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, August 28, 2016

Sudbury Wildlife News

Many of the plants in our wild garden, created 2 years ago with the help of George Millins,  have now finished flowering.  However in recent weeks the warmer weather has led to a marked increase in insects, bees and butterflies.  This is encouraging because in the early summer the lack of activity was concerning.  The pond continues to host a lot of dragonflies and other flying things, and this year for the first time we have some frogs.

In previous years duck have eaten the frogspawn, but it seems that the arrival of a pair of ferociously territorial moorhens in the spring seems to have seen ‘ducklife’ off this year.

I have received a copy of the first edition of a local newsletter, Suffolk Wildlife News, which seeks to draw together the activities of ecological groups in the Sudbury area.  It has been created by Nick Miller of Bures, who can be contacted on nicknewmiller56@gmail.com.  Nick would like to hear from any groups that would like to be included and also anyone who would like to receive the newsletter on a regular basis.

I have put the newsletter under a tab above for a limited period.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Preliminary GCSE and A level results both show an improvement

Over the last couple of weeks we have received the indicative results for this year's A level and GCSE examinations for Suffolk students.Although the basis on which the results are scored by Government have been changed, it seems that measures taken by the County Council to raise standards continue to bear fruit.

This pleases me, not least because when I stood for election over three years ago I said that I wanted to try to have an impact in this area.  Recently I have been lucky to be able to get closer to the issues involved by sitting on the Schools Improvement Board.  One of the measures put in place around the Raising the Bar initiative,  this group meets on a monthly basis. The progress of all schools in the county is closely examined and monitored, and, where necessary, support and help is given.,  As a member of this Board I have been able to visit schools in the county with a schools improvement officer which has been very interesting. 

In addition to the enormously hard work put in by headteachers, a lot of effort is being expended by the Cabinet Member, Gordon Jones, ordinary members and officers at SCC. Although it was never going to be a speedy process, there are now clear signs that gradual but steady progress is being seen.  

Looking at this year's results, as far as GCSE’s are concerned, more of Suffolk’s 16 year olds achieved expected levels of GCSE attainment in English and maths. Provisional results collated in Suffolk suggest a 4% rise in the number of students reaching the threshold
(currently a C grade or above). Self-reported statistics from Suffolk schools show 63% have achieved the target compared with 59% in 2015.

The results also saw a significant improvement for disadvantaged pupils – these are children looked after and pupils eligible for free school meals.

The overall pass rate for A levels has also continued to rise.  Almost 3000 pupils were entered in Suffolk.  Although yet to be verified the figures show that 98.5% of pupils achieved A* to E, in comparison with 98% in 2015. Although 76% of pupils achieved A* to C in comparison with 77% in 2015, early indications show that our academic average points per entry at 32,9 is above the national figure and an improvement on last year, although direct comparisons are difficult due to a change in the Government's score system.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gainsborough's House collection now on line.

You can now explore the Gainsborough's House collection on line.

A major undertaking, the project to make pictures and articles from the collection available to all on the internet has been supported by a number of different bodies including the New Anglia LEP, the Paul Mellon Centre, NADFAS and Lowell Libson Limited.

The Gainsborough's House permanent collection includes works from every stage of the artist's life, from his early days in Sudbury and Ipswich, to his time in Bath and London.  The collection of drawings is particularly comprehensive and is one of the largest in the world, and the museum also holds a number of artefacts connected with the artist and his contemporaries.

A good deal of information plus a search tool to help you to find what you want can be found by clicking HERE.

I hope that seeing some of the works on offer will encourage people to come and experience the real thing.  There is much to enjoy, including the lovely walled garden, exciting temporary exhibitions, a great shop and the interesting building that is the House itself.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

On Sizewell Beach

We took advantage of the few days of good weather last week to go to the lovely beach at Sizewell.

Although in the vicinity of two nuclear power stations, this is one of the best places to walk on the Suffolk Coast in my opinion.  Always uncrowded, even at the height of the holiday season, it is a great place to get away from it all and enjoy the beautiful coastline.  There is a good beach cafĂ© for refreshments and a fair sized car park.

Somehow the beach and its surroundings, while not unaffected by the power stations, retain their tranquillity and atmosphere. The attractive shape of Sizewell 2, with its lovely white domed roof, is a positive part of this.  I am not so sure however that the area will remain unspoilt if and when Sizewell 3 comes along.  The proposed design of the new plant is ugly and obtrusive, and I understand that the contractor, EDF, has been unwilling to contemplate modifying this.  Additionally the plan for a residential campus for 3000 construction workers just inland from Minsmere Bird Sanctuary is unappealing.

Teresa May’s decision to suspend a decision on Hinkley Point may well mean that Sizewell 3 never happens, and for a number of reasons, not least the damage that its construction will bring to this remote and still beautiful area, it is difficult to be enthusiastic about it.

After our walk we had lunch at the Eel’s Foot Inn at Eastbridge, a few miles away.  This is a historic country pub that we like.   It serves good food and has a pleasant bar and garden.  There has been an Ale House in the area since the mid 16th Century, and the current Inn dates from the late 17th Century. More about the Inn can be found on its website HERE.

The Eels Foot Inn.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Late summer Garden Party on Elmsett Green.

 A correspondent from Elmsett has sent an enticing invitation to their Garden Party. This will be held on the Green, pictured above, on Sunday 4th September between 2.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m..  There will be the chance to enjoy a beautiful garden against the backdrop of a 16th Century thatched cottage.  A perfect English scene!

Stalls will include second hand books, raffle, tombola, plants cards and glass, home produce and bric a brac.  Village calendars go on sale that day too.

This year there will be a Best Dressed Bicycle competitions for the children and the Elmsett Fellowship Brass band will be on hand to entertain.

There is ample parking close by.  

All funds raised will go towards supporting St Peter's church, Elmsett.

'A lovely event to end the school holidays!'

Thomas Gainsborough painted Elmsett Church when living in Suffolk between 1750 and 1755.  The painting is now in the Bowes Museum, Castle Barnard.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Opera at Kentwell

Interval refreshments

We enjoyed our outing on Friday evening to see Opera Brava's production of Rigoletto at Kentwell Hall.

This was country house opera at its simplest and best:  deck chairs and rugs on the lawn for the picnicking audience combined with quite sophisticated staging for the very accomplished performers.  Sung in English, with crystal clear diction from all, Rigoletto has rarely packed so immediate a punch.

An excellent cast had been assembled for this most personal of Verdi’s operas. The opera focusses on parental love.  This is a theme with which the composer dealt several times, and it is thought that he was much affected by the failure of his own children to reach maturity.  

The plot revolves around the jester at the Court of Mantua, Rigoletto, who is punished by the loss of his precious daughter for his connivance and encouragement of the venality of the society of which he is a part.  Played by Oliver Gibbs, the jester was convincingly corrupt in Act One, and tragic at the close.  Gilda (Laura Pooley), who sang with astonishing accuracy and sweetness, pulled appropriately at the heart strings.  The Duke was played by Cameron Rolls.  Although possibly a tad mature to be mistaken for a ‘poor student in disguise’ he sang with a steely heroism throughout.  The cameo role of Maddalena, the ‘Bella Figlia del’ amore’ of the famous last act quartet, was played with great seductiveness and intelligence by Greek born Lilly Papaioannou.   I wish we had been able to see her ‘Carmen’ the following evening.
Rigoletto warns his daughter, Gilda, not to go out!

Despite being somewhat chilly by the close of the evening, the occasion was very heart-warming, and it was wonderful to hear such good singing so close to home at a beautiful venue.

I hope that Kentwell decides to repeat the exercise next year. 

The Duke boasts about his conquests to his courtiers.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Eighth in the East, Heritage Guide to the USAAF in East Anglia launched.

The Airmen's Bar
The Swan Hotel in Lavenham was an appropriate venue for today’s launch of The Eighth in the East Heritage Guide.  This publication offers valuable assistance to visitors wishing to access the many local sites that are connected to the activities of the 8th United States Army Air Force whose forces arrived in East Anglia between 1942 and 1945.

The Guide has been produced, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  It has been put together by a group of museums, individual volunteers and enthusiasts with interest in what has become known as the ‘friendly invasion’ of our area by our wartime allies. The publication offers visitors to East Anglia some 20 sights to visit.   These include well known places such as the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley and the American Air Museum at Duxford, part of the Imperial War Museum.  Also in the mix however are smaller museums such as the Rougham Control Tower Museum outside Bury St Edmunds and the Wattisham Station Heritage Museum (open by appointment only).

Also included in the Guide is the Swan Hotel itself.  Famous as the home of the USAAF’s 487th Bomb Group, the Hotel’s Airmen’s Bar still retains on its wall the evocative signatures of young servicemen from the nearby airfields at Lavenham and Sudbury for whom it was a favourite watering hole.

The Guide is intended to be just a start.  Further funding is being sought to upgrade the project website and to further encourage visitors to explore this fascinating story.  A link to the website is available HERE.    
Not many veterans of the 8th are still alive.   Only 15, all in their nineties, attended a recent reunion in New Orleans.  In addition to promoting tourism, this initiative should serve to keep the memory alive of the soldiers and airmen who came to our assistance during the darkest period of the Second World War.  Many of them never saw their homeland again.
The WW2 airfield at Deopham in Norfolk today