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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Greetings

'Norway Spruce and Blue Cockerel' Trafalgar Square, London, Christmas 2013


I would like to wish all readers of this website a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.

I took the picture above on a recent visit to London on a very gloomy morning.  The artwork on the fourth plinth is by the German artist, Katharina Frisch, and the tree, of course, comes from Norway.

In addition to many readers from Suffolk and from other parts of the UK this year, the blog has also attracted a good number of hits from the U.S., Germany and China.

There have also been several readers in Russia, and I would like to take this opportunity to mention Mikhail Khordokovsky, who was released from a prison camp in Karelia in northern Russia, this week.  Special Christmas Greetings to you, Mikhail Borisovich.

I expect that the blog will be quite quiet over the holiday period, but I will be back firing on all cyclinders early in 2014.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Branchlines supports elm revival scheme

One of the 'parent trees'

Branchlines, the organisation that looks after Old School Wood community woodland in Great Waldingfield, is to participate in The Great British Elm Experiment currently being conducted by the Conservation Foundation.

For those of us who are old enough to remember how scores of beautiful elm trees used to enhance our countryside, Dutch Elm Disease was a major catastrophe.   Gainsborough and Constable’s pictures of our area are, of course, populated with these most gracious of trees. 

Not all elms died however, a few for some reason proving resistant to the plague.  Cuttings taken from these survivors are now being micro propagated and distributed across the UK.  The aim is to create a new generation of trees, which will not just be beautiful, but will aid biodiversity by encouraging those species of wildlife that are to some degree dependent on the elm.

Community Groups such as Branchlines and other voluntary organisations can have a sapling free, and private landowners will receive up to ten for a small fee.  Recipients will be asked to monitor the progress of their elm and report back.  In time it is hoped that a generation of healthy elms will grace the countryside once again.

To learn more about the Great British Elm Experiment click here.

Thanks  to Chris Francis for alerting me to this news.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A trip to Amsterdam

Canal view with christmas trees for sale
We have just come back from a short trip to Amsterdam. We visited the newly refurbished Riksmuseum and had an interesting time wandering around the canals, stopping for refreshment in 'brown cafes' and generally enjoying ourselves.

It is good to go away to popular places in the middle of winter since the number of tourists is generally lower and it isn't too hot to wander about at length.  Amsterdam is certainly one of those places that is best explored on foot, and we were lucky with the weather.

The rehang and restoration of the museum is spectacular, and it was good to see a number of paintings that are old favourites, including of course the wonderful 'Night Watch'.

We managed to find a Suffolk connection in the painting below, which is the 'Memorial Portrait of Moses Ter Borch', painted by his two older siblings, Gerard and Gesina in around 1688.  Young Moses died in 1667 during the storming of Languard Fort at Felixstowe, having served in the Dutch navy against the English for three years.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rubbish roundup

If anyone would like a copy of the Waste and Recycling Collection Calendar 2014, which includes Christmas arrangements, please e mail me on antillj@btinternet.com and I will forward a copy to you!

Monday, December 9, 2013

More cultural vandalism in Waldingfield

It is deeply depressing to see the not so gradual degradation of the exterior of one of our more interesting historical buildings in Waldingfield.

Brookwood Manor, the Nursing Home to the north of Little Waldingfield, was recently subject to a major planning application to extend the home.   I saw no reason to oppose the measures since the plans appeared to be very sympathetic to the red brick building which is pictured above.   It is also true that we need more nursing home places for residents with dementia, the home provides much needed local jobs, and the extension arguably improves the viability of what is quite a small facility at present.

What has happened over the past few weeks however has made me worry about how the development will actually turn out.  The owners of the Home have ripped out a number of attractive windows and replaced them with unsightly and inappropriate plastic alternatives.  More recently, despite having assured residents that they would not do so, several original leaded and stained glass windows have been removed and trashed  This can only be described as an act of vandalism, which affects not just the look of the building itself, but its relationship to at least one nearby property with similar window treatment.

Despite the fact that in theory planning permission for the changes to the windows should have been sought, the officers at Babergh it seems have been unable to do much about the desecration.  The stated reason stems from the fact that  English Heritage did not see fit, at the time of the planning application, to agree that the building was worthy of listing.

English Heritage are of course, the experts, and in part the reason could have been that there had already been some unsightly modernisation at the property.  However, taking a quick look at the website of the Victorian Society we learn here that actually it is almost impossible to get a  house of this type listed due to the nature of the criteria used.  This in itself is disturbing since many of our favourite landmarks date from that era (think Belle Vue House in Sudbury).

The house has significant historical value and this is reflected in the designs worked into some of the now shattered glass. Among other things it was the first home of the adjacent Sound Research Laboratory.  Looking further back however, if you google the former name of the house, Holbrook Hall,  you will find records and information about the estate dating right back to mediaeval times.

Babergh has recently appointed a Heritage Manager, and purports to be concerned about preservation of the area's historical attractions.  Although the Manager does his best he seems to be swimming against the tide,  the principle thrust of policy being economic growth at all costs.  This explains why there was not much sign of commitment to heritage assets when the Prolog application was under discussion, and here we have another instance of a failure to live up to the council's stated aspirations.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Babergh's Advent Civic Service

Lavenham Church (completed 1525) at night
I am not sure if  Babergh DC used to hold a Civic Service in the past, but since I have been a member of the council there hasn't been one.

This custom was broken on Thursday evening when our current Chairman, Nick Ridley, decided to hold an Advent Civic Service in Lavenham Church.  Nick's family has a long connection with Lavenham, and indeed he was married in the church many years ago.

Lavenham Church is, of course, one of the most spectacular of Suffolk's many outstanding churches, built in a perfect late perpendicular style by the wealthy wool merchants of the town in the early sixteenth century.  Apparently its impressive tower, which is visible from the bottom of our garden some three miles distant,  is one of the tallest parish church towers in England.

A good number of dignitaries were present, including the Chairman of the County Council, Guy Mcgregor with his wife, Chairmen of other Suffolk District Councils,  and also the Mayor of Sudbury, Adrian Osborne and the Mayoress, Mrs Jan Osborne.  Children from Lavenham School read two winter poems, Emma Bishton sang a Mozart aria, and there was also plenty of singing from the congregation.  After the service mulled wine and mince pies were served.

It was a lovely occasion in a fantastic setting, and I hope that the next Chairman will repeat the event in 2014.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Coastal flooding update. Friday morning

Latest news that has been circulated this morning by Suffolk County Council:-  

The tidal surge hit the Suffolk coast an hour earlier than initially expected - at 10pm Thursday in the Lowestoft area and 2am Friday in Ipswich.
·  Early warning and informing work undertaken by multi agency staff ensured that the public were given advanced notice of the need to evacuate homes in areas of high flood risk.
·  In addition to the severe flood warnings issued yesterday, two further severe flood warnings were issued overnight by the Environment Agency at Orford Ness to Bawdsey and the Stour estuary.
·  In Lowestoft; Station Square, the High Street and London Road South were subject to flooding.  
·  In Ipswich; there was minor flooding on the Waterfront and around Stoke Bridge and Wherstead Road.  
·  The Strand at Wherstead was closed due to flooding.
·  8 rest centres were set up to provide shelter for those in need - some were set up by local communities, but were only moderately used throughout the evening.  Shotley was closed at 2:15am and Beccles was closed at 3am.
·  Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service attended 16 flood and fire related incidents in Lowestoft and rescued 23 people.  
·  Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service attended 2 flood emergencies in Ipswich and rescued 4 people.
·  Flood defences in Ipswich were held.

The situation so far today:
·  The Multi agency Gold command group continues to be in place at Police Headquarters in Martlesham, Ipswich to assess the ongoing risk and provide a coordinated response to the flooding incidents.
·  Other Emergency Control Centres continue to operate in the county.
·  Around 150 properties remain without power due yesterday's windy conditions rather than flooding.  These are in Eye, Stowmarket, Ipswich and Saxmundham.  UK Power Networks are working hard to restore this as soon as possible.
·  The Environment Agency have advised that the next high tide is currently expected to peak in Lowestoft at 11:15am and in Harwich at 1:30pm.  
·  Advice to the public in affected areas is to remain on alert and if properties have been evacuated, to not return until notified.
Road updates:
·  The A12 at Blythburgh is likely to remain closed throughout Friday.  The seawall was breached and essential repair work will be undertaken during the low tide.
·  The Strand in Wherstead is passable with care.
·  The Bascule Bridge in Lowestoft is passable North to South only currently.
·  Mutford Lock at Oulton Broad is passable with care.
·  Greater Anglia have cancelled the following train services until 10am on Friday: Ipswich to Felixstowe, Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Norwich to Lowestoft. and until 2pm between Ipswich and Lowestoft, No replacement bus services will be offered and customers are advised not to travel.  Further updates are available at http://www.greateranglia.co.uk/about-us/news/category/service-disruptions
·  The public are being asked to report any highways issues such as flooding incidents or obstructions via the SCC website rather than call the Customer Service Centre. 

More information available from Radio Suffolk. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who 'owns' the verge?

Yesterday I had one of my regular meetings with Steven Merry from Highways.  Steve 'looks after' the roads in Babergh and he is our first point of call when we have problems, or if we want to spend some of our highways budget.

Given that the Cosford Division stretches from Cockfield in the north west to Elmsett in the south east, taking in Lavenham, Bildeston and Kersey on the way, I have more stretches of road, and thus more problems than most!

I have developed a nice spreadsheet which I share with Steve when we meet, which shows us where we are with various issues in different parishes.

One of the more interesting problems at present concerns a road which is closely bounded by a small river a yard and a half or so to the south of the road.  On the bank between the river and the road are a number of bushes and small trees.  From time to time these grow out across the road, to the annoyance of local farmers who cannot get their machinery through.   When this happens the Parish Council draws it to the attention of the Council and eventually they come along and cut it, if the farmer has not got there first.  When I was elected the Parish Council asked me if I could look into the question of whether the County Council 'ought' to cut these bushes as a matter of course because ' it is their responsibility'.

We have not finally got the answer to this question yet as some 'deep research' will need to be done looking at old maps and so on.  In theory keeping foliage etc. from the highway is the responsibiltiy of the landowner who owns the land over which the road runs.  Often landowners on either side of the road will actually own the land 50% of the way across it.  It is actually very rare for the County Council to 'own' the verge, or indeed the land, although it will keep a stretch of a couple of feet or so from the carriageway clear.  In this case the council is happy to do this, but along most of the stretch this two feet does not include much of the foliage, which stands further back.

So assuming that the land does not belong to the council, who does own the land between the road and the river?  This depends on where the ancient boundary actually runs, along the centre of the road, or along the centre of the river.  In the former case, responsibility for the hedgecutting will rest with the landowners on the south side of the road, and they will also own all the land over which the river runs.  If the latter, then the residents on the north side of the road will own  the land over which the road, and half of the river bed, and it will be up to them to cut the hedges.

I fear that one set of residents won't be very happy when the outcome of Steve's research is known.  Perhaps it would have been better to leave the 'informal' arrangements in place?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Events on Saturday

A busy day yesterday with visits to two Christmas bazaars and the world beating Little Waldingfield Quiz Night.

My first stop was in Bildeston, where a brilliant Christmas event in aid of the Church was taking place. Some terrific bric a brac and bling was on offer, plus an opportunity to stock up on Christmas decorations.

Beginners luck meant I won a lovely raffle prize. so hope that I will be allowed to attend next year and have another go.

I learned that the Carol Service at Bildeston Church, which will be held on the weekend before Christmas, will feature the Military Wives.   More information will be posted on this site nearer the event.

Then onto Great Waldingfield for their Christmas Fair in the Church.

It was very good to catch up with some old friends who I have not been able to see as regularly as in the past, due to my extended activities.

As usual the cakes on offer were particularly appealing and I was able to pick up a small christmas cake which will suit us very well this year.

Finally we participated in the Little Waldingfield Conservative Branch Annual Quiz night at the Parish Rooms.  As usual the event was heavily oversubscribed and it was good to see some new faces this year. Everyone did well with the results closely bunched.

The wiring in the kitchen at the Parish Rooms has been replaced since we nearly incinerated the Party Agent some years ago, so we were only disturbed by one eruption from the kitchen and just a slight smell of burning.  The food, provided almost single handedly by Elizabeth Tora, with home made ice cream courtesy of Margaret Maybury, was as usual first rate.

We did quite well in the quiz,  although were unfortunate to play our joker on our worst round, a rather mathmatically based set of questions on general knowledge.  I never could remember how many rods there are in a perch, or whatever.