When you make a visit to Warley Woods, it would be easy to miss the important part that businesses, both national and local, play in supporting and taking care of Warley Woods.  We don’t have the HSBC Pavilion, or the Globals Picnic in the Park, but those businesses are involved making many different contributions and I thought it was about time we shared a little more about this with you – including some of the history.  As, like many things to do with the Trust, these connections have grown over the years and we need to recognise and thank the pioneers, as well as those who are making their history with us today.

 The most obvious and high profile of our business supporters should hopefully have been evident through the sponsorship of events.  We’re very pleased this year to welcome Bayliss Garages who have chosen to sponsor both Santa 2023 and Picnic 2024 in memory of John Bayliss.  The first actual sponsor of Picnic in the Park was back in 2005 and it was the West Bromwich Building Society – perhaps more of donation than a business wanting profile, but it was a good start and they helped pay for equipment the event needed.  Sponsorless until 2010 and then we had the first of many instances of support from Globals.  Both Food and Wine have supported us many times over the years, with sponsorship, raffles and just lovely donations for no recognition at times. 

Companion Care Vets then sponsored the event for four years and their fabulous staff volunteered at the event putting a great deal of effort to bring fun into the dog show in particular.  They were also our one and only sponsor who paid to advertise on our dog bins!  Haarts Estate Agents came in 2015 and back to Globals in 2016.  Seemingly attractive to estate agents newcomers Humberstone Homes were fabulous sponsors for the three following years, but the pandemic led to the closure of their Bearwood office and so on our comeback we needed a new sponsor which was GL Glazing.   And now that new relationship with Bayliss Garages!  We hope with a long standing popular local business, with their roots in the community that they will want work with us long term.

In 2010 we had our first Theatre in the Woods (The Secret Garden) and Derek Spires Estate Agents was its sponsor from inception until Derek’s retirement in 2016.  Kitty Angels was a one year sponsor when they were establishing themselves in the area, and I am still a happy customer of theirs!  Then from 2018 – 2023 it was sponsored by Fastsigns, who again have only stopped because the owners, Janie and Martin have retired.  Fastsigns had begun with us by sponsoring All About Dogs and many of their staff came and judged categories of the dog show.

In fact we had many years where the Judges at All About Dogs were business representatives.  From Fastsigns of course, and Unity Bank and Virgin Trains.

Our other event which has been attractive to is Santa in the Woods.  That tradition began with 02 making a donation as sponsor and then the mantle was taken by Virgin Trains who helped with money for a local artist to create Santa’s train which fixed onto our workman truck.   For a few years they provided us with train staff who acted as Elves.  This relationship continued for seven Santas! 2009-2015.  A single year sponsor from another estate agent, Wolfs in 2016 and then from 2017 to 2022 it was the David Manners Group.  Now 2023 Bayliss Garages, in memory of John Bayliss and we hope Santa will be able to pay the garage a visit!

 

Sometimes our relationships come in strange forms.  Our friendship with Roberts and Brain Funeral Directors began when we needed to borrow a coffin for our Halloween Trail.  Two of the directors came to take care of it and dressed up for the occasion!  This led to two spin offs, Gary Minott then became our compere for the Easter Egg Roll and he also introduced us to Victorian Carriages when we needed a calm horse.  Yes a horse.  This was to perform the role of the riderless horse at Halloween – his owner had been murdered and Sky, the horse, played the role beautifully.  We were now in love with the idea of horses in the woods and Victorian Carriage then came to the Picnic for several years to provide carriage rides.  I never got a ride at the Picnic as they were so busy, but I made up for that with their next, and continued contribution, providing the carriage to bring Santa through the Woods.  I’ve had a couple of quick trips up Harborne Road with Santa – I’m so lucky.  They provide such a magical moment and such a fantastic replacement for Santa’s train which had become very diesel-fumey and bits had started falling off it. Don’t think we lost connection with Roberts and Brain though, as they were back with us at events in 2022 with a balloon filled hearse fundraiser!

The other major contribution businesses have made hasn’t been about money or events but about their time.  They often come in under the radar on a weekday when teams will do maintenance work.  They are often brought to us by a local resident who works for them suggesting it, but sometimes it is just an accidental connection.  HSBC has been, far and away, our longest regular supporter with groups coming for over 12 years – often every month in the summer.  They were the ones begging to come back when rules allowed during Covid restrictions.  They became competitive at ditch clearance, play area fencing painting and clearing back the driveway edging.  Other regulars include Network Rail, Highways UK, South Staffs Water and newbies this year Cushman and Wakefield. 

 

We’ve also had groups from Michael Page (our very first group, thank you Paddy Bradley).  Paddy has tried to bring groups every time he changes jobs.  We have also had support from Unity Bank, Virgin Trains, Wragge & Co, 02, Ernst and Young, KPMG, Zurich, Ingeus, Halifax, PWC, DPD, Capita, Nat West, Waterman Aspen, RSA and Trident.  Although they only visited us once Cofeley, a facilities management company, made a major impact by not only working but providing materials too, and helping make long term improvements to the Pavilion. These businesses often only get an occasional mention on facebook and in our annual report – but they make a major contribution. The Woods would not look like it does without them. We are also indebted to employers who allow their staff days off to volunteer as individuals – we have benefited from many days professional work in that way.

Then we have the “miscellaneous”.  Those who give kindly and generously for raffles and prizes, for example TC Hayes, Higgins Butchers, Pets at Home, Warley Fish Bar, Globals, Abbey Road Post Office and Barclays.  Those like Nisa Warley who make donations and have a collecting tin in the shop.  Thimblemill Stores also has a donation tin.  International company Unum has supported us through the advocacy of a local resident who works for them – they have provided funds to allow us to do schools planting sessions and to create our Walk in the Woods game.  We have been supported for many years by the Webbs extended family at Webbs of Bearwood.  Jonathan’s donated the food for our volunteer thank you evening in 2021.  Local co-ops have adopted us as a cause for fundraising for two full years and provided raffle prizes. Local pubs like the Amber Tavern, Kings Head and The Midland have done fundraisers.

We’ve had grants from Tescos, Severn Trent Water, South Staffs Water and Persimmon Homes.  We’ve had corporate donations after nominations from staff at Higgs and Co, BT and National Express.  I can’t even begin to list the number of small local businesses who have had stalls at the Picnic or other events and who will be coming to our new Artisan Markets.

Then last, but very much not least – are those businesses who are with us almost every day – providing something special for visitors: Greg Lynch of GL Golf, Laura, Nicole and Bracken of Wild Lives Forest School, Jonathan the Happy Coffee Man and Pepe Catalano and his mum in their ice cream vans. 

Thank you to all the businesses who have supported us and support us still.  We are very grateful.