Volunteers attending the recent Forum briefing were greeted by an all female line-up, rather apt when we are celebrating one hundred years of women’s suffrage. Susie led the team of Steph, Bev and Llona.
These meetings help to foster a togetherness between the disparate groups working at Ashridge – windmillers, flint wallers, shop keepers, conservationists, rangers, surveyors, carpenters and monumenteers. The detailed information provided, also enables the volunteers to confidently engage with the public and is a foundation for the “Service Vision” for staff and volunteers alike, being rolled out by the Trust. Offering the public something special on their trip out involves the difficult and dying art of conversation, so some tips were provided. One of the volunteers, from Dunwich Heath is on-message.
With an expanding work role, volunteers will now have a revised induction in place – an overall procedure with a detailed one for specific roles.
Following on from last years record recruitment, a target of four hundred and fifty has been set for new N T members in 2018. To achieve this an additional membership recruitment person has been taken on – Stephanie comes from a farming background which will be a big help at Ashridge. Volunteers are also being encouraged to join the team and help with the recruitment. The recent email from Josh sets out the position.
Other positions for volunteers include helping out at the Windmill, or running the mobility scooter service at the Visitor Centre.
As part of the twenty year woodland development plan , we can expect to see more thinning of the plantation in Dockey Wood, and a continuation of the halo work on veteran trees to help propel them towards an ancient status. More dead hedges we hear you say!
The annual biodiversity surveys on flora and fauna will continue to be rolled out, in order to monitor conservation performance at Ashridge.
Beacon Hill will feature in the new lottery funded iron age Hillforts Project run by the Chilterns AONB, and volunteers may be interested in joining up with this ground breaking archaeology where lasers will be introduced to survey the land.
Progress on the capital projects was outlined with refurbishments taking place on two cottages, with the conversion of Woodyard Cottage deferred for another year. The solution to the ever present parking problem was making slow process because of the need to complete a conservation management plan.
The outdoor visitor engagement days involving staff and volunteers directed at dog-walkers, horse-riders, and cyclists will take place again throughout the year.
It is always nice to meet up with old friends and acquaintances at the Forums and to exchange ideas. After years of regular service volunteers look for new challenges and requests were made at the meeting for more involvement in Estate work normally carried out by staff members. The recent hedge-laying work was a start, but some would like to get involved with tree felling, driving vehicles, and perhaps some bracken bashing. There is no reason why formal training could not be organised for brick laying or paving, or road repairs, or the restoration of some of the twenty or so ponds on the Estate. Here at the Blog we can provide background knowledge on the work that takes place at Ashridge, but nothing practical.
Some members were concerned at the inability of being able to put forward ideas that would be listened to. At the moment we do not have a dedicated volunteers’ manager to report to which is normally the case. The recent “Hello” letter from our new Director General to all volunteers was an open invitation to directly send your comments to the N T . We wrote to Hilary McGrady on your behalf congratulating her on the new appointment and requesting a statement–of–intent on plastic proliferation as it affects the Trust – we will let you know what transpires. The Queen issued a statement on plastic usage on the Royal Estates back in February.
There will be ten Forum meetings throughout the year, and the next gathering will be a coffee morning at the Visitor Centre on May 18th. See you there.