True to form the Chairman, Ian Campbell, completed the Annual General Meeting in half an hour flat. Reports were given and approved, Officers and Committee re-elected* in that time but there was a snag. The joint report from Chairman and Secretary highlighted two areas of concern, one of which will require detailed discussion at a special meeting in the autumn; they felt that the Society had reached a plateau – regular meetings and the newsletter were enjoyed by all members, but few were willing to take on active roles. Even with a sizeable membership other organizations have folded when no one felt able to take on leadership roles. This would be a great pity as Appleby is a town with a fascinating history which the recently set up archive is striving to record. Volunteers are working hard to catalogue the materials we already have and questions about local events and characters are beginning to be referred to it, answers are being found and help given.
[*Editor’s note: Your Comittee: Chairman – R Ian Campbell; Secretary – Vivienne Gate; Treasurer – Rosemary Spence; Committee Members – Bob Burns, Mandy Burns, Maggie Clowes, Eric Fleming, Judith Sowerby and Lance Thwaytes.]
Funding this important work is the other area of concern. We have to pay a rent of £800 to the Town Council for use of the room; this is a heavy drain on the resources of a society whose main income comes from subscriptions. Efforts are being made to obtain grants – not easy in the current economic climate.
But not all was gloom and doom. The Chairman paid tribute to Graham Coles, the inspirational, and sometimes controversial, face of the Society for so long. Thanks to the generosity of Anne the archive is enriched by the donation of his meticulous research. Materials were also gratefully received from Mr Brian Shaw of New Zealand. In March the Society celebrated its twentieth anniversary, an occasion marked by the attendance of the Mayor, Councillor Dot Anderton, of the Reverend Peter Norton, an erstwhile committee member and of Keith Morgan, a previous chairman and celebrated by a most splendid cake. A series of interesting talks during the year had made everyone look at their environment with greater curiosity from date stones on buildings to field names to signposts.
The Society is not just concerned with the past. Proposals for a large housing development in the town prompted the publication in Heart of Eden magazine of information about the proposed scheme together with a questionnaire to find out what was the attitude of townspeople to these proposals. We received a 10% response, with many respondents raising interesting points and it is hoped that, when it comes to planning permission, we will have a detailed document containing these responses. The other current issue is the state of the pavements. We sent photographs to the Chief Executive of Cumbria County Council pointing out that they were not only unsightly but dangerous (another resident has fallen and been seriously injured since the meeting) and completed our own survey of the flaking pavements. We estimated that over half the flags were deteriorating badly; Cumbria County Council thought only 221 needed replacing! (The latest information is that these might be replaced by the end of the year or even as late as March 2012.)
The Society is immensely grateful to John Falshaw who stepped in at the last moment as our planned speaker was regretfully unable to come. His talk was entitled “Wonderful Westmorland” and so it was. It was like going on a guided tour with a friend as he shared pictures of many favourite spots and made us realise how much beauty and interest there is contained in a relatively small area. Your reporter filled several pages of a small notebook with the places we visited that evening. We went from the church in Grasmere where Wordsworth is buried to the tin chapel by the A66 at Crackenthorpe, from the Langdales and Howgills to Haweswater and Windermere, from Lady Anne’s Pillar and Brougham Castle to the Bridge House in Ambleside, from the Three Shire Stone in Little Langdale to the Kirk Stone at the top of Kirkstone Pass. John’s stall selling goods for Arthritis U.K was well patronised. He gave us a most enjoyable evening.