Event Reports for 2012

"Making Of The Queen Mary 2" - 18 January 2012

An illustrated talk by Brian Sharman.
For our January meeting the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society had an illustrated talk by one of its own members, Brian Sharman, about the building of the liner Queen Mary 2. Brian had spent his career working as a marine and electrical engineer and so had been involved with this impressive project, whilst working for the Lloyds Register.

Brian began his talk by telling us that although the "Queen Mary" was designed in Southampton, it was built by Chantiers de l'Atlantique at St Nazaire in France.

The liner is a diesel-electric ship, powered by four large diesel generators and two gas turbines. This powerhouse is situated low down in the hull of the ship. The structure was built in a series of prefabricated blocks which were each lifted in place. Safety was obviously of primary importance and was constructed to be watertight right up to the bulkhead. For stability, the hull is curved at the stern to prevent 'stern slamming' and has a bulbous bow to break through the waves. We were intrigued to learn about the old custom, observed by shipwrights, of sealing some coins under the mast during construction 'to pay the ferryman'!

The Queen Mary has the traditional red Cunard funnel, but as she predominately sails between Southampton and New York, the funnel height had to be limited so that she could sail under the bridge into New York harbour. She has no propeller or rudder but is, instead pushed along by bow thrusters – turbines positioned low down on each side of the hull, these make the ship more manoeuvrable and 4 electric mermaid podded drives on the outside of the ship reduce the vibration. The vessel weighs 150,000 tonnes, is 345 metres long and 72 metres high with a beam of 40 metres. The cost of building the ship was £534 million and is designed to accommodate 2620 passengers with 1300 crew.

Brian told us that her bridge measures 50 metres in width and although a massive vessel is steered by just a small joystick.

Cabins too are prefabricated with a complete capsule bathroom built before being lifted into place. From Brian's photographs, we were able to appreciate the difference between the luxurious interiors in the passenger areas with the beautiful art deco style wood panelling and the very basic accommodation provided for the crew.

She crosses the Atlantic in 6 days with a day's turn around in between trips, but although built as a liner, not a cruise ship does occasionally cruise elsewhere.

Neil Anderson

"Wildlife Photography" - 21 March

An illustrated talk was given by Terry Whittaker, UK-based Freelance Photographer specialising in wildlife conservation and the environment.
Around 40 people joined us to hear from this award-winning photographer who also showed us a stunning array of images and videos of his work. His principal focus was on the interactions between natural habitats, conservation and the man-made landscape. This interaction led Terry to capture over the years everything from caged bears in Vietnam to squirrels and dormice at home. Much of his current work is focused through the "2020 Vision Project". To borrow the project's own words - "It aims to engage and enthuse a massive audience by using innovative visual media to convey the value of restoring our most important but often fragmented habitats - to show that healthy ecosystems are not just for wildlife, but are something fundamental to us all."

Terry's presentation achieved the first objective of making an engaging presentation and Q&A session. His talk spanned airport margins, and wilder coastal and marsh habitats - the Greater Thames Futurescapes (that has become much more topical with talk of 'Boris Island' in the Thames Estuary!). Other examples of how people interact with nature included urban foxes, deer that live alongside urban landscapes, and insects.

We learned how many hours, days and months of work were often needed to achieve just a handful of top-notch images of some of our most timid or inaccessible animals. For example, in our own parish and near to Canterbury, he was asked (in 2010) to show dormice in their natural habitat - most images we see are from captive animals. Before succeeding in getting a few natural pictures over several months, he had to understand more about the ways dormice move around - it turns out they are creatures of habit when it comes to choosing which twig to walk along. Terry left one camera looking at the wrong twigs for some weeks! He also took many photographs of mice. On another occasion, he noted a squirrel's passage through the hedgerow meant the dormice stayed away from that route for a while.

With Hazel Ryan (from Wildwood) in the audience (who has also made presentations to our Society), we understood why some of the dormice shots were important to their project to reintroduce dormice into their natural habitat and their work to restore the hedges that act as corridors between islands of woodlands. We also saw how 'tagging' dormice was achieved by tiny clippings in six pre-determined places in their fur, so individuals could be tracked in one season - until the fur grows back. The use of chips was not favoured by Wildwood as chips are 8mm long and would need a vet on hand to anaesthetise these tiny animals. We were able, through this project, to understand better the ways in which Wildwood, and others, set out to encourage nesting by better understand the habitats and habits of these animals. Terry added photographs of students learning alongside the experienced licensed handlers and recorders of dormice - an encouraging example of people existing positively alongside endangered species. The 2020 objective was achieved again by recording the arrival of woodsmen who had been working for months coppicing the woodland but who had never seen these elusive inhabitants - a clear example of man and nature working alongside each other (if carefully managed). Neil Anderson explained that these woodsmen were still talking about the experience of seeing dormice several months on! So, Terry's project neatly dove-tailed with his partner organisation's needs.

On another occasion, we saw Terry patiently setting up his camera a matter of one or two inches above the surface of a stream to capture some marvellous static and movie shots of water voles. Beavers in Ham Fen were also captured in much the same way. Some animals (pine martens) were best captured on film by baiting a known site - some sites would be discovered through local experts but other examples relied on Terry's experience of many years.

For these and other nippy creatures, including birds, the technique he uses is to set up infra-red triggers that set the camera off when anything passes (a "camera trap" - although it is only the image that is captured). The smaller the creature the more sensitive the settings had to be - so Terry had eliminated many hundreds of shots of falling rain. With birds, he spotted an owl sitting on top of his camera - not quite what was expected.

In order that Terry could take part in the project, every time he is commissioned to capture "wow" shots of animals, he has to prepare a project strategy that includes descriptions of his methods so he can be licensed to do the work by Natural England. With some habitats, that also meant he had to be accompanied by other licensed individuals like Hazel Ryan and her colleagues.

Asked about some very 'moody' shots, Terry explained that he preferred not to use filters but wait for natural light to create the desired effect. The most interesting times of day included dawn and late evening. He struggled to answer one question - 'which are your favourite spots for photography' - he concluded that each place gives him the same challenge and satisfaction. New Zealand was particularly rich in opportunities for "wow" photographs, but so too was the English countryside, like the Thames Estuary. Indeed, he invited the audience to volunteer their own gardens for another element of his project - to show how rich these areas are for insects, birds and mammals.

This was an utterly fascinating presentation that engaged us all as it showed just how much work goes into making those shots we all enjoy so much in the publications that Terry contributes to!

"Red Sails: The Thames Sailing Barge" - 25th April

A screening of this film, followed by questions and answers with the Producer and Director, Michael Maloney. An opportunity to enjoy images and insights into these magnificent vessels.

Sussex Hay Meadow - 11th June

An afternoon visit to a Sussex Hay Meadow - by popular request, Keith Dachler led a Meadow Walk in East Sussex giving an opportunity to see a wide variety of meadow flowers made possible by years of traditional maintenance.

Bumblebee Identification - 16 June

RSPB Dungeness with Dr Nikki Gammans, who spoke to us last year about bumble bees and their reintroduction.

Counting Stripes in Dungeness
It had been a remarkably wet Spring/early Summer this year so I was very relieved to be heading for the RSPB Reserve at Dungeness on a dry Saturday morning. In fact by the time a dozen members and friends of the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society met up after lunch on Saturday 16th June the sun was shining brightly even if the wind was blowing rather stronger than we or the bees would have liked.

Following a talk in Lynsted last October, Dr Nikki Gammans had invited us to meet up with her at the Reserve to show us more practically how she is attempting to reintroduce bumblebees into the Kent countryside. We started the afternoon with a highly informative, illustrated talk about bees in general and bumblebees in particular. She explained that the honeybees and bumblebees, so essential for the pollination of our crops and fruit, are disappearing at an alarming rate. Most of our wildflowers have gone from the countryside over the past 60 years, farming methods have intensified and there has been an increase in the use of pesticides.

Recently one bumblebee, in particular, the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) has become the focus of Nikki's research team. In the year 2000, it was officially declared to be extinct having last been sighted in Kent in 1986. However, a genetically similar bee still exists in Sweden and last summer Nikki took a research team to Sweden to collect some queen bees of this species. Following careful screening for disease and after two weeks in quarantine, approximately 50 of these bees were released on Romney Marsh at the beginning of June. Hopefully, some of these will now survive and multiply to become part of the Kent countryside scene again.

During the course of the visit, we were shown how to identify and distinguish between the queen, worker and male bees of the more common species by looking at the antennae, body shape, colour and the distribution of their stripes. The classroom part of the afternoon concluded with a written worksheet quiz which indicated to most of us how much we still had to learn and remember!!

For the final hour of the session, we went out into the wind-swept Reserve to put our new skills into practice. Nikki used a net to catch some of the bees as they went about collecting nectar and pollen from the wildflowers that grow naturally around the area. She skilfully transferred each specimen into an individual vial fitted with a soft foam plunger and grid, which enabled us, with the aid of a magnifying hand lens, to identify the living bee without harming it. Rather bemused at the start we found that our confidence grew as time went on and we felt the benefit of the two previous hours that had been spent in the classroom absorbing facts. An added bonus was catching sight of two grass snakes and a common lizard on the Reserve as we went about our identification exercise.

On returning home I was pleased to note that many of the plants preferred by the bees are already growing in our garden. Such flowers as aquilegia, chives, foxglove, honeysuckle and lavender have a plentiful supply of nectar and pollen and the shape of their flowers enable the bee to harvest the nectar with ease.

It was a very satisfying afternoon made more interesting by the practical tasks arranged for us both in the classroom and outside. I have now found an additional pleasure to wandering around the garden. Armed with a hand lens and ID chart I find I can put a name to some of the 'buzzing' individuals that also live there.

Norma Baxter

Morgan Sports Cars - 20th June

An illustrated presentation by Neil Lock, with six fine examples at Norton Village Hall. These traditionally constructed, quintessentially British and characterful cars are works of art in their own right with a long heritage.

Considering the weather we have had this year, some of your Committee were not confident that this event, which needed a pleasant Summer evening to succeed, would have the weather it deserved. Wednesday 20th June turned into one of the best days of the Summer so far.

The evening started with a roar of exhausts and the engine smell that we associate with rally-cross or motor racing as six assorted Morgans arrived at Norton Village Hall from the Plough at Lewson Street, where the drivers had convened for a meal and created quite a lot of interest.

Neil Lock, who had organised this event for us, gave us some time to look at the cars and then we were called into the hall for an illustrated talk about the history of the marque and the joy of ownership.

Neil's first task was to dispel some of the myths which have sprung up over the years. For example, Morgans have a wooden chassis - not true. You have to wear tweed to own one; there was not a hint of tweed in the hall that evening. Morgans are only driven on country lanes - they are regularly raced and have been successful at Le Mans.

He then outlined the history and development of the cars, The Morgan family has been involved in the design and production for 102 years. The first car was a three-wheeler with a two-cylinder engine. In 1936 a four-wheeler with a four-cylinder engine was developed. The Aero 8 was produced in 2000 and then the circle was completed with a new three-wheeler.

Neil then told us about the Morgan Sports Car Club and some the events which he and his family have taken part in, including track events and touring in the UK and Abroad.

The talk finished with an introduction to the team from Brands Hatch Morgans and some Morgan Club members. We were then invited to view the cars and the owners were on hand to answer all our questions.

Our thanks go to Neil Lock for making the event possible and the ladies in the kitchen for providing the refreshments.

Graham Sargent

Garden Birds - 19 September

A talk by Bob Gomes.

Bob is a retired RSPB warden and was head warden at Dungeness RSPB Reserve. He spoke about the birds that we are likely to see in our gardens and our surrounding countryside. Spotting and hearing birds.
Nearly 30 members gathered at Greenstreet Methodist Church on Wednesday 19th September to learn from Bob Gomes about the identification by both sight and sound of our garden and farmland birds. Bob was an RSPB warden for 35 years at local Kent reserves and primarily as Head Warden at Dungeness. We were delighted to be able to benefit from his birding experiences.

The talk started with the sound of a varied and fluting birdsong which turned out to be that of a nightingale. Bob went on to show us images of the birds that we are likely to encounter every day in our gardens and the local habitat. We were given pointers to correctly identify the birds around us, e.g. size, shape and colour as well as movement on the ground and in flight. Bob explained how to determine a seed eater from an insect eater by the shape of the beak and how to tell the difference between similar looking birds, for example within the crow family. A must to aid good identification would be the Collins Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, he said. Bob showed us wonderfully clear and interesting photographs of blackbirds, song and mistle thrushes, house and tree sparrows, finches, dunnock, starlings, robins and the tit family; to name but a few. Recordings of bird song and calls were played and described. It was a surprise to many of us that one bird has several different calls to use for warning and contacting family members as well as the 'usual' song. Some calls were very familiar – those of the Robin particularly, the 'teacher, teacher' call of the great tit and the 'Did he do it? Did he do it – he did' from the song thrush. Bob took the time to explain about the habits of our birds too. We were all fascinated to hear about the private life of the dunnock with the female taking the lead role ensuring the species for the future.

Bob had much more to tell us of how unfortunately many bird numbers are in decline. Tree Sparrows used to be much in evidence but for the last 20 to 30 years have been almost absent from Kent. He explained how decline could be due to a reduction in normal food (particularly insects) and the change in the traditional habitats or as in the case of the greenfinch by disease. However, collared dove numbers have increased since they first appeared in 1955, as we've all no doubt noticed.

We were pleased to see and hear about other birds too. Green and great spotted woodpeckers, swallows, migrant waxwing and not least the birds of prey which are doing particularly well throughout Kent – i.e. kestrels, sparrow hawk, the hobby, peregrines and buzzards. Bob also explained how to identify the water birds that may easily be seen in the area. There were excellent images of the elegant little egret as well as moor-hen, coots and various gulls.

At the end of the talk, there was some time to ask questions and even relate experiences. It was good to know that there are nightjars and nightingales in clearings and woodlands not too far away, even if best seen and heard at dusk or at night! We went away feeling much better informed and determined to take note and to listen now that birds are singing again after their late summer rest.

A big thank you goes to Bob Gomes for his presentation. It will surely help us to make the most of the Society's Wildlife Outing planned for June 2013.

Elaine Egalton

Shepherd Neame Brewery Visit - 3 November

We have no formal Report of this enormously enjoyable and informative day hosted by Shepherd Neame Brewery, who also provided a guided tasting and ploughman's lunch (with tipple of our choice).

The Society AGM, followed by an Illustrated Talk based on material gathered by the Heritage Project Group over the past two years - 12 November

Presented by Nigel Heriz-Smith. We also launched the Society's New Book - "100 Years of Royal Celebrations in the Parish of Lynsted". Download a PDF copy.

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