A v warm welcome to you all to our AGM
Exceptionally I would like to start my report on the v saddest of notes this year - the death of Mr Fox Corner, our very own Roy Johnson who along with me, was one of the only 2 remaining founder members of the Association 27 years ago. It would be true to say that without Roy's influence, persistence and plain hard work, we would not be here now celebrating another year on the Wildlife Area. His contribution has been immense both in the many very practical jobs around the site and his personal care and servicing of the mower but also in his attention to legal detail eg the drafting of the lease with Guildford Borough Council and boundary encroachment issues. He was tireless! He also cheered us on our way by bringing chocolate finger biscuits to every meeting! He will be missed in so many ways. We send our condolences to Jackie and our thanks for her forbearance and to his daughter Helen who acted as his devoted email link. Can we please now stand for a minute's silent tribute to a v special man. Thank you
Much work has been carried out on site throughout the year and we are v grateful for the contribution and support of our partners. The Pirbright Institute provided a good band of volunteers for both our working party days as part of their outreach work in the Pirbright community. We were also v grateful for the first pick and excellent prices of their grounds maintenance equipment which they were disposing of when their grounds maintenance was contracted out. We also continue to be immensely grateful to a small band of volunteers from Network Rail who join Nigel on their charity days and have done a huge amount of good work including tree felling, sorting storm damage, spraying Himalayan Balsam, flailing the meadows, trimming the front hedge and completing the big job of ditch clearance along the southern boundary of the Wildflower Meadow and Wild Area to the Hodge Brook. I would also like to thank Nigel personally for undertaking many additional jobs and for keeping a weather eye on the whole site. Members will know that we are only a small charity and with 14 acres to manage it is a real challenge for our small team of local volunteers and limited financial resources. We really couldn't manage without our partners!
On a much smaller scale, we have been pleased to welcome the contribution made by Brookwood Scouts who seem to enjoy the challenge of pulling Himalayan Balsam! The more the merrier!
Another pleasurable partnership has continued with the Fox Pub where we hosted our summer BBQ for members last August and everyone was generously given a free glass of wine. About 20 members joined us for a tour around the wildlife area and another 40 added to our number for a tasty BBQ at the Fox. We hope to be able to repeat this successful event in 2018.
Our major success this year has been the progress of the Winter Bridge project. We have been very fortunate with our two new committee members – Roy Coverly and Peter Morley – who have been working very hard to help us with this important project. Roy has been using his engineering skills as the project manager and Peter has been doing a very successful job as our funding officer to get grants amounting to £5500 from several sources so that we can now go ahead in 2018. In addition to the new bridge, we also have sufficient grant funding to undertake tree management and path improvements in the vicinity of the bridge. This is all great news!
What are the challenges for the future?
Firstly, the ongoing battle with the ever-spreading and voracious Himalayan Balsam which has slowly been taking over the wetland areas. This year we are going to have another working party on Tues 12th June with the support of staff from the Pirbright Institute and we hope members will also come along to help us – it may be pretty on the eye but it is nevertheless a v unwelcome invader. We hope that Brookwood Scouts will continue to be supportive along with another local scout group. Members' help will also be v welcome at the pond working party on 4th September when we will spend a happy, wet day in the pond to keep the water soldiers and other weeds and surrounding willows under control. Waders and equipment will be provided plus refreshments.
Secondly, the successful completion of the Winter Bridge project.
Thirdly, reviewing our physical features – the spine path which, although still providing a firm base has gradually lost its edge and is losing the battle against encroaching weeds and our tree cover and management in areas where trees and shrubs have become more dense.
Turning to the Management Cttee, we are delighted to welcome 1 new member – John Shawyer who has already given v valuable practical help around the site and will be helping Roy Coverly with the physical construction of the Winter Bridge. They will join Nigel Emmerson who acts as our site manager, Peter Morley as our skilful Funding Officer, Heather Coverly who is our PR and Publicity Officer, Gordon Jackson, our GBC representative and Tony Smith, our Pirbright Institute representative and, of course, Barbara Carr, our Secretary and Julie Emmerson, our Treasurer. Remotely from Dorset we still enjoy the skills of Carolyn and Chris Guest who look after our website. I am so grateful to them all for their commitment to the Wildlife Area and all their hard work throughout the year on your behalf.
And a very big 'thank you' is also due to all our members who are so supportive in their generous donations to keep us going. Several new and existing members have been very generous indeed in responding to my plea in the Newsletter this year.