HEATHFIELD ABOUT TOWN: Heathfield Christmas Family Fun Day tomorrow, Saturday. After the lengthy roadworks please go along and support your local businesses and traders. Heathfield Chamber of Commerce has organised a family fun day at the following venues: Co-op car park where there will be market stalls, hog roast, mulled wine, Believe in Play (children’s soft play area) Heathfield Community College Radio Station and much more. The Youth Centre, where there will be a dance studio, tombola stalls and face painting. Choirs, 10am Punnetts Town Primary School at Sainsbury’s, Station Road; 10.30am Heathfield Choral Society, Tesco’s Station Road; 11am Dallington Primary School. The Factory Outlet. High Street; 11.30am Maynards Green Primary School. Trading 4 U. High Street; noon Five Ashes Primary School. Freeman Forman. Station Road; 12.30pm Heathfield Drama Club. Co-op, High Street; 12.30pm Heathfield Silver Band Tesco’s, Station Road; 1.30pm Cross in Hand Primary School. Factory Outlet High Street.
Window Competition. The Heathfield Chamber of Commerce are organising a window competition which can be entered on the day. Entry forms are available from the Youth Centre, The Heathfield Chamber of Commerce Stall is in the Co-op car park and Gemini Cards in the High Street. All forms should be completed and handed in to Gemini Cards, High Street by 5pm Saturday, December 8. The Heathfield Chamber of Commerce would like to thank the following sponsors of the event. Kay and Pascoe, Co-op, Melina Joy, C.P.J Field including Cooper and Son, Print Matters, The Heathfield Partnership, Believe and Play.
HIGH STREET: The High Street surfacing looks good and there have been many complimentary remarks on social media about it appearance and the friendliness and good nature of the works teams. However I do fear for the future of some of the businesses which did their very best to weather the wipe-out and, in some cases, endure between 40 and 80 percent dropped sales in a month when they should be making up for difficult financial circumstances throughout the year. I spoke to lots of them; we are so lucky to have a good bunch who keep going whatever life throws at them. Some were hysterical, some were putting on a positive, brave face, some were simply depressed and wondered whether, when February kicks in, they will be able to keep going. By that time we might know (although don’t hold your breath) what Brexit is going to mean. A situation like this makes me realise just how lucky we are, compared with many other local towns and villages, to have all our retail needs met in our little High Street and Station Road. I still take strong issue with East Sussex County Council over the decision to tackle the works now and just do not believe their bland statement that the surfacing revealed damage so severe it could not be left for another month. Why, if that was the case, were HGVs and buses not banned? And why were even the contractors saying, repetitively, they were commissioned in November because of the French Market at the end of August? Why not do the work in September or October? We were told utility companies had scheduled works which would have conflicted with this but we believe utilities were also working during the closure so surely they were not attending to urgent problems earlier as well? As we’ve said before, councils are such easy targets and councillors, as individuals, are great people, but did those who represent us locally put up much of a fight when the dates were announced? With the exception of our MP, Huw Merriman, I am unaware of any significant opposition. And if either the parish or district council did make representations to ESCC, why were we not informed? If any of them read this, please feel free to get in touch – this column is a mouthpiece for all of you.
PUBLIC TOILETS: As the public toilets in Mill Road are set to close, you might not know that Wealden District Council runs a Community Toilets Scheme. In Heathfield, you can use the loos in the Bay Tree Café and Costa, both of which have joined up to this excellent scheme. Wealden is always pleased to hear of any other shops or office premises that would be happy to host this facility, we believe there is a subsidy payable to whoever chooses to join. We also heard that the Parish Council might be thinking of joining up? That would be wonderful, as they have large, accessible offices and helpful staff. One of the reasons for the Council moving from their previous premises on the other side of the High Street was to make access easier for everyone, including mums with buggies and people using wheelchairs. Let’s hope they join this terrific scheme.
PLANNING: Once again we have an example of how Wealden District Council is either totally in thrall to developers, or does not have the wherewithal to fight them off. The Council’s Local Plan has not yet been ratified. The draft includes a tract of land between Ghyll Road and Pook Reed Lane scheduled for 103 new houses. This is in the AONB and access to the homes would come out onto Ghyll Road where extensive work to install traffic calming devices, build-outs and road humps begins this week. The access road is also close to Cross in Hand Primary School where there have already been numerous ‘near misses’ as parents load children into car seats while traffic races past. We now have it on very good authority that a package of representations was made at the last minute by a land agent on behalf of would-be developers, for the scheme. There was an illustrative plan attached. As good journalists we attempted to ring the developers involved to check whether this information was accurate. We were asked to submit a detailed email to the developers’ public relations agents. We did this. No response was forthcoming. So we rang again and submitted the request once more. Again no response. From this we can assume that the report regarding their interest is accurate. So where does Wealden go from here? It has not yet been agreed that the land in question will finally be included in the Local Plan. Are we right to assume that a ‘consultation process’ is ongoing? We know where consultations lead, there has been an outcry over what is happening to land between the river and Tide Mills at Newhaven; we watched trees being axed in Crowborough (after the ‘ecology report;) we noted there was not one single response of approval when we were consulted over library closures; there is yet another plan for 300 more homes on the outskirts of Hailsham (poor Hailsham) which has drawn 92 individual letters of objection plus a petition but is earmarked for approval by Wealden. This scheme will drain directly down into the Pevensey Levels by the way. Is there no-one out there that can stand in the way of these landgrabbers? I repeat myself but I do think we should adopt the French attitude, don our ‘gilets jaunes’ and head for the diggers with disruptive intent. Anyone joining me? At the time of writing I hear that the French government has decided to suspend any increase in road fuel tax. I’m not defending violent action but perhaps we should just be a little firmer and not allow those in power to ride roughshod over us.
LOCAL ATTRACTIONS: We are going a little off course this week. Well it is Christmas and I am sure parents are looking for different attractions to take their young ones to. So here is a selection: National Trust properties, large public gardens, tracts of woodland and even internationally regarded treasures such as Kew have been adopting a trend to create illuminated Christmas walks. Last year we went to Wakehurst Place which, I see, is running another under the title Glow Wild. If this one lives up to the standard set last year, it will be an absolute pre-Christmas treat. Other ways to get into the holiday mood would be to go to one of the outdoor ice rinks (Brighton Pavilion and Tunbridge Wells) which pop up each year. But the best, to my mind, has to be Christmas at Bedgebury - a truly amazing mile-long walk where, instead of just sticking lots of lights into any old place, organisers have arranged multiple lighting schemes which focus on the Pinetum’s magnificent trees. I went to the press launch with Mrs PP on Friday evening. It was pitch dark but also one of the very few dry, starlit evenings we have had this autumn. From start to finish the whole experience had a touch of magic about it. And I’m not someone who says that readily. You arrive at the woodland cafe, sample a paper cup (well done Bedgebury) of mulled wine and start your walk alongside the lake. Rising up from the water are timed multi-colour fountains which lift and fall to the rhythm of a music accompaniment (and we have no chainstore renderings of Slade or Sir Cliff, they are either classical pieces or carols sung by choirs). The walk is easygoing and on a hard surface, even for someone a tad older like me. All along the way there are coloured floodlights illuminating the giant redwoods and assorted pines and firs from their base so you can see their true architecture. There are also explanatory boards but with none of that lecturing which usually means you abandon the text halfway and press on. Music plays softly and continuously, bridges are lit from beneath, flaming torches float on water, there’s a sensational fairy-lit arch to walk through (children adored it) and, halfway round, you come across a firepit where you can toast your marshmallows or satisfy the inner man (and woman) with more robust stuff or even more mulled wine. (Take care with this, it’s a large cupful and pretty strong, excellent value at just £4). Just as you come to the end you see the lit sweeps of a mill turning - this is where the children’s play area sits. Youngsters were loving a miniature ‘big wheel’ where they sat in tiny cups before rotating - like something out of a Roald Dahl book or, in my era, the Faraway Tree. (I had to persuade Mrs PP that this was not appropriate for someone of her age and dignity). If you have children, I do recommend going along - you can pay in advance or buy tickets on the gate which, given the uncertainty of the weather, is probably the best thing to do. Well done Bedgebury, I now know what a baby giant Redwood looks like. I shall certainly go back in the summer too.
WEALDEN ALERTS: Plans for more two-wheel options on the Cuckoo Trail. Wealden District Council is in talks with app-based cycle rental company Countrybike about bringing new opportunities for visitors to the 11-mile Cuckoo Trail. ‘As part of their continued commitment to increase the health and wellbeing of Wealden residents, they are looking to introduce a new bike rental scheme,’ said Councillor Claire Dowling, Cabinet member for Public Health and Community Safety at Wealden District Council. ‘We are looking to provide the service along the beautifully scenic Cuckoo Trail which links three of the District’s larger towns: Heathfield, Hailsham and Polegate. The Cuckoo Trail is an old railway line. It is reasonably level and mainly off-road and is perfect for cyclists of all levels, particularly families.’ Discussions are underway with Countrybike, who currently run a number of schemes in the north of the District. These enable people to rent bikes by paying a fee via an online app. David Chennell, Community and Regeneration Officer, said no decision has yet been taken. But if all goes well, the scheme is expected to be put in place by spring 2019. Countrybike is a local company started by husband and wife team Tim and Suzy Seddon in 2017. It has bikes based at 11 locations in the countryside including a number of locations across Ashdown Forest. Earlier this year Wealden District Council installed new marker posts at every mile of the Cuckoo Trail so users could track how far they had walked or ridden.
A leaflet about the Cuckoo Trail can be downloaded from the Cuckoo Trail page on the Wealden website. Further information about healthy activities taking place in Wealden can be found on the Healthy Wealden website, www.healthywealden.co.uk.
CAUGHT RED-HANDED: Operating an unlicensed taxi. Please be aware. A Wealden man has been fined a total of £1,650 by Hastings Magistrates, and received six penalty points, for operating his own unlicensed taxi service. Keith Martin Leigh of Belmont House, Durgates, Wadhurst, pleaded guilty at Hasting Magistrates Court to a number of offences connected with operating an unlicensed ‘taxi’ service. He was also ordered to pay costs to the Council of £513. He was caught red-handed by licensing officers from Wealden District Council dropping off a paying passenger. The Council was acting on reports that an unlicensed driver had been operating in the Wadhurst area. The offences under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, which Mr Leigh pleaded guilty to were: Failure to hold a current private hire operator’s licence; failure to have a current private hire driver’s licence; failure to have a current private hire vehicle licence. He was fined £500 for each offence. He was also fined £150 for a vehicle insurance offence and the Magistrates endorsed his DVLA driving licence with six points.
SHORTLISTED: Wealden shortlisted for national award. Wealden’s successful Drive to Digital programme has been shortlisted for the 2019 Local Government Chronicle Awards. These annual awards recognise councils that provide the best examples of local government innovation and service delivery. Wealden has been shortlisted in the ‘Driving efficiency through technology’ category and is the only District Council to appear in the shortlist of nine. The shortlisted organisations will complete presentations and interviews in January 2019 to a judging panel. It will be made up of senior and influential figures within Local Government. The winners of the Awards will then be announced at a prestigious ceremony in London on March 13, 2019 which will be attended by more than 1,100 people from Local Government and its partner organisations.
CROSS IN HAND: U3 Christmas Social, December 18. As usual this event will be held at the Community Centre Sheepsetting Lane. This year should be very good as the entertainer comes highly recommended. He is Ian Keable, magician, mind reader, conjurer and comedian. Go along after 2.15pm for festive drinks and nibbles. Bottle raffle (all drinkable). Organisers are hoping to finish the year off with a bang. Visitors are welcome, if you don’t know what this group is all about and think you might be interested, get some further information from Lin Plant on 01435 862449.
On another note the monthly meetings continue to be well attended, over 50 last month. The interest groups are thriving and they have two new ones, Writing for Pleasure and Antiques. Again contact Lin on the above number.
SINGING FOR FUN: Singing for fun for everyone started on Monday at 2pm at Cross in Hand Methodist Church at the top of Firgrove Road and continues on Mondays from now on. The car park is on the left hand side. There are favourite songs to sing and do take along songs and music for the group. Time for refreshments and a chat afterwards. I’ve read that singing is almost as good for your health and wellbeing as jogging, sounds OK to me.
WINDMILL FEEDS: The Windmill Feeds, Cross in Hand branch, near Heathfield is no longer under the threat of closure from developers after the operators permanently secured ownership of the site. It’s great news on several fronts; the entrance to the property can now be improved so that the visibility is better as you enter and exit the site; it has secured employment in the local area for the staff who work on the site and it has staved off the possibility of customers having to travel further to buy their pet food, animal feed or saddlery items. The staff at both the Feedstore and the Saddlery will continue to offer great service and advice, whether it’s about feeding your animals, your pets, or any equestrian needs for you and your horse. If you want to find out more about what Windmill Feeds & Saddlery can offer you, your pets or your animals please visit www.windmillfeeds.co.uk
MAYFIELD AND FIVE ASHES: Mayfield 2019 calendars now on sale, price £10, from Burnetts, Four Winds, Pink Cabbage, Rusdens, S&S Stationers and Alan Hair Salon. Last year they sold out so make sure to pick up yours quickly. They make great presents.
DECEMBER IN ST DUNSTAN’S: The church, having recovered from a busy November, has an extremely busy December coming up. The Christmas Market takes place tomorrow, Saturday, from 10am until 2pm with lots of beautiful local crafts for you to shop locally. On Sunday, they hold All Together Parish Eucharist at 10.15am where they will be collecting toys for the PCC Charity, FSW (Family Support Work). A charity which does an incredible job with local families in need. The toys collected make a huge difference to making Christmas just a little better for these families. The church asks for any donations to be left unwrapped and suitable for boys or girls from the ages one to 15 years. Suggested gifts could be games, books, puzzles, science kits, Lego or even vouchers for shops such as Boots, WH Smiths or Primark. These will be collected by FSW on Monday, December 10 for distribution at their forthcoming Christmas parties so you can always drop them into the Parish Office if you aren’t able to give them at church on the day. Monday, December 17 sees St Dunstan’s hosting the Aspire Federation’s (both local CE Primary schools are part of this Federation) Christingle Service at 6pm. It has been a few years since the schools have held this wonderful service and it is always a joy to be part of. Pre-school will then hold their Christmas Service on Tuesday, December 18 from 10am. Their own Poetic Readings and Carols by Candlelight takes place on Wednesday, December 19 at 6pm, another fantastic, not-to-be missed event. The Church of England is launching an initiative ‘#Follow the Star’ on Friday, December 21, to encourage people into a church service or event to share in the joy of Jesus’ birth. The church takes part in this initiative so keep an eye out for the stars, outside and inside St Dunstan’s. The Messy Church will be taking place that day from 4pm until 6pm for the younger congregation. Go along and have some brilliant fun with all the fabulous helpers. Christmas Services. These take place on Christmas Eve, 5pm for the Children’s Torchlit Crib Service, 11pm for Mass of the Nativity for Midnight Christmas Day; 10.15am for Family Eucharist and Carols (children to bring along, please, their single favourite present!) A future date for your diary is the All Together on Sunday January 6 (The Feast of the Epiphany) at 10.15am.
HORAM: New butcher’s shop. Davies and Sons family butchers has opened in the High Street. I see it is getting very good reviews on Facebook. Twenty-six year old Dec Davies is running the business. He reports business is very brisk and he is pleased with the initial feedback from his customers. All his meat is locally sourced and the Christmas turkeys this year are from Vines Cross. He informs me he is doing a sausage of the week; so far the Firecracker, Marmite and mature Cheddar sausages seem to be a whizz. It is also so good to see local butchers, namely Leppards of Mayfield and Bishop’s of Uckfield helping Dec out setting up the business, very unusual in today’s cut throat environment. Please support our local businesses they really do need your help and what’s more you are cutting food miles and getting first rate produce from people you can trust.
SUPPORT GROUP: Crowborough Tinnitus Support Group meet today, Friday, from 2pm to 4pm in Crowborough Community Centre Cafe, Pine Grove. Run by local deaf charity, Hi Kent. All welcome, free of charge. An opportunity to share experiences and coping strategies for local people living with tinnitus. The speaker will be Christine Adams from the BTA (British Tinnitus Association). Enquiries to Maxine Harris at Hi Kent on 01622 691151 or firstname.lastname@example.org