Secretary's Report for the 99th Annual General Meeting (2017)
2016 was an eventful year. At the 98th AGM we adopted a new constitution and rule book. This was the result of many hours of consultation and discussion by the committee.
The committee and officers worked hard to improve our allotments over the year. We have suffered from vandalism and theft, particularly at Margaret Road, so we invested in Heras panels to reinforce the existing fence there. Thanks to the hard work of some of the members at Margaret Road, these have been secured in place. We have found at Scott Road in previous years that the combination of metal Heras panels and thorn hedge or bramble is a great improvement on security, so in time the new panels at Margaret Road will be almost impenetrable once the thorns grow through them. In addition we got spikes welded on the top of the gates at Margaret Road as we found that intruders were able to climb over.
A great many improvements at Northfield Avenue have continued to take place thanks to the hard work of the stewards there. Harry and June have continued to clear rubbish and overgrown areas, including ivy smothering some of the hedges and trees. We did receive serious complaints from KBC environmental health officers about bonfires from Northfield Avenue disturbing local residents, the railway and traffic. Our stewards took prompt and firm action to enforce our rules and the law. Our policy is to avoid bonfires as there are several better ways to dispose of waste. See our website and newsletter for details.
Windmill Avenue continues to be run very smoothly. Our long-serving field steward Jo Jervis retired and George White has taken on this role and his selfless service there is much appreciated. Many thanks to Jo for all his work over the years and George for his diplomacy and hard work keeping Windmill Avenue allotments (“the brickyard”) so beautiful.
Scott Road experienced a major change. A fox killed many of the chickens and ducks which was a terrible shock to their keepers. Some of these gave up and did not replace their poultry. However, some of these birds were not being kept in very good conditions; the remaining poultry are really well looked after in accordance with our new rules. There was initially a plague of rats like nothing we have seen before, feeding on the dead chickens and then slowly the rat problem disappeared. The problem we then had was clearing plots that were full of chicken structures that had not been cleaned out for ten years or more. With a great deal of hard work two plots have now been cleared and re-let. Three more plots need clearing and measures are now in place to do this. The end result is a much better field; the poultry we have are healthy and the field is largely free of rats.
Windmill Avenue is fully let with a short waiting list and slow turnover. Northfield Avenue is effectively full, with two plots currently being cleared ready to be re-let. Scott Road was fully let in 2016 but with a high turnover several plots became vacant during the year. Currently there remain several vacant plots at Scott Road. Hopefully there will be enquiries in the Spring as the gardening season gets going. Margaret Road also has vacant plots in a similar situation to Scott Road.
Some of the vacant plots at Scott Road have been covered with black woven weed-control plastic fabric to keep the weeds down. When a new member rents one of these plots they will not be faced with a jungle, so may be able to cope more easily. In years gone by carpet was used in a similar way to control weeds. It has now been shown that carpet contains many harmful chemicals which may damage the soil. Therefore we are now working hard to remove all carpet from allotments. Bringing carpet to an allotment is no longer allowed under our new rules.
There have been several changes to the committee this year. Our long-serving former secretary, treasurer and field steward for Margaret Road Dai Johnson announced his phased retirement from these roles. We were very lucky in having a smooth transition in the treasurer role with our new treasurer John Burn. Finding a new field steward initially proved quite difficult. Three members offered to serve but then stepped down. We are now fortunate to have two new stewards, Lee Farmer and Charlie Wilson, joining Tony Munt.
Another issue at Margaret Road proved controversial. A large willow tree had been allowed to grow on a plot. Its roots and shade meant that four plots were no longer able to grow crops. The members affected were also concerned about falling branches. Expert opinion backed this up, a local tree surgeon stated that a willow is just waiting to fall down. A quote to fell this was very expensive so the committee voted to keep the tree and offer other (vacant) plots to the members affected. These members declined this offer and again expressed their safety concerns. More quotes were sought and fortunately a reliable tree surgeon was found at a much lower price. A majority of the committee agreed that this willow needed to be felled, so it was cut down in December. Some committee members disagreed with this and one resigned. Please note that trees over 8 feet high are against our rules.
On a more positive note, the worthy winner of our Bridgstock Cup in 2016 was Mary Spence of Margaret Road. Congratulations once again Mary. Another success story has been our newsletter that has been popular now it has moved to the Wordpress website. Most months it is viewed nearly 200 times, not bad for a society with approximately 350 members.
Finally I would like to pay tribute to the genuine sacrificial service given to our society over many years by Dai Johnson. Dai has served as secretary, treasurer and field steward. He has also been our contact with our KBC official, Kish Lad. Dai has been a good friend of our allotments and oversaw the transformation from many vacant and overgrown plots to one where all plots are let and most are cultivated. Improvements in record-keeping, administration and many other aspects of our committee business were carried out by Dai. He spent many hours on the phone to members and other officers and also helped to manage a really smooth transition when he retired from his roles as secretary and treasurer. Enjoy your retirement Dai, you are a hard act to follow.
Russell Attwood, secretary