Volunteer Of The Year Award 2014: Rachel Jones

February 26, 2015

Volunteer of the Year Award 2015

Rachel Jones with Councillor Myra Billings

Cathy Holden writes:

Rachel Jones has been named as recipient of the Chairman of Hart District Council’s Award for Fleet Pond Society’s ‘Volunteer of the Year 2014’. Rachel is a Hart Countryside Ranger with special responsibility for Fleet Pond and it was the unanimous vote of the Society Committee that Rachel should receive this award for frequently going beyond her regulated duties.

Rachel said: “I was really surprised and shocked! I feel very privileged. It is wonderful that the Society and the Ranger Service work together so well completing valuable work to enhance and protect the Fleet Pond Nature Reserve. I look forward to a long future of this wonderful relationship.”

The award was presented by Councillor Myra Billings, Chairman of Hart District Council, at the Society’s recent AGM. The citation stated:

“The Committee considered a number of names but one stood out above the others. This person is one who makes the monthly volunteer tasks always enjoyable and takes extra care that volunteers are made welcome and that they know how to work safely and effectively. This volunteer can also often be found joining the ad hoc, but often weekly, Last of the Summer Wine volunteer tasks which contribute voluntary labour to specific tasks. These tend to be tasks that could not be done by the wider range of age groups we host at the monthly tasks, as they can take volunteers into more hazardous conditions or involve use of mechanical equipment.

Members might think that this volunteer is an unusual choice as she is on the payroll of Hart Countryside Service and has a particular responsibility for Fleet Pond. Her dedication to Fleet Pond, her support for our volunteers and the numerous occasions on which she gives extra voluntary hours to any activity at Fleet Pond we believe qualifies her to receive this award. Her dedication and her infectious sense of humour and fun have made her a much valued member of our team.”

Colin Gray, Chairman of the Fleet Pond Society added: “I am very pleased that Rachel received the unanimous support of the FPS Committee as the chosen nominee for this award. It underlines the very positive, friendly and effective relationship that exists between the Society volunteers and the Hart Countryside Service.”

Picture credit: Michelle Salter.


A Half Marathon For The Pond

February 20, 2015

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Runners at the 2014 Fleet Half Marathon

David Pottinger writes:

Some months ago I mentioned the Photography Competition organised by the Mackenzie Smith Estate Agency. It focused on scenes from the North Hampshire region and the winning entries were presented as a calendar for 2015. It was great to find that the picture for July was one of Fleet Pond (see below).

The calendar entry for July, Fleet Pond by Chris Straker

Following on from this, two members of the Mackenzie Smith marketing team, Roxanne Lewington and Tara Skinner, have bravely decided to run in the 2015 Fleet Half Marathon with all financial donations going to the Clearwater Campaign for Fleet Pond.

Roxanne comments (see here):

I have never run a half marathon before and am quite daunted. Having signed up just 8 weeks before the event and with no pre-existing exercise regime the training has been a bit of a shock to the system, but I’m determined to finish it, even if it does mean training after a long day at work.

The event will take place on Sunday 22 March 2015.

If you’d like to support Roxanne and Tara, and in so doing help fund improvements at Fleet Pond Nature Reserve, please consider donating on their Virgin Money Giving page here. So far, over £120 has been pledged!

The visionary Clearwater Campaign was initiated by Fleet Pond Society (FPS) and you can read all about it on the FPS website here:

It is a campaign to restore Fleet Pond Nature Reserve to a healthier and more valuable amenity for wildlife and people.

The campaign will be a partnership between Fleet Pond Society, Hart District Council, Natural England, the Environment Agency and other interested parties. Its purpose is to try and raise enough money to fund a major restoration of the Pond. The restoration programme would include projects of benefit to local people and visitors, by providing additional seating areas, a variety of new information boards, improved footpaths and bridges, and the installation of new fishing jetties.

There’s also a useful video (from 2010) featuring Chris Packham, who is the Patron of Fleet Pond Society, that explains the original motivation for the campaign:

Incidentally, the Fleet Half Marathon has an interesting background and is well worth watching on the day, both for the range and numbers of runners (including some ‘characters’, eg see below) and for the excellent friendly atmosphere.

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Late for the office!

Details of the event, including the route and timings, can be found here, from which:

Sunday 4th April 1982 saw a new experience greet the town of Fleet. In the midst of the 80’s running boom Fleet & Crookham Athletic Club, sponsored by the Star Newspaper and with assistance from local businesses, launched the first of many successful half marathons. Chris Brasher (founder of the London Marathon) gave permission for the event to be titled “The Pre-London”…

Entries rose to 5,000 a year with a regular 3,000 completing the course. For many years the race was closed for entries by Christmas, such being its popularity. We now accept just 3,500 runners due to the restrictions of the course. The race still reaches its entries target with it normally being full well before Christmas despite competition from other major half marathons on the same day/same month.

Celebrities and TV/film personalities are regular visitors. Elite athletes gracing the event have included Steve Jones (former marathon world record holder), with internationals Steve Brace, Garry Staines, Bernie Ford, Marion Sutton, Ann Ford, Paula Fudge. Club and local athletes continue to use the race as a warm up for the London Marathon as well as for a personal best opportunity in its own right.

We all wish Roxanne and Tara the very best in their training and for a great result on the day!

Photo credits: top and bottom, David Pottinger.

Fleet Pond Society AGM – Saturday 21 February 2015

February 17, 2015

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The overall winner for the 2013 FPS Photographic Competition – Liza Toth

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Fleet Pond Society will take place at 7.15pm on Saturday 21st February 2015 at St. P & J Church Hall, Kings Road, Fleet.

We would like to encourage members to attend. This is your opportunity to put questions to the Executive Committee and share your views on the future of Fleet Pond Local Nature Reserve.

Nominations are requested for the election of Officers and Members to the Executive Committee. Current committee members are required to stand down at the AGM but will be eligible for re-election.

If you would like to nominate someone, please contact the Secretary of FPS, Michelle Salter, via Michelle@FleetPondSociety.co.uk

Following the official business of the AGM there will be a short break for refreshments before we announce the winners of the Photographic Competition 2014. We hope everyone who has entered will come along to see their photographs on display.

A gallery of the winning entries for the 2013 Competition can be seen here.

Aliens At The Pond

February 8, 2015

Fleet Pond is both a Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (an overview and map is here). The latter has important implications, in particular the avoidance of the introduction of alien species.

Colin Gray, Chairman of Fleet Pond Society, explains and give some examples of the importance of not introducing non-native plants or animals:

“Fleet Pond is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The legislation that notifies a SSSI includes the protection of native plants and animals naturally found on the site. These regulations have been incorporated into the by-laws governing Fleet Pond.

Any non-native plant or animal poses a threat to the survival of the native species. There are already examples of how non-native species are having an adverse effect. The American Skunk Cabbage that grew in abundance in the wet area of Brookly Wood has spread its seeds via the Brookly Stream and can now be found at numerous sites around the water edges. The large, thick leaves shade light off smaller, less vigorous plants.

American Skunk-cabbage

Picture of Skunk Cabbage at the Pond – see here

Rhododendron and Cherry Laurel, both “aliens” are competing successfully with native species in the wooded areas. These tend to be introduced by roots spreading out and by birds carrying the seed. Seed of Red Currant and Cotoneaster have also led to these plants now appearing at several sites.

Most of the above is as a result of being close to private gardens containing these plants and cannot be considered “deliberate” introduction of non-natives.

Introduction of animals or birds is also illegal under this legislation. Sadly we cannot take the animal rights group to court for releasing Mink from fur farms; too distant in time and space, but this has led to a non-native animal having a serious adverse impact on our birds and small mammals. Similarly the introduction of the American Signal Crayfish is a result of a serious mistake elsewhere.

A couple of years ago I stopped two people carrying a large plastic bag containing goldfish. They were planning to put them in Fleet Pond. I explained that such an act was illegal and likely to attract a high fine and they changed their minds and drove away. The fact that a goldfish would be very unlikely to survive long as they are so easy to spot by our fish eating birds meant their chance of survival was low, but goldfish can carry virus or parasites that would be transferred to the carp in the pond.

Introducing plants or animals deliberately must be avoided if the integrity of Fleet Pond’s SSSI notification is to be maintained. There are therefore potentially high financial penalties for anyone found to be introducing a non-native plant or animal.

Recently we found two small “pits” cut into a bank on the Dry Heath and hidden by the gorse thickets there. These had been surrounded by chicken wire, filled with fresh soil and planted with unidentified seeds. Had we caught the culprit the fine imposed could have been high and, in some cases, the penalty can be levied per plant. This attempt at introducing plants has been removed but we will need to keep our eyes open to ensure another attempt is not made.

Please let us know should you see anyone planting plants or trees or releasing any animal or warn them of the consequences of their action.”

From the GOV.UK site:

Sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) conserve and protect the best of our wildlife, geological and physiographical heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. There are over 4,000 SSSIs in England, covering around 8% of the country.

Volunteer Event This Sunday, 8 February

February 5, 2015

David Pottinger writes:

There will be a volunteer event this Sunday, 8 February at Fleet Pond.

Why not come along for some fresh air and exercise, as well as having the nice feeling that you’re doing something really useful for the local community?

For further information and booking (which is essential as tools and resources have to be planned beforehand), please contact Hart Countryside Services:

Phone: 01252 623443
Email: countryside@hart.gov.uk

The tasks are supervised by Rachel Jones of Hart Countryside Rangers together with members of Fleet Pond Society (FPS).

Details of the task (weather permitting) are here, which also gives a list of future Sunday volunteer events (Feb – Jun 2015).

For interest, here’s some pictures from the corresponding event held last year (see here):


Tasty hot potatoes – it was obviously not that cold either, t-shirt weather!