15 May 2019

Wine Appreciation Group One

Wine Group Travels the World

Well, it's not quite as the title suggests but that was the theme for the evening. Hosted by Stephen and Mary, members of Wine Group One had the opportunity to taste seven excellent wines from all over the world. It was organised in the form of a fun quiz with participants pairing up, tasting the wines and guessing where they came from. Sounds simple but who can be knowledgeable about the whole world's wines?

Argentinian Clues
So we had to be helped along the way in the form of a musical clue followed by a choice of up to three other clues. A correct answer gave each pair fifty points but each clue reduced that total by ten points. If all three clues were used, the maximum points would be twenty. A simple concept  but challenging for some in the group despite audio visual prompts. Well, it wasn't an intellectual challenge or even a wine knowledge challenge but simply that we know each other so well after twenty five or so monthly meetings that the laughter and the hilarity got in the way. And that is even before we had tasted a drop of wine!

Keeping the score
Eventually, the group got the hang of it with some recognising some of the musical clues or at least with it being "on the tip of their tongue" and others getting a little frustrated by the clues. All neatly folded by Mary, the clues were all true but some would not be helpful at all, others would point the pair in the right direction and a few would be so obvious that a decision could be made easily. One pair seemed to get only useless clues and another failed to recognise Big Ben as an obvious clue for English wines. All of this caused even greater merriment. I need to say at this point that it wasn't the wine causing the fun, (but maybe it helped) but the randomness of the luck of the draw with the three optional clues. The answers were given in the form of another more obvious musical piece.

Musical Clues
The food was also loosely linked to the country with Gougeres for France and Croquetas de Jamon for Argentina and Felafel and Houmous for Lebanon. The musical clues stretched the imagination in some cases with one example being The Wombles of Wimbledon Common being the clue for Bulgaria. I'll leave you to work that one out. The winning pair, Paddy and Peter E, were well deserved victors, having listened more carefully to the music and perhaps also having a few more useful clues than others. However, their skill in recognising a Lebanese Red (the most expensive wine of the evening) made them worthy champions.

And now for the wines.........

12 May 2019

Garden Group One

Growing Fruit and Veg
May 2019

We were extremely fortunate to have a lovely day which meant we were able to sit out in Victoria and Paddy’s lovely garden, and thanks go to them both for hosting this meeting. Thanks also go to John Allbutt for taking the time to give us the benefit of his expertise.

We started with a general discussion around garden management. The latest scientific report pointed out that we are in danger of losing a substantial amount of insects, they are vital in the eco system even if we don’t welcome all in amongst our fruit, veg and flowers. It helps if we can avoid using pesticides where possible, and by encouraging birds into our gardens that eat aphids, slugs and snails and insects also, such as ladybirds and lacewings, we will be using nature’s own controls.

John emphasised the importance of putting out food for birds between Oct-May as this is when the birds need most support as for part of this period they are feeding their young as well as themselves.

Slug pellets are dangerous to hedgehogs and Victoria and Sally are trying the wool pellets and will give us feedback on their effectiveness at our next meeting. John also talked about the change in gardening/farming/highway/public place management and how attitudes had changed over the years moving from keeping all trimmed and neat and tidy to allowing roadway verges to flower and grow wilder, with the same in public places. Also the move towards meadows in larger gardens and to more insect friendly plants in smaller ones to aid our insect, bee and bird populations.

There was discussion around log piles which encourage grass snakes and slow worms and also Queen wasps which can lodge inside split logs, and the necessity to use gloves when taking up logs for your own safety. Slow worms are a protected species.

As we have clay soil in this area, gardening can be difficult as when in a dry spell the ground is rock hard but becomes very muddy when there is heavy rainfall.  We can help the ground by using a lot of well composted material (never use uncomposted material as can be detrimental to your garden), gradually digging this in to a depth of 4-6inches. Dress two times a year this will slowly improve the growing medium. Also mulch constantly as this will suppress weeds and hold in moisture. It is best not to put manure straight onto the garden but instead incorporate it into your compost heap to allow it to be well rotted down. When managing your own compost heap it would be well to invest in a garden thermometer and test by inserting into the middle of the heap. When it reaches 60-65 degrees turn the compost, and water if gets too dry. You can buy compost from Sevenoaks Council (see their website). This is useful for small gardens when you cannot compost.

If investing in fruit trees John’s advice is to buy from an actual grower - not garden centres. Growers develop root stocks that are suitable for different soils. You will need to get trees that complement each other to allow pollination to take place to enable fruiting. Growers will ask questions about your locality, soil type etc. and will advise on the best species for your garden or allotment. A really excellent one is ‘Keepers Nursery’ they have a website for more details. One apple that does not do well on clay is Cox’s. There are some that are self-fertile, but again a specialist grower will give the best advice.

When planting trees make sure that the graft is above the soil and allow a grass free area around it to encourage growth. You can also cage to protect the sapling. Dwarf trees will fruit normally within three years. Big trees take longer to grow and bear fruit. In the first 3-4yrs. Prune hard back to fruit spur. This produces fruiting wood. Prune in late July about two thirds back and harder pruning in winter, Jan/Feb. Never prune plums in winter as they will die.

Vegetables can be grown in the ground, tubs, troughs and pots. For most we can produce enough veg for personal use in a 6ft by 3ft plot. Raised beds are good also. Can rotate radishes and lettuce and when harvested can re-sow. Peas and beans can be prepared in advance and therefore can be sown in autumn in freshly manured ground. Cabbages and Broccoli hate manure so ensure to fertilise the soil the year before. Never sow brassicas in freshly manured ground. Parsnips and carrots need to be planted in deep soil, trick is to use a wooden pole to punch a deep hole sprinkle in some loose soil and place 3 parsnip seeds. When these grow thin out the weakest. They will grow straight down. Can grow these in a drum to encourage straight growth.

Brassicas when they have finished cut down and cut across the stump, feed with dried blood and you will get a crop of spring greens. Blackcurrant and gooseberries, cutting out older stems will allow better growth.

We were also given some advice on flowers. Rambling roses remove old flowering wood straight to bottom to allow fresh growth. Can summer prune bush roses after flowering as this will encourage with a later vigorous growth. Mock Orange, cut back and take out old stems. Azaleas and rhododendrons don’t prune. There are many shrubs that you don’t prune, it would need investigation on each to be sure. Winter flowering honeysuckle, tie down shoots to encourage flowering along the stem.

John recommended 3 books;-     RHS Fruit Garden Displayed.
                                                    RHS Veg Garden Displayed (older book)
                                                    Michael Pollock. Veg/Fruit Gardening.

30 April 2019

Appreciating Architecture Group

New Style for Appreciating Architecture Group

The Architecture Group has experienced a Phoenix event! After several years of using it as an excuse for visiting loads of interesting buildings, some with more architectural merit than others, we realised that our knowledge of the subject was not noticeably increasing! The Group has now been restructured to correct this and after deciding that it would help to work through a time line, the Saxon and Norman periods were the topic. Members researched the subject and all aspects were discussed, not only the features of the religious, secular and military buildings but also the social history surrounding their construction.

The group intends to hold a mixture of ‘classroom’ sessions supplemented with site visits to see examples of the various styles when appropriate. At future meetings we intend to discuss many aspects of the subject, not only the various styles  but individual architects, influences from other parts of the world, both ancient and modern and anything else of relevance that we discover whilst reading up on the subject!

Meetings from May 2019 onwards

If you would like to know more about this fascinating subject do come and join us! The next meeting is at 2.15 on Tuesday 28th May in the small room at Westerham Hall when we will be highlighting the Gothic style, beginning with Early English and Decorative. Apologies if you cannot manage this date. From July, meetings will be held on the third Tuesday afternoon of the month.

Science and Technology

Science and Technology Change of Date and Topic

Just a reminder that our scheduled meeting for the 1st May has been deferred to Wednesday 8th May, as the Hall is not available on that date. So usual place usual time of 3.00pm just deferred a week.

Unfortunately this has required a re-scheduling of the Topic. Instead of Artificial Intelligence, we have had to bring the June talk forward. It will now be Space Developments. 

Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know if you plan to attend.


Smart Group

Next Smart Group Meeting 13th May

The next Smart Group meeting will be at 2pm on Monday 13th May 
at HFT, Phillipines Close TN8 5GN.
Details of topics  to follow.  If there is anything you would like to do, please let me know.


29 April 2019

Short Walks

April Short Walk in Staffhurst Woods

We had a very pleasant walk on April 24th through Staffhurst Woods. The walk was led by Diana assisted by Cathy. Diana knows the woods extremely well and was expert at leading us along the maze of footpaths without getting lost! Cathy was the admin adviser, listing those who put their names on the list, ticking them off on arrival and, very importantly, making the arrangements for lunch.

We had decided that we should have to limit the numbers on the walk to 15. This was done on a 'first come first served basis' and was done so because of limited parking, taking into account that there was going to be another group meeting at the same limited size car park. In the event there was also a Ramblers group also meeting there.

The walk was just over three miles. April was chosen for this walk through Staffhurst Woods as it is a prime area for bluebells.. We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience, with the bluebells contrasting so well with the pale green of the new beech leaves, so attractive early in the season.

Those of us who stayed enjoyed a good lunch at the The Grumpy Mole.

Many thanks to Diana and Cathy for a very enjoyable morning.