Report by Brian Fellows
The Brook Meadow Annual General Meeting was held on Friday November 8th 2019 at 7pm in the St James Church Hall in Church Path, Emsworth. There was a good attendance of 34 (including the 5 committee members at the front table and Brian the photographer).
Colin Brotherston, Dan Mortimer, Jennifer Rye, Pam Phillips, Debbie Robinson.
Jennifer Rye delivered her Chair’s report and Pam Phillips presented the Treasurer’s report both of which are reproduced below.
In her report Jennifer confirmed that she would be standing down as Chair Person after 6 years in the job. She received a warm round of applause. Maurice Lillie presented Jennifer with a small carved log taken from an Ash tree that came down over the river on Brook Meadow. The log is engraved with the Brook Meadow logo along with Jennifer’s name and term of office.
Close-up of the engraving
We are all very appreciative of Jennifer’s work and inspiration during her term in office which has seen Brook Meadow make steady progress both as a wildlife nature reserve and as a prized local community asset.
Jennifer announced the good news that Colin Brotherston had agreed to take over as Chairman of the group and this post was duly confirmed by a unanimous show of hands.
The rest of committee will be staying on (except for Jennifer): Debbie Robinson as Minutes Secretary and Pam Phillips as Treasurer and Membership Secretary, plus Maurice Lillie, Dan Mortimer, David Search, Roger Mills and Reg Newnham as ordinary members. To complete the committee two new members were elected, Kathy Edwards and Terry Lay both of whom are regular workday volunteers making a total complement of 10 members.
After the main business meeting there was a 15 minute refreshments break when tea and coffee and biscuits were served by Tricia Brotherston and David Search.
Sarah Hughes was to have been the guest speaker to talk about her recent Water Vole surveys on Brook Meadow, but her daughter went into labour with her first grandchild and naturally enough Sarah wished to be with her.
Brian Fellows stepped into the breach to present a wildlife review of the past year on Brook Meadow with slides. The talk included reference to Sarah Hughes’s report of the Water Vole surveys which Sarah had kindly sent in advance.
Here is a link to Sarah’s report on two surveys . . .
Brook Meadow Water Vole Survey Overview S Hughes 10 2019
Chairman’s Report by Jennifer Rye
Once again, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to our Annual General Meeting for 2019, and to thank you all for turning out this evening. As has become my custom, I will give you a verbal update on our doings on the Meadow this last year, share with you our joys and triumphs as well as our inevitable disappointments, and give you a bit of insight into our tentative plans for next year. This speech will be posted on our website by early next week.
It has been, once again a very busy and productive year, in which lots has happened. The only differences in our regular workdays is that we have changed our start time to 9.30, and we aim to finish by noon, so we have had the benefit of rather more time without apparently upsetting our faithful team of regular volunteers. We have also been delighted to welcome several new volunteers, and it’s been a particular encouragement to see that the average age seems to have been lowered!
The work group on Sunday 3rd November 2019
Balancing that, it has been a challenging year for many of us health wise, and it is to the health and helpfulness of all our volunteers that I personally want to raise a glass! People have stepped in to fill vacancies, taken on extra duties, and generally been generous with both their time and energy to fill in when necessary. This is especially true of committee members, but applies as well to our membership body.
Another innovation has been a tightening up on our systems for signing in volunteers, making them aware of safety issues, and giving instructions on safe tool usage at every work session. Both these factors go some way to meeting the determination expressed at the last AGM to make better use of our volunteers.
We have also benefited from more use of machinery, both strimmers have been in regular use on the river banks and elsewhere, and we have added a long armed hedge trimmer to our mechanical armoury, acquired free of cost from another local conservation group, and duly serviced, thanks to a tip off from one of our volunteers and swift action by committee. At this point I particularly want to thank Dan Mortimer who has very kindly made his garden shed storage available for bulky items that we own as we begin to outgrow the space in HQ.
We have also been pleased to welcome local groups on to the Meadow, including a visit from Girls Brigade members for a walk around the meadow in July led by Pam and Roger, two morning workdays by pupils from Washington Road school, with staff members, who undertook gravel spreading on our raised paths under the watchful eye of Maurice.
Following a visit to Emsworth Primary School at the request of staff to an assembly on the occasion of National Rivers Day in early autumn by me and Dan, we are planning a great celebration in December when pupils will decorate the cherry trees near the raised path on the Central Meadow with Christmas decorations which they have made themselves from natural ingredients in a shared endeavour between the staff there and some of our own volunteers inspired by and organised by Dan! More on this topic later, which will be well advertised and all members are welcome to join us there with the school and parents for a Christmas jolly.
Again, in response to suggestions made at the last AGM, we are exploring the way forward in making common cause with other local conservation groups, and hoping to move on with this under the helpful aegis of our retired local Councillor, Brendan Gibb Gray, to whom we are ever grateful for his unstinting efforts towards the cause. And we have been fortunate to engage very positively with our newly appointed Councillor Julie Thain Smith, who is becoming an enthusiastic attendee at work mornings when she can spare the time: we are sure that she will prove to be an extremely useful lever in our negotiations with HBC.
On that subject, relations with HBC have not improved this last year and it has once again been very very difficult to get Norse, who now handle all outdoor work in the borough, to do anything at all to the standard necessary to meet our objectives as stated in our Management plan, which has been agreed with HBC, in pursuance of our objectives as set out in our constitution. As one single example of the breakdown in communication with Norse, the main raised gravelled paths on the Meadow have always been maintained by HBC, have been cut back by Norse precisely twice this summer, with a 5 month gap between the cuts, despite 8 requests for a trim by Maurice. It’s just not good enough. Equally, tree work which is beyond the remit of our work force has been neglected despite regular requests for attention to trees which are posing a problem and in some causes are a real hazard to users of the Meadow.
The nominated tree officer for HBC, Andy Skeet, has moved to East Hampshire, and we are sorry to see him go after many years of helpful co-operation with us since the beginnings of BMCG; so far he has not been replaced. Another small but very annoying example: the brown finger post which we requested at the junction of Seagull Lane and North Street was wrongly installed by HBC near Tesco’s, and we can’t get them to move it despite repeated requests. Time and again, telephone calls or emails to HBC are ignored, or action promised never materialises: just ask Maurice about his frustrations Again, it was suggested last year that we should try to raise the profile of the Meadow generally, and this has been achieved to some extent by regular features in local publications such as The Ems, contributed by Roger, to whom we are very grateful. One innovation which I have found particularly heartening has been the introduction of high-viz waistcoats for volunteers which draw attention to the work of BMCG and emphasise the voluntary nature of the work being done. We are also investigating the use of a feather flag to pinpoint our work areas and draw attention to what we are doing, encouraging passers-by to engage with our volunteers and learn more about the work we do.
A decision has been taken in the short term not to raise the membership fee of £3 annually, since subs provide a fairly small proportion of our income, and the high administrative cost of implementing a change to standing orders might actually lose us members. Donations to BMCG very often outstrip membership fees anyway.
I won’t dwell more on financial decisions, the financial report is the place for questions about those, and all committee members will be prepared to join in any discussion at that point.
The annual cut by Martin Cull was a great success and we are very fortunate to have a good working relationship with such a competent and knowledgeable operator. Ditto work on Palmers Road Copse by Martin Reed, arborist, has been very successful, and renovation work on the banks of the River Ems by Phil Clayton of the Hampshire Chestnut Group, supported by volunteer efforts in backfilling and strengthening the western bank have given a timely corrective to bank erosion just north of the South Bridge. All these specialists have been very helpful to us. And we have benefited hugely from advice and help from David Gattrell of Slipper Pond.
Work on the flood prevention scheme in the North Meadow by the NRA has been halted pending a survey of the whole Ems catchment area, but arrangements are in place for the erection of a temporary flood barrier if needed in emergencies.
The Seagull Lane hedge continues to flourish as a successful example of our own home grown work in laying the length nearest to the entrance gate, and we have decided to leave the northern section of the hedge unlaid, but subject to some maintenance in careful trimming and pruning, as it such an abundant source of sustenance and shelter for wildlife.
The expected re-location of native British reptiles which we were expecting this year has been delayed by the halt to building projects in HBC area along with other localities affected by the pause in permissions given to new sites while the effects upon the Solent are investigated. This has of course given us some concern since the deal we had negotiated with the developers would have given a real boost to our financial situation, as we had the prospect of generous support to enable us to continue to manage the whole site well and efficiently, buying in specialist help when needed if efforts are greater than our volunteer force can be expected to maintain in terms of habitat needs.
Regular surveys, particularly of bats and butterflies, have continued this year, thanks to David Search and Debbie, Dan and Terry Lay, with findings broadly in line with national results on these species.
Finally, what a year it has been for the water voles of the Ems, and for us their guardians and supporters! Thanks to the untiring efforts of Dan and Terry Lay in particular, and to the outstanding efforts of Sarah Hughes of Chichester District Council, our favourite endangered species are back on the Ems, and we know about them, as we have heard at the beginning of this meeting.
In conclusion, this is my opportunity to thank all those people who have contributed to our successful year. As you know, I am stepping down after 6 very happy years as your Chairman, owing to my own ill health, and added stresses in my personal life. It has been such a delight to be supported by the readiness of all members of the committee to step up helpfully to assist, taking on extra responsibilities cheerfully and efficiently. I have really enjoyed coming to work days as an observer since I have unable to do physical work, and found a new joy in just being on the meadow, with time to relish it and enjoy it. I’m not the only one, several members of the committee have also had health issues this last year, BUT THE MEADOW HAS NOT SUFFERED. Thank you, Maurice, Pam, Debbie, Reg, Roger and Dan. You are stars, all of you. I look forward to coming to workdays in the future complete with a new hip, and joining in once more with the conservation work which has proved to be such a lifeline to joy for me in my later age!
Treasurer’s Report – Pam Phillips
Despite receiving subscriptions and donations in line with last year and Maurice’s efforts to make and sell thumb sticks, expenditure has exceeded income substantially this year. We even won £100 on Premium Bonds !
In addition to annual costs such as grass cutting, tree work and admin costs, there have been “one-off” costs this year. The first was to purchase rods and edging boards to reinforce the gravel path along the northern edge of the meadow. This was later reimbursed by Norse. Next was to pay for bank supports which were driven into the edge of the path in Palmers Road copse. This was later filled with gravel. Hi-Viz wear endorsed “Brook Meadow volunteer “ has proved very effective even if the tabards are too big for some of us ! Both the power scythe and strimmer were serviced this year. A variety of smaller tools and replacement bits have also been paid for.
In total we spent £3807.48 which exceeded income by £1161.32. The balance in the bank stands at £8234.48.
Our grateful thanks go to our auditor, Gill Cosslett.