Catha's Seat

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The story of how the Catha's Seat community came together to secure £1,000 grant from Ashford Borough Council's Single Grants Gateway

During the launch event for the new section of Route 18 back on 31st May 2013 I briefly met Ashford Borough Council's (ABC) Deputy Leader Michael Claughton, and left him with a copy of our flyer. As he arrived for the event on a bike I felt compelled to write him a letter to ask if the ABC could support Catha's Seat. Mum had put a considerable amount of effort into ABC consultations including the Ashford Local Plan and so it seemed like there was something there.

I set to work on writing a letter that explained background to Mum's work and what we were looking to do to celebrate it and promote cycling. To get the facts I enlisted help from Sue Powell (one of Mum's closest friends in Wye and a colleague on many of the Wye planning groups), Catherine Hughes (previously a planner at ABC when Mum was on the scene) and Sheila.

Upon reading my letter Cllr Claughton responded promptly and guided me to the Single Grants Gateway and the Council's funding officer Michelle Byrne.

Michelle was very helpful and explained the hoops through which we would have to jump. There were quite a lot of criteria and I thought it was a long shot at the time but considering Michelle's positivity for the project I thought it was worth a punt. So then we embarked on a journey....... 

  1. We weren't going to get anywhere without becoming a bona fide community group with a constitution and a community bank account so Alex Gow, Dad and I agreed the paperwork and rocked into Ashford to set up an account - it took Dad over 10 attempts to get his arty signature in the box!
  2. An initial expression of interest form got us through the front door with the Grant scheme, which unlocked a more comprehensive application document. I was glad for the practice I had in my professional life completing submissions for public sector tenders!
  3. You need support from the local Borough Councillor so I finally built up courage to speak with Cllr Doug Marriott. I had been nervous about approaching figures in positions like these - you only have one shot, what if they don't like it? Doug turned out to be a fantastic person, very easy to talk to and already a supporter of Route 18. He also is a mover and shaker in my preferred professional circle of energy efficiency so we had plenty to chat about. He promptly gave his seal of approval to the project and I ploughed on refuelled with confidence.
  4. Written letters of support are also needed from the local Parish Councils (PCs) - after explaining the project, Chilham and Godmersham PCs kindly gave their backing. I was even able to join Godmersham's meeting to give a short talk.
  5. After submitting Michelle came back to me very promptly to say that we had been successful in applying for a £1,000 grant towards the costs of Catha's Seat and that the funds would be transferred on receipt of the final invoice. As I wanted to tell the full story when publicising I am ashamed to say that, with starting my new job at the same time, I have sat on this golden news since 1st October - sorry readers!
I feel that this was one of the most valuable processes in the whole campaign. Not only is the money vital but the support and reach we have been able to achieve has taken it to another dimension. All these groups have now invested in Catha's Seat so it is really a community owned and approved project. Even though it has been challenging and took time to get through I couldn't be happier with this outcome.

The Board of the Catha's Seat Group agree its constitution

I would like to thank Cllr Michael Claughton, Michelle Byrne, Cllr Doug Marriott, Caroline Spencer and the members of Godmersham PC, Geoff Dear and the members of Chilham PC, as well as Sue Powell, Catherine Hughes and Sheila Webb for their support with the content and Alex Gow and Dad for forming the first Board of the Catha's Seat Group. 

Thanks also goes out to all of you that are supporting the project - your involvement, donors and readers alike, was recognised in the submission to show what we are made of. This is a community project, made to benefit the community and recognise the work of the members of our community that have facilitated our fantastic cycle routes.

What a team effort. Thank you.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Catha's Seat - planting for the hive of activity

Spring has sprung up at Catha's Seat! 

Friends and contributors to Catha's Seat, Piers and Jadie who work for Natural England and the Woodland Trust respectively have created a bee-licious offering, planting the following to reinstate the hedge / tree corridor behind the seats:

·       Guelder Rose – Viburnum opulus
·       Wayfaring Tree – Viburnum lantana
·       Whitebeam – Sorbus aria
·       Wild Rose
·       Apple Queen Cox
·       Apple – Sunrise
·       Cherry – Sweeheart

Many thanks to them for this and for humping the plants up there from the A28 in a wheelbarrow! I look forward to sitting up there in the Autumn enjoying the most locally sourced fruit I can find! 

....and it's not just the bees, Catha's Seat is already a hive of activity with cyclists and walkers. If you haven't visited yet, what are you waiting for!!?

Shelia Webb, inspiration for Catha's Seat and avid supporter throughout the project, takes her first visit with a small group, only to find that there is a hive of activity at their destination!!
Sheila was joined by Rachel, local handcyclist and cycle campaigners from Cambridge "You Can Bike Too" - check them out on twitter (@youcanbike2) [while you are on twitter why not follow @cathasseat as well!
Ruth from You Can Bike Too spots that the Catha's Seat Launch on 3rd May is already hitting the news! Featured in the Kentish Gazette
Phil Rutt from ARC Creative Design (the man who drew the Artist's Impression for Catha's Seat as well as many other things) visits Catha's Seat with his wife for a picnic. They went from Hythe to Wye, then to Catha's Seat for lunch, onto Chartham and then followed the old route 18 back to Sole Street across Stone Street to Stelling Minnis and back to Hythe.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Catha's Seat Installation - Day 3 (Nearly There!) - Photos

Day 3 on site at Catha's Seat and the meat of the work is done. Both seats are in the ground, a fresh covering of ragstone dust on the ground and the boards that retain the earth around the site are all in place.

The team will return to site at their next opportunity to attach the arms, finish and oil the wood, and fit the all important plaque.

See the latest photos below but better still get on your bike, or get your walking boots on and go and give Catha's Seat a test drive as soon as you can. Take a friend, take a snack and a drink, your favourite book or a newspaper. Don't let Catha's Seat get lonely!

Customers! - a group of walkers visit Catha's Seat

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Hand crafted - Jason sculpts the curve in the backrest of Seat #1

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The plaque - soon to be fitted

After three hard days on the trot the team get a chance to sit down (swiftly followed by a well deserved beer!). Many thanks to the team from Arc Creative Design for their hard graft and craftsmanship.

Catha's Seat - nearly there!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Catha's Seat Installation - Day 2 - Photos

I was delighted to be on site today as Chris and the team from ARC Creative Design pulled out the stops for another long day to get seat #2 in.

Morning view
After a gap of 700mm between seats is agreed work starts on #2
Jason - the wood sculptor
And then there were two!

Eliza and I road test Seat #1

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Catha's Seat Installation - Day 1 - Photos

Installation started successfully today, spring sprung and our frontline photographer (dad!) was on site to capture the action...

And they're off!
7am to 7pm - no 9 to 5 when you have a good weather window!
Putting together the Jigsaw

Day 1 - Bench 1 In the Ground!