Woodpecker Court, Deal: community spirit and local heritage

As the sun shone through on Easter Monday at Woodpecker Court, so did our Community Spirit.


In the heart of our Kent Mining Communities, this special needs school is run by Dom Meehan and his team. Woodpecker Court recently opened up its Community Farm, Community Woods and its newest addition Community Café, to families from its surrounding villages and local towns.

The success of the school can be measured by its latest OFSTED rating as “Outstanding” and by the many achievement awards won by the Woodpecker Team and by its students. Woodpecker Court can stand proud with its Educational and Employment successes; however, their passion and dedication doesn’t stop there, it also equally includes its standing within our local Communities.

High in its priorities is to promote, support and prolong our Mining Community Spirit. With all our local mines long since shut and many promises broken over the years, Woodpecker Court is akin to a breath of fresh air and to see hundreds of happy, smiling faces at this Easter event, made me remember where I came from and made me feel very proud to still be part of this community.

This is just one community event of many that Woodpecker organize each year, their Winter Wonderland event has become an extraordinary success with around 800 local children enjoying this festive event.

The school is based in the same grounds of what was once Tilmanstone Court, the home of Richard Tilden-Smith, owner of Tilmanstone Colliery and its history has not been lost by Dom and his team. Richard Tilden-Smith was a unique mine owner, who cared deeply for his miners and their families, supporting them with their educational needs and with their social needs, nearly 100 years ago. Woodpecker wants to be much more than a school, they want to be part of our local community and following in Tilden-Smith’s footsteps are part of their journey, today.

Growing up and living in tight communities like ours was fun and we felt safe, but it has never been easy, especially for our parents. Our ancestors came from all over the UK and in the beginning, we were shunned by locals and forced into forging our own new culture. However, we always embraced our wider communities and we were responsible for community assets, like houses, schools and churches, welfare sports and social clubs, even bus routes and medical centres. Losing our pits was a massive blow to our communities and it has taken a long time to come to terms with that. We are no longer active miners but we will always be miners and we still come from and live in our mining communities.

Today, we have three excellent local heritage facilities which play a very important role in keeping our mining heritage alive: Aylesham Heritage Centre, Elvington & Eythorne Heritage Group, and Kent Mining Museum.


Also, you can still visit our remaining three Welfare clubs at – Betteshanger Social Club The Circle, Betts Bowling Club Cavel Sq, and Deal Welfare Club Cowdry Sq. Visit Woodpecker Court www.facebook.com/WoodpeckerCourt for more details including their next event “Woodpecker Summer Fest” Friday 12th July.

See you there,

Gary Cox

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