MINUTES of the Eleventh Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Hagg Wood held at the Reading Room, Dunnington, on Wednesday 27th May 2009. 

PRESENT   Mrs Sheila Nix MBE, speaker, David Mayston, Chairman, Alan Briers, Treasurer, Linda Maggs, Secretary, Ron Bielby, Olwyn Fonseca, Tony & Elaine Hudson, Michael & Diana Dunn, Wendy & Peter Crosby, Jenny Brooks, Nigel Emery, Peter Dean, Steve Ashby, Brian Casey, Michael & Janet Clarke, Barbara Pyrah, John Rodwell, David & Lily Rowe. 

APOLOGIES  There were apologies from Jim & Judith Smart, Jennie Stopford, Mr & Mrs East, Jo Rodmell, Paula Kendrick, John Maggs, John & Margy Vernon and Mrs Casey.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

MINUTES  The minutes of the tenth AGM, 28th May 2008 were accepted as a true record. 

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

David welcomed everyone to the meeting, FHW 11th AGM.  The wood looked magnificent again this year, with a lovely show of bluebells, wood anemones and primroses and the CPRE group (Campaign to Protect Rural England) enjoyed their recent visit, with tea provided by the Women’s Institute.  It had been another busy and active year with fascinating talks by Steve Ashby on ‘Plants, Bugs and Beasties’ and Chris Fawdington on the the Howsham Mill project.  Chris’s talk expanded on the interesting evening visit to Howsham Mill last August.  Later in the year the group had been on a cycle ride to Brick Pond in New Earswick and also to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and David thanked the Committee for organising these events.  FHW had also enjoyed the annual illustrated talk by Terry Weston, Warden of the Hassacarr Nature Reserve, with his marvellous photographs.  

FHW had held a successful Tree Planting day on February 14th, assisted by funding from the Woodland Trust and held working parties at least once a month, the next on June 6th.   Ron’s Friday Walks will be replaced by work on the hedgerow survey through the summer months; everyone was invited to attend. 

FHW had just heard the news that the Breathing Places application had been successful in obtaining another grant, to be spent on five projects: Conservation work by the BTCV, the publication of the hedgerow survey, a finger post to Hassacarr Pond and Hagg Wood, a Community Fun Day and a Flyer describing the Breathing Places project.  

It had been a busy year and David thanked committee members for their work.   David invited any member who would like to be involved to come forward; they would be very welcome.  

TREASURER’S REPORT

Alan thanked Elaine, Membership Secretary and Linda, previous Treasurer, for their help during the year, his first as Treasurer.  He presented the accounts and asked for questions. 

Steve Ashby, FHW first Treasurer, noted that the Forestry Commission contribution to FHW insurance had gone down.  Alan said that this had been noted and he would look into the reason for the decrease.  The accounts had not yet been audited but the membership agreed to provisionally accept them. 

ELECTION OF THE COMMITTEE

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

ELECTION OF THE INDEPENDENT EXAMINER

Ken Sutcliffe, FHW auditor, had not been very well and best wishes were sent to him.  A qualified accountant, Simon Bryan-Smith, was recommended as auditor for a year and he was duly elected.  

ILLUSTRATED TALK BY MRS SHEILA RIX, MBE

David gave a warm welcome to Mrs Sheila Rix who had been secretary of the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society for 38 years.  Mrs Rix thanked David for the introduction and said that the amenity society was now celebrating its 40th anniversary.  A canal to the Humber was first considered as far back as the late 1700s.  The Lord of the Manor would not have benefitted financially so the idea was not progressed. Work actually began in 1815 on land belonging to Earl Fitzwilliam, who owned vast tracts around Malton and the River Derwent.  The canal provided a great navigation link with the West Riding so that textiles and goods could be exchanged for agricultural produce from the East Riding. 

In the early 1800s the men had only spades and shovels so it was a tremendous achievement to build a canal from the lower reaches of the Derwent to the outskirts of Pocklington in the space of three years.

Originally there were plans to build the canal all the way to Pocklington.  George Leather, one of the men who helped with the design, had ideas to cross the turnpike road but the cost proved prohibitive.  

Besides the roads, from 1847 the railway began to compete for business with navigation by canals and rivers and the canal began its demise.  In 1932 the Ebenezer, the first barge, took her last trip down the canal.  In 1934 the Ripon Boat Club decided to begin activities along the River Derwent and the Pocklington Canal, which gave fresh impetus for putting the canal in order.  In 1948 the canal was nationalized and in 1959 there was a scandal about sludge.  In 1968 the Transport Act helped a little and in 1969 the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society was formed. 

A local farmer who had land bordering the canal got into conversation with a young man from London (visiting whilst in the forces) who was very interested in the canal and said that a lot could be done.  The farmer gathered a few people together, including some from York and that was how it all began. 

The water for the canal originates from Millington Woods, through the beck and under the road.  The canal wiggles in shape to accommodate the villages and has several locks as it flows down to East Cottingworth and beyond.  It’s possible to reach London by canal which some people find hard to believe.  

Mrs Nix presented lots of slides, some old, some new, which were quite fascinating.  (Mrs Nix’s son decided to feature the canal in a college project and contacted a lot of local village people who had been very helpful in providing old photographs). There was a lovely photograph of the village nurse, standing by the bridge at East Cottingworth.  In the early days of the society some of the bushes had to be cleared to make way for pedestrians to walk alongside the canal but they have been replaced with new trees and shrubs.  The residents from the neighbouring villages, especially Melbourne and East Cottingworth, have been very helpful as a whole and they welcome and encourage the boats as they pass by. 

Working parties are held regularly on Saturdays and Sundays and Mrs Rix recounted how young men from a local borstal came with their wardens and camped for two days.  They worked hard on the Saturday and were allowed to play cricket and sporting games the next day and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.   

The bottom lock has been repaired and painted up and young trees have now grown up.  There are four brick bridges over the canal; one crossed by the Lord and Ladyship for church was especially handsome.  There was a lovely photograph of Charles William, the craft used to transport goods to the West Riding.  Canoeists have been using the canal for many years – with Army trainers and the local canoe club in Melbourne.  The second lock had been restored and is ready for further restoration after 25 years.  In the early days it needed to be rebuilt completely, using brick covered by stone. 

Another old photograph showed the parlour maid and housemaid taking out a rowing boat on a Sunday afternoon – a reward for their labours.  A photograph of Martin Gray of Battersea was proof of an interested boater from London, determined to explore the new canal. 

At the outset, stiles had not been easy to manage and East Riding Council had been very helpful in sorting things out.  One lock near Melbourne was of historic interest, as it possessed a 6-spoke wheel, which is very unusual.  The original, the only one of its sort in the country, has been preserved and copies have been made.  After the restoration the lock looked so handsome that East Riding Council restored the nearby bridge at Melbourne.   The Coates Lock was a long-term restoration project and it was very satisfying to see the new wooden gates fitted.  The top end of the canal has now been turned into a fine picnic area with grass and wooden benches and there are at least 2 families of swans.   

At the top lock there is a house, Lock House, which used to be occupied by the man in charge of the locks.  In the past, society members used to attend fundraising functions all around the country but things are done differently nowadays.  Mrs Nix concluded by saying the most important thing is to ‘Enjoy your Inland Waterways’.   During questions Mrs Nix said that there was a lot of interesting wildlife along the canal, including an enormous number of dragonflies and quite a few owls, and that occasional use by boats actually helped to circulate the water, which promoted wildlife. The canal had been recommended as an attractive and well-managed canal by a well-known wildlife body.   

David thanked Mrs Nix for a most interesting talk and thanked the audience for their attendance

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