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Planting Pingle Wood. The start of Little Downham's Local Nature Reserve (LNR). More information and pictures from Downham LHAG.. Downham Conservation Group

Little Downham Parish Conservation Volunteers  
How formed, Constitution and Mission Statement  
How formed.
The Conservation Volunteers was brought into being by Little Downham Parish Council during 1995. The formation grew out of a decision by the Parish Council to create a Preservation Area to the south of the Village involving the purchase, with the help of grants and donations by parishioners, of a pair of adjacent fields along the west side of Hurst Lane and by the setting up of a network of walks by linking byways, droves and public and permissive footpaths. The newly formed group's first major task was the organisation in December 1995 of the first public planting event when 500 trees and shrubs were planted to form Pingle Wood in the smaller of the two fields. During the period since this initial planting, the Volunteers have organised further planting events, a number of work sessions such as cutting gaps in hedges for the kissing gates and bridges which were necessary to provide the connected circular walks and arranged walks and other events to enable and encourage people to make use of  the area. Early in 1998 the Volunteers agreed to become the contact group for the Cambridgeshire Parish Path Partnership Scheme which has brought with it finance and expertise to clear, drain and level Clayway Lane, restore an ancient pond and initiate a complete survey of all rights of way within the parish.
Constitution.
The membership of the Conservation Volunteers is open to all parishioners. An Annual General Meeting is held during March, at which a committee comprising Chairperson, Secretary, Publicity, Parish Path Representative, Tree Warden is elected for the coming year. Other elected members may be required to meet the needs of special projects. There is no need of a Treasurer as all financial management matters are handled by the Parish Council. When management finance is needed an application will be made to the Parish Council. This constitution may be enlarged in the fullness of time should, for  example, there be a need for social activities which could not be funded by the Council.
Mission Statement.
In conjunction with the Parish Council, the Volunteers take a leading role in the management, improvement, maintenance and promotion of the local environment for the benefit of parishioners and wildlife both now and for future generations.
Background and description.
  Downham Parish Conservation Group was formed in 1995 as a result of the Parish Council acquiring two parcels of 'fen edge' land to the south of the village. The group, with a core membership of some 20 parishioners, saw themselves as providing advice for the Parish Council as well as carrying out practical tasks. With the group established, circular walks were developed with the provision of kissing gates and bridges where necessary. The group's intentions were also to provide opportunities for the community to become involved in the conservation of their small piece of countryside. The Parish Council then joined the County Council's Parish Path Partnership scheme with the group beginning to manage the Parish footpath and byway system. With the diverse expertise within the group it was decided to write a constitution and mission statement and suggest further schemes for the Parish Council to consider. This led to our Millennium Project, the complete rebuild of a Cartshed from floor up. This £29000 project was managed in its entirety by the group with total 'in kind1 labour element of 715 hours. Latterly, further land was purchased, and with advice from English Nature, (now Natural England), it was decided to declare the whole of the Parish holdings as a statutory Local Nature Reserve (LNR), the first in East Cambridgeshire. The group then had an exciting opportunity, supported by the Parish Council, to create a Community Orchard using old Cambridgeshire varieties on land adjacent to the LNR that the County Council will lease to the Parish for initially, 60 years. Now follows a snapshot of achievements by our community and the group: •   
Mass planting of Pingle Wood (in excess of 400 volunteers).  
Start cattle grazing in Myles meadow (and produce an income).  
Mass planting of Pingle Wood shrubs (in excess of 350 volunteers).   
Complete survey of Parish footpaths, byways and bridleways (3 volunteers).   
Mass planting and creation of 250metres of new hedge (150 volunteers).   
Produce saleable Parish Walks leaflets (2).   
Several years of Easter egg hunts (in excess of 100 participants).    
Undertake village footpath management, this now provides income (4 volunteers).     Undertake 'Food for Thought' survey (20 volunteers).   
De-silting a pond in Myles meadow and creation of overflow channel (1 project manager).     Hedgerow management at Hurst Lane (1 project manager).   
Acquire The Holts (spinney and meadows).     
Providing stock fencing to enable sheep grazing to commence (1 volunteer).   
Complete restoration of a Cartshed to provide interpretation of our fenland environment and a home for old fenland agricultural implements and village made cart. Made more exciting by having a Barn raising event on apple day 2001. (1 Project manager, 7 volunteers and in excess of 250 barn raisers)   
Enable the Parish Council to declare East Cambridgeshires first LNR.   
Current project, in what was once a massive orchard area, to enable a Community orchard to be established based on old Cambridgeshire varieties.
None of these projects and events could have been undertaken and enjoyed by many hundreds of people without the support of the Community. Within the last year, the 'City of Ely Watch' group for young people have linked with the Parish conservation group to hold meeting and events in the Millennium Cartshed, i.e. Butterfly and Bat ID. The expertise of the group has helped support other organisations in the County with ideas and practical assistance i.e. A woodland owned by Waterbeach PC, a new woodland at Witchford and helping a new conservation group to set up at Fordham. The group has liaised and will continue to liaise, with the East of England Apple and Orchard Project from whom it is hoped to obtain the fruit trees. The EEAoP has pledged support for the procurement of new lost varieties and ongoing pruning training especially in the formative years. The group is not directly funded, it provides advice and suggestions on suitable projects including funding possibilities to the Parish Council, who then decide whether the project would be of benefit to parishioners and our environment. After a resolution has been passed, the group would put together a grant application package for the project, and upon acceptance, commence the works with the finance being administered by the Parish Clerk. Over the past few years several projects have been completed as follows:   
2000/2001
Complete design and rebuild from ground up of a two bay Cartshed, the
bays to contain a) an area for educational use including interpretive panels and b)
an area for showing old agricultural implements including a vintage horse drawn cart
that was made in the village.
Total project cost                                                £29,766.06
Heritage Lottery Fund (51%)                               £15,180.57
East Cambridgeshire District Council                    £11,200
Parish precept                                                      £ 3,385.49
In kind labour    715 hours @ £6/hr                       £4290 
2001/2002
Acquisition of fenland meadow and secondary woodland area to be
managed as a nature reserve. It should be noted that in 2003, in conjunction with
English Nature, the Parish land holdings in the vicinity of the proposed community
orchard, was declared a statutory Local Nature Reserve (LNR).
Total project cost                                                £21,970
Waste Recycling Environmental (WREN)              £8,095
East Cambridgeshire District Council                     £6,000
Year 1 costs (ECDC)                                           £3,575 (stock fencing, gates and
interpretation)
Parish Precept                                                      £2,800
Parish Collection                                                  £1,500
In kind labour (consultancy) 18hrs@£20/hr             £360 
2002/2003
De-silting Myles meadow pond, create new 250metre overflow ditch,
stock fence to exclude cattle and reduce 250m hedgerow.
Total project cost                                             £2,414
Cambridgeshire County Council                           £400
Parish precept                                                 £2,014
In kind labour (consultancy) 10hrs @ £20/h r     £200
2006/2007
Establish Community Orchard using old Cambridgeshire varieties      
Total Project cost                                              £12,945.32      
Assistance from DEFRA (a Rural Development Project), Downham Feoffees and local businesses.