29 February 2012

High Halstow Times - March Edition

The March edition of the High Halstow Times is now available. Once again packed full of stories, reports and things to do. Just click on the image below to see the full copy.

This month’s edition includes an introduction to the new Diamond Jubilee Committee, a report on the planned 1000 mile charity moped ride by local residents Robin and Claire Watson, details of the next Farmers’ Market on Saturday 3 March, information about the next Project 90 morning on Saturday 17 March, Parish Council surgery dates (taking place on the second Tuesday every month), updates from the High Halstow and District Gardening Club and plenty more reports, updates and local advertising!

There’s clearly so much happening in High Halstow in March the magazine will seem like a copy of Time Out!

The High Halstow Times is the magazine of High Halstow Parish Council. Take a look at their website by clicking here.

27 February 2012

Medway Council against a Thames Estuary Airport!

Lots of people from across the Hoo Peninsula have been busy distributing Medway Council leaflets, car stickers and badges, as part of the campaign against an airport being built in the Thames Estuary.

Here’s the current flyer:

Medway Council will be providing updates on their campaign website, just click here to take a look.

26 February 2012

RSPB ‘stepping up’ to say No Estuary Airport!

Leaflets are being delivered across the Hoo Peninsula, calling on local residents to oppose the idea of building one of the largest airports in the world - right here in the Thames Estuary.

A leaflet produced by the RSPB asks residents to go online and take ‘e-action’ by emailing the government to object to the proposals.

As everyone involved in previous campaigns knows, a scheme like this would destroy our cherished and much loved natural environment - a spectacular wetland of global importance! 

If you’d like to ‘step up’ and get involved, just click here.

24 February 2012

Letter from America

Continuing my focus on some of the people who have recently been in touch to talk about their connections to the Hoo Peninsula, I am today looking ‘across the pond’ to the sunshine state of California.

I was contacted last week by Susan Cox (Sue), who lived in Hoo as a child in the late 1950s. Sue lived in one of the group of semi-detached houses next to Dr. Tilley’s surgery on Main Road. Sue says Hoo was lovely back in those days, surrounded as it was (and still is of course) by some beautiful countryside.

Main Road, junction with Tilley Close.

Sue’s father built a small boat for weekend jaunts on the River Medway and the river forts are imprinted in her memory from those trips. (Seeing these river forts up close is something I must try to do myself soon.) There was a meadow on the walk to the river, which Sue recalls was home to an enormous Suffolk Punch draft horse.

Her family had a housekeeper, who she thinks had many generations of family from Hoo. The housekeeper often used to take Sue and her sister to the Church graveyard to care for a family grave.

Sue also has fond memories of the old Post Office on Main Road, what is today Hoo Spice. Here is another photo from local resident Arthur Vidgeon’s website, as the building looked in 1915 - along with a photo taken a few days ago.

Thank you Sue for getting in touch and sharing your memories of living in Hoo.

Would you like to share your stories, memories or old photos of the area? Just get in touch via the contact page.

22 February 2012

Allhallows Life - March Edition

The March edition of Allhallows Life is now available. Click the image below to see the full copy.

This month’s edition includes an update from the History Club, a list of services at All Saints Church, details of walks organised by the Walking Club and reports from the Parish Council and other local groups. There are details about a ‘Grease’ charity fundraiser on Saturday 31 March, in aid of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, and a special spotlight falls on the latest monthly Project Morning activities - with details of the next one taking place on Saturday 10 March. The magazine also includes a feature about the work of the Parish Council’s Caretakers, Kathy Colyer and John Price.

Another really packed edition this month, with lots to get involved with - so please take time to read from cover to cover!

Allhallows Life is the magazine of Allhallows Parish Council. Take a look at their website by clicking here. The magazine also features items from St. Mary Hoo Parish Council. Take a look at their website by clicking here.

A farthing’s worth of sweets please!

I mentioned the other day how nice it is being contacted by former, current and future residents! Often living locally, but sometimes living the on other side of the world - it’s fascinating reading the many stories and memories of people with connections to the Hoo Peninsula.

Last week I was contacted by Margaret Hill (nee Ross) who moved away from the area to County Durham in 1968. Margaret lived in Hoo as a girl and has fond memories of living in the area. I was really interested to learn of her connections to some well known local family names, including Miskin, Blackman, Pointer (or Poynter) and Flack.

Margaret told me she is directly related to the Cruttenden family. Her grandfather, William, was founder member of the Hoo Silver Band (pictured below). His wife, Kate, was an officer in the Salvation Army, based at their hall near Crawfords Cottages in Hoo (roughly where the Red Cross Hall is today). Apparently, William and Kate Cruttenden had 9 children.

Margaret got in touch after seeing the ‘Then and Now’ photo series I featured recently, looking at locations along Stoke Road, particularly the old photo of the now demolished Carpet Shop. When Margaret’s grandmother lived in Crawfords Cottages, the shop sold vegetables and sweets - and she has fond memories of crossing the road for a farthing’s worth of sweets.

'High Street', now called Stoke Road, looking west (with Crawfords Cottages to the right).

The same view today.

It was particularly funny to read Margaret’s story of a time when she got cross with her mother, packed a suitcase and, at just 4 years old, left home! She went as far as her aunt’s house, who lived in Abbots Court. Margaret lived along Main Road, near to St. Werburgh Crescent, so I suppose this is quite a distance for someone so young. But she says her mother always knew where to find her!

A view from Abbots Court Road.

Abbots Court, currently under renovation.

Thank you Margaret for getting in touch - I really enjoyed reading your memories of the area.

Would you like to share your stories, memories or old photos of the area? Just get in touch via the contact page.

20 February 2012

Think you’re tough?

The 'muddies' certainly were - they had to be!

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, gangs of men from local villages competed for the much sought after, though incredibly exhausting, job of digging clay or ‘mud’ from the marshes and saltings of the River Medway. The men were known as the 'muddies'.

The muddies had to load up to one hundred tonnes of clay, from sites including Hoo Flats and Stoke Saltings, onto barges for transportation up the river to one of the many cement works.

It was clearly a very tough job, and many of those men suffered unimaginable health problems as a result. Reports describe men suffering from chronic rheumatism, arthritis, sprained wrists and strained backs. Many also suffered from ’scaffleman’ - torn skin on parts of the back, as a result of continual lifting, turning and throwing. Calluses on hands, sometimes causing fingers to join together, were a common result of the constant use, and rubbing, of a spade.

Despite this, the men would only ever take a few days off work to repair serious damage to their bodies - no health and safety or 48 hour working week regulations around then!

The only consolation was that it was one of the best paid jobs around, paying much more than farm labourers earned. Muddies kept the work within a tight knit circle - with the work normally becoming a father and son tradition in many families.

At the height of this local industry, in the early 1900s, a barge load (100 tonnes) of clay would earn the men 35 shillings - shared out amongst a gang of about 10 muddies. They could often load two barges every low tide and, it is said, there would always be about 50 barges waiting to be loaded on the Stoke Marshes at any one time.

The income they earned was sufficient for many of the muddies to buy pubs once they had finally laid down their shovels. This is quite possibly the case with my great great grandfather, Henry Spencer. Described as a ‘Cement Labourer’ in several census documents, I can’t imagine how else he managed to land so firmly on his feet!

I have mentioned the muddies a couple of times before. Back in May 2010 Peter Cook from the Medway Messenger ran a special feature in the local paper - click here to take a look. And in August 2010, I mentioned a book by F. G. Willmott called ’Cement, Mud and Muddies’. Most of what I know about the 'muddie tradition’ comes from this excellent book, apart from the many chats I’ve had with ‘village elders‘ in Stoke and those from much further afield. Their tales certainly bring home to you what a tough existence it was - but one that came with much camaraderie and life long friendships. Click here to visit that item.

Stoke Saltings in more recent times.

The photos of the muddies appear courtesy of Dr. MacDonald of Stoke, whose long association with the Stoke Saltings is well known to many.

I will be mentioning the muddies again later this week, as former local resident Jill Warby (nee Mortley) has written a wonderful article about her great grandfather Sidney George Mortley, a well known local muddie, for the March edition of The Countryman magazine - available in all good newsagents!!!

19 February 2012

February volunteering at Grain Coastal Park

The second Grain Coastal Park volunteer activity day of 2012 took place today. And once again we were blessed with a lovely sunny morning.

12 people turned out to lend a hand, and just like last month we were also joined by ‘Dave‘ - very much top dog of the new Friends of Grain Coastal Park group.

We did more litter picking this time, around the back of the park. There’ll be an even wider range of important tasks when we next meet, on Sunday 18 March.

Rather unexpectedly, our activities this morning might form part of academic research! Portsmouth University Student James Crump (pictured second from left), has been in the area doing research. When told what we were up to he decided to join in. Thanks for your help James!

Diary dates for further chances to ‘get your hands dirty’ at Grain Coastal Park are 18 March, 15 April, 20 May, 17 June. All sessions begin at 10.30am and, from next month, the meeting point will be at the St. James Pavilion, Pintail Close (off Green Lane).

More details will be included in the soon to be launched newsletter of the new Friends group. Due out in the next couple of weeks, the newsletter will also be posted on this website - so watch this space.

In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about how to get involved with the Friends of Grain Coastal Park - contact Michael on 01634 270314 or drop him an email here.

It’s good to talk . . .

It’s always nice when people get in touch to say hello and give feedback about what they like on this website.

I’m often contacted by people passing on information and news about local events and activities, with others sharing memories and photographs of the area. But it isn’t just local residents who get in touch.

It’s nice when people from around the world do so too - who perhaps lived on the Hoo Peninsula once themselves, or have relatives and ancestors who lived in the area. I’ve also been getting quite a few messages from people who are thinking of moving to the area.

Please do carry on getting in touch via the contact page, especially if you have old photos or postcards of places on the Hoo Peninsula.

I will feature some of those who have recently made contact, in the coming week, including two former residents of Hoo.

16 February 2012

No Estuary Airport!

Over the last couple of months there has been growing speculation and debate about the possible building of an airport in our area. As most people will know, there are two main proposals. One being an island airport in the estuary and the other a scheme on the Isle of Grain.

The RSPB are highlighting the threats to our much cherished wildlife and have been recording the views of local residents - posting them on their website as part of an audio feature (podcast) on the issues surrounding these proposals. Click here to have a listen.

Rolf Williams from the RSPB

If you’re interested in reading more about the negative impact these devastating airport ideas would have on our local landscape and wildlife, or to get involved in the RSPB ‘No Estuary Airport’ campaign, their website is one of the best places to go. Just click here to find out more.

You might also like to take a look at ‘No Estuary Airport’ website run by the Friends of North Kent Marshes, just click here.

Medway Council’s ‘No Estuary Airport’ website can be visited by clicking here.

15 February 2012

The ever changing face of Hoo

I caught up with long time local resident Arthur Vidgeon last week, chatting about his excellent local website - containing lots of old photos of Hoo, and his own family history research.

Arthur is happy for me to share his old photos here, and given that he lives at White House Farm, along Stoke Road, I thought I’d upload a selection of his photos of this road.

I’ve added updated versions of the same locations (well, roughly the same). I hope you like this ‘then and now’ comparison!

The first photo shows what was once Bevin’s Butcher Shop and, at a later point, Tetts Agricultural Merchants. Then there’s a photo of the same location today, with the houses known as Jennifer Court.

This photo shows Stoke Road (as I mentioned the other day, it was known as the High Street until it was re-named Stoke Road in 1959) looking towards the village square. And then there’s a photo of the same location taken a couple of days ago.

This next photo is of the junction with Church Street and Stoke Road in the village centre. And then the same location as it looks now.

The last photo in this little set shows what was The Carpet Shop, on Stoke Road. I’m told it was also a fish and ship shop at one point! Demolished in 2005, the second photo shows the location today.

Arthur’s website really is well worth a visit. There are lots of even older photos than those I picked out. Just click here to take look. You can also see a good selection of old local photos on display at Taggs Coffee Shop in Hoo village centre.

Many thanks to Arthur for letting me use his photos.

Do you have any old photos or postcards of places on the Hoo Peninsula? If you’d like to share them on this website, just get in touch via the contact page.

14 February 2012

Hoo Peninsula Film Project

I’ve posted something very similar about this before, but no apologies for doing so again!

Since 2006, I’ve been meeting lots of the peninsula’s longer-standing residents, or ‘peninsula elders’ as you might like to call them, to record on camera their stories and memories about living and working here.

Often more than just the typical recollections you tend to read in history books, I’ve heard some fascinating tales. Always unique and sometimes shocking, it’s been a real pleasure to have listened to these personal insights into everyday life. And I’ve learnt so much about our local history, including the odd snippet about my own family!

When I’ve finished I’m planning to donate these recordings to historical archives and local history groups. I’d hope that future generations of historians, and residents, seeking to expand their knowledge of local social history might find them useful - and I know they’ll find the people in them interesting and often really funny!

I still have a whole list of people on my list to get through in the coming months, but it’s always good to hear of anyone else with a few interesting stories to tell.

Just get in touch via the contact page.

13 February 2012

The Hemony Grove pond

With new development having enlarged Hoo in more recent years, it’s good to see that some old village characteristics can be maintained and incorporated into the newer parts of the community, such as the pond on Hemony Grove.

This old pond, with its rustic surroundings, was originally a clay pit. It can be seen on maps as far back as 1870, and is now a really pleasant feature of The Pastures development along Stoke Road.

I found some old maps on a really good website called, funnily enough, Old Maps. It has maps of the area, which are free to view online.

Looking at some of these maps, I could see that the eastern side of Hoo (mainly along Stoke Road) once had clay, gravel and cement pits, a kiln, smithy and a brickworks too. The area around the pond, or ‘pit’ as it is still more commonly known, was surrounded by orchards, as it remained until the new development was started a few years ago. A few residents have told me about the fun had as kids ‘scrumping’ in those orchards!

The ‘pit’ may have lost its industrial use nowadays, but it gives a pleasant glimpse of life as it used to be and is a little gem for wildlife - and long may it remain.

Another little bit of education for me personally, I also discovered that Stoke Road was originally called the High Street, being re-named in about 1959.

Do you know about any other local features on the Hoo Peninsula? Get in touch via the contact page.

10 February 2012

A concert not to be missed!

Hoo St. Werburgh Parish Church will be hosting their first concert of the year on St. Patrick’s Day (Saturday 17 March), to raise much needed cash for the Church.

The headline act is ‘Paul Carpenter and Friends’ who will perform a set of well known songs and they will even throw in a few Irish favourites too. The trio, who perform a selection of easy listening songs, spent 29 years gigging in London’s West End, including at the Langham Hilton Hotel and Claridges. They even played for royalty!

Tickets are by a donation of £5. Get in touch with Stuart on 01634 251705 to find out more.

Thank you to our new friend!

As I mentioned last month, Peel Ports agreed to donate equipment to the Grain Coastal Park volunteer activity days.

Michael Dale, who is one of the people trying to set up a Friends of Grain Coastal Park group, and I took a trip to Sheerness Docks to collect the equipment last week - and to thank Peel Ports personally for their generous support.

Me, Pete Smedley (Peel Ports) and Michael Dale.

It’s good that Peel Ports are supporting the work of volunteers at Grain Coastal Park. They’ve donated safety goggles, litter pickers, safety helmets and high visibility vests - all much needed items for our monthly activities.

If you’d like to ‘get your hands dirty’ once a month, or if you’re keen to find out more about becoming a Friend of Grain Coastal Park, the next activity day will be on Sunday 19 February. You can find out more by clicking the image below, or by getting in touch with Michael on 01634 270314 or by email here.

If you run a local business and want to get involved please get in touch. We’re always on the lookout for equipment and tools!

6 February 2012

And now for something completely unpleasant!

I usually prefer to spend time looking at the interesting, occasionally light hearted and generally positive elements to living on the peninsula. Today though, there is no escaping a rather ‘odd’ situation. To say the least!

Now, I’ve excluded many of the worst photos that were taken, but I would still advise anyone with a sensitive disposition to skip over the pictures.

Still here? Okay, so this is the situation . . .

During a recent litter picking session in Hoo, volunteers noticed that someone had been dumping carrier bag loads of faeces in the centre of the village.

The area affected is off Stoke Road behind the Village Square car park, and it would appear to have been going on for at least a couple of months.

So far around nine bags have been dumped, mostly left in the bushes near the public toilets. But last week two of the bags were thrown onto the roof of the toilets!

On each occasion, I’m sorry to say, the bags were bulging. Revolting I know. And it gets even weirder!

At the end of last month, bags of faeces were left alongside a bag containing four dead Teal - a small member of the duck family.

Rolf Williams from the RSPB was called out to give his opinion as to why the birds might have been dumped and to see if he could tell how they died.

Rolf was bewildered about why they were dumped, although he quickly noticed that the birds had been shot from beneath, as if killed in flight. He told me that the species aren’t protected from wildfowling, so there isn’t actually a conservation concern.

However, the way in which the birds (and waste) were dumped is a big concern. So local residents are being asked to be extra vigilant when in this part of the village - reporting anything unusual, and supplying information about who might be doing this (confidentially of course) to Medway Council or the Police.

If you want to get in touch with Medway Council, phone Johnny Robinson (Community Officer for Peninsula Ward) on 01634 333333, or call the Police on 101.

This story is mentioned in today’s edition of the Medway Messenger (Monday edition), following a visit last week to Hoo by reporter Dan Bloom.

Johnny Robinson talking to Dan Bloom from the Medway Messenger.

As Nick Ross used to say on BBC Crimewatch - “don’t have nightmares” and report anything suspicious!

5 February 2012

A bit of snow can’t ruin the day!

So, the anticipated snow finally came and did its worst.

Thankfully the main roads on the Hoo Peninsula were relatively clear of snow, when I headed over to the Isle of Grain today with Rolf Williams from the RSPB. Rolf was keen to record local people talking about the prospect of an airport in the Thames Estuary, and the impact it would have.

Some recordings were taken outside, and the beach looked really stunning, with a thick covering of snow giving the place an eerie calm and peacefulness.

Rolf Williams from the RSPB

After a big dose of fresh air, we walked past St. James’ Church on our way to The Hogarth Inn. The pub today has this name because of a visit in 1732 by the artist William Hogarth. Over the years it has had a number of uses and names. It was originally called The Chequer Ale House. I’m not entirely sure whether he stayed the night at the pub, but he is said to have enjoyed a meal of ‘salt pork, bread, butter and buns and good malt liquor’. They obviously kept good records back in those days!

The pub was packed due to the screening of the Manchester United and Chelsea game. But I still got the chance to chat with people about the prospects of a Thames Estuary airport, local wildlife, family history and also the growing number of people volunteering at Grain Coastal Park. It was one of those afternoons where you just sit back and have a good chin-wag - pint in hand of course.

I promised to give a mention to Jennifer, Rene and Karen (pictured below).

Thanks for being such good sports!