Event Reports for 2016
'Water Aid' Projects Talk by Dr Mike Vaile - 20th January
A small group of us braved the freezing night to attend the Greenstreet chapel for a thought-provoking and very interesting talk by Mike Vaile, a retired GP and public health consultant with experience in Nigeria, Malawi, and Saudi Arabia. He has been involved with the Water Aid charity for many years.
He started by telling us that 700 million people have no access to safe drinking water and 2,600 million people have no safe, hygienic toilet. The result is terrible ill health due to faecal contamination of water and land, and the huge numbers of flies. Consider that most people in these conditions do not have shoes and are therefore exposed to chronic hookworm infections. Worldwide simple diarrhoeal illness causes 900 children to die every day. 50% of all hospital beds in Africa are occupied by patients with intestinal illnesses.
Yet the solution is so easy, clean water, soap, and a deep drop latrine.
In the UK the average water use is 150 litres/day. In the USA 300-400 l/day. In rural Africa, it is 20 l/day.
Water Aid works in Africa, India, and SE Asia. It raises about £70 million pounds per year of which 78% is spent in the recipient countries. Most of the rest is spent on more fundraising and campaigns to increase awareness of the problem. In the last 30 years, it has helped 25 million people. It was originally set up by the water industry and still receives support from water companies. It only works on long term projects and requires government support before it will commit. It does not work in conflict areas as the results cannot be guaranteed. Mike was particularly insistent that they only work with communities and illustrated the importance of this with examples from his own experience. Time taken having tea and avocado with the local chief was usually time well spent! When you involve the community in planning and building the facilities they have pride in, they will look after them.
In Africa women and children fetch and carry huge loads of water, often over many miles. The weights cause great damage to children's immature skeletons. The provision of water saves massive amounts of time. It allows children to go to school and women to set up small businesses growing and selling produce. The compost from the latrines is recycled as fertiliser. Hence the health and community benefits from such tiny investments are huge. The World Bank states that the most cost-effective intervention in the third world is hand washing!
So we see that simple and cheap measures using local people's knowledge, labour, and expertise can transform lives. This is a very similar message to the one that emerged from last year's talk on midwifery in Ethiopia. Half of the proceeds from our forthcoming quiz night will be going to Water Aid. If you wish you can donate directly to Water Aid or via the quiz night raffle, contact me via the society.
Dr Vaile is one of several in WaterAid's "speaker network" who can be found at www.wateraid.org/uk/request-a-speaker or call 01227 222324. We rather enjoyed (and were shocked by) a finale that included revealing gel on your hands and 'revealed' in a lightbox that shows just how contaminated our hands are in day-to-day life.
Charity Quiz Night - 20th February
A very enjoyable and productive evening enjoyed by a hall full of quizzers with Don and Caroline providing the clues and answers. Final profit made through your generosity was £342 that will be split between "Water Aid" and "Breast Friends" (a small voluntary support group in Canterbury for those undergoing treatment, recovering from treatment or living with breast cancer).
The Committee would like to thank all participants and donators of prizes for their generosity and good humour. Our thanks also go to Committee Members Alistair and Debbie Taylor for making it happen.
Alan Staley presentation on Traditional Boatbuilding - 16th March 2016
A large crowd gathered for our talk in the Methodist Hall. It was a pleasure to see a fair number of non-members as well as many of the regulars!
We started with a short film introducing the Battle of the Somme film which will be shown in July but quickly moved on to Alans talk, which follows on with our theme of hearing from local businesses, and also follows the visit many of us made to Edna May some years ago.
It was a teacher at school who got Alan interested in boatbuilding, rather than furniture making, and in 1951, aged 15, he was apprenticed to Anderson, Rigden, and Perkins in Whitstable. At that time they built wooden trawlers about 50 feet in length. Each took 10 months to build. They also maintained the yacht clubs racing boats. In those days the yards received Iroko planks 50 feet long and 7 feet wide to turn into boats. There are no trees left in the world that size now so they use plantation grown woods, and often laminate them using modern glues resulting in very strong timbers. Alan worked there for 15 years ending up as foreman of the yacht builders. Mr Anderson was convinced there was no future for wooden yachts and turned to glass fibre production, Alan making the wooden plug for the first glass fibre yacht. However a dispute with Mr Anderson, "I am a shipwright, not a brush and glue man", led him to leave and set up on his own with a bike and bag of tools. Sometime later he joined Testers in Hollow Shore and lived in his boat on the creek. When the opportunity came he set up on his own in Faversham eventually buying the old sawmill at Chambers Wharf in 1991 which he has developed into a successful traditional wooden yard with a large covered shed, [an old aircraft hangar from De Havillands], and a slipway.
One project Alan remembers well from the early days was rebuilding a 40-foot Cornish lugger on the beach at Lower Halstow. It sounded like they replaced just about everything, a bit like Triggers brush in Only Fools and Horses! The tide ran in and out of the boat twice a day making winter work very cold.
Alan has always been enthusiastic about encouraging young people to join the industry and has had a string of apprentices, 25 in all, 2 of whom are women. Of these 12 have remained in boat building. 2 still work with Alan, 2 have their own yards [one in Rye] and another manages a yard for The Sultan of Oman maintaining his racing yachts.
One of Alan's favourite jobs was the restoration of Mandamus the yacht originally owned by his first boss Mr Anderson. The job took 1 year and at the same time, they were working on her sister yacht. By then in his 90's Mr Anderson came to the relaunch and Alan took delight in reminding him that he had said there was no future for wooden boats! Alan went on to write a history of the Anderson yard.
Looking back on his career Alan remembers his father telling him to do a job he enjoyed because he had always hated his work, by the end of the evening we all recognised Alan has achieved that and brought many peoples dreams to life.
RMS "Titanic" - screening of two short films - 6th April
A popular speaker, Colin Harvey, presented two short films about RMS "Titanic" with a comfort break between each.
Beginning with "Building an unsinkable ocean liner" (45 minutes) we heard how the film had travelled to America in its uncut form, only to return and have the original Ulster Film Company version largely restored. The film gave an entirely new slant on who, how, and where the Titanic was built. Modern archaeology exposed the last concrete remnants of the docks where she was laid and fitted. The Harland and Wolfe site was once a marshland that had to be drained to create the world's largest and deepest facility at that time to accommodate the new ships under the "White Star" banner. The film captured many historic images that included the linen-mounted draughtsmen's plans. It was also brought home to us that Belfast, in the 17th century was a small town that grew massively to accommodate this investment in this futuristic but ill-fated fleet. For 60 years the landscape was dominated by massive cranes, slipways and the noise and sight of construction. The film also revealed personal stories of the workers and glimpses into the rapidly built back-to-back houses. These scenes are echoed today as many of the houses survive.
Statistics included, 3m+ rivets, 15,000 men, 24,000 tonnes of steel. The ship took 62 seconds to get into the water. Two main engines supplemented by a third auxiliary engine powered by recycling the waste heat/energy of the two main ones. The dry dock took 23 million gallons to fill that could be done in 1 hour and forty minutes (although caution meant it took 12 hours). At the other end of its life, the Titanic left Southampton on 10th April and reports of its sinking emerged on 15th April - taking 3 hours to sink, losing 1,500+ lives (passengers and crew). The best representation of the interior decoration can be imagined by visiting Belfast City Hall and looking at its layout and decoration.
Equally, by visiting The White Swan, Alnwick, you can see many features and fittings from the R.M.S. Olympic.
The original film was intended for screening in Ireland but the money ran out and the copy went firstly to an American company before it was brought back and is only now being seen by audiences this side of 'the pond'.
"Over 100 years beneath the waves" (35 minutes).This story has been better covered in the popular media. We heard and saw the gung-ho Captain Smith who had been with the company for 68 years. It was also explained that the crew didn't fully understand the construction and design of the interior of the ship. Had all the bulkheads been closed, the Titanic would have sunk much more slowly, if at all. Had proper actions been taken and secured only 3 or 4 compartments, the ship was designed to keep afloat. No action was not taken until half an hour after the Titanic struck the iceberg. The 3rd-class passengers were all part of the 'optimism' attached with leaving the UK for the opportunities offered by the younger America and Canada. These 3rd class passengers were essential to making the ship pay its way.
The choice of course was made to achieve a fast crossing as a matter of hubris. Ice warnings had been issued and ignored or poorly reported in the hierarchy of the bridge. There was a standing order - 'no slowing'. The dark and calm meant there were no breaking waves that might have offered some warning. The choice to have 16 boats launched nearly empty meant that 1,000 people must die unnecessarily.
Society Visit to Belmont (House and Gardens) - 24th May
"It's been a lovely day". On a gloriously sunny day, a group of 35 LKS members and guests were treated to a private tour of Belmont House and Gardens – one of Kent's best-kept "secrets".
Our friendly, knowledgeable guides Brian and Angela demonstrated their passion and enthusiasm for the magnificent house and grounds as well as the many treasures contained within – most notably one of the UK's finest private collections of English and French clocks.
Designed by Samuel Wyatts and constructed in the late 18th century, this understated neo-classical pile was home to five successive generations of Lord Harris (no connection with either bombers or carpets!). Today it forms the centrepiece of the self-sustaining Belmont Estate, with its acres of forestry, farms and holiday cottages – and the lush green rolling North Downs countryside as its stunning backdrop.
On touring the house, the abiding impression is of its "lived-in" feel: It's as if the Lords Harris had never left – as if nothing has been touched. It's also a story of secret drawers and finds such as a 1568 Bible written in English rather than Latin – or the clothes collection of the 5th Lady Harris, dubbed a "clothes horse" by fashion designer Hardy Amies.
With its table settings for 62 and collection of fine Indian and English silverware, the dining room certainly has the "wow" factor. The lobby, meanwhile, features a silver/mother-of-pearl railway porter's trolley from India (Seringapatam) and medals collection of the Second Lord Harris from the Battle of Waterloo. The clocks contained in Belmont's 350-strong collection include exquisite pieces by Thomas Tompion (regarded as the father of English clockmaking) and Joseph Knibb; famous names on the French side include Breguet.
Our tours were followed by a picnic lunch in the former stables within the courtyard. We were then able to wander at leisure around the Walled Garden, where the long borders were poised to burst out into flower – if only we could have a few more days' warm sunshine! Across the drive, meanwhile, was the impeccably maintained walled Kitchen Garden designed by gardening guru Arabella Lennox-Boyd and restored by Belmont's gardening team around the turn of the millennium – think pergolas, pleached fruit trees, sundials and an impressive Victorian glasshouse to boot.
All in all a "lovely day".
Water Voles 8th June
No surprise that we had a good turnout for cute animals! We enjoyed an informative and entertaining illustrated presentation from Vicky Breakell from Wildwood Trust who leads a breeding and reintroduction programme for these endearing creatures. Read their PDF leaflet about water voles.
Vicky explained that she also worked with other mammals such as bats, dormice, and Konik horses (both on and off-site). Wildwood also has lynx, wolves, badgers, red squirrels and foxes - the focus being on re-introduction of native British species to appropriate sites. The process of deciding that a site was "suitable" could be lengthy as experience showed a high failure rate where the conditions and method of release are not carefully and sensitively managed.
Sightings of "water voles" are often claimed but turn out to be brown rats (which have long and smooth tails, larger erect ears, and are dark brown (rather than a grey or light coat of the water vole). The water vole is also larger. Interestingly, we heard that water vole teeth are composed of hard and soft dentine that leads to differential wear and creating a razor-sharp tooth; continuously growing ('open rooted'). The importance of a richly diverse habitat is reinforced by the list of 227 feeding plants sought by water voles; reintroductions are only considered where the range is sufficient and deep. We were shown an image of a closed pen into which water-voles were introduced and rapidly grazed down to the earth - it is important that each vole has a large range.
Wildwood has to remove males from water-vole groups to avoid overpopulation! Water voles are capable of mating quickly after birth, gestate between 20-23 days, and leading to 30-35 new-born pups a year. In the wild, this pattern matches the fact that water voles are a prey species (like rabbits) and are hunted by birds of prey, foxes, otters, weasels, and mink. With sufficient cover and about 1 metre of water, the water vole stands a better chance of survival in reed-beds and ditches/dykes. Colonies are often divided by man's roads and other major structures and disrupted by rubbish that has been thrown into waterways with the risk of inbreeding and loss of vigour locally. Again, this makes choice and preparation of habitat for reintroduction a long-term and demanding process that can take years as water courses have to be assessed in different seasons. Simple practices such as farmers leaving field margins untended close to water-courses. Directing cattle away from colonies to drink water can all aid the population recovery and growth.
Culling American mink is also an important prerequisite. The breeding cycle of mink begins earlier (February/April) than for water-voles, so they can destroy a population in their need to feed their own young before the water voles can begin breeding (March/September). Water vole numbers stood at 7.3 million in the 1990s but currently stand at 875,000 - a 90% loss of population!! They were not granted legal protection until the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, policed by Natural England and reinforced by European statutes [quite what happens to environmental interests with "Brexit" was a real cause for concern in Wildwood for the endangered UK populations of these and other mammals].
Wildwood facilities include 90 cages and a quarantine area. Wildwood often hosts populations that are temporarily housed while major developments take place and the habitat is restored. This means that they can cope with upwards of 200 water vole at any one time. Every introduction to Wildwood has to be quarantined to protect against parasites and disease spreading between captive-bred and wild water voles.
Wildwood has discovered that release of water voles can only succeed with so-called "soft release". They are not simply turfed out onto a river bank where they will almost certainly die. So, release boxes are buried in the ground as the voles become acclimatised and eventually decide to burrow out or simply leave because they are comfortable with the conditions. Interestingly, you can distinguish water-vole presence by burrows that have niggled "lawns" immediately outside their burrows; you can also check for grass and reeds that have been bitten off 10 cm from the ground with 45-degree cuts. The animals are blood-tested and 'chipped' to help manage and understand the process. Post-release monitoring is an important aid in preparing for future release projects.
Guided Farm Walks in Kingsdown Farm - 12th June
A Sunday event that has always proved a very popular afternoon out as we explore the farm, its flora, fauna and environmental projects in our farming landscape. We had a good turnout. We were guided by local natural-world experts across more isolated parts of the farm towards Dadman's Shaw. Around pastures to inspect flora and fauna in this sensitively farmed environment. Followed by tea and delicious cakes in the garden.
"The Battle of the Somme" - 1st July
The Society screening of this important 1916 film in Lynsted Church played to an audience of 60 people. This had been made possible through our partnership with the Imperial War Museum. Taken together with the national coverage of the vigil on 30th June and Remembrance service on the morning of 1st July, this film was especially poignant. The version we used had the soundtrack of music by Rossi, which was a spectacular success. The main film was preceded by a short IWM introduction to how the film was put together and the social background to showing the film to 20 million people at home.
We are very grateful to our audience for all the positive and touching comments concerning the opportunity to watch the film. Speaking for myself, I was cowed by the sheer enormity and humanity of what we were witnessing. Like so many of the audience, I have a great uncle who died at the Somme (surviving the early days relatively unscathed until early 1917) - a man who was training for the clergy before the War and whose diary ["From Bedford to The Somme"] speaks volumes about how keen he was to get 'stuck in' on the opening of the attack. Those I spoke to before and afterwards also had stories and reactions based on witnessing the sea of faces turned to the camera - a very touching theme throughout as the young soldiers, perhaps, wanted to reassure their families that they were OK.
The Society went on to show the film to Members of the Faversham Society in August.
We were also touched by the time spent by many audience members reading the stories of the two Lynsted men who died on the first day of the Somme offensive. Lis Heriz-Smith introduced the film by remembering these men and two others (from Doddington and Newnham) from our wider Ecclesiastical Parish [Creekside].
The screening is preceded by a short (8 minutes) introductory commentary to help put the film in context.
The film itself then runs for 73 minutes in five "episodes". Guide Rating "PG".
Crime in Victorian Kent [Part of "Lynsted Festival Weekend"] - 17th September
A presentation by popular speaker and local historian, Helen Allinson. Where the changes in punishment and crimes will be examined, specifically in Kent. This promises to be quite an eye-opener and forms part of the Society's contribution to the planned "Lynsted - The Place of the Lime" weekend. Two days of celebration of our Parish communities, past, present and future - follow this link to discover all the activities and attractions throughout the weekend. Download the PDF programme here.
We are working with several other Parish Groups so there should be something for everyone over the weekend!
Venue: Lynsted Church (ME9 0RQ - for sat-navs). Entrance: free and open to all.
Festival Weekend: Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th September.
Staley Shipwright's Boatyard Visit - Members Only - 1st October
A full party of 20 enjoyed the insights offered by the Master shipwright, Alan Staley, alongside his apprentices and qualified personnel. Their love and enthusiasm for wooden boats of all sizes was infectious, right down to a clinker-built rocking cradle! Clearly, owning wooden craft is not for the faint-hearted as their ongoing maintenance and sometimes major renewals, repairs, and rebuilding has to take time and the best materials. Those materials include the commissioning of metalworks to suit particular uses from cleats, to brackets, to fixings. There is an enormous range in species of wood and their combination to create true works of art. What a marvellous two hours!
Kent, Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance Trust – a life-saving charity - 19th October
David Fagg, a volunteer and fund-raiser with the Kent Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, gave a fascinating talk on the life-saving work undertaken by the charity.
Established in 1989, the organisation has already flown some 25,000 missions – two of which recently took place in the Lynsted area and involved transporting the victims of road traffic accidents to the hospital in London in the fastest possible way. After triage, a helicopter can be in the air within four minutes of a call to the Trust's switchboard. Easy access means the Trust's helicopters can be on the roof of the Royal London Hospital within 20 minutes of attending a scene in a field in deepest rural Kent.
With its two bases in Marden (Kent) and Redhill (Surrey), the rescue teams include doctors as well as paramedics. The doctors/paramedics provide A&E at the scene: early intervention is crucial, as the sooner help is given the better the outcome. The work includes administering anaesthetics as well as giving plasma and blood.
David told the story of a young boy, Louie, who was playing hide and seek at his grandmother's house when a wardrobe fell on top of him and rendered him unconscious. The Air Ambulance attended, transporting Louie to the Royal London Hospital. Ten days later, he was back at home – much to the relief of his parents, who had feared the worst.
- KSSAAT receives 4-5 call-outs a day and four each night
- Each "lift" costs £2,700
- There are 8 pilots and 18 doctors
- Its helicopters cost £140,000 to rent every month
- As a charity, KSSAAT needs to raise £6.7m every year.
If you want to know about their work, a visit to their website is very interesting.
James II Presentation – To Catch a King – 14th November
Following a short AGM (where a vacancy arose from Fiona Lock stepping down from the role of Events Secretary and the business of reporting and election of Committee members was concluded) we were treated to a highly entertaining and revealing presentation on the associations between James II and Faversham from our speaker, John Blackford.
The scene was set by describing the arrival under escort of a series of dignitaries who were delivered to Faversham Guildhall on 12 December 1688.
The backdrop was set in Protestant England led by a Catholic King James II who made many appointments and decisions based on his devotion to Rome. His supremacy was shaky at a time when Holland (Protestant William of Orange) was very hostile towards England. We were reminded of the highly skilled invasion of the River Medway anchorage through which several British ships at anchor were cut out or set alight. The Dutch monarch did not need much persuasion from English Parliamentarians and religious leaders to invade England and overthrow James II. The temporary alleviation of hostilities through marriage between William and Mary (daughter of James) was set aside and the "Glorious Revolution" concluded as a bloodless revolution.
The invasion duly took place (5th November) at Brixham, thereby avoiding the fortifications at the narrower parts of the English Channel. The English army was progressively pushed back to London without serious opposition as James could not be sure of the loyalty of his Army. As William closed on London, James II and the senior figures in his circle of friends and nobles (including his trusted French friend Louis de Duras – elevated to "The Earl of Faversham") and office-holders melted away. A general call for his capture, along with influential supporters of James, was issued in the direction of Dover along the coast and London Road. Roadblocks were put in place, including in Ospringe close to the Maison Dieu. Kent was alert to the passage of strangers.
Getting to our starting point of 12 December 1688, some fishermen came across a group of gentlemen, who were taken into custody in line with the instruction that all "gentlemen" should be detained. John Blackford explained that he believes this group was landed at the "Shipwrights Inn" where they waited while captured carriages (from the London Road roadblock) were brought down to transport these strangers to Faversham. Their noble standing demanded this use of carriages.
Arriving in Faversham, one Richard Marsh a local man who knew many senior figures in the circle of James II emerged from an Inn and was able to identify the men arriving from Oare. As each gentleman was identified, the story goes, Richard Marsh declared that he had identified a servant as James II. The gentlemen were detained in the Guildhall, the King was kept in the Mayor's house. You can see a plaque on that building (next to the Shepherd Neame Brewery offices) which reads: "After being captured by Faversham fishermen in December 1688 while trying to escape to the Continent, King James II was detained for 3 days in this house, then the home of the Mayor, Thomas Southouse ..."
This now presented William and his supporters with a problem, what to do with a deposed King? James made the decision for them by making off early (3 a.m.) on Sunday by the back door (perhaps with the collusion of his captors) of Sir Richard Head's house. He was delivered by barge to Shellness and thence by boat to France to join his queen in Paris and then a substantial home – St Germaine n Laye.
James made an attempt to return with the help of Catholic leaders in Ireland, but this failed signally in July 1690 – the Battle of the Boyne. That association has echoed through to modern times where images of King James on (white) horseback persisted.
Final Screening of the 1916 Film: "THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME" - 18th November
21 People attended in a seasonally cold hall! Something to get us into the mood. We were given a fascinating insight into artillery comparisons between 1916 and 2016 by a presentation from Miles Lemon.
December: Members Only - Christmas Party - wine, carol-singing and festive fayre
Members filled Lynsted Church with conviviality, singing, and delicious food and drink courtesy of the Committee and supporters. A touch on the cool side but that didn't dampen our spirits! The venue worked well and everyone enjoyed themselves.