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Canterbury Society Chair: Richard Scase

We send our best to everyone and hope you are keeping well! This is our twelfth Coronavirus update. We continue to experiment — with the addition of three YouTube videos this time. Please do send in more 100-word pieces — or a short video (probably speaking to camera).  And we are also looking for pieces of up to 300 words on how we can rebuild our community. Let’s try to set the agenda together! We also appeal to Councillors and officers to engage with us — by reading the Canterbury News and responding. CCC (Canterbury City Council) exists to serve local people — and that means we need two-way communication. It is significant that some of the 100-word pieces we include here focus on the beauty of the Canterbury riverside and other green and blue spaces. They are seen as a huge source of solace and beauty in these difficult times. So we report below on the shock that has been caused by the scarification of Wincheap Water Meadows, but we can add that CCC has now given us some answers.

CASES in the area

The East Kent Hospitals Trust comes 34th out of the 214 (mainly hospital) trusts included in NHS England’s daily listings as of Tuesday, 12 May. There have been 220 deaths in total in the three  hospitals (in Canterbury, Ashford and  Margate). This compares to 92 in the Maidstone trust and 307 in Frimley, the largest hospital in the South East. The three English trusts with the most deaths are: Birmingham (826); Barts (570); and London North West (555). Of the ten trusts with the most deaths, two are in the North West, two in the Midlands and six in London. 

The peaks in East Kent remain the same dates as we reported here last time — 9 deaths on each of five dates in April (6th, 7th, 8th, 12th and 13th). The highest tolls since then have been on 22nd April (7); 24th (8); 26th (7) and 9th May (7). 

The government has started publishing numbers of cases where people tested positive by local tier local authority. Canterbury numbers are rising by about 1-1.5% a day — up from 400 on 7th May to 435 on 12th. 

Kent, England’s most populous county, has the highest level of recorded cases in England. With 4,229, it is the only upper tier local authority with more than 4,000, and is over 1,000 higher than second-placed Lancashire (3,191). 

By the River Stour (2); by Bev Paton

The River Stour pathway is full of wildlife action fit for a soap opera. A pair of carrion crows have moved in and I have been watching them build a huge nest in the white poplar, however the new neighbours have caused great consternation amongst the established resident magpies, black birds and wood pigeons, resulting in an early morning cacophony. Another new visitor is a beautiful jay. The marsh marigolds and buttercups are creating a warm yellow glow on the river’s edge this week while the starry white flowers of the wild garlic and the tall lacy flowers of the cow parsley have made their entry. And the excitement does not end after dark, as a family of three foxes regularly visits, sometimes joined by a rather large hedgehog - all of whom enjoy a treat of dog biscuits at the edge of the wood.

While Covid 19 has brought much sorrow and uncertainty to our lives, it has also brought the opportunity to slowdown and reconnect with the natural environment close to home.

Canterbury spaces; by Hubert Pragnell

For many, and especially the elderly on their own, this is a considerable time of mental strain, but if they can get out this can do much to refresh the spirit. Many of us, in any case, live in a two-storey house and with a garden; our hearts should be with those in high-rise blocks in inner cities with no major open space or park within reasonable walking distance. Here in Canterbury we are spoilt for choice. In south Canterbury we have the fields around the Pilgrim’s Way.  Those living in the Sturry Road area, the Kingsmead Meadows and riverside walk into Canterbury;  At Thanington you can get down to the meadows beloved of  painter Sidney Cooper.  As for north Canterbury there is the extensive University of Kent campus with the lovely bluebell wood at the moment, and breathtaking views of the city beyond majestic banks of trees.  So no need to jump into a car,  just walk and enjoy nature.

Going peculiar — or getting saner? by Anon

Last night I had to stop myself getting out of bed at 4am to play Genesis and dance in the garden. Being away from other people is translating itself into an obsession with rock. Living without others is becoming like “Desert Island Discs” for real. So I am not that worried about this apparently strange behaviour. In fact, it was long overdue. Why did I spend so much time in the office?

Two Metres Apart by Diana Holbrook

Two metres apart, is it breaking your heart?
No more hugs?  Which were  dangerously 
Spreading those bugs.
But it’s  now my belief
That it’s quite  a relief,
And have now no worry 
All fussed, in a hurry, to have to decide
Whether left or right side?
With some off side half misses
Do one, perhaps two, or even more kisses?
All considered good form
This now seems the norm.
So, old British nature of quiet reserve
In the past just a handshake would certainly serve
Remember we’re British
Not known to be skittish,
Hugs certainly were not our style!
Which will make keeping distance
Meet little resistance
That we must for a while,
Keep apart by a mile.
Reduce cross infections 
And take the directions
And just for a start:  

New informal footpaths; by Peter Taylor-Gooby

One thing one notices as one strolls round the fields and open spaces near Canterbury is how many new informal footpaths have opened up. People literally vote with their feet for where they wànt to walk. Here's a suggestion: Canterbury City Council should consider how many of these paths could be made permanent Rights of Way. Cheap to do, a way of promoting all of our health, a policy that works for the better and the worst off  and probably highly popular. What do Canterbury Society members think?

Wincheap Water Meadows: vegetation razed to the ground

“It’s hardly surprising that the Council was able to claim that the Wincheap water meadows were 'species poor’ considering the way that they they have been managed,” says environmental campaigner Sian Pettman.  “In spite of the ‘No mow May’ initiative that more environmentally sensitive councils are following to help pollinators, Serco…[in early May] razed the vegetation to the ground in what amounts to a scorched earth policy.  All the grasses, plants and flowers that provide food and habitat for insects and cover for small mammals have gone altogether even in the riverside buffer which has been designated as part of the adjoining local nature reserve.” (See photos of before and after.) 

The Canterbury Society is seeking answers from Canterbury City Council (CCC) which would have authorised Serco to do this.  Bev Paton, open spaces specialist on the Canterbury Society committee,  wrote to CCC saying: “It hardly seems an appropriate way to manage an area which is still designated as part of the Great Stour Local Wildlife Site. It would have indiscriminately killed pollinators, insects and other invertebrates, as well as possibly some reptiles (including slow worms which have been photographed here), amphibians and small mammals while causing negative effects on nesting birds. Even the cowslips that were growing there are now all shredded!”  The two Wincheap councillors, Derek Maslin and Nick-Eden Green, have protested. Amongst other points they raise, they say: “It seems incredible that CCC should be spending money on carrying out a non essential task when the nearby bins are overflowing.  Can SERCO please be given the appropriate priorities. May we suggest that this area is not cut at all in future or is cut once a year after wildflowers have set their seeds and then not cut to bare earth.” 

CCC has responded to say that it will be inspecting the site later this week and will consider whether to change the mowing regime. Campaigners are asking CCC to review the mowing regime in consultation with the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership and the Kent Wildlife Trust as both organisations play a key role in helping to improve the Great Stour Local Wildlife Site. Over the long-term, campaigners hope that CCC will drop its plans to extend the Wincheap Park & Ride car park onto the Water Meadows, and  designate them as a part of the adjoining local nature reserve instead.

Coronavirus & World War II; Air Quality in Canterbury

Three video views from Canterbury. Speaking on VE day on 8 May 2020, Retired History teacher Chris Daniel compares the British responses now and in wartime. In a separate video, he asks to what extent ridicule can be applied to coronavirus (as it was so successfully in The Goose Steps Out and other WW2 films). Neasa MacErlean, in a video recorded in 2019, searches for reliable measures of air quality in our city. 

Saffron Cafe re-opens

After five weeks of closure, the Saffron Cafe on Castle Street has re-opened for take-aways. “People were waiting for someone to open,” says owner Fouad Hassini. “We have a lot of support from the regulars.” As well as serving baguettes (bacon, egg and sausage ones for breakfast, for instance), he does pasta dishes and special lunches of the day. (It will soon be possible to order deliveries from the website.)The hardest part of restarting was sorting out the meat deliveries — as butchers were themselves struggling, having lost business from their catering clients. Another reason for re-opening now was to work out how to adapt the business to social distancing. “I follow the news in France, Italy and other places — and they are all trying to move on, slowly, slowly,” he says. “It is going to be difficult for us here to go back to normal because of social distancing. The cafe will have to have fewer people inside at any time. But we are now working out how we will do that, and how we will organise the take-away side.”

Canterbury City Council

The Council has made some more announcements: “Garden waste collections have started again. We will only empty one bin per property at the moment. We'll start charging for collections later this year…Land charge searches are happening as normal….Work on the Local Plan is ongoing. You can let us know about any sites that could be a good place for homes, offices or a new open space….[Planning] Applications are being dealt with as normal. Face-to-face meetings have been replaced with video calls.”

Food Bank — update

Donations to the emergency appeal that was launched to bring in £12,000 raised over twice that sum but have since slowed down. More contributions would be very helpful — as many local families are still struggling, and the Food Bank does not want to turn people away. 

Ashford Hospital: Concerns over PPE

We were told by a source close to the hospital on 25 April: ‘The policy at Ashford Hospital is for medical and nursing staff to have full Personal Protection Equipment (proper FFP3 mask, full length fluid resistant gown, face visor, gloves) only if they are performing an aerosol-generating procedure such as intubation, laparoscopy or rectal examination. Even though coughing is obviously an aerosol generating activity, it is not a ‘procedure’ being performed on a patient so doesn’t count as a reason to have full PPE. So staff are working in wards populated entirely with coughing Covid-19 patients with only a paper surgical mask and plastic apron. Some have access to face protection visors which have been donated by the public but are NOT provided by the NHS.’ When we asked the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust for a comment on this, a spokeswoman said: “I can confirm we are currently providing and using PPE in line with the current national guidance across our hospitals.”

Local authors — on populism and the speech of birds

Vicky Fields

In times gone by we had Ian Fleming (who borrowed the 007 bus number for his own devices), Joseph Conrad and Jane Austen. Now our local authors include Peter Taylor-Gooby (also connected with the Food Bank) and poet Victoria Field. The latest from Professor Taylor-Gooby is ‘Blood Ties’ a social policy novel, published in April, of love and conflict set in the Britain of inequality, populism, Brexit and people-trafficking. Field has also just published — a collection called ‘A Speech of Birds’, partly inspired by the Blean ancient woodland and the Turner Gallery in Margate. (Vicky Field’s photo was taken by Ranald Mackechnie, the local photographer who did the latest Royal photos of the Queen and heirs to the throne.)

Peter Taylor-Gooby

Footfall in April

Numbers of people walking in the city centre were down 86% in April 2020 compared to 2019. The busiest hour in April this year started at 10am on Tuesday, 21 April when 643 pedestrians were measured by the Canterbury BID (Business Improvement District). By comparison, the peak hour in March started at 1pm on Saturday, 7 March when 4,054 people were on the pavements. That was two weeks before Lockdown. The fact that the busiest hour this April was on a Tuesday morning shows just how much the idea of Saturday shopping has lost its meaning during Lockdown.

Rambling instead of driving

‘500 volunteers wanted! Help create a network of 5,000+ walking routes connecting Great Britain’s towns and cities… without leaving home.’ This is the message being put out on the website of Daniel Raven-Ellison, a former geography teacher, who is working on a map of all the country’s walking routes. 

Stats on Covid19: Why don’t we have them? by Moe Dodson

Rosie Duffield says [in her Canterbury News interview]that she left her London home because it was near a hot spot of infection. How did she know this?  As far as I know, the Canterbury News is the only reliable source of information we have, and I have no idea whether there are any reported cases in Canterbury:  I cannot find anything on the web, and the news does not give out anything like that detail.

Information in Germany is much more open and detailed for every area.  My sister-in-law can look up every day on an official website for the new reported cases in her town,  and it also tells her where they are in the town: either quarantined at home or in hospital. If in hospital, which hospital and which ward (eg ICU). The exact number of deaths daily in her town is given, counted either as caused by the virus, or caused by other ailments with the virus present.  On that basis, she makes a daily decision as to whether to go out for a walk or not, and she and her husband feel much less anxious because they have solid information upon which to make rational decisions. 

Is this kind of  information for UK towns and areas available to the general public?  If not, why not?  There are some serious questions to answer by British politicians, who were warned of a pandemic as recently as 2016 and then a 8 months ago.  Why not learn form other countries' good practice'?  Why have we refused to prepare as did so many other countries?  

Will Canterbury be a retail wasteland after lockdown ends?

This is the question posed by Cllr Dave Wilson in a piece on the Canterbury Journal. Cllr Wilson (Labour) has also written here (and promises to do so again), as has Lib Dem Cllr Nick Eden-Green. Conservative Cllr Neil Baker has also written for us, and CCC leader Rob Thomas has agreed to do the same. The Canterbury Society has no political affiliation but instead seeks to encourage discussion between all political parties and the people they serve — in other words, our members and the rest of society in this area. 

Join the Canterbury Society? Receive the 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 the Canterbury News 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. 

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