GNS Annual General Meeting; and latest on Rough Bank

The 2013 GNS Annual General Meeting was hosted by the GNS Cirencester branch on Friday 22 March, with the Society’s President, Anna Jones, in the chair, and about 30 members present.  The Society’s Chairman, Mike Smart, presented an overview of the year’s activities; he recalled the Society’s role through which voluntary naturalists record natural history, emphasizing the special character of the previous year with its very wet weather that had severely affected flora and fauna; he noted the personnel changes at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, and indicated that contacts were under way to strengthen links between the two bodies.  He pointed out however that the Society had had limited success in its efforts to recruit and train young naturalists.  In conclusion he recalled the importance of the Society’s Recorders, who were among the best experts in their field in the county, who provided enormous support to the Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records, and were highly regarded by professionals and voluntary naturalists alike.

The Hon Treasurer, Andy Oliver, then reported that the Society was in a very favourable financial position, with considerable reserves which enabled it to make grants to a number of individual naturalists and to local and national bodies; among the latter were Butterfly Conservation as a contribution to the purchase of Rough Bank, support for the production of a Red Data Book on bryophytes in the county, support for the publication of the new “Birds of Gloucestershire” to be launched in November 2013, and a series of recording workshops on Cleeve Common.  The Treasurer however noted that such grants represented a considerable drain on the Society’s capital reserves, which did not cover annual running costs (notably publication of GNS NEWS, The Gloucestershire Naturalist, and the county Bird Report.  Given that the subscription of £8 per annum had not been raised for something like twenty years, the Executive Committee was proposing an increase of the annual subscription to £15 per household per annum, to ensure that the Society’s finances remained on a sustainable basis in the long term.  This proposal, already announced at last year’s AGM, was then put to the membership in a Special General Meeting, as provided in the Society’s Rules and Regulations, and was unanimously approved.

The Chairman of the Society’s Scientific and Publications Committee, David Scott-Langley, reported on the Committee’s activities in the previous year, paying tribute to Colin Twissell, the Recorder for Amphibians and Reptiles, and to Roger Gaunt, the Moths Recorder, both of whom were standing down after very many years in post.  He noted that the quarterly GNS NEWS, edited by Kate Kibble, had continued to maintain its high level of quality, while the 2012 edition of The Gloucestershire Naturalist had been larger than ever and contained reports on many taxa.  As Chairman of the Cirencester branch, he noted that a successful programme of indoor meetings had continued and that the branch would celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2014.

The Membership Secretary, Andrew Bluett, noted that the Society’s membership had held steady at around 560 members, and appealed to members, when they renewed their subscription, to sign Gift Aid forms.

After a tribute to Mrs Margaret Woodward, who was standing down from the Executive Committee after many years of active participation, the present Committee was re-appointed.  In her concluding remarks, the President expressed appreciation of the Society’s contribution to knowledge and conservation in the county, particularly in a context when governmental funding for such activities, notably as regards land-use planning, were diminishing.

In the second part of the meeting, a trio of speakers from the county branch of Butterfly Conservation gave a presentation on the newly-acquired reserve at Rough Bank.  This limestone grassland site on the Cotswold Scarp, at the head of the Slad Valley above Painswick, was known to be of special interest for moths and butterflies, notably Duke of Burgundy and (in the past) Large Blue butterflies.  Regular and planned monitoring of moths had been carried out by Guy Meredith in the previous year and had increased the number of moths recorded from 38 to over 260, including a number of national rarities.  Meanwhile Chris Wiltshire had carried out weekly monitoring sessions and, despite the miserable weather for butterflies, had recorded a wide variety of butterfly species.  GNS members greatly appreciated these presentations, which illustrated the value of regular and constant monitoring in the Society’s tradition.  Sue Smith noted that, whilst the reserve was open to the public, visiting by car was being discouraged until road access safety improvements had been made.  It was reassuring to hear that, with this acquisition, the major sites of importance for Lepidoptera on the Cotswold scarp are now under conservation management.

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