Beautifully sunny weather greeted around 50 members and guests, ranging in age from about 3 to 93 [plus dogs] attending the Friends of Batchwood 2016 AGM, held in the picnic area on 7th May.
Roma Mills, chair of Friends of Batchwood, welcomed everyone and explained that the FoB committee meets twice yearly, prior to the Council-led Batchwood Forum, in order to decide what issues need to be raised at the meeting. The Forum participants include members of St Albans City and District Council, representatives from 1Life [which manages the Sports Centre] and The Deltic Group [formerly Luminar, which manages Club Batchwood], and from the golf and bowls clubs and FoB.
It is good that those involved with Batchwood meet in this way, but it seems that FoB have to raise the same – unresolved – issues at every meeting. These include the rubbish and litter and the lights being left on at the wrong times. There has been progress on fencing round the water tanks and planting trees in bare areas. Happily we maintain good relationships with 1Life and thank them for funding Fob’s insurance again this year and some training, both major outlays for a small organisation. Thanks also to Club Batchwood for providing drinks for the AGM. We would be happier if both these organisations took more responsibility for clearing the litter left by their patrons around the Batchwood estate. We would also like to see some action in halting the deterioration of the old Professional’s Shop next to the putting green.
Miles Soppet – volunteer co-ordinator for FoB – thanked the teams of volunteers that work on Fridays and on the first Sundays in the month. Coppicing has gone well this year, and the benefits of previous years’ work are clear around the wood with the growth of wild flowers and re-growth of the coppiced hazel and hornbeam. The volunteers also created a new path from the top of the car park to the picnic area, using left over wood chippings and the contents of an old compost heap, as well as clearing tree limbs that had come down in storms, saving the necessity of employing expensive contractors to make the woods safe.
Liz Atkins, treasurer, presented her final FoB accounts before retiring from the position. The bank balance is little changed from previous years, despite some fairly major purchases of equipment and protective clothing for volunteers. The main source of income is the sale of used golf balls. Liz was thanked for over 10 years work as treasurer of FoB; happily she is remaining on the committee and Caroline Black will take over as the new treasurer.
The other officers and members of the committee were happy to remain in post for another year and were thanked for all their work to date.
In the final part of the meeting, Miles described how FoB have collaborated with Ecrovril [ecovril.com] in building an outdoor classroom in the style of an iron age round house for Batchwood School. The school is for secondary school-age pupils with social and behavioural problems, and many of them respond well when learning ‘outdoors’ or being in a woodland environment. The classroom was the vision of Anne, a teacher at the school and also a Batchwood volunteer, who who died suddenly in July 2015 at the age of 52. The classroom was built in Anne’s memory. Ecovril, who have been involved with building a roundhouse at a another school in Hertfordshire and also with the Groundworks headquarters in St Albans, designed, dealt with the bureaucracy and constructed the classroom, but Friends of Batchwood volunteers were able to supply some of the labour and the majority of the materials. The frame was made from a windblown chestnut tree that fell to the left of the drive by the path between the carpark and the practice area; the ‘wattle’ for the ‘wattle and daub’ walls was coppiced hazel from ‘our’ wood. The supports for the roof were made of Batchwood ash. Some of the oak for the oak shingles [the wooden ‘tiles’ for the roof] also came from Batchwood, but the majority came from an oak tree felled in the vicarage garden of the church in Colney Heath to which Anne belonged. FoB volunteers were able, after a bit of training, to make the oak shingles and actually made a large proportion of the 1800 required. The three huge timbers visible in the photographs below came from the Knebworth Estate [where Ecovril is based and where Anne’s husband has friendly connections].
As usual, after the formal [-ish] part of the meeting, Miles led a walk around the wood to show members and friends what has been achieved during the year, whilst the cooks and caterers got the barbecues fired up and the goodies laid out on the buffet tables.
Members and friends are always so generous with the food donations of savouries, salads and desserts, and it all contributed to a wonderful afternoon of food, drink, play [lots of children] and relaxation in warm sunshine, surrounded by the brilliant greens of the new growth in the wood and the amazing blue of the bluebells.