Saluting service and celebrating success
2nd September 2021: Wem has a wonderful community spirit. This has helped it rise to a number of challenges. The tough economic climate of the past 13 years, added to the Covid crisis, has hit Wem as hard as anywhere in Shropshire. The town might have an unfashionable reputation when compared to places like Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Bridgnorth and Ellesmere. Yet, I was hugely inspired by my visit in which I was kindly hosted by Shropshire councillors Edward Towers and Peter Broomhall.
Wem has much going for it. The superb Wem Town Hall is a wonderful asset. The proactive Wem Town Council rescued it from closure and helped to develop its flourishing Arts programme, Thursday market and other great initiatives.
New independent traders are being encouraged onto the High Street, taking over some of the empty shops. The town is working hard to improve sporting facilities (the swimming pool/gym is a perfect example), address traffic problems (carrying out surveys and consultations) and tackle climate change through Wem Area Climate Forum.
Youth organisations and societies are strong, local schools excellent and the townspeople seem to have a ‘can do’ attitude. There is so much that is positive. Unsung it might be, but Wem is well worth a visit.
2nd September 2021:: This evening, Clare and I attended a party hosted by The High Sheriff of Worcester Richard Amphlett, at Tenbury Wells. It is always helpful to see how my fellow sheriffs are progressing in their year of office and to swap ideas.
3rd September 2021: I was pleased to be a guest of Dorrington Business Network, which meets on the first Friday of the month for a breakfast meeting. Dorrington Village Hall is the venue and the meeting features local businessmen and women looking to expand their networks.
The 20 different businesses involved include web designers, solicitors, mortgage advisers, accountants, entrepreneurs in design, farming companies and much else. The cost of the meeting is £5 – to include a bacon sandwich and endless tea and coffee – with no annual fee and, as the Network is not-for-profit, all money goes to the village hall.
6th September 2021: Clare and I were kindly invited by His Honour Judge Peter Barrie to sit with him at Shrewsbury Crown Court.
It was a thoroughly interesting morning with several pre-trial matters covering a wide breadth of cases. One case went ahead, involving drink-driving, with the defendant banned from driving for 18 months. The others were shorter hearings in order to set formal trial dates.
Shrewsbury Crown Court, on the Midland Circuit, is a vital part of the justice system with His Honour Judge Barrie – who was appointed in 2010 – as the resident judge.
8th September 2021: I was greatly impressed by a visit to Moor Farm Polo Club, near Baschurch, where I met owner Gary Okell. This is a great example of diversification, providing a new facility for Shropshire, linking in with an existing farm shop. I wish Gary every success with this exciting venture.
9th September 2021: I was honoured to join with Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner in leading the county’s celebrations for Emergency Services Day at a special ceremony outside St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury.
Emergency Services Day, also known as 999 Day, is a national event on 9th September each year. It provides an opportunity for the country to celebrate the contribution of the 2 million people who work and volunteer across the NHS and emergency services, including more than 250,000 first responders.
In addition, 999 Day is aimed at promoting efficiency and educating the public about using the services responsibly. It aims to promote emergency services charities and to highlight the many different career and volunteer roles available.
Founded in 2016 by Tom Scholes-Fogg, 999 Day has secured the support of Her Majesty the Queen and Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke of Cambridge. It has the backing of the Prime Minister and First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Those present at the St Chad’s service included West Mercia Police representative, Superintendent Paul Moxley and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Chief, Rod Hammerton.
We were especially delighted to welcome to Shropshire, 999 Day’s Founder, Tom Scholes-Fogg and 999 Day Deputy Chief Executive, Keith Fraser, who accepted an invitation from the Lord-Lieutenant.
Speaking about the event, our Lord-Lieutenant Mrs Turner said: “We teach our children how to dial 999 from an early age because we know our Emergency Services are so incredibly important. In a crisis they bring help, knowledge, calm and support, I am so pleased that we have this very special day to put them at the front of our thoughts and show the gratitude they deserve.”
Shropshire, I know, is proud to support the National 999 Emergency Services Day. The Emergency Services are unsung heroes, whom many take for granted but rely on in their hour of need.
The staff of the three principal services, Police, Fire and Ambulance, work selflessly for us all, often exposing themselves to personal danger on our behalf. It is important that we use events like the 999 Emergency Services Day to show our appreciation and gratitude. Below is a copy of my short address to the service, which I’ve produced in full here as it articulates my feelings about the Emergency Services and what they mean to us.
About a month ago I witnessed with a mixture of horror and disbelief a young woman set herself ablaze. It was in a public place, late morning, with several witnesses.
Somebody called 999 immediately.
Police, fire and ambulance services were at the scene within minutes. The Air Ambulance was scrambled. Superb professionals, whose sole thought was to save the life of this poor young woman.
What crisis led her, in her 20s, to this moment of despair, these brave emergency responders did not know, nor did they enquire. Their one thought was her welfare.
Theirs is the ultimate expression of a decent society, where strangers help one another, sometimes without thought for their own welfare. This is civilisation.
Witness a fight down a dark alley and, as a civilian, you can try to break it up . . . or walk swiftly away. You have a choice.
Put on a police uniform and you have no choice. Witness trouble and you are immediately involved.
As a civilian, you can walk away from a burning building. As a firefighter, you must hurry towards it.
As a civilian, you can look away from a bloodied driver screaming in pain in the wreckage of a car crash. An ambulance crew gets up close, working at speed with soothing words and actions.
Since records began in 1900, more than 4,000 police officers, men and women, of all ages, have lost their lives in Britain. Trying to make life safer for all of us. And in the attempt, making the ultimate sacrifice.
More than 20,000 police officers are assaulted every year. And that does not include the attacks that individual officers don’t report, brushing them off as part of the job.
Statistics show that if you put on a police uniform, you are 12 times more likely to be assaulted than the rest of us.
The fire service put themselves at risk on a daily basis. Thankfully no fire fighters have died in Shropshire since 2000, but more than 20 have died nationally in that period
For Ambulance crews – as with police and firefighters – there is the ever-present danger of road accident as they answer blue light calls. But an ugly trend in recent years has seen a number of sickening attacks on ambulance crews – whether in person or by the pelting of their vehicles with missiles.
More than 3,500 ambulance staff were physically assaulted in 2017-18 – a rise of 30 per cent on the previous year.
So, we are here today to hail a group of quite extraordinary people – the men and women who put on the uniform of the police, fire and rescue and ambulance service.
As High Sheriff, part of my role is to support their efforts in whatever way I can. To shine a light on their selfless service. It is my honour and privilege to do so. And to say, humbly and from deep within, thank you.”
9th September 2021: I was delighted to attend the presentation of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, to education technology company Scanning Pens. With bases at Telford’s Wolverhampton University campus and in Wiltshire, it is one of only a handful of UK companies recognised for its services to international trade.
The company received its royal award from High Sheriff of Shropshire Anna Turner at a reception at Hoar Cross Hall Hotel, Burton-on-Trent. Representatives from the Department of International Trade, plus a host of Telford business leaders and officials from UK education trade bodies were at the lunchtime presentation.
Scanning Pens Ltd was formed in 2003 by Oxford Brookes graduates Jack Churchill and Toby Sutton, and supplies text-to-speech reading tools to help people with dyslexia and literacy issues. It also works hard to raise awareness of dyslexia worldwide with its Succeed with Dyslexia campaign. The company runs training programmes and free webinars.
It is a thoroughly-deserved accolade for a company that is a superb ambassador for Shropshire. Many congratulations.
9th September 2021: Clare and I attended the RAF reception in the Officers’ Mess at Shawbury.
Hosted by Group Commander Phil Wadlow, it was the perfect opportunity to hear about some of the recent achievements at the base and witness, at first hand, the exciting investment in its state-of-the-art training facilities.
9th September 2021: Later in the evening, Clare and I moved on to a Garden Party, hosted by Sir Algernon and Lady Heber-Percy. Venue was Hodnet Hall Gardens Restaurant and there was enchanting music from Alis Huws, Royal Harpist to The Prince of Wales.
The evening was in aid of Lingen Davies Cancer Fund, a fabulous charity whose sole focus is on cancer care and prevention within Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Mid Wales. It needs to raise around £1million a year for its vital work.
11th September 2021:I had a Zoom conference call with Allan Wilson, who is trying to set up a network called Save Our Shropshire.
He was formerly the chair of Shropshire Local Councils and previously a policeman.
His aim is to set up a carbon literacy project which he wishes to cascade throughout the county.
The aim is to run training seminars for people who, in turn, go on to train other people. He has courses on the 5th, 9th and 10th of October. He envisages about ten people attending each course.
Each course will cost approximately £150 to run but he has negotiated a deal where they will cost £90. Each trainer would pay £10.
I suggested that Allan targets businesses who will have an ethical green mission or target to meet. Not only might they supply some funding but could help to spread the green message.
I feel it is really important not to make this party political, which can blur the message. That message must be plausible and its targets attainable.
The health and fitness movement provides a good model to try to replicate. A few years ago, very few people really appreciated the importance of keeping fit and healthy.
Now many people of all ages can do their own bit in a measurable way to keep fit and raise their sense of wellness.
Similarly, he could do the same with bite-size messages to private individuals.
12th September 2021: I laid a wreath at a special ceremony of remembrance at The Memorial in Shrewsbury’s Quarry today. The Mayor of Shrewsbury Town Council, Julian Dean, and Vince Hunt, Leader of Shropshire Council, also laid wreaths. Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawcznski attended and there was an RAF fly past.
The ceremony was to mark the 81st anniversary of Battle of Britain Day, three days later on September 15. It was on this day, in 1940, that RAF Fighter Command claimed the decisive victory over the German Lutwaffe.
It is a day for reflection, for the Royal Air Force lives lost – many so young – defending our freedom in the skies above our island. And think too of the badly wounded, whose lives would never be the same again. And of the widows, and children left fatherless.
13th September 2021: Clare and I visited HM Prison at Stoke Heath where we were shown around by the Governor, John Huntington. It is very clear that the Prison Service, and notably Stoke Heath, has adapted to a very modern approach and management style so different from the old days of Porridge and the austere Victorian prisons.
It is clear that John Huntington runs Stoke Heath with a firm but empathetic hand, allowing prisoners to develop skills and find a way forward on their return to civilian life.
The whole prison was much calmer than I anticipated. Also, Mr Huntington and his team have clearly made an enormous effort to make Stoke Heath a welcoming – if that is possible in the circumstances – environment for the inmates with the open space, grass and flowers.
We discussed the fact that a number of inmates do have literacy issues.
I explained that four days earlier I had met with Jack Churchill, CEO of Scanning Pens (see entry for September 9). The firm has developed a genius pen reader which enables type to be converted into audio. This would help both those with either little or no literacy and others to progress their reading skills.
13th September 2021: I attended the Shropshire Scouts AGM at Roden Nurseries, hosted by County Commissioner Adam ‘Dexter’ Williams.
Modern-day Scouting offers an exciting and vibrant organisation for young people, of which there are currently around 3,000 in Shropshire. Scouts not only have fun but gain skills and an invaluable degree of confidence.
Various awards were given out and I was delighted to present High Sheriff’s Awards to Ian Windler and Terry Darlow. Ian is County Training Manager, responsible for leading the Adult Training Team, ensuring that all volunteers have the relevant skills.
Prior to his current role, Ian was the Local Manager at 2nd Market Drayton Scout Group where his 40-plus years of service have been recognised by the Group naming its new activities area after him.
Terry is a Deputy County Commissioner, who has recently been leading the Growth and Development workstream, helping new groups to open, and supporting groups that have fallen on hard times. Over his 48 years’ service, he has spent the majority of it supporting and enabling volunteers either as a trainer, manager, or deputy – going where he is needed and being successful there.
In my short speech I made the point that Scouting not only provides a most valuable vocational training for young people, but is also able to contribute to wider society. I gave the example of the Edgmond Scouts helping with homeless charity The Ark in Shrewsbury.
14th September 2021: I attended a retirement lunch today for West Mercia Police Chief Constable, Anthony Bangham, at Hindlip Hall, Worcester, the force’s headquarters. I am sure you will all join me in thanking Mr Bangham for his 30 years of police service, which started as a constable in Redditch. He has been our Chief Constable for the past five years and we have all benefitted from his dedication to serving Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. I wish him a long and happy retirement.
15th September 2021: I met up with my colleagues from around the country on a Zoom call, organised by the national body, the High Sheriffs Association. Again, it is always helpful to hear how others are doing the job and to exchange information and ideas.
16th September 2021: I was honoured to be involved in a historic ceremony in Shrewsbury. I formally handed over 30 shillings to Shrewsbury Drapers Company for the benefit of the poor at the St Giles almshouses, as my predecessors in office have done since it was decreed by Henry II in the 12th century.
My wife Clare attended the ceremony and afterwards we had lunch with the Master Draper, Major General John Crackett and his wife Claire, along with other members of The Guild, in Drapers Hall.
Livery companies and guilds have for centuries been great charitable benefactors, often running and supporting almhouses, as Shrewsbury Drapers Company does. The company is a great charitable force for good in the town and is to be praised for its superb contribution to the community.
16th September 2021: I met with Paul Johnson, Head of University Centre Shrewsbury. The centre has some 600 students, with an intake of around 200 this year. UCS works in collaboration with the University of Chester, which has 14,000 students.
There are two council-owned accommodation blocks, Mardol House and Tannery East. Two thirds of the students are from Shropshire.
As well as degree courses, the centre also runs CPD (continuing professional development) courses for the nursing sector.
The aim is to grow the university to around 1,000 students but to continue in collaboration with Chester, where the focus is on teacher education.
We can be proud of the fact that UCS provides a degree-standard education in Shropshire, adding to the offering of University Centre Telford, where the Priorslee campus is part of University of Wolverhampton.
17th September 2021: My wife Clare and I attended a dinner at the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings to celebrate the superb £30million renovation scheme that is restoring this historic building to its former glory.
Our host for the evening was Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of Historic England, the site’s owner. Before dinner we toured the magnificent building, which is Grade 1 listed. Dating back some 220 years, it is the world’s first iron-framed building and an early ‘skyscraper’.
The building was originally a flax mill but later adapted as a maltings. One of the great risks of such buildings was that they were largely constructed of timber which made them extremely flammable, particularly as they had to roast the barley. This building’s solid floors and metal frame substantially reduced the fire risk.
The renovation is so advanced now that the main four floors are being offered to let as commercial office space.
A £20.7million Lottery grant has gone to the project combined with funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership. To provide further funding, there is enabling planning permission for 120 houses and flats at the site in Ditherington.
This is one of the world’s most important historic buildings and Shropshire can take great pride in a super renovation that will see the Flax Mill paying its way in the 21st century.
21st September 2021: Clare and I joined a group of current and former High Sheriffs for a visit to The Royal British Legion’s National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) near Burton-on-Trent. We were invited by High Sheriff of Staffordshire James Friend, who tells me he has attended some truly moving occasions at the NMA this summer, particularly when meeting recently bereaved families from the Armed Forces and the Police, and some truly splendid veterans.
It is a breath-taking place with over 330 memorials spread across 150 acres. We took a land train tour of this remarkable site, developed from an old gravel pit by a large planting and landscaping scheme. We had lunch at Aspects, the new conference centre, after which we had the chance for a meditative exploration of the site.
The number and variety of the memorials, and the history of service to this country that they represent, is all truly astonishing.
21st September 2021: I had a conference call with Jane Cullen, chair of South Shropshire Climate Action (SSCA), and various experts including Professor John Whitelegg, who has worked in the field of sustainable transport for 30 years including periods as a professor at Roskilde University in Denmark, Essen University in Germany and Lancaster and York Universities. For three years he worked for the German state ministry of transport in North Rhine Westphalia, responsible for transport planning for 16 million people taking in a large rural area as well as some of Germany’s biggest cities including Cologne and Dusseldorf. He is currently Visiting Professor, School of the Built Environment, at Liverpool John Moores University, and editor of the journal World Transport Policy and Practice. He is the author of 10 books on sustainable transport-related themes.
SSCA is doing great work in raising the green issue and setting goals around reducing carbon emissions.
The reality is that we all need to do our little bit to reduce our carbon footprint on a daily basis.
My point, as it was when I met Jane previously in Ludlow, is that we should have a twin-pronged approach. One is to have a macro plan around being carbon neutral by 2030, whether aspirational or reality. A serious challenge at the moment is that the technology required to reach such a target is not yet there. The second is that we all do our bit, the individual baby steps adding up to something much bigger.
As we all know, most of the general public think that it is somebody else’s problem or simply something for the politicians to address.
I’m convinced that the greatest change will come if we all make our own changes.
Do we really need to make that car journey today? Could we use public transport, or car share? What about ‘pool car’ schemes?
Most houses would benefit enormously from better insulation. There are grants available and a great deal can be done relatively easily to make houses more heat efficient.
It is almost inevitable that gas and oil boilers will be phased out. People should start to consider using alternatives such as air heat source pumps. The reality at present, with current technology, is that they provide an ambient heat but not necessarily the boost that is required.
In business, do we really need to fly for international meetings or can they be done by Zoom/Teams?
Going forward, will it be socially acceptable for people to take several international holidays a year by air?
People should consider trying to buy food grown in the UK and, ideally, within their own county. If we were to reduce the amount of food miles, that would make a difference.
We still have a long way to go with ways of producing carbon sequestration and soil management. On one hand it’s very easy to say that no land should be ploughed in the future, however, how do you produce the low-cost vegetables that the general public require? At present, it would not be possible to grow vegetable crops such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips or other vegetable crops without ploughing the soil.
The fact is that if we cannot produce vegetables within the new regulations, they will simply be flown in from abroad, clocking up air miles.
One real positive of SSCA is to try to make the Ludlow constituency the first in the UK to be carbon neutral. If achieved, this would be a superb example to others.
My own view is that we need to lead by example and try to make everybody commit to achievable, bitesize pledges to meaningfully reduce their own use of carbon.
25th September 2021: My wife Clare and I were delighted to attend a BEM (British Empire Medal) ceremony at Blists Hill Museum, honouring three heroes of our community for their service during the pandemic. Mandy Medlyn, manager of the Red House Community Centre in Albrighton, and Trevor Bate and Councillor Nigel Dugmore, both of Telford, were honoured for their community work. All three were awarded their British Empire Medals in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June. The awards were presented by Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner.
26th September 2021: I attended Shrewsbury Abbey for a Service of Thanksgiving and Commemoration. It was to recognise, and show appreciation of, the sacrifices and selflessness of people in our county during the Covid-19 pandemic. The service was led by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner and The Vicar and Churchwardens of Shrewsbury Abbey.
26th September 2021: Clare and I attended the Wenlock Olympian Games where track and field athletics was the centrepiece. There were more than 150 competitors at William Brookes School in Much Wenlock for the latest instalment of an event that is famous in many parts of the world.
The Games are normally held in July but put back a couple of months this year because of the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic.
There is a wonderful family feel about these games, with the youngest competitors around 10 years old and the eldest in their 60s.
After attending the archery event in the summer, it was hugely enjoyable to return for the athletics and witness some superb performances.
The Wenlock Games is an annual event of which Shropshire can be truly proud. They date from 1850 and are a forerunner of the modern Olympic Games. Organised by the Wenlock Olympian Society, they are held each year at venues across Shropshire, but centred around Much Wenlock.
The driving force behind founding the Wenlock Olympian Games was Dr William Penny Brookes who was motivated by his work as a doctor and surgeon to encourage physical and mental health. The first Games were held at Much Wenlock racecourse and were a mixture of athletics and traditional country sports such as quoits, football and cricket. Events also included running, hurdles, football and cycling on penny farthings.In 1861, after work by Dr Brookes and his colleagues, the Shropshire Olympian Games were launched. The first National Olympian Games were held in London in 1866, organised by the National Olympian Association (NOA) which had been co-founded by Dr Brookes in 1865.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited the Wenlock Olympian Society in 1890 and, inspired by Dr Brookes, established the International Olympic Committee. Dr Brookes was named as an honorary delegate at the 1894 Sorbonne Congress at which the IOC was established, although he was unable to attend due to ill health. The Wenlock Olympian Games continued intermittently after his death in 1895, with significant revivals in 1950 and 1977. The current series has been running since 1977, and has received official recognition from the IOC and the British Olympic Association (BOA), exemplified by visits from the Princess Royal for the BOA in 1990 and Juan Antonio Samaranch for the IOC in 1994.
The mascot for the London 2012 Summer Olympics was named Wenlock.
27th September 2021: I was greatly inspired by my visit to Youth Support Services at Lantern House, Shrewsbury.
This is a charitable organisation which aims to support young people within a wide remit, including ex-offenders on their journey back to the community.
I met Operation Director Dave Andrewartha and Chris Cosgrove, who runs MORSE (Make Our Roads Safer for Everybody) which is largely funded by John Campion, the Police and Crime Commissioner. I also met volunteer Sarah Evans who specialises in helping young people aged 10 to 17, Sue Green who is the Team Manager of Shropshire Early Help family support group, and Sheila Bregeon, a volunteer co-ordinator who works with Sue.
YSS (Youth Support Services) was founded in 1986, initially specialising in finding accommodation for adult offenders and those coming out of prison.
There are 16 offices, with the head office in Worcester, and 45 members plus 45 volunteers.
Their aim is to provide full accommodation, not just short-term bed and breakfast facilities, and they have a new contract with the Ministry of Justice.
MORSE’s aim is to provide additional tuition to drivers who have been convicted of drink/drug driving offences. Once somebody is banned from driving, their life can fall apart, not only through lack of a job and income, but often through the breakdown of their marriage and family network. Some 96% of driving offences relate to drink or drugs.
Sue Green’s stated aim is to try to keep family units together rather than allow children to be put into foster or care homes.
Many of the parents have their own issues, which are often related to drink, drugs or mental health.
Sheila Bregeon said that one of the most gratifying comments was from a mother who said: “You made my little boy happy again.”
The thread of what YSS does is to provide support, principally for young people, and to encourage family units to remain cohesive and as one.
The perpetual problem, reflected in much of our modern-day society, is that of child abuse, drug abuse, drink and mental health.
The underlying aim is to try to make a difference at a young age through schools, before issues escalate out of hand.
27th September 2021: I visited Telford Samaritans and met manager Nicky. This organisation is doing such great work and has never felt more important, given the strain on mental health and wellbeing.
Telford Samaritans has around 80 volunteers. Income from the charity’s recently-refurbished shop in Wellington is vital to help meet running costs. The group also received a £49,000 Covid grant from Telford & Wrekin Council.
This is a very important charity which, nationally, deals with thousands of calls a day, demonstrating the scale of the challenge. Its volunteers are real unsung heroes providing a vital service.
30th September 2021: I joined a Teams meeting of the Shropshire Magistrates Youth Panel at the invitation of chair Helen Thompson JP.
The seminar was on the subject of Child Criminal Exploitation. The meeting provided information on the current local position in respect of children caught up in exploitation, and an overview of the national position. There were presentations from experts in the field who outlined the multi-agency approach to tackling the problem.
This included a presentation by Jeanette Hill, Service Manager for Children’s Social Care. Children in care do sadly become targets for exploitation and it is encouraging that in Shropshire a good support network is being developed, though there is plenty more to be done.
The meeting examined the experiences of young people in Shropshire and the intervention and support that is available to them. We looked at the role that Shropshire Children’s Social Care plays when referrals are made to the National Referral Mechanism and how exploitation panels are operating locally.
We also heard about how such cases may present themselves in court and what magistrates need to know to be able to deal with them.
It is a complex subject – and a huge issue, with County Lines drug dealing often at the fore – but much good work is going on in Shropshire to make a difference to the lives of under threat children and young people