Sunday, December 5th, 2021

A year of triumphs, memorable moments and eclectic events in Weald

As 2019 gets underway, Weald village news correspondent Susan Gidman takes a look back at the news, events, triumphs and achievements seen in the village over the last year 

COMMUNITY SHOP: Having purchased the old Wesleyan Chapel some years ago, the Parish Council organised its refurbishment prior to it being leased to the Community Shop. It was interesting to see the building taking life once again. On 8 May, the shop moved from the temporary cabin to its new home (blessed by the Rev. Mandy Carr) under the guidance of Ian and Linda Walker and the day to day management of Karen Elsom. At the shop’s first birthday party Ian reported that due to the support of the village in excess of £76,000 had passed through the till. The range of items on sale seems to grow weekly and the shop has become a thriving hub of the village, not least because of the chance to sit down with a coffee and have a natter to whoever is there.

Since April, a defibrillator in a bright yellow container has been available at the side of the shop. Over 70 residents attended the training in its use although we were urged in the first instance to yell for help and get someone to dial 999 for an ambulance!

PARKING AND LITTER: As part of the on-going work by the Parish Council, the surface of the lane  to the Recreation Ground was upgraded and the children’s play area next to the Memorial Hall was refurbished and enhanced. An on-going discussion at every Parish Council meeting is the parking problem in the village and traffic congestion, particularly at school times.  A ‘litter pick’ was organised which generated a large number of bags full of rubbish some, it seems, left by builders who couldn’t be bothered to take it away.

VILLAGE DESIGN AND PARISH PLAN: The problem with parking featured highly in feedback from a ‘questionnaire’ sent to every household in the parish at the beginning of August (I’ve put the word ‘questionnaire’ in inverted commas as it was actually a series of statements where villagers could agree or not). Around 275 responses were received back which the Steering Group is reviewing before writing up their findings in the next few months. The report has to ‘tie in’ with the Sevenoaks District Plan which is still in its consultation phase. The response rate to the ‘questionnaire’ was exceptionally good.

One thing that came out strongly from the additional comments people made in their responses was their love of the village and our care of each other. The respondents ranged from someone who had only been here a couple of months to many who have lived in the village their whole lives.

BUS SERVICE: At the beginning of the year the Parish Council celebrated the start of what they hope will be a fruitful arrangement with Go-Coach which has replaced Arriva in offering a bus service to and from the village. Although not quite so frequent as before, it has the added advantage that it goes down to Sevenoaks railway station in the morning and has a service that comes back late afternoon.

FUNDRAISING: One of the strongest ‘themes’ to come out of my review of village events is how many activities take place to raise funds or seek practical donations (clothing etc) for charity. For instance, Judith Howard organised two collections of nearly new clothes, shoes, bedding etc. for ‘Samara’s Aid,’ a charity supporting families suffering as a result of war in Iraq and Syria. In addition, there was a full week of events during the Christian Aid week in May to raise funds to help people in Haiti construct shelters to withstand the next hurricane to come their way. In December, St George’s congregation helped create gift boxes for disadvantaged families in Strood, sister parish to St George’s.

The Women of Weald’s (WOW) annual charity was ‘the Smile Train’, an organisation that operates on children’s cleft palates to give them back their smiles.

Closer to home, and following the death of Robin Marchant’s support dog, Pandora, a Fun Dog Show was organised to raise funds for ‘Canine Partners’ which provide dogs to support people with physical disabilities. This was a great success and was followed by a Craft Fair at the beginning of December.

Money raised by St George’s 10K and Fun Run in September supports the activity of many groups in the village including CAMEO (Come And Meet Each Other), Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Brownies.

David Pyle, head-teacher at Weald Community Primary School, led a group of staff and parents in a ‘sleepover’ on the streets of London to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and to raise funds for their support. Fundraising organised by Weald School PTA  features highly in the activities of the village – in the summer there is always a school summer ‘Fayre’ – this year it was with the theme of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Another fundraiser, a barn dance, was held at Westwood Farm. Christmas saw another school ‘Fair’. I understand that much of the money raised this year has been put to refurbishing the playground area following building and refurbishment at the school. I’d love to hear what other purchases have been made and what future plans the P.T.A. might have.

The profit from the several concerts organised in the Weald Memorial Hall went buying a new notice board for the hall, a freezer for the community shop, and a donation to the British Legion and Alzheimer’s support organisation. Fundraising took place outside the village too as Ian Walker supported his blind friend, Paul Smith, in running the London Marathon;  Graham and Avril Fenn took part in a cycle ride around London in aid of the Princes’ Trust.

I know that despite mentioning all the activites above there will have been many others going unreported or are part of villagers ongoing charitable giving.

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS: Although much of what I write is about the annual cycle of events in the village there are individual highlights including Stella Donati representing England at Challenge Wratislava, an International fencing tournament, Emily Stone, a young triathlete was crowned the British Triathlon Association’s TriStart South East Champion and Maddie Ball won silver and bronze medals for Taekwondo. She and her sister, Sophie, both got three A* in all three sciences and Maths, and Sophie scooped a bronze award at the British Physics Olympiad AS Challenge.

Sophie Holmes, with Roberta Briant and her daughter Verity shone in panto, Alan Hindley was honoured for his 50 years of service to the scouting movement and, as an acknowledgement of her work in the Rochester Diocese, our vicar, Rev. Mandy Carr, became Canon, Rev. Mandy Carr.

In team sports, the Women’s Stool Ball team won a match for the first time and Weald school’s ‘A’ netball team were top of the league. For the second year running a Junior Bridge Tournament was held at Weald School.

Although not necessarily an ‘achievement’ – although it might be considered such –  Esther Hollamby who grew up in the village, wed Harry Frederick at St George’s Church in September. Following the wedding, the couple are spending an extended period of time in New Zealand and the last time I asked Ros Hollamby how they were doing they had just called ‘home’ from the top of a mountain! The miracle of modern technology DOES work as long as you have a signal.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS: I have been working closely with many organisations in the village to produce an annual calendar of events and have been struck by how many interesting talks are scheduled for 2019. I looked back at the 2018 newsletters to see what topics we enjoyed last year – what an eclectic mix of subjects there were.

The history group’s talks featured the buying and restoration of Dode Church to a visual delight, ‘Stained Glass in Kent ‘ and ‘A Schoolgirl’s War’ profiling some lovely watercolour paintings made by the Art teacher at Maidstone Grammar during the war as the girls scurried into the bomb shelter dug on school grounds. There was also a talk about ‘Archeology from the Air’. The group’s ‘away day’ was to Hastings where guides led them along the streets of old town, down to the old, wooden fishing sheds where the nets were hung to dry in the ‘good old days’ before the advent of plastic tubs!

CAMEO, Women of Weald and the Horticultural Society all had full and varied speaker programmes. Alan Haines entertained Women of Weald with ‘A Kick up the 60s’, Russell Bowes with ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ and Toni Mount ‘They Dared to be Doctors’. From our seats at CAMEO there was a ‘Trip around Wessex’ and to the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ with Val Crooks as well as a visit to ‘Canada and Alaska’ with Brian and Jan Saunders. CAMEO also organise a ‘Holiday at Home’ giving villagers who may not be able to travel away a chance to get together for several day’s activities.

The Horticultural Society’s talks were, by their very nature, closer to home. For instance, Fidelity Weston from Romshed Farm, spoke about ‘Grass fed meat’. As well as the talks and, of course, the seasonal Flower and Produce shows, visiting gardens also featured highly on the list of events. Doris and Jack Wheeler organised a trip to Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex as well as the annual three day garden bonanza – this year a scorcher of an event (it was a VERY hot summer) taking in Oxford Botanical Gardens, Grey’s Court, Abbey House Garden, Rodmarten Manor, Stonor Park and Nuffield Place.

St George’s has begun a very successful series of film evenings for 7-11 year-olds, teen screens (12-16 year olds) and for the rest of us ‘Golden Oldies! Pop corn was included (you see, I said that food was offered at most village events!!)

FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD: Eating and socialising play a very important part of Weald village life here. Women of Weald and CAMEO always end meetings with a delicious, home made tea. Women of Weald also celebrates the summer with a garden party and CAMEO organise an Easter Hat competition at their Easter celebration at which, of course, tea is served. The church celebrates all its important festivals with food – pancakes at Shrove Tuesday, a Harvest supper in Autumn and in December, a Charity lunch is combined with a sale of work. Later in the December CAMEO organise ‘Mainly Carols and Cakes’ – this year an event that benefited from the joyful sound of the Weald school children singing.

The scouts regularly cook sausages and hamburgers at events and the delicious smell of BBQ is a feature at the 10K and Fun Run in September and, in November, at the Fireworks night. Then there are the concerts held in the Memorial Hall which include dinner, afternoon tea or, as we had last year, an Indian themed Sunday brunch with sitar music.

The Horticultural Society organises an annual coffee morning, summer supper and late year dinner and, of course, I should mention our award-winning pub and the outstanding restaurant, Giacomos on Morley’s Road.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Although most of what I have outlined in this review so far deals with on-going annual events in the village, 2018 also saw some notable, singular, events.

This newsletter had a ‘scoop’ as Matt and Emma, publicans of the Windmill Pub, decided to let the village know through the newsletter in March that they were putting it up for sale – the village held its breath. Matt and Emma had been our ‘caped crusaders’ when they had bought the pub around eight years ago, rescuing it from an uncertain future and turning it into a venue for good food and good beer. They were so successful that in 2016 the Windmill was one of the four finalists in the ‘Pub of the Year’ competition. Following a nervous wait to see if the pub would sell, we were all relived to welcome new publicans Richard and Fay, who took over in the middle of September.

But, by far the most significant village event of 2018 was the weekend in November commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day 1918. Attached to the trees around the village green were giant poppies each one with a name of someone from the village who had fallen. St George’s Church organised the installation of 18 perspex seated figures representing the 18 men of the village who lost their lives. It was part of a national commemoration called ‘There but not there’. It was extremely moving; the ghostly silhouettes of the men were not obvious at first until one or two became visible because of the light catching the cut edge of the perspex – then one by one all 18 were revealed. During the service a specially commissioned film called ‘Distance’ was shown based on two poems written by Elizabeth Miller featuring a young man and his wife and the letters they wrote to each other.

On Sunday, 11 November, following the service in the church, there was a short gathering and laying of wreaths at the war memorial. In the afternoon there was another wreath laying service at the flagpole on the green after which villagers and visitors came down to the Memorial Hall to look at the exhibition of WWI memorabilia and to see the wall hanging patched and stitched by a group of Weald ladies featuring the names of those killed with a uniform button of the regiment in which they served. Copies of Sheila Hocking’s book, Weald and the Great War’ went on sale and, by the end of the weekend, the original 100 printed had been sold and an additional print run had been organised.

At the beginning of December, although marred  by inclement weater, houses around the village taking part in the’Living Advent Calendar’ project had begun to ‘reveal’ their windows day by day. This was the second year of the ‘calendar’ and I hope that Rachel and Matthew Yates are already planning something again for the end of the year. What a magical way to begin the Christmas season.

WEALD IN PRINT: It’s amazing to think that it is only just over a year since the History Group published its up-dated history of the village, ‘The Changing Face of Weald’. There are a few ‘glitches’ in information which should be rectified sometime this year. An errata sheet will be produced which can be printed out and attached to the book. If you have not yet purchased your copy, they can be bought in the Community Shop, the Sevenoaks bookshop or directly from me. Several copies were donated to the Kent Archives at Maidstone.

‘The Changing Face of Weald’ is not the only book to tell of the history of the village. To mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice of the Great War, Sheila Hocking produced a booklet called ‘Weald and the Great War’, a culmination of her research into the 73 men who went to war (and their families) with detail of the 18 who were killed either in action or as a result of their wounds. Only a few copies of the booklet are still available – please ask at the shop.

Elizabeth Miller has transcribed many entries from the school logbooks and is in the process of adding to the chapter she wrote about the school in ‘The Changing Face of Weald’ this time with specific reference to the logbooks.

The village is also commemorated in pictures. Some of the views I have taken have been for sale as cards in the Community Shop, some appear along with others on the village website, greatly improved by Hamilton Woods and Roger Trapp. If you haven’t seen it recently it is well worth a visit by CLICKING HERE 

MEMORIAL HALL: We are very lucky in the village to have a number of meeting places for group activities – the Church rooms and Church Hall, the Scout ‘Hut’ and, central in the village and essential for the village, the Memorial Hall.

The Hall was built in 1959 after a considerable fundraising effort. Money remaining from the erection of the War Memorial after the end of the First World was added to over the years by village fundraising efforts. The sum raised, £2,600,  was increased by a ministry grant of £1,280. When the hall was further extended in 1987 another £24,000 had to be found, and this was achieved.

Today the Hall is the venue of choice for a whole host of activities – different fitness classes, regular monthly meetings of groups such as the Women of Weald, U3A classes, The Horticultural Society seasonal flower and vegetable shows, children’s science classes, Brownies, Soup and Scrabble, sewing group, parties, concerts, quizzes, craft fairs and Parish Council meetings.

2019 sees the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Hall which is managed by a very small group of volunteers. If you use the hall please consider lending your support to the committee. Pooling ideas for the Hall’s future is vital. Call Richard Gidman (01732 454222) if you can help in any way.

SAD FAREWELLS: Although writing the local news is mainly an uplifting view of village life it also has its moments of sadness as I write about people who have died. Some have had very long and fulfilling lives (Brian Carter, Rosemary Milns and David Marchant) and others gone too soon (Ian George Wood ‘Woodie’, and Carol Dooley). Past residents were also remembered (Ivan Paige, Beryl Baker and John Busby).

UNWANTED NEWS: On a less positive note, during the year I wrote about graffiti being sprayed on buildings at the Recreation Ground, people not picking up their dog ‘poo’, and a case of suspected cat poisoning. There have been several cases of houses and sheds being broken into so extra vigilance is needed around the village.

BAGS MORE: At the last Weald Parish Council meeting of the year, Judy Whiddett, the coordinator of Weald’s Community Shop Boomerang Bags initiative, gave every member of the committee as well as Seal & Weald Sevenoaks District Councillors Roderick Hogarth (pictured left) and Julia Thornton (rear, centre) a bag to thank them for their work for the village over the past year. Judy and her team had been hard at work replacing the bags that were stolen during a burglary at the Community Shop.

Boomerang Bags, a community driven movement, was founded by Australians, Tania Potts and Jordyn de Boer back in 2013. Their primary aim was to reduce the use of single-use disposable plastic items, most notably bags. Today, there are over 860 Boomerang Bag groups globally (although it must be 861 now that Weald is involved)! The website for ‘Boomerang Bags’  say, ‘The handmade one-of-a-kind fabric bags act as a catalyst for positive change, with the social and environmental impacts extending well beyond simply replacing plastic bags. Every bag made equals another conversation – it’s about reconnecting with our humanity and becoming stewards for our beautiful planet and all life within it.’

Amazingly over 206,000 bags have been stitched and 62 000 +kilograms of waste diverted from landfill. I hope that other communities in and around Sevenoaks will think of joining in the scheme.

2019 EVENTS:Women of Weald stated a brand new year on Wednesday, 2 January, with a return visit from Russell Bowes who last regaled the meeting with a talk entitles ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’. This time he channelled the persona of Roald Dahl’s, chocolatier extrordinaire, Willie Wonka,  and told us all about the development of chocolate. Coincidentally, Women of Weald’s new President, Jean Jacklin won the ‘golden ticket’ and a hat full of chocolate bars. In February, Women of Weald will welcome the Queen’s jeweller, David Thomas.

At the first monthly walk of the year, 22 villagers (plus three dogs) set off from the Memorial Hall under the direction of Moya and Roger Grady, on Saturday 5 January for a 7km walk, arriving back ‘cold but happy’ to the warm embrace of the shop and steaming cups of coffee. The walking group get together on the first Saturday of every month and leave for the walk at 9.45pm.

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