The third annual Wivenhoe Fireworks, organised by the fine folk from the Wivenhoe Open Racing Club, took place down at the Quay on Saturday evening. Free entrance resulted in a capacity crowd packed out across the front. Collection buckets enabled locals to show their appreciation, with all money raised going towards the building fund for the Royal British Legion and the Essex Air Ambulance..
Many local businesses also supported the event, including the Wivenhoe Bookshop and the Rose and Crown. Once again the location of the quayside boozer turned out to be the perfect business plan. Queues were four deep before the first banger was launched shortly after 8pm. Hip flasks from home also appeared to be a popular option…
The firework display itself was simply stunning. I wasn’t expecting the grand scale of the display, which lasted just over fifteen minutes in duration. Like a DJ set, the trick is to build up the anticipation, and then finish with a big, um, bang.
Wivenhoe locals weren’t disappointed. This was an extremely slick, professional and near perfect way in which to stage fireworks. The location of the launcher on the Rowhedge side of the Colne added a safe, and *shhh* romantic element. With the quayside illuminated for the evening, even @AnnaJCowen got a little over friendly as we ooh-ed and ahh-ed the evening away.
With many other local firework displays taking place next weekend (Elmstead Market next Saturday,) the back to front approach of mixing up Bonfire Night with Halloween has served Wivenhoe well. The ghoulish fancy dress theme saw some stunning costumes from the kids. It wasn’t clear if some of the adults were in fancy dress or not…
And so some time shortly after 8:15, the smoke cleared across the Colne, and the Nottage PA system pumped out the rather appropriate Smoke Across the Water. The beautiful clear North Essex skies once again opened up, with an array of stars providing the backdrop.
Yer man from the Open racing Club thanked Wivenhoe for supporting the event, and added with tremendous efficiency, that the fireworks will return back down to the Quay on October 29, 2011.
Time to start stocking up on that hip flask…
Many, many thanks to the Open Racing Club for a stunning display. Well done to the locals businesses for also supporting the occasion.
With the glorious autumnal sunshine continuing to brighten up the North Essex estuary, @AnnaJCowen and I took a Saturday afternoon leisurely stroll through Wivenhoe Wood. During our house hunting phase of some six months ago, we somehow managed to get lost in the small wooded land adjacent to the train line. Now firmly bedded down (sort of) in the town, it was time to go wood walking once again.
The weather was simply delightful for the afternoon. The sun pierced down through the canopy of trees, lighting up lost trails, and shining down on many otherwise hidden holes and wildlife openings. This was the first serious wellies workout of our great North Essex coastal adventure.
The ever excellent Wivenhoe Encyclopedia continues to be my online guide. It is wonderful to then take this information offline, and go exploring the local surroundings yourself. On Wivenhoe Wood, the Encyclopedia elaborates:
“Colchester Borough Council (CBC) owns most of Wivenhoe Wood with the balance owned by Wivenhoe Town Council. The wood is part of the Colne Local Nature Reserve and as such its long term future is safeguarded and its wildlife value increased with opportunities for people to enjoy and learn about nature.
In 1999, plans were agreed by CBC to create the Colne Local Nature Reserve to include Wivenhoe Wood, Lower Lodge Farm open space and Wivenhoe Ferry Marsh. This initiative is part of a strategic approach to developing and managing of an extensive network of Local Nature Reserves in Colchester.
The wood covers an area of approximately 16.5 ha (40.7 acres). It lies on the northern side of the River Colne on rising ground between Essex University and Wivenhoe, Colchester, and adjoins other Borough Council-owned open spaces and lies close to the Upper Colne Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).”
This SSSI for us on Saturday became something of a fungi hunt. The family friendly Fungi Forage taking place in the wood this Sunday is sadly already booked to capacity. Plus @AnnaJCowen and I would have to kidnap a small kid to qualify.
We found half a dozen different types of fungi, with the temptation to munch away, and then come up smiling sometime on Monday morning. But with Blair Witch type brances starting to crowd our approach, this was no time for magic mushroom nonsense.
Our path ahead was a rich carpet of conkers and chesnuts. Wood pigeons punctuated any gaps in the canopy above us, all the way until we reached the top of the town towards Broomgrove.
The photos captured along the way were hit and miss. I’m still not entirely happy with the Nikon SLR. The colours appear flat. Photoshop has been my friend.
Still, at least we didn’t get lost in the 40.7 acres, and met a number of Wivenhoe Wood ramblers along the way. Must return at some stage with the MTB…
It may not keep away the spirits of Wivenhoe, but hopefully it will see off the over friendly cat that keeps on popping through the flap left by the previous owners. Something went a little wrong in the carving out my Wivenhoe lantern. He looks a dead ringer for Boy Y back at one of my schools.
And so it was with some delight that our box ticking of finding local services was soon blitzed, when we saw the recently opened Cansdale and Ross at the Quay end of the High Street.
Sad to say that Mr Sainsbury’s online is so far supplying us with bulk purchases; a giant multi-national is half decent for washing power, but not so great on Granny Smith’s.
We’re fitting the weekly Cansdale and Ross fruit ‘n veg shop splendidly into our routine. We simply walk to the end of the road, get rather excited about the splendid produce on offer, have some decent local conversation and then settle up the bill.
Wivenhoe locals will probably know Nigel and his partner Lisa as the proprietors of the ace Coffee Shop across the road. It’s the place where @AnnaJCowen first sat down back in May to ponder the house purchase.
The space for the fruit ‘n veg shop is perfect. It all appears slightly cramped and random in there, but then that’s just the antidote to all those soulless online and offline supermarket aisles.
The range on sale covers everything (and more) that you would find in a supermarket. The prices come in slightly under what the big boys are charging as well. Plus with a 10% discount across the road at the Coffee Shop, you can see how true localism genuinely works.
We clock up just under a £10 a week spend, which is great value considering we were paying £22 a fortnight back in South London. No need either for all those random veg box items. I never did understand the point of artichokes.
The produce is locally sourced, cutting down on all those nasty food miles (and easing my online shopping conscience,) not to mention supporting the local farm economy.
It was very decent of Nigel to agree to the brief video piece above. Having packed my bag, I door stepped him and asked for a brief chat. The brevity came about as a queue of eager customers was soon building up.
I keep on pushing Nigel to start selling fresh bread. He’s looking for a local supplier, and so if anyone else knows of any contacts, do speak up in the comments below.
Another ace evening spent in transit between the Wivenhoe Trail, @15QueenStreet and then back towards the Hoe. No surprises that booze was involved.
Stumbling upon the fine, fine folk of @15QueenStreet has been something of a lifeline during these first few weeks of the Great Essex Adventure. Sunny Colch is indeed highly creative, and via a bit of online looking around, you can find folk who are very similar to yourself.
I first found @15QueenStreet via the ace @CoolColchester. If you are North Essex bound, then you really should be following. Put simply, Ben Howard is King of All That is Cool in Sunny Colch – which is actually a hell of a lot more than you think it might be.
Through following @CoolColchester, I made the online connection with @15QueenStreet, and then many shared offline conversations (and booze) have since followed.
As a social member @15QueenStreet, then I thought it only right and proper that I attended the monthly mini bar event. Basically it is a booze up with fellow Colchester (ish) creative types, with talks by any local organisation that wants to share dialogue with the members. There is a definite Tuttle-ish feel to the event.
We heard this month from the brilliant @ColchCircleMag, a new start up that is publishing a regular offline events and arts based listings magazine in the area.
The easy option would be for a Time Out lite nasty advertorial approach; thankfully @ColchCircleMag is looking to work alongside the creative talent in the area, and co-operate with the local artistic economy to produce a magazine that the town can be proud of.
Pam Nelson soon followed, talking in abundance for the enthusiasm that she has for Colchester in Bloom. My Second Coming in North Essex is still less than a month in duration, but already Pam is emerging as a name that keeps on cropping up in shared conversations.
She has an incredible network of local connections, and is genuinely enthused about promoting all that is good in Colchester and the surrounds. The Bloom project in particular is worth mentioning, in that it is taking a slightly different approach from the traditional hanging basket approach.
With a team of creatives from @15QueenStreet behind her, Pam, is keen to explore the theme of One Million Flowers being put in place across the town, and in particular, adding some a scenic backdrop along the trail.
More booze followed, along with some ace conversation. I met up with a local couple that are about to emigrate. Our instant common theme was that of swimming. Stories were exchanged about the local possibilities. I was happy to pass along my positive experiences from the daily Bannatynes dip; Wivenhoe estuary woes still haven’t deterred me.
Oh – and I got to shake the hand of a Dingbat as well. Job’s a good ‘un.
And then it was time for the short train journey back to the Hoe, and an hour of boozing with my lovely new neighbour and his pals back in The Station.
Five pints later, and all became clear. I have now made the connection with the man that built my kitchen extension, as well as having the mystery explained of the random pussy landing on my bed at 4am earlier in the week.
Thursday evenings look like becoming a regular gig, shuttling along the Wivenhoe Trail to @15QueenStreet, and then back for local neighbourly booze. So yeah, there is an artist, of sorts, in me after all.
Ever keen to harness my reputation as a hunter and gatherer along the estuary wilds, I set out with @AnnaJCowen for a rosehip picking session. It was rather productive, if slightly prickly, and certainly worthwhile in terms of striking up conversations with other Wivenhoe locals.
“Are you picking rosehips?”
“Ah, are you making some syrup out of them?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Do you know how to?”
“Nope. Please do share…”
And so we walked away around an hour later from the downstream Wivenhoe Trail with a couple of containers of rosehips, and some wonderful shared dialogue about what the chuffers to do with the red berries back at base.
Truth be told, and neither @AnnaJCowen nor I are great syrup lovers. Having clocked up an online food shopping bill earlier, the rosehip picking session seemed like some form of balance to cancel out all those endless online food miles.
The crop itself was ample. With the blackberries now long since seen off along the estuary, rosehips are not in short supply. We could have returned with tenfold the amount.
Conversations aside and it’s not the most exciting of lunchtime activities to be honest. But the estuary was magnificent as ever. In the hour in which we spent picking and getting pricked, the Colne rolled back into quay, providing sufficient high tide for some trade to pass along the muddy banks.
I can only speculate as to what the cargo was or wasn’t – rosehip syrup must be low on the list of local shipping priorities. But with a kitchen now full of red berries ready to liquidate, I wouldn’t rule out our own Wivenhoe food export business…
Monday night in Wivenhoe and the William Loveless Hall saw a healthy turn out as locals gathered to debate the future of Broad Lane. The premise was how to mobilise the community to transform the football ground. The sub-plot was let’s build a swimming pool in Wivenhoe.
It seems that I have touched down in the Hoe during what is a genuinely incredibly exciting period. The future of Broad Lane is up for grabs. A mysterious and anonymous benefactor is willing to pump cash into the project. To proceed, he needs to see and hear the right reassurances that the entire community is backing the project.
Local resident Tim Patterson hosted the evening, carrying forward the agenda and ideas with tremendous enthusiasm. If this optimism can be transferred to the rest of the town, then the redevelopment of Broad Lane will be a breeze.
But in these austere times of financial hardship, building a swimming pool on a piece of barren land requires something a little more substantial than a healthy turn out at the William Loveless Hall on a Monday evening. Here’s where Mr X and his mystery millions comes in.
Tim addressed the meeting, speaking of the “fantastic opportunity” that lay ahead for Wivenhoe:
“I am truly energised by this project. We have this offer of investment that is unheard of during these tough economic times. What we need to work out as a community is what type of facilities Broad Lane can support – sport, leisure and possibly a community centre.”
Tim spoke of how all the existing sports teams based at Broad Lane are currently on board with the ambitious idea.
“What is needed now is the momentum from the rest of the community. Please become a member of this scheme, talk with others in the town about the plans and register your interests on the Broad Lane Future website.”
An online poll has been set up to help understand the local needs for the redevelopment of Broad Lane. It’s not a beauty contest, or even a truly representative approach to making a final decision; it’s simply a good place to start and engage the debate though, both online around the village.
With participation already shown from groups such as Moving Image, the locals schools and the allotments group, what is needed now is for other groups to embrace the unifying theme that this unique project presents.
Brian Sinclair, the Mayor of Wivenhoe, was next up to address the public meeting:
“Only good can come of this project. I accept that it is going to be far from easy. We are at the very early stages. The Wivenhoe Sporting Trust is keen to see anything that encourages sport at Broad Lane to be put in place. I am aware of the previous problems that locals have had with the Trust, but we now need to move on. This is a means of joining together the community. We have the chance to draw the residents from the Cross and the Quay closer together. If we can achieve this when times are tight, then all the better.”
It can often seem something of a divide from the top of the town towards the University, all the way down to the Quay. With many of the local facilities located south of the Cross, establishing one community base up at Broad Lane seems like a means to bring together the whole community.
Transition Town Wivenhoe then gave a brief presentation, making the connection between the macro theme of less reliance on fossil fuel, with the very micro theme of local sustainability. TTW hopes to use Broad Lane to help achieve this at a very local level, but putting in place allotments around the ground.
Local architect and football coach Kevin Hall concluded the first of these public consultations for the redevelopment of Broad Lane. He described the challenges of trying to change the use of a facility that is currently half owned by Colchester Borough Council, and half owned by the Wivenhoe Youth Trustees:
“A new central club house will help to join together these two groups. This is all about local people creating local energy within Wivenhoe for a positive change. The more the facility is used, the more secure it will become. We hope to have nursery groups in there during the morning, and then continuous use up until late in the evening.”
Planning permission for the first phase of the development is already in place. Public support is required to convince the Mr X benefactor that this is a scheme that can advance forward.
Kevin explained how the timeline would continue to include another public meeting in December to discuss the ideas coming out of the online survey. Further public consultations will carry on throughout 2011, with hopefully the new facility, whatever it may incorporate, being ready for a prestigious sporting 2012 opening.
Questions then followed from the floor, and given the mystery of the Mr X financial benefactor, many of these were either cynical or suspicious of the plans explained.
“Where exactly is the money coming from?”
It was explained that Mr X wants to leave a legacy for Wivenhoe. This is a non-profit scheme, and all that is required is for local energy and enthusiasm to match the money on offer.
“What are the running costs, once the new facilities have been built?”
It was accepted that this is a challenge that needs to be addressed. A full business plan needs to be put in place to guarantee the long-term future of the scheme.
“What is the scale of investment?”
A figure of £1.4m was mentioned as the total cost of the scheme, over a two to three year period. A “significant proportion” of this is being made available from Mr X.
“How are the facilities going to be managed on a daily basis?”
To be decided…
“Is there a danger that these leisure facilities will simply be competing with the University up the road?”
In a town of ten thousand residents, it is hoped that the demand will be there for Wivenhoe locals to support both the University, and the Broad Lane facilities.
“Is the investment specific to Broad Lane? The William Loveless Hall is in great need of further expansion.”
This is also open for discussion.
“What are the car parking plans?”
It is recognised that such a scheme will create a demand for more car use. This will be incorporated into the final plans.
And so an hour later, Wivenhoe locals started to drift away from the William Loveless Hall, debating amongst themselves the merits of what they had just heard. Some of this was positive, some of this was sceptical. Little of this was negative.
Which really is what the evening was all about – to try and engage locals in thinking about the possibilities that have been presented. No one is suggesting that a swimming pool will be built before Christmas at Broad Lane. But if this type of facility emerges during this period of discussion as the main priority, then all of this positive energy will be challenged towards such a use.
I personally think that a pool needs to be a priority. Overlooking my personal interest as a daily swimmer, and it doesn’t take a financial forecast sheet to work out that Broad Lane needs to offer an alternative option.
Treadmills are ten a penny (or even a pound) over at the University. Swimming facilities around these parts are in short supply. It could be in use from early morning until late at night, supported by fitness swimmers, local schools and general leisure users. The very fact that we are having this conversation is evidence that the dialogue on Monday evening was worthwhile.
And this really is the central message: have a look at broadlanefuture.com. There’s not a great deal of content on there right now, but you need to have this initial dialogue to find out what the long term need is.
The openness of the evening was evident at the end, when I door stopped the very good Tim Patterson to ask him more about the plans.
“Um, I’ve just moved in here, I love to swim, what’s the deal?”
If the enthusiasm for Broad Lane that comes across from Tim in the audioboo above is any indication, the vision for the football club, the expansion and more importantly, the community, appears to be in safe hands.