“Even in the misty rain, England is beautiful in May. The journey from Great Shelford near Cambridge to Malden on the Essex coast, almost all on country roads, was significantly brightened by the white blossoms of cow parsley and hawthorn. To start the day, I met Level 6 second year, Libby White, at the pavilion in Great Shelford. We discussed her dissertation research into dysfunctional councils before calling in on the charming neighbours of the memorial hall whose hedge was hampering parking. At Haverhill and Saffron Walden, I met up with Colin Poole and Lisa Courtney, both at Level 6 (Year One). Colin told me the story of Haverhill’s development and showed me around the Arts Centre, a remarkable old building with a strong sense of civic history. We walked up the high street to the market square used for town events and I was impressed by the strong presence of the Town Council – residents should be fully aware of what it does. With both Colin and Lisa the value of emotional intelligence for management and leadership was once again brought up, inspired by a study for one of their modules. The theory is controversial but provides insights into the challenges of working with other people.
My next stop was Writtle near Chelmsford where I met Lauretta Fox, in her second year at Level Four. Writtle is famous for its agricultural college but the historical centre around a large triangular village green is an architectural gem. The Green is a significant responsibility for Writtle Parish Council as it is surrounded by trees and includes a duck pond; it is often hired out for events such as the circus and other displays. We enjoyed a damp walk around the Green, calling in to see the village archivists funded by the Parish Council. As a local historian myself, with a village archive in a spare bedroom, I envied their public space but, of course, they really needed an even bigger room than they have already. The council is also creating a series of green plaques that are being attached to buildings around the Green to tell people something of the history of each building – an impressive project. However, like many communities across East Anglia, the local community is currently most concerned about the proposed line of pylons planned for the edge of the parish bringing power from the off-shore turbine fields to London.
In the evening I met up with all four Essex students from Level 4. We shared stories and laughed a lot over an excellent Turkish meal at Sark in Malden, a venue to be recommended if you are ever travelling in that direction.”
By Elisabeth Skinner MBE. Follow her progress on Twitter – @lisabethski.