'Why I Love My Valley' - the winners
  • 06 05 2015

'Why I Love My Valley' - the winners

Source: Steve Loader

It was perhaps fitting that the top prize in the inaugural Tri-History Arts Project or ‘Why I Love My Valley’ competition should be won by Wouldham Primary School, currently celebrating its 150th year.

The event, co-sponsored by Peters Village developer Trenport Investments Ltd and its site contractor Bam Nuttall, offered a total of £3,500 worth of prize money to the primary schools of the three villages next to the new 1,000-home project on the east bank of the River Medway.

With individual cash prizes and a £2,000 jackpot offered for a ‘whole school’ entry, the schoolchildren threw themselves into an artistic frenzy in January, mentored by Charles Newington – Kent-based creator of the giant chalk-cut horse on the Downs near Folkestone – and his associate Colleen Dunn.

At the prizegiving last week (April 29) – where local MP Tracey Crouch took time out from a busy pre-election schedule to make the presentations - Mr Newington said he had been amazed by the quality and creativity of the entries and, like many of those involved in staging Why I Love My Valley, admitted that he hadn’t envied the task facing the five-strong judging panel.

But the clear winner of the overall school cash prize and engraved cup was Wouldham Primary School, for a series of historical and evocative mosaics created on the walls of the school itself (Wouldham pupils celebrate above - their eye-catching is pictured below).

Wouldham mosaic wall

St Mark’s Primary School, Eccles, was the runner-up (£500 prize) with recreations drawn from Peters works including a large and spectacular replica of one of the site’s beehive kilns, while Burham Primary School came third (£250) with its entry 'Our Top Villages' – a map panel made from bottle tops collected and attached by every child in the school.

Carl Fitter, Wouldham’s head teacher, was delighted his school had won in its landmark year, but added: “I know my colleagues in the other two schools will agree, that we get many, many invitations to enter competitions and very often turn them down because the school and its pupils are just too busy. However, this was one we simply could not resist. It was perfect: local, topical and inspirational, with generous prizes.”

Asked later what the school might spend the £2,000 on, he said: “A large party for the whole school – all of the kids have worked hard for this. The rest of the money will go into school funds while we think of something suitable.”

(above) Detail from one of the winning Wouldham school mosaics

The individuals’ element of the competition concentrated on Year 5 (aged 9-10) pupils at the schools - the oldest not encumbered by 11-plus studies.

Betty Lee of Burham, won the Gold Award and £250 cash prize, plus £10 vouchers for each of her classmates. Silver plus £100 went to Hayley Dibble, also of Burham, while Leo Phillips of St Mark’s, Eccles took bronze and £50.

On behalf of the sponsors, Trenport Director Chris Hall told all of the 60 children representing their schools at the prizegiving: “You should all be very proud of yourselves, and I’m delighted to hear from your teachers how interesting you all found it.”

His counterpart at Bam Nuttall, Terry Crittenden agreed: “This work shows how proud you are of your valley.”

Local ward councillor Roger Dalton, one of the judges, told the children: “You made it very hard for us – I’m not just saying that. We just could not believe how good all the creations were.”Ray Sturgeon - Eccles entries

(above) Eccles historian and one of the judges, Ray Sturgeon, was impressed by the village school's entries celebrating the former Peters works - including (background) a spectacular model of a beehive kiln

Competition organiser and Trenport Community Liaison Manager Shirley Boards said afterwards: “We could not be happier with how the competition developed. Many children have spoken about how it had encouraged them to ask their parents and grandparents more about the history of their area and relatives who might have worked at the former Peters Lime & Cement Works – it employed 1,000 local people and operated 80 Thames sailing barges at its peak.

Burham's entries

(above) Burham's 'Our Top Villages' map panel along with

pupils' individual entries, recreating Roman artefacts

“In this way, the competition has started to ‘re-connect’ the people of Burham, Eccles and Wouldham, with a part of the local area that is re-emerging under the new name of Peters Village.

“And though we called it the 'Tri-history Arts Project' to highlight the diverse heritage of the site – natural history, ancient history including the Bronze Age and Romans, and rich social/industrial history from the more recent past; it was interesting that the children themselves gravitated to the last of the three.

Ms Boards added: “We would also like to thank our high profile independent panel of judge for giving up their time. As we all agreed, they had a tougher task than anyone expected.”

They were:

■ Chris Moore of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the Government’s land and housing delivery body 

■ Ray Sturgeon, Eccles resident and local historian

■ Jo Savage, former art teacher and lecturer

■ Steve Humphrey, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC) Director of Planning, Housing & Environmental Health

■ Cllr Roger Dalton, TMBC Ward Cllr and Burham Parish Chair

■ Tel German, Senior Improvement Adviser (Primary) for Schools in West Kent, KCC