Event Reports for 2009
HISTORIC BUILDINGS OF KENT - 4th February
A presentation from David Carder at the Greenstreet Methodist Hall.
Where can you find a building made of chalk? How can you date an oast house? Why do Georgian roofs have parapets? How do you tell a smock mill from a post mill? These and many more questions (some that we never knew we wanted to ask), were explained during an absorbing pictorial romp through Kentish buildings presented by local historian David Carder. His excellent pictures depicted a wide range of structures and dates, from stone age burial sites, through bridges, hall-houses (and their modifications and disguises) to forts, castles and Georgian stately homes.
Despite the grimly cold weather, a large audience turned out to enjoy David's clear but informal presentation. Several of the structures he described were familiar, but many more were unusual. I am sure listeners would have made a note to stage their own expeditions to various corners of the county as a result of the talk.
TEA TASTING AND BLENDING EVENT - 21st March
Master Tea Blender, Alex Probyn led a tasting of three broad types of tea in Norton Village Hall. And we blended our own Society tea! Price included a packet of the "Lynsted Blend".
The choice of high-quality whole leaf tea in our "Lynsted Blend" does not have any of that "stewed" taste if you refresh the pot over and over again.
Thirty-five members and their friends joined an educational, entertaining and very flavoursome time under the expert eye of master tea-blender, Alex Probyn. Alex explained his career through training with Tetleys, travelling to 140 estates, and into running "Blends for Friends". We also learned how tea is manufactured – all from essentially the same plant. We overran to 2.30pm due to the high level of interest and questions.
Cake Recipes in demand included: New Zealand Moist Carrot Cake as well as the delicious Lemon Drizzle Cake. These and many more recipes can be found on Lynsted Community Site.
As we navigated white, green, and black teas and herbal infusions, we learned some surprising facts:
The average UK person consumes 45,000 cups of tea in a lifetime (2.5 a day); Alex tastes over 1 million each year (and spits most of those out again for the sake of his bladder).
China "invented" tea drinking 5,000 years ago (legend has it a herbalist monk, Shen Nung, sat under a Camellia sinensis tree when a leaf fell in his hot water); Japanese Buddhists joined in 1,500 years ago, when they realised tea helped keep their concentration up for meditation; the Dutch and Portuguese learned of tea in the 17th century and only when Charles II married Catherine of Braganza did the UK start. So rare were these teas that they were kept in locked boxes.
Left alone to grow, Camellia sinensis grows to 50 feet tall and used to be harvested by trained monkeys! Trees tend now to be cut to waist level today.
Although tea trees thrive best between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, there is a small Tea Estate at Tregothnern, Truro, Cornwall.
Tea bags started life in 1940s America as silk purses meant for transportation and delivery of samples – but people started to put tea leaves and silk bag into the hot water and our tea bag was born. Tetley introduced the tea bag to the UK in the 1950s and now 98% of all tea we drink comes from a bag – but loose leaf tea is making a comeback with 3% more people each year giving up the tea bag and exploring better quality teas.
Several of us were shocked at how tasty white and green teas are - if you don't scorch the leaves with boiling water! 80 centigrade is the hottest you should use – put some cold water in the pot before adding the boiling water. Black tea can take boiling water. Herbal infusions = 90 centigrade (or lower if the herb is blended with white or green tea).
To get the best nutrients and flavour – try brewing for 90 seconds (not the national average of 38 seconds!).
Iced tea is best made with ... Argentinean tea, which is neutral in flavour.
The difference between black, green, oolong ("blue"), and white tea is.... timing. To be black, the leaf has to oxidise for one hour; if you dry the leaf rapidly after a shorter time, it keeps a bit of greenness. There is actually very little difference in health-giving properties between each of these. But before you give up on green teas (if you thought they were healthier, try using water at 80C and you may just find green tea is really tasty!).
If you are caffeine-intolerant, try Roibosh (Red Bush) herbal infusion from South Africa. We tasted it and it is a good alternative. Also, 'decaffeination' (of tea and coffee) is unnatural as it relies on solvents that also remove much of the flavour. For those worried about caffeine addiction – you would probably have to drink 30-40 cups a day for addiction to become a worry; personally, I would worry about a whole lot of other things if I drank that much tea!
Real "red tea" is very rare and is a specialised Chinese delicacy based on tea stored in caves for many years in cake form ("Puerh" tea). We were shown a cake of this tea that sells for around £120 each – Alex told us he has tasted a 75-year-old version of this tea but would not recommend it at £46 per cup!
Tea is not a diuretic – so does not help you slim. Green tea is no healthier than black tea in spite of what the marketing people might suggest. So, drink the tea you enjoy.
The hardness of your water does affect the flavour of tea – over-boil your hard water to soften it a bit (but remember the advice about the temperature for more delicate teas).
Milk first or last into the cup? Doesn't really matter.
We learned that "orange pekoe" is a leaf shape (long and wiry), not a quality standard.
If you want more interesting facts about the making of tea, its health-giving properties and much more – visit the UK Tea Council website
The Lynsted with Kingsdown Society Blend
Following our tasting of 15 leaf teas (including one that startled us by opening up as a cluster of three flowers in a glass teapot), we each wrote down what we imagined might be a blend that would have wide appeal. The paper lots were mixed up and three were randomly drawn to be blended for us all to taste and then vote on to decide which should carry the name of "Lynsted with Kingsdown Society Blend". The three blends were:
(David Bage) 30% Darjeeling; 30% Assam; 30% lapsang souchong; 10% Sri Lankan – Alex explained that this should taste like "Russian Caravan" tea.
(Len Scott) 10% Darjeeling; 60% Assam; 30% Kenyan.
And the winning blend was (Bob Baxter) 45% Assam; 45% Kenyan; 10% Chinese Yunnan – this is also the one that Alex liked the most as most likely to appeal to the widest audience.
So, at future Society events, we plan to use what is now our own Society Blend. We may also make bulk orders for resale at local events if there is the demand for it.
Overall, this event gave our taste buds and brains a real tour. Did I mention the lemon drizzle cake, Madeira cake and carrot cake? Washed down with a blend that Alex had rustled up for us for the tea-break. Heaven!
The teas we tasted on 21 March 2009 - White - Green - Oolong ("blue")
Jasmine Silver Needle - a white tea - very delicate flavours - using water at 80 centigrade - uses only the single bud at the very tip of the leaf-cluster, perhaps only four hours old.
Chinese Yunnan Green - again, don't use boiling water - Chinese is best - uses top two leaves and the bud. Slightly darker than the white tea.
Chinese Oolong "Iron Goddess of Mercy" - extremely drinkable all day - various grades - toppest/fancy/standard. This "fancy" oolong is one of the most sought after in the world. Again, don't boil!
Artisan Flowering tea - how could you resist this tea after dinner, brewed in a glass teapot to reveal the unfurled flowers that emerge from the tightly wrapped ball. Stunning - and tasted OK too!
Indian Darjeeling First Flush - the "champagne" of teas. Because the name is fixed by the place the tea is grown and is quite expensive, you can get a close alternative from Nepalese Ilam region. These teas can be prepared with boiling water - but still best to be just off the boil.
Sri Lankan Uva OP1 - lemony and refreshing. An easy-drinking tea - rare in this OP1 grade.
Indian Assam TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowering Orange Pekoe) - malty, thicker, gutsy. Broken leaves giving a stronger finish.
Kenyan GFBOP (Golden Flowering Broken Orange Pekoe). Unusually for Kenyan tea, this is an orthodox (rolled) tea, giving a delicate and very drinkable cup of tea.
Chinese Yunnan TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowering Orange Pekoe) - this had a slightly smoky back flavour for those who like a hint of smokiness. Creamy finish on the palate.
Chinese Lapsang Souchong - take no prisoners smokey! The preparation of these teas is surrounded by secrecy in the formulas used in how the smoking over pine is done. If you spot what you think is charcoal - it is!
Herbal infusions - not "teas" strictly, even if they are prepared and drunk in much the same way - so people tend to call them teas.
South African Rooibos ("Red Bush") - a reasonable alternative to black tea for those with caffeine intolerance.
Egyptian Chamomile Flowers - whole flowers were used for tasting and were a mile away from the stuff you find in supermarkets! Delicate and refreshing.
Sudan Hibiscus Flowers - stains anything it touches! Lemony and refreshing. Often used to add colour to other teas - rose hip, fruit teas, etc.
Mixed Red Berries - a personal mix from Alex that achieved a real fruitiness instead of the nondescript versions often produced for mass consumption.
Tanzanian Peppermint - a strongly flavoured and refreshing brew.
BATS AND DENE HOLES - 22nd April
John Puckett, chairman of the Kent Bat Group, will talk about bat activity in the local dene holes (including the one in Lynsted, near Dadman's Shaw). He is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker who provoked a rich variety of questions.
Lynsted - The place for bats!
A good crowd of members gathered at the Methodist Church on April 22nd for a talk given by John Puckett, chairman of the Kent Bat Group. John began by explaining that there were 17 species of bat native to Britain. They are long-lived (a serotine specimen in Kent was known to have lived for 16 years) are social animals and the only mammals that fly. Bats are warm-blooded, and flying consumes much energy, so bats tend to cluster together to conserve warmth. Females group together in maternity roosts, where the young are born, naked, around June. They are fed on milk until they are able to fly. All bats in Britain eat insects, and all, therefore, need to echo-locate. The sound-processing area of a bat's brain is enlarged: the creatures clearly hear a detailed 'sound picture' that we humans cannot even imagine. As winter approaches, bats build up their fat reserves. There are few insects about in the cold season, so they hibernate. A humid, sheltered location that is not freezing is needed, and several species seek out caves for this. Culverts, ice-houses, bridges, quarries and old air raid shelters are also used. Research has shown that a bat's heart rate can drop from 800 to 15 beats per minute, and the metabolism just 'ticks over' during hibernation. Water loss is a potential problem, so a spot with a suitably high atmospheric humidity is also sought.
Dene holes – vertical shafts with side-galleries once used for extracting chalk – are common in Kent, and favoured by several bat species. Studies at one in Dadmans Shaw in our parish, have shown that the air temperature near the ceiling in the deep galleries remains at 8 degrees C throughout the year: ideal for a winter snooze! This particular dene hole ranks as one of the most important in Kent for several species of bat.
Work in association with the University of Leeds, involving analyses of the DNA from fur, combined with radio-tracking, demonstrates that bats can travel up to 60km per night. Such studies are revealing more about bat behaviour and may shed light on the serious problem of why numbers are declining. But the reason why some species regularly 'swarm' in the autumn, remains a mystery for now.
John completed a fascinating, well illustrated, talk by describing some of the challenges of studying bats as they roost in inaccessible places, and creating new roosts for them. In a final flourish, he showed members a tiny live pipistrelle that was 'in care' and recovering from a damaged wing.
TORRY HILL CHALK MEADOW - 4th July
First convening at Hare Cottage, Kingsdown we moved on to Torry Hill. With the kind permission of John Leigh–Pemberton, the walk took place on chalk meadows where many of the traditional meadow plants have been encouraged and enhanced by sympathetic management techniques. We were lucky to have John Puckett leading the walk, who has an excellent knowledge of plants.
Chalk Meadow Walk
In the company of two wildlife experts, John Puckett and Hazel Ryan, twenty Society members recently enjoyed the warmth of a beautiful July afternoon near Torry Hill investigating local plant and animal life. The landowner, John Leigh-Pemberton, had given the Society permission to wander about his 30-acre of chalk downland. He started us off on the walk by telling us how this large area of chalk land had come to escape being dug up for agricultural production. The land had been used for army training during the Second World War and so contained hidden mortar shells thus escaping being ploughed up. He further explained that in farming he sought a balance between fattening stock on reasonable grass and keeping the soil impoverished to encourage wild flowers. It was these wild flowers that were our main interest.
The type of flowers that grow in any place depends on the composition of the soil in which they grow and we were to learn about many chalk-loving plants during our stroll. These included black medick, birdsfoot trefoil, common centaury, self-heal (used as a cure-all in the Middle Ages) and numerous bright pink pyramid orchids. As we moved on to a wooded ride we found a different miscellany of plant life. John and Hazel showed us the salient features of weld, bittersweet, eyebright, viper's bugloss, rock-rose and rosebay willow-herb and many more too numerous to mention.
On this scorching hot and windy July day, there was not much animal life readily visible. The ground was, however, alive with acrobatic grasshoppers and the occasional meadow brown butterfly caught our eye. The rabbit and hare population was also in evidence and we were fascinated to learn how to tell the difference between their two types of droppings!
After a couple of hours of happy meandering with eyes eagerly searching for something new to identify, we drove back to Hare Cottage where Jenny had the kettle on for a welcome cup of tea (Lynsted special blend, or course!). It was in Neil and Jenny's lovely garden that we spied our most spectacular insect – the hummingbird hawkmoth, which was very interested in the tubs of flowers.
BUS TRIP TO SANDWICH - 5th September
This year the popular use of a vintage bus with the enthusiastic and generous owner and driver David Powell went to Sandwich. There were two groups given guided tours led by the Sandwich Local History Society.
Members of the Society gathered on Saturday 6th September for what has now become our regular summer trip in David Powell's vintage bus. The weather was again fine and sunny as we set off towards our destination of Sandwich. A stop at Wingham enabled us to stretch our legs, admire the village street and church and for one member check on the derelict buildings of the builder's yard.
We arrived at Sandwich and parked along the ancient quay at Fishergate where the bus became its own visitor attraction. Members then dispersed to explore the town, do a little gentle window- shopping and to find a suitable picnic site or a pub to eat lunch.
During the afternoon many of us joined one of the town guides for a walking tour around the maze of ancient streets and alleyways. We admired the medieval buildings and walked much of Strand Street, which is considered to be the longest continuous stretch of timber-framed buildings in the country. We peered over the wall of the Chanter's house, home of our guide, to see the now ruined Chantry Chapel c1250. This was formerly part of a Norman Merchant's house and now forms the framework of her garden.
We stopped to see the beautiful art deco cinema, originally the Odeon. Apparently, his publicity team claimed that this stood for 'Oscar Deutsch entertains our Nation'.
A relaxing cup of tea at the Salutation Garden completed the afternoon and left many of us vowing to visit Sandwich again soon. Thank you, David, for another lovely day out.
PERRY WOOD - 10th October
Visit to Perry Wood for a guided walk by Paul Wood around an ancient monument and earthworks in 150 acres of woodland.
On a glorious Saturday morning, 15 members of The Lynsted with Kingsdown Society enjoyed a visit to Perry Wood.
Perry Wood covers the slopes of three hills between Selling and Shottenden west of Canterbury. The Discovering Perry Wood group launched an archaeological project in October 2008 with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and guidance from Trust for Thanet Archaeology to research a site that may be Roman or possibly Iron Age in origin. Paul Smith, a volunteer with the project, showed us around the site and explained how the earthworks have so far been excavated and some of the points of interest that might otherwise be missed during a stroll through the woods.
There would have been a telegraph station on Shottenden Hill, which during the
Napoleonic Wars would have been one of the steps to send messages from the North Foreland to the Admiralty in a matter of minutes. Nearby there was a Mill but sadly only a few bricks remain to give a clue as to where it was sited.
The earthworks themselves are evident when pointed out and one thought is that they are the remains of a Roman summer camp. Perhaps it was the red togas that inspired Billy Butlin, who knows?
Note: In 2010, the Society enjoyed an illustrated talk that brought to life the research into these mysterious earthworks.
AGM & HAZEL DORMICE - 23rd October
The Society's 6th AGM was followed by an illustrated talk on dormice from Small Mammal expert Hazel Ryan of Wildwood.
The many members and friends who attended the AGM of the Society on 23rd October 2009 were treated, after the conclusion of the business, to a lively, illustrated, talk about dormice. Hazel Ryan, from the Kent Wildwood Trust, is responsible for a programme of re-introduction of this charming animal into the woodlands of Great Britain. She explained that the common, or hazel, dormouse was gingery-brown, about 7cm long, with large eyes and a fluffy tail. It is a nocturnal rodent and spends much of its time in trees, where sticky pads on its feet, double-jointed wrists and a tail to aid balancing, come in useful. It is good at leaping from branch to branch but tends to 'freeze' if danger looms. It feeds on pollen, flowers, insects, plant galls, fungi and especially hazelnuts.
Dormice are sometimes called dosey-mice. This is because they hibernate in the winter, and sometimes go torpid in summer. They need to put on weight in autumn and then go into hibernation in a nest of shredded bark near ground level. They raise their young, usually seven, in a summer nest sited further off the ground. Dormice are slow developers but can live for seven years. In this, and other characteristics, dormice are more like bats than other mice.
The main predators are foxes, tawny owls, squirrels, cats and weasels (who eat only the brains!).
Hazel explained that dormice are found in only the southern part of Britain, and have been in decline in recent years. Dormouse BridgesThey are now a Protected species. Finance for a recovery plan has been provided by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project, the BBC, and others. Conventional bird boxes, only with the hole on the 'tree' side, have proved attractive to the rodents and their deployment. Traditional coppicing management of woodland gives varied heights of trees, and allows dormice to move around to preferred areas. Avoidance of large treeless spaces such as broad rides can be helpful, as can an absence of disturbance by grazing animals. The Wildwood Trust supports research into the use of "bridges" to help dormice move across roads and other breaks in cover.
Large, wire cages have proved effective. The animals, once treated against disease, and sometimes fitted with microchips to aid subsequent location, are placed in the cage with food and water. After a while, a hole is made in the cage. The dormice venture forth to explore more and more of the surrounding wood, retreating to the cage periodically. Eventually, they settle in the wood, and the cage can then be removed and reused. Dormice have been successfully introduced in East Anglia in this way. The future looks good for Dosey-mouse!
Newborn DormiceNearer to home, nest boxes have been deployed in Erriott Wood, an area managed by the Society's chairman. An early monitoring survey revealed three in one box! Plans are afoot to link this wood by a hedgerow corridor to aid the spread of the animals into other woodland in the area.
Hazel completed an excellent evening by showing a live dormouse (in for treatment after being mauled by a cat) to a fascinated audience.
KENT DOWNS - 18th November
Dan Tuscon, the author, presented a thoughtful and informative talk. He is also a local Stewardship Officer and works for Natural England.
Dan Tuscon described his fascination with the 'hinterland' of the more widely known escarpment or southern edge of the North Downs. His book - "The Kent Downs" - and his talk to the Society explains the attraction of the geography, economic and social history of this "unsung landscape".
The talk ranged far and wide thanks to this expert and entertaining guide. The key influence is the chalk that gives this landscape its flora, fauna and physical form. His examples included the nailbournes (or winter-bournes) that emerge in wet weather as streams but otherwise can disappear entirely from their channels - the River Lyn is a locally reputed example in our dry valley that occasionally hints at its past by collecting pools near Bumpit; but Dan referenced the Ospringe nailbourne. Deneholes are another feature, like the well documented one in Dadmans Shaw (with its bats). Other chalk land features include the scattered dew ponds (stock watering places). Dan traced the ebb and flow of cultivation and the abundance of woodland to the steep landscape in places. He also pointed to population pressures like those emerging in the Mediaeval period until the Black Death significantly reduced the local population. The romantic images of the Downs came much later in Victorian times through art, poetry and other writing. It was also in the 1800s that the modern patterns of fields, tracks, and woodland gradually became established as more pressure was put on the land.
Dan led us expertly through a fascinating canter over the centuries to explain the patterns of settlement and agricultural habits and how nature adapted at each stage. There is evidence that far from being solidly wooded, the Downs included a patchwork of trails and grazing lands for wild animals back to the post-ice-age period when the Oryx (extinct) and European Bison roamed freely. In later Neolithic times (c.500BC) drovers tracks and small settlements emerged and there was some deliberate clearance taking place. As we arrived in the Mediaeval period, settlements formed in more fertile valleys and more drove-ways were established. These drove-ways tending to point from the north-east to south-west of this part of Kent. All was apparently well until the Black Death (c.1400AD) when several settlements declined and disappeared. We learned that heathland used to be more of a feature but all we have left is around Stelling Minnis.
Dan expressed some optimism for the future of the Kent Downs, in spite of any modern pressures on land use. He pointed to the positive contribution of the Stewardship schemes, the work of charities and of landowners to restore some habitats. So, the Kent Downs still holds onto some scarce and threatened species of insect and flowers through the combination of funding and local goodwill.
CHRISTMAS PARTY - mid-December - Members Only
The Society Member's Christmas Party was held at Aymers by kind invitation of the Sherwin Family. A magnificent Victorian setting for this traditional and popular festivity with more fifty Members joining in with carols, Pip's punch and assorted festive food. We also officially launched the new Churchyard Monumental Inscriptions Booklet.