FoRS – Friends of Ramsgate Seafront

FoRS Chairpersons Report 2016/2017

Chair’s Report 2016-17 Friends of Ramsgate Seafront.

The Friends of Ramsgate Seafront has gone from strength to strength in the past 18 months. Following the formation of The Ramsgate Action Group (RAG), we have now stepped back entirely from the roll of being a scrutiny group. This is now the chosen roll of RAG who our previous Chair, John Davies, is now chairing.
Since March 5th 2016, we have focused entirely on volunteering and assisting other groups to find their feet, so that they can undertake rejuvenation of open areas local to them.

Friends of Ramsgate Seafront had to ensure that we had suitable Insurance in place to cover volunteers undertaking gardening and clearing activities, with this in place, we have now been able to assist The Friends of Charlotte Court under the supervision of Sally Rosenbaum, The friends of Albion Gardens under the guidance of Margarita Moscoso and the Friends of Wellington Crescent to take action, improving their chosen areas with the volunteers that they have working with them, suitably insured. We have provided high viz vests and gloves too, to get them going. We have been able to include their activities under our insurance cover, at no cost to themselves.

FoRS has had other changes besides that of changing the nature of our focus from scrutiny, to preservation and enhancement. We have had new active members who have joined the committee, whilst some have stood down, after years of hard work.
We sadly have had to say, a hopefully temporary au revoir to Kandy Jones, who had had a most pivotal role when FoRS was a scrutiny group. John Davis has taken a back seat role as vice chair, as his attentions are now re-directed to RAG.

We have welcomed with open arms, new active Committee members Barry Latchford, Sharon Blayney, Sarah Barker, Ian Wyper and Morgan Harris. Sharon has introduced us to huge availability of students from East Kent College and brought possible funding sources and funding application knowledge. Sarah has been a stalwart member of all of our activities. Ian has been helping with re-vamping our website, Barry is a most skilled researcher. We also welcome Morgan Harris – who’s multitude of years managing parks and open spaces we look forward to accessing his horticultural knowledge of planting recommendations for the sea air, wild swept garden spaces along our seafront.

Andy King has been the most tireless and dedicated secretary to the organisation. I cannot thank or admire his diligence and tenacity enough, as he has battled with the multitude of serious frustrations that we have dealt with in the past year.

The 5th March 2016 marked the beginning of what many passers by and commentators on our Facebook page have noted, as the transformation of the Winterstoke Gardens and Chine, – this area having been totally neglected by TDC (the owners of the site) due to funding restrictions for well over 20 years.
Dave Steele had put in many hours work over previous years, cutting back the overgrowth and cutting back trees, and would have been a source of great knowledge and experience had he have not had to stop working on the gardens due to health issues, he’ll be missed I am sure.

By the time FoRS became involved for a second time, these Grade 11 listed buildings and gardens had sunk once again into total neglect.
So, we began a weekly program of taking care – weeding, pruning, sweeping and planting.

However we then entered into the near lightless tunnel of bureaucracy as we set out to take over the management of the area.
The insurance was the first hurdle, then there was the risk assessments, method statements, then there was the management plan and the five year plan.

Now whilst I might be able to write the list in a mere sentence, you could probably have walked around the planet in the length of time of the to’ing and fro’ing of this bureaucratic nightmare which March 2017 is entering its tenth month, and we still do not have the agreement in place.

Admittedly, there have been many changes of head of department. Liaison and follow through were obviously not top of the list during these machinations and after many sending of the same sets of documents, stating gain and again what is in our proposed management plan in response to further and further layers of fresh questioning (which Andy had already answered many times before), we are now (hopefully) very close to getting the management plan agreed. We can then, set out seeking funding, setting up a Community Interest Company so that we can organise and facilitate the complete Restoration and Rejuvenation of the Winterstoke Gardens, Sun Shelter and fountains, so that this gem of Ramsgate can become the attraction and facility that it most rightfully should.

Over the past 56 weeks, we have worked in excess of 756 volunteer hours in the gardens, chine, lower esplanade and sea garden and have collected over 748 TDC sacks of garden and other waste and planted nearly 1500 plants and bulbs.

We are very excited that Ramsgate has become one of the first of 10 Heritage Action Zones in the UK, hopefully as the group entrusted by Thanet District Council and responsible for the future care of the Winterstoke Gardens FoRS look forward to working closely with Historic England and the Ramsgate Heritage Action Zone group, possibly as a ‘Partner Project’.

We look forward to further developing our plan to revitalise and rejuvenate this beautiful, almost forgotten, part of Ramsgate, an area we will be taking to an entire new dimension by reducing crime, creating new business, holding regular events, publicity and more thus drawing many new visitors into the area.

At the beginning of my Chair’s Annual report, I stated how FoRS had worked with other groups to help them get off the ground so to finish this year and to begin our next exciting year, we are taking our joint working and support to new heights with East Kent College on May 3rd and other dates in May as we help them to gain wonderful experience repairing and rejuvenating significant areas along the seafront, along with the Ramsgate Society and the greatly valued support of our wonderful Mayor –Trevor Shonk, the Chair of TDC and local Councillor Stuart Piper and the most responsive and dedicated Councillor for Coastal Communities Suzanne Brimm – who has been our most loyal and dedicated supporter.

So, it is with excitement that I look forward to the next exciting year of FoRS – Friends of Ramsgate Seafront.

With many thanks to our lovely generous volunteers who give up many hours of their free time, as everyone of the team already mentioned do:-
Andy King, Sharon Blayney, Sarah Barker, Barry Latchford, David Telford, Alistair, Keith Mann, Jennifer Hartly, Sarah Turner, Steve, Khusro Jaleel, Gary Anderson, Ian Whyper, Nicola Werner, Sandy Kentfield, John Davies, Kandy Jones.

Clara Gibson
FoRS Chair.