Thursday, 11 October 2012

Rangers' Outing

Spot the listed building.
Once a year we have a departmental day out. It usually involves visits to other sites outside of the District, but times are hard so this year we decided to make a tour of our own sites instead. In my view the day turned out to be just as interesting as any we have had, and it was a lot cheaper. Here's the skinny on what we got up to.

Rabbit and badger spotting in Colne Graveyard. 
St Helen's church in Colne fell down in 1896. By then the village had migrated away from its medieval focus around the manor and the church was left all alone in farmland. The parishioners decided to build a new church a mile away in the modern village, using most of the bits from the old one. Of course there remained the problem of what to do with several thousands of years worth of tenants in the cemetery. 

Rangers on the boardwalk, Holt Island.
100 years later, visitors noticed that the graves were being excavated by rabbits and that human remains were appearing on the surface. Stories circulated of angry ghosts in the neighborhood. "Who you gonna call?

Huntingdonshire District Council of course. So now we look after Colne Cemetery. I had no idea that you could be buried in a churchyard and end up a council tenant. I thought there was some kind of perpetual responsibility on the part of the church, but it seems not. 

The cemetery is full of historic interest and wildlife too. It's a good place for badgers for example.We even have a listed building in there, but you will have a job spotting it. What looks like a mound of ivy is actually the remains of the church porch. 

Holt Island.

I go to Holt Island once a year to hide Easter Eggs for my son.  I always say I'll go back more often, but I never do, which is a shame; its a really special place with a boardwalk giving good views of the meadows and town bridge. 
Holt Island, St Ives.

The island is in Slepe which is the oldest part of St Ives. It was used to grow osiers commercially, where cattle would not be able to eat the crop. St Ives became a really busy place in the last century, being an important port with 64 pubs and bawdy houses. Cattle were brought in by boat to be fattened and then sent on to Smithfield. 

The sea-scouts have a camp on the island, adjoining our site, complete with a mini-marina. It was originally built to be the town's outdoor swimming pool or lido.

My favourite story about the island relates to two plane crashes during the First World War. In 1917 a box-kite style bi-plane crashed into the garden of  Barnes House, causing minor damage to the garden and the pilot, but writing-off the plane. A year later there was a fatal accident after a RFC pilot from Wyton landed in the meadow across the river to ask for directions. After taking off in the right direction he crashed in to the church steeple and fell through the roof. That's why the pub next to the church is called "The Aviator".

Loves Farm:
Our countryside team has combined with the Parks Department to become a bigger department under John Craig. This was the first time that the whole department met together so we popped by the new Loves Farm estate to look at the work that the Council is doing there. In particular, Jo Wolstencroft explained to us the process of planning play areas for children and teenagers. We all  enjoyed playing on the pirate ship and swing while she spoke to us.
Pirates at Loves Farm.

Before the housing estate could be built, one of the biggest archaeological digs ever mounted in the UK was carried out.The fields turned out to be not medieval but much earlier. A lot of Roman and Celtic remains were found. These include buried horses (one headless) and a dog with stone(s?) instead of eyes. Red deer antlers were found in ditches and many artifacts are still being catalogued.

Priory Park: 
We had lunch at Paxton Pits in the Outdoor Education Centre where Debbie McKenzie told us all about the work that the Wildlife Trust does from there. Then we moved on to Priory Park in St Neots where Paul Davies showed us around on behalf of the Priory Park Friends Group. I was fascinated by the old cinder track where national cycle competitions used to be held. The friends group is a fine example of a local  pressure group that has turned into a positive army of volunteers working with the District Council to manage and improve the park.
Raised pond at Paxton Pits.

Barford Road Pocket Park
By the time we reached Barford Road it was raining, but we still spent a cheerful hour with Matt Hall looking at the changes that are happening there with all the new houses that are being built. Probably more than half of the staff had not been to Barford Road before. 

My trawl of the internet produced the following gems about St Neots: 

  • Eynesbury is older than St Neots, and Eaton Socon and Eaton Ford were just villages. 
  • St Neot was a Cornish Saint. His bones were stolen from Bodmin Moor to make the Ely Dioces more wealthy in the 10th C.
  • The priory was built to house the remains, probably where the Eynesbury church is now. It later moved to a spot across the river from the Market.
  • Eynesbury's name comes from the Saxon, Ernulf’s Burgh. Hence Ernulph School.

For information about Holt Island see Huntingdonshire District Council
For  information about Priory Park see Priory Park Friends Group
I have posted more photos on Photobucket.