MINUTES of the Thirteenth Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Hagg Wood held at the Reading Room, Dunnington, on Wednesday 25th May 2011. 

PRESENT   Colin Campbell, speaker, David Mayston, Chairman, Alan Briars, Treasurer, Linda Maggs, Secretary, Tony & Elaine Hudson, Michael & Diana Dunn, David & Lily Rowe, Alan & Wendy Worsley and Roger Widdowson. 

APOLOGIES  from Steve & Celia Moorhouse, Jennie Stopford, John Maggs, John & Margy Vernon, Ian & Lita Black, Olwyn Fonseca, Brian & Dorothy Pearson, Mr & Mrs East and Pam Nyman.                                                                                                                                                                                                    

MINUTES  The minutes of the twelfth AGM, 26th May 2010, were accepted as a true record. 

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

David welcomed the speaker, Colin Campbell, and everyone to FHW 13th AGM.  He  outlined our busy and productive year; outdoor events including excursions to Roger Raimes’s Stubb Wood at Acaster Malbis and Stella & Mac’s wood at Chop Gate, cycle rides down Gypsy Lane and two indoor talks on Red Kites on the Wolds and Mites in the wood.  FHW are planning an outing to see badgers in Cropton Forest and members were asked to get in touch if they would like to attend.  The monthly working parties had an impact on the wood and the recent exhaustive thinning undertaken by the FC meant extra light enhanced the understory which encouraged the birds.  The FC listened to our concerns and only last week Nick Short, our FC Ranger, had walked around the wood with us.  At our request conifers growing alongside deciduous trees had been removed to allow the broad-leaved trees space to flourish and to encourage the restoration of the ancient woodland.

David said that we would be planting a special oak tree in memory of Ron – Ron had a lifetime’s association with the wood and had been a member of FHW for ten years.  His family and members of FHW had scattered his ashes on Ron’s Way, a footpath named after him, and it was agreed by all that he would be sadly missed.

Hagg Wood was a fine example of a Community Woodland and Dalby was a great multi-purpose forest, for growing timber, cycling (international mountain-bike championships were held there), venue for concerts and habitat for wildlife.  At the moment there was a great deal of uncertainty about the future of the FC forests.  The large scale sell-off programme had been shelved under public pressure but there were still 25% cuts to be made in forest staff and at the moment it was not clear how this would work out.  The FC Office in Pickering was to be kept open but the office in Wheldrake was threatened with closure.  Regarding FHW, our insurance may be affected (at the moment the FC repay FHW insurance cost) and the proactive relationship which FHW now enjoys with the FC may be threatened.  The Right to Roam could open up the countryside substantially – the 1985 Countryside Act already protects footpaths, therefore their protection would not make any difference unless this Law was repealed.  At present the FC enables FHW to function well – we do not want the responsibility of total management – it could prove to be a heavy burden.  An Independent Panel has been set up to investigate the future of FC landholdings and David urged members to express their views.  It was feared that some of the members of the Panel such as the representative from the Woodland Trust actually had a vested interest in selling-off some of the FC assets, although it was not clear whether the WT had the financial means to manage the extra woodlands.   Hagg Wood was a special case as the Church Commissioners held the freehold (the CCs had rescinded the shooting rights in order to create a Community Woodland).  During the consultation process, now abandoned, Hagg Wood had been designated a small commercial woodland but upon receiving David’s letter, the Chairman of the FC, Pam Warhurst, replied that this designation was no longer relevant.   David urged members to keep up the pressure to keep the FC lands in public ownership – it would be a shame to see unwelcome changes pushed through by the juggernaut of bureaucracy.

Linda thanked David for his continued dedication over the many years he had spent as Chairman – it required great commitment and leadership: composing important letters, preparing for the AGM, as well as other tasks such as the organising and storing of working party materials.

David thanked the Committee for their work in organising the busy programme. 

TREASURER’S REPORT

Alan presented the FHW Accounts and thanked Elaine, the Membership Secretary, who had kept meticulous records.  Alan had had trouble with bank errors but this had at last been rectified.  Alan had applied for and received an ‘Awards for All’ Grant for £5,650, to be spent on commissioning BTCV to enhance the pond and clearing around the bomb craters.  Tony had spent a lot of time researching the bomb craters and it was intended to produce an information leaflet about them as they were interesting woodland features. Alan then asked for questions.  The accounts had not yet been audited but they were provisionally accepted.  

ELECTION OF THE COMMITTEE

Members nominated for election: Alan Briers, Michael Dunn, Olwyn Fonseca, Tony & Elaine Hudson, Linda Maggs, David Mayston, and Alan & Wendy Worsley.  They were duly elected.  David said there was a place on the FHW Committee and any member who would like to join would be most welcome.

ELECTION OF THE INDEPENDENT EXAMINER  

Michael Yelland was proposed by Alan Briers as auditor and he was duly elected.

ILLUSTRATED TALK ON FULFORD COMMUNITY ORCHARD BY COLIN CAMPBELL

David gave a warm welcome to Colin who proceeded to tell us a romantic story about the new Community Orchard in Fulford.  The story began in 2008, when Colin’s wife, Verna, who was Chairman of Fulford Parish Council at the time, had to review an application by Dobbys to build a garden centre next to McArthur Glen.  Dobbys was a Scottish chain of Garden Centres, now owned by Tescos.  Fulford PC opposed it and was supported by the City of York Council as the proposed development was in the Green Belt.  At the site meeting one of the Councillors mentioned ‘knackered old fruit trees’ which sparked Colin’s interest and he discovered 20 old fruit trees, not maintained or looked after for a very long time.  With some detective work, Colin found that the land was owned by Aviva Insurance and after talks with the manager of McArthur Glen, Ian Rudd, it was agreed that the trees could be looked after by the community, and so in February 2009 the Fulford Community Orchard Group was formed. 

Colin then went on to outline the history of the orchard.  In 1906 York City Asylum built on the site and the first reference to fruit trees is found in 1909 so some of the trees could be 100 years old, although it is known that more trees were planted in 1939.  The Asylum became a mental hospital in 1927 and a maternity hospital in the 50s.  The maternity hospital was demolished in the 1980s when McArthur Glen took over the site.  The orchard had been large in its heyday but latterly it had just been used a dump, and the first job of the community group was to clear the area, removing other trees such as hazel and elder, and fencing the area.  Initially there were about a dozen volunteers, friends of the Campbells and University of York students.  At the Fulford Show people were asked to join the Friends of Fulford Orchard group and they were successful in receiving a CYC Ward Committee Grant for money for the fence, which was painted with the help of BTCV and children from Huntington School.  McArthur Glen provided suitable access, a path and a zebra crossing.

In May 2009 Dobbys appealed against the planning decision (backed by Tescos). It was essential to find evidence of increased biodiversity; extra ammunition was needed to prove the ecological value of the site.

Ecologists agreed to visit the site and they discovered Gracililia Minuta, a grade 2 listed beetle and also a rare moth and bats were found.  At this point, Dobbys withdrew their application and in autumn 2009 a heavy crop of fruit was picked.  It was distributed to old people’s homes in Fulford and the WI made jams and chutneys which were sold at various events to raise money for the orchard.  A close relationship has been developed with Brunswick Organic Nursery and produce was distributed at the York Food Festival, under the new banner - Fulford Community Orchard. 

Of the 56 trees, there were 20 pear trees, 29 plum/greengage/damson trees and 7 apple trees.  Barry Potter, an expert on orchards, recognised the site as a pre-1918 orchard because of the high number of plum trees.  Apparently a huge quantity of plum jam was sent out to the trenches during WW1 and when the men returned they could not face it, a reminder of black days!  It meant the death of plum trees.   

The orchard was never a commercial venture – it provided work for the hospital residents and also produce, which could be bottled and baked.  Consequently there was a huge variety of fruit and identification of the particular species of the plums, greengages, damson, pear and apple is ongoing.  The recent two harsh winters have been a problem and rabbits have been damaging the apple trees.  Benches have been installed by BTCV and a lovely oak sign helped the group win the York Community Award.   A bench in memory of Richard Fern, who ran Brunswick Nursery, has been installed.  The Community Orchard Handbook emphasises the benefits to the community: the fresh healthy fruit which is distributed locally, the wildlife centre and the invaluable habitat report.  Fulford Community Orchard provides a link with the past and is a centre for community activity, amenity and wildlife with over 70 supporters.  The group have an Annual Picnic, they produce a calendar and postcards too, a great community enterprise.

 David thanked Colin for a fascinating talk and thanked the audience for their attendance.

 

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