Event Reports for 2011

Sittingbourne and Milton Regis, and Sheerness HM Dockyard - 19th January

Photo-animation presentations by Colin Harvey.

More than 40 people (9 non-Member guests) joined us for a fascinating preview of Colin's latest project that sets out to document the evolution of Sheerness with Milton. As Colin was quick to point out that his presentation was still a 'work in progress' as it focused on Milton, with a second chapter yet to be completed.

A second presentation gave us a tour of Sheerness HM Dock Yard - no longer existing.

The Milton photo-animation was built on a foundation of over 6,500 images of various kinds. He opened with a view of the High Street as seen in 1912 followed by a saunter through street scenes of St Pauls, Back House (1901), Middletune House and Crown Street, Beechwood Avenue, and so on. Many streets and landmarks remained familiar to those in the audience, while others have long ago been replaced such as Paradise Chapel that was burnt down in 1992. Nevertheless, the photo-animation provided an engaging record that sprung from early 20th Century Milton. Of particular historic interest was Milton Church, established in AD597 and so one of the oldest church sites - the original building was destroyed in 1052 along with most of Milton and it wasn't until 1330 that the church we recognise today was completed.

Colin's presentation also took us through some of the industrial landscape associated with the barges, creeks, dockyards, landings, and brickworks. The local brickworks (Smeed) led to the creation of a highly successful cement works until the general decline in bricks and cement more recently.

Colin moved on to show his photo-animation and take questions regarding "The Yard" (as Sheerness HM Dock Yard was known locally). This historic edifice survived from 1665 until 1960 when a closing ceremony saw an end to that traditional industrial and military association.

We were shown many line drawing and other artists records that showed the plan (1665) to fortify the dockyard against Dutch invasion forces - the fortification was completed by 1669.

Images from 1740 show hulks were used here to house the workers in what would have been barely tolerable conditions - remember that for many years decommissioned ships were, at times, demasted (mast timbers could be used again) and relegated to become Prison Hulks. This period of development of "The Yard" was completed in 1779. Further developments (1808-1823) were made under the direction of Sir John Rennie.

Colin used a selection of aerial shots to give a strong sense of just how extensive this dockyard once was. All that remains from that period today are a few houses that existed outside the walls of "The Yard".

This was a fascinating pair of presentations and those who attended were left wondering what "Chapter 2" of the Milton Regis story will show.....? See 2013 Events.

Nigel Heriz-Smith

Thames Sailing Barge "Edith May" - 16th March

The evening of March 18th 2011 found thirty members of the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society in an unusual venue for their latest event. They had been Invited on board a Thames Sailing Barge at Lower Halstow by owner Geoffrey Gransden to hear about the history of the Thames Sailing Barges and, in particular, the renovation of the "Edith May".

On descending into the former cargo hold we were served a hot, tasty supper cooked in the galley by Geoffrey's wife, Jane, before being treated to a highly informative, illustrated talk by the owner. The 'Edith May' was originally built in 1906 in Harwich and was a brick carrying barge, working for the Eastwood Brick Company. She would have taken a full load of 40,000 up to London and then returned with a load of ash which was then used to make more bricks. We were also told about the popular barge races which had started in the mid-nineteenth century. A lot of money could be made on these races and so the owners adapted their barges by increasing the length of their masts more and more so that larger sails could be used to catch more wind and hence move faster. Veronica and Sirdar were two of the fastest barges and the Veronica could reach up to 14 knots when racing under full sail. Because of the increased risks being taken and the bitter rivalry, it provoked this type of professional racing ended in 1963 by mutual consent of the owners. Most of the racing barges were subsequently sold off as houseboats. However, in 1965 this popular sport was restarted, but only on an amateur basis, and still thrives today providing a wonderful spectacle in the Estuary. Incidentally, the Edith May hopes to be among the barges racing later this year.

Geoffrey told us about his lifelong obsession with barges and oyster smacks. As a boy, he said he had felt privileged to see the Sirdar racing and had always wanted to be involved with barges when he grew up. In 1999 he chanced to come across the Edith May in a very sorry state at Upnor and, against advice from his father, he knew he had to buy her. So, in November 1999, he brought the barge into Lower Halstow and raised her up on four barge blocks ready for renovation. She was, indeed, in very poor condition and so thus started ten years of extremely hard work in which the Edith May was re-framed and then re-rigged. We were shown many pictures of the barge as she went through her various stages of reconstruction and as we sat in the barge we could see, at first hand, the incredible transformation that had taken place. Finally, in May 2010, a new leeboard was added and the flag raised on the present Edith May. She is now officially chartered for sailing in in the summer months and can take up to twelve passengers per trip up the estuary. (For more details see their web site). However, you can also go aboard the barge in the winter when, from Friday to Sunday, Jane and friends serve light lunches and cream teas. Photograph albums are also on display so that you can follow the rebirth of the Edith May.

We all had a wonderful evening and thank Geoffrey for letting us experience at first hand a small piece of Kentish history. I would certainly like to take a trip out on the Edith May at some time and will look, with new eyes, on these picturesque boats now that I know something of their background. Their working days may be long gone but I hope that they will be seen gracefully sailing along the North Kent coastline for many years to come.

Norma Baxter

Calving Day at Kingsdown Farm - 17th April

More than 50 members and their friends (and children) joined in this enjoyable afternoon - a visit to the working farm of our Chairman (Neil Anderson) during calving season with an opportunity to learn about this mixed arable and livestock farm, and meet new-born calves (the youngest was less than one day old).

Calving Day (17th April 2011) attracted more than fifty adults and children to a warm and sunny day spent exploring Neil and Jenny's farm. Neil had very thoughtfully parked a trailer and steps next to the cow barn. This helped us all to see over the heads of the most inquisitive cows and enjoy the sight of the latest additions to Neil's herd - one of which was a calf with its mother born only the evening before! That smallest calf was well looked after by the bevy of cows. The whole herd looked pretty small next to Jim (the delightfully friendly and handsome bull). Of course, Jim got a bit frisky last year and playfully broke Neil's leg...... Getting friendly with something so big has its risks.

Neil also parked a tractor and harvester on the hard-standing to entertain the children (and the many adults who confessed a secret wish to go on a harvester ...... Neil looked nervous at this point!).
We were left free to roam around the farmyard but adults and children crowded around Neil as he described with great feeling how he runs his farm. He explained that he runs three businesses - arable farming is his mainstay, cattle rearing is also an important element and, finally, ecological projects reflect his ethical approach to farming. Neil explained that he received grants that more or less covered the many initiatives across his farm but he also works with other groups that include Wildwood (supporting dormice). Environmental sensitivity is important to Neil - so his fields include patches to help skylarks, 'islands' of rough material in fields to support beetle/insects to support the bird populations. He also pays particular attention to field margins and hedgerows for birds and mammals. He described how he chooses chemicals that are more difficult to apply in animal husbandry so that dung-beetles are not harmed. He also applies crop rotation principles to control disease and maintain the fertility of the land he farms.

The cattle he breeds are either sold on or sent to a local abattoir and prepared by local butchers for sale to local customers by the box. The resulting beef is as good as it gets (the author's view based on several boxes from Neil's farm).

The most important arable crop for Neil is premium milling wheat - provided the weather works in his favour. Harvest time is an anxious time as the nutrients, starches and protein levels have to meet exacting standards to reach the premium sought. Other crops include a bean used to supply the Egyptian market, potatoes (but only for a couple of years), and rape. We were shown the different crop seeds as, so often, we only see the end products - bread, oil, crisps, etc.

The whole party then retired to Neil and Jenny's garden for a delightful spread of homemade (by Society Committee members and friends) cakes and biscuits, accompanied by squashes and tea. Because of the weather, we stayed long into the afternoon thanks to the hospitality and generosity of our hosts.

A real buzz, memorable for so much to see, learn and do.

Nigel Heriz-Smith

Society Annual Heritage Open Day in Lynsted Church - 11th June

The Church of Sts Peter and Paul, Lynsted, hosted this Open Day, where we displayed many of the contributions received over the past year. Some material naturally fell into booklet format, while other individual contributions helped create a 25-minute photo-animation that was continuously projected in the Community Room. Of particular interest to many visitors were the display-boards put up by the sub-group and the Park Farm Traditional Orchard Group (agricultural theme). The Society's main displays highlighted planned publication of material on Royal events celebrated by Parishioners - to coincide with the 2012 Jubilee. The second display gathered together items about the Parishioners' experiences of war-time and we hope to build on this to produce a publication for 2015, the anniversary of the end of WW2.

There was a steady trickle of visitors throughout the day, with a welcome lull at lunch-time. This meant that Society Members were able to spend more time with individual visitors to explore the material they brought with them and proposed home visits at a later date to dig into many personal collections. We also want to follow up with lengthier discussions with those visitors who are willing to go into more detail about their wartime or Royal celebration experiences. The photo-animation also attracted a steady audience and a lively discussion of the scenes presented.

This year, we were able to fill several gaps in our records. People were identified in photographs of events. Dates were identified for key events (e.g. burning down of the Co-op in Greenstreet; design and installation of the east windows damaged by bombing; inauguration of our local volunteer fire-station). The quality and diversity of contributions made the day's efforts worthwhile and the sub-group will follow many leads up in the coming months.

The Heritage Day was made even more rewarding by our Members' support on the day, welcoming our guests and plying them with tea, coffee and cakes.

Some Surprises

With close to 3,000 images, documents, and other extracts in our archive, we are sure we are only scratching the surface. So, keep it coming!

Nigel Heriz-Smith

Hay Meadow Walk - 13th June

By popular request, Keith Dachler led a Meadow Walk in East Sussex to give us a rare opportunity to see unspoilt springtime meadow flowers. Neil Anderson has arranged a number of these walks, much to the benefit of our Members and their enjoyment.

'Descriptive Tour of a Tudor Yeoman's House' - 31st July

This important building has been extensively documented.
This event report is part of our archive pages dedicated to Tudor Cottage, Cellar Hill.

Vintage Bus Trip to Quex Museum (the Powell-Cotton Museum) and Quex Park, near Birchington - 24th September

Local foods were enjoyed in the Barn. No Report

Bumblebees - 26th October

Nikki Gammans (Project Officer with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust) spoke on the subject of bumblebees.

Following our AGM The Lynsted with Kingsdown Society had an interesting talk from Dr Nikki Gammans. Nikki works for the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust (BBCT) and gave us a very informative talk on bumblebees. We were told how there are around 250 species of bumblebees worldwide. Around 25 of these species are native to the UK and that 3 of the UK s' species are now extinct, and that most bumblebees are threatened by habitat loss. She stressed how important bumblebees are for pollination and without them how the quality of fruit would suffer. They are particularly hardy so are able to operate in colder temperatures than other pollinators and are also super efficient as they perform what is called 'buzz pollination' where they vibrate inside the flower to dislodge pollen and pollinate.

Nikki showed us how to identify different bumblebees by their different colour markings and how some bumblebees are social and live in colonies, with only the queens surviving the winter to start a new colony as soon as the weather starts to warm in the spring. Other species are solitary such as the Shrill Carder bumblebee, the BBCT are doing work with this bee in Pembrokeshire and Cuckoo bumblebees that copy the markings of social bumblebees and enter the nests where they lay their eggs, and the unsuspecting social bees look after them.

Different types of bumblebees have different tongue lengths so they can feed on a large variety of flower species, with the long-tongued bees particularly threatened. Nikki is heading a team that is attempting to reintroduce one of these long-tongued species, the short-haired bumblebee 'Bombus Subterranus', to Dungeness RSPB reserve (pages dedicated to this project). She told us about their original plan to bring some back from New Zealand, where they had been introduced from the UK. This proved to be too problematic so the team now plan to start introducing these bees from a thriving population in Sweden early next year.

Nikki has offered to show us around the RSPB reserve at Dungeness next summer and to teach us some bumblebee identification. We plan to book a day in early June 2012 so anyone who is interested please get in touch as this will be a great opportunity to observe these essential and fascinating insects.

Neil Anderson

"Our Marine Environment" - 24th November

Cait Cochrane (a volunteer for ORCA) was our speaker.

This was a very thought-provoking presentation which made clear just how badly whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and marine birds like albatrosses are served by people.

Particular areas of concern for the environment and well-being of these creatures included our waste products (plastics in all its forms and chemicals) and our use of the seas (propeller cuts, noise including our use of sonar, 'ghost' fishing nets that have been abandoned by fishermen, and examples of intentional harm by a small number of fishermen and through whaling).

Far from being just a depressing list of harm, Cait communicated her passion for these intelligent, gentle, and harmless mammals and birds. We enjoyed the images of grown and young mammals in their environment.

Cait wears several ORCA 'hats':

Cait explained how diverse our marine mammals are around the UK coastline, with occasional rarities spotted that include the Sowerby's Beaked Whale. Sadly, ORCA volunteers are usually involved when these mammals are in difficulty or have died and the causes have to be identified.

A particularly nasty hazard is presented by drifting gill-nets (20 miles long, 2 miles deep) with floats along one edge and weights on the other. Often left by fishermen unsupervised, only later returning to haul in the catch. But not all such nets are recovered and it is these that are the "ghost nets" that entrap and drown anything that passes by.

Cait brought with her examples of rubbish that she finds on beach-cleaning exercises (syringes, bottle-caps, plastic bags, fragments, and weathered plastic granules - "nurdles" - small, easy to eat but indigestible and deadly). One estimate suggests that up to 90% of Fulmars have at least 0.1g in their gut. This toxic mix affects birds too - we were shown difficult images of baby albatross that had died and decayed revealing their stomach contents - an astonishing quantity and variety of plastics. These images were taken on Midway Atoll, which is many hundreds of miles away from any continental mass.

Moving to the identification of our local seal populations, Cait explained the differences between grey (sometimes called "hook-nosed pigs"!!) and common seals. Common = rounder and deeper face profile; grey = larger and more of a 'muzzle'. We also learned that if you can see the back of the skull of either species, they are likely malnourished - normally they are chubby.

We also learned of Cait's involvement with school projects - in particular, Westmeads School who successfully raised £800 for ORCA by drawing images that were transferred onto cotton bags. The message being, take your waste home and dispose of it properly rather than leaving them on our beaches. A point well made!

Other positive things that can be done include supporting beach-cleaning of adopting stretches of beach. "Adopt a Beach" is a scheme run by the Marine Conservancy Society under its "Beachwatch" campaign. This is a very informative web site if you want to explore the issues further.

We were told that there is also a Government Review of Marine Protection Zones. All relevant organisations are involved in promoting zones with special protection.

If you want to know about different types of marine zones there are nearby, you can visit the interactive map supported by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) - an official advisory committee for DEFRA. When you open the web site page you can zoom in on any part of the UK and add "layers" for the different marine zones. For our area, here are a couple of areas I found (there are more!):

Other hints at what we can do to help - carry your own shopping bags when shopping - preferably not plastic. Ask retailers where the fish comes from and how it is caught - line caught rather than drift nets for example. Some supermarkets are trying to declare ethical fishing through the blue tick scheme look for the blue tick logo on the packaging.

Note: After this event, Government policies forced payment on plastic bags from larger retailers – so carrying your own (e.g. jute, or 'bag for life') has become the norm. This is a step in the right direction but doesn't undo the damage already done.

Nigel Heriz-Smith

20 December - Society Christmas Party. We were very pleased to see a record number of people at our Xmas Party this year - all in fine voice and enjoying each other's company. Our thanks go to Emlyn & Linda and all contributors on the night.

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