Thursday, 17 April 2014

Have dogs, will travel

Beechenhurst Lodge
Forest of Dean
Sculpture Trail
20 March 2014

We based ourselves at the Forest Holidays luxury cabins in Coleford, and drove 15 minutes to Beechenhurst Lodge. Parking is £3.50 for the day, there are facilities and amenities on site. The whole trail takes about 3 hours (18 pieces). We did about half that, in a pleasant 1.5 hour circular walk. Perfect for our Boxer dog friends too.


Bois Mort

Iron Road





Hanging Fire


Monday, 24 March 2014

Fundraising at Farncombe Day Centre

I'm pleased to see that the Farncombe Day Centre fundraising page has been updated to point to the MyDonate online giving page, which I set up for the charity. Unfortunately, IT skills including social media networking and web marketing are sadly lacking in the day centre management team since I left*, and the day centre website is clumsy and not very helpful. Moreover, it completely misses the point of online giving, that donors can quickly and easily tick a box for the charity to claim Gift Aid.

When I joined the committee, I was surprised to learn that although the day centre is a registered charity and is registered for Gift Aid, it is never claimed on donations, unless the donor specifically requests to do so. So, donors like me, who understand these things, do make sure that our donations go further. Many people do not. This source of funding is 'money for jam'.

I understand that small charities find this paperwork onerous and time-consuming but in an ever-decreasing pot of money, it is essential. I therefore undertook to explore online giving to maximise donations and Gift Aid.

I recommended the BT MyDonate website for online giving because it makes no charge to charities to join. It also charges no more than 25pence for each debit or credit card donation. The charity donation page was easy to set up and can be updated to highlight specific fundraising challenges and events. 

I hope that you will take a look at the Farncombe Day Centre and consider a donation to this valuable community resource, which really needs your support. In addition, the management team is in urgent need of IT skills, particularly with regard to a dynamic web presence. Please do get in touch if you can help.

*Note to the management team at Farncombe Day Centre, and those who sponsor the day centre, award grants, volunteer and support it in many different ways. It should be made an urgent and immediate priority to up-skill in IT, web management, database management and social media to maximise income potential, be more efficient in day-to-day operations management and increase the appeal of the day centre to new users and attract local community partners. 

My case study on the long term sustainability of the Farncombe Day Centre is available by email

My previous posts on Farncombe Day Centre:

Disclaimer: The author was a member of the Farncombe Day Centre Executive Committee from February to December 2013, and was asked to step down following a disagreement with the Chairperson of the Committee, relating to the budget shortfalls and identifying such publicly.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

From St Jude to St Valentine

one week

Autumn arrived with a howling gale,
Trees fell,
Power cut.

A sigh of relief,
Storms over,
Winter on the way.
A promise of crisp days,
Perhaps snowy walks.
A time to hibernate.

But oh no!
Christmas ruined.
No power for days.
Cut off.
Is this Armageddon?

New Year starts in the same way.
Floods everywhere.
Ground water rising.
Power out,
Light the fire.

Again and again.
Wearing us down,
Down into the mud.

A few days in Singapore,
Dry, warm, sunshine,
Heals body and soul.

The final storm,
No Valentines Day for us.
Boiling water on the fire.
Has 2014 really come to this?

The road is a river,
The potholes large enough to swallow a truck.
Too wet to repair,
Helpful traffic cones are half submerged in eroding tarmac.
Watch out cyclist….

Next day, the jet stream is on its way north.
Signs of spring all around,
What ever  happened to winter?

* St Jude storm 28 October 2013
* Valentines Day  storm 14 February 2014

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

One Community: March 2014

One Community is a monthly photo project in which participants photograph their lives and communities with a theme in mind. The theme varies by month. The goal is to both showcase similarities and differences in our communities worldwide – and bring us all closer together in understanding through art.  
Words for March chosen by Sarah at Beauty School Dropout :
shower, calm, green, friendship
Join One Community: March 2014 at Beauty School Dropout

Welcome to my One Community, with thanks to Sarah.

Fancy a cool, natural shower
This inviting pool and rock shower is a pleasant reminder of holidays in 
my homeland South Africa, and of childhood play. 
Now living in the UK, my life is a far cry from this, not least because of the weather,
but also because you simply don't see scenes like this in suburban Surrey.
This pleasant location is my calm
The tree dominating the photo is Mom's tree. It is where we
scattered her ashes. It is where we come to reflect. 
Surrey is a wooded county, and this beech tree is typical
of the woodland near to my home. 
Quite different from the rugged scene of my childhood above.
Signs of spring are everywhere now. Green shoots and tender leaves.
The mild, wet winter has brought the fruit trees on quite early, 
perhaps too early for a good crop. Time will tell. 
I love the light and rain drops on these young leaves in my garden.
These two 'babies' were the best of friends. 
The dog in the foreground died in 2012. His best pal mourned his loss. 
In life, they never stopped playing, and read each other's next move perfectly. 
A very good example of friendship.

Photography by Lesley Beeton

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Standing up for Farncombe Day Centre

When you care about something, it's hard to let go. I just cannot let go of the Farncombe Day Centre, because I fear for its long-term future.

When I first became aware of the budget shortfalls I was quite shocked that measures had not already been put in place. My first suggestion was to start engaging more with the local community, to create a sense of pride and ownership. My hope was that by showing more people in Farncombe and Godalming what the day centre can provide for older people, it would generate more regular users of the centre, more volunteers and more donations. I also suggested joining Twitter, Facebook and setting up a new website - all of which would make the day centre more 'visible', but also more competitive. We all know that every pound donated to charity is someone's hard-earned cash, and the day centre had to show that it had earned your support and generosity.

Grants from the Council and Age UK had been slashed. New, harsh rental and facilities agreements have been implemented, ensuring that the day centre will pay its way to the council and council tax payers. The end result is a gloomy shortfall in operating budget. The day centre management team for all its other faults, have at least been prudent with savings. Excellent fundraising by the Friends of Farncombe Day Centre and some generous legacies have swelled the savings accounts. But no amount of shuffling funds around can disguise the fact that every time an older person attends the centre, it costs £16.

Think about it. £16 a day to provide a warm, safe environment for an older person. It hardly seems a lot. But that amount is set to rise, with the implementation of the new, tough financial regime imposed by Waverley Borough Council.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the day centre should be entirely funded by grants from public funds. In fact, I'm suggesting that the Farncombe Day Centre should be a social enterprise. A hub. A community space. A partnership. A place where diverse groups of users are welcomed to the centre, contributing to the revenue, generating more users and volunteers, a thriving place. And all this making sure that Farncombe Day Centre will continue to provide high quality engagements with older people who enjoy a hot meal, companionship and activities.

The ideal situation would be for the day centre management team to cover the operational costs (including staffing) through a sound, revenue-generating business plan. Grants should be applied for, to provide diverse programmes of activities. I also see opportunities for a food bank, an after school club, or other much-needed community facilities. Evening and weekends could also offer opportunities for small business or social enterprise organisations, groups or societies to meet. By offering this meeting space, the day centre would be increasing its network of partners, who in turn will be generating their own revenue streams, some of which will flow back to the day centre, creating a mutually beneficial, sustainable operating environment.

My case study on the long term sustainability of the Farncombe Day Centre is available by email

My previous posts on Farncombe Day Centre:

Disclaimer: The author was a member of the Farncombe Day Centre Executive Committee from February to December 2013, and was asked to step down following a disagreement with the Chairperson of the Committee, relating to the budget shortfalls and identifying such publicly.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Put the ugly face away

Photography by Lesley Beeton

Me, Myself and I

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Land ahoy!

It feels a bit like the island of Norney. We are surrounded by water - underground springs, flooded roads and waterlogged fields. Mr B even had a dream that he had to cross over a bridge to buy Chinese noodles from the neighbours! On his way back, he noticed a dog in the water. It was the Boxer puppy and he jumped in to river, I mean fast-flowing road, to rescue her. All this water is obviously taking its toll on our mental state.

Not to mention, the trees down, the power cuts, the potholes and a distinct lack of any dry, bright weather to cheer us up. Potholes? Yes, potholes! The road is awash with overflowing underground springs. The constantly running water has torn up the road surface. The hazardous holes have been reported to the authorities but so far there have been no repairs. So, each pothole has its own reference number, has been photographed and is on a  daily pothole watch. If you listen carefully, you'll hear the cars hitting them, one after another. That has got to amount to a huge repair claim on the Council. Shame on them.

We've been keeping up the routine with chicken keeping and dog walking, but all warm blooded creatures have now just about had enough of the sogginess. Today, we almost walked head long into a newly sprung pond in the woods. The water table has risen so much that ponds are now forming. One joker has named the area Shackleford Ponds. It certainly feels like it.*

The 'kennel on wheels' stinks. The dogs stink. All the dog towels stink. The house must stink, but I have gotten used to it. Pity the visitors who will be assaulted by the wet dog smell. Thank goodness the Boxers are short-haired and self-cleaning.

Now, I do have a little sports car too. I've not driven her since before Christmas as it is just too dangerous to get out of our road, let alone get her into town. Locked away in the garage, her battery is flat. Normally, I sort these things out myself, but I felt that Mr B hasn't exactly been pulling his weight around here recently. Something about having to see all those sick patients. But on Sunday, he was quick to offer to jump start the little car and give her  a short run around. Pity then that he connected up the jump leads the wrong way round and blew the main fuse in the car. Kaput! Apologies to the neighbours who heard the foul language and saw me beating Mr B with the service manual. I have yet to see the funny side of it.

And just in case you were in any doubt about the amount of rain we have had. My garden weather station recored 219mm, a whopping 3 times the average for January!

Thanks for reading, now watch out for the potholes...

*Edit: This is a light-hearted blog, but my heart goes out to all those affected by the storms and floods, especially those in Somerset.