When you go down to the woods today you may be surprised at what you find. Recently there have been some very exciting things happening at Queen Elizabeth country park. Nestled in the woods now lie three new additions to the outdoor activities on offer at the park – an assault course, a play area and an exciting dog agility course. The new developments mean there is something for everyone at Queen Elizabeth. Whether you are stuck with entertaining the children or grandchildren at half term, or even want to brush up on your dog agility skills before the May Fair, the park has a lot to offer.
My friend Ben and I tried out the assault course, which is aimed at slightly older children. It was challenging, fun and very muddy! The course is a series of twelve obstacles set in the stunning woodland right at the top of the park. If you are entertaining younger children the new play area may be better suited. It has a number of beautiful wooden play houses with slides and ladders. These wooden structures will encourage children’s imagination to run wild. There’s even a zip wire.
The play space is inspired by the project’s military connections; local ancient forts and wooden dens that every child loves.
The Dog agility course was a challenge for me and my dog Bertie. Although handsome he is not blessed when it comes to his agility skills. After struggling for twenty minutes with the eight obstacles I was rescued. Ellie, the bright, bouncy Border Collie was more than happy to be my model.
I did manage to get Bertie to sit on the winners podium.
We are very lucky to have such an amazing resource only ten minutes from the village. It is certainly worth a visit if you get the opportunity. It is open seven days a week and parking costs just two pounds.
Santa’s village helpers – 17/12/17
With the recent arrival of high speed broadband in the village we have never been more connected to the digital super highway. At this time of year however, traditional cards and presents are sent and delivered in large numbers in East Meon.
It is the job of Nigel Leggett to deliver post to the village. He is never busier than at Christmas. Nigel told me that although he is not a resident, he does consider himself “part of the East Meon community and a villager”. Nigel said “I’ve been working as a postman for 18 years and in East Meon for three of those. These have been the happiest years of my life.”
Nigel previously worked as a shop manager and a milkman, but he told me that he loves the freedom of his job. He said to me “ I worked tirelessly to become shop manager, but when I got the job I hated every moment of it and traded it all in to become a milkman”. He worked for 12 years as a milkman and finally became a postman in 1999.
Nigel is certainly experiencing the Christmas rush. This means he’s spending more time out on his round. He said to me “ that the deliveries do take me a bit longer, up to three and a half hours”. Nigel serves the majority of the village, excluding outlying areas.
Nigel previously delivered the post in the Haslemere area. He told me that “moving here from Haslemere was probably the best move I ever made, East Meon is a lovely village and the people I get to meet every day are really nice”.
Usually Nigel is not gifted much time off at Christmas. Luckily this year he will receive some well earned leave. Christmas day falls on a Monday and that means Nigel is allowed a longer break. He will be off for more than a week from the 23rd of December.
Janet Khambata who runs the East Meon village stores, has also seen an increase in numbers of cards and presents being sent. She told me, “ it definitely picks up around Christmas, people send things to places all over the world”.
Anyone visiting the Stores may have noticed the bright new entrance. After a ram raiding incident in August, the Stores have got new doors and matching new paintwork around the window frames. The good news is these doors shut perfectly, keeping all the warm air in. Janet told me she is delighted with the new entrance.
After a series of legal battles and planning controversies the Forge has been given a new lease of life. Communications Company Mandarin Kite are thriving in a new office within the walls of the historic building. Co-owner, and local resident, Kevin Davis has relocated the business from Liphook to the village.
Kevin and his business partner Matthew Hampshire are delighted with the new office. Kevin explained to me how the Forge not only had a “certain character” but also “presented an obvious opportunity”. The Forge, which had been in a state of disrepair for many years, has changed hands multiple times in the last decade. Kevin told me that having worked in a number of “uninspiring offices” it was a chance that could not be missed out on. Kevin said that “the Forge coming on the market perfectly coincided with wanting to move our business”. It made the Forge an ideal place to relocate for Mandarin Kite.
The Forge in 1909- source East Meon history group.
In recent years the Forge had been at the centre of a High Court planning battle. With growing concerns the issue would never be resolved Kevin and Matthew stepped in. Kevin, telling me as a resident, “it was a real shame to see the Forge boarded up, broken windows and just really looking very sad”. Saving the building is clearly not only a business decision for Kevin.
After a history of metal work and hard manual labour the building is now being used to help forge a very modern business. Mandarin Kite is an internal communications company. The team helps large corporations convey messages to employees in a way they hope will be compelling and interesting.
Local builder Jerry Silence, who has worked in East Meon for 8 years, was chosen by Kevin to transform the building. He is not only a close friend but also a skilled craftsmen. For Jerry, first impressions weren’t great. He said, “we started getting into it and it was basically falling to pieces”.
Jerry and his son Scott had to “strip the building down to four walls”. In the end the build was finished on time and within 6 months. Jerry said it was a “great project to work on” and although “challenging” he said “it was very satisfying to see done and to have given the Forge a second chance”.
As the evenings get darker, there is a glow once again from inside the Forge, now it is computer screens creating light, a new chapter in the evolving history of the building.
On the 16th of August HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed into her new home port of Portsmouth.
The Royal Navy’s new flagship is 284m long, the size of 3 football pitches, and has been on the drawing board since 1999. Thousands turned out to watch the arrival, filling the seafront at Southsea. However, my view of the aircraft carrier wasn’t from the shore. Instead I saw it from the harbour itself.
I was lucky enough to be on a small rigid inflatable boat (RIB), following the progress from close up. As HMS Queen Elizabeth first came into view the shear magnitude of the ship began to reveal itself. Our RIB was dwarfed by the enormity of this giant. 65,000 tons of floating steel moved slowly through the Solent. It was quite a sight.
Costing over 3 billion pounds the vessel has been the centre of great controversy. Some, who are against the expenditure, believe the vessel to be already outdated and not appropriate for modern warfare.
Watching from the comfort of his home in East Meon, retired Naval officer David Cooke described the new arrival as an “asset to the Royal Navy and great show of strength to the rest of the world”. He thinks it will be a great success, but only if the “aircraft get delivered on time”. Currently HMS Queen Elizabeth is without fighter jets.
The American F-35 fighter jets chosen by the UK governments are costly and won’t be in service until 2020. Between 2020 and 2022 Britain will purchase 17 of the jets for use aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, spending more than 1 billion pounds in the process.
The ship is set for 50 years of active service from 2020. Questions over the suitability of the craft aside, it is certain that it reinstates the strength of the Royal Navy. HMS Queen Elizabeth will be used in future warfare and on humanitarian missions.
For me, it was a day I will never forget.
Eagle eyed residents of our village may have noticed the “new” signs. In fact the glossy white village name signs are not new at all. Restored and painted by local craftsmen, the signs have been updated from an original green and gold design to black on white. The sign under the paint remains the same, a cost effective solution indeed.
The Parish Council voted unanimously to give the gateway signs to our village a re-vamp. The smart new look is now more in keeping with the rest of the signage throughout the village. They are also more visible and look more traditional, which for many is an important perception to keep in our beautiful old village.
Although these signs may seem insignificant they play an important role. They signal the five main entrances to the village from Clanfield, West Meon, Petersfield, Coombe and Bereleigh.
The signs were restored in July. They have been refreshed for the long term. Having been sandblasted and treated with a specialist coating to protect them from the elements, it’s hoped the renewed signs will last for many years to come.
A question that many residents are asking …IS THE VILLAGE CAR PARK SET FOR CLOSURE?
In November 2016 the parish council became aware that East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) had unbeknown to us taken a decision some years ago to terminate the village car park, effective February 2017. Added to this we still haven’t received any official notification from EHDC, although subsequently we have had various responses from different officers to our emails. As the parish council were never consulted we are asking how this decision was arrived at, and using what criteria? – it certainly couldn’t have been under use.
We are making the following representations to EHDC;
- East Meon Parish Council had never been consulted of the possible closure of our only village public car park,
- We understand that Bereleigh Estate ,from whom EHDC lease the car park, are still willing to continue with the lease which has been at the same rate for the past 22 years.
- We are unaware of any meaningful assessment leading to a decision we understand was taken some years ago.
- Being the only public car park in our village with a historic grid layout, not planned for motorised vehicles, street parking is extremely limited and hazardous to other traffic including agricultural & utility vehicles.
- East Meon is a popular tourist destination and is promoted on EHDC’s web site with many walks & cycling routes starting from East Meon car park.
- There is minimal benefit to the village and its residents as they don’t use the car park, the benefit falls to the promotion of wider tourism by EHDC and the South Downs National Park.
- It is also heavily used at weekends, winter& summer – further exacerbated by overflow traffic parking on the verges of narrow roads/lanes. Also if there is nowhere to park, what are the implications for the future use of the football pitch?
- The consequences of not renewing this car park lease would have a very significant impact and cause traffic problems within the main village. While understanding the financial challenges that EHDC face they simply cannot offload their car park to East Meon Parish Council, who also have limited resources with only a small (over stretched) precept.
With the support of our district councillor, Rob Mocatta, we are meeting with EHDC officers in mid –January requesting them to re-evaluate and rescind their original decision, as quite apart from creating many parking issues, any perceived savings would undoubtedly be exceeded by highway repairs to kerbs and sunken drains caused by vehicles parking & driving on verges & footpaths.
We plan to impress upon them that this is a well-used EHDC car park and that common sense and goodwill should determine a sensible solution.
RECENT NEWS – 27/10/2015:
“East Meon Parish Council welcomes and supports the range of policies designed to ensure the protection of the National Park in accordance with its purposes. It notes the provision in SP23 for the allocation of sites for approximately 15 housing units in East Meon. The East Meon Neighbourhood Plan is being prepared with the objective of making such provision, but any allocation will need to have regard to the constraints imposed by the outstanding and unique landscape surrounding the village and the setting of the village within it.”
Please note that the Neighbourhood Plan Open Morning date has changed from 31st October 2015 and is now being held on 14th November 2015, 10.30am – 12.00 noon at the East Meon Village Hall.
Parish Council – General Business
It’s been a reasonably busy summer period for the parish council. Here are some highlights.
The development of the new parish web site has received very favourable feedback. Marc Atkinson and Chris Moor deserve our thanks for their herculean effort. Take a look and subscribe to newsfeeds at www.eastmeon.org.uk
We are planning some remedial work on the High Street stretch of the River Meon which was recently enhanced by local volunteers. Denise Ashton of the Wild Trout Trust visited in the summer and she noted how much life there is in the ‘new’ channel: “In addition to the range of plants, we also saw bullhead – a protected species, and minnows, a frog and lots of river invertebrates.”
Trust staff are working with the SDNP rangers to schedule two clean-up sessions a year. That’s all it should take to keep the more vigorous plants under control and keep the river flowing.
The parish council’s submission of an objection to a new planning application for the Forge. This follows visits from SDNP case and conservation officers.
The new children’s playground was completed in the summer and met with universal approval, especially from our Under-8s. Please see the item overleaf for more detail.
Five Ways – aided by a successful grant application for £850, much needed remedial work on the bridle path will commence in the autumn. The project team is led by Dick Williams and Dick is assisted by many willing volunteers.
The NP is back on track after the recent pause in proceedings and the momentum will pick up as we move into autumn. As plan sponsors, the Parish Council Steering Group met in August with a newly formed NP ‘Leadership Group’ of four village residents. This group of George Thompson, Steve Ridgeon, Chris Moor & Clint Hanson reside across the village and provide a representative locational balance. They will be supported by existing and new volunteers who they can call upon when input to specific projects is required. The parish council will continue to be the ‘steering group’ and will liaise closely with the NP Leadership Group.
It must be re-emphasised that the only way any proposed sites can be eliminated from the NP is by following the prescribed process whereby all sites are objectively & sequentially evaluated using the same criteria – these include traffic issues, landscape, drainage, environmental impact or non-availability. The evidence has to show why any particular site has been rejected by the NP, otherwise it will not be accepted by the SDNP – we can influence outcomes, but there are no short cuts.
The latest NP information is available on the NP page on this site.
Dominic Carney for East Meon Parish Council
3rd September 2015
New Under- 8s Play Park
Wilson Atkinson and Susan Hull opened East Meon’s first Play Park for Under-8’s in the 1980s and over the years it has provided a huge amount of fun and entertainment for our young people. In 2013, the Parish Council decided that it was time to make some improvements. This involved a long process of sourcing the necessary funding which was eventually achieved. Today we have a wonderful new play area for this and future generations.
The Official Opening was held on Friday 4th September and we were delighted to be able to thank many of those involved personally, especially Parish Councillor, Philippa Tyrwhitt-Drake. Philippa has energetically and cheerfully led the project from inception and overcome many obstacles in order to make it happen.
We are very grateful to our funders. These include a Cabinet Approved Community Grant from EHDC for £5,000; a Community Grant from Radian for £1,500; East Meon Good Causes Fund gave £500; and Cllr Ken Moon donated £500 from his County Council personal discretionary fund. The balance was provided by existing Developers’ Contributions and finally topped up by the Parish Council. This has all involved a great deal of time and work and our thanks go to Richard Bartlett for championing this project during his time as our District Councillor.
Our final thanks go to Andy Smith and his team from Garden Karma. Andy has been extremely patient over the last two years and when the time finally came to push the ‘go’ button, he was very helpful and accommodating with all the last minute changes.
Dominic Carney for East Meon Parish Council
3rd September 2015