And now for our BIG news... – 6th September 2020 ~ 21st September 2020
It seems that this newsletter has been a bit doom and gloomy but that really wasn't the intention.
The main purpose of the newsletter is to share something quite spectacular with you all, before we start to report it via social media and other media outlets.
Lets start at the beginning...
Back in 2014 we were awarded £10,000 from Adur District Council as part of their 'Pot of Gold' funding stream. This money gave us an amazing opportunity to build a Memorial Training Trench. This would be in memory of all those soldiers who trained, in trench building, on the Downs at the back of Shoreham and who never returned. Those soldiers and all the other soldiers, that trained across the South Downs, would be remembered in this unique and hugely significant project.
Fly forwards to 28th February 2019 when we were notified that we had been successful in our Heritage Lottery Fund bid for £9,900 towards the trench project.
Now that we had received the financial backing that we needed to start, we needed to get the planning permission for the build. Shoreham Port Authority, as land owners, applied and due to a couple of objections we needed to get an ecology report for Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT) to give their support of the project. Unfortunately this report cost the charity nearly £1,000, that wasn't budgeted for, but it was very reassuring to have our extensive knowledge of the area confirmed and to also have it reiterated that what we were creating would in fact provide an amazing habitat for the lizards and also give the native flora and fauna a great base to get established. It was also confirmed that there were in fact no slow worms on the beach area where the build was going to take place. An expensive way of clarifying something we already knew, but necessary all the same. Once the report was approved by SWT the plans for the project went through council with total support in December 2019.
Things started happening (more paperwork lol) and things move forward at a lovely pace, ready for a proposed September start, when the flora and fauna has died back and the wildlife wasn't breeding.
The project was going to be a great community engagement programme for us, we were going to have a special fundraising event where a sandbag could be purchased which would mean names of sponsors would be entered into the memorial book for the project.
If this is something that you would still like to support then please click here.
The project was also going to tie in with Heritage Open Days as we were going to be on site every day of the HoD Festival.
Then Covid happened and plans had to rapidly change.
Thankfully we are very fortunate to have a father and son who volunteer with us and the father owns a company called Goldstone Services Ltd. Luckily for us their expertise was just what we needed to actually build the trench structure. They kept our time slot free, got all the quotes we needed for materials etc and all seemed good.
One little hurdle that we needed to get over was (you guessed it - more paperwork) an SMC for the removal of the old 1970's concrete toilet block base, which was built over original 1857 steps. The reason we needed this permission? The broken out concrete and rubble below it was to be used as fill for the Gabion baskets. This permission was received from Historic England on 30th June so we were all systems go. Goldstone Services were behind us, Gabions were ordered, sand, cement and other materials were ordered and the plant that was needed, to enable the job to happen, was booked. On top of that 2,500 traditional hessian sandbags were ordered.
Another little hurdle was the access to the site for the deliveries... As part of the new car park design we had ensured that a gated entrance was incorporated. We just needed to install the gate and move rather a lot of soil. A majority of this was done in the week leading up to the project with some very deep holes being dug for the fixing posts and the last bit came out on the day before the project was starting.
Now we just needed volunteers and when we called they came.
Due to the situation around us it was no longer a case of people could turn up as and when. We needed to know definite numbers and names of people who were going to be on site and when - this was all part of the risk assessment and Covid assessment. With this in place we knew that the project would not only be successful but, most importantly, it would be safe for the teams of volunteers we had and also the staff of Goldstone Services.
On 6th September 2020 Shoreham Fort was totally fenced off from the public. Also a large area on the beach was fenced off to ensure that the build area was safe. The trench was staked out with metals pins and tape. There were times when we honestly thought that we would be returning the funding we had received but, after all this time, it really was going to happen.
On Day 1, 7th September 2020, Goldstone Services arrived, as did the first 10t of sand, first 100 bags of cements and other materials, as well as the plant machinery they'd hired. A skip that had been provided free of charge from Rabbit was delivered on site too. It wasn't only Rabbit who supported us through this project, Edburton gave their support too, and we thank them both.
Then the volunteers for that day arrived and the hard work began.
Each and every day we saw such a huge change from the day before. Each and every day the dream to create a lasting memorial was becoming a reality.
We had put aside two weeks for the project and my goodness everyone put their all into getting the Memorial Trench completed in time.
Day 11, 17th September 2020, was a very significant day. This was the day that the disabled access was laid, enabling those in wheelchairs the opportunity to engage with the trench experience too. We were fully expecting little foxy footprints to be in the set cement when we arrived back on site the next morning but thankfully there was nothing. Mr Foxy did have a little dig about in a couple of sandbags though and has ripped some of the hessian on a few but we'll look at trying to rectify this, when they're all hardened off.
Day 14, 20th September 2020, was another MEGA milestone - the 2,500th sandbag was laid!!! I think it is safe to say that by now our volunteers were losing the plot a little and Princess Sandbag, with her very own Kitkat, was ceremoniously taken in her very own padded wheelbarrow to Gary. Her crown was handed over and Princess Gary laid the sandbag with a huge round of applause from all.
On day 15, 21st September 2020, we removed the fencing from around Shoreham Fort, reduced the fenced area around the trench itself (to enable it to settle and set before final landscaping), saw the plant machinery picked up and we packed up and left site.
And if that wasn't enough the tea hut was blitzed, caulked and painted inside and we had solar powered lights installed in the Nissen hut too. Oh, by the way, did we tell you all that our Nissen Hut has been confirmed as the last 'useable' WWI Nissen Hut in the country...? How exciting is that!
Anyway, back to the trench. I guess all that there is left for me to do now is to show you the phenomenal achievement of the Friends of Shoreham Fort and Goldstone Services.
A truly fitting memorial to all of those brave soldiers who never came home...
The trustees would like to say a massive thank you to the amazing teams we had working with us on this unique project. We want to thank them for not only their time and dedication in getting the project this far in two weeks but also for their belief that it was possible.
This project was over 2,500 sandbags, 42 tonnes of sand, 294 bags of cement and over 2,000 volunteer hours. It was an intense two weeks, fuelled by amazing cakes and bakes from Mrs Chips, Lovely Lesley and Andy V, doughnuts and cupcakes from Sarah, biscuits from Sophy and amazing bacon butties from Jill and John...
Next year we are hoping that this project will become a huge asset to the schools. With the props made by Northbrook College's props department we really do feel we will be able to offer a unique learning experience. We are not trying to replicate the trenches in France but we do hope that we can offer visitors a small insight in to trenches and their purposes.