Halloween trail through Hernhill

Calling all budding crafters, hobbyists, artist, scupltors, bodge-it quick-fixers, lovers of fancy-dress and costumes, pumpkin-carvers and anyone else!

There are plans to bring the village together for a Halloweenfest this November, with a trail leading through Hernhill beginning the weekend of 26/27 October, lasting throughout the following week with a grand finale at Summer Lees Farm on 31 October from 6.30pm.

We need YOU to get involved, by creating a decoration – however large or small – which needs to be able to be seen from the road or path, which can be spotted in daylight and early evenings. There will be a small charge for a map of the route to encourage goodly folk young and old to follow, as part of plans to gather fund for the Hernhill 900-year anniversary celebrations, culminating in a special celebratory weekend on 20/21 June in 2020. It’ll be all fright on the night.

Those interested, please contact either Joy Pritchard or Jane Foreman, or simply email the Forum and we’ll be able to put you in touch. The more, the scarier…

Image: (c) David Menidrey via Unsplash

Murky history in Hernhill’s past

Buried amongst reports of a lecture on the beauty of historic books at the Assembly Rooms in Faversham, a daring robbery from a watch-shop in Folkestone, the theft of a pair of boots in Harbledown and drunkenness in Whitstable, the pages of the Faversham Gazette published on the 24 January, 1857, disclose a dark episode in the history of the village of Hernhill.

In response to rumours abounding in the area of the death of a child, police visited a Mrs Charlotte Butcher in Waterham, the grandmother of Amelia Collyer, a former servant in Margate – Amelia, a married woman, had apparently given birth to a child on 9 January. According to Charlotte Butcher, her granddaughter had given birth but the child was deceased, and ‘had been thrown down the cesspool.’ When a search could find no trace of the child, the police went to visit the surgeon for confirmation; during the visit, a neighbour came in a revealed that Mrs Butcher had admitted that the child had in fact been delivered alive, but her granddaughter had strangled it. The child’s body had been hidden ‘in a hole between the ceiling and the roof’ and the police took it to the Red Lion in Hernhill.

Amelia Collyer and her husband  had by now sailed ‘as emigrants to Australia on Saturday last, at the Government’s expense.’ The husband was reported as not being the father of the child and quite ignorant of what had transpired. According to the newspaper, ‘the statements of the grandmother, who does not bear a very good character in the village, are extraordinary.’ In the view of the surgeon, one Mr Francis, the child had indeed been born alive. The inquest found Amelia Collyer guilty of wilful murder, and issued a warrant for her arrest, although the story concludes by saying that ‘should the vessel, in which Collyer and her husand have embarked, have left…the officer will have some difficulty in effecting her capture.’

Click each image above to read the original story. Thank you to Johanne Edgington of Rotten Ramsgate Tours for providing the story, found in the British Newspaper Archive, shedding light on a dark chapter of Hernhill’s history…

Windows into history

St Michael’s Church, which next year celebrates its 900th anniversary, declares its history not just in its stone and wood architecture, but in its windows too.

Two stained-glass windows in particular come from significant moments in the history of the village.  The oldest glass in the church can be glimpsed behind the right-hand choir stalls (Decani, for those choristers amongst our readers…), and dates from the fifteenth century. The Martyn Window, named after the family responsible for rebuilding the church at the time, was originally installed in 1447; the remaining glass owes its continued existence to the fact that it was apparently hidden on a nearby farm during the English Civil War.

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The Lady Chapel is home to a window from the Pre-Raphaelite Period, commissioned in 1877 from Henry Holiday (1839-1927), artist, illustrator, sculptor and stained-glass window designer who lived in Bayswater in London. Holiday’s windows can be found across the country, notably in Westminster Abbey and Worcester College, Oxford, to name but two. Holiday was also commissioned to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s famous The Hunting of the Snark. Holiday’s family were also friends of Emmeline Pankhurst, organiser of the Suffragete movement. The Pre-Raphaelites famously rebelled against the Royal Academy’s trumpeting of genre-painting and idealist depictions, urging rather an embracing of the natural world and an intense realism in art, led by William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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Pieces from a civil war and rebellious art: echoes of great history and its wider cultural connections quietly presented in this small corner of the world…

(Grateful acknowledgement of the information leaflet in the church for some of these details).

Massive housing development threatens our landscape and environment.

The “Garden Community Prospectus” was published by the Government in 2018, Swale Borough Council have adopted this and invited proposals for “Garden Communities” in Swale, with a view to these schemes possibly being included in the Local Plan.

There are two proposals around Faversham, the Duchy of Cornwall have proposed a development including 2500 homes to the South-East, along the A2, and Gladman have proposed a development including 5000+ houses to the South, along North Street.

Both developments will be constructed on prime, Grade 1 & 2 agricultural land. They will bring further congestion on our roads, pressure on our infrastructure and demand on our already stretched hospitals and schools.

The Gladman proposal sits within the Area of Outstanding Beauty and will bring pollution from construction, traffic, light and noise to this protected landscape.

There is a public consultation being carried out at the moment. If you want to know about public meetings or find the most up-to-date information, follow us on facebook and we will keep you informed.

If you are concerned about these proposals, please write to your local Councillors and MP. Not all Councillors support these proposals, but they will need your letters and emails to demonstrate that the community do not support this large-scale development.

Councillors contact details can be found here.

Helen Whateley can be contacted at helen.whately.mp@parliament.uk

If you want more information about the proposals you can find it on the Swale BC website here and links to the Prospectus and other documents can be found here.

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Cleve Hill Solar Farm

The proposed Cleve Hill solar farm represents a hideous threat to a swathe of the internationally important North Kent Marshes.

You have until January 28 to register an interest in having a say. Please note that this doesn’t commit you to anything – it’s entirely up to you how much you want to get involved – but it is important that the more people who register, the better (for our environment). 

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The Cleve Hill Solar Park proposal is huge in more ways than one. The parent companies, Hive and Wirsol, have a lot of expertise, time and cash. They’ve spent years concocting their plans – and the 5000 page application shows the depth and breadth of this work.

So, we’re facing an uphill battle, a herculean task, a David and Goliath fight. But it is a fight that can be won. One project that was refused was the Mynydd y Gwynt Wind Farm consisting of 27 onshore turbines east of Aberystwyth.

Even though the Planning Inspectorate’s Examiners recommended approving the scheme, the relevant Secretary of State (Amber Rudd at the time) had the final say and refused the application. Her decision hinged on the potential fate of red kites and a failure by the developer to provide sufficient information about whether any international obligations might be breached“.

GREAT- Graveney Rural Action Team

You can find out more here:

There is also more information in Kent Online this week.

 

Recently unearthed documents provide a glimpse into Hernhill’s past

Recently unearthed documents relating to the village were on display in Hernhill Church last Saturday, affording a fascinating glimpse into the village’s history. Stored in a steel chest, to which the key had gone missing, the key recently came to light, and the treasure-trove of maps, letters, invoices and photographs was set out for visitors to examine.

There’s always something rather magical about coming into contact with archive documents, a physical, tangible manifestation of moments in history; artefacts which would have been touched, handled by people lost to memory, and the collection represented a brief moment for these lives to step out of the pages of history and into the light.

As expected for an area rooted in agriculture, there were documents relating to tithes and land ownership, included details from August, 1840, and a map of the area from 1913.

A map of the area, dated 11 October, 1918

There were plenty of letters relating to the village school, including a receipt for an insurance premium from 1935 for the princely sum of £2 11 shillings;

From the Second World War, letters to the then Headmaster, Mr S.B. Pritchard confirming the acceptance of the post of Divisional Commander to a Sea Cadet Camp in 1943; and most fascinatingly, details about the closure of the school for the wonderfully-named Whitsun and Fruiting Holiday period that same year.

There were also glimpses of mundane, pragmatic concerns that make up daily life, including a quote for cleaning and maintenance of the church clock in 1937.

There was also a wonderful Book of Common Prayer from 1785.

Also on display was the rather endearing Our Homes, a copy of an address given by the Rev W.D. Springett, former Rector of Pluckley and Rural Dean of East Charing and (at the time) formerly of Hernhill, which included photographs of the church,  given at the church in the afternoon of Sunday 12 December in 1915; a possible morale-boosting community event during the dark days of the Great War.

Memorial Church showing entrance: from 1915
Addition to churchyard: from 1915

All in all, the event was a marvellous look through a tiny window into the history of Hernhill and its people; thank you to all those who both organised the exhibition and who ran the event itself. Let’s hope these documents are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

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…

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.

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…