Valley Friends September Notes

From Joan Steel

Congratulations to the Valley Friends who are celebrating their Golden Anniversary with a Dinner and Musical Entertainment at the Village Hall on Friday 7th October.  Fifty years ago, young families were moving into new estates built locally and the young mothers needed somewhere to socialise. Inspired by young members of the Hughenden Mothers Union and along with families already living here, two groups were formed, one called Park Estate Young Wives and later one, known as Valley Young Wives. Our name has changed twice but our membership has been constant ever since and we still have two founder members. (More details to follow our celebration evening).

“David Austin Roses” was the subject of a talk with photographs by Edwin Rye at our meeting in July, just when all varieties of roses would be flourishing in David’s magnificent Rose garden which houses over 700 different varieties.  As a teenager David Austin was interested in scented roses.  Graham Thomas at 97 years old worked on a plant nursery in Surrey, and he gave David a book on Crossing Roses. In 1944 he produced his first rose named “Constance Spry”.  He is now over 90 years old and still does most of the work on the breeding programme himself.  David spends over one million pounds per year breeding roses, three to six are processed and take 8 to 10 years to mature.  He exhibited three new roses at the Chelsea Flower this year.  He donates all the profit he makes on his roses to shanty town children in South Africa.  It buys things they need and is not given as money.  Edwin gave out booklets with information on the David Austin rose garden and plant centre.  He was warmly thanked for his very knowledgeable and interesting talk.

During the summer the Valley Friends joined in the Carnival Day procession disguised in Venetian type masks which we had fun making at Doreen’s using cardboard moulds decorated with bits and sparkly pieces.  After the procession in normal clothes and dainty aprons, we served very popular cakes and tea in the small hall and made a most acceptable profit to donate to the carnival fund.  Our August Pot luck supper was delicious and were able to relax and spend time chatting about recent events and holidays etc.

At our September meeting we had a talk with screen presentation by Sally Botwright on the “Old London Docks and New Docklands”.  Sally showed us a view looking across the Thames to the present site of the docks, and likened it to a small Manhattan.  Very different would have been the view of the Roman docks which dated back to AD 50, parts of which can still be seen at low tide. King Henry VIII built naval ships at Chatham docks and surprisingly it took 300 trees to make one ship.

In the reign of Elizabeth I, the only crossing over the Thames was at London.  In 1933 one hundred thousand people were employed at the docks. They handled thirty-five million tons of cargo a year.  It was heavy dirty work, and dockers had no full time employment, maybe they would get only a half day.  The docks were bombed in the war causing the routine labour practices to decline and trouble followed when containers came into use.  By 1970 all but Tilbury dock were closed. The area was regenerated and became Canary Wharf employing more than a hundred thousand people.  Sally described it as a magnificent development of high rise buildings, offices, housing, gardens, art, a floating chapel, shops, cafes, and health centre.  It is clean, there are  security personnel with sniffer  dogs.  The Docklands Light Railway with tube station opened in 2000.  The last building has just been completed and the whole docklands area covers 97 acres.  Sally was thanked by Sylvia for her most interesting and informative presentation.