Dedicated to the care and conservation of
the designed landscape
Archive Links Activities
(The Chairman's Report to the 2014 Annual General Meeting
- Friday July 4th)
This year’s Annual General Meeting took
place at Blithfield Hall, the home of the Trust’s new
President, Charlie Bagot-Jewitt, who has accepted the Trust’s
invitation following the resignation of Lord Cormack.
Mr. Bagot-Jewitt, who may be best known to members as the former
Chief Executive of the National Memorial Arboretum, has provided
the Newsletter with the following introductory profile:
“You asked for a few lines about my background. I’ll
keep it focused towards Gardens and Parks, which I have always
enjoyed even as a young child. My first degree was in Economics
and Social History and Geography, and I came to this through
my enjoyment of historic landscapes fostered by reading “The
Making of the English Landscape” by W. G. Hoskyns as a
thirteen-year-old. Indeed, this also led me to study at Exeter
University, Hoskyn’s alma mater.
I was lucky enough to attend Exeter as a Naval Cadet scholar,
but through my time there (close to many wonderful gardens in
the South West, and where, at the time, a friend of my father,
Michael Trinick, was running the National Trust in Cornwall)
and during my subsequent Naval Career I have always enjoyed
visiting as many gardens as I could. When living in various
naval married quarters, I also tried my best to create gardens
out of almost uncultivable plots of land – giving myself
a budget of £100 to spend!
Of course, coming to Blithfield has been wonderful, and I spend
about six hours each week in the summer cutting and trying to
keep on top of the Pleasure Gardens at the back of the Hall.
In the winter I spend almost as long cutting up fallen wood
for the fire. We are thrilled with a project that has now started
to restore Blithfield’s magnificent orangery, one of only
a few remaining creations by ‘Athenian’ Stuart,
and are very grateful for the support of Mr. A. Taylor too!
It was also a huge honour to be Chief Executive of the National
Memorial Arboretum for nearly seven years. It was a rare opportunity
to be one’s own ‘Capability’ Brown and have
a small part in developing a young planned landscape and, even
more exciting, to plan and re-plan some plots, groves and memorials.
Producing a new ‘Landscape Master Plan’ was definitely
my favourite part of the job, and Paul Kennedy and I spent many
happy hours on this task. Many others in Staffordshire had a
hand at various stages, including Mike Walker, Gardens and Estate
Manager at Trentham, who introduced me to Tom Stuart-Smith.
Many other famous gardeners visited, too.
It is a huge honour and privilege to be President, and I will
endeavour to use the opportunity to help the Trust where I can
and to learn some more about our country’s wonderful formal
and informal landscapes and gardens”.
In tendering his resignation the outgoing President, Lord Cormack,
wrote: “It has been a privilege to be your President,
and I do hope we can keep in touch on a regular basis. I would
be delighted to welcome members to the House of Lords again
and to Lincoln, and I do hope the Trust will continue to flourish”.
He concluded by sending the Trust every positive wish for the
Below is the report by the Chairman, Alan Taylor, slightly edited,
which was presented to this year’s Annual General Meeting
by the Acting Chairman, Sarah Ashmead, in the absence of the
Chairman through illness:
“I start as I always do by looking for new talent to help
us on Council or in other ways of running the Trust. We are
a voluntary body and depend on active members to help us carry
out the Trust’s educational, planning and member-support
activities. As you will have gathered, we are currently in need
of a Treasurer – a vital post in any organisation –
and also have vacancies on the Council of Management where colleagues
have stood down…I have now been Chairman for seven years,
and, as I say every year, if anyone else fancies a shot at chairing
the Trust, please don’t be shy, and step forward.
On our business front I am pleased to report that the Trust
has enjoyed another active year in 2012-2013. The financial
report to this meeting has indicated that our finances remain
Our membership numbers are holding steady, but we would always
welcome new members. Please do encourage your friends and others
with an interest in Staffordshire’s gardens and parks
to join and help our work in promoting the conservation and
understanding of the county’s rich heritage of designed
The Trust’s website is now entering its fourth year, having
gone live in January 2011. It remains free to the Trust. It
contains information about the Trust and how to join, and our
current and future activities. Council intend that it will play
an increasing rôle in how we communicate with members
and the wider public in future years, both because that is the
way of the world and also because it is a useful way of keeping
our costs under control.
We have been recording statistics on the website’s traffic
since September 2013. This shows that in 2012 the average number
of Unique Visitors (that is, individual visitors, not repeat
visits or search engines) was 256 a month. In 2013 this rose
to 305. For the first six months of 2014, this figure is 535
– traffic has more than doubled in two years. In fact,
we reached a record in April this year of 583 visitors in one
month. The top countries visiting are (in order) the USA, the
UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, Mainland Europe, France, China
and the Czech Republic.
The online SGPT Newsletter download is becoming increasingly
popular, and other Trusts are mailing their own Newsletters
to us for inclusion, but nobody is ‘broadcasting’
each other’s at the moment, probably due to restrictions
on web-space – this is certainly the case for us - , but
we may agree ‘guest appearances’ in future if the
Council of Management agrees.
We are one of the few Trusts who actually make their Newsletter
available on the web, or, for that matter, an archive or even
a list of sites. Email to the website is monitored daily, and
there is certainly a lot more electronic communication these
days, with several communications each week to various Trust
officials. The site is also receiving much more ‘commercial’
mail – ‘special offers’, book launches, etc.
How we handle this will have to be reviewed by Council in the
near future. Trust email addresses will have to be re-structured
in the coming weeks to better manage the traffic.
Encouragingly, Web Browser statistics indicate that a lot more
smart phones and tablets are accessing the site. Also, we can
estimate that one third of all visitors are adding the site
to their list of ‘favourites’, although this can
only be an estimate. Plans to re-vamp the site is a medium-term
goal, but with all the indicators so encouraging it is not a
As you will gather from this brief report, the website is a
vibrant and growing area of our work. We owe a huge debt of
gratitude to Richard and Jackie Moseley, who have put the website
together for us and manage it impeccably, with Jax as “mailbox”
and Richard as designer and editor. A reminder of the site address:
On the planning side, the Trust has been consulted on a number
of planning applications throughout the year, both in present-day
Staffordshire and in the Black Country. One member of Council
has specific responsibility for this work now, and we will be
able to focus our comments more sharply. The Trust has also
responded to the HS2 public consultation, objecting to its potential
impact on several parks, including Ingestre and Swynnerton.
Unsurprisingly, we have not received an acknowledgement.
On the Activities side, the 2013 programme was again designed
to offer members the opportunity to appreciate the variety of
approaches to garden and landscape design to be found within
and immediately beyond our County. We visited the Georgian orangery
under restoration in the grounds of a Jacobean mansion at Ingestre;
a rare example of an early eighteenth-century garden at Melbourne
Hall, in Derbyshire; an early nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts
house and grounds on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, Wightwick
Manor; an eighteenth-century landscape under restoration at
Hagley Hall, in Worcestershire; and a six-acre garden less than
twenty years old and already being compared to Hidcote, Wilkins
Pleck, near Newcastle-under-Lyme.
In the autumn, as a contribution to a nation-wide commemoration
of the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, the Trust also
embarked on a programme of research into Staffordshire’s
war memorial gardens to which it is hoped members will feel
able to contribute.
Two issues of the Newsletter were published, both of which benefited
in presentation by the introduction of colour. Every member
receives a copy, and a copy is also sent to every public library
in Staffordshire and to every other County Gardens Trust. The
Trust is especially grateful to Colin Fletcher, of LGD Solutions,
who type-sets the Newsletter and oversees its production.
The Trust continues to identify gardens likely to be of interest
to members; this can be a protracted and sometimes frustrating
experience, and we have reason to be particularly grateful to
Joe Hawkins, Ann Brookman, Francis Colella, and Richard and
Jackie Moseley for their support in organising the programme.
We shall continue to strive to provide members with visits to
places of interest and would welcome any suggestions.
Finally, it I always my pleasure at the AGM to thank many people
for their commitment and hard work in supporting the Trust and
its activities over the past year. As always, our thanks extend
to our Company Secretary, Hayden Baugh-Jones, and his team at
South Staffordshire District Council for all their quiet work
behind the scenes running the day-to-day administration of the
Trust; to the District Council for allowing them the time to
do this and for continuing to host our company address.
We also thank our out-going Treasurer for her work in managing
our finances and ensuring that we remain solvent and prudent
in our expenditure. My special thanks are due to all my colleagues
on the Trust’s Council of Management for their continued
input and support; and also to yourselves, our members, without
whose interest and encouragement we would not be able to continue.
I offer my special thanks to Bryan Sullivan, who organises our
Council meetings, takes our minutes, produces the Newsletter
and organises our varied and always interesting programme of
At the conclusion of the formal business of the evening, members
were given short talks by Mr. Bagot-Jewitt and by Mr. Jonathan
Hyde, owner of Cloister House, part of the now-divided Hall,
before being taken on a guided tour of the grounds.
Members can now look forward to a study day at Blithfield Hall