An extraordinary year!
March was my final month as High Sheriff and we have packed in all we could to support Hertfordshire and have met more wonderful organisations across the county. As a Watford FC supporter, I was delighted to share my photo spot with Harry the Hornet when I saw the way the Club have shared their café facilities with the NHS hospital next door. Free doughnuts provided by Wenzel’s Bakery and later in the month we were welcomed to the bakery by Peter & Sarah Wenzel to see the doughnut production line. We welcomed two very determined policemen from Hertfordshire Constabulary who will form part of a rowing crew of four to row across the Pacific this summer to support Hertfordshire charities www.endurancelimits.netand we wish them good luck.
As my High Sheriff year comes to a close, I reflect on the extraordinary time we have all experienced, the highs and the lows and how I see our County of Hertfordshire in a new perspective. As the first High Sheriff to take office via a screen it was also clear to me that the traditional associations that a High Sheriff holds with the Constabulary and the Judiciary were not going to be the same, and that it would be necessary to look a little wider for ways to see and visit the county.
The High Sheriff has always given support to the charity and voluntary sector and as schools and offices shut their doors the need for the charities to keep theirs open become even more important. Early in the year we could see some heroic acts beginning to take place in the county and, together with our Lord-Lieutenant, Robert Voss, we initiated the Heroes of Hertfordshire Awards. This was to recognise and thank, with a badge and certificate, those who have done something special for their colleagues or community during the pandemic and I am proud to say that over 500 of these awards have been given through the year – a feat I shall remember as a highlight of my High Sheriff year.
The culmination of my work with the voluntary sector was the High Sheriff Awards which, for the first time, took place virtually. I know that over 300 people joined me on the night to see eight amazing Hertfordshire Charities receive an award for their hard work and determination throughout the year and especially in the light of the pandemic. This was a very special evening for me and for the charities too with a closing musical performance from the ever popular Electric Umbrella. I have also been able to visit Sunnyside Rural Trust, DRUM and Feed Up Warm Up once again to present their certificates.
So, looking beyond the screen I could see that the meetings that could not take place inside could take place outside and we initiated visits to as many of the outdoor spaces, campuses, wildlife centres and open spaces as we could. The Herts Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust at Sandridge, the Royal Veterinary College and the River Ver walk are some that stick in my mind. But there are so many wonderful placers to visit in the county which is steeped in history and it was particularly warming to see the efforts being made to embrace conservation and climate issues as we think about the future.
If outdoor spaces are not enough then there are some excellent museums too and I visited the Henry Moore Foundation, the de Havilland Aircraft Museum and the St Albans Museum to name a few, and there are so many more. I toured as many of these public attractions as I could during the year and found new knowledge at every visit.
So, my lasting memories will be two fold – the vast variety of places to visit in Hertfordshire, beautiful walks and welcoming visitor attractions that are open to the public to appreciate and enjoy and the hardworking people who look after these places for us. But, the greatest memory will be the extraordinary strength of our charity and voluntary sector, the tireless work done by so many volunteers on behalf of others, our NHS staff and all who stretch out to look after others and serve their community. There really are some truly amazing folk out there who never turn their back on the opportunity to help.
I am immensely proud to have been your High Sheriff over the last year, it has been a great honour to meet and get to know so many of you and I wish you all the very best for the future. Likewise, as I hand over the sword of office to my successor Lionel Wallace I know you will make him feel equally welcome as he takes over as the next High Sheriff of Hertfordshire.