This section has historical details about the creation of the Coastal Park and the link between between the Owners (the Parish) and the volunteers. There are also archives of park news and updates in chronological order (most recent first)
HISTORY OF THE ISLE OF GRAIN COASTAL PARK
The single road to the Isle of Grain takes you to the final end of the Hoo Peninsula. Its northern coast borders the River Thames, and its southern coast the River Medway. An Island in effective terms, the last three miles of the Hoo Peninsula crossing, saturated wetland marsh which has no other road or footpath connecting to the Peninsula.
Friday 13th November 2020 - Foreshore is Ready for Winter!
Monday 29th September 2020 - Litter Pick Very Productive
The community litter pick on Saturday 26th Sept had a great turn out despite the very chilly weather. A substantial amount of litter was picked by all the "Wombles", bagged, collected by Fred Butcher and removed quickly by Medway Norse from the park (see photos below). The items collected included a cushioned sun lounger, 3 stools, discarded fishing tackle and bait wrappers - clear evidence of people leaving their litter for others to remove.
The Friends of Grain Coastal Park would like to thank everyone who came along and worked so hard - it was great to see come new faces. Thanks also to Ronnie, Fred and Val who provided refreshments and organised the black bags, litter pickers, gloves etc that were provided. A fantastic community effort. Well done all!
It was a whole-family effort with social distancing in place too!
Thanks to Ronnie for organising us all and checking that we were all aware of Health and Safety measures.
Hi to all
On Thursday 9th July 2020 Fred, Val and Ronnie did an impromptu litter pick at Church Beach car park in the morning, "We felt the car park was looking a bit ‘mucky’ to say the least. It took nearly two hours but we were very pleased with the results."
Main Car Park Extension
Obviously the resultant 9 bags and some boxes of medical supplies had to be disposed of. We managed to squeeze 9 into 6 and these were removed for collection elsewhere. The medical supplies were reported to the police.
Our thanks to all who saw the photos on Isle of Grain Facebook page and offered their services but at the time - due to Covid19 restrictions - we were only permitted to litter pick in groups of 5 family/friends. If we had advertised we would have had to turn willing volunteers away. We are however hoping to arrange a GB Clean Up in September and if these restrictions are still in place we will look to spreading our volunteers over a larger area to enable social distancing to be maintained – so Watch This Space.
Friends of Grain Coastal Park - Update 27 June 2020
We are a group of like-minded residents that, over the years, have taken on this green area of our village between houses and concrete promenade to create and maintain a lovely place to walk and exercise. We are volunteers and proud of what we have established but would remind all:
· It is NOT a Country Park
· It is NOT an area for any vehicles – they are illegal and dangerous to other users
· It is NOT a camp site – we have no toilets and no facility to get rid of human faeces
· It is NOT a place for BBQs – fires ensue and could destroy all we have done
· It is NOT a place to destroy what has been created – trees, meadows, wild flower areas, walk ways and footpaths
There are signs throughout the area – many made by local residents - but they are being ignored.
Leaving your rubbish for others to pick up is not environmentally friendly nor is it welcomed here. Members and residents are appalled by the lack of care taken by all using an area created for future generations to enjoy. Members are constantly repairing damaged areas. Rubbish has to be removed on a daily basis now and some of the items left beggar belief - Fish & Chip wrappers, Pizza boxes, takeaway wrapping, clothing and swim aids and tons of alcohol bottles and cans. Even party catering has been left for others to clear!!
Please, leave our area as you would wish to find it – RUBBISH FREE!
COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS UPDATE 30 MAY 2020
THE FRIENDS OF GRAIN COASTAL PARK WOULD LIKE TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT THE SOCIAL DISTANCING ASPECTS OF COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS STILL APPLY:
WE WANT EVERYONE TO CONTINUE ENJOYING THE BEAUTIFUL FORESHORE AND PARKLAND SO WOULD LIKE TO POLITELY REMIND ALL VISITORS ABOUT SOME SENSIBLE HEALTH AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS:
- BBQS are not permitted as they are a possible fire hazard. Recently, BBQ users have caused burns on the grass and melted the picnic tables - this spoils the park facilities and also causes environmental damage. It would be a shame if the fire brigade had to attend when they are already under so much pressure
- THERE ARE PLENTY OF BINS DOTTED ABOUT THE PARK BUT AT BUSY TIMES THESE CAN GET FILLED QUICKLY. PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE BY BAGGING UP AND TAKING YOUR LITTER WITH YOU IF YOU CANNOT FIND ROOM IN A BIN. The bins are regularly emptied by Friends of Grain Coastal Park volunteers.Leaving your litter lying on the ground anywhere in the park, whether it is next to a bin or elsewhere, is inconsiderate to others and also potentially damaging / polluting to the environment.
- PLEASE REMEMBER THERE ARE NO TOILET FACILITIES IN THE COASTAL PARK - if you need a “poo” make sure you take it away with you! NO-ONE wants to encounter human or animal faeces while they are out enjoying the beautiful surroundings
- IF YOU ARE TEMPTED TO RIDE YOUR MOTORBIKE OR QUAD BIKE ON ANY PART OF THE COASTAL PARK OR FORESHORE PLEASE RE-CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE POLLUTION AND THE FACT THAT IT IS ILLEGAL. The risk of accidents is also heightened at the moment due to increased numbers of people using our lovely park.
PLEASE BE SENSIBLE & CONSIDERATE, KEEP SAFE, KEEP WELL AND KEEP YOUR DISTANCE.
22nd April 2020 - The Environment Agency have done a great job on the foreshore, as you will see when you are out exercising. The Friends of Grain Coastal Park are very appreciative of the time given by EA to support us and our lovely environment.
The Friends are continuing to do their ongoing tasks maintaining the area (such as mowing all the fields), with a special mention and thanks to Fred and Val who are still emptying the bins.
18th March 2020 - Update about the work of the Friends of Grain Coastal Park from Fred Butcher
Welcome all to another year of keeping our park clean, tidy and accessible.
We will be holding a meeting in mid-February to arrange some events, confirm the yearly GB Keep Britain Tidy Litter pick and organise some volunteer days that all can attend. Keep an eye to our notice boards, posters and web site for confirmation of the date, time and place and come along to offer any help you can or offer some activity ideas we can safely run during the year to keep people interested in the lovely open spaces we have here at Grain. We ran a ‘Identify our Trees’ event in 2019 but had no entrants so this cash prize was used to buy litter bag holders for our volunteer days.
Over the past few months we have been plagued by a few illegal and inconsiderate motorbike and quad bike riders who are destroying all the work of the past 10 years. Some are quite young and have even younger children on the front – all without any safety equipment
Please – if you see these people:
· Telephone 101 and report it
· If you can help identify the riders – even better.
· If you see where they were parked, make a note
· If you see the vehicle they arrived in, make a note of the vehicle registration number
· Photos with them in the background that could help in identifying them.
The park has Footpaths and Bridle paths – motor vehicles are illegal and churn up the areas and make the park unsafe for other users.
On a positive note – we have recently taken possession of a brand new Noticeboard (sponsored by Grain LNG) to be installed in the car park area at Seaview Meadow. This will match the one by Church Beach car park and we hope that it will show our park areas and give details of events and photos of some of our stunning flora and fauna.
We now have 18 litter bins around the area – very well used and available for use for doggy bags as well – but really hard to get them emptied – obviously one of those jobs that we all hate!! Thanks to Fred and Val for persevering bur do need help. Our thanks too to those who keep watch and pick up after their animals.
Thanks also to Fred and his ‘willing’ helper Mark for working throughout the cold, wet winter months repairing steps, laying wood chip and other essential jobs to keep the park usable during the wet weather.
Thanks to Phil, Pat and John mowing extra as the mild start to winter meant the grass still continued to grow. Our thanks to all ‘Grain Rock’ participants for keeping the grassed areas clear – accidents will happen when these beautifully decorated stones get in the blades!
We are now getting regular reports of grey squirrels being seen which indicates that the park is maturing and able to support new species. The areas that are cut back annually are proving to support a greater diversity of insects with a marked increase of butterflies especially and our wild flower meadow looked stunning in 2019 but bikers have used the area and we may see a marked difference in 2020. These areas are not designed to leave your dog mess on so again - keep watch and pick up after them as people use these areas for study and enjoyment.
Please – use our email address email@example.com to contact us with offers of help or let us know of any problems in the park.
Have a great 2020
7th August 2019
Friends Update Summer 2019
Our thanks to those hardy few who attended the litter pick arranged for the 27th July which had to be cancelled due to the rain. All went away to litter pick on their way home or on their walk. The pavilion car park was cleared while waiting for the rain to stop. This event will be re-scheduled.
Unfortunately ‘Friends’ had to return on Monday as due to an illegal event that took place within the area known as ‘The Dell’ there was an excessive amount of litter to be cleared. The police were informed at the time but it is unknown if they attended. Although the organisers of this event did try to clear and bag it, it was evident that many attendees had no thought for others and smashed bottles against stones and trees. We spent a while trying to clear all the glass we could see but it does mean that this area is now probably unsafe for public use and we are looking at ways to close the access. It is not on any footpath or designated route but some do go for a wander down there.
We are grateful to Medway Council for arranging the removal of the resulting litter bags so swiftly. It was no mean feat to lift these and remove from the area.
Over the coming weeks there will be additional bins installed on the Coastal Park by ‘Friends’ to add to the 14 already there and we thank Fred and Val for emptying them each week – it is not a job for the feint hearted and obviously they do need more help. All bins within the park and those supplied by Medway Council throughout the village have been marked to show they accept dog waste as well as litter. Please make full use of them.
Our paths are being kept clear for walkers (thanks go to Phil and Pat) but the vast areas left alone are to encourage wild plants, flowers, insects, butterflies and moths and nesting birds. It has to be said that this year has been a success with the beauty this has created and the colours that can be seen and many have shared on social media. Our wild flower meadow planted in 2016 was stunning this year and much has spread to other areas giving real ‘value for money’.
On a lighter note we are going to run a fun competition during the summer holidays for the school children whereby they try to identify as many trees as they can by closing date of 9th September 2019. Competition details can be found elsewhere on this site or from the library in Chapel Road, Isle of Grain, ME3 0BZ where books have been ordered and borrowed to help with the identification. In today’s world of course – they can also find them by a quick Google search! For more information see our Tree Competition page.
On a Sad Note – we have recently been contacted by Michael Dale who informs us that due to continuing ill health he has taken the hard decision to cancel all further History Walks and will be stepping back from actively assisting ‘Friends’. Michael has been our ‘Guide’ since Friends of Grain Coastal Park began and has been there to find funding for equipment, attended numerous meetings and training days and given up much of his spare time to create and maintain our coastal park and help many groups within the village. If you would like to send him a message – please use our email address and this will be forwarded to him.
25th July 2019
Thank you to all who came to our last litter pick and helped us fill 10 extra-large black sacks on Saturday 22nd June. Our next litter pick will be Saturday 27th July 2019.
FRIENDS OF GRAIN COASTAL PARK 2016
Where we are now? Why has this remote area, at the start of the Thames Estuary, become so popular?
Let’s look at an overview of the Isle of Grain, and its Coastal Park, in 2016. Why has it become the place to visit, not only by local people but by Londoners,many of which say that it is their favourite retreat?
This little island, and let me say, it IS an island which was connected to the mainland by a causeway. There are several people living here today, who remember when tugs and barges sailed through, from the river Thames, to the river Medway, and vice versa. The Villagers wanting to catch the bus had to wait for the tide to go out so that the bus could drive across the causeway.
Over the centuries, the Island has been a focus point for the strategic defence, against the possibility of invading enemies. Its central location between the two great Rivers; the Thames and the Medway, where they meet the open Sea, provided an ideal location for Coastal defences to be sited.
The locations on Grain, where most of the Military installations and the outlying gun sites were placed, is now the same land that is now known as the Grain Coastal Park.
In 1667, in the reign of Charles 2nd, (and before defence's where built, other than a chain across the deep water at Sheerness,)this island was raided by Dutch seamen, who launched the infamous attack on the river Medway at Upnor and Chatham. They came ashore at Grain, and broke into our Church. The evidence of this,and the subsequent repair, made by the ships Carpenters, to the Church door, following the orders of the Captain, in horror of what his troops had committed to a Church, is still evident today.
Centuries later, our relationships with Holland France, and Spain, were still unstable, even after Napoleon was defeated years earlier.
Lord Palmerston, in 1885, told Parliament that we needed new defences against seaborne attack, and so they ordered the protective defence's to be built, not only down the Thames and the Medway, but at the centre point between the two rivers, our foreshore at Grain.
It so became, apart from a few farming families, the village’s main occupiers from 1856, right through to 1956, were the Army Gunners, stationed on the Island. They built the giant Grain Fort to accommodate 300 men. The top of the existing Martello Tower between our, and Sheerness shores, were rebuilt, and became the anchor point, for a new, anti-submarine net, which was very effective, during both WW1 and WW2.
The Military remained here, all through both world wars, and their relatives still remain living here, today.
They would have seen some action in these wars, in protecting us from attack from the sea, and indeed, the new risks, in 1914 were the airborne German airship bombers, who were severely bombing London at night, before powered aircraft became successful.
The Wright Brothers first successful take-off and landing in a powered flight was in 1903. A rush was on, for new aircraft were desperately needed, and indeed Grain played an important part, in the design and experiments to the prototype aircraft, at a secret Experimental Air Station, in 1918, the remains of which can still be found today.
Grain Fort, and its garrison was finally abandoned by the Army in 1956, when they all moved out and abandoned it. All of the land the Army owned was sold to Parish Council, in the early sixties, for a nominal sum, and the Parish still owns most of this land, and what remains, is the now the Grain Coastal Park.
In 1968 the old Keep to the Fort was still standing, and vandalism a nightmare to the Caretaker, as there were trapdoors inside the tunnels, which could drop someone into a pit, and shut above them. The parish Council at that time, had the Keep demolished, by the Contractors building the new Power Station, ( now being demolished in 2016), and it then, being 40 feet lower than the surrounding ground, filled in, first by rubbish from the Station site, and finally topped with soil.
The Parish had little motive to properly maintain its newly acquired foreshore, and coast land, and left it for many years,to grow wild., (the beach and foreshore, kept open to everyone ) Cars could drive onto the beach, and park.There were two toilet blocks built on the foreshore, and one by the High Street bus stop, and they were all closed down, due to continued vandalism, a problem of which the Coastal park still suffers from, today.
A big change was enforced upon the Parish Council in the Eighties, when, nationwide, all the old wartime military works, buildings, and land, became recognised as being of historical interest, and new laws gave it total protection. This is now under the strict control of the Environment Agency.
The foreshore was sealed off from vehicle access. The old military remains, were registered as a ‘Monument’, including all the now land that is now, the Coastal Park. (This rule still applies to today, and now, ANY remaining wartime structure, or Shelter, cannot be painted, altered or damaged in any way)’
Six years ago group of villagers and friends, was formed to help the Kent Wildlife Trust examine the park for its future potential and when the Trust left this task two years later, the group became known, as the Friends of the Grain Coastal Park as we know today.Now, in 2016, the park has become an enormous success.
Early this year, following a visit from Medway Council Staff, the Friends of the Coastal Park were awarded a grant from a special fund, and were able to buy equipment and machinery, desperately needed, to make our work much easier to cope with.
In addition to that, some kind person, nominated the Friends, for the Medway Councils arts, culture, and tourism awards, and we are very pleased to say, we became a finalist, becoming second, to the winners, The Great Lines Park Friends group
So now, in just a few years, at the start of Summer 2016, and when it is fine weather, our beach car park fills up with cars, with visitors, many of which from London, and the Medway Towns.
Visitor attendance was largely encouraged by an organisation called the ‘The Thames Estuary Partnership’, based in London. An item written and published to a wide circulation in the London and home counties, we found an ever increasing number of curious London visitors, started to travel this far, to see what is here, on our Island.
So to our delight, the Grain Coastal Park has become an enormous success. If we get into conversation with someone walking along the foreshore, we chat to them and ask them where they are from. Most will say they have travelled here, from afar: Many come from the Medway Towns on a daily basis, including one man and his dog, daily, from Rainham.
So why? Why should they travel all this way? The fact is that Londoners and the other ‘Townies’, relish the chance to escape their metropolitan confines, to a place which is inherently wild. Here, they can walk in the woodland around the Fort, see the rabbits scurrying into the bushes.Hear the sounds of the sea and the countryside, Squawks from the Seabirds, and waves breaking on the rocks.Views for miles, out to sea.
When you when you walk just 100 metres into the woodland, you find will yourself on paths, through managed Hawthorn and Bramble patches, dozens of ant hills left to remain standing ,quietly resting in their winter sleep.
Dense hiding places are left alone, for the wild occupants to occupy. Now an increasing variety, of birds, reptiles, insects and small mammals to be seen, alongside the wild honeysuckle, roses, and wild fruits,growing in the hedgerows, on the woodland paths.
Scallops, created to the side of paths through the woods, in the woodland, to encourage runs for butterflies, and to allow the bright sunshine to reach the ground, for orchids, and a host of wild flowers to show themselves off, so to invite their continued fertilization. We also maintain a continuing programme, as much within our means, to create further wildflower meadows.
The Local Brownies have selected an area to the side of a woodland path, and they each share boxes of wild flower seed to scatter on the scarified soil. It will, of course, be something they remember doing for the rest of their lives. We do hope they will see a good display.
People have asked, but we do in facthave hidden away in the depths of the densest parts of the woodland, families of Badgers and foxes, who leave signs of their night time activities, to be seen during the day.
Amongst this variety of habitat, there are several boggy areas which support a whole new variety of wildlife and flora and indeed, bog plants, and flowers, including a very rare Black spotted marsh
So here we are, one of the most remote areas in the southern Counties, complete with its hidden delights, all here, for you to share, for free.
Please think for a while, of the small number of volunteers who day by day, keep striving to improve your parkland, and go from here, and tell others what you have found.
Finally, there is a welcome break for visitors most days, at the beach café nearby, together with a public house, and shop, further up the High Street, into the village.
And, if you can, come to Grain, in the darkness of New Year’s Eve, stand still at our water’s edge, and listen. At midnight, when Big Ben tolls, you will hear the chorus of Horns, from the ships at rest on their moorings’ as their crew’s salute each other, to celebrate the dawn of the new year. All of this, out of sight at the start of the River Thames………. the lifeline that leads to London.
Michael Dale (one of the Friends of the Grain Coastal park)
An extract below from the Greenspace Partnership at Medway Council;
Every month we celebrate the great work of Medway’s green space group;January 2015
Rain, classrooms and Bees
Welcome to the first newsletter of 2015 and this edition looks at some of the achievements of the Friends of Grain coastal Park in 2014.
Thank you to Michael Dale of the friends group for providing the information
Unfortunately it was a slow start to the year as prolonged heavy rain saturated the park making progress difficult.
Puma path was almost impassable at times and the footpath linking the labyrinth wood with the foreshore near the tower was until April under two feet of water.
However the park did eventually dry out and, as nature always compensates for the weather, all the flora burst into life in a blaze of glory which is always a marvelous sight for the villagers and visitors to see.
One of the aims for the year was to encourage the local school to use the park and so it was decided to create a purpose built open clearing under the shade of the trees. One Sunday the volunteers of the friends group came together and installed a ring of five, eight foot long, wooden bench seats. These were cemented into the ground and set at a low height to accommodate little legs (for the teachers, a taller bench was installed) and so a classroom in the park was created.
The school were delighted with the area and brought in a group of 51 children one day to try out the new seating area. The children were very excited and the teachers soon had them singing their hearts out with carols and other songs. It was a delightful scene and truly magical. Special thanks must go to Medway Builders in the Medway City Estate who supplied and delivered all of the wood beams, fittings and cement as a gift to us all.
In the spring we had a visit from a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT) who are a National organization for the continuing welfare of Bumblebees. We already had a great interest in Bees as Grain Coastal Park is one of only a few places in the UK where one of the rarest and endangered species of Bee live, the Shrill Carder Bee and its slightly less endangered cousin, the Brown Band Bee. The shrill carder bee has undergone a serious decline in recent years, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and is considered as Endangered in the UK. It is also a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. Shrill carder bee populations are now restricted to a few areas. In the spring we had a visit from a member of the Bumblebee Preservation Group (BBP) and as a consequence of the visit an area of land one acre in size was mown and cleared by local farmer Philip Dance. The surface has been scarified and now is sown with wildflower seed which will benefit all bees. This project is being undertaken in partnership with the BBP who paid for three quarters of the seed from a lottery grant (£2,000) with the rest of the funds coming from the Grain Parish and Friends group.
Update for the Grain Coastal park, and plans for the future - Autumn 2014
Regretfully it has been a slow start this year as the Park was saturated beyond belief with so much rain that so little progress could be made.
Puma path almost impassable at times, and the footpath linking the Labyrinth Wood, with the foreshore near the Tower, was under two feet of water until April making this route unusable.
Labyrinth wood has been named as such due to the maze of new footpaths, created by the Friends of the Park over the past three years, including Puma Path, and is known to some of the older residents as the Wing Battery.
Nearly half of Seaview meadow was so soft the tractor could not be used to mow it without leaving damage and deep tyre tracks.
Many in the village call Seaview Meadow “Laing’s field”. This is because when they grew up ‘Laings’ the contractor building the Power Station used the field as a football field for about eight years. We have reverted to its true and historic name of Seaview Meadow.
However as nature always does, the park eventually dried off, and all the flora burst into life with a blaze of glory, which so many people in this village and visitors love and speak about.
This is so encouraging for us who work the park, and this year we had a thought to encourage the school to use the park, and we set to and built a classroom in the park under the shade of the trees. The school told us they are delighted to have this facility, and last month they had a class of forty one little ones on the benches in one sitting. We are to build another classroom in the Labyrinth as a continuing project. Our special thanks go to Medway Builders from the Medway City Estate, who supplied and delivered ALL of the wood beams, cement, fittings etc. as a gift to us all.
You may have seen a large area near the entrance to Puma path which has been mown. This was kindly cut by Farmer Philip Dance, and he bailed the arisings and took them away and disposed of them as they were of no use for feedstock. Thankyou so much for this Phil. It was all done for the bees.
This park has special grasses on our foreshore and we have been declared an area of protection as an area of special scientific interest, and in addition it is home to the most rarest of bees in this Country, the Shrill Carder Bee and the Brown Banded bee. There are very few places where they survive i.e. just on the Coast from the Wye Valley in Wales, and just a handful of places along the southern Counties. To this end, this grass has been mown and we will scarify its surface for a wildflower seed sowing programme specifically for ALL bees.
This is in partnership with the Bumble Bee Preservation Organisation, who are paying for three quarters of the seed from a lottery grant. The Grain Parish and the Friends group are paying the rest.
In July we had a surprise call from Medway Council’s Green spaces team, and they gave us a sum of money which had been gained by them from an ecological mitigation order imposed on builders on the Kingsnorth Estate. Usually they would spend these grants on the many Medway owned parks, but they said that they recognised the work that we had done and so made a sum available for which we were able to buy a set of Gang mowers which will cut the time we have to spend each summer week mowing. Our grateful thanks to them.
But may I please take this moment to tell you that all this work is undertaken by village volunteers and I ask you to spare a thought about us, and the friends and their families, who do all this work.
On our monthly weekend meet we do have the group of families and friends of the Coastal Park to complete pre planned tasks, including construction of the classroom and litter pick, so please do come along and join us. Meets will be advertised on the notice boards and the ‘friendsofgraincoastalpark’ website and the Library.
However the ongoing weekday park maintenance is undertaken every week by just four of us, and this year due to incapacity, just three actually did the essential work i.e. mowing and trying to keep up with fighting brambles enclosing the footpaths. We have a good supply of machinery, so it is not hard work but we desperately need helpers.
We need people who are fit and are capable of being taught and trained by us, to use fit and remove farm and Horticultural machinery, on and off the tractors, drive and tow trailers, and have an hour or so each week at various times each week, just to relieve the strain on the few we have doing this task. Please do contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or 270314, or email email@example.com, or simply approach any of us whilst on the park.
Finally I have only two guided tours to conduct this year, and the rest will start in March 2015. Since the tours started we have had 265 people so far participate in the tours, but less than a handful from Grain, some of which were born here and they had no idea of the hidden history that is revealed to them, from how the Dutch raided our Church, to where Nelson as brought ashore pickled in a barrel of Brandy! Astounding secrets from the past revealed. See the poster on the car park and Parish Council notice boards. It is an island with so many secrets, yet to be revealed to you.
LATEST NEWS. THE ISLE OF GRAIN COASTAL PARK. September 2013
Finally, here we are, well on our way to getting the Coastal Park to be one of the major attractions for the Medway Towns and beyond. A few posters around the Towns and Libraries have changed all that. People are coming in ever increasing numbers, not only from Medway, but from London and the southern counties as well. Many who have lived in the Medway Towns have never come here think, ‘Why should they?’ All they can see across the river is nothing but a massive industrial site. So when they do come they are invariably astonished by what they find. Stunning views across the estuary, where the two great rivers, the Thames and the Medway, meet on the edge of the ocean, and a great expanse of open park with woodland walks. For many of the Medway people, it is only a twenty minute drive for them to come at the weekends with their families, friends and their dogs, and they are telling me now they have discovered their “ favourite place.” The guided tour guide will give an historical narrative, and the walks have proved very popular, with over 85 attending since the Spring alone. (See the notice board, and Coop and Library, for the latest dates) They come from all over the southern counties, the latest walk had visitors from London, Lewes, and Biggin Hill. It was pleasing that one person who was a resident actually lived in Grain was very surprised at the hidden history that was revealed to her especially as we were able to point out the evidence of relics of history from centuries long ago. The walks are accompanied by a series of photos taken in 1916, with a narrative that was written for them originating from one of the Naval Officer’s who was stationed here at the time.
Since the spring, regular visitors to the Park will have seen an increase in the size of the beach car park. We needed an extension to the car park due to the increase in visitors. This work was offered by Burdens, formerly Foster Yeoman, who import aggregates into a Jetty at Grain from Scotland.
All the work, ground clearance, and materials supplied by them, were under the supervision of Richard Horton and we are all very much indebted to him and his men for his enthusiasm and vigour in completing this much needed work, so well.
Grain Power Station arranged for a young student Max Burford, an environmental management degree student from The Royal Horticultural College at Hadlow to complete the necessary environmental study of the land first.
Grain LNG kindly made a contribution of a number of Oak waymarker posts which we are setting out to indicate circular footpath routes and others routes, through the Park and woodland walks. They also put in place grant funding for us to buy even more furniture for the Park. This is still going. EON Grain Power Station bought twelve litter bins, twelve bench seats, and four picnic tables and had their contractor install them.
More work on the Pavilion (which also hosts the Youth Club) i.e painting the outside and in, new furniture, and a garden picnic table and seating area, and a garden feature, was completed over several days, by Scottish and Southern staff of the Power Station near London Thamesport. Colin Vance, the team Leader for the Environment agency has told me that the Agency will be able to make themselves available to help us with workmen and their machinery where needed, and Thamesports engineering workshops, have been keeping where needed our equipment in good order. (We are always busting something mechanical!)
We thought all these things and the work needed to provide them, were all well beyond our reach, but here it is proven that nearly all the local Industries are taking care of us, and our heartfelt thanks go to all of them, for their support, to help make this Island, an even better place. Now autumn and winter is just around the corner, the Friends of of Grain Coastal Park, having hosted a successful summer season will soon set to work on the footpaths, surfacing them with granite and woodchips.
There are new steps to be built, pruning, making another attack on the ever encroaching bramble, maybe even create one new mystery footpath, before our work is done. We will then wait for the buds, blossom and honeysuckle, to unfurl again to a glorious, fragrant and colourful spring, next year.
So there you have it, the contrast to what people see from across the Medway and the truth of what is revealed to them, the wild and beautiful hidden haven of the Isle of Grain Coastal Park. The nation has already designated this park, as a place of special scientific interest and national importance for its wild and protected grasses and rare bees. Added to this, the Friends of the Coastal Park, who are just ordinary residents, have created the labyrinth of hidden paths, amongst the nationally protected fortifications, guided where necessary by the Kent Wildlife Trust. The Parish Council is now a member of the trust.
The Friends continue to apart from their other tasks in the Park, empty the litter bins, and clean up the rubbish that a few people throw down. They mow the fields, the paths, and trim the sides. Please, if you love the Park, old or young, just join us at our monthly meetings, maybe just once in a while when you can. If you can walk the park with a rubbish picker, it is so much worth it. If you don’t want to do that, then please take some secateurs with you on your walk, and cut the overhang on the paths now and then.
The contrasting other half, of the Island will remain a massive vibrant and bustling array. Lorry parks, gas plants, giant storage tanks, power stations, aviation fuel stores, and hubs for international trading all connected to the outside world by their roads, railways, pipelines and cables. Their purpose is to feed the country with energy, warmth, food and goodness knows what else in the hidden cargoes, from one fifth of its stored gas supply, together with all types of imported and exported produce, from and to around the world. The whole conglomeration of which this place remains being of such a major place of industry, it’s become the one big giant socket that the southern half of the country plugs into.
So it follows that both of these contrasting habitats, are in fact of major international importance but in their own so different ways. It is frequently the case that those who choose to shout the loudest, (including some Politicians) shamefully actually know nothing about what is really here and neither are they interested. They continue in their deluded quest, to advise it to be all torn up for an airport that most of the population will rarely use, even once a year. We, the Friends of the Isle of Grain Coastal Park, (which we do hope you will join), in partnership with our Parish Council, will continue to strive to prevent this Island being erased for ever.
Michael Dale, Parish Council/Friends of the Park co-ordinator. firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Friends Group, email email@example.com.
If you would like to make a donation to the Park, please make cheques payable to ”The Friends of the Isle of Grain Coastal Park” and send them to the Parish Clerk, 5. Seaview, Isle of Grain, Rochester ME30EW
AN UPDATE BY THE FRIENDS OF THE ISLE OF GRAIN COASTAL PARK - Spring 2013
There are only five of us that undertake the actual forestry work, one of which has spent many years within the Forestry industry and is a hobby entomologist. We are all carefully guided by the kind help of the professionals, The Kent wildlife Trust, to achieve the woodlands best performance by using their set management principles for woodland under 100 years old.
The Parish Council can no longer support the wages of a handyman, so all of the Parish green spaces are managed by the volunteer friends of the Park. This has now opened up the park, for the public to wander amongst the cleared dappled sunlight patches, which has encouraged new butterflies, moths and wild flowers, to populate the wood in ever increasing numbers.
The very rare Shrill carder Bee and the Brown banded solitary bee were identified as being found here - the same Bees that were the subject of the Country file Programme in the Usk Valley, Wales early last month, and one of only five small areas in the United Kingdom that host them. Now these special bees are so abundant in the village that you will find them on a sunny day in the Park and maybe in your own garden, happily pollinating your flowers.
We do not cut the coastal grasses often now, and these grasses themselves are protected as an item of special scientific interest as they also are rare.
If we find children’s camps and their homemade shelters we do not destroy them. Every kid has a right, and should climb trees or make camps, but Mums and Dads please tell them to take their rubbish away to save us having to do it. Please do not cut down or break any tree or sapling, they might be Oak trees which have taken years to grow into a sapling. Please tell them NOT to pick ANY wild flowers, otherwise they cannot re seed and will die away. Some lady told me that she had picked some lovely wild foxgloves in the park on Fete day last year. I went to check and they are gone, never to return.
You will see that there has been a dramatic difference in the appearance of Centenary Wood, along the track to Seaview Meadow. Many of the invasive weeds have gone and the woodland has been carefully trimmed, and selectively pruned.
The living proof of what we have achieved is the new growth of young trees, like the Oak, which in turn has encouraged the inward migration of butterflies, moths and wild flowers. We have seen a dramatic increase in the butterfly and moth population and wild flowers, some not seen before for many years. The ground can now see the sunlight, and all the flora and fauna are starting to flourish. It is wrong to believe that dense bramble should be left untreated. It should in fact be removed in most cases, as it mostly serves no real useful purpose, but balanced with the need to leave some where needed so as to provide camouflage and protection from intrusion by the public to some hidden areas beyond where the wildlife can live.
We have only cut back bramble and invasive shrubs in small amounts compared to what remains untouched on the whole of the park. Large area of dense forest away from the public view will remain untouched.
Some people in the village have complained that we have already cut back too much, but we can assure them that early this month we had a visit from the Kent Wildlife Trusts living landscape officer, and she thoroughly endorsed the work that has been done. Much of the accessible woodland now looks similar to the New Forest, which has a browse line, up to which the wild animals feed, and keep the forest floor clean of invasive weeds. We do not have those animals to do the job for us, and so this work has been done by us. It is pleasing that we have received favourable comments from elderly walkers who now feel less intimidated by walking along the previously high sided walks, away from the public view, which they felt uncomfortable with.
If we cut a new footpath and we find a rabbit warren, we route our paths away, and around it. Everything is carefully planned and you will see small pieces of woodland cleared. The Kent Wildlife Trust call these ‘Scallops’ they are deliberately made to encourage the regrowth of wildflowers, together with the insects that depend on them.
This coming season we are planning with the St James School, and hope to provide them with classrooms in woodland clearings with wooden benches for nature studies. Alongside this, our Forester hopes to be holding moth nights, using bright lights to see what moths are active after dark, open to children of the youth club and the village, and anyone else interested. The park is becoming so popular, we give regular guided walks together with pictures and talks of the Island’s rich past, where we pass by the concrete aprons and remains of the airfield we had at Port Victoria.
It is here they undertook top secret work, which required aircraft to be built and flown from there during the first world war. We have photographs of the airfield with their parked aircraft. The history also includes a talk on the glorious Dutch Navy who, in 1667, sailed down the Medway to Chatham Dockyard at night time and stole the pride of the English fleet, HMS Royal Charles, their flagship, and sailed away in it never for us to recover again. We have only just made a start and there is yet so much to do. We would still like some volunteers to help with the day to day maintenance of the park outside the monthly meeting times. The Friends also look after the Football fields and the playing fields , and we would welcome any new weekday helpers. Other friends are available at weekends and some other kind members of the public, every day, take their time to remove rubbish as they walk. Please contact me for details of how to join our fold.
So a big thank you, to all those who take an active part in the creation of the new Coastal Park. Let’s see what is to be done next month. We welcome any ideas that you may have. Do you want to build a new home shelter for the solitary bees to sleep in through the winter? If you do, start collecting small bunches of bamboo sticks, and save them for us.
Councillor Michael Dale, Parish Council liaison, with the Friends of the Isle of Grain Coastal Park. Spring 2013 For information on these walks, please ring Michael on 01634 270314 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You will see that there has been a dramatic difference in the appearance of Centenery Wood, along the track to Seaview Meadow. All of the invasive weeds have gone and the woodland has been carefully trimmed. No useful trees have been cut down, but selectively pruned.
This was done to promote the growth of new young trees, like the Oak, and has encouraged the inward migration of Butterflies moths and wild flowers. Even in this short time, we have seen a dramatic increase in the butterfly and moth population, and wild flowers, not seen before for many years. The trees are really flourishing now.
The woodland looks similar to the New Forest, which has a browse line, up to which the wild animals feed, which keeps the Forest floor clean of invasive weeds, which have also been obstructing the sunlight. We do not have those animals to do the job for us, and so all this work has been down, to just one of the Friends,....... Fred Butcher.
Fred has been in Forestry work for many years, and his ideas of forestry management conform exactly to the Wildlife Trusts accepted practice for keeping the Woods at their best performance. He is a hobby entimologist and is very knowledgeable, particularly in respect of butterflies and moths, and he has told us that there are several nationally rare species now being found in the park.
DO NOT stand in his way!,.....Like the Terminator on a deadly mission,....... metal headmask, chainsaw, armour reinforced pants,.... Scissor hands has ploughed his way single handedly through all the dense brambles, Ivy, hawthorn, dog rose........Leather three piece suites and old mattresse' buried in the woods alike!.
Calmly, followed by his party of servants, at his beck and call, (those volunteers who cannot dodge his enthusiasm). They have now opened up the park, for the public to wander amongst the cleared dappled sunlight patches, which have encouraged new butterlies, moths and wild flowers, to populate the wood in ever increasing numbers.
The very rare Shrill carder Bee and the Brown banded solitary bee, were identified as being found here, ( The same Bees that was a subject of being part of the Countryfile Progamme in the Usk Valley, Wales , recently, and one of only five small areas in the United Kingdom, that host them.) Now these special bees are so abundant in the village, that you will find them on a sunny day in your own garden, within a minute or two, happily pollinating your flowers.
If we find a childrens camp and their homemade shelters, we do not destroy them. Every kid has a right and should, climb trees, or make camps,... but Mums and Dads, please tell them to take their rubbish away, to save us having to do it, and not to ever cut down trees. (They might be Oak trees which have taken years to grow into a sapling).
There are people, who question the fact that these woods are homes for wild animals. Likewise this has been carefully looked at. There are still large areas of dense woodland which have been preserved for entirely this purpose. There are gullies, holes and banks you cannot get into, but they are further back from the tracks and footpaths.
If we cut a new footpath, and we find a rabbit warren, we route our paths away, and around it. Everything is carefully planned, and you will see small pieces of woodland cleared, which are called scallops, which are deliberately made to encourage the wildflowers, together with the insects that depend on them.
We have only just made a start, there is so much to do, and we would still like some volunteers to help with the day to day maintainance of the park, outside the monthly meeting times. The Friends also look after the Football fields, and the open parkland now, and we would welcome any weekday helpers.
Apart from that , a big thank you to all our helpers for being part of the creation, of the Coastal Park. Michael Dale.