Written for the Ongar News
While High Streets across the country are struggling to recover from the double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic and the disappearance of many well-known chains – Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Laura Ashley, Edinburgh Woollen Mill – it is heartening to see Ongar High Street looking perkier than it has for some time.
I have just returned from a full day in Ongar visiting just a fraction of the businesses, church and voluntary groups, councillors and farmers living and working in the town. Having walked from the Epping Ongar Railway at the top of the High Street, all the way down to the Two Brewers at the bottom, it’s clear many people have spent lockdown planning their businesses, and the town centre is buzzing with new ventures, from the children’s clothing shop, to hairdressers to new cafes.
My visits included meetings with representatives from Ongar Town Council, the Ongar Town Forum, the Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group, Moreton, Bobbingworth and the Lavers Parish Council, the Joseph King Trust, Ongar Young Farmers, the Ongar United Reform Church and Essex County Cllr Jaymey McIvor.
The over-riding message I received from all these groups is that Ongar has a wonderful community of leaders and volunteers, who work unstintingly to support everyone in the town, from the youngest children to the oldest and most frail residents. There is an enthusiasm to see the town’s rich history fully recognised, with more for those visiting via the Epping Ongar Railway to do when they are looking for refreshments and shopping experiences on the High Street between train journeys.
And, as I suspected, the idea of the villages north of Ongar moving into the Saffron Walden constituency and my constituency losing ‘Ongar’ from its name is not something the local folk support. If you want to have your say, the link to the Boundary Commission consultation can be found here:
My thanks to all who took the time to speak to me and I will be back to Ongar for another full day of visits – in addition to my usual ad hoc visits – as soon as possible.