© 2017 The Harpenden Society

Although The Harpenden Society News is keen to sustain its reputation for an upbeat and sunny approach, austere reality must prevail. Truth will out, our marquee at Discovery Day was mainly notable for the courage and stamina of the brave stalwarts who staffed it and struggled to keep it on terra firma as the rain lashed and the wind howled.

Were we ‘discovered’ on Discovery Day?

Ron Taylor writes:

Intrepid visitors to The Harpenden Society stand at Harpenden’s Discovery Day on15 June were not disappointed. After an early start the new marquee and the new graphic panels were installed, despite the high winds, by three committee members -Chris Marsden, Bob Fletcher and Ron Taylor. The finished stand with its messages concerning four ‘Big Issues’ in Harpenden - Revitalising the Red House; Maintaining a thriving High Street; Proposing a Cafe for Rothamsted Park and Developing the Public Halls, attracted a number of visitors who discussed their views about these subjects. Copies of the Summer Newsletter and ‘Big Issue’ leaflets were given out during the day, hopefully encouraging some new members to join.

Above.The Society’s new marquee had a somewhat turbulent start to its life as the outdoor frame for advertising our activities

As a typical early Summer’s day it was windy, cool and wet, so the expected crowds did not materialise to witness an array of activities: sheep shearing, ferret racing, archery, welly wanging, chainsaw sculpturing, birds of prey displays, dog displays and country fayre stalls.

The event was well organised by Harpenden Town Council and our thanks to them for their efforts in supporting this annual community event.

Memos for Members

Summer Events-A Study in Meteorological Contrasts

Autumn 2013 Newsletter

What a contrast between Discovery Day and the very sunny and pleasingly dry conditions which prevailed when some 45 members enjoyed a very informative visit to Rothamsted Research on Friday14 June, for The Society's annual summer event.

Were we fascinated by Rothamsted Research's Researches?

Bob Fletcher writes:

The visit started with a short walk to the Park Grass Classical Experiment, the world’s oldest ecological experiment.  There Rothamsted’s

Dr. Andy MacDonald gave a short talk on the history of the experiment. Then from the very old to the brand new when the members were escorted past the security barriers to visit the GM wheat field trial site (below) where Professor Huw Jones gave a fascinating and informative talk about the objectives of the trial and  the progress that had been made so far.

This was followed by a drinks reception at  the Manor House where Professor Jones was available to answer a multitude of probing questions from members about the technology used in the  GM wheat trial. The visit concluded with Professors John Jenkyns and Roger Plumb giving members a tour of the Manor House and explaining its fascinating history.

Do you react negatively to Good News

Noel Coward sang 'there is bad news just around the corner' and that seems to suit people all over the world. Pollsters find that, to quote one, 'people are hugely prejudiced against good news.' When they are given a piece of positive information, say the pollsters, apparently their first instinct is to disbelieve it, while a pessimistic item is treated as unvarnished truth.

A lot of people are deniers, simply saying, when faced with testimony which contradicts their own view, that it is wrong. It was the literary critic Andrew Lang who wrote of the man who used statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – 'for support rather than for illumination' – and that may be advisable. What is certain is that, in civic and social matters, fact-based evidence is preferable to anecdote and personal impression. Yet, according to rueful pollsters, the public often prefers a gut-reaction, usually a miserable one..

Surely that cannot be the case in Harpenden, with all its comforts and delights. Surely the town's inhabitants are bubbly and smiling, ready to relish any excellent news. Surely our fellow-townsfolk would respond favourably and rapturously were they to learn something of general advantage.

Test yourself honestly against these examples from a national Ipsos-MORI poll undertaken in July of this year. The poll sought to discover the nearest to what the majority perception was about a number of social issues. See whether in each case your glass is fuller or emptier than the reality or whether your perception is gloomier or cheerier than the vast majority? Here are four publicly held perceptions:


  1. Crime is not falling (this is what 58% of respondents believe) Yes or no
  2. Immigrants make up 31% of the population. What % do you think it is?
  3. 15% of teenage girls experience pregnancy. What % do you think it is?
  4. Benefit fraud accounts for £24 out of every £100 of the welfare budget. What fraction of each £100 do you think it is?


1.Yes it is. Between 2007 and now crime fell by 19%, although, sadly, it is thought this is not true of domestic violence; 2. Immigrants make up 13% of the population; 3. 0.6% of teenage girls experience pregnancy; 4. benefit fraud accounts for 70p in every £100 of the welfare budget, meaning that the public perception is 34 times worse than the actual figure.

All figures based on official government data for a poll on behalf of the Royal Statistical Society and King's College, London.

Were you a Scrooge before or after redemption, a Jeremiah or a Pollyanna?