Bourne Diary - September 2011

by Rex Needle

Saturday 3rd September 2011

Potholes have become the bane of the motoring public and are going to get bigger, according to the Highways Agency which has been busy redefining the rules that govern their repair. In future, any smaller than a soup bowl will not have to be filled in immediately.

The Highways Agency is part of the Department for Transport and is responsible for operating, maintaining and improving the strategic road network in England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. In other words, their pronouncements are law and under the new rules which will apply to motorways and trunk roads, only potholes more than 4 cm deep or 15 cm wide will be repaired as a matter of urgency.

The Daily Mail reports that the change will begin to come into effect in some areas later this year and will be rolled out nationally by 2015, a decision that mirrors rules already in place on minor roads (August 8th). Unfortunately, it is these less important thoroughfares that are already suffering from disrepair, a situation aggravated by the latest round of public spending cuts and one that is evident in several parts of Bourne, especially those through some of our housing estates, a subject that has been repeatedly aired by this column over the past decade.

Few roads around the county can be in a worse state than that which leads off Manning Road to the waste recycling centre in Pinfold Road, a veritable moonscape of potholes and some of them six to eight inches deep and extremely dangerous for the vehicles using this route to dump their rubbish. The problem has been with us ever since the centre opened in May 2002 yet apart from some superficial repairs nothing has been done to bring the surface up to an acceptable driving standard.

Lincolnshire County Council, which as the Highways Authority is responsible for roads in the town, claims to employ pothole gangs equipped with lorries and tarmac ready to race to any part of the county where repair work is needed yet they have consistently passed this problem by despite the continuing hazard to drivers using a depot which is under their direct control.

A recent investigation by the town council revealed that the road has never been adopted and is therefore outside the county council’s jurisdiction yet the authority has happily allowed residents to use the route to dump their rubbish while refusing to accept responsibility for the state of the surface. An attempt is being made to trace the owner through the Land Registry in order that it may be brought under county council control but we have heard nothing yet about the outcome.

Another busier road that is beginning to disintegrate is the narrow lane which leads off South Street to the public library, the fire station and the Red Hall, but despite the amount of traffic nothing has been done to repair several huge potholes, one of them which looks like a small crater and likely to cause very serious damage to any passing vehicle unable to avoid it. This road is a particular danger in its current condition because it is used daily by the emergency services, mothers with children going to and from the library and old age pensioners collecting their weekly payments from Bourne United Charities at their offices in the Red Hall.

There have been protests to the council that have apparently fallen on deaf ears and one motorist claims that he was told that the road was a private one and therefore not their responsibility although if this were so, then it would not have been painted with double yellow lines, an operation that is entirely the responsibility of the highways authority. Complaints have also been made to staff at the library and although this is not their fault I understand that they have been making a map of the potholes on the road which at the last count had reached eleven in number. The case for remedial work to be carried out as a matter of urgency is therefore unassailable.

There are other locations where similar defects are creating hazards to motorists but in view of the dreaded cuts, it seems that we may have to live with some of them for a little longer although if this one is not a priority it is hard to think of one that is.

There is an increasing tendency by government at all levels to treat the public with disdain and to assume that they will accept anything they are told. This theory is illustrated by a news item in the Stamford Mercury last week (August 26th) that may appear to look good in print but does not bear close scrutiny.

The report quotes South Kesteven District Council as saying that only five car parking spaces will be lost by the £5 million project to refurbish Wherry's Lane where work is due to start this autumn and then goes on to say that although 16 of those in the Burghley Street car park will be taken up by the development, eleven new ones will be created with the apartments that are being built, one for each.

If this is so, then each of the new spaces has been earmarked exclusively for the tenants and will not be available to the general public and so the 92 spaces in the main park currently available will be reduced to 76, no matter how the figures are projected. Although this is an unpalatable development in a town where car parking is becoming extremely difficult, it would have been far more honest of the council to have said this in the first place rather than present it as a minor achievement.

The possible closure of the register office in West Street as part of the latest round of spending cuts by Lincolnshire County Council is arousing a wave of indignation around the town which cannot be ignored. The town council met on Tuesday and agreed unanimously that it would have a detrimental effect on Bourne and the surrounding villages and decided to object in the strongest possible terms.

The register office is the place where births, marriages and deaths are recorded, a requirement by law, and the alternative will mean a 25-mile round trip to Stamford by bus or car which will be a tremendous burden for the old and infirm and young mothers with babies. Mrs Nelly Jacobs, clerk to the town council, told the Stamford Mercury (September 2nd) that members were concerned that as the area around Bourne was entirely rural, public transport to other register offices in the area was very poor and in some cases non-existent. “Registering the death of a loved one is stressful and upsetting enough without having to worry about how one manages to get there within the given timescale”, she said. “The council found the proposal totally unacceptable and hopes that the authority will reconsider.”

Councillor Sue Woolley, who sits on the county council for Bourne Abbey, had already told the Stamford Mercury that she supported the closure of the facility at the present location because she fully accepted the need for the council to make savings (August 26th) and suggested that it might be moved to another building such as the youth centre in Queen's Road or the public library in South Street, both of which are owned by the authority.

Unfortunately, both ideas are almost certainly unworkable because these amenities are themselves under threat. There may be a case for moving the register office to the youth centre but the council already has other plans for this building while the library is totally unsuitable, mainly through the lack of privacy because registrations are an intimate occasion and no one wants to impart such personal information while jostling with the crowds among the bookshelves where space is already at a premium and in any case who could possibly endorse it as the ideal venue to get married.

There is one place which would be eminently suitable and that is Wake House in North Street where the register office was based before moving to West Street. There is plenty of space with the added convenience of the Baxter Room, a perfect setting for civil weddings as it was in the past, but this building is owned by South Kesteven District Council which is trying to sell it as part of its own budget economies and so the chances of that becoming available appear to be zero.

The obvious answer then is to keep the register office exactly where it is. The town council has therefore urged residents to take part in the consultation now underway by lodging a protest with the county council either by email or online before the deadline of September 16th. The problem is that these consultations do not work because the results are either ignored or construed as reflecting a favourable outcome for the local authority. We must therefore depend on our local councillors which is why they were elected in the first place and representation at county level is paramount rather than a slavish adherence to the party line, much to the detriment of the town.

Councillor Woolley, and her colleague, Councillor Charlotte Farquarson (Bourne Castle), will now be quite aware of the strength of feeling in the town against closing the register office and it is up to them to support our town councillors by voicing these concerns when the subject comes up for debate and decision. If savings need to be made, then expenditure on the register office in Bourne could easily be offset by closing down the council's free newspaper, County News, which serves no useful purpose or by axing some of the many staff positions with obscure job descriptions at county hall, thus concentrating on the task for which the authority was designed, that of providing and maintaining essential services for the public who pay the council tax on which the authority depends.

The most distinguished registrar for Bourne in past times was undoubtedly Hugh Hobson who held the office for more than 60 years during the 19th century and in that capacity, officiated at over 1,500 weddings. He was widely known in the district where he was held in high esteem, continuing to work after retirement as a clerk in the offices of the solicitor Mr James Bell in West Street, relinquishing his duties only six weeks before his death in 1904 at the age of 88.

Mr Hobson, who lived in one of the houses at The Terrace in North Street, was also one of the founders of the Congregational Church in Eastgate, now the United Reformed Church, and a regular worshipper during the 58 years it had been open prior to his death and for much of that time he was also an energetic worker for the cause. In his younger days, he and his family were also tireless in their efforts to support the temperance movement and were mainly responsible for the Band of Hope which had so much success in the town at that time. These organisations had a tremendous social impact and were instrumental in persuading many working men to give up drink, care for their families and attend church regularly.

His wife, Susannah, also gained a reputation for her caring attitude towards the less well off and on her death in 1895 at the age of 75, the Stamford Mercury reported: "Until recently, she has spent a great deal of time in visiting the houses and sick beds of the poor. The work with which she was most intimately connected was that of the temperance movement of which she might almost be called the founder so far as Bourne in concerned. Her efforts in this direction were untiring among the young and old alike; indeed, it is doubtful if her work will ever be fully estimated."

Mrs Hobson died on Friday 6th September 1895 after a short illness, although she had been in comparatively good health, and her husband survived her for another nine years. They were a devoted couple who had a happy marriage and it is fitting that they are buried together in the town cemetery, leaving a family of eight daughters and three sons.

The couple were typical of the middle class in Bourne during the 19th century, the men giving dedicated service to their employers and together with their wives, supporting many voluntary causes while following the religious life with a dedication that we have come to recognise as Victorian values. Mr Hobson is also our link with the past because it is reasonable to assume that he married the ancestors of many old Bourne families that survive to this day.

Thought for the week: A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short. - Andre Maurois (1885-1967), French writer and prolific author of novels, biographies, histories, children's books and science fiction stories.

Saturday 10th September 2011

Public consultations initiated by local authorities usually mean bad news for the community with yet another service about to be axed. They look innocent enough, asking for the people's views about whether it is well used and value for money, but invariably someone back at the council offices has already decided that it will have to go in the interests of economy and the figures look so good on paper that councillors who are supposed to protect our interests meekly comply.

The scenario is sometimes changed by the strength of opposition when the will of the people prevails but usually it is a fait acompli and soon the community has lost yet another valuable amenity.

The current round of spending cuts has been a particularly bad time for our public services and barely a week goes by without news of another that is under review. All consultations are therefore regarded with deep suspicion and an example of this has surfaced in the letters columns of the local newspapers, often the harbinger of unpalatable developments in the council chamber.

The subject of the consultation this time is the 13 household waste recycling centres in Lincolnshire and particularly the one in Pinfold Road, Bourne, which was only opened in April 2002 after a lengthy battle by householders determined to change the previous haphazard, even dangerous, system of dumping bulky refuse. But the county council is already under attack for using underhand methods because Mr Brynley Heaven has cast doubt on its integrity by suggesting that the exercise is merely a subterfuge for removing the facility altogether.

Home owners are being asked to complete a series of questions to "help shape future service delivery in the light of reduced budgets". But in a letter to both The Local and the Stamford Mercury (September 2nd), Mr Heaven, a parish councillor from Aslackby, near Bourne, suggests that the review may be just a sham because he writes: "Only those with very short memories will take this exercise seriously. I remember filling in such a survey into car parking recycling centres across the district council area on behalf of a large village near Bourne. We tried to be reasonable and made some specific points. We argued that the little used ones could be quietly closed while the busy ones were self-evidently justifying their existence. But it was all a con. The survey was just a cover for removing them all, busy or otherwise. I wonder what this survey is a cover for? At a rough guess, it is a cover for charging or reduced hours. Or both."

The previous consultation to which Mr Heaven refers involved the metal containers or bottle banks installed in car parks and other vantage points in urban and rural areas to enable householders dump rubbish that had a recycling value. This included mainly paper such as newspapers and magazines, bottles, jars and other small glass objects, metal cans, plastic, clothing, shoes, and later more specialised items such as computer printer cartridges, books, CDs and DVDs.

There were 43 such sites around the area administered by South Kesteven District Council but in July 2009 they were phased out on the pretext that they had become redundant because recyclable waste was now being collected through the kerbside wheelie bin service which was then in operation. The authority claimed that the decision was taken after a public consultation in which the views of residents were sought and a statement said: “We asked you if the service was a good use of taxpayers’ money. We received a lot of feedback and although many of you thought it was a valuable service, over half of those who responded said they could understand why we were thinking about stopping the service.”

This appeared to indicate public approval which was not the case because the relevant statistics of the consultation exercise which the council only provided on request did not support the closure decision. There were a mere 26 replies to their questionnaire from residents out of a population of 131,000 and only 30% of them supported a withdrawal of the service while almost 40% did not and did not understand why the council was even considering it. A total of 77 parish councils were also consulted and of the 47 that responded, half did not support closure and did not understand why the council was considering it while only two of the six supermarkets consulted replied and both said there was some interest in supporting recycling.

Support for the withdrawal of the recycling banks therefore appeared to be non-existent, thus reinforcing the popular theory that these public consultations are merely a prelude to the curtailment of this service or that, a smoke screen to conceal an unpalatable decision that has already been taken.

If the writer’s suspicions about the Bourne recycling centre are correct, then the county council is likely to provoke serious unrest in the town because the provision of facilities for waste disposal has a most depressing history and one that most householders who experienced it would like to forget. Ever since 1976 they had been forced to take their bulky rubbish by car to a designated area where a freighter truck was waiting each Saturday morning. Various locations were used but mainly the car park at the old Rainbow supermarket in Manning Road.

The facility became so well used that it eventually resulted in four hours of chaos. Queues had usually formed by 8 a m, half an hour before the trucks had arrived, and from then on it was a continual push and shove to dispose of their waste. Men and women, many of them old age pensioners, struggled under the weight of heavy plastic bags and boxes as they were forced to stand in line for five and ten minutes at a time until they could reach the waiting refuse vehicles to dump their garbage. Sometimes they had to make three and four journeys from their cars to the trucks to dispose of their loads and there were frequent quarrels and bickering.

The scenes here each week were a disgrace to the town and a black mark against the local authorities which procrastinated over providing a permanent depot while fly tipping became endemic with piles of discarded household items appearing weekly on roadside verges and in ditches, on waste ground and field entrances.

During this time, none of the local authorities thought it worthwhile establishing a permanent waste recycling centre. But the situation changed dramatically when the owners of the Rainbow supermarket served notice that their car park would not be available after 20th October 2000. For several months, the management had been alarmed at the inconsiderate and even dangerous driving and parking by some visitors and the dumping of rubbish before the mobile skips arrived but despite previous warnings that the facility would be ended, Lincolnshire County Council did nothing to find an alternative site.

When the final notice came, the council made an abortive attempt to buy three acres of land in South Fen for a permanent waste recycling centre and when the site was finally closed to them, they moved the venue to the car park adjoining the leisure centre in Queen's Road, promising that a permanent location would be found by the end of the financial year in April 2002.

The new centre in Pinfold Lane, run by private contractors, eventually opened on 27th April 2002, but only on Saturdays and Sundays between 8 a m and 4 p m, although a seven-day operation began the following September when the mobile skip system was finally phased out, 26 years after the problem was first identified.

This is the facility that is now under review and one that people such as Mr Heaven fear may be either axed, its services reduced or charges imposed. If any one of these things happens, then the conduct of the county council will have reached a new low. It is therefore incumbent on them to issue a statement clarifying the reasons for their review and making it quite clear that it will continue to serve the town as it has in the past. In the absence of such an assurance, the public will have every right to treat this consultation with the derision it deserves.

The connection between Raymond Mays, the motor racing driver and designer, and the Standard motor company, is highlighted in a new book that has just been published. Triumph and Tragedy is the story of Sir John Black who was managing director of the Standard Motor Company and post-war Triumph from 1933-54.

His story has a Bourne connection because he sponsored BRM through Raymond Mays, a friend for many years, and Standard subsequently built and equipped a test house for racing cars at the workshops in Spalding Road, now used as an auction saleroom. Ken Richardson, who was chief test driver for BRM, also went on to work for Sir John at Coventry and ended up developing the legendary TR2 sports car.

Sir John, who was twice married, died in 1965, aged 70, and this intriguing yet personal account has been written by his son, Nick Black, aged 62, who runs a window cleaning business at Stamford. The book is illustrated with many black and white photographs which he inherited and the result is a fascinating narrative which has the makings of a real life adventure, a tale that weaves through the decades, encompassing many domestic events and colourful personalities from politics, sport and industry encountered along the way.

"He was great company and good fun and there was never a dull moment", said Nick. "He was gifted in business but both of his marriages were disastrous although he never divorced my mother and she remained loyal to him. This is a one off for me and it has taken me five years to write and research but I realised that with the photos and memories that my mother had related to me, I had a great story to tell."

The book costs £15 and copies are available from Walkers Books at 19 North Street, Bourne, PE10 9AE.

From the archives – village weddings 19th century style: Robert Tomlin, aged 74, an opulent farmer from Birthorpe, near Bourne, was married to Elizabeth Chapman of Haconby, and who for many years was a resident at Rippingale Mill, at the advanced age of 80 years. The ceremony was conducted at St Andrew’s Church, Haconby, by the Rev Samuel Hopkinson. The happy couple were attended at the church by the bride’s grandchildren and after passing the day convivially, drove in the evening to Birthorpe to spend their honeymoon. – news item from the Stamford Mercury, Friday 23rd June 1820.

Mr John Dexter, a respectable cottager and freeholder, in his 67th year, was bound in holy matrimony at the village church at Dunsby, near Bourne, on Monday last to Miss Mary Smith, a blooming damsel of sweet 21. Both came from Dunsby and the service was conducted by the rector, the Rev William Waters. “And when, John’s passion fondly pressing, He sought the matrimonial blessing.” The language of love, so much talked of by the poets, prevailed against every remonstrance of friends and even the rage and fury of relations. The happy swain had conquest in his cheeks and will love, cherish, honour and obey. Hand in hand the couple blithely proceeded to the adjoining village of Rippingale where the festive board groaned with the weight of the feast and it also being the annual feast day of the parish, the tabor struck up and the village was gay. Rural sports were the order of the day and the merry dance and sparkling glass went round till night was at odds with morning and the groom, having taken sufficient of the cheer-upping cup, the happy couple retired and after throwing the stocking, the jolly swain was left wrapt in the arms of Morpheus to enjoy (what he most needed), nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep. – news report from the Stamford Mercury, Friday 4th July 1823.

Thought for the week: Strange to say what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition.  - Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), English naval administrator and Member of Parliament most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a young man, providing a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events.

Saturday 17th September 2011

The Robert Manning College has opened for the autumn term as the Bourne Academy, thus fulfilling the expectation that the name of the town might once again be reflected in the title.

The governors applied for academy status in May 2011 under the provisions of the Academies Act of 2010 which enables all schools to become state funded and independent of local authority control. The conversion is part of the coalition government's plans for a reformed system of strong, autonomous schools, to promote innovation and flair by giving them more freedom to decide how best to meet the needs of their students, parents and the wider community and any school with an outstanding report from Ofsted is able to apply for the new status, a condition fulfilled by the Robert Manning College in October 2008.

The budget will continue to be based on funding formulas set by the Department for Education although a portion of this will still come from the local authority. An academy trust will be set up to own the school's assets, such as land and buildings, appoint governors, employ staff and agree their pay and conditions. The college will also be able to set its own admissions code to decide which pupils will be given places and take other decisions regarding the curriculum, the length of term and school days.

The first indication that the college was seeking academy status came earlier this year from the principal, Laurence Reilly, who outlined the benefits to The Local newspaper (May 20th). "The extra funding that would come with the change of status will enable us maintain current staffing levels while continuing our extensive programme of investing in further improvements to buildings and facilities”, he said. “One important aspect that will continue is our commitment to achieving ever increasing educational standards in a modern friendly and supportive environment. Given our strong links with the local community, the name of the town might again become the key part of the academy title."

The governors subsequently met on June 14th to make a final decision on proceeding with their application and after completing the process of conversion, the college re-opened for the autumn term on September 1st as Bourne Academy.

This is the most momentous event in its history, a dramatic change from its humble beginnings as part of the Abbey Primary School 65 years ago. The premises in Abbey Road became too cramped to cope with the expanding number of pupils and in 1946 half of them moved to the site in Queen’s Road. The accommodation was a series of wooden huts until the first permanent buildings opened in 1958 when it became independent as Bourne County Secondary School but after several name changes and a modernisation of the premises it has been transformed into its present status specialising in technology and vocational training with a pupil roll of 1,200 boys and girls aged from 11-18.

Mr Reilly told the newspaper that new improvements had already been made during the summer holidays including a re-designed reception area and 150 new computers (September 16th). He added: “The new reception area ensures that visitors, particularly our parents, receive a warm welcome. New top of the range classroom computers also mean that students do not have any of the infuriating delays that occur with the older machines.”

The sixth form common room has been modernised with addition of double glazed windows and air conditioning and the school hall has been redecorated. The Wake knot, a traditional symbol associated with Bourne, has again been incorporated in the new school logo which can be seen at the main entrance. “The academy is embarking on an improvement programme that will benefit everyone”, said Mr Reilly, “replicating the superb facilities in the newest parts of the school throughout the building and additional science laboratories are also being considered. This is just the start of the increased investment in our facilities which would not have been possible without the additional funding that we now have at our disposal as a result of achieving academy status.”

The Abbey CE Primary School achieved academy status last December, the first in Lincolnshire. Bourne Grammar School is currently making a similar bid, having overcome opposition from the trustees of Bourne United Charities which owns part of the South Road site, and an application is also going forward from Westfield Primary School and so it is now likely that all four of our mainstream schools will have become academies by next year.

Meanwhile, after several months of fence-sitting, Lincolnshire County Council has finally come out in favour of schools seeking academy status, to take control of their futures and govern themselves instead of remaining under local authority control.

The council previously held a neutral position but the Stamford Mercury reports that it now wants to "show leadership" and allow individual schools make their own decision (September 9th). Councillor Patricia Bradwell, executive member for children's services, told the newspaper that they had the interests of pupils at heart. "Any decision about becoming an academy rests with the governing bodies but we want to provide some clear guidance to schools who may be unsure about what to do", she said.

More than 400 schools in England have become academies since September last year, the majority of them secondary schools and several are in Lincolnshire. Presumably, with less work to do, this will mean a reduction in staffing levels at the county council which currently employs 12,000 people making it the largest employer in Lincolnshire.

The government this week showed the way by announcing that drastic cuts in manning levels were imminent including a reduction in the number of ministers which has risen by 40 since 1900 and in the 650 MPs, many of whom we can certainly do without. Local authorities which have become top heavy in manpower in recent years would do well to follow this lead because the public is in no mood to suffer the brunt of the spending cuts while those who purport to govern remain feather-bedded.

Certainly, savings are needed by our councils in the face of the current economic crisis because the good old standby of increasing the council tax next April has become untenable and any move to put up the present rate is likely to spark a public protest which would soon attract the widespread support and intensity of that which greeted the introduction of the poll tax 21 years ago.

Yet another milestone for voluntary effort has been marked with the town winning a silver gilt award in the East Midlands in Bloom competition, the fourth in a row and the sixth consecutive success since 2006, making it one of the best results ever although the 162 points out of a possible 200 were eight short of the coveted gold. This time, however, there was a special mention for the Wellhead Gardens where Bourne United Charities have been carrying out extensive improvement work in recent months and this resulted in an additional special award.

This annual event is community based and designed to encourage cleaner, smarter and more attractive town centres in the region. There are several sections and Bourne falls into Category B Towns, those with a population of between 6,000 and 12,000, based on the last electoral register. The judges usually give a month’s notice of their arrival and tour the town looking out for floral displays, attractive and colourful gardens and parks and so it is important for everyone to give special attention to those places under their control whether it is merely the lawn and herbaceous borders or a public open space. Pupils from local schools, the scouts and police cadets all help in keeping the streets and public places clear of litter.

An indication of what is needed was given by one of the judges, Doug Stacey, when he spoke to the town council in 2009. “The competition originated in France and has been running for 45 years”, he said. “It leads to cleaner communities and encourages people to work together and take pride in their town.”

The competition carries with it an involvement of the people and the chance to make our streets attractive throughout the summer months, not just for the judges but also for the many visitors who arrive here with Bourne either as a destination or merely passing through. The work carried out in successive years is the perfect example of how a small market town should look at this time of the year and we should remember that if people like what they see then they will come again.

PAST AWARDS

* 2006: The town collected a Silver Award after scoring 121 points out of a possible 200. Oakham in Rutland took top place with the Gold Award in the event which attracted dozens of entries from across the region. A special award was also made by the judges to the Westfield Primary School for its outstanding allotment garden and pond.

* 2007: The town won a second Silver Award with 143 points, 22 more than the previous year with a judges’ award for nature conservation work in Bourne Wood in co-operation with the Friends of Bourne Wood.

* 2008: Bourne was awarded 151 points, its highest ever, to win a Silver Gilt Award. The judges were particularly impressed by the colourful planters around the town centre and surrounding streets and a special award was made to the gardeners at the council's allotments in South Fen. Work at the Willoughby School was also praised by the judges while Westfield Primary School won a Silver Gilt Award after entering in the new schools category.

* 2009: The town achieved 154 points and collected another Silver Gilt award together with two other prizes, a judges’ honour for the sensitive management of Bourne Wood and another for the least littered environment. Advice for the future from the judges at the award ceremony at Cleethorpes was to include larger floral displays and the organising committee is hoping that sponsors will come forward to finance additional planting for future entries.

* 2010: The town collected 162 points and another Silver Gilt Award, the judges making special mention of the cleanliness of the town, landscaping around the Roman Bank industrial estate and the gardens around Elsea Park while the town cemetery in South Road received special praise. They were also impressed with the management of Bourne Wood and the black and gold street furniture was commended for complementing an already attractive town centre. There was also special praise for our schools, notably the Robert Manning College which received a special judges’ award for the attractive and innovative planting of the floral boat in South Street while Westfield Primary School won the competition for the Best School Garden.

This year, the judges arrived in July to find the town full of flowers with the public open spaces looking their best after many months of hard work by a team of helpers co-ordinated by the clerk to the town council, Mrs Nelly Jacobs. Their tour took them from the Heritage Centre in South Street through the War Memorial and Wellhead Gardens before taking a look at the main streets and other areas of the town decorated with planters, towers, troughs and tubs, all ablaze with colourful blooms. The result was an excellent achievement which gave particular pleasure to those committee members who made the trip to Oadby in Leicestershire on Wednesday to find out how the town had fared. Among them was town councillor Judy Smith who told The Local newspaper (September 16th) that it was a fantastic result with the award for the Wellhead Gardens a welcome bonus. “We got a good report and hopefully we can improve further next year”, she said.

In their adjudication, the judges made special mention of the cleanliness of the town, the attractiveness of the War Memorial Gardens, the floral displays on the central barriers in the town centre and Bourne Wood.

The year’s result reflects well on the volunteers who gave time and effort to make sure that the town was at its best on the day but it appears that more support is badly needed from our traders. The owners of several business premises such as the Nag’s Head, the Angel Hotel and Smiths of Bourne, decorated the front of their premises with hanging baskets but disappointingly many did not and this may have affected the final marking by the judges who suggested that if the owners of more business premises contributed, especially in that vital area around the town centre, we might have won the top award.

Perhaps this will bring a change of heart next year. After all, success in a competition such as this benefits everyone who trades here, particularly those with premises that have such a high profile by being situated in the main streets.

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 poet, lecturer and essayist.

Saturday 24th September 2011

The ambulance plays a vital role in protecting the health of the nation and usually provides the first response in the case of an emergency. Anyone who has been suddenly taken ill or involved in an accident can testify to the skill, expertise and compassion of those who deliver the service and it is therefore up to their administrators to ensure that speed and efficiency is maintained at all times.

In years past, smaller ambulance units operating from local stations were easier to monitor and mistakes soon rectified but the government insistence on centralisation has produced services that now cover sprawling areas embracing both rural and urban communities with the result that response times can be slower than they should be, often to the detriment of the patient, whether ailing or injured.

Many ambulance stations have closed as a result but fortunately, we still have one here in Bourne, tucked away unnoticed but certainly not forgotten on the edge of the old hospital site in South Road which was sold for housing development eight years ago despite widespread public protest. Attempts by the developers to buy this remaining portion of the land have so far failed and so we still have a service that is local and immediate even though those who need it are still directed through to a central control board when telephoning for help.

The situation in Bourne appears to be similar to that which exists throughout the East Midlands and although response times here appear to be adequate, often within ten minutes, others are not so lucky and this is causing concern for Lincolnshire County Council which oversees the performance of the ambulance service throughout its area.

The government expects that a paramedic or first responder is sent to 75 per cent of patients whose life is in danger within eight minutes and an ambulance and crew should be on the scene within 19 minutes for 95 per cent of all calls. Figures just released by the East Midlands Ambulance Service however, reveal that in April and May this year, only 73 calls in Lincolnshire were met by a paramedic or first responder within eight minutes and 86 per cent were met by an ambulance and crew within the required 19 minutes.

Members of the county council's health scrutiny committee which monitors performance do not think this is good enough and have asked for improvements during the coming months although they have also suggested that a return to the old system of a dedicated ambulance service for Lincolnshire might be a better solution and the chairman, Councillor Christine Talbot, has suggested that it is time that the council was back in charge. She told the Stamford Mercury (September 16th): "EMAS has admitted that they are not happy with the service being delivered in Lincolnshire although they continually refer to the fact that they are meeting targets for the division as a whole. That is no comfort to the 700,000 people in this county who deserve better and should not be made to feel a lower priority."

Not everyone agrees, however, and Bourne town councillor Trevor Holmes (Bourne West) has pointed out that meeting targets in a rural county is tougher than in the more urban areas. "The difficulty is that there are so many rural locations around Bourne and it is perfectly understandable that targets are not met", he said. "A one size fits all approach does not work. But I wouldn't trust the county council with the ambulance service. We should leave it in the hands of the professionals."

The ambulance service in Bourne began eighty years ago at the Butterfield Hospital which had opened in 1910. It those early days it was run by the St John Ambulance Brigade after the Bourne division had been set up following a public meeting called in 1931 by general practitioner Dr John Galletly and John Reade, manager of Lloyds Bank, to recruit support for first aid classes and to man a recently acquired ambulance that had been consigned to the town for use in emergencies.

The response was so good that 40 names were handed in and the new organisation was formed. By March of that year, 30 members had passed their preliminary examinations in first aid procedures and Edgar Judge, the North Street chemist, was appointed ambulance officer.

Once qualified through the examination procedure, the men were assigned to ambulance duties when required but these did not always run smoothly. The first patient to be conveyed in the Bourne ambulance was Mr F North of Mill Drove who was placed on a stretcher which was then loaded into the back and the ambulance set off for the Butterfield Hospital, a short journey to the end of North Street, but as it was crossing the gutter, the vehicle bounced and the back doors swung open.

The stretcher started to slide out of the back but one of the attendants managed to stop it before it deposited its patient in the street. Mr North recovered from the indisposition which needed the ambulance journey to hospital and never held a grudge for the mishap. In 1936, when the brigade marked its fifth anniversary, he gladly accepted an invitation to the celebration dinner and even responded to the toast to "The Visitors".

There were other embarrassing incidents and on one occasion, when the ambulance was called out to collect a man having a fit, the attendants found that a crowd of bystanders were already rendering assistance and everyone present insisted on lending a hand when he was lifted into the vehicle, some even climbing inside to put him on the stretcher. The attendant closed the doors and the ambulance sped off to hospital, taking with it half a dozen of the enthusiastic helpers.

After those early days, the scope of the brigade was widened and its members became more proficient and when the ambulance service was eventually taken over by Kesteven County Council, they continued to carry out voluntary work as well as report for duty as attendants when needed. The ambulance service was taken over by Lincolnshire County Council during the reorganisation of local government in 1974 and by this time an ambulance station had been established at the corner of Queen's Road and Harrington Street which remained the location until November 1979 when the brick and asbestos building was extensively damaged by a serious fire in which a young mechanic lost his life.

The station was subsequently moved to a corner in the grounds of Bourne Hospital alongside the A15 in South Road where a purpose built four bay building was erected and run by the Lincolnshire Ambulance Service (NHS Trust). The hospital closed in 1998 and the site sold for housing development in the summer of 2003 when the building complex was demolished to make way for new houses. But the ambulance station remained although now run by the East Midlands Ambulance Service (NHS Trust), an amalgamation of several other services and covering a population of 4.8 million people in six counties.

The service currently employs over 3,200 staff at more than 70 locations, including two control rooms at Nottingham and Lincoln, with the largest staff group being accident and emergency personnel while accident and emergency crews respond to over 670,000 emergency calls every year (2011 figures). It is this vast undertaking that is now causing concern at Lincolnshire County Council whose members feel that people in the county may be seriously disadvantaged by the timescale record for ambulance turnouts.

The location of the Bourne ambulance station is also a problem because it occupies an inconvenient position on the edge of a new housing estate and accessed only by a narrow lane squeezed in between properties, and so extreme care must be taken to reach the main road which must be done quietly at night when residents are asleep. Relocation does not appear to be a priority but must come eventually because people who have recently bought new houses on this estate may soon be objecting to its continued presence in a new residential area.

From the archives: The painfully sudden death occurred of Miss Marie Nichols, daughter of Mr William Nichols, grocer, of North-street, Bourne. She was seized with violent pain on Sunday when medical aid was summoned and Dr Gilpin declared the young lady to be in a critical condition and that nothing short of an immediate operation would save her life. He proceeded in his motor at once to Peterborough and returned about five o'clock accompanied by Dr Kirkwood who pronounced the case too serious to operate at home and she was removed to Peterborough Infirmary in Mr Thomas Mays' motor and an operation performed on her arrival. First reports were that the operation was successful but on Wednesday, a telegram was dispatched for the parents who found there was no hope of recovery. The young lady succumbed a few minutes after six in the evening, the cause of the trouble being a substance which burst the stomach. The deepest sympathy is expressed for the relatives as there was not the least expectation of such an early termination to her life. She had scarcely reached 21 years of age and up to Saturday week, performed her usual duties in the shop. - news report from the Stamford Mercury, 4th May 1906.

The newly-named Bourne Academy may have got itself into a twist over the Wake knot which has been incorporated in the logo that appears on the front of the building at the main entrance.

Photographs of the school sign and that of the former Robert Manning College were included in my Diary item last week about switching to academy status and this has produced a lively discussion about the origins of the knot in the Bourne Forum. Some contributors had never heard of it, even though it appears in the town's coat of arms, while others have questioned its authenticity, notably a most erudite appraisal from Bob Harvey who identified it as a double Carrick bend.

"I believe the Wake knot is associated with the legend of his vigil at the abbey before taking up arms against the Normans", he said. "I think that the old school signs shown in Rex's photographs have it tied wrongly. The right hand standing part does not seem to intersect the right hand bight."

Confirmation of this came from Derek Bontoft, a former teacher, who has been involved with the school since 1964. "I have pointed out on many occasions that the knot is NOT a knot", he wrote. "As Bob has noticed, if you were to pull the strings at each end they would pull apart. I was always told that the knot was a plain old reef knot, a sign of strength. I think that the two ends should pass underneath the loop and then it would be a reef knot. But then I was never a boy scout."

This is certainly true with the sign used for the Robert Manning College and may also apply to the new one that has been introduced for Bourne Academy because the lines of the Wake knot used in the name on the front of the building are indistinct. Perhaps the craftsmen responsible should come back and have another go to remove all doubt.

The correct knot is currently part of the town's coat of arms and another more detailed illustration (pictured above) can be found in that ubiquitous source of reference, Wikipedia, which says that it is merely a decorative knot, similar in appearance to a Carrick bend, also known as an Ormonde or Ormond knot used primarily in English heraldry. This knot remains in practical use today in sailing where knots are essential and is believed to have nautical origins, possibly coming from Carrick Roads, a large natural anchorage by Falmouth in Cornwall, or it may have derived from the carrack, a mediaeval type of ship.

In heraldry, the knot is most notable for its appearance on the Wake family heraldic badge where it is formed by an intertwining rope and strap, this family having little to do with the fabled Hereward, our Saxon hero, but as with all historical legends, the connection is difficult to erase from public consciousness.

Thought for the week: When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. - Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), the 32nd President of the United States of America and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century.