March 2013 TO October 2014
During this very busy period the Trust has been greatly helped by a substantial donation specifically for the purchase of equipment, and by many donations from Villagers. We have received generous grants from The Nineveh Charitable Trust and from Whitehead Monckton Charitable Foundation, and donations from The Hollingbourne Society and from the Saint George’s Day Revue. We substantially increased our income from grazing and the sale of hay. Our offer of Celebration Trees has proved popular, and around 50 trees have been Sponsored.
We are grateful to those who have become “Friends of the Meadows” and make a small monthly donation to the Trust. Currently, we need around £6,000 a year to cover the maintenance of the Meadows, insurance and other overheads. The donations from our Friends are a great help to us.
During the period, much has been achieved. We have:
- purchased new equipment, including a tractor and flail mower
- maintained an increasing number of cut grass paths
- installed 4 dog waste bins
- completed the Celebration Tree avenue
- planted a double row of trees along the Culpeper boundary
- planted the new hedge around Godfrey Meadow using 1,000 plants of varied species
- planted 1,000 tree whips in Windmill Meadow, forming a 600-tree coppice and a hedge
- trimmed and maintained hedges over the whole of the meadows
- maintained the flower meadow
- maintained rough areas for the benefit of wildlife.
There have been increases in the visible number and variety of birds, bees, butterflies and other insects, and also small mammals (less visible). Kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard have recently been observed hunting in the meadows. Plant biodiversity, including wild flowers, is also increasing.
The achievements during the period would not have been possible without the help given to the Trust by our working volunteers. “Ben’s Meadow Volunteers” have regularly turned out to help with planting, weed-pulling and other essential jobs. Our grateful thanks go to each of them. We do need more volunteers – please ring or email if you are interested in helping now and again.
Our History November 2004 to February 2013
In November 2004, the land above the High Speed Rail tunnel (on both sides of the road into the Village) was put up for auction. There was great concern that this very visible land at the entrance to the Village might be put to inappropriate or insensitive use. Ben Williams, Peter Lee and Jim Findlay made an appeal to the Village for funds to buy the land. 70 residents pledged a total of £48,000. Eyhorne Meadow was bought for £22,000, using 50% of the amounts pledged. The other piece of land, Cotuams Meadow, was bought by a Village resident.
The Hollingbourne Meadows Trust Ltd was incorporated in November 2004. In May 2005, registered charitable status was granted by the Charity Commission. The objects of the Trust are to regenerate, improve and maintain Eyhorne Meadow and to:
- conserve, protect and improve the physical and natural environment of Hollingbourne
- promote natural biodiversity
- promote recreational facilities in the form of nature trails, walkways and footpaths, and in a manner facilitating access by the young, the elderly, the infirm and the disabled.
In the first five years of the Trust’s life, efforts were concentrated on the regeneration of Eyhorne Meadow. During this period we planted approximately 70 trees with protective fencing, and grazed a succession of livestock, including bullocks, heifers and sheep. Fencing has been improved, weeds eradicated or controlled, and a pedestrian gate installed to improve access.
In 2010 there was a change in ownership of the Grove Mill Estate to the east of the Village, and individual fields or parts of fields were offered for sale at auction. The Village was faced with the likelihood of piecemeal ownership of the land, and the possibility of undesirable or inappropriate use. Fencing of individual holdings was likely, restricting access to the land.
In the course of 18 months of intense activity by the Trust, its Directors, Supporters and Friends, and thanks to generous donations from individual Villagers, from The Hollingbourne Society and many other Village organisations, from past residents and from friends, and to grants from local and national organisations, including the Big Lottery Fund, the Trust raised a total of £140,000. We borrowed £10,000 on a short-term loan, and spent £147,000 in buying 15 acres of land. A further 10 acres were bought by supportive residents, who have given the Trust the responsibility for managing their land. These 10 acres are available for the trust to buy – at a cost of about £80,000, being the price paid by the supporters.
If the 10 acres can be bought by the Trust, the whole of the eastern boundary of the Village from the High Speed CTRL to the “old” railway line at Culpeper will be safely held, protected from development, and will provide a wildlife haven and walking area for the Village. Raising £80,000 for these purchases is a hugely-challenging medium-term objective of the Trust.
The Trust has kept the Grove Mill land available for the Village to walk and enjoy. We have:
- planted trees
- created a flower meadow
- maintained cut grass paths (which have increased the number of walkers enjoying the meadows)
- commenced cyclical hedge-trimming on a three-year cycle.
We shall need lots of Volunteer help, and we have set up “Ben’s Meadow Volunteers” with a growing list of potential helpers. All volunteers are welcome to help in any way they can.
Our plans over the next year or so include:
- planting a further 17 Celebration Trees, completing the “avenue” running to the Culpeper entrance
- planting a copse of willows and other moisture-loving trees in the very damp patch of ground near the railway behind Culpeper
- planting a double row of English trees parallel with the Culpeper railway line, set sufficiently far apart so that, when the canopies begin to meet, we can underplant with English Bluebells
- the maintenance of the cut grass pathways – these stretch for more than two miles! With our current (somewhat antiquated!) mower, the journey length for path-cutting is approximately 5 miles, and takes too long. We need to raise funds for more up-to-date equipment
- improving the entrances to the Meadows, which have become very worn and muddy
- planting a bird-friendly fruiting hedge along the fencing round Godfrey Meadow. This will require 850 hedging plants and cost a minimum of £4,000 to £5,000.
- maintenance of “rough areas” of ground solely for the benefit of wildlife.
We have outline plans over the longer-term, but we need to concentrate on the matters in hand, and particularly upon continued fund-raising. Although much time is given freely by our Directors and by our volunteers, our insurance and other overheads, the regular cutting of the grass pathways, hedge trimming and general maintenance cost in the region of £6,000 a year. Every year, we need to raise at least that amount, plus some more to provide for the cost of buying the 10 acres which we do not own.
Our overall “mission statement” is in accordance with our charitable objectives. We shall:
- protect the environment of Hollingbourne
- encourage wildlife
- maintain the Meadows as an area for the pleasure and enjoyment of Villagers.
In so doing, we intend to maintain the Meadows, not as a park, but rather as a wildlife area readily accessible for the pleasant enjoyment of the residents of our Village.