Puckeridge – Building bridges among the hills
PUBLISHED: 12:31 02 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:31 02 February 2014
Tucked away off the main route from Buntingford to Ware and surrounded by rolling hills, many people pass by the village of Puckeridge without ever visiting. But if they do stop, they find a vibrant community. Julie Lucas reports
Making a drama.
The Sadleir Drama Group in Puckeridge celebrates 70 years of treading the boards this year.
The group started during the Second World War, and Joan Burr was one of the founder members. ‘It started as a group of half-a-dozen friends, people who were all from the village and who were all interested in drama,’ Joan, now 93, says.
‘Unfortunately, when we started we only had one man because of the war, so we had to choose plays that were suitable for a mainly female cast.’
Joan has passed on her passion for theatre to her daughter, Penny Weadon, who is secretary of the group. Penny explains, ‘It has always been part of my life. My grandfather, father and mother were all involved.
‘Over the years the club has brought together a cross-section of the community. It’s a lovely way to get to know people and brings different people together.
‘We have always tried to have a high standard. If we put on a play, we all work hard to make it the best, and we’ve also had a lot of fun over the years.’
Penny says one play involved three young men on stage, with one required to dress up as a woman. ‘They were supposed to get this chap dressed up on stage. It had worked perfectly, but this evening he got stuck in the dress. The audience loved it, of course. He struggled for what seemed like ages and eventually got the dress on. It’s this kind of thing you remember over the years. Of course this also happens in professional plays – it’s live, so you can’t just do another take.’
The group (shown above, with Penny on the right, rehearsing its latest play, Building Bridges) performs at nearby Standon Village Hall. The stage has to be rebuilt for each performance as the hall does not have one. Penny explains, ‘We only have two weeks to prepare and one of those is the run up to the play. It’s a big commitment and a lot of hard work, but always worth it in the end.’
Kerry Cockell has given the Puckeridge community somewhere new to meet and socialise. She has just opened a tea room in the High Street called Something Lovely.
Kerry says it is something she has always wanted to do. ‘I enjoyed working as a nursery school manager but wanted a new challenge and opening the tea room has been a lifelong dream.’
The vintage tea room is full of quirky pieces Kerry has collected. Some are vintage and some needed a bit of loving care and have been upcycled to give them a new look.
She says, ‘The hand-made open-plan kitchen means that everyone can see what is going on. It’s taken me 18 months to source all the chairs and tables – even the crockery and cutlery has been hand-picked. When I go to a tea room, I want to see vintage china. It’s a shame when you see a teaspoon that is obviously IKEA. I wanted the finer details to be a bit quirky, with unusual teapots – something a bit different.’
And there is more to the tea room than just a charming place to meet. ‘I have a basement downstairs where there is a play area for children, so parents can chat and have a quiet cup of tea while the children play,’ she says. ‘I also hope to run children’s activities for the community in the future.’
Lighting up the village.
The Something Lovely tea room building was for many years the old general store run by Martin Dawkins. Mr Dawkins, who died in 2012, was a much-loved character in Puckeridge and would often make tea for his customers.
Parish chairman Richard Stacey says, ‘The store was the hub of the village, where people would meet to have a natter. It seems appropriate that it is now getting a new lease of life as a tea room and will again be a place where the community can meet.’
Cllr Stacey has lived in Puckeridge all his life and says he loves the village and its people. ‘There is a lovely community feel and lots of activities and different groups. Last year we lit up the village in memory of Martin. He always said that he wanted to light up the village at Christmas. He never managed it but always decorated his shop.
‘We raised enough money to light up his old shop, with the lights emanating from the shop down the High Street. We have lit up the High Street again this Christmas and in 2014 we plan for the community to nominate someone who has done something deserving to switch the lights on.’