8th June 2024

On Wednesday last week, my wife and I were invited to attend the West Wiltshire Crematorium “Summer Celebration of Life.” 

This was the second time I’ve attended one of these outdoor events as Mayor. They’re held under the trees in the beautifully maintained grounds of the crematorium at Semington and are designed to offer comfort to those who’ve lost someone close. They’re quite joyful, being a combination of readings and music, and have no particular religious leanings. If you have a faith, you can take comfort in knowing that your faith is acknowledged and welcomed, but equally, if, like me, you do not have a particular belief or religious leaning, you’re also welcomed and catered for. 

That’s the point, I suppose; grief isn’t the preserve of those who have faith; it affects us all, and I have to take my hat off to West Wiltshire Crematorium (and the Celebrant) for ensuring that these events are inclusive and universally relevant. 

On this occasion, the celebrant was Rachel Bown, who is also an award-winning PE Teacher and triathlete. Rachel showed obvious empathy with those attending and hit exactly the right note with her choice of poems and readings. Accompanied choral music was provided by the One Voice Community Choir, which performed a number of popular and traditional songs that were both uplifting and respectful. 

I was asked to read the poem “Summer Sun” by Robert Louis Stevenson. I love this uplifting work, and I totally understood why Rachel had chosen it for this occasion. 

Once again, West Wiltshire Crematorium managed to deliver an event aimed at allowing the bereaved to remember their lost loved ones with both dignity and joy. It is not an easy task, but one that they do seem to be particularly good at. 

Oh, and we all finished by being treated to a bubble-blowing sing-along of “Bring Me Sunshine” (as made famous by Morecambe and Wise), followed by a complimentary ice cream from Garbanzos Ice Cream of Devizes. 

*** 

Then, on Thursday last week, we remembered D-Day, that day in 1944 when 7,000 ships and landing craft manned by over 195,000 naval personnel from eight allied countries landed almost 133,000 troops from the United States, the British Commonwealth, and their allies on the Normandy beaches just after dawn. THAT day. 

We remembered it well. There were multiple “phases” to the D-Day event in Trowbridge that was attended by both the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Judge Simon Cooper, and the High Sheriff of Wiltshire, Dr Olivia Chapple. 

Judge Simon Cooper served as a Judge Advocate in the Royal Navy before being appointed to the role of Deputy Lawer for the Royal Navy. On leaving the service, he had appointments as a District Judge and Recorder of the Crown Court until his retirement in 2020. He is still a trustee of the Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation. 

Dr. Olivia Chapple is a medical doctor who has served as a charity Board Director for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. In 2017, she was the recipient of a ‘Points of Light’ award from the Prime Minister for voluntary service. In 2020, she was awarded the Carew Pole Award by the RHS in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the world of horticulture. 

We started at the War Memorial in the Town Park, where standards were lowered, a silence was observed, wreaths were laid, and prayers were said. We then gathered at the Civic, where we were treated to 1940s-style music and dance along with free fish and chips (it was, after all, also national Fish and Chip Day!). before those there assembled outside to hear our Town crier, Trevor Heeks, proclaim the day. The Deputy Lord Lieutenant addressed the crowd. I read a poem, and then the High Sheriff gave a very moving appeal to remember what the day’s event was for and why it was important to never forget it. 

We ended the evening with a good old-fashioned sing-along and a rousing chorus of the National Anthem. 

*** 

Early on Friday afternoon, our Council Secretary and I met with the Rev. Jake Eggleston, vicar of St. James’ Church here in Trowbridge, to start planning this year’s Civic Service. I can’t believe that a year has passed and we’re already planning this event for 2024. Wow, how time has flown! 

I’m determined that we keep the Civic Service at St. James. Those who know me will know that I have no religious convictions myself, but this isn’t about me; it’s about Trowbridge, and I honestly believe that such an important event in our civic calendar should take place at the parish church of Trowbridge. 

We’re keeping it all very traditional again this year, and my task for the next week will be to identify the readings that I want and write my welcome address. 

The date is Sunday, July 14th, at 18:30 in St. James’ Church. 

*** 

Later on, Friday, I was invited to attend the official launch of the Trowbridge Flower Festival at Parade House. 

This weeklong celebration of floral displays, window painting, and flower-themed crafts around Trowbridge town centre was officially launched from the steps of Parade House by the High Sheriff of Wiltshire. Fifty (yes, 50) shops across Trowbridge had joined the drive to decorate their shop windows and frontages with a mixture of beautiful planters and hanging baskets and really creatively painted flowers on their windows. A massive thank you must go out to Trowbridge Garden Centre, whose tireless efforts had dressed not just Parade House but whole swathes of the town! Thanks also to Trowbridge Chamber, especially Kez Garner and Megan Witty, and of course Jennifer Polledri (without whom the Flower Festival would probably never have got off the ground). 

This really should be an annual event. I’m told that there were a lot of shops and businesses who wanted to be involved, but due to the tight timescales between conception and delivery, fifty was all that could be managed this year. 

Next year, with longer planning and preparation, that could be one hundred! 

*** 

Saturday was one of those days when everything in Trowbridge seemed to come together to give us a colourful, vibrant, and socially buzzing experience that just left me feeling good about our town. 

First of all, there was the monthly Weavers Market (second Saturday of the month), where 42 stalls of independent artisan traders were shoehorned into Fore Street and offered us a wide range of craft products, plants, and wooden and leather goods, not to mention the food and drink that was on sale. All accompanied, of course, by live music from the “stage” just in front of the old Monsoon store. 

After helping set up the Weavers Market on Saturday morning, I met up with Kez Garner (Trowbridge Chamber) and Chris Wilde (Trowbridge Garden Centre) to walk around the town, judging the displays. Wow! That was hard. They were all very different and unique. There are three prizes, three cups, that will be awarded during this week to the entries that the judges deem to be outstanding in their own way, but I have to say that everyone who entered, whether big or small, deserves a massive vote of thanks for showing their commitment to the idea behind the festival and for making our town a wonderful riot of colour, even if only temporarily. 

In the end, all I could do was choose an entry that I thought represented not just the spirit of the flower festival this week but embraced long-term sustainability and an ecologically responsible approach to their “business.” Who was that? You’ll just have to wait until the prize is given to find out! 

When the judging was over, I met up with my wife, who had spent the morning wandering around the stalls of the Weavers Market, and we settled down for our lunch. We bought this from the Siam Street Kitchen stall in Fore Street and ate it at the tables and chairs set up in front of the stage. Obviously other food vendors were there at the market, and from what I heard, they were all very popular and well received, but we chose the Siam Street Kitchen, and we were not disappointed! 

Then there was a visit to the town’s Textile Garden. This small and enclosed garden is a little oasis of calm, opposite the Alms Houses and next to St. James’ Church Hall. Over the last few years, it has been lovingly restored and rejuvenated by the Trowbridge Park Volunteer Gardeners, and it now stands as a really beautiful testament to the work of the group and, in particular, a couple who can regularly be seen tending flower beds and planters in the Town Park and around the town, Ron and Celia Lomas. 

One thing I particularly appreciated about the Textile Garden was that all the plants were labelled. That, to a horticulturally uneducated individual like me, was a really good touch. 

By mid-afternoon, we’d made our way down to Parade House for a glass of Pimm’s and a slice of cake. As always, Parade House had done the town proud with their floral decoration for the Flower Festival and had taken full advantage of the closure of Wicker Hill to set up a really pleasant seating area in the parking spaces on their frontage. More live music, sunshine, and good company as we were soon joined by a couple of other councillors, the council officers who’d been manning the TTC stall at the Weavers Market, regulars and residents, and finally by Ron and Celia Lomas, whose stint at the Textile Garden had by then ended. 

While I was there at Parade House, I was lucky enough to meet Mike Prior, the designer of the Wiltshire Flag. We’ve all seen it flying above County Hall; it features a green and white striped background emblazoned with a Great Bustard (a large bird hunted to extinction in Britain in the 18th century, but reintroduced to Salisbury Plain in the 1830s, where it now thrives). Mr. Prior created this flag in the 2000s, and it was formally adopted in 2009. 

We’d only meant to nip in to take the weight off our feet for half an hour or so, but it was late afternoon by the time we left; the Weavers had packed up and gone, and Chris from Trowbridge Garden Centre was back to collect the planters from off the street! 

A long day, but a good day! Thank you to everyone who’d made the effort to get involved and shown that, despite the negativity of a small number of people who seem to constantly run our town down, Trowbridge is actually a lovely place to live. 

*** 

That’s it for now, so until next time, keep safe and, please, be kind to each other. 

 

 

Related stories

Mayor-Trowbridge-Chains-Robe-Park

15th June 2024

The Mayoral week last week started on Monday evening with a meeting of the town’s Fairtrade Group committee. As Mayor, I am the Honorary President

More »
Mayor-Trowbridge-Chains-Robe-Park

D-Day

This edition of my Mayor’s blog is a special one. It’s written to commemorate both the 80th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history

More »
Mayor-Trowbridge-Chains-Robe-Park

1st June 2024

Last week started slowly with the cancellation of Tuesday’s scheduled Twinning Forum meeting. As Mayor, I chair this regular coming together of the town’s twinning

More »
Skip to content