Saturday, 19 January 2008

I'm Proud to be a Swampie!

On her blog, Random Acts of Unkindness, ello raised the challenge for anyone to list 7 Interesting Facts about the area they live in. So here goes.....


FACT 1: I have lived all my life on the Isle of Sheppey, a small island tucked away in the south-eastern corner of England, a mere 50 miles from London. The island measures barely 9 miles wide by 11 miles long, and is mostly comprised of marshland on which flocks of sheep have gazed since time out of mind - hence the island's name. Because of the acres of swampy marshland, the islanders have been given the nickname of Swampies...of which I am one!
The island is linked to mainland Kent by The Sheppey Crossing, a gracefully arching bridge that spans the water of The Swale below. Because of its close proximity to London, during the summer months the islands two seaside towns: Sheerness and Leysdown are 'swamped' by Londoners.

FACT 2: Eastchurch Village is the island's smallest and quaintest village, a slice of days gone by. Centuries ago the village used to be owned by a family of nobility: the de Shurlands. They commissioned a magnificent manor house to be built which overlooked Eastchurch. King Henry VIII and his young wife Anne Boleyn often spent time at Shurland Hall, and spent part of their honeymoon there. Unfortunately today the Hall stands in ruins.

FACT 3: The vilage of Eastchurch also boasted an aerodrome. And the Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, the first pioneers of flight, would often come here to test fly their planes. The aerodrome is still in use today for privately owned air craft. Often in the summer we have light craft flying in the skies above our garden.

FACT 4: Sheppey is the home to three prisons. Standford Hill, a Category D prison, stands on the site of an old Royal Air Force station. It holds about 464 inmates. Elmley Prison is a Category C prison with 240 inmates. Swaleside is a high security Category B prison, and holds up to 775 prisoners, most of which are serving life sentences. Many well-known infamous prisoners have and still do serve time in Swaleside. Many a time we've been woken at night by helicopters searchlights; hunting for escaped prisoners!

FACT 5: In 1944, the USS Richard Montgomery, a liberty ship carrying 6,127 tons of explosives, run aground on a sandbank just two miles off the coast of Sheppey. The ship broke its back and could not be moved in fear of detonating the explosives. And there she still lies...explosives and all. Her masts poke up above the water, and are visible from most of Sheppey's beaches. It is supposed that if she ever does blow sky high, then Sheppey will go with her. But who knows. Each year the ship is inspected by safety officers, who check the condition of the hull and its cargo. Up to date everything seems A OK, but if I suddenly stop writing my blog, you will know what has happened!

FACT 6: Approximately twenty years ago, an awful man kept lions, tigers and pumas in his back garden on Sheppey. He was eventually caught out and fined, but not before he had let his animals free to roam the island. Luckily, all of the big cats were caught...except one puma. Over the years there have been various sightings of a big black cat in different areas of Sheppey, but it is all just hearsay. No one has ever managed to take a photo of the animal. So? Is it fact or legend? No one knows.

FACT 7: The author Charles Dickens often visited Sheppey. He always stayed in the same inn: Prospect Villa. Just across the road from the inn was a small shop with a bow window. It is this shop that was his inspiration for his novel The Old Curiosity Shop.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief insight to my homeplace.
Does anyone else want a go?

15 comments:

ronangel said...

Very nicely written piece about sheppey.For those readers that want more up to date info about the wreck of the ss richard montgomery go to the site and follow the many links to factual information from the main page http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com
(copy and paste link into your browser)

Monique said...

Wow, what a claim to fame. Very interesting. I thought about listing seven interesting facts but could only find one.

I go and have a think about it and maybe I'll come back to give my facts, but I doubt it very much.

Akasha Savage said...

ronangel: thanks for visting. Do you know Sheppey? Are you a fellow swampie?

monique: glad you found it interesting. I'm impatiently waiting for the next episode of Middle Ditch!!

ronangel said...

A friend had a farm in the eastchurch
area about 20 years ago which I went to quite a lot,I have not been back since. too dangerous ss richard montgomery could go at any time. I get a feeling of unexplained dread every time I look at it would not want to tempt fate good for my film script if I survived though......

sheoflittlebrain said...

Thanks for this fascinating post, Akasha! I can't imagine living in a place so wonderfully, if a little scarily, steeped in history. Here in the Western US, we look back less than 200 years..
I appreciate this glimpse of you and your life that's not seen through your stories...
Oh, and your poem is chillingly beautiful:)

Akasha Savage said...

Sheoflittlebrain: I agree with you, it's interesting knowing facts about other people and their lives. glad you enjoyed the poem...it's one of my favourite.

ronangel: I always find it funny, in a strange kind of way, when people think it is dangerous to live on Sheppey with the Richard Montgomery right on our doorstep. I can honestly say I hardly ever think about it myself....I'm just use to it I suppose, as are most islanders. The only time it pops into my mind is when the local newspaper has nothing better to write about, and drag up the RM again.

Ello said...

How fascinating is that?!!! Awesome that you posted this. I loved the urban legend of the puma! It is so great to hear about different places people live in. Thanks for posting this!

Akasha Savage said...

ello: I enjoyed it, glad you found it interesting :)

Vesper said...

WOW! Absolutely lovely and fascinating! Thank you for this glimpse into such an interesting place. You should take a photograph of the sea with the ship's masts poking above the water and post it here... :-)

ronangel said...

vesper: there are links to many pictures about ss richard montgomery on my site copy and paste the following url into your browser if clicking on it does not work
http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com/images/ss%20richard%20montgomery-wreck-29-09-05.htm

ronangel said...

cant seem to see full link in last post so wont work. go to http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com and click on link "Recent picture of ss richard montgomery with the Red Sands Fort Complex in the background"
to see picture.

Akasha Savage said...

Vesper: It is quite impressive seeing the masts rising up out of the water. To take a really good photo of it I would have to go out on a boat, it's too far out from the shore to get a clear picture. There are various websites you can go on if you're interested. The easiest thing to do is google Richard Montgomery Sheppey. :)

Middle Ditch said...

Akasha, your wish has come true. I posted the next episode.

Vesper said...

Thank you very much, Ronangel and Akasha. Very interesting!

Neil A said...

A fascinating blog. I'd just like to add that although the legend of the puma is rife, the animal seen on the island is in fact a black leopard, although as most people know, there is a house on the island with a cage in the back garden which used to house a puma. I have investigated the sightings, please take a look at my www.kentbigcats.blogspot.com and if anyone knows anything about big cats being released on the island, please get in touch.