Quote of the week

Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself'

George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

Friday, May 27, 2011

Go Start up and running!

Residents of Waldingfield Ward who are over 60, disabled, or in some other way suffering from deprivation* can now register for the Go Start Dial a Ride service which is currently operating on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For a relatively modest return fare the bus will take you where you want to go within an eight mile radius of Sudbury, but registration is mandatory and you have to plan your journey and book your seat a little time in advance.  Forms are available from Sudbury Town Hall, or you can obtain one by post by calling the Go Start office on 01787 242116 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            01787 242116      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

I attended a meeting of the Go Start Trustees yesterday as an interested observer.  I am happy to say that the community transport organisation is moving towards being able to provide the Dial a Ride Service on a Monday to Friday basis.  The service should be fully up and running by the autumn.

The group is looking for volunteer drivers since it hopes to take delivery of further brand new vehicles in the months to come.  These are adapted for wheelchair use, and do not involve heavy lifting of seats etc. which has been a disadvantage for volunteer drivers  in the past.  Volunteers will be given full training.

*‘Deprivation' is a broad term and can simply mean living some distance from public transport without access to a car.

Readers of the blog may be interested to know that this is the 500th post since the blog started in February 2007.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Too fast and too heavy!

At the Safer Neighbourhood Team Priority Setting Meeting in April  a complaint was raised by a resident, who I think actually lives in Newton, about speeding cars and overweight lorries using the Valley Road that runs between Chilton and Great Waldingfield to the A134.

As a result the police have been carrying out speed checks on the road, and at the last SNT Meeting in Long Melford we heard some fairly shocking, but not unsurprising, statistics about speeding in both directions along the road.  I am indebted to Peter Clifford for the most up to date figures which I set out below:

Over 8 days, 43,265 vehicles travelled along the road of which 2862 exceeded the speed limit of 60 mph.

503 exceeded 69 mph and could have been fined if stopped.
One vehicle was recorded at doing 97 mph!

The Police have requested their traffic team to institute random speed checks and they will fine anyone caught exceeding 68 mph.

As far as overweight lorries are concerned, it has been suggested by Trading Standards that a Lorry Watch scheme be set up, and I understand that we already may have a co-ordinator for this.   Lorry Watch is being introduced to replace Trading Standards Officers who, in the past, have done an excellent job at monitoring roads which, despite weight restrictions, are plagued by illegally heavy lorries.   It is a system that relies on volunteers, so a call for help in and around Valley Road is probable in due course.

I have been in touch with Suffolk County Council for information about this scheme and was disappointed to hear that they do not have a definitive map from which members of the public, or it seems officers themselves, can easily and quickly discover where there are weight restrictions across the County.   I have asked them to supply me with full information about Waldingfield Ward, but so far have not received any hard facts.  We do know for a certainty however that Valley Road is weight restricted.

I will make no comment on this, other than to say that the ‘divestment’ programme at the County does seem to have shown up some strange shortfalls in the County Council’s knowledge base.

The fact that officers from another department were unaware that part of the Lavenham-Long Melford Railway Walk extended into Essex is another example.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What gives at Gainsborough's House?

A number of people have asked me to comment on the situation at Gainsborough’s House.  I have been associated with the museum since 2003, and have been a Trustee for some four years.

As was stated in the Free Press on Thursday we have recently been obliged to make our Director, Diane Perkins, redundant due to the fact that our income and expenditure are increasingly diverging. 

We are sad to see Diane go.  She has definitely enhanced curatorial quality at the museum both during and after the House’s restoration and she will be missed by many people.

However over the past couple of years, while costs have risen with inflation and many sources of income have declined, Gainsborough’s House’s finances have been increasingly subsidised by windfalls such as legacies.  Clearly in the longer term one off inflows such as these cannot be relied on to fund ongoing and regular expenses.  There is obviously also a question mark over the annual grants we are currently given by public bodies.  Advice was recently received that a charity of the size of Gainsborough’s House could not expect to sustain its present fixed overhead on the basis of likely future fund raising and other sources of revenue.  An urgent plan of action and retrenchment was deemed essential to guarantee the future viability of the House.

People have expressed concern that we will no longer be able to support an exciting exhibition programme.  Others are worried about education and courses.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

We, the Trustees, are confident that we can continue the current activities of the museum by a combination of redistribution of the Director's duties to other staff members, the outsourcing of some duties, a higher degree of reliance on our many volunteers, and increased responsibilities for the Board.  We are going to have to become more ‘hands on’.   I, for example, am going to be trained so that I can help out the staff in supervising the House on a Saturday.  I may also be able to deliver some of the introductory talks that are provided for visiting groups.  In addition to others who are prominent in the world of art, we are very lucky to have among our number Christopher Lloyd, former Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures. He obviously has outstanding curatorial skills and a wealth of experience. 

We have already had offers of help from one leading Gainsborough scholar, and messages of support from other museums in the area. As far as exhibitions are concerned, we have a full programme arranged well into 2012, and ideas for later shows, some of a particularly ‘local’ nature, are coming in thick and fast.  These do not have to be organised by an in house curator.  The current Munnings landscape exhibition for example was largely mounted with the help of an external expert with the support of Sophie, our museum assistant.

To my mind a museum such as Gainsborough’s House relies on three factors:  what I call the ‘three C’s’.  These are: curatorial responsibility, ensuring security for the collection and academic respectability; commercial sense in maintaining the organisation's financial strength;  and community engagement – being a resource for all the people, young and old,  of Sudbury and the surrounding area. We are working hard to ensure that all three of these features are supported.

Resting on the three C’s, the House’s future will be a positive and exciting one.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Heaven on earth

I understand that an 89 year old man in the US, one Mr Harold Camping, is convinced that today will mark the end of the world, and that at 6 p.m. those of us who are deserving will be 'raptured' up into heaven.

Well, walking the dog at 8 a.m. this morning the thought struck me that those of us who live in Suffolk don't need to look forward to this transformational experience. On a beautiful morning in May we really do have something close to heaven on earth, as these pictures show!

Friday, May 20, 2011

New faces

The new Council met for the first time yesterday.  It was strange to see many new faces in the chamber, and also to miss a number of people who, I for one, expected to be returned without trouble.

New Conservative councillors, from left to right:  Kathryn Grandon White (Hadleigh South), Frank Lawrenson (Waldingfield), Dawn Kendall (South Cosford), Peter Burgoyne (Pinewood) and Simon Barrett (Sudbury South)
We have lost two involuntarily from the Conservative Group, and also said goodbye to Colin Spence and Humphrey Todd, both of whom had decided in any event not to stand once again. In their places we have five new councillors, pictured above, so we are one seat up on where we finished last time. 

A plus is that there are now nine women on Babergh as opposed to seven on the last Council. Out of 43 councillors this is still not a very impressive percentage.  Interestingly all three group leaders and two of their deputies are women, which seems a little out of proportion!  What does it say about the men? and about the women come to that?

Most of what went on yesterday was procedural. We had new photos taken for the Babergh website.  I am afraid that four years does make a difference in this area!  The business of the meeting was concerned with the election of Chairmen to the Council, and to the major Committees, the appointment of substitutes, and other such housekeeping matters.  The real business of the council will start when we get the result of the Local Poll and we know which route we are taking.

Charlie Adan, speaking, with Pat Rockall (centre) and Nick Ridley (right) newly elected Vice Chairman of Babergh
The new Chief Executive, Charlie Adan, was present, and Pat Rockall, the outgoing CEO, said her last goodbyes.  Pat has been a good friend to me over the past four years, giving me some sage advice from time to time, and I will miss her.  Still, I managed to have a few words with Charlie at the end of the meeting, and am sure that we will get on fine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Farewell to Chris Moss,and hello to some new Acton Parish Councillors

Chris Moss, Chairman of Acton Parish Council since 1978
Last night’s annual meeting of Acton Parish Council  marked the end of an era as Chris Moss, the Council’s Chairman for 35 years stepped down from the role, and from the Council on which he has served since 1976.  Chris will not be idle.   I understand that, characteristically, he has not been able to resist taking on another job as a school governor, and he will of course remain busy with his work for Acton Parish Church. 
The new Chairman is Lyn Bloomfield, pictured on the left in the picture above, signing her consent to serve, with the Parish Clerk, Lisa Edwards.  Lyn seemed somewhat reluctant to take on the role, saying that she would be relying on other councillors for a lot of help!  Alan Sawyer is continuing to serve as Vice Chairman.

A number of new people have taken on the role of Parish Councillor for the next four years, and the average age of the council has fallen considerably!   I think that willingness from the next generation to take on this sort of responsibility must be welcomed, and a good spread of age and experience, such as that seen at Acton, is an ideal situation.  The full line up of new councillors comprises Sarah Dorrian, Trudy Fisher, Lisa Franks, Pete Edwards and former Parish Clerk, Christine Johnson.
From the left, Sarah Dorrian, Lyn Bloomfield, Trudy Fisher and Alan Sawyer
I am looking forward to working with the new Parish Council in the years to come.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Footpath 7 - open for business!

A big thank you to our local farmer Ken Chamberlin for giving Footpath 7 an early extra cut. This path runs from the road between Newmans Green and Cuckoo Tye to the Acton - Sudbury road.   It is much used by dog walkers and others, but rapidly becomes impassable towards the end of April as the grass and nettles grow up.

Time was when the County Council did two cuts a year across all the footpaths, but alas no longer, and in recent years, where it has not hived off responsibility,  SCC has confined its attentions to those designated as 'priorities' by Parish Councils.   I do not know, but suspect that this is an area on which the authority would like to completely turn its back.  This problem is not just confined to Suffolk.  A quick look at the Ramblers' website shows that the maintenance, or non maintenance, of rights of way is becoming an issue across the whole country.

Perhaps in these times of tight budgets footpath maintenance might not seem to be a high priority.   If a path is popular it is quite often possible to find a friendly,public spirited, farmer, or someone else, to maintain it.  Nonetheless footpaths are important for all of us who want to keep fit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside.  These ancient routes have a long history and we should do what we can to preserve them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

And now for something completely different

 After the rigours of the past few weeks I have been hugely cheered to receive from the Great Britain Russia Society an invitation to spend quite a lot of money on tickets for the Sixteenth Annual Russian Summer Ball to be held at the Banqueting house in Whitehall in June.

It is highly unlikely that Nick and I will be attending this uniquely Russian event, but I thought blog readers might be amused to see what is on offer.  If you have few hundred pounds to spare, some of you might even like to go!

The Guests of Honour will be various members of the Russian Royal family and we are told that the evening includes an ‘Ivan the Terrible Vodka and Champagne reception’, a three course dinner, a live charity auction, more ‘Ivan the Terrible Vodka and Champagne’, dancing to the band of the Coldstream Guards, a ‘cabaret Russe’, breakfast and carriages at 3.30 a.m.

For those who are challenged in the Strictly Come Dancing department, ballroom dancing practice is available at Brompton Oratory for a fee of £12 a session.

Also included will be a display of the art of ‘sabrage’.  For those who do not know what this is (and I confess I did not), it is the art of chopping off the top of a champagne bottle with a sabre.   

To catch the spirit of this phenomenon I quote from a website devoted to the art:
‘Imagine a warm summer evening...and the unique opportunity to watch champagne corks flying through the air after the sabre makes contact with the top of the bottle in just the right spot....’

I suppose that all those years of soviet austerity makes this desire to return to the 19th century understandable.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two major developments

Off to Babergh this morning to look at the details of a couple of important developments in the Ward.

Some Bellway homes (elsewhere)
There has been a new application recently from Bellway Homes,  the developers of the Piggeries site (perhaps we should be calling it Cromwell Fields now!), to alter the design and configuration of some of the houses to the rear of the site   No additional houses are planned but a different street scene from that originally envisaged is being put forward.   This application will be discussed at the Great Waldingfield Parish Council on Monday evening I suspect.  Given the size of the scheme and the interruption of activities by elections the Parish Council has asked for extra time to comment.

Some people in Great Waldingfield have asked questions about the complete removal of trees on the site, including a couple which were protected by Tree Preservation Orders.  I have asked the Tree Officer at Babergh about this and he has confirmed that he gave permission for the latter trees to be removed due to the fact that they were diseased.  The other trees of course had no protection.  New trees will be planted in due course in accordance with the conditions of the planning permission.

The other site is the one off Church Field Road in Chilton, where Prolog is hoping to develop a large warehouse complex.  This application will come before the Development Committee reasonably soon, although the date of May 25th, stated recently in the Sudbury Free Press, is not thought to be likely now. Many of the members of the Development Committee have changed due to the election and it seems that there are still some other matters outstanding.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pond Life

Nick has been working hard on the pond, scooping out a lot of dead oxygenating plants that perished during the cold winter, and trying to bring the bulrushes, which have appeared uninvited, under some sort of control.

He has tried out all sorts of specialist instruments to undertake these aquatic tasks, but has finally concluded that the best thing to use is a good old garden rake. In fact one ‘pond expert’ website agrees that a rake is the best implement for many pond related jobs.  It would be good if someone could create a model with an extra long handle however.

As the spring has progressed we have noticed quite a lot of insect life on warm evenings, which clearly pleases the newts. 

A couple of days ago Nick claimed to have seen a shrimp in the water!

I was very excited, anticipating getting the frying pan and the thai spices out, but knew really that it couldn’t be a proper prawn.  In fact it was a ‘nymph’ .  Readers may be disappointed to learn that these are not the nymphs found in fairy tales, (the sort that have a habit of falling for human princes and coming to a bad end on dry land).  They are the larvae of the dragonfly, of which we had a good many last year and are anticipating a lot more in 2011.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Well, after over four years of writing the blog I have decided to experiment with allowing comments for a short time.

We shall see if anyone wants to comment!

Please say yes to the merger with Mid Suffolk

I can't believe that I still seem to be on the campaign trail!

Nick and I spent the morning with colleagues from Babergh delivering leaflets in Long Melford in support of a yes vote in the Local Poll on Babergh's plans to merge with Mid Suffolk District Council, details of which should hit your doormat very shortly.

As many people know the two councils are already combining as many of their business activities as possible in order to save money and protect services.  However in order to reduce the number of councillors and complete a full merger of the councils we need a mandate from the public.

The merger has benefits over and above the purely financial, although the savings of at least £400,000 per year that would be achieved is around 10 percent of Babergh's share of council tax, and cannot be dismissed as insignificant.

There has been a good deal of nonsense talked about what would happen to us all in the event of a merger, and also about the relative financial strength of both councils. I do not propose to address these here and now.  However if anyone has any questions when they have received their voting packs I will be very happy to answer them either by phone, by e mail,  or here on the blog.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Election 2011

Many thanks for all in Waldingfield Ward who came out and voted for Frank and Me.

We will do our best to work hard for you over the next four years (or two if Babergh merges with Mid Suffolk)

I am not sure I can cope with another election in two year's time!

The full results are available from the Babergh website.

And now that's enough about politics for a while

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Election 2011 Round Up

The defining feature of the election campaign this time has been the complete absence of the opposition.

We have done the rounds as usual, trying to speak to as many residents of the Ward as possible, but we appear have been the only politicians disturbing your peace on this occasion.

As far as I know not even a leaflet has been received from the Liberal Democrat or UKIP candidates.

Although I deplore the lack of debate that this implies, it has made little difference to the campaign.    I hope that all of you have had at least one leaflet from Frank Lawrenson and me. (If not, and you would like one, send me an e mail before Thursday lunchtime and I will deliver one to you.)

So what have we found on the doorstep?

Firstly Conservative support, while perhaps a little more muted due to concerns about the effect of the Liberal Democrats on the coalition, seems to be holding up well.  Most people appear to realise that the difficult decisions that the Government has made with regard to cuts are founded in necessity rather than ideology.

Secondly, ‘events’ and ‘personalities’ at the County Council do not appear to be adversely affecting residents’ opinion of Babergh in general and Babergh Councillors in particular.  Perhaps we have been spared by recent developments.  These have seen some moderation of the perceived enthusiasm of the County to close or divest themselves of virtually everything!

Thirdly, more people have confessed to wishing to vote Labour this time.  This supports the trend nationally that sees Labour coming back into favour at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.  A bit unfortunate therefore that the Labour candidates in Waldingfield Ward didn’t make it off the starting block!

Finally I have met about five people, out of what must be hundreds, who support the Alternative Vote.
It will be interesting to see if these trends are mirrored across the District, and in the case of AV, across the country.

The weather has made this campaign a relative pleasure.  Other positives have been the warm welcome received from many people of whatever political persuasion, a terrific collection of dogs and other four legged friends, and wonderful spring gardens.

And the negatives?  Hardly any, but as I get older,  I do find people who vote Labour, live in large houses, and are rude somewhat trying.

Whatever your particular political proclivity, don’t forget to come out and vote on Thursday.  You have two votes for two seats at Babergh.

Frank Lawrenson

Many of you will have heard, or will have read in the paper, that Frank, who is standing with me as a Conservative candidate for Waldingfield Ward, suffered a personal tragedy over the Easter Weekend.

Much to his regret this has meant that he has been unable to participate in the election campaign since that time, and he will not be in evidence on polling day.

Frank has assured me that he remains keen to become a District Councillor and that, if elected, he will take up his duties as soon as possible after the election.

In the meantime, if both Frank and I are elected on Thursday (and I very much hope that we will be), please direct all Babergh related issues to me. for the time being.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chilton Parish Council Elections, and Parish Meeting

Residents of Chilton have an extra reason to go out to vote on Thursday.

For the first time for many years there is to be an election for the Parish Council.

This is part of a District wide trend since this year there are 15 Parish Council elections across Babergh. This, according to Pat Rockall, the Returning Officer, is a record!  I am not quite sure why there should be this sudden spate of local activism, but in any event it is a healthy sign that democracy is alive and well.

Residents of Chilton will have received a leaflet giving them short biographies of the eight candidates who are competing for seven slots.

They are, in alphabetical order:-
Martin Brody, who is a retired Chartered Surveyor living in Waldingfield Road
Peter Clifford of Grange Farm, who has been the Chairman of the Parish Council for the past eight years
Richard Edgeley who has farmed in Chilton for over 40 years and is a past Chairman of the Parish Council.
Eileen Gore, who is an active member of the Friends of Chilton Church
Stephen Graham, who lives in Hilltop, and who has been Vice Chairman of the Council for the past two years
Valerie Hart, who lives at Chilton Hall, and who is a solicitor
Veryan Herbert, who used to live at Chilton Hall, and who has been a Parish Councillor in Chilton for over 30 years
Keith Shapley, a retired technical director, who lives in St Mary’s Close,  has served on the Parish Council for 12 years.

Having met all the candidates I think that they are all first rate and that it will be a tough call for Chilton residents to pick the best seven!

The Chilton Annual Parish Meeting will be held tomorrow evening, Tuesday, at the Resource Centre at 7.30 p.m.   In addition to the usual business, there will be a presentation about the new health facility in Church Field Road.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A daft claim from Hadleigh Liberal Democrats

If we were not in the middle of an election campaign, I would find the behaviour of the Liberal Democrats quite extraordinary.   Since however the election is looming on Thursday, I suppose they feel that anything goes at this stage.

On their election material Hadleigh Liberal Democrat candidates are making a totally unfounded claim in order to oppose full merger with Mid Suffolk District Council. As regular readers of this site will know,  this is a proposal for which the majority of Liberal Democrat councillors voted in favour only a few months ago.

Included in a Liberal Democrat election leaflet we find the following slogan:
‘If you want to keep parking free in Hadleigh vote no to the merger with Mid Suffolk’.

In reality there is absolutely no reason at all to believe that voting no to the merger would keep short term car parking free. 

In fact a slogan closer to the truth would be
‘ If you want to guarantee that short term parking charges will be introduced across Babergh then vote no to the merger.' 

This is because full constitutional merger is the only way to ensure that maximum savings are made so that other services and grants can be preserved!Without it we will be forced to make some unpalatable decisions.

It seems the Lib Dems  are happy to bend the facts, and turn their backs on this opportunity to save your money, so that they can not only try to win this election, but also hang onto their seats in the longer term.  This attitude must seem somewhat selfish to those many public servants whose jobs have already gone, or will disappear in the future.