Sunday, 24 October 2010

'Urban Open Land' oasis to be closed

Dearie me, I hear that the beautiful natural oasis to the east of 'the Priory' pub in Bell Street, Reigate is under threat again from our Borough Council.

Our planning officers are insisting that it should be left unmowed, fenced off - and unvisited! This is despite the fact that the landlords pay up to £400 per month in rent to the Godfrey Searle Choir Trust, clearly adding much needed support to a local good cause that would otherwise be money down the drain if the land is to be designated unusable.

Methinks our Council staff have their 'knickers in a twist' and are wasting our public money on yet more legal costs, at a time of national austerity too.

Do we need to spell it out? The whole point of urban open land is that it is open.

Monday, 18 October 2010

New street name suggestions

For many years my mother Audrey Ward was invited by groups and schools to give local history talks, and far and away the most popular were the ones about street names! We still have the card index, boxes of slides and lecture files, amended each time to satisfy the curiosity of residents of different parts of the borough. Sometimes my father or I went along too, to operate the slide projector and generally provide a bit of support with the various props.

Merstham, for example, has a housing estate with roads named after different types of rock - Portland Drive, Malmstone Avenue, Purbeck Close, Greensand Close - perfect material for learning about geology and geography! We have a heavy box of rock samples which I think came from the local stonemasons/undertakers.

Woodhatch has an estate full of beautiful tree names - Blackthorn Road, Juniper Close, Holly Road, Hornbeam Road, Willow Road, Hazel Close, Cedar Close and so on.

In Reigate we have the historic connections with aristocracy: Beaufort Road, Somers Road and St.Albans Road to name just a few.

Redhill, developing rapidly in the 19th century due to the railway as well as royal patronage at Royal Earlswood, is blessed with names like Philanthropic Road, Prince's Road, Asylum Arch Road and Victoria Road.

A new addition to Redhill's one way system in recent years was Princess Way, commemorating Princess Diana; whereas a new street name was needed for Reigate Priory's converted stable mews - what a good idea - it became Stable Mews!

What treasures they are, each with glorious stories and inspiring characters to discover! We had hoped to turn them into a book but unfortunately there has been no chance of any funding or interest from a publisher - after all, the number of streets has increased considerably in just a few short years. It seems unlikely in these times of harsh economy, that any more Lottery money will be coming our way either.

Strangely there is not a hint anywhere in the borough's street names of the significant role of Reigate in protecting our country during World War 1 or 2.

In honour of two generations and our leaders who greatly valued this area, I would like to make a little plea that we can name any new roads to commemorate Sir Winston Churchill, General Montgomery, the Welsh miners who constructed the Battle HQ bunker inside Reigate Hill and even the pedigree carrier pigeons who lost their lives delivering messages.

While we are on the subject, perhaps we can also commemorate the Girl Guiding movement - since, after all, it is their centenary this year, 2010. Even more significantly - it was all the idea of a group of pioneering Reigate girls who had 'gatecrashed' a Scouting jamboree at Crystal Palace in 1909. Look what effect that has had internationally ever since! My personal guiding experience was with the 2nd Reigate company, in the now demolished Rank Memorial Hall in the High Street, from 1963-70, and before that as a Brownie at the 3rd A pack, next door at the Congregational Church - another demolished piece of Reigate's long, distinguished history.

So I do hope that Reigate & Banstead Borough Council will consider these very topical commemorative road-naming possibilities in the near future.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Bad news - Reigate in the ITN health archives

With so much rich history, a healthy environment and magnificent views over many counties, Reigate's residents have much to be thankful for. Over the centuries, it has been the scene of various battles, on land and in the air. Even cannonballs have been found in the Priory park, possibly from when a local Lord mounted cannon to frighten the rightful young female owner away. Like mine, her name was Elizabeth - Lord High Admiral Charles Howard's granddaughter.

Did you know there is a different sort of battle going on here right now? Since 2008, Reigate has hit the history archives again. There is televised news evidence by ITN, now in their online archives, about a young female casualty - 13 year old Rebecca Ramagge. She is still very ill indeed, two years on. What was the cause of injury, according to the doctors?* 3 tiny jabs of a new vaccine called Cervarix - given in school.

Click here for archive ITN evidence of the effect it is having on Rebecca and her family.

Our Reigate MP, Mr Crispin Blunt, is the only one to have called a parliamentary debate, and the House of Commons was practically empty at the time. Now, over two years into the programme, more than 4,445 girls have had their side effects reported officially to the UK's regulatory watchdog. Whereas some may be "quite mild" and "not long lasting", clearly, as you can see from ITN, some of these are also serious and long term - a great cause for concern and a great shame.

For the record, I can add that in October 2008, here in Reigate I proved that the original advertising materials circulated to GP surgeries and PCTs contained false information about the incidence of side effects, news which the Dept of Health and a former Health Minister accepted and apologised for - to me, anyway. It sounds from the archive news clip that medical professionals were indeed, misled by that false information. Too late - the damage is done.

Then in September 2010, I proved that the regulatory watchdog, the MHRA was wrong in continually stating that there is no evidence that the side effects can be long-lasting. They have since thanked me and kindly confirmed that they are going to take my comments into consideration.*

With great teamwork, my associates in other counties and other countries have unearthed more huge errors and oversights with the HPV vaccine programmes so I make no apology for the fact that I am not a working scientist, nor am I medically qualified.* At least I am female, and at least I care about the welfare of our young girls.

This is another battle that we shall win in the end, and, I sincerely hope, with no more casualties thanks. "Never wonne ne never shall".

*Note: GarethT.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A quilted comforter to commemorate the Battle of Britain 1940

Yes, it may be a strange thing to do, but I had never made a patchwork quilt before, and I figured it would be a pleasant pastime to combine the fabric colours and prints into a padded picture to mark a remarkable wartime achievement 70 years ago, in August-December1940.

A few of my squares are now printed with photos of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, army General Montgomery, my Luftwaffe aerial photo of the Reigate area and the corresponding map that the German navigators had from the 1930s. It covers Redhill, Dorking, Leatherhead, surrounding villages, golf courses, roads, railways and countryside. They identified the golf courses and the Merstham rail tunnel but a lot more was well hidden underground! There is even a Spitfire and a Hurricane, with a British airman looking up wistfully into the air.

The squares are arranged to represent the pale blue sky, the North Downs with chalk scars and green vegetation. Below that are a rich variety of oak leaves (representing Surrey and the ancient Vale of Holmesdale), beech woods, barbed wire and undergrowth where our allied soldiers, especially Canadians, would be grouping and training in their hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, manmade caves and tunnels were hastily being adapted for wartime purposes or constructed afresh - invisible to the enemy from the air.

As I peer at my small cotton squares and think of a talk I shall be giving next year to a group at St Paul's Church, Dorking, it is inspiring to think of all those flying aces, swooping and looping overhead. A Reigate girl actually married one of them - Tony Eyre from Churchill's Own - the 615 Squadron based at Kenley aerodrome. He did well to survive the war from 1942-45 in a PoW camp but then as Wing Commander was killed in a flying accident in 1946. His Welsh gravestone was almost forgotten until this year. A contemporary of his in 234 and 238 Squadrons, Old Reigatian Battle of Britain ace Wing Commander Bob Doe is well-remembered with a blue plaque on an exterior wall of Reigate Grammar School. Thankfully, he survived those war years for another 70 years until February 2010, aged 89, and is noted for some wise words: "We do not want to be remembered as heroes, we only ask to be remembered for what we did....that's all."

It is really intriguing to spot on the scraps of old map, some of our local country estates which Churchill was so familiar with:

The Deepdene - a fabulous estate where he and his brother Jack used to visit their aunt on many occasions - how exciting it must have been for them to explore all those sand caves in their youth and wonder about their potential in times of need - how right they were;

Reigate Priory, again, that 'dear old house' as his mother Jennie had described it - with sand tunnels connecting to local houses and the old castle caves a veritable tourist attraction;

Polesden Lacey - the euphemistically-called grand "country cottage" where his autograph is permanently on display in the visitors book, along with that of "Christine Churchill" - who knows who she was? (I think it was his wife Clemmie's sense of humour);

Cherkley Court, where Winston Churchill was lavishly entertained by his newspaper baron/Air Ministry head - Lord Beaverbrook - yet slept in a bedroom there where you could "barely swing a cat";

Juniper Hill, where, I am told, Churchill used to go and watch secret air reconnaisance film footage in the undergound cinema;

Norbury Park, which by then was the sumptuous home of Marie Stopes, the reformer whose book on "Married Love" was lent to Clemmie by Jack's wife Goonie in 1918 and she wrote about it in a letter to her husband Winston - they already had three children and two more were to be born to her;

Oakdene at Holmbury - a mansion previously owned by Augustus Perkins, who I have since discovered was a Colonel and 'grandson of Boston's merchant prince of the China trade'. Churchill's parents appear to have been friends of the family which is not surprising considering his mother was American - his father sometimes stayed there at Oakdene and travelled by train back to London;

and Headley Court, which was chosen for the recuperation of RAF wounded airmen - not surprising, because this is a beautiful part of the world.