Latest news from the Lees Court Estate
04 Mar 2013
Farewell Dinner for Bill Harbour
Lees Court Estate gathered together to honour Bill Harbour at his Farewell Dinner and to congratulate him on his 35 years of service to Lees Court.
Estate staff was joined by the late Lord Sondes’ cousin Princess Olga Romanoff; as well as, Bill’s partner and children, past and present Tenant Farmers and Estate Advisors. On February 8th, the 27 guests dined on an entirely Lees Court Menu in the glamorously decorated Estate Yard Barn.
Lady Sondes spoke warmly of her working relationship with Bill and presented him with a gift and thanked him for his commitment to Lees Court. She also read a note from John Anderson, who was unable to attend the Dinner as he was travelling back from Africa that day. John was the Land Agent at the time Bill was appointed Farm Manager at Gosmere Farms Partnership. Gerald Drew, who has been an advisor to the Estate since 1971, then spoke eloquently of Bill’s contribution to Lees Court. Bill in turn, spoke movingly of his time working at Gosmere Farm and for the Estate.
We all wish Bill much happiness for the future and plan to stay in close touch.
19 Feb 2013
Rural Police Triumph!
The Countess Sondes congratulated PC Paul Williams for his excellent work in solving the theft of a Kubota tractor, stolen from the Lees Court Mansion House.
The theft occurred in September 2012 and would not have been solved without the vigilance of the Lees Court Estate gamekeeper, Shayne Dean, who not only alerted the Police to the theft but also found a crucial piece of evidence.
Shayne was undertaking pest control on the Estate when he came across two suspicious vehicles loading a Kubota tractor. Shayne informed the police and then tried to follow the suspects. However, after travelling several miles the suspects became aware of his presence and stopped their vehicles in order to block the narrow country lane. Shayne drove his vehicle into an adjacent driveway to try and fool the suspects. However, by the time Shayne came out of the driveway, the suspects had made good their escape.
Shayne returned to the scene of the crime and found a latex glove. Realising this could be evidence, Shayne preserved the glove in a clean bag and reported this to Rural Constable PC Williams. The glove was then sent away for analysis. DNA found inside the glove was used to identify a man from Dover as the suspect. On January 24th, 2013, PC Williams along with eight other Rural Constables raided the suspects Dover address and arrested him. After an extensive search, officers found the suspect had a secret ‘lock-up’ in Hawkinge. This was searched and the stolen Kubota tractor was found along with many other suspected stolen items. Police also seized the suspect’s Nissan Navara and Ford Transit van which he used to steal the tractor. These vehicles will later be sold at a police auction.
The suspect has been charged and bailed to Canterbury Magistrates.
Lees Court Estate works closely with PC Williams and the Neighbourhood Unit. It is of grave concern to Lady Sondes and the Estate that the recent funding cuts will see a further reduction of police officers and with more focus being on crime in urban areas. The recently set up ‘Operation Nonagon’ which replaces ‘Operation Tree’ is specifically set up for dealing with rural crime, unfortunately, it does not provide dedicated officers to deal with rural crime. There are issues specific to rural crime that most police officers are not trained or experienced to understand and deal with.
To support the relationship between the Lees Court Estate and the Kent Police Force, the Estate is a training ground for the Kent Police Dog Handlers Unit. The Dog Handling Unit uses several different locations on the Estate both during the day and night time.
We applaud PC Williams, his colleagues and Shayne for their outstanding work.
28 Jan 2013
British Falconry Club at Lees Court
The British Falconers Club, founded in 1927, held a Field Meet at the Lees Court Estate on Saturday, 26th January 2013. The Club is the oldest established falconry club in the UK, having celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2002.
Chris Hendon (Treasurer) and Shayne Dean (Lees Court Gamekeeper) organised the day for 14 members from the Southern Region to fly hawks over dogs. The Countess Sondes and Princess Olga Romanoff, as well as members of the Lees Court Shoot, joined the Club Members and split between the 7 Goshawks and 7 Harris Hawks for an enjoyable and educational day.
Falconry has become an integral part of the Lees Court sporting calender, and Lady Sondes was delighted and touched to accept a wonderful watercolour print by Joel Kirk from the members of the Club.
Thanks to 'Dave the Dog' who took photographs throughout the day.
15 Jan 2013
Wild Greys closer to take-off!
Plumpton Agricultural College students braved freezing conditions to begin habitat improvements for the 'Re-Introduction of Wild Grey Partridge' at the Lees Court Estate.
A group of students who are studying to be gamekeepers, spent the day helping the Lees Court gamekeeper, Shayne Dean to clear derelict hedgerows in order to stimulate re-generation and suitable habitat to encourage wild grey partridge.
The Countess Sondes, Rhodri Thomas (Land Agent, Strutt and Parker) and Elizabeth Roberts (Estate Administrator) joined the group after a busy morning to bring hot soup and fresh bread to fortify the students. The Countess Sondes expressed her appreciation for all the hard work being undertaken and discussed with the aspiring gamekeepers their experiences and aspirations in a career so important to the future of the countryside.
01 Jan 2013
Swale Estuary Once Again Sees Drama!
Blue Walpole, tenant Lees Couart Estate moorings on the Swale Estuary saved the lives of thieves found perishing whilst trespassing on his son Wink's boat.
On Saturday, 15th December at around 8am, cries for help were heard coming from his son's boat. On investigation Blue found two men trespassing on the boat's deck. The boat had been ransacked above and below deck. One of the two men had obviously fallen in to the water and was suffering from hypothermia. Blue called the emergancy services and ferried out paramedics to the moored boat.
Two of the boats dinghies were later recovered with balaclavas and homemade oars.
The two men were sent to Kent and Canterbury Hospital and treated for hypothermia and later questioned by the Police.
Blue is once again a hero!
The Countryside Code is a set of statutory guidelines on the responsibilities for visitors to the countryside and those who manage the land.
Below is a brief summary, the full code can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code
Respect the local community and other people using the outdoors. Remember your actions can affect people's lives and livelihoods.
- Respect the needs of local people and visitors alike – for example, don’t block gateways,driveways or other paths with your vehicle.
- When riding a bike or driving a vehicle, slow down or stop for horses, walkers and farm animals and give them plenty of room. By law, cyclists must give way to walkers and horseriders on bridleways.
- Co-operate with people at work in the countryside. For example, keep out of the way when farm animals are being gathered or moved and follow directions from the farmer.
- Busy traffic on small country roads can be unpleasant and dangerous to local people, visitors and wildlife - so slow down and where possible, leave your vehicle at home.
- Leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths.
- A farmer will normally close gates to keep farm animals in, but may sometimes leave them open so the animals can reach food and water. Leave gates as you find them or follow instructions on signs.
- Follow paths unless wider access is available, such as on open country or registered common land (known as ‘Open Access land’).
- Leave machinery and farm animals alone – don’t interfere with animals even if you think they’re in distress. Try to alert the farmer instead.
- Use gates, stiles or gaps in field boundaries if you can – climbing over walls, hedges and fences can damage them and increase the risk of farm animals escaping.
- Our heritage matters to all of us – be careful not to disturb ruins and historic sites.
- Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home. Litter and leftover food doesn’t just spoil the beauty of the countryside, it can be dangerous to wildlife and farm animals. Dropping litter and dumping rubbish are criminal offences.
- Fires can be as devastating to wildlife and habitats as they are to people and property – so be careful with naked flames and cigarettes at any time of the year.
- Keep dogs under effective control, when you take your dog into the outdoors, always ensure it does not disturb wildlife, farm animals, horses or other people by keeping it under effective control. This means that you: keep your dog on a lead, or keep it in sight at all times, be aware of what it’s doing and be confident it will return to you promptly on command and ensure it does not stray off the path or area where you have a right of access
- It’s always good practice (and a legal requirement on ‘Open Access’ land) to keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and horses, for your own safety and for the welfare of the animals. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner.
- However, if cattle or horses chase you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead.
- Always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly –‘ bag it and bin it’.