13th December 2021
December’s Chairman’s Report
Before I get into this month’s report, I would like on behalf of the committee, to wish all our members and followers, the very best for Christmas and the New Year and to thank you for your continued interest and support.
The AGM. was well attended, considering the necessary hoops people had to jump through, in order to attend and the talk by Olivia Morton, the Environment Agencies (EA) Biodiversity Officer, was well received, with a short question and answer session afterwards. Similarly, Peter Hibbs talk on the World War Two Survey, with which we were involved, proved very interesting. This survey has now been successfully completed and I would like to thank those members that took part.
The AGM. was completed with all current committee members remaining in post, although if things go according to plan, next year, we will need to have more people involved, either seconded on to the committee or as part of sub committees. Several of those attending asked some searching questions, which, I hope, I dealt with to everybody’s satisfaction. I am always pleased to deal with any questions, whether at meetings, or by email and if I cannot answer them, then I will pass them to the appropriate committee member for consideration.
I now come to the important issue of the EA. “consultation” on their proposed changes to the designated paths, in the wood. I have to say that, I am personally, very disappointed in the way that this has been presented, for several reasons and my colleague David is also unhappy with much of its content, having given me considerable assistance in the compiling this report.
1. Access to the consultation is unnecessarily intrusive, requiring far too much personal detail, before allowing access to the map of the proposed new routes and is rather difficult to access initially.
2. At our meeting with the EA. David suggested some possible improvements to the proposed new routes, as by their own admission, the attending EA. members agreed that we probably had a better knowledge of the existing routes, than they did. In view of this, would it not have been sensible to ask us to supply our proposed routes, in order for those taking part in the consultation, to look at both and make an informed decision on the new routes? This would at least have shown that they had listened to our proposals, rather than completely ignoring them.
3. They also categorically state, that they do not intend to replace either of the bridges that have been removed. We fully understand and sympathise with their reasons for not replacing the horse bridge, but there is no reason not to replace Maggie’s bridge, which would reopen a very popular, circular, pedestrian route to the Giant Beech, without the necessity to use a rather hazardous route, over private land, or to avoid a very lengthy detour, which includes a certain amount of using the same route twice.
4. At our meeting and subsequent walk around the wood, we were able to demonstrate the logic of reinstating the bridge and we offered to source the finance for its construction, leaving only the lame excuse, that they would then have the task of maintaining it, but since there had been a bridge there in the past, that they should have maintained, this did not seem to be a valid reason for not allowing a replacement to be built.
We would urge people to respond to this survey and we have asked the EA. to simplify access to it and to remove the intrusive questions, required for access. It is, of course, up to the individual, how and if you respond, but I hope those of you that do, will have taken note of the foregoing, before completing the consultation form. Should you have difficulty accessing the form, you are welcome to contact us, with your views, or to request advice on how to reach to the site.
Please do not be put off by the EA’s statement, that they will not be replacing any bridges. If you agree with our proposals for bridge reinstatement, do not be afraid to say so. It is only by making our views known, that we have any chance of influencing their decisions.
11th November 2021
November’s Chairman’s Report.
Yes folks, two reports in the same month. The main reason being, to update you on plans for the evening of the AGM. And to update you on the progress to date, on the pledges made by the Environment Agency at our meeting with them in October.
The AGM. is to be held on the 24th. November, at the King’s Head, Horsebridge, a venue we have used on two previous occasions. For those of you with Covid concerns, I can assure you that all Government guidelines have been met or exceeded and the same can be said for the staff and facilities at the King’s Head. The meeting will commence at 7.30 pm. and is expected to finish around 9.00 pm.
Here is an outline of the agenda for the evening;
The meeting will commence with a talk on Park Wood and its future development, by the EA.’s Biodiversity Officer, Olivia Morton, followed by questions from the floor. This talk will include ways in which FoPWH. can be involved in the implementation of the EA’s, recently published, Park Wood Management Plan.
Following Olivia’s talk will be our AGM. Comprising, minutes of the last AGM, summary of events and progress, since our last AGM in 2019, given by the Chairman, financial report, by the Treasurer, followed by the election of officers and any other business. This is not expected to take any more than half an hour, after which Stewart Angel will give a short talk on the impending military detectorist survey, what they are expecting to find and the reasons for the survey etc. to be carried out in the wood, with our assistance.
I would urge all of you that are able to attend, to please contact us to register your attendance. We still have plenty of capacity, even with Covid restrictions and it promises to be an interesting evening. We are, at last, making real progress and the time is coming for us to become active in making a difference in “our” wood. When I say, us becoming active, I am referring to, you, the members. Your committee is there to represent you in dealings with the EA. and various other bodies, but the time is here for you to step forward and make a difference. The wood is a community asset and deserves to be looked after and treasured by the community. The first step is to show your interest and support, if you possibly can, by coming along to the AGM. To listen to our plans for the future and to have your say, in that future.
I must ask that; if you haven’t already done so, to register your intention to attend, via the Park Wood email address, email@example.com. This is a Covid safety requirement, enabling us to ensure that we do not exceed the safe number requirements, although I think we are unlikely to reach that figure. I would emphasise that the meeting is open to non-members, as well as members and that there is no entry charge.
Regarding the promises we took away from our October meeting with the EA. The flooded area is currently being drained, in order for the EA. to use their latest camera equipment, in an endeavour to locate the blockage and we will keep you posted on the outcome. The other items were the car park, which is to have temporary repairs carried out in the next few days and the woodland path changes, which are still up for further discussion, prior to implementation. I can also report that there is a very real likelihood of three-way talks, in the near future, between us, the EA. and the Woodland Trust, with a view to setting up a formal tripartite agreement between us. This would be a major step forward in securing the long-term future of the wood and could also bring considerable extra funding, in the way of grants, particularly if we adopt charitable status, which I am very keen for us to do.
The future is definitely looking brighter and the struggles of the last four years may at last bear fruit, but your support is now more important than ever.
18th October 2021
October’s Chairman’s Report
Following on from my mini report, sent out prior to our meeting with the Environment Agency. On the 8th October 2021 here is the promised summary of that meeting.
The meeting was wide ranging, frank and constructive. Six EA. personnel and five of our Committee were in attendance. The meeting started at 11.00am and ran on until 2.00pm, with just a ten minute break for lunch, followed by a walk in the wood, which concluded at 4.15pm.
Chaired by the EA. Biodiversity Officer (Olivia Morton), the meeting began with the EA. Operations Manager (Russell Long), updating us on the current position of the EA. regarding the wood.
As we are all aware, the main purpose of the EA. is to manage and minimise flood risk, the bulk of its budget going to this work. Park Wood inevitably has to suffer because of this, although it does have its own dedicated budget, however, manpower and expertise will always be directed to flood management.
Park Wood is by far the largest woodland belonging to the EA. and as Ancient Woodland, a most important ecological asset, hence the appointment of a biodiversity expert to advise on its management.
This allowed us to raise the question, as to whether the EA. were the right people to own the wood and suggest that, perhaps it should be passed to a charity, such as the Woodland Trust. It would appear that, when approached, several years ago, the WT. were not in a position to purchase the wood and as Treasury rules decree that, disposal of Government assets must be for the best possible price and cannot simply be transferred to a third party, the wood was put up for sale on the open market, which takes us back to our very beginning, when we formed FoPWH and successfully stopped the sale by sealed bids, to the highest bidder.
Since realising that the carbon offset value of the wood was significant in the EA’s aim to reduce its carbon footprint and also, that a return to using natural materials for flood management, the wood could be a sustainable asset, they decided that, if a sound plan, without a heavy financial cost, could be made, the wood should be retained.
Many of you will have looked at the ambitious Management Plan approved by the Forestry Commission, which appears on the EA’s Park Wood website page. It was noted that this, ten year plan, has no timeline for works to be carried out and in our opinion, which was not disputed, is not attainable without outside assistance.
This brought us to the question of how FoPWH could help in bringing this plan to fruition. We could offer to provide extra manpower, to work under expert supervision, but this would provide minimal improvement and would be of no help in our aim of securing the long term future of the wood, or of bringing in significant extra funding.
The previously taboo subject of a formal agreement between us, which, if worded correctly, would open up the possibility of significant grant revenue to us, which is not available to Government Departments, was discussed at some length and although it may be some way off, is now open to further discussion and will be vigorously pursued at future meetings.
The condition of the Grove Hill car park was discussed and there is to be another temporary repair carried out in the near future, with a full refurbishment, with proper drainage and resurfacing at a later date. This will necessitate a full closure of the car park for several days, but dates will be published on the EA. and FoPWH websites, as well as notices in the car park, as soon as dates are finalised.
The flooding was also discussed and I can tell you that, this complex problem is still being investigated and it is hoped that further action will be taken before the winter.
The route mapping of the wood took up a considerable amount of time, as it is a most important issue to the community and also in the effect it will have on the biodiversity of the wood. We have made several suggestions on improving the proposed new routes and these were looked at on our walk, as well as being discussed in the meeting. Not least among these was our desire to see a bridge reinstated on the route from the West side of the wood, leading to the big beech tree (Maggie’s Bridge), avoiding a very long walk for anyone wishing to visit the big beech, from the car park. Again, our argument for this change was listened to and we also suggested that FoPWH could source funding for the construction and installation of a bridge.
There is to be a consultation on these route changes in the near future, taking place on the EA. website Park Wood page and we would ask that you take part in this survey, particularly in the request for the reinstatement of the bridge I have mentioned. We would be happy to advise on this, should you require any help and we will inform you when the survey goes live.
All in all, a very encouraging meeting, leading to us having a better understanding of the difficulties and constraints that the EA. are under and I hope, to them realising what we can bring to the table, given the right cooperation between us.
It only remains for me to thank the EA. for setting up this meeting, their willingness to listen to us and agreeing to meet with us again in January 2022. I must also thank my colleagues on our committee for their valued input and support at the meeting.
Date for your diary. We hope to hold our Annual General Meeting on the 24th. November, venue to be advised, at which we will have a speaker to give a woodland related talk prior to the AGM. itself. As soon as full details are available these will be posted.
5th October 2021
Chairman’s (mini) Report
This is just a “heads up” to let you all know that we have a meeting with the EA, this Friday, 8th. October. The meeting is scheduled for three hours, followed by an hour and a half site visit.
This clearly indicates that they have realised there are matters that need to be discussed, regarding Park Wood, with the organisation that best represents the interests of the local community. It is hoped that they come to the table with an open mind, willing to discuss new ways of working with us.
You can be assured that we will do all we can to safeguard the long-term future of the wood and set in motion a programme of improvement, in which you, the membership, can be involved.
I will put out my usual monthly report, after the meeting and following our committee’s analysis of the meeting.
Paul Rees.Chairman FoPWH
Chairman’s Report – Sept 21
Following on from last month’s report, We have a date of 8th October for a meeting between fofpwh and the Environment Agency..
On the EA Park Wood Information Page there is a link, “What we are planning to do,” from this you can click onto a link, which takes you to a ten-year management plan for the wood. This is not a consultation document, but is already an approved plan. It is lengthy, should you wish to study it, but contains all the right ingredients for a healthy future for Park Wood. You will also find this on our website on the EA Information Page.
We would love to be involved in this programme and are convinced that we have much to offer. This would necessitate a suitable agreement between us, enabling us to access grants. I hope to be able to bring you positive news in next month’s report, following this meeting.
Please find attached the details of a guided walk, to take place later this month, which will be in conjunction with the Sussex Wildlife Trust, FoPWH and a representative from the EA. Biodiversity team. We hope to be able to offer many more of these walks, similar to the very successful Bat Walk, organised by the Sussex Bat Group with themes appropriate to the time of the year, guided by a suitable expert. If you would like to book a place, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We, as your committee, believe that we represent the views of the local community and act as your voice, in our communication with the EA. and it would seem, from the correspondence we receive from members, that this is the case, but we are always open to any suggestions you may have to help raise our profile. If there are issues you think need to be addressed urgently at our impending meeting with the EA. you can contact us through the usual channels and although I cannot promise that they will be included in the agenda, I can assure you that they will be noted and responded to.
Paul Rees. Chairman, FoPWH
Guided Walk by the Sussex Wildlife Monday 27th September at 11.30 am.
The AIRS Photography Competition Is Now Open!
Take part in their photo competition showcasing the beauty of Sussex’s Wonderful Woodlands and how people enjoy and get to know the woods. Take part in their photo competition showcasing the beauty of Sussex’s Wonderful Woodlands and how Action in Rural Sussex News
Look out for guided walk by the Sussex Wildlife Trust coming soon in September Sussex Wildlife Trust
Chairman’s Report August 2021
After a frustrating period we have received a positive response from the EA.
The last Chairman’s Report, which consisted of an email sent to the EA. has been the subject of their reply and is, encouraging. The most important point raised in their email to offer of a meeting with us, sometime in September.
I have responded positively to this offer and is hopefully, a step forward.
In my reply, I have asked them to hold fire on finalising the changes to routes and the placing of new route markers, as this a matter of great importance to all of us that use the wood and should undoubtedly be a matter for discussion. I would also wish to discuss a formal agreement between FoPWH and the EA. and securing the long-term future of the wood.
This last item goes back to our very beginning, four years ago and I make no apology for reminding everybody of our mission statement, conceived at that time.
“To maintain and preserve the flora and fauna of this precious Ancient Woodland and to ensure free community access for present and future generations to enjoy in perpetuity”.
I said at the time, that there would be no compromise on those aims and that is still how I feel today.
Should the EA. decide, in a few years’ time, that they no longer require the wood, there has to be some safeguard built into any agreement with them.
Paul Rees. Chairman, FoPWH
27th July 2021
On Tuesday I had the pleasure of guiding the Seaford Natural History Society around Park Wood. They very much enjoyed the morning (despite some rather muddy conditions) and pointed out many fascinating plant and fungi which I would normally never of noticed, including a delicate helleborine orchid. They suggested a full plant and fungi survey be carried out which I will suggest to the Environment Agency.
July Chairman’s Report
In order to show how things are progressing and how your committee is trying to engage with the Environment Agency. I have taken the unusual step of reproducing an email, sent by FoPWH to the EA. as this month’s Chairman’s Report. I cannot reproduce the incoming email for legal reasons, but I am sure you will be able to understand the gist of the incoming email, from our reply.
Thank you for your email of the 12th. July, which addresses most of the points raised in my last email and does help us to a better understanding of the current position of the EA. It does however raise several points, which require some clarification.
As a committee, we have discussed the progress you, the EA. are making and the views I set out below, are those of our committee and I believe, these also reflect the views of our members and social media followers.
There are two areas, which are currently of concern and we feel that these should be addressed now, as the EA’s position on these will be of fundamental importance to our members.
1. Commitment not to dispose of the wood.
We are unsure of your “turning a tanker analogy” and your passing statement that, “we need to build a business case.”
Our understanding was that Park Wood has been accepted as part of a wider EA. initiative, that Matt Brazier was in touch with us about last year and that it is the details of future management and its funding, that are to be resolved, rather than the principle of retaining Park Wood in your ownership. Therefore, to settle our and the community’s anxieties, please, can you simply confirm that the EA. has agreed that the wood be retained, with the objective that it fulfils several complimentary functions. Namely, biodiversity, conservation (and net gain), improved Ancient Woodland management, carbon capture and quiet enjoyment for the public.
2. Consultation in developing a management plan
I should emphasise that the FoPWH committee broadly welcomes the range of management measures that you are planning, as mentioned on your new Park Wood web page, (email@example.com), as part of a new management plan. As you may recall, we drafted an outline Woodland Management Plan ourselves in 2018/19 and I reattach it for your reference.
We are pleased to note that you are looking at improvements to community access, but would suggest that attention to the cause of the annual flooding of the main access to the wood from the car park, be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
In the same way that you have discussed equestrian access, (which represents a comparatively small use of the wood, in comparison to pedestrian access), it would surely be helpful in identifying sustainable routes, both in terms of meeting community needs, as well as avoiding sensitive areas and for a discussion on these matters to take place with FoPWH., since, as far as I am aware, we are the only organisation representing all interest groups. Indeed, for the same reasons, we would expect “community engagement”, to involve FoPWH. in preparing the baseline management plan, that you have commissioned. I reluctantly accept that discussion on any future, formal joint management agreement is not currently on the table, but we see this as a separate issue to discussions on “community engagement”. The EA. properly consulting with FoPWH., as the principal community group, whose sole purpose is and always has been, the wellbeing and long-term protection of Park Wood, must surely be seen as good practice by the EA?
Finally, I would question your reluctance to refer specifically to FoPWH., simply mentioning “local interest groups” in your references to Park Wood? We have been in existence for four years, and as stated, are the only viable interest group, with membership of approximately 270 and a social media following in excess of 1,200. Contrary to some opinions, we are not the enemy of the EA., simply an interest group, genuinely passionate about the conservation and long-term future of Park Wood and would genuinely welcome the opportunity to work with the EA. towards this goal.
Paul Rees. (Chairman FoPWH)
I must mention, before closing this month’s report, something that has been brought to my attention by the EA. This is the cutting of ivy, growing on trees in the wood and the creation of new paths, to the detriment of the delicate ecology of the wood. FoPWH does not condone any unauthorised activity concerning the ecology of the wood and anything other than clearing overgrowth back to path margins from designated paths, is strongly condemned. Any work carried out by FoPWH in the event of an agreement being reached with the EA., will be under the strict guidance of the EA. Biodiversity Officer and the Woodland Trust.
June Report 2021
After last month’s rather gloomy report, I have a slightly more optimistic message this month, but it is a very cautiously optimistic message.
Before I get onto that I would like to thank you for the messages of support I received from several members, following last month’s report and I apologise for not yet having replied to those, but I have been indisposed for the last fortnight and am only just getting back to normal.
Following on from last month’s report and the lack of response to my email to the local office of the Environment Agency. I emailed the Area Director’s office and received a positive reply, stating that they were looking at ways to work with the local community and would be in contact with us when they had decided on budgeting and a management plan. This seemed to us, to be a back to front way of working, since we could, with the right agreement, be in a position to assist financially and also that would affect the type of management plan that could be achieved. To this end I have again emailed the Area Director in the hope that they will reconsider delaying meeting with us, especially since I have suggested to them, that there is a type of annually renewable agreement we could enter into, which has been used successfully for the last forty years between Bexhill Highwoods and Rother District Council. Watch this space!
Having had our first committee meeting for well over a year, it seems that we are all still as determined as ever to do our best for our members, the community and the wood and will continue to exert maximum pressure on the EA. to listen to us, to speak to us and to work with us. It is now time for the EA. to make good on its promises and to engage in meaningful, face to face meetings with us.
Welcome to the Environment Agency’s online consultation hub
Finally, in the email from the EA. there is a link to an information page, which invites you put your name forward as a volunteer for Park Wood. Should you decide to respond to this I would ask that you add to your name, “FoPWH member”.#
Here is that link;
Paul Rees. Chairman FoPWH
May Report 2021
I am sorry to say that there is very little positive news to report this month.
The fallen tree, which has been blocking one of the main paths, has at last been cleared, but the flooded area, which was pumped dry after the Easter holiday, is now rapidly filling up again, whilst the various interested parties seem incapable of making any decision on effecting a permanent solution to the problem.
I emailed the Environment Agency on the 30th April, requesting discussions regarding the flooding and also asking for a meeting with FoPWH. to discuss future cooperation between us, regarding maintenance and improvement of the wood. To date, no reply.
This does not bode well and strengthens my view, that most of those at the EA. involved with Park Wood, have no interest in the wood, other than for its ability to help in their carbon capture figures. I had hoped that we could have meaningful talks, with EA. employees, able to speak with some authority on the subject and work towards a partnership, which would benefit the wood, the local community and the EA.
I am determined that we will not be side-lined, as we were in 2018, when our efforts to reach a working agreement met with months of delay, followed by a complete and abrupt withdrawal of the original offer, to produce a draft management plan and a refusal to even look at the plan that we had produced.
We now have a very substantial membership and a large following on social media, as well as friends in high places and in the media. Some of you may remember our appearance on BBC South East News and extensive press coverage, in the early days of our formation and I have no doubt that, if necessary, we could call upon you, our members and followers, for your support, should this become necessary.
The ball is very much in the EA’s court now and if action from them is not forthcoming within the next couple of months we will have no alternative but to seek maximum publicity for our cause.
For the sake of the wood and the community, we must have some real input into its management.