Making the most of Chaucer Fields

Dear all

Over the past three weeks or so, we have witnessed a great appetite to appreciate Chaucer Fields. There’s been  the usual day to day use of the fields of course – when people  use this precious green space for leisure and  recreation (especially walking, running and cycling), while also appreciating their environment and landscape – just as they have done for decades. But I’m happy to be able to report on a couple of other less routine happenings.

First, at the end of may, the importance of this place from an inter-generational perspective was underlined by a special event in collaboration with the Oaks nursery (next to Keynes college). The older children of the Oaks nursery have long  been accustomed to enjoying and learning about nature with walks on the Southern Slopes. Indeed, the ability to do this is one of the many features of the University’s nursery that makes it such a special place (and of course, helps to attract staff and mature students with young children to the University in the first place). However, at the end of last month, more unusually, one such  outing had a musical accompaniment! On a baking hot day, after a walk through the woods on the Southern Slopes to the East of Chaucer Fields, the children followed the sound of music, and were led to the heart of Chaucer Fields in a shady spot surrounded by hedges and Oak trees. They were then introduced one by one to a range of acoustic instruments  – including melodeon, bagpipes, drums and banjo – and enthusiastically danced and  clapped to traditional tunes, as well as playing on sundry percussion alongside the musicians (Whistable’s Dead Horse musicianers plus a guest drummer).

Musical procession at the heart of Chaucer Fields

The music was drawn from the English traditional repertoire, including eighteenth century folk tunes like “Speed the Plough”  – which would have been familiar to the people who looked after this land for many, many generations (long before the University existed). A procession then followed back to the Oaks with the medieval aspect of Beverley Farm dominating on the North side, and stunning views over the city to the South. This well worn route (which I suggested in an earlier ‘heritage’ Blog might be called ‘Penitence Peramble’) allowed the children to enjoy the music, fresh air, panoramic historical views, while witnessing nature at close quarters. No one seemed to get bored! The plans is to organise similar events  in the near future.

Picnickers viewed from above

Second, after a successful Save Chaucer Fields quiz night on 9 June (see below), a picnic went ahead as planned, accompanied by  ‘classic’ Chaucer Fields picnic activities, including tree climbing, frisbee and an open musical session (see left for a view of part of the picnic from an unusual angle!). We were all especially pleased that UKC students played such an important role here (and several  had also contributed to the quiz night –  although not quite managing to win, giving the other competitors a good run for their money).

Some of those involved (see below) hold leadership positions amongst the most dynamic of the University’s student societies, are very knowledgeable about biodiversity and conservation issues, and will be with us for 2012/13. We are all looking forward to moving together with them on the Chaucer Fields agenda in the months ahead.

Students and friends at June picnic 2012

There was also an intriguing  UKC society  represented in our midst, practicising on the fields: the Capoiera Society. Capoiera is a  martial art form that involves dance and music, which grew out of the melding of African slave and Brazilian traditions.

Capoiera practice on Chaucer Fields

Obviously you won’t get much of an impression of that from just a couple of  photos like this (left)! But if you are interested to learn more, do let me know (see email address below). I’d be glad to  pass this on to the group’s organisers.

More capoiera practice on Chaucer Fields

Last but not least: the SCF Quiz night! This was great fun, but also successful. With excellent attendance and generosity, over £400 was raised for the SCF Fighting Fund, resources which are desperately needed to pay for legal advice and support to help protect Chaucer Fields from ‘development’.

At the event, we also received two key pieces of information from David Smith, chair of the Save Chaucer Fields coalition. First, you may recall (as reported in an earlier Blog) that, at  the Chaucer Fields UCU meeting, Keith Mander (Head of Estates, and co-architect of the ‘development’ proposals) revealed publicly for the first time that the University is now exploring off-campus development options. However,  since then  the University has indicated to Canterbury City Council that it does not consider the status of its Chaucer Fields planning application to have changed. That is, its ‘development’ plans here  are only ‘on hold’ temporarily. (This is in the face of the uncertainty created by the ongoing Village Green Application process. This Application seems to be worrying the scheme’s financial backers).

We must, I am afraid to have to confirm, expect a re-submission of the Planning Application if and when the for-profit  financiers think a predictable potential revenue stream has been reestablished (even it it is now going to be more than a year later that the University had originally indicated….).

Second, David informed us that Kent County Council have said that the next important moment in the Village Green Application process (for the Southern Slopes as a whole) will be September this year. At that time, following the ongoing internal review of the evidence already gathered earlier this year, KCC will decide whether:

  •  to reject the Application (the outcome apparently expected  by Keith Mander);
  • to accept it (the ideal outcome for the community); or
  • to launch a public enquiry (because more evidence is considered needed to make a decision).

It seems likely that the third option may well be chosen, but we will have to wait until September to find out.

Let me finish with a plea. This Blog is now reaching increasingly large numbers of people, but we need to keep raising awarenesss of this issue, especially in readiness for the events set to unfold from autumn onwards. Can you please email me, at chaucerfieldspicnicsociety@gmail.com, with the contact details for anyone you feel I could usefully  add to the emailing list. They will then receive an email notice whenever a new CFPS Blog has been written, and be kept in the loop on key relevant news and developments.

All best

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society

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