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Gallagher’s quarry extension at Aylesford becomes subject of protest song

Objections to a proposed extension of a ragstone quarry have this week taken a more lyrical note.

Singer-songwriter Rachel Rodwell has written a song about the proposed expansion of Hermitage Quarry at Aylesford and the damage it could cause to Oaken Wood.

Ms Rodwell, who has performed with the folk band Larkspur for many years, even touring Finland and Lapland, said: “The issue of the quarry and what will happen to the wildlife there is one I feel very passionate about.”

The official deadline for the public consultation to KCC’s plans to allow a 96-hectare extension of the existing ragstone quarry operated by Gallaghers Aggregates off Hermitage Lane closed at midnight on Tuesday.

There were more than 25,000 letters of objection gathered by the national charity, The Woodland Trust, alone, as well as over 100 local objections, plus a petition of 500 signatures gathered by Ms Rodwell and the local Green Party.

She said: “Things will go quiet now for two or three months, while KCC shifts this through the mountain of responses, before the matter is brought back to a council meeting later in the year.

“But I want to keep the issue in the forefront of people’s minds, which is why I have written the song.”

Singer Rachel Rodwell
Singer Rachel Rodwell

“Folk music has always been a way for ordinary people to voice concerns about issues that affect them.”

The lyrics of Oaken Wood run:

Will I be the last oak standing

midst the screaming sycamores

when my ancient mossed and lichened branches

are hanging from hydraulic claws

and when Jenny's scarlet-berried hawthorn bush

no longer hides her thorny home

will I be the last oak standing

for the sake of your ragstone.

Inside Gallagher's Quarry
Inside Gallagher's Quarry

Will I be the last deer running

from your dusty clouds of lime

when my orchards, poppy fields and

bluebell woods

are just names upon street signs

and you marvel as I jump your garden gate

I have no other place to go

Will I be the last deer running

for the sake of your ragstone.

Ragstone quarried in Aylesford
Ragstone quarried in Aylesford

Will I be the last owl calling

with no answer from her kin

and when moths are drawn

to moons of halogen

Just to burn their dusty wings

and when Brock lies by the dual carriageway

He never found his way back home

Will I be the last owl calling

for the sake of your ragstone.

A map showing the proposed quarry extension
A map showing the proposed quarry extension

KCC, which is in the process of reviewing the Kent Waste and Minerals Plan, has identified that there will be a shortfall in the provision of hard rock extraction of 17.4m tonnes across the county over the plan period up to 2039.

It carried out a “call for sites” inviting landowners to put forward suitable plots for ragstone extraction, but only one was forthcoming, and that was an extension to the south and west of Gallagher’s existing quarry.

Directors at Gallagher’s explained that the rock strata containing the ragstone were unusually close to the surface in Maidstone and West Malling, making it economic to quarry. Elsewhere, the rock was too deeply buried for extraction to be economically viable.

The company estimated that the expansion of the quarry would enable another 20m tonnes of ragstone to be extracted, but objectors are concerned that the expansion would destroy an area of ancient woodland and devastate wildlife habitats and biodiversity.

Ms Rodwell, whose day job is as a therapist with a local children’s charity, said: “Being able to access green space is very important to our mental health; I see its benefits every day with the children I help.”

The first of Rachel Rodwell's Oaken Wood animal prints
The first of Rachel Rodwell's Oaken Wood animal prints

“The constant development – not just at Gallagher’s Quarry, but everywhere – is robbing future generations of their right to be able to access green space.”

Ms Rodwell is also no mean artist and she is producing a series of four prints of the animals that can be found in Oaken Wood or nearby, which she intends to sell to raise funds for the animal charities The Fox Project and Folly Wildlife Rescue.

Those interested in purchasing a print can find details on the Facebook page.

Gallagher’s directors insist that the firm preserves the soil from any ancient woodland as it quarries and after removing the ragstone and filling the void with inert waste, resurfaces the area with the ancient soils before planting new trees on top.

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