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dogHow do you fancy becoming a foster carer…for a dog?

Medway Council is launching an innovative new scheme to place stray dogs in loving homes until full time owners can be found.

The council picked up around 1,000 stray dogs last year and, alarmingly, it’s a figure that’s growing and means kennel space is at a premium.

There are many reasons a dog ends up wandering the streets, sometimes it’s simply accidental and they’ve escaped from their owners, other times it can be more sinister as dogs are deliberately abandoned.

The rise in strays could be linked to people finding it tougher to afford to keep a pet. But around 300 dogs are returned to their owners each year because they are microchipped. You may not know it, but the council can offer you free microchipping for your pet – giving you complete piece of mind should it go missing.

For those dogs where the owners can’t be simply traced through a microchip, the future isn’t as bright. Once picked up by community wardens, they spend a week in the care of the council at Jasmil Kennels near Sittingbourne. If the owner is still not traced or doesn’t come forward to claim their dog, the kennels then become responsible for the pet and will try and find it a loving home.

If an owner can’t be found, the dog, sadly has to be put to sleep as a last measure. That’s a situation nobody wants to see and is why the new foster carers for pets scheme could help prevent that by placing dogs in an approved and loving home.

Placing them in a home while a full time owner is found helps free up space at the kennels and – more importantly – is better for the dog. Cllr Peter Hicks, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, said: “We hope our new initiative will provide a better future for dogs, who through no fault of their own, have found themselves on the streets.

“And it is vital owners get their pets microchipped. “Microchipping will be compulsory from 2016 but we can provide this service, free and now, in the comfort of your home.” Medway Council’s website has daily updated details and pictures of stray dogs in a bid to get them reunited with their owners quicker.

You can also find details of how you can re-home an unwanted dog at www.medway.gov.uk
Medway Council is to hold it’s fourth annual A Day for Every Dog event this summer.

Environmental Protection and Community Wardens will be out and about across Medway offering:

• Free microchipping
• Free agility training and dog behaviour advice from Borstal Barkers Dog Training
• Free advice on dog law and how it affects you
• Fun interactive sessions with dogs for children
• Free dog food samples.

You’ll be able to find us at the following locations:

• Wednesday 30th July – Gillingham Park
• Friday 1st August – Recreation ground rear of Laburnum Road, Strood
• Friday 8th August – Luton Recreation Ground
• Wednesday 13th August – The Vines, Rochester
• Friday 15th August – Recreation ground rear of Pottery Lane, Hoo
• Tuesday 19th August – Capstone Country Park
• Thursday 21st August – Hillyfields
• Saturday 23rd August – Riverside Country Park – including Dog Show
• Friday 29th August – Great Lines Heritage Park

Each day the event will run from 11am to 3pm. On Saturday 23rd August at Riverside Country Park we will also be holding a free fun dog show, exhibitors can enter their pooches into classes. Registration is from 11am and judging starts at noon.

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billyelliotA schoolgirl from Gad’s Hill School, Higham has got her first taste of stardom after landing a role in a hit an internationally award-winning West End musical.

Thirteen year-old Zara Gilhooly started performing in smash-hit Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre this month as a ballet girl, alongside the central character of Billy in Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet class. Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet girls feature throughout the show as the children’s ensemble, accompanying Billy on his dancing journey.

Zara, from Meopham, said she was “absolutely loving every minute” of the experience.

The talent dancer has been performing from the age of three, joining her current dance school, the Robyn Academy, Gravensend at the age of 10, winning a number of competitions including the prestigious ‘Most Promising Dancer’ trophy at the Beckenham amateur dance festival.

“It was so nerve-wracking waiting to hear if I had got the part,” Zara said.

“I really love dancing and performing and this is just such a good opportunity – I’ve never before performed in the West End and I’d love to make it my career when I leave school.”

When asked what her school friends thought of Zara’s star turn she said: “They think it’s cool and I hope a lot come to see me in it.”

Zara’s Headmaster, Mr David Craggs said: “If Zara doesn’t land a performing arts career, I would be very surprised. It is obvious that Zara has talent. We’re all really proud of her for winning the part in a top London musical. The future looks very bright for Zara.”

Based on the Oscar nominated film, Billy Elliot the Musical is an inspirational story of one boy’s dream to realise his ambitions against the odds. Set in the North East of England against the background of the historic 1984/85 miners’ strike, Billy pursues his passion for dance in secret to avoid disapproval of his struggling family.

Multi award-winning Billy Elliot the Musical had its world premiere at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 31 March 2005 and has now been seen by over 9.5 million people worldwide.

Billy Elliot the Musical features music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, is directed by Stephen Daldry with choreography by Peter Darling. The production features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, the associate director is Julian Webber, costume design is by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Martin Koch.

LISTINGS INFORMATION BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL

Booking until: Currently booking until 16 May 2015
Theatre: Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5EA
Box Office: 0844 248 5000
Tickets: £20.70 – £68.70 (to include a £1.20 theatre restoration levy)
Performances: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Website: www.billyelliotthemusical.com

MBEA Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance doctor today (Friday) received his MBE from Her Majesty the Queen, for services to emergency medicine.

Dr Malcolm Russell was formally invested as a Member of the Order of the British Empire at Windsor Castle after being named in the New Year’s Honours List.

The father-of-two was presented with his award by Her Majesty the Queen at the castle’s Waterloo Chamber, watched by his proud wife and children.

He said: “It has been an amazing day and I felt honoured to have my MBE presented by Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle.

“I felt humbled to be amongst some incredible people and very thoughtful of the work our charity does and the many people we strive to help.”

Dr Russell joined the Air Ambulance as Clinical Lead in 2007, when the Surrey and Sussex helicopter was first launched.

Last year, he was appointed as the life-saving charity’s Medical Director responsible for assuring the quality of care provided by its doctors and paramedics.

Dr Russell served in the British Army for 15 years and has been involved in pre-hospital emergency medicine since 1996.

In 2011, he was part of a 50-strong UK International Search and Rescue Team who helped victims of the New Zealand earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

* If you would like to make a donation to the Air Ambulance please call 01622 833833 or go to www.kssairambulance.org.uk

The Chancellor should look again at the nation’s Stamp Duty thresholds, an archaic tax structure which is distorting the housing market, says RICS as part of its 2014 Pre-Budget statement.

The existing ‘slab’ Stamp Duty system taxes a percentage of a home’s purchase price according to which value bracket it happens to fall into. For instance, a buyer purchasing a property for under £250,000 would pay one percent of the price in tax, while a home sold for just one pound more would generate a tax bill of three percent. This means that many buyers are financially unable to venture above the threshold and vendors may have to price their home below what they may otherwise have sold it for. RICS believes that the government should consider a fairer, marginal rate to replace the current structure which sees few homes come onto the market at between £250,00 and £275,000 whether or not they are worth that price.

The government should also consider adapting Help to Buy to suit individual regions’ needs. Sixty percent of RICS members surveyed believe that adjusting the scheme on a regional basis would make the market more sustainable. Furthermore, half of those who are in favour believe that the funding should be limited purely to first time buyers. RICS would like to see the government reassess the scheme with a view to providing the relevant help according to an individual region’s needs.

Garden cities could prove a good means of boosting the supply of homes on the market. However, these cities need to be located in places where people are able and willing to live, close to sources of employment and the houses need to be affordable housing. To make the garden cities a reality the government needs to publish its outline prospectus to test the market by giving potential developers, communities and investors clarity and certainty.

While much progress has been made in recent years regarding empty property rates, unoccupied shops and offices that require refurbishment before being re-let are still subject to prohibitive business rate tax. This situation acts as a huge disincentive for landlords to ensure their premises are brought up to quality and environmental standards. RICS would like the government to consider a rate exemption period for these premises which would also result in more work for smaller, local construction firms, while helping the commercial property sector meet its April 2018 target of making buildings more environmentally sustainable.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS Head of UK Policy, said:

“This is a very important Budget for the Chancellor and one which will shape the economy in the run-up to the general election. A major area of concern in the property sector, at present, is the current Stamp Duty system which is both out-of-date and distorts the market by taxing buyers disproportionately high amounts should they go just one pound over the pre-set thresholds. A more intelligent, modern way of taxing property sales is needed for a market which is changing at a rate of knots.

“We would also like to see George Osborne provide more detail as to exactly what is meant by new garden cities and precisely how they would benefit communities and the economy. Taxing landlords who renovate their empty shops and offices is also on burden on the economy and discourages owners from taking their premises out of circulation to meet environmental standards.”

Santa Maria 7 Drawer ChestFrom life at sea, to the Santa Maria range from Little Tree Furniture

During his first voyage, Christopher Columbus’ largest ship was called the Santa Maria. Its impressive size and performance in the Atlantic crossing made the Santa Maria his flagship vessel. Pertaining to a rich history of exploration at sea, Little Tree Furniture’s aptly named Santa Maria range is made almost entirely from reclaimed boat timbers…

The Santa Maria upcycled furniture range creates a contemporary twist using vintage timbers – some of which are more than 150 years old. The wood displays a plethora of colours and etchings from its original purpose in boat hulls. Each one differs from the next – making every piece completely unique.

The boats might have made their final voyage at sea; however, Little Tree Furniture’s Santa Maria range ensures the existing attributes of the wood are not wasted and thrown on the shipping scrapyard! Providing a new lease of life for the timber, Little Tree Furniture has designed a range consisting of 12 furniture pieces that boast beautiful visual appeal; such as the Santa Maria Lamp Table, Console and Storage Chest.

The Santa Maria range exudes character, which can be truly admired and appreciated in the home.

www.littletreefurniture.co.uk Stockist: 01424 734191

Advertorial on behalf of Experian PLC

One in five have had their creditworthiness impacted by a partner’s bad credit rating.

Only 3% have ever filed a financial disassociation following a relationship ending.

Money may not buy you love but romance can certainly play havoc with your finances, as almost a fifth of Brits (17%) have seen theirs and their partner’s credit ratings negatively impacted by their relationship.

Research from Experian, the global information services company, has found that one in eight (12%) people say they have been impacted by a current or former partners’ bad credit rating, while a further 5% have admitted that they have had a negative impact on their partners’ credit worthiness.

Yet the Experian CreditExpert research found that only 3% of people have ever filed a note of financial disassociation – a credit divorce in effect, which lets lenders know that a couple should no longer be seen as ‘a couple’.

With a quarter (24%) of people not knowing what financial disassociation is, this suggests many in the UK may still be financially linked to others without even being aware of it.

When you share financial associations such as a joint account or a mortgage, your credit reports become linked which can mean that when you apply for credit, lenders will see not only your credit report, but also the financial links to others.

Therefore your credit worthiness could be based on not only on how well you have managed your finances over the last six years, but also how well your partner or ex-partner has managed theirs.

A fifth of those impacted by financial associations believe that they found it more difficult to get a mortgage a result of partners or ex partner’s poor credit rating and furthermore, that when they were successful in securing a mortgage, that they were charged a more expensive interest rate as a result. 22% stated that they have been unable to get a loan for the same reason and nearly a quarter (24%) found getting a credit card more difficult or expensive.

Peter Turner, Managing Director at Experian Consumer Services, UK & Ireland, commented:
“Talking about finances can be an uncomfortable subject for many but setting up joint finances can be one of the biggest commitments you can make in a relationship. Few of us will have a perfect history of managing our finances but by addressing your financial circumstances and your credit history upfront together, at the very least you could save any nasty surprises further down the road such as being turned down for credit you really need.

“For those whose relationships sadly end, it’s important to ensure any joint finances are also separated to regain financial independence. If the mortgage is the only remaining joint debt with your ex-partner and you’ve lived apart from more than six months, you can still ask us to break the link between your credit reports. The effect of this will be to stop any information about your ex affecting your credit rating in the future which can be a big step in moving forward.”

Experian CreditExpert has the following advice for those considering joint finances:

1. I do…do I?
The first step in setting up joint finances is deciding if they are the right choice for you and your partner. To better understand the impact joint accounts could have on your future credit worthiness, you will need to review your own credit report to get a complete overview of your own credit history.

2. Take your time…
Take the time to review both your credit reports, ensure everything is accurate and up-to-date and if you dispute any information, contact Experian to raise a dispute who will work to resolve it with the lender in question. Tell us which entry is inaccurate, and what’s wrong with it. You can either do this by email, post or using our online query forms. All Experian’s contact details can be found here: http://www.experian.co.uk/consumer/contact-us/index.html.

3. What’s your score?
Your Experian Credit Score is a guide that will help you understand how your credit history is likely to be viewed by lenders and will also help you both understand if one partners credit history needs a little work before any joint credit applications, such as a joint mortgage.

4. A helping hand…
If you have a less than perfect credit history, the Experian customer service team will help you identity ways in which you can improve your Experian credit score and the picture your credit report paints of your financial situation. Making little changes to improve your credit report can make a big difference, not only getting in getting credit but also to the interest rates you could be charged.

5. Full disclosure
If your financial situation changes, make sure you keep your partner informed before it becomes an issue. If one or both have had trouble managing your finances and debts are a real struggle, get free, confidential advice from organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or National Debtline.

Hazelwood_School_Year_7_PS084 The inventive and award winning Learning Team at The Historic Dockyard Chatham has created two new Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) activities for Key Stage 3 and 4 pupils – “Missile Mission” and “Depth Charge Destroyers” – thanks to the generous sponsorship of BAE Systems, Electronic Systems, Rochester.

Pupils from Hazelwood School on the Kent / Surrey border were the first to trial one of the two innovative sessions, “Depth Charge Destroyers”. Inspired by The Historic Dockyard’s Second World Destroyer, HMS Cavalier, teams of students competed to construct and test a model destroyer complete with propulsion systems. They then devised a simple release mechanism to deliver a depth charge and the team whose ship survived the challenge of the tow tank wind and wave machine and hit the target won!

Michael Tierney, BAE Systems, Electronic Systems, Rochester Site Executive Lead, commented, “We are proud to be supporting these STEM programmes for children within the Kent and Medway area. It is wonderful to see children experiencing and solving STEM-related problems as well as exploring the possibility of careers in these fields.”

Rebecca Brough, Learning Manager at The Historic Dockyard Chatham said; “We are always looking for new and pioneering ways to engage the thousands of students who visit us here every year and take part in our education programmes. Our partnership with BAE Systems has enabled us to develop these extended 90 minute sessions, offering even better value for money to schools. The sessions are designed to develop pupils’ teamwork and communication skills while extending their technical knowledge of STEM subjects.”

medway growsFamilies are being encouraged to take up the good life and take part in free workshops to learn how to grow their own food.

Medway Grows workshops are being run across the area from March to July and will be a fun way for all the family to learn something new – and cut down on household bills by growing their own grub.

Medway Grows is about healthy fresh produce , digging, planting, weeding, watering, landscaping and much more.

The workshops will encourage people of all ages to learn about a wide variety of projects from growing your own food, how to start planting and how best to get going at home.
And there’ll be lots of games and activities for children while mum and dad pick up top tips on how to grow the greens.

Councillor David Brake, Portfolio Holder for Adult Services, said; “These free workshops are a great way to get all the family involved in planting and growing.

“Not only will they teach the basics and give everyone a good idea of how to grow, but also they’ll encourage families to get healthy and, hopefully, save money by growing their own produce.”

Workshops will take place across Medway, at weekends and after school and booking is essential.

The first workshop dates include March 15 and May 28, Medway Park; March 20, Luton Library, Chatham, April 5, Bishop of Rochester Academy; April 8 and May 28, Burnt Oak Primary, Gillingham.

To find out more information visit http://www.abettermedway.co.uk/healthyeating/medwaygrows.aspx” target=”_blank”>our website or call 016344 334309 to book your place.

gunwharfNearly 96 per cent of primary aged children in Medway have been offered one of their preference places at secondary school, new figures show.

Families across Medway will start receiving news of the school their child has been offered for September 2014 on Monday, 3 March, which is National Offer Day.

Parents who applied online and provided an e-mail address will also receive the offer by email after 4pm on the same day.

Of the 2,984 Medway children offered places, nearly 82 per cent have been offered their first preference place, more than 10 per cent have been awarded their second place preference and nearly 3 per cent their third preference.

The school admissions process for Medway is a huge task and involves the council’s Student Services (Admissions) Team processing secondary school applications for 3,421 children in total including 437 out of area children this year.

More than 86 per cent of families used the council’s online application process to submit their preferences.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Cllr Mike O’Brien, said: “Finding out which secondary school your child has been allocated is always a major event for families.

“I am happy that a vast majority of children have been offered one of their preference places.

“I’d like to wish all the children the very best for their future studies and hope they go on to achieve great things during their time at secondary school.”

Barbara Peacock, the Director of Children and Adult Services, added: “I’m pleased that lots of children have gained places at one of their chosen schools.

“In Medway there is a great selection of secondary schools and I wish all children the very best for their years of education ahead of them.”

carerweb1

Young carers could be given a new lease of life with technology to put their minds at ease.

Many teenagers have dreams of going to university, however those who look after a loved one often feel that such ambitions are out reach.

Medway Council’s Telecare Service can take some of the worry out of leaving a person in need alone, and allows people to live independently.

An event held on Monday, 17 February gave some young carers living in Medway had a chance to see how the service could potential change their lives.

Young carers together with councillors and representatives from charity Carers First, took a look at the technology available such as sensors to detect falls, whether someone is in bed, whether someone has taken their medication and much more.

Every sensor is programmed to a small Telecare base unit that is linked to a telephone line, which is installed by in-house engineers.

In the event of activation, a trained operator from Medway Control Centre will talk to the client over the Telecare base unit in their home to assess the situation and put the most appropriate response in place, whether that be contacting a family member, neighbour, doctor, mobile warden or emergency services.

Rhiannon Johnson, 15 has been a carer for five years now, and was impressed with the technology.

She said: “This would really benefit me because I could be in my room or be with my friends leading a normal teenage life, and if mum had a fall I would be notified and I wouldn’t be worrying the whole time I was out.”

When an alert is sent to the control centre via sensors in the home, the individual’s primary carer is informed by the Telecare team.

16-year-old Charlotte Liddle has dreams of going to university but is unsure about leaving her mum.

She said: “This technology could help me feel more at ease going to university, knowing that there is a support system in place when I’m not there would be really helpful.

“Before I thought it would be really hard for me to go away and study, but now it seems as though it is possible and my mum will still be supported.”

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Services Cllr David Brake said: “These facilities are most useful and designed to help those in need of support. If young carers know their family members are being looked after and supported it enables them to have more time for themselves doing the things that lots of young people do and take as a matter of course.”

For more information about Telecare visit www.medway.gov.uk/telecare

smokefree drop inSmokers keen to kick the habit will have an added incentive if they make the change in March.

National No Smoking Day is on 12 March and Medway residents who quit with the council’s stop smoking service during this month will be in with a chance of winning prizes donated by local businesses.

Every year more than a million smokers use No Smoking Day as their motivation to quit and it is hoped people in Medway are no exception.

Anyone who signs up to the scheme in March and reaches week five of the seven week treatment programme, will get a free day pass to a local gym.

Those who go on to quit as a result, will be in with a chance of winning a prize.

Prizes range from cinema tickets, to hair cuts, lunches for two and a signed Gillingham FC football.

To pledge to quit visit the stop smoking team in Chatham High Street on 1 or 12 March, or call 01634 334800.

Those who successfully shake the habit with the help of weekly support sessions and carbon monoxide monitoring, will be entered into a prize draw and invited to a prize giving even at Gillingham Football Club on 8 May.

Director of Public Health Alison Barnett said: “Many people like to use the national no smoking awareness day as a starting point for their journey to become smoke free.

“I think it is really good that there is now the added incentive of winning a prize for those who achieve their goal. We want to help people who want to quit as much as we can and this makes it a bit of fun and gives people a small reward.

“I would like to thank all the local businesses that have donated prizes.”

For more information about the stop smoking service visit www.abettermedway.co.uk

kcm 016Farmland prices hit yet another record high in the South East during the final six months of 2013, having jumped over ten percent in the space of a year, says the latest RICS/RAU Rural Land Market Survey H2 2013.

During the second half of last year, the average cost of farmland in the region rose to £7,750 per acre*, hitting a record high for the eighth consecutive period. The cost of land is now 10.7 percent higher than during the same period in 2012 when an acre cost, on average, £7,000.

Growth in prices has been driven by the on-going surge in demand from farmers looking to expand their operations, while the amount of land coming up for sale is continuing to lag well behind, with the shortage being seen across the board. However, with many areas such as the Thames Valley having been subject to severe flooding in recent weeks, it remains to be seen what impact this will have on the price and saleability of farmland in some areas.

Despite remaining unchanged on the first half of the year, prices in the North West were the highest in Great Britain with the cost of an acre coming in at £8,813. Meanwhile, land north of the border, in Scotland, was the least expensive with an acre costing around £3,750.

Looking ahead, chartered surveyors are predicting prices to continue to rise over the coming year, given the significant supply-demand imbalance. That said, with floods having swept across the country, markets in the southern regions could well be significantly affected in terms of both transactions and prices.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS Head of UK Policy, commented:
“Farmland price growth has been enormous in recent years. With commodity prices now having remained strong for some time, many farmers have been looking to expand their businesses and, with so little actually coming up for sale, competition for good land is fierce.

“Although, with floods having devastated large swathes of southern England, what remains to be seen is the impact this has on the market in these areas and further afield. It will not be surprising to see this have a negative effect on transactions. In fact, a lot of the best quality and highest value agricultural land in the UK is located close to rivers and on floodplains so this too could potentially have an impact on food production.”

See the report HERE

Big Ride picThey’re off! Cyclists in Medway have hit the road to Rio – host city for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

Over the next four months, everyone is being invited to take part in a community challenge to cycle the distance equal to the journey from Medway to Rio – about 7,500 miles.
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Between now and 17 May the Cycle the Road to Rio roadshow will be on tour to help Medway cyclists clock up miles on static bikes mounted on turbo trainers.

The initiative is part of the build up to Medway Sport’s new mass participation cycling event – The Big Ride – which takes place on Saturday, 17 May.

The roadshow was launched at Medway Park at the weekend during the Medway Big Splash. It will be visiting locations across Medway including sports centres, libraries, shopping centres, schools and businesses such as Questor Insurance, sponsors of the Medway Sporting Academy.

Cycle computers will calculate individual people’s mileage, as well as logging the cumulative total across Medway. So you can cycle one mile or a hundred! Everyone taking part will be invited to take part in the mass participation event at the Big Ride, where they will receive a free souvenir t-shirt and the chance to win one of the bikes.

The main Big Ride event at Medway Park in May will feature lots of free cycling activities including a family treasure trail ride organised by the Better Medway team, an interactive mountain bike skills track, karting, Go-Ride races and training, have-a-go arenas and exhibitions. Something for everyone regardless of their ability.

Additional events linked to the Big Ride event will be Sportive rides for more experienced cyclists and a mountain bike competition at Capstone Park country park, both organised by British Cycling.

You can register for the Medway Big Ride mass mile online at www.medway.gov.uk/bigride. You will also find more information online about the Big Ride event and when the Cycle the Road to Rio roadshow will be visiting your neighbourhood.

If your organisation or venue is interested in hosting the Cycle the Road to Rio roadshow, it’s not too late. Call 01634 338255 or email medwaysport@medway.gov.uk.

Cllr Howard Doe, Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “Cycling is becoming even more popular following the success of British riders at the Olympics and the Tour de France.
“As part of our sporting legacy, mass participation events like the Road to Rio roadshow and the Big Ride will give Medway cyclists plenty of opportunities to join in with serious riding as well as fun activities.”

Cycle the Road to Rio Roadshow locations are below. Timings 10am-4pm.

DATE VENUE
18-26 January Medway Park Sports Centre, Mill Road, Gillingham
30 January – 1 February Tesco, Cuxton Road, Strood
5– 7 February Medway Council offices, Gun Wharf, Chatham
8-9 February Hundred of Hoo Sports Centre, Main Road, Hoo
10 – 12 February Questor Insurance, Station Road, Rainham
Fri 14 – Mon 17 Strood Sports Centre, Watling Street, Strood
Half term week 17– 21 February Public Health Write and Play activity sessions. Venues to be confirmed.
28 February – 2 March Kings Rochester Sports Centre, Maidstone Road, Rochester
5 March Mini Youth Games Table Tennis, The Howard School, Rainham
6 – 10 March Splashes Leisure Pool, Bloors Lane, Rainham
10- 12 March Mid Kent College Campus, Medway Road, Gillingham
13 – 16 March Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre, Gillingham
16 March Families On Your Marks Day at Medway Park
21 March Deangate Ridge Golf Complex, Dux Court Road, Hoo
27 March Mini Youth Games Netball, Rainham Netball Centre
4 –7 April Diggerland, Medway Valley Leisure Park, Strood
10 – 12 April Rainham Library, Birling Avenue
17 – 19 April Community Hub, High Street, Gillingham
24 – 26 April Community Hub, Dock Road, Chatham
1 – 3 May Community Hub, Eastgate, High Street, Rochester
17 May Medway Big Ride, Medway Park, Gillingham
24 May British Cycling Mountain Biking Competition, Capstone Park

commonwealthFor the first time ever, local authorities and civic dignitaries, community groups and charities throughout the British Isles are taking part in local flag raising events and ceremonies of dedication to mark Commonwealth Day.

This new, unique initiative, which has caught the imagination of thousands of participants, enables people in their local communities to become involved and join with others nationwide in associating themselves with widespread public expression of commitment to the Commonwealth, appreciation of the values it stands for, and the opportunities offered to its citizens around the world.

A specially written Commonwealth Affirmation will be read out at each ceremony before the raising of the Commonwealth flag at 10am on Monday 10th March 2014, led by either the Lord Lieutenant, Member of Parliament, Lord Mayor, Lord Provost, Mayor, Leader, Chairman, or nominated representative of each participating local authority or administration.

Charity teams will mark the day by taking Commonwealth Flags to the top of the UK’s four highest National Peaks and use the occasion to raise funds for their worthy causes: Cancer Research UK – Scafell Pike, England; Help for Heroes – Ben Nevis, Scotland; Walking with the Wounded – Mount Snowdon, Wales; and Fields of Life – Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland.

Commonwealth Flags will also be flown at many locations of special significance including the four capital cities of the United Kingdom, Land’s End in Cornwall, the most westerly point in England; St. David’s in Pembrokeshire: the westernmost city in Wales; Carlisle in Cumbria: the northernmost city in England; Lowestoft in Suffolk: the easternmost town in England; and Unst in the Shetland Islands, the most northerly inhabited island in Scotland. Flags will also be raised at the Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula, and at the Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, as well as King Edward Point and Bird Island in South Georgia.

“This will be the largest, single, raising of the Commonwealth Flag in the history of the Commonwealth”, said Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR, Pageantmaster and originator of Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth. “The success of this year’s event bodes well for 2015 and the future”, said Peek, “as we extend the invitation to participate and involve all 53 countries of the Commonwealth and UK overseas territories, to make this the largest-ever annual occasion involving local communities throughout the worldwide Commonwealth family”.

I am also delighted that the Virdee Foundation, a well respected, world-wide charitable Foundation has accepted my invitation to join this project for the lifetime of the event, especially as I have always been convinced that this annual occasion will grow in size and stature over the next few years, providing a unique fund-raising opportunity for Commonwealth causes such as those outlined within the Virdee Foundations Memorandum and Articles of Association – the protection of women and children from abuse and the relief of abused women and children, a worthy cause close to my heart too.”

“The Virdee Foundation is delighted to be a part of this initiative, working closely alongside Bruno, to enable us through the ‘good will’ of those taking part, to assist us in donating charitable funds raised by those taking part, to the important cause outlined above, said Peter Virdee, Chairman of the Virdee Foundation.”

His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth said: “Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth is a most imaginative way for people in local communities – wherever they live, learn or work – to join together with others throughout the Commonwealth in a spirit of respect and understanding to celebrate the variety and unmatched diversity of our global family. I welcome and commend it.” “All our citizens, particularly the young, can express appreciation for the Commonwealth and the values for which it stands as set out in the Commonwealth Charter, and the rich opportunities it offers for mutual support towards more inclusive social and more equitable economic progress.”

Esri UK Interactive Map: “We are exceptionally proud to support the ‘Fly a Flag’ for Commonwealth initiative and, to help raise awareness of the day, we have built an interactive map <a href="http://www.esriuk.com/flyaflagmap&quot;
target=”_blank”>www.esriuk.com/flyaflagmap that shows where the individual flag raising events are taking place, throughout the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man,” explained Dr Richard Waite, Managing Director of Esri UK. We strongly encourage all local authorities and others taking part to post the map on their website, so local citizens and the media can easily find details of their local event and become involved in what will be a most special day.”

health checks

Is your heart healthy? Do you need a Health Check to find out?

As part of National Heart Month, Salveo Healthcare are delivering NHS Health Checks in their pharmacies in the weeks commencing 10th March. These health checks identify those at risk of heart disease and also stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia. You are eligible for a free health check if you are aged between the ages of 40 and 74 and have not already been diagnosed with one of these conditions. It’s important that you find out if you’re at risk, the earlier the better and then we can help support you to stay healthier for longer!

National Heart Month is taking place during February. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the single biggest killer in the UK and there are about 2.3 million of us living with this disease. Every single one of us has a heart which means every one of us is at potential risk.

Your local Salveo Pharmacy is working to help you find out whether you are at risk of heart disease, but also other conditions such as stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia. As part of the NHS Health Checks service we are asking everyone between the ages of 40 and 74, who has not already been diagnosed with one of these conditions or have certain risk factors to come and see us. We will perform a check to assess your risk of one of these conditions and then we will give you support and advice to help you reduce or manage that risk.

We will be performing these NHS Health Checks in your local Salveo Pharmacy* in the weeks commencing 10th March. Come and see us, there’s no need to make an appointment – it’s quick and easy for you.

It’s important that you get a check sooner rather than later – the earlier the better! Once you know whether there’s a health problem then we can work with you to identify self-care tips and to signpost you to other health and social care support in the community.

Dr Bora, a local GP says, ‘Pharmacists have a huge role to play in today’s healthcare. Unfortunately to date, this has remained an underutilised resource. As a part of the joint working I would like to see the Pharmacist play a much bigger part. The delivering of NHS Health Checks is a major step in this direction. As a GP and the Chairman of the Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG I am looking forward to working together for better outcomes for our patients’

Salveo pharmacies can be found at:www.salveohealth.co.uk

cyclogocolour2Youngsters with dreams of tearing up the track represented Great Britain at one of the largest motorcross beach races in Europe.

Young bike enthusiasts from Medway competed in the Endurole du Touquest in France on 8 and 9 February – their first ever endurance race lasting a gruelling one and a half hours.

Riders Patrick O’Neil, 16, from Strood and Jordan Chapman, 15, from Chattenden came in 37th and 93rd place out of 150 riders.

The talented teens were supported by a trio of mechanics, Jack Staples, 18, from Chatham and Stuart Galloway, 18 and Charlie Knight, 16, from Gillingham, who managed the pit stop and kept the bikes in top condition.

The boys were able to take part in such a prestigious race as part of Cyber Youth Connect (CYC) Youth Project, lead by Medway Council and funded by Interreg.

The project works in conjunction with partners in France promoting English and French unity, and gives young people oppotunities to develop their skills and talents.

Not only did the youngsters have a great time on their racing trip, it also provided them with a platform to put their newly learnt skills from the CYC programme into practice.

Patrick said: “I’ve learnt different techniques, the way to move around the bike in the sand and how to perform and different ways to ride the bike. Because there are no sand tracks over here that’s why everyone goes to Dunkirk – it’s so hard and different out there.

“Without CYC I would have never had the opportunity to do this so I am so grateful to everyone involved in making this happen.”

Jordan never thought he would have an opportunity to take part in such an event. He said: “Motor cross is something that I really enjoy doing, it’s been in my head ever since my dad bought me my first bike with I was two and a half.

“I have really enjoyed this experience and to get the chance to represent Medway in this race is something I could never have dreamt of.”

Since being selected for the race in August last year, the team prepared for the big event with Dover based motocross project MXCP, riding 125cc Suzuki bikes.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services Cllr Mike O’Brien said: “It is wonderful that teenagers from Medway were able to take part in a big competition like this abroad, alongside other young people engaged in similar programmes to CYC.

“The CYC Youth Project can offer up some great opportunities to our young people.”

Youngsters who would like to get involved with the CYC project can still do so as a variety of courses will be running until March 2015.

CYC gives 11 to 19-year-olds an opportunity to gain skills and experience in music, cookery, motorbike mechanics and safe riding, as well as media including filming and photography.

To find out more and sign up visit www.medway.gov.uk/cyc or call 01634 332286

adultstepandlearnWelcome to Step & Learn Adult Activity Centre. Our Adult Activity Centre meets at the following days / times:
Days From To
Tuesday 10am 4pm
Wednesday 10am 4pm
Thursday 10am 4pm

Our Aim
1) To enhance the students full potential, in a parent-involving, community-based charity group.
2) To provide a safe, secure and stimulating environment.
3) To work within a framework, which ensures equality of opportunity.

We Offer
1) Long, medium and short term weekly planning.
2) Individual care and attention from our trained and experienced staff and volunteers.
3) Fun and friendship with other students.
4) The support of a team member who will observe the student and keep their files updated daily.
5) Promoting social interaction with their peers.
6) Opportunities for you to be directly involved, in the activities of the group: fundraising, raffles and cake making for coffee mornings and open days.

Starting at our Activity Centre

It is important for parents / guardians and the team to work together to help the student to feel confident and secure in the group. In order to feel free to explore & experiment with all kinds of materials, including messy ones, it is best that students wear clothes that are easily washable, or you may wish to provide a change of clothing.(Aprons are provided).
Please note that you may require a ‘one to one’ personal assistant, to help you achieve the best from our Activity Centre, especially if you have a manual wheelchair and need help with feeding. Funding for personal assistants may be obtained from Direct Payments via your Care Manager, Social Services.

Health

If a student has diarrhoea and/or vomiting they should not attend for 2 days after the last bout of illness. Also if a student has an infection i.e. upper respiratory tract infection (chest / throat) and are on antibiotics, they should not attend for 3 days after the start of antibiotics.

Management & Administration

Step & Learn is a registered charity and all major decision making is in the hands of the Chairperson & Trustees, who are also responsible for reviewing policy / practice and for the employment and appraisal of team members. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact: Rod Black, (Chairman) or Janice Maunick, who will be pleased to be of assistance.

Fees

Fees are: £25.00 per session and are payable monthly. This covers costs of materials / art / crafts / cookery / staffing and hire of the hall. There will be a daily charge of £2.00 for lunch and refreshments (tea, coffee, biscuits, etc.) Fees continue to be payable if a student is absent with or without notice or for a short period of time. Each student’s attendance at the group is conditional upon continued payment of any necessary fees. We hope that your son’s/daughter’s time in our ‘Activity Centre’ will be a happy & productive one. If you have any queries, or if you can be of any help, please contact the staff / trustees at any time.

Holidays

We close for holidays at Christmas, New Year and Bank Holidays, for which there is no charge. You can also take a further 2 weeks unpaid leave for holidays, by completing a holiday form.

Policies

Our policy statements are available for you to examine. All our policies are designed to offer the best possible experience for the students and their families in the group. Our policies are reviewed on a regular basis and comments and suggestions from parents are always welcome.

We look forward to meeting you.
Many thanks
Rod, Janice & Marji
Step & Learn Adult Activity Centre

Blood transfusionDoctors and paramedics at Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance have performed nearly 70 emergency blood transfusions since the service was first launched a year ago today (February 4th).

Figures show that during the last 12 months the advanced medical procedure – usually performed after a patient arrives at hospital – was carried out 69 times at the scene of an accident or medical emergency.

The charity’s research shows that a total of 160 units of blood were administered to patients who had life-threatening injuries with 20-29 year-olds being the largest group of recipients.

Air Ambulance Clinical Manager Gary Wareham, who pioneered the launch of the blood transfusion service, said: “The project has gone very much as we expected and we are now seeing patients delivered to hospital who may not have survived the journey before.

“We are now considering using other blood products that may further improve patient outcomes.”

The figures also show that August was the peak period for blood transfusions, the youngest patient being aged under 10 and the oldest over 90.

In one case, a patient suffered chest, pelvis and spinal injuries following a collision with a car. His airway was partially obstructed and he was agitated.

The doctor and paramedic anaesthetised him at the road-side and performed emergency chest surgery to reinflate his collapsed lungs.
They then administered four units of blood at scene and en route to the Royal London Hospital major trauma centre.

Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance last year became one of the first in the country to start carrying blood.

Every day, bikers at the Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers (SERV) deliver eight fresh units to each of the helicopter bases from the William Harvey Hospital at Ashford and East Surrey Hospital at Redhill.

SERV secretary Mel Johnson said: “The air ambulance has been a pleasure to work with over the last year. The daily replenishment and emergency re-supply services provided by the SERV groups in Kent and Surrey have helped ensure that both helicopters are always fully stocked and ready to respond.

“We are proud to have played our part using equipment funded by The Henry Surtees Foundation to ensure that the people of the three counties have been able to receive the highest standards of critical care available, provided by a triumvirate of charities working together with a common goal.”

The Henry Surtees Foundation also supplied cars for the blood runs in addition to equipment used to store blood at the correct temperature and warm it to give to patients.

John Surtees, OBE, founder of the Foundation, said: “I spent a lifetime in motorsport where every second counts. The same factor plays a vital part in saving life and injury.

“The Henry Surtees Foundation was very happy to work with all the team at the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance in assisting with the introduction of the blood transfusion service.”

* If you would like to make a donation to the Air Ambulance please call 01622 833833 or go to http://www.kssairambulance.org.uk

mums support groupMums in Medway have been breastfeeding in confidence for more than three years now, thanks to the Medway Breastfeeding Network.

The friendly, knowledgeable support network for local families provides regular drop-ins and useful local information and tips so mums can enjoy breastfeeding their baby.

The success of this community service is to be celebrated at an event on Thursday 27 February and midwives, health visiting staff, family nurses, children’s centre staff, peer supporters and anyone else who works with breastfeeding women, is welcome to attend.

It will be an occasion to celebrate the achievements of volunteers and hear positive stories from families and staff. It is also an opportunity to meet peer supporters and find out more about the network and the infant feeding strategy. Lunch and a crèche will be provided.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Services Cllr David Brake said: “A community support system for mothers is essential, and the Medway Breastfeeding Network can offer information and friendly support to help mums breastfeed their babies for as long as they choose to.

“The celebration event will be a wonderful occasion and a chance for everyone to see what a difference the service has made since its introduction in 2010.”

The celebration event will run from 9.30am to 12 noon at Kent Life, Village Hall, Lock Lane Maidstone, ME14 3AU.

To register to attend or to find out more, contact Beverley Hunt, Infant Feeding Project Officer, on 07908 817569 or email ifp@medway.gov.uk

For more information on local breastfeeding support and breastfeeding welcome venues please visit www.abettermedway.co.uk/breastfeeding

ann barnesHave you been a victim of crime? Are you able to spare a small amount of time to take part in a focus group or telephone survey?

Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, is looking for volunteers to share their experiences as a victim of crime to help shape support for victims in the future.

If you are a resident of Kent, then the Commissioner is asking for victims of burglary, vehicle crime, theft, and criminal damage in the last year to come forward.

It is not anticipated you will be asked to give up more than two hours of your time, and expenses will be paid. The focus groups/surveys will not at this time be suitable for victims of crime such as assault, rape or abuse or any incident involving violence.

Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, said: ‘Funding for victims will be transferred later in the year from the Ministry of Justice to Police and Crime Commissioners and I will not waste a penny of it – I am determined that victims will have the support and help they need. One of my main manifesto promises was to improve services for victims and to put them at the heart of the Criminal Justice System. I remain committed to doing exactly that. I urge victims to come forward as their experiences and views will help identify priority areas for funding. The outcomes of these focus groups will also inform my future victim-based projects, including a ‘Track My Crime’ initiative to help keep victims updated on their investigation, as well as a Victims’ Centre which I will open in the county next year.’

If you could spare a couple of hours to take part in a focus group or a phone interview, then please contact the Office of the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner on 01622 677055 or via contactyourpcc@pcc.kent.pnn.police.uk to register your willingness to participate, with a short description of the crime you recently experienced, your age and your gender. Please also provide a contact telephone number.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 21st February 2014.

Work has started on upgrading a Medway park which has attracted £60,000 from a green projects fund.
broomhill view2
This follows a successful Medway Council bid for SITA Trust funding to enable the £150,000 project to begin at Broomhill Park, Strood.

A complete refurbishment of the infant play area will take place and a new sports wall will provide an opportunity for children to play sport and active group games.

Full resurfacing of 1km of paths and the car park also forms part of the project.
A human sun dial has been designed jointly with the Friends of Broomhill and will replace one painted on the site’s old gun emplacement five years ago.

The play area will have a natural theme with images of leaves embossed in the playground surfacing. Equipment will include swings, a climbing frame and a see-saw.
Installing the play area as well as resurfacing paths and the car park will take up to six weeks and the site car park will be closed during that time.
Cllr Howard Doe, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “This is an exciting scheme which will provide young children with a lovely place to play in a natural setting.
“It’s part of a long-term vision developed by our greenspaces team with the local community. We are very grateful for the significant contribution from SITA that has allowed this project to go ahead.”
Jools Granville of SITA Trust said: “We are pleased to provide this much- needed funding to such a good project. We’re very impressed with the amount of community buy in and look forward to seeing members of the public enjoying these new facilities.”

Archeological remains of the NAMUR, the ship beneath the floorChatham Historic Dockyard Trust has received funding of £150,000 from DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement fund, in support of “Building the Future” – an element of its Command of the Oceans project, shortly due for commencement.

Within the Command of the Oceans project, The Trust faces the challenge of retelling the dockyard’s age of sail story and ensuring that the Namur, the highly significant archaeological ship’s timbers find, becomes a central element of that story. Thanks to this funding, “Building the Future” will allow the Trust to renew interpretation of the ship’s timbers as the centre piece of new age of sail galleries and improving the environmental conditions within the Wheelwrights’ Shop – benefiting visitors, the archaeological find itself and improving energy efficiency. The project will also see the creation of a new, more visible visitor entrance to The Historic Dockyard which will act as an arrival point to the wider Chatham Dockyard & its Defences site incorporating a free to enter initial interpretation and orientation ‘Discovery Zone’ in the Wheelwrights’ Shop with easy access and modern visitor facilities.

Bill Ferris OBE, Chief Executive of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust said; “The announcement of this award effectively completes the major element of our fundraising campaign for what is arguably the most significant single project undertaken by The Trust in pursuit of its own educational charitable purposes since the ‘Wooden Walls’ gallery opened in the late 1980s. Funding from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund 2011-15 will allow work to commence on the wider Command of the Oceans project later in 2014 and we are extremely grateful to the DCMS/Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund for their continued support of The Historic Dockyard Chatham.”

Medway Council will set aside a row of seats at Full Council meetings for citizen journalists as it values the work they do scrutinising the authority.stgeorgechat

The council’s Full Council meetings take place at the St George’s Centre in Chatham.

Each time they are held around six citizen journalists come along to live Tweet as the meeting happens before them.

To recognise the fact that citizen journalists play an important part in local democracy, Medway wishes to make it easier for them.

And now it will make the row available (usually at the front) to try and ensure they have a place.

The council has already Tweeted this message to announce this news and will ask citizen journalists on the day to tweet us to say they are coming – as spaces will be limited.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “We are very keen to engage with people and to help them play a part in local democracy.

“Our council meetings do get a number of people turning up in the public gallery including citizen journalists who spend the night Tweeting about what is being said.

“It is important that councils are open and accountable and we want to help people who give up their time to tell their followers about our meetings.”

The row of seats will usually be at the front of the council’s public gallery (unless there is a specific reason that others may need accommodating there.)

As spaces are limited, Medway Council is asking those who wish to use the citizen journalists’ row on the night of Full Council meetings to please Tweet us @medway_council on the day.

Food waste recycling has just got easier for Medway residents.

medway council caddyFrom Monday 27 January, compostable kitchen caddy liners to take food leftovers can be bought at selected Medway libraries.

The liners are £1.50 for 26, a competitive price to encourage more residents to use them.

Libraries at Chatham Community Hub, Hoo, Rainham, Strood, Walderslade and Wigmore will stock them for a six-week trial. If successful, other libraries could be added.

Cllr Phil Filmer, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Frontline Services, said: “Using these liners is good. They keep the kitchen caddy clean, reduce smells and make it easier to transfer food waste.

“We have had a good response from residents since we introduced weekly recycling in October and we want to encourage more.

While caddy liners are best, newpaper or kitchen roll can be used as an alternative. For more details, www.medway.gov.uk/recyclenow

Shoveler Anas clypeata, drakes in flight, Norfolk, AprilLovely weather for ducks as a record number lands at RSPB Cliffe Pools

The North Kent Marshes are a vital winter retreat for European ducks and waders that escape the frozen north, a birdwatching spectacle that has drawn ornithologist Murray Orchard to Cliffe Pools for the past forty years. This month Murray counted 720 of one of the UK’s most attractive ducks, the Shoveler, dispersed across the flooded clay pits.

Murray said, “This count is probably the highest at a single site in Kent since 1961. In my experience, the last two winters have seen the largest gatherings of waders and ducks in the history of Cliffe Pools. I have never before seen so many Shoveler in one place at one time; the total is four times the national threshold and almost twice the international threshold for conservation significance.”

The male Shoveler has an enormous beak and striking plumage and is normally seen in much lower numbers, less than a hundred, than the other species of duck.

The clay pits became an RSPB reserve in 2000, and are unique in the Thames Estuary for their saline lagoons. Murray lived near Cliffe for thirty years and regularly travels down from his home in Hertfordshire; counting birds on this scale takes experience and patience, skills Murray has honed since the age of 12 when he started birdwatching in his garden. Murray said, “Seeing these Shoveler was a great pleasure but they were hard to count, taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend will be a much simpler task.”

Cliffe Pools recently attracted 10,000 Dunlin at high tide, which Murray described as “twisting and turning like a huge cloud of smoke over the pools,” and 9,000 Black-tailed Godwits were recorded last winter. The information gathered by enthusiasts such as Murray, and all those participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, provides a finger on the pulse of nature in the UK, buying time to respond to conservation threats before long term damage is done to UK wildlife.

Statue of General Gordon (Ron Strutt) / CC BY-SA 2.0 Statue of General Gordon (Ron Strutt) / CC BY-SA 2.0

The annual memorial service for Charles George Gordon is to take place at the Gordon Memorial Gardens on Friday 24 January, 2014 at 11am.

This year marks the 129th anniversary of his death at Khartoum and a small working party have devised a special service to commemorate this local hero.

The service is to be officiated by Rev Graham Herbert from Milton Church and attended by the Mayor of Gravesham, Cllr Derek Sales who along with pupils from Chantry School, members of the Royal Engineers Association and the president of Gravesend and Meopham Rotary Club, will be laying flowers placed at the foot of Gordon’s Memorial.

The Gravesend Borough Band with additional members from the Salvation Army will be providing musical accompaniment to the service and members of the Gads Hill School Combined Cadet Force will be in attendance as guard of honour.

General Charles Gordon 1833 – 1885
British general Charles Gordon became a national hero for his exploits in China and his ill-fated defence of Khartoum against Sudanese rebels. Gordon lived and worked in Gravesend between 1865 and 1871 and during that time showed great generosity and kindness to the poor people of the borough. He was appointed to upgrade the various fortifications along the Thames which included the New Tavern Fort. He lived in Fort House in the grounds of the New Tavern Fort. The building was demolished following an explosion caused by a V2 in 1944.

Charles Gordon was born on 28 January 1833, the son of a senior army officer. He was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1852. He distinguished himself in the Crimean War (1853 – 1856) and in 1860 volunteered for the ‘Arrow’ war against the Chinese. In May 1862 Gordon’s corps of engineers was assigned to strengthen the European trading centre of Shanghai, which was threatened by the insurgents of the Taiping Rebellion. A year later he became commander of the 3,500-man peasant force raised to defend the city. During the next 18 months Gordon’s troops played an important role in suppressing the Taiping uprising.

He returned to England in January 1865, where an enthusiastic public had already dubbed him ‘Chinese Gordon’. In 1873 he was appointed governor of the province of Equatoria in the Sudan. Between April 1874 and December 1876 he mapped the upper Nile and established a line of stations along the river as far south as present day Uganda. He was then promoted to governor-general, where he asserted his authority, crushing rebellions and suppressing the slave trade. However, ill health forced him to resign and return to England in 1880 before travelling once more to places including India, China and South Africa.

In February 1884 Gordon returned to the Sudan to evacuate Egyptian forces from Khartoum, threatened by Sudanese rebels led by Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi. Khartoum came under siege the next month and on 26th January 1885 the rebels broke into the city, killing Gordon (against al-Mahdi’s instructions) and the other defenders. The British relief force arrived two days later.

The British public reacted to his death by acclaiming ‘Gordon of Khartoum’, who had had a strong Christian faith, a martyred warrior-saint and by blaming the government, particularly Gladstone, for failing to relieve the siege.

David_Leak-apprentice1Confirmation that government will provide funds to buy a site at Chatham Docks for Medway’s new University Technical College (UTC) clears the way for the public to be consulted on proposals for the educational establishment.
The move follows the agreement by Minister for Schools, Lord Nash, that the Department for Education will release the finance for the college.

The consultation begins today ( 20 January 2014), and runs until 3 February. This will allow local people to put forward their views on the UTC and what they think about the suitability of the UTC Trust’s proposals for young people in Medway. They will be able to respond online, by post, by phone and by email (details below).

In addition, a series of events will be held in February where members of the public can turn up and discover more about the UTC, as well as share their views (details also below).

The UTC, which will specialise in engineering and construction, is due to open in September 2015.

It is sponsored by the University of Greenwich, Mid Kent College, Medway Council, BAE Systems, and other local employers and partners.

The UTC will provide a technically rich education for up to 600 students aged between 14 and 19, for 40 weeks of the year. The working day will typically be from 08.30 until 17:00 to reinforce the business approach to the UTC.

Professor Alan Reed, Director of Regional Development at the University of Greenwich and Chair of the UTC Project Steering Group, said:
‘’After exploring numerous options, the UTC Trust is delighted that the Minister has agreed to fund our proposal for the UTC to be sited on the new Chatham Waters development at Chatham Docks, subject to finalising the acquisition with Peel Land and Property and securing detailed planning permission. “Importantly, the £10 million new build will be in close proximity to the University of Greenwich, MidKent College and the Royal School of Military Engineering, thereby providing UTC students with easy access to the specialist facilities in engineering and construction available at these partners’’

Professor Reed added: “An essential part of the development of the UTC is listening to the views of as wide range of people as possible, to ensure that Medway UTC fully meets the needs of local young people, their families, employers and others.

“The consultation provides everyone with a valuable opportunity to provide their views.

“However, this is just the beginning of a dialogue we hope to have with the people of Medway between now and the opening of the UTC in 2015, and beyond.”

Cllr Rodney Chambers, the leader of Medway Council, said: “Medway has a rich history of construction and engineering, and a University Technical College specialising in these subjects will not only continue this tradition, but will also equip a new generation with first class technical skills that will help them pursue careers in these important sectors at all levels.

“The UTC will enable a degree of specialisation before the age of 16 that is currently unavailable, and it will engage and enthuse students. It will also benefit local employers, which in turn will boost the local economy”

The UTC will be situated on a 5,000m2 single site, with all the facilities required to deliver a high quality technical and vocational education.

It will feature state of the art buildings that will combine business and workplace facilities and ethos within an academic environment.

HMD Poster FINALA holocaust survivor will recall the horrors of fleeing Nazi Germany during a special event at Rochester Cathedral.

Susi Bechhofer, who wrote a moving book of her experience, is expected to talk about how she fled Germany at the age of three and and how it took her almost 50 years to learn that her mother had died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, in Poland, in the Second World War.

Susi’s account is part of an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at the cathedral on Monday, January 27, at 6pm.

Medway schools have been busy preparing for the event and there will be readings, poetry, drama, music, exhibits and prayers by pupils.

Pupils will also reflect on more recent genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia, focusing on the current problems in South Sudan.

In addition to the Memorial Day, there will be an exhibition of artwork at Rochester Guildhall produced by schools and Mid Kent College students.

A Peace Wall has also been created where individuals will be able to pledge what they can do to make the world a better place.

Members of the Medway Youth Parliament will be taking the Peace Wall to the Pentagon Centre in Chatham on January 25 and it will be at the cathedral on the day of the service, which this year has the theme of ‘Journeys’.

Holocaust Memorial Day is being supported by Medway Council, Rochester Cathedral, Medway Youth Parliament, Chatham Memorial Synagogue and Medway Inter Faith Action.

For press enquiries and confirm a place at the Memorial Day call Canon Philip Hesketh from Rochester Cathedral on 01634 843366 or email bookings@rochestercathedral.org

Picture1On Friday (13th December) Gad’s Hill School, Higham held a poignant official unveiling of its Kindergarten, The Jennie Marsh Wing, coinciding with the School’s annual cross country run.

The multi-million pound wing, named in memory of the former Head of Gad’s Kindergarten and Junior School, Jennie Marsh, who passed away in 2009, was opened by the Headmaster David Craggs, pupils and staff past and present and Jennie’s husband and daughters.

Mrs Marsh, who joined the Headmaster in campaigning for pupils to vacate the historic and increasingly fragile 18th century house of Gad’s Hill Place – which the School has used for teaching since the 1920s – died in May 2009, aged 58, after a short battle with cancer, leaving behind her daughters Sallie and Alison and her husband of 37 years, Malcolm, who also taught at the school.

(Photo left to right, back row: Former pupils join Gad’s Hill School Headmaster David Craggs, Alison Marsh, Malcolm Marsh (centre) Alison Marsh, Head of Gad’s Kindergarten and Junior School Fiona McPherson, with current pupils.)

Jennie travelled a long, varied and eventful journey from Zimbabwe, where she was born and raised, to Kent where she settled nearby in Wouldham. She devoted the remaining nine years of her life to the children and community at Gad’s.

During the unveiling ceremony, Headmaster of the school for three to sixteen-year-olds, Mr David Craggs said: “In September 2000 Jennie joined Gad’s as a temporary class teacher. It was soon apparent that she was not only a first rate teacher, but someone who possessed a huge amount of experience and had the qualities required to help drive Gad’s forward over the next few years. Within six months Jennie had become Head of Juniors and Kindergarten and helped to form the school it is today.”

He added: “She was loved by all students and staff, and there are many who feel that she had a profound impact on their lives.”

It was no coincidence that the unveiling ceremony was held on the same day as the School’s annual cross country run as the entire Marsh family – Jennie included – are keen runners.

It was in fact Malcolm, Jennie’s husband, who, alongside the Headmaster, came up with the concept of the run some ten years previously. As a special request, Malcolm – who travelled all the way from his home in South Africa for the special ceremony – Sallie and Alison Marsh were asked to run round the school field with the Kindergarten children, as Jennie would have done while teaching at Gad’s. Malcolm later presented awards to the winners of the Kindergarten, Junior and Senior School race winners.

Headmaster, Mr David Craggs, who took part in the race alongside a number of other staff, said: “While running about in the wet and cold is not to everyone’s taste, making sure our youngsters are fit and healthy is just as important as ensuring they can read and write and perform math’s to a decent level, a belief both Jennie, myself and Malcolm shared.

“Malcolm was especially pleased that so many years on, our pupils still brave the elements in a lesson that that teaches youngsters about the importance of teamwork by encouraging them to run the cross country on behalf of their school house – something his wife believed in. It’s a fantastically fun – although muddy! – outlet for all and we thank the Marsh family for joining us.”

main copy.qxdHouse prices in the South East will see an increase of seven percent over the course of next year while the cost of renting a home should rise by a further two percent. This growth is being driven by the acute imbalance between burgeoning buyer demand and sluggish supply with new instructions to estate agents close to stagnating.

Although significant challenges remain to achieving a sustainable economic recovery, 2014 may well see the nascent pick-up in activity gather pace and this will be reflected in the housing market. In addition to rising prices, the number of transactions should also see a further increase, moving up to 1.2m (from 1.05m in 2013). Although this represents an improvement, to put this in context, total sales in 2006 were well above this at 1.67m.

With the shortage of homes coming onto the market a key factor behind the price rises, some comfort may be drawn from a likely twenty percent jump in new starts in England over the next year. That would push the total towards the 155,000 mark compared to 125,000 this year and only around 100,000 in 2012. While this is an encouraging trend, it is still insufficient to address the more rapid growth in population and will leave significant shortfalls in all tenures.

Across the UK, all parts of the country should see prices rise next year. Predictably, the biggest increases are to be seen in the capital, where the cost of a home will jump by around eleven percent. It remains to be seen what impact the recently announced increase in capital gains tax for overseas vendors will have on the prime central London market.

Meanwhile, the North East and Northern Ireland will experience the lowest rises with prices increasing by five percent and four percent respectively.

2014 UK housing market at a glance

UK REGION GROWTH

East of England ——————10
East Midlands———————10
London—————————-11
North East————————-5
Northern Ireland——————-4
North West————————-7
Scotland—————————7
South East————————-7
South West————————-7
Wales——————————7
West Midlands———————-7
Yorkshire and Humberside———–7
UK———————————8

• Cost of renting to grow by two percent
• Transactions to increase to 1.2 million
• Housing starts to edge up to 150,000 in England

Peter Bolton King, RICS Global Residential Director, commented:
“The cost of a house is now picking-up right across the country and next year should see more of the same. We expect all areas of the country to see prices increase with London, predictably, recording the biggest rises. The improving economic picture aside, this is largely down to the fact that buyer numbers considerably outweigh the amount of homes on the market. While the number of new homes being built is now on the rise, it still won’t be anywhere near enough to meet demand and we expect the problem of insufficient housing stock to be the main driver behind price increases over the next twelve months.”

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