It is lovely that most people can enjoy Warley Woods without worrying about how it comes to be what it is, why and what is going on behind the scenes - after all most people come to Warley Woods for a break, to unwind, to relax. However, we do know that when people find out a little more about what it takes to keep a green space looking good, what people do behind the scenes, they come to love Warley Woods even more. They often say, "I never knew that" or "I never even thought about that" or "wow, aren't we lucky". So if you would like to find out a bit more about what goes on behind the green scenes, then we hope you will enjoy these posts about all the different groups of people that keep Warley Woods the special place it is.

This first one focuses on our Trustees and in particular what happens at the annual Board Planning Day.....

Setting the scene

Firstly, just to prepare the scene.... everything takes place in the Padgham Room at the Pavilion. It's laid out for a formal meeting, plus a bubbling urn and plentiful quantities of biscuits. Two Trustees have had to send their apologies, but if it had been a full house, it would have been 14 local residents who have come from within the Trust's membership, plus me, Viv Cole, the Trust Manager.

Before the meeting everyone has had an agenda and all the papers. They've also had an alert that there are problems with the budget and so some hard decisions may need to be made. Everyone has come prepared to give a whole day of their time, to systematically go through everything needed to make the major decisions to guide the Trust through the next year.   Formal agreement of things would be at the next monthly Board Meeting, but this day allows for more in depth discussions.

The Big Task

This year the Trustees needed to discuss the new Strategic and Management plan. The main text is revised every five years and the plans within it updated each year. It contains lots of information about the site and how it is managed and what the Trust wants to achieve. The idea is that anyone new to the Trust could pick up this document and get a real idea of what Warley Woods and its Community Trust is all about. The document is available on our website.

Deliberations

The major problem in setting plans for the next few years, is that most things need money and staff resources to happen and so the Board has to work out which things are most important. Everyone would love to do so much but in fact rarely can very little be done on top of the day to day work.

When it comes to balancing the budget, the Trustees have very few options as many of the costs don't vary, except to increase. The balancing act all depends on how confident they feel about income, mainly from the golf course and from public donations and if there is a surplus, after basic costs are covered what it should be spent on.

This year there was a real problem. There wasn't going to be enough in the budget even for the basics and we couldn't start the new financial year in that state of affairs. So did we start making cuts? Or did we take action to significantly increase income so that we could feel confident we would have the money we needed.

What did the Board decide to do?

After frank and active discussions, the Board proposed that we went into the new year without major changes, but with a plan to ensure that the public who use Warley Woods were in no doubt that their financial support was critical for the Trust's survival. We would continue to actively promote the golf course, but income from this source was so weather dependent, it was not helpful to rely on anticipating increases.

The Board agreed to lose a few items from our usual schedule this year to allow staff to focus on core income streams and communications and marketing. Room hire prices and green fees would be increased. There would be no free golf camps in school holidays, as our visitors needed to know that things came at a cost; that emptying bins had to be paid for and that staff costs were necessities for a well run site.

First thing that morning, I had put a post on Facebook asking for financial help and for people to become regular donors. There was the hope that if some people picked up on this, during that day, then this would give the Trustees some faith that we could make a difference in people's understanding of the costs of running a green space. Brilliantly quite a few donations did come through and so the Trustees felt reassured that focusing on this area would bear fruit.

And after lunch....

Trustees focused on plans for the new building - in particular plans to raise funds to run an architect's competition through RIBA. A key decision needed to be made about the size of public room it would have - just a meeting room for hire like now, or a larger room for events and functions - anything larger would need to bring in significant extra income for the Trust, otherwise it would not be worth the costs of building it and staff that would be needed to manage it.

The Trustees deferred discussing a report Environmental Task group, but spent time thinking about the risks to the charity, how it recruits trustees and equipment renewal and how it would consult members of the public in the next year.

People Power for The People's Park

This tells just a little about the day in factual terms, but I realise what it doesn't convey is the mood and the feeling. It could have been a very down day considering the financial situation, but actually it was really positive and upbeat and inspiring. Trustees were full of ideas, energy and renewed commitment to turn things around. 

There is Arthur, who believes people will always do the right thing, if only we can explain what it is; Alan who likes playing Devil's Advocate within any discussion; Barbara who always pushes us to consult members; Andy who loves crunching numbers and monitoring weather reports. Kate always looks for balance and has lots of ideas; Steve C who connects us with our history; Liz who cares for the wild side of Warley Woods, almost as much as she cares for engaging humans. Chris, who loves involving people and will do anything for Warley Woods, Pat, whose whole family history is intrinsically bound up in supporting Warley Woods. John is as passionate about the Picnic as he does about his golf, David R, who talks to everyone he meets about Warley Woods and David V who understands voluntary organisations and arts and is passionate about them and Warley Woods.   On another day we would have had Steve E and Mick too.

In the last 20 years there have been over 50 different Trustees, with their own skills experiences and skills, but when they come together as a group, they always act as a cohesive unit, driven by a desire to do what it best for Warley Woods and the Trust. They have my complete admiration and respect. I was the only one in the room that day who was being paid, but everyone was as professional and focused as you might expect from the highest paid Board of Directors.

Aren't we lucky to have Warley Woods?

Warley Woods is not a beautiful space by accident. It takes hard graft by staff and volunteers and it depends upon the financial support of the people who visit. If you enjoy visiting Warley Woods, then please join the growing number of local people who help pay for its upkeep, so that Warley Woods and its Community Trust will be able to survive and thrive for now and future generations

It would be fabulous if you could set up a small regular payment. £5 a month is just 16p a day, but a walk in the Warley Woods is priceless. Direct debits can be set up through this website, by choosing to "donate" and ticking the box to "Set up a regular payment". Thank you for any help you already give and thank you for your future support.

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