A Review of the Reviews
This month will take us to the twelfth of the reviews that we started up just a year ago. Sometimes the review requires us to check out people or businesses to make sure they are still around and as August is a low-key rest-month for us, we decided to simply, at the end of a year of reviews, review the reviews: where have we been, what have we looked at, and how has it helped paint a picture of the community that is Rochford and Ashingdon.
We started this series with an acknowledgement of the openness of Waterman School who had, uniquely in Rochford and Ashingdon, opened their doors wide to us. Having been through years of struggle in ‘special measures’, they had every reason to feel defensive and perhaps not wish to be revealed to the community, but we found it was exactly the opposite. The story was one of immense optimism and whoever we spoke to – head, teachers, governors, children or parents – we found this same unbounded optimism, and so it has continued. Many schools appear to either consider themselves too busy or too unsure of themselves to open themselves to public observation, and so for this reason alone, we applaud Waterman again for appearing, to us at least, to stand out like a beacon on the landscape of Rochford.
In October a year ago, we focused on the number of empty shops that were appearing in central Rochford. A year on, it looks slightly healthier and a number of the previously empty premises now have new businesses in them. We wish them well.
In November, ever trying to capture the sense of community, we observed the ‘tide’ of Rochford, the daily movement of people. It is fascinating to stand on street corners and watch the movements of people – going to work, going to school, going to the market, and so on. A community is people and so often it is people on the move. We observed that movement.
December, of course, is the natural month to focus on Christmas and we looked at those shops in town that would be worth a special visit in the hunt for presents. We have some beautiful shops here in our midst. January is a time of speculation and so we pondered on the year ahead, a year with a Diamond Jubilee to celebrate and Olympic Games to host. Of course, the year has had a lot more in it as our new ‘Events Pages’ have illustrated. It’s always interesting to try to see what is coming.
In February we put local computer repair firms under the spotlight – we have three – and then in March, to do something completely different, we moved away from businesses to recreation and looked at the various art groups (there are four) that meet regularly in our community. We noted, when visiting them all, that they are not only a place of industry (painting!) but they are also hubs of friendship in the midst of the community. You get a warm welcome with all of them.
In April we noted the rich architectural heritage of Rochford, a town that has buildings that actually go back seven hundred years (I delight to tell my American friend whenever he is over here – their Declaration of Independence was only 1776!). The problem with Rochford is that we take it for granted but it has actually been here for a thousand years according to the Doomsday Book.(According to the ‘Open Doomsday’ web site there were just 21 households in Rochford in the middle of the eleventh century when the Normans arrived)
In May we went on a tour of the many eating places in Rochford and Ashingdon, the cafes, takeaways, restaurants (English, Indian, Chinese and now Italian). Over the past year there has been a growth in provisions and we now have a great choice.
In June we checked out providers of what we referred to as ‘health and well-being’, the providers of tanning beds and of beauty treatments. There are a surprising number with a wide variety of treatments.
Looking back over this list, we have sought to cover three different aspects of the community:
· First there were general or wider subjects – the changing face of businesses in central Rochford, the movements of Rochford, the year ahead, and the history of Rochford (in a small way at least).
· Second, we focused on specific providers for the community – a local school, shops serving us at Christmas, computer repairs shops (because we are an organism that relies on computers), the many eating places in Rochford, and then those who make provision for our health and well-being.
· Third, perhaps as a reminder that there are many such organisations or groups (that we may need to focus on in the days to come), we stepped into the recreational life of Rochford, by looking at the four art groups that run weekly in Rochford and Ashingdon.
The more we look at Rochford, the more fascinating it becomes. We hope you have enjoyed these brief over-views of the life of our town. We hope to bring you some more in the months to come, so keep watching.