Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons’ Preservation Society
Annual General Meeting 2016
Held on Tuesday 22nd November at Cholesbury Village Hall
Present: Committee members - Lindsay Griffin (Chairman), David Dennis (Vice Chairman), Ben Lewis (Treasurer), Janet Hopkinson (Minute Secretary), David Barnard, Richard Bysouth, John Caple, Isobel Cark, Mark Hobbs, Michelle Storm.
HCCPS Members - Christine Stott, John and Doreen Cooper, Mike Wallis, Joan and Margaret Walton, Ann Caple, Paddy and Windsor Thomas, Mike Franklin, Paul Bettison, David Tarn, Brian and Val Harris, John and Diana Garner, Joan Barnard and David Frizby.
Apologies for absence
Tim Watts, Mike Fletcher, Chris Brown, Ian and Sue Phillips, Veronica Mash, Peter Hall, John Allen, Clive and Gill Fleckney and Callum Templeman.
Lindsay Griffin welcomed everyone to the meeting and reminded those present that HCCPS had, for the first time, emailed the draft minutes in advance to those who attended the last AGM.
1.0 Minutes of Previous AGM – 7th November 2015
These were signed as an accurate record.
2.0 Matters Arising
There were no matters arising.
3.0 Chairman’s Report
A copy of Lindsay’s Chairman’s Report is attached, the salient points being:
Thanks to a healthy bank balance, due to the UK Power Networks’ cheque which Christine generously diverted to HCCPS, plus the Society’s efforts in selling cards and calendars, quite a few major works have been embarked upon during the last 12 months. Much of the work undertaken have been one-off projects that will not need to be repeated, as this level of spend would be unsustainable long term.
Works on the Common: Christine Stott takes full responsibility for all tree work, which has been well received to-date and is now continuing towards Hawridge. The Society’s responsibility is the grassland and £1,700 has just been spent on stump grinding to facilitate easier mowing and more will need to be undertaken next year on the top ride. There is an on-going problem with run-off from the road, particularly near Stoney Lane, and drainage work may need to be considered. Work on the scrub areas on the bottom ride requires machinery and the new paths that have been opened up will also need to be kept clear of nettles and brambles.
New Waymarker posts to show the permissive rides have been installed and these will not need replacing for many years.
Pallets Pond – with thanks to David Dennis for his persistence and energy, we hope the leak in the pond liner has now been fixed and dredging to remove invasive vegetation should only be required every three or four years. DD will discuss this in detail later in the evening.
The Way Forward: Following a brief talk at last year’s AGM, Ian Phillips and Peter Hall met with the Committee to discuss in greater detail how the Common might be enjoyed and used by larger numbers of people. Several suggestions have been implemented; an information pamphlet has been produced and new information boards are being commissioned, along with the continued updating of the website.
School and local groups: Good working relations are being forged both with the school and local organisations such as the Cricket Club, Horticultural Society and Hilltop Villages Community Choir.
Volunteers: Work continues on a volunteer recruitment strategy. LG will discuss in detail later in the evening.
Thanks: Lindsay thanked the large number of individuals whose continued effort and support enables the Society to flourish – from the members of the conservation group, to litter pickers, local businesses, photographers, tractor drivers, mechanics etc. etc. Christine Stott was particularly thanked for all her input on matters relating to the Commons and a round of applause followed. Lindsay also thanked the Committee for their support.
2017 will be the 50th anniversary of the Society. Lindsay felt the Society had every reason to be genuinely proud of the work the Society has carried out in the last 50 years; Ron How had warned in the early days of the Society that if nothing was done it would turn into a wilderness. Since 1967, 79 individuals have served on the Committee, several for 15 or 20 years. David Barnard has completed a remarkable 37 years as a committee member, as past Chairman and Vice Chairman, and continues to be an active member of the Conservation Group. Joan Walton chaired the very first meeting when the Society was inaugurated and commented “it is really nice that people continue the work that we started”. Lindsay stated there was always plenty of work to be done and “we have to run to stand still” but hopes the Society will be celebrating its centenary in another 50 years.
A copy of the Treasurer’s Report is attached, the salient points being:
Income stands at £3,088.40 and expenditure for the year £2,948.39 giving a surplus for the year o £140.01.
There is £14,481.84 in the Barclays Deposit Account.
Currently we have 144 members, which is back to the levels of 3 or 4 years ago. It is thought this is mainly due to ease of collecting subs via PayPal or electronic payment.
Calendar sales are good although card sales are now declining.
Notable expenditure was £600 for chainsaw training and increased cut and collect costs compared with the previous year, but still below the 7 year average level.
Only £65 had been spent in running and repairs for the tractor – a record low – but there was work to be carried out shortly on the brakes.
The money in the deposit account was essential a contingency for the ageing tractor.
There were no questions from the floor but Christine Stott advised that because more paths were being opened up, more money was required to keep those paths open with stump grinding and machinery/working party costs to be considered.
Election of Committee
Chair: David Dennis was proposed by Christine Stott and seconded by Paddy Thomas. There being no further nominations David Dennis was duly elected.
David Dennis stepped up to chair the meeting declaring it to be “a bit daunting when you look at the illustrious names of past chairs, so I really need a good committee to share the load. I am therefore delighted that Lindsay Griffin has agreed to stand as Vice Chair, and grateful for the excellent support of all my committee colleagues”
Vice Chair: Lindsay Griffin was proposed by Joan Barnard, seconded by Michelle Storm and there being no further nominations, was duly elected.
Treasurer: Ben Lewis was nominated by Doreen Cooper and seconded by Diana Garner. There being no further nominations he was duly elected.
Minute Secretary: Janet Hopkinson was nominated by David Barnard and seconded by Diana Garner. There being no further nominations she was duly elected.
Committee Members: All the committee members were prepared to stand for re-election – David Barnard, John Caple, Isobel Clark, Mark Hobbs, Michelle Storm, Veronica Mash. In addition, following the resignation of Tony Francis, there was a vacancy which Tim Watts was prepared to fill. It was agreed to vote for the Committee en-bloc.
John Cooper proposed their election en-bloc and it was seconded by Mike Franklin.
Both Richard Bysouth and Steve Cheeld were co-opted to the Committee.
The Hon. Examiner, Mike Fletcher, was willing to stand again and there being no further nominations, was duly elected.
David Dennis thanked Lindsay for her hard work, involvement and leadership. Her sunny disposition and positive attitude meant it had always been a pleasure to work with her.
There was a break in the meeting for refreshments and the AGM reconvened at 8.55pm
Pallets Pond – David Dennis
The problems with Pallets Pond began 15 years ago when the Highways Department shored up the road with a gabion wall. The cages of rock used are extremely porous causing the pond level to drop and almost to dry out in summer. Whilst this in itself is not a disaster, as many ponds dry up in summer, it’s unattractive and New Zealand Pygmy Weed has taken hold. During spells of rainfall the level rises to a certain point and then recedes. Isobel Clark did the initial work in finding a solution which proved to be a combination of plastic liner to seal the wall, held in place with a strip of Bentonite, a natural, inert form of clay from the USA. It is now necessary to finish off with a layer of soil, which needs to be quite specific in type – no chalk and no large flints. This has been sourced at Dundridge Manor and will be moved in the next week or so by Philip Matthews. This means the pond should no longer leak or, if it does, it should retain a higher water level throughout the year. The long-term result will be enhanced wildlife in and on the pond.
John Garner asked whether dredging the pond every three years was wise or whether this would risk damaging the liner. DD responded that the area with the liner would not be dredged although Christine Stott suggested that ‘dredging’ is perhaps the wrong word, as it is essentially the pulling out of sweetgrass.
DD confirmed a large Koi had been found in the pond and a pair of breeding goldfish – there was now a mass of fry, which it was thought a heron might feed on. It was agreed these would do less damage than the snapping terrapin that had been re-homed to Whipsnade!
Pamphlet (LG for VM)
This was a combined effort of all the committee with Veronica Mash’s daughter, Tina, doing the graphics and producing the print-ready copy without charge. The intention is to deliver a pamphlet to every Hawridge & Cholesbury household and distribute to local pubs, the school, libraries, surgeries etc.
18 waymarkers to clarify the routes of the permissive rides have gone in so far and there will be a total of around 30 in total (once the tree work in Hawridge has been finished). These are water-based treated timber posts (which is more wildlife-friendly than oil based treatments) and considerably larger in diameter than previous posts. They will be waymarked in-situ to present a uniform and easily recognisable route to help keep horse riders on the right track.
Janet Hopkinson and Veronica Mash are exploring options to recruit new volunteers. VM has put an advert on the ‘Do It’ website to which there has been one response and VM is trying to determine whether trying to recruit volunteers on a Sunday results in low response. The Scouts, business team building, Chiltern Rangers and Community Impact Bucks have all been identified as potential sources of additional volunteer help.
Summer Working Parties
Where the trees have been felled and the sunshine has been allowed in, certain areas have or will become covered in brambles. There are some places that the tractor simply cannot access and ideally a small summer working group of 2 or 3 people with a long-reach hedge trimmer/strimmer will open up the paths during the summer months. MW suggested that what is needed is a list of potential volunteers and a list of work that needs to be done, so that people can work at their own pace as time allows. He also recommended that a ‘Bushwacker’ machine would be a useful tool.
David Dennis thanked everyone for their litter picking efforts.
Michelle Storm gave a tour of the HCCPS website which has been live for a couple of years. It is now the place to find out what is going on and Lindsay Griffin and Christine Stott spend a lot of time putting information together to upload. There had been 123 views of Peter Hall’s video.
Ann Caple asked how the website was promoted and MS responded this was done via the HCCPS mailing list, grapevine and Twitter, Hilltop News and Chiltern Conservation Group. CS suggested that we put less information out via the Mailchimp emails and simply encourage people to find the information on the website. Michelle was thanked for her hard work the excellent end result.
Any Other Business
There was no other business.
David Dennis concluded the meeting by saying we was looking forward to working with everyone in the future.
The meeting closed at 21.40