Chairman’s Annual Report
to the Lavenham Woodland Project’s members,
Tuesday, 20th May, 2008,
at the Angel Hotel.

When I began to write this report, I thought that we had been very quiet this year, but the diary (thank you Jane Hodges) tells a different story.

We continue to enjoy close relations with the Parish Council, whose financial support is much appreciated.  Dyehouse Field Wood was the site of a party to celebrate the Market Charter, and to add to the food we enjoyed Eamon Bolan’s rendition of part of Sir Clive Rose’s epic verse history of Lavenham, as well as his birthday.  We owe thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Baker, Jane Gosling, Barbara Peevor, Nigel Sykes and Lyn Gurling for helping to make it a memorable afternoon.  We also owe a continuing debt of gratitude for the generosity of Mr David and the late Mrs Pauline Norman.  Each year they host a fair in their paddock and we were the local charity they chose to support in 2007.

Roger Bigg and Peter Evans initiated a Dawn Chorus walk in June 2007.  Jane Hodges added the idea of breakfast afterwards at the Angel.  We issued forth again, but on a wet morning this past April.  We may have heard an Iberian visitor, probably naturalised.

We have had had plant problems – first with the possibility that there was a virus among the hawthorn, and then there was the dreaded ragwort.  The hawthorns seem to be none the worse for whatever ailed them, and we have taken advice from Jo Seymour, at Babergh District Council, to keep cutting the ragwort before it flowers.  The intention is to cut several times during each growing season until the open field which ragwort thrives in becomes a woodland.  Peter Evans, David Jones and Mike Hodges especially have driven this particular project through, by a combination of know-how and sweat.

We have invested time and effort into seeking this solution.  We know from DEFRA that we pose no threat to neighbours, and that the plant is persistent, as a native English plant ought to be!

We saw how quickly open arable turns into a woodland when we visited the Hawkins’ farm at Milden.  We radically revised our perceptions as to the best width of rides in maturing woodland.  The visit also encompassed consideration of alternative, Suffolk, approaches to hedge management, which came as something of a shock to those of us with a Midlands model in mind.  Seeing old pollarded oaks in hedgerows gave us more food for thought, especially as there seems to be yet another disaster looming with hedgerow standards.

Babergh District Council hosted a useful training day, introducing new systems to support community charities, like us.  We have also been engaged in some discussion with Suffolk County Council, as well as Babergh, and the Green Light Trust, about alternative developments in the management of Lavenham’s Railway Walk.

We have been less punctilious in our recording of hours worked this past year, but from what I recognize as incomplete data, we have still contributed 69 hours to managing Dyehouse Field Wood itself.  At a notional £5/hour, this is worth £345/annum to us.  In addition to that there is the uncounted time Jane Gosling and Neil Warden and Nigel Sykes devote to the cause.

And it has not been all work, for we enjoyed Sue Knight’s hospitality to welcome the new season of 2008, with the additional good news that she has opened up good relations with class teachers at Lavenham Primary School.  Indeed, news of her style has spread to the Cubs, who want to be introduced to the woodland by her.  And Roger and Dina Bigg have planted snowdrops to brighten the rides in the older woodland next spring.  We have planted several trees this winter, by request.  Someone has erected both bird boxes and hibernation devices in the older plantation.  The idea that it is the village’s wood seems to be taking hold.

So we have much to look forward to.

John Knight, Chairman. 20th May, 2008