Hart of the Matter
Lovely weather we’re having for the time of year - but it brings out one of my old gripes which never seems to be addressed... Haverhill Recreation Ground.
I am told there are meetings going on aimed at drawing up a new programme for maintaining the Rec. If so, I am slightly surprised that this is just about the only location and activity in Haverhill that has not been put out to public consultation.
St Edmundsbury Council probably has bad memories of public consultation about the Rec. Do you remember their efforts to ‘improve’ it some years ago? They put a lot of time into drawing up an imaginative new design including sensory garden, putting green, etc, and were prepared to stump up the cash to make it happen.
However, they had not counted on the affection in which these green acres are held by Haverhill people. Turning it into a poor man’s version of the Abbey Gardens was not what residents wanted.
Since then it has just drifted. We had some nice daffodils and new trees planted, and the children’s play area was upgraded. On a beautiful day like today it looks delightful – until you examine it more closely.
Living reasonably close to it, I walk round it regularly for a bit of exercise because it is a rather pleasanter environment than a gym. Most mornings you could fill a couple of dustbin bags with rubbish just within reach of the avenues, let alone going out into the middle.
A few weekends ago it looked more like a rubbish tip than a park throughout Saturday and Sunday, when families with young children were likely to be visiting it for the first warmish days of the year. I doubt if many would come back after that experience.
On the Monday morning, council workmen cleared about three-quarters of it and left the rest. Later in the week they carried out their infernally lazy drive round it emptying the bins (but not picking up any rubbish on the ground). I don’t know how long they have been driving through the avenues, but it is creating tracks which were not there before, particularly along the top.
It was the end of the week before they touched the worst part – the children’s play area. And even now no one has done anything about the mess around one of the magnificent corner trees from which some bright spark had stripped much of the bark and spread it around. I can see no buds on that tree to date. I fear it may not survive, which will be a tragedy.
Then last week there was more evidence of the sort of corner-cutting that abounds in local government under financial pressure, in the shape of brown rings around every fixture – trees, railings, benches, poles, you name it, they squirt weedkiller round it.
This ugly procedure is to save the cost of anyone having to go round and strim on a regular basis, and it is perfectly acceptable on street verges and the numerous patches of green in the town.
But the Rec should be a showpiece. I haven’t been to check whether they do this brown ring treatment in the Abbey Gardens, but I doubt it. There, I guess, someone strims and trims.
Of course, it’s not all the council’s fault. Much of the rubbish is the detritus of drinkers. It’s mostly lager – sometimes English, sometimes Polish – but there are also alcopops bottles, coke cans, and kids’ drinks bottles. Along with it there are often the remains of fast food which, even if you put it in a bin, the rooks will pull out again and spread around.
The curious thing about this is that the Rec is part of the town centre alcohol-free zone, although you wouldn’t know it because there are no obvious signs.
In fact the only sign I can find referring to this would only inform someone approaching from the unlikely direction of Mill Hill, and even then appears to apply to the Chainey Pieces gardens.
There are no signs about dropping litter at all, so presumably it’s a free-for-all. There are signs about dog mess, and bins to put it in. To be fair to dog-walkers, with whom I am not generally sympathetic, they are mostly pretty good about clearing up.
They don’t always put their little bags in the bins, but you don’t find as much left behind as you might expect
And then there are the litterers – people who just throw down sweet wrappers, tissues, plastic bags, anything you can think of. This has always annoyed me, particularly when the council used to mow the grass without removing the litter and thus creating widespread and multi-coloured confetti.
These are just a few of the failings which contribute to the Rec making such a bad impression on visitors, and if anyone is considering how it is to be maintained in the future, perhaps they could take them on board.
The Rec is our town park. Not everyone can or wants to drive to East Town Park, which is a different animal anyway. The Rec is an old-fashioned park, such as used to be provided in cities, surrounded by railings so it could be locked at night by the park-keeper.
If we are not going to afford railings or a park-keeper, we should all at least make more of an effort to keep it looking good and as if the town has some pride in it.
|David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.