Home Page Don't complain about the heat - you'll miss it when it's gone 19/07/13

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

You can always tell when summer has arrived, because people start complaining about the heat. Over the last week or two the complaints have grown stronger as some begin to wilt.


Haverhill can be a very hot place in hot weather, just as it can be a very cold place in cold weather. The climate seems to get trapped in the valley. Up on the ridges, at Samuel Ward or Puddlebrook, you can still feel the breeze.


It just goes to show how fickle people are because four or five weeks ago everyone was complaining that we weren’t going to get a summer at all, or that a couple of good days in May was it.


The weather is, of course, the main topic of conversation in this country simply because it is so changeable. We seem to be conditioned to expect that, and when we get a long drawn out spell of one type of weather we soon get bored with it.


When the snow comes we delight in how pretty it is and for a day or two it’s a novelty. After a week or two of it everyone is saying that’s enough and they want a change. They want to see the earth and the trees again.


The same is true at the moment. Many of us – particularly gardeners – would quite like a drop of rain. The verges and the grass areas are beginning to go brown. It’s a feeling I used to associate with the end of the summer holidays – late August, when they were burning the stubble fields.


This is quite early in the year for it, especially a year when everything in the plant world has been a couple of weeks late. But I do remember the long hot summer of 1976, which began with one of the coldest Junes on record and suddenly flicked over into weeks and weeks of cloudless skies.


By the middle of August there were hosepipe bans and all the streams and rivers had dried up to a trickle or nothing at all. I remember it particularly well because it was my first summer as a reporter in Haverhill.


I was sent to do a feature about what was then quite a novel and pioneering idea – Playdays. These were play sessions for children and young people, provided by Suffolk County Council at various open grassed spaces around the town.


They were set up by an innovative county council officer called Ted Beattie, who knew Haverhill well, having worked for the former West Suffolk County Council before it was amalgamated.


Councils had begun to realise that having large numbers of children – and Haverhill was a baby-boom town – hanging around with nothing to do in the summer holidays was a recipe for trouble, and there was enough of that in the town in those days among the slightly older age group.


It was, in a way, a tacit acceptance, less than a decade after the closure of the railway, that fast-growing Haverhill was cut off from many necessary facilities, which disadvantaged its young people.


Already the county was patching up the problem which lack of foresight nationally, and lack of forceful enough opposition locally, had created. St Edmundsbury Borough Council was not in a mood to help.


Youth leaders from the county set-up had been instrumental in creating Puddlebrook Adventure Playground, which was a prototype of many larger and more ambitious theme parks and large-scale adventure parks which have sprung up since.


Puddlebrook was a sight to behold, like a stockade with watchtowers and rope bridges and walkways, and it was much loved, as is shown by the nostalgia for it among those of a certain age who post on this website.


It was the envy of many towns and villages in this part of the world, and it didn’t take long for St Edmundsbury to decide Haverhill should not have a massively exciting facility for which there was no equivalent in Bury.


Using the new focus on safety which had just begun to make its presence felt in this country, St Edmundsbury acted. It was not hard to find a risk within an environment which was created in order to promote adventure, so officers went at it hammer and tongs and councillors voted, despite huge opposition, to close it down.


It put Haverhill’s few Tory councillors in a difficult position. They meekly supported their party and alienated their voters, and most lost their seats over it at the next election.


I suspect that Puddlebrook, which gave youngsters a freedom from adult dominance and an incentive to physical activity to work out their emotions, might be very useful at present.


Instead of it, councillors and agencies are trying to put together something they can’t even put a name to, in an attempt to replace the service which the county council has recently withdrawn, in the long tradition of providing and then withdrawing youth provision in Haverhill.


In the same way as we will, looking back on our complaints about the hot weather, they missed it once it had gone. Of course, Shakespeare expressed it better than anyone: "What our contempts do often hurl from us, we wish it ours again.”


That is from Antony And Cleopatra, which you can see in East Town Park on Tuesday evening, and at various pubs in nearby villages during the next week. It’s one of many summer events put on to keep you entertained, by one council that has not yet given up providing things for us – Haverhill Town Council.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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