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PRESS RELEASE - LOCKDOWN USAGE SURVEY

FRIENDS OF THE NICKEY LINE NEWS RELEASE       7 August 2020

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NICKEY LINE LOCKDOWN USAGE SURVEY 2020  

                             

Friends of the Nickey Line carried out a usage survey in May 2020 to measure the very high usage being seen throughout the Nickey Line during the Lockdown. More than 50 volunteers reported counts for their section of the Line, ranging from before 7.00 until 21.00 each day for more than two weeks.

 - Daily usage over the individual Redbourn to Hemel Hempstead sections was estimated at about 350 uses per day and over 1,000 uses per day for the Harpenden sections.

- Overall Nickey Line Lockdown usage was 12,000 uses per week. This is almost 3 times the last count we had of 4,100 normal uses for the Harpenden section in July 2013.

 

The Coronavirus lockdown in late March 2020 immediately resulted in much greater use of the Nickey Line than normal, with the widespread impression being gained of much higher numbers of users than any previously ever seen.  Sample counts in late April and early May appeared to confirm this, with projected usage apparently well above the base usage of 4,100 per week counted in early July 2013.
 

To obtain a more definitive usage estimate, a ‘Whole Line’ survey was undertaken from 14th May till the month end. This was mainly based on reports from volunteer users of how many people they had seen using the Line in 30 minute periods whilst they were using the Line themselves in their normal exercise breaks from Lockdown. Whilst two formal surveys had been undertaken by Friends of the Nickey Line over the Harpenden section (2006 and 2013) and one on the Redbourn Lane roundabout crossings (in 2015), this was our first major survey to also include  Hemel Hempstead and Redbourn.

More than 50 volunteers reported a total of more than 280 counts overall, each count covering the ‘stream’ of users over one or more sections of the Line and ranging from before 7.00 until 21.00 on the day in question. Friends’ Chairman Dave Abernethy said, “We are very grateful for our volunteers’ time and diligence. They made the survey possible despite the restrictions and challenges we all faced in the Lockdown period.”  

 

Survey Results

 

1.         Overall Usage Estimates for Individual Line Sections:

·      Daily usage over the individual Redbourn to Hemel Hempstead sections was estimated at about 350 uses per day in each of these sections.

·      The Harpenden sections saw much higher volumes, with user traffic estimated at over 1,000 individual uses per day. 

 

2.        Overall Line User Estimates:

·         After adjusting for such statistical factors as single way and two way (return) use and long distance users being possibly double counted in different parts of the Line, our estimate of average daily Lockdown use across the Nickey Line was 1,740 individual uses and the weekly figure was 12,180 uses.

·         Allowing for statistical variation, the central overall weekly estimate of Nickey Line Lockdown usage was 12,000 uses.

 

 

Friends of the Nickey Line Chairman Dave Abernethy said, “The weekly count of 12,000 uses was almost three times the previous record count from July 2013 and reflects greater use by local people from all the Line’s three major communities of Hemel Hempstead, Redbourn and Harpenden. The Nickey Line has been a major local amenity for exercise and relaxation from the challenges we have all faced during Lockdown.”

 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

Contact:

Dave Abernethy 

Friends of the Nickey Line

friends@nickeyline.org 

www.nickeyline.org

01582 622 771

07788 198283

  •  The Nickey Line was originally created as a railway line between Hemel Hempstead, Redbourn and Harpenden but is now widely used by local residents, children, dog walkers, cyclists, runners and wildlife enthusiasts for exercise, relaxation or simply for travel to and from school, work or friends.
 
  •  Friends of the Nickey Line was formed in 2006 to represent the many users of the Nickey Line from Harpenden, Redbourn and Hemel Hempstead but also from further afield and to improve the Line as a local amenity

     
  •  A copy of the Survey report is available from www.nickeyline.org/NICKEY LINE LOCKDOWN USAGE REPORT 040820.pdf
     


 Photographs of the Nickey Line can be obtained from Friends of the Nickey Line.

-End-



 

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CPRE HERTFORDSHIRE AWARD

CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England) have awarded a commendation to Friends of the Nickey Line in this year’s CPRE Hertfordshire Awards.

Our thanks go to all our volunteers who have helped in our work that has gone towards our receiving this award.



Butterfly Walk held Sunday 19 July

We ran our annual butterfy walk on Sunday 19 July, but starting this time from the car park  at the bottom of Redbourn Lane, and heading up to Knott Wood and beyond. Numbers were restrictedbecause of the need to social distance with coronavirus, and disappointingly there were some no showers

Light overnight rain stopped as the walk started, but expectations of seeing nothing proved wrong, as gatekeepers, ringlet, meadow brown, marbled white, an unidentified skipper (small or Essex), a red admiral, and two holly blues walking home. A six spot burnet moth was also seen  



Annual Report 2019 - 2020

 


Because of the  coronavirus lockdown, we are having  to go without a normal AGM so we are instead:
  -
 issuing normal AGM report documents by email and online on our website, and
  -  asking members for feedback and approval of our motions by email or text.
 

 

Contents:
 

1.    Chairman’s report

2.    Financial Report and re-election of independent examiner

3.    Election of Committee members

4.    Events and Line Management  (report by Roger Thornhill)

5.    Summary of Motions for support

 

1.       CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
 
 

·                    This has been our fourteenth of operation.  My thanks go to your committee who have done sterling work again throughout this year, obviously hampered near the end of our year by coronavirus restrictions

 

·                    We are grateful to all 4 local councils (Dacorum BC, SADC, Redbourn PC and Harpenden TC ) for the long term support of the Nickey  Line which they all recognise as an important local amenity.  

 

Organisational:

·                    Membership stands at 322 households, up from 307 last year.  Many more people have been using the Nickey Line than are members but we do value our members and want to recruit more. We ran membership tables on the Line and external organised events.  Subject to coronavirus restrictions, we intend to continue widening our support base and build on the goodwill created by the increased usage seen over the lockdown period

·                     We issued 2 newsletters this past year as usual. We continue to use emails to communicate with members and to receive feedback and news of problems arising on the Line.  

 

·                    Our website www.nickeyline.org  received over 64,000 visits over the past 12 months, up on last year’s 50,000. The website is now quite old and ideally needs improving especially to make it mobile friendly.  A review is underway to develop an updated site. 

·                    Our Facebook group “The Nickey Line” has over 432 signed up members, c.f. 270 last year. This growth has clearly been stimulated by the Coronavirus lockdown and significant higher use of the Nickey Line for the allowed exercise and recreation 

·                    In early April we lost Roger Green to cancer. Roger organised much of our Hemel Hempstead work parties in recent years, especially litter picking and emergency work on fallen trees.  He will be sorely missed. A tribute to him is on our website at http://www.nickeyline.org/home/news/?news_id=243   and Roger Thornhill’s report later in this pack provides a summary


Volunteer Work Parties, Walks and Other Events

 

·                The Dacorum Greenspace Action Plan (GAP) was published and work role for the Friends from it was agreed with Dacorum B.C. who confirmed that FONL volunteers working along the Dacorum will be covered by DBC’s insurance

·                A social event for volunteers was held at Redbourn Parish Centre on 7th May 2019. We thank Redbourn PC for providing the room free of charge

·                See Roger Thornhill’s report (item 4) for more details on walks, work parties and event attendance.

 

·                We gave a presentation on the history of the Nickey Line in early March 20 at St John’s Church in Hemel Hempstead 

 

 Planning and Development

 

·                The Nickey Line has seen several significant and welcome  usability improvements this past year:

·         New access ramps to  Hunters Oak and Spencers Park, both funded by the Spencer Park developer

·         New East and West cycle ramps at Chequers Lane , Redbourn with funds obtained by Countryside Management Services  (CMS)

·                Funding has been obtained by CMS from local planning S106 moneys for resurfacing of the Hemel Hempstead Three Cherry Tree Lane to Hunters Oaks section

·                The  St Albans DC Local Plan has still to be accepted and this remains a key delaying issue for developers:

·         The Crown Estate 2500 home Hemel East development has continued towards its planning application and we confirmed with them that key aspects such as a Toucan crossing for the new road and a monetary contribution towards an improved M1 crossing were still in the plans. We requested improved bicycle access at Cherry Tree Lane bridge 

·         The Lawes Trust proposal for Redbourn has not been adopted yet by St Albans DC but remains an arguably strong further development possibility for the future. We have yet to see a definitive proposal for the adjacent Redbourn roundabout crossings which need to reflect  the problematic  traffic flow from Harpenden  Lane as well as the existing user safety issues

·                When the  recent Redbourn Lane roundabout car park work was  undertaken, the entrance gap was left very narrow to deter misuse / dumping - but several users have damaged their vehicles on entering or leaving.  We lobbied Herts Highway Department to increase the entrance gap for usability and safety and are pleased to report this was implemented. The gap is still challenging for larger vehicles but a big improvement for most users. We continue to recommend users to approach from the roundabout direction and turn right into the park, taking appropriate care crossing any oncoming traffic.

 

Coronavirus Impact

 

·                The Coronavirus lockdown started just at the end of our 2019-2020 reporting year. We have had to cancel our AGM, scheduled public walks and normal committee meetings. Our work has continued behind the scenes, taking  the restrictions fully into account

·                Nickey Line public use during the lockdown has expanded hugely with unprecedented numbers of people of all ages using the Line for exercise and fresh air, encouraged also by the excellent spell of weather.

Our spots checks have confirmed the increased usage at the Harpenden end probably exceed our previous record measured usage there of July 2013.  We have run a formal whole Line numerical survey in May with the help of local users throughout the Line – our first whole Line survey. Results will be published when the analysis is completed

·                We appreciate that some people have been put off using the Line during this period by the level of usage and some lack of social distancing and inconsiderate use by a minority of cyclists and runners in particular.  We believe however that generally most people have tried to observe the distancing guidelines and behaved with consideration for others

·                Many people have used the Line for the first time during this period and we have received many comments of appreciation for the Line as a facility as well as our work to help maintain it.  We hope this augurs well for future, post lockdown usage.

2.            FINANCIAL REPORT

Treasure Mike Platt and independent examiner Mike Aldridge have agreed the appended figures, with formal signatures scheduled for after the lockdown when a face to face meeting is possible. Cash funds held at our year end (31 March) were £3523.39 c.f. £3697.70 last year.

MOTIONS:

a)      We propose a motion to accept the accounts

b)      We propose a motion to re-appoint Mike Aldridge as our independent examiner.

 

3.       COMMITTEE MEMBERS RESIGNING / STANDING FOR ELECTION

·                Diana Ortega resigned following personal time pressures. I wish to thank her for her support during the year

 

·                Karen Summers from Hemel Hempstead joined the committee during the year.  Roger Thornhill and Geoff Bunce are resigning in accordance with the constitution and re-standing.


MOTION:

c)       We propose a motion to accept Karen Summers, Roger Thornhill and Geoff Bunce  as committee members. 

 

4.       EVENTS AND LINE MANAGEMENT  (report by Roger Thornhill) 


NL Volunteers Work Results for the year following the May 2019 AGM + Work Events on the Nickey Line, AGM May 2019 to Early May 2020

We thank our volunteers for another stellar contribution to help improve the Nickey Line along its entire length - but the year finished very sadly, with coronavirus lockdown and the death in early April of our super volunteer at Hemel Hempstead, Roger Green, following a short illness. Roger’s dedication to the NL was incredible, and his death has left us with a huge hole to fill.

Roger Green

 

Roger, more than any of our volunteers, was very knowledgeable about the artefacts and structures on the NL, and keen for users to appreciate the beauty of the bridges.

 

He started on the Midland Road Bridge several years ago, almost totally covered in ivy when he began, and gradually engaged with people walking the line, persuading them to help in his efforts, which also extended to clearing fallen trees and branches, changing the notice boards at the HH end of the line, removing graffiti and conducting monthly litter picks. He was also a key contact with DBC, contributing to their GAP Action Plan, and ultimately to agreeing a way of us working on the NL under their insurance.

 

Roger led several walks for the Friends at HH, a popular one being tracing the route of the lost end of the NL which he ran numerous times, while also leading a walk of  the length of the line on behalf of the Railway Ramblers. He was to have co-led the HH Spring Watch Walk in May this year, which disappointingly has had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown. Roger inputted hugely into the route, and we hope to run this next spring as ‘The Roger Green Hemel Hempstead Memorial Spring Watch Walk’. 

 

Volunteers Work Programme

In all, 25 volunteers worked on the line, contributing 485 hours before Covid-19 lockdown in mid-March. Since we first started running work parties, we have clocked up 4,329 hours!

Roger Green kicked off our winter work programme in September by organising a series of work parties in the vicinity of the Cherry Tree Lane Bridge, primarily to further expose the bridge and to let more light in to encourage the flora. Later in the month Geoff, Ian and Roger Green cut the scallops opposite Knott Wood, a task we undertake each year. Roger Green also ran a large number of smaller events throughout the winter months at the Hemel end of the line.

 

October saw us coppice a number of large hazels opposite the lower end of Knott Wood, with some of the large branches being placed to discourage people walking on the grass edge of the scallops nearby, where most of the better botany is to be found, while in November we extended the laid hedge on the west side below Knott Wood.

In December, CMS ran a work party with our volunteers in attendance, continuing the coppicing of numerous large hazels between Chequer Lane and the M1 tunnel, and helping to cut the new orchard  which gets  overgrown with vigorous bramble growth. (Four fruit trees have survived.) Later that month (our Xmas event) we opened up the sight lines at the Ambrose Lane Bridge.

We successfully applied for 100 free trees under the I Dig Tree Initiative, run by the Conservation Volunteers (a mix of hawthorn, blackthorn, dogwood and grey willow), and in January we planted  the first three species  where we had laid the hedge two months earlier .
 

We worked at Godwin’s Halt in February, extending the clear area we opened up two years ago, and returned to Ambrose Lane Bridge to further open up the sight lines to the bridge in March.

 

Nickey  Line Walks & Events This Past Year

We ran a number of walks during the summer, and it was gratifying to see them so well supported by the general public, with each having 20+ people attending:

 

·                Harpenden Spring Watch Walk, run twice in May

·                Butterfly Walk in July. 14 species were seen!

·                Bat walk in August, with much appreciated help from Karen Poore (HTC)

 

Early this year we trialled a winter tree ID walk - 10 attended, despite very limited publicity, which shows a healthy level of interest.

Covid-19 and lockdown led to us having to cancel the Volunteers Thank You event, the Dawn Chorus, the Hemel Hempstead Spring Watch Walk, while two further planned walks this coming summer have also been cancelled.
 

The Friends supported the Harpenden Wildfest in Lydekker Park, Harpenden (July), The Redbourn Classic Car  Rally (September) and the Seniors Fair in Harpenden (October).

 

Roger Thornhill

 

-          End     -

 

5.       PLEASE EMAIL US AT FRIENDS@NICKEYLINE.ORG WITH ANY QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS AND TO AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH OUR 3 MOTIONS:

 

a)      We propose a motion to accept the accounts

b)      We propose a motion to re-appoint Mike Aldridge as our independent examiner

c)       We propose a motion to accept Karen Summers, Roger Thornhill and Geoff Bunce as committee members. 

 

 

Thank you

 

David Abernethy

Chairman

 

Click here to download the Annual Report and Accounts (PDF)



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