July CFPS Blog – from prehistoric ancestors to UKC alumni

Dear all

Midsummer time

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Bushy Acres Field midsummer view, July 2013

I hope you are  enjoying the summer. Chaucer Fields and the Unspoilt Southern Slopes are now in midsummer mode, albeit looking a bit parched. Luxurious long grass playing host to numerous bees, damselflies and butterflies.

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Speckled Wood, Pararge Aegeria [Lennaeus, 1758],  “Beverley Boughs”, early July 2013

The butterfly population has included the ‘usual suspects’ – such as  Dusky Meadow Browns, Small Coppers, Small Whites and Small Tortoiseshells, but interesting to come  across a new one (to me) recently – the Speckled Wood (see photo above). This butterfly thrives in unpolluted and unspoilt wooded glades and tranquil settings. So finding plenty of then in ‘Beverley Boughs’ (see map below) shouldn’t  have come  as a surprise!

Chaucer Fields draft heritage map

CFPS Heritage map from 2012: especially good place to see butterflies is ‘Beverley Boughs’

CAT Open Day, Keynes III site

The main purpose of this Blog is to remind you of the upcoming open day at the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) dig currently underway just north of the fields – above University Road and Beverley Farm. You may recall that the University has been required to facilitate the dig as a condition for  obtaining planning permission to proceed with the Keynes III development. This  development is now being referred to as the ‘Turing college’ development although the rationale for this has not been discussed or debated as far as I know. Anyway, please see the map below.

CAT dig in southern slopes context

Source: Adapted from Canterbury Archaeological Trust official map to show site proximity to unspoilt Southern Slopes (including Chaucer Fields)

As mentioned in the last Blog, the open day will take place this thursday 25th July. It’s a great  opportunity to find out about the fascinating evidence for a middle iron age settlement (that means dating from the period 300 – 150 years BC) established here. This builds on what had already emerged in recent work at the St Edmund’s school campus close by.  Presumably this extraordinary site will have been flourishing alongside Bigbury Camp just a few miles away (near to Harbledown). This was a settlement which seems to have been more significant than Canterbury itself, long prior to the Roman invasion, only after which that city became the dominant population centre locally. The event will be opened by the Lord Mayor at 10.30am, although the gates will open to visitors at 9.30am and the event will continue until 4pm. There will be regular site tours and displays of finds. CAT say all are welcome to attend. For more hints on what is being discovered, please refer to the relevant CAT project site here

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source: Image provided by CAT. Note roof of Beverley farmhouse in middle distance in front of Cathedral

Other notes

A couple of  other reminders and information points:

  • Please recall that the Canterbury City Council District Plan consultation period is currently ongoing. We (as individuals, voluntary groups, or other organisations) have until the end of August to respond. Please refer back to the previous Blog for more information.
  • Following the enormously successful May event on Chaucer  Fields – combining a picnic with the ‘Beating the Bounds’ by local church parishioners – another picnic is currently being planned for later next month, or early september, with local environmental and social groups. This  will be another exciting collaboration. Please watch this space for more details of date, time and the arrangements for participation!
bounds beaters, st stephens level crossing 1910

The parochial bounds-beaters who met with Chaucer Fields picnickers in may 2013 were following an ancient local tradition. This image shows St Stephens parish bounds beaters from a century ago at the St Stephen’s level crossing. The tradition was already several centuries  old then. They  will have also walked through Chaucer Fields if they did their job thoroughly!  Source: “Canterbury in Old Picture Postcards” by the late Terry Hougham, European Library, reproduced with kind permission of his grandson Max Apps

To finish: more on UKC alumni Ed Quast’s photographs

Finally, you may notice that after a couple of years, it seemed to right to ‘refresh’ the Header image used for the Blog. It occurred to me that it is crucial that the images we use communicate the  point that the Unspoilt Southern Slopes are a fabulous asset for all local communities and all ages: the local geographical community that hosts the university campus; the university community itself, including current staff and students, as well as alumni; and people of all ages, with whichever communities they associate.

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Ed Quast’s prize -winning iconic Chaucer Fields photograph from 2011

The new CFPS Header Image is provided courtesy of Ed Quast, a former  UKC student with whom I’ve kept  in touch. His evocative photo of the fields from 2011 caught the imagination of local people and was voted one of the most popular of all local photographs that year (see above). Another previously unpublished photo from Ed appears below!

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Hope to see you on thursday!

All best wishes

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society

CFPS First birthday

Dear all

CFPS First Anniversary

This month its the one year anniversary Blog of the Chaucer Fields Picnic Society! Because this is a subject about which many people feel so strongly,  I think the CFPS Blog  was always going to be ‘pushing at an open door’ in terms of levels of interest. But I have  been taken aback by quite how extensive  this interest has been. The site’s  had over 6,700 views, with people appearing to find it especially useful when there are significant news items to report. Interestingly, though, its not just being used by locally based people to keep a tab on events they can attend, or developments which potentially directly affect the  environment in which they work and live. Its also now read  in other parts of the world, including (in descending order of significance) the United States, Russia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, India, Australia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, and in other countries too in more modest numbers. On reflection, this is  not  so surprising: Canterbury is a proud World Heritage city, and threats to its setting should therefore be expected  to concern people from across the globe Furthermore the University itself rightly prides itself on the cosmopolitan character if its ‘community’ extending all over the world, and some of this interest reflects the extent to which people with UKC links are keen to follow developments  from many different places.

I’ve also had feedback that people appreciate the seasonal and historical imagery the Blog has sought to disseminate. With ‘home grown’ snaps I have made my own efforts  throughout the year to communicate something of  the natural beauty and charm of this place, and give a sense of how it is enjoyed throughout the year. But I  have also been able to draw on the work of others, a rewarding, intriguing and a great learning experience.  I want to take this chance to thank all the people  who have generously shared their pictures and thoughts with me in the past year, all united by recognition of the urgency and importance of the cause.

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Edwin Quast’s award winning “Chaucer Fields”, April 2011

What better way to underscore the importance of this co-operative effort that to showcase here very high quality images from the past and present? First, the image above was taken nearly two years ago (April 2011) by a University of Kent student, Edwin Quast. But its appeal is surely enduring. It captures so well the magical light  and sense of tranquility that pervades the unspoilt fields around dusk and dawn in the spring . It is no surprise that it went on to win an award last year, as part of  the  “365 Projects” supported through Kent Creative Art. This remarkable community initiative has successfully  captured with meaningful and resonant photography the places, people and situations which matter to local  people.

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Ed receiving his prize in 2012 from Faversham Festival’s Graham Gilbert in recognition of “Chaucer Fields”

Second, the specialness of the Southern Slopes is not only to do with its character as a historically significant beautiful and peaceful landscape. Its also about the wildlife which can be found there. I was delighted  to find out recently  that the university community has in its midst a very gifted wildlife photographer, Mark Kilner, who has kindly given me permission to mark the CFPS anniversary with some of his recent Southern Slopes photographs. His wonderful picture of a treecreeper, below is an example of a bird I had long expected to find here (given the character of the habitat), but have never actually succeeded in spotting! .Further Southern Slopes photographs from Mark follow below (please also take a moment to visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/markkilner/ ) .

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Treecreeper, Southern Slopes, photograph by Mark Kilner, March 2013

News Update

Since the last CFPS Blog at  the beginning of the month, the following developments are worth reporting:

  • The most successful Save Chaucer  Fields quiz night evertook place, with attendance and fundraising levels breaking existing records
  • The informal  Goods Shed musical event took place the following weekend, featuring local  traditional  band Roystercatchers. This raised further funds, but also succeeded in spreading awareness of the cause, whilst entertaining numerous invitees, shoppers and diners
  • People from the “University community”, including current and former staff and students, have submitted  pro-unspoilt Southern Slopes  “ideas” under the “Kent@ 50” initiative (see links in earlier Blog). In response to my own personal submission, I was told that the idea  would not be taken forward because it “conflicts with other University policies and plans”. Believing this  to refer to the Chaucer Conference Centre plans, I have written back to suggest that these plans cannot be assumed to be executable. That’s because (a) they demonstrably conflict  with local government (CCC) landscape and open space policies, which could lead to the withholding of planning permission; (b) because the pending village green application (with KCC) may be successful; and/or (c) because the University may sensibly choose to voluntarily withdraw these plans in response to community and expert sentiment and opinion (as it did with the 2011 plans).  I have therefore suggested that my “idea” and the numerous related pro-Southern Slopes  “ideas” submitted by  other members of the “University community” be retained, pending the outcome of these processes.
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Roystercatchers playing at the Goods Shed, 16 March 2013

In  addition,the Village Green preliminary hearing took place this week at the International Franciscan Studies  Centre. There was good attendance from the public. The need for this hearing, prior to the long awaited public inquiry, had arisen out of a  disagreement between the village green applicants (local people who have used the fields freely for decades) and the objector (the University authorities) about the  time frame relating to which evidence may  be considered relevant at the inquiry. Basically, the former would now prefer to be able to draw upon evidence over more than four decades, whereas the University authoriities  are seeking  to limit the evidence to the period 1991 – 2011. This is a complex legal issue, and the barristers for each party presented their cases to an expert Inspector from Kent County Council.

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Goldcrest, Southern Slopes, photograph by Mark Kilner, March 2013

The KCC Inspector will now review  their arguments, and recommend a decision concerning the legally appropriate time frame to the  relevant KCC committee (the  regulation committee). It is only once that committee has taken the decision that the public inquiry itself can begin with a clear frame of reference. Since the May 2013 KCC elections will need to have taken place for the regulation  committee to be properly constituted, the public inquiry itself can not take place before later in the summer, months later than originally  planned.  Further time will then be needed for the inquiry report to be written and a recommendation made to the KCC regulation committee concerning whether or not Village Green status should be granted. The  overall result is that the outcome of the Village Green Application will not be known for  many months.

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Redwing, Southern Slopes, photograph by Mark Kilner, February 2013

These legal twists and turns were unforseeable when this Blog began.My view is that the delays which follow from them are on balance a good  thing for  friends of the unspoilt Southern Slopes. That’s because while frustratingly complex, it affords more time for awareness of  the true value of this beautiful place to continue to heighten, and allows the University a further opportunity to reconsider its position. It now faces a mass of compelling  evidence and argument from an enormous number of  people currently collaborating to protect the fields for the future,and committed to continue to do so in the years ahead.

Best wishes

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society