Highfield Park Trust Spring Newsletter – 2020

Making new plans…

The January Board Meeting was an opportunity for Trustees to reflect on the performance of the Trust in the previous calendar year and to create a new action plan for the year ahead. Of course, there are always things that we can improve upon, but generally, we were pleased with the progress we made last year.

General management of the park benefitted from two fairly recent appointments, with James joining us as Park Supervisor and Joe as a Trustee and Chair of the Park Management Committee. Both bring enthusiasm and new skills to the Trust and with Richard, the Park Manager, we now have a very strong leadership team to take the park forward. There are many ideas and a real willingness to make it the best we can.

Several people have commented to me on the positive effect this is having, and I know Richard is very pleased to be able to have the capacity to proceed with long-standing projects that previously we were never quite able to get around to tackling.  Simple examples relate to the upkeep of the maze, the removal of old tree guards and various “deep cleans”.  There are many other small, but noticeable improvements to the stewardship of the land. Long may it continue.

We were also able to complete the repair of one section of the path network and although it looks so much better for it, it does highlight just how much work there is still to do.

We welcomed Opera Anywhere to the park for the first time and those who attended enjoyed a  wonderful event. Joe hosted a series of nature related walks and talks and these were supported by some prominent local experts. We are extremely fortunate to be able to provide such an interesting programme, so please do support us by attending an event this year (early programme below).

The Visitor Centre has really transformed our work and we are so pleased with how this project has evolved since it took so much resolve to see it through. The meeting room is now attracting regular bookings and is bringing in much needed revenue. It is a lovely space and full marks to Richard for his management of our splendid new home. In  November it won a competition for the best new community building, awarded by the Hertfordshire Association of Architects. The most recent news is that it has now been short-listed for the East of England finals.

When thinking about our plans for this year, we were of course guided by the results of the recent survey, which we’ve now discussed at some length and have embedded into our thinking. Thank you to the person who suggested that we visit the natural play area in Dunstable Downs because we intend to do just that. If you recall from the last newsletter, improving the play areas came equal top in the survey. It tied with keeping the rural feel of the park, so this approach should satisfy all parties, providing it’s an appropriate solution and we get the right balance during any     future implementation. We have ideas but want to make the visit before we proceed.

We’ve also made good early progress in a new grant application for the repair of another section of path. Such endeavours take time and of course success is never guaranteed, as there are many other organisations chasing the same pot of money.

We’re also in discussions to undertake restoration of Cell Barnes pond, although it’s very (very) early days and again success is not guaranteed.

We have taken a long time to reflect on this project since it would mean the removal of the trees around the pond in order to return it to its Victorian pomp. Unfortunately, these trees have made the water acidic and the pond contains no aquatic life. So, the best thing we can do to increase biodiversity in the area is to restore the pond to its former glory!

Since Christmas we’ve also received several large donations and a big thank you to those concerned. This new funding will finally allow us to improve the Allotment Pond, where we want to create an  amazing new nature-focused feature for the park.

We’re also putting some renewed energy into the Tree Sponsorship programme and since Christmas we’ve already received nearly £1,000. Please, PLEASE, if you haven’t done so already, £25 per  year allows you to sponsor a tree of your choice and helps the Trust do even more to improve the park.

If every resident were to contribute, we would soon have the best paths in Hertfordshire!

On the last page of this newsletter, you’ll see our full events programme, although we’ll need to keep a watchful eye on the coronavirus situation.

In people news, we welcome Romita Das as a new Trustee. Romita lives locally and enjoys gardening and walking. She hopes to bring her passion for local community and wildlife to the Trust and we’re all sure she’ll make a huge impact. Elsewhere, John, our newly appointed Groundsman decided that we were not quite right for him. Although he was only with us for a few months, we wish him well and thank him for his contribution. At the time of writing, a new  appointment is imminent. More news next time!

Here’s hoping that we can all enjoy Park this summer.

Tim Abbott

Chair of Trustees