(Registered Charity 1182600)
I am very pleased to be able to introduce the fifteenth Chairman’s Report for the Bythams Woodland Trust (BWT). I can only cover a brief synopsis of all work that has gone on behind the scenes on our many working weekends during the past year, and to welcome the continuing increase in visitors as one of the main success stories.
There has been a major constitutional change this year where we have established the BWT as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). We are still a registered charity, but we have an up to date and strengthened constitution.
Our annual returns to the Charity Commission were submitted on time. New Committee co-options were made at the AGM in 2017 and all of these have made a positive contribution to the work of the Trust. The Management Committee met on six occasions, including the AGM.
It was another relatively quiet year in respect of fund raising as no major applications were made.
That said, we did receive a grant from the Woodland Trust as part of our work to support the Charter for Trees, Woods and People and we are registered to receive funding from the local COOP community scheme.
We are always grateful to receive financial support from the Castle Bytham Festival Committee and the Castle and Little Bytham Parish Councils and Careby Parish Meeting. These contributions are vital to help with the day to day running costs of the Spinney.
Our on-line text Just Giving continues to generate a regular amount of income with good potential for further development.
The main focus of our work remains maintaining the site in a good condition to help ensure a continued high use by visitors. The BWT work schedule during the year is demanding in terms of general maintenance – mowing, strimming, leaf clearing and gleaning fallen branches, coppicing and general tidying, building new steps. The sensory garden always requires a high degree of maintenance – mainly planting and weeding by hand! We completed the final phase of surfacing works on the main car park, driveway and entrance, with the latter greatly improving access to the overflow car park.
The general work on the Meadow is very weather dependent, but it does appear that our seed planting during the past couple of years is beginning to pay off with a wonderful sward of meadow flowers in the summer. We reviewed the agreement of a Farm Business Tenancy agreement with John and Guy Turner, who manage the meadow on our behalf as part of a Basic Payment Scheme for organically managed habitats. In the spring, they were able to continue trimming the roadside hedge that has long needed to be maintained, though it will take several years to take shape fully.
We organised a sixth Tree Dressing Day on November 24th and once again, Jo Hammond created a wonderful array of Christmassy things to put on the tree of your choice (and also to take away) while FOBS provided hot soup, mulled wine, rolls, lots and lots of cakes and they also managed the fun run for children around the site. We also invited the Stamford Community Orchard Group (SCOG) to join us as they are fellow supporters of the Chater for Trees, Woods and People. This was a really nice addition to the event.
More than 500 people attended and while it was disappointing that conditions meant we could not park everyone on the meadow, we did get them to park at the school – which was a first.
Charter for Trees, Woods and People
It is nice to know that there is now an official Tree Day for the UK which coincides with our Tree Dressing Day at the start of national Tree Week.
We have continued to support the Woodland Trust’s national campaign to promote the importance and value of trees, woodlands and forests, linked into the historical Charter of the Forest which celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2017.
We were able to use the brilliant ‘Tree for All Seasons’ which allows children to decorate it with all sorts of items in whatever way they can. We took the tree to the Castle Bytham Midsummer Festival and the Major Oak Woodland Festival in Sherwood Forest and got many children and adults to sign up to the new Charter.
Publicity and Promotion
Judging by the numbers of people now visiting the Spinney, our publicity and promotion in all its forms is working extremely well. We are still getting lots of use not only from local people but also many who come in from much further afield. On some days the main car park and access road are completely full, so the overflow area on the meadow has proven to be invaluable.
At the Tree Dressing Day event and linking into our Charter work, we had some good publicity from the Stamford Mercury and Rutland Radio, so thanks to them for getting reporters and photographers out.
Gavin Pye has updated our website at www.bythamspinney.co.uk. and he also took part in the Duke of Edinburgh open evening at the Stamford High Schools to offer bronze and silver opportunities to their students.
We are on Facebook ( www.facebook.com/bythamsSpinney ) and our ‘likes’ have reached well over 1900. We have investigated how best we might optimize voluntary donations through http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/bythamswoodland.
Health and Safety
This remains a key priority and a continuing requirement of our insurance arrangements. The Spinney is a natural wild woodland and there will always be an element of adventure in what we do.
We had our annual ROSPA Play Area Safety Inspection Report in August and it is very pleasing to note that in all areas, there was nothing at a high risk. Moreover, we have used the report to guide us as we carry out the repairs that were identified as needing remediation.
A key issue raised by users is the absence of toilet provision, so during the summer holidays, we did arrange for a portaloo to be on-site. This was something of an experiment, but overall was welcomed and has motivated us to attempt to work up a more permanent solution.
High quality, ongoing site maintenance and upkeep of the woodland will be critical to keep the site in good condition. We have discussed the need to make a substantial new grant application to one of the major funders for some further works, including the replacing of equipment that is nearing the end of its shelf life.
The arrangement with the Turners has secured the future for the Meadow and in time will generate sufficient funds to keep this well managed as a natural wildflower habitat.
The BWT is always looking for more friends and newcomers to join us to help with what we are trying to achieve for local people. If you have some spare time, or know of someone who does, then please do come and join us!
And of course, while the adults are working, the children who come down to the site take part in some of the most fantastic play experiences that nature can offer – adventurous, dirty, rough, creative, destructive, re-building, active, physical, healthy – the sort of play opportunities many of us probably had twenty or so years ago but sadly do not seem so prevalent today. There is a strong national drive to compensate for what is called the ‘nature deficit’ for children who do not appreciate the wonders of the natural environment, but it is clear that there is no such deficit at the Spinney.
There are so many people who deserve to be thanked for the tremendous time and effort that they have put into the Spinney. All the Management Committee use their different skills and experience to ensure that the BWT is in a fit organisational state to do what it wants and needs to do. We have a really solid Saturday morning maintenance crew who put in the time week in, week out. So, many thanks to Sam, Gavin, Simon G, Richard, Simon C, Luke, Gillian, James, Thomas and Tim.
We have had another really good team of Duke of Edinburgh students this year who have worked incredibly hard to help shift barrowlaods of bark to put under the play equipment, create new paths and remove an old litter bin base. Thanks James and Oliver.
We have received fantastic support from FOBS, especially Claire Watson and Richard Clarke, the Head Teacher at the Bythams School, while Jo Hammond continues to make some amazing woodland creations at our events.
Thanks to the Castle Inn and Fox and Hounds for allowing us to use their premises for our meetings, the Police who keep an eye out for us, The Glenside News for regularly publishing our news and stories, our District Councillor Martin Wilkinson, Trevor Harris, who services all our mechanical equipment, Tim Rasell, who advises on plants and good horticulture tips, Aqualoos who provide the much needed toilets for our key events, and Playscapes Playgrounds for the repairs to the play equipment.
We are also very appreciative of our funders – the local Parish Councils, the Castle Bytham Festival Committee, the Woodland Trust – and all those individuals who have made very kind donations throughout the year. Without this support, the Spinney could not function.
Finally, our warmest thanks must go to the local community and especially the children who use the site for their play, adventure or simple relaxation and without whose presence, support and interest, the whole thing would not be worthwhile.
Dr Patrick Candler, Chairman of BWT