I am very pleased to be able to introduce the eighteenth Chairman’s Report for the Bythams Woodland Trust (BWT).
There have been no changes to our constitution. We are a registered charity and 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 2021 and all of these have made a positive contribution to the work of the Trust. The Management Committee met on five occasions, including the AGM, either via ZOOM virtual conferencing or, more recently, live in Castle Bytham.
During the first nine months of the year when national Covid 19 restrictions were still in force, the Spinney remained fully open for visitors, but signage was put up asking the public to be responsible for their own health protection on their visit.
It was another relatively quiet year in respect of fund raising as no major applications were made. That said, we did receive grant funding from the Jack Patston Trust, we signed up to the SKDC Lottery which brings in a regular monthly payment, and received funding from our local Parish Councils.
The main focus of our regular work sessions is to maintain the site in a good condition to ensure a continued enjoyable use by visitors. Our schedule during the year focussed on general maintenance – mowing, strimming, leaf clearing, tree felling and gleaning fallen branches, coppicing and general tidying, building new steps for the main slide, repairing play equipment, planting and weeding the sensory garden by hand!
During a wet spring, the site became very waterlogged and we had to re-create a whole new network of pathways using bark chippings in order that visitors could simply walk about without slipping over.
The Meadow is looking very much like the wildflower site we have always wanted and our seed planting during the past couple of years has paid off with a wonderful sward of meadow flowers in the summer – with most of the ragwort now pulled.
We added to our wooded area within the Meadow with whips of a variety of species as part of our Spinney Spring Thing.
During the early summer, we were able to complete a new hard surface overflow car park on the Meadow. This has bedded down really well, looks attractive and has been well used by visitors, especially when we have our Spinney events.
A major disappointment was the sudden cancellation of our ‘live’ Tree Dressing Day planned for November 27 because of very cold and wet weather.
Instead, we were able to organise The Spinney Spring Thing on March 19th. This followed a similar format to Tree Dressing and included Jo Schofield helping to celebrate the Queens Green Canopy by making clay models of the figure 70, Overall, holding the event in warmer weather was much better received by volunteers and visitors alike.
Publicity and Promotion
Judging by the numbers of people who visited the Spinney, our publicity and promotion in all its forms is working extremely well. We continue to get many more visits not only from local people but also those 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.
Gavin Pye regularly updates our website at www.bythamspinney.co.uk.
We are on Facebook ( www.facebook.com/bythamsSpinney ) and our ‘likes’ have reached well over 4000. 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 risk and 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 were no major issues. We have used the report to guide us as we carry out the repairs that were identified as needing remediation.
Our key plan is to implement a major upgrade of the majority of our play equipment, some of which has been on the site since we opened. We want to link this into our 20th birthday celebrations in 2023.
A design brief was prepared and sent out to 6 potential suppliers. We received 3 responses, each of which had their own interpretation of the brief with a different costing. We will need competitive quotes in order to comply with the requirements of likely funders as we will be seeking funds in excess of £100k.
However, even though we are only replacing existing equipment with something similar in each location on the site, we are required to get full planning permission. The process was started and we are awaiting a decision later in the current year.
The BWT is always looking for more volunteers to help with what we are trying to achieve at The Spinney and we welcome all offers of support. And of course, while the adults are working, we want to encourage children to come to the site to take part in some of the most fantastic play experiences that nature can offer – adventurous, dirty, rough, creative, destructive, imaginative, active, physical, healthy – the sort of play opportunities many of us probably had thirty or so years ago but sadly do not seem so prevalent today.
In a post pandemic world, there is a strong national drive to compensate for the stresses and pressures put on children and families, and what is called the ‘nature deficit’ for children who may have missed out on the wonders of the natural environment. It is pretty 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 during this year.
All the Trustees and Advisors use their different skills and experiences to ensure that the BWT is well managed to do what needs to be done. We have a really solid Saturday morning maintenance crew who put in the time week in, week out. Many thanks to Sam, Gavin, Simon G, Richard, Simon C, Tim, Luke, Gillian, James and Thomas.
We have managed to retain our excellent team of Duke of Edinburgh students who have worked incredibly hard to help shift barrowloads of bark to put under the play equipment and create new paths all over the site. Thanks to James, James, Oliver, Oscar and Harry. We wish them all the best as they go off to University.
We have received great support from FOBS and those at the Bythams School, while Jo Schofield continues to make some amazing woodland creations at all our events.
Thanks to The Glenside News for regularly publishing our news and stories; 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 events; Gilbert Elson, who cuts the hedges and the meadow. Tim Smith did a brilliant job on the overflow car park and also some re-landscaping on the main site.
We are also very appreciative of our funders – the local Parish Councils, the Castle Bytham Mid-summer Festival Committee, and all those individuals who have made very kind donations throughout the year. Their continued support is greatly valued.
Finally, our warmest thanks must go to the local community and especially the children who use the site for their play, adventure, learning or simple relaxation and without whom, the whole thing would simply not be worthwhile.
Dr Patrick Candler, Chairman of BWT