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Minutes of Virtual AGM 2024

Virtual Annual General Meeting, April 10, 2024


Chris Kinsey, Liz Hinkley, Peter Harris, Jonathan Burton, Rex Shayler, Ian Hodgkinson, Paula Scott, Mike Davies.

Apologies for absence

Kath Wigley

Message from the Chair                                      Kath Wigley

We will get back to face-to-face meetings in the future, but it just seemed simpler to continue with the virtual format once again for this year.
Despite the weather conspiring against us for quite a few months this year (!!) the River Severn Custodians have continued to keep up with litter picking, along the banks and in the river; dealing with Giant Hogweed and monitoring river fly larvae, and Mike and Paula will be reporting on these items in more detail. This coming year it would be great to see our member numbers increase, with hopefully younger ones included in that number!

Many thanks to my fellow Trustees, particularly Mike, Paula and Rex, for their continuing commitment and hard work. I wish all of you the best of health and renewed vigour for the year to come!like to say firstly that hopefully we will get back to face-to-face meetings in the future, but it just seemed simpler to continue with the virtual format for this year.

Minutes of previous AGM

The meeting agreed to accept the minutes of the last AGM without a reading.    

Presentation of accounts                                       Rex Shayler

Rex reported on the search for alternative group insurance now that Keep Wales Tidy, who had been providing insurance can no longer do so.  The prices that Rex is getting are considerably higher so he will send the quotes to Mike for review.  If necessary, other trustees will also be asked for input.  Liz offered to provide a link to the company providing insurance to other local groups, including the Newtown Civic Society and this link was provided after the meeting.

Rex talked us through the accounts in which our balance stands at £341.22, see appendix 1. It was agreed that while our need for funds are generally limited to web site fees and insurance this balance is a bit too low and we should consider applying for a community grant in September. We also need to purchase a grappling hook costing around £15 to £20 at some stage to help remove foreign objects from the river.

The accounts were accepted by the meeting.               

Annual report                                                        Mike Davies

Our current membership is 40, slightly up from last year. 

Invasive species monitoring and control.  We have not generally been taking teams out to control Giant Hogweed along the river banks this year but individual have gone out to the various hot spots and kept these plants under control.  During the year at least 15 man-hours were spent on this activity and in most areas it is only new growth from seeds coming downstream, not re-growth of established plants that we used to see. The meeting agreed that we should organize a Hate Hogweed event in the Mochdre Brook area in the near future, probably early May.

Areas of Japanese Knotweed are reported to Natural Resources Wales who chemically treat it to protect flood defenses.  We encourage people to eat Himalayan Balsam and we only remove it to provide access to the river.  Chris said that it is now growing freely in several areas.

Similarly, crayfish monitoring has not taken place this year.  During river fly larvae monitoring none have been seen, which is unusual.

Our web host is now Hostinger which is more cost effective and adequate for our limited use of their services.

The new footbridge/cycle bridge over the river, across from the rugby ground, was to have been constructed in 2020.  This did not happen, although some of the approach work has been done over the years since then.  The bridge was originally constructed off site but apparently did not fit so is being remade.  Completion is expected sometime this year, maybe. The latest rumour was that it is scheduled for completion in June.

A certain amount of riverside and in river litter picking has taken place this year, mostly by individual members on their own initiative. In March 2024 we’ve just had a more coordinated litter pick by Custodians and in river litter clearance by Newtown Paddlers/Welshpool Canoe Club many of whom are also Custodians.

One of our members, Paul West, again gave fly casting demonstrations morning and afternoon on both days of the Newtown Outdoor Festival. Paul will again provide this training on Saturday 1st June and the Newtown Outdoor Festival.

Fly larvae survey                                                            Paula Scott

Paula reported that only a small number of surveys have been possible this year because of high river levels.  Larvae levels measured though, have been lower than usual adding to the general indicators of reduced water quality.

Wildlife on the River, Facebook page and Blog.     Russ Edwards

As usual, Russ has provided a comprehensive review of wildlife on the river, Appendix 2.  This shows the disappointing levels of bird and animal life in and around the river, a view supported by Chris’s observations.

Any other business

The possibility of recruiting younger members was discussed.  Given presentations to schools has been tried in the past and this raises our awareness but does not give us new members.  Liz suggested approaching the youth club at Hafan yr Afon, the Cadets and Open Newtown.

In 2014 we undertook a survey of river side use by stationing Custodians at intervals along the river for one hour on two consecutive Saturday mornings.  We recorded numbers of people passing these points and noting whether male or female, alone or in groups, with bicycles, babies, dogs, fishing gear, shopping bags, etc. These data were collated and published on our web site and given to the town council.  Now, 10 years later it was agreed that we should try to repeat the exercise and compare finding. It is likely that the town council and Open Newtown would be interested in these results.

Election of committee/trustees

All of the trustees present agreed to continue as trustees of officers and Ian Hodgkinson is now also a trustee following the discussion at the meeting and unanimous agreement by all members present. John Wigley has had to resign due to ill health.  We thank him for all his years working with the Custodians.
This means that the current list of trustees is as follows:
Chris Kinsey, Liz Hinkley, Peter Harris, Jonathan Burton, Ian Hodgkinson, Paula Scott.
Rex Shayler – Treasurer
Kath Wigley – Chair
Mike Davies – Secretary  

The meeting closed at 8pm.  

Mike Davies
12th April, 2023

APPENDIX 1 Financial accounts 2023-2024

Very little in the way of financial transactions have taken place during 2023/24
                  A summary of the previous accounts are included

                                             3rd March 2023        £183.62
                     Elephant and Castle Donation        £200.00

                                                           Balance        £383.62
                                                           Donation       £40.00
                                                          Insurance       £82.40

                                           Balance May 2024       £341.22      


APPENDIX 2 Wildlife on the River 2023-2024

Once again, it has been a very disappointing 12 months regarding the lack of wildlife on and around our local stretch of the river and this years report virtually replicates that of last year.

It is somewhat encouraging that the numbers of common hedgerow birds such as Blue Tits, Great Tits, Siskins, Bullfinch and Wrens do appear to be increasing, and the Robins, Blackbirds, Long Tailed Tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Thrush are now becoming a common sight.
This year has seen a large number of Chiffchaff returning at their usual time of year.

On the river itself, the situation gives rise for concern.
Dipper sightings are very low and pairings are non-existent. Any birds that appear do not stay longer than a couple of days and the regular feeding grounds at Trehafren have been abandoned.
As I have remarked before, these little birds are usually a good indicator of water quality and their absence might suggest that our river is not as healthy as one might wish or that their food supply has consequently diminished to unsustainable levels.

Again, the Goosander numbers are still very low compared to previous years and there have only been one or two pairs sighted on our stretch of the river.
These birds form crèches of chicks attended by a single female and in 2023 the only crèche sighted was of 8 chicks, whereas in previous years it was not uncommon to see 20 to 30 in a single crèche.

Fortunately, throughout the year the Kingfisher has been frequently sighted along with the Cormorant. A Little Egret and even a Great Egret have also paid short visits.
So far, 2024 has seen very little activity from the Grey Heron and the Pied and Grey Wagtails are no longer common visitors to our riverbank margins.

Sadly, there has only been 1 confirmed sighting of an Otter on the river.

The weather pattern throughout the year has again resulted in high fluctuations in the water levels. Another disastrous year for the Mayfly hatch and a lack of the river weed has again left very little suitable habitat for the Banded Demoiselle to lay their eggs.
The lack of river weed has also deterred the Mute Swans from feeding on the river.

It should be noted that the above only relates to our stretch of the river from the Dulas Brook to Penarth Weir and is compiled from my individual sightings over the year.
However, it is comparative and measured against sightings taken over the past 12 years.
Hopefully, the ‘missing’ wildlife has just moved to better feeding grounds and will return when the situation improves on our stretch of the river.
The low water levels in Summer, combined with the baking Sun are possibly destroying the river invertebrates on which so much of our wildlife depends and this might be a factor in why the river bird populations are falling.

As reported last year, with so little wildlife being around, there has been little to post on the Facebook and RSC Website pages.
We keep hoping that the situation will improve over the next 12 months to remedy this.

Some good news. The frequent diesel spillages in the Green Brook appear to have been eradicated.