How’s this for nuts? I think I understand this correctly. If your kid goes to the nearest primary school available around here you’re entitled to use the local bus free of charge, if its over three miles away by either road or footpath for a child aged over eight (two miles for under eights), on a pass provided by Kent County Council. If however you select one further away you must pay in full. Fair enough I suppose under most circumstances.
From our part of Hever there is basically a choice of two, Hever or Chiddingstone. My friends and neighbours decided to send their two earthbound angels to Chiddingstone and therefore have to pay their fare in full as Hever is marginally nearer.
Them’s the rules you may say and of course you would be right, until you consider that some children living next to the school at Hever and others that I know of, who live in my lane but a hundred yards or so nearer to Hever Primary School, all of whom attend Chiddingstone, have been granted free passes for the bus.
The often almost empty bus to Chiddingstone passes the end of our lane and provides a far more convenient means of delivery for my friends, both of whom work, rather than having to drop off and collect said bless-hearts every day in term time.
Knowing the circumstances of others, who on the face of it are less entitled to travel free than their two, my friends took the horrendously felonious step of trying to slip their two on the morning bus with the rest of the privileged pass bearers. They were soon captured and, since the death penalty has long been abolished (wrongly in my view I have to say) their only recourse was to appeal to Kent County Council and travel to Maidstone for the hearing where, needless to say, they lost.
A small matter perhaps but, nevertheless, irritating. Under the rules they are entitled to purchase a season ticket valid for two terms at a rate of £165 for each child, provided there are vacant seats, which there invariably are in abundance. They would be happy to pay a reasonable amount but not quite so much. The result is that they must continue to take their children to school and collect them again at close of play. Everyone loses. They suffer unnecessary inconvenience and the bus remains empty and earns nothing. The wisdom of Solomon? That’ll be a no then.
On a perfectly still Sunday afternoon on the 21st January we were enjoying the fine weather and chatting in the drive with our direct next door neighbours when we heard the most terrific crashing, grinding noise. Investigation quickly revealed that a huge oak tree, at the back of my mate Chris’s pond, opposite, had simply fallen over into his pond which is thankfully more of a lake and well able to absorb such a catastrophe. The problem remains of how to get it out again!
A little over a fortnight later, on Monday 5th February, at around 10.20 in the evening we were quietly watching the evening news when we heard the dull crump of a large explosion close at hand. At first we stayed put, but when a series of smaller bangs rent the air my wife rushed outside and started shouting “Stop! Who are you!
As quick as I could, dressed in slippers and dressing gown, I hurried out after her into the darkness where I could see a figure, in silhouette, running towards a great fireball a little down the lane. I gave chase, as quickly as I could given my attire, and soon caught up with what turned out to be one of my other neighbours also alerted by the ongoing commotion. In front of us was a hatch back car burning with unbelievable intensity. We tried to ascertain whether anyone was inside, not that we could have done much if there had been.
Both the police and fire brigade had been informed by then and other neighbours were emerging and coming to find out what was going on. The fire brigade arrived in about twenty minutes and in all the fire took around forty minutes to put out. Presumably it was the old story of joyriders torching some poor sods stolen vehicle to get rid of any evidence. They certainly achieved their objective and succeeded in melting a section of our lane which was closed to traffic for over two days, until repairs were made. Fortunately no one appears to have been hurt so I suppose we must thank heaven for small mercies.
A little further down the lane from the car incident a house that had been on the market for over a year has finally been sold and is now occupied. Never in the thirty five years of my residency has there been any issue with flooding or ingress of water at the property but in the brief time that the new owner has lived there it seems that there has been a problem as the new occupant at first felt the need to build a barricade of plywood across the front gate and has now had a tarmac bund built to achieve a more permanent result, which will fail as any water will simply run around the ends. All unnecessary anyway as the real problem is quite obvious. In swinging wide to turn in to the adjacent field, belonging to the house, the new owner or a visitor has pushed the side of the ditch opposite in and blocked its flow. Further; the tyre tracks have created a perfect furrow to guide any overflow straight across the lane and into the gate.
Had the new occupant had the wit to spot the true problem the solution would have been a simple bit of spade work, taking about five minutes. Better still, had they spoken to the farmer who lives almost next door, she would have been quite happy to drag a ditching bucket along the whole length of ditch and give it a good clear out.
Why don’t people talk to each other anymore or take an interest in the history pertaining to where they live? Not only does it make life more pleasant and help build a sense of community it can actually save a whole lot of grief.
I’ve banged on about hedging and ditching, or rather the lack of it, before and am convinced that it would go a long way to relieving the seemingly perennial flood problem which afflicts us nationally nowadays with every period of protracted rainfall. Precious little ditching takes place locally but at least our hedges in general get smashed back into shape in the modern manner using an all conquering tractor mounted flail. This is far from perfect as the result is split and shattered hedges and lanes covered in thorns and splinters which result in numerous punctures although I do appreciate that it is a means to an end, has to be done on some basis, and requires little labour against the old manual laying methods.
Locally, at least this has always been carried out using a fairly small tractor, resulting in little damage to the verges which quickly heal with the spring flush of new growth. This year, however, it has been performed by a true colossus, of the kind more commonly used to maintain the great prairies of East Anglia, wholly inappropriate to the small fields and close hedgerows of our part of Kent. The result has been the complete destruction of long stretches of our local verges. In some cases these have been pushed back fully six feet from the metaled surface.
Timing has also been a factor in this, having been carried out through the wettest period of the winter. Damage would have been significantly less were the ground firmer. I know that the nesting period must be avoided but this has always been achieved previously. More progress I suppose.
I have said before that our countryside has become largely obsolete but I start to believe that the younger generation actually hate its peace and tranquility and probably despise its very existence. I hear on the grapevine that our population of newcomers think it rather stuffy here and in need of livening up. Let me assure them they need have no fears. The wonderful philanthropist, and founder of Leefest has, according to a recent press release, selflessly decided to drop the Leefest title, so named after himself, and adhere henceforth to Neverland instead. He also promised that this year we shall be treated to three domains and eleven stages to enliven our otherwise dull summer’s evenings over August Bank Holiday.
If support were to be judged by the volume of vocalization it would seem that a fair proportion of our more recently arrived residents are now in favour of such events. No matter that I would be more than happy to crush the little shit (personal view) beneath my heel with less compassion than I would afford a sick cockroach, that is just my apparently outdated take on the matter with which a fair minority of our more modern inhabitants seemingly disagree and, having given him their ascent by previously either attending his joyous event or buying discounted tickets for friends and relatives, they have, however unwittingly, registered their support on his database forever.
Whatever one’s stance it is pretty much unarguable that the trend is now unstoppable and our previous tranquility is irrevocably doomed to be subsumed by the ever burgeoning influx of ‘events’ in what is now obviously perceived as ‘a soft area’ for all manner of developments. What I consider to be originally an urban cancer, of designer festivals (ask those living around Clapham Common), is quickly metastasizing into a full blown, and doubtless terminal, rural malignancy, made more than welcome by those seeking to put an end to our stuffy environment.
Thanks to this local support and the compliance of the well rewarded land owner we can look forward to at least a further two festivals this year, taking up three full weekends in high summer, plus numerous heavy vehicles clogging our lanes for a week either side of the events, for build and tear down. Together of course, with the Hever Triathlon down the road and the legions of abusive cyclists attracted to our area by it who now obviously believe that they own every last inch of the district’s highways, as they constantly remind us should we have the temerity to try and venture forth on any even remotely fine day. Finally we shall be treated to huge firework parties on most weekends and occasional weekday evenings, usually starting between 11pm and midnight, to celebrate————–well, just about anything—————even Guy Fawkes Night.
We are saved. At last this unnaturally peaceful area has been enlivened! For the period April – October we are now assured there will be no more dullness. No boringly quiet country walks. No long, peaceful, summer’s evenings in the garden enjoying a quiet drink and watching the stars above twinkling in jet black skies. Instead we can now enjoy the continuous rhythmic thump of a heavy bass beat drifting across the fields or the crash and brilliance of pyrotechnic mortars exploding overhead. We are no longer troubled by the freedom to leave and return to our homes at will, due to traffic queues or road closures, in fact very little peace remains at all. Let me promise all concerned, you have nothing to worry about, Hever is no longer the dull, stuffy, and of course idyllic, rural retreat that I moved to so long ago, progress has at last been made. God help us all!
I took a walk in the woods recently, while the calm of winter is still upon us, and there we discovered a couple of the largest logs, infested with the fungus Chlorosplenium aeruginascens (recently of course renamed Chlorociboria aeruginascens by some authoritative smart arse), that I have ever come across. The significance of this is that the fungus renders the timber a deep blue/green colour which when sliced into thin veneers was once used in the local speciality known as Tunbridge Ware, which now changes hands for considerable sums of money. This mainly takes the form of boxes inlaid with tiny marquetry squares of different colours. Those of a green hue were invariably derived from this source.
Tunbridge Wells library contains a fine collection of this local specialty, the production of which was driven by the arrival of the tourist trade. Early examples from the seventeenth century were painted, although the later marquetry form was produced for at least two hundred years. That it predates the age of rail is attested by the fact that it bares the earlier ‘U’ form of Tunbridge before it was altered to Tonbridge with an O to avoid confusion with Tunbridge Wells and prevent London visitors getting off a stop too soon in their quest for the restorative wells, once the age of rail arrived.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 had three major producers on display but by 1903 only Boyce, Brown and Kemp remained. A similar style of product survived in the Rye area into the sixties and the example above, shown actual size, is of that origin.
I would have included some shots of the logs in the woods but by the time I returned to do the photography on 27/2 we had had around 3 inches of snow on the ground, following a bitterly cold week, and I was unable to locate it. This was a Tuesday and after a less snowy Wednesday we began March with two days of blizzards, the worst snow for several years. The old adage which says that this month comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion has often proved true in the past, lets hope it does not fail us now.