The setting for today's woodland charity talk was rather different to some. For a start, it was in Suffolk. For years I have tried to explain to a series of volunteer organizers that I live close to the county boundary. It takes me, on average, just over twenty minutes to get into Suffolk, versus a good hour and a quarter to get to Romford and longer by the time I've allowed for delays on the A12, but they have all insisted on running things on a strictly county driven basis. I was once offered a booking in Stansted Mountfitchet, still part of Essex but the other side of the M11, and it came as a revelation to the administrative assistant concerned that if she were to look at a map she would see that Hertford and Cambridge were both much closer to Stansted Mountfitchet than I was starting from the east of Colchester.
Hats off, therefore, to the latest volunteer manager, who seems to have a better grasp of geography and a less blinkered view of county boundaries than many of her predecessors. She has also issued me with a name badge, a set of business cards which have my name printed on them and not just generic cards for the charity on which I am supposed to write my details in biro, and a portable banner on a stand. I feel we are going places.
Today's talk was unusual for being on a Saturday morning. Who goes to talks on a Saturday morning? It was part of a summer long festival of trees and gardening, the first time the organizers had run one. I didn't know what to expect, and was reconciled to nobody wanting to come to an ad hoc Saturday morning lecture on woodlands. In the event there was an audience, small but friendly, and I did not feel an idiot talking to them, as I might have done if the festival organizers had outnumbered the members of the public.
If they do it again I think they could do with roping in somebody with flair and experience to help with the publicity. It must be difficult running a series of events when you have no history, no database of past supporters, and pretty much no budget, but there was no notice outside the venue to say that a talk would be taking place on Saturday morning. I saw nothing about the festival in any of the local papers I read online, and it didn't get a mention at the garden club, which meets not very far away, or any publicity at their Open Gardens. The only person I know who lives in the town didn't know there was a festival of trees and gardening running over the summer. Still, it was brave of the organizers to try, and it must be as potentially embarrassing for them as for their speakers to stage events and risk nobody turning up. More so, in fact, as my name wasn't on the programme. They were doing a guided tree walk this afternoon, so I hope some people went to that, because it began to rain soon after lunch.