Event Reports for 2019

Richard II and the Peasants Revolt - 6th February

Almost 50 of us staggered out on an inclement evening for the first talk of the New Year. We were richly rewarded for our efforts with a fascinating presentation by James Dickinson, about a period in our history many of us seemed to know relatively little about.

Richards father was Edward The Black Prince, who is buried in the cathedral. His famous victories against the French at Crecy 1346 and Poitiers 1356 marked a high point in England's power in France. Richard was born in 1367 at Bordeaux. His mother Joan "Maid of Kent" was said to be the most beautiful woman in England, and apparently a bit of a girl, as she had already seen off 2 husbands. She and Edward had 2 sons, but Edward of Angouleme died young leaving Richard, from age 3, as the heir. When Edward 111 died in1377 Richard was only 10. There was not a formal regency but his uncle, John of Gaunt, ruled for him. During his youth however he had great power and was very indulged. This seems to have made him over confident and narcissistic, which would eventually lead to his overthrow by dissatisfied nobles in 1399, who it seems likely starved him to death in 1400 in favour of Edward 1V [that's another story].

By the time of his accession most of the French possessions were lost, only Calais remaining. The ongoing wars against France and Scotland necessitated punitive taxation, which had made John of Gaunt very unpopular. Added to this the black death had killed about half the population. The result was a labour shortage and so workers pressed for higher wages. In 1351 the Statute of Labourers had been introduced; essentially a prices and incomes policy. This proved hard to enforce despite draconian penalties. Flemish merchants were excluded from it making them very unpopular. Rents could not be maintained as there was nobody to work the land.

By 1380 things were explosive. Parliament met at Northampton to raise new taxes. £160,000 was urgently needed to prevent the Crown defaulting. A poll tax was introduced on all over 16 years. Extraordinary investigators were appointed to extract the tax, which was resisted. Revolt broke out when an investigator arrived in Brentford. The Essex rebels advanced on London. John Raw and Jack Straw spread rebellion to Suffolk. In Kent, Watt Tyler from Maidstone [though claimed by some to have been born in Essex] headed the rebels. He had been an archer in France and helped shape the political demands. Gradually their manifesto emerged; an end to serfdom, handing over of hated officials, and establishment of largely self-regulating villages.

Richard, only 14, retreated to the Tower. At Blackheath John Bull, a firebrand Kentish preacher, addressed the rebels stressing loyalty to Richard. Most of the army was in France or Scotland, and so Richard attempted to negotiate at Greenwich on 13 June. However, the rebels crossed London Bridge unopposed, pressing on to the Aldgate, which they opened to the men of Essex. Prisons were stormed and prisoners released, while Flemish merchants and high officials were hunted down and murdered. The hated John of Gaunt's house was burned, the king watching the fires from the Tower. On the 14th Richard fled to East London and again negotiated, this time at Mile End. He accepted the abolition of serfdom, but not before the Tower was captured and many officials executed, their heads displayed on London Bridge.

Many rebels now dispersed but Watt Tyler rejected the Kings charter and met the king at St Bartholomew's Priory. Here Tyler was said to have behaved very rudely and an argument developed, during which Tyler was repeatedly stabbed. The rebellion failed. On 15th June the serfs were told to return to work. There were brutal reprisals and on 17th July the charters were revoked. The poll tax was however withdrawn, and no poll tax was introduced until the 20th century. THAT DIDN'T GO SO WELL EITHER!
Alistair Taylor.

Saturday 23rd February: Quiz Night and Raffle.

Arriving at 7pm for 7.30pm punctual start. In aid of Kent Wildlife Trust on its 60th Anniversary. Raffle prizes would be welcome. Members can book a table (non-members can make up the teams of course!).

Wednesday 27th March: 60 Years of the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT)

Illustrated Talk by Vicky Golding of The Kent Wildlife Trust.

    On Wednesday the 27th of March the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society had an Illustrated talk by Vicky Golding from the Kent Wildlife Trust, who last year celebrated 60 years since it was founded.

We were told how the wildlife trusts were set up in 1912, followed by the formation of Norfolk Wildlife Trust on Cley marshes in 1926.The Kent Wildlife Trust was set up in 1958 as The Kent Naturalist Trust, but changed its name in the 80's after some confusion with a Naturist group! The Wild Life Trusts now have nearly a million members nationwide.

Kent has many different soil types and varied habitats from chalk downland, various types of woodland and heavy clays through to the fresh water marshes, saltings and mudflats around our coast. This diversity has enabled Kent to establish 68 nature reserves spread all over the county. Kent also has a huge variety of wildlife including a larger number of butterfly species than any other county. KWT does not only manage wildlife sites, it has archaeological sites and also manages Hangrove wood and Downe Bank, both of which so inspired Charles Darwin. Locally it manages Oare Marshes, an important wetland site.

At Darenth moved the KWT in a different direction, managing its reserve in conjunction with neighbouring farmers. Creating Forest schools for children is a recent innovation, along with roadside corridor reserves, and they are  now looking to be more involved in managing the sea shore and beaches. The 'Guardians of the Deep' project is helping to record sealife with aid of divers and is also now running 'Wild about Gardens' sheme to encourage wildlife in the garden, an increasingly important and accessible habitat.
After Vickys' presentation, Lynsted with Kingsdown Society was pleased to be able to present a cheque for £414.30 to the KWT, the proceeds of our annual raffle, as the KWT was our chosen charity this year.

Saturday 13th April: Group Visit to Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway.

On Saturday 13th April, the Society was given the opportunity to explore this wonderful local attraction before the season started on Easter weekend. We were met by David and Bill, who set up and still help to run this astonishing private collection, Bill gave us a brief history and background to the railway.

We had a good turnout of both members and non-members, who all enjoyed riding on the old diesel train, in particular a very excited group of children who, accompanied by their families, made many trips up and down the track. We were also shown around the engine shed containing many old steam engines, carriages and traction engines.

Donations were taken for the refreshments and non-member adults paid £3 each, so we were able to make a donation of £50 as well as the usual speaker fee to Macmillan Cancer Care which is both David and Bill's chosen charity.
Bredgar and Wormshill Railway opens once a month in Summer.

Saturday 18th May: 7.30pm: Jazz Night.

There was a well-attended event with about 70 people attending to hear some extremely professional jazz numbers. The cafe style seating was well received and made for a relaxed atmsophere - just right for the set. The jazz is best described as "straight ahead jazz including tunes from the Cole Porter era, together with the popular jazz standards.

Wednesday 5 June 2019: Asset and Project delivery Director, Connect Plus Services

Our Lynsted with Kingsdown Society meeting on 5 June provided an insight into the operation and running of the M25. Louise Haining, Asset & Project Delivery Director spoke about how the M25 is operated and maintained and who is involved in this complex and challenging task. After a quick introduction to how the work is funded and contracted out by Highways England (on behalf of the Government), Louise took us though a day in the life of the motorway, which includes the Dartford Crossing, where we started our tour with a look at the overnight works to maintain the vehicle restraint system – crash barriers to you and me. We moved on around the clock and the motorway, through maintenance teams working in the early house to get jobs done before the traffic increases, with a short detour to explain how all the different works are organised and coordinated; a bit like air traffic control, but in two dimensions and with the added challenge of abnormal load movements thrown in.

Louise explained how the specialist teams of engineers and others collect and analyse data to plan future works and improvements and how large schemes like widenings or Smart Motorways are incorporated. She also talked about some of the 'back room' work that goes one, like managing customer communications, including complaints and Freedom of Information requests and the importance of protecting the brand – both of the client, Highways England and for the consortium delivering the services for the M25, Louise's company, Connect Plus Services. She explained how aware everyone was that the M25 is a critical road network and poor performance reflects badly on those involved. She also explained that it results in financial penalties for Connect Plus too! Keeping the traffic flowing safely and customers satisfied are the priorities for the whole team.

Louise told us about the role of the 24-hr control room and the Incident Support Units (ISU), who assist the emergency services and the Traffic Officer Service, as well as act alone, to clear the road after collisions or damage. It was a sobering reminder that safe as our roads and the M25 are, people are still killed and injured using it. Just like the emergency services, the ISU and maintenance crews work in a dangerous environment and sometime have to face some very upsetting scenes, so taking care of their physical and mental safety and wellbeing is a key part of the job for Louise and her fellow directors and managers.

So next time you see the cones being laid out late in the evening, spare a thought for the workers, planning and preparation that has gone into getting as much done as possible while we all sleep.

Sunday 23rd June - Farm Walk at Kingsdown Farm

Members, Family and Friends Event.

Neil Anderson and Jenny Hudson invited members of the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society and their families and friends to join a Farm Walk. The good weather encouraged an excellent turnout, and we explored the farm while Neil explained his conservation methods of farming (no plough), crops (companion planting and rotation) and animal husbandry. John Puckett and Hazel Ryan of the Wildwood Trust helped identify the flora and fauna during the walk, and brought two species of bat and some harvest mice. The walk was followed by tea and delicious cakes in the garden, and a collection of donations raised £110 for the Wildwood Trust.

Wednesday 11th September - 8.00pm: Lynsted V2 Rocket - "What has happened since the first excavation?"

Report. Colin Welch returned to update us on the results of the summer 2018 dig.
The impact is recorded in the Kent war diary on 17/02/45, the crater being recorded as 57 feet diameter x 18 feet deep! Many of the V2 launches on that day fell short of London. Possibly melting of the frosted ground In Holland meant the rocket bases were not firm enough and so the trajectory settings were unreliable. All V2 impacts are recorded. The crater, now fully excavated, reveals an inverted Top Hat shape which shows the warhead exploded at depth underground. The impact pressure is calculated as 60,000lbs, sufficient to turn the chalk layer into fluid with the consistency of toothpaste. In the first dig the debris was not found where it was expected. The 2nd big dig right to the chalk revealed far more and much larger pieces. In particular large parts of the combustion chamber, the motor, were recovered. This showed some of the high tech design and build features. The Germans however were very resourceful using chicken wire and plywood in other areas. Part of the warhead base plate was also found which is unique to Lynsted. You might expect this would be destroyed so perhaps the bomb did not fully detonate. If this was so why is the crater so unusually large? Some parts were found 9.5 metres deep. Some of the recovered parts are dated May 1944 so perhaps this missile had been in store for some time.

Colin also filled us in on some of the amazing story of the V-Weapons. They were designed in Peenemunde and built by slave labour in tunnels in The Harz Mountains. It was good to be reminded of the sheer horror and cruelty involved in all aspects of these "Terror Weapons". They were fired at Liege, Paris, and Antwerp, but mostly at London and Norwich [to try and kill US airmen]. A V1 cost £125 a V2 £12500! Both delivered a similar weight of warhead. We were told the defensive strategies against the missiles eventually evolved with fighters in the channel, guns on the coast, and more fighters inland all radar guided. There were also very intensive raids against launch sites requiring the Germans to develop mobile launchers for both types of missile, culminating in air launched V1's. Colin's amazing animation of all 9500 missile strikes showed the success of these tactics very dramatically. By the start of August 1944 the air ministry was able to announce that the campaign against the V1 was won. 2 days later the first V2 struck!

Colin also showed us some of the museum quality conservation work he has done and shared his hope that somewhere can be found to display all the evidence they have recovered.

National Geographic Channel Buried Secrets of WW11 episode 2 shows some of their work and is available on Sky TV. The BBC Digging for Britain will also feature them and will be aired in the autumn. You can also follow him on Twitter search craterlocators.
Alistair Taylor.

Thursday 19th September: Visit to The Old Dairy Brewery in Tenterden

Members and friends only event - details went to Members on 28th June.

This micro brewery produces a range of hand crafted beers.  Our tour was well accompanied by tasters of the range of beers. Visit their website.

Wednesday 16th October - 8.00pm: 'Pasture for Life' - by Fidelity Weston

Report. On Wednesday 16th October, Fidelity Weston visited the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society to talk about livestock farming using pasture-fed principles. Fidelity is a Board member of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, a group of approximately 500  farmers who rear livestock (cattle and sheep) on a grain-free diet of 100%  bio-diverse meadow grass. Fidelity manages a 70ha farm near Sevenoaks which is Soil Association registered and which is in Higher Level Stewardship with an emphasis on wild-flower meadows.

Fidelity explained that wild ruminants (like buffalo) would normally exist in huge herds which eat, defecate, trample and travel in a way that leads to the establishment of deep, productive soils. However, modern farming methods with the emphasis on cereal production have not allowed for the maintenance of good soil layers, and estimates suggests that where consistent cereal production is practiced there may be only 60 years of harvest left in the existing soil. 

Pasture-fed farming such as that practiced on her farm involves moving livestock from field to field regularly (in a way similar to that found in herds in the wild). 60% of farmland is pasture, and three times as much carbon can be stored in the soil than in the atmosphere. Pasture therefore acts like a solar panel, taking carbon out of the atmosphere, and then releasing it, but this process requires good soil and soil activity which can only be established when grazing animals are moved regularly from meadow to meadow. The ideal practice where animals stay on a meadow for just long enough to eat (and poo) a third, trample a third and leave a third causes increased biodiversity (plant species, animal and insect species and microorganisms), more carbon in the soil, and better animal welfare).  It is an astonishing fact that on a pasture-fed farm, 95% of life is found under the soil.  Prolonged cereal production, on the other hand, causes loss of biodiversity, as well as a proven deterioration in the quality and nutrient content of meat where animals are fed largely on cereals.

Rebuilding the quality and biodiversity of the soil is an absolute requirement for this generation. Since the 1950s we have lost 97% of wildflower meadows, primarily because the use of nitrogen fertilisers causes the growth of too much rye grass at the expense of other grasses and wild flowers.

Fidelity suggested that it is not necessary to stop eating meat completely to reduce carbon emissions; it is only necessary to stop eating industrially produced meat.  She also suggested that if feeding cattle with cereals ceased, the population of the world could be fed on organic grass fed meat by 2050. A report in 2006 entitled "Livestock's Long Shadow" claimed that livestock were responsible for the production of up to 51% of global greenhouse gases including methane and nitrous oxide (even more than transport!) but in 2013 the same scientists revised their estimate down to only 14.5%, claiming the use of erroneous data in their earlier report.

Of course, there remains the problem of obtaining pasture-fed meat. Some butchers claim that beef is 'grass-fed' even if it is only 51% 'grass-fed'. She suggested that beef and lamb should be 100% grass-fed to be described as such, and that pasture-fed beef (like wine) tastes of the terroir (the complete natural environment, soil, climate and meadow).  No big supermarkets currently sell Pasture Fed Livestock Association meat, but it can be obtained locally – just look on their website under 'Where to Buy'!

Monday 18th November - 7.30pm: AGM and "The Role of Magistrates in the Community"

The guest speaker at our AGM on the 16th November was Alvin Shaw, who has been a magistrate since 2005 and currently sits in both adult and youth courts in Maidstone and Medway.
Alvin came to talk about the role of magistrates within the judicial system – which is something very few of us are aware of. The makeup of the magistracy is intended to be representative of the society we live in, and therefore magistrates are lay volunteers who sit on a bench of 3 supported by a legally qualified Clerk. The presentation was very much an interactive session, which started with us being asked whether a number of selected offences were dealt with at either Crown or Magistrates courts, before being told that magistrates deal with 95% of all criminal charges, with some 80% of those being individuals pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity; only the very serious cases go up to Crown Court to be heard by judge and jury.

Alvin went on discuss the sentencing powers of the magistrate, which include fines, community service and custody, together with making decisions over bail and search warrants. Whilst doing so he emphasised that most offenders came to court due to offences often committed as rash decisions, made out of desperation, with drink and/or drugs often contributing to those actions. Therefore, whilst the law requires punishment, it also provides rehabilitation support to assist individuals in dealing with their problems, including through drink, drugs and anger management courses.
This was a fascinating, amusing and very enjoyable presentation We were left fully appreciating that magistrates deal with individuals with compassion and understanding, and that whilst their guidelines provide a framework of appropriate punishment, they judge each case on its own merit and apply flexibility in the level of sentence as required.
Debbie Taylor


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