What’s the first thing you think when you hear the words ‘Civic Society’? Nothing to do with you, perhaps? In fact, you couldn’t be further from the truth – we spoke to Hythe Civic Society committee member Sally Chesters, who is responsible for town centre projects.
“WE DO THE STUFF PEOPLE DON’T NOTICE!”
In 1994, former marketing manager Sally was standing in her front garden surveying the scene when her former boss walked past. “I’ve got a job for you” he said, and nearly 30 years later Sally is still at it!
“Quite simply, we aim to make life in our town better” Sally says. “Those town maps that tell you what to look out for, the refurbishment of Mackeson Square, the community orchard on the Castle Road allotments, Hythe in Bloom, the walking tours of the town – they’re just a few of the Hythe Civic Society initiatives. People probably just walk past and think ‘oh that’s nice’ – but they’d miss it if it wasn’t there.
“Mackeson Square is a case in point – before we got involved, it attracted a fair amount of antisocial behaviour. With the help of funding from S106 monies it’s now become a tranquil spot where people picnic on sunny days.
“The town maps, featuring a stylised illustration of the town and picking out some of the highlights, came about after we realised how little information was available. So we all checked out what other towns were offering, here and abroad, and came up with what has now become a feature, dotted all over the town.”
Gardening is clearly one of Sally’s passions – and she puts it to good use in Hythe town centre. “We plant up and water the pots up and down the High Street, and we have a group of volunteer gardeners who meet every Tuesday at 9am at the War Memorial who tend the wide borders along the canal and Prospect Road, as well as the big bed next to The Taste of Kathmandu restaurant, and Wakefield Walk. We have an aim to plant more daffodils every year!
“We’re very lucky, our commercial sponsors – Gopak, Lawrence & Co estate agents, and Charlier Construction – and Hythe Town Council help with the funding, and Folkestone & Hythe District Council are also a great support.
“Not only are we making Hythe look brighter and better, it’s also a social commitment to our area, and a great way of making friends too.”
AN AMBLE ROUND HYTHE
If you turn up outside the Town Hall at 10.30 on a Thursday morning from June until September you can find out more about historic Hythe. Costing just £2 per person, Sally and her fellow volunteers conduct two and half hour guided walks, including St. Leonard’s church and its famous crypt.
During the Hythe Festival, walks take place every day – and they’re free. In most years, upwards of 300 people take up the opportunity, and Sally says if you’re a big group you can just call the Civic Society on 01303 266118 and book a separate tour at a time to suit you.
At the end of World War II, Hythe faced a massive rebuilding task, and the Hythe Citizen’s Union was formed in 1945 with a view to ensuring that public spaces, trees and historical landmarks were protected for the future. It became the Hythe Civic Society in 1965. Over the years, Hythe’s population has almost doubled, and the group is still going strong with currently some 750 members.
Walks, talks, involvement in local affairs including commenting on planning applications all make a big difference to what happens in Hythe. Members are kept up to date through regular newsletters, and there are monthly talks held at Hythe Bay Primary School between September and June.
A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
OK, we don’t usually do this, because at FH Extraordinary we prefer to focus on what’s going on rather than who we are, but Sally says “Folkestone & Hythe District Council is spectacularly supportive of what we as the Civic Society do. They are always helpful, kind and a source of great advice. The same goes for Hythe Town Council too – we’re really lucky that everyone is so committed to helping improve lives for our citizens and visitors.”
Thank you to everyone involved.
To find out more, visit www.hythecivicsociety.org