Reports from the AGM on 7th December 2021
A warm welcome to you all- we thank you for your support. I am sure you will agree with me that Phil Stone gave a very interesting and informative talk about the work being undertaken by the “Reimagining the Levels”group. Many thanks to Phil.
The Trust has worked very closely with RtL to obtain funding from the Somerset Rivers Authority to buy trees, stakes and guards to enable us to plant trees and shrubs on trust land in 2020 and 2021. I hope this report will put into perspective the way in which the Trust’s work fits into the jigsaw of tree planting on the Hills surrounding the Somerset levels.
The land, situated on a high point above the Levels to the north and the village of Curry Rivel to the south, became available on the death of the tenant farmer in 2019 and the Trustees agreed with the owners (Somerset County Council) that they would try to raise the money needed to buy the land. The purpose of this purchase would be to increase water and carbon capture on the land and to protect and enhance the existing woodland and also the rich biodiversity already present. Initially, at the end of 2019, SCC wanted to set a six month deadline for the Trust to raise £60000. The Trust is very grateful and happy to publically acknowledge a grant from The Fairfield Trust for £15000 without which the project would not have succeeded. Initially in late 2019 the Trust asked for £10000 from Fairfield and they generously gave the sum mentioned above. The Trust also thanks South Somerset DC for an environmental grant of £12500 and also Curry Rivel Parish Council for a grant. However the biggest thank you must go to the communities of Curry Rivel and greater Somerset who contributed half of the money.
The result of this fund raising was that the Trust was able to proceed with the purchase of the land in late 2020. This was a tribute to all concerned as fund raising could not make use of traditional events or public meetings and was a mammoth
task and unimaginably successful. The land was in the Trust’s ownership early in 2021 and, working with Reimagining the Levels, the further grant mentioned earlier was obtained from the SRA to cover trees, guards and stakes. Many, many thanks to Kate Towers and Phil Stone for their help. There was also money to cover some of the cost of tree maintenance. By overlapping planting with the purchase process the Trust was able to plant 400 trees by February. Again very many thanks to the Community of Curry Rivel for help with this task and to the CR School Community who spent an afternoon with us in the new year planting trees. Especial thanks to Emily (the outdoor learning lead) and Mrs Pook (Head teacher). We also received support from a charity called “One Planet Matters” who gave 100 high quality British native trees to plant, making the total planted in the 2020/21 winter season 500.
Having completed the land purchase and tree planting by March the Trustees turned their thoughts and efforts towards tree maintenance during the spring and summer. As the spring was dry there was considerable anxiety about the survival of the new planting as most newly planted trees lost in the first year are lost through lack of water and thus poor root growth. Therefore the Trustees agreed to buy six second hand water tanks from a local farmer; many thanks go to our Acting Treasurer Alan Cockerell who arranged the purchase and delivery of the tanks. Alan also put together a roof system to collect rain water and deliver it to the tanks. The summer proved kind and there was copious rain. The tanks now contain in excess of 4000 litres and we have not had to artificially water during 2020. Only 25 out of the 500 trees and shrubs do not seemed to have grown and most have done very well.
We received another grant from the Somerset Rivers authority in late 2021 to plant a final 400 trees and shrubs on the site during this winter and we shall be looking for volunteers to help with this early in 2022.
So, a very successful first eighteen months of the Trust has resulted in the achieving of the initial aims of the Trust- namely, to buy land to plant trees to help prevent flooding and to increase carbon capture and biodiversity in the area. Other important aims have also been achieved and these will discussed by our Secretary, but first I will hand over to Alan Cockerell, our acting Treasurer.
The purchase of the field and woods was completed at the end of 2020, with Pardoes Solicitors in Bridgwater acting for the conveyancing. All bills relating to the purchase have been paid.
The Trust started the calendar year with £870 in the bank.
HMRC was contacted last year to set-up Gift Aid for any donations made to the trust.
Expenditure during 2021 has been associated with the practical business of looking after the newly planted trees.
Money was spent on tree guards and stakes, a bulk delivery of mulch to put around the tree stems, half-a-dozen 1000ltr containers for collecting rainwater and wood and tarpaulin to increase the rain catchment area.
Charity law required that the Trust submit to the Charity Commission an independently examined set of accounts. This was because the Trust income was above £25,000 through 2020, due to money raising for the purchase of the land.
Chalmers Accountants in Langport were engaged to do the independent examination. They submitted a report and accounts and these have now been uploaded to the Charity Commission website for anyone to see.
It is anticipated that the Trust income for the 2021/2022 accounting year will be well below £25,000.
The Trust was also required by HMRC to submit forms relating to Corporation Tax. The Trust is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and so shows up as a potential business in their system.
This has been done, but the status of the Trust as a CIO should mean that no Corporation Tax is payable.
The Trust has recently received a grant from the Parish Council to assist on boundary/hedge maintenance work, and a few other donations.
As of the date of this meeting the Trust has £2300 in the bank.
Future expenditure will involve the boundary/hedge maintenance work, possible seeding of part of the field, and the looking after of the newly planted trees, e.g equipment for watering them if a long dry spell occurs.
As Secretary to the Trust I have the day to day responsibility of dealing with most non-financial correspondence, calling and taking the minutes of Trustee meetings, having agreed the agenda with the Trustees in advance. These, together with the accounts and a summary of activities during the year had to be sent to the Charity Commission by a given date
One of my first challenges was to complete the application to the Charity Commission to become a registered charity. The application sent on our behalf by a solicitor had been been incorrectly formatted and so rejected, but luckily help was at hand in the form of a family friend who was familiar with the Commission’s requirements and who, at no cost to the Trust, worked with me to put our application in the correct format to gain rapid registration.
Being a registered charity means that our objectives as a trust have been recognised as of benefit to the community and our activities are scrutinised on a regular basis. It is good to be seen as a community organisation providing a vital environmental service at this time when we are all aware of the need to mitigate against the effects of climate change. There are also financial advantages; we were immediately able to claim back gift aid on all donations made by people who pay UK income tax, thus increasing donations by 25% with no cost to the donor. Registration also opened the door to grant -giving bodies who only deal with charities. One of these in particular proved very fruitful but more of this in a moment. Of course the obvious downside of charitable status is the need for increased paperwork, as Alan has described, but it is reassuring to know that we novice trustees are doing everything right!
Alan has mentioned some of our recent funding but the organisation I alluded to earlier is Aviva. They have two funds - their Community Fund and their Climate Fund. We applied to each of them and were chosen for both. The community fund is a pot of money,allocated as £25 for each Aviva employee. Employees are given this money in the form of a voucher, which they can allocate to the charity of their choice from those chosen to take part. The money in the community fund is then doubled for organisations in the Climate Fund. The funds closed at midday today and by then we had raised £4000, which will be used to finance the hedgelaying Alan referred to as well as other future expenditure referred to by Alan. We are aware of the potential relaxational and educational benefits to be had from our project and hope that, in the future, we will be able to install information boards and seating in the clearing being left between the newly planted trees. Another project will involve restoring the footpath through part of the trust land.
As you will realise, this is an ongoing project but with your help we hope to make it something the local community can be proud to be part of.