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Latest Posts

Local quarrying during the Roman occupation

Posted on 26th October, 2020

Dr Simon Elliot, our own distinguished archeologist, has written a fascinating article about local quarrying by the Romans during their occupation. To read it, click here

I have the great pleasure in working at and for the Big Cat Sanctuary.  The sanctuary is based at Smarden, Headcorn, Kent and is home to approximately 50 cats, both large and small.













The animals are from a variety of previous situations, they can be rescued from private collections or previously from the circus industry, or they can be retired cats from zoos and collections that cannot keep them for different reasons. 


CAT4We are part of the European Breeding Programme which holds all the records of the various breeds of cats and issues permission to breed ethically if the gene pool requires and allows it.

This enables extremely endangered breeds, for example the Amur Leopard being the most endangered cat in the world, to be bred in captivity in an organised way to promote the gene pool effectively of this species going forward.  There are many organisations that are helping to reintroduce these rare species back into their own habitat but this must be done in the correct way. 

The Amur Leopards have indeed bred at the sanctuary and their offspring have gone on to have offspring themselves which hopefully will enable sometime in the future reintroduction for these beautiful cats back into the wild.  There are less than a hundred in the wild so we need to do all we can to save them from extinction.



We have been seen on tv with Giles Clarke, rearing two cubs from different situations but who are now all grown up and huge ambassadors for their breeds and education about conservation.  Meet Maya and Willow now!

























Cats are given the best care from our team of keepers and this includes setting the enclosures up correctly for their specific habitats, feeding them in a way that they would eat in the wild and giving them enrichments which keep them occupied in finding their food or stretching, jumping, climbing, hiding, smelling just as they would in the wild.












We are not open to the general public enabling the sanctuary to be a peaceful environment for the cats and thus successful in breeding programmes. We have two handsome Snow Leopard Cubs born to Laila and Yarko last year and they have grown so fast!  Meet Khumbu and Koshi!















All our funding comes from generous donations from members of the sanctuary and the public and through personal experiences booked directly with the sanctuary.  These can include encounters with a hand feed, a ranger day which shadows one of the keepers during a typical day, photo workshops with our expert resident photographer, all for beginners through to experienced!  We also have lodges on site, which are for an overnight stay with all the trimmings and include very immersive tours of the cats.  A truly unforgettable bucket list experience!


The sanctuary also donates to a variety of conservation programmes to enhance their work and has outreach and in-house education programmes for children and schools to further the conservation message to the youngsters.


On a personal note I have worked on Front of house helping and welcoming all our experience holders and now have helped set up the new onsite shop and online shop. At present we are unable to open due to the current situation and rely on donations as the cats still need feeding and we all miss the cats greatly as the sanctuary is truly a family of devoted staff and volunteers.


You can find further information by visiting The Big Cat Sanctuary on Facebook or our website:  Thebigcatsanctuary.org.







Posted on 21st May, 2020

Do you provide care for somebody living in Kent and Medway?

Help to Care is a free mobile app designed to help you to spot the signs of a problem and find the right information and advice if you’re worried about someone’s health and wellbeing.

Download today on your app store to access:

·      Over 40 advice and guidance articles

·      Links to services to support you and the people you care for

·      Training videos on different conditions

Visit www.designandlearningcentre.com/overview-of-our-work/helptocare/ to find out more or download for free on your app store.


The day West Farleigh School closed...

Posted on 12th December, 2019
Wendy Butler sent in this lovely reminiscence, photo and letter (see Pip Wakefield's obituary by Tim Hill in "Friends and Neighbours" on this website). 
PS.  We'd love to hear any stories or school photos from other ex-pupils [editor@thefarleighs.co.uk].
Whilst my sisters and I were sorting out our late mums belongings we came across this photo. It was accompanied by a letter from Miss Wakefield and Miss Whittle (excerpts below).
Four out of five of us attended the school between 1966 and 1976 and all agree they were idyllic years.  Sitting by the pond in the summer making our tapestry pyjama cases.
Growing veg in our gardens. Competing to see who could get the straightest lines and sieving the soil like our lives depended on it!! Ready for the day our gardens were judged. 
Playing kiss chase on the playground and hanging like monkeys from the bars fixed to the wall, are they still there we are wondering. So many happy memories, I could go on and on :)
I don't know if there are any past pupils still living in the village. We lived in Charlton lane for around 25 years and whenever I visit Kent I always have a drive around the village and 
Best wishes
Excepts from the letter from Misses Wakefield and Whittle:


Posted on 19th October, 2019

A plea from local dog walkers……to all dog walkers


Please clean up after your dog.


The sheep fields in Charlton Lane have long been a facility for the football pitch and dog walkers. The Sports Club utilise the field to train youngsters and also to play local teams.  As dog walkers we are extremely grateful to those allowing us to walk our dogs here.  Our dogs can run freely and safely, and we feel safe due to the visibility and security of the fields.  Dog walking is a great social activity and many of us in West Farleigh have got to know one another by exercising our dogs.

Unfortunately, there are a small minority of dog owners who do not clear up after their dogs.  This is unacceptable for a number of reasons –

  • It can pose a health risk to those playing on the football pitch, especially children.
  • Crops can be ruined by dog faeces.
  • There are disease-causing bacteria and parasites in some dog faeces, and these can be passed on to sheep.
  • It is extremely unpleasant for anyone who happens to step on it.


Some might argue that dog faeces are ‘totally natural’ or that there is “no difference between sheep and dog poop”.  This is not the case.  Sheep are herbivores and their droppings can be made into manure, whereas dogs are carnivores. Dog waste is an environmental pollutant, and if it’s left on the grass it decays and bacteria will seep into the soil.

In response to reports by the Sports Club of dog waste being left on the football field, local dog walkers met to discuss the issue.  It was agreed unanimously that the disposal of bagged dog waste should not be the responsibility of a member of the Sports Club. Dog walkers should dispose of the bags themselves.  In an attempt to encourage all dog owners to clean up after their dogs, it was agreed that the dog walkers would provide signage and put an article in LifeLine and on the village Facebook page to this effect.  It was suggested that the Sports Club be approached, to see if they would consider securing some gaps to the fencing of the football field with chicken wire to prevent smaller unaccompanied dogs access to the pitch.


Back to the plea…….


It is a great spot to walk dogs, but now it’s become a case of pick it up and take it home, or we all lose the facility. So, please help…..



Sam Wilson, son of Megan and Chris Wilson of St Helens Lane, West Farleigh, has won a Bronze medal in the World Freestyle Canoe Championships.



The championship was held in Sort near the Spanish Pyrenees.

The finals were on the 4th July. Sam won his medal in his “Squirt Boat”.



A very flat canoe, which can be twisted, turned and rolled. Points are given for tricks, stunts and manoeuvres. like this!



Sam started canoeing in the Scouts, doing most of his early training at Yalding, gaining his BCU awards for canoeing. He is also a member of WAM  (White Water Action, Medway, also based at Yalding.





Now 22, he works and trains at the Lee Valley White Water Centre.



Congratulations Sam.



Kent Fallen

Posted on 22nd March, 2019

Remembrance Sunday - 11th November


At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month there will be a two minute silence to remember those who died in the First and Second World Wars.


As some of you may be aware and as previously mentioned in West Farleigh's Life Line, there is an extraordinary website called www.kentfallen.com which provides brief biographies of those who fell during both Wars, including where they grew up, their profession, family, and final resting place.


Once you have entered the Kent Fallen website, just click on the Search button and then enter your place of interest, for example West Farleigh, and the results will be returned.


Special thanks to everyone at Kent Fallen for their hard work in firstly collating the data and secondly for publishing it, not forgetting the efforts in maintaining the site.

Action Against Hunger Car Treasure Hunt

Posted on 28th February, 2019

Car Rally / Treasure Hunt

14thApril 2019



Action Against Hunger

My name is Sarah Hunter and I live in Charlton Lane, West Farleigh.  I am an undergraduate student at the University of Nottingham, studying architecture in my second year.  On top of my studies, this year I decided to join the society ‘Karnival’.  As part of this, I was presented with the opportunity to take on the challenge to climb up to Everest Base Camp, to raise money for Action Against Hunger.  I couldn’t say no!  So that is exactly what I am doing.

This September, I will be trekking 5,380m up Mount Everest.  However, I can only do this providing I raise £3,000 for Action Against Hunger.  They are such an amazing charity that so many people have never even heard of!  They save the lives of malnourished children.  They ensure that everyone can access clean water, food, training and healthcare.  They enable entire communities, in nearly 50 countries worldwide, to be free from hunger.

I am holding another event in West Farleigh to raise money.


Car Rally / Treasure Hunt - Sunday 14thApril 2019

Time:                   12noon 

Starting Point:    The Tickled Trout

Finishing Point:   Football Hut, Charlton Lane

Cost:                    £20 per car (maximum of 4 people per car)


There will be places to stop during the rally for refreshments.  At the end of the rally there will also be refreshments made available at the Football Hut.



Tickets must be purchased in advance. We may have to restrict the number of cars, so you are advised to book early to avoid disappointment.  As I am in Nottingham, please email or telephone/text my mum for tickets (email: janehunter01@gmail.comor 07928 036800). 


The car rally is not a race! It is intended to be a fun day for all the occupants of the car to take part and enjoy. 

There will be a raffle at the end of the rally. I know this is cheeky, but if anyone has an item they could donate for the raffle it would be greatly appreciated.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the quiz on 25thJanuary 2019.  An amazing £452.86 was raised – thank you so much.  In particular, I must thank Pete Hards for helping me with the quiz, and also Sue O’Donnell for her help at the church.

Finally, I do hope you will be able to join me at the car rally.  It should be a fun day for neighbours to meet up and it is for a really good cause.  I will notify the Farleighs website (www.thefarleighs.co.uk) with the starting point as soon as I have an idea of how many cars will be taking part.  I look forward to meeting you there.



Is 70 the new 50

Posted on 21st February, 2019

Is 70 the new 50?


Jacky Taylor has some thoughts…………….




 When I left the office for the last time in March 2014 – I hopped, skipped and jumped from Vauxhall to Victoria for my final commute. I had spent the most rewarding 25 years of my working life helping setting up and working at the National Literacy Trust an amazing charity which still goes from strength to strength, but it was now time to let it go.


I had plans to declutter my home, get more engaged with village life, be more proactive in the WI and generally be a nuisance to everyone I could, especially my husband who had retired two years previously and was leading quite a sedentary life at home, apart from tending his precious lawn that is.


Unfortunately, decluttering and housework are not at all appealing to me my desire to declutter after 5 years has made very little progress. I’ve filled a few recycling bins with clothe but still there is so much tucked away that I can’t face – a job for my children after my clogs have finally popped.


There is only so much housework one can do but I embraced having time to be more experimental with my cooking, something I have always enjoyed and continue to enjoy.


I did find that village life moves in circles throughout the year – and although I still really look forward to helping plan events I found I needed something to stretch my brain.  Luckily for me a regular in the Good Intent asked me if I could type! So I started doing bits and pieces of legal secretarial work for a local retired solicitor – a completely new area for me but one which I relished – and I got paid too.  Then my friend needed some help with her the book-keeping side of her business and before I knew it I was doing two small but rewarding pieces of work.


The WI side of my life got busier too as I undertook the Chairman’s role of the Hall Committee which I am very proud to say culminated in successfully applying for grants and a new kitchen was installed.


During this period, my husband contracted cancer and I felt that extra income may be useful if things didn’t work out well but I am delighted to say Ron has come out the other side. In the meantime, I some of my ‘home work’ seemed to be drying up so I thought if I can do this what else is there for me out there, so I put my CV on a recruitment website, not expecting to hear anything as an over 65.


Low and behold I got a phone call, would I be interested in a part-time role at an international security company based in Hermitage Lane. Would I – oh yes!


I was interviewed and duly offered the job. That was 3 years ago.  Yes, it did become a bit tiring but I knew that I had a decision to make.  I could still be involved with village life and give up work or I could cut down on my commitments in the village and continue to work, which is what I did. 


It has worked out really well, I have re-joined the choir, still help at village events and I am enjoying going to work.


I have even been offered the opportunity to help launch a new product at work which will benefit so many elderly people and their families.


Oh no its not all work and no play makes Jacky a dull girl. I have regular days out with the girls when anything can happen – normally involving alcohol and hot tubs, outings with my husband and so on.  I can honestly say, as I approach 69 – life is great and I hope to carry on working for another few years yet.





Posted on 18th February, 2019

This year being the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, in his latest article, Brian takes you there...




“AMERICA CAN’T DO A DAMN THING!” proclaimed a huge slogan on the hotel lobby wall. This, I subsequently learned, was a phrase coined by the then leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini himself, used in a speech of his and subsequently posted on walls and billboards around the country. I was on my first visit to Iran, in 1984, and on first sight I didn’t feel particularly welcome.
















A bit of background...























Forty years ago, on 1st February 1979 to be exact, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini flew into Tehran, Iran, on his return from late exile in France. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had fled the country a couple of weeks previously, his power having been completely undermined during months of revolutionary activity throughout Iran. He was a narcissist who occupied the ‘Peacock Throne’ and revelled in the title (amongst others) of “Shahanshah”, meaning King of Kings, which says a lot about his perspective on life. He had ruled Iran since 1941, presiding over an oil-rich country increasingly riven by corruption, his dynasty’s grip enforced by the feared secret police, the Savak.



















Shah Pahlavi 














    Ayotollah Khomeini


The Ayotollah, a man you could not imagine enjoying a good party, immediately set about forming a theocratic government, which was overtly hostile to the Western powers, in particular the United States. In November 1979, a group of Tehran students invaded the US embassy and took the occupants hostage. They were finally released in January 1981 following intense diplomatic efforts. Before this, in a bid to end the crisis, during April 1980 US President Jimmy Carter authorised operation Eagle Claw, which was devised to insert into the country American special forces who would raid the embassy and release the hostages.


Eagle Claw was a disaster. Eight Sea Stallion helicopters flying off from US aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf were to land in the desert some 850 kms from Tehran. The plan was for them to refuel and to fly on with the special force personnel to secure an airfield about 80 kms outside the capital, from where the troops would travel in vehicles to the embassy, snatch the hostages, return to the airfield and be evacuated by air to friendly territory.


However, two of the helicopters suffered mechanical failure in dust storms en route to the first landing point, and a third collided on the ground with the refuelling tanker aircraft, killing eight US servicemen. The mission was aborted before it had properly got under way. (Hence the “America can’t do a damn thing” slogan.) The hostages were dispersed after this attempt, and were only finally released through the diplomatic effort.












Disaster in the desert – operation Eagle Claw


In September 1980, Iraq invaded Iran. The resulting conflict was to last for eight years and claim hundreds of thousands of lives. At the end of it, each side declared victory. This was a mainly ground-based conflict, but escalating attacks were carried out against shipping in the Gulf (the “tanker war”), and also in the waterways leading to Iran’s main southern ports – Bandar Abbas and Bandar Shahpur, which had been renamed Bandar Imam Khomeini, and which was nearest to Tehran. It was at these ports that Iranian and foreign chartered ships endeavoured to land the imports, mainly foodstuffs such as wheat, corn and rice, but also steel and other building materials, and other cargoes vital to the war effort and indeed the country’s survival.




It was against this background that I first went to Iran, in 1984, and my visits continued over the ensuing five years. I was, frankly, apprehensive on first going there and my feelings were not improved when I checked into what was then the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Tehran and saw that slogan on the wall.


I had to stay several days in the hotel, awaiting the usual pass to get to where I was supposed to be working. (Bandar Imam Khomeini.) Pretty well all the Iranians I met were courteous, friendly and hospitable, as is the case, or so I’ve found, with people in most countries around the world. It seems invariably to be the authorities and the military who foul things up.


The hotel staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful and, one sensed, they were not wholly sympathetic to the incumbent religious government. They all seemed to have been working there since before the revolution, and when they got used to me, the restaurant waiters would play little games at mealtimes; hence, a question as to whether I fancied red or white wine that night meant, respectively, Pepsi or Sprite. They told me about the revolution, when the hotel was invaded by a religious mob and all alcoholic drinks were hurled out of the upper windows to smash on the pavement below. Wine, spirits, beer, the lot. What a mess that must have made from fourteen floors up. While they told me these stories, the staff would shake their heads in regret, but their eyes would cut about to check who was listening.




The reason I was in Iran was that ships laden with import cargoes had reportedly been hit by Iraqi missiles in the Khor Musa Channel, which led to Bandar Imam Khomeini (BIK). The ships always proceeded in convoy, protected to some extent by the Iranian navy. Information as to the whereabouts and fate of ships which had been hit, and their crews, was sparse or non-existent, and the London marine underwriters who had appointed me needed to know something of the situation with their insured vessels.


To get to BIK, I had first to fly to the nearest domestic airport, and then get overland transport. Prior to boarding the domestic flight in Tehran, my and everyone else’s luggage was thoroughly dismantled and searched by the Revolutionary Guards (“Pasdaran”) manning security. My razor was confiscated, so from then on I went unshaven, thus blending in better with the bearded Pasdars.


BIK then was a pretty dreary place, situated at the head of the Persian Gulf. It was originally a railhead connecting with Tehran, and it had grown in importance if not in aesthetics as one of the principal ports. It seemed safe enough, although at night you could see a lot of anti-aircraft fire in the distance. The war front was about sixty kilometres distant to the west.


Over the next few days, I and other surveyors and assorted personnel went by launch down the Khor Musa channel to locate and inspect the ships which had been attacked. The three of interest to my particular principals, we found one by one, all anchored, with their accommodation burned out. The gossip was that the missiles used by the Iraqis were French Exocets, radar guided, or Chinese origin types equipped with heat-seeking guidance.


The ships had been all struck in their after structure, which included the engine room and some fuel tanks, crew cabins, messrooms and the navigation bridge, presenting the greatest radar target and which also emitted heat from the funnel. Consequently, crew (frequently Filipino) fatalities and burn injuries were numerous. Because the damage was aft, away from the cargo holds, the cargo itself was usually untouched and once the fires had been extinguished and the dead and injured evacuated, the Iranian authorities got busy towing the disabled ships to the port for discharge. I never found out the fate of the poor crews – BIK didn’t seem the sort of place that would host a state of the art hospital.


The authorities were extremely touchy about sending news of the ships’ whereabouts and condition, since this could have afforded the Iraqi enemy valuable intelligence. This was of course before the days of the common use of mobile phones, so I and all the others had to use a phone located in the local post office, which meant queuing for hours and then trying to get across at least minimal information down a dodgy line which was almost certainly tapped.


Prior to leaving London, I and my office colleagues had developed a simple code for use in just such circumstances: for instance, to say “It’s hot out here” meant the ship was burned out; “Feeling knackered” meant it was sunk, and so on. The ship’s location, expressed in degrees of latitude and longitude was read out as a cricket score, because we figured that cricket is so abstruse that no-one in Iran would understand that. (On one occasion, our London office manager, who was not the brightest star in the firmament, picked up the phone and when I said “I’ve got some cricket scores for you”, he said over the open line: “Oh yes, that’ll be the ship’s position then”, which gave me a minor heart attack.)


Some of the defensive measures adopted by the ship’s crews were interesting. One such was planned and constructed by the German officers of a particular bulk carrier. They were convinced that the incoming missiles were all heat-seeking, so had built a huge structure of scaffolding poles (God knows where they got them) around the funnel, connected to a nearby deck fire hydrant. The pipes had been drilled with hundreds of half-inch holes, so when the fire main was turned on, cooling water cascaded in all directions around the funnel, supposedly cancelling out the exhaust heat. Well, it was spectacular and they never got hit.




I paid several visits to Iran over the next few years, on appointments which took me back to BIK, and the ports of Bushehr and Bandar Abbas. Over the years, the list of contacts built up and so did some degree of familiarity with the system and the politics. The overt hostility of the authorities toward the west waxed and waned, depending to a large extent on what the USA was up to.


One of the downsides was that at the end of a long day, you couldn’t get hold of a cold beer. However, folks being what they are, an active black market in smuggled and locally produced alcohol had developed. A peculiar feature of this market was the presence of the Armenian Christians, a powerful minority sect, who had applied to the Islamic Court for permission to manufacture sacramental wine, which, to everyone’s amazement, was granted. Consequently, the Armenians became the biggest producers of bootleg booze, which was available if you knew the right man.


During one of the ‘lenient’ periods, I flew into Tehran with a duty free bottle of scotch, in my bag, which I didn’t attempt to conceal. The customs officials turned it up and told me that import of alcohol was not allowed and that I could either turn it in against a receipt and claim it on the way out, or I could witness it being poured away. I couldn’t see, practically speaking, being able to reclaim the bottle, so opted for the latter course. I was taken to a side room, where the officers ceremoniously opened the cap and poured the contents down a metal sink set against the wall. I have been convinced ever since that there was a pipe leading from the plughole through the wall, and into a bucket that someone was holding on the other side.


What the customs did not twig was that some chocolates, a gift for a friend, that they found in my bag and waved through, were a liqueur selection. So I suppose it was a minor victory of sorts.




On one trip I had to meet with a departmental manager of the National Iranian Tanker Company, to deal with a claim on one of their ships which was insured in London. It was a matter of negotiating a reasonable settlement.


It was an amicable meeting. We got a bit stuck on the settlement figure, but, he said, the thing could be resolved if I could assist him on something. I anticipated a veiled demand for a bribe of some sort, so was surprised when he told me that he took an evening English class at Tehran University and, since I was British, could I deliver a lecture to his students. This would certainly assist the insurance settlement process.


“Not a problem” said I, panicking slightly. “When would this be?”

“Tonight” he said, and I could have sworn there was a flicker of amusement in his eyes. And the subject?

“What about.....a short history of England?” he said. I was now sure that he was having trouble containing his laughter.


Having agreed to do it, I got away as soon as I decently could, and made a beeline for our agent’s office. I knew he had a reference library of sorts, and to my relief found an ancient encyclopedia. I sat down and composed a history of England from 1066 to the present day, all in two hours flat, to be delivered in the space of about twenty minutes.  


That evening I was whisked by car to Tehran University and taken to the class, in which I delivered a somewhat incoherent and truncated lecture. The students looked a bit nonplussed, but as it turned out they mainly wanted to practice their English conversation. And a very charming bunch they were.


The upshot was that the insurance claim was amicably settled, and I can state with absolute truth, should anyone ask, that I have lectured at Tehran University.




Tehran traffic and the congestion and pollution it caused could vie for the world record. Taxis were hard to flag down and those that stopped invariably had passengers already seated in them. You saw little knots of pedestrians clutched together in the middle of the road, surrounded by swerving cars, desperately shouting and waving at passing cabs. Our agent told me in all seriousness (well, I think it was – Iranians of the more secular persuasion have a wicked sense of humour) that prior to the revolution, an American study had concluded that the traffic congestion was down to too many vehicles carrying messages from one office to the other, because the landline phone system didn’t function properly. Ergo, if the phone problems could be fixed then that would cure the traffic jams.



















Tehran traffic


 Looking at this recent stock photo of Tehran, it looks as though the advent of mobile phones hasn’t done the trick, so that American study must have been flawed. One thing I’m convinced of is that Jimmy Carter’s attempted rescue of the American hostages would never have worked because the special forces’ convoy would have got irretrievably clogged up in traffic.




My last visit to Iran was in 1989. The preceding year had seen the war with Iraq peter out with neither side having gained much if anything, but with a massive drain on lives and material. Since that conflict, as we all know, the Iranian government has turned its attention to foreign intervention in Syria and latterly in its old enemy Iraq. Iran, principally Shia Muslim, is locked in bitter rivalry for regional dominance with its Sunni Muslim neighbour, Saudi Arabia. The destruction of Israel remains official policy. The everyday lives of the ordinary people have been immeasurably affected for the worse by the haemorrhaging of resources to military adventures, and by international sanctions that bite very deeply indeed. There have been street protests and riots, savagely put down by the Revolutionary Guards whose influence over the years extends to whole swathes of domestic industries and interests through shell company ownership.


As far as I can see, life for the citizens has not improved since I was there, and no doubt in very many ways it has got worse. The people I met and engaged with, who became friends in many cases, were well educated, courteous, helpful and good-humoured; but it’s a salutary thought that they have now been supplanted by a generation that, even if born in the very year of the Shah’s abdication and the revolution, is now middle aged and has experienced nothing but the authoritarian government instituted by Ayatollah Khomeini all those decades ago.




Brian Cushing

18 February 2019