Recent GHS news, summer 2011

Posted on September 7th, 2011 by Charles Boot

AGM report

The Society’s AGM was held at Keele University on 22 July 2011. 70 members were present.

Messrs. Peters Elworthy & Moore were appointed as the Society’s Independent Examiners.

We are pleased to announce that Dominic Cole was re-elected to Council, and Patrick Eyres, Jeremy Rye and Michael Thompson were elected as members of the Council.

Peter Hayden was elected for a further five years as a Vice-President of the Society. Alan Baxter and Susan Campbell were elected to be Vice-Presidents for five-year terms.

The full minutes of the meeting will be included in the papers for next year’s AGM.

Elizabeth Cairns, Hon Secretary

Other AGM news

A huge boost to the Society has been the generous legacy from Pippa Rakusen. The first part of this has been received and, by combining it with the existing reserves, we have made an investment that guarantees circa £10,000 income per year. This will go part of the way towards the anticipated loss of grant from English Heritage.

I am supported by a dedicated team of volunteers, officers and members and thank everyone of them for their passion, and look forward to reporting on our progress over the next twelve months.

Thank you all for your ongoing support.

Dominic Cole, Chairman

Looking Ahead

Our Chairman Dominic Cole made an important announcement at the Society’s AGM, summarising the results of the ‘Working Together’ study, which he will also be giving at The Association of Gardens Trust’s AGM at Worcester College Oxford, on Friday 2 September.

Our conservation team face big challenges in their work due to changing government policies and reduced funding. In Scotland a significant issue is the availability of grants under the Scottish Rural Development Programme (Rural Priorities) for Native Woodland Creation, increasing bio-fuel production (largely for domestic consumption in woodburners etc). Landowners, pleased to take advantage of these funds, will often disregard the aesthetic landscape in favour of productivity which puts major designed landscapes at risk.

In England the proposed government review of planning potentially reduces the protection offered to designed landscapes by encouraging development without the need for rigorous review.

The GHS has been anticipating such changes over the last two years and at this year’s AGM we were able to announce the results of the joint ‘Working Together’ feasibility study that has been made possible with funding of £20,000 from English Heritage, shared equally between the four partner organisations concerned. We have worked in partnership with three like-minded organisations, The Association of Gardens Trusts (AGT), the Parks and Gardens Database (PGDS) and the Garden Museum. The findings include that:

• GHS and AGT to plan how the two could become one and, in the process, actively involve County Garden Trusts (CGT) so that we become a single strong voice, albeit recognising CGTs are individually constructed and will have particular priorities.

• Not to be overly driven by Government (‘Big Society’ etc) but to promote a single, independent, strong and informed conservation and learning voice under one ‘banner’.

• To plan how to transfer responding to case work (statutory referrals) to CGT’s whilst maintaining standards of professional responses. This will involve deciding lines of communication, who does what, training, maintaining records and where ultimate responsibilities lie for quality and effect of responses.

• The Garden Museum, GHS, AGT to form a working group specifically to plan activities and events based on themes and topics. PGDS to provide information page on website.

• PGDS to progress brief for development of the website, already in progress, and to involve the Museum, GHS, AGT during process.

• The Museum to consider the new ways of working in its Development Plan.

• To build in communication as a vital element of our ability to operate effectively. If a paid ’Co-coordinator’ post is agreed it is likely to be based at the Museum.

• To consider how administration and back-up will be most effectively provided, e.g. office systems, finance, constitutional roles and overarching co-ordination.

• To consider what streams of revenue generation are possible jointly and severally, and communicate these across the group.

We believe that uniting our skills and resources will give us a more effective voice and avoid the confusion as to which body is giving what advice. The most significant outcome of the study has been the agreement between the GHS and AGT, working towards the idea that, in future, there may be one organisation. Giving county membership more ability to get involved with direct conservation action underpins this thinking.

The GHS has already undertaken an internal review of the way that we tackle Conservation. It has become increasingly clear that our freedom to have an independent voice in this field is hobbled by our relationship to public funding. In England, as statutory consultees, we are obliged to respond to some 1,500 cases per year. Even now we are struggling to respond to enquiries and with a planned reduction in EH funding will find the position increasingly hard to sustain.

In Scotland, we are not statutory consultees and our only public funding from Historic Scotland comes with the condition that it should be used solely for the support of volunteers researching and recording Regional and Local landscapes.

Dominic Cole, Chairman

GHS Essay Prize 2011

The 2011 annual GHS Essay Prize has been won by Karin Seeber from Bristol University. There was a very strong field this year with entries from as far afield as Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Sheffield and London universities, but Seeber’s piece on the Mount at New College, Oxford: ‘Ye Making of ye Mount’ was the unanimous winner. The judges were particularly impressed with the way the author went back to original sources, re-examined and reinterpreted them, and discovered new pieces of information along the way. The essay challenges accepted theories, presents a new interpretation of the Mount and in so doing makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of mounts in general and the New College Mount in particular.

The level of scholarship in the other entries was also very high, with some excellent social history, good use of primary sources and wonderfully dynamic writing. With the demise of several Garden History courses this year, the entry criteria for the prize will probably be broadened out next year, so interested parties should watch the GHS website in the autumn to see if they will be eligible to submit to next year’s competition.

Katie Campbell

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