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.
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.
· 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.
· 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.
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.
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, 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).
- 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.
Click here to download the Annual Report and Accounts (PDF)
Nickey Line seeing the highest usage ever thanks to the lockdown
The Nickey Line appears to be seeing the highest usage ever thanks to the lockdown and recent good weather. We in Friends of the Nickey Line have done a couple of spot counts of usage to check our impressions of exceptional usage and levels do seem to be higher than our record count of July 13 of over 4000 uses in a week. Great to see you all out there!
NB We do appeal to everyone to keep social distances apart - we suggest you stick to one side of the Line to give others maximum space and don't walk more than 2 abreast likewise.
We regret to announce the death of Roger Green on Friday 3 April 2020. Roger was a very caring person - to his family, his community and also to the Friends of the Nickey Line - and will be a massive loss to us all.
Roger was a longtime member of the Friends of the Nickey Line, one of his passions being old railways, their history and artefacts. Many people benefitted from his extensive historical knowledge via his walks of the ‘Lost Railways of Hemel Hempstead’, which he conducted on many occasions. These started at Hemel Hempstead railway station and traced the route of the first 2km of the Nickey Line as far the Midland Hotel and back, all of which has been lost to development. Roger came armed with old pictures and maps to highlight the route. With nearly 50 people attending the first of these walks, it was a challenge keeping so many together when walking through Hemel Hempstead on a busy Saturday morning!
Roger was a member of the Railway Ramblers, and also organised walks along the Nickey Line on their behalf, from Hemel Hempstead to the end of the line at Harpenden, identifying the location of the various Halts and looking everywhere for evidence of the railway.
Roger’s enthusiasm and commitment to the Nickey Line was legendary, and his welcoming approach, encouraging others to join him in improving the Nickey Line in Hemel Hempstead, led to him running regular litter picks and work parties, particularly with the aim of preserving and viewing the old railway structures. The Adeyfield Road Bridge was covered in ivy when Roger singlehandedly started exposing it and then, with volunteers who had been impressed by his efforts, he similarly opened up views of the bridges at Godwin’s Halt and Cherry Tree Lane. In 2019 he participated in at least 30 litter pickings and work parties, mostly organised by himself.
Roger maintained the notices in the Friends boards in Hemel Hempstead, removing graffiti where necessary. He also was often the first one out to fallen trees and branches, keeping the Nickey Line in and near Dacorum free of obstruction. Despite many offers from the Friends to buy equipment, he continued adding to his tooling at his own expense,
During 2019, Roger liaised with Dacorum Borough Council contributing to the preparation of their Green Space Action Plan for the Nickey Line.
Roger’s death from cancer was mercifully swift, as he was in a lot of pain over the last few weeks – but it still came as a shock to us all. Our thoughts are very much with his wife Sylvia and family. He will be cremated, but Sylvia hopes to hold a memorial service.
Roger with Hemel Litter Party 2020
Roger Leading 2009 Lost Nickey Line Walk
Roger Clearing Nickey Line January 2018
Facebook Group "The Nickey Line”
Our Facebook Group “The Nickey Line” is available for all Nickey Line users to publish pictures, comments and stories about the Line.
Why not join the group today and add your favourite photos and stories?