Event Reports for 2015

"The Sky's the Limit" - Astronomy Presentation - 28th January

An illustrated astronomy evening presented by Dermot Stewart

A thoroughly informative and entertaining evening enjoyed by a full house. The cloudless skies presented too good an opportunity to miss - so coats on - and looking at gallaxies, the moon, Jupiter.

The Lynsted with Kingsdown Society held another of its presentation evenings with a difference at Norton Village Hall on Wednesday 28th January 2015.

Our speaker this time was Dermot Stewart. He is a retired veterinary surgeon but his subject on this occasion was astronomy. The introduction was given by John Jackson who met Dermot through Canterbury and District U3A through sailing not astronomy. Dermot is also a member of the South East Kent Astronomy Society.

The talk started with a demonstration of the suitable warm clothing required to enjoy his hobby. Dermot then explained the simple pleasure of staring at the sky on a clear evening, adding that Aspergers sufferers find it beneficial.

AstronomyHe then explained with diagrams how to locate some of the best known constellations including Pegasus, Andromeda, Perseus, Cassiopeia and Cepheus. This led naturally to a discussion on the relationship between Greek mythology and the discovery and identification of various constellations particularly during Victorian times and prior. He illustrated this section with examples of 19th century art.

We were lucky enough to have chosen a clear but cold night. So after questions, our speaker set up a powerful telescope on the patio and we were able to get a good view of some planets and a good close up of the moon.

Another successful evening which all present seem to have enjoyed.

Society Charity Quiz Night - 21st Febuary

This event follows on from a very successful Fun Charity Quiz Night in 2014. We filled 10 tables of about 6-7 people and reached our limit of 70 people. Cost of £8 per person. Including a fish and chips supper that punctuated a highly enjoyable evening that raised £425 that has been donated to the Midwifery Project in Ethiopia, the subject of our next presentation on 4th March.

Healthcare in Ethiopia Partnership (HEP). Nichola Morgan - 4th March

Those of us who braved a cold night to attend this meeting of the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society on the 5th of March were treated to an inspiring evening. Nicky Morgan, a midwife from East Kent Hospital Trust talked about the project which she helped to set up in 2007 with a Canterbury GP, Dr Mark Jones, to help support the Millennium Development Goals relating to midwifery in this grindingly poor part of North Tigray. The project is based around the small towns of Mekele and Axum and the surrounding villages. Her slides graphically showed the terrible difficulties of daily life for these people, but also their huge spirit and generosity. From small beginnings the charity now supports midwives, paediatric nurses, obstetricians, GP's and paediatricians, all of whom give up their holidays, and pay for their own accommodation, in order to travel to Tigray to mentor, train, and support healthcare staff locally. The first time they visit they even pay their own air fares! Over the years hundreds of midwives, nurses and support workers have had training.

Around the world Nichola reminded us that 800 women die every day from preventable causes during childbirth, 99% of them in the developing world. In Ethiopia 46 babies die for every 1000 births [in the UK it is 5]. In Ethiopia 350 mothers die for every 100,000 births [in the UK 8]. A maternal death means a child dies as there is no alternative to breast feeding. The co-existence of other diseases in the women contributes to mortality. Things like malaria, anaemia, malnutrition, AIDS and TB weaken the women.

Even simple measures like washing, clean mattresses, clean needles, can make huge differences but the obstacles can be great. Sinks without running water are an example. A simple injection to prevent haemorrhage cannot be given as there is no refrigeration. If a fridge is supplied how is it delivered and how is it maintained? In the countryside at night, when births usually happen, there is no light so the midwife cannot even see to stitch to stop bleeding. Torch batteries run out so the torches supplied need to be wind up ones. These are the sort of problems the project has to identify and try to solve. Some of Nichola's slides told stories of individuals she had seen and their often heartrending stories. The mother who had to walk for 6 hours to get assistance, or even worse the mum carried by her village in relays for many hours. The roads and paths are too rough even for a bicycle ambulance to help!

The project concentrates on support and training therefore as the skills can be used. It does take simple equipment out, which the volunteers deliver in their hand baggage. In the years Nicky has been going she can see the difference they and other charities are making. Maternal and baby mortality in Ethiopia is falling. Mosquito nets and spraying are reducing malaria. Fresh water is being provided slowly. The Chinese government has a large road building programme. Child mortality has been reduced to the Millennium goal.

Nichola also entertained us with stories of travelling in Ethiopia, which is becoming a destination for the more adventurous tourist. The cuisine sounds pretty terrible, maybe not surprisingly. Mostly it is based on a grain called Teff which sounds unpalatable but has been labelled a superfood! The government has had to control exports as so much was being bought by the "bright and beautiful things", that a shortage was occurring. However the mountains, the amazing orthodox Christian churches, and ancient ruins, and the people, make it a fascinating place to travel. She has only been held at gunpoint by armed robbers once!

This was an inspiring story of a small group of local people using their skill and time to make a difference in a community thousands of miles away, and completely alien to our ways and knowledge of life. As such it is something to be applauded and which reaffirms faith in our fellow man.

After questions and warm applause Nichola was presented with a cheque for £425 to help the work. This was the proceeds from the quiz night, the raffle at quiz night, individual donations and Nicky's fee for the lecture which she has given to the project.
Huge thanks to all who helped raise this amazing sum.
Donations can be made via hepkent@gmail.com
Alistair Taylor.

Lambing Day at Wingfield Farm, Eastling - Saturday 11th April

Pedigree BreedingA full house of members, friends and children joined a thoroughly entertaining and instructive visit to Wingfield Farm at Eastling. The owner, John Coultrip, explained how he breeds pure-bred and cross-bred sheep and pure Aberdeen Angus bulls for pedigree breeders around the world. His Aberdeen who has one of the top herds of Romney sheep in the country. He also has a top pedigree Aberdeen Angus herd of cattle (some new calves may still be on the farm). John is a highly respected livestock farmer so you will enjoy a very expert guide in the area of animal husbandry, as well as seeing the new lambs. The weather was surprisingly good. Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to return to the farm one evening in June to visit these beautiful animals in their summer grazing fields in a part of the Downs that you won't have seen before! But take on-board the fact that travelling to those fields will be on a tractor-hauled trailer.

Faversham copy of the Magna Carta - 15th April

One of our best attended events with a full hall to listen to Jackie Westlake, Clerk to Faversham Town Council. Under the banner of "Magna Carta Rediscovered", we learnt that the Faversham copy is the last one issued under the seal of Edward 1 and one of the best preserved. Preservation of Faversham Magna Carta was put down to "benign neglect" - it had been kept in cupboards and drawers throughout its life where it was untouched. In contrast, other Magna Cartas and Charters suffered by shortcomings in storage conditions or being pasted into 'scrapbooks' - quite normal in past centuries.

This was a fascinating talk in the year that other promotions/celebrations are planned worldwide to commemorate the first royal seal applied by King John on 15th June 1215. The significance of Magna Carta(s) is that it enshrined several cornerstones of the British Constitution as well as the American Constitution and in many other Constitutions. Key elements include:

All these elements were concessions to Barons who were themselves pressing for relief from the vagaries and whims of Royal Authority. So it was that Magna Carta gradually emerged as a 'touchstone' for modern government.

The original 1215 document was revised several times during the 13th Century with only four original copies surviving (the Cathedrals of Lincoln & Salisbury and two in the British Library). There 13 known copies of later versions of Magna Carta held in Durham (1216) (1225), Hereford (1217), Oxford (1217 x 3), (1225), London (1225 x 2) and (1297 x 2), Canberra, Australia (1297), Washington DC, USA (1297). The last Magna Carta to be issued under Royal Seal comes from 1300AD and these are held in Westminster Abbey, the City of London, Oriel College, Oxford, The Bodleian Library, Durham Cathedral, Sandwich Town Council and Faversham Town Council.

Why Faversham? Broadly, this was because of its status as the 'market town of kings' and the town is one of the Cinque Ports Confederation to each of which (it is assumed) a copy would have been awarded. In addition to this document, Faversham has in its collection a total of 17 Charter documents (1252 to 1685) that the Council hope they will be able to secure funding to put on permanent display.

National Stage: In the meantime, the plans for 2015 on the national stage include the British Library Exhibition of the four remaining 1215 copies; BBC's 'Taking Liberties' programming of exploration of various perspectives from 1215 that have formed our modern democracies; 'Sustrans Cycle Map' (The map will feature the main charter towns, the locations of charter copies, the associated battlefields and the homes of the original Magna Carta barons, with the existing National Cycle Network routes linking these historic locations); Supreme Court Exhibition; Durham Cathedral exhibition around three issues of Magna Carta (1215, 1216 and 1225); and "Magna Carta Women" - artwork illustrations of the journey of British women, including Mary Wollstoncraft, Emily Pankhurst and Barbara Castle.

Faversham Plans: "Magna Carta Rediscovered" touring exhibition (Canterbury, Maidstone, Sandwich, Dover and Rochester) - each location will have its own distinct "wrap around" exhibitions and events so that this trail will offer visitors various perspectives at each of these centres drawing on Faversham's Charter Collection of 17 documents; school activities that include town trails, King John Play, and schools creating their own '21st century charters', four of which will be mounted in displays alongside the 13th century versions; BBC's "Any Questions" will be hosted in Faversham soon after the 2015 election that should include speakers of interest to the Magna Carta; planned for 6th June, a Community Choir has been created to perform the world premier of "Toads on a Tapestry"; "Magna Carta Weekend" is planned for 13/14th June 2015 to showcase and celebrate the Magna Carta; fund-raising quiz; and Schools Debates with guest speakers.

Learn more about programme of events around Kent and other plans in Faversham through the Faversham Society pages. Faversham Council will launch a dedicated web-site nearer to the anniversary in June.

Sheppey Crossings - photoanimation by Colin Harvey - 20th May

A thoroughly engrossing story. We heard about the succession of Sheppey Crossings at the current site, including the massive engineering feat of the new road crossing. This included a well illustrated explanation of how bridges can be built by easing them out from the anchor points at each end! Part of the popular series developed and presented by Colin Harvey. Venue: Lynsted Church, Lynsted Village. Lynsted Church now has a full audio visual capability for projection and sound which proved extremly effective.

Visit to local commercial cherry orchards - 17th June

On 19th June a fair sized group of us gathered at Little Sharsted Farm. The weather was overcast and windy but warm. We were taken by Brian Neaves into the highly automated packhouse. I was struck by the clinical cleanliness demanded by the supermarkets buyers. Over 200 tons of his own cherries are packed here each year plus 250 tons from other areas. Sadly the machines were not working as the cherries are late this year, with picking expected to start the next day. Nevertheless we gained an insight into the complexity and investment needed for an agricultural business nowadays. The weighing scales alone had cost £60,000! After this we were shown the orchards. Nearly all are in polytunnels with dwarf root stock. Rather sad compared to the magnificence of our community orchard, but when you hear that planting costs £32,000 per hectare you can see that the ability to control irrigation and yields is hugely important. Even so all is not smooth running; several polytunnels had been destroyed in recent high winds. The late start of picking was to our advantage as we were able to sample the beautiful ripe fruits hanging from many of the trees. A large number of what looked like tea lights were seen around part of the orchard. These were in fact insect traps as part of a research project by West Malling. They are looking out for a moth that has recently arrived from Europe. It burrows into cherries laying its eggs. This is undetectable until biting into a cherry one finds a worm! Understandably they are keen to control this but there are no effective sprays and in any event spray use on the crop is very restricted. Another interesting point was the large number of honey bee hives which are relied on for pollination. Bumble bees are also introduced to the polytunnels as they are more effective pollinators than honey bees. We concluded with a discussion of the use of foreign labour without which Sharsted could not run. In the past efforts to use English labour has resulted in very low reliability of staff, which seems very sad, but I have to say it all looked like very hard work.

This turned out to be a very interesting visit with topics ranging from machinery to bee ecology, sprays & working practices. Amazing what you learn from an orchard walk!
Alistair Taylor.

Follow-up visit to Eastling Pedigree Farm - 23rd June

Following our highly successful visit to lambing and calving of pedigree stock, we were invited to visit when the sheep and cattle have improved on isolated pastures (transport was provided on a farm trailer!). We enjoyed a delightful visit to an isolated downland valley that is not normally accessible. Weather was pretty much perfect.

Vintage Bus trip - 5th September

Society Members and guests event: We had a good turnout to join the picturesque trip via Tenterden (coffee and shopping break!) to our ultimate destination - Batemans (home of Rudyard Kipling an exquisite National Trust property) in East Sussex. The gardens are also a good reason to visit. Once again we are very fortunate to have the pleasure of riding through the Kent countryside on David Powell's restored vintage double-decker bus.

The Craft of the Cooper - 23rd September

Richard Filmer is an expert social history speaker who explained the history and craft involved in construction of staved vessels that include barrels, drinking containers and casks. This craft once employed thousands of people but has now largely disappeared. The presentation expanded on the range of coopers from brewers, through wine and spirits. We will learn about the tools, techniques and materials used over the span of thousands of years during which this craft evolved. Often, this skill was very local - "domestic", based around the needs in every-day life.

Pop-Up Restaurant of Corinne Goodman - 17th October

Fifty people enjoyed this tasty treat and thoroughly informative and social event! The cuisine on offer will included a wide range of Indian delights, expertly prepared. The menu included: choice of appetisers, starters, main (both meat and vegetarian), and dessert accompanied by personal tipples of preference.

AGM and Coppice Woodland talk - 11th November

Short AGM - including election of new Committee Members followed by a very informative presentation from John Waller, AJS Crafts, Godinton near Ashford - coppice woodland and crafts. John Waller has broad experience of woodcraft and a promoting a sustainable approach to country crafts. He works with coppiced willow and hazel in a multitude of ways: basket weaving, trugs, coracles, furniture, hurdles, carving, charcoal making, etc. With sufficient Membership interest, the Committee may follow up this event with courses and practical demonstrations in 2016! We look forward to seeing you and hearing your views on this and future events.

Annual Christmas Party with carol-singing and festive fayre - 11th December

A full house and a real buzz that included a floor show in the kitchen to illustrate the 12 days of Christmas as they unfolded! Wonders will never cease! :-)

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