No.81 - Winter - 1999/2000
We asked our branches to consider what the Trust's most significant contribution has been to date, what is the biggest conservation issue of today and what the Trust should do now, as well as perhaps mentioning something of their own history - all in 250 words! The responses are as varied as the branches themselves and the areas they represent, but there are some strong unifying themes. Those who work so hard to maintain branch activity would love to hear from anyone willing to help realise our shared ambitions.
As the end of the millennium approaches, the Camel Branch Committee has paused to reflect on the work carried out locally and the achievements gained. To this end we have taken time out to visit our reserves, to re-record the flora and fauna, and also to take an overview of the sites; to look at the reasons for their original purchase, to see if those reasons are still valid and to decide what measures we need to have in place to continue their ongoing protection through management, recording, education and so forth.
There are many people in our area who have contributed to the conservation interests within the Trust and I feel that some should be mentioned here: the late Rhona Weekes and Gina Cooper did so much to keep the branch going and their knowledge of all things natural was immense.
Brian Wright, who lives on Hawkes Wood reserve at Wadebridge, will be the first to deny his great input into the branch but having worked with him for many years now I know that his "laid-back" ways hide an intense loyalty toward the nature of Cornwall. Hawkes Wood was one of the first reserves that the then Cornwall Naturalists' Trust acquired when it was given to us by Miss Dorothy Sewart in 1968. Since that time the wood has been sympathetically managed and is still "a joy to behold", especially in the spring when its typical oakwood flora is at its very best.
The aims and visions of the Camel Branch into the next millennium stay very much as before, as we appreciate the need to look after what we already have and to "keep our fingers on the pulse" by monitoring the threats affecting our area. We are aware of the need to have a mix of sound scientific data along with good local knowledge in order to be able to respond to any demands on the nature of North Cornwall.
What's the Trust's most significant contribution to date? Just being there to promote the interests of wildlife is, I think, as good an answer as any; saving small but important pieces of Cornwall's diverse natural heritage.
What's the biggest conservation issue of today is a very personal question. Individual branch members' views on this range from the hunting debate to the impact of traffic on wildlife. My personal view is more basic: getting the paying member more involved and active -a difficult task!
We all know most people are happy to pay their subs and leave the wildlife to the Trust, and that's fine, but having been to numerous well-organised but poorly attended events you get a real buzz when a good crowd turns up. That's what we've got to capture - enthusiasm. I think the Trust should be more active in getting in touch with people - and wake us all up a bit.
Or perhaps there should be micro-groups. Maybe council boundaries are just too big and more locally focused teams or community groups are needed - it could work.
Finally, I'd like to thank all the past members of the Caradon Branch -you know who you are - and those who have kept us "ticking over" in more recent times. As a branch we've gone into hibernation - perhaps the new millennium's spring will help stir us from it. I do hope so - there's a lot we can do together.
David and Gail Cory
Carrick has always been one of the larger branches, and now boasts members from over one thousand households. Probably most have joined the Trust for philanthropic reasons, happy to contribute to funds without wanting to become more involved by attending or helping to organise walks, talks, fund-raising and other events. These and a newsletter have long been regarded by Council as a vital part of "looking after the membership".
Dozens of such events took place in Carrick over the years, but attendances were all too often disappointing, causing doubt as to whether the effort was either worthwhile or necessary. The Trust also depended entirely on willing members in each area finding time to report on potentially harmful planning applications, destruction of habitats, recording wildlife and keeping an eye on reserves.
Times, and attitude to wildlife conservation, have changed, the Trust has grown out of recognition in scale and influence, and many of those tasks are now taken care of by a large professional staff in co-operation with several special committees and the Executive Committee, all of whom are answerable to Council. A notable exception is of course the distribution and delivery of newsletters. Possibly having the Trust headquarters so close to home has made Carrick members feel that a local branch committee is no longer really relevant, but if anybody feels badly let down by its demise we wonder if he or she would be prepared to try resurrecting it.
The Trust hopes that the Carrick Branch can soon become more active. A meeting to get things going will be held at Trust HQ on 9th March, when it is hoped that members will come forward to help form the branch committee.
Stephen Westcott will give an illustrated talk on Seaquest South-West, starting at 7.30pm. A very short Branch General Meeting, to elect a committee, will be held at a convenient moment during the proceedings.
Anyone willing to take part or make suggestions is asked to call me on (01326) 373830.
As a relatively new branch, we try to copy, at the local level, the aims and objectives of the Trust as a whole: working with the younger generation on wildlife conservation; improving biodiversity through careful management of selected sites; collecting and analysing wildlife data; and increasing awareness of wildlife conservation issues.
Over its two-year life the branch has grown both in numbers and in activities. Our best practical achievement has been to build a new ten-metre by ten-metre clay-lined pond at Truscott village, alongside an existing pond that was silting up. We have also organised educational events with local primary schools and hoisted our flag at numerous fairs and village shows, raising awareness and significant funds in the process. Winter talks, summer walks and reserve working parties are now a regular feature of our activities.
Two of our members have recently won a millennium award to cover the costs of training to lead local volunteers in collecting wildlife data. This will create an opportunity for local members to make their own practical contribution to understanding of what is happening to wildlife in our area. The project is also developing an increased interaction with Trust headquarters -something that we hope will continue into the new millennium.
Community involvement and increasing awareness of wildlife conservation will continue to be the theme behind our future projects. Please get in touch if you want to help.
By the time you read this we will be moving into the new millennium. I think now is the time to sit back and look at the changes that our wildlife has had to suffer over the last few decades at least. Woodland has been lost, hedgerows grubbed out, and permanent pasture either ploughed up or agriculturally improved with herbicides and fertilisers, rendering it of little value to our wildlife.
Now what of the future? Hopefully any reforms in the Common Agricultural Policy will reward farmers for farming in more wildlife-friendly ways. The Trust has at present 47 nature reserves covering in excess of 3,000 acres, and this number looks set to grow, which is one cause for optimism.
At home we can all do our bit for wildlife by not buying compost containing peat. An odd corner in a garden could be turned into a wildflower meadow and, if there is room, we can plant a tree or two, or even a small berry-bearing shrub which will be appreciated by the birds in winter.
Here in Penwith we have an active branch and stage many events over the year, including quiz nights, slide shows and wildlife walks, some with tea and cakes at the end, and we have an annual fungus foray. All members from all branches are welcome to attend - check the diary for details.
Happy new year.
In 1976 there was a change in the organisation of the Trust. Up to that time the Trust had a Sites Committee covering the whole of the county. We worked closely with the Cornwall County Council Planning Department on any plans which affected any of our sites. A good liaison existed until the County Council underwent a major reorganisation. The county was split into the six districts we know now. With this restructuring, all planning was delegated to the new district authority planning committees. To meet the new situation - dealing with six planning committees instead of one - the Trust decided to rearrange its own administration in line with the new district authority boundaries. Trust district committees would now be able to deal directly with their own district planning departments.
Thus on 8th October 1976 Denis Ellory, a Vice-president of the Trust, called a meeting of all members living in Restormel District, at the Arts Club, St Austell, with the object of forming a branch committee. Denis explained the problems to us and sketched out the functions of the committee:
TO (Bob) Darke, of illustrious memory, then showed his film, The Wild Cliff, while we all absorbed the news of the closer involvement with the work of the Trust which this would entail.
The members invited onto the first committee were: Mrs Frances Smith, Mrs Lucas, John Fanshawe, Dr Colin G Butler OBE FRS, and myself. Dr Gillian Matthews and Dr David Guiterman were present and offered their services to the branch. Our first meeting was held in November 1976 at the home of Colin Butler.
And so the Restormel Branch was born ...
Peter's article goes on to mention the important people and projects in the history of the branch but space does not permit - we would need a whole page. Please call Trust HQ for a copy of the full article.
One of the founder members of the then Cornwall Naturalists' Trust was the late Rennie Bere of Bude. Having set up game reserves in Uganda, his experience was invaluable and gives us a foothold in history!
The Tamar Branch came into being following the closure of the local RSPB branch. At those meetings Mrs Rachel Dingle, whose son Tim is a committee member and past Branch Chairman, would read out CTNC reports (by then we were the Cornwall Trust for Nature Conservation) and was keen on forming a group. Another RSPB member, Mr Jim Beswetherick, was also an early Trust member; sadly he has recently died. We remember him with affection; especially his enthusiasm for woodland birds and birdsong.
The Tamar Branch has been involved in purchasing, developing and managing nature reserves, and has been effective in bringing conservation issues in this area to the attention of the general public, partly through a series of well-publicised and well-attended winter meetings as well as summer fund-raising events.
Conservation issues nowadays are so interrelated that we feel it is difficult to isolate any one as being more important than another. We would like to see the Trust extending communications with branches and the public putting pressure on decision makers where necessary. Town dwellers are increasingly wanting a say in matters previously considered as rural; a delicate path has to be trodden between the needs of conservation, recreation and agriculture to achieve the best for all.
Contents - Wild Cornwall - No.81 - Winter - 1999/2000
Index Wild Cornwall Magazines
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