Tillingham Woodland Interest Group.
St. Paul's Wood Project.
The Woodland project has been stopped by the intervention of one person. The work of many over 10 years with the backing of hundreds, foiled by the dreadful vendetta of one. Read the sad story here.
5th December 2012. Last night at the Annual meeting TWIG was officially dissolved, read about in 'News hoots' All funds to be donated to the Green Light Trust.
Logo design by Esmée Sturrock from an idea from Darian. (St. Paul seeing the light.)
Reasons for a new Community Woodland.
As first published in 2002!
We live in a unique area with very special connections to St. Paul’s in London and to the little chapel of St. Peter’s nearby. This are has changed relatively little, geographically, compared to the rest of Essex, since Saxon times and the start of the longest lease on record. We have a very special chance to celebrate that unique link, by putting something back into the community, that was here in Saxon times, ‘trees’
We have an excellent opportunity to mark one of the most significant landmarks in the local calendar, the 1400 year anniversary of the lease betwixt St. Paul’s and the village of Tillingham, in June 2004.
Historically the whole area has been linked with St. Paul’s in London since Saxon times. Even the village name is Saxon, ‘Tilling’ relating probably to the occupation of the areas population, ‘ham’ the Saxon for Village. The name has remained almost unchanged for 1400 years. In Saxon it was spelt ‘Tillinegeham’
The King of Kent, Ethelbert, who owned this part of Essex, was converted to Christianity nearby, probably at St. Peter’s in Bradwell, (this also provides a link to the Village, by way of the St. Peters Way Path, more of which later) and gave to the Bishop Mellitus, on his appointment as the new of Bishop of London, the lease of all lands hereabouts, in the year 604, to support the monastery of St. Paul’s.
This information is taken from the ‘Statutes of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Book IV. The original deed is signed by Mellitus and the King. This is a very important historical document, in its own right.
In later years the deed was transferred to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s for use in the support of the Cathedral. Much of Tillingham has remained in church ownership for many years. (Indeed my own cottage was known as ‘Dean Clarke’s Cottages’ for about a hundred years, to denote its owner at that time. Dean Clarke was of St. Paul’s ‘Dean and Chapter’.)
Additionally, if the woodland project goes ahead, in one hundred years time, at the celebration of the 1500 year anniversary, there aught to be a flourishing tract of woodland, reflecting what most of the area might have been surrounded by, all those years ago in Saxon times.
2. This area was extensively wooded up to less than 100 years ago. Photographic evidence and the remains of tree stumps in hedgerows all over the area show the size and extent of the woodland. Many roads were totally lined and covered with trees. The girth of many was in excess of a metre, heights of over 30metres. After the Second World War, government agricultural policy was to increase productivity, especially in the Home Counties, and part of this entailed the removal of many field boundaries, hedges and their associated mature trees. A look at old maps of the area can give some insight as to the radical extent of this hedge clearance.
We are lacking in any public community woodland in the parish. There are small pockets of woodland in the area, that enterprising and environmentally sensitive private individuals have planted over the years on their own land, but they are not open to the public, nor is even close access possible in most cases. The planting of this area would go, in some small way, to redress the losses of the past 100 years. Government post war policies, the losses due to Dutch Elm disease, that has almost wiped every magnificent Elm from our skyline, and the succession of Hurricane and gales that followed, have left us a barren legacy that we are struggling to redress.
3. The Spread of ‘Dutch Elm Disease’, a viral infection, spread by a parasite of the ‘Elm Beetle’ has caused devastation to almost all the millions of Elm trees in the country. Sadly Essex suffered more than most counties as the predominant tree species was Elm. As Elm trees propagate by suckering from a parent tree, almost all Elms are clones of one parent, and as such, very few have proven able to withstand the virus. Several local trees are being watched as they appear so far to have survived, but every year the survivors grow fewer.
4. The Hurricane of 1987 dealt a cruel blow to this area. Many Oaks and the other few remaining mature trees that survived the intervention of man and Dutch Elm were felled by nature. Those that survived this were probably weakened enough to fall victim to the 1991 gale and even as recently as October 2002, more large trees have been lost.
5. So it is that locally there are very few mature trees. A grave indictment of our progress over the last 100 years.
6. It is not all bad news however, several farmers, aided by their tree wardens, have been endeavouring to replace some of these trees. However the numbers are relatively small and are wide spread across the area. There is no longer any woodland the villagers have access to.
A small tract of woodland would open up immense possibilities for education and environmental studies for the youth of the village. The School has suggested that in the early days of the woodland, an observation hide might be constructed, a temporary structure perhaps, so wildlife might be observed. In later years, when the trees are more established, bird feeders and nesting boxes would attract creatures to the area and perhaps a small permanent hide could be incorporated.
7. A woodland can provide a quiet sanctuary for people of all ages to sit and contemplate, and observe the wildlife of different sorts as they begin to colonise the wood. For this purpose we are hoping that individuals will sponsor seats along the path we envisage meandering through the wood. The path itself will be of such that pushchairs and prams and wheelchairs will all have access. This will enable all to equally enjoy the wood.
8. The community school and village youth groups are trying to increase environmental awareness. This is a real need with today’s ever demanding population, for unless we tackle the environmental issues close to home, we cannot hope to complete the whole picture, and some would say the outlook is not good, with pressures of housing, ‘global warming’, flood threats and general weather pattern changes. To this end the local ‘West Field’ is often used as an extension of the school in their studies of the world around us.
9. The village children, from an early age, are taught the importance of trees in the cleaning of our air and habitat for wildlife. To that end, a dedicated team of enthusiasts has assisted at Playgroup, Beaver Scouts and the primary school. Approx 180 eager children have planted, nurtured and successfully grown a large number of small trees. The local children for the past two years have, with the assistance of the Parish Council Tree Wardens, gathered and planted tree seeds, which have then been nurtured in a special area of the school wildlife garden, with a school funded watering system, and have produced a healthy number of young saplings for planting. We are hoping that these children will be able to plant and care for these trees and a lot more besides, in a community wood with special meaning for them as residents of this village. They are all local trees, seeds gathered under supervision. We are looking all the time to plant hedgerow trees back into the roadsides, and are quite successful with more receptive land owners giving permission to plant every year. Sadly however there is not a single large area we can plant, which would have far more impact than the hedgerow planting the local volunteers do now. What is needed is a plot to plant.
10. The possibility arises of a focal point being planned within the wood that might also be used by St. Nicholas’s Church for outdoor religious services, as well as an outdoor class room by the school. We had envisaged a grass area sown with wild flower seeds, the like of which we have lost from the area, within living memory.
There is also the possibility of restoring to the village, drifts of flowering woodland bulbs. These were a feature of some of the small woods and copses that have been lost over the years. This sort of planting would be deferred till there was sufficient protection for them from the growing trees and written into a management plan.
12. Local environmental plans have recently seen the protection of badgers in the area and a special awareness of the habitat needs, roosting boxes etc, for the reintroduction of owls and other raptors to the area. Both are successful, but more work is needed. A small woodland would eventually be home for many thousands of creatures, increasing the ‘Biodiversity’ of the area. This coupled with new; ‘sympathetic’ farming methods will do much to help the flora and fauna of the area.
13. There is a national move to replace the hedgerows that we have lost in the countryside. This will provide an ideal opportunity to plant and nurture over 200 metres of environmentally friendly wildlife habitat. In the village we recently helped in a smaller project and planted a hedge around an extension to the churchyard. All this work was undertaken in a morning by volunteers under supervision! The result is a healthy and flourishing strip of greenery, to be able to plant a larger one would indeed be a bonus, especially again in an area close to the village centre and open to all the community.
Maldon District Council, with a special interest in the preservation and propagation of trees in the area, has set up a special tree nursery, as part of their drive to reintroduce trees back into the area. We are able to contribute to their nursery and hope in years to come to reap the benefit by having an area to plant or replant in case of losses, with stock from this source. M.D.C. is a backer of the Tree Warden Project in Tillingham.
15. There has been great interest expressed by several sponsoring organisations, for the funding and support of such locally driven and used, community woodland. To take advantage of these offers we have to fulfil many criteria, concerning size, geography of village and access. The Forestry Commission and other possible fund granting organisations have strict criteria regarding plot sizes. Too small and we will not be able to get this funding. It would not be classed as a wood.
If the project is the success that all seem to feel it aught to be, it will foster a great deal of good public relations between the Cathedral and the community, indeed among the larger community, as it could be seen no doubt as a generous and benevolent gesture on behalf of St. Paul’s, and a commitment by the people and Parish Council of Tillingham. There is little doubt from the media attention we have already had for this project, that it could become national news, not just because of the stature of St’ Paul’s nationally, but also by the very nature of the project. The sponsoring and funding organisations should not be the only ones to get good publicity from this project, as we are sure they deservedly will.
So where does that leave us today?
That first article was written year in 2002 and Tillingham was soon due to celebrate its 1400 year anniversary of its connection with St Paul's in London. I, John Williams was a Parish Councillor at the time and a local Tree Warden. I had that idea to plant a wood to help celebrate the anniversary. I saw it as a way of bringing all the community together to embark on a project that would be enjoyed for generations. Also the idea was that by the 1500 anniversary there would be a mature woodland on the site, which could be used as a place for celebrating that date. The current tenant farmer, Peter Green, was approached and he gave me the go ahead to take it further. The land to be used was owned by St Paul's and it was hoped that it could be leased from them. The initial idea the proposal was put to the Tillingham Parish Council and the now 4 years later, the idea should soon see reality. The Parish Council has since been replaced by the Maldon District Council.
St. Paul's asked that a proper project plan be undertaken and they would then consider it further. A project team was formed to help see the idea come to life, volunteers joined John and the team prepared a professional report for the Parish Council, that was presented to St. Paul's. They were impressed by the report and agreed to run with the project, even after the Parish Council pulled out. The Project team then became the management team.
This was the first proposed location, as a backdrop to the west field and behind the bowls Club.
With the guidance of Maldon District Council's Tree Officer of the day, Nigel Cowlin, we were persuaded to seek help from The Green Light Trust. The GLT proved to be an excellent ally.
The management team formed TWIG, the Tillingham Woodland Interest Group. This comprises of local enthusiasts who share a common goal to see the wood planted and to thrive. Standing alongside the project team are the Green Light Trust and their affiliates the Woodland Trust. They are available to help and provide training as necessary.
Due to concerns from a couple of local residents, that they would lose their 'views', we were trying to design the plot with large open areas cut through it. Whilst trying to wrestle with the need to keep locals on side we had a discussion with a road safety officer, who pointed out there was a small risk associated with the proposed site that we had not taken account of. Because it was proposed to site it close to the bend in Vicarage Road, and there was no footpath, it was considered to be too dangerous. Instead we took the advice of one of the nearby residents and swung it round 90 degrees, so it now ran from behind the bowls club, alongside the northern edge of the Lower West Field, alongside the St. Peter's Way.
This is the second and approved location, now alongside the St. Peters way, still behind the bowls Club
Doing this solved the problems with the 2 residents 'loss of view' Well OK, the view would have changed in 50 years or so, I for one would love to be about to see it! Sadly the wood would no longer be a backdrop to the West Field, but it was now accessible to all by the footpath, with occasional access for vehicles via the track. Access issues have been resolved there.
This shot shows the eastern end of the 'Lower West Field' where originally it was proposed to site the wood. We have since swung it round 90 degrees to the left, and it will now be alongside the St. Peter's Way footpath, that runs along the far, northern edge of this field. From the bowls club hedge in the distance on the right, than off to the left in this picture against the hedgerow at the far side of the field.
When the Dean and Chapter visited the site in the summer of 2006, they thoroughly approved the relocation and then amazed us by making two suggestions. One, that we make the site of a sufficient size to meet probable funding sponsorship, and Two, that they were now willing to sell that area to us rather than rent!
We had at a stroke doubled the size of the woodland! We now are talking of a strip of woodland some 30 odd metres wide, the length of the field. This is the correct size for approval by the Forestry Commission for grants.
We have been informed that one of our partners, M.D.C. may be willing to take on the purchase of the land and that funds may be made available to it from another body. We as TWIG would then be part of the management team.
M.D.C are now in negotiation with the Registrar and Dean and Chapter to purchase the land. There would be restrictive covenants on the land, so a wood could not be later grubbed up and a housing estate built!
December 2006, we await developments and hope to plant in 2007.
October 2008 and we are still waiting, however St. Paul's have now offered us even more land and negotiations are moving forward again.
In the meantime we continue our work with the children of the village, seed gathering planting and growing and hope to help them look after their woodland one day in the not too distant future.
Chair of TWIG
May 2007. We can confidently expect to be planting in the Winter of 2007!!!
All is going smoothly now and we are now researching other funding sources... We have over £1,000 already raised!
Chair of TWIG
Astonishingly we have heard that at a sub committee meeting of the Maldon district council the plan was rejected. This is not the end of the matter as we now intend to have a member attend the next meeting to bring it back before them and answer queries. As a result in late autumn of 2007 it was reassessed and approved. It now goes to a fuller meeting, if it passes this next one we are back on track.
We are indeed back on track and can reasonably expect to be planting in 2008. More here later.
Chair of Twig.
Well it came as little surprise that there had been another outside intervention! As a result St. Paul's had to rethink and true to their commitment, came back to MDC and TWIG with an improved offer! Seems they are more than willing to meet these interventions with increased land and keep the offer to purchase as well.
A new site has now been offered, slightly further along the St. Peters Way by about another 100 yards from the end of the old site. This plot however is 3 acres! 4 times the size of the original. We ought to thank this village 'elder' who keeps trying to stop the woodland!
The new site is bounded by Tillingham Brook on the west side and by the St. Peters way on the South. To the north it is bounded by Brook Road, with road access. The only boundary we would have to fence is the eastern one with the existing field.
Especially of interest is the fact that this field will flood occasionally, giving ideal conditions for some species of tree we would like to encourage. (You can see why the tenant farmer agreed to the revised site, cereals do not enjoy swimming!).
Now the project has gone back before MDC, and we have already had contact with some of the councillors concerned and allayed any misgivings about the project. They are also well aware of the opposition we have had from the one person, and the reasons for it.
We wondered if the extra distance might be a problem for the school, but have been assured by our new liaison there, the head of St. Nicholas School, Hilary, that it is quite within their capability, to not only get there, but to work on site as well!
We will continue to work with MDC, ECC the School, the Youth Club and all or any organisation locally to ensure the wishes of the local people are fulfilled.
We hope another years delay will not cause too much discouragement. It will give more time for seedlings to grow of course!
We have recently been approached by a large charitable organisation, offering to fund every tree and hedge plant. When I informed them of the problems and the new site size they reiterated their intention to help us. This is welcome news, as though we have hundreds of trees, grown locally by the school and members of TWIG, and we have nearly £1700.00 in the kitty, doubtless every bit of help will be appreciated.
After a meeting of the MDC where the Credit crunch was sited as the reason, the MDC have opted out at this stage. We approached St. Paul's informing them and asking if there was any way we could proceed on our own, as we were now 'charitable ' status. To give them credit, for the could have just thrown the towel in, they have opted to consider the idea and are now in discussion about it with the same 3 acre site and us becoming the land owners. If we get the go ahead we will have to raise the price of the land, but we have over come every other obstacle thrown in front of us and have so much support from the people of the village and surrounding area, and we are pleased to say St. Paul's have not rejected the plan, so we live in hope. We are looking at ways of making this work....
The St. Paul's Wood project. Spring 2010.
Sadly we have to report that the woodland project has been stalled, the continued opposition from the chair of the unelected local council and the financial situation the MDC have found themselves in, has effectively stalled the project.
St. Paul's and TWIG are still willing to proceed, but St. Paul's insist on a third partner and that partner must be a democratically elected body, thus excluding the parish council who have conveniently never had enough members just before polling day to require a vote, and who co-opt the former members immediately after the election. St. Paul's see through that one just as we all do.
So although we have the volunteers, the experience of professional members, the promise of all the extra trees to plant the plot and to hedge it, the backing of St. Paul's, unless we can persuade Maldon District Council to get back on board, we just have to sit and wait. We have waited 8 years so a few more will not hurt, shame though, people could have been enjoying it now, had the the parish council not voted against it all those years ago, when all the legal work was done and just needed finalising....
A behind the scenes letter to St. Paul's opposing it by one person on the council and the claim there were too many trees in the village and he did not want to see the wood on his way to work, give some indication of his public spirit. Misuse of power is more like it... those that heard these statements were astonished. Many in this village are not, knowing his history.
While this is a blow, it is not the knockout to TWIG. In the past year alone with the help of the citizens of the future, the local children, we have collected, grown and passed on or planted over 100 trees in the village and in nearby parishes. We continue to teach the children the importance of trees in our environment and are growing hundreds of seeds as a result of last years seed gathering. We are pleased to be in partnership with the school and local youth groups.
As some of us are away at family events in July and we have no grown trees to give away we will not be at the Tillingham flower show this year, thus at least saving the fee. (As many commented, we were not trying to grab peoples money but offering information, fun and trees for free, a refreshing change to most stands!)
For the Future.... If you have an area that needs planting we may be able to help and we will be contacting land owners in the area to see if we can plant small pockets of trees to enhance the local environment, even if we cannot create this much wanted and supported, community woodland, yet.
Chair of TWIG.
We have tried in vain to communicate with St. Paul's and the Land Agents, Strutt and Parker, none of them given us the courtesy of an acknowledgement. How poisoned has this become?
As a last resort we are asking local land owners, via public announcements in the media, Parish Paper etc., if they have any replanting or planting projects planned that we might use our funds to support, we have in excess of £1500 that has been donated for the express purpose of tree planting.
If no result then at the forthcoming Annual Meeting the proposal is to donate funds to a trust involved in actively planting trees and to dissolve the organisation.
What a shame that one man's personal vendetta can ruin the enjoyment of generations, and worst still, that he can get away with it. Many have said he will get his 'cumupance', but sadly in the meantime we have lost now 10 years of tree growing. A small copse can grow a lot in that time, enough to provide so many with much enjoyment and enrich the environment generally for all. One day....?
This website will be left as a testament to the attempts by so many hundreds of children and local people, to improve our community, and a warning to others to beware the interfering bully boys.
4.12.12. TWIG officially dissolved and all the funds donated away from the village to sponsor tree planting in other areas where the parish councils are far more enlightened.
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