Local News                                   2020


Scientists breed

designer wheat for

whisky distillers

A team of scientists from Rothamsted Research

have bred a type of wheat specifically to improve

whisky production.

The group’s lead researcher says this new wheat

will reduce the processing problems, higher energy

use, and wear on pumps caused by using current

wheat varieties.

Rothamsted’s Dr Rowan Mitchell said: “At present using wheat grain is a problem for distilleries because it causes sticky residues that mean the whole distillery must be shut down for cleaning.

“Our novel wheat is designed to have grain with low levels of soluble dietary fibre and should greatly decrease these problems. Great for making whisky, but the opposite to what’s required by bakers.”

He added that the development will also make UK grown wheat more desirable for use in whisky compared to imported maize, which is currently easier to process.

This new wheat line is one of the first wheat varieties in the world developed using ‘reverse genetics’ - where scientists start with knowledge of what a gene does, rather than screening for the trait in a plant first and then looking for which of its genes are responsible.

Their non-GM approach, called TILLING, allowed them to rapidly breed their gene of choice into an existing wheat variety – no easy task as wheat has six copies of each of its genes compared to only two copies of each in humans.

The group focused in on genes they discovered that controlled the amount of a chemical found in plant cell walls called arabinoxylan, responsible for soluble fibre levels and what determines its viscosity - whether the liquid extract is ‘thin’ like water, or ‘thick’ like honey.

By using traditional plant breeding methods, they created wheat lines where these genes had stopped working – referred to as ‘knock out’ or loss of function lines.

In these lines, the arabinoxylan molecules where both shorter and fewer in number, leading to a whisky-friendly wheat that produces a liquid extract between 50 and 80% less ‘gloopy’ compared to wheat without the knock-out genes.

Interestingly, the team saw that the plant responded to this change by increasing the bonds between the remaining arabinoxylan molecules, which helped it maintain the size and shape of its cells.

The group have a patent on the use of the gene for this application and are now working with plant breeding company Limagrain to develop a new commercial variety.

Co-author Dr Simon Berry, marker specialist at Limagrain, said: “There is going to be a pilot scale test on about a quarter of a tonne of grain at a distillery this year and we are aiming for an official trials entry within the next 5 years.

“Low viscosity wheat would strengthen the continued use of UK wheat in distilling and offer a solution to those distillers still using maize.”

Scotch production is an extremely important industry to the UK, worth about £5 bn per year.

The project, which also included the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, was funded by UKRI and Innovate UK.


As you will no doubt now be aware, unfortunately we are once again in the position where we will be required to temporarily close our doors from Thursday 5th November to 2nd December to comply with the government lockdown directive. As with the previous lockdown we are committed to opening our doors again as soon as we are permitted to do so.

We are sorry, but due to the late nature of the announcement over the weekend, the Direct Debit collection for all Fitness, Golf and Swim memberships, (due on the 1st of the month) had already been submitted to the bank for collection. Going forward, all payments that may have been due on the 8th, 15th or 25th of the month will be placed on hold and no monies will be collected, therefore you do not need to make any changes to your direct debit payment.

Any annual payments will have the relevant duration of closure added to the end of the term of membership.

We will endeavour to provide communication and updates via ongoing emails, social media, www.1Life.co.uk and the 1Life App so please ensure you check frequently.


For any specific question please contact membership@1Life.co.uk rather than your local facility. Inevitably, there may be a delay in response times due to the volume of queries but we will get back to you as quick as we can


We thank you for your custom and ongoing support in a testing time for local leisure centres and the wider community and hope we are able to welcome you back into our gyms, studios, courts, pools and courses in the very near future.

First Month Back Credit


For payments made on November 1st, if you are happy to support your local leisure centre then no action is necessary unless you wish to claim the above 1Life package then please also complete the attached form above.


If you do not wish for us to keep your payment from the 1st November collection then please complete the below form and we will ensure the first month back open does not incur a charge to compensate for November.

First Month Back Credit Form


Calling all jigsaw lovers!

Harpenden will hold its first ever Jigsaw Festival

on 4 & 5 June 2021 at High Street Methodist

Church. Organised by volunteers from two

Harpenden churches, this will be a community-

wide event with all proceeds going to two

nominated charities. Jigsaw festivals have proved

popular events around the country, where

hundreds of made up jigsaw puzzles are displayed

either to buy or just to view, whilst refreshments are


Further details will be released later, but at this stage, in order to make the event a success, the organisers are looking for the community to get involved with any of the following tasks:-

· Assembling your own puzzles and donating them.

· Donating unmade complete puzzles for others to assemble and Making up jigsaws donated by others.

If you are willing to help in any way, or require further details, please contact:-

Email: harpendenjigsaws@gmail.com, or telephone: 01582 713056 or visit the festival website:harpendenjigsawfestival.co.uk.

Follow progress on our Facebook page Harpenden Jigsaw Festival


New Survey in May shows the

Nickey Line continues to be extremely

popular with Harpenden residents

Friends of the Nickey Line carried out a usage

survey in May 2020 to measure the very high

usage being seen throughout the Nickey Line

during the Lockdown. More than 50 volunteers

reported counts for their section of the Line,

ranging from before 7.00 until 21.00 each day

for more than two weeks. - Daily usage over

the individual Redbourn to Hemel Hempstead sections was estimated at about 350 uses per day and over 1,000 uses per day for the Harpenden sections.

- Overall Nickey Line Lockdown usage was 12,000 uses per week. This is almost 3 times the last count we had of 4,100 normal uses for the Harpenden section in July 2013.

The Coronavirus lockdown in late March 2020 immediately resulted in much greater use of the Nickey Line than normal, with the widespread impression being gained of much higher numbers of users than any previously ever seen. Sample counts in late April and early May appeared to confirm this, with projected usage apparently well above the base usage of 4,100 per week counted in early July 2013.

To obtain a more definitive usage estimate, a ‘Whole Line’ survey was undertaken from 14th May till the month end. This was mainly based on reports from volunteer users of how many people they had seen using the Line in 30 minute periods whilst they were using the Line themselves in their normal exercise breaks from Lockdown. Whilst two formal surveys had been undertaken by Friends of the Nickey Line over the Harpenden section (2006 and 2013) and one on the Redbourn Lane roundabout crossings (in 2015), this was our first major survey to also include Hemel Hempstead and Redbourn.

More than 50 volunteers reported a total of more than 280 counts overall, each count covering the ‘stream’ of users over one or more sections of the Line and ranging from before 7.00 until 21.00 on the day in question.

Friends’ Chairman Dave Abernethy said, “We are very grateful for our volunteers’ time and diligence. They made the survey possible despite the restrictions and challenges we all faced in the Lockdown period.”


Covid and Cholera:

Repeating the


of the Past.  

By Amanda Thomas

The first quarter of 2020 has been unusual,

disturbing, and tainted with fear.  The panic

associated with running out of basic goods

such as toilet rolls, flour and pasta has been

an emotional veneer for the deeper fear of

life spiralling out of control, of death and

dying alone.  VE Day commemorations provided a ready comparison between World War Two rationing and lockdown shortages which have disrupted and restricted the usual rhythm of life.  The unavailability of ingredients to bake a birthday cake, the cancellation of gatherings such as weddings, the invisibility of the enemy - Covid-19 - and the uncertainty of when, where or whom it will strike: all factors which combine to stoke uncertainty and fear.  Moreover, as the epidemic runs its course we have begun to realise the potent nature of the virus, a disease not fully understood, and for which an effective vaccine is still frustratingly out of reach.

As an end to the first phase of the lockdown begins, we can dare ask some difficult questions.  Should we have acted sooner, should we have been better prepared, should we have followed the lead of other countries or gone out on a limb like Sweden?  Did fear and panic influence our actions, or did complacency play a greater role?  Had we looked to the past and to the great pandemics of history we may have responded differently.  Or would we?  For years government researchers have been delving into the historical records held at regional archives, modelling the behaviour of earlier epidemics and gleaning a better understanding of how society and government have responded in the past. Committees were formed and plans put in place, yet as 2019 drew to a close, the reality of Covid-19, and its silent spread provoked unexpected reactions, even in those aware of its deadly potential.  The threat of epidemic disease was not new, but dangerous viruses such as Ebola and the coronavirus SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) had – in the end - not been a threat to European public health, so why should Covid-19 be any different?  Whilst we languished in complacency, the virus swiftly hopped from person to person and from aeroplane to aeroplane, and by the time we acted, the stable door had already been open far too long.  On the other hand, perhaps even the fastest of responses may have been too late as scientists are now considering whether Covid-19 was in fact already in circulation – even in Britain - well before Christmas.  But could we have been better prepared?  There has been considerable controversy concerning the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).  Irrespective of the quantities available, it was revealed at the beginning of May that prior to the outbreak in Britain, the efficacy of the PPE used in our hospitals was only adequate for influenza.  Covid-19 was supposed to be a type of flu, wasn’t it?  No one had anticipated the potency of this coronavirus and the need for much more robust protection.

These and other debates will continue to rage, but even at this stage it is not incorrect to say that Britain’s response, and that of many other countries, has had more to do with the basic human response, ‘It will never happen to me’ and - of course - economic and political constraints.  Surprising as it may sound, in the past pandemics were dealt with in a similar way and for these same reasons.  I have been interested in epidemic disease for some time and became fascinated with the cholera outbreaks of the Victorian era many years ago.  I became intrigued with cholera when a distant cousin asked me why so many of her relatives had died in London’s Lambeth in a brief period of time in the autumn of 1849; a visit to Lambeth Archives soon revealed they had died from cholera.  Some time later my book, The Lambeth Cholera Outbreak of 1848-1849, revealed the full horror of the episode, but interest soon stretched beyond these events and my second book on the subject, Cholera the Victorian Plague, investigated the full story of the disease when it was at its most deadly in Britain.

Cholera is a waterborne intestinal infection which has killed hundreds of thousands of people since it first migrated from its natural habitat of India’s Bay of Bengal in the early nineteenth century.  It is a disease which continues today, most notably in poorer parts of the world such as Haiti and Bangladesh, affected by natural disasters like earthquake and floods.  There is a vaccine for cholera, but proper sanitation, clean drinking water, and vigilant hygiene – such as regular hand washing - are more effective measures to avoid infection. 

The outbreak in Haiti occurred following an earthquake in 2010.  In a place where infrastructure was already fragile, the devastation which occurred caused considerable disruption not just to the population but also to the cleanliness of the water supply.  The last reported case of cholera in Haiti was in January 2019, following the deaths of almost 10,000 people.  The cause of the outbreak is disputed, however.  Most are in agreement that the pathogen was introduced to the water supply by the untreated excrement of UN peacekeeping soldiers from cholera-endemic Nepal.  However, others believe there was an additional factor which caused the outbreak to be particularly deadly.  Benign cholera vibrios exist in water systems all over the world and it is thought that it is these which caused the so-called English cholera outbreaks of dysentery in the years before Asiatic cholera, the Bay of Bengal pathogenic variety, arrived on our shores.  Naturally occurring cholera vibrios can become pathogenic through a natural process in the water by which they take on additional genetic material.  One of the factors which needs to be in place for this to occur is a warming of the coastal and estuarine waters in which cholera lives, and climate change has provided this opportunity.  Of additional concern is how a small rise in sea temperatures also affects the terrestrial environment, and it is the disruption of this delicate balance which may have provoked the spread of Covid-19.  The strange almost Biblical reports of locust swarms in Africa and colossal bush fires in Australia may be indications of this disruption – unless, of course, the virus was produced in a Wuhan laboratory.

Epidemic cholera arrived on England’s shores in 1831. In October 1830, The Times newspaper published news from St Petersburg of the ‘rapid and fatal progress’ of a deadly strain of cholera in the south-east of Russia; the British Privy Council agreed that customs officers should be on high alert regarding ships and other vessels arriving from overseas.  Some denied it was cholera believing that the only disease which could wreak such devastation was the plague.  There was a strong case to maintain trade and protect the economy and the Privy Council sent a doctor to Russia to investigate.  Dr Thomas Walker relayed the following:

In Moscow by far the greater part of the medical men are of the opinion that the disease is not contagious, but produced by some peculiar state of the atmosphere, not cognizable by either our sense or instruments ...

I myself am convinced of the contagious nature of the disease, but that the proofs of its transmission from one individual to another are not quite perfect as yet.  And believing so, I cannot, of course be without some apprehension that it may also be conveyed by clothes and other articles, which have been in more immediate contact with the sick ... [cholera] must have its own laws as well as the plaque, typhus fever and other contagious or infectious disorders, but these laws we do not sufficiently know.

Despite his observations, Walker saw nothing wrong in allowing ships to travel from Russia to Britain and made no case for quarantine vessels. He believed that cholera did not appear to have the ability to remain dormant in humans for longer than 14 days, and for that reason there was no danger. 

A key impediment to the understanding of the transmission of cholera in the Victorian era was that they had yet to discover the existence of pathogenic microorganisms, the cause of disease.  At the time it was thought that illnesses, including cholera, were spread through the air on foul smells, or miasma.  Even when it was suggested that poor sanitation and filthy drinking water were the real causes of cholera, many in the scientific community disputed the hypothesis, including Florence Nightingale, who maintained her belief in the miasma theory until her death in 1910.  In addition, the areas which were worst affected by the disease were the poorest and most densely populated areas of Britain’s cities.  At the time it made little political or economic sense to improve the living conditions of the working poor, particularly as they didn’t have the vote. 

There are parallels between the perceived transmission of cholera and Covid-19. Although today we understand that illness is spread by germs and not foul air, there is still considerable public ignorance, despite government advice.  Just like colds and flu (and incidentally many other infectious diseases, including measles, chickenpox and tuberculosis), the coronavirus is spread through the air by large droplet or by finer aerosol transmission.  It therefore makes sense to socially distance and wear masks.  However, within a closed space, social distancing probably doesn’t make a huge amount of difference as air (and pathogens suspended in it) will move within that place, and especially if it is ventilated by re-circulated air conditioning systems.  It is a reason why air travel is still a headache and the sharing of exhaled breath in aeroplanes is one of the likeliest cause of the initial rapid spread of the virus.  Good hand hygiene is also very effective as germs will live on surfaces for prolonged periods.  This was the case with cholera which, for example, was spread effectively within dried bodily fluids on recycled hospital cloths.  These were sometimes shipped to other countries for industrial use, but the washing of the rags caused the release of viable pathogenic vibrios into the water.  Many washerwomen caught cholera in this way as they touched their mouths or ate food without first cleaning their hands with soap and untainted water.  Today the practice of wearing plastic gloves is sensible but only in specific circumstances, as they will spread germs from place to place in the same way as unwashed hands.  It has been fascinating observing on the television news certain health care workers putting on plastic gloves before entering a patient’s room.  By the time they touch the person they are trying to protect, the gloves will have come into contact with a myriad of surfaces, including the door handle of the patient’s room.  Many shops are now also banning the wearing of gloves not just because they spread the virus, but also because they perpetuate the lazy – and dangerous - practice of avoiding regular hand washing.

In the summer of 1831, just as air travellers brought Covid-19 to Britain, vessels carrying cholera began arriving in British ports.  In the early days of an epidemic the disease is often not so violent and thus it can travel within its human host without detection.  In addition, filthy water from ships arriving from infected places was discharged into estuary ports where it mixed with the local water supply.  Officials were vigilant and specific areas had been set up for the quarantine of vessels, but the source of infection was not contained and cholera silently crept into Britain along the waterways, on imported goods and in the tummies of those who didn’t even know they were infected until it was too late.

In the absence of a scientific understanding of cholera, strange cures were devised such as brandy, laudanum, chalk water and gum, calomel (mercurous chloride), mustard, lead, turpentine and the taking of hot baths.  How similar this sounds to today’s internet advertisements for curative teas, oils, colloidal silver, garlic, and bleach, moreover many people are still of the belief that a tot of something alcoholic will kill the virus.  It won’t.

In today’s world we have become used to finding solutions, but in the face of an unknown disease we are not in a dissimilar position to our Victorian forbears.  Cholera was eradicated in Britain with improved sanitation and a better understanding of the importance of hygiene, not by widespread vaccination.  A vaccine for Covid-19 is still a long way off and there remain concerns for its efficacy against a mutated virus.  In addition, if the coronavirus behaves in the same way as every other epidemic disease, there will be a second wave and sadly too fast for any vaccination programme to be put in place or take effect.  The solution may be to find more effective ways of treating the virus, and clinicians at Warrington Hospital seem to be taking this very approach in their modification of the so-called ‘black boxes’ which are used to treat sleep apnoea, the erratic stopping and starting of breathing during sleep.  The devices have cut the death rate at Warrington and facilitated a faster recovery in Covid sufferers. 

Finally, we have all marvelled at the way in which the world has become less polluted during lockdown. The Taj Mahal is no longer shrouded in smog, dolphins and jelly fish are swimming in Venice’s canals, and with India’s factories closed, the waters of the Ganges are flowing clearer than ever in to the Bay of Bengal, cholera’s ancestral home.  Whilst worldwide lockdown has artificially created this idyllic situation, we might wish to continue the clean up in the future.  If scientists are correct in their belief that climate change will perpetuate the emergence of more deadly pathogens, then cholera and Covid-19 might be the least of our worries.

Amanda Thomas’ books include:

Cholera: The Victorian Plague, Pen & Sword Books, first edition (2015), ISBN: 978-1783463503;

second edition (2020), ISBN: 978-1526781819.

The Lambeth Cholera Outbreak of 1848-1849: The Setting, Causes, Course and Aftermath of an Epidemic in London, McFarland & Co, (2009), ISBN: 978-0786439898.

Coming soon and available for pre-order:

The Nonconformist Revolution: Religious dissent, innovation and rebellion, Pen & Sword History (2020); ISBN: 978-1473875678.

All titles are available on Amazon and at all good booksellers.




John Murray is the new president of Harpenden Village

Rotary Club. He has lived in Harpenden since 2001 when,

after a career including spells in the oil industry and running

his own business, he was appointed chief executive of the

Society of Maritime Industries.

John is married to Christine and they have two grown-up


This is not his first Rotary presidency. He joined Darlington Rotary Club in the 1970s and was president in 1989-90. He has been a member of Harpenden Village Rotary Club since 2001.

John commented: ‘The core ethos of Rotary is encapsulated in its motto, Service above Self. While serving and supporting the community, both locally and through our international contacts, may appear to be on hold at present, as a result of Covid-19, I can assure you that our club members are working behind the scenes to ensure that during my year we will be able to deliver on our remit.’


Local help to tackle money worries

Mounting personal debt is an increasing problem as many of us struggle to pay bills because of the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on our finances.  There are high levels of debt on credit cards, and personal loans and not everyone can manage the repayments at the moment.

Help is at hand from Harpenden Money Advice Centre which is a charity providing confidential, non-judgemental and impartial debt and budgeting advice. This free local service from trained advisers, all volunteers, will look at how best to tackle your debts.

Manager of the charity Richard Payne said "Our team are here to help people look at their money problems and work with them to come up with an affordable plan, prioritising the most urgent payments and looking at what they can afford to repay.  Anyone can get into debt, and often it’s no fault of their own doing.  It could be a job loss, relationship breakdown, bereavement or other change in circumstances and it can be very hard to admit there is a problem.  But that is the first step to sorting it out.  We are still open during these strange times and can give help via Zoom or on the phone.  Do get in contact.  We are very friendly and just want to help."

One client told their story:

"Two years ago I felt I was drowning. I was making payments every month but then had no money for the remainder of the month and was then getting further loans to get through each month, increasing my debts and finding myself in a vicious cycle I couldn't get out of. I also needed to find somewhere else to live, as the tenancy on the place I was living in was running out. With your help and support not only did you arrange an affordable monthly plan with my creditors, but you also found me a new place to live.

I was at a point two years ago where I felt almost suicidal but thanks to you, I now see a light at the end of the tunnel and emotionally and mentally I have emerged from that black hole I was in. Thank you, without your help, I dread to think where I would now be."

To find out more contact Richard Payne on www.hmac.uk or call 07954 276281 email info@hmac.uk

Harpenden Money Advice Centre is a local charity supported by churches across Harpenden. All advisers are volunteers who freely give their time and are trained to the CMA Level 3 Award in Generalist Debt Advice, which has been "Money Advice Service" accredited at Advice Level.

Photo above of the HMAC team (Richard Payne is in the centre with the purple jumper)

Given the impact of another closure and the financial pressure this will place on the centre, we are pleading with our members to continue with their payments in November to support a prompt re-opening of the facility and in return we will provide you with the following 1Life package:

Access to over 500 unique online classes over 22 different platforms with Wellbeats

Access to Wellbeats Nutrition Channel with healthy recipes,

cooking tutorials, nutrition education and healthy food tips

(Wellbeats is accessible online or through the 1Life App)

5 Guest Passes for you to share with friends and family when we re-open

£80 off a MyZone belt and access to MyZone online classes.

A commitment to honour your current membership price with no increase for the next year

Commitment to hold current place, time and instructor for all swim school customers

To secure the above offer please complete the form below and your WELLBEATS registration will be completed and ready to use within the next 24 hours.

Get Your Member Loyalty Package

Lifeguards – Harpenden Leisure Centre

Full time and casual

We are offering training so people will be able to  become qualified free of charge.


This is an exciting opportunity to join the 1Life team, to help launch a fantastic new £20m Leisure Centre in the highly desirable area of Harpenden.

This is an opportunity to play a vital part in the success of the new Harpenden Leisure Centre, the Lifeguard team have one of the most important jobs at the centre, keeping our customers safe in the water.

If anyone wanted to contact me (Josh Taylor GM) directly to discuss Lifeguarding that’s fine on gmharpenden@1life.co.uk

Full Time: 39hrs

Salary: £17,000 per annum

Hours: 39 hours per week

Free Gym Membership 

Apply here: https://www.leisurejobs.com/minisites/1life/job/2715715/lifeguards-harpenden-leisure-centre/

Casual Hours - (*training can be provided - T&C's apply)

Salary: £8.55 per hour

Free Gym Membership 

Apply here: https://www.leisurejobs.com/minisites/1life/job/2717726/lifeguards-harpenden-leisure-centre/


Recruiter 1Life

Posted 03 Nov 2020

Closes 01 Dec 2020

Sector Sports jobs, Lifeguard, Pool Lifeguard, Temp, Student & Summer jobs, Lifeguards (temp)

<!-- Default Statcounter code for HARPENDIA

http://www.harpendia.com -->

<script type="text/javascript">

var sc_project=5738164;

var sc_invisible=1;

var sc_security="6239dc64";


<script type="text/javascript"



<noscript><div class="statcounter"><a title="Web Analytics"

href="https://statcounter.com/" target="_blank"><img



alt="Web Analytics"></a></div></noscript>

<!-- End of Statcounter Code -->