Bourne Diary - February 2011

by Rex Needle

Saturday 5th February 2011

There is growing public anger over the government’s plans to sell off or lease all of the forests currently in public ownership coupled with fears that our own Bourne Wood may end up in private hands and the access that has been enjoyed for centuries denied to future generations.

Never since the Enclosure Act of the 18th century which enabled the landed gentry force the working classes off the country’s common land has there been a greater threat to our countryside freedom and despite the assurances that are currently being given by Whitehall that ancient rights will be protected there is a deep feeling of distrust against the £250 million scheme to end public ownership of the nation’s forests policy and a fear that we may be seeing the end of the open woodland that we have enjoyed in the past.

It has already been reported that the Forestry Commission has quietly sold off 30,000 acres of English woodland with many sites snapped up by private owners who have greatly reduced or even banned public access (The Sunday Times, 16th January 2011) and members of parliament have warned that further sales may realise our worst fears and that much loved woodland sites around the country could end up in the hands of sleazy bankers and supermarket giants. Despite these revelations, the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, has promised that all woods sold off will retain existing public rights of entry although an examination of those transferred to private ownership shows that this may mean little in practice.

Privatisation in the past has not boded well for the people, with the railways, gas, water, electricity and telephone utilities, being sold off to the detriment of consumers and the flood of complaints that appear regularly in the press and elsewhere indicate that they are being ripped off and profits paid in dividends to shareholders and to staff in high salaries and bonuses rather than ploughed back into modernisation and the improvement of services.

Conservationists are leading the wave of protest against what could turn out to be the nation’s biggest land sale and the thought of losing Bourne Wood in this way is a depressing prospect mainly through the inadequacy of the last government’s right to roam legislation. In theory, people should still be able to enter and go walking in the woods as they choose but in practice sales may see the public effectively excluded by new landowners exercising an overall discouragement through the removal of car parks and direction signs and the introduction of fences, gates, warning notices and other deterrents. The Sunday Times also points out that the right to roam laws do not cover cycling and horse riding, two pursuits currently carried out in Bourne Wood, and so these may be blocked if the wood changes hands.

Bourne Wood has a particular place in our affection because it stands in the middle of prairie like acres of intensive farmland which are mainly inaccessible except for a few isolated footpaths. There has probably been continuous tree cover on this site for the last 8,000 years and the present woodland covering some 400 acres consists of a mixture of broadleaf and conifer of all ages and their diversity has created ideal conditions for a wide range of wildlife. It is now managed for conservation as well as timber production but these pursuits have never hindered the recreational value that has enabled people of all ages roam at all times and it would be unthinkable if these rights were withdrawn or even restricted.

The government is taking great pains to issue assurances that the public interest will be preserved but most people remain unconvinced and deeply suspicious and online petitions have been launched in an attempt to prevent the sales. The Friends of Bourne Wood are gathering support to oppose the scheme and a lively discussion is underway in the Bourne Forum where you may add your voice to the debate.

A perfect example of people power has been demonstrated by conservationists following my item last month on the derelict railway bridge on the edge of the Elsea Park housing estate. A photograph of the Victorian brick structure was sent in by Chris Roe, a keen cameraman who is also curious about our past, and I suggested that it should either be protected as a listed building or preserved by the developers who are erecting the new houses nearby.

Chris, aged 45, of Westwood Drive, Bourne, spotted the bridge while out with his camera and after featuring in this column on January 15th there was a discussion in the Bourne Forum and now it has attracted the attention of the local newspapers whose reports have sparked off a campaign to save the bridge as a relic of our railway heritage. Extensive coverage was given by The Local newspaper (January 28th) and the report has stimulated further interest in saving the structure with former town councillor Guy Cudmore calling on South Kesteven District Council to initiate a preservation order on the crumbling structure.

The railway came to Bourne in 1860 with the building of a 6½-mile stretch of track to connect with the main Great Northern Railway line at Essendine and during the next 100 years the system was regularly extended and improved. The Spalding and Bourne Railway was opened in 1866 followed by a 17-mile branch line north to Sleaford and the final link came in 1894 with another extension west to Little Bytham where it connected with the branch line from Saxby, east of Melton Mowbray, thus creating a through route between the East Midlands and East Anglia of which Bourne could take full advantage.

The bridge was built with locally made bricks around 1860 and was known as Overbridge 234, part of the Midland and Great Northern line to Saxby. It was the first, and only one remaining, of three overbridges which took farm traffic over the line between Bourne West signal box and Toft tunnel. Today it stands isolated and in very poor condition although the Elsea Park housing development is getting closer by the month but despite its dilapidated state, the structure still retains that Victorian splendour which reminds us of the period’s outstanding engineering achievements.

The listing of old buildings is the concern of English Heritage which makes recommendations to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) but it is doubtful if they would take on such a derelict structure. Nevertheless, all is not lost because as a result of Chris Roe’s curiosity and his excellent photograph, the bridge and its future is to be discussed at the next meeting of the Elsea Park Community Trust which consists of representatives of residents, the developer and local councillors. A final decision would rest with the developers, the Kier Group, which does not own the site but a spokesman told the newspaper: “We do have an option to buy the land on which the bridge stands but we currently have no strategy or plans for it should we choose to purchase.”

Guy Cudmore has suggested to the newspaper that the bridge could become a feature of the housing estate with benches installed nearby for residents but this may be wishful thinking. Eventually, someone will have to pay and be responsible for it and although no one would wish to lose such an evocative symbol of our railway past, it will need a very strong case to support the finance needed to save it.

We appear to underestimate the value of our supermarkets for without them the small shops would be unable to cope with the demand and if for some reason they all closed, there would soon be a disruption to our daily life and great unease out there in the streets. After all, it took only a burst 18-inch main on Monday to cut off water supplies to 7,000 homes and businesses in and around Bourne, causing alarm among many families, especially those with children and old people, shut six schools and triggered a wave of panic buying for bottled water from the local shops. This emergency lasted for only six hours but that was sufficient for us to realise exactly how important a water supply is to our daily existence.

In a civilised society, the people expect to feed and clothe themselves and keep warm and if by any chance they are unable to do these things, then public unrest will follow. Anxiety and discontent over the closure of supermarkets may seem an improbable consequence but it is worth considering exactly what does constitute a domestic crisis and we may assume that it is anything which threatens our safety and well being. If we therefore consider the alternative to this vital link in the food chain, the regular and reliable source of supply for all of our grocery needs, being suddenly cut off then there would be far reaching consequences.

Those of more senior years will remember the queues created by the years of rationing and hardship during and after the Second World War of 1939-45 and the resentment and public vilification of those who took advantage of black market supplies while in our recent past, we have seen aggressive conduct on the filling station forecourts when petrol supplies dried up and so it does not need a vivid imagination to conjure up the effects of the food shortage that would be created with the closure of our supermarkets. Fortunately, this is a doubtful occurrence and even if one company went to the wall, which is extremely unlikely, even in the current economic climate in which all of the big players are making fortunes, there are other outlets which are handy.

This dismal and even worrisome scenario has been prompted by the announcement that Sainsburys are shutting their store in Exeter Street for seven days from Tuesday evening. The interior is being redesigned and fitted with new tills and checkouts and a complete closure is seen as the only viable way of allowing work to proceed unhindered. The new Tesco store will not be opening until later in the month (Monday 21st February) which leaves Co-operative Food in the Burghley Centre as our only other large outlet which will be unable to cope with all of Sainsburys usual customers for a week as well as their own regular shoppers without long queues and the frustration of waiting and so many will be heading out of town, persuaded perhaps by the £5 voucher handed out by Sainsburys to spend at their other stores in Grantham, Spalding or Peterborough.

The closure of Sainsburys is an inconvenience for those who shop there regularly and fortunately it will be back in business after a few days but it is a timely reminder of how we have come to depend on the supermarkets for our very existence, always there, always well stocked and open long hours, and we would do well to remember that if some catastrophic event occurred which forced them all to shut up shop, then it would be a body blow to life as we know it.

This will be dismissed as a doubtful, even implausible, eventuality by many but then the likelihood of our high street banks collapsing did not even enter our heads until the run on Northern Rock, Britain's eighth largest and once the darling of the City of London, although by the end of 2007 it was in crisis and struggling for its very survival. Suddenly, we saw astounding television pictures of anxious savers queuing up to get their money and the rest, as they say, is history. Banking has never been the same again and it should be a warning that other industries are by no means immune from the vagaries of the market and of circumstance and it is always we, the customers, who are at the coal face of the experience.

Thought for the week: Events, my dear boy, events - Harold Macmillan (1894-1986), Conservative Prime Minister of Britain who was noted for his pragmatism, wit and unflappability, when asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman.

Saturday 12th February 2011

Plan B for the regeneration of the town centre at Bourne has finally been revealed by South Kesteven District Council and it has all the marks of an inferior replacement for the original. More shops and some flats are envisaged, not so much properties that are necessary in their chosen location but more to provide a role for the many run down buildings the authority has recently bought for inflated prices and is now at a loss over what to do with them.

The original idea was inject new life into the town centre but that was doomed from the start and the chapter of misfortune that followed is too dismal to repeat here. Suffice it to say that ten years on with the grand idea estimated to cost £27 million, not a brick was laid before the whole project was abandoned at a cost to the taxpayer that has not yet been revealed.

The conception was to redesign that triangle of land between West Street, North Street and Burghley Street, and was first mooted in August 2001 but when the project finally collapsed a more modest scheme was suggested involving the rejuvenation of Wherry’s Lane which has been in a disgraceful state for years past despite it being slap bang in the middle of the ward represented by three members of the district council, including the leader, Linda Neal (Bourne West). The improvement of this narrow lane which connects North Street with the Burghley Street car park is therefore welcome but to suggest as The Local does that this is “a revamp of the town centre” (February 4th) is a misleading notion of some proportion.

Buildings bought up by the council for the project have now been shoe-horned into the new scheme together with the Masonic lodge, an eyesore long past its sell by date for which the council paid the unbelievable sum of £375,000 last October. This will now be demolished to make it the most expensive building site in the history of Bourne and replaced with two blocks of shops with flats above while the Burghley Street warehouse nearby, purchased in 2008 also for £375,000, will be converted into four flats. A nearby garage workshop and two houses have also been purchased by the council but their future has not yet been determined although they too are likely to become shops and flats.

The entire project will cost up to £5 million, half from the council and the rest from other funding sources once a developer can be found to deliver. This appears to be exactly where we came in ten years ago and if several companies show an interest, no doubt we will have their various plans on show at the town hall, a re-run of the four day public consultation which opened on Thursday 9th December 2004 when three of the short-listed schemes went on display with a pile of questionnaires asking the public to give their preferences. In the end, the council chose the wrong one but we do not want to go into all of that again.

The council remains optimistic that work could start this summer for completion in June 2012 but we have been down this road before when there was a wide gap between the rhetoric and the reality. One thing is certain, that this is no redesign of the town centre, more the grafting on of another shopping precinct which will join those in the Burghley Arcade, Crown Walk and the Angel Precinct in isolating North Street, the very thoroughfare that needs attention because it should be the main focus for visitors yet is now frequently devoid of shoppers.

More retail units in Wherry’s Lane will not only add to the problem but will also compete for tenants with those properties along the main streets which are either standing empty or seeking new leaseholders. These additional properties both commercial and residential will all put pressure on existing car parking spaces, already at a premium at busy times when many are filled with vehicles left there all day by office and shop workers yet the scheme contains no provision for additional bays for the new tenants moving in.

It has been said that Sainsburys have already shifted the town centre to their supermarket in Exeter Street and soon Tesco will be attracting shoppers in their thousands to South Road. Creating even more oases of shops away from the town’s main street in this way does not auger well for the future, scattering the outlets over a wide area instead of concentrating them where they should be but then this can only be done with any hope of success if Bourne had a north-south by pass for the A15 with North Street landscaped and pedestrianised, thus allowing it to grow organically as a shopping centre as has happened in other market towns in Lincolnshire over recent years. It is their success that will reflect our failure in the years to come.

Our shops will soon be awash with souvenirs of the royal wedding. Decorative plates, mugs, loving cups, glasses, vases, medallions and even teddy bears which are being sold around the world will be kept on display on shelves and in family cabinets as a reminder of the great occasion in Westminster Abbey on April 29th when Prince William marries Kate Middleton.

Many buy these things in the mistaken belief that they will one day be valuable and that is certainly the case for royal occasions in past centuries when commemorative items were fewer and are eagerly sought by collectors but the sheer volume now being produced is a sure sign that they will not retain their value in the years to come unless produced by the more prestigious factories such as Royal Worcester, Crown Derby and Wedgwood.

Mass produced mugs and plates from the Queen’s coronation in 1956 fetch only a pound or two today, silver jubilee crowns from 1977 are worth little more than their face value (25p) while memorabilia from the last royal wedding between Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981 is so thick on the ground that it is not worth the effort of selling. The rule is therefore to buy these items as a memento of the big day but not for investment because without a good factory provenance, they will never accrue in value and may never be worth what you paid in the first place.

Similar state occasions in the past produced a large amount of commemorative ware with mugs as the most popular item because hardly a royal occasion passed without them being handed out to schoolchildren during the celebrations. In Bourne, the festivities invariably included a public treat of tea and buns in a marquee erected on the Abbey Lawn, followed by a programme of sports with evening dancing for adults to end the day.

The first record of souvenir mugs being handed out was in 1902 when the town celebrated the coronation of King Edward VII and by then, they had become a traditional gift for boys and girls but one mystery remains. On that day, Thursday 16th August, every boy and girl under 16 was given one although the number handed out is uncertain but as the population of Bourne was 4,361 (1901 census figure) and large families were quite normal, we can assume that the figure must have been around 500. Yet few, if any, appear to have survived.

Crockery was expensive in those days and so the mugs would have been used daily by the poorer families but the more well-off would have preserved them in their front room display cabinets and they were probably sold off or even destroyed with other household effects when the owners died. Today, these old pottery souvenirs are sought after by collectors of commemorative ware but the mass produced items now being sold for these occasions will be of little value in the future other than a reminder of a memorable occasion in our history.

From the archives: Joseph Bellamy of Bourne appeared before the magistrates summoned for driving a motor car to the danger of the public in the town. Police Constable Gibson said that defendant turned the corner from West Street to North Street at 20 miles an hour and it was with difficulty that witness got out of the way. John Edward Lunn and Edward Mason corroborated. Defendant denied the offence but said that owing to people at the corner, he had to take a wide sweep. As he was only in part employment, defendant was fined £2 and the chairman, Mr Robert Gardner, remarked that in future it would be best for him to study the public a little more. His licence was also endorsed. - news report from the Stamford Mercury, Friday 1st August 1924.

Bats have had a bad press as being of slight benefit to the world, little more than flying rats and a real nuisance if they tend to nest in the attic from where they cannot be removed because they are a protected species. Their appearance in churches, a favourite habitat, is a particular annoyance because their droppings can descend from a great height, either on a congregation at prayer or on unattended pews, without fear of retribution because their very presence in these and other historic buildings is deemed to be essential to their survival.

As with Health and Safety, the regulations relating to some of our endangered species may seem to be extreme but we have to live with them and in the case of the living world, who would dare argue with Sir David Attenborough, and so bats are here to stay and although most of us are happy to see them flitting about over the lawn in the twilight of a summer evening, we would really prefer them to remain in less obtrusive places such as Bourne Wood where they are to be found in abundance rather than the roof space of our own modest abode.

The woodland is blessed with these little creatures, hosting about seven out of the 17 bat species found in the British Isles and of special interest is the rare Leisler bat, the only place in Lincolnshire where it can be found. Other residents include the pipistrelle, Daubenton's, the whiskered, the brown long-eared and the noctule bats. In March 2007, the Friends of Bourne Wood installed new bat boxes at various vantage points, the timber being donated by local businessman Ronnie Branch of Branch Bros. A small but efficient team under the direction of forestry ranger Willie McLaughlin carried out the work assembling and positioning the new bat boxes which were placed on selected trees, often three around a trunk, to enable bats move around to avoid full sun.

Do not mistake these for bird boxes which are also part of the research carried out by the Friends although in the past these nesting places which have been made of wood have been prone to attack by woodpeckers. More durable containers have now been installed, courtesy the Len Pick Trust which has made a grant to pay for 57 new nest boxes made of a material, known as woodcrete, a mixture of cement, clay and sawdust which are virtually indestructible and should certainly withstand event the strongest beak. They are also warm in winter for roosting birds and cool in summer, allowing chicks to prosper with a 32 mm hole that enables access for a wide variety of species including great tits, blue tits, coal tits, marsh tits and nuthatches.

The new boxes have been fitted to trees alongside the main paths at the southern end of the wood in time for the new breeding season which traditionally starts on February 21st when visitors can enjoy seeing an increase in the population of nesting birds which will have a greater level of protection from natural predators.

Thought for the week: Hear how the birds, on every bloomy spray, with joyous music wake the dawning day! - Alexander Pope (1688-1744), 18th century English poet and the third most frequently quoted writer after Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Saturday 19th February 2011

For the past five years, Bourne has been a one-garage town, a situation entirely due to the opening of the Tesco Express outlet in North Road, forcing the closure of others through an aggressive petrol pricing policy with which they could not compete.

The last to go was the Raymond Mays garage in Spalding Road which shut in the autumn of 2005, our one remaining commercial link with a famous name from international motor racing and since then, the premises have stood empty and derelict awaiting a major housing development.

Tesco Express opened in August 2002 on the site of Woolf’s Garage, a family business which had been operating in the town since 1928, but sold to the Esso company in 1994 for use as a petrol filling station with an attached supermarket. But its opening has been a mixed blessing for Bourne, providing a much needed fuel outlet on the one hand but closing down all competition on the other as well as creating an annoying experience for customers with a forecourt frequently jammed with cars and delivery lorries.

The arrangement has also taught us that petrol and groceries from the same outlet do not mix, and this includes wine and sprits because the supermarket was granted an off licence in October 2002. The result is that some motorists fill up then leave their cars at the pumps while they do their shopping, often causing a tailback of waiting customers into St Gilbert's Road and sometimes into North Street as well as winding queues at the tills which are rarely fully manned and so a long wait to pay has become a regular occurrence.

This is the consequence of the monopoly the outlet enjoys in a town with a population of 15,000. In the event, we would not have done without it but hopefully all of this hassle could soon end with the opening a new and much needed garage in South Road.

The chosen site alongside the A15 to the south of the town has been awaiting a buyer for several years, originally part of an ambitious scheme for a Southfield Business Park covering some 17 acres to be developed at a cost of £10 million, including a restaurant, fast food outlet, petrol filling station, public house and hotel, the site accessed from a new estate road and roundabout and the remainder of the land developed for a range of uses including offices, light industrial units and warehousing. It would have been one of the largest commercial undertakings in the history of Bourne but turned out to be pie in the sky because it never materialised and the scheme was finally shelved in May 2001.

There followed many reports and rumours about various uses while much of the original land in the vicinity was chipped away for housing but in August 2008 came an indication of real interest from the Wolverhampton-based Marston's plc, one of the country’s leading companies which owns four breweries and controls some 2,272 pubs, to build a long-awaited second petrol filling station for the town together with a family pub and restaurant.

There was general relief in Bourne that at last something was happening to alleviate the current situation but the town was soon back at square one when the company pulled out in October 2009, a situation fully appreciated by Councillor Linda Neal (Bourne West), leader of South Kesteven District Council. "Clearly the highest priority here was to create a second petrol station for the town", she said. "The problem is about expectations being raised which have now been dashed which was probably related to the economic downturn and I do not know what will now happen to the site."

The council has now revealed that the 4.2 acre site has finally been sold and a new garage is on the way. Two developers, the Lindum group and Castle Square Developments of Lincoln, are paying £500,000 for the land where they plan to build not only a petrol filling station but also a family pub and restaurant and there may be potential for a motor dealership in the future. A planning application is likely to be submitted by March and if work starts later in the summer then the businesses could be up and running by early next year.

The Mayor of Bourne, Councillor Pet Moisey, is suitably jubilant. “We are down to one filling station at a time when our population is increasing considerably”, she told the Stamford Mercury (February 11th). “It is about time that Bourne is getting what it desperately needs.”

Her delight will be shared by all. The opening of the Tesco Express filling station has not been an entirely satisfactory project for another reason because it involved the establishment of a much criticised road system in North Street that appears to have been cobbled together with two questionable mini-roundabouts that have created a traffic danger at busy periods, particularly during the morning rush hour when queues of cars jam the garage forecourt and in the mid-afternoon when hundreds of children are leaving the Robert Manning College and streaming through the town centre.

The road system outside the garage should have been subjected to a much closer scrutiny at the planning stage when serious public concerns were raised. It is unlikely to be changed now but at least another petrol outlet will not only reduce the car usage at this point but also lessen the danger to pedestrians which is not the perfect solution but it is the best we can expect.

Saturday 26th February 2011

One of the major drawbacks in the provision of health care in Bourne has been the closure of our hospitals which served the community well for more than a century. Today, anyone taken ill must go by either car or ambulance to the new Peterborough City Hospital almost twenty miles away although recent events indicate that this is likely to be an unnerving experience.

The so called state of the art hospital opened only last November at a cost of £294 million, a four-storey building providing 614 beds and employing 3,500 people, yet already it is in trouble. The car parking system has been condemned as chaotic, costly and so complicated that old people who are among the most frequent visitors find it a daunting experience. Worse is likely to follow once inside because despite its super status, the hospital has repeatedly missed government targets which require that 95% of all patients should be treated within four hours and so a long wait is likely.

There may have been a seasonal excuse for this as the hospital struggled under the weight of winter related illnesses but that is of little consolation for those anxiously seeking urgent treatment in the accident and emergency department. There has been further bad news with the announcement that five wards have been closed because of a contagious bug known as norovirus, a winter vomiting condition that has claimed sixty victims.

Many people do not endorse the policy of successive governments to centralise hospital services which creates monolithic and impersonal institutions that are far too big to dispense the personal care required and the inevitable inefficiency of employing large numbers of workers, skilled and otherwise, impacts on patients when they are at their most vulnerable. Smaller and more manageable hospitals where staff were under the strict control of a matron appear to have worked well in the past by dispensing a speedier and more efficient medical service without the need to travel long distances and the evidence from Bourne bears this out.

The greatest loss to medical care in the town has been the closure of the Butterfield Hospital followed by Bourne Hospital, two small but very popular institutions perfectly capable of providing for the community without the need to join the growing queues for treatment at Peterborough. Unfortunately, both of these units were operating at a time when the role of the family doctor was quite different because it involved a great deal of hands on skill whereas much of their time is now spent on diagnoses in front of a computer screen, ticking boxes, checking blood pressures and authorising prescriptions for more pills, and only then from nine to five for five days a week.

Unfortunately, ill health does not keep office hours. In past times, doctors spent their time out and about treating the sick, on foot, on horseback, by pony and trap and later by car, taking their pills and potions with them, performing minor surgery in the homes of their patients, often on the kitchen table if the operation was more complicated, delivering babies and attending accidents. No matter the time of day or night, they would answer the call, sometimes trekking long distances in the dark, guided to some remote fenland cottage by a candle in the window, returning home at dawn after bringing a new life into the world.

Some even died doing their duty. Dr Octavius Munton, who lived in West Street, went about his business on horseback to reach the sick and dying in outlying areas and it was on such a visit that he met his own untimely death. In 1863, while returning from attending a patient at Morton village, his horse shied and threw him to the ground and although neighbours ran to his assistance, he died in agony from a fractured skull soon afterwards. He was only 57 years old.

The town’s doctors regularly attended the Butterfield Hospital in North Road after it opened in 1910 and if specialist treatment were needed, then consultants from Peterborough were summoned once a week. They came to the patients. The spread of infectious diseases such as diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles and tuberculosis, during the early years of the 20th century resulted in the opening of Bourne Hospital in South Road as an isolation unit in 1915 but its role changed with the years and by 1965 it was being run as a medical and surgical unit with 53 beds, two consultants and a medical officer, a matron, nine day and night nursing staff, four kitchen workers and a porter.

There was also a chest X-ray unit which was used by the town and district and a domiciliary nursing service consisting of two sisters trained in midwifery, ante and post natal work, a health visitor and a medical officer of health, attending to around 60 cases a year and making 200 visits each month. The service was also responsible for clinics specialising in the eyes, orthopaedics, remedial and relaxation therapy and child welfare yet the population of Bourne at that time was a mere 5,500.

Today it is three times that number and although some of the ancillary services have been taken over by our two clinics, the first line care has gone. The Butterfield closed in 1983 and has now become a day centre for the elderly followed by the Bourne Hospital in 1998, the buildings standing derelict for several years before being demolished and replaced with new houses. Both times, the public mounted massive campaigns to keep these vital amenities for the good of the town but their protests fell on deaf ears and the blow to the community has been so grave that one local councillor cannot bear to pass by the housing estate that now occupies the old Bourne Hospital site without grieving for what we have lost.

Despite advances in medical care we should seriously question the policy of phasing out these small hospitals at a time when the population is expanding at a far greater rate than at any time in our history and the answer is obvious. Big is not always better because with their closure has gone the bedside manner of our family doctors, the comforting feeling that your well-being was a matter of concern to them and that they would always be on hand whenever there was a crisis. Instead, we have become ciphers in a massive bureaucratic system overloaded with managers engrossed with targets rather than medical staff concerned with patients with the result that many, especially the elderly, now fear for the worst if taken ill.