Minutes of Annual General Meeting 18 October 2023
17:15 at EWT Visitors Centre, Hornchurch Country Park
1. Chairman’s Welcome
Good afternoon and welcome to the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Ingrebourne Valley & Hornchurch Country Park.
I mention the words ‘Annual General Meeting’ reservedly as our last one was in 2019 but I’m sure you are all aware of the circumstances causing AGMs and all sorts of other meetings ceasing during the main Covid time.
Before I go on, I would like to offer my personal thanks to our committee members who have worked tirelessly during these difficult times and also thank the Council Officers and the Park Rangers who we rely heavily upon to keep this wonderful Country Park going.
Present: Committee Members: Jeff Stafford (JS), Liz Hawthorn (LH), Sheila Clarke (SC), Raymond Randall (RR), Stephanie Nunn
Others Present: Kate Tyler (EWT), Ray, Scott Tyler (ST, joined the meeting late)
Apologies for absence: Brian Breeze (BB) Committee Member, Richard Cottam (RC) LBH Parks, Dave Bender
3. Minutes of previous AGM - Minutes of the previous AGM (06 June 2019) were agreed as accurate. Proposed SN, seconded RR.
4. Chairman’s Report
This Friends Group exists as a representative body of the local community to evidence their views public consultation. We believe we achieve this via our website and social media but just as importantly by talking to park users.
We are also expected to deliver improvement works which can include maintenance work, research or literature. If funding from the Council is required then all details of the completed, existing or proposed capital project must be provided. Completed projects must be within the current financial year and proposed projects must have been agreed with the parks officer but can be additional works to previous projects.
The Group’s committee meet regularly and our discussions always include the location, background and why any work is required, where the idea came from, and the cost which is either known for existing and completed or estimated for proposed.
We rely heavily on the Park’s Rangers and the Park’s Development Officer for guidance on any work required within the Park and of course our volunteer network is vital if we are to achieve our aims.
When I first became involved with the Friend’s Group, we had a close relationship with the Essex Wildlife Trust and this was before this current Visitor Centre was built. However, once the Centre was complete and officially opened, we started to drift apart and this is the first AGM to be held at the Centre so many thanks to Kate for inviting us to hold this meeting here. We hope there will now be opportunities to work together in the future.
I think that is enough from me for now but I would like to pay a special tribute to our Vice Chair & Secretary for their efforts in producing a booklet called ‘Flora & Fauna in the Ingrebourne Valley’ which can now be purchased here, in the shop.
5. Secretary’s Report
I am proud to be a part of the small group known as Friends of Ingrebourne Valley and Hornchurch Country Park. Committee members and volunteers continue to strive to protect, enhance and make the valley and park more enjoyable and accessible for all. The young, the old and the less mobile, walkers, dog walkers, peddle bike and horse riders are all welcome here. We expect and encourage all visitors to be considerate to others.
Events Covid restrictions halted events in the park, along with the rest of the country. We did, however, manage to hold a Barks and Bounces event in October 2020, between lockdown restrictions. This was moderately successful but many people were reluctant to mix with others and the weather turned against us. Strong winds uprooted some of the marquees and threw them across the park causing us to bring the event to an early end for health and safety reasons.
Our Chair, Jeff Stafford organised led, family bike rides, starting in the park, which proved successful but more riders are always welcome.
Work Parties and Improvements We have held several work parties in the park, led by the invaluable Dave Bender. These have included clearing pathways of overgrown vegetation, maintaining the Epen area, with our ranger, Mick Greenslade, and clearing blockages and rubbish from the Ingrebourne River. Numbers of volunteers attending has been variable with some familiar faces not returning after Covid. The most popular work party was clearing blockages from the river, seems like everyone likes getting wet and dirty! We helped to create the Covid Memorial Woodland and also provided a bench, which has been installed in the play area for younger children. Phil Mann from Havering Park Life has helped by allowing us to advertise events on his Facebook site, so thank you Phil.
History Trail Our history trail has been up and running for several years now and Essex Wildlife Trust are doing a great job selling the popular leaflets and maps from this Visitors Centre for meagre 50p.
We were highly disappointed to discover that several of the brass plaques for the trail were stolen during the lockdowns, and damage caused to the posts. We have since repaired the posts and have replaced the brass plaques with brushed steel ones, with the aid of sponsorship for some of the plaques. This seems to have worked and there has been no more vandalism to the trail since.
Flora and Fauna Booklet At long last our booklet, Flora and Fauna of the Ingrebourne Valley, is now available from the Visitors Centre. It is over 50 pages long, in full colour and contains numerous photographs and a map of the Ingrebourne Valley showing pathways and habitats. It contains many interesting, and often unknown, facts and is easy to read, a valuable asset for any visitor.
6. Treasurer’s Report & presentation of accounts for period year ending 31 March 2023. See PDF
7. Election of Officers - Executive Committee (standing)
Chairman – Jeff Stafford
Vice Chairman – Ray Randall
Secretary – Liz Hawthorn
Treasurer – Sheila Clarke
All proposed by SN and accepted unanimously.
8. Election of Committee Members (standing)
Stephanie Nunn, Brian Breeze, Jackie Whitelock (young persons’ representative).
All proposed by JS and accepted unanimously.
8a. Election of Committee Members (new)
Kate Tyler (KT) – proposed JS, seconded SC. Accepted unanimously.
9. Park Officer’s (Richard Cottam) Report
This year at Hornchurch Country Park has been a challenging year but with some successes. Mick (The Ranger) has worked hard in the Park backed up with Dave (Assistance) and the Friends Group despite Mick having to undertake tasks in Parks elsewhere across the Borough as budgets and services are reduced.
Some of the main achievements have been the re-award of the Green Flag quality award and in the London in Bloom awards; we achieved the Gold award for Conservation area and for the third year running. We also achieved Gold and best in category for Country Park.
This year has also seen some capital investment in the Park thanks for Section 106 money from the St Georges housing development. This has allowed us to put a better surface down on the footpath linking Hornchurch Country Park with the Hornchurch Airfield Trust museum and make some other path improvements around the park. This funding has also allowed us to improve the play area and also renew and install some additional fencing around the park. We also installed two additional interpretation boards at the sunken pillboxes and the warship anti-aircraft gun site.
The Park is certainly a busy place and maybe more so with inflatables on a Tuesday in the summer holidays. Over winter, you may see some colour changes as Mick is going to start painting some of parks furniture in the RAF Blue colour scheme (PRU Blue) we are adopting within the park. You will have already notice the bins installed a couple of years ago in the blue and we want to start rolling this out where we can to also better identify the modern country park with its historic use.
The fishing lake has also seen some changes as a club now lease the fishing rights and they have created fishing swims around the lake. The lake has always been fished, but now it can be better monitored and controlled and create a better environment for all.
The future is yet uncertain as the Council tries for balance its books against a background of cost rises and reduced Government funding, as I am sure many would have seen from the recent communications. However we in the Parks Service remain hopeful that we can weather the storm and, although feeling impacts of this, keep our loved and well used parks going.
10. Any Other Business
KT suggested that the Friends Group and EWT collaborate for any events in the park.
KT expressed how pleased she was to be involved with the Group and stated how people coming into the visitors centre wanted to be more involved in the upkeep of the park. RR will give EWT some business cards for the Group and KT will take contact details and pass to RR.
KT asked if the RAF flag could be flown from the Green Flag pole as well as the Green Flag. JS will ask RC.
KT asked if the Roundel could be tilted more upright as visitors said they couldn’t see it properly. It was explained that the Roundel was designed to be flat so that children could play on it, it can be seen from the air and doesn’t over shadow the visitors centre. Visitors can go into the meadow to see it more closely.
Scott Tyler asked if lighting could be installed on the paths in the park. It was explained that it was unlikely that the Council would fund this and the park is officially closed after sunset.
Next Meeting Date – Next Friends Group meeting Thursday 7 December, 4pm via Zoom