Winter Projects: Planting a shrub or tree in your garden? You could choose a berry-bearing variety that supports birds throughout future winters - Read the RSPB’s views on which plants to choose.
ALERT: There have outbreaks of Salmonella causing many flocking songbirds to die (sparrows have been hard hit). RSPB remind us all to clean around the bird feeders to make sure seed and faeces don’t mix!
31 January - A Village Remembered
A look at changing village life in West Kent since the 1880s”. The speaker - Monty Parkin.
Members, friends and guests sat enthralled, as A. M. ‘Monty’ Parkin presented a fascinating illustrated talk on the evolution of the Kentish village of Kemsing. The speaker explained that he had not intended to give lectures (he currently offers them on ten subjects!). He had set out to write books based on the recorded life-stories of local people. The audience was the beneficiary of Monty’s decision to go ‘up front’.
He traced the story of Kemsing from its Victorian existence as a small, isolated, village nestling in chalk downland, to the sprawling housing estates of today. He used wonderful old photographs to illustrate how the terraced hovels of the people who worked the land had been ‘done up’ to become choice single residences of wealthy commuters. There were images of the village craftsmen, such as the blacksmiths, father and son, with their forearms pocked by the sparks from the forge. And group pictures of seasonal hop- and fruit pickers from London. One chap was gardener, builder, poet, self-taught lawyer – and cutter of hair in his spare time!
Monty used ‘then and now’ photographs to great effect to illustrate the impact of ever-advancing development, including the imposition of the M26 motorway across the previously tranquil landscape. He spoke of the tremendous differences between the old times and now, as told to him by the village elders: then most inhabitants were tied to the land, mostly working on large estates. Families were large, but death in infancy was commonplace. One woman, when asked what she did for medical aid in such a remote place, replied that ‘we don’t have much call for doctors – we mostly die natural deaths around here’. Living conditions could be primitive, with three families sharing a single cold tap. The impacts of the young men going off to fight in the Great War, and of the Land Girls in WWII, were richly illustrated.
The talk was enhanced by the speaker’s easy presentation style, and skilfully smooth linking of one slide to the next. There was a lively question and answer session at the end, to round off a thoroughly absorbing evening.
Tony Norfolk gave a talk in the Greenstreet Methodist Church.
Over Twenty members of the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society were treated to a fascinating talk at the Greenstreet Methodist Church on the 14th March. Tony Norfolk from Kent Highways Agency treated us to an illustrated insight into this thirty year career; planning, maintaining and repairing the country’s 2000 bridges and culverts. As well as the concrete and steel motorway decks, his work has included preventing some of the River Medway’s mediaeval stone bridges from crumbling beneath the punishing motor traffic of today. Strengthening bridges using 800 year old fabric to preserve the structures as valued listed monuments, is not always an easy job and never a quick one. Versatility was very apparent in his work, sometimes using temporary steel bridges to span rivers, railways and motorways several times over in different locations. There did not appear to be much rate payers “fat on the bone” in Tony’s department at county Hall. Sixty minutes to reveal the workings and technical problems encountered by this man and his colleagues was not nearly enough. We thank Tony for his splendid talk.
27th April - Jane Austen’s Kent
Presented Anthea Bryant who spoke about the links between this famous author and places of Kent.
In a year when Jane Austen has had a high media profile it seemed totally appropriate that the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society should have chosen to invite Anthea Bryant to talk about this ever popular novelist. The appeal of this very English writer was evident when the Church Community Room had to be expanded into the main body of the church to accommodate the audience!
Illustrating her talk with a large selection of interesting slides Anthea’s enthusiasm for her topic was obvious and infectious. She was keen to stress that Jane Austen’s well-rounded education and life experiences had left her well aware of all the social and political issues of the Georgian England into which she was born. In fact her brother, Francis, served with Nelson at Trafalgar so she would have known something of foreign history as well. It was purely by choice that she wrote only about middle-class provincial life, filling her books with characters such as the minor landed-gentry, country clergymen and their families and the importance of finding suitable husbands for their daughters.
The talk led us through the various stages of Jane’s short life (she died in Winchester at the age of 41). It was pointed out to us that Jane had written about the locations in which she had lived or had visited (such as Bath, Lyme Regis and Sidmouth) and the type of people and houses that she had observed. Although poor herself she had many links with the gentry and was well qualified to write about them. In Anthea’s words “she was very good at looking in from the outside”.
We were shown pictures of the stately homes that Jane knew and had used as a basis for houses in her novels and used in films of the same. We also learnt that she was a proficient pianist, practising for an hour a day before breakfast, and also an excellent seamstress. Members of the Bitch and Stitch Group present at the talk were interested to hear that Jane once made a quilt from her old summer dresses
The talk and slides also concentrated on Jane’s links with Kent, including Goodnestone Park, Godmersham, Knole, Chilham Castle and Canterbury Gaol.
She has, of course, links with Lynsted as well. One of her favourite nieces, Fanny, with whom she corresponded regularly, is buried in Lynsted with her husband Edward. The memorial plaque can be seen in the Hugessen chapel of Lynsted Church. Anthea, who had been unaware of the link prior to her visit, was delighted to be shown this.
It seems sad that Jane herself never emulated any of her heroines by marrying, for example, a Mr Darcy! We did learn that she was engaged once, for all of twelve hours, to a man with the unlikely name of Harris Bigg-Wither!
This initial workshop with Margaret Burns led to a major project that has a separate web-treatment in dedicated pages.
If you want to learn about memorials and tablets inside the church, follow this link.
Moved from 23rd May due to adverse weather that day.
This Sunday Afternoon was ideal for a gentle farm walk starting near “Foxhunters”, Kingsdown Road. We joined a group who wanted to learn about the many conservation ideas being promoted by Neil Anderson. Then we went onwards to “Ludgate”, Ludgate Lane, to hear about Operation Bumble Bee conservation initiative.
A dozen or so members of the Society met near Foxhunters on Sunday 3rd June, having been ‘postponed’ from the previous weekend because of wet conditions. The sun did not emerge until much later, but at least it was dry! Farm owner, and fellow Member, Neil Anderson took us across countryside that most had not seen before: a totally different ‘angle’ from the road-bound traveller. Our first stop was by a fine crop of peas. Neil explained that as well as being a marketable crop (for human consumption) peas were spring-sown, and thus followed an autumn/winter stubble period. This provides a refuge for wildlife, especially birds whose numbers had declined dramatically under intensive agriculture. The mechanical ‘Scario’ scarecrow waved a welcome as we listened.
Hedges on the farm had been ‘gapped up’ to provide the continuous flight path favoured by bats. We strolled along wide headlands devoted to broad leaved annuals such as birdsfoot trefoil and knapweed that provided pollen and nectar to encourage insects. Encouraging these led to greater numbers of birds, and thus supported the ‘food chain’ and a diversity of species. Under the new regime of agriculture, no crop should run right up to the field edge, and hedges should, ideally, be broadly triangular in section, so that several habitats could merge.
Other areas were devoted to summer fallow, again with pollen/nectar producers encouraged.
Arriving at Ludgate, Neil explained that farming had changed from solely producing crops, often to gain a subsidy, to a system where the farmer was paid a single annual payment related to the area of his farm. On top of this, owners could receive payment for entering various ‘levels’ of wildlife-enhancing ‘stewardship’ schemes. To gain this benefit they had to engage in low-intensity practices with minimal use of synthetic chemicals. His involvement in Operation Bumble Bee, aimed at stemming the decline of these vital pollinating insects, was an example of this approach. Several hectares had been put down to red clover mixes that favoured bumble bees.
The new way of farming was not without challenges: aggressive grass weeds were difficult to control without chemicals. There was also a problem of balance. The industrial crop oilseed rape produced environmentally friendly ‘biofuel’ – but it was a poor crop for supporting wildlife. There was a place for both.
Neil’s final point was that farmers had to make a living. They needed fair payment for producing crops and keeping our bountiful countryside in good shape. After the mental and physical exercise of the walk, we adjourned to Hare Cottage to sample Jenny’s delicious home-made cakes on the, by now sunny, terrace.
A very popular event with Society Members in David Powell’s restored double decker Titan Class Bus. Travelling to Rye via Tenterden with an optional train ride from Tenterden to Northiam (collected again by the vintage bus) on the East Sussex Steam Railway.
If you cannot see this video (e.g. if you are using Internet Explorer) you can play the video by clicking here. The video lasts 7 minutes
The English climate turned up trumps for the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society’s late summer outing on September 15th. Promptly at 9 a.m. David Powell could be seen carefully guiding his 1948 Vintage motorbus through the Lynsted Lane roadworks. By the time the ‘bus left the Jubilee Pump at Greenstreet thirty three members and friends were happily seated and looking forward to a trip through the rolling Kent and Sussex countryside to Rye via Tenterden.
In little more than an hour we dismounted in Tenterden where the party split up temporarily. Half the people opted to explore the coffee houses and shops of Tenterden whilst the remainder walked the short distance from the car park to Tenterden Station to catch a Kent and East Sussex Railway Company steam train to Northiam and Bodiam. Once settled in the Buffet Car we enjoyed a leisurely chug through Sussex where the noise of the train and the smell of the smoke evoked memories of past holidays for many of us. When we reached Bodiam we alighted for ten minutes and several members could be seen running up the platform with cameras poised as the steam engine was shunted from one end of the train to the other for the return journey. One member was so enthralled by the whole experience that he has now enrolled to be a volunteer on the trains.
Soon after noon the two parties successfully met up again at Northiam station (much to the relief of the organiser!). David then guided us into Rye and where we went our separate ways exploring the historic buildings, fascinating shops and cobbled streets of this picturesque Cinque port. It was surprising how often during the afternoon we kept ‘bumping into’ other members of the party and exchanged information about what we had seen and what we recommended doing. The time passed far too quickly.
It really was a perfect day with sunny skies throughout and it left all of us, I think, wanting more. However, those cobbled streets are hard on the ankles and I was quite glad to climb back on the ‘bus for the relaxing journey back home.
Our sincere thanks go to David for sharing his ‘bus with us once again.
A practical demonstration given by expert hedge-layer John Flower who showed us the rural craft of ‘laying’ a hedge. Many came and ‘had a go’. Extended Report to this Project and its evolution.
The AGM was followed by Richard Moyse, Senior Conservation Officer for Kent Wildlife Trust who gave a fascinating presentation on “The Future of Kent Wildlife in the Thames Gateway”.
The Lynsted with Kingsdown Society’s post-AGM lecture was given this year by Richard Moyes, formerly Senior Conservation Officer with the Kent Wildlife Trust, and now its Head of Conservation and Policy. Richard is known to members through the walk he led through the Doddington countryside in the spring of 2006.
Richard explained that the KWT, one of 47 trusts, nationwide, has been in existence for 50 years, and had 28,000 members. It was a community-led group, but employed 60 staff. Through its reserves and other means, the Trust cares for wildlife across the county. This includes roadside verges, designated sites and the seashore – the habitats created by wind farms are a recent preoccupation. The Trust is a campaigning organisation, and also helps farmers to institute countryside stewardship schemes. It is involved in education: 12,000 children a year pass through its training centre at Tyland Barn near Maidstone.
The Thames Gateway is an area of land stretching east from London on both sides of the Thames estuary. The eastern boundary in Kent is Conyer Creek – so Lynsted with Kingsdown parish is just within it. The Gateway is earmarked for development (120,000 new houses up to 2026) and is clearly a ‘zone of change’. The area contains many Sites of Special Scientific Interest as well as Dartford Heath, one of only two heathlands in the county. The coastal estuary areas are of international importance for birds. Some species, such as the hen harrier and shrill carder bee, are nationally rare but present in good numbers in Kent’s Gateway area. The challenge is, therefore, to preserve such sensitive wildlife in the face of change. Richard made the point that wildlife is no respecter of man’s classifications: a derelict industrial site can bloom with wild flowers and thus support a range of insects. So careful regeneration of previously-used sites with potential for supporting wildlife is important.
The Trust tackles the challenges posed by the Gateway, by responding to planning applications, by lobbying to influence policy, and by working with influential partnership groups such as, locally, Swale Forward.
Richard ended his talk by stating that it is by no means a ’losing battle’. On the strategic front, the South East Plan process is providing a means of joining together very large tracts of similar habitats, enabling them to support a wider range of species. Such a process would also help to bring such ‘living landscapes’ nearer to human habitation.
Richard’s upbeat presentation was amply illustrated by excellent photographs of the creatures he described. A substantial audience of members and friends learned much about how the county’s natural heritage is managed, protected, and where possible expanded, as we face an uncertain future.
For more information about the Trust, visit www.kentwildlifetrust.co.uk.