News from the Residents' Association
21 May to 15 September
Community Heritage Initiative Project
As part of this project, Elmbridge Borough Council in partnership with English Heritage will draw up Conservation Area Plans for Thames Ditton. They are setting up a Working Group for the purpose. Working Groups are two dozen strong, comprising residents, historical, amenity and conservation societies, local councillors and council officers. This one meets on 16 October at the Civic Centre in Esher to discuss the concepts of conservation areas, how to undertake a character appraisal, use historical information and how to look at a place and decide what makes it special. Then there will be a day's workshop on 22 October in the Thames Ditton Cricket Club. The Conservation Area Advisory Committees will co-ordinate their input. Consultants will then compile and circulate draft conclusions and organise a final day's Working Group meeting in November, followed by a six-week public consultation period when information will be sent to all residents and there will be an exhibition (probably in the Library). There is more information on our website and on EBC's.
Boarded up properties proliferate
There is ugly boarding around the former Harrow, where the developer has withdrawn plans for six houses, and on the we want to conserve scenes like thisfront of the former Bakery in the High Street. Now Kingston Primary Care Trust have boarded up the windows at Elmbridge Lodge on Weston Green Road after moving their Day Unit to New Malden, and the Rosemary Simmons Association have boarded up the windows of the Newlands prior to its sale. This is unsightly. We are trying to discover future plans for the two latter sites, which we should like to see continue in use for the community.
Enforcement of planning conditions
Elmbridge Borough Council have begun to get their Enforcement Team up to strength. Sites including 25-29 High Street, where building works have varied significantly from the approved plans, are now being pursued so that developers cannot simply ignore planning conditions set by the Council.Success in planning appealsCongratulations to Councillor Tannia Shipley who led local residents in opposing the backland development of 1, Lime Tree Avenue at the planning appeal on 2 September. The Inspector agreed with all the grounds for refusal: unacceptable harm to the leafy character of the area, loss of privacy to the neighbours, and compromise to highway safety for children attending Weston Green School. We gained another good outcome to the developers' appeal against conditions imposed on them regarding the houses to be built on the now vacant site in Ashley Road, part of Thames Ditton's conservation area. These results show that your Residents' Association councillors with the support of local residents can be successful at appeals if they demonstrate this support to inspectors, and marshal sound planning objections to inappropriate development. There are several other appeals in the pipeline. For the most significant of these, concerning 29 High Street, working with Council officers our representatives have put together a strong argument for its refusal. Subjective views and decisions of Planning Inspectors (based in Bristol) do vary. One thing does not vary: the process takes a great deal of work on the part of our planning convenor Graham Cooke and Residents' Association councillors - but it can be the only way to constrain development excesses.
The owners of 3 Harvest Lane are appealing against the Council's decision to refuse permission to fell the Holm oak. The Council agreed that bracing and remedial work could be carried out on the tree, which is an important part of the village street scene. We hope the owners will work with the Council and withdraw their appeal. Meanwhile a large old oak at 48 Station Road has had two trunks cut off, which has adversely affected its aspect. The Association is instigating a more general review to identify significant local trees and seek protection for them where they are not already subject to orders.
It's a delight to report that following Thames Ditton Infants and St Pauls Catholic Primary, Esher College is the third school in Thames Ditton and Weston Green to gain an outstanding Ofsted report this year. The inspectors in May awarded top grade in every category and on 'added value' noted that: "Students' success rates are very high and most students make very good progress compared with their starting points on entry." A-level results are significantly higher than the national average, and two students were placed in the top 10 in the country for their individual performances in Economics, and Applied Art and Design.
A warm welcome to Nick Fry, the new Head of Thames Ditton Junior School. A resident of Hampton, he's married with three school-age children and was lately Head at Pippins School in Colnbrook. Nick's keen on football, cricket and Go, and he means to cycle daily to the school.
School crossing in Station Road
Following the petition organised by residents and with continuing pressure from our County councillor Peter Hickman, Surrey Highways Department have finally gone along with proposals to add a red surface to the flat-top crossing complete with improved warning signs. This should highlight to traffic the existence of the crossing and make it safer. Highways won't fund it out of their budget, so Peter has volunteered part of his small area allocation to get the job done. At the time of writing, the SCC Local Area Committee for Elmbridge are expected to approve the plan at their meeting on 22 September. The safest solution, however, remains the recruitment of a replacement lollipop person - applicants are again encouraged to get in touch with Thames Ditton Infants' School.
Peter Hickman was made Vice Chairman of SCC's Health Scrutiny Committee in June. He reports a continuing tussle with Surrey's Primary Care Trust to maintain financing for NHS rehabilitation beds at the George Tickler Wing of Thames Ditton Hospital. Meanwhile 'polyclinics' have been in the national news: large-sized clinics to provide a wide range of centralised services for 50,000 or more patients at the expense of smaller, localised practices. These are regarded with well-reasoned scepticism by GPs across the country. The Association has been concerned that any plans should not work to the detriment of the practices we have in these wards, particularly the surgery at Giggs Hill where facilities are modern and fairly extensive, and where the Friends of the Hospital have worked hard to sponsor additional equipment for NHS patients. Government is somewhat arbitrarily insisting that every PCT should have at least one polyclinic. Surrey PCT are considering locating one in the densely-populated Borough of Spelthorne. The Health Scrutiny Committee will meet the PCT soon to consider the implications of this.
With our County Councillor Peter Hickman's active support, plans to create a parking lay-by for the shops at Winter's Bridge are moving ahead. Bachmann's Patisserie contributed £3000 and our Residents' Association has added another £500 to help fund it.
In recent months AlleyKatz has moved to Thorkill Rd; their former shop in the High Street has been let to a clothing enterprise. The former Rose has been let to an Italian bistro. There are reportedly no takers for the lease of Threshers in the High Street, where at least two other commercial premises are empty and to let.The attractions of the High Street on Thursday lunchtimes and Saturday mornings have been reinforced by the arrival of The Fishman. Originally from Antigua, now a resident of Claygate, Alan Weston drives to Billingsgate every morning for his supplies. He's properly registered, insured, and also accredited with the Marine Stewardship Council that monitors sustainability and traceability of fish supplies. His fish is good. Alan likes Thames Ditton where he says he's found a unique welcome. He brought his friend and cricketing legend Richie Richardson to visit, and has plans for other involvement with the community. Alan's also looking to arrange a weekly stand at Weston Green. Now we need a butcher….
Peter Hickman has battled again this year to get Surrey and their contractors to fulfil their obligations to cut grass on roadside verges and kill our weeds. The transfer of some responsibilities to Elmbridge, who are setting up two-person 'Street Smart' teams to tidy the streets, may see some improvement. Meanwhile our special thanks to Ted Woolley, gardener at the Home of Compassion, for planting and tending the summer flowers in the fountain at the Boyle Farm roundabout.
Crime and policing
The reported crime rate remained at around 30 a month in Thames Ditton and under a dozen in Weston Green. The most frequent category was criminal damage, but nothing on the scale of the major spree of damage to cars in May reported in our last issue: police have forensic clues and a lead but are still seeking the culprits. Youth disorder over the wet summer was at a lower level than last year. This may reflect a more evident police presence at likely trouble spots and hours.
The period was not without some drama. Metropolitan Police cordoned off 33 Embercourt Road on 17 June before searching for the body of the owner's wife who disappeared in June 1999. Martin Hale was formally charged with murder in Kingston Crown Court and remanded for trial commencing 25 September at the Old Bailey.
The police helicopter was deployed over Thames Ditton on two or three occasions, including the control of a 'robust' arrest of two men in a black BMW on Portsmouth Road on 1 August, by a group of undercover police. This is described as an ongoing operation and details are scant, but police assure us that the event does not impact on local public safety. Police cordoned off Watts Road temporarily on the night of Friday 15 August: a man hurt himself falling off his motorbike, having failed to stop for police. He then failed a breath test. A week later, a car demolished the front porch of a house along the Thames Ditton section of Claygate Lane. A further motorbike accident on Watts Road occurred on the morning of 27 August where a van was involved. At 09.30 on Monday 9 September a woman drove at speed off the end of Ashley Road (cul-de-sac), narrowly missing nearby pedestrians and ploughing through the front gardens of 14 and 16 Church Walk. Fortunately nobody was injured. After breathalysing she was removed in a police van. In the early evening of Friday 22 August a police cordon was thrown around the buildings on the High Street between hairdresser's Stuart Lane and the George and Dragon, while police followed up a serious report apparently relating to the flat above the pharmacy. They were able to resolve the situation satisfactorily: for reasons of privacy we cannot give details but police say there is no cause for public concern.
Meanwhile there was insufficient identification or evidence for prosecution of the four people arrested following attempted armed robbery of Assimi jewellers over last Christmas and they are unlikely to be brought to trial. The three youths from Longmead who were arrested following a spate of burglaries in Thames Ditton last year (after which the burglary rate dropped to normal levels) were convicted of receiving stolen goods, given community orders, curfews and ordered to pay costs.
Please make use of the neighbourhood police panel meetings, which for convenience are generally held immediately before the Association's Open Meetings in the Vera Fletcher Hall. Our neighbourhood police teams note residents' priority concerns and follow up on them. Latterly, criminal damage and antisocial behaviour in the region of Church Walk, Speer Road and the Station area were singled out for action. Police stepped up patrols in the area at sensitive times. They are pursuing the acquisition and deployment of CCTV there and at other points where such problems arise. Justification under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is required, so it's important that criminal damage and antisocial behaviour does not go unreported. For even minor crimes in the course of being committed, call 999. To report crimes after the fact, call 0845 125 2222.
Last year resident Brian Rawles highlighted problems caused by some anglers who camp overnight along Albany Reach, though the majority are peaceable and fish at night with decorum. RA Councillor Ruth Lyon took this up with officials. A year further on, small signage has been added (some now covered in graffiti) and better signs are imminent. There will be no extra bin capacity for rubbish but officials say they will arrange for existing bins to be emptied more frequently during summers. Patrols by both council officials and police have approached anglers. River Officer PC Halstead notes that fishermen are 'camping' and thereby in breach of by-laws only if using a tent with an integral groundsheet. Using a bivouac with a separate ground sheet is not considered to be 'camping'. Police report that fishermen know the legislation, and have had valid licenses and the correct type of equipment. Meanwhile a few bivouackers are still lighting fires that leave scorched patches on the turf, cans are thrown into the bankside bushes and there too is to be found occasional evidence of human ordure. Dog mess is another feature of the bankside turf - but that's not due to anglers. We urge all who visit this delightful reach - the only stretch where villagers have public access to the river - to use it with consideration.
Sport and achievement
Last year two young men from Speer Road were selected as oarsmen for the exacting Sporting Giants programme that aims to produce athletes for the 2012 Olympics. One of them has had health problems but the other, Nick Fitzgerald, rowed stroke in the eight of the Giants contingent at Molesey BC, which won at Wallingford, Metropolitan and Molesey Regattas, qualifying for the Thames Cup at Henley Royal Regatta - where they lost to eventual semi finalists Ghent. Nick is one of two in the eight who will be recommended for the GB training squad this winter. Steve Gunn of GB rowing who manages the World Class Start programme tells us that overall the Sporting Giants initiative has been a success, enabling British rowing to recruit and develop over 100 young men and women of the right size and strength, many of whom had not rowed before, to have a chance of making it to the top.Colets' terrific squash team won this year's knockout England Club Championship again - the eighth time they've done that in fourteen years - and will represent England at the European Club Championships in late September, after this is written.
This month's cover photograph by Scott Hortop shows the children's race during the Harry Hawkes 8 on 7 September. 2009 will see the 25th anniversary of this annual event that epitomises community life in Thames Ditton. Organised by the Cricket Club, the 'HH8' is part of the running calendar and attracts a wide field - including, this year, former Olympic silver medallist Sonia O'Sullivan. It raises funds for the club and for several local charities. It's great to see ever more children having fun, and running hard, in their own race.
Elsewhere in this issue Brian Spooner introduces us to the mysteries of local fungi. Dr. Spooner, who lives just over the border in Molesey, is no less an authority than the Head of Mycology at the Jodrell Laboratory, Kew Gardens. He writes: "In the Winter 1979 issue of Thames Ditton Today a quiz included a question concerning the whereabouts of a huge old hollow tree stump near the Harrrow pub. Its rough location was subsequently given as ' on the NE corner of Weston Green at the side of the old Harrow'. A search recently for this stump failed to find it or any trace of it. If any reader knows whether it still exists or if not, or what became of it, I would be interested to know." If you can help, please get in touch with Brian on 0208 332 5381 or tell the Editor.
Membership and subscriptions
Our thanks to residents who have responded with their subscriptions and contributions for 2008. A gentle nudge to others - your support ensures the continuity of this community magazine and of the Association, which is based entirely on voluntary contributions and effort by residents to preserve an independent local voice for Thames Ditton and Weston Green. For how to subscribe see foot of page 3, or our website where you can download a form.
Dates for your diary
This year's Residents' Association Christmas Party will take place on Saturday 13 December at the Vera Fletcher Hall. Enjoy a three-course dinner among friends together with your favourite music. At £29 a ticket, it's the greatest party of the year. For tickets phone Lorraine Sharp on 07970 874 925The Christmas Fair in Thames Ditton High Street, arranged by local businesses under Association auspices, will be held on Wednesday 10 December. The High Street will be closed for the occasion from 6 to 10 pm and you can expect a feast of fun, late-night shopping, mince pies, mulled wine, carols and of course, Father Christmas. Contact Stitchery or Lottie and Thomas for further information in the meantime. In the run-up to the Fair, Stitchery & Lime Tree Deli are holding evening shopping sessions on Wednesday 19 November and Wednesday 3 December until 9.30 pm: speciality cheeses, charcuterie, chocolates and many goodies will be available.
Thames Ditton parking proposals
Only a footnote, because nothing is happening. SCC Highways matters can resemble a shambles, with acrimonious Area Committee meetings and wild budget swings. Cuts have meant deferment of further work on parking improvements in Thames Ditton until 2010 - 11. A pragmatic Yorkshireman has been appointed new overseer for Highways and Transport. We must look on the bright side…
Fungi of Thames Ditton and Weston Green
|Aseroe rubra (starfish fungus) discovered at Oxshott in 1993. The only known locality in the northern hemisphere. (copyright Sandra Rickwood)|
The approach of autumn signals the start of the main season for larger fungi. Fruitbodies of many forms and colours appear in local woods and fields, heralding an exciting few weeks for the growing number of fungus hunters. Larger fungi include the familiar mushrooms and toadstools and their many relatives, brackets, fairy clubs, jelly fungi, puffballs, stinkhorns and others. More than 3000 such species occur in Britain, and several hundred of them can be found in this area. But larger fungi, with fruitbodies large enough to handle, represent only a fraction of the true number which occur. Fungi are immensely diverse, with an estimated 1.5 million species worldwide, most of them yet undescribed. In Britain at least another 9000 species occur, microfungi with tiny fruitbodies found on rotting leaves and stems, or sometimes as parasites on plants and even animals. Many of them, especially the rust fungi and powdery mildews, so damaging at times to ornamentals and crop plants, will be familiar to gardeners. Autumn is also a good season for them, though fungi of some sort can be found throughout the year.
Although long treated as plants, fungi belong in fact in their own Kingdom, radically different and much more diverse than the plants. They occur everywhere, in all habitats from the poles to the deep sea, and are amongst the most diverse and numerous of all organisms. What are all these fungi doing and what do we know about them? Increasingly, the immense importance of fungi is being realised and they should be seen as essential to every aspect of our lives. Without fungi other life could not exist. The most fundamental process of all, the decay of organic matter and recycling of nutrients, is almost entirely handled by fungi. Mycorrhizas, intimate associations between plant roots and fungal hyphae, essential to the healthy development of both partners through exchange of water and nutrients, are now known to occur in virtually all plants. It is a partnership which developed half a billion years ago, so important that without it plants may never have colonised the land. Fungi provide food for many animals, including mammals and invertebrates, either directly or by the fermentation activities needed for bread, alcohol and many other products worldwide. Their role in medicine also cannot be overstated; antibiotics, for example, are all produced by fungi. Although many fungi are parasites, in natural environments these play essential roles in regulating plant and animal populations and only in the artificial conditions of horticulture and agriculture can they become a problem. However, many fungi are now threatened and of increasing conservation concern due to loss of habitats and pollution. Ancient woodland and old, unimproved meadows, home to many now rare fungi, have almost disappeared in many areas. Such grasslands support the colourful waxcaps, Hygrocybe species, as well as many other fungi sensitive to nitrate fertilisers. Many of them are now rare. There are few such grasslands left around Thames Ditton, but local churchyards, long managed without fertilisers, can be productive.
Almost any of the grassy and wooded areas around Thames Ditton, as well as private gardens, can prove rich in fungi. Ditton Common has interesting records of the huge bracket fungus Rigidoporus ulmarius on old elms stumps, a good substrate but regrettably now mostly lost in the wake of dutch elm disease (also caused by a fungus, but an introduced one which proved new to science). Woodchip mulch, increasingly used locally, has become, curiously, one of our richest habitats for fungi including rare species and many which have proved new to Britain or even to science. Look there for the distinctive Agrocybe rivulosa, an unknown species just 5 years ago, described from the Netherlands in 2003, discovered in Britain in 2004 and now widespread and common! It has large brownish fruitbodies with conspicuous ring on the stem and grows usually in large clusters. Areas around the Dittons are also worth noting for their fungi. Barely a stone's throw away the extensive woods and heaths of the Esher/Oxshott Commons, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is the most extensively recorded area of its size in the world. Over 3300 species have been recorded there, including new species and new British records, and many more await discovery. One of the most interesting is the unmistakable starfish fungus, Aseroe rubra, a southern hemisphere species related to our common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus), first found at Oxshott 15 years ago. Oxshott is still the only known site for this species in the entire northern hemisphere!
Fungus hunting has become popular in recent years, particularly for culinary purposes. Many good edible species can be found locally, but collect with care as toxic species also occur. Death cap (Amanita phalloides), for example, one of the most poisonous of all toadstools, grows locally under oak and is quite common in some years. And don't over collect - fungi are essential to many creatures and are a valuable part of our local environment.Brian Spooner
Head of Mycology at Kew Gardens
Working For The Young - from your County Councillor
|with help from Guy Salmon staff, Rainbows and Brownies wash cars to raise money|
Residents are concerned about much more than planning applications and potholes, bins and drains. Having a Residents' representative on the County Council has offered some prospects of advancing worthwhile local improvements for youth and parents. I've made that one of my priorities since you elected me to the Council.A tiny minority of our youths may seem bent on dissipation, despoilation and destruction, but of course the great majority of them as are lively and constructive as they ever were. Around the Dittons and Weston Green there are some excellent sporting clubs, school facilities and other activities for the young. Knowing local needs, I use my vantage point on the Council to find opportunities to help them.
Councillors have a small budget for local projects - too small to go very far, but this allocation enables me to be supportive in a very positive way by channelling the bulk of it towards good projects for the benefit of young people in our local community. Scouting, Guiding and Youth clubs provide fine, constructive activities for our youngsters with the involvement of parents and others. These are mostly of charitable status but they tend to attract fewer funds and perhaps less sympathy than charities for the disadvantaged. Instead, they rely on hard work to raise funds through local activities and events which themselves add much to our local pleasures. I enjoy being able to support these groups in a modest way. For example:
- Helping Ajax Sea Scouts to modernise their galley kitchen to meet modern standards for health and hygiene. It has greatly improved their role as an approved Royal Yachting Association training centre. Ajax, at Winters' Bridge, run an increasing number of courses for scouts from Surrey and all over the country.
- Helping Thames Ditton Guides to fund the immediate problem of replacing the leaking flat roof that threatened the future of the Guide Hut in Church Walk. Other funds are still required to fix the main roof and meet modern standards, stretching way beyond my allocation, but they are working hard to raise them with your help. Guiding is popular in the area and the refurbished Hut will also be available for non-profit use by some other community groups.
- Funding secure storage for equipment of the very active youth project in Long Ditton, entirely run by dedicated and keen volunteers. This enabled them to relocate to St Mary's School where there are no storage facilities. The weekly sessions for young people from the Dittons give them the space of their own that they want. Unfortunately the former Youth Club in what is now Thames Ditton Hall was never re-started after it closed some years ago, before the wrangling over the building's future. Is there anyone in the village who would like to take this on, re-open and run a Youth Centre there?
We are lucky to have good schools in the Dittons and Weston Green. I take a lively interest in them, too. I'm one of the Governors of Esher College, one of three state schools in our community that merited a truly outstanding report from the Inspectors this year. I was able to help the Junior School parents fund the new 'Trim Trail' playground facility at the school that will be enjoyed by hundreds of youngsters letting off their energy and getting fitter. Currently, the friends of Cranmere School need to provide new resources and furniture for the school library, for use by children and parents alike. I am able to find some funds to help this materialise. With other Councillors, I'm also supporting 'Love of Learning,' a project to be run in some Elmbridge Schools, where a local artist works with parent and child in a workshop: one of the aims is to raise the children's confidence and self- esteem.
I've been very concerned with issues of safety. I have pressed officials hard for a constructive approach to safety at the school crossing near Thames Ditton Station, the subject of a large petition earlier this year when nobody volunteered to take on the position of lollipop person. After a long tortuous process the Highways Department came up with a scheme to improve the visibility of the crossing but I was told "there is no money for this". So again I have had to provide from my small allocation some funds to buy red tarmac.
Committee work is no less gratifying: remember a substantial part of your council tax is spent on children in care, fostered or adopted children, children with special educational needs, and children at risk. I have become involved with the Council's Children and Families Select Committee, where I want to help improve a section of council activity where I think performance has often been poor.
Last but by no means least, I think the County authorities have probably been too complacent about forward strategies for providing school places where they are needed. The result is that an unacceptable number of young children have to be transported to schools a rather long way from their home. Where I can, I lobby the Council to focus harder on the need to predict school population growth and build classroom provision in good time.
Residents' Association County Councillor for the Dittons and Weston Green.
Four Wheels Bad, Two Wheels Good
|Cycling is for the determined - photo by Andy Kendal|
They're all at it - David Cameron going the wrong way down his one-way streets, Boris without his helmet, and everyone trying to save on petrol by digging out the ancient bicycle they last used as a student and wobbling down the road for the first time in twenty years. They may then find the truth in the old saying: "What is the hardest part of learning to ride a bike?" Answer - the pavement.
What do we two-wheelers find when we venture out on Hampton Court Way or the Portsmouth Road? Well, our all-caring council has painted some lovely lines at the side of the roads and called them "Cycle Lanes" and no doubt has congratulated itself on how much safer we cyclists are. As far as they go they are fine, but they don't go very far and have a nasty habit of suddenly stopping. No one can complain that they are not advertised clearly - on Hampton Court Way, which for part of its distance has a proper cycle path, there are 11 cycle signs (at what cost, I wonder) over a third of a mile stretch plus 5 empty posts awaiting signs, and of course, the numerous cycle logos painted on the pavement itself - a slight case of over zealousness perhaps! At least Elmbridge has so far avoided some of the nonsenses of other boroughs - although with our area plagued by bad drainage it's only a matter of time before they come up with a suitable warning sign for cyclists in floods!
Once we have made the decision that two wheels are better than four we can say to ourselves that we are saving money as well as saving the planet and forcing all those oil sheikhs into penury. The aches and pains we feel can be written off as the price for not needing to go to the gym. We can curse at drivers who come too close when they are speeding down Ember Lane but forget that when we are behind the wheel we too curse when we are held up behind a cyclist in the High Street. It's true that some of us don't bother with things like bicycle bells and think it's really quite fun to come up quietly behind a pedestrian on the pavement and frighten them and as for lights on their bikes at night - well, they are just for wimps.
Riding on our Elmbridge roads sometimes seems like dicing with death, with traffic whizzing past a few inches from our ears and potholes growing like weeds to catch the unwary, but cycling is on the increase and the need to take out a second mortgage whenever we fill up our cars with petrol will encourage more of us on to the roads. Perhaps the more there are of us on two wheels, the more drivers will recognise that the roads are for all users and we actually reduce congestion and save on our taxes since we don't create wear and tear on the road surfaces.We cyclists go along with Mark Twain who put it very well: "Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live".
Home Of Compassion
|last of the Summer Fairs - June 2007. Photo by Lesley|
In 1785-1792 Charlotte Boyle Walsingham had a large and elegant mansion, Boyle Farm, built to replace smaller buildings known as Forde's Farm. Subsequent owners included the Lord Chancellor before it was sold a century ago by Herbert Robertson, church warden of St. Nicholas, to the Reverend Mother of the Community of the Compassion of Jesus. This was a Church of England community caring for the sick and deprived that also occupied the Newlands in Weston Green, where there was an orphanage.
The Sisters added a chapel and cloister and the building became known as the Home of Compassion. When the last surviving Sisters died some forty years ago, the Home of Compassion passed to a Trust under the patronage of the Bishop of Guildford, providing respite care for elderly and frail local people. The Home remained an integral part of life in Thames Ditton, using local suppliers and engaging the willing support of villagers for the Charity Shop and the annual Summer Fair.
Latterly, the Trust planned works to bring the Home up to the standard required by increasingly onerous regulation, but the costs were substantial and when Surrey's NHS authorities withdrew from funding promises, the Trust had to find another solution. A year ago it announced that the Home would be sold to a private operator, Caring Homes, ensuring that this historic, listed building would stay a home of respite. The Trust would use the proceeds to establish a new charity to help fund care for the infirm.
Putting the sale into effect has not been without problems. Covenants meant that residents of Boyle Farm Estate had to approve the acquisition of the Home by a private company. At a public presentation of plans at the Home on 19 July this year, company representatives confirmed that negotiations had concluded with an agreement whereby the inhabitants of the private Boyle Farm Estate would get a strip of land giving access to the river, and a slipway and small pontoon, subject to planning permission being obtained. "The covenants will be altered to allow Caring Homes to acquire and run the Home and in all other respects they will remain as before," the company's Development Director Philip Osborne told us. "This will preclude sale onwards to any other company without approval and should act as a safeguard against the Home's acquisition for unenvisaged purposes."
Caring Homes have worked up plans for extension and modernisation, an investment that will total some £12 million. Architects Scurr and Partners, consulting informally with Elmbridge Council planning officers, have opted for traditional materials and design harmonising with the present listed structure, rather than markedly different, modernistic additions. We asked for images which they kindly supplied: click here for the elevations.
The sale is finalised. Income from the proceeds of just over £3 million will fund a new Trust, Walsingham Care, for local people in need of respite care at home or in nursing homes, including the Home of Compassion, and provide continuity for currently funded inmates of the Home. The new Trust has no plans to engage in fundraising: the Charity Shop will close, and the Summer Fairs have ended. However, the Home's new owners say they'd contemplate villagers using the grounds for similar charitable events if they wish to organise them.
footnote: following the preparation of this article, the Trustees decided that they would in fact continue fundraising for the new trust. The Charity shop reopens at 68 Bridge Rd, East Molesey in early 2009
Curtain Up at the Vera Fletcher Hall
|Louis de Bernières & Ilone Antonius-Jones 'A Partisan's Daughter'|
In its 17th year, our Autumn programme brings the best of the country's performers in a splendid mix of drama, music and children's entertainment. One of the highlights is Louis de Bernière's "A Partisan's Daughter" on Friday 10 October. Direct from its sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this is a bittersweet and humorous love story by the author of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," based on his latest book. Roza from Jugoslavia meets and falls in love in London with Chris, an unhappy medical salesman, and enchants him with her stories in the narrative tradition of Scheherezade's 1001 Nights. Together with well-known musician Ilone Antonius-Jones, Louis gives us readings from his novel accompanied by Serbian and East European music, some Bob Dylan and classical music on mandolin, flute and guitar.
Love & Madness Productions who gave us their memorable "Othello", "Playboy of the Western World" and "The Tempest" return to the Hall on Friday 7 November with their new production of "La Ronde". Banned for over 20 years, Arthur Schnitzier's La Ronde under Neil Sheppeck's new adaptation is set in a modern-day Mediterranean city, a sophisticated and ironically humorous fairground ride through sexuality to a stirring background of tango.
The Hall has a reputation for high quality chamber music and we welcome back the "Ruskin Ensemble" on Friday 24 October. This talented group have performed at the British Embassy, Paris, 11 Downing Street and the Edinburgh and Brighton Festivals. They evoke late summer evenings with "All True Love" - romantic music, poetry and prose, with Jane Gomm (violin), Jo Easthope (cello) and Jonathan Prag (guitar). Vivaldi, Paganini, Schubert, Beethoven, Latin tangos are linked with readings from D.H. Lawrence, Laurie Lee, Shelley, Robert Graves.... This will be followed on Friday 21 November by a concert by Amy Tress and Friends, prizewinning young musicians from the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music. Children under 16 are free.
We have a treat on Friday 14 November when Commedia Productions present Puccini's "Madame Butterfly," in English, by singers from the major opera companies accompanied by Commedia's pioneering "virtual orchestra". This tender and moving story of the ill-fated Japanese geisha and American Lieutenant Pinkerton is one of the most-performed operas around the world, with its famous arias such as "One Fine Day" and the "humming chorus".
On Friday 3 October and Friday 31 October Andrew Brewis presents his Letters from Luvvies and "Take Two". Andrew is an old favourite at the Hall with his inimitable cabaret style shows. He performs at major venues such as the Cafe Royal, the Ritz, the Savoy and the Ivy, and, of course, the Vera Fletcher Hall where he brought us shows such as "Simply Sondheim" and "Noel and I". In "Letters from Luvvies" on 3 October he is joined by Hal Dyer in a cast of five with piano, flute and guitar in an evening of the fascinating, witty, sometimes poignant, theatrical correspondence, from Shakespeare and Shaw, Ellen Terry, Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich... On 31 October, with Esther Williams, he presents "Take Two" in an evening of nostalgia - one piano, two pianists, with the words and music of Jerome Kern, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Buddy Holly, Marlene Dietrich, the Drifters...
For lovers of musicals Showcase Company returns on Saturday 22 November with "A Very Jazzy Christmas" - songs, dance and carols given a modern beat to celebrate Christmas in style. There is joy for Gilbert & Sullivan fans when Charles Court presents "Iolanthe," the perfect Christmas show, on Friday 28 November. Charles Court Opera brought their highly enjoyable "Mikado" and their quintessential pantomime Cinderella to the Hall, and now turn their hands to this wackily whimsical tale of "Iolanthe", a light-hearted satire on the House of Lords and the political party system. Banished by the fairy queen 25 years ago for marrying a mere mortal, Iolanthe returns with the news that she has a son Strephon, who wishes to marry Phyllis, a Ward of Chancery. Unfortunately for the lovers, the Lord Chancellor also has his eye on the lovely Phyllis, but after much singing ("Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither" and "When I went the Bar as a very young man...) "and quite a bit of dancing, both Peers and Peris arrive at a satisfactory arrangement.
Children's shows usually sell out. This Autumn's programme includes, on Saturday 18 October, Image Musical Theatre's "The Selfish Giant", a family participation musical based on Oscar Wilde's delightful fairy tale. Cornelius & Jones present "The Nutcracker" on Saturday 22 November - their magical productions are firm favourites with our audience and in The Nutcracker Hoffman's story of the 19th century toyshop is brought to life with toys, automata, puppets and Tchaikovsky's music. See the Noticeboard, page 39, for times and tickets for these shows. You can keep in touch with events on the Hall's website.
Tricia Bland - new Hon. Secretary
Tricia Bland is our newly-elected Hon. Secretary of the Thames Ditton and Weston Green Residents' Association, succeeding Lorraine Sharp. Tricia, from Wales, studied Social Sciences at Kingston University where she met fellow student Will, now a partner in an advertising agency. They married when she graduated, and lived in Kingston and Surbiton. She combined bringing up three daughters with a career in journalism. Tricia worked in the Walt Disney press office, published a number of film articles and moved to magazine journalism. She was Beauty Editor for Woman's Realm, then went freelance, and was appointed the first style and beauty editor of OK! Magazine. Over the years she has written for many publications from Marie Clair to Zest, and today is a celebrity style columnist for The Sunday Express. She also specialises in celebrity interviews for titles such as Vanity Fair as well as interior design articles for home magazines, and general features.After 10 years getting to know Thames Ditton from nearby Surbiton and looking for a house here, Tricia, Will, twins Alice and Heidi (aged 19) and 13 year old Henrietta moved into Garden Cottage, tucked behind the old Manor House on the corner of Station Road, just 30 minutes from central London where Tricia often commutes. The cottage with its secluded garden is a dream come true and restoring the garden will be a major project. Husband Will, from a farming background, is in charge of the vegetable garden. When asked to be Secretary, Tricia accepted immediately: "I value the effective work of the Residents' Association in the community, especially in fighting to protect our open spaces and the character of Thames Ditton and Weston Green. I wanted to be part of that."
Our Friend From The North
One of many remarkable things about David Nield is that, in an age of increasing job and career mobility (not to mention job insecurity), he spent the years from university to retirement in one job. In this one post he encouraged the talents of children, had scope to pursue his own talents and had fun. This career in a million was as Director of Music at Tiffin School in Kingston from 1965 to 2002.
David was born in the gritty Lancashire town of Bury the day after Pearl Harbour. Times were hard. His father was a member of a local amateur operatic society, 'a big bass', as David recalls, and great fan of Gilbert and Sullivan. The family house was rarely quiet. There was much music around in those days with brass marching bands, but David's first muse came from listening to, and singing along with the local church organ; so his father was persuaded to start David on piano lessons at the age of eight.
Starting at Bury Grammar School in 1953 he was mortified to find there were no music lessons on the syllabus. But his obvious talents and enthusiasm earned him lessons with the organist of Manchester Cathedral. He became an Associate of the Royal College of Organists and, at the age of eighteen, won an Organ Scholarship to Durham University, studied under Professor Arthur Hutchings and graduated with Honours in 1965.
This success put him on the road south in the swinging sixties, when the times already were a-changing. David first had to overcome the incomprehension shown by new Tiffin pupils at his strange mix of northern accents (halfway between broad Lancastrian and Wearside Geordie) by speaking loudly and faster, then laughing even more loudly, and then by playing whatever he felt suited the mood of the classroom at that time. He implanted a real interest in music of all kinds in his pupils, in other staff, governors and parents, so that music at Tiffin is now nationally celebrated. Each year, over 100 boys study music at GCSE and A Level and most boys in the school play an instrument. All can take part in concerts staged throughout the year that include singing, orchestral and jazz ensembles. This lasting success bears out David's conviction that teachers do more good by staying in one school than by frequently changing places.
For David, music is not just a subject to be taught. It also needs to be played and performed, preferably with gusto. He complemented his teaching in two widely different musical directions - religiously, by becoming the organist at All Saints Kingston Parish Church from 1966 to 1994, where, amongst other achievements, he oversaw the installation of the celebrated Frobenius organ in 1988; and, dramatically, in pursuing a collaboration with friends and kindred spirits, Jeremy James Taylor and Frank Whately, composing and producing musical plays to be performed by children. They were pivotal in founding and developing the National Youth Music Theatre with a host of productions at Sadlers Wells, Bergen, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, New York, Hong Kong and the Rose Theatre in Kingston. In April this year, their production of The Ragged Child, with David as composer and musical director, was a successful part of the rebirth of The Rose.
David and wife Jane, a retired History teacher at Tiffin, live in Thames Ditton where David walks the dog on Giggs Hill Green in all weathers. From time to time he plays the organ for services at St. Nicholas Church. David believes that church music has supported his Christian faith: 'music is inexplicable and transcends the rationality and ecstasy of religious belief.' A different side of David's musicality has been nourished in Thames Ditton. He was a great fan of his fellow northerner, the late Dick Charlesworth, whose clarinet playing, if not always his singing, provided great entertainment to jazz aficionados every Tuesday evening at The George & Dragon. His marvellous funeral procession through the village with New Orleans style marching band reminded David of those childhood processions through the narrow streets of his Lancashire cotton towns.
So that's the score of David's life. How does he perform it as an ordinary man? Well, he's as forthright as northerners are renowned to be, and rarely calls a spade a shovel. He admits to having had differences of opinion with some local officials, something to do with wrong postcodes, wrong sort of bus passes, that sort of thing, but he's not just another grumpy old man. There's a strong sense of humour there. When I resort to the hackneyed 'question and answer' formula for interviews and ask him: "If you were not talking to me now, what would you be doing?" he fires back: "None of your business" and roars with laughter.
Now that's the man.
A Monority View
Far from impoverishing the English language, computers and keyboards are seeding and fertilising a vocabulary that already encompasses more words than any other. Keyboard fumbling, cross-referenced with Mr. Gates' spellchecker, can give rise to words that, for inscrutable reasons, have not previously been discovered. I like to think that some of them are potentially very useful.
For example, we have 'beaurocracy.' That must mean rule by beautiful people. 'Intradiction' may be just the word for phrases that form in your mind but you do not utter, such as "that dress is too small for you, Dear." A 'bramaid' is clearly a strikingly pneumatic barmaid. 'Lieable' is almost likeable - or could mean easily bedded; but it would also be a very useful part of a practising spin-doctor's vocabulary.
The letters on my own keyboard are worn off. This has led to many fortuitous discoveries because 'o' is next to 'i', 'a' not far from 'e', and so forth. So I have stumbled serendipitously upon the very useful 'monority' - a minority of one? And 'monomum', an unpartnered mother perhaps. In the same rich vein there is 'moniac', evidently perfect for a crazy one-track mind; 'monile', which must mean single and grumbling about it; and 'movile', one of those phones with absolutely foul ringtones that go off just when you are watching the film.
Accidentally missing, supplementary or supplanted letters also evoke satisfying reflection. 'Televasion' - of course! What the children do when they should be doing homework. 'Boald' surely means both old and bald. 'Clarifiction' is what you get when you ask a politician for clarification, and a 'lawnmaker' is a good term for a Government Minster rusticated for fiddling expenses or challenging the Prime Minister. As I move my finger hopefully towards the letter 'i', I get the word 'funger'. A partygoer looking for a good time?
'Equainted' can only mean that one has had a proper introduction to computers. You can see there is some way to go before we have reached the Last Word, thank Gid.
By Hook or Crook
Readers are invited to send in news, and detils of events or announcements they would ideally like listed, preferably by email to the editor / webmaster (see magazine page or contacts page). If we can fit them into the magazine, we will; but sometimes timing and space are against us. However, they can always go on our website free for non-commercial purposes. It now receives up to 10,000 visits (23,000 page hits) each month. The announcements and 'what's on' pages are popular. There's also an active discussion forum on the web site, where you may soon find provision for your small ads too. There's free itnernet access from computers in the Library. meanwhile:
◊ Recycle mobile phones with Rainbow trust and turn them into funds to help support families who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness. For FREEPOST envelope or if you'd like to help, call Louise Bingham on 01372 220023.
◊ <Dittons Scout Group are expanding and want enthusiastic adults and keen teens to help provide good programmes for Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. Training provided. Call Keith Berry on 0208 398 3447.
◊ The new Probus Club formed last October in Hinchley Wood & the Dittons (including Weston Green) for retired or semi-retired professional and business men meets every third Tuesday in the month at The Angel, with a guest speaker. Non-political and non-sectarian. New members welcome. Call Ken Thomas on 0208 398 0526 or Peter Danny on 01932 821909.
◊ Molesey and District Antiques Society now has its own website with details of events. Their monthly meetings at Vera Fletcher hall, with talks, also appear on the Vera Fletcher Hall website.
◊ Like the Antiques Society, Molesey Music Club has members from a wide area, not just Molesey, and engages in many activities to suit all tastes, including opera and drama. Call 0208 398 0546 for more information.