Welcome to the fourteenth edition of our CoronaVirus special editions. We hope that you are keeping well. This 14th issue should feel slightly different in tone — as we are now thinking more about rebuilding our community rather than simply getting through Lockdown. We start, as usual, with a few short pieces before going on to comment/analysis. There are two issues I particularly want to draw to your attention. First, cycling. We call upon Kent County Council and Canterbury City Council to complete the cycling network in the city. We have a video from Victoria Field showing some of the death traps and other dangerous points in St Stephens — and short pieces from Geoff Meaden and Beatrice Shire. Do we need a death to act as a trigger point? No, we don’t. But, with public funds available and Covid-related fears about public transport, this is clearly the time to act. Secondly, dentistry. This area was badly neglected in Canterbury and nationally during Lockdown. We have interviewed the Castle Street Dental Practice (see near the bottom of the Canterbury News) about this and about patients can expect when they return to dental surgeries.
Please send us contributions for publication — either short, 100-word pieces or longer ones on some angle about rebuilding our community.
CASES in the area
There have been 273 deaths recorded in the East Kent Hospitals Trust, according to NHS data released yesterday. While more deaths could be added to these totals (as they need to be registered before they are included), in the week to 25 May there were 21, and in the week before that there were 27. Statistics relating to the time up to 15 March, from the Office of National Statistics yesterday, suggests that care home deaths have been running just a little behind hospital deaths. So for each ten deaths in hospital, there appear to have been 7.9 in care homes. By comparison, there were 193 hospital deaths in the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust; and 152 in the Medway NHS Foundation Trust.
Canterbury countryside; by Martin Vye
One of the small mitigations of the lockdown is that it is in spring not winter. And what a spring. Those of us who can are able to walk out into a countryside transformed by wild flowers and apple-blossom, avoiding habitation, and deviating into bluebells to give others room. Canterbury is surrounded by a superb natural environment; and by an intricate network of footpaths which allow us to enjoy it. We must try to open them up more to fellow-residents who find them difficult, or whose mental health would be so much better if they knew and used them.
In Westgate Gardens; by John Andrews
In these dark times it is good to search for uplifting things and to take something positive from every day if you can. Being allowed out once a day for exercise [now relaxed] introduced me to a new world that has existed in Westgate Gardens for many years, but which, until now, I had hardly appreciated. Sure, I have loved walking there and seeing the riot of colour carefully cultivated by the Council gardeners. But rarely did I stop. Going out for a walk now before 7 am, with hardly a soul about, encouraged me to pause and examine the individual beauty of flowers. Before, I just saw the colours, now I wondered at the delicate structures. My eyes were opened, so was my phone camera.
Canterbury Council Cutbacks; by Michael Wood
It is not only the Wincheap Water Meadows which have been ravaged by Council axemen. Their handiwork is evident on the public footpath from Juniper Close to Boys Langton School. The mixed hedge on the right (hawthorn, brambles etc) has just been razed to the ground. This is not just seasonal trimming: the hedge appears to have been completely removed, and the Canterbury News comments in the piece on the Meadows (regarding the damage from removal of shelter and food for birds, beasts and insects) applies here as well. The much taller hedge on the left side has, thank goodness, remained intact, but the path is much less attractive than it was. As the damage was beside a public footpath, it seems likely that the Council or their contractors, who have form on this, are the culprits. If it was the farmer, whoever they may be, may they become more environmentally responsible.
Food Bank — update
The emergency appeal reached £27,465 at the start of this week. Many thanks to people who have contributed.
There are now some 35 homeless people staying in the Travelodge Hotel, down from 57 three weeks ago. Another 10 people are calling into the Catching Lives centre near Canterbury East station each day. This means that the charity is making about 150 meals a day. The expectation is that this arrangement will last until the end of June when the hotel will no longer host them. Catching Lives and Porchlight have managed to find permanent accommodation for some of the people staying at the Travelodge.
Canterbury in Bloom
There will soon be 345 hanging baskets brightening up the shops and restaurants in the city centre. Due to be put up by Canterbury BID (Business Improvement District) next week, they will be home to an estimated to 850,000 colourful flowers over the summer. Each basket includes bee friendly plants, all of which have been grown from cuts, not seeds, to avoid chemical treatments.
We have not seen much of the folk from the Cathedral, it has to be said, during LockDown. But we are glad to have received this link from one of the staff there. The link takes you to some free online jigsaw puzzles of the Cathedral that we've recently created. (Photo from Anthony Swaine Architecture)
Canterbury City Council
Committee and Council meetings are taking place virtually and going up on CCC’s YouTube channel. There were 43 videos up at the start of the week, and 244 subscribers. Anyone can subscribe.
Dane John Gardens: Flower plant donation
St John' s Primary School had been given permission by the City Council, with the help of The Friends of Dane John & St Mary de Castro, to have a gardening plot in Dane John. The ground was cleared but before the children were able to start, we went into lockdown and schools closed. The Friends of Dane John have been keeping the weeds down and we are now trying to plant it up with some flowers so that there is some colour during the summer. If anyone has any spare plants or cuttings they could donate, it would be very much appreciated. They could be left by the cleared bed by the fountain or at no 5 Dane John. Thank you if you are able to help. (Photo of Yvonne Hill working on the plot.)
Love Hambrook Marshes seeks trustees: by Jon Winder (chair)
Hambrook Marshes are one of Canterbury’s most important green spaces, providing vitally important open space for people to relax, exercise, commute, and interact with nature. The Marshes are also an important space for wildlife, with more than 200 plant species and 96 bird species calling it home.The ‘Love Hambrook Marshes CIO’ local charity owns the site, and a small group of voluntary trustees look after it day to day. Following the recent retirement of two trustees, they would like to recruit two or three more people to help look after the Marshes — in particular, someone to manage the LHM website and one or two people to act as land managers. The successful applicants will join an enthusiastic team of people who are committed to ensuring that Hambrook Marshes are protected and flourish for years to come. For more information please contact email@example.com
Many people have already volunteered to CCC, the Food Bank and other local organisations during Lockdown. Kent City Council provides information for people who are willing to give their time.
Videos — cycling and propaganda
We have two new videos for this issue. Poet Victoria Field goes on the road to show exactly where and why cycling in Canterbury can be so unsafe. And Journalist Neasa MacErlean looks at the current use of political communication in a video on CoronaVirus and propaganda.
Cycling: Where Canterbury needs to go post-Covid
A new cycle and pedestrian era for Canterbury; by Geoff Meaden
Earlier this month the UK Government allocated £2.2 billion as grant money, to be spent in the immediate period for enhanced cycling and walking schemes. The money is mainly aimed at providing more road and footpath usage for pedestrians and cyclists, by means which include safer road junctions, wider footpaths, “pop-up” cycle lanes and shared cycle/bus lanes. The Canterbury Society wishes to urge Kent Highways and the City Council to apply for these grants and make certain that the funds are expeditiously used. Advantages to local citizens include safer travel, less carbon into the atmosphere, CO2 targets easier to achieve, far less pollution and traffic congestion, plus increased health and fitness benefits as well as giving a boost to economic recovery.
The Canterbury Society, together with the Canterbury Action for Sustainable Transport and the Climate Change Action Partnership are planning to meet up with KCC and CCC officials to ensure that a fair proportion of this funding comes our way and that the Council will actively engage with citizens on how best to allocate these sustainable travel investments. And as an urgent part of an improved Transport Strategy for Canterbury District, we would hope that a major effort can be put into optimising cycle/pedestrian routes through the city centre that allow for both safe passage and direct, continuous routes through the busy central city area.
It is our contention that the post Coronavirus era will see a major perceptual change on how future local travel will best function. Gone will be the days when road traffic provision gobbles up perhaps 90% of available transport infrastructure funding. We should be forgetting about expansion of city car parking provision and Park & Ride sites, or an orbital road around the city or an Eastern by-pass, etc. While we have been “locked-down” we have already seen the huge improvements that prevail in air quality. We have also seen that it is possible for a large proportion of the population to carry out their occupations home. Health awareness will see people wanting to keep fitter, slimmer and more agile. And we trust that public transport provision will soon be getting back to normal with busses especially being able to operate much more efficiently on roads that have far fewer private cars. For readers who think these ambitions are unrealistic, we would point out that these combined measures will barely bring us up to those that already prevail in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, etc.
Watch out for an updated Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy that will be launched by the national government this summer.
Schools and cycling; by Beatrice Shire
Thinking about traffic in Canterbury I focussed on ‘The School Run’ which causes many of the city’s rush hour problems. Many Canterbury secondary schools are not connected to cycle routes and are not perceived as safe places for an 11 year-old to cycle.
Exceptions: In the north, Archbishop’s School is accessible from a cycle path with a Toucan crossing of St Thomas Hill. Canterbury Academy is well served by the paths beside Rheims Way. In the south, the Boys’ Langton has a traffic-free cycle route from Juniper Close, connected to the somewhat indirect routes around the city.
One suggestion of CCC Senior Transportation Officer Ruth Goudie’s at a Sustainable Transport Forum was for traffic lights to replace the Old Dover Road roundabout, by the police station, removing the present lights which cause a tailback blocking the ring road. With advance stops for cyclists, cycling across the ring road at this point would be safer. The Old Dover Road could then be calmed more effectively by projecting pavements with cycle passage (as in Downs Road), or segregated cycle paths, giving safe cycle access to the Girls’ Langton and St Anselm’s. Barton Court is not far from a cycle route but still needs a connection into Pilgrims Way to go south/east, and into a calmed Longport to Canterbury, with more conspicuous cycle lanes at Longport Roundabout. Canterbury could be reached by a single Toucan crossing from Church Street to Burgate (and a cycle contraflow in Burgate). This is another improvement considered (without funds!) at the Sustainable Transport Forum. The present crossings of Lower Bridge Street and Military Road discourage cyclists and pedestrians by being very slow to stop the traffic. Other Toucan and Pelican crossings in North Canterbury are much quicker. Why does the car rule where more schools are?
St Stephen’s Residents’ Association and Covid 19; by Pauline Walters
When disaster strikes, it’s a comfort to know that help is available but how to help when social distancing, isolation, shielding and staying at home are the watchwords? This was the dilemma when the government announced the lockdown in March.
Our situation was probably better than most as we have an organised and effective communication system that has kept us in touch with each other for a number of years. We have the email addresses of 248 households and thus could disseminate information quickly and make plans to assist members in need.
First, we assembled a list of volunteers who were prepared to shop, collect medication, deliver items, walk dogs, cut grass and make phone calls. What has happened is that families have ‘adopted’ individuals and couples who cannot leave their homes, and other members ask for assistance with a range of one-off problems.
There has been a great deal of information from the City council, Kent County Council, the Canterbury Society and the government which is sent out regularly, as well as opening times for shops, news about dental services, virtual tours of galleries, local home deliveries and many emails about scams associated with Covid 19. The criminal fraternity thinks of the virus as an opportunity….
As members have the time, spring cleaning has made all sorts of items available for sharing so we have seen seen a plethora of jigsaw puzzles and books whizzing around the neighbourhood, collected and delivered by volunteers - and - a Warhammer book collection!
Members are writing too; short stories, poems, memories and there are some who are starting on their autobiographies. Some are spending time on hobbies such as wood-turning and painting and local gardens have never looked better.
One of our members has been making scrubs for NHS workers and members have donated a quantity of fabric for Jacob to sew. He has also recruited members to cut out patterns for the scrubs. His venture now included face-masks and again, he has workers cutting out and ironing material, ready for sewing. It’s good to know that we are making even a small difference.
In spite of the difficulties, many members celebrated V E Day, some with music and a shared buffet, all with a glass or a cup of tea, and goodwill.
Graffiti and the scourge of modern Canterbury; by Hubert Pragnell
For years walking through the Precincts I have often stopped under the water tower to ponder the beautifully scripted Henry and Mary carved into the stonework of the Norman piers. Were they young lovers, perhaps a King’s scholar of old pining for his lady-love. Perhaps you like me have also marvelled at Mary Beard translating pieces of graffiti on walls in ancient Pompeii to the delight of us less skilled at classical Latin than her. But there the entertainment or educational value ends, or at least for modern Canterbury.
Over the past few years we have been blighted by mindless individuals covering every available wall and even metal surfaces and pillar boxes with their tags or even a scrawl bearing no relation to any form of lettering. Some of these tags are recognisable. Someone must know who is beside this desecration of our beautiful City. Some of us might shake it off and just accept it is part of modern life or the age of the spray-paint. But it goes beyond a joke when even walls hundreds of years old, such as those bounding Greyfriars, are daubed with paint. I know the City Council have a team dedicated to irradicating it but it is costing tax-payers money. I would urge any person who is suspicious of any individual engaged in this activity to report them to the police. I would meanwhile like to see protective fencing or trestles placed against large exposed walls. Plants could perhaps be trained up them to deter would-be vandals.
Also the council has a dedicated on-line form which you can fill in to report instances giving a location. Whether Henry or Mary were mindless I don’t know but at least they could write with elegance.
Sam Snoad, managing director at the Castle Street Dental Practice, and her husband, Richard Snoad, a specialist dentist at the practice and its co-director, talk to Neasa MacErlean about the effect of coronavirus on dentists; and what patients can expect as Lockdown ends. As the NHS was ring-fenced, dental patients were left way outside. But dentistry is one of the most high-tech areas of medicine and dentists have successfully been using sophisticated barrier procedures to prevent HIV cross-infection since the 1980s.
What happened to the dozen or so dental practices in the Canterbury area when Lockdown took place?
RS: On 25 March a letter from the Chief Dental Officer for NHS England (CDO England) instructed that all face-to-face dentistry should cease. We were not able to see patients face-to-face under any circumstances and, therefore, I have been providing “the three As” (Advice, Analgesia and Antimicrobials) remotely on a seven-days-per-week basis for patients (completely free of charge). I phoned Boots immediately at their HQ in Nottingham, to check the procedure for emailing prescriptions to pharmacies. It was arranged that this would be done with the local Boots at Whitefriars in Canterbury. In contrast, German dentists have been allowed to see their patients face-to-face for emergency appointments only, throughout their Lockdown.
Urgent Dental Centres (UDCs) were set up by the NHS in Ashford, Maidstone and Chatham. They are part of the NHS’s wider pandemic plan which was about: closing general practice face-to-face dentistry; and creating centres to treat very tightly defined emergencies (and separate centres were set up for Covid-19-symptomatic patients). These defined emergencies were for instance; trauma, potentially life-threatening dental conditions and for patients with systemic illnesses or those at risk of these. The triage systems [deciding which patients were eligible to go to the UDCs] were to be carried out remotely — first by dental practices and then repeated after referral by the UDCs themselves. The sites for the UDCs were identified very early in the planning but these services took time to set up due in part to a lack of the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). (Source: Interview by CDO England).
» Read the full interview
Join the Canterbury Society? Receive this Canterbury News?
There are two ways to receive the Canterbury News. You can support us and join the Society (for a minimum of £15 a year). Or you can simply register to receive the Canterbury News, without paying. In the difficult times that we are now living through we are keen to ensure that people who want to be updated can receive this mailing even if they don’t have the money to pay for it. But everything at the Canterbury Society is done by unpaid volunteers and we need funds to pay for insurance, printing of leaflets, room bookings etc — and it all costs money. We would encourage people to support us by joining if you can do that. We hope to expand our coverage — and will be able to do that more easily if we have a better financial basis.