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Minutes of AGM 20th March, 2014

Annual General Meeting

Thursday 20th March, 2014 at 7.00pm
Methodist Chapel, Back Lane, Newtown


Introduction and welcome by Chairman - Peter Harris

Apologies for absence
Mike Morris
Sally Rackham
Sue Newham
John Wigley
Chris Kinsey

Peter Harris
Kath Wigley
Joan Avery
Martin Bemment
Lisa Barlow
Peter Thomas
Jennifer Millard
Judi Deakin
Russ Edwards
Liz Hinkley
Paula Scott
Mike Davies

Minutes of previous AGM
The minutes of the previous AGM, 2013 were accepted.

Presentation of accounts by Treasurer - Kath Wigley
Kath Wigley presented a summary of this year’s account and these were accepted.

Income March 2013 to March 2014                                              Amount
Newtown Town Council                                                                    £616.00
White Water Active (Advertising on the website)                            £30.00
Total:                                                                                             £646.00
Expenditure March 2013 to March 2014                                      Amount
Original KWT Tidy Towns Grant received in 2012                     £504.70
Out of which this amount was spent in 2012-2013:                  £372.59
and these items were bought in 2013-2014:                               
Litterpicker (Long Reach) x 2                                                             
Tick Removal Tool x 1                                                                        
6 Pairs of Gauntlets                                                                            
4 Pairs of Goggles                                                                              
Sub-Total                                                                                            £108.94
Leaving a Balance of                                                                        £23.17
Original Newtown Town Council Grant received in 2012        £450.00
Out of which this amount was spent in 2012-2013:                  £430.72
Leaving a Balance of                                                                        £19.28
Newtown Town Council Grant received in 2013                        £616.00
Actual Spend to Date                                                                       
Oregon 600 GPS                                                                               £335.00
Re-Chargeable Batteries for GPS                                                    £6.49
Stafford Brush Hook x 2 (@£35.99 each)                                       £71.98
Floor Scraper x 2 (@£7.25 each)                                                     £14.50
Pont Hafren Bat (4) & Bird (6) Boxes                                               £60.00
Sub-Total                                                                                            £487.97
Leaving a Balance of                                                                        £128.03
Original Severn Rivers Trust Donation received in 2012         £250.00
Out of which this amount was spent in 2012-2013:                  £122.04
and these items were bought in 2013-2014:                               
Printing Ink                                                                                           
Laminating Pouches                                                                           
Replacement Crayfish Trap                                                               
KWT Insurance Renewal (Dec 2013 to Dec 2014)                         
Sub-Total                                                                                            £120.57
Leaving a Balance of                                                                        £7.39

Bank Balance as at 31st March, 2014                                          £207.87
£128.03 remaining out of the 2013 Newtown Town Council Grant has to be accounted for (to be used for printing and publicity to inform and engage the
local community, instead of the original stated purpose) – as agreed with the
Town Clerk, Newtown Town Council in August, 2013.

Annual report by Secretary - Mike Davies
The group has been very active during this past year.   The membership has now reached 38, although only a small proportion of members participate in the activities. 

The web site is being added to as new data is generated but so far we have been unable to get a link set up from the Newtown Town Council web site.   Peter Harris and Mike Davies will try to get this issue resolved.      

The Custodians have made a number of attacks on the Giant Hogweed, particularly in the area of the Mochdre Brook where children play.  Our efforts over the last two seasons have definitely achieved a marked reduction in the numbers of plants in that area.  We are winning!  We will try to increase the public awareness of the dangers of this invasive species.  The other invasive species, Himalyan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and American Signal Crayfish have been monitored and the data recorded on the web site.  Concentrations of Japanese Knotweed are reported to Natural Resources Wales who chemically treat this plant to prevent damage to flood defenses.          

Mike and Paula made a presentation on the River Severn and the work of the RSC to the Newtown U3A in September 2013.  Subsequently, they have made the same presentation to the Newtown Thursday Club and to the Montgomery Energy Group.  They have also been asked to present to the Welshpool U3A, the Forden Friendly (a senior group) and to the community group in Llandinam.  These presentations help to raise the awareness of the river and to let people know about the work that the RSC does.

RSC members have been involved in regular litter picking and in major river clean ups in conjunction with Keep Wales Tidy. 

After a number of delays we have managed to install 6 bird boxes and 4 bat boxes in various species of trees along the river bank in Dolerw Park.  Custodians will monitor activity in these boxes.

Survey work - Paula Scott
Many of the results from the baseline survey work that was carried out in 2012 has been analyzed and the data presented on the web site.  From our baseline survey, there are now viewable maps of the waterweeds and invasive species of plants and crayfish and as we add sample points we add them to the map.  It was interesting that at one site where we caught a lot of crayfish in 2012, there were none in 2013.   Stay tuned for the 2014 results when they come out of hibernation.

It took a long time to extract the Environment Agency/Natural Resources Wales raw data for our river water quality and then sort and reorganise the data into something that could be summarised and made sense of for the web site.  This information is not published in the public domain so our site is unique in making it available to people.  In summary, the biology is not great but can be improved and the chemistry of the water is consistently failing because of the presence of heavy metals copper, cadmium and zinc, a historical legacy of mining upstream of us.  There is no government plan for a remediation programme for these metals in our area.

We have collated a lot of the results from the surveys we did in 2012 and continued with the monitoring of the bank edges.  We tried to round up volunteers for that but there was no response to the emails so it was left to just one or two to make more progress on that.  We’ll be doing more this year in those hard to reach spots during what we hope will be a lazy canoe trip down river with Liz on a warm, sunny day when the weather improves and the river level is just right.

Another programme started in 2013 is river fly monitoring.  This is a national scheme and we attended a one day training course to ensure that our techniques and equipment are the same as all others monitoring all over the country.  Once a month we stir up the river bottom near the halfpenny bridge with a little dance and collect the critters in a net.  We then categorise and count them and send the results into a national database.  The great thing about this programme is that in addition to adding to our knowledge of the health of the river we will be able to spot excursions and events if the numbers of bugs drop below a predetermined critical level.  This would indicate a pollution event and will automatically trigger an immediate investigation by NRW.  So it is doing some practical good as well as adding to our scientific knowledge.

Blog - Russ Edwards
Russ started the blog and has been the blog master since it started.  Each of the Custodians has access to put data, comments, pictures, etc on the blog but the number of posts has been disappointing.  This may be partly due to problems that have been experienced with the software used to log in and make posts.  This is being sorted out and members are encouraged to log on even when viewing posts so we know how often it is being used by members and how often by non-members.

Russ suggested that Facebook might be a useful communication tool for us and he will explore setting up a Facebook page for the group.

Planned activities for 2014
The river course survey work will be continued.  This will involve surveys from the water in a number of cases and Liz Hinkley will assist with her canoe. 

Paula proposed another survey for this year.  This is to find out how the riverside is being used by setting up survey posts in which members stay for a 2 hour period and record numbers of people passing, running, with kids, fishing, etc. This will indicate where amenities such as benches might be placed and quiet areas where nature should be preserved.  The idea of this survey was well supported by the members and will start once the weather improves.

The Hate Hogweed campaign will continue as and when needed.   

The riverside walk (walk no. 6 in the Walking Newtown collection)is an excellent walk apart from a very steep bank near Vaynor.  We will discuss improving this aspect with the PCC Footpaths Officer and, at least, installing a hand rail in that area to make the descent to the playing fields easier and safer.                                            

The river will be kept clean as required, working in conjunction with Keep Wales Tidy.  One particular area of concern is the steep bank between McDonalds and the river.  Rubbish blowing along the street ends up on this bank, looking very unsightly, and eventually much of it ends in the river.  We did suggest putting netting along the top to trap rubbish and make it easier to collect.  PCC did not like this idea but Peter will raise the issue again.  Custodian members with the necessary skills and equipment to tackle litter picking on this bank are available and willing but concerns over health and safety have been raised. 

It would be good if we could involve more young people in our activities but attempts to recruit from local schools and youth organizations have been singularly unsuccessful.  Peter is a Governor of the Pen y Gloddfa school and will see if they have any interest. 

Peter Thomas is a long time angler in this area and reported that there are a large number of grayling in the river now.  He has also seen pike and salmon in this area.  He will report on the state of the river in terms of fish present and will submit data to the blog and web site.

The stands that RSC had at the Newtown Carnival and Food Festival were judged to have been successful in letting local people know what we are doing and in appreciating the river more.  It was agreed that we will plan to attend both events again this year.  Dates will be circulated once they are fixed.  One problem is that the TV used last year to show videos of river wild life is no longer available.  Lisa of Severn Rivers Trust thinks that funding might be available to replace this and provide a fish tank to display American Signal Crayfish.  We will provide a wish list and she will look into this. 

The Severn Rivers Trust plan on holding a river festival based on Newtown in 2015.  No dates yet, but likely August.  We pledged our full support to this venture. 

Election of committee
The committee and officers were re-elected unanimously, apart from Joan Davies, who has moved away from the area and Jim Jayes who has not been in contact recently. 

Any other business
There being no other business the meeting was closed by the chairman.


Mike Davies, Secretary
21st March, 2014