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Portholme Meadow - a talk by Dr Pat Doody

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Since moving to Brampton more than 30 years ago Dr. Pat Doody, a professional coastal ecologist, has taken a special interest in Portholme Meadow, its landscape setting, history and ownership

The speaker at our June open meeting was Dr Pat Doody, who took us on a journey from the Ice Age to the present day at Portholme Meadow, which is believed to be the largest flood plain meadow in England at 106 hectares. It is a special area of Conservation with an internationally recognised diversity of flora. Natural England designated Portholme Meadow as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The meadow is traditionally managed by cutting followed by grazing cattle and sheep and is often flooded in winter and early spring. Major flooding occurred in 1903 and 2003. The hay is cut in midsummer and is auctioned around the 15th June every year. The proceeds of this sale go to The London Angling Society, who own most of the land which they purchased in 1962 hoping to excavate for gravel, but permission was refused. In 1974 a second application was refused. The Thomas Miller Charity owns 4 acres which was left in his will of 1861 to the ‘Town of Brampton’
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Throughout the spring and early summer the meadow has an abundance of wildflowers and grasses and is buzzing with insects. The meadow collects silt deposits when the river floods, the nutrients removed in the hay crop are replenished naturally so there is no need for fertilizers.

Portholme Meadow lies on a bed of Oxford Clay deposited during the Jurassic Period. The Anglian Glaciation stretched as far south as London, covering Huntingdonshire. During periods of melt sand and gravel was deposited in the river valley which are still present today. Melted ice formed the Great Ouse Valley and mountain alpine plants grew. As the climate warmed woodland and scrub appeared and animals arrived. A map of 1607 shows the Great Ouse very much as it is today.
The first written reference to the management of Portholme is King John’s 1212 Common Charter of rights which prevented the area being divided, developed or enclosed and imposed strict rules governing its use 

A 1772 survey for the Enclosure Act took place in Brampton Parish and included a map which shows ownership of the land, both large plots and nrrow strips apportioned to the people of Brampton.
In 1773 horse racing took place on Portholme.   

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In in the early 1900’s aviators arrived and Portholme became a mecca for early attempts at flight.

It is hoped that a guided visit to Portholme Meadow will be arranged for 2019 

Ramsey Walled Garden

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On a very warm summer evening in June Members of Hartford Conservation Group visited Ramsey Walled Garden. The visit was a follow up to an illustrated talk given by Jane Sills at our open meeting on 17th May 2016 about the restoration of the garden, which was rediscovered in 1996 by a Trust Member. An army of volunteers worked on the restoration (are still doing so) and the garden was officially opened by Lord Fairhaven in 2010. 

Jane guided us around the garden, starting with the wall itself built in the English Bond style (alternate courses of headers and stretchers), dating back to the 1800s. On entering the garden the centre path now has a variety of Cambridgeshire apple trees being trained over the aluminium arch.
We walked around the herb garden, which had a sundial donated by Ramsey WI to celebrate their 90th anniversary. We then passed by the very ancient Mulberry tree, thought to have been in the original walled garden, and probably dating before that. There was a very large rhubarb bed which had been moved from a less suitable area in 2016 and was thriving.

  Next stop was the new glasshouses, built on the site of the originals, and made possible by a generous legacy from the late John Drake, MBE. The opening ceremony took place on 13th May 2017. The garden contained apples, pears, cherries and soft fruit, a variety of flowers and one of the quadrants is now an area to sit and enjoy the garden. 

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We were then taken into the grounds of Abbey College to see the original school building, sadly listed but no longer in use. Lady Broughton, the last private owner of the estate, on her death wanted the grounds to be used as a school. The old school building was beautiful, the current buildings built over a period of time were not so attractive.On our way out we were able to purchase freshly picked redcurrants and strawberries. The garden is open to visitors on Sunday afternoons. 

Chairman Mike Humphrey thanked Jane for a most enjoyable tour. 

http://www.ramseywalledgarden.org/

A14 Improvements

Hartford Conservation Group held its first open meeting of 2017 on 28th March when Mike Humphrey, Chairman, welcomed Members, Hartford residents and visitors from surrounding villages to hear about the A14 improvement scheme. He introduced the speakers, Jon Lewell, Stakeholder Manager of Integrated Delivery Team and Mike Evans of Transport England, to talk us through the project to improve the A14 and parts of the A1 from Brampton Hut to Girton at a cost of £1.5 billion.
The contract went out to tender and 2 companies were successful, Costain and Skanska. The two companies will be working together from one site office at each building site. Each site has offices, car parking, accommodation for the workforce, which will number some 2,000 jobs overall.
There have been consultations held in the run up to the project. One problem which came out of these consultations was noise pollution. Low noise surfacing is made up with different ratios of materials so is softer and therefore requires a higher proportion of maintenance, but five sections will be included.
When the work began 150 Archaeologists began digging and many items of interest were found.
The new road will run from Ellington to Swavesey, 3 lanes in each direction, Swavesey to Bar Hill and Girton will be widened. There will be 2 non-vehicular bridges at Swavesey and Bar Hill.
When the A14 project is complete the old A14 will be handed back to Cambridgeshire County Council and will become a local road. The viaduct over Huntingdon Station will be taken down. Road changes at Huntingdon Railway Station will result in the loss of some car parking spaces for which Network Rail will be compensated and will hopefully find a way to provide replacement parking facilities.
Unfortunately a large number of trees will be removed during the construction work but we were informed that a greater number of appropriate trees will have been planted by the end of the project.
Gravel will be extracted locally as this is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way but will be of conservation value at the end. Sites will be returned to farmers, who will receive compensation, along with their topsoil which is now in storage.
Questions from the audience were taken and answered throughout the presentation.
Mike Humphrey thanked the speakers for a very interesting and informative presentation.
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Hartford Guided Walk

14th July A guided walk around the listed and interesting buildings in Hartford with local historian David Hufford.

We met outside the King of the Belgians, a beer house since 1541, at 6.30 p.m., and after short introduction we set off, our first stop being the Hurst (one time home of Isabella Bird Bishop, a 19th Century traveller, writer, photographer and natural historian). The Hurst garden originally stretched down to the river before Longstaff Way was built in 1964. It was during these excavations that the 'Hartford Hoard' was discovered, an earthenware pot containing over 1,000 coins which are now on display in the British Museum. We then walked up School Lane to the Pits, (so called locally because it was a sand and gravel pit) officially named the King George V Playing Field. School Lane was originally named Mill Lane, leading to a Mill. 

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Our next stop was outside the Village Shop where we were shown pictures of how it used to look. The Methodist Chapel opposite was paid for by Potto Brown. It was originally built so that it could become a house, as indeed it has. The pointed windows were originally square. The Barley Mow was built with stone from St Benedict's Church in 1804. It was derelict in 1976 and rebuilt in 1978. On the opposite corner stands The Red House which was originally a coachman's house belonging to the Manor House, as was Pear Tree Cottage adjacent to The Manor House. Then on to The Manor House and Manor Farm House. At this point it began to rain quite heavily. We then crossed the road to Hartford House, built in the 18th Century by the Desborough Familly, a listed building with a surrounding wall listed in it's own right.

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Down The Hollow to the Church, stopping in the churchyard to see the large tomb of HenryThomas Barratt, which was badly vandalised in 1977 and repaired by John Dillistone, an artist from Godmanchester. We continued through the churchyard to the group of cottages which are depicted on the Village Sign. We walked along the river to Anchor Cottage, originally a waterman's pub. 

Our very interesting walk with David Hufford was very informative and lasted approximately 2 hours. Many of these buildings can be found on Hartford Conservation Group's leaflet 'The Architectural Heritage of Hartford in Cambridgeshire' which is available in All Saints Hartford Church and Huntingdon Library. 

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The Hidden Wonders of Godmanchester Nature Reserve

Amy Robinson,Ouse Valley Education & Community Officer for the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire.
Amy's illustrated talk was entitled 'The Hidden Wonders of Godmanchester Nature Reserve' (a hidden wonder itself). This reserve forms part of the Ouse Valley Living Landscape. There are 126 Reserves in the three counties, the Godmanchester Reserve (59 hectares) being one of the most recent acquisitions of the Wildlife Trust. So far £62,000 of the £100,000 needed for outright purchase has been raised and fundraising is ongoing. Worryingly one of the proposed routes for a new road from RAF Wyton is through the Godmanchester Nature Reserve via Hartford.
Godmanchester Nature Reserve is a mixture of flooded gravel pits (there are 4 lakes, Peter Prince Memorial Lake, Roman Lake, Island Lake and Teddy's Lake), grassland (where cattle graze), reed beds and willows. When Redlands excavated the gravel in the 1980s their long term plan was to ensure that the future of the area would be ideal for wildlife, birds, animals and plants and reed planting by Mr Bob Robinson was a priority. In 1999 Redlands were awarded the UEPG (Union Europeenee des Producteurs Granulats) Restoration Award.

Bearded Tit

Dragonfly

In the summer dragon flies can be seen and the bearded tit, an endangered species, has been seen, also the bittern and kingfishers; there are otters, which feast on pike and bream,discdarded heads and tails of which have been found. It is intended to carry out willow pollarding (the long horned beetle lives in willow bark). Scrapes are being made to encourage ground  nesting birds such as green plover and snipe.

The Heritage Lottery has given a grant of £75,000 to improve access such as installing kissing gates to replace stiles, clearing paths, putting in ducting etc. One major item is the replacementof the access bridge which has been condemned under health & safety.

   

During the talk Amy passed around 'scents' of the long horned beetle and otters and gave us sounds of the birds.

A.V. Roe and the Avro Lancaster

17th March 2015 Chairman Mike Humphrey welcomed an audience of 50+ and our speaker, David Taylor to the Meeting. He began by telling us that he was an enthusiast, not a member or former member of the R.A.F. He then introduced us to the Roe family. Alliot Verdon Roe, also known as Edwin, was a British aircraft pioneer and manufacturer. With his brother Humphrey he founded A.V. Roe Aircraft Co. He was born in 1877,died in 1958 and was knighted in 1929 He was the first Englishman to fly an all British aircraft, a triplane, in 1909. Avro, as the Company began to be called, built among others, the Avro 504,Avro Anson, Shackleton and the iconic Vulcan.

Avro Lancaster

Lancaster cockpit

The Lancaster was designed by Roy Chadwick and manufactured by Avro. More than 7,000 were built (at an individual cost of some £50,000). Orders came in thick and fast and manufacturing had to be contracted out to other factories such as Armstrong Whitley, Vickers Armstrong and Austin Morris. Some 300+ were built in Canada but only two are still flying, one in England and the other in Canada. The Canadian Lancaster came to the UK in 2014 and appeared at many air shows, including Gransden. It was developed from the Avro Manchester.

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The Lancaster had 4 Rolls Royce Merlin Engines and was designed for night flying, with a crew of 7. The long unobstructed bomb bay enabled it to carry larger bombs than other aircraft and it was modified in 1943 to accommodate the 'bouncing bomb' designed by Barnes Wallis and dropped by 617 Squadron against the 3 Ruhr Dams. It later carried even larger bombs.

The Lancaster was used for a variety of other purposes including dropping food to the starving people of Holland, aerial refuelling and after the war to repatriate prisoners of war. It then took on a new role as a transatlantic passenger plane and renamed the Lancastrian.

Questions were then taken from the floor and Mike Humphrey thanked David Taylor for a very

interesting talk to a very knowledgeable and interested audience.

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Meetings Address
Hartford Village Hall
16 Main St, Hartford,
Huntingdon PE29 1YS

Contacts

Chairman & general infornation
 info@hartfordconservation.org.uk

Membership Secretary
Peter Gibbins 01480 412398 email:membership@hartfordconservation.org.uk