Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Foodbank, a network of emergency food provision, has reported a 100% increase in the number of people it has fed in this country in the last year. This is not surprising considering that 13 million people now live below the poverty line in the UK and the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition wages war on the most vulnerable in society.

There are 250 Foodbanks nationwide and here in East Sussex there are centres in Eastbourne, Hailsham and Hastings, with two more planned in Bexhill and Heathfield. The scheme is run by the Trussell Trust, an organisation working to combat poverty and exclusion. That they are a Christian charity should not put anyone off: in a climate of aggressive government policy against the needy, where there is a deliberate will to remove the safety net of the welfare state from millions, Foodbanks are providing an important lifeline for people in crisis.

Where a Foodbank is established, food is donated by individuals, businesses and local organisations. Collections are also made at supermarkets where shoppers are asked to buy an extra item or two. Volunteers then check that food is in date and pack it into boxes ready for people in need. Professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers and Citizens’ Advice Bureau staff identify people in crisis and issue them with a voucher that can be redeemed for three days emergency food. Some Foodbanks also run a rural delivery service, which takes emergency foodboxes to clients living in rural areas who cannot afford to get to a centre.

Mostly, Foodbanks are being used by the working poor, the unemployed and the elderly who need to bridge the gap until the next payday, benefit or pension payment. And it’s not just about food: if Foodbanks keep people away from the clutches of so called ‘payday loan’ companies and their ensnaring rates of interest, they must be a good thing.

If you want to donate or volunteer, or are in need of help yourself, local Foodbanks can be found through or at the following locations in East Sussex:

Sheriff Place
Rear of Link Shop
1 George Street
BN27 1AD
01323 844428

Albury House
1 Cornfield Lane
BN21 4NE
01323 409925

The Hastings Centre
The Ridge
TN34 2SA
07970 810008

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The long running saga of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) looks to be coming to a sorry end as construction of this pointless road is now due to begin, cutting a swathe through Combe Haven Valley.

Following the process of local consultation in 2004 and a public enquiry in 2009, the current government is now making the scheme happen with approval of the compulsory purchase of the land and George Osborne's decision to contribute £56m towards the project. The Hastings Alliance, the campaign group formed to oppose the BHLR, failed earlier this month in its High Court application for a judicial review of the government's funding decision, and now construction is due to start in January of next year.

Building a meandering road through the countryside to link two towns that sit next to each other on the coast would appear to be utter folly. East Sussex County Council, however, is insistent that the road is essential for the regeneration of the towns as it would open up greenfield areas around North Bexhill and Hastings for new housing and business developments and would relieve the congested and polluted A259.

Improving existing housing in the two towns is a more worthwhile and job-creating investment, and any new business parks would struggle to be viable without greater stimulus to the wider local economy. And the Council should be aiming to create less traffic through improved public transport, not simply spreading it around and probably creating more.

The Hastings Alliance is supported by a range of well-known charities such as Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Future opposition to the scheme would seem to lie outside of the formal process and these genteel campaigners; it will now fall to pressure groups the Combe Haven Defenders and Bexhill Link Road Resistance to toughen up opposition. Such crass road building is sending a chill wind from the recent past blowing through the Combe Haven Valley and also with it, perhaps, the spirit of the eco-warriors of the 1990s. Come January, direct action may be the only way to block this road.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

National Poetry Day


GOD gave all men all earth to love,
But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Belovèd over all;
That, as He watched Creation’s birth,
So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,
As one some Surrey glade,
Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament
Before Levuka’s Trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

No tender-hearted garden crowns,
No bosomed woods adorn
Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,
But gnarled and writhen thorn—
Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,
And, through the gaps revealed,
Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,
Blue goodness of the Weald.

Clean of officious fence or hedge,
Half-wild and wholly tame,
The wise turf cloaks the white cliff edge
As when the Romans came.
What sign of those that fought and died
At shift of sword and sword?
The barrow and the camp abide,
The sunlight and the sward.

Here leaps ashore the full Sou’west
All heavy-winged with brine,
Here lies above the folded crest
The Channel’s leaden line;
And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,
And here, each warning each,
The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring
Along the hidden beach.

We have no waters to delight
Our broad and brookless vales—
Only the dewpond on the height
Unfed, that never fails—
Whereby no tattered herbage tells
Which way the season flies—
Only our close-bit thyme that smells
Like dawn in Paradise.

Here through the strong and shadeless days
The tinkling silence thrills;
Or little, lost, Down churches praise
The Lord who made the hills:
But here the Old Gods guard their round,
And, in her secret heart,
The heathen kingdom Wilfrid found
Dreams, as she dwells, apart.

Though all the rest were all my share,
With equal soul I’d see
Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,
Yet none more fair than she.
Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,
And I will choose instead
Such lands as lie ’twixt Rake and Rye,
Black Down and Beachy Head.

I will go out against the sun
Where the rolled scarp retires,
And the Long Man of Wilmington
Looks naked toward the shires;
And east till doubling Rother crawls
To find the fickle tide,
By dry and sea-forgotten walls,
Our ports of stranded pride.

I will go north about the shaws
And the deep ghylls that breed
Huge oaks and old, the which we hold
No more than Sussex weed;
Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s
Begilded dolphin veers
And red beside wide-bankèd Ouse
Lie down our Sussex steers.

So to the land our hearts we give
Till the sure magic strike,
And Memory, Use, and Love make live
Us and our fields alike—
That deeper than our speech and thought,
Beyond our reason’s sway,
Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
Yearns to its fellow-clay.

God gives all men all earth to love,
But since man’s heart is small,
Ordains for each one spot shall prove
Beloved over all.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

Rudyard Kipling (1902)