Ashley Heath

I spend a lot of time wandering around the local countryside and I’m constantly finding out interesting things about the places I’m in. Today I’ve written about the local village of Ashley Heath…


Ashley Heath is a village in Dorset, England. Confusingly address’ in the village state it as being part of the nearby town of Ringwood, though Ringwood is actually across the county boundary in Hampshire.

Ashley Heath is home to what is purportedly the smallest high street in Britain.

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A plaque on the building tells us more about it- for ease I’ve transcribed it below.

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William Webb// 1862-1930 // Father of Ashley Heath

Came to Ashley Heath in 1920 and reclaimed 1500 acres of heathland to build a garden estate to be called “Hampshire Heath Garden Estate”. Dwellings were built, most in plots of 1 acre. They included “Moorside” (now Struan Hotel) [Struan Hotel later became ‘The Struan’ pub but a few years ago was demolished.] and the High Street. Illness struck and he died in January 1930. He is buried at Purley in Surrey where he has build a garden village before the First World War.

The High Street// Ashley Heath// Smallest in Britain

This building is exactly as it was when first build in the 1920s, consisting of four shops. The construction is of a unique form designed by William Webb. They were the centre of the village to be known as “Hampshire Heath Garden Estate” to serve the need of the villagers who were to live here. The clock, bearing the inscription “The Night Cometh”, struck only between 7.00AM and 10.00PM to indicate the working day and the period of rest. A few buildings of the original village still remain.

Now there is some debate about whether Ashley Heath does have the smallest high street in Britain or not. The town of Holsworthy in Devon claims the same and claims it is 100m long and has three shops. Now Ashley Heath does have one more shop but there are no records of exactly how short the high street is- by my reckoning it’s shorter than 100 metres though.

For a while a railway line passed through Ashley Heath, the Southampton and Dorchester Railway. The railway first opened in 1847 but it wasn’t until 1927 that Ashley Heath Halt station was opened- by this point the village and those near it were now deemed big enough for a station. The station closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.Despite serving what is small a fairly small place, the station had two long concrete platforms, each with a shelter.Despite having been closed since the sixties one of the platforms and the sign still exist to this day.

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Ashley Heath Halt in 1960

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The former railway line is now a walking and cycling route called The Castleman Trailway. Though nature is slowly reclaiming signs of the railway, every now and then you stumble upon something from that time.

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Everywhere has a story if you look hard enough! I may do an occasional series of this sort of thing if there’s any interest in it. That’s all for now though, thanks for reading!

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The Problem with Men

The news has been dominated recently by news of powerful people in Hollywood, Westminster and beyond. It turns out various men in positions of power have been sexually assaulting people. I don’t think it’s a surprise that this happens but it’s horrible to hear of the specific people involved and the horrific things they’ve done.

Before I go any further I want to make it clear my views on this in case my writing doesn’t make it clear. I have no sympathy for the perpetrators of this type of crime and every sympathy for the victims. I can’t begin to imagine the psychological effect this has on victims and how hard it must be to come out and tell the world a terrible moment of their life. Some still accuse victims of bringing it on themselves but the only person to blame is the abuser.

The whole situation is really unsettling. Is this what men are really like? I’ve never been the most ‘laddish’ of guys and I’m glad of that if this is what it means. This isn’t about me and I’m not going to start with the ‘not all men’ argument. What I am trying to do is understand why men do this kind of thing.

Specifically, these men have been raping and touching victims, verbally degrading them and showing their genitals. They’ve got away with it by using their position to intimidate their victims into staying silent.

How can these people live with themselves? To go so far to get their end away and destroy someone’s life in the process. Surely they know just how wrong their actions are?

I think some of these people, especially those who commit the very worst crimes, have mental health issues. They either don’t care that they are a monster or can’t resist temptation. I don’t think there’s a whole lot we can really do about these people- all we can do is ensure they are stopped when they do something awful. How many of the celebrities currently in the spotlight had accusations towards them ignored or not investigated fully?

I think other people, generally those who commit what society would describe as “less serious” crimes, genuinely don’t understand what they are doing is wrong. It probably stemmed from being a teenager surrounded by friends who all thought objectifying and groping women was something to be proud of. No-one has ever convinced these people that this is totally unacceptable.

It’s ridiculous in a civilised world that “lad” behaviour still exists. When I was a student a lot of my friends were women (there was a ratio of 8:2 female to male on my course). I regularly used to go out to clubs with them and find myself having to try and stop men from groping and grinding on them. I wasn’t that confident a person and probably didn’t do as much as I could have to stop it- I was intimidated by these people. I feel guilty about not having done enough but then I think no, it wasn’t my fault it was the idiots that were doing it.

That sort of thing remains perfectly accepted behaviour amongst young men, encouraged even. I don’t know why. What makes you cool, what makes you a true man, is knowing how to behave like a human being.

I hope at least some good things can come out of this scandal. I hope men start to understand what’s right and what’s wrong. I hope that organisations will now not protect the accused and investigate accusations seriously. I hope that victims are able to feel more confident about speaking up.

I’ll end with a few things for any men that happen to be reading this that still don’t get it, still don’t understand the effect their behaviour can have.

First of all, here’s a video which explains consent- using tea.

Finally, this is a really sad video that highlights what it’s like to be a rape victim. (This contains some detailed descriptions so be aware).

I hope I’ve done this difficult subject justice. It may be difficult but it’s so vital we talk about it.

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Rejuvenation

I’m sorry the old Dan can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because he’s dead.

I couldn’t resist bastardising Taylor Swift to open this new post. Things are looking up. It’s difficult to explain quite why but I’m feeling more positive about who I am. I feel a little more confident in myself which is great.

I thought I’d get back into blogging. For so long I have been embarrassed about pretty much every aspect of my life but I feel it’s about time I was true to myself. Which is why I’ve shared this post on Facebook where people I know can actually see it. 

I’ve been blogging on and off since I was a teenager and it’s just become a thing I do. I started this blog in 2014 when I failed my teaching practice and didn’t know where my life was heading. The concept was, and remains, that I am trying to become a better version of myself, a Dan 2.0 if you will. It’s also a place where I can just write about stuff which is something I like to do.

An update then. Well, at the end of the summer term I applied for a promotion to become a higher level teaching assistant. I had to put together a portfolio essentially showing how I am good at my job. I was delighted when I was accepted and so I’m now a higher level TA. 

It’s lovely to get some recognition for my hard work over the last few years. After failing to qualify as a teacher it’s great to be recognised as a good educator. As a higher level TA I regularly lead the class and small groups but I don’t have the responsibility of a teacher. Ideally I’d want to be paid more but in many ways it’s the best of both worlds. 

I’ve also made an effort to be a bit more healthy. I’ve been making salads and other things for my lunches and cutting out unhealthy snacks. I’ve lost a fair bit of weight, perhaps not so you’d notice on the outside but I really feel it on the inside. I’ve not changed my diet too dramatically but it’s enough really made a difference. 

My other piece of news is that I bought a new car. My 2004 Renault Clio had an annoying electrical fault which caused the car to limit it’s acceleration. When the warning light went on my speed was limited to 50mph and I couldn’t accelerate properly. Little old ladies were zooming past me despite the fact my foot was on the floor. There were also lots of minor issues like both the sunroof and the passenger door leaking.
My new car is a 2013 Renault Twingo which had hardly been used before I bought it. It doesn’t leak, it accelerates and as a bonus I can plug my iPod into the stereo. I hadn’t quite realised how miserable it was making me driving a rubbish car every day and my commute is now much more positive. 

That’s not to say every part of my commute is positive. One day last week a driver somehow concluded that it was my fault they were a bad driver. They pulled into the lane next to me and crawled along shouting abuse. My main thought on this was that I work with autistic children and frankly this driver was failing to live up to the abuse I’ve come to know and love.

It may have been rubbish but I think you have a certain connection to your first car.  I was sad to see it go- cue silly video (you’ll need the sound on for this):

If this was your first experience of my blog then that was the sort of nonsense you can get used to here. I’m aiming to start writing weekly here and whilst some posts will be about things I’ve been up to, others will be discussing major news stories. Please do comment below or on the social media link that took you here if you feel that way inclined and I may well respond to any comments in a future post. Next week I’ll be discussing the wave of sexual harassment cases that have swept Hollywood, Westminster and beyond.

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The Future

A couple of weeks ago I read this article about climate change. It’s quite a long read and I will discuss some key points here, but essentially it discusses the things that WILL happen over the next few years if we don’t manage to slow down the increases in global temperatures. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Now I love children- I did a degree in primary education and have worked in a school for three years now. It was always natural that I would one day want children of my own. Of course I did.

As I’ve grown up and become more attuned to what the world is really like I have changed my mind. The world is a mess. Politically we have Donald Trump as president of the US, Brexit is actually happening and right wing parties across the world are growing in popularity. It’s hard enough for my generation to get a reasonably well paid job and actually afford to buy a house. I dread to think how hard it will be in another generation’s time.

But politics is temporary. Throughout history there’s been periods like this where things go badly wrong. But eventually they do get better. I’m optimistic about that at least. What I’m not optimistic about is what state the world will be in the not too distant future.

A few years ago two degrees of warming was thought to be catastrophic for the planet. But as per the Paris climate accords, two degrees is now our goal and many expert don’t think we’ll even hit that. The higher end of the estimations suggest the global temperature could increase by as much as eight degrees.

Even if met the Paris goals, place like Karachi and Kolkata would be almost uninhabitable- deadly heatwaves like in 2015 would be common. At four degrees the European heat wave of 2003, which killed as many as 2000 people a day, would happen pretty much every summer.

Then there’s sea levels. There are various models but no-one quite knows for sure how quickly the ice sheets will melt and how much that will affect global temperatures. The last time the planet was four degrees warmer the oceans were hundreds of feet higher.

Scientists can only guess at how much this will change our lives. Melting permafrost could unleash deadly diseases (it sound outlandish but last year 20 humans and 2,000 reindeer were infected with anthrax when just one infected carcass was was released from the ice). The chances of wars over resources will be much higher. Think of all the migrant problems the world currently has; imagine how much worse it could really get.

All this is already starting to happen. Recently a 6,000 square kilometre iceberg broke away from Antarctica. A study this week suggests that there is a one in three chance of monthly rainfall records being broken in the UK in winter months. This sort of thing is almost daily news.

And we’re not really doing much about it. Sure, there are some efforts to tackle the problem. We recycle more now and use more renewable energy. But it should be at the forefront of every human being’s mind every day of their lives.

Partly it’s a lack of imagination- it is hard to imagine how bad things could get. There’s plenty of stupidity. There’s so much overwhelming evidence now it’s impossible for anyone with any brain to deny climate change is happening.

There is going to be a lot of suffering in the next hundred years. And that’s why I no longer want to have children. How could I consciously bring someone into this world, with that future ahead of them? I do feel that when things get really bad we will probably be able to make the situation better. But it will take an awful lot of suffering before we get to that stage.

I’m sorry if this was depressing. It’s reality though.

[All the facts here come from this article. The iceberg news link is here and the rainfall one here.]

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Charlie

You may well have seen the news stories about Charlie Gard. He’s a 10 month-old baby who is terminally ill with mitochondrial disease. He’s on life support and according to his doctors he can’t see, hear, move, cry or swallow.

It’s an utterly heart-breaking situation. I can’t imagine how awful it would be for the parents to go through all this. The story has hit the headlines because the doctors and the parents don’t agree.

The doctors essentially say that Charlie is suffering and that he should be allowed to have the life support turned off and die with dignity.

I support the idea of euthanasia. If someone is suffering great pain then I believe that they should be helped to die if they so wish. It frustrates me enormously that this isn’t even legal yet. It’s the decent thing to be done and with the right legislation and paperwork there’s no reason it can’t be don ethically. I fear religion is holding euthanasia laws back, like so many other things.

Now Charlie’s case isn’t even as extreme as euthanasia. He’s only being kept alive by machine and can’t breathe for himself.

His parents want to take to America for an experimental procedure. They raised money through crowd-funding but were told by Charlie’s doctors at Great Ormond Street that the procedure wouldn’t work. The case went to the High Court which ruled that further treatment would cause Charlie significant harm.

I can see the parents point of view. obviously they want to everything they possibly can to keep their son alive. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I can’t help but think in that situation I would trust the doctors. This is Great Ormond Street hospital, one of if not he best children’s hospital in the world. They have also produced many paper about mitochondrial disease. Everything says they are right, except the heart.

I’ve always found it odd how we are used to euthanising our pets. Yet in most human cases people can communicate their wishes and in others, like here, the medical knowledge is strong enough to tell us how much pain they are going through. If anything it make more sense to euthanise humans than it does animals.

There’s no easy answer here; it’s a hugely emotive issue. But for me I think you have to trust the science. It’s heart-breaking but sometimes you have to accept that there’s nothing that can be done to save your loved ones. I think of poor Charlie suffering pain beyond his comprehension and agree that he should be allowed to end that pain with dignity.

[Full BBC News Story]

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Election Bites #2

Here is my second collection of thoughts on the 2017 general election. The election is less than two weeks away and the politicians have been campaigning hard…


Taxing Times

Probably the biggest issue after Brexit in this election is how the government will continue to manage the NHS, education and social care. All desperately need money that the country simply doesn’t have.

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The general idea of the Conservatives is to cut services and raise taxes. Whilst they haven’t explicitly stated the latter (why would they) the fact they haven’t denied it tells you everything.

One of the big things they want to cut is free school meals for all key stage 1 children. Every education practitioner knows how important proper meals are. So many parents don’t know how or simply struggle financially to provide their children with good quality food. This directly impacts on their achievement.

The Tories other big controversial idea is the way in which care funding for the elderly is done. It’s quite complicated by essentially if you are elderly and need care the value of your home is likely to be used to fund said care. Labour have dubbed it a “dementia tax” which seems like a fair name to me.

Labour have gone completely the other direction with their spending/tax balance. They essentially want to inject money into everything, including stopping tuition fees. In a perfect world that seems great but where is that money going to come from? Labour have also stated that only taxes for the richer people will go up. Can they really find the vast amount of money through this method?

The Lib Dems seem the most sensible in this department. They have been more moderate with their spending plans and have stated that the money would come from increasing tax rates. For every £1 you pay in tax now, you would pay £1.01 under a Lib Dem government.


Manchester

I’m not going to go into great length about this week’s attack in Manchester. It was a horrific event and I can’t find the words. Inevitably when this sort of thing happens during an election campaign it becomes heavily politicised.

Lots of people have been blaming the Conservative government for the attack. They say that if it happened because Theresa May drastically cut police budgets when she was home secretary. It’s impossible to know if higher police budgets would have made any difference quite frankly. But people want to feel safe and a government which is reducing the numbers of police officers isn’t helping that.

Today Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been suggesting that Britain’s foreign policy may have had an impact. He said that our interventions in mainly Muslim countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, has made us a target for extremists. I suppose he has a point but does it mean we should stop intervening? We’ve got involved with conflicts to try and stop the spread of extremism and stop terrible things happening. Maybe we didn’t always get it right but I believe the intentions were good. Non-intervention could have larger global effects than intervention.


Local Lib Dems

I live in a constituency which is a Conservative stronghold. Recent tactical voting campaigns have suggested that my best bet to stop the Tories retaining the seat would be to vote Lib Dem. When their campaign leaflet came through this week I was eager to read it.

I was disappointed to find it was poorly written, with spelling and grammar mistakes, sentences that made no sense and inaccuracies. Now everyone makes mistakes and the occasional one would have been fine. But this thing was riddled with them! I struggle to trust a politician to represent me if they can’t get something as simple as this right.

I found a red pen and got to work:

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My favourite part was this:

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He certainly seems to be succeeding with that aim.


That’s all for today but I may well be back with more on the election soon.

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Election Bites #1

We’re a week into the first week of the 2017 election campaigns. I thought I’d discuss some of the big things that the various parties say and do over the election campaigns in little sections every couple of weeks.


May Calls An Election

4th September 2016: “I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020.”

18th April 2017: “I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take.”

It all came as a bit of a shock when Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election. It’s unclear what her reasons for doing so are. It’s probably because it’s likely the conservatives will get an even larger majority than the one they already have, making pushing through brexit policies much easier. It’s still a bit of a gamble though and no-one can say for certain that the result will go this way.

I’m not really a fan of May and this sort of thing explains why. There’s something sinister about the way she managed to end up as Prime Minister, keeping quiet in the Brexit campaign and then swooping in to take over. For me, there’s only two ways you can look at this decision. Either she lied the whole time and was always planning to hold a general election or she suddenly changed her mind which suggests she’s indecisive. I don’t think either lying or indecisiveness are qualities we look for in a Prime Minister.


Farron’s Views on Homosexuality

The Liberal Democrats have seen a surge in support after the election was announced but almost immediately their leader Tim Farron was being attacked. Farron, who is a worshipping Christian, repeatedly refused to answer the question of whether he thinks homosexulaity, or at least gay sex, is a sin. He kept saying that “we’re all sinners” and the lack of a clear answer makes it seem like his opinion is obvious. Eventually he decided to declare that no, he doesn’t think gay sex is a sin but it’s hurt his reputation 

I totally understand why people are angry about this. It’s 2017 after all. What matters though is that Tim Farron has an impeccable record at voting for the right of LGBT people, far better than Theresa May. As a politician his personal views are irrelevant, it’s how he votes in parliament that matter.

Farron has clearly said that he won’t go into a coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour which I think is a mistake. He says that the Lib Dems are the only party who don’t support a hard brexit. Fair enough. But surely it would be much easier to fight a hard brexit if the Lib Dems were actually in government? Surely you do anything you can to get into power to have a chance at actually changing things?


Corbyn Wants More Days Off

I haven’t seen a whole lot from Jeremy Corbyn Labour party so far. It seems to be that Labour could be popular in a time of austerity but the general public has little confidence in their very left-wing and quite odd leader.

One policy they have announced is to have four more bank holidays, one for each patron saint’s day.  As much as I’m in favour of more days off four extra bank holidays seems like a lot and the timings are all wrong. Two in March (when it’s cold), one in April (when we already have bank holidays) and one in November (when it’s even colder). Wouldn’t it be much better to have a bank holiday in July or August when people could actually use it and bring lots of money into the tourist industry?


UKIP are Racist

I hope that UKIP will fall apart at this general election. They have achieved their main goal as a party, to leave the EU, and the party itself has gone through a lot of strife since then (two leaders and their only MP leaving).

So far their policies seem to consist entirely of making life more difficult for people they don’t like, the biggest being to ban the burka. Somehow that isn’t even that extreme a policy anymore with several European countries having already done that. I think it’s an awful policy though. Banning the burka sets a precedent of intolerance to other religions and cultures. Do they think doing this will set women that wear them free? Surely it would do the opposite, forcing Muslim women who wear burkas to stay in their homes or in private. I can’t see that banning burkas will have any positive affect.

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