My year as Chairman began in the rosy afterglow of the formalisation of the LNR status – we felt that we could all congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and I need to give our special thanks to John Box for his work in co-ordinating the submission document. (The legal designation of the LNR in 2008 was soon to prove very useful).
The programming and planning of events during the autumn was to lead to a number of notable achievements during 2009. Winter activities followed with the established pattern of work parties engaged in bramble and tree clearance, (I must stress at this point that we really could do with some new enthusiastic and energetic young members to join in these sessions).
The traditional Christmas celebration was held in mid December at The Crown, and provided an opportunity for a get together where all that was required of us was to celebrate!. No sooner had the New Year started than we learned with some alarm of a new report from Telford & Wrekin Council, the “Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment” (SHLAA). This identified potential sites for new housing development within the District over the coming years. The Lodge Field was earmarked for high density development, with a possible total of 76 houses. The Committee wrote explaining our concern and pointing out the LNR status, and its importance in the open space network within the Gorge. Aided by strong support from Councillor Louise Lomax, for which as usual we are most grateful, our arguments were accepted and the “housing yield” officially reduced to zero.
Our next major achievement was the securing of a BBC Breathing Places / National Lottery Grant for our community event, this year under their “Dirty Weekend” banner. Thanks to the efforts of Carola Adams and Jane Bingham who completed all the mind blowing form filling, funding of £3600 was awarded to purchase new weatherproof accommodation for our field events (to replace the “market stall” which Graham had previously been able to obtain on loan), to produce a series of leaflets on the flora and fauna of the field, to install strategically placed benches on the field at view points, and to provide food and entertainment for the event.
Early May saw the construction of three benches, two overlooking our seasonal pond and one affording a vista from the top of the field. Once again we are indebted to Cliff Hallam and his team at the Green Gym for carrying out the work for us, thank you. It’s very nice to see them in use as you walk the footpaths.
All our best laid plans for our annual community picnic were in the end defeated by the appalling weather of June 7-8th, heavy and continuous rain forced a last minute postponement, and the ‘Dirty Weekend’ referred only to the muddy state of the field rather than the activities therein. The new date of July 18th was tied to the BBC’s CBeebies ‘Green Balloon Day’.
The rearranged Community Picnic was a great success; despite our concerns, the weather turned out to be perfect, a lovely sunny day. Live music from “Driftwood” was greatly appreciated, and David Wright MP put in an appearance, spending an hour chatting, enjoying the music; and expressing his support for our activities.
Thanks must go to Graham Peet for his considerable efforts in organising the purchase of the weatherproof “market stall”, and along with Alison for the design and the production of the ‘We Spy’ leaflets for the day, (which are also available tonight). In view of our weather experience in June careful use of the funds allowed the purchase of a large shower proof gazebo.
The maintenance of the Field this year has been carried out on programme, and we are delighted to see the success of the regime being demonstrated in one particularly visible way:- The annual ‘headcount’ of the spotted orchids has revealed a year on year increase, with a total of 100 being recorded for 2009.
We are very grateful to Keith Slater and the team at TWC for getting the “cut and collect” mowing completed very efficiently and tidily this year and on schedule. Keith is a very good supporter of our activities and we have written to the Chief Executive to record our thanks for his excellent work.
Stop Press October 16th – The harrowing has now been completed too, another very tidy job! During the year I have been grateful to Lindsay Ward for updating our website, and we are hoping to build on its content and visibility during the coming year.
There are other respects too in which we need to improve our communication tools. In May David Bingham and Gill attended a ‘Media Training Day’ at Radio Shropshire, and in June David with myself represented the Group at the ‘Telford Wildlife Conference’ organised by Shropshire Wildlife Trust at Enginuity. Both of these events were very useful in giving opportunities to meet other local organisations with similar aims, activities and concerns, but highlighted our lack of ‘business cards’ and a simple overview leaflet explaining who and where we are, and our objectives.
On October 2nd Carola and I attended the launch meeting of the “Telford Access to Nature – User Group”, once again a good opportunity for networking with similar organisations. This initiative is aimed at improving accessibility of some of our surrounding countryside, and while the focus appears to be on visitors with compromised mobility, this can include buggies/push-chairs and users of walking sticks as well as wheelchairs in some instances. It encourages awareness of issues like safety of access gates onto road hazards. Jane attended their first “training” day on Wednesday (14th).
Most recently we have been dealing with TWC over the need for access over the field for the Coal Authority to carry out boreholes to investigate subsidence damage to 45a Lincoln Hill. I have now met with Caroline Last (Planning Ecologist at Telford and Wrekin Council) to discuss the route to be taken by the drilling rig, and more importantly to confirm that drilling will only take place within the boundary of 45a and that access across the Field will only be needed at the start and end of the operations. Caroline Last is impressed with our activities on behalf of The Lodge Field and has promised to help us in improving the accuracy and detail in our plans utilising the GIS system in her office.
Looking forward to the coming year, I would hope that we might improve on our performance by:
- broadening the terms of our membership with a new category of ‘Friends of the Lodge Field’ (the motion now before you)
- producing a collective ‘business card’ and leaflet for the Group
- improving the access to the Field
- installing ‘poo bag’ dispensers at each gate to the Field
Very many thanks to all the group for your support and help during the last year, most especially to Jane Bingham for her work as Minutes secretary, to David Tyack for his role as Treasurer, and to Anthony Hadley for allowing us to hold our meetings at the Crown.
The Field is looking splendid at the moment, perhaps due more to the weather than to our recent activity, but whatever the reason it’s great to be able to say it. Gar Simmons, October 2009