Jim’s sixth visit to SKLR 22.01.14

There’s a typically gung ho sixties war film called Where Eagles Dare.
The storyline has the protagonists breaking into a maximum security Nazi
chateau to carry out their mission of derring do and save the world in 120
minutes ­ the latter a key feature of all Hollywood financed cinematic
adventures. I’m not sure I could save much of anything beyond a few useless
Nectar points in 120 minutes but who knows, perhaps my moment will yet come.
In the film, there’s only one way in or out of the chateau and that’s via a
precarious slow-moving cable car. Try to imagine how ticked off you’d be
when you got home from work after a ride across the ravine only to find
you’d forgotten to pick up the teabags.

I mention the old movie because it obliquely reminds me of the process of
getting into the SKLR Kemsley Down HQ. Apart from the line up from
Sittingbourne Viaduct that requires the running of a steam or diesel train,
the only access is through the vast DS Smith paper mill. The Kemsley Down
site is strategically bordered on three sides by the grounds of the mill
which has fencing, guards and security apparatus in abundance. As visitors
and guest of honour, Daniel, Simon the photographer and myself have to be
driven through the security gates and past a fleet of probing cameras by
Bob, the SKLR CEO,  every time we visit. The side of the SKLR compound not
surrounded by the mill edges onto the mercurial waters of Milton Creek, a
short distance from where it cuts in from The Swale. The creek is fiercely
tidal and quickly exposes and then fills to cover the muddy grey banks
beloved by all manner of long beaked waders. These gather in gangs to
studiously probe in the thick mud for worms and other take-a-way snacks.

From the point of view of easy public access it might seem somewhat
inconvenient that the SKLR is situated in the middle of a commercial paper
mill but this actually goes some way to keeping the SKLR legacy safe and
sound. The mill staff are generously supportive of the railway and keep a
necessary eye on things. Bob points out a section of the fence that abuts
the creek. Another type of gang, more predatory than the waders, has hack
sawed away the base of three lengths of galvanised fencing in an attempt to
gain entry to the site. It truly is astonishing the lengths to which the
unscrupulous will go in order to feed their greedy short-sighted appetite
for scrap metal.

post by sound artist Jim Whelton

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