On Friday 10th August, myself and the rest of the ‘Chain Gang’ descended on the pretty Dorset town of Wareham for another eye opening day courtesy of the Town Mayor – in this case Cllr Mrs Carol Turner.
We were given a tour of tech company Biotrack (based in the old law courts). This company originated in a chicken shed up the road from Wareham and has grown to be an internationally recognised company specialising in tracking animals for conservation purposes (anything from small birds, to bears and sharks)! Unfortunately they don’t do domestic pets (which would have been extremely useful for my dog Marnie who is a brilliant escape artist)!
We went from there to look at the Alms houses just across the road. We first went into one that hadn’t been refurbished for many years and it was so tiny, it was a wonder even a single person could manage. However the previous occupier was treated to a newly refurbed example just a few doors up. He let us have a look around (providing we removed our shoes – well he did have new carpets)! There had been some internal wall remodeling and you just wouldn’t believe it could be the same size place. Very worthwhile community project.
We walked down to the REX cinema – gosh what a past that has – starting off as an ‘Oddfellows’ meeting hall. It has changed hands over the years many times and is now run by a ‘not for profit’ charitable company. I remember seeing ET there when it came out in the err… 80’s… There are only about 3 employed staff, otherwise the majority of those running it are volunteers (a bit like our Tivoli). We were given a talk on the history and were show the excellent quality of the picture (along with some home made ads – think Wallace and Gromit in their earliest form). It was funny but that’s what community projects are all about. We hear that for popular shows, they’re often sold out so if you’re thinking of going, I’d say it’s worth booking.
We visited the Flower Festival at St Mary’s church before having lunch in a remodeled chapel, now being run as a community cafe. I was very spoilt as the Mayor had ordered me a vegan lunch from a new vegan cafe in town that only opened up the same week – and very nice it was too.
After lunch, the rest of the afternoon was a delightful guided tour of particular establishments around town by the ‘Court Leet’. You really need to see it to believe it and I wouldn’t do it justice if I tried to give you the detail, but you can read more here. I see it as an historical representative of something akin to Trading Standards and Environmental Health all mixed up together. But now ‘sort of’ reenacted each year by towns’ folk. So much fun. The ‘quality checking’ of various goods was carried out before the Chain gang, including weighing bread, sealing leather, tasting beer and cooking sausages!
They sang us a song at the end of the day in a pub (after checking the Chimney was clean – obviously), before ringing the fire bell across the road (an historic bell installed after the great fire of Wareham that destroyed most of the town). Hopefully the locals were not worried.
What a great day!