20 June 2017

Travellers and Townsfolk all agree Collett Park is beautiful!

What is the definition of a Traveller? What do I have to do to be one? Can you only be born as one? What if I want to be free and travel in my caravan and camp up, am I allowed to use the Traveller Sites provided by the council? Ok, so I am quite ignorant about all of this. Who's allowed to camp where and when? Where can a Traveller go, where can their families live without being hassled? Where is there, with proper rubbish collections and amenities? Where?

A group of Travellers have moved from the Shepton Mallet Football Fields and are now trying to set up camp in Collett Park. Being a nosy and natural Journalist type, ten years of travel reporting has left me a changed woman, I had to see what all the traffic queues were about. So, I followed the high street up to the blockage and found lots of police and a queue of caravans. Police have blocked off the Park Road on the approach to Collett Park and there are queues on all of the approaches to the Cenotaph Roundabout and Shepton Mallet High Street has been closed, right at the St Paul's Road Junction.

I went up to a group of people, standing at the edge of the road, one of the women there was filming. I asked if they were travellers, I was a bit nervous about asking that, in case it was the wrong phrase but the lady that was filming said that they were and she asked me what I thought about the situation where they would like to set up camp in Collett Park. So, with the camera still filming, I said there should be more places available for them to camp up in and said there should be proper rubbish collections for them and amenities and she nodded her head enthusiastically, which I was pleased about because it's just nice to agree, especially with the weather being so hot. Then she tried to get me to agree that it was wrong that the police had blocked the park off, as they were now separated from their children. I reiterated that it would be nice if there was a field with all the facilities they needed but I don't think that went down well. I reminded the Police and the Travellers that they are all human and they need to be respectful to each other and kind. I don't think that went down too well with the Police or the Travellers and I joked that I was going to get beaten up by everyone involved. I found the group of people that I was talking to friendly and relaxed and feel as a group they suffer a lot of prejudice because of a few individuals that might behave badly.

I feel a bit ignorant about the rights and the wrongs and the legality of it all but there must be some moral obligation for Travellers to have a good choice of different sites to stay and there just isn't. There is a problem about landownership, who said that anyone ever owned any land? How did that come about? I thought that we should share and be kind to each other.

I am typing this, sitting in my coffee shop and all around me people are chatting about it passionately and disagreeing with each other, well, disagreeing with me actually! I keep joining in the discussion from time to time and putting in my tuppence worth but nobody in here agrees with me.

Let's get this straight, Collett Park, the park gifted to the town by John Collett is not an appropriate place to be used by travellers to camp in. Well, that's my first instinct but I wonder what would John Collett say? Could there be a little bit where Travellers could be welcomed, the toilets open to be used and for regular rubbish collections to be organised? I mean, personally, I don't want anyone to camp in Collett Park because it's so beautiful and sculpted and looked after, however maybe that's a really good reason to camp up. I think that's a point on which we can all agree. Collett Park is a beautiful, beautiful place. Who wouldn't want to camp there?

I wanted to see for myself how the Travellers were settling in at Collett Park. There was a calm and peaceful family atmosphere, washing drying on the line, children playing. No loud music, or smoking of drugs, or any aggression. Dogs on the site were friendly and run up to greet us, children spoke to us quite openly. It was a safe and calm spot to be, I almost felt like joining them. Then, slowly and quietly, everyone started to call their children in and packed up their possessions and picked up any litter and then left. They were cheerful and cheeky and left as good sports. The police handled the situation excellently, with great respect to the travellers and I think they did really well.

Most of all, the park wasn't an unsafe place to be. It was probably one of the safest places to be, with a high police presence on the circumference of the park and relaxed families inside.

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