There were one hundred and forty guests at the annual Volunteers’ Party on Friday, held at the splendid Civic Centre in Berkhamsted.
The Trust headed up by Susie, along with Lalenya took the opportunity to highlight their commercial achievements over the past year. All activities at the Visitor Centre improved over the previous year apart from the paid attendance at the Monument. The Trust were very upbeat about their achievements with a fanfare of music from the 1970’s T V Generation Game – Scores on the doors! They were particularly pleased with the recruitment of new Trust members – 335. This will produce some £14,000 of income for Ashridge.
Ashridge have calculated that there are one hundred and seventy four active volunteers who produce the equivalent of £200,000 of work for the Estate each year. No mean achievement.
Lawrence, Ben and Emily outlined their conservation achievements and mentioned their hopes for the coming year. The deer cull was important with the herds now in fine fettle for the coming season. It is hoped that future supplies of venison emanating from the Estate will be badged up and sold throughout the N T properties as “wild” deer from Ashridge. Large scale pond clearance work has taken place for the first time in many years, and the flint wall volunteers have persevered with the endless task of restoring the Victorian carriage drive.
On survey work, all nine hundred veteran trees have been mapped by the volunteers in preparation for halo thinning – a daunting task. The bird survey surprisingly found twenty pairs of skylarks and fifteen pairs of meadow pipits nesting on Northchurch Common.
The Old Deer Park is due for another clean up with the planting of more specimen trees, and hedge-laying is to be introduced for the volunteers to participate in.
There was no mention of progress or plans on any of the capital projects.
Ben Newton the new Ashridge Ranger introduced himself and talked about the responsibilities for the emerging group of volunteer rangers.
There were only three presentations this year, the first to Bob Saintey for his ten years of devotion at the Windmill, to the membership secretary of Friends of Ashridge, and to John Houston of the Thursday group for five years service.
The evening was rounded off with a quiz requiring guests to recognize some obscure parts of the Estate.
The meal of beef bourguigon followed by chocolate brownie was served up by the team from the Visitor Centre Cafe, to their usual high standard. Their reputation precedes them, while the staff supported the meal with ample supplies of liquid refreshment.
It was nice to see staff and volunteers dressing-up for the occasion, making it difficult to recognise people out of uniform! The volunteers were well pleased.