Chair’s Report 2022

As part of the 2022 FrANC AGM held on 4th December, Tim Wickstead gave the following comprehensive and entertaining report. This was Tim’s final Chair’s report before retiring from the role.


A warm welcome to all present.  Thank you for coming.

First some figures:

We have held four meetings of the committee this year.

We have 201 subscribers who receive our mailings.

We have completed four river bank clean-ups in which a total of 202 human hours were spent, to quote our Vice Chair, ‘patrolling the last line of defence before rubbish hits the river’.  101 members gave of their time, 55 separate individuals, 6 of whom completed all 4 meetings, and 8 attended three. A big thank you to all who have turned out – including most welcome sunshine on at least three of the days.  Thank you to Steve Clampin, the Council’s Parks Operational Co-Ordinator (South), who has so promptly ensured the piles are taken away. And to Stephen Mason who ensured we had good publicity beforehand in The Pigeon.  Again this year, students from Ashton Park school are helping collect rubbish as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

FrANC’s photos, the WhatsApp group dedicated to images of The Cut, recorded 74 fresh photographs so far this year contributed by 14 members.  It serves as a rich reminder of how unique is this mix of city and natural riverbank habitat.  I have a dozen favourites: 8 wonderful sunsets/sunrises, an orchid, May blossom, a vole, and the record of the fate of Gaol Ferry Bridge.  If forced to pick only one favourite, it would be the picture taken by Eva Marcinek of a litter-picking volunteer enmeshed in the lower mass of branches of a tree on York Road like a bright spider in its web.

The Butterfly Junction team, ably led by Guy Malkerson have worked hard on the 12 first Saturdays of each month this year and the results are evident for all to see.  Attendance on these Saturdays has varied between 6 and 20.  Guy’s ability to write a grant application has ensured funds have been available which initially most importantly made sure volunteers enjoyed a coffee afterwards at The Underfall Yard café.  There is still a key need to find storage for the gardening equipment.  Looking ahead, a Stop Press December update penned by Guy, is attached here:

At the last Butterfly Junction session in November, the volunteers did not want the recent Secret Gardens grant to be used for refreshments at Underfall Yard.  There was a consensus that we should pay our own way and use the grant money in other ways to support our community gardening project.  We met with Mo Mulligan and made a site inspection for the planting of native British Cherry Trees on the cycle/walk way leading from Butterfly Junction to Underfall Yard.  Mo advised that eight trees would fit nicely and will make a statement.  This is what we are planning for.  The planting day has been set for January 7th.  The Patchwork gardening group had some tree protector fence roll left over from their recent tree planting on West Street and they are donating that to us.  Additionally, Mo said we do not need mulch if we are going to weed regularly.  That will help to keep costs down.  Mo will source the trees for us as well as the rest of the tree protection we need (stakes etc).  Guy will cover any costs where our grant from secret gardens is exceeded.  Liz will be in touch with Mo to coordinate the purchasing, timings and reimbursement.

Through the year:

I have held four meetings with graphic designer Rob Fuller pursuing the Signs project started by FrANC over a year ago.  We have since had a generous sum of money earmarked for the project from a private individual linked to Aardman.  Rob and I had to pause the plans mid-year but it is hoped after today’s meeting they can be revitalised.

In March seven volunteers were filmed for the BBC’s Countryfile programme; the episode, screened on April 10th, focussed on the need to keep rivers and beaches free from plastic. 

In April we thanked James Savage for his well-thought response, on FrANC’s behalf, to the Western Harbour consultation. 

John Holland entered FrANC for the It’s Your Neighbourhood Award organised by the RHS and Britain in Bloom.  In July three of us met with Judy Pagano, the assessor, to explain FrANC’s work over the years and show the recent progress at Butterfly Junction.  Nothing was heard until November when we were awarded Level 5, Outstanding.  I’ll read the brief citation in full because it draws on the work of many involved with FrANC from the group’s inception:

Friends of the Avon New Cut are a well-established group, preserving and monitoring this area of the River Avon in the centre of Bristol.  They are a very knowledgeable group and have carried out several surveys of the flora and fauna of the area.  The number and variety of species found here is incredible and the banks of the river provide a valuable salt marsh habitat.  The group litter-pick the banks of the Avon four times a year.  This is a popular activity with families joining in.

Butterfly Junction is an oasis of calm and a haven for insects near a busy road and underpass.  It is well-managed by the volunteers once a month.  The interpretation board here was of a high standard.  The new project to clear the well-0used walkway is ambitious but it will enhance the area in the future.  The group are well funded through grants and local businesses.

Also in July we received an account of the work at Butterfly Junction written as a blog by Judy Gowenlock of Bristol and Bath’s Love Your Park which, with details provided by Guy from his survey of participants, gave a heart-warming account of the value of community gardening in a world readjusting after the pandemic.  There is a link to this on our website.

As a consequence of the successful bid for funding to launch the Butterfly Junction project, John Holland researched and worked at length to draft and finalise a Safeguarding Policy for our organisation, considered a good model for other Friends groups.  This can be viewed on the website.  Steve Fay stepped aside this year after many years as Treasurer, working with Laura Demery to ensure a smooth transition.  The committee thanks John and Steve for the conscientious work they have given FrANC; and, from my own position, at a time in lockdown when it felt tough to keep the group together, they both, in different ways were the catalyst for moving things forward.

Now into my final paragraph:

I have informed the committee that it is time for me to move on.  Living on Coronation Road in a house with balconies but no garden, The Cut with its tides and river bank ecology, the cormorants in trees outside the kitchen window, its familiar walking/cycle route has been very special indeed.  But, most of all I have valued the people I have met through my involvement, all friendly, knowledgeable, open to suggestions.  It is no fib to say I have enjoyed the friendly committee meetings, especially when we digress (poetry, wild flowers, Gaol Ferry Bridge, lesser known aspects of Bristol’s history).  Thank you to all who have helped.

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