Life is for living in Knebworth
- Credit: Archant
Three very different people in Knebworth show that with dedication and heart you can defy the odds not only to survive, but to thrive
Pushing to the limit for charity.
Andy Nation fell agonisingly short of completing a 147-mile challenge to swim from London to France. The grandfather-of-five attempted to swim from the start of the tidal Thames, at Teddington Lock, all the way to Calais last summer – just a year after breaking his neck in a freak accident at his Knebworth home.
But neck pain eventually saw Andy abort his charity mission just 10 miles off the French coast.
Andy, now 64, says, ‘I suppose 137 out of 147 miles isn’t bad for an old fart with a broken neck. I’m sure I could have done it, but I’d have done myself serious damage so I decided discretion was the better part of valour.’
The swim may be history but the challenge is far from over. Andy is organising a charity auction – hopefully this month – and compiling a People of Our Time autograph book to raise extra funds for the Herts MS Therapy Centre and Herts Air Ambulance. He has so far raised nearly £50,000.
Andy is no stranger to charity challenges that others might balk at. Over the years he has swum the length of the non-tidal Thames, completed a Tiger Moth wing walk, bungee jumped off Victoria Falls Bridge and in 1991 landed himself in the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest time around the European Union capital cities by car.
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‘Life’s for living isn’t it?’ Andy says with a smile. ‘A lot of people sit in front of the TV watching other people’s lives. I prefer to actually try and think of something no-one else has done and get on and do it. And I might as well do it for a good cause, too.’
Andy and his wife Lieva have lived in Deards End Lane in the village since 1987. ‘We love Knebworth,’ Andy explains, ‘It’s perfectly situated. We’re near to the A1 to get to the big shopping centres at Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City - although we do try and support the local shops because that’s what village life is all about. It’s also got the mainline train into London, which we use to go and see shows.’
Find out more about Andy’s auction lots and autograph book to raise funds for Herts MS Therapy Centre and Herts Air Ambulance online at teddingtontocalais2012.org.uk
At the heart of things.
Paul Elleston, owner of Trussell’s Butchers in London Road, is celebrating 15 years of trading in Knebworth this year.
The traditional family butchers, a dying breed in much of the country, has created a place at the heart of the community – as any small village business needs to be.
Paul says things have changed in the village in his time here, but it retains a strong sense of community.
‘Since I’ve been here the village has got bigger, there’s more people and more traffic, but there’s still a good community feel. It still feels like a village. I think I know most people in Knebworth – even the ones who don’t shop here!’
It’s not just villagers who value Trussell’s. Six years ago it was named the East of England’s best traditional business in the Countryside Alliance Awards. The award reflects a strong connection between Paul and his team who serve behind the counter and the people who come time and again to buy their meat here.
He says, ‘People trust us, I genuinely feel that. For small retailers trust is important. You have to get on with everyone in the community, especially in a village.
A life transformed.
Kathryn and Rob Graham will be making the most of 2014. The couple’s outlook on life has completely transformed since Kathryn received a double lung and heart transplant last September.
Kathryn, 52, was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in 2010 and told she was terminally ill.
With time running out, a donor was finally matched and she had a life-saving operation. Now back home in Stevenage Road in the village, Kathryn has been getting used to her new life and its challenges and opportunities.
‘We keep pinching ourselves. Life has just changed so much,’ Kathryn explains.
‘We had a really lovely Christmas with family and friends – although it was quite emotional as well. Now we’ve got a whole new year ahead of us.’
And her new lease of life begins with the small things, she says, as she regains strength and confidence. ‘I’m discovering I can do simple things I couldn’t do before. For instance, the other day I went shopping. Instead of using a wheelchair I was walking round, and could climb three flights of stairs to the car park. I could never have done that before. I don’t think we’ll ever take any small things in life for granted again.’
Rob, 55, adds what it meant to him to see Kathryn climb those steps, ‘Things like climbing those stairs are hard to explain to people who’ve not gone through it. It was a jaw-dropping moment. It’s a very normal thing, but it’s got massive significance.’
The couple are campaigning for people to sign up to the organ donor register. Rob says, ‘People we speak to say it’s a no-brainer, everyone should sign up. My view is if we get one person to sign up, it’s worth it.’
The Grahams moved to Knebworth eight years ago, having previously lived in Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage. Kathryn says they like the village because it’s in between the two towns and a bit quieter, as well as being still on the mainline into London for Rob’s work.
Rob says, ‘We’re lucky because Knebworth has got all the amenities – a bank, post office, butchers, the Co-op, a pharmacy and the doctors.’
‘I like being able to walk into the village for the shops,’ Kathryn adds. ‘I’ve also always loved the park behind us, from when our two daughters were young to now when it is helping me in my recuperation as I go for walks around it.
‘Knebworth is a lovely place to live. We’ve been very happy here, and still are.’