How to remove a Dart Tag

This may seem like a bit of a departure for my blog, but here’s something really practical…
As you may know, Dart Tag is going, being replaced by Dart Charge. As this is to be a London Congestion Charge style payment system, there will be no need for a physical device to make automatic payments.
Regardless of the reasoning behind deciding to keep charging for an infrastructure project now paid for, something else was bothering my husband: how on earth do you get the Dart Tag holder off the windscreen of the car?
The Dart Tag holder is stuck on with a 3M sticky pad, which seems to be equivalent of No More Nails… Really pretty difficult to shift. My husband had pulled at it, but it was stuck fast. He was afraid he was going to crack the windscreen, or the holder (who wants broken plastic glued to their windscreen?)
Google was my friend. I found several suggestions, but one from the Australian E tag company rang a bell. I dredged up from the back of my mind that, to separate layers glued together with a pad, you need to twist one layer gently from side to side, repeating with increasing pressure and twist to break the seal. The Aussie site suggested putting the tag back into the holder for added leverage…
Success! Tag holder removed and the method is so efficient it didn’t even leave the sticky residue behind in enough quantity to require a cleaning wipe.

Ashford is no picture postcard town, apparently

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Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot going on in Ashford that I think is positive. I think the planning for Ashford 2030 looks sensible although I have views on the planning of housing (and not that it should all be stopped).
I like the farmer’s market, craft events, Revelation St Mary, Create music festival and the real love and effort put in by everyone to make these things work and attract people to the town.

But oh dear.  I’m going to share my frustrating morning.

I was trying to find a postcard of my town to send to a friend in Africa. Nothing fancy, I thought, just the church and churchyard (as above), Willesborough Windmill, or the tank, or Middle Row. WH Smith? Nothing. Savia? Nope. Where else? The Museum? I was on my way there when I remembered that the tourist office is no longer next door to the Museum. I was not aided in this by the fact that the tourist information signs still direct you as if it is.

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Instead, the tourist office is on the second floor of the gateway plus centre. I’ve lived in Ashford a lot of my life and I still had to think hard about where that was – most people still call it “the library.” But to hide the Tourist Information Centre on the second floor of a municipal building – what are we saying to potential tourists? Hey guys, want to know what to look at in this pleasant market town? Why not do the treasure hunt to find the tourist office wasting half your time here in the process? This isn’t serious behaviour for a town with a Eurostar station that could be the gateway to the Garden of England in terms of potential tourists.

Mercifully there is a lift to the second floor (not lazy – just accompanied by toddler in pushchair and child on school holidays). On arrival, I searched for the postcards. This is what I found:
– two postcards with castles of Kent (Ashford has a Castle Street but has never had a castle);
– one visit Kent postcard (no Ashford);
– four postcards with hand drawn historic bucolic scenes with hay carts;
– one postcard of Lille Europe Station with a Eurostar and a TGV on it (yes, that would be in FRANCE);
– one postcard of Ashford and Tenterden which, on closer inspection, turned out to have images of Biddenden and Tenterden but not Ashford!
Finally I found a postcard proporting to photo 1be Ashford but I didn’t recognise the images.  The lady at the desk had a look with me and we worked out that it was two shots of the houses around the churchyard and one of the fountain on the lower high street. Two pictures of the churchyard but no church? Is this some kind of militant atheism in postcard production?! (It is pictured here, no copyright infringement intended, please purchase your own version if you like it and are less incredulous about the fact that THIS IS THE ONLY POSTCARD OF ASHFORD AVAILABLE IN ASHFORD than I am…)

But seriously, this is a ridiculous situation. I asked and was told that there had indeed been a degree of frustration expressed by the tourists that had eventually made it to the second floor. Angry tourists – just what every town needs to encourage repeat visits.

At this point I should say that, twenty years ago I did a placement at Ashford Tourist Information Centre. I was studying French and Spanish, and we had to do a voluntary community citizenship placement thingy: most girls went to help with reading in primary schools an hour or two a week but I had been helping my mum with that sort of thing in her classes and wanted to do something different. We worked hard to make sure that tourism in Ashford wasn’t just “hello! Yes we have a windmill but not in the town centre, and have you considered visiting Canterbury?” But knowing something about an issue doesn’t automatically make you wrong, despite the evidence of a deep distrust of expertise in British culture at present.

Ashford mustn’t just be a place to pass through, to leave from to go to somewhere else.

It is fantastic that we have the Designer Outlet centre and can attract people to the Ashford area to shop: footfall of several million a year. That’s a lot of out of town visitors who could also potentially visit the town centre. Perhaps it is worth a tourist office there?
It’ll be even better of course when there is some kind of connection between the outlet and the town especially as there is no free bus any more. I hope that plans for a connecting business quarter and a plaza that more clearly uses the station as the link will also help. Even then, it is a hell of a walk between the ASDA-end of the outlet and the town centre – some kind of mini tourist train (think Le Touquet seafront or York Station to the Minster) or something might work and even be an attraction in itself?

If I recall correctly, there will soon be interactive maps with apps to download to your phone to give you your tourist information for historic Ashford. I guess ultimately this approach means that a tourist office is just a big cupboard for flyers that can be taken put on display somewhere else – hopefully somewhere that tourists can actually find and use them.

It’s starting to feel like, if you want something done properly…