Holiday children? Where?

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The Independent Online
They came, they holidayed, they left - and nobody even noticed. The controversial holiday camp for inner-city children in the tiny Buckinghamshire village of Turville that took nine years to get off the ground - and brought into conflict local luminaries such as Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman, the historian Alistair Horne and Lady Quinton, wife of the former chairman of the British Library - finally went ahead last week.

As the children bundled their bags and beachballs into the minibus and headed back to London on Friday, the band of villagers who had done their best for so long to obstruct the scheme were eating their words - or at least chewing them over.

So much for unruly kids roaming around after dark, crack addicts, burglaries and joyriders; Paxman and co were apparently right all along to say the fears of the protesters, that the children would cause havoc, were unfounded.

The chosen 11 who descended upon the Chiltern idyll were barely seen - let alone heard - and the Rev Paul Nicolson, who had spent years arguing resistant locals into submission, was reported to be "over the moon".

Even the diehard so-called Nimbys (Not In My Back Yarders) were heard to say "Wouldn't even know they were here", "No problems whatsoever" and "I didn't even know they'd come."

The East End children were out and about from dawn till dusk. Supervised by four carers, they enjoyed swimming in the pool of the author John Mortimer, playing football in Marlow and picnicking in the surrounding area, which, remarked one local, left them "too crashed out to do anything".

Mary Harris, who lives opposite the Church of England primary school where the children stayed, and who fiercely objected to the scheme, conceded: "I wouldn't have a clue what they've been doing. That's how quiet they've been. There you go. Humble pie time."

The plan to give inner-city youngsters holidays in Turville was unanimously approved by High Wycombe District Council in June, in spite of objections from a quarter of the 65 or so villagers. Many of the objectors claimed that the people who most supported the scheme didn't actually live in the village.

Meanwhile, one of the village's oldest inhabitants mused on the arrival of the children with the sagacity which old age brings. "We're pleased to have them. We hope they'll come again actually," said Sam Bryant, an 87-year-old retired ambulanceman who has lived in the village for 25 years.

"I come from East London and I know the way Londoners behave. They can be very rough at times but the children were very, very good."