Year in Review: What happened between July to September 2021

Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge at Pub in the Park.

Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge at Pub in the Park. - Credit: Striking Places Limited

After months of restrictions finally over and the evident success of the vaccination programme, summer seemed filled with a sense of optimism we hadn't known for a long time. But that certainly didn't mean things were quiet in the pages of the Herts Ad, as we geared up to publishing one of our biggest investigations ever.

The Alban Pilgrimage in 2021.

The Alban Pilgrimage in 2021. - Credit: Toby Shepheard

As we moved into July, we revealed plans to sell off huge chunks of green space on the Verulam Estate for potential development, celebrated the return of the Alban Pilgrimage, and told how a show of thanks proposed by local Tories for the district's frontline workers for their valiant efforts during the pandemic was rejected by the Lib Dems.

Pubs across the district hosted the England vs Italy World Cup final, but the easing of lockdown restrictions was accompanied by the so-called 'pingdemic', as people were forced to self-isolate because the NHS Track and Trace app said they had been in close contact with someone with Covid.

We asked whether enough was being done to protect our young people from getting mixed up in violent crime, as a group of teenage boys who carried out violent attacks on rival drug dealers were found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and GBH. In a bid to show all sides of this shocking story, we spoke at length to the boys' family members, and asked recreational drugs users to consider whether they were feeding County Lines offences.

Oaklands College closed Acorns Day Nursery.

Oaklands College closed Acorns Day Nursery. - Credit: Supplied

Parents and staff were shocked to hear plans by Oaklands College to shut the award-winning Acorns Day Nursery on its Smallford campus with just six weeks' notice. Sadly, despite a hard-fought campaign to save the nursery from closure, college bosses would not be swayed, and it permanently closed its doors after the summer holidays.

More than 30 pubs and other businesses joined in the city's first Pub Pride event, and developers were given the green light to build more than 150 homes north of St Albans.

There was plenty to laugh about at St Albans Comedy Garden

There was plenty to laugh about at St Albans Comedy Garden - Credit: Karyn Haddon

The First Comedy Garden event held in Verulamium Park was a huge success, featuring top comedians including Dara O'Briain, Milton Jones, Tom Allen and Sarah Pascoe, and another new playground opened, this time in Harpenden's Rothamsted Park.

St Albans Comedy Garden - Rhys James grew up in Harpenden.

St Albans Comedy Garden - Rhys James grew up in Harpenden. - Credit: Karyn Haddon

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Harpenden man Mike Joiner embarked on a six wheel challenge in his mobility scooter to raise funds for the town's Trust, and just a few months later found himself with his own monthly column in the Herts Ad.

Students celebrated record-breaking exam results for GCSEs and A-levels in August, and in an exclusive interview with St Albans' top cop Ch Insp Mike Todd, he reassured readers that the district was a safe place to live and work following a spate of violent crimes and drugs-related offences.

Volunteers release voles into the River Ver.

Volunteers release voles into the River Ver. - Credit: Herts Wildlife Trust

Voles were returned to the River Ver for the first time in 34 years, but Market Place shop Masters in Light announced it would be closing after 15 years due to the impact of the controversial city centre road closures, and a campaign was launched to save Colney Heath Scout hut from demolition by the local parish council.

Masters In Light closed its doors on August 31.

Masters In Light closed its doors on August 31. - Credit: Matt Adams

Moving into September and the culmination of months of interviews and research resulted in a special edition of the Herts Ad which featured a six page investigation into the real reasons behind the changes at St Albans Charter Market. It was an unprecedented report, and one which won much acclaim from readers for its insightful and detailed journalism. Even now, the fate of the market still remains uncertain - gazebos or stalls? The debate rumbles on...

Following this bombshell report, we put the focus back onto our restaurants, pubs, hotels and cafés in the lead-up to the nationwide Hospitality Day on September 18, and paid tribute to Alderman Agnes Hill.

St Albans Mayor Agnes Hill with the mayoral limousine.

Agnes Hill with the mayoral limousine. - Credit: Archant

Motorists endured the start of months of delays caused by roadworks on the Redbourn Road, with the prospect of similar chaos on Batchwood Drive next year, and Hertsmere Borough Council announced plans to build 6,000 new homes near London Colney in its draft Local Plan, with the Bowmans Cross development still very much in the spotlight now.

Pub in the Park returned to St Albans' Verulamium Park, the nationwide shortage of HGV drivers hit the district, and climate change activists Insulate Britain began their spate of demonstrations on motorways around the area.

We revealed how the city centre road closures could be a matter of life and death as they were delaying emergency vehicles and it was time to say farewell to the Paddington Bear seen in a window along Brampton Road for 35 years.

The legendary Paddington Bear of Brampton Road, St Albans.

The legendary Paddington Bear of Brampton Road, St Albans. - Credit: Mary Duke

There were two dramatic revelations at the month's end, with Cllr Robert Donald confirming the council would have to hire staff and begin erecting pitches at the Charter Market again, even if the decision was made to switch from stalls to gazebos, and his colleague Cllr Helen Campbell explaining how the city centre road closures were having a detrimental impact on her ward.

As motorists struggled to fill their tanks during the fuel shortage, MP Daisy Cooper blasted the government for its failings over HGV drivers, anti-vaxxers were revealed to have hidden razor blades in posters and intimidated health workers, and police refused to prosecute over the destruction of Smallford Pits wildlife site.