Building a community through a garden…

On a scrap of land next to Belgic Court in The Limes development in Roman Ward, Cllr Heather Hayward is leading a transformation.

The land, at the corner of The Limes, Ashford, was a playground area. Five years ago, planning permission was granted to build 8 self-contained flats, with a condition that half of the site should become  allotment plots for local residents. The matter was passed to Stanhope Parish Council who advertised  to parishioners to apply for an allotment. Ten applicants were needed to make the site viable – their subscriptions were needed to cover the Parish Council’s maintenance costs. Just two people enquired….so for five years the plot has been left unattended; overgrown and increasingly a site for  fly-tipping, it was a local eye-sore.

The subject of this plot of land was raised by residents several times during the May Local Election campaign; people felt ‘cheated’ out of their promised community space and irritated by the scruffy site that remained as the allotments plan did not happen.

Cllr Heather Hayward suggested to  Stanhope Parish Council that, if individuals didn’t want the responsibility of an allotment, perhaps the community could come together to create and maintain a garden that could benefit young and old….

There are many examples of the benefits that community gardens can bring; a place to learn from others how to ‘Grow your Own’, a place to do things together, a pleasant place to sit but, most importantly, with a group fo volunteers the community can take ownership of a place and create something that they are proud to call ‘The Limes Community Garden’.

Heather has now set up a  charity to manage the project and the five trustees are busy working to create a garden from a wilderness. You can follow their progress at:

Kent Challenger Games 2019 – a sunny success for everyone.

The Kent Challenger Games on Friday 12 July brought together about 700 children from a wide range of schools to do something out of the ordinary.

Inspired by the Invictus Games, Councillor Winston Michael initiated the Kent Challenger Games in 2017 and intends to hold the next one in 2021. The idea is to use sport as both a healer and an enabler. Just like the returning military veterans, many of our young people can be damaged by the pressures of modern day life. The purpose of the Games is to bring about self-belief through fun activity that draws out inner strengths and illustrates the power of teamwork to show what is possible.

With the Ashford Sea and Royal Marines Cadets band and a combined schools choir of 140 children helping to create the occasion, and the Towers School Cheerleaders adding to the spectacle, teams of primary and secondary school children competed in the sunshine at the Julie Rose Stadium. The event was opened by Team GB runner Jack Green and Invictus Games gold medalist Kushal Limbu. British Olympic Association Chairman Sir Hugh Robertson was also in attendance and delighted to see schools encouraging children that may not normally participate in outdoor activities or get to represent their school, having a go and being encouraged by their peers.

Everyone enjoyed exploring the display tents of the Challenger Troop and Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment the Tiger, who, as part of the project team, helped to plan and put on the Games together with the support of 50 volunteers.

  • Cllr Winston Michael with Team GB runner Jack Green & Invictus Games gold medallist Kushal Limbu
  • Towers School Cheerleaders

Cllr. Winston Michael said,”I thank everyone who helped make this a very special day, but, most importantly, I thank the children for giving us a day that leaves us all with a treasure trove of memories. Everyone is looking forward to the next Games in 2021. I am passionate about helping all our young people, regardless of their personal circumstances. I think that it can be tough growing up in this modern world. In the past life was a lot simpler and it was easier to realise your dreams. The Games anthem is One in Million, the children’s version, and that says it all – this event is my way of letting young people know that there are people around who care and are prepared to help.”

Downs North chooses Conservative…

After a short but intense campaign, the villages that comprise Downs North Ward, last week elected Charles Dehnel, Conservative, to be their Ashford Borough Councillor.

For the Ashford Independent team, and their candidate Rachael Carley, it was an extremely disappointing result  that perfectly illustrated the challenges of resource and person-power faced by independents. When a by-election is called every political group runs to fight for the seat; the difference between these opportunities and a local election being that there is the luxury of being able to focus on just the one Ward, rather than needing to be present across the Borough. Independents are exactly ‘what it says on the tin’; independent – so no national party back up for us, no Member of Parliament to wheel out to impress… Just us, wearing out our own shoes, printing our own leaflets and walking the talk around the Ward.

After the May Local elections, several media articles noted the rise in independent Councillors that were elected. Some questioned whether the independent trend could change anything in local politics. The answer is a resounding YES WE CAN! Since May 3rd, with a reduced Conservative majority, Ashford Borough Council must debate more openly and fairly because residents have elected a more even spread of differing thinking into the Council. Difference drives debate – and that is good for democracy. Whilst we may not win the argument – a point well made will drive the final resulting compromise. Our focus is always on what our residents would think. We experience the issues and we hear and see how people in our Wards feel about them – speaking up in Council when the opportunity arises and working on the various decision making Committees. We are a big enough group now that we are present in them all.

So it was frustrating to be unsuccessful in the recent by-election – but we have plenty to keep us busy – until the next opportunity!

Vote Ashford Independent for Downs North on Thursday 18th July

Our candidate for the Downs North by-election on 18th July, is Rachael Carley. The Downs North ward is made up of the villages of Chilham, Godmersham, Old Wives Lees, Molash, Bilting and Crundale. If voted in, Rachael will join the Ashford Independent team of 11 Councillors, strengthening the main opposition group in Ashford Borough Council.

Being an active volunteer for Sustrans – the charity that created and maintains the National Cycle Network – and a keen cyclist , Rachael knows the area around the whole of the Downs North very well. She is also the founder of ‘Wye Active’ – an organisation that aims to improve facilities for walking and cycling within a five mile radius of Wye – including a proposed traffic free route between Conningbrook Lakes and Godmersham. A dynamic mother of two teenagers, who firmly believes in community and the need for a more open, honest approach to local politics, Rachael will bring a wide experience and much energy and drive to benefit the people of Downs North.

Photo: Rachael Carley ( left) together with Kathryn Ovenden, who ran in the Chilham Chase last Saturday, 6th July – the oldest recorded charity fundraising fun run that takes place in the grounds of Chilham Castle.