By: Peter Clements
Ever since the Crab and Winkle way was opened to the public I’d had the idea of producing a woodcarving of some kind to put up at the entrance to the off-road section of the NCN 1 in Whitstable.
I had no idea whether such a thing would be allowed by the ‘powers that be’ and presumably I’d need to draft an initial proposal. The trouble was, I had so many ideas about what to include and the longer this went on, the more unlikely it seemed that I would actually get something completed on the scale I had in mind.
There were four connected themes that I felt were important to represent:
- the original use of the Whitstable to Canterbury route as the world’s first passenger carrying railway
- the change of transport mode to that of walkers and cyclists
- the ‘Crab and Winkle’ nickname fondly used by locals of previous generations
- a slightly tongue in cheek ‘seaside postcard’ element
While the original idea was to include all of these in a large scale single oak carving, I soon realised this would have been a too large an undertaking and I wondered if it would ever become a reality or remain just an idea. To actually get started, I thought the best thing to do would be to try a small section from part of a chestnut log obtained from nearby woods. The idea for the method of relief carving into the face of a round log came from a Canterbury woodcarver who had hollowed out a niche into tree stump in a park, with a figure crouched within it. This was very large scale, having been roughed out with a chainsaw then finished with carving tools so mine, to be produced in my shed, was to be far smaller in comparison.
After consultation with the Crab and Winkle Trust, it was agreed that the carving could be fixed to the stile provided it was not wider than the 15cm rail to which it would be attached. First I had to split the chestnut log into sections using metal wedges revealing the sweet smelling wet timber inside which was then flattened with an adze and a handplane. Next, an elliptical shape was into the bark with a smaller elliptical raised panel onto which the design was transferred using carbon paper. The design was in turn carved with gouges and chisels.
The completed carving was approved and then attached to the stile at South Street. It proved to be quite popular with the public so a second almost identical one followed shortly afterwards. The ‘cheeky seaside postcard’ idea came to be a reality about a year later using the same methods as above. I really liked the idea of a cyclist being pursued by an angry crab pinching the cyclist’s bottom! It seemed appropriate that the crab would appear to be chasing the cyclist away from the Whitstable seaside. From the other direction then, what about a cyclist being chased by Stevenson’s ‘Invicta’ locomotive? These themes are now represented in the second pair of carvings which are now in position at the other stile further inland at Blean.
I’m glad to have been able to contribute to this well- used and popular section of the NCN 1 on which I am a volunteer ranger. The carving project was really enjoyable and worthwhile and the first two carvings have weathered nicely and now blend in well and look as if they’ve always been there. I think the project has succeeded in combining old and new uses of the route with a humorous element that will be associated with the traditional coastal town.
We had a very successful day clearing out the south portal of the Tyler Hill tunnel on May 17th. There was a great turnout and it was lovely to see some new faces. The portal, a listed building, is on private property and has been beautifully restored by the land owner. The tunnel is now home to bats so we also needed permission and supervision of a licensed bat expert. Many thanks to everyone who helped out.
Saturday 3rd of May was the Crab and Winkle Line’s 184th anniversary. To celebrate we organised a clear-up of the embankment between Clare Road and Station Road in Whitstable. There was a good turn out and we managed to remove all of the litter and all of the larger fly-tipped items by our scheduled finished time. Serco took a pile of rubbish around midday. We made a second pile which has now also been removed, the cans and bottles are to be re-cycled. A number residents from the immediate vicinity helped out alongside Crab and Winkle Line Trust members and trustees. A big thanks to all that were involved, the area has been greatly improved.
Today we met with Phil Harrison from BBC Radio Kent at the Penny Farthing on the Invicta Way, part of the Crab and Winkle Way. Phil rode with us to Canterbury to meet members of Spokes East Kent Cycle Campaign. The reason for Phil’s visit was to find out why less people are commuting in Kent by bicycle according to a census from 2001 to 2011. Since 2011 we have had some infrastructure improvements and with the impact of the Olympic games hopefully that trend has reversed. As we cycled up the old track bed to the winding pond Phil asked, ‘Why don’t more people do this?’. It was a lovely sunny morning and as usual an absolute joy to commute along the Crab and Winkle. We met at about 6:45 but we still saw other cyclists and passed dog walkers who said hello as they always do. When we reached the University Phil went on to meet Adrian Oliver from Spokes and CyclingAge to talk about their Dr Bike Lab and issues cyclists face. Many thanks to Adrian, Phil, Radio Kent, CyclingAge and Spokes for making this happen.
You can listen to the radio show for the next 7 days on the BBC iPlayer the main cycling features are at 1:53:00, 2:36:50 and 2:50:32.
Our new leaflets can be found at Canterbury and Whitstable railway stations – with an excellent map of the path and lots of other info too.
A digital copy is also available, click on the link below.
Join the Crab and Winkle Line Trust for a leisurely walk along the line.
We are meeting outside the Lifeboat station in Whitstable Harbour at 10am on Sunday 14th September.
It will be a 3 mile stroll following the ‘line’ to the winding pond taking about 2 hours and everyone is welcome.
The Trust is pleased to announce that a new book on the Crab & Winkle Line has been published. It is available on Amazon.
A ramble and rummage along the Crab & Winkle Line in Kent in search of what is left of the railway that once connected Canterbury and Whitstable. This book is the second in a series of such searches for Railway Remnants. It includes a section on the Trust dedicated to remembering and promoting the line. This book will be of interest to railway enthusiasts, railway historians, all walkers and those with an interest in how the British countryside has changed over time.
Good news for Crab and Winkle Way users. The section from the winding pond to the start of the decent into Whitstable is to be re-surfaced in late July. There may be a little disruption, look out for the warning signs that will be put up 2 weeks in advance.
The Trust is now the official owner of the land along the Clare Road embankment. Completion of the purchase of the land has taken place. Ownership of the land will enable the Trust to proceed with the implementation of the planning permission for a sustainable transport route towards Whitstable Harbour. The land has a length of approximately 400 metres and an area of 2.0055 hectacres.
Litter Clear up
A litter pick up and clear up of our newly purchased land has taken place on Thursday 21st March. CCC provided clearance of the debris collected through SERCO. A large amount of rubbish was collected by our volunteers, and the land looks a lot more tidy now. Many thanks to the volunteers for the hard and some times unpleasant work they undertook on our behalf.
Heritage Open Days
The Trust will participate in Heritage Open Days this September. An organised walk from the Harbour to South Street is anticipated.
The Trust has organised a visit to the southern portal of the Tyler Hill Tunnel with kind permission of the land owner, Archbishops School and Kent Bat Group. There are still places available to go in and see the tunnel which despite it’s age is in excellent condition. There is a charge of £5.00 per member for the visit. The visit will take place on Saturday 18th May starting at 10.30. Please contact John Burden on 01227 769566 to participate.