Hart of the Matter
When I first worked in Haverhill, and its reputation as a town was rather poor, it used to surprise me that so many people who moved away found themselves drawn back here, often saying they had not found anywhere else as nice.
Now that the town is so much improved it is perhaps less surprising that this is still the case, and a couple of things have happened this week which provide an insight into what attracts people back like a magnet – and, curiously, what also repels others.
There has been a big pot of cash on offer in recent months for community initiatives which fulfilled one of four criteria, briefly summarised as a) providing more activities and things to do, b) improving welfare of older people, c) giving young people more places to go, and d) improving the appearance of the town centre and residential areas.
Out of a good number of bids, Haverhill Partnership selected nine to share the £75,000. None of them addressed criteria d). This was a bit of a disappointment to the organisers, but there it is.
And that sums Haverhill up in a nutshell – people are more important than environment.
I guess that in most towns, if asked to come up with community improvement projects, residents would have produced a wide range of ideas for gardens, public art, tree-planting etc.
In Haverhill, people tend to think first about the people and what facilities they need. You might say that is because we are lacking many facilities – have had them taken away or never had them in the first place. There is an element of truth in that and it has made Haverhill a very self-reliant town socially.
People who move away say that they don’t find anywhere as friendly or as ready to help other people. It is true – Haverhill people in general are very warm-hearted towards others, particularly vulnerable ones or those in need.
Perhaps that is one of the best accolades a town can have but, like everything else in life except Joanna Lumley, it does have its downside.
I became aware of part of that downside in action twice in recent weeks – once walking from Calford Green back towards the golf course, and once crossing the recreation ground.
Regular readers of my witterings may already be able to guess what is coming, because I have written it so many times before.
I don’t think I have ever been to a town which cares so little about litter as Haverhill.
Alright, so it is more important to look after older people and give young people plenty to do, etc, but is it really necessary to discard so much junk, to care so little about where it goes and never to bother to clear it up?
The verge of the road from Calford Green to the golf course, which is in Essex, of course, so everyone who deals with Haverhill will deny all responsibility, looks as if it has been tramped daily by a troop of dypsomaniacs and fast food junkies. Do they all live in Kedington and walk home that way late at night? Do they drive the back way to avoid police and throw their beer bottles, cans and cartons out of the car windows as they go?
As for the poor old Rec, which has been a hobby-horse of mine for decades, it just looks tired and uncared for. Come the warmer weather when the mowers will run up and down it without removing the litter, it will appear to have hosted several multiple marriage ceremonies for giants who left their huge confetti around in drifts.
A lot of public money is spent on youth workers, on families in poverty, on traffic calming and on re-jigging unsatisfactory bus stations. How about a litter-picker or two, beyond those who clean the town centre?
Similarly, a lot of volunteers get together to provide help for older people, families in poverty, people with disabilities – rightly so, of course. But when did we have the last big litter pick in Haverhill? Villages have them all the time. They don’t turn round and say it’s the county council’s job, or the borough council’s job. They just get on and do it.
I can only assume that the fact that these things don’t happen in Haverhill is because we value people’s needs more highly, and care a lot less about the world around us. It’s a pity we can’t do both.