Registered Charity No. 271694

Trustees’ Annual Report for the year ended 31st December 2016

Reference and Administrative Details

  1. Name: The Wild Flower Society
  2. Charity registration number: 271694
  3. Contact address: 32 Ashfield Road, London, N14 7JY
  4. Membership administration: 43 Roebuck Road, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1UE
  5. Website address:

The following were members of the Executive Committee and the charity trustees at the date of approval of this Report.

  1. President: Professor Sir Ghillean Prance
  2. Chairman: Mr John Swindells
  3. General Secretary: Mrs Sheila Wynn
  4. Treasurer: Mr Robin Blades
  5. Editor: Dr Anne Kell
  6. Publicity Secretary: Dr Nichola Hawkins
  7. Meetings Secretary: Mrs Janet John
  8. General members of the Executive Committee: Mrs Jan Armishaw, Mrs Judith Cox, Miss Nicola Dixon

The above were trustees throughout the year ended 31 December 2016 except Mrs Janet John who was elected on 3 September 2016. Miss Pippa Hyde was a trustee until 3 September 2016.

Structure, Governance and Management

The Wild Flower Society was established in 1886 as an unincorporated association of people interested in the study and recording of wild flowers in the United Kingdom. In 1979 it was re-established as a registered charity with Aims and Rules approved by the Charity Commission. The Aims and Rules is its Governing Document.

Membership of the Society is open to all who support its aims.

The management of the affairs of the Society is in the hands of the Executive Committee consisting of up to seven officers of the Society, who are all elected or re-elected annually at the Annual General Meeting, together with four other members similarly elected, one of whom retires each year by rotation. The members of the Executive Committee are the Trustees of the charity under the Charities Act 2011.

The organisation of the affairs of the Society, supervised by the Executive Committee, is based on a network of branches distributed throughout the United Kingdom, each with a Branch Secretary, who is an experienced field botanist who can help and encourage members in that part of the country. There are also national Branches for more expert members.

All the officers of the Society are honorary. The administration of the membership subscriptions and records is looked after by Mrs Sue Poyser, our Membership Secretary in an honorary capacity

Financial Review

Total payments for the year ended 31 December 2016 exceeded receipts by £6,419 compared with an excess of payments of £2,659 in 2015. The Society made charitable grants of £8,342 compared with £6,728 in 2015.

Investments are held in the COIF Charities Deposit, Fixed Interest and Investment Funds, Charinco Common Investment Fund and The Charibond Charities Fixed Interest Common Investment Fund. This gives the Society exposure to a mixture of cash deposits, government and corporate bonds and equities. The value of the Society’s investments at 31 December 2016 was 8.2% higher than their value at 31 December 2015.

Reserves policy: The Society has no permanent endowment funds. The Society’s policy is to spend its income funds received in most years. In 2012 it received a large legacy which it plans to spend over the period 2013-17. The Society holds other sums of up to £100,000 which are invested to provide income to be spent on its charitable purposes. Whether these sums should be retained will be reviewed in 2017.

Public Benefit

The Trustees have complied with their duty under section 17 of the Charities Act 2011 to pay regard to the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit in deciding what activities the Society should undertake. The Society has continued to benefit the public by encouraging the advancement of education and the advancement of environmental protection and improvement.

Objectives and Activities

The aims of the Society are:

  1. to promote a greater knowledge of field botany among the general public and in particular among young people;
  2. to advance education in matters relating to the conservation of wild flowers and the countryside;
  3. to promote the conservation of the British flora.

The Society pursues its aims by offering membership to the public, by making grants to other organisations and by making information about British wild flowers available to all on its website. Membership is open to all who wish to learn about field botany, on payment of an annual subscription, currently £10 for adults or £3 for juniors. We are grateful to Mrs Sue Poyser for her very efficient administration of our membership records.

The grants are made particularly to assist with the running of training courses and the issue of publications relating to wild flowers. Knowledge of how to identify plants accurately is essential as a basis for their conservation. In 2012 the Society received a legacy of £24376 from our late member, Dr Eric Chicken, which has been invested for the time being. The Executive Committee, after consultation with members, has increased our grant making activity in existing areas and is increasing support for fieldwork recording wild plants, including the Atlas 2020 project of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

Members of the Society are encouraged to record the plants they see each year in Field Botanist’s Record Books and send details to the Branch Secretaries. The Society runs a range of botanical recording projects for members; these include a 10km study for all plants found growing wild within a 10km square of the national grid, first and last hunts in spring and autumn and records of plants flowering in winter.

A magazine is produced which records and discusses the activities in the various branches, largely based on the Record Books and reports sent in by members and summarised by the Branch Secretaries. Other items include articles on plant identification and reports of field meetings. The magazine was published three times in 2016 but this will be increased to four times in 2017.

Field meetings are arranged in various locations throughout the British Isles led by experienced and enthusiastic botanists. These allow participants to learn more about the identification, habitats and conservation of wild flowers and ferns. Botanists of all abilities are welcome to attend but some meetings are particularly designed for relative beginners. A system for notifying interested members of vacant places on meetings was introduced in 2015.

Achievements and Performance

The Society continued its work and supported around 30 active branches. Total membership at 31 December 2016 was 613 (628 at 31 December 2015). Six two-day or longer and around twenty one-day meetings led by experienced field botanists were organised and were generally well attended by members. These meetings visited places of botanical interest from the Solway Firth to the southern tip of England on the Lizard and beyond to Guernsey. As usual our East Anglian and North West England groups were particularly active. We are very grateful for the efforts of Sheila Wynn organising field meetings for 2016 as well as her other work as General Secretary and to Janet John for filling the vacancy for a Meetings Secretary.

The Society’s eighth annual Members’ Weekend was held in Surrey in September. It included the Annual General Meeting, a talk about the flowers of Surrey, our competition for botanical photographs, a plant identification competition, a discussion session for trustees and branch secretaries and field meetings. The latter concentrated on the chalk habitats of the North Downs near Dorking but as a contrast also included a visit to the heathland of Chobham Common. We are grateful to all members and friends who helped ensure a successful Weekend.

The website includes sections for younger members, photographs from our competitions, reports on field meetings, information about Society activities and a message board. The Illustrated Wild Flower Society Record Book continues to make good progress towards the aim of making photographs of 1,000 species of British plants available to all and also contains links to distribution maps for the plants thanks to the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

Grants made to further the aims of the Society amounted to £8,342 in 2016, probably the largest total in the Society’s history. This included a total of £3,750 to fifteen Wildlife Trusts to help cover the costs of providing wild flower identification days for conservation volunteers. The Society is supporting the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland’s Atlas 2020 project which aims to record the distribution of flowering plants and ferns across the British Isles. In 2016 we gave a total of £3,300 to assist with this work in remote areas of Scotland and Ireland. £892 was used to help young people to attend Field Studies Council courses on botanical subjects and £400 towards a project on methods of teaching people to identify plants.

We are grateful to all those who have contributed to another successful year for the Society. Particular mention should be made of Pippa Hyde who has made a huge contribution as our Magazine Editor since 2002 and Tom Fowler who has performed the vital role of Independent Examiner of our accounts since 1998. We would also like to thank Miss Helen Jackson, Mr Doug Grant and Mr Sean Karley who retired as Branch Secretaries, in Miss Jackson’s case after thirty years’ service to the Society.

Report approved by the Executive Committee on 11 March 2017 and authorised to be signed on its behalf by R. A. Blades, Hon. Treasurer.

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