Swale Tourism
3rd February 2022


Information source Royal Life Magazine

Engagement 1

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Sheppey Matters at Sheerness Healthy Living Centre to meet community groups who help and promote the health of the local community. Their Royal Highnesses  also met a local settled migrant family.

On arrival at Sheppey Matters, the Gillingham Community Choir performed. Their Royal Highnesses were met by the Lord Lieutenant and Nigel Martin, the CEO of Sheppey Matters, before meeting those involved with the Community Chef food truck and ‘Sheppey Wheels’ community bus.

Upon entering the Centre, TRHs walked past The Battle of Britain Commemorative Lace Panel displayed on the wall, one of around 30 made as a tribute to “those who gallantly saved this island” depicting scenes of the bombing of London, the aircraft used in the battle, the badges of the Allied air forces and the floral emblems of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

TRHs met a settled migrant Syrian family who have been helped through the Kent Refugee Action Network (‘KRAN’). They were accompanied by Dr Razia Shariff, CEO of KRAN which recently won the 2022 Hans Albrecht Human Rights Award for outstanding contribution to Human Rights. The charity’s main focus is highly practical, in supporting refugees and asylum seekers through advocacy, teaching and support, and developing the opportunities to engage with the local community.

TRHs toured the centre, meeting several community groups including those dealing with men’s mental health, a group that supports people and families with ADHD, a creative art project, a loneliness support group and a Nordic Walking group.

TRHs visited the award-winning community radio station – 92.2 Sheppey FM, meeting Julie Nicholls and some of the volunteer presenters and production team before signing a visitor’s book on departure.

Sheppey Matters

Sheppey Matters was formed in 1994 due to significant concerns around local health issues and the high rates of morbidity. Driven initially by the NHS, several organisations and service providers were consulted, the result being the formation of Sheppey Matters. The newly formed group was chaired by Michael Brown, and it still is 28 years later.

Today the bulk of Sheppey Matters’ projects that promote and protect the health of those living in the Isle of Sheppey are based at the HLC, but recent years have seen a branching out across the Island. The Community Radio Station project (92.2 Sheppey FM) operates out of The Pavilion next to the Healthy Living Centre. The charity also has a third base in Eastchurch village hall (HUB), a community allotment in Minster and a beach hut in Leysdown.

There is a CEO and currently 28 members staff and 76 volunteers.

Projects visited by TRHs

1,2,3 ADHD and Me – The 123, ADHD & Me project works alongside the Rural Youth Project in tackling the significant need for support for young people and their families affected by ADHD and Autism.

Hub Crafting Group – The hub at Eastchurch was set up 8 years ago and invites residents from across the Island to join informal sessions including a book club, IT training and assistance, crafting and sewing groups as well as community projects such as “green days”. They have a beach hut at Leysdown that is used for meeting groups and individuals.

Mentalk Group – The Mentalk project was formed in 2019 with Ryan Thompson and Sheppey Matters – working towards a united goal of getting men to talk.

In 2020 a total of 5,449 suicides were recorded in the UK, three quarters of these were men. Mentalk aims to encourage men to talk about mental or physical health problems or anything else deemed “private”. It hosts several informal drop-ins supported by men who have lived experience of mental health issues and, in some cases, as suicide survivors, offering support and a safe space to talk.

So far, there are three drop-in sites across the island with additional activities planned such as a charity football match, a race car event, the building of a sensory garden for all to enjoy and the growing of vegetables to donate to food banks.

Isle Connect You Project – Loneliness and social isolation in older adults brings a serious public health risk that affects a significant number of people in the UK, putting them at risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions.

Isle Connect You is a lottery funded project aimed at reducing isolation and loneliness in the over 65’s, offering a bespoke befriending service for every participant, from garden gates, arts and crafts to day trips.

The project’s biggest achievement so far is getting the elderly generation digital, especially as many have been even more isolated during the pandemic. The oldest client, aged 95, has successfully learned how to Zoom – enabling her to be included in virtual events.

Nordic Walking – Nordic Walking works the whole body, building lean muscle tissue, cardiovascular fitness and improves bone health, it works on the similar principle as being buoyant in the water, but the upper body supports the lower body with the aid of poles.

Community Radio Station – Built in 1924, the historic bowling pavilion had been left derelict for over 7 years until it was repurposed for community use as the ‘Sheppey Community Media Centre’. The internet community radio station was established in 2012 as a Sheppey Matters project and media training courses were delivered to local schools and disadvantaged people. The radio station was so successful that it achieved its FM status from Ofcom in 2017 in recognition of its outstanding community achievements. The ethos of 92.2 Sheppey FM is to support people from all walks of life by offering volunteer and work experience opportunities and accredited Arts Awards qualifications to young people. The station is predominantly run by volunteers and has a thriving Youth Show.

Awards given to the station include the ‘Swale Business Award’ for ‘Impact in the Community’, several ‘Swale Volunteer Awards’ and six national community radio awards. Sheppey FM provided a vital link for the community during the lockdowns, broadcasting throughout. In May 2021 the station became the home of the official Tourist Information Centre for the Island.

Community Chef and FoodTruck – The Community Chef project was launched as part of Kent County Councils “Towards 2010” targets. Its aim was to explore a range of potential community healthy eating opportunities together with the development of existing initiatives on the Isle of Sheppey.

As an initial single year ‘pilot’ project, Community Chef went on to develop its programme with all Swale’s Children Centres and further commissions have seen the project work with Jobcentre Plus across the County. The project was commended for its outstanding results where over 70% of course participants went back into full time employment.

As a multifaceted project, Community Chef has worked with the elderly, isolated, mental health, and drugs/alcohol teams and, more recently, with the Prison Service. In 2017 Mike Spackman, Community Chef, was nominated locally and won the National BBC Food & Farming Awards ‘Cook of the Year’ 2017 title.

Engagement 2

The Prince of Wales, Patron Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, will visit Elmley National Nature Reserve, Kent.

Elmley is unique in being the only family owned and managed farm to be designated a National Nature Reserve in the UK. Philip Merricks and his wife Corinne have transformed an intensive arable and livestock farm over 40 years into a site with international wildlife significance. Their pioneering landscape scale approach has resulted in the restoration of nature to the 3,300 acre site. The Reserve is particularly renowned as a successful breeding site for wading birds, including lapwing and redshank, and thousands of visitors visit the marsh to see the flocks of migrating waders and wildfowl.

Elmley Nature Reserve Instagram Post & Share
"Today at Elmley: It was an absolute privilege to welcome The Prince of Wales to Elmley today.
His Royal Highness became aware of Elmley through his own deep interest to save the breeding curlews of Dartmoor and made the trip to the Reserve to find out more about how the land at Elmley is most effectively managed for breeding wading birds.
HRH was shown Elmley by Philip Merricks (banner image), who over the last 40 years has transformed Elmley from an intensive farm to the site of international wildlife significance it is today.
He also spoke at length with Gareth Fulton, the Reserve Manager, who was delighted to present some of our team and volunteers to His Royal Highness".
Photos by @annaggordon
Thank you @lottiea