mentioned are fairly large, the Burghley Street warehouse and the old Masonic Hall, we can expect at least a dozen and all of them will be made available at the expense of the old established shops in North Street, West Street, South Street and Abbey Road which have formed the nucleus of the town's shopping centre for centuries. Every effort is being made to ensure that they will be snapped up because a bulletin on the project in the latest issue of the council's newspaper sktoday (Summer 2011) gives detailed plans about the marketing strategy that will be employed:

The concept aims to link the current lanes in the area and to work with partners and landowners to build on the positive characteristics in the town to try to create areas of interest for people to visit. It will also ensure that good quality heritage buildings are preserved whilst at the same time create passageways to explore, provide quality shop fronts and linkages to the main streets as well as ensuring a good balance of pedestrian areas and vehicle access.

Bourne Business Chamber, which represents many of the town's traders, is equally confident on hearing that some of the empty shops are being taken because the chairman, Karl Hicks, told the newspaper: "There has been a steady changeover with new people coming in. We are fortunate that we have a triangle of three large outlets and shops within the town. We have the ability to attract shoppers."

The chamber must also be aware that any new businesses moving in are therefore likely to gravitate towards the new units and at the present sluggardly pace of retail growth, we can expect to see more empty shops in the traditional town centre once the Wherry's Lane project is complete.

The work has been estimated at around £5 million, a drastic reduction on the original £27 million town centre development which was abandoned in June 2010 after almost ten years of negotiations with costs running into several millions of pounds, a sum as yet undisclosed. In February this year, the council declared that work on the substitute scheme would start this summer for completion in June 2012 but we have been down this road before and as there is still no sign of activity on site, no one is holding their breath.

One thing is certain, that this is no redesign of the town centre, more the grafting on of yet another shopping precinct which will further isolate the traditional central area that should be the main focus for visitors yet is now frequently devoid of people. Watch out then for more empty shops in the future.

Grass verges have been regarded as free parking spaces for lorries and cars for many years with the result that they are churned up during prolonged spells of wet weather, turning the street scene into an unsightly mess. Damage can be seen at many places along the main routes into the town and North Road in particular has been at constant risk despite attempts by voluntary organisations such as the Rotary Club of Bourne to enhance their appearance by planting new trees.

The task is regularly hampered by vandals intent on wanton destruction, usually after a weekend night out on strong ale, but the damage caused by vehicles is often overlooked until verges are ruined by prolonged parking. Hardly a day goes by without evidence of this and now the town council has been urged to look into the problem after a resident complained that the practice was spoiling the appearance of the approach roads into town.

Parking on the pavement or verge, either wholly or partially, is in breach of the Highway Code (Parking - Section 244) unless signs permit it because vehicles obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and mothers with prams or pushchairs, yet despite the dangers created, the police turn a blind eye. The latest complaint might also be construed as causing criminal damage because several grassed areas have been totally ruined, not just alongside main roads but also on many of our housing estates where home owners appear to think that they have a right to use this green space as additional parking lots when their garage and driveway are full.

This particular problem is likely to get worse in the coming years as Bourne continues to attract new estates where the houses are either without garages or there is insufficient parking space and so the road alongside becomes an easy option and the pavement beckons.

Others who appear to think they are outside the law are building contractors and those engaged on improving or carrying out services to properties and in some cases their vans and lorries are illegally parked on pavements for several days at a time. Post Office vans can also be seen being driven on and off the verges while emptying letter boxes, specifically those in North Road where the condition of the grassed surfaces bear witness to this continual misuse.

Yet the Highway Code gives them special mention. Section 246 states that vehicles with a maximum laden weight of over 7.5 tonnes (including any trailer) must not be parked on a verge, pavement or any land situated between carriageways, without police permission. The only exception is when parking is essential for loading and unloading, in which case the vehicle should not be left unattended.

The latest complaint is unlikely to have any effect because the town council has few powers other than to complain to those in authority at a higher level, whether it is the district or county councils or even the police. Only enforcement of the law on the streets will prevent further damage to our grass verges and cars left mounted on the pavement during the day and overnight will remain a hazardous feature of our communities until the drivers are taught the error of their ways.

A temporary sales office has opened at The Croft in North Road where the site of this once grand town house is being turned into a retirement village after many years of wrangling over its future.

The building, however, looks anything but temporary having needed planning permission to erect because it was not included in the original application and several weeks to construct. Its purpose is to attract and even persuade potential customers to sign up for one of the 68 bungalows which will soon be on offer as part of the £8 million development of one, two and three bedroom properties being built exclusively for elderly retired people by Longhurst Group which promised "to rescue this important landmark in the town" after years of neglect.

As the project gets underway, it is also worth reiterating the company's press statement issued to coincide with the planning application in 2009 which said: "Major features of the scheme will be the restoration of the house itself and the magnificent driveway that will be landscaped and returned to its former glory. The Victorian lamp standards that were once on the railway station at Bourne will also be restored. Landscaping with open grass, trees and shrubs will be a major ingredient in providing a highly attractive setting for the proposed 68 bungalows which will be entirely appropriate to this part of Lincolnshire while the house itself will be restored at a cost of £200,000 for use as a community area, manager's office and kitchen."

Show houses on housing estates do have a habit of being turned into saleable properties as the development nears completion but we feel sure that although this one does appear to be a permanent fixture, the developers will ensure that it will not be allowed to spoil the appearance of that magnificent driveway permanently.

Another point about this development is the latest reference to The Croft itself by the developers in the Stamford Mercury as “the manor house which offers historic value and character” (July 22nd) but I have to tell them that this property has no connection whatsoever with our two manors of Bourne and Bourne Abbots. Far from having such distinguished origins, the property was built in 1922 as a five-bedroom family home and although fairly large it had few architectural pretensions but then if that is the way it is being presented, then that is the way it will be in the future although we should not lose sight of the facts.

Yet another attempt is being made to bring the complement of town councillors up to the required level of fifteen, a task that has been taking up the authority's time on and off for much of the year, a situation that reflects a widespread reluctance by suitable candidates to stand for office, much to the detriment of our local authorities.

The latest vacancy is in Bourne West where four seats remained unfilled after the local government elections in May and although suitable candidates were co-opted last month, one resigned after less than a week in office and so the hunt is on for a replacement.

There were rumours that one hopeful was planning to force a by-election by mustering the required support of ten other people but this appears to have come to naught, so saving the town council £3,000 in costs. Instead, a special co-option meeting has been called for next Tuesday (July 26th) and so far there are two candidates although there could be others. The successful one will therefore be chosen by a secret ballot of councillors after each nominee has had the chance to state his case as to why he or she should become a councillor.

Anyone wishing to be considered for co-option must have lived or worked within three miles of the parish for more than 12 months and should register their interest by 5 pm on Monday (July 25th). Let us hope that a suitable candidate will be found and that this selection will be the last one for the time being.

Thought for the week: A democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates. - Gore Vidal (1925-  ), American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist.

Saturday 30th July 2011

A tenant is being sought for the Burghley Street warehouse which has been standing empty for some months while its future is determined.

The property was bought by South Kesteven District Council in 2008 for £350,000 specifically for inclusion in the town centre redevelopment scheme but when this foundered, the authority was left with the building on its hands and serving no useful purpose. In October the following year, the signs went up outside saying that it was to let and that remains the case today, the symbol of a failed endeavour, a valuable asset that has become a liability. The building has been earmarked for conversion into shops and flats as part of the refurbishment of Wherry's Lane but this may now be some way off because the Stamford Mercury informs us that the authority is still seeking a suitable tenant (July 22nd) which indicates that there are no immediate plans for the work to begin.

The council's primary aim is to provide public services and with this central space on its hands surely this is the time to find out if there is a demand for it to be used for that very purpose because there is no shortage of suggestions, many of them published by the local newspapers.

It would, for instance, make an excellent venue for the performing arts, a similar idea discussed for The Croft in North Road but that was a commercial property and well outside the means of voluntary effort and is now being redeveloped as an £8 million complex of 68 retirement bungalows. The Burghley Street warehouse, however, is a very different proposition because it is now in public ownership and there does appear to be an enthusiasm for such a project in the town.

SKDC funds arts centres at Stamford and Grantham but not here and although there is some performance space at various locations around the town, such as the Corn Exchange and the Church Hall, an arts centre at the Burghley Street warehouse would provide a base for a wide range of groups ranging from Morris dancing to Gilbert and Sullivan. “Talent is not in short supply”, wrote Bob Harvey in the Bourne Forum (17th January 2010). “I would like to see a non-local authority solution for Bourne as with the parks and the open air swimming pool and a volunteer committee would soon be attracting touring companies, setting up exhibitions and providing encouragement for a great deal more than we already have.”

The debate has revealed that an arts centre would be an asset to the town and the Burghley Street warehouse could be turned into a first class venue with permanent banked seating, dressing rooms and good quality stage apparatus, all the things that are lacking in those currently available. It would also become the centre point for the arts in Bourne and the surrounding district which at the moment depend on much less adequate accommodation for their productions.

Surely this is what the Prime Minister, David Cameron, means by his Big Society but the idea is one thing and its implementation another. Voluntary skills are available and ready to get started but the release of buildings owned by our local councils does not have a good record. The Bourne Arts and Community Trust which runs Wake House is no nearer being granted the tenancy by South Kesteven District Council than it was when it took over in 1997 while Bourne Preservation Society which was formed in 2008 with the intention of restoring the Victorian chapel in the cemetery has still not been given the keys by the town council.

This is at the very heart of many local problems and may well presage the failure of the Big Society philosophy. As with all communities, Bourne has sufficient willing hands with the necessary expertise and enthusiasm to carry out the task in hand but are thwarted by their local councils which now regard their function as one of business rather than public service and nothing is likely unless it looks good on the balance sheet.

But here is one way that SKDC could make amends to this town for the failure of the £27 million town centre development by handing over a building it already owns for use as an arts centre provided a suitable business plan can be drawn up and there are those with experience who think it can be done. Nothing would be lost by letting them try yet everything would be gained.

Another councillor was co-opted by the town council this week to fill the vacant seat in Bourne West and the choice will surprise many because it means the return of Jane Kingman who has already served the authority well in recent years.

She joined the council as a member for Bourne West in 2002 and was elected mayor from 2007-08, also serving as chairman of the highways and planning committee for a spell, but stood down at the local government elections in May when she was planning to move away from the area but has since decided to stay. Not all the seats were filled, however, and the last vacancy was decided on Tuesday when two candidates were interviewed but Jane was the unanimous choice. "I am very pleased to be back", she said, "and will commit myself to the role as before because my heart is in Bourne."

Her co-option is also a success for the ladies on the council who now occupy six of the 15 seats which is well above the average in Britain because the latest figures indicate that they are under represented in most council chambers across the land where men outnumber them by more than four to one.

Every autumn, I pick up a couple of horse chestnuts that have fallen from the trees in the Wellhead Gardens or the churchyard and leave them on my desk for a few weeks, a nostalgic reminder of my boyhood seventy years ago when conkers was a much loved game among the lads of the neighbourhood and schoolyard. There is also a jar of those old fashion multi-coloured marbles, or glass alleys, in my study which apart from their pleasing and aesthetic colours, revive equally fond memories of those games of yesteryear, now fast disappearing.

We also played leapfrog down the middle of the street, tag around the houses and gardens, hopscotch on squares chalked on the pavement where we also had slides on frosty days in winter when the surface was soon polished as smooth as glass by the soles of many small shoes. The girls skipped endlessly with ropes fashioned from old clothes lines and the lamp posts served as a meeting place for the kids in the street where we hung about and talked until long after twilight on summer evenings.

But this traditional recreation is all but a memory because a recent report complains that the street games we once played are slowly disappearing and are even banned by many schools where there is an increasing trend towards risk aversion. The more energetic pastimes have therefore been condemned as dangerous and likely to jeopardise pupil safety while conkers has even been blamed for causing discomfort among sufferers of nut allergy.

The decline of conkers, marbles and hopscotch among our children's pastimes is an indicator of our lost innocence because these once simple and even energetic pleasures are being replaced by more elaborate electronic diversions, television and the Internet, which, in the process, are creating a culture of idleness and little effort, and childhood will be the poorer for it.

The neglected state of a small secluded corner in the churchyard at Bourne is causing concern to descendants of those who lie buried there. The space beneath the east window of the Abbey Church was highly sought after in past times and as a result the graves are those of the town's most important people from the 18th and 19th centuries yet their monuments have not been maintained and the surrounding land is overgrown and covered with weeds and nettles.

The grand stone memorials commemorate many who gave their time and money for the good of this town, among them members of the Mawby family who also had a long association with the church. John Mawby (1758-1818) was a wool merchant who lived at what is now Bourne Eau House which was occupied by his children and grandchildren until 1894. The family were all regular worshippers, building the elegant Regency bridge over the Bourne Eau in 1832, one of the few in England ever to be cast from a solid block of iron and connecting the grounds of the house with the church to make their journeys shorter on Sundays.

His son, also John Mawby, died on 26th January 1837 at the age of 49, and a magnificent stone sarcophagus was erected to his memory in this part of the churchyard but is in danger of deteriorating through neglect. Now the family's descendant, Mrs Jane Farquharson, of Wallingford, near Oxford, has become so concerned about the poor state of the memorial and the lack of maintenance for that area of the churchyard that she has written to the vicar, the Rev Christopher Atkinson, asking if something can be done.

"My ancestor's memorial dates from 1837 but the stonework is still in good condition", she said. "However, it is in an area that has been allowed to grow wild and the memorial is surrounded by rampant ivy which threatens to encroach on the stonework, obliterate the lettering and perhaps damage it beyond repair. If this should happen, a small part of the town's history will be lost forever. I appreciate the need for economy but would it be possible for some maintenance, at least once a year? John Mawby's son, Thomas, was churchwarden for thirty years and the family gave long and unstinting service to the church in their day and therefore deserve to be remembered in a fitting manner."

Burials in the churchyard ended in 1855 because there was no more space. Ironically, John Mawby's wife, Elizabeth, died on 5th April 1856 at the age of 62, after the churchyard had been closed and although her name is engraved on the tombstone, she was interred instead at the newly opened cemetery in South Road on 10th April 1856 which is so well kept that it has won two awards. Maintenance of the churchyard passed to the Bourne Burial Board then Bourne Urban District Council and since 1974 it has been the responsibility of South Kesteven District Council and although periodic work is carried out, it is never completed satisfactorily because the far corner under the east window is rarely touched.

However, the situation may now change because Mrs Farquharson's appeal has not fallen on stony ground and she has received a favourable reply from the vicar who has explained that the future of the churchyard is already under review by the parochial church council and a long term plan has been proposed to clear and tidy the area and trim the two massive horse chestnut trees which overshadow the tombstones. This is unlikely to happen with any immediacy but there is now a likelihood that the ivy will be cut back in the autumn to avoid any long term damage to the Mawby memorial.

This is heartening news, not only for Mrs Farquharson, but also for all of those whose ancestors are among the 276 known burials in the churchyard, a figure that has recently been determined  by a survey of the monumental inscriptions carried out by the Lincolnshire Family History Society (Bourne branch), the earliest date being 1710. These quiet places, so often referred to as God's little acre, have become part of our heritage, the last resting place of those who went before and now the focal point of research for anyone anxious to trace ancestors from past centuries and so it is right that they should be treated with respect and their tombstones preserved.

Thought for the week: Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. - from Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray (1716-71), English poet, classical scholar and professor at Cambridge University.