MINUTES of the Tenth Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Hagg Wood held at the Reading Room, Dunnington, on Wednesday 28th May 2008.

PRESENT  Craig Ralston, speaker, David Mayston, Chairman, Linda Maggs, Treasurer, Stephen & Celia Moorhouse, Ron Bielby, Michael & Janet Clarke, Tony & Elaine Hudson, John Rodwell, Roger Widdowson, Olwyn Fonseca, David & Lily Rowe, John & Margy Vernon, Jenny Brooks, Barbara Pyrah, Alan Briers, Michael Dunn, Nigel Emery, Peter & Wendy Crosby, Peter Dean, Terry Weston, Brian & Dorothy Pearson

APOLOGIES Apologies from Jim & Judith Smart, John Maggs, Pat & George Staniland, Alan & Wendy Worsley, Jennie Stopford, Ian & Lita Black, Mr & Mrs East, Jo Rodwell and Paula Kendrick.

MINUTES The minutes of the ninth AGM, 23rd May 2007 were accepted as a true record.


David welcomed everyone to the meeting, FHW 10th AGM, and said that the new noticeboard at the entrance to the wood was very welcoming, a great community effort with photographs by member Tony Hudson and art work by local resident, Daphne Hancox. The wood looked magnificent again this year, with bluebells, wood  anemones and primroses in abundance, as a result of our activities. It had been a very active and busy year with two grants, a Local Heritage Initiative grant and a Breathing Places grant.

FHW had recently spent a very enjoyable natural history evening on a guided walk down Intake Lane, looking at the hedgerows with Barry Wright, observing medieval fields and ghosts of trees long gone.

During the year two excellent illustrated talks had been given: Dr Niall Moore from CSL on 'Alien Species' and Alistair Crosby of the Woodland Trust on 'Restoring Ancient Woodlands' - both very topical to our interests. FHW had also enjoyed the annual illustrated talk by Terry Weston, Warden of the Hassacarr Nature Reserve, with his marvellous photographs. An autumn fungal foray had also been held, with Findlay Cook, which had been fun and well-attended.

FHW held working parties at least once a month and Friday Walks by naturalist Ron Bielby. Tony Hudson's web site had proved a great success: www.fohw.org.uk. Members were asked to view it, to keep up to date with our events.

It had been a very busy year and David thanked members for their work.  David invited any member who had talents to offer to come forward to take a place on the Committee - they would be very welcome.


Linda thanked David, who had been Chairman for over ten years now. He'd given a great deal of time, energy and commitment to the group and Linda thanked him on behalf of members.

The grants we have received have enabled us to make amazing progress on the conservation front, with the help of BTCV, and the historical projects had led to a wealth of knowledge being discovered about our past. Regarding the accounts, income from subscriptions and donations had gone up, thanks to FHW members' generosity.  The LHI grant covered conservation work, the printing of the booklet, which contained new chapters by Stephen Moorhouse and Barry Wright and the 'Welcome to Hagg Wood' leaflet. The BBC Breathing Places grant covered conservation work, hedgerow work and the noticeboard (with a grant from the City of York Council). The Rotary Club of York had given FHW a grant of 250 to carry on with the historical work. Tony had secured a grant from the York and North Yorkshire Community Champion Fund for the new screen and digital projector. (FHW contributed 22.66) There had been a battle with the bank to get interest at gross rates rather than net - it made a significant difference this year when FHW had money from grants in the bank. The accounts, which had been audited, were accepted as a true record. David thanked Linda who was retiring as Treasurer for all her sterling work.

Linda had put an article in the Ward Committee Newsletter to thank Angus Young, CYC Environmental Officer, for the CYC contribution to the Noticeboard. This resulted in an enquiry from Chris Fawdington, a trustee with the Howsham Mill project.   He had agreed to speak to FHW next February and invited FHW to visit Howsham.


Members nominated for election: Ron Bielby, Alan Briers, Michael Dunn, Olwyn Fonseca, Linda Maggs, David Mayston, Jim Smart, Tony Hudson and Margy Vernon. They were duly elected. 


Ken Sutcliffe was given warm thanks for acting as auditor for FHW and was re-elected to this position.


Craig began by saying what a fantastic area the Lower Derwent is. The area had changed considerably with the building of the Baraiby barrage, Stamford Bridge and other flood defences. The Lower Derwent Valley stretches from Kexby Bridge to Barmby Valley, covering 2000 acres, a 'Jewel in the Crown' of Natural England. Winter was his favourite season, with dramatic, atmospheric scenery, often with flooding of the surrounding hay meadows. The river attracted a huge number of waterfowl such as wigeon, pochard and tufted duck from the Arctic, Iceland, Northern Scandinavia and Siberia. He and his team counted the birds once a month, to check which birds were present, in which location. The whole area was of international importance, for instance male teal arrive from Iceland, Denmark, Portugal and Russia. The area was also important for wild flowers: marsh orchids, greater burnet, clover, buttercups, many unusual grasses. Few nutrients had been added to the soil and sheep grazed the land in the autumn. The mix of dry hay meadows with 90km of ditches, canals and waterways presented a great combination for many rare plants such as the greater water parsnip. Attempts had been made for many years to propagate this species, without success, but finally 500 seedlings had survived.

The Lower Derwent was the breeding ground for young lapwings -  there were 500 pairs within a 10 mile radius. Also, it was one of only a handful of sites where one could see displays by the male ruff (king of break-dancing). Fewer than 10 bred in the UK and 2/3 bred here. Pocklington Canal, a SSSI, was home to the reed warbler, more often heard than seen, and the more familiar mute swans (over 100 swans overall). The kingfisher was often seen on the Pocklington Canal and otters were flourishing on the Derwent. The otter programme, which involved attaching otters with radio-harnesses to monitor their behaviour, had been one of the great success stories. The otters caught mink, a non-native escapee, which had decimated the water voles and moorhen, but now they were back on the riverbanks.

Natural England had various management agreements; part of the plan was to not cut hay before 1st July to allow birds to breed and to allow the grass and wild flower seeds to set. The hay meadows were cut for hay in traditional strips, sometimes using old boundary stones and markers. The changes through the seasons were dramatic, with the white shimmer of cuckoo flower, the yellow meadow of buttercups and finally the reds of the sorrel and greater burnet. After the harvesting the sheep were allowed to graze, which helped to maintain botanical interest and to keep the grass the right length for the ducks and birds.

Craig then went on to talk about the work of Natural England, which included providing visitor facilities such as viewing hides/ platforms and paths. Events were organised and also outreach work, such as events at Hassacarr Nature Reserve.  Natural England was also engaged in research work such as tracking shelduck and whimbrel. Radio tracking whimbrel involved attaching satellite tags on the birds (like small rucksacks weighing no more than 5gm). They were tracked every 2 days for three years, assuming that the bird did not die, the tags did not fall off, or the attaching elastic did not give way. It had been discovered that whimbrels whiter in mangrove swamps in Guinea, Africa, flew to Wheldrake for a refuelling stop and then flew on to Iceland and Finland. In Wheldrake the birds gained weight from intensive feeding, from 350gm to 600gm. They were attracted to the site hi Wheldrake for specific conditions so it was important that the soil composition in Wheldrake remained undisturbed. Local schoolchildren had been involved in the Whimbrel project, naming the birds Wallie and Wallace. 

The flagship project was the work on the conservation of barn owls, there were now 105 known pairs a great success story. Craig then went on to explain the benefits of the change from English Nature, largely a conservation agency, to Rural England, which had a much wider focus. RE encompassed many other agencies including the Rural Development Service and worked with the Wildlife and Conservation Partnership looking at the wider farming landscape issues, such as the countryside stewardship scheme.

Craig illustrated his talks with many lovely photographs, some from Terry Weston, whom he thanked. He then took questions from the audience; on climate change he acknowledged that the seasons were definitely changing and it would be interesting to see what the future held.

David thanked Craig for a wonderful talk and thanked the audience for their attendance.


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