Tuesday 17 December 2019


It has been many moons since I last wrote about Christmas in Kingsley and, I suspect,new people have moved into the village and others will have departed. So it might be of interest to those who did not read the original article to be able to compare todays Christmas in Kingsley with how it was sixty odd years ago. 

In those days Kingsley had a school, a shop, a post office and, of course, the dear old Cricketers. It also had a second pub, the New Inn, at the eastern end of the village near Sleaford. As with most villages then and, I suppose to some extent now, the three main institutions which were responsible, in various measure, for village activities were the Church, the pub and the school. This was particularly so at Christmas. Before breaking up for the Christmas holiday the school would have been involved with the Church in putting on the Nativity play which took place in the church and also the Christmas Bazaar both popular events. 

A short while before Christmas, usually on a Friday evening, the Cricketers would be the place to go when it paid out the Thrift Club monies to all whom had been a part of that scheme and taken the opportunity to put a few pounds away for the festive season. 

In general terms people did not decorate their homes and gardens in the same way as today. Decorations were for indoors and, of course, electric lights were not available as they are now. Christmas trees were then lit with small candles which fitted into little holders which clipped to the trees branches. I can't imagine anything like that being sold today, just consider the Health and Safety police, they would have a field day. It is worth saying that I don't ever recall anyone burning down their house as a result candles. 

The tree, as far as our household was concerned was sourced locally. By that I mean it was obtained from either the common or Alice Holt forest. The trees on the common were firs with the large needles and a grey–blue colour. In those days there were a lot of firs all over the common which I guess were self seeders as they had not been planted in any order. The trees in Alice Holt were the finer spruce type with much shorter and many more needles. When I say they were sourced locally, they were actually stolen. It was common practice for villagers to go out and cut a tree down, often under the cover of darkness, having made their selection in daylight. Given that we had a village policeman living in the community, this matter had to be dealt with,with some care. The local newspapers would begin announcing, several weeks before Christmas, that tree patrols had begun in Alice Holt forest and anyone caught stealing trees would face the full force of the law. I, from quite a young age, took it upon myself to be the provider of our family tree. I preferred the forest type of spruce so I would take the opportunity of selecting my tree whilst wandering in the woods with a pair of binoculars and notebook consistent with a bird watching trip. Having selected the tree I would wait until there was a wet and windy evening. Then at around eight o'clock I would take a circuitous route to the trees location, cut it down and return by a different route. Never, over many years, did I ever encounter one of the much publicised tree patrols. or, indeed the policeman.

Christmas eve in Kingsley was usually spent in the Cricketers and followed by the midnight service in The Old Church, as it was then commonly known. I refer, of course, to St Nicolas church just up from Bakers corner. People walked to the church in those days and having been in the pub for the evening many of the walkers were in merry mood and conversation was energetic and covered a wide range of topics. The merriment was replicated during the church service and it would become fairly clear which of the congregation had availed themselves of the fine ales for which the area was noted. Alton in those days was a centre of brewing and the home of Courage ales. The cricketer contingent were always the loudest singers and took to the task with great gusto. I don't suppose the vicar ever encountered such dedicated songsters at any other time of the year. It was also the case that many of those singers would not be seen in a church again until the next Christmas eve save for the odd Christening, marriage or funeral !! 

The Cricketers would also be a popular destination at Christmas day lunch time and many a Christmas lunch was tarnished by the twin evils of an over long visit and rather too much festive spirit. Boxing day was the day for walking and many villagers would go for a stroll on that day. 

We didn't have anything like the consumer goodies that are available today and money was, to say the least, scarce but they were good days and people made their own pleasures and life was generally kinder, simpler and safer. All that remains is to wish all who read this offering a very happy Christmas and prosperous and peaceful New Year. 

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Kingsley Footpath 24 - extension

Public notice


Hampshire County Council, having made an Order under Section 14(1) a of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, to allow for works in connection with bridge repairs, has been directed by the Secretary of State for Transport that the order shall continue in force.




Countryside Service Castle Avenue Winchester Hampshire SO23 8UL

Monday 25 November 2019

Times, they have changed

A few days ago I was watching a television programme about Concorde, that wonderful aircraft we built with the French. The programme covered the history of the plane from its launch until it was taken out of service. Of course Concorde cut travelling times dramatically but it would appear it was not sufficiently profitable and this led to its ultimate demise. But, having watched the programme and the history contained within it I began to realise just how much things have changed in such a comparatively short space of time.

A little over thirty years ago I was a fairly regular traveller across the Atlantic to Canada. My aunt and uncle then lived in a small village a few miles east of Kingston in Ontario and we visited every couple of years or so. We used Air Canada on a couple of occasions but, more often than not, we flew with Freddie Laker's Sky Train, as it was called. This was a low frills air company that brought cheaper travel to the masses. Now, long gone, the company was hit by a major crash and some pretty stiff competition from British Airways. It was rumoured, at the time, that dirty tricks had been involved, who knows. 

However, quite apart from the departure of both Concorde and Laker Airways it occurred to me that we have lost a lot more in the years between. Freedoms which, in those days, we took for granted would now be unthinkable. I refer to the fact that on a number of occasions, during a trans-Atlantic flight I would request to take my two girls up to the flight deck. This was always permitted. The hostess would usually say she would ask the captain and would also whisper to keep quiet about it or everybody would want to go. On each occasion the request was granted. In truth it was more about dad wanting to have a look up front than the girls. Be that as it may, we got to the flight deck and had, probably, fifteen minutes up there during the mid-flight period. The Captain and his co-pilot were always charming and usually signed a postcard of the aircraft for the girls. They would also give us a rundown of what was going on and point out other aircraft on the radar and tell us which planes they were and where they were going. All good stuff but long gone. Can you imagine asking to go to the flight deck on a modern flight. Past terrorist attacks have ensured no chance of that and, I suspect, any such request would now be met with concern and suspicion. 

In addition to our air travel we also crossed the channel to France on board various ferry companies, most of which are also but a memory. Gone are the days of six or eight ferry companies to choose from. Now there are just two operating out of Dover, P&O and D.F.S.S. 

But again it was not unusual to request a visit to the bridge and,as with the requests on aircraft, was always granted. I well remember the various ship's radar showing just how crowded the English Channel actually is. Most will have heard it is the busiest shipping lane in the world but, to actually, see it on a radar screen is quite amazing. On another occasion we were on the bridge and I noticed a longish board, suspended by a brass chain over a big lever-like device. The board had, and I forget the exact words, but something like don't forget printed on it. When I asked I was told it was to remind the crew to recess the stabilisers. Most ferries have wing-like stabilisers to prevent the side to side rolling action which occurs in bad weather. I was told that the harbour entrance at Dover is very narrow and would cause the stabilisers to be ripped off if they were not withdrawn before going through the gap into the harbour. Hence the big sign. Once again any thought of getting on to the bridge today would be, no doubt, treated with alarm. The fact is passengers wouldn't get anywhere near it on today's ferries. It just goes to show just how many freedoms we lose when some lunatic goes mad and attacks us in the way of the modern terrorist. Perhaps only little things in the great big scheme of it all but, none the less, delightful in their way and in my view a sad loss. 

Monday 14 October 2019


Ain't It A Shame Sparrers Can't Sing, the words of the title song from a Barbara Windsor film from 1963.

Isn't it amazing how the mind works? I was watching a flock of sparrows on my bird feeders the other afternoon and the words of that song just came floating into my mind. I didn't see the film but the title song was very popular at the time and obviously stuck. And, of course, sparrows don't actually sing they chirp and babble on in all sorts of ways but none of their utterings could remotely be described as song. Not withstanding all of this, sparrows are quite entertaining to watch. They are nothing, if not, quarrelsome. I have a large colony of them, apart from the fact that I feed the birds I also have a very large clump of thick trees and plants. A couple of apple trees have been taken over by a Clematis Montana and a Russian Creeper, together, these two climbers have entangled themselves in and around the trees to form an, almost, impenetrable mass which is huge. This mass of vegetation serves to provide a roosting place for the sparrows, they also build nests within it. I suppose it pretty much provides everything they could hope for in a roosting site. Being so dense, even when the leaves have dropped, the vines ensure a wind free location and the centre of the tangle is so dense that, save for the very hardest downpours, it remains dry, the rain running off in a way similar to a thatch. This mass also attracts a number of wrens which spend hours creeping around within it like little mice.In fact when I first saw one I actually thought it was a mouse. 

The number of sparrows, I suppose like many other species of birds, have declined significantly in recent years.Once again we have the dramatic changes in agricultural practices to thank for many of these declines and, not least the widespread and, I am afraid, indiscriminate use of chemicals upon the land. But in the case of the sparrow, I suspect, the improved machinery of today has also had an impact. The modern combine harvesters do not drop or fail to collect anything like the amount of grain which the old techniques and machinery did. In the old days, threshing, bagging up grain into sacks, and winnowing, (which was the process of sorting grain from the weed seed mixed with it ), all served to provide lots of grain being spilled onto the ground in and around the farmyard. This, in turn, provided lots of food for seed eating birds like the sparrow. I well remember the huge flocks of sparrows which, for example, could be seen on Dean Farm especially during the harvesting period. It should also be remembered that the grain harvest in those days was not completed in a few short days as it is now. The harvest, depending upon acreage, could then have taken two or three weeks to complete.

The sparrow and rat populations were then such that sparrow and ratting clubs were a common rural pastime. Men and boys would devote lots of spare time in the pursuit of both these species.These clubs were generally supported by the farmers and I suppose helped to keep losses down and damage to grain down a bit. Ratting was pursued with packs of terriers in the fields and hedgerows and in barns and shed etc. They were also shot at day and at night, I have spent many hours at Dean Farm, as a boy, rat shooting. Lights would be rigged up and when the rats came out to feed we would shoot them with air rifles. A very popular past time it was too.Rats quickly become used to lights and, of course are eager feeders. Together this meant we always had lots of targets to shoot at. Sparrows were also shot and caught in bigger numbers by a variety of home -made traps. These were usually wire netting structures with trap doors. They were bated with grain which enticed the birds to enter. The trap doors would be held up by a peg which had a string attached to it. When a sufficient number of birds were in the trap, the string would be pulled and the door would drop enclosing the birds within. 

The village church in Kingsley also provided nesting sites for sparrows, the large metal, funnel like tops to the drain pipes were of particular favour and provided a rich source of sparrows eggs for little boys who, legally then, collected birds egg as a hobby. I wish I had a pound for every time I have scaled up the drain pipes of the church. 

The trees in the church yard also provided nesting sites for the, now rare, tree sparrow. They particularly liked the holly trees which was a bit of problem as accessing their nests usually involved getting badly scratched. I wonder if there are still tree sparrows nesting in the holly today? I would like to think there are.

Of course, egg collecting became illegal in 1954 when I was nine, I have to say, country boys were not impressed by that piece of legislation. Personally, I don't think that egg collecting, in it's then form, did a great deal of damage, for a start, money was not involved. But nothing stays the same and life moves on. In general terms politicians spend a great deal of their time banning things and continue to do so, but has life improved as a result? I somehow doubt it.   

Saturday 12 October 2019

Jalsa Salana planning application

Full application details SDNP/19/03709/FUL

"The proposals are to formalise the holding of the Jalsa Salana festival within Oakland Farm as well as securing a number of other improvements to the existing agricultural, storage and kitchen buildings within the site.
 The planning permission can be split into two distinct proposals. The Jalsa Salana will be permitted seasonally for a maximum of 7 weeks of which no more than 4 days will be permitted for the event itself.
The wider permission will be implemented on a permanent basis throughout the site and seek to ensure the Oakland Farm development is appropriately managed within the South Downs National Park.
As discussed above it is proposed to limit the maximum days the Jalsa Salana can operate within the site. This limit will be broken down to the following:
Religious Event – Maximum of 4 days.
Set up and take down – Maximum of 7 weeks (49 days) inclusive of the 4 days to hold the event."

My response:-

Jalsa Salana has been held in this location for more than a decade and is clearly here to stay. While it's true that road traffic volumes during the current three, proposed four, days of the event involves some significant delay to local residents that's all it is, the problems are not insuperable. In my experience, the days of the Jalsa Salana may well be the only days of the year when nobody is speeding through or between the villages.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Association has proved to be an excellent event organiser, has always been considerate of the needs and concerns of its neighbours and has been proactive in improving the management, especially the traffic management, of the event as a whole.

I support this application as I feel that the extra time allowed for set-up and take-down will facilitate reducing the event's impact even further.

Monday 23 September 2019


A few days ago I was in conversation with a friend of mine and during the conversation he happened to mention that pay day was about to happen and he was looking forward to his next pay packet. Well, although he was not speaking literally, as a far as I know pay packets are a thing of the past. But, none the less, his words got me thinking. I well remember when most of us got pay packets. Things are so different now, when I first began working we were paid weekly and in little brown packets. The amount within was written, by hand, on the outside of the packet together with details of National Insurance and tax deductions etc. This went on well into my working life, even when I joined The Prison Service we were paid in the same way at Wandsworth Prison. There, every Friday, a large, shallow box would be brought to the detail office containing all of the pay packets for the uniformed staff. A large sheet of paper with all of the staff names upon it had to be signed when the pay packet was collected. As far as Kingsley was concerned most working people in those days did not have a bank account, everything was done in cash. It is hard now to imagine no "holes in the wall", credit and debit cards, direct debits and standing orders etc. Nothing like that then existed. 

In fact quite a lot of the people's needs were provided by delivery, for example, we had bakers, milk men, a butcher and various other trades men who did the rounds of the villages once a week and all were paid in cash. The system then was quite clear, no money, no goods. I don’t think credit was likely to be considered. In addition to the tradesmen weekly visits to collect their money were also undertaken by the rent collector and the insurance man. The customer was provided with a little book which was signed up by the representative each week when the money was handed over. In those early post war days money was not plentiful as far as rural workers were concerned but neither were so many of today's consumers goods which we all take for granted. Cars were few and far between and television was in its infancy, not to mention expensive. We didn't have a television for several years after they became readily available. This due to the fact my parents took the rigid view that if you couldn't pay for it you didn’t have it. Of this they were very proud. Credit, in the form of, what was then known as Hire Purchase, was just beginning to become available and again the customer paid by instalments which were logged in a little book which the customer retained. Many people viewed this development as little short of disgraceful, my how things have changed!.

Eventually television became more widespread due to the fact that many television rental companies sprang up and offered televisions on a week rental basis also with the little book. This appealed to many as the televisions of the day were by no means as reliable as they are today and breakdowns were common. Those machines had valves and they were prone to blowing. Repairs were costly and renting did away with all those problems as the provider repaired the sets free of charge. But, bit by bit, the use of banking began to become the norm and slowly but surely we all became customers and in some cases, had to. I well remember when The Prison Service decided to pay its staff by bank credit, all those not having an account were told to get one. There was a transition period but, at the end of the day, we had no choice. A matter that didn't go down very well at the time and in addition to the bank account, wages were then paid only once a month, no longer weekly.

Another of modern conveniences, the telephone, was not widely available. I recall when I applied for our first phone, again because The Service said I should, in order that I was on call, I was offered a party line. Due to the lack of available connections customers shared a line. By no means ideal as when the phone rang both parties would often pick it up, only then becoming aware of who the call was actually for. This situation went on for quite a few years before we could get our own line.

Similarly, when we applied for our first mortgage, we were told there was a waiting list and it took a couple of months before we got ours. It would appear building society branches were allocated their funds on a monthly basis and there was never enough to meet each month's demands. We were lucky, in so far, as the branch manager was a personal friend of ours and this did help to speed things up a little. Not what you know but who you know as they say. So, so different today when we have had the credit crisis and money is little short of thrown at the unwary client. I am not sure life is actually better, I think we valued the things we had far more in the days when they were so hard to come by. 

Sunday 25 August 2019


It hardly seems possible but the butterfly transect walking season is fast reaching its end for another year. The weekly walks begin at the beginning of April and go on until the end of September. So it looks to me as though there are about five left to do. How time flies. The transect walks have been conducted each year for some thirty years and provide all sorts of valuable information, not least, the winners and losers in terms of species each year. This year started slowly due to the rather dismal weather throughout April and into May. However, things did pick up and I am very happy to be able to say, as of last week, numbers of butterflies counted were up on last year by eighty one percent. Of course, I am talking Dorset, I don't, as yet, have the nationwide figures. I imagine this increase is, if not totally, partially due to the very long, hot dry spell we had last year. This would have provided ideal conditions and, no doubt, enabled a successful breeding season. 

One of the big disappointments last year was the sudden collapse in numbers of the, previously, abundant Tortoiseshell butterfly. It really was incredible how suddenly and significantly the numbers of that species dropped. However, I am glad to say, this year once again my Buddleia bush is covered in Tortoiseshells feeding on the nectar. Red Admirals, a favourite of mine, have had a very good year and they too are regular visitors to my garden. Readers may have seen in the press the articles regarding Painted Ladies which are a migratory butterfly. In any event, this year they have come to these shores in great numbers. This would appear to be an event which occurs every few years and this year is one of them. Here in Dorset they have turned up in good numbers and have featured on the transect counts for several weeks now. They also have a liking for my Buddleia and most days there are two or three of them to be seen.

On the transect walks, which I do in two of The Woodland Trust woods, numbers of Speckled Woods, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Marbled Whites have been good. Silver Washed Fritillaries have remained much the same. There has been an increase in several of the blue varieties of butterflies which is pleasing as they are such beautifully coloured specimens. 

One of the woods, Duncliffe, which I look after and do the transect walk in has a flower meadow on the approach to the wood. This has been deliberately created from wild flower seed sourced locally. It provides superb feeding for all sorts of butterflies, bees, grasshoppers and crickets and all manner of other insect life. If ever there was an example of the benefits of not using agricultural chemicals on a piece of land, this flower meadow is surely it. The amount and range of insect life it supports is quite amazing. It is a sobering thought that once upon a time, and not that long ago, certainly within my lifetime, most of our fields and meadows were like the Duncliffe one. How sad we have lost so much habitat. The good news is most of it could be reclaimed in equally short time if only the will was there to do it. I firmly believe what goes around comes around and there is growing evidence that farmers are beginning to come around to using less or no chemicals. If only there was a payment for doing so the trickle would, no doubt, become a rush.  

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Kingsley Footpath 24

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that Hampshire County Council has made an Order under Section 14(1)a of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, to allow for works in connection with bridge repairs as follows:
ROAD TO BE CLOSED: Kingsley Footpath 24
ALTERNATIVE ROUTE: No alternative route available
PERIOD OF CLOSURE: From 23/07/2019 until 02/01/2020 or until completion of the works, whichever is sooner.
Reasonable facilities will be provided to allow access to adjacent premises while the work is being carried out.
For information visit www.hants.gov.uk/publicnotices, contact the Countryside Access Team on 0300 555 1391or email countryside@hants.gov.uk