21 Dec 2018

HISTORIC DOCUMENTS - No. 5


Our last item for now about the history of Darch’s Wood, found that in April 1981 the Society was struggling to finance the maintenance of the wood, and was failing to persuade users of the wood to become members of the Society to make a token contribution to its upkeep.  Church Cottage was part of Mrs Darch’s bequest and soon became a prime target for disposal and acrimonious exchanges.

A former committee member expressed his lack of enthusiasm for selling Church Cottage in a letter to the Woodland Sub-Committee Chairman.  Here are some of the extracts from the exchange of letters.

“I am not at all enthusiastic about even contemplating selling the Church cottage.  Can I have your assurance that no serious steps have yet been taken towards the disposal of Church Cottage.  The donor is 100% against selling it and I think it would be extremely discourteous to do it in her lifetime.  It always constituted a major part of the gift and should not be disposed of lightly.  You have always said how concerned you were over cutting even one tree without Margaret’s permission and here you are obviously in favour of a major action which goes wholly against her wishes.  The County (The Council had visited the wood and written a report) have said that the woods are a viable proposition and therefore you cannot sell the cottage as a short-term measure when the long-term view does not justify it.  In forestry you always have to take the long view.”

Extracts from the response from the Woodland Sub-Committee Chairman started with a rather undiplomatic fist paragraph which included this statement.

“My first inclination was to throw it (your letter) into the wastepaper basket.”

Then went on to say:-

“I am advised that when you initially put forward the idea that the Society take over a portion of Heatherden Woods doubts were expressed by more than one committee member regarding the Society’s financial ability to maintain the woodland.  It is obvious to me that these doubts were justified.

The present position is that the cottage has been ruled as unfit for human habitation by the Local Housing Authority and until various repairs and alterations demanded by the Local Authority are carried out there is no question of anyone being permitted to live there.  Either the Society finds the considerable sum of money necessary to carry out the Housing Authority requirements or it stays empty.

The other solution is one of disposal of the cottage in order to raise funds that can yield a regular investment income to fund the Society’s obligations to maintain the woodlands.  The whole question of possible disposal is one which needs the consent of the Charity Commissioners.

I refuse to accept any implied censure from you on the matter. If you wish to influence the affairs of the Society I suggest you attend an AGM and get yourself re-elected.”

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