(Registered Charity 1100816)
I am very pleased to be able to introduce the fourteenth Chairman’s Report for the Bythams Woodland Trust (BWT). I can only cover a very brief synopsis of the huge amount of 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 were no constitutional changes this year and the annual returns to the Charity Commission are up to date. 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.
However, consideration for a change of the Trust to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation was agreed in principle and this will be formally considered at this AGM.
It was a relatively quiet year in respect of fund raising as no major applications were made.
We successfully completed our award of £8,000 from the TESCO Bags of Help and spend the grant from the Woodland Trust as part of our work to support the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
We are always grateful to receive financial support from the Castle Bytham Fair 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 is keeping the site maintained in a good condition to respond to the 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 surfacing works on the main car park, driveway and entrance, with the latter proving to be a great success to improve 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. 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 has been very beneficial. In the spring, they were able to start trimming the roadside hedge that has long needed to be maintained, though it will take several years to take shape fully.
Events Tree Dressing Day
We organised a fifth Tree Dressing Day on November 25th 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. This got people in early, warmed up and ready for refreshments. More than 400 people attended and it was really good that we could park everyone on the meadow and not on the road.
It is also 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.
Charter for Trees, Woods and People
Our work in support of 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 has been especially successful.
With the second tranche of funding we received, we put on a series of summer events in the holidays both on and off the site with Jo coordinating the activities. There was a specialist wood burning session at the Little Bytham Village Hall and then two bigger free events at the Spinney where we able to introduce the brilliant ‘Tree for All Seasons’ which allows children to decorate it with all sorts of items in whatever way they can. We also took the tree to the Castle Bytham Midsummer Festival and with its help, we got many children and adults to sign up to the new Charter for Trees, Woods and People which was formally launched on 6th November in Lincoln.
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 now getting lots of use not only from local people but also many who come in from much wider 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 have 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 1700. 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 a fifth 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.
We did, unfortunately, experience some unwanted and mindless damage to the zip wire and space net which necessitated it being out of action for more than a month whilst it was being repaired.
After a long time in the planning, we had a basic chain saw training session courtesy of Andrew Woodwood which was really excellent and greatly appreciated by those who were able to take part.
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 possible installation of some compost loos!
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.
For the past couple of years, the BWT has been able to support the establishment of the Clipsham Yew Tree Avenue Trust (CYTAT) which plans to work in partnership with the Forestry Commission to restore and manage this important and beautiful site on the Rutland/Lincolnshire border. During the course of the year CYTAT developed its own constitution and will become wholly independent of the BWT.
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 and Thomas.
We have had another really good group of Duke of Edinburgh students this year – mainly girls and young women – who have all worked incredibly hard to help shift barrowlaods of bark to put under the play equipment and create new paths.
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, Andrew Woodwood for his chainsaw safety training 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 Fair 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