A v warm welcome to you all to our AGM
It has certainly been an exciting year on the Wildlife Area with the construction and official opening of the New Winter Bridge at the forefront of our achievements. I have chaired this wonderful trust for 27 years and I think I can say with some authority tht this has been one of our very proudest moments. How many small charities can not only raise the funds to build a bridge but also have the expertise, energy and resourcefulness to construct it themselves...?! It has been a true team effort under the expert direction of Roy Coverly on the construction and design side ably assisted by John Shawyer and Nigel Emerson who also led on the environmental improvements around the bridge. Our Secretary Barbara and Steve Hull provided additional practical support. We combined the grand opening of the bridge with our annual BBQ at the end of August and we were delighted Roy Johnson's daughter, Helen Myers, agreed to cut the ribbon thereby officially continuing the link between Roy, his sister Doris Winter, and the Wildlife Area. The New Winter Bridge will be a lasting testament to the enormous contribution of our dearly loved and very much missed Roy Johnson, my last remaining founder member and tireless worked and creator of the Wildlife Area.
In addition to this headline-grabbing item, there has of course been much maintainenance work carried out on the site throughout the year. As ever we have been greatly helped through our much-valued partnerships with the Pirbright Institute and Network Rail. We are only a small charity and with 14 acres to manage it is sometimes a big challenge for our small team of volunteers with limited financial resources so this help goes a long way. Despite a significant reorganisation at the Pibright Institue we still have the practical help of PI staff who come to support our working parties to pull Himalyan Balsam and weed clearing in the pond as part of their local charity effort. In addition, a small trusty band of Network Rail volunteers, led by Nigel Emerson, has done much good management and practical work on their charity days - important drainage improvements and repairs around the woodland crossing, tree felling and removal of dead trees, bank path improvements, spraying of Himalyan Balsam, mowing the wildflower meadow, hedge trimming. So a mixture of individual projects and the constant grind of maintenance jobs! I would also like to particularly thank Nigel Emerson who quietly and v efficiently does a whole host of other jobs, often with John Shawyer, our newest committee membber, alongside. Thank you Nigel and John.
On a much smaller scale, we have been pleased to welcome the contribution of local scout groups who seem to enjoy the challenge of pulling Himalayan Balsam! The more the merrier! And we currently have a v useful DofE student so every little helps... And you as members can also pitch in to one or both of this summer's working parties - Thursday 13 June to tackle the ever-invasive Himalyan Balsam and Friday 13 September for pond clearance. Please put these in your diaries. You can be sure of a v warm welcome!
Another pleasurable partnership has been continued with the Fox Pub who very generously hosted our summer BBQ for members last August. Combining this with the opening of the New Winter Bridge brought a good crowd of 30+ to join us for a tour around the wildlife area and another 30 added to our number as we enjoyed a tasty BBQ at the Fox. We hope to be able to continue this success event in 2019.
Last autumn, we were particularly delighted to be presented with a certificate for 'Service to the Community' by Woking Borough Council in acknowledgement of our valued community asset to residents in Woking. Perhaps Guildford Borough Council might similarly recognise our achievements in the coming year?!
What are the challenges for the future?
In addition to the ongoing battle with the voracious Himalyan Balsam which has slowly been taking over the wetland areas, we are 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. On our recent Beating the Bounds, we have identified areas where we will aim to provide more long views across the site of from one feature to another. About 15 years ago, Mike Nevins, our then borough councillor and committee member, took a series of aerial photographs which show how the widlife area has changed almost out of recognition and we can see that we need to put tree management high on our list of priorities. We ignore it at our peril! We will also be continuing our yellow rattle experiment in the wildflower meadow and looking at updating our information boards.
We are always on the lookout for the wildlife which visit the wildlife area and we were particularly excited that last summer, Butterfly Conservation in Surrey identified the presence of the Hairstreak Butterfly which is a UK BAP High Priority Species! More on this from our speaker later on... The Managament Committee would like to encourage all our members to join our "Wildlife Watch" to tell us what you have spotted on your visits. Email us via the website - foxcornerwildlife.org.uk or tell a committee member.the successful completion of the Winter Bridge project.
I have already referred to the wonderful work of our Management Committee in relation to the New Winter Bridge. In additon we also still enjoy the skills of Carolyn and Chris Guest who look after our website from Dorset. This great enthusiasm and teamwork continues to make your community wildlife area a delightful place to visit and asset on your doorstep. I thnk the team on your behalf for their commitment and hard work throughout the year.
And finally 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 repsonding to my plea in the members' newsletter this year.