Warning: woodland walks currently affected by forestry management

Eagle-eyed walkers, cyclists and dog-owners will have noticed that more forestry management is currently being undertaken in the woodland area up behind the properties along Butlers Hill.

Unfortunately, the paths and tracks that users tread have become unusable, with large swathes of timber having been felled and left in situ, with the result that a large section of the woods is impassable, with paths buried under trunks and ploughed-up land.

There are no ‘No Entry’ signs warning of this either before or after the area; ironically, the area marked with ‘No Entry’ signs further on, where work began, is actually far tidier and paths are navigable.

There’s a footpath buried somewhere under there…

It seems the work is likely to last until September. With dog-walkers being advised, in the current heat, to walk in shaded area and to avoid road surfaces which can get very hot underfoot (or paw), it’s currently not possible to use a large part of the woods, and without sufficient warning signs will also be extremely hazardous to the many off-road cyclists who come through the woods in bone-jarring fashion.

Your Loyal Correspondent has written to Swale BC to ask about what’s going on – further information as we receive it…

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Sunstroke: anti – solar park campaign gathers momentum

Alarm bells have been ringing recently concerning the proposed Cleve Hill Solar Park development, a planned industrial solar energy farm on the outskirts of Faversham that would destroy the local landscape.

Media interest in a local campaign against the proposal, which is being vigorously run by the Graveney Rural Environment Action Team, has started to gather its own energy, with recent articles in Faversham Times and the Daily Mail picking up on the urgency of the situation.

The current proposal, for a 1000-acre farm on the marshland and arable farmland to the north-west of Graveney, threatens to destroy an important area for wildlife, part of the flood defenses for that stretch of north Kent coast, and an area of historic importance. What would be the largest solar farm in the country is possibly also the veil for speculation on the energy market, whereby companies purchase electricty, store it in an enormous battery, and then sell it back to the National Grid at peak times – or, as Michael, one of the team, put it at the community event last Saturday, “when everyone goes and puts the kettle on at half-time during the World Cup.” And the project isn’t even a Government initiative; rather, it belongs to tycoon Elon Musk, who currently operates a similar installation in Australia.

Attending the community event last Saturday, held at All Saints Church in Graveney, was an eye-opening experience, not least because it put into perspective the staggering size of the proposed solar farm; each panel would be over 4.5 metres in height, allowing clearance beneath for flood-tides, across an area larger than neighbouring Faversham. A filmed fly-over of Graveney marshes (pictured above), running throughout the day, showed a bird’s-eye view of the marshland under threat – and ‘bird’s-eye’ is a phrase loaded here with extra poignancy, given that the plans threaten Schedule 1 birds and other wildlife, for whom the area provides crucial nesting and feeding habitats as well as a corridor on migratory patterns.

Behind the church, basking in the peaceful height of a gloriously sunny day, visitors were able to stand and look out over the landscape which could soon disappear beneath a wealth of double-decker-bus-height solar panels and industrial energy installations.

A view of the area under threat from behind All Saint Church, Graveney

Local voices have also stepped forward to express their concerns, including Faversham and Mid-Kent’s MP, Helen Whately, who attended Saturday’s information event, Janet Street-Porter and even Swale Green Party’s Tim Valentine. “It comes to something,” said Michael in his quietly authoritative way, “when even the Green Party objects to plans for renewable energy…”

So what now ? The action team has set up an online petition, which people are urged to sign (see online here); there is also the opportunity to provide comments and feedback to the developers before the deadline on July 13 (see online here); and the GREAT website has additional suggestions for ways in which to become involved here.

The community event at the weekend really brought home the personal issues threatened by the proposal, the impact on both the rural and the social communities for whom the plans would have devastating consequences. Take a look at the campaign’s website here, join the dialogue on Twitter here, and find out more about the proposal and how (if you wish) you can get involved in the fight to preserve a unique, historic and incredibly valuable (currently) unspoiled part of our coast.

Concert at St Michael’s Church Fri 18 May: University of Kent Chamber Choir

We’re very much looking forward to a visit from the University of Kent Chamber Choir and Sinfonia, who will be coming to St Michael’s Church on Friday 18 May for a concert at 7.30pm.

Conducted by Dan Harding and Matthew Cooke, the event brings a blend of sacred and secular music from across the centuries, featuring especially the Stabat Mater by Pergolesi, a popular work from the Baroque period for which the Choir will be joined by players from the String Sinfonia.

Here’s the Choir singing My Lord Has Come by Will Todd, one of the pieces which will be included in the concert:

The performance is free, and includes refreshments; there will be a retiring collection in aid of St Michael’s Church. Put the date in your diaries!

Image gallery: Village Fete 2018

Fair weather and glorious skies greeted the annual village fête yesterday afternoon, which saw a bustling community turning up to the playing fields for a traditional event, complete with maypole dancing from children at the primary school. Joe’s Bows were present with a fine display of birds of prey; Spikes Hedgehog Sanctuary raising funds to protect endangered hedgehogs; a Messy Church stall; live music from YMS Steel Pan band playing everything from Bob Marley to the ‘Cantina Band’ music from Star Wars; a beat-the-keeper competition featuring the Hernhill Herons; a tempting array of homemade cakes and marmalades; a well-stocked second-hand bookstall; a thriving tea service in the village hall, and many other stalls tempting visitors to part with cash to raise funds shared equally between the Village Hall and St Michael’s Church.

Huge thanks to all the participants and to the team who managed the event so succesfully; here’s hoping for equally fine weather next year!

Plastic-free adventures: SodaStream


Our endeavours to cut down on single-use plastics coming over the doorstop as part of Say No To Plastic In Faversham Week continues with our moving away from buying carbonated drinks, and making our own using a SodaStream carbonator and syrups. These allow customers to create their own carbonated water and flavoured drinks (there’s a rumour that one can even create Prosecco-style drinks using white wine, although we’ve not tested this theory. Yet…).

Instead of buying individual bottles of fizzy drink, which invariably come in plastic bottles, we are using filtered tap-water which is then carbonated by the SodaStream device as required. This reduces both the number of plastic bottles coming into the home, but also saves money – we’re not paying petrol costs on transporting a boot-load of two-litre bottles of lemonade, Coca-Cola, tonic water and sparking water each shopping trip; and we are pouring away less liquids that have gone flat.

Get busy with the fizzy…

Additionally, the carbon cylinders can be re-charged at most stores which sell SodaStream products, reducing the cost of manufacturing additional cylinders. The customer also benefits by getting an average of £10 back when returning a cylinder at the point of purchasing a new one (the Range currently offers this facility on recharged cylinders retailing at £18.99). It’s not possible to get away entirely from plastic containers, as the syrups come in such bottles, but the syrup-bottles are smaller (concentrated products) and we are purchasing fewer of them compared to buying 2-litre bottles of fizzy drink. Each carbonating cylinder costing £9 (with the £10 cylinder return by the customer) boasts that it can carbonate 60 litres of water, which means we are bringing home at least 29 fewer plastic bottles (assuming each bottle is a two-litre bottle); each litre therefore costs a mere 15p, compared to on average £1.50 for a branded two-litre bottle of drink. Factoring in the cost of a syrup bottle (£4) which flavours approx 8 litres, that works out at 50p/litre – overall, then, the combined costs-per-litre is 65p, but there are reduced transport costs and little packaging consumption impacting on the environment.

So, on balance, a saving of 20p on a two-litre bottle and significantly fewer plastic bottles coming into the kitchen. (And we run out of tonic far less often than before, always a risk in our household…). A small but significant way of making a difference…

No Plastic ? Fantastic! Making a difference this week


It’s ‘Say No To Plastic Week’ in the Market Town of Kings all this week, as Faversham makes a difference to levels of plastic pollution.

Between 18 – 24 February, we’re being encouraged to re-use, recycle or simply take measures to reduce the levels of plastic our households consume; with heart-rending videos of high levels of plastic filling the world’s oceans going viral on social media, now’s the time to assess how we can make a difference. With news this week that China is no longer taking plastic from the UK for recycling, it’s only going to become increasingly important that we do what we can; and it all begins at grass-roots level, with movements like Say No To Plastic raising awareness, sharing alternatives and skills, and lobbying local businesses and companies to take part. Here’s a few of the ways we’re going to be contributing to the week.

Recycling aluminium trays: all those trays that come bearing fresh meats can easily be washed and re-used, it saves on consumption of aluminium foil.

Soap-nuts from India are an organic, natural detergent that are a great alternative to laundry detergent (and also means avoiding purchasing plastic bottles / containers in which it is packaged). The Salveo ones are allergy-free and kind to skin, and are cultivated through sustainable agriculture. The sacks come with cotton drawstring bags for placing in with your washing, so there’s no need to wander around the kitchen looking for those errant plastic mini-tubs under the chairs and table any more either…Beeswax wraps; these are made from cotton material (off-cuts or any suitably-sized piece), onto which one irons small beeswax beads, to make a durable alternative to cling-film. The wax-coated cotton wraps can be readily laundered, and are great for keeping food fresh in the fridge or taking your sandwiches to work instead of using plastic tupperware.

And just to show how easy making these wraps is, here’s Madam Forum with a short vlog following her first attempt to make one herself (the cotton used here comes from the excellent The Fabric Man, a stall at Faversham market on Saturdays)…

Loose-leaf tea; it came as something of a shock to realise that tea-bags are made using plastic and as such aren’t always readily recyclable. Instead, use loose-leaf tea – and actually create a much more flavoursome cuppa into the bargain…

Homemade soaps: instead of buying plastic- or paper-wrapped bars of soap, it’s possible to make your own using a pre-made base made from shea butter and oatmeal, which you melt and pour into a suitable mould combined with your favourite essential oils. Ours came from The Soap Kitchen.

Yesterday, the team behind the Faversham initiative were busy at a stall in the market-place, sharing ideas and encouraging people to make a pledge, written onto a paper leaf and attached to an ever-growing pledge-tree; the tree was festooned with leaves, a sign that many are really getting behind the initiative.

On Wednesday this week (21 Feb), there is a drop-in event in the Fleur de Lys centre off Gatefield Lane in Faversham, where between 3-8.30pm people can can find out about a variety of ideas for combatting plastic consumption, share their ideas and skills and find out more about how to get involved.

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We’ve made our pledge, and are looking forward to taking part in the skills-sharing event on Wednesday. It’s projects like this, started by volunteers with a passion and commitment towards protecting the environment and preserving it for future generations, that can really make a difference, and make big business and politicians sit up and take notice of customer power (Faversham’s own MP, Helen Whately, is also getting involved this week) and the concerted will of consumers to make a change.

Of course, it’s taken as read that we are all assiduous in our household recycling habits; the real cultural shift, and the next stage in our domestic environmental thinking, concerns making efforts to ensure that even those products that can be recycled aren’t making their way over our doorsteps in the first place. Make sure you’re involved this week, and make a difference to your environment. Find out more about the project on Facebook here or follow updates on its Twitter page here.

 

Hernhill Christmas Craft Fair: Sat 12 November

Come and bag an early seasonal bargain at the Hernhill Christmas Craft Fair next week.

Between 10.30am – 4pm on Saturday 12 November, St Michael’s Church will be hosting the event, and there will also be refreshments and light lunches served, with all donations and profits in aid of the church.

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There will be additional parking in the yard opposite the village green on the day; get ahead of the crowds and find an early Christmas gift! Find out more about the church and its location here.

Food for thought: annual Faversham Food Festival to whet your taste-buds

Foodies are in for a treat next week, as the annual Faversham Food Festival returns to the Market Town of Kings from 16 – 18 September.

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Celebrating the best of locally-produced food and drink, the festival, this year the festival also includes the Ale Trail, a new venture inviting you to explore the beers and pubs of Faversham. Amongst a rich plethora of tempting events, the market will be offering food tastings, demonstrations and talks; St Mary’s church will host stalls and tea and cake; live jazz in the Abbey Physic Community Garden, followed by a Teddy Bear’s Picnic; local MP Helen Whateley will be presenting the festival’s Food Hero Award during a dinner at the Phoenix Tavern; champagne-tasting at the Creek Hotel; and a Gala Dinner at the Red Sails Restaurant. You can also vote for your favourite sausage on the Sausage Trail.

Details about all these and more can be found on the festival’s website here, or you can download the brochure here;  between 16-18 September, there’ll be something to really get your teeth into…

Hop to the first Hop Fest Fringe this weekend

This year, for the first time, Faversham’s Arden Theatre will be bursting with stand-up comedy, spoken word, poetry, theatre and more in the first Hop Fest Fringe.

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Better Together: at the Hop Fest Fringe

From 2 – 4 September, alongside the annual Hop Festival, the Arden will froth with creative life, including ancillary events such as ‘Prose at the Purifier’ bringing theatre and poetry to the Purifier Building. Family-friendly events include ‘The Little Girl Who Was Sold With The Pears’ as a double-bill with ‘Baby,’ a dance-theatre performance using pop music to explore the joys of pregnancy and motherhood.

‘Better Together’ uses slapstick, acrobatics and physical comedy as it asks how you become best friends with someone, while ‘Water-Watcher’ weaves folk, fable, alchemy and ancient rites through spoken word as it investigates the north Kent coast.

hopfestfringe-logoFind out more about all these events here; tickets are a mere snip at £5 each, and the Hop Fest Fringe runs from Friday 2 to Sunday 3 September. Toi toi toi to the first Fringe Fest!

Fête accompli

Congratulations to everyone involved in making today’s village fête a success. There was a convivial atmosphere around ten village playing fields, as visitors browsed the stalls, clambered around the fire engines, hurled the sevens vigorously through the inflatable assaults course or took turns at the archery stand, courtesy of Joe’s Bows, who also provided the birds of prey display. 

In the middle of the field, Morris dancers demonstrated that the historic tradition is alive and, er, kicking; children from the primary school did a maypole dancing display under the watchful eye of Mrs George; live music was provided by the YMS Steel Pan Band, and local MP Helen Whately brought her family along, to be lured in to the face-painting queue. 

          

 Thanks to all the team and all the volunteers who have worked to put the event together.