You will be aware that one of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown has been the cancellation of our current events programme. This is probably the aspect of our work seen by most of our members. However, the Society hasn’t just pulled up the drawbridge and ceased to function. There has been a large amount of work continuing in the background. In the following sections we can give you an indication of some of the key topics and, in doing so, help to show how wide our range of activities has become.
AONB Management Plan
Late in 2019, the AONB Board launched the latest version of the Surrey Hills AONB Management Plan which covers the period 2020 – 2025. Having got the strategic document agreed by all the Borough & District councils and Surrey County Council – who contribute financially to the AONB and who are required by law to implement the plan – the next stage has been to agree who is going to deliver specific activities in order to achieve the required objectives and targets. Each objective has a lead organisation plus a number of supporting ones. In most cases, the lead body is one of the components of the AONB ‘family’ of Board & Management Team, Society, Enterprises or Trust Fund and in many instances, the work is supported by multiple ‘family’ members.
For the Society, the biggest topic area is around communication and awareness. This is very much our forte since we have come to be known as a public face of the Surrey Hills AONB. Our newsletters, presence at shows and fetes, external talks and media exposure all contribute to this. And this is also where our Events programme fits in because the more people we can get out into the area the more they learn about it and hence become ambassadors themselves.
To make all this happen, our Chairman and Vice-Presidents have been working with the AONB Board and Management to develop a detailed Delivery & Monitoring Plan which will be reviewed quarterly by the Board to track progress. Coronavirus may have disrupted a lot of things but the clock is still ticking and hence the Society has been working away in the background to ensure that it can deliver on its commitments.
The Society’s Annual Review
Our members have recently received an email to let them know that the Society’s Annual review for 2019-2020 has been written and published. This is the third year that we have produced a look back at the year’s activities and it has proved to be a useful record and promotional tool. On this occasion we took the decision to issue it as soon as possible after our year end rather than wait for our AGM in the autumn.
This type of document involves input from a large number of our volunteers. Quite apart from writing the text and providing the photos (Ken Bare), data and content was provided by our Chairman (Gordon Jackson), Finance Director (Martin Cantor), Membership Secretary (Stella Cantor) and Vice-President (Chris Howard). One of our members (Piers Plummer) turned it all into the professional looking document that we issued and we relied strongly on the eagle eyes of our proof readers (Susie Turner, Sall Baring, Lesley Crofts and Diane Cooper). We are incredibly grateful to all of them for the hours of work that they contributed to making this happen.
Surrey Hills Photo Competition
By the time that you receive this e-newsletter, our photo competition will have just closed. A good number of you have submitted photos which have been placed on our website. The Chairman and Vice-Presidents now have the tricky task of judging the entries to identify a winner. This is certainly not the easiest of tasks since there are some stunning images.
In parallel with our photo competition, we have been expanding our presence on social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where a number of our active members have been submitting images. We are in the early days of developing these lines of communication but they are already showing success in helping us to reach new audiences.
As a reminder:
Whilst our current programme of events may have gone on hold, we want to be able to hit the ground running when the right time comes. Many of the events organised by the Society have a long lead time – up to a year in some cases! To enable us to give our members a programme to look forward to, our Events Team have been working away in the background. Hopefully we will be able to revive some of the visits which were planned for 2020 and include them in our 2021 schedule. Meanwhile, other topics come to light or opportunities arise and our Team is always on the lookout for these.
One specific element of our events programme which has become very popular is our involvement with local walking festivals. We had planned to participate in Farnham Walkfest in May, a new event planned for the Dorking area and, of course, our major involvement with Guildford Walking Festival in September. At the moment, it is unclear whether Guildford Walking Festival will be able to go ahead but we are continuing to work as if it will – even if it’s in a modified form. The Society normally hosts numerous walks during this month long festival – and also provides several of the core organising team – so a significant amount of work is involved.