Monday, 20 March 2017

The Gwent High Sheriffs' Community Fund Presentation

We were recently shortlisted from hundreds of applications for the Gwent High Sheriff' Community Award. On Saturday morning, we had 2 minutes to convince the panel and largely the other applicants that we were deserving of £4000 to undertake some more work on the LNR. We had a meeting to discuss what we would do based upon feedback from the grant managers, Community Foundation in Wales (CFIW), who judged our project to be a lower priority with questionable links to the aims of the fund (It is good to have these checks). Luckily for us, this feedback allowed us to focus our presentation. When I read it out at 7am on the day, this was 4.5 minutes long, which we deemed would be frowned upon. So butchered it down to 2 minutes, if we made no errors. The nice thing about a 2 minute presentation is you can rehearse it a few times and change things very quickly. we practised at 9 am and by 9.05 am we were happy.
We arrived at the venue early and found we were towards the end of the first half of the presentations, so had to be patient. The early presentations were very good and set the scene for the day. Those butterflies started up just before the group before us and we were gobsmacked by them. The group did a mini-performance of Les Miserables, which didn't help us much. However, we gathered our wits, checked our trouser flies, and flung ourselves into it like seasoned pro's and Brian even put a bit of Marlon Brando into his performance, like he promised. Anyway, we were delighted when they read out our names as being one of those chosen for funding. There was around £70k up for grabs and all the projects added up to £90k, so sadly quite a few groups did miss out.
So firstly we'd like to thank Steve Williams, our ecologist from TCBC who approved our project in the first place and secondly to Cllrs. Thomas, Cross and Cameron who wrote letters of support which were needed in order for us to submit in the first place.

There are several parts to this work, the main part is creating 200 metres of path which join up all of the gates on the entrances on Henllys Way to the new path created in 2013. This will then continue down to the edge of the meadow mirroring the path on the orchard side of the main meadow.
We want to turn the path as it is (left) to something which will resemble its sister on the opposite side of the meadow (right)
The big problem with the path on the left isn't just the difficulty of walking through the clayey mud, it is getting wider and wider as people naturally avoid the worst parts. This is increasing erosion and decreasing our areas margin vegetation. Moreover, alternative routes are being used now, which are creating new channelling points for water. Hopefully once the hard work has been completed, this would be a thing of the past. These hard paths aren't invasive to the LNR, but preserve it and improve access for all.
The next part is to construct steps down the grasscrete slope where we had to move the 25 tonnes of limestone recently (too many blog entries so just type "gabions" into the blog's search engine). This will be a very challenging and interesting project. There is also a very small boardwalk to be built at the bottom of the steps we built with TCBC Ranger Jon several years ago.
Steps2be on the left and boardwalk2be on the right (over the bog)
all these improvements are shown here:
Red are the paths2be, light blue is the steps2be and green is the boardwalk2be. Yellow shows the existing harder paths
Progress was started at 6am on Sunday morning with the calculations for the steps2be. At 7.30am I didn't believe the angles, so triple checked the double checking, just to make sure (Cheers again Graham).
Measuring the slope of the grasscrete hill, by 2 different methods
Measuring the length of the slope and the dimensions of the steps
One of the important things I've missed out is who is doing the work. There will be a mixture of our group and a call out for more volunteers, but the largest part will be done with local young people. Some of these will be from the upper echelons of the local primary school who love a bit of digging and shovelling. However, some will be with new contacts made recently with Cwmbran High School and Monmouthshire and Torfaen Youth Offenders. The main part of our presentation was about the affect that doing these works has on local young people and how they develop a sense of ownership and pride and this builds community support and decreases anti-social behaviour on the site. We used the analogy of a woodcrete bird box which was bought for us in 2013. It is lovely, well made, lasts for a very long time, but there is no ownership, interest or pride involved with this (only the birds like them). However, our handmade bird boxes which built and camouflage painted by local school children have an emotional investment which is invaluable, while the birds seem to like these ones too.
We'll keep you posted with updates and events.

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