Last year we celebrated our 25 year anniversary. As we begin our second quarter century, our level of activity continues apace and the Management Committee is as committed as ever.
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 – to tackle the invasive Himalayan Balsam on 26 May and to clear the pond of water soldiers on 8 Sept. They also brought in equipment and manpower for other jobs around the site. This, sadly, won’t now be continuing as their grounds maintenance has been contracted out but we are v grateful for the first pick of equipment which has been disposed of and know that we can rely on the enthusiastic support and labour of their staff as part of their outreach work in the Pirbright community. We are also immensely grateful to a small band of volunteers from Network Rail who join Nigel on their charity days and have done a lot of good work including clearing and transforming the area around the Back Lane kissing gate, replacing the sleeper bridge between the Wild Area and the Wildflower Meadow, tree felling, clearing debris from the Hodge Brook, trimming the front hedge and beginning the big job of ditch clearance along the southern boundary of the Wildflower Meadow and Wild Area to the Hodge Brook. 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 smaller scale, we have been pleased to welcome the contribution of Brookwood Scouts who seem to enjoy the challenge of pulling Himalayan Balsam! The more the merrier!
Another pleasurable partnership has been made with the Fox Pub with its new owner when we were hosted for our summer BBQ for 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 2017.
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 Thurs 15 June with the support of staff from the Pirbright Institute and we hope members may also come along to help us - it may be pretty on the eye but it is nevertheless a v unwelcome invader. We hope that the Surrey Wildlife Trust will also fit us in during their Invasive Species Week in July and that Brookwood Scouts will continue to be supportive. Another working party is planned for Thursday 7 September when we will spend a happy wet day in the pond to keep the water soldiers and other weeds under control. Members’ help will be v welcome then too and waders and equipment will be provided plus refreshments.
Secondly, we have started the process of replacing the Winter Bridge which was donated by Roy Johnson 20 years ago in memory of his sister and which is gradually becoming rotten and wobbly. It is a vital part of our access network across the site and we are fortunate indeed that Roy Coverly has not only agreed to become a committee member but also to give us the benefit of his engineering skills by acting as our project manager. Our initial thoughts are that the new bridge will be made from steel girders encased in oak - very much of the same design as the existing bridge but slightly wider to allow site equipment to get across and a much longer lasting construction. Initial estimates indicate that this could cost in the order of £5000 but there are various decisions to be made on its design and materials before we can get definitive estimates and then apply for grants. So it’s watch this space – or bridge!
Thirdly, we need to look into refurbishing our interpretation boards for the site and the pond which are beginning to show the effects of weather damage.
Let us hope that our success rate in getting sponsorship continues…!
Turning to the Management Cttee, we are delighted to welcome 2 new members – Peter Morley who is going to be our Funding Officer and Roy Coverly who brings his expertise as a civil engineer and who has already been a great practical support in various directions. They will join Roy Johnson and Nigel Emmerson who act as our site managers, 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.