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The Fernhurst Society

Newsletter no 19, May 2004


Progress on most fronts and a full summer programme

The Junior Fernhurst Society is now up and running. Once a month a group of children (aged 7 – 12) and adult volunteers meet for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning at the Youth Club. The emphasis is to involve children in practical activities centred on nature conservation and understanding their local history.

We are grateful to the Parish Council for their licence to use a small plot of land next to the Recreation Ground as the focus for practical activities. If you are interested, it is the strip of land between the footpath and the Lickfold Road, north of the lower gate to the Recreation Ground.

The children have made bird boxes (one has been occupied already) and planted wildflowers, whilst the adult volunteers have had their fun (!) clearing several trailer loads of brambles to make the site accessible for the children. In the process they revealed the plaque next to an oak tree planted by the Brownies in 1989 when they looked after this plot. As I write the site is in danger of being overwhelmed by nettles, but we plan a session with a strimmer to open up some areas, whilst leaving some for insects and butterflies.

We start each session with a short quiz related to the theme of the morning, for example identifying birds from silhouettes or an insect based crossword.

We then move on to the main activity, such as making the bird boxes or going down to the site to plant wildflowers. For each project the children plan what they are doing so, for example with the bird boxes, they had to decide which types of bird they wanted to attract and choose the appropriate front to the bird box (small or large hole, or open fronted) and for the wildflowers they had to plan where they were going to plant according to the preferred habitat (wet or dry, sunny or shady) and the plant height. We hope in this way they learn more about what they are doing. Our thanks to the Fernhurst Horticultural Society who kindly sponsored the wildflower plugs and gave valuable advice on the day.

The latest session involved a bug hunt on the Recreation Ground and the children had to identify what they found. They all enjoyed this immensely.

At the end of each session the children write a diary of what they have done.

At forthcoming sessions at the site we are planning to encourage the children to draw what they see, create plans of the site, identify the trees, shrubs and plants and investigate which mammals live there by looking at the animal holes. A Blackdown NT warden is also going to help us with this.

Not all activity is based on the site though. We also have booked Martin Love from the Sussex Bat Society to give a talk about bats, with an opportunity to see bats close up. We are opening this session to all children (and their parents) in the parish of what ever age. So if you know of any children who would be interested it is at 10am on Saturday 17th July at the Youth Club. Entry for non-members will be £1.

We also hope to organise a trip to a recycling centre, to coincide with the introduction of the recycling wheelie bins in the autumn, showing the children how the things they put in the recycling bin are sorted and re-used.

If you would like to help or want to know more, please contact Julia via the Society's email.


Fernhurst Village Archive

The Archive team has been very busy over the past few months. A major highlight was the presentation of the logbooks for Fernhurst School dating from 1873 to 1973. They make fascinating reading about attendance and punishments and the future of children’s lives – in the early years many leaving at 14 years old to go into service or work on the land.

Research into the Verdley Bear, in response to an enquiry from an Australian TV company, has not yielded much further evidence – perhaps a “shaggy bear” story!

The Archives team has been very busy with World War exhibition material, helping support the events in the Fernhurst Centre around its BBC WWII memories project (there is a D-Day celebration at 10am on Saturday 5th June if you are interested) and the Society evening talk by Alan Readman on “West Sussex at War” in April. This was a fascinating talk and well received.

Other new acquisitions include two items giving further insight into life in the village during WW2, both describing plane crashes near Fernhurst, and some Old Cine films – the archive now has a video version of several hours of silent family films from the 1930’s with the originals being kept under museum conditions.

Helen Ouin and Brenda Newman have been supporting an enquirer into the history of the Oliver and Harding families, whilst Christine Maynard has helped someone research the local landscape for ideas for a garden design. Christine has also been helping other local archive groups, speaking at the Grayshott Village Archive AGM in May and helping the Midhurst Society plan their archive.

Finally a selection of items is now on display in the cabinet in the Community Room of the Village Hall to give a taster of the collection. It includes a model of a timber framed building contemporary with Sollers, some of the Fernhurst School logbooks and the story of the Dornier plane crash. This display will be updated to reflect new donations or particular events.

Iain Brown and Ralph Lines have also been exploring a WW2 air raid shelter in a field in Chase Manor farm, with artefacts such as ration packs intact (corned beef was in evidence!). It is known that the Royal Observer Corps was in this area.


Fernhurst’s first Blue Plaque

Fernhurst’s first Blue Plaque was unveiled in March to commemorate one of the most influential figures promoting world peace in the 20th century. Sir Norman Angell (1872–1967) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933. The plaque commemorates Sir Norman at his home, now called Angell's Stone Cottage in Fernden Lane, where he spent the last 20 years of his life. His great niece, Mrs Alice Everard, unveiled it. Guests were welcomed by Margaret Johnson, Chairman of West Sussex County Council, Lt. Col. Tex Pemberton, whose wife Zena remembers Sir Norman well from her childhood, and by Kim Leslie, of the West Sussex Record Office.

Sir Norman was highly regarded for his book “The Great Illusion” (1910) which was translated into twenty-five languages, sold over two million copies, and gave rise to a theory popularly called “Norman Angellism”. This theory, as stated in the book's Preface, holds that “military and political power give a nation no commercial advantage, that it is an economic impossibility for one nation to seize or destroy the wealth of another, or for one nation to enrich itself by subjugating another”.

In the next forty-one years, Angell published forty-one books. He worked around the world and led a very varied life. In Britain he was a Labour MP, and knighted for public service in 1931, and on the international stage he served on key bodies such as the Executive Committee of the League of Nations and the World Committee against War and Fascism.

Fernhurst Biodiversity Projects

The main Biodiversity project, we are sorry to report, seems to have ground to a halt. We are still looking for a new leader, so if you are interested in contributing to these activities we would be delighted to hear from you.

The Garden Bird Watch however is still in full swing and Arnold reports that the numbers of birdwatchers continues to grow.

We are proposing to arrange a visit to the award winning London Wetlands Centre in Barnes, a site of Special Scientific Interest, to see the “rare and beautiful wetland wildlife”.

The idea at the moment is to visit the Centre in September when we are likely to see many migratory species. We would hire a coach, to depart from Fernhurst immediately after the “rush hour” and return by about 5.30pm. The Centre will provide a free guide for every 10 members of our group, and a tour lasts about 90 minutes, allowing plenty of time for personal exploration, spending longer at the various hides, the visitors centre and an excellent tea room.

Members of the Garden Birdwatch Group have already been informed of the proposed visit in Arnold’s latest bird newsletter. It is primarily being arranged for this group but if any Society members who are not Garden Birdwatch group members, but are interested in the proposed visit, please let Peter Taylor know (via our email). Your name will be added to the “reserve” list if there are any spare places. Priority will be given to Garden Birdwatchers.


Fernhurst Village Orchard

The Orchard Project Team invited Peter Chase, of Brinsbury Agricultural College, to the site of the Village Orchard in late March. Peter has many years' experience of orchard development and management, and was invited to give the Orchard committee an independent and objective opinion of the viability of an orchard on the Vann Road site.

"Yours isn't an absolutely ideal site", said Peter, "but then, I've seen very few perfect sites in my career". Peter felt that the site had enough advantages, however, to make an orchard feasible. With careful choices in rootstock, we can also plant more trees than originally anticipated. Our key challenge is drainage, but Peter came up with suggestions to overcome even these.

The Project Team persevered with the County Council to investigate why there was such poor drainage through the culvert under Van Common Road, leading to regular flooding across Vann Road in the winter. The County Council eventually identified that the drainage pipe is broken, and that it will need to be replaced. No timetable is yet set, but the District Council sponsors of the Community Orchard program have promised to help push our needs up the priority list.

The Project Team also spent an afternoon clearing out the ditches that surround the site, and will use the new "Mediterranean" planting method, recommended by the RHS, when we come to planting the first trees in the autumn. This entails planting in a raised area, allowing for better drainage around the root system. Finally, we have taken advice from Peter on rootstock that doesn't go too deep into the ground.

The team has a small nursery of trees that were grafted in March, and will do more bud & grafting in July, in preparation for autumn planting. The objective is to plant as many local varieties as possible, to maximise the chances of success, as well as providing local varieties not often available through commercial outlets. We have had some offers of local fruit trees, and welcome more. We are willing to try a variety of fruit trees, not just apples. We will be in touch with all people who have volunteered trees for bud & grafting during the summer.

For more information on the Project, or if you would like to volunteer a sample of a fruit tree in your garden, contact the project leader, Emma Poole, via our main Email address.


Fernhurst Boundary Walk

Since the last newsletter we have completed the third leg of the Parish Boundary. Iain Brown ably led this section from Wadesmarsh Farm to Bexley Hill. We were smiled on by the weather on Easter Monday (short sleeves by lunchtime) and a good turnout of nearly 30 walkers (and 9 dogs) made it a very enjoyable event.

Iain took us on various detours (planned I should add) to see points of interest, whilst in some places we had to admire the boundary from afar as it passes through the centre of various ponds on this stretch. Suggestions of someone swimming along the boundary raised no volunteers! The whole day was rounded off by a small excursion to the Duke of Cumberland for a celebratory drink.

The next section will be this autumn (see the dairy page for details) and we hope the final section will be our next Easter Monday walk.


Oral History

The Oral History team is steadily recording whilst the transcription team is then typing up the memories of people in the village.

In parallel a new team is now up and running with the publications side of this project. The plan is now to produce a book, create a website and hold an exhibition to capture the history of the parish over the last 80 years as told through the oral histories. It is hoped that the website will be developed with input from the children in the village. This project is planned to take up to three years and we are applying for funding from the Local Heritage Initiative and the Nationwide (who both supported the Biodiversity projects). We hope to know the outcome of our application by the end of July. Anthony Davies is now leading this side of the project and if you want to become involved please contact him via our main Email address.


Fernhurst Parish Initiatives

Fernhurst News

The Fernhurst News should now be reaching your letterboxes each month. The Fernhurst Society has made a significant contribution towards making this happen and we hope you are enjoying it. From the Committee’s perspective it is also a great way to keep you informed of Society news on a more regular basis, also allowing us to advertise our events more effectively to a wider audience.

Parish Strategy and Action Plan

The Parish Action Plan project has now completed two consultation sessions with the adults and tailored sessions with the youngsters in the parish. The next step should have already or be about to reach you by the time you read this Newsletter. It is a comprehensive questionnaire going to every household giving everyone an opportunity to have their say in the future of Fernhurst. Please do take time to answer this as your opinion matters – if we don’t say what we want we will get what we are given!

The questionnaire is anonymous and there is a prize draw of a meal for two at the Red Lion. There is also a Youth version that we hope the teenagers will find useful.

The deadline for returning your forms is the end of June and you can drop them into boxes in the Post Office or Fernhurst Centre or pop them in the post (freepost). Get your pencils sharpened and have your say!

On Sale: Fernhurst Society Publication: “Village History Walk, No 1”

Helen Ouin has kindly written up the Village History Stroll she and Christine Maynard led last year. This describes the history of the houses from the Post Office, along Church Road to the Village Green.

It is beautifully illustrated by Angela Parrott and makes a great little guide for those who missed the walk or want to repeat it with friends and family.

It is on sale for £1 from the Post Office, Fernhurst Centre and at Fernhurst Society events. As the title indicates, we hope this is the first in a series of publication guides of history walks around the village.


Dates for your Diaries

All these events are free to Fernhurst Society members. Non-members are also very welcome, so please bring guests and tell your friends.

Sunday 27th June: Village History walk. 2pm start at the Fernhurst Recreation Ground.
Iain Brown and Helen Ouin will lead this walk up the footpath to Tanyard, back down Ropes Lane returning along the footpath beside the Lickfold Road, taking about 2 hours. Iain will point out interesting plants, whilst Helen will talk about the history of the buildings along the route. This is a fascinating part of the village and it will be just as good as Helen’s village history stroll last year (but hopefully not as wet).

Friday 9th July: Nightjar watch on Iping Common. 9 pm start.
Meet 9 p.m. in the Iping Common car park. Bring warm clothes, walking shoes/trainers and torch. Paths can get muddy after rain. Directions: from the A272 Midhurst to Petersfield Road, turn left two miles west of Midhurst on to the Elstead road. After 200 yards turn right into the car park. Map ref: SU853220. We shall walk across the heath land and expect to hear and see
churring nightjars as night falls. Lowland heaths have become a very rare habitat in Britain, so we are fortunate to have several areas within easy reach of Fernhurst. On previous walks we have been lucky enough to see glow-worms and the 'roding' flight display of Woodcock, Stonechats and Dartford Warblers, plus other interesting birds, insects and plants.

Saturday 17th July 10am-12: Bat talk for children (and their parents) at the Youth Club. Details on page 2

Sunday 8th August: Lynchmere and Stanley Commons. Meet 11am at Lynchmere Church.
This all day circular walk will be led by Lynchmere Society’s warden Hilary Adair and will encompass much of the two commons and the restored ponds. Hilary will show us much of the work the Lynchmere Society has been doing. There will be a stop for a picnic, probably near Stanley Farm and those that want to drop out halfway can do so easily. Full walk will be approx 4 hours (excluding stops).

Sunday 5th September: Next leg of the Parish Boundary Walk, from Bexley Hill to Elmers Marsh.
3–4 hour afternoon walk with a picnic tea stop. To be led by Jackie Kennett and Judith Turner. Meet at Fernhurst Car Park at 1.30pm to be transported to the start point. Return lifts to village centre will be organised.

Thursday 21st October – 7:30pm for 8pm. Identifying historical objects
Liz Wilson the recently appointed Finds Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme for Sussex will be talking about historical finds – from flints to gold coins. Bring along your treasures for Liz to identify! Should be a fascinating evening.

Thursday 18th November – 7.30 for 8pm. Society AGM and Reminiscences evening.
Details to be confirmed