Registered Charity No. 702429

DIRECTORS’ REPORT - A.G.M. 2008

In April we were delighted when our Member of Parliament Michael Fabricant accepted our invitation to become a Patron. He has always been immensely supportive of our restoration project and keen to speak up in our favour. We were very sorry to lose Mike Smith who retired as a Director at the last AGM, although he continues to work with David Dixon in handing over the land portfolio. We are very pleased to welcome David as our new Land Officer and extremely grateful to Mike for the hard work and commitment he has always given to this vital role. In October Vaughan Welch joined the Council of Management as a Director and IWA representative, bringing with him a wealth of experience in canal restoration. Andrew Williams and Geoff Crook have also joined the team as Education Officer and Environment Officer respectively. However, as reported last year, we are still in need of a Publicity Officer, so if there is anyone out there who would like to help us spread the word about what we do, please let us know.

It was a busy year for our mechanical plant which has been regularly maintained by Peter Magee. Early May saw our 804 excavator transported to Warwick together with WRG red dumper where they were used for a weekend of training for Waterway Recovery Group members and five L&H volunteers. Most weekends and Wednesdays during summer and winter the 804 and dumper were used on a regular basis. Our very grateful thanks go to all volunteers for their hard work and careful use of the plant, and to Chasetown Civil Engineering Ltd for their help and support with equipment.

The Marketing Group under the leadership of David Moore made a record profit in 2007 of £13,600. However, to pinch a phrase from the world of sport, it was a year of two halves. At the mid point of the year we were very pessimistic about the year’s result.

The weather had not been kind to organisers of outdoor events. The Saul Canal Festival, Moira Festival and the Lichfield Bower, all fell victim to the wind and rain. However, a good showing in the latter part of the year, helped by our attendance at one or two new events, enabled us to pull things round.

Lichfield Cruising Club very kindly allowed us use of their grounds for two events during the year. In April we arranged a walk along part of the route of the Lichfield Canal which was supported by Michael Fabricant MP and the Mayor of Lichfield, plus around 1,000 other walkers. Then in September we held another very successful boat gathering at Huddlesford Junction. We would like to thank the cruising club once again for their generous hospitality.

We had another very enjoyable and profitable social evening at Whittington Village Hall in November, with music and humour from Doug Parker and Steve Ashcroft and excellent food prepared by Pat Barton and Terry Robertson.

Undoubtedly one of the major contributors to our success over the year was the support for the “500 Club”. Our thanks to all of you who have taken up subscriptions, and to Mavis Moore who has handled the administration.

As ever, the achievements of the Marketing Group are down to the support of a small number of members who staff the L&H stand at shows and supermarkets and produce items for sale, etc. We thank them all; without their enthusiasm the Group would not be as successful. And of course, there is always room for some new faces. The Marketing Group is constantly on the lookout for new recruits. If you would like to try your hand at selling or publicising the work of the Trust, please contact Dave Moore or any member of the team. It is not difficult and help in the form of more experienced team members is always close on hand.

Our website continues to expand and we do our best to keep it up to date. Bob Williams gave 15 PowerPoint presentations about the work of the Trust to a wide variety of groups, some local and others further afield. We gained 73 new members although the overall membership total dropped slightly, ending the year at 1,660. However, a total of 1044 of those members are now gift-aiding their subscriptions, allowing us to reclaim a very worthwhile sum from the Inland Revenue at no extra cost to members.

In the past year the Environment team under the direction of Mike Battisson has seen the environmental regeneration advance significantly, particularly at Tamworth Road where related funding and engineering developments have acted as welcome catalysts.

The environmental element of the Staffordshire Aggregates Levy grant enabled the purchase of a large quantity of hawthorn hedging whips. With the assistance of visiting WRG groups, these have been used to plant a screen to reduce the impact of the A38 traffic intruding along the new eastern boundary of the site. Surplus to that need, the remainder has been used by our local ‘Green’ team ably led by our appointed Environment Officer, Geoff Crook, to restore the sadly neglected ‘quick’ from the A38 to Cricket Lane.

The Grant has also been able to support the purchase of significant quantities of wild flower bulbs. These have been planted alongside a new access path through the A51 spinney down to the line of the A38 towpath site. The completion of further work next year will enable the Trust to consider cementing partnerships with the Darwin Walk and Heart of England Way Trusts to divert their line from along the A51 roadside to a much more attractive route passing through what is rapidly becoming a significant local heritage Borrowcop Lock’s site. A walk through this area should be very rewarding next spring when the results of the planting become apparent. In preparation for this development the spinney over-growth was first coppiced by the Trust’s green ‘Heavy brigade’, supported by Steve and Geoff. There is more light work needed there if any body is interested to volunteer, particularly if further grants enable more planting along the canal-side quick.

Another funding potential has been our partnership with Great Barr School who are keen to use our restoration work as an educational tool. Bringing City kids out of the class to widen their knowledge and experience, we hope they will learn that canals are not the natural habitat of sofas and shopping trolleys, thus becoming more involved in the positive side and aware of opportunity. The students have visited Darnford Lane and Tamworth Road to plant bulbs and scrub bash. Supported by our appointed Education Officer, Head of Environmental Science at Great Barr School, Andy Williams we intend to host further visits this year.

The focus on Tamworth Road has resulted in less effort being available to maintain our sites at Fosseway and Darnford Lane and this has resulted in these becoming rather more ‘natural’ than one might wish. As we restore more of course, the maintenance load increases. This year has seen some welcome additions to our ‘Green team’ but more are needed. It is very rewarding to help nature on its way to recover our sites that suffered from 50 years of neglect. The return of natural wild flowers and hence insects and then wild-life is already being witnessed. If you are interested please come and join us, not all the work is back breaking, we need brains as well as brawn!

With the help given by willing members and friends it has been a rewarding and successful year with healthy progress achieved. With more help there is much more that can be done to make our sites attractive to encourage the support we need to achieve our ultimate objective of a fully operational and environmentally supportive canal.

Sue Williams
Secretary

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