FOGG – beginnings and development

It was in the summer of 2020 when the then-VGS chair Peter Murphy, Chamber president Richard Eley and VGS member Graham Cooper were working on a project for the Arches on the Esplanade – and discussions of the footpaths led them to consider how a further project might enhance Glen Goyle, an area where Richard had already been carrying out some work himself.

This led to a determination for the VGS to do something for this neglected corner. The original idea was to return it to “its Victorian feel”, but also try to make it a more biodiverse space for wildlife and a welcoming place for families.

It was taken to the SVA’s History Group in late 2020, to start working out the history of the place, which is where History Group members Phil Lee and Ed Dolphin became very much involved.

The inaugural meeting of Friends of Glen Goyle in February 2021 considered coming under the umbrella of the SVA but as it was felt they could not take on any more work at the moment, it was agreed that the group would be supported by the VGS structure, with a website created and the VGS providing secretarial and publicity services.

VGS webmaster Mary Walden-Till then created the website, which is where we started to publish the historical information – notably the history of Glen Goyle researched by members of the SVA History Group and compiled by Prof Brian Golding, with Julia Creek providing the impressive heritage images of the Glen for the website’s front page.

It was also Julia who was the first to offer a plant – an agapanthus for the Glen. There were many, further discussions about plant collectors and the organisations which sent them out – especially Veitch Nurseries, not only because they were local (being based in Exeter), but also because they were very prominent in their field, it being hard to overstate what they contributed nationally.

We decided we needed to know what plants were currently in the Glen, so Ed (also of the Sidmouth Arboretum) offered to carry out the tree survey as well as some initial planning for the project. He has the Veitch book and so we really started digging into plants from then on. We discovered that St Bridget Nursery was the ‘heir’ to the Veitch nurseries and we determined to approach them for help. We also agreed to approach Bicton College to see if we could involve apprentices or students to set up plans as part of their course work.

Meanwhile, Glen Goyle neighbour John McGregor had already been doing some sweeping and clearing on site, then leapt in and started approaching EDDC about more serious undertakings, especially work ‘on the ground’. Richard Eley and VGS secretary Jeremy Woodward also got in touch with EDDC to obtain permission for us to work on their land, which they then gave.

With more people offering help and with further networking happening with the likes of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group, we sent out a wider appeal for volunteers.

We had a site meeting in April 2021, where Mary took pictures to add to those from Ed and John – and so the visual record of work done started being compiled on the website.

As other people began offering help and the working party was formed, VGS treasurer Roger Till made sure our insurance covered us for any work the volunteers would be carrying out on site.

Ed suggested we approach Paul Fealey, Horticultural Officer at EDDC, who would be able to provide some guidance. Paul offered to come and talk to us, set the volunteers off in the right direction and offer regular mentoring – as well as take away the waste cuttings and supply plants.

Building on the efforts of the previous year, since the spring of 2022 concerted clearing work has been carried out and more detailed plans have been put together by the very active Working Party, which meets every Thursday morning.

In the summer, FOGG volunteers were presented with high-visibility vestscommissioned and designed by the VGS, presented and paid for by the Town CouncilIn the autumn, some replanting was started in earnest; and as of spring 2023, further planning has been taken forward…

[compiled March 2023]