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Drunks, Litter and Vandalism - Another Summer in Wincanton Has Begun

Friday 22 April 2011, 11:12
By Mandy Cochrane

Rubbish heap left in the recreation groundIt's late afternoon on a perfect Spring Saturday. What better way to round off the day than a stroll to the park with the children and dog?

You can imagine the scene: warm sun, cloudless blue sky, lush green grass, the merry sound of small children playing with their friends, their parents and dogs. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Except, that wasn't quite the scene that greeted my family when we arrived.

Yes, the children were there, and the dogs, and mums and dads with pushchairs and footballs. And they were all giving a very wide berth to the drunken teenagers, the empty wine bottles and beer cans strewn over the grass, the mopeds roaring up and down between the car park and the cemetery. Although at least the noise of the mopeds drowned out the four-letter words being yelled back and forth.

Anyone who passes through the park regularly will remember similar scenes last summer, and it seems the first sniff of a warm day is all that's needed to kick-start the whole thing again. Party in the Park... Wincanton-style.

One group of kids was drinking up by the David Sharp Centre. Two young men started a fight but perhaps the sun and the booze had done their work; it soon fizzled out and they went back to drinking. Every now and again one of them would leap on his moped, speed down the path and out of the car park, only to re-appear a couple of minutes later and rejoin his mates. I have to admit to a certain curiosity over the purpose of these mini-journeys, but I think such jaunts had more to do with a "look-at-me" display of their mopeds than an actual destination.

Another group of nine or ten youngsters, aged between about 15 and 18 I suppose, had been sitting on the grass near the river when we arrived (for some time judging by the number of empty bottles and beer cans strewn on the grass around them), but they started to move on soon afterwards. The mess that they just walked away from was unbelievable.

Beer cans left under the shelterMy indignation at this behaviour just overwhelmed me. As the group walked towards me I couldn't help saying, "Excuse me, are you just going to leave all that rubbish there?"

They were drunk. Not aggressive drunk. Just stupid, uncaring drunk. They declared it wasn't their rubbish but I wouldn't let it drop there. I became rather impassioned I'm afraid. Not rude - I'd simply developed a stubborn case of "terrier-with-a-bone". I told them they couldn't leave all those bottles and cans where little children might be injured, that their actions were totally out of order, that it was just unfair. Who the hell did they think was going to clear it up?

Well, it fell on deaf ears to most of them, though one girl aged about 15 did mutter, "She's more bothered about the rubbish - isn't she going to ask us how old we are?" As if I could possibly persuade them to stick with apple juice! But I was really pleased when two of the group did go back and filled a couple of carrier bags with their litter. I thanked them very politely, several times. I stupidly thought that all that was needed in these situations was for someone to actually ask them to do the right thing. They were most likely reasonable young adults after all, I thought, albeit a little sozzled.

I say "stupidly" because a few yards further on, these reasonable young adults dropped the bags of litter on the ground and walked on. I put them in the bin myself.

A few minutes later some more of their friends arrived with three Lidl's carrier bags full to the brim with more alcohol. Amidst loud cheers of approval, the group settled on what was left of the vandalised bandstand seats and began drinking again.

Vandalism by the swingsMore beer cans in the play area

Whether it was for my benefit I don't know, but shortly afterwards they started throwing bottles. Not just dropping them at their feet, actually throwing them hard across the grass towards the river. A bin was about twenty feet away.

I gathered my kids up and headed for home. Then I called the police to report their behaviour.

I suppose we could make excuses. "There's nothing for them to do, nowhere else for them to go." Sorry, I don't buy into that. I grew up in a place with far less to do and I didn't resort to making a drunken nuisance of myself. It might have been a different generation, but that doesn't make it any less applicable today. More so - I didn't have a computer, a mobile phone, PlayStation, X-Box or a thousand TV channels to entertain me then. God, that makes me sound so old! The fact remains, there's no reason for kids to be bored - there are things to do. They choose to drink. They choose to litter. They choose to swear in front of toddlers and primary school children.

I'm not naive enough to imagine we'll ever stop under-age drinking - the culture is too far established to rein it in and if kids want to drink they'll find a way of getting hold of it I suppose - but I'm enough of an idealist to believe my children should have a safe place to play. Somewhere they won't cut themselves on broken glass, or run the gauntlet of speeding mopeds or be exposed to the most offensive four-letter language you can imagine.

The recreation ground is known to the police as a problem area and I know they patrol it when they can. But they can't be there from dawn to dusk on every sunny day. CCTV is expensive. Some people will report this kind of behaviour but many don't because it's so commonplace it's almost become the norm (and therefore acceptable..?).

My children will be teenagers before I know it and I hope against hope they will retain all the lessons we've strived to instil in their young minds when they reach that phase of their lives. But if we've come to accept this kind of antisocial behaviour as the norm I fear for them, I really do.

I urge anyone who witnesses similar incidents to report it. The police can't do anything if they don't know and if enough reports are made perhaps something can be done, even if it's only moving these youngsters on so we can reclaim the recreation ground for our children and for those responsible enough to use it properly.

Litter all over the play area




Comments


Posts: 2
Comment
Following up
Reply #1 on : Fri April 22, 2011, 16:59:14
I should add that since this happened, as a result of the soft matting under the swings being ripped up, the "big" swings have now been removed completely. The roundabout is also locked up so it's immobile (not sure what happened there!).

I have to say thank you to the police however, who, whenever I have happened to be at the recreation ground with the family, have driven through at least once and sometimes more than once to keep a friendly eye on everything that's going on.

The Window's Facebook Page has had some public comment on this - follow the Facebook link at the top of this page to see what local people think.
Victor Meldrew
Posts: 1
Comment
Re: Drunks, Litter and Vandalism - Another Summer in Wincanton Has Begun
Reply #2 on : Fri July 29, 2011, 18:49:38
Well, in this day and age I would have thought that you would have a `mobile`. Also, I thought that it was commomn knowledge that it is an ` alcohol free zone. Apart from the underage that is. The main thing to remeber is, they get the drink from Morrisons and/or Lidl. I would suggest restricting the relevent licences to set, restricted, hours

Posts: 2
Comment
Re: Drinking at the Recreation Ground
Reply #3 on : Wed August 03, 2011, 14:16:24
I'm not sure what having a mobile phone has to do with anything but I do agree it ought to be common knowledge that the area is an alcohol-free zone, under-age or otherwise.

Restricting the supermarkets' licenses to sell alcohol isn't a practical answer and wouldn't be fair to the majority of people who buy and drink alcohol responsibly. Having said that though, perhaps the supermarkets could tighten up on asking to see ID from youngsters, though I guess many simply ask older friends to buy it for them.

The area has seemed a lot quieter when I've been there recently, although litter is still a problem. I'd be interested to hear what other people's experiences have been.

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