Chairman’s Report


Thanks to our much healthier bank balance, the past year has been one in which we have been able to carry out a number of ambitious projects on the Commons and to plan even more for the coming year. This is a result of the one-off payment from UK Power Networks of £5,000 last year, generously donated to the Society by Christine, other donations from Christine in previous years and our own efforts in selling calendars and cards. Many of our current projects are ones, which we should not have to carry out again, or at least not for some time. However, clearly this level of spending is unsustainable long term unless we can generate further income. 

Works on the Commons: Christine’s ongoing felling work on the treed areas of the Commons continues and, despite the temporary disruptions, the outcome has been very much appreciated.  The work on the Bottom Ride has met with the approval of horse-riders and walkers alike and we wait with anticipation to see whether it will enable the rides to dry out better after wet weather or whether further drainage work might be necessary. We are hoping that the current work on the Top Ride will enable it to dry out more effectively too, though run-off from the road poses a significant challenge.

Opening up of views from the main Chesham Road has also been widely welcomed and we look forward to further ‘glimpses’ along the road when the current phase of felling is completed.

Keeping the areas cleared: In order to keep the cleared areas open, we have employed a contractor to grind 83 stumps along the Bottom Ride and on the grassy area near to Horse Block Lane, to ensure that the trees do not re-sprout. This is expensive but necessary work. Further stumps will need to be treated when the work on the Top Ride is completed. We will also need to budget for future work on the scrub areas along the Bottom Ride, which could be managed effectively by a contractor with a machine but would be almost impossible for our volunteers to manage on their own. We also need to try to establish a regime in the summer months for keeping some of the paths, which have been opened up, clear of vegetation (to be addressed later this evening).

We have also spent significant amounts of money on Waymarking Posts. However, once all the new posts are in situ (the last ones will be installed after the work on the Top Ride is completed), they should not need to be replaced for many years to come since they are considerably sturdier than our previous ones. We also hope that since they are all uniform, riders should have no difficulty in recognising and following the routes. We hope that, thanks largely to David Dennis’s persistence, we have also managed to fix the leak in Pallett’s Pond.  If this work is successful then we should only have to dredge some of the vegetation every few years. Updates on each of these initiatives will follow later this evening.

The way forward: Following our brief talk from Ian Phillips at last year’s AGM, Ian and Peter Hall attended a Committee Meeting in March to further discuss possible ways in which we could encourage more people to use and enjoy the Commons and recruit more volunteers. This was the single focus of a Committee meeting in July. We have been working to implement several of Ian’s suggestions such as providing information about the Commons in an attractive way on the Website, producing an informative Pamphlet and we have new information boards in the pipeline.

We have also pursued further involvement with the School and other local groups. Isobel Clark and David Dennis have both taken part in activities for the School’s Kith and Kin Sessions and we hope to have further involvement later in the year. For example we would like to be able to help the children photograph some of the things they see on the Commons and perhaps include their photos in our calendar.  The Horicultural Society have also been liaising with us and have asked if we would reserve a page on the calendar for a winning entry for their photography section ‘Our Beautiful Commons’. We hope that you will all be out there with your cameras! We have continued to have a good working relationship with the Cricket Club and the Village Picnic was again successful with the Hilltop Community Choir joining in to entertain us. We hope it will become a traditional village event.

Horse-Riders: It has been particularly pleasing to see that all those involved in re-instating the waymarking posts are riders who regularly use the Commons.

Volunteer Recruitment strategy: Veronica Mash and Janet Hopkinson have been looking into this (to be discussed later).

‘Friends of HCCPS’: We have decided against implementing a “Friends of H&C” scheme, at least for the present, since it would be difficult to implement alongside our Memberships.

Volunteers and Sponsors:

Very few of the Society’s activities could have been achieved without the help and goodwill of a large number of individuals who have contributed in a variety of ways. I do hope that I haven’t overlooked anyone! Please note that many of those listed have been involved in other helpful tasks. I haven’t listed them all. A tremendous community effort!

Christine continues to manage the Commons in a way that is in the best interests of flora and fauna as well as Commons users. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude for her efforts.

Conservation Group members: Isobel Clark and David Barnard for planning the work to be undertaken and who lead the sessions with Ian Phillips; Richard Bysouth, Paul Bettison, David Barnard and Clare Strong who are in charge of First Aid, emergency response, safe working and tools:  Bill Waller who gets the fire going in all weathers.

Other Volunteer Groups: The Get Out There team from Hammersmith

Individuals who are active during the summer months on the tractor (Jef Bell, Bill Waller, Isobel Clark) or working on agreed areas such as the triangle opposite Sandpit Hill Cottages (Mark Gardner)

Litter pickers who do their best to keep the Commons free or rubbish

Others who respond to a perceived need such as clearing up when a tree or branch is causing an obstruction (Rupert van Hullen) or clearing up after the Queen’s Birthday Beacon ((Philip Matthews); helping repair the patch by the Full Moon (John Minting); supplying logs to prevent access there (Trafford Matthews); helping fetch, carry and erect signs and marquees (Peter Hopkinson, John and Ann Caple): helping with the pond work (Dave Tarn; Clive Carey; Brian Harris; Mark Hobbs; Isobel Clark; David Dennis)

Repairs to the tractor: Martin Barber and Steve Cheeld

Local contractors/businesses who continue to provide us with good service - James Jolliffe(also provided membrane for the pond); Wesley and Duncan Mitchell; Harvey Mash. Orbit Press for printing calendars etc.

Susie Bell and Tina Mash, designers of the calendar and pamphlet  - free of charge

Sponsors of the calendar WE Black; Geo Browns; Cherry Tree House; Chiltern Motors; Christmas Tree Farm; James Jolliffe; HG Matthews ; Phil Matthews; Monkey+bob; MTLoos  

Liz van Hullen and Veronica Mash who are helping market the calendar

Local photographers who generously donate their images for the calendar or website;

Experts in their fields who advise us, monitor our bird boxes (BORG) or teach us about the local flora and fauna (David Dennis and Peter Bygate); 

BURP who provided several hours of entertainment at the Village Picnic for tea and cake;

Members of the Committee who are unstinting in their efforts to keep the Commons in a way that everyone can enjoy.

Looking Forward:

Next year will be the 50th Anniversary of the Society and I believe that we can be justly proud of the Society’s achievements in that time. Had we done nothing the entire Commons could by now have been impenetrable wilderness as predicted by Ron How.

A large number of people have contributed to the success of the Society over that time. To date, 79 individuals have served on the Committee, several for 15 to 20 years or more. Perhaps the most remarkable is David Barnard who has now completed 37 years as a Committee member, past Chairman and Vice Chairman and who continues to be an active conservation group member. Well done, David. I think your record is likely to stand for a long time!

There will always be work to do but, with continuing community effort and goodwill, we can achieve our aims of preserving the Commons as a haven for wildlife and for the enjoyment of all.

Lindsay Griffin