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Annual Report No 5 – October 2023

The Salt Way

Annual Report no 5 – Salt Way Activity Group (SWAG)

Date: October 2023

Forward:

The last annual report no 4 was dated October 2022.  Our AGM this autumn is due to be held on 30th November, at The Plough, Bodicote (PH).  This will be our sixth year of activity.

We had a reasonably wet autumn last year, and then a mixed summer with some hot spells in June but enough rainfall to keep the vegetation growing.  This has created more work for the Group.

The western end of the Way did have some fill put in the eroded section, but no real works to stop it all washing out – we were not told when this was done; it has already started to erode. This year the CC got the chipping (cut material) done between WPR and Bloxham Road largely down to the arrival of a new footpaths lady Tracy – welcome.  We had quite a few compliments.  They also cut some grips between WPR and Waller Drive, but did nothing beyond that which is one of the worst areas for flooding.  This will help but is not a full solution.  Some chipping and tree felling is still outstanding and I am not sure whether they will do any more?

We still need to develop how we spread the message as to what we doing and trying to achieve.  It would also be good to spread the load on some of our activities – see Agenda for AGM

We did manage to have one interim meeting, also held at the Plough on the 20 April, as suggested at the last AGM.  We had a presence at the pre-coronation party held at Banbury Town Hall and at Spiceball Park on the Sunday, Phil and Dave had been to the pre-meeting at BTH hosted by Tony Baldry on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant for Oxfordshire.

Activity – over the last 12 months

We had 28 group sessions over the year and a few informal sessions the same as the previous year.  This represents some 190 hours of work, down on last year (250) but we did no work in September as I was away in the USA.  Thank you to all of you members that took part in these sessions.  

We planted 192 trees and shrubs, replacing some that had died.  We purchased 5 Scots Pine (bare rooted) these were put straight in pots but died, second lot to fail – I shall seek a credit note from Buckingham Nursery.  To celebrate our 5th year, the mayor from BTC planted a replacement cherry, one having died.  Both trees had actual cherries on them this year.

Steffan has signed up to do the litter pick as an individual and regularly picks along the way.  One gentleman in a wheel chair also picks a bag a month and there are others who do their own thing.

Soil dumping by Redrow was not resolved and CDC were just not interested, the final letter was from their Solicitors telling us to go to the Ombudsman – we are volunteers why should we waste our time when it is their duty to control dumping.  If the planners are working with the developers and cannot have a quiet word with them – things have reached a very low ebb.  The letters to planning and leader of the council never received a reply.

A lot of elms succumbed to the beetle this year and had to be dropped, the CC still have one to do and a large field maple by Waller Drive.

We had an incident with one resident who threatened to throw Phil in the ditch and said we were a waste of time.  I have spoken to him and do not intend to take this further unless there are further problems.I pointed out to him that the hedge was encroaching on the path and encouraged him again to trim to an A shape.

One other new resident queried who was responsible for his hedge near the dead elm.  I responded that “the hedges were unlikely to have received permission to plant from Highways and were I planted by owners”  whoever I said it was unlikely anyone would enforce this, the police had already recommended to some owners that this would help protect the properties from burglaries!  I visited the gentleman and we agreed how we would trim it.

Another resident (Beaconsfield Road) has agreed to having a hedge planted at the rear of his property as this will prevent alien species being planted.

The lady in the first house in Sycamore Drive has agreed that we cut back her overgrown shrubs, but does not want us to reduce the height.  We had a dead Christmas tree thrown over the hedge from the new development from the south – no idea where this came from in November.

Waller Drive –The wild flower meadow is in its fourth season of cutting (this was cut by BTC contractors not us), we may cut in December too or early spring this year in addition to the hay cut to remove bulk.  There were some additional flowering plants here, the vigorous growth of what I thought was a garden escapee turned out to be Meadow Rue, there was some St Johns Wort round by the fence and some quite extensive hawkbit. Unfortunately the contractors came in and tried to cut the tall grass, and just made a complete mess of it.  We had a go at raking it up, but they had not cut it properly so this was very difficult.

Bill Sands Wood – We have neglected this and should have weeded it.  Many of the plantings have survived, some of the hedgerow plants did not make it – we can replace them this autumn.  Bramble is quite an issue following felling of the large trees.  The plan is to drop some of the sycamore before they seed and keep them coppiced.

The Giants Cave –.  I suggest we have another joint activity with them early next year.

 Developers:

Morris homes: approaching them about laying the hedge on the side of the estate – to commemorate the coronation as King Charles was the patron of the NHLS and does a lot of this type of work himself.

Redrow –  have not had any contact with them. 

The other developers have made holes in the hedge creating new accesses and made a very tidy job of it.  One access is very wide no idea why this is so? 

Other matters: 

Steffan continues as a volunteer litter picker with CDC and regularly goes down the Way.  We do some letter picking when working on site, he reports that the Eastern section is pretty good, less so from the Schools to Bloxham Road.

Threatening behaviour – see above

Liaison with Redrow

Councillor Mallon indicated that there were proposals afoot to put street lights along the Salt Way and to make it more formal.  I have made repeated requests to CDC and OCC about this but no contact has been provided.

Drainage – still an issue, possibly mattocks are the way forward

Motorcycle usage – I encountered two youths who almost crashed into an elderly lady and her daughter.  The guys apologised, one with a helmet one without, one on a KTM neither had plates on.  At a later date another family group up at Waller Drive reported 5 hooded youths coming off the Redrow Estate all on motorcycles.  This has been reported to the police; contact neighbourhood team – harry1720843825.robe1720843825rts@t1720843825hames1720843825valle1720843825y.pnn1720843825.poli1720843825ce.uk1720843825 – crime ref: 43230082843

Records: Jason and bob have volunteered to do some butterfly recording.  We still need someone to do the birds, a visitor of mine did put together a bird record, so we do have something.

Funding:

We need some more funding to purchase some canes and a fishing trolley to transport plants etc. Cherwell Lottery – not really supported any more CDC cannot produce an A5 leaflet for us which we could hand out to our supporters; so we have done some ourselves but need to hand them out.  Any one like to volunteer to take this on?

We had a £500 donation from BTC although we applied for less than this!

David Balcombe our treasurer had a lot of trouble getting the CC to re-imburse the costs of our insurance cover in previous years, this time no problem. We currently have some £1400 in our account.  We have various purchases this autumn, trees and shrubs, canes for trees ( I no long think guards are required due to the extent of the housing developments, but the Woodland trust plants are very small so good to use some). We are still planning to purchase some training, none under taken in 2022/3 – hedge trimming, and scything course generally available so if anyone is interested please contact me.  

Schools:

Bishop Loveday was provided with pots, compost and native seed to plant.  I have chased them several times now, called into the office twice.  Write to the head?

Blessed George Napier – received a positive response to my letter, but they were not able to do anything with us due to C19.  No further initiatives

Wykham Park Academy (formerly Banbury School) – have contacted them 3 times so far with a nil response.  Will ask for a meeting with an appropriate person, maybe one of the Governers? No further initiatives

Going Forward

The hedges at the eastern end have encroached on both sides as it is quite a few years since the farmers have carried out any management of the hedge and now it is the responsibility of the developers – who have not do anything.  One of the two cherries died and was replaced by BTC Mayor () they both had a few edible cherries on them this year.   The hedges at the back of the houses presents other issues as they were presumably planted by householders without any permission – they are on the Way and encroaching in places.  Police have recommended to some householders that these help prevent access by undesirables and also screen the development to the south both visually and as a noise barrier.

We will continue to work west from the White Post Road planting area, some of this is now looking like a small wood with growth of over 2 – 7m on some trees.  The cherries have done so well (5m tall) we have removed some of the guards and plan to plant up the area to the west to continue the hedge leaving a few gaps.  Mrs Clarke comes out each time we are working there either to make a complaint about the gaps in the hedge or not to fell trees (pointed out they were dead) or to ask us to do work on their behalf.

There are still some areas where the blackthorn has collapsed or is threatening to and we plan to continue, this is at the rear of the schools and west of Bloxham Road.  We have now  cleared around the footpath sign by the Giants Cave and have started to deal with the ivy here.

No progress with an agreement with Thames Water about management of the Dell off Waller Drive.

Cllr Mallon and some of the local residents had asked if we could take on another section going down to the Timms Road where there are issues – we have had two meetings with the  CC but no progress on this.

OCC did the initial clearance along the length of the way siding up the hedges and we have kept this in order since the 2017/18 autumn.  They also chipped a huge pile of mainly elder which we used to create paths.  They were down to do the chipping twice a year in the Autumn.  

We have planted some 775 trees and shrubs over 5 seasons (120, 100, 104, 259, 192) to improve diversity.  We continue to work on creating two wild flower meadows and have planted numerous wild flowers along the Way.  Some of Laurie’s cherry trees are now 5 m high and we have just removed the spiral guards (WPR)

We have done quite a bit of hedge laying, the one at White Post Road is really developing and that at Waller Drive made a big impact.

Last year we decided a formal litter pick was not needed – now we are looking after the Way it appears users are looking after it too!  We and other members of the public do pick litter – the first big community pick retrieved over 300 DPB’s and all sorts of rubbish and disgarded items.

We continue to receive a lot of praise – interacting with the public is an important function.

We also had our activities restricted by Covid 19.

We should have another joint session with Wild Banbury at the Giants Cave the proposed picnic there did not happen, perhaps next year?

I believe we are having a positive effect on the Way’s value for nature in what is a long term project increasing diversity, keeping the way open, etc.   Removing grass from the wild flower areas reduces fertility which encourages wild flowers.

Promotion

We could still do with some-one taking this on as a project.  We have a website (thanks Ben), Facebook page (thanks Phil, who has some dedicated followers) and I try and get some coverage in local magazines.

We put some signs up along the way, one of which was immediately rooted out, but we replaced it further away from the path – again made by David Balcomb.

Website – I thought it would be a good idea to include something along the lines of “What can you see along the Way”.  Trees and shrubs, birds, flowers, ferns, insects – a brief description and a photo.

Peter got some A5 handouts produced, now we need to hand them out.

If you have any ideas or comments feel free to make them.  Thanks again to all the volunteers for their time and input over the last 12 months.

David Russell, Chairperson. 22 November.

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