Ashford Branch

On the 17th October, for the penultimate social event of the year, 46 members welcomed guest speaker Nick Evans to Furley Hall, where they enjoyed a fish and chip supper as well as a most interesting talk on the history of Dreamland - as many remember it.

Two days earlier, 49 members had traveled to London's docklands and the Brick Lane Music Hall for an afternoon performance of 'Divas' - followed by a most enjoyable cream tea.

Hayley-Jo Whitney impersonating Shirley Bassey
(image supplied by and copyright of the Brick Lane Music Hall

Forty eight members attended our September social evening, welcoming guest speaker Clive Young to Furley Hall for a most interesting, illustrated talk on the history of the 'Railways in Ashford'. Covering a period of some eighty years from the late 1800's onwards, the interest was heightened by the inclusion of nistory of the 'Railways in Ashford'.

Covering a period of some eighty years from the late 1800's onwards, the interest was heightened by the inclusion of numerous historic photographs of the old Ashford Railway Works at Newtown, around which the present day Ashford grew.

Spring makers workshop - Newtown Railway Works
(copyright and supplied by Clive Young)

On Wednesday 7th August, a fine but appreciably cooler morning enabled 19 members to enjoy a leisurely 2½ mile walk in and around the village of Little Chart. The walk included apple and by some accounts - 'very large, ripe and juicy cherry' orchards!

A small village, with it's neighbouring hamlet of Little Chart Forstal, it lays sheltered between Pluckley and Great Chart. The former is famed for 'The Darling Buds of May' series on television, the latter for Nicholas Toke, one time resident of Singleton Manor. It is said that having survived five wives, he set of at the age of 93, to walk to London in search of another. He failed!

Returning to Little Chart, the village lays claim to having established the first hop garden in England in 1520 - though that claim is disputed through another being established at Westbere (Canterbury) around the same period.

Between courses at the Swan, Little Chart - image courtesy Bryan Strange

On completion, the walkers were joined by six less able members, for a most enjoyable and relaxing lunch at the Swan public house; a coaching stable during the late 15th century.

On Wednesday 17th July, 30 members enjoyed leisurely shopping in Tenterden before embarking on a nostalgic journey with the Kent & East Sussex Railway.

Our train for the afternoon

On one of the hottest days of the year - when even the staunchest of railway buffs would not wish to be stoking coal on the footplate, members enjoyed a most enjoyable cream tea during their journey from Tenterden to Bodiam and return.

(Images courtesy of the Kent & East Sussex Railway)

Our locomotive/engine - No.1638, was built at Swindon and first saw service in 1951, at Llanelly for service on the Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway. It was taken out of service in 1966 and for £1300, went to the Dart Valley Railway for preservation in 1967.

Later purchased by the K. & E.S. Rly, it arrived on the 1st July, 1992 and has proved a useful addition to their fleet.

It is much loved by children during the 'Thomas the Tank Engine' weekends and it is as part of the 'Thomas' persona, that the green Swindon livery and GWR lettering has been applied at Tenterden.

For one member, Wenda Graves, this was an emotional journey. Her late husband Eric, spent 36 years as a member of the K & E.S.R. team, deeply involved in initial fundraising, track laying and later, sourcing 'new' rolling stock. Without Eric and many like him, todays journey may not have been possible.

32 members attended our annual coffee morning, hosted by Marilyn and Derek Warner on Saturday 8th June. A fine, albeit blustery morning allowed members to enjoy the garden as well as home comforts.

Rogation Sunday Service

St Mary's Church, Westwell ©Tom Robinson
Creative Commons License

Sunday 5th May, a gloriously warm day, saw 34 members join with the congregation of the delightful church of St. Mary at Westwell, for our annual Rogation Sunday Service and later, retire for lunch at the George public house at Egerton.

American Evening,

The second quarter of our 2013 social calendar continued as the last one ended - with another excellent turnout. 53 members attending our American evening, welcomed the return of Bob Ogley on the 18th April. This time, his illustrated talk offered a light hearted and hugely interesting chronicle of Kent in the 20th century.


Preceeded by an excellent buffet luncheon at Sandyacres, Ashford on Saturday 9th March, fifty five members attended the 101st Annual General Meeting of the Ashford Branch of The Association of Men of Kent & Kentish Men.

The main business of the day commenced with Branch President Christine Strange, welcoming those attending before the Minutes and Accounts from the 2012 (Centenary) A.G.M. were presented for approval. With no matters arising, both records were adopted unanimously.

In his Annual report, Branch Chairman Derek Warner recalled long serving members - Pauline Babb and David Todd who had sadly passed away during the past year. Both will be dearly remembered by those who knew them.

The many enjoyable events of a full and varied social calendar were recalled; illustrated talks by Ron Lobeck, the late Monty Parkin, Colin Breed, Wilf Lower and Martin Crowther.

The year also included an ever popular Rogation Sunday Service and lunch, a visit to the World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, a coffee morning and liesurely walk around Egerton village and thanks were offered to all involved in their planning.

Committee plans were then outlined for the remainder of the year - talks by:

Bob Ogley on 'Kent in the twentieth century',
Clive Young about 'Railways in Ashford'
Nick Evans on the 'History of Dreamland'.

Our annual Rogation Sunday Service will be repeated, as will our coffee morning and 'village walk'.

We plan to visit:
The Wildlife Heritage Foundation (Big Cat Sanctuary) at Smarden - our charitable cause for the year;
The Brick Lane Music Hall in October:
A three day visit to Norfolk for the Thursford Spectacular in November.

Chairman Derek Warner then presented a cheque for £800 to Ron Carden, Chairman of BEAT (Breathe Easy Ashford & Tenterden), our charitable cause for 2012, which supports many local residents with severe breathing disorders.

Cheque presentation to Ron Carden on behalf
of Breathe Easy Ashford & Tenterden (BEAT)

In his report, Stuart McRae (Treasurer) assured the meeting that the Branch remains on a sound financial footing, with a stable membership of 103.

The meeting concluded with the election of Officers and Committee. With the addition of one new Committee member - Rosemary Clover, Officers and Committee members were all unanimously re-elected.

On Thursday 21st February, saw 50 members gather at Furley Hall, to welcome Beccy Porter, head keeper at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation based at Smarden.

Right on our doorstep yet little known, it is widely acknowledged as a Centre of Excellence for its work in conservation of many endangered species of 'large cat' worldwide.

The Foundation's work runs parallell with venues such as Howlett's and Port Lympne Zoo in the breeding and eventual release into the wild, of endangered species born and raised at Smarden

Happy and contented at Smarden.

(Image copyright and by permission of the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.)

Beccy's presentation was extremely professional and excellent images ensured members were totally absorbed throughout.

The Branch has adopted the Foundation as it's charitable cause for the current year.

On Sunday 13th January, our first social event of 2013 was surprisingly well attended.

On a day that promised an ill wind and snow showers, 63 members travelled in bright sunshine to the newly established Kennington Carvery (pleasantly refurbished and formerly the Kennington Ex-Servicemen's Club premises), to enjoy good company and a most enjoyable Sunday lunch.

Our social 'year' closed on 22nd November, when 47 members attended a most interesting and well illustrated talk by Martin Crowther, on the history - exhibits and discoveries made, during the recent £14 million refurbishment of the highly acclaimed Beaney Institute - museum and art gallery in Canterbury.

For many, with distant memories of old - a dark, dingy and uninspiring interior, the present is most uplifting and worthy of long overdue return visits.

Our October meeting closed with a most enjoyable fish and chip supper - but not until 48 members had enjoyed equally, a most interesting, illustrated talk entitled 'Medway tales - from a dividing river' by Wilf Lower.

Members expected much about the Association's historic link with the river, but to the enjoyment of all, the majority of the talk offered a most interesting insight into the history of the river, its craft and the people who worked or lived on the Medway.

On the 20th September, for another of our ever popular American Supper evenings, 31 members welcomed guest speaker Colin Breed to Furley Hall.

His most interesting, illustrated talk offered an insight into the many and varied aspects of planning deemed necessary, over many weeks, for the smooth running of the many Royal visits within Kent, during the latter years of his service with Kent Police. To the mirth of many, not all, for a variety of reasons, went exactly according to plan.

The Autumn 2012 section of our social calendar commenced on the 15th August; a pleasantly fine day, when 21 of our more hale and hearty members met for a leisurely two mile walk in and around the delightful village of Egerton. Bordering the village of Pluckley, there were several fleeting glimpses of Egerton - not least the old Buckle's bakery premises, featured in the 1990 television series 'Darling Buds of May'.

The walkers were later joined by seven other members, for a most enjoyable lunch at the George public house.

David Line

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