15 Apr 2022






1.    Apologies for absence: Lynette Baker, Jenny Wakefield-Warren, Kevin Benton, Gillian Child, Ruth Gibson, Jean Grafham, Colin & Liz Guthrie, Amanda Hamblin, Simon & Jane Leney, Mark & Cam Nichols, Anne Oliver, Mike Pickard, Alan & Gwen Pugh, Howard & Toni Hills-Page.

2.    Appointment of Chairman: Steve Thompsett was nominated by Lin Plant and seconded by Janet Reader and accepted by all present.

3.    Nomination and Appointment of Committee: There being no new nominations, the present committee of Lin Plant (Vice Chairman), Janet Reader (Treasurer),  Mike Baker (Membership Secretary), – all Trustees – Jenny Wakefield-Warren (in her absence and with her agreement), Jo Eaton-Brown, Philippa Pigache and Nicky Thompsett were accepted.

4.    Approval of the Minutes of the Last AGM: Held in September 2021 (delayed due to Covid)  These were accepted by all present.

5.    Matters arising: No actions were outstanding.

6.    Chairman’s Report: ST reported on all activities that have taken place in the last six months. 

The work in conjunction with the Parish Council has all been completed and the Contractor, Chris Davis of Agrifactors, continues to support us. Dangerous trees have been removed, steps rebuilt at the lower end of the wood and much needed drainage work has been carried out, as well as the spraying regrowth of rhododendron that will start shortly.
We have new green signs at all entrances, reminding visitors that the Wood is owned by the community and managed by a Charity committee. 

ST thanked Mike Baker and volunteers, who have done a sterling job of working parties clearing rhododendron and laurel. 

Jo Eaton-Brown continues to provide seasonal posters showing what to look for in the Wood.  

We have planted another 200 saplings, donated via the Countryside Volunteers, along with a further 100, all planted by MB, J & J Eaton-Brown.

ST & LP met with representatives of the High Weald AONB, who wanted to see the work carried out under grants given by Sussex Lund, which were secured by our late Chairman, John Plant.  They were very impressed with the work completed, and took lots of photos to include in future information.

Following the donation of over £10,000 from the Co-Op. along with smaller amounts from members, work on replacing the boardwalk should start in the near future.  Our contractor has the sleepers in preparation and should begin when the weather is suitable.

The Woodland Plan was discussed later in the meeting.
7.    Treasurer’s Report: The Treasurer gave her report, which was accepted by the members.

8.    Membership Status: MB reported that we currently have 144 members, some of whom are still due to renew their subscription.

9.    Darch’s Wood update: ST showed some slides of the work done in the Wood, including some maps.  There are links on the Website to the 1947 map from the air. 

10. Forestry Commission Woodland Plan:  ST gave details of the application for funding for the total removal of rhododendron and laurel in the Wood.  This is considered necessary, as the Wood would be overwhelmed if we do nothing.  There are two parts to the grant: the first is to do various things yearly, such as widen the rides (paths), squirrel catching and deer management. The largest part of the grant, £40,000, is for the eradication of the non-native species (rhododendron and laurel). Josh Diplock, from the team who will help manage the works, answered various questions from members and a vote was taken, and it was agreed to go ahead with the grant.

11. Jubilee Picnic:  LP said that it had been suggested to hold a low-key picnic in the Wood for the Platinum Jubilee on Sunday 5th June, as there were many other events taking place.  People should bring their own picnics, no disposable BBQs allowed, any time from 12pm to 5pm.  LP will arrange bunting and perhaps a few simple games for children – helpers welcome.  It was agreed to go ahead with this picnic. 

12. AOB: Two metal detectorists came along and brought a box frame containing some of their finds in the Wood.  They were unable to detect anything under the paths, due to metal in the planings. They also found some badly damaged George III coins. 

LP mentioned that a glade of Rowan trees had been purchased, using the last monies from the memorial collection for John Plant.  These were due to be planted any time now.  N.B. – The trees were actually planted the day before the AGM by the Pond.

13. Members questions: A member suggested that we could have a stall at the French Market and/or the Heathfield Show.  We would need volunteers to man such stalls. 

A question was raised about what happens to trees chopped down.  These generally should be left in situ to help diversification in the Wood. Josh Diplock said that the contractors would mulch any leftovers when removing the rhododendrons, etc. It was also asked if the 'Spiney Forest' could be kept. JD said that the Forestry Commission were highly unlikely to agree to this, as they could cross pollinate and cause more regrowth of the unwanted rhododendron.  Another question was raised about solitary bees losing habitat.  ST said that a bee expert, Martin Jenner, had given a talk at the previous AGM, and he said that clearing the wood in non-native species and opening the rides would be highly beneficial to bees. Therefore the longer term benefit would outweigh any initial impacts. 

However, we would make every effort to ensure contractors removing the non-native species do so in a manner that minimises impacts as far as possible. 

The meting closed at 8.45 and guests had the opportunity to have refreshments, look at information displayed at the back of the hall and talk to the committee, Josh Diplock and the detectorists.

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