2012 was a year of success and celebration for Huntingdonshire - but there have been challenging times too. ANDREW PAPWORTH looks back on the the period October to December.

OCTOBER

AS Sir Ranulph Fiennes set off on his latest expedition, a Huntingdonshire factory played a key role in getting the world-famous explorer off the start line.

SF Engineering, a manufacturing firm based in Nuffield Road, St Ives, was contacted personally by Sir Ranulph to provide him with a snow-melt tank to take on his 14-month journey to cross the Antarctic.

The metre-high containers essentially act as giant kettles, melting the snow and ice for use by the explorer and his team as they progress through the frozen wastes of the Antarctic.

Steve Mummery, the firm's operations director, said it was "an honour and privilege to be involved" but admitted it was a bit of shock to get a phonecall from Sir Ranulph himself!

A £19MILLION expansion plan to expand primary schools in St Ives was announced to help the town cope with its population growth.

Purpose-built, all-through primary accommodation would be created at to replace the former Thorndown infant and junior schools, costing £9.5m, whereas £2.5m was earmarked for the replacement of pre-school accommodation at Hemingford Grey Primary.

Another £2.3m would be needed to revamp Eastfield Infants, whereas £2m would be set aside for Westfield Junior and £2.7m used to replace pre-school and St Ives Children's Centre mobile accommodation at Wheatfields Primary School.

Cambridgeshire County Council said growth in house building in the areas since 2001, as well as planned developments in the years ahead, meant it had to "take appropriate steps to manage this position".

A FAMILY of a leukaemia sufferer were left "speechless" after a Hunts Post reader donated £5,000 to a renovate the ground floor of their flat.

Damian Stone had started just started the refurbishment work on the ground floor of their house in Howitt's Gardens, Eynesburys later diagnosed with the illness.

A retired St Neots man contacted us to transfer £5,000 to the family via the Hunts Post, saying he had plan to invest the money but thought it would be put to much better use by the Stone family.

Luminus employee Aaron Norris also came forward to offer his services as a tradesman, whereas a third person came forward to talk to the family about how she could help.

"It's amazing," said Kylee Stone. "I can't believe people's generosity - it's unbelievable. I'd like to thank everyone who has helped out."

NOVEMBER

FLOODS caused chaos across Huntingdonshire, with Alconbury, Houghton, The Hemingfords, St Ives and Earith all affected.

Heavy rain caused the level of the River Great Ouse to rise, resulting in waterlogged homes across the district.

The floods also caused problems on the roads, particularly in Earith where motorists were trapped in water after driving round road closure signs.

The Environment Agency said it was not possible to raise the level of The Causeway near Earith, as that could cause floods in the rest of the village, but Earith councillor Terry Rogers said the scheme should be looked at again.

SIR Graham Bright was elected as Cambridgeshire's first ever Police and Crime Commissioner - but it has not been plain sailing for the 70-year-old former Luton MP.

Many people criticised the PCC elections, which took place on November 15 and had a historically low turnout of around 15 per cent.

Since then Sir Graham has come in for criticism, particularly after missing his first meeting with the Home Secretary while on a 'private' trip to Brussels and moving into an office in Cambourne when £5,000 had been spent revamping the old Police Authority offices in Huntingdon.

However the Conservative strongly defended the move, saying it was important to remain independent of the force he was scrutinising.

"I am the voice of the public, not the police," he said.

THREE town centre rangers announced they would be patrolling the streets on Huntingdon - and the town's mayor said he wanted them to fight his newly-declared 'war on cyclists'.

The part-time rangers in bright red uniformswere announced as the most prominent public face of Huntingdon's Business Improvement District (BID).

The BID project, which started in November, started with key aims of making Huntingdonshire clean, safe and welcoming, as well as providing support and marketing, promotion and events.

Councillor Colin Hyams, mayor of Huntingdon, said the rangers' remit should include dealing with cyclists who ignore the ban on bikes in the town's High Street.

"I want to declare war on cyclists who ignore the ban," he said.

DECEMBER

FAMILY and friends said an emotional farewell to Laura Baxter after she died of a rare form of cancer.

A campaign for the 27-year-old, of Black Hill Road, St Ives, to have a life-saving operation in Belgium raised £32,000 as members of the public rallied round to help.

But on November 14, her condition deteriorated and she died two days later at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Her funeral took place at Cambridge Crematorium on December 7.

Her former housemate, Alan Whyte, said: "I wish to remember Laura by saying that she never admitted defeat. Against insurmountable odds and with every avenue closing down she never gave up."

A HISTORIC pub destroyed by fire two years ago reopened.

The Abbot's Elm, in Abbots Ripton, which is part of Lord de Ramsey's estate, was taken over by husband-and-wife team John and Julia Abbey.

The Grade II-listed 17th century building, formerly known as The Three Horseshoes, was given a £750,000 make-over which took over a year to complete.

"As soon as we stepped inside we fell in love with it," Mr Abbey said.

Lord de Ramsey added: "When I was a boy, there were five pubs in Abbots Ripton but now there is only one left.

"It is important that it is a proper village pub. It's wonderful to see it back in action."

THE 2011 Census results, published in December, revealed a changing Huntingdonshire.

Overall the population rose by 12,554, to 169,508, but while the ethnic population did not change much the number of people declaring themselves as Christian fell sharply, down from 74.5 per cent 10 years ago to 60.8 per cent last year.

The number of people registering themselves as of no religion went up by 13 per cent.

The Bishop of Huntingdon, the Right Reverend David Thomson, said it was a sign that people were "more wary of labels and institutions" and was not because they were abandoning faith.

The statistics revealed that the nature of industry had changed as well, with more people working in health and social care as a result of the rising elderly population.

The Census revealed that nearly one in five people in the district had no qualifications but Susanne Stent, principal of Huntingdonshire Regional College, said that was better than the national average.