The following articles were previously submitted to Peterborough Telegraph, please click on the relevant image to read them.
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Other interesting articles previously submitted to Nene Living can be found on our Nene Living articles page.

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A place for peace and contemplation

The arts and culture
now and the future

Our vision for a better
Embankment area

John Holdich
end of an era

Time will tell on the new administration

Treasure our green spaces

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Improvements help
our great city

Heritage Open Days

Will you follow the
civic commandments?

Let's show off Peterborough a little more

The future of Peterborough Market

 

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A place for peace and contemplation

This article was first published in the 21 January 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

Many years ago, in the last century when I was a headteacher at a local primary school, the staff experienced one of the first Ofsted inspections. One of the inspectors noticed that there was a boy sitting in my office playing with Lego and drawing on a colouring pad. She informed me that she was concerned that the boy was “not receiving equal access to the National Curriculum”. I informed the inspector that I suspected that the lad had come to school that morning having been exposed to illegal drugs in the household and that I was waiting for a social worker to come to assist me in investigations and to ensure that he was safe.

I mention this episode because I am reminded of the lad nearly every day as I take exercise in Eastfield cemetery near where I live. I pass the solid, black marble headstone on his well-kept grave and pause a moment. The inscription informs the world that he was fourteen years old when he died. image missing please notify webmaster image missing please notify webmaster

Eastfield cemetery, whose entrance is on the corner of Eastfield Road and Newark Avenue, has been a godsend to me. Since last March it has been the place where I have walked most often as part of my daily exercise routine. I have walked around it approximately five times a week for between 30 minutes and an hour. By my reckoning that means I have probably walked about 700 miles since Covid-19 struck. It is a place where I can walk safely whilst contemplating the world or listening to an album, radio programme or audiobook on my earbuds.

The cemetery is a much larger area than you might think. It is a series of wide tarmac pathways, each wide enough for a car to travel slowly down. These paths criss-cross the site and the walker doesn’t have to repeat his/her steps during a half-hour walk.

As we enter the cemetery we are immediately aware of Peterborough’s post-Great War history (the cemetery was opened in 1919). Civic dignitaries abound – freemen, aldermen, town clerks – Mellows, Hall, Hunting and Arthur Itter who died aged 35 having been mayor the year earlier.

Peterborough’s Robert Sayle/Perkins Engines past is perpetuated by names rarely heard these days – Constance, Stanley, Nellie, Albert, Violet, Horace, Gwendoline, Edith and Ronald. Newer graves plot the city’s brick work and factory era – Giuseppe, Vincenzo, Lucia, Maria, Giovanni and Margherita. Family names point to migration and newer Peterbororians - O’Reilly, Corrigan, Mulhern and McDonagh and more recently Hussain, Khan, Bibi, Bashir, Akhtar and Begum.

However the reminders of rich lives and long service are starkly contrasted by the dozens of smaller, much more colourful patches of ground poignantly punctuated by the word ‘Baby’ on little memorials, reminding us all of the tragedies that women and families still endure.

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On my walks I see familiar faces, the two women who push or ride their bicycles round and round, regular dog walkers or Barry, the wheelchair user whose speed and endurance might put Lewis Hamilton to shame. I also wave and exchange pleasantries with the sturdy yeomen of Aragon Services who look after and manage the cemetery, Peterborough’s modern equivalents of Old Scarlett. Thanks to you all.

I shall continue to visit Eastfield cemetery long after Covid-19 has been beaten. As well as recreation and quiet contemplation, it is a place that reassures me of my Peterborough roots and heritage, a place where I can be reunited with the girl I went to school with in the 1950s, the talented footballer I taught or my long-gone next door neighbour. It is also a place where I can see squirrels, woodpeckers, robins, and red kites high above.

Of course we are all advised not to travel far for our daily exercise. So we should be thankful that Peterborough has a variety of open spaces near to where we live. The older parts of the city have established areas – Central Park, Itter Park – and the newer townships – Bretton, Orton, Paston, Werrington all have networks of footpaths and cycleways. Even Peterborough’s newest developments, Hampton in particular, has plenty of open spaces – even lakes – for residents to walk around and enjoy. In these times of hardship and anxiety we must thank Peterborough for small mercies. Our open spaces should be cherished and valued, not just for now but for future generations. Those who are making decisions about the future of the Embankment please take note!

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Peterborough arts and culture – now and the future

This article was first published in the 18 February 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

There are two sorts of people in the world, those who are already in Peterborough and those who ought to come and see Peterborough. No, dear reader, please don’t laugh – I’m being serious, very serious. And very serious is the situation that Peterborough might find itself in if it doesn’t adopt a strong, coherent vision for culture in the city from now until 2030.

Over the past few years there have been numerous attempts to promote and invigorate the arts in Peterborough and the City Council has created organisations to make this happen. Vivacity was the last of these – this disappeared in 2020 and many would say that some of its demise was down to a top-heavy and remote management structure.

Vivacity has now handed its services (and its virtually empty coffers) back to the council which has decided that arts and culture will now come within the remit of the City College under the leadership of Pat Carrington MBE. image missing please notify webmaster

There are many in Peterborough who not only wish Peterborough well but who also have a wide range of experience and expertise. Stuart Orme, currently curator of the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, has ideas that will certainly be of use to future decision makers. Kate Hall of Jumped Up Theatre has vast experience of engaging individuals and communities. Cllr Steve Allen, the cabinet member for Housing, Culture and Recreation, is Peterborough through and through and undoubtedly wants the best for the city.

However, Peterborough itself might not be able to solve its own problems. The city needs to bring in leaders from outside with proven track records in promoting the arts and giving them high visibility. The city also needs to involve citizens hitherto disinterested or even excluded. We know how people can become involved and motivated. I vividly recall the Polish family, newly arrived in Peterborough, enthralled as the English Civil War re-enactor showed off his musket at a recent Heritage Festival (see right). I have been in a room full of people mostly under the age of 25 captivated and entertained by local poets Keely Mills, Charley Genever, Pete Cox and others. My wife Irene fondly recalls her involvement in the fantastic community project ‘In Search of Angels’ from a few years ago. Demand and interest in the arts and culture is there.

Peterborough is full of people who could be involved in the arts and culture in the city in specific or wide senses – either as audience members of eager participants. In Peterborough we are ready to be challenged, incorporated and involved. People of Peterborough should be encouraged to frolic, not put out to graze!

We already know that Peterborough has a great deal to offer. Here are ten things off the top of my head – Key Theatre, Museum, Flag Fen, Lido, Cathedral, Longthorpe Tower, John Clare Cottage (below right), Ferry Meadows, Libraries and the Heritage Festival. There are plenty more so please don’t shout at me for omitting your favourited haunt. But have we made the best use of those places and locations? Probably not. And of course let’s not forget our new university and how that could enhance the city’s cultural offer.

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So, what do we need to ensure that post-Covid Peterborough becomes THE place to be? The solutions are straightforward but nevertheless challenging. We cannot escape the elephant in the room – funding. Sadly Peterborough is currently so strapped for cash that we can’t even afford the elephant. So we need people with entrepreneurial skills who can attract grants and sponsorship from arts organisations and businesses near and far. Time for Amazon to become involved? We need people who know how to consult with local communities to find out what is possible and what are non-starters. We need people who know how to successfully coordinate and market events. But perhaps most of all Peterborough needs a vision, not just for the next couple of years but one that looks further into the future – Peterborough 2030. Stuart Orme reminded me what Peterborough’s very own Frank Perkins once said, “Where there is no vision the people will perish”.

All of the above leads to one key word – leadership, political leadership right down to on-the-ground leadership. Wanted: leaders with flair, talent, charisma, empathy, ambition as well as realism. I know those words are easy to use but that’s what’s needed. Some in this city have power, some vision – we need people with both.

Culture and appreciation of the arts is what changes or lives from monochrome to technicolour and once we have that colour back let’s hope that we can go even further and become a High Definition city with the best surround-sound that money can buy! On your marks, get set, GO!

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We're setting out our vision for the future of the Embankment

This article was first published in the 11 March 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Kem Mehmed.

An Embankment master plan is needed

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The Peterborough Civic Society would like to congratulate PT reader Andy Cole on his excellent letter about the future of the Embankment published in the PT in February. The Society echoes his opinions and particularly emphasises the extremely opaque way that the City Council has been approaching this. We should now concentrate our efforts on ensuring that the citizens of the city have a real say on the future of the Embankment. We can all agree that action is badly needed to rejuvenate this green lung in the centre of our city.

We at the Civic Society have been insisting on the need for a Master Plan to guide all development and enhancement works on the vast Embankment site. Various Town Hall promises have ben made with no real outcome apart from piecemeal proposals for the Anglia Ruskin University which have resulted in building work underway on site with Phase 1 and a very recent planning application for Phase 2. These two significant buildings do not appear to be part of a coherent plan for the University campus itself. As far as we can see there has been little ‘joined-up thinking’ despite the fact that, even though there is no plan for the entire campus, more than 13 acres of land have been transferred to the body charged with building and running the University.

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Site plan for the Anglia Ruskin University

Artist's impression for the university campus building

Perhaps that’s now water down the river. So, what should happen from now on? In our view we should embark on realistic local democratic process which involves the widest range of participants. Ask the people what they would love to see on the Embankment. What is your VISION of a future Embankment?

Our vision for a Brighter Better Embankment – how to get it

1.  Ask the People

2.  Discover what is Feasible

3.  Appraisal by the City Council of the ‘People’s Voices’ and the ‘Technical Findings’

4.  Publish findings

5.  Master Plan Options

6.  Select Best Master Plan and get it done

The Society has previously commented over the future for the Embankment area, they can be found at image missing notify webmaster

We also commend this article published on the Peterborough Matters website, produced by the Save Peterborough Embankment Group as a valuable contribution to the preservation and enhancement of the Embankment for the benefit of current and future Peterborians.

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View of part of the Embankment from Fletton Quays

The POSH Stadium

The Civic Society is not against a new stadium for the football club. We believe that a successful professional club at the highest level is a great asset to any city and if Posh gain promotion in May it will give a timely boost to our recovery from the Corona-virus lockdowns.

Our concern is to get the best outcome for the Embankment which may, given the process mentioned above, include a stadium or performance arena. This should not be taken as a given until all the implications of such a proposal have been explored and must be done in the context of a master planning process. It must be borne in mind that any proposal to place buildings on the Embankment at any distance from the Bishop Road frontage would be contrary to the policies in the Council’s own Local Plan, which was adopted only eighteen months ago.

The future direction of the football club is in the hands of the people who own and run the club, it is not for the Civic Society to tell the club where it should invest in a new stadium. Of course the club is more than just a business run by businessmen, it has a community of its own, the fans, and it also has responsibilities to the broader community of the city. However, it is vital that the City Council invests time and resources wisely in the interests of both the city and the football club.

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How the 'Budapest' style stadium might fit
on the embankment
 

An elevated drone style view from Frank Perkins Parkway of how it might appear, but note for those at ground level the view of the cathedral would be lost.

It is important this view of the cathedral
is not lost, which would happen
if the stadium were placed here

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John Holdich: end of an era

This article was first published in the 15 April 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

I’ve been looking back over some of the Civic Society columns from past years. ‘Peterborough University and our greetings cards’, 17 May 2018, ‘City Centre Revival’, 18 April 2019, ‘University Master Plan Peterborough Embankment’, 16 April 2020, ‘Café Culture for Peterborough?’, 16 July 2020 and ‘Embankment Masterplan we're still waiting’, 17 September 2020. All of these articles are available to read on this website, and have in one way or another, called for the City Council to have a planned, coordinated approach to the new developments that are happening predominantly in the city centre. Sadly little appears to have changed over the past few years. Perhaps, after the impending local authority and mayoral elections, things might change and any new administration might increasingly take on board some of our suggestions. We can but hope.

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At this point the Civic Society would like to pay tribute to the outgoing leader of the Council, John Holdich. Over the past few years John has been rather like Monty Python’s Black Knight, increasingly hampered by having limbs being cut off but stoically defending the bridge i.e. Peterborough. It has been a thankless task, running the council in the face of ever-increasing national and local cuts, not forgetting the pandemic. We all have views about how this could have been done better but the truth is that John had the courage and ‘balls’ to put his hand up and take on the task.

John will know exactly what I mean when I refer to him as one of Peterborough’s leading ‘good old boys’, ‘good old boy’ being perhaps the highest compliment that one Peterborian can give another. Enjoy your retirement John and I’ll see you down the A47!

Editor comment Toby also announced our new project of gathering photographs of the River Nene taken during 2021, the myriad of photographic opportunities that it offers. To find out more about the project, its purpose, the criteria for photograph subjects and what we are looking for, please follow link to River Nene photo project 2021.

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Local Elections - Time will tell on the new administration

This article was first published in the 20 May 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

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The day came and went. In truth the result was never in doubt although there were a few last-minute nerves on all sides. The May 6th election produced no real surprises in Peterborough itself except possibly for the fact that the Green Party now has three councillors in the Orton Waterville ward. How many people thought that would happen twenty years ago? With a few minor alterations and additions, the squad remains largely the same. A third of council seats were up for re-election. Presumably that’s where the phrase ‘quality of the final third’ comes from.

Many citizens and supporters believed that Peterborough has gone up a division. Indeed here has been much promotion of the city, one of the city’s MPs is constantly taking about being “proud of Peterborough”. It is too early to say whether the change is for the better. Many people argue that it is better to be in the same league, and compared to, places like Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Lincoln or Doncaster than it is to try to compete with traditionally more established places such as Sheffield, Nottingham or Stoke. Time will tell whether Peterborough can demonstrate that it deserves its place in the higher league or whether it should have remained a slightly bigger fish in a smaller pond/league.

However one thing is clear. Our city is way better than Cambridge or Northampton, results prove that, and thankfully we won’t have to meet them in direct competition any time in the near future.

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The captain of the team has changed though. Gone is the doughty, reliable centre-back who ran the show from his defensive position for years. And into his shoes has stepped the bustling midfield terrier. Time will tell if results improve under the new captaincy.

The new regime has promised a raft of changes. Indeed all the pre-match banter was all about getting on top of fly-tipping, littering and the dumping of bulky waste. In my own particular neck of the woods our new player has promised to “get tough” on those people who speed down our roads. A few years ago I canvassed the opinion of residents in Newark Avenue, Dogsthorpe and the overwhelming majority wanted some sort of traffic calming in the street. Unfortunately any proposed measures were opposed by the emergency services. Newark Avenue is regarded as a key route for emergency vehicles to access the parkway systems.

The Bayard Place stadium is no more, having been turned into flats and although the traditional Town Hall, with its hallowed marbled halls, is currently still in use many Peterborians wonder how long it will be before there is talk of a new headquarters, possibly even on the Embankment. However this seems unlikely due to the fact that building on the Embankment would go against the Council’s own policies.

With a bigger picture in mind it will be interesting to see what differences there will be now that the league structure has altered. Although they are still in different leagues, both Peterborough and Cambridge now have a new sugar daddy - sorry, sponsor (confusingly called Johnson), one who can provide additional money for local initiatives and who can also fund ‘infrastructure projects’, whatever they are. Presumably Cambridge will no longer take to the field with ‘CAM Metro’ emblazoned on the front of their shirts. It will be interesting to see what is now adorned across the front of Peterborough’s shirts. Let’s hope it’s more than a mere smiley face. The new regime nationally has promised to narrow the gap between rich and poor so the phrase ‘Up the Posh’ may have to be scrapped.

So, good luck to the new team. Time will tell if we’ll all be singing the praises of ‘Wayne Fitzgerald’s blue and white army’ or shouting ‘you’re so sh** it’s unbelievable’. At the end of the season will we be heralding the team’s efforts with a wary two-metre standoff, an awkward elbow bump or a full-blown team hug?

It’s a results game and we would all much prefer to be over the moon as opposed to sick as parrots. One thing is certain – if the upcoming season is successful the PT will produce a 16-page souvenir special!

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Treasure our green spaces

This article was first published in the 17 June 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

Not always green but always pleasant land

  • Oh it really is a very pretty garden
  • And Dogsthorpe to the Eastward could be seen
  • Wiv a ladder and some glasses
  • You could see sycamores and larches
  • If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between.

This is one of the choruses in an old Gus Elen late-Victorian/Edwardian music-hall song which gently pokes fun at the crowded urban world of gasworks, chimneys and poverty in London’s East End. Of course I have adapted it to offer a Peterborough slant but the song was typical of those making light of poor housing conditions.

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Artist's impression of how Lincoln Road could look
ack. Peterborough Telegraph

We tend to forget how constraining those housing conditions were and how difficult it was for people to manage their daily lives. Peterborough still has a large number of ageing houses, of course nothing as cramped and oppressive as East End London but nevertheless deserving of maintenance and improvement. Twenty-first century living has increasingly shown up the difficulties of living in a tight space which is one of the reasons why £4.5m has been designated to help improve parts of the Millfield area of the city. Those who know the area far better than me argue that this is a drop in the ocean, with improved housing being a far greater priority. But the nub of the problem is quite clear – creaking infrastructure. One only has to look at an old postcard of Lincoln Road from a hundred years ago to realise that cars, vans and delivery vehicles have transformed the area from quiet to (over)crowded. One of the things that the Millfield area suffers from is lack of open, recreational space, the area known as the Triangle and the newer Gladstone Park being the only significant open spaces. So, for the rest of this piece I would like to celebrate and acknowledge the importance played by open space.

Peterborough can be rightly proud of its people, its buildings, its history and its achievements. But just as people can shout, “look at me, me, me” and buildings such as our glorious cathedral can be so imposing as to demand to be viewed from both near and far, other aspects are often unsung.

One of the best teachers I ever worked with was quiet and unassuming yet efficient and organised. Despite the fact that he was softly spoken his voice demanded attention. When he talked the children stopped what they were doing, turned to listen and pay attention. They knew that every word and instruction was worth listening to and relevant to them. Peterborough’s unsung hero is no less quiet and unassuming and exists amongst us without being loud or cocky. Peterborough’s unsung hero is its open space. Notice that I don’t write ‘green space’. Although green spaces are important, particularly environmentally, open spaces can be much more than ‘green’.

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There are obvious examples of spaces that we all know, love and use – Ferry Meadows and Nene Park generally are obvious examples but are certainly not the only large areas of open space for Peterborians and visitors to enjoy. The city has registered Green Flag parks at Central Park, Itter Park on Fulbridge Road and Manor Farm Park in Eye. I could write a whole column about Central Park and the delightful new Willow café which the current Mrs Wood and I have visited on a number of occasions throughout lockdown – a true lifesaver!

The City Council’s website notes the following nature reserves and wildlife areas for the area which “offer many diverse habitats to encourage a very wide range of wildlife” – The Boardwalks at Thorpe Meadows, the woodlands at Thorpe Meadows, Cuckoo’s Hollow at Werrington, Holywell Fish Ponds at Longthorpe, Eye Green, Woodfield Park between Dogsthorpe and Welland, Woodston ponds, Thorpe Wood woodlands, Stanground Wash at North Street and Stanground newt ponds at Holylake Drive. Of course the Embankment is included in this list and we all keenly await the City Council’s Masterplan proposals to find out how the existing open spaces can be best enhanced and utilised.

Let us also not forget how house builders can also provide open spaces which can be integrated into developments. I live on the edge of Dogsthorpe, a vast housing estate built in the early 1950s with wide streets and many yards between the odds and evens. Houses have large gardens and there are even some houses arranged around spacious crescents. Admittedly land was cheap in those days! And let’s not forget the huge contribution made to the city by the Development Corporation in the 1970/80s. Bringing things up to date, our son lives in Hampton and his flat overlooks a lovely wide lake (hence his photo of a swan and cygnets recently published in the PT).

Open spaces are vital for our wellbeing, our physical and mental health. Open spaces are significant indicators of how we care for, and value, our citizens. I challenge readers to write to the PT extoling the virtues of your local open spaces, perhaps via the letters page. Over to you!

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Improvements help our great city

This article was first published in the 15 July 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

I’ve been putting the world to rights now for many years but it has to be said that progress is slow. So I apologise in advance if some of you have read some of these arguments before but certain things do need repeating. I keep returning to the subject of Peterborough city centre and the changes that have been made over the years as well as what could happen in the future, particularly as we, individually and collectively, gradually leave lockdown.

Our city has certainly made a great effort to make the centre an attractive and calm place in which to shop, wander and linger. Let’s face it, when you have a magnificent Cathedral and Guildhall to look at you can’t go wrong.

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I can often be found sitting on one of those concrete cubes at the edge of Cathedral Square watching the world go by. I can look south along Bridge Street with its leafy trees, west across Cathedral Square and into Cowgate, north up to Long Causeway and of course east towards the Cathedral and Minster Precincts. I suppose if I sat there long enough I might see just about every Peterborough citizen at one time or another!

However there is one thing that continues to annoy me, one annoyance that still gets me, one splinter in my finger of optimism (steady on Toby!). And that is just how easy it appears to be for traffic to continue to access the areas around Cathedral Square and its environs. It seems that all sorts of traffic is still able to park. Now I’m fully aware that some cars and vans are legitimate, whether that be those attending St John’s Church or delivery vehicles. But priority must surely now be given to those businesses attempting to a) recover from Covid battering and b) contribute to the Council’s aspiration to encourage Peterborough’s café culture. On the Queen Street/St John’s Square area, close to The Queen’s Head and Turtle Bay, efforts have been made to provide a vehicle-free environment, safe for both customers and pedestrians walking into Queensgate. Removable silver posts seem to be being reasonably effective and the enclosed area feels friendly and safe.

I was recently talking to Sean, one of the owners of The Stoneworks craft beer bar (happy 5th birthday by the way!) who said that the bar was ready and able to add a number of tables and chairs to the area outside the bar. However he was concerned that the staff would be arriving at work only to discover that cars and vans were parked over the area designated as an outside area. This uncertainty makes it very difficult for Sean and his colleagues to plan. He even said that he could contribute to a plan for demarcating the area if necessary.

In terms of providing sensitive, pedestrian-friendly barriers, it strikes me that the planters in Cowgate are a great attempt and generally work well – shame that they are not always planted up. Perhaps we ought to encourage a local gardeners’ volunteers’ group to take responsibility for this. Just saying! Installation of these planters could be extended from Cowgate into Church Street.

I fully appreciate that the ‘elephant in the room’ is the cost, in fact not a single elephant more a herd – but perhaps the City Council can access grants, attract sponsorship or use Towns Fund money to make these improvements happen. I know this is easy for me to write but if Peterborough aspires to be a city of flair, culture and aspiration then this should be a ‘quick-win’ project. I know that Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, the leader of the Council and his deputy Cllr Steve Allen are already looking to improve the streetscape – the new pavement seating and umbrellas outside the Lightbox on Bridge Street are testament to that.

There’s no two ways about it – Peterborough is on the up and many people have aspirations and even dreams for the future. As we come out of lockdown and attempt to return to some sort of ‘new normal’ the time for change is no longer in the future – it’s now.

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Heritage Open Days

This article was first published in the 19 August 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

Mr and Mrs Smith are from Stoke-on-Trent. Mr and Mrs Smith own a caravan and come to Ferry Meadows camp site once or twice a year. One particular drizzly Thursday afternoon, instead of walking round Ferry Meadows again they decide to go into Peterborough city centre to look around. They are impressed by the Guildhall and especially the Cathedral but, since it’s mid-September they would like to do a little more in and around the city. They realise that this particular week is Heritage Open Days week and they decide to stay in Peterborough a little longer to explore further.

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This year Heritage Open Days run from 10 – 19 September and once again many venues are open for people to explore. Of course you don’t have to be a visitor to the city, you can be a long-term resident who, for whatever reason, hasn’t been to one of the city’s many attractions.

Established in 1994, this celebration of our national culture has grown into the country’s largest community festival and we are fortunate to be in one of the most important areas, historically speaking, in the country. Our local history and heritage link back to 5,000BC and visitors are being welcomed to varying events on individual dates between 10 – 19th September. Some may require booking, some have guided tours, others are more casual. However, all contain fascinating local insights and are looking forward to welcoming visitors of all ages.

Although on a smaller scale than previous years, there are still many local venues being manned by volunteers opening the doors to the public to showcase local gems. In addition to the usual ‘big hitters’ like the Cathedral (with candlelit tours to music), there’s a chance to look at Railworld Wildlife Haven or take in a final tour of the ‘Back of the Shop’ at D’Arcy Jewellers before they close for good. Not all the events are in Peterborough – many are in the surrounding villages e.g., you could visit Richard III birthplace and the scene of some of Britain’s bloodiest history - or if you prefer, enjoy a relaxing village talk & tour. Alternatively, visit some rural parish churches, all of whom have something of historic or artistic interest to share.

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We have long been associated with coordinating this event locally and despite the hiatus last year, they have been collating local information on this national celebration of all things heritage in September. We hope you will not only take part in, and enjoy, at least one of these events, but perhaps make a return visit or see others further afield.

As the dates and times of opening vary considerably from place to place, and of course, due to the previous uncertainty of initially being able to guarantee the event going ahead prior to the Covid restrictions being lifted, we were unable to produce leaflets or brochures for distribution. However, there is a wealth of information on the Heritage Open Days website – not just about events in our area, but also nationally – so please spread the word!

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NB Some venues may still require people to follow Covid restrictions.

Don’t forget the dates, 10th – 19th September 2021.

Details of local events can be found by clicking on the Heritage Open Days logo (left).
This will take you away from our website to Heritage Open Days own website.

 

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Will you follow the civic commandments?

This article was first published in the 16 September 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

Type the word ‘pride’ into Google and you initially get ‘Pride in London, a home for every part of London’s LGBT+ community’. Type ‘civic pride’ and you currently are immediately directed to ‘Civic Pride Community Gardening and Litter Picking in Rossendale’. In these contexts the word ‘pride’ conjures up people being loud, colourful, joyous and largely youthful whilst the word ‘civic’ almost implies steady, unexciting, staid and rather conservative.

Perhaps civic pride and civic responsibility are virtually synonymous, the only difference being that responsibility implies duty or accountability.

So who should have civic pride and how does one acquire it? I suppose the obvious answer is that everyone, to one degree or another, should try to have some pride in where thy live. We are all interdependent.

Imagine a garden. It’s full of plants, some tall, some short, some flowering, some possessing magnificent spreading, expansive leaves, some shyly hiding round corners, others seemingly impossibly clinging to a wall or fence, some bearing fruit, some looking splendid all the year round, others seemingly dying off for the winter. In short the garden has as much variety as you can imagine. All the plants are different and none is more important than any other. Of course some plants may be more favoured than others but that’s often down to personal preference.

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The fact that there is a garden at all implies people. An area of land, however beautiful or remote, can exist quite happily on its own without intervention of people. But the very word garden implies a certain level of organisation, order and forethought. And that’s where we humans come in. Seeds need to be sown, then plants nurtured, watered and pruned. Eventually they need to be removed, replanted or even turned into compost to help sustain new growth. Plants need to be watered, fed and cared for. It stands to reason.

In Peterborough, as with all other communities, we all need to contribute towards making our own ‘garden’ or environment pleasant, agreeable and sustainable. Of course this can be done in a large number of positive ways by taking an active part of volunteering but arguably the easiest, best and most productive way that we can make a difference is by exercising personal responsibility and by not negatively affecting the local environment. When I was a primary age child, at Dogsthorpe Infants, Juniors and then All Soul’s primary school (before it morphed into St Thomas More), one of the biggest sins was to drop litter. We had assemblies about litter, litter patrols, litter monitors, litter detentions. The world seemed to be awash with waste bins, black plastic bags and rubber gloves and the teachers only seemed happy when the whole school, albeit temporarily, was litter-free.

So perhaps we in Peterborough ought to go ‘back to basics’ in terms of how we all look after our city. Instead of saying, “what are the Council going to do about …” maybe we’re the ones who need to be taking the lead in this thing called civic pride. Perhaps we’re the ones who need to carry round a little card with ‘Ten Civic Commandments’ written at the top. I’ll make a start - here’s my top ten list. What’s yours?

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Let's show off Peterborough a little more

This article was first published in the 21 October 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

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On Saturday 18 September Peterborough United played Birmingham City at home in the Championship. The visitors brought 4,000 supporters to the city, many of them had never been to Peterborough before. After the match a Birmingham supporter, Lee Hinton, wrote on Twitter, “Had no idea Peterborough was so nice!” He posted photos of the Cathedral, Guildhall, Cathedral Square and St John’s Church. A week or so earlier a supporter from West Bromwich Albion, also in Peterborough for the first time, asked the ticket office manager at Posh (coincidentally my son Dan) where was a good place to go for a drink and a meal. Dan was able to point him just over the road, Charters as it happens. The supporter and his wife were in Peterborough for the weekend and were clearly interested in what Peterborough has to offer. The following day the West Brom fan popped back to say thank you.

This got me thinking. Surely there must be an easy way of shops and businesses letting visitors know what’s available in the city, just basic information that can be given out – nothing complicated or intricate, just a taster, a starter, even a teaser.

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Whilst enjoying a meal at the excellent Cote Brasserie in Church Street I discussed this with my wife, the current Mrs Wood (of 49 years), and she came up with an idea that is so logical and simple. Why don’t we devise an A5 folded menu card that can be easily produced and distributed round shops, restaurants, hotels, clubs, pubs and other businesses? The card, entitled ‘While You’re Here …’ would include small photos and basic details of just a few of our more obvious go-to destinations – the Cathedral, Ferry Meadows, Queensgate, Posh, John Clare Cottage, Flag Fen and perhaps a few more of our prime attractions. The menu card would contain basic information, a website address, phone number, a few photographs, nothing more. It would be freely available in all major shops, hotels, bars and restaurants.

The card would have the current year’s date prominently displayed and would be updated annually so as not to appear out of date. In addition the information could also be included on the Posh home match programme thus reinforcing the link between the city’s cultural and sporting assets. After all, we are trying to make Peterborough look and sound cohesive. Surely such a ‘While You’re Here’ card should be easy to design, fund and organise?

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Peterborough has a number of potentially exciting new initiatives at the moment, which fit well into the Peterborough promotion/Visitor Centre agenda.

The main one is the Towns Fund. This is a £3.6 billion fund investing in towns and cities as part of the government's much-vaunted plan to level up the regions. Councils can bid for money for specific projects that they believe will upgrade and enhance towns and cities. Peterborough has submitted a bid which covers ten areas or topics. Details of all these can be found on the internet by searching for ‘Peterborough Towns Fund bid’. By far the largest, most complicated and potentially most prestigious is the bid’s flagship project, The Vine, which is a plan to refurbish what we know as the TK Maxx (formerly Woolworth’s) building in Bridge Street, turning it into a ‘new library, culture and community hub’, complete with Visitor Centre. I’m sure that I speak for many Peterborians when I yet again urge the City Council to ensure that, as part of any new development, this Visitor Centre is well-staffed and smooth-functioning. I shall bang on about it until it happens!

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In connection with promoting Peterborough, readers may remember that, between 2017 and 2020, the Civic Society installed a total of 36 blue plaques in and around the city centre. Simultaneously a 24-page brochure was produced describing all the plaques. This was made possible due to financial help from the Society, Heritage Lottery Fund and the City Council. This brochure is now freely available from Peterborough Museum, Central Library,the Cathedral shop and at the Mini-Vine shop in Bridge Street. Help yourself and seek out all the plaques!

All our plaques, from 1985 to the present day can be viewed on our website and the blue plaques brochure can be ordered with just a charge to cover postage costs.

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The future of Peterborough Market

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This article was first published in the 18 November 2021 edition of the Peterborough Telegraph.
It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

Much has been written about the market and its potential relocation so it might be time for a brief history lesson before we come bang up to date with consideration of the latest proposals.

Peterborough, along with many other towns and cities, has had a market for centuries. Indeed there was a market on what we now know as Cathedral Square for hundreds of years, from the Middle Ages right up to 1963 when it moved to its current site in Northminster. The old market area was sometimes referred to as the Butter Cross due to the fact that people used to come from the outlying villages and farms to sell dairy produce. Two of the postcards accompanying this article show what the area was like – the coloured card (lower left) is from the early 1900s and shows stalls selling their wares. The two black and white photographs are from the 1960s, and you can clearly see how squashed and cramped the area had now become (ed. see our plaque to The Guildhall visible in the background in two of the photos). The postcard to the right, shows an idealised view of the west front of the Cathedral and a few of the market stalls. The card, with its ‘With love from Arthur’ message at the bottom, was posted in 1926, 95 years ago. I wonder who Arthur was and where his family is now!

In 1963 it was decided that the market should be moved to Northminster. Why did it move? Up until the late 1960s the area round Cathedral Square was not pedestrianised and traffic (ed. including trams - see our plaque) trundled up and down Bridge Street, Long Causeway and Cowgate. As more and more people owned cars the streets became dangerously overcrowded and the authorities decided to move the market and eventually close off the streets to motor vehicles. As a young child I recall the smell of the exhaust fumes and my mum telling me to be careful not to get run over.

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The market was moved to Cattle Market Road, itself an area where, on a Wednesday and Saturday farmers, livestock owners and smallholders brought cattle, horses, sheep, chickens and other animals to be bought and sold. Again I remember the smells and sounds of the animals as well as the dung that was on the ground (and often on the soles of my shoes)!

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The cattle market from 1904

For many years the market has been successful. But times move on, shopping habits have altered and there are far fewer traders prepared to operate in the ‘market stall way’. However there are still plenty of people who wish to be offered the choice as to where to shop.

Peterborough City Council’s current proposal to relocate the market to Bridge Street seems sound and the Civic Society agrees with the principle. However there are a number of issues that need to be addressed before any final decision is made. Are all the market traders happy with the proposed site? Will rents be acceptable to them? Will the traders’ relocation costs be met? Will the stalls have reasonable access and will they look attractive? What are the views of the shopkeepers that could have stalls immediately in front of their premises? The last thing Bridge Street is some sort of random ‘Festival of Sheds’, stalls thrown together in a sloppy, makeshift way. There’s a great opportunity to design an eye-catching, innovative outdoor area that will blaze a trail in terms of look and layout whilst also satisfying existing customers and encouraging new ones. It could well be that outdoor stalls in Bridge Street are complemented by an indoor presence, particularly for perishable goods, in one of the now empty shop units.

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As usual the questions are simple but the solutions aren’t. How can the authorities develop an attractive area that Peterborians and others will want to come to? How can a market be incorporated into Bridge Street so that all businesses, old and new, feel included and involved? And perhaps most importantly the most challenging question – how can we make our city centre become really thriving again?

The demise of the existing market should not be the end of the story. It is just another chapter in Peterborough’s history. Change is inevitable, it’s how we manage it that is key.

Finally, who knows – we might eventually have a have a postcard market stall from which, in 2026, Arthur’s great-grandchild can buy a card to send to someone saying, ‘Wish you were here!’ We can but hope.

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page last changed 19 November 2021