PART A CATEGORY 3 – ENVIRONMENT
Smarden and the Environment
Smarden and Dering Wood
“The Woodland Trust was very keen to purchase this wood in 1997 to prevent it from becoming developed into a golf course, or a caravan park, or sold off as small plots, just some of the threats to its existence and continuance as a working wood at that time. The Woodland Trust was staggered in 1997 when the community of Smarden along with other neighbouring Parishes pulled together and raised £50,000 towards the purchase of Dering Wood”
Clive Steward, Woodland Officer, Woodland Trust.
Today, Dering Wood, under the care of the Woodland Trust and a team of volunteers, provides a beautiful natural amenity within our Parish for the enjoyment of walkers and horse riders.
Protecting and Improving our Local and Global Environment
In an isolated rural community such as ours, the environment has, in varying degrees, a personal impact on everyone, from farmers to commuters, and The Parish Council has raised awareness of the issues with the creation of the position of Environmental Champion.
This voluntary role is designed to highlight and, where appropriate, to co-ordinate the work being done by various groups. For example, a major two-day event entitled Food, People, Place is being planned for May 2008, when an exhibition at the Charter Hall, involving several village groups, including Farming, History, Business and School, will emphasise the links, past and present, between sustainable food, farming and wildlife in Smarden.
Each year in April is Tidy Village Week, although a team of around 40 volunteers look after various streets, the churchyard and other areas throughout the year. We have secured a ban on Heavy Vehicles using the village centre where regular damage was being caused to the old buildings on the notorious dog-leg bend.
Our policy is to keep Street Lighting to a minimum by balancing environmental benefits and community safety. A recent well-attended Parish Council meeting resolved to add one light at the School but elsewhere to maintain a lamp-free village Street.
We have a Recycling Centre at the Charter Hall with bins for paper, textiles, shoes, cans, and glass. This raises significant funds, which allows the Parish Council to support local organisations and charities with grants. The School also has an established recycling system for paper, kitchen and vegetable waste.
The Parish Council encourages local residents and societies to donate trees or benches in memory of loved ones, (there are a number of these now enhancing the Minnis cricket field), and to maintain a well-kept village appearance the Parish Council employs a streetsweeper and burial groundsman. Meanwhile, the Sports Association and Youth Club leader look after the Minnis, tennis court, playground and Cornes Meadow sports field areas.
The School, which in just six months achieved a Bronze Eco-School Award, and uses the local environment as a valuable curriculum resource, is central to our environmental activity, and by promoting good practice (for example, in the School pages of the Parish magazine) sets an example, which the rest of us can follow.
The pupils elect an Eco-Committee, which meets weekly, draw up their own Action Plan and implement energy reduction projects as well as a water use reduction project. The School composts green kitchen waste as well as paper, cardboard, and green waste from the staff kitchen, classrooms and garden. School policy is to use low energy light bulbs and recycled products where possible.
The School Environment Club, with its Wildlife Watchers, has created the ‘Butterfly Garden’ by clearing weeds and adding plants that will encourage insects and birds. Feeders are attracting birdlife and creating great bird spotting opportunities for the children. The School Woodland has been tidied, a Nature Trail created and log piles provided for animal and insect habitats.
On 14th March the distinctive Chiff Chaff was first of all sighted, and then heard. All children in Class 4 now know this cheerful call. Frogspawn is present in the ditch at the top of the pond and primroses bloom in many areas in the wood. The School has other plans, mostly the result of suggestions put forward by the pupils, and seeks funding and support for more plants, hand tools and volunteer time in the garden.
The School has run a stall selling donated books, games and toys. Children Spring Clean their bedrooms, and donate unwanted items for this fundraising effort. The School also promotes healthy eating and local produce at the pupil-run Healthy Tuck Shop, where the menus are chosen by the children.
One teacher has forged a relationship with a school in India and this connection helps pupils to understand global issues.
Areas of Special Conservation and their Management
The River Beult from Smarden to the Medway confluence is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and retains characteristic flora and fauna, including the rare waterbeetle and hairy dragonfly. Conservation areas are managed by landowners, volunteers and the Parish Council – and include a verge where orchids grow.
The History Society’s junior Time Team programme raises awareness of old and new farming practices (e.g. thatching straw, apple-pressing and cider making) and undertakes conservation projects such as the gravestone inscription rescue.
Smarden has a volunteer Tree Warden and the Parish Council funds tree planting native to the area each year including ten oaks, which marked its centenary.
The village subscribes to the Kent Men of the Trees organisation and has been recognised in the Trees in your Village competition. It is also a member of the Action for Rural Communities in Kent and the Campaign to Protect Rural England
Tubs around the village are donated, planted and maintained by local volunteers whilst the Gardeners Society promotes and encourages people to maintain their gardens and develop skills. The Society involves School children in its Summer Show. A grant from the aggregate industry’s COMMA fund has provided landscaping around the Charter Hall.
Energy Saving, Local Sourcing, and Community Transport
The new Charter Hall was designed to be a low-energy use building and features a range of sustainable heating systems. These include under-floor heating, solar glare treatment of all windows, and eco-friendly taps and hand driers; a Cycle Event helped publicise new cycle racks outside the Hall.
Smarden helps reduce vehicle-miles, particularly for clubs travelling outside the Parish, through Wealden Wheels, which has three vehicles with over 200 member groups, and several volunteer drivers based in Smarden. The Good Neighbour Scheme’s weekly Volunteer Cars are well utilised and provide an efficient form of community transport.
The School Travel Plan began with a Walking Bug campaign and will continue with a Walking Bus to reduce the number of car journeys taken to get students to School. The School also provides cycling proficiency training and testing.
The Good Neighbour Scheme Meals on Wheels service uses Locally Sourced food and the Parish Council seasonally reminds us that much Christmas shopping can be sourced from village shops.
A project with the Probation Service is providing environmental improvements to over-grown verges and other sites around the Parish.
A Public Meeting has assisted in identifying further environmental priorities for Smarden which are as follows:
· To seek ways to improve parking in The Street
· To reduce speeds on unclassified roads and in the village centre
· To ensure that large vehicles do not damage homes in the village centre
· To ensure that serious flooding is prevented
· To protect the natural environment in particular woodland, river Beult and open spaces
· To ensure that roads are well maintained
· To ensure that any industrial development is restricted to existing sites, is small-scale, and environmentally friendly ie does not generate noise, smell or other pollution and does not rely on heavy vehicles
· To develop and promote recycling
· To prevent dog fouling in public spaces
· To develop safe routes to School
More challenges which we will enjoy taking on to make our environment better!