Chairman’s Report 2018

I am pleased to be able to report that the Commons are generally in good shape and that there have been a great many positive activities for the Society this year. For several months I have had no complaints about any problems on the Commons and the New Grapevine has been surprisingly free of adverse comments.  Of course we haven’t yet had prolonged rain, snow or gales so it may all be about to change when the rides become water logged, trees or branches fall down and the verges become soft and muddy!  As always, there still remain some on-going problems such as the NZPW in Pallett’s Pond, which David Dennis will address later in the meeting.

This year has been time for consolidation after a period of considerable activity over the last few years with extensive forestry work; building our data base of members’ information and a change to collecting more subscriptions on line; creating our website; writing our constitution; poring over our insurance to get it right; last year celebrating our 50th anniversary and then the need to find a new contractor because of Wesley’s unfortunate stroke and his subsequent death.

I believe that much of our previous hard work is now paying off.

Forestry Work: As you may be aware, Christine hires the services of John Morris from Chiltern Woodlands to advise her on any tree work that needs to be done and Pete Leybourne and his team carry out this work wherever possible.  After several years of quite extensive work there has been less required so far this year though Christine and John will be walking the Commons in the next week to establish any further work to be undertaken in the New Year. John and Christine have been closely monitoring the damage caused by Ash Dieback, which is now affecting many trees on the Commons, as it is throughout the country. We hope that it will not have the devastating effects of Dutch Elm Disease almost exactly 50 years ago. 

Contract work:

After many years of being able to rely on Wesley and Duncan to carry out all manner of jobs on the Commons we needed to find someone reliable to continue their good work.  In this we have been fortunate to be able to use James Jolliffe who grew up in Hawridge Vale. James has worked on the Commons from when he was a youngster. His mother Jenny was the first person I know who tried to regenerate the heather near to Horse Block and the family’s sow, Sally Pig may have been the last domesticated animal to forage on the Commons outside Nutfield.

As well as cutting the grassy areas James has a variety of machines, which can make short work of some our problems such as stump-grinding and lopping branches which are too difficult to reach for our Conservation Volunteers.

Conservation Volunteers:  Last winter and spring we had to cancel some of the sessions due to bad weather but we have been fortunate to have a good turn out at each of the Conservation sessions so far this autumn. Isobel and Richard Bysouth continue to do a stalwart job leading the sessions though we miss having some of the others who have previously played a significant role such as David Barnard, Ian Phillips and Peter Hall who have given up due to ill health. Fortunately, we have regulars who will carry out other necessary tasks like first aid, collecting the tools etc. It has also been good to have 2 young students carrying out work for their Duke of Edinburgh awards accompanied by their parents.

Species Surveys: We are keen to continue to record the various species that live here on the Commons and to take advice on any steps we might take to enhance their environment wherever possible.  It has been very interesting to have the year-long Moth Surveys undertaken by David Dennis and Peter Bygate. David will be talking about the results later and you will be able to see some of the amazing variety that they have trapped.

I am also very pleased to have secured the services of Dave Braddock to carry out surveys of various species starting very soon. Dave is very enthusiastic and is happy to carry out this work for us free of charge. He emailed a few days ago to say:

‘All ready to go this end, will be in touch. Waiting for it to get a bit cooler for the birds. Looking forward to it. I think 6 or 7 visits over a year will give you loads of info. You can tell your AGM that I am definitely starting soon.

I have been volunteering with the RSPB for 20 years and have been the volunteer warden and bio diversity surveyor at RSPB Hazeley Heath for 4 years. 
Just spent the last 3 days creating heathland habitat for silver studded blue butterfly. When I started creating habitat for them we only had 15-20 butterflies, last year we had 325. Not bad for 3 years work.’

After the recent alarm caused by a forager at St Leonards I may have to put a message on Grapevine that Dave is carrying out a harmless survey!!


Over the last few years we have worked hard to improve our communications with the membership and the community as a whole and as the 100th edition of Hilltop News is about to come out in a few days I would like to praise their role in helping keep everyone informed of what is going on here on the Commons and why.

Those of us who have been involved with the Society for many years will remember the days when we could only rely on AGMs, door to door communications or Newsletters and it all took a long time to canvass opinion, collect subs or to disseminate information. 

Now thanks to 6 editions of HTN as well as our own website, MailChimp Newsletters and New Grapevine this is all a much simpler process and, I believe, it helps foster a better understanding of what we are trying to achieve.

Relations with other groups in the community: I am very pleased to report that we have continued to foster good relations with the Cricket Club and already we are planning another Village Picnic next summer as a joint venture. The local businesses which sponsored the 2018 calendar have all continued to sponsor it again for 2019. The Hort Soc have also sponsored us again this year. Parish Councillor Chris Brown successfully gained a grant from Bucks County Council to buy a wheeled strimmer for use on the Commons and more recently he helped us with further grants from Chiltern District Council and the Good Neighbours Group to erect a memorial bench to the members of our local community who served in WW1. John Caple was helped to erect the bench by Phil Matthews who lent us manpower and equipment which was also very much appreciated. I believe that there has been a real feeling of the Village groups working together as a community.

The committee: I would like to thank each of the Committee members for all of their work and support and I am pleased that all but one will continue on the committee. They continue to bring their own particular skills and knowledge to help the Society work smoothly. Unfortunately, Veronica has decided to step down and she will be much missed. She has helped in a variety of ways from being minutes secretary to monitoring the rides and footpaths, taking a close interest in way-marking and involving her family in creating our information pamphlet as well as her conscientious work in maintaining the website and sending out our messages via MailChimp.

I am also sorry to be losing Janet as Minutes secretary, though fortunately not from the committee, but I have been asked not to make a fuss about that – just to give her cake! Job Done! I was delighted when other members of the Committee volunteered to take on the job of minute taking on a rotational basis.

Christine: Finally, I would also like to thank Christine for the many hours and anxious times that she spends keeping the Commons in good order for all of the community, her even-handedness in dealing with disputes that arise and for her generosity in directing funds to the Society such as the donation from the BBC for the recent filming by the BBC outside High Chimneys.

All in all I think the Society is functioning well and I leave Ben to show that our finances are also in good shape.

Lindsay Griffin (Chairman)

Treasurers Report presenting the final accounts for the year ended 31st October 2018.

With income of £3,527 and total expenses of £2,836, the Societies reserves increased by £692.  This is in line with my forecast at last years’ AGM.

Membership increased for the 4th year in a row to 156 members and is now the highest it’s been for at least 11 years representing half of the local population.

Calendars continued to be a successful fundraiser at £1,064.

Elsewhere, the 50th anniversary event in 2017 concluded with the final stocks of mugs sold and all tolled raised £272.

Expenditure of £2,836, back at more normal levels following significant investment in stump grinding last year.

Cutting the commons with contractor support twice this year cost £944, of which £176 is an under provision from the previous year and £480 an estimate for this year.

Plus using contractor support on pond maintenance costing £240.

Elsewhere the society continues to invest in tools for the working parties, £621 on ‘tree popper’ tools plus £239 on smaller equipment.

The reserves remain strong at £14,207.  Earning 0.2% interest in a deposit account.  The reserves are essential as the Society increasingly relies on 3rd party contractor support to maintain the common.

Looking ahead, the membership fee will remain at £10 for an 8th year in a row.

Future expenditure - we anticipate increased use of contractors to cut grass and branches plus stump grinding next year, so next year is expected to be a year of reducing cash reserves.


Ben Lewis


27th November 2018