We were a large party (travelling in my first cavalcade!) for my busy day in Dacorum which was beautifully arranged with kind attention to my particular interests. Mayor Terry Douris and his Mayoress daughter Emma were joined by Chief Executive Sally Marshall, former DL Derek Townsend, who kept us all to time, and Cllr Bert Chapman.
We dashed from place to place with Charlie (Corporate and Democratic Support Officer) going on ahead and our first stop was the library within the Forum building in Hemel Hempstead. Hemel Hempstead was one of the first ‘new towns’ built after the Second World War and the Forum is at the heart of a proposed new development that will link the old and new towns. Terry was keen to show me the library as Libraries are part of his responsibility in his role for Hertfordshire County Council as an Executive Member, and this has become a creative space offering the use of technology as well as books.
Then I was interested to arrive at the building where the CCTV for Dacorum is monitored and learn how Dacorum is leading the way in investment in modern CCTV systems. With a careful eye on data protection and privacy, this system has already reaped great benefits in keeping people safe and helping the police catch criminals.
Next to the South Hill Centre, a multi-purpose building providing a broad range of services for the community all in one place, including a church. There was so much going on here in this beautiful building and we chatted briefly to some of the women attending activities organised by Cherished, who offer courses and support for victim of domestic abuse and their children. Here we also met with the representatives of the local Interfaith group and learnt about the challenge for the Muslim community in finding a suitable place in Hemel Hempstead to worship.
The Maylands Business Park is part of the significant development for business and enterprise in Dacorum and we visited the Business Centre where small businesses seeking their first commercial premises can take space at very reduced rates for 3 years and receive other support too.
There was time for a quick cup of coffee at Smith’s Coffee Company. Colin Smith runs a family company roasting coffee since 1936 but he also trains baristas, including at The Mount prison, to help offenders learn a skill that will lead to employment after prison.
On to Druglink to learn about their Oxygen Recovery programme at one of their residential centres. This structured programme offers a four-step pathway to meet the needs of clients suffering from substance misuse and they have recently opened Oxygen Breathe, an affordable counselling service for all adults in Hertfordshire.
We left Hemel Hempstead to visit the Sunnyside Rural Trust, the Mayor’s chosen charity. This is a charity and social enterprise offering training and work experience to people with learning disabilities. As well as working on the allotments and in the orchards, café and farm shop Sunnyside also offers a range of external contracts such as veg. boxes and bespoke allotment and garden maintenance services.
Next, we called in at the Puddingstone Distillery near Tring to see where Ben and Kate Marston make their Campfire Gin. They had a stall at my Taste of Herts Summer Picnic so it was good to see where the gin is made and learn about a recent project with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, using Himalayan Balsam which needed to be cleared from one of their sites to flavour a special summer gin.
Our last stop was to the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead where we met Richard Fetherston who runs Snowbility which offers ski and snowboarding tuition to those with additional needs and mental health challenges, bringing them real benefits.