Hartley Matters

A Newsletter from the Friends of Hartley Countryside

ISSUE 4 July 2001


One evening early in June a dormouse was found lying face down on a path near Church Road. Although dazed she appeared unhurt but unfortunately failed to survive. Following a call to the Kent Wild Life Trust the dormouse was collected and sent for a post mortem examination. We were told that she had over wintered well and was in good condition and that there are probably other dormice in the vicinity. (We know that a dormouse nest has been found in local woodland.) However as they are active at night they are seldom seen. "Church Road from the pond, and surrounding lanes, — provides an excellent habitat for this endangered species. At this time of year dormice can be found in trees and bushes, particularly hawthorn (may) and elder, gathering pollen and small insects for food, as hazel nuts are not available. (Hedgecutters please note!) In this particular area the dormice can move from one side of the road to the other via the overhanging trees, as they will not cross an open space.


As the dawn chorus dies down around the village, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins and Tits are around gardens at the moment, the young of which may be calling and seem to have been lost, however do not approach or move them, as their parents will not be far away.

Many of our garden birds rely on the cover of shrubs and hedges for nesting so care should be taken when cutting back straggly looking hedges, the foliage of which harbours many insects that are vital for adult birds, particularly Tits, feeding young.

Those of us who do put food out for the birds should ensure that a supply of water is provided. A flower pot saucer of a fair size is ideal (and cheap), and will ensure that your birds keep clean too. If possible, position it away from bushes where a cat could sit in wait.

Starlings are very gregarious at the moment with many families, the young of which appearing light brown in colour, joining together in the hunt for food. Look out for them feeding on lawns and open grassland, extracting 'leather jackets', the larval stage of the Cranefly, which they relish.

Finally, Northfield; At least two pair of Skylarks have been seen and Corn Buntings along with Yellowhammer have been present.

My most surprising find of the month at Northfield was on the night of the 21st June at 11pm whilst observing Mars, when I heard the distinctive "wet my lips" call of a Quail. I have not heard this bird calling since.

Linturn Hopkins


As everyone watching the news will have been aware there has been a serious outbreak of foot and mouth disease in this country this year. The Parish Council is to be congratulated for the very responsible action it took in promptly closing Manor Field and thereby helping to prevent the spread of this terrible disease. Inconvenience was caused to the football players who very quickly, without complaint, changed the venues of their games to other grounds. As a consequence Longfield Hill came into its own as an alternative training ground. A venue long "advocated by this group.

Foot and Mouth disease has not yet been completely eradicated. Three or four cases are still being reported every day and Kent is by no means a clean area yet. Thousands of animals in the county are still awaiting blood tests. However, K.C.C has decided that all footpaths should be opened on 9th July. Please think carefully be fore you use public footpaths to walk across farmland containing farm livestock!

The 20th century has generally been kind to the woods of the village - only Gorsewood has been largely lost to housing. Oak is the predominant standard tree, but of the coppiced trees hornbeam predominates.


Did you know only part of the Parish Council Agenda is available at the library? Council members and newspapers are entitled to receive the longer version, which contains a number of attachments which are vital to understand the business being transacted in Parish Council meetings. Parishioners in New Ash Green can see their full agenda, why can't the people of Hartley? Following members of the Friends campaign for open government, the council will possibly discuss the matter later this year. We think that as ratepayers, we have a right to information. Such information will have to be disclosed when the Freedom of Information Act becomes law, not later that 2005. If you have any views on the subject please let us or the Parish Council know.


As many of you will be aware, owing to the extremely bad weather experienced last autumn the farmer was unable to harvest the crop from Northfield. The field was absolutely waterlogged throughout the winter making cultivation and sowing impossible and has now been left to lie fallow. This has been excellent for wildlife, as you will have read about above. However, following all the recent sunshine and drying winds the soil is now as hard as concrete, as the local motorbike riders have discovered, much to the annoyance of many residents of Ash Road and New Ash Green. We warned the Parish Council years ago that motor bikes would be one of the impending problems on Northfield if the boundaries were left in a state of disrepair. In the Village Survey on Northfield motor bikes were the activity that people were most strongly against (they were even more unpopular that football), but sadly Northfield has joined the other areas of Hartley suffering from this lack of control. On this occasion it appears the farmer has once again controlled the situation, but what will happen when he loses his tenancy in October this year?


Over the past year the FHC have been getting in place the ground work for organising volunteers to participate in conservation work within our local area. We feel it is most important to have local participation in the protection and conservation of land locally because of the pressures being put on our countryside and wildlife within our area. By doing this we can obtain professional advice on how to protect areas and enhance their potential by creating habitats for wildlife. Any change should be slow and thought should be put into decisions made. The BTCV is available to help us and advise on applications for grants and training. We are in the process of looking for suitable small areas locally and have offered a tree planting project to Hartley Parish Council, if it is prepared to identify a project. If anyone is interested in volunteering for conservation work look for future news in Hartley Matters.


On 12th June FHC organised a one-day First Aid course held at the Manor Field pavilion. Four volunteers of the Friends were amongst the 11 people who participated. The rest were people from local farms, shops and a BTCV representative. This qualification will allow FHC to work on local projects with full insurance cover for any person who wishes to volunteer on any associated conservation work. People attending the course were trained to deal with minor injuries and resuscitation. The day was a great success and everyone received a certificate of competence. Thanks go to Ivy for opening the pavilion and making the tea and to Mark for arranging the course.


Back in November you kindly told us what you wanted for Northfield, which was a mixture of countryside, nature conservation and farming. The results are available in the November 2000 edition of Hartley Matters, in the library and on our web site. We have sent copies to the two parish councils, and we hope they will take notice of your views.


A number of important changes are happening at Manor Field. Firstly, the Manor Field Trust, which managed the field and pavilion, has been dissolved. The trust is not a charity as had been claimed. The Parish Council had two options of either making the necessary changes, which would have given the users of the field a real say in its running, or taking full control again. The latter course was chosen, making it ineligible for business rate relief, adding to the 5000 annual losses on this facility. The Parish Council has also been the subject of a planning enforcement notice from Sevenoaks District Council on the decrepit portakabin behind the pavilion. The Parish Council should have removed it in 1992 when the pavilion was built. The portakabin has been subject to vandalism and is a major safety concern for many people.


In case anyone missed the county council election result, Mr Tucker was again victorious for the Conservatives although his vote fell by over 600 and there was a small swing to Labour. The results were:

Tucker (Conservative) 3442
Steele (Labour) 1786
Searles (Liberal) 1246

Hartley Matters is published by Friends of Hartley Countryside who endeavour to deliver to every house in Hartley. Your comments are very welcome and should be sent to The Secretary, Romney Cottage, Stack Lane, Hartley,

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