On 30th April 2016 over 80 cyclists, walkers and runners met for the third annual Catha’s Seat Picnic on National Cycle Route 18 near Chilham. Whilst eating their lunches at this peaceful, rural spot the gathered were treated to music from fantastic local 9-piece band Ashford Folk Community and witnessed the launch of the Catha’s Seat Cycling Awards; a grant scheme with fund of £500 open to local groups, schools and individuals to support projects that encourage safety and increased use of Route 18 between Ashford and Canterbury.
|Cyclists set off from Wye to the 3rd Annual Catha's Seat Picnic|
|Ashford Folk Community entertain the picnickers|
Patrick Keegan, Awards Officer for the Catha’s Seat Group, launched the awards scheme, encouraging local community groups, schools and individuals to register their interest and submit ideas via the website www.cathas-seat.org/awards by 31st May 2016. During his address, he recognised the huge contribution - over many years - of the numerous local campaigners and organisations (including Spokes and Sustrans) that have pushed to make, so far, nearly half of this 17-mile section of route 18 ‘traffic free’, at the same time extending gratitude to the landowners and local authorities. He restated national cycling charity Sustrans’ original goal that these routes should offer the safety levels needed to allow school children and their parents, also commuters, to feel comfortable using it daily for sustainable and healthy transport.
|Patrick Keegan launches the Catha's Seat Cycling Awards|
With the back roads in the area becoming busier and more dangerous Patrick set out the vision that everyone should continue pushing to make route 18 between Ashford and Canterbury 100% ‘traffic free’. He was keen to receive ideas towards these safety goals but also highlighted other examples for the awards to encourage use, such as parent / child cycle events or organisations that provide specialist equipment and training for the disabled to use the route.
Earlier in the day, Patrick and fellow Catha’s Seat Group member Jane Blatt started the Group’s own safety campaign on the roads out of Wye by alerting motorists to the fact they were on a national cycle route, and thanking them for driving carefully. Of the 20 cars that stopped to chat, very few were aware they were on a cycle route, and agreed that a ‘traffic free’ alternative should be sought, but in the meantime better signage and awareness raising was imperative.
Awards winners will be announced in September this year and mark your calendars for next year’s picnic on 29th April 2017 where their achievements will be showcased. www.cathas-seat.org will have all the details and you can register on the website to receive updates directly to your email inbox.
If you can’t wait that long then why not plan a picnic of your own – just type “Catha’s Seat” into Google Maps to find a route.
|Patrick Keegan and Jane Blatt alert motorists in Wye that they are driving on National Cycle Route 18|
About Catha’s Seat:
Catha’s Seat is named after Catharine 'Catha' Keegan, a dedicated cycling campaigner who lived in Wye and who was involved in planning the Ashford to Canterbury section of National Cycle Route 18 before sadly passing away in 1998. Her mission was to create safer cycling routes and encourage their use, so Catha's Seat and the annual picnic provide opportunities for everyone to discover or re-discover this route as well as the joys of cycling and walking in the glorious Kentish countryside.
Catha’s Seat was developed by her son Nick and husband Patrick, and has been supported by Kent County Council, Ashford Borough Council, Godmersham Parish Council, Chilham Parish Council, Councillor Andrew Wickham and over 70 private donors. Catha’s Seat was built by ARC Creative Design.