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Opinion: Rose Fair will still need a parade

For almost 60 years Wisbech Rose Fair has been attracting crowds not just from across Fenland but also by the busload from around the country.

Covid put paid to that for a couple of years, then a fire in a building on Wisbech Market Place put a spoke in the wheels of the parade last year, and then there was also the sad decision by St Peter’s Church in 2021 to call a halt to its wonderful flower festival – largely due to a lack of volunteers, especially flower arrangers.

This year a group calling themselves the We Love Wisbech Rose Fair Committee – made up of a large number of local organisations – stepped in to organise the event.

Flashback to a previous year when the Rose Fair parade drew the crowds in Wisbech - this year the procession has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
Flashback to a previous year when the Rose Fair parade drew the crowds in Wisbech - this year the procession has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

However, it was not the Rose Fair of old – far from it – instead of the traditional parade, stalls, and side shows, it was a handful of events organised by groups held over two weeks in July under the Rose Fair banner.

Now it seems the committee has decided to not proceed with organising any kind of event next year, and Wisbech Town Council is set to discuss whether or not it is prepared to take it on.

It does seem such a shame that an event that was quite honestly the jewel in the crown of Fenland’s annual calendar has hit such a low point.

But I do remember that Chatteris had similar problems years ago with its summer festival, which at one time was a programme of events held over two weeks and included a bed race, a parade and so much more.

As with all good things it became harder to organise and so the two weeks were cut down to one weekend and the decision has proved a massive success.

It is now a two-day event that includes, what I would imagine, is one of the area’s largest walking parades in the area, and a raft of entertainment and fun on both the Saturday and Sunday.

So maybe Wisbech might like to take a tip or two from Chatteris and come up with something similar. The alternative is to let the Rose Fair die a natural death, and some might argue that unless there is a parade of some kind, then perhaps that is the logical course to take.

Let’s face it Rose Fair, was the success it was because of the double whammy of the flower festival in St Peter’s and the parade of floats.

It will be interesting to see what the town council comes up with, and of course, whatever it is, they will face the same dilemma as always – finding willing hands to help and of course the necessary funding…

I know I regularly hark on about the importance of public transport. As previously stated it is a lifeline for many and I’m a great advocate of letting the train take the strain.

This is why when I was planning a trip to a family wedding in Sussex the other weekend I thought I would look into using the train, rather than running the gauntlet of the M25 – we have in the past faced some horrendous journeys heading either to or from that direction.

I think seven and half hours was the record for time taken for a journey that should take no more than three and a bit hours.

However, it was a real eye-opener and how train operators can justify their fares I don’t know, because it was going to cost nearly £300 for two returns (£288 to be exact) and that wasn’t even for first class (£462).

And the real icing on the cake would have been the fact that the return journey would have been by a replacement bus, not a train at all, because of engineering work.

I wanted a seat, not the entire carriage. If it had been a £100 – and of course a train both ways – we probably would have opted for the train, despite the inconvenience on the other end.

So unfortunately it really was a no-brainer and into the car we got – the return journey, including the Dartford crossing tolls cost less than £50.

If the government is really serious about getting more cars off the road and people on to public transport, then it must look at doing something about the ridiculous cost of fares.

According to Department for Transport figures private train operators made £310 million in tax-payer-funded profits between March 2020 and September 2022 – that’s quite honestly obscene.

Rail passengers are not benefiting from that in the form of better services, because there are so often delays, cancellations and of course the curse of the replacement bus service.

Maybe it is time to look at how the train operators work, and dare I say it even look at a return to the good old British Rail – yes the services were sometimes cancelled, and the trains cramped, but at least you didn’t need a mortgage to board one…

Finally on a happier note Strictly Coming Dancing is back – and I have to say our local boy Jody Cundy quick-stepped his way across our screens with finesse on Saturday night.

I really hope he can bring home the Glitter Ball, it would make a fab-u-lous addition to his horde of trophies and medals and I for one will be cheering him on over the coming weeks...

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