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Wartime tunnels open at the White Cliffs of Dover

20Jul

Second World War tunnels built on the orders of Winston Churchill underneath the White Cliffs of Dover, have opened to visitors for the first time following a two-year conservation project involving over 50 volunteers.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter was built in the 1940s as part of Dover’s offensive and defensive gun batteries, which were designed to prevent German ships moving freely in the English Channel. The shelter was personally inspected by Winston Churchill in June 1941.

Carved out of the chalk cliffs, the shelter accommodated four officers and up to 185 men of other ranks during bombardments in five bomb-proof chambers and also had a hospital and secure store. It was decommissioned in the 1950s and filled in two decades later.

Reopening the abandoned tunnels

The tunnels are underneath land the National Trust was able to buy in 2012 thanks to support for our Neptune Coastline Campaign. After their discovery the following year, a team of over 50 volunteers, two archaeologists, two mine consultants, two engineers and a geologist excavated and prepared the tunnels for opening to visitors.

Over a hundred tonnes of soil and rubble were removed by hand from inside the tunnels to make them accessible once again and the original entrance has been restored. Specialist guides can now lead torch-lit hard hat tours deep into the heart of the White Cliffs to reveal the story of the tunnels.

Entering a time capsule

Visitors will descend 23 metres below ground down the original 125 steps to reach the labyrinth of tunnels, once manned by troops from the Royal Artillery. The shelter was originally dug by tunnelling units from the Royal Engineers.

Wartime graffiti discovered in the tunnels including names of military personnel, and ditties and drawings carved into the chalk, serve as poignant reminders of the shelter’s history on the tours. Other personal mementoes on show include wire twisted into homemade hooks by soldiers, a needle and thread tucked into the tunnel wall, and ammunition.

Experiencing a piece of history

‘I hope visitors will surface having experienced something truly unique,’ said White Cliffs volunteer Gordon Wise. ‘It’s been thrilling to have been involved. Seeing the tunnels in their raw state when they were first discovered, handling artefacts and giving tours is like standing in the footsteps of history.’

‘This re-discovered piece of Second World War heritage is a truly remarkable find,’ added Jon Barker, visitor experience manager at the White Cliffs. ‘With no public access for over 40 years, the tunnels remain much as they were when they were abandoned. We’ve preserved both the natural decay and authentic atmosphere of the space.’

Visitors will also be able to see another military legacy at the site – two First World War sound mirrors. One of the first early warning devices invented in the UK, sound mirrors gave advanced notice of approaching enemy aircraft but had become obsolete by the invention of radar technology in 1935.

Support for the conservation project

The work to excavate the tunnels has been part funded by a Landscape Heritage Grant through the Up on the Downs Landscape Partnership Scheme, a Heritage Lottery Fund project. It has also been supported by donations from Subterranea Britannica, an archaeological society which studies underground sites.

Original Source and credits National Trust Press Office

24 things to see at the Kent County Show 2015

04Jun

There are hundreds of events going on over the three days at the Kent County Show at Detling Showground.

From Friday, July 10 to Sunday, July 12 there will be more than 400 exhibitors and trade stands and over 300 competitions, activities and displays open from 8am to 6pm every day.

Here is our pick of some of the must-see events.

1) The animals are definitely the stars of the County Show.
There’s everything from show jumping to duck herding and displays of cattle. Where else do you find events such as the kid classes in the Goat Area (2pm on Friday) and a Beef Sweepstakes (10.30am on Saturday).

2) Support the Kent Young Farmers who will be showing their stuff, including the Fur and Feather Marquee and Kent Poultry Club marquee with the chance to see chickens, ducks and rabbits.

3) The mighty shire horses are definitely a sight worth seeing and you can watch them in action in the Woodland Area.

4) At the other end of the horse scale, there is the Miniature Shetland Championship in the Pam Nesfield Ring North End on Saturday from 9.15am.

5) Youngsters can get in the saddle with free donkey rides in the Countryside Area from 10am to 4pm daily (while you are there don’t miss the ferret racing).

6) Our feathered friends are represented too, and over in the Countryside Ring there will be a display of birds of prey are from 2.30pm on Friday.

7) There is pony and horse show jumping, ladies side saddle and competitions throughout the show with everything from majestic hunters to Pony Club members in action. On Saturday there is the added attraction of the Connemara Championship in the West Ring East End from 8.15am.

8) New to the equine area is the Heavy Horse Village where the Shire, Working and Metropolitan Police horses with be on view and stabled. Also, don’t miss the horse shoeing competition in the Show Forge.

9) On all three days the Mole Show is in the Countryside Arena.

10) There is also the chance to see traditional rural crafts that have been practised for hundreds of years. Find them in the Woodland Area from noon on Friday. Skills include pole lathe turning, wood carving and making hazel flowers and trugs. There will be also be displays of beekeeping.

11) Badger Bush Craft will be demonstrating a range of woodland survival skills including knife sharpening, catapult making and foraging. Some workshops, in the Woodland Area, have limited spaces – so check before turning up.

12) It’s as dramatic as it is beautiful, so put a visit to the chainsaw carving in the Woodland Area with Woodreave on your list of things to do.

13) Plane spotters should be pleased when The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar Kent Spitfire Display will be in the Astor Ring from 12.30pm on Friday and the Biggin Hill Heritage Spitfire will be flying over the showground on all three days.

14) But for all-action thrills, don’t miss the skilful RAF Red Arrows as they take to the skies at 2pm on the Friday with their trademark aerial acrobatics.

15) Put a trip to the Heritage Ring on your to-do list and see the models and model steam display at 10am on Saturday including vintage tractors later on. At 11am the Steam Engines display starts and watch out for the motorcycles at 2pm on Saturday.

16) Get behind the wheel on the 4×4 Course which is next to Entrance 4 and get your eye in at the clay shoot.

17) A sight worth seeing is the Husqvarna UK Pole Climbing Championships which will be taking place each day.

18) Away from the hustle and bustle of the animals, steam engines and activities is the Flower and the Why Farming Matters cooking demonstrations in the Clive Emson Conference Centre.

19) There is plenty for younger visitors to do with Titan the Robot greeting people at the Main Gate and specific events such as the children’s workshop. Have a go at Floral Art at 11.30am on the Saturday or circus skills from 10am to 4pm daily where you can learn how to juggle balls, spin plates or balance on pedal-gos and stilts.

20) It wouldn’t be a county show without morris men, so get your fix when the East Kent Morris Men jingle into action outside the Jolly Farmer at noon on Saturday.

21) There is music on all three days at the bandstand with performers including Fred Clark, and the Salvation Army band play on Sunday.

22) Gardeners, makes sure you pop by the Flower Show Demonstration Stage for a range of horticultural and green-fingered delights including the Gardening Question Time Roadshow (on all three days). Darren Everest also demonstrates sweet peas at 1.45pm on each day. Learn from the experts and enthusiasts in the Federation of Horticultural Societies Area where there will be demonstrations, talks and advice from groups including the National Vegetable Society.

23) Sunday is a day of parades, so get along to the Astor Ring, Sheep Ring or Countryside Ring for the parade of livestock and foxhounds from 2.30pm.

24) There is a final display of the vintage steam engines and tractors at 4pm on Sunday in the Heritage Ring and in the vintage vehicles parade in the Astor Ring at 5pm as part of the closing ceremony which also includes the Stow Caledonian Pipe Band.

Go there: A family ticket (two adults and two children aged between five and 15 for one full day) is £41 in advance or £48 at the gate.

Children under five are free. Parking is free. Adult tickets are £18.50 in advance and £22 on the gate, concessions are £13 online and £15 on the gate. Child ticket is £5 in advance and £6 on the gate.

For more information visit www.kentshowground.co.uk

Magna Carta Rediscovered

18May

The grand tour begins!
Magna Carta Rediscovered, a major touring exhibition visiting towns and cities across Kent with important historical associations to Magna Carta, the document that shaped the legal system across the world since it was sealed at Runnymede 800 years ago on 16th June 1215. The 1300 Faversham Magna Carta is displayed as the centrepiece of this fascinating ‘must see’ exhibition.
The exhibition will launch in Faversham on 23rd May, remaining in the town until 28th June when it will begin its tour across Kent opening in The Beaney, Canterbury on 2nd July.

Dates and venues are as follows:

23rd May – 28th June
The Alexander Centre, Faversham

2nd July – 19th July
The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury

25th July – 6th September
Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone

10th September – 19th September
Maison Dieu, Dover

24th September – 6th October
Jury Room, The Guildhall, Sandwich

10th October – 6th December
Lady Chapel, Rochester Cathedral