The future's bright in Baldock

PUBLISHED: 10:11 23 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 20 February 2013

Margaret Patterson-Blenkin

Margaret Patterson-Blenkin

As Baldock's town centre undergoes a £2.8m transformation, Louise McEvoy discovers the festival fun at the heart of the town

SITUATED in the north of Hertfordshire, with nearby towns Letchworth Garden City and Stevenage, Baldock is one of only five towns in the county listed by the Council for British Archaeology as being of national importance, with excavations having revealed sites of Iron Age and Roman settlements on Stane Street.
Major works to enhance Baldock's town centre began last year after North Hertfordshire District Council decided to invest £2.8m in a scheme which included reorganising parking spaces, planting more trees and creating green open spaces. Baldock councillor Michael Muir says, 'The redevelopment in Baldock will give it a new lease of life. Baldock is up and coming and has a bright future.'
When asked what he likes most about the town he says, 'the architecture and the people.' He continues, 'We are like a big village. We have a population of 10,000 and there are so many things to do in Baldock - so many clubs and societies. Whatever your interest, there are groups you can join and there are dozens of clubs which meet at the community centre. We also have Avenue Park which is a good sports facility for cricket, and we have a multi-use games area.'
Baldock is worth visiting just to walk around and look at the many Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings, the 17th-century almshouses and St Mary's Church.

Raise a glass
EVERY year over the August bank holiday The Old White Horse pub on Station Road hosts the Baldock Beer Festival, where there are about 60 real ales and ciders to choose from, as well as a spit roast and live music.
The pub's owner, Margaret Patterson-Blenkin, says, 'I inherited the festival from the previous owner, Winston Walker. This will be my eighth year so I guess it's been going for about 15 years. It gets absolutely packed
with people of all ages.'
Due to its popularity, Margaret is also establishing a cider festival at the pub, which this year will be held from May 22 to 24, and it is hoped that between 50 and 70 ciders will be available to sup.
She has been owner of The Old White Horse for eight years and says it attracts a real range of people. 'We are a little bit different to the rest of the pubs in Baldock because we don't have Sky TV, we only serve over-21s and we serve fresh home-cooked food,' she explains.
Speaking about Baldock, Margaret adds, 'It's such
a nice place, friendly, and very convenient to London.'

Talking French
IN October and November last year actresses Clare Heyhoe and Joanna Cherry held a three-week-long arts festival in Baldock, which attracted big names such as Dawn French who did a Q&A session in the town hall.
Clare and Joanna both have a professional background in drama and the arts and are hopeful they will be able to organise an annual or biannual festival in the town, as well as hold drama groups all year round. Joanna says, 'It's a growing idea and the whole thing is part of a sense of wanting to regenerate Baldock. It's a lovely town and so pretty architecturally.' She adds, 'We want to have something for the community and we want to provide a lot for the youth. Our long-term hope is to continue with youth activity on a regular basis, and maybe other regular arts events to see if there is a market in the area for a permanent professional theatre.'
Clare and Joanna, who both live in Weston, are currently in talks with North Hertfordshire District Council over the use of Baldock's town hall and Joanna says, 'This could be a really positive boost for the town.'

Festival fever
THE Baldock Festival is held in May each year and provides the community with two weeks of low cost events for all ages and tastes.
The annual festival offers a range of music and dancing, food and drink, quizzes and competitions, and a craft fair and street market.
This year will be the 26th festival in the town.
Andrew Pickering, headteacher at The Knights Templar School in Baldock, says, 'The school was very actively involved in the festival last year and pupils went to events and also participated in music and drama. We thought it was something important that should be supported. The festival is really important in terms of bringing this community together. Obviously we represent the younger people but this brings together people of all ages. We would very much want to be involved in the future and it's something we would like to build on. Last year was very much a first.'

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