Welcome to the third Annual General Meeting of The Friends of Ingrebourne Valley and Hornchurch Country Park.


This has been a particularly eventful year for the Friends Group and the Ingrebourne Valley and Hornchurch Country Park in general.  Not only have we been the subject of international attention through the exploits of a flying weasel and his woodpecker companion, but work has finally begun on the long anticipated Visitor Centre.   I am delighted that Becky Gibson from Essex Wildlife Trust is here with us tonight to talk about the development of the Centre, the work of the Wildlife Trust and the heritage and wildlife of The Valley.


The Friends Group was officially formed on 21st April 2012 following an initial period of consultation with park users and local residents undertaken by the Ingrebourne Valley Project, a partnership between the London Borough of Havering and Essex Wildlife Trust.  The Ingrebourne Valley Project has now come to an end and I would like to place on record my sincere thanks and gratitude to Katy Haines and Carlos Izsak for all their hard work and assistance since our formation.  Without them, we would not have been able to achieve all that we have.


The Friends Group has five key aims and objectives:


1.    To promote the wide and responsible use of The Valley.
2.    To enhance The Valley for the benefit of the whole community.
3.    To improve the recreational, environmental and educational facilities of The Valley.
4.    To enhance, protect and promote the natural environment of The Valley
5.    To protect and promote any historical artefacts and the heritage of The Valley.


This year has seen the Friends Group develop and take on a more active role regarding events affecting The Valley.    The proposed landfill extension at Ingrebourne Hill had long been a cause of concern to our members.  Since October 2012, we had been in correspondence with both Havering Council and the applicant, Ingrebourne Valley Ltd, regarding the proposals. Having reviewed the final planning application to the Council, the Friends Group Committee was of the opinion that assurances previously given by both Havering Council and the applicant had not been kept.  Furthermore, the Committee did not agree that the purported benefits to the Country Park set out in the application warranted the destruction of the existing meadow land and hedgerows at the proposed site, or the denial of the green and open space to the general public for a period of in excess of three years.  Additionally, the Committee were not satisfied that the true environmental impact of the proposals, particularly on the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) had properly been addressed.


In view of these concerns, a Special Meeting of the Friends Group was held on 15 September 2014 to discuss the application, following which a vote was held to establish whether members wished to support, remain neutral or object to the proposed application.  By an overwhelming majority, members voted to oppose the application. Representations were then made to Havering Councils Planning Department based upon the issues raised.  We were delighted when the Council’s Planning Regulatory Committee refused the application.


One issue that we have long recognised is the lack of a permanent memorial to commemorate the role of the site in both the First and Second World Wars.  Our Historical Group have been working hard with both Havering Council and Essex Wildlife Trust throughout the year to rectify this.  We hope to hear positive news on our joint application for funding shortly for what promises to be an exciting project.


We are also contributing to the work of the Rivers Roding, Beam & Ingrebourne Catchment Partnership in conjunction with the Environment Agency, Natural England, Essex Wildlife Trust, Thames Chase and Thames 21, with a view to increasing the water quality of the River Ingrebourne.


Also, thanks to the work of one of our members, Dave McGough, together with Essex Wildlife Trust Living Landscapes, we have raised funds to acquire and erect a second Barn Owl box and arranged for any successful fledglings to be ringed under licence.


In the meantime our monthly work parties continue their sterling efforts to clean up the marsh and river, remove invasive non-native species and litter pick in general.  We have held history talks, cycling events, a dog show, bat walks and talks and more.  Monthly Committee meetings are held and plans are in place to further advance the above aims and objectives throughout 2015/16.


Whether your interest is in history, nature, cycling, walking or just enjoying our great Country Park, we look forward to seeing as many people as possible joining us to contribute to what promises to be another very busy and important year.

Dave Cook
Friends of Ingrebourne Valley and Hornchurch Country Park