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Chairman’s Report to AGM, 2005/2006

Introduction

When I took up the role of Chairman in April last year, I believed I was facing a substantial challenge. I was right!!! Although the Conservation group was in many ways well-established and had been active and successful for some 18 years, there was a concern about the limited number of active members and the fact that some of those members who had contributed so much to establish the Copse as we know it today were reaching a stage of their lives where they were no longer able to make the same level of contribution. There had been discussions at two successive AGM’s about the possibility of winding down the group altogether due to a lack of volunteers..

My personal challenge as a new Chairman with, I must admit, very little experience within the Group, was to try to raise public awareness about the activities of the group, increase membership, especially active membership, and raise awareness in the local community of the value of Brandy Hole Copse, its environment and its wildlife. I hoped we could give the group a momentum that it was lacking to ensure it had a real future. That challenge would take some considerable time.

I wanted to strengthen the group through the involvement, not just of people wanting to do practical conservation work, which is so important in itself, but also people who could do administration, public relations, membership and related activities.

A year later I feel that the Group is substantially stronger, has a higher public profile, a stronger committee, an increase in membership and a positive future. This report summarises what has been a very successful year for us all.

Publicity

We have built some important links with the Chichester Observer. The aim is to have regular publicity of our activities so the local community are aware of what we are doing on their behalf. In May we had an item published about our urgent need for more volunteers and support. This produced a limited response but was still helpful publicity. In September we had a further item published about our success in obtaining a Woodland Trust grant (see below), and in April we had further publicity about the success of our first educational event (pond dipping).

We are doing further work on widening our scope for publicity through specific community groups, through giving illustrated talks about the Copse and the Group, guided walks in the Copse, and through involvement in future events including the Chichester Festivities in July, and Chichester in Bloom.

Woodland Trust Grant

This was perhaps the highlight of our year in that we succeeded in getting a grant of £2000 from the Woodland Trust. This followed a lengthy application process. We received the grant in September and then had the happy problem of having to spend the money by the end of December 2005. The Committee was fully challenged by this but rose to the occasion. The bulk of the money was spent on educational links, buying in consultancy support from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, raising public awareness and purchasing some new tools and equipment. (See accounts for further details).

A publicity leaflet was designed, printed and distributed with the local free paper in the Chichester and surrounding area. Many of you will have seen this leaflet and responded to it. The theme of the leaflet was to make people aware that the group was struggling for survival and was doing something very important in maintaining a wonderful local amenity for the people of Chichester. The response to the leaflet was excellent, producing a substantial boost in our membership and generating donations in excess of £600, which we will be using on a key project for the Copse in due course. The leaflet also brought us tremendous publicity value.

Educational Developments were the other key focus for the grant money. We have purchased help from the Sussex Wildlife Trust and we will use this material along with the valuable contributions of our own committee members and others (my thanks to Kate Sabin and Judi Darley) to develop discovery trails, tree trails, and a range of events focused on families and children. The first of these was a highly successful pond-dipping event on 1st April. We may eventually develop an education pack to use with local schools, but this will be a further significant challenge. Involving children in appreciating the Copse is a major focus for the Group. It is our future.

The web-site

Another huge step forward for the Group has been the establishment of www.brandyholecopse.org.uk. If you have not looked at it yet, please do. A web-site is fundamental to maintaining public contact and increasing awareness locally and nationally of what we are doing. Following discussion with the District Council, who could only offer us assistance on the longer-term, we decided to move ahead with setting up our own site. My thanks to Tom Broughton for designing, creating and developing the site. We will continue to develop this site, but I am delighted with the progress made on this so far.

LNR Management Board

Many Members may be unaware of the importance (or even existence!) of the Management Board for the Copse. The Board has overall responsibility for the Copse, its management and conservation as a local amenity. It includes representatives of the District Council, City Council, County Council, Natural History Society and other interested groups. It is an important and influential group because it includes both District and City Councillors. The Conservation group continues to have two seats on the Board, occupied by Jim Ayling and myself. Although the Board can sometimes be a frustrating experience, it is a valuable part of the management of the Copse and our views are certainly taken seriously by the Board. One of its major developments this year has been the production of a new project plan defining the activities that should be taking place in the Copse in 2006 to deliver the overall Management Plan (2002-2007). The Board will need to work on a new management plan from 2007.

Other important links

We have continued to develop our links with other interested bodies locally, many of which make a major contribution to our work. The Chichester Natural History Society continues to carry out significant survey work in the Copse and produce a detailed report of the species identified (no, it’s not all in Latin!). I have also recently joined the committee of CNHS, which will further strengthen the valuable links between the two organisations. I am grateful to Chairman Mike Perry and his committee for their continued support.

We have also maintained and developed links with local residents’ associations and we are beginning to build links with local youth organisations including guides and scouts.

Copse Maintenance

In a year of so many other developments, it would be easy to overlook the continuing basic role of the Group, which is to maintain and conserve the Copse. This work has continued regularly throughout the year, especially the ‘Wednesday afternoon’ group, led so ably by Jim Ayling, which has increased its numbers as a result of the awareness raising activities described above. They have continued with coppicing work, maintenance of paths, steps, gates, ponds etc. and removal of litter. This is all highly important and essential work that carries on and maintains the Copse in an excellent state. Jim is also our ‘storekeeper’ and guardian of all the tools and equipment in his garden shed, as well as our local pond and tree warden.. My thanks to Jim and to all who contribute to this, including the help we receive from ’The Crumblies’ on a regular basis.

Warden Scheme

It is important that we all keep an eye on the Copse, which remains vulnerable to vandalism and inappropriate use. We have started to establish a system of Voluntary Wardens who are accredited by the Group and who visit the Copse from time to time and keep their eyes open, reporting back to the committee where there are any problems. This also makes members of the public aware that someone is looking after the area. We have a few such wardens at present, and we are keen to hear from other members of the Group who might like to take up this occasional role which can be combined with their normal visits to the Copse. Details are on the website or available from me.

The future

I believe that the future of the Group is more positive now than it has been for some time. However, there is still much to do and we need the support and help of everyone to continue with our successes of this year. We face a minor crisis in needing a new Secretary of the Committee and new committee members to help us move forward. Please let me know if you are interested. We are fortunate in having some excellent supporters and committee members at present but we cannot expect people to give vast amounts of their own time to BHCCG. The more active supporters we have, the more we can spread the activities around.

We also face a major challenge in relation to possible housing development on White House Farm on the South side of the Copse. This would have a devastating impact on the wildlife of the Copse, which is substantially dependent on the interaction between the woods and the meadows. If this proposal becomes a reality we will need to be strong and active as a group in opposing it.

Thanks

This is always the most dangerous part of any report. Many people have made contributions to the Group this year, and I will apologise now in case I have forgotten anyone. I have mentioned a number of key individuals in the report already. In addition I would like to that Melvyn Holford for his sterling work as our Treasurer. Also:

  • John Herniman, who has withdrawn from the committee for understandable personal reasons, after many years of being a valued member of the Group.
  • Liz Sagues, for her work on the excellent Newsletter
  • All the committee members, whose efforts make the Group what it is.
  • And finally, but certainly not least, Jim Ayling who has decided to step down as Secretary of the Group after many years of tremendous contribution to BHCCG. It is difficult to summarise Jim’s huge contribution over the years. Fortunately he has agreed to remain on the Committee so we will retain the benefit of his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm.

Oh, yes, and all of you who support the Group, enjoy and value the Copse. Thank you.

Graham Ault
Chairman

Vandals have been active again, but not all the news is bad

April 2, 2006 2006 Spring No Comments

It is a sad reflection on the behaviour of a few young people that it gives them pleasure to destroy things that the older generation enjoy and take pleasure in creating. So many people put such a lot of effort into maintaining Brandy Hole Copse Local Nature Reserve, only to find their dedicated efforts are vandalised.

Over the years we have had a line of ten rowan trees deliberately destroyed shortly after they had been donated as a memorial. Thirty three-year-old horse chestnut trees planted along the Centurion Way were destroyed. Access stiles have been sawn up (one stile on three occasions). A line of box hedging has been stolen, a bench seat sawn in half, notice boards have been damaged on numerous occasions and the main information panel slashed, and warning notices have been pulled down and thrown in the pond.

The latest incident saw many of our recently installed bird boxes pulled down from the trees and then burned. So we are grateful to clients with learning difficulties at the Wrenford Centre in Terminus Road who are making bird and bat boxes for us as a project.

But the news is not all bad. We overcome these problems, and the reward is the enjoyment of visitors. We have been fortunate in having many sixth form volunteers from Bishop Luffa School to help us and we benefit from many other groups who come to do dedicated tasks. It was a pleasure to see the enjoyment and interest of the children at the pond dipping event.

Due to our chairman’s initiative, the 10,000 leaflets distributed around the Chichester area resulted in a substantial increase in our membership, many generous donations, offers of support on administration and help with our Wednesday work group.

WSCC may yet agree after all to go ahead with creating a footpath in Brandy Hole Lane where currently there is no protection for pedestrian visitors to the Copse from Lavant Road (this was the subject of an article in the Chichester Observer recently). Unfortunately the county council is still reluctant to introduce a 30mph speed limit in the parking area in the interest of visitor safety, giving the reason that there are no houses in that part of Brandy Hole Lane. So please take care.

Jim Ayling

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