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Trustees Week

A chance to celebrate BCA's Volunteer Trustees

The dedicated trustees of BCA volunteer their time and knowledge selflessly and deserve recognition, especially during Trustees Week. They and their efforts are often hidden in the background, but they play an indispensable role in guiding and nurturing Buxton's leading local environmental charity, enabling it to achieve its goals in looking after the built and natural environment of Buxton. Their voluntary service is a testament to the power of community spirit.

Coming from a diverse range of backgrounds and bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to their roles their contributions extend far beyond the boardroom; they offer strategic direction, foster innovation, and ensure that the charity's mission remains aligned with the needs of the community it serves, all while volunteering their time without any financial compensation.

Their motivation is fueled by a genuine desire to make Buxton a better place to live in and to visit, and their unwavering commitment to the causes they support is inspiring.


It’s time to hide when the witches come out to ride

Getting into the Spirit of Halloween

As some back ground to Poole’s Cavern’s Creepy Cavern Tours in the cave of terrors, we have done a little research on the meaning and origins of Halloween.

Halloween is celebrated on the night of October 31st, and has a fascinating history that goes back centuries. While today it's a time for costumes, trick and treating, and haunted houses, the origins of Halloween are rooted in ancient traditions and beliefs.

Let's take a journey through time to discover the mysterious beginnings of this traditional holiday.

Halloween's origins can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain, the festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a time when darkness prevailed, and the veil between the living and the dead was believed to be at its thinnest. This made it easier for spirits and supernatural entities to cross over into the mortal world.

During Samhain, Celts would light bonfires to ward off evil spirits and offer sacrifices to appease the wandering dead. People would also wear costumes, typically made from animal skins, to disguise themselves from malevolent spirits. This tradition of dressing up continues in the form of modern Halloween costumes.

In the early eighth century, the Catholic Church adopted the pagan celebrations of Samhain by introducing All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows' Day) on November 1st. This was a day to honour all the saints and martyrs. The night before All Saints' Day became known as All Hallows' Eve, which eventually evolved into Halloween.

The Church's influence didn't eliminate the ancient traditions entirely, though. Many of the customs, such as lighting bonfires and wearing costumes, persisted in a somewhat altered form, now intertwined with Christian rituals.

Halloween, as we know it today, took shape in the United States during the 19th century. Irish and Scottish immigrants brought their Halloween customs to North America, where they mingled with other traditions and morphed into the holiday we celebrate now here in the United Kingdom.

One key development was the widespread practice of trick-or-treating. It became popular in the early 20th century and involved children going from house to house, asking for treats or money in exchange for singing songs, telling jokes, or performing tricks. The idea behind this was to prevent mischievous pranks, a nod to the earlier custom of "souling" where people would offer prayers for the dead in exchange for food.

Over time, Halloween also embraced a love for spooky and macabre elements. The holiday became a time for ghost stories, haunted houses, and horror movies, solidifying its status as a celebration of all things eerie and mysterious.

So, Halloween is a holiday with deep roots in ancient Celtic traditions and Christian rituals, which has evolved over centuries to become the festive, spooky, and sweet-filled celebration we know today. While its origins are connected to the transition from harvest to winter, it's now a time for people to revel in the thrill of the unknown, dress up in costumes, and enjoy the excitement of trick-or-treating. As you prepare for this year's Halloween, remember the rich history and traditions that have contributed to the holiday's enduring allure. Happy Halloween! And if you are feeling brave enough, book onto one of our Creepy Cavern Tours.

Remember, It’s time to hide when the witches come out to ride.

BCA Woods Migrant Bird Report

The status of migrant woodland specialists Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher & Pied Flycatcher in BCA and other woodlands in Buxton by Rowan Wakefield

Woodland specialist birds are species restricted to or highly dependent on particular
woodland habitats, and as a group have suffered significant declines, whereas woodland
generalists tend to have more stable or increasing populations. Data from the 2021
Woodland Bird Index, shows that populations of woodland specialists are 53% lower than
in 1970.

Appropriate management of woodlands is important for protecting diversity in birds.
Specialists have favoured niche habitats and often require particular woodland structure.
Under-management of woodlands can lead to loss of clearings, glades and rides and
changes in age structure, and is an important cause of decline, alongside woodland
fragmentation. Reductions of deadwood, wet features and invertebrate populations are
further causes of decline. In some situations predation can be a limiting factor. Climate
change can affect breeding times and productivity, and creates issues on migration. All
three species in this report may be affected by issues outside the UK in the birds’ wintering
grounds, but the focus here is local populations and management.

The three species chosen for the report, whilst not the only migrant woodland specialists in
Buxton and the surrounding area, represent Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) with
relatively low populations nationally.

Breeding Bird Surveys have been conducted since 2020 in BCA woods, covering all
species in certain years and migrants throughout the period. Where possible, territories of
the three focus species have been revisited to assess breeding success. In 2023, Burbage
Edge Plantation has been studied in addition to BCA woods. The report presents data from
the surveys, and explores ways to improve monitoring and habitats for these species.

To read the full paper click on the link below

The status of migrant woodland specialists Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher & Pied Flycatcher in BCA and other woodlands in Buxton

Green space is not enough, we need to reclaim the streets

Jon White outlined his ideas for a cleaner, safer Buxton to BCA members at their recent members talk

Childrens art in Reggio Emilia

There’s gonna be a riot down in Water Street tonight

“Green space is not enough, we need to reclaim the streets” was the title of the BCA members talk given by Jon White, BCA trustee and Chair of the Places and Spaces group.

But this was not rallying cry to rip up the paving stones, and man the flaming barricades, wearing yellow vests, clutching copies of the Guardian and shouting "What do we want? Radical change, when do we want it? in due course."

This was no revolutionary manifesto but a considered and studious journey from Reggio Emilia an Italian city with a high proportion of budding child Caravaggio's amongst its 170,000 inhabitants, to the not so quiet back streets of Buxton, the quarry town, nestling amongst the greenery of the planation woodlands once of the Chatsworth estate and now beloved and cared for by Buxton Civic Association, a town dotted with Georgian buildings against a splatter of more mundane functional architecture. In essence a quarry town, with a bit of Georgian attitude.

We heard about the transformation of a neglected grot spot into a beautiful and award winning sensory garden, but how the peace and quiet was spoiled by the screech of brakes, as cars competed for the lack of space on the narrow congested and badly planned road system. We were shown pictures of minor accidents.

But all this could change, if only sensible policies were adopted and a one way system created to allow wide pavements and freedom for the pedestrian to stroll and amble along and across the road as the fancy took him. (Or her) The air would be cleaner, the environment safer, it would be a better place to live.

Some argued that this was too little, that the car should be banned from the streets all together. What we needed were brave politicians, to champion the rights of the pedestrian over the motorist, to force through the changes needed. Some recalled fondly of playing cricket on the backstreets of Bradford.

But the argument and evidence was compelling. The audience was won over, some went away excited hoping for change, others convinced but frustrated by the reality that in Britain today change is hard, and resisted by those in charge.

Perhaps we do need to reclaim the streets, to man the barricades. Perhaps.

But as people left for the sanctuary of their homes they were greeted by a heavy and persistent rain, a timely reminder perhaps of why reclaiming the streets is not as easy here as it is in a warmer clime.

Incomers provide fresh ideas

The child has a hundred languages

Clive Beattie 1942 to 2023

Paul Dinsdale, BCA Chair 2009 to 2015 pays a personal tribute to Clive Beattie BCA Chair 1996 to 2009

Clive Beattie 1942 to 2023. BCA Chair 1996 to 2009

"Buxton Civic Association owes Clive Beattie a huge debt of gratitude for his vision, determination, and commitment. Without his leadership at a crucial time, the Association of which we can all be justifiably proud, might not even exist today."

Clive Beattie was born and raised in a modest terraced house on Buxton’s most well-hidden street – Davenham Avenue – but became one of the town’s most prominent and well-respected figures.

Locally schooled, his intelligence, ambition, and abilities were apparent early in life, and his academic performance enabled him to pursue his further education at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) which was, sixty years ago, considered highly controversial and ‘avant-garde’ by a disapproving traditional academic establishment.

However, it provided the perfect springboard from which Clive could launch a career in professional business management.

Not that he was noted as being overly academic. London life provided a host of social opportunities for a personable, good natured, and generous young man-about town. Back in the Peak District, he also enjoyed local stardom in rock bands with other friends, including another well-known local larger-than-life personality, Barry Blood. Clive’s affability and ever-youthful good looks had Buxton’s teenage girls’ swooning at his feet – which, he freely admitted, was not the most arduous cross to bear…

He had decided on a career in management at a propitious time, when British industry was rebuilding in the post-War era. Large organisations were discovering that, in Harold Wilson’s promised future age of “white-hot technology,” commercial success could no longer be achieved by promoting junior and middle-management ‘from the shop floor’ and relying on family and wealthy contacts to fill comfortable spaces around the boardroom table. It was necessary to have senior people who understood the machinery of commerce, who could objectively evaluate market opportunities, undertake strategic planning – and make hard choices unfettered by historic family ties or nebulous ‘loyalties’. People who knew the difference between sales and marketing; could undertake ‘SWOT’ analyses, and, unlike many of their predecessors, actually understand a balance sheet.

Such was the world waiting to welcome a young, ambitious, and well-qualified Clive Beattie.

His first major employer was British Steel, and he had many a tale to tell about the ‘laissez-faire’, hard-drinking, boardroom culture prevalent at the time amongst his co-directors at the Company’s various satellite businesses. Clive gravitated towards an interest in transport, (and always claimed that one of his close colleagues in senior management was personally responsible for the transformative re-naming of the unromantic business of ‘road haulage’ into what is now universally, and more glamorously termed, ‘logistics’).

Fortuitously, (but also in the basis of his personal acumen and performance) he came to the attention of Sir Peter Thompson, who would become the Chairman of what was then the ailing British Road Services (BRS). Clive was ‘headhunted’ by Sir Peter, and they became lifelong friends and business colleagues – a substantially golf-based relationship that endured long after retirement, when they formed, together with other ex-colleagues, a small group of private investors, who had made their fortunes on the public flotation of BRS, in it’s newly minted identity as National Freight Corporation (NFC).

Peter Thompson had determined that the only viable future for NFC was as a private company, which he led very successfully as a ‘management buy-out,’ on the basis of employee subscriptions, underpinned by support from major clearing banks. The flotation, in 1982 was a major success. Thousands of rank-and-file employees invested an average of £700 each, with senior executives, including Clive, scraping together every penny they could find to make major investments.

Their confidence was not misplaced, with the newly-privatised business generating quite astonishing annual returns and capital appreciation, enabling Clive and his associates to effectively ‘retire’ at an unusually early age.

Clive returned to Buxton as a wealthy man in his early forties, having no need of regular employment. He chose to dedicate himself thereafter to setting up, and sponsoring a range of local businesses, and, crucially, involving himself in various prominent local charities. He is, perhaps, most publicly remembered for his role in the rebirth of Buxton Opera House. As an early member of the Opera House Trust, he served as a Director under the dynamic leadership of Councillor Margaret Millican, eventually succeeding her as Chairman.

Again, at the instigation of the redoubtable Mrs. Millican, he became a local political activist, and served for a few years as a Borough Councillor, before deciding that such responsibilities were irreconcilable with his need to spend the majority of each winter indulging his passion for skiing in the Val d’Isere region, where his abilities and enthusiasm for ‘black runs’ and challenging off-piste skiing (matched only by his powers of ‘apres-ski’ endurance) are still described as ‘legendary’ by those who regularly accompanied him.

Clive joined the Board of the then Buxton & District Civic Association around 1990, at a time when its situation must have been a source of some frustration to him, given his wide experience and training in professional business management. The Civic Association had been founded, like many similar organisations throughout the UK, on the basis of giving concerned local residents a rallying point from which they could challenge unpopular public sector policies and decisions, and also promote the preservation and enhancement of Buxton’s unique environmental and architectural heritage.

It would be fair to say, with no intended criticism, that, whilst the Association’s directors during the first quarter of a century, were, indeed, worthy and well-educated ‘concerned citizens’ from many walks of life, they were almost exclusively ‘employees’ from both the public and private sectors, mostly with little or no experience of running a business.

And, seemingly without many directors being aware of the fact, BCA had, in the ‘seventies, become a business.

Transformation from the ‘traditional,’ non-trading civic association model, began when BCA agreed to take over ownership and responsibility for the substantial deciduous woodlands that surround the town, and which had been in the ownership of the dukes of Devonshire for at least a hundred and fifty years. These woodlands required substantial improvement and ongoing maintenance, which Chatsworth regarded as an unwelcome financial burden, as they could see no way of ‘monetizing’ the sites, which were, and still are, protected by conservation legislation.

The Chatsworth Trustees must have been delighted, having successfully offloaded a pure financial liability on to the shoulders of a proud Civic Association, in the guise of a generous gift to the town.

It eventually became apparent to BCA’s Directors that they now needed a substantial and steady source of income, with which to fund the management and preservation of the woodlands, and this led to the purchase of Poole’s Cavern, which had been closed for nearly a decade.

In 1976, a purpose-built visitor centre was erected, which housed cloakrooms, staff offices and an exhibition relating to the Cavern and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, subsequent boards seemed to think this was ‘job done,’ and the business of running Poole’s Cavern was given little consideration thereafter, compared with the higher public profile of crusades against perceived local authority philistinism, and unwelcome planning applications.

Meanwhile, the costs of maintaining hundreds of acres of woodlands, some of which were intensively used for recreational activity by both locals and tourists, together with running Buxton’s primary ‘visitor attraction,’ continued to rise. A full-time manager now required administrative support, and an increasing rota of part-time permanent and seasonal cave guides. As more of the manager’s time was taken up with matters relating to running and promoting Poole's Cavern, it became necessary to hire in forestry expertise for major interventions in the woodland.

The financial burden on BCA’s ‘cash cow’ became more and more onerous – but there had been no investment in The Cavern for twenty years. The accompanying exhibition was tired and dated, and there was only a desultory attempt to offer plastic cups of lukewarm tea, coffee, and Mars bars from a dilapidated hut that was only intermittently unlocked by a tour guide, shortly before and after a trip into the Cavern. In the visitor centre, a wooden signpost, and a life-size model of a lime-burner’s hovel, stood incongruously and self-consciously on an expanse of polished vinyl flooring...

Income from The Cavern had peaked, and was now reducing, and by the time of Clive Beattie’s arrival, the Association’s overall financial position was in steady and increasing decline. It was an unsustainable situation.

Clive took over the Chairmanship of the Board in 1996, following the sad and untimely death of his predecessor, Dr. Lynda Carr, and after an initial period of assessment, he persuaded his more traditionally minded and risk-averse colleagues that bold initiatives were needed if BCA was, indeed, to survive at all.

He then embarked on a campaign to recruit new directors – particularly those who had relevant business and professional expertise that would be required in the hoped-for renaissance of the association.

Persuasive and affable as he was, he was almost invariably successful in this endeavour. He introduced Bill Preece, then Managing Director of Otter Controls Ltd, one of Buxton’s biggest and most prominent employers. Bill was very well-known around the town, and highly respected. He was also, fortuitously, a member of EMDA (East Midlands Development Agency) which facilitated the Association’s applications for substantial development grants. Bill’s presence also reassured Board members, with his locally-established track record of a high level of commercial competence and reliability.

Clive also recruited John Boardman, the brother of internationally acclaimed climber, Pete Boardman. John’s career had been spent in the banking industry, and he was therefore not only a ‘safe pair of hands’ in the professional direction of BCA’s finances, and in financial forward planning, but also could produce and present the detailed and copious financial evidence demanded in support of grant applications and banking facilities.

Paul Dinsdale was added to the team, due to his professional background in architecture and planning, and was joined by Sarah Gillespie, a local accountant, and solicitor Martin Wragg – an exceptionally conscientious Company Secretary, who still serves in the post today.

Peter Phillipson, BCA’s current Chairman, was also persuaded to join the Board, and crucially brought his skills as an established professional consultant ecologist, to bear on the Association’s estates.

Having assembled his team, Clive tasked colleagues to plan a sustainable and successful future for the Association. In addition to recruiting a team of professionals he implemented a significant reform with the introduction of specialist committees to streamline decision making and improve the management of the business. In the opening years of the new millennium, it was glaringly apparent that there was no time to lose, as annual turnover steadily decreased, and nominal profitability evaporated.

It was obvious to all that there had to be a step-change in income generation – and on a large scale. The first obvious step was to completely rejuvenate the Poole’s Cavern ‘offering’ to increase visitor numbers, and to encourage them to stay longer and spend more.

Ambitious plans were drawn up for the extension of the visitor centre, to incorporate an attractive retail area, and a substantial, fully-equipped, and welcoming cafeteria. Capital for the development was raised, in part, by generous grants from EMDA, and the remainder by substantial bank borrowing – something that would have been unthinkable to previous generations of conservatively-minded Directors. The proven abilities, professionalism, and confidence of Clive, Bill, and John Boardman successfully underpinned the faith of their co-Directors, as well as BCA’s bankers!

Alongside the development of the Poole’s Cavern site, an entirely fortuitous opportunity arose to allow the Grin Low woodland to, itself, generate some of the income needed for its own future management, when the wife of a Board member happened upon an advertisement for ‘Go-Ape’ whilst on holiday. “Couldn’t you do this at Poole’s Cavern?” she asked.

Clive quickly authorised a colleague to approach Go-Ape’s owners, who expressed a keen interest, as they were in the early stages of rolling out the ‘Go-Ape’ brand nationally. All their previous adventure courses had been sited in Forestry Commission woodlands, and a large mature deciduous forest on a steep slope presented an intriguing new challenge. Also, Buxton was within easy reach of a vast tourist catchment area, and the impending improvement of on-site facilities would also attract Go-Ape clients. There were obvious benefits for both parties, and Clive was highly proactive in negotiating a long lease of part of the Grin Low woodland in exchange for a substantial annual rental addition to BCA’s income stream.

The new Poole’s Cavern ‘experience,’ with its expanded retail area, a new and interactive exhibition area (professionally curated by commissioned specialists), and a highly successful and profitable cafeteria, ably managed by Paula Pickering from its outset to the present day, proved to be immensely popular with visitors, gaining awards and recognition on a regional and national scale.

Further improvements followed, as Clive instigated a state-of-the-art programmable LED lighting installation throughout the Cavern, which ended previous problems of unwanted organic growth in the cave due to the heat output of traditional tungsten lighting, as well as slashing BCA’s electricity bills. Again, this necessitated grant applications and further bank support, all of which Clive personally and successfully oversaw.

Another of his initiatives was to encourage and facilitate access to the Cavern for non-ambulant visitors, as all of the Peak District’s other show caves are only available to those visitors able to walk and negotiate steps. Local stonemasons were engaged to level and pave the whole of the entrance passage into and including the start of the main chamber, so that families with wheelchair users could all enjoy the experience together.

Many more ambitious and exotic schemes were discussed, but never left the drawing board, including breaking through the boulder choke to extend the Cavern into suspected further chambers deeper in in the hillside, and tunnelling a new ‘return passage’ from the far end of the Cavern, which would have increased the visitor capacity of the cave at peak times.

It quickly became apparent that all the improvements that Clive had directed had, indeed, borne fruit. For ten years thereafter, until the trauma of the Covid era, the Association’s financial position went from strength to strength, with revenues and profitability increasing hugely, such that a large financial reserve could be built up, which was another of Clive’s goals. Ironically, the Charities Commission queried the legitimacy of the Association holding such large reserves – but how welcome they were during the pandemic years!

Clive resigned as Chairman of BCA in 2009, when the bulk of the redevelopment was complete. He had fulfilled what he perceived to be his role in the Association, and, ever since, our financial results bear out that perception ‘in spades’.

Buxton Civic Association owes Clive Beattie a huge debt of gratitude for his vision, determination, and commitment. Without his leadership at a crucial time, the Association of which we can all be justifiably proud, might not even exist today.

We all unite in extending our sympathy and condolences to Clive’s family at this time. He will be sorely missed.