© 2017 The Harpenden Society


Summer 2014 Newsletter

‘Keep in Touch ' was the message emblazoned on the posters describing The Society's achievements during the preceding year. And 'Keep in Touch' was the Hinal injunction of the spirited overview presented to the audience at 'Celebration 2014' by chairman Chris Marsden. He alluded to the progress made by the The Society in respect of the Library volunteer programme; the Red House; the secondary schools issue; the retailers on the high street; the moves to formulate a forward transport plan (more of that on page two) and the schools competition (see page three) and promised further development in these and other areas as the coming year unfolded.

He asked for help from members – 'Keep In Touch' – on the various working parties and for their backing, as and when required, on issues like the Red House revitalisation plan, coupled with a particular appeal for a fund raising ofHicer. This is especially needed to sustain the momentum of the last couple of years; it is not huge sums of money that are needed. The Society receives some £5000 in donations from its membership but could, ideally, do with another £5000 a year to ensure it is able to fulHil its commitments. Meetings, literature, publicity and other campaigning and allied necessities all cost money.

Are you or do you know of someone who could take on this vital role?

Opening the meeting Alison Steer, The Society's President, thanked the ofHicers and committee for their sterling efforts throughout the year. The Society has lost the services through

ill-health of the highly inHluential Richard Thomas, vice chairman and chief spokesman on planning and housing issues, while Harry Downie, already sub-editor of the newsletter, has taken over as Treasurer from the very efHicient Arnold Allen. Barbara Ouston, our conscientious and very able Membership Secretary for some years and Steve Gledhill, our astute and sharp-eyed Press OfHicer, have also resigned because of the pressure of other commitments. Caroline Fleming gallantly joins the committee as Steve's replacement while two other stalwarts, Helen Clothier and John Harris, both with exceptionally strong experience in the important health and social welfare Hield, have also been elected to the committee. A full list of the ofHicers and committee has been printed and included with this edition of the newsletter. If you have a clock on the mantelpiece, stick this card behind it for ease of reference.

Penny Ayres, who runs the 'awards' judging group announced this year's winners, details of which may be found on page four – and thus the 'Celebration' was, well, celebrated, with good time fore and aft of the legal niceties for people to talk and look at the schools competition exhibition. The Society owes a real debt to Rothamsted Research – whose Associate Director Stephen James gave an illustrated and illuminating talk on the development of the Rothamsted Campus to round off the evening pleasingly – for their hospitality and help during both the schools competition awards ceremony and the evening a.g.m and 'Celebration'. And much credit redounds on Ron Taylor, The Society's Publicity OfHicer, for his zealously effective masterminding of both events.

The Harpenden in Question

being a series of editorial commentaries on important Harpenden issues that should challenge thought and encourage inquiry and action.

13. 'The Ruin of all Happiness'

You may be one of the 34,000 drivers edging down the A1081 on any working day, at peak hours that's one every four seconds...you are very likely one of the town's 22,500 car owners, undertaking 25,000 'trips' a day, viz there and back, often over pot-holed surfaces... and finding parking increasingly difficult, not least at the home base, where the road and, frequently, the pavement is the chosen nestling spot for 90% of the time...you could be one of the 18% of the town's employed population who travel by train to work, who, reinforced by out-of-town rail-users, constitute some 3,000 daily commuters who contribute to the 2,400 traffic movements in and out of the station approaches daily...perhaps you are one of those parents that ensure 43% of Harpenden pupils are chauffeured to and from school...you could, of course, be an intrepid cyclist although specified cycle ways are not in profusion...you are hardly likely to be numbered among the very few who attempt to take a bus ride in or around the town...how ardently we must love our buses if absence makes the heart grow fonder...

All in all, you may echo the words of Mr Meadows in Fanny Burney's 1782 novel Cecilia, 'travelling is the ruin of all happiness'.

Transport is the blood stream of civil society. People have either to be conveyed to services and facilities, or to other people, and vice versa. If it is not fluid and becomes clogged, then the whole system collapses. Before the advent of the railways after 1830, when the average number of transport journeys undertaken per head was four a year, a commentator spoke of a population that was 'chained to the spot'. Over the last three years The Harpenden Society has attempted to analyse and treat with all sectors of the town's civic life and it has usually found two or three basic questions – the Red House in respect of health; the pressure on primary and secondary places in respect of education are examples – in most fields.

Transport is different. It is much more diffuse; indeed it evidently effects all those other areas of enquiry. There is a mesh of intertwining elements to be considered. Nothing demonstrated this better than the public meeting on this subject, reported in the previous edition of The Harpenden Society News. As Donald Robertson, who conducts our Transport Working Group with a quiet and sane resolution, ruefully said, 'we have an embarrassment of issues'.

The Working Group, with limited resources, has decided that, rather than swirling around in this maze- like tangle of issues, it should determine on a small number of points which, over a year, it might manage to have some influence for good and to this end it is in the throes of drawing up a 'Forward Plan'. Initially, it has identified the 'station approach' problem, where, typical of this mixture of issues, there is a confusion of private cars, cyclists, taxis and pedestrians, for attention. Other likely priorities are parking in the Avenues, Amenbury Lane, Crabtree lane, Roundwood and other specific roadways; the bus service from Luton to St Albans and the question of information at bus stops, and the Nickey Line development.

We shall, of course, attempt to update you on any progress made in these regards and you may also contact our transport spokesman, using the committee data accompanying the newslettter.

Meanwhile let us take some small comfort in the notion that hope and anticipation are often better than reality in the well-known quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson's Virginibus Puerisque, published in 1881; 'little do you know your own blessedness, for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive and the true success is to labour.'

At least, it is a bit more optimistic than Mr Meadows.

Eric Midwinter

Please send comments on this article or any other issues raised in this edition to the editor:Eric Midwinter 37 Bloomfield Rd. Harpenden AL5 4DD


Sub-editor Harry Downie