Branch Meeting & AGM – Saturday 18th January 2020

Written by Les Middlewood

Advance Notice
South Herts Branch Annual General Meeting (and Branch Meeting)
Saturday 18th January 2020 at 1pm

To be held at the Hertford Club, Bull Plain, Hertford.

The Branch will be holding its January Branch Meeting and then its Annual General Meeting, on Saturday 18th January 2020 at the Hertford Club, Bull Plain, Hertford – from 1pm. All Branch members are welcome and will receive a free pint of real ale or cider on arrival. A buffet will be provided during the event.

Please ensure that you bring your CAMRA Membership card with you.

Our speakers will be John Bourdeaux and Jeremy Alter from Hertfordshire’s award-winning New River brewery.

The Branch Meeting and AGM Agendas can be found below.

At the AGM the Branch Committee will be elected. Please note the following arrangements for this, as agreed by CAMRA’s National Executive:

Nominations for membership of the Branch Committee shall be either by email or in writing to me – – in each case signed by a proposer and seconder, both of whom shall be members of the Branch, and accompanied by evidence of the willingness of the nominee to stand. The closing date for nominations is fourteen calendar days before the date of the AGM. If a vote is required, a secret ballot will take place at the AGM.

The Branch Chairman’s Report can be found below.

Following the meetings there will be an opportunity to visit some of the real ale pubs in Hertford – a town centre map positioning the pubs will be available at the event.

We look forward to seeing you.

The Hertford Club

The Hertford Club is located in Hertford town centre, in the Grade II* listed Lombard House, a characterful 15th and 16th century building on the banks of the River Lea Navigation. The Club is the current South Herts Branch Club of the Year and features in the 2020 edition of the Good Beer Guide. It will have four handpumped beers (including from New River brewery) and a range of traditional ciders and perries. The Club welcomes CAMRA Members. Please sign-in as you enter.


Hertford sits on the A414 close to its junction with the A10. Hertford East Railway Station can be reached by trains from Liverpool Street and Broxbourne. Hertford North Railway Station welcomes trains south from Stevenage and north from Moorgate. Bus services include the 310 serving the Lea Valley and the 724 Greenline connecting Ware, Hertford, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, St Albans and Watford. For those travelling by car it is advisable to use one of the town car parks which can be found in St Andrew Street, Hartham Lane, Gascoyne Way or Old London Road.

Branch Chairman’s Report

2019 was another productive year for South Herts Branch and a final one for me in the role of Branch Chairman – my third year in the Chair. I thank all of you Branch Members for the support and encouragement that you have given me during my tenure. It has been an absolute honour and I am proud to have chaired CAMRA’s oldest Branch. Man and boy – I joined CAMRA as a callow youth at the end of 1973 and first attended a Branch Meeting of what was the then the all Hertfordshire branch in the mists of 1974. The work of the Committee is very much a collective effort and I would like to thank every one of the Branch Committee for their help, advice and support in the last twelve months – that thanks extending to all those who have taken key roles in wider Branch activity.

In February 2019 the new Branch Committee set out an interesting programme of events and this has been rewarded with solid and keen attendances. Our Branch meetings are lively with speakers that have included Historians, Politicians, Brewers, Activists and our very own CAMRA Chief Executive. At our AGM we welcome New River Brewery as our speakers (New River are worthy winners of the Hertfordshire Beer of the Year competition this year with their excellent beer, 5″ Drop).

The lack of strong campaigning clarity and strategy emanating from the centre of our organisation continues, in my view, to dog progress – though there have been good initiatives and advancements in pub campaigning by National Executive (NE) and Branch Member, Ben Wilkinson. When we recently met our Chief Executive, we pressed that CAMRA should be more ambitious and forthright in its campaigning attempts to cut Beer Duty but this did not meet with his or apparently the National Executive’s vision for the coming months which was described as being much more about consolidation in CAMRA. The request for more campaigning information has also been lodged with the National Executive and we await a detailed response. Locally, we have actively supported and promoted the Save UK Pubs initiative which is based in St Albans, fighting the scourge of exorbitant Business Rates across England. And we have made some of our own strides with the Innovation and Education Stand at St Albans Beer and Cider Festival (SABCF) which was successful in helping drinkers to learn about, understand and taste the difference between a beer served in cask or key keg form.

Fewer local pubs have closed in 2019 but the general decline in pub numbers continues to seep. We remain vigilant for poor planning submissions and will always expose poor practices such as pub sales direct to developers. There have been some welcome increases to off-set losses. Mad Squirrel have opened a further Tap and Bottle Shop, in St Albans and a new micro-pub, the Crafty Duck, in Hertford is flourishing. Farrbrew have taken over the Red Cow in Harpenden and the Eight Bells in Hatfield.

We have watched as CAMRA’s national attempts to spur the Pub Codes Adjudicator into greater success have largely been ignored. The Adjudicator has become a terminally divisive figure and his declared departure in May 2020 will hopefully allow the team to progress more successfully.

Branch Membership sits at around the 2500 figure. Branch Membership Secretary, John Kemp, festival volunteers and Head Office staff signed up an additional 180 new CAMRA members at SABCF – another tremendous effort. There is no doubt that we need to continue working hard to attract younger people into our midst. Tom Blakemore has attended a number of local and regional events. We placed posters at SABCF aiming to attract a more active female membership and hope this will emerge. We are challenging the NE’s standpoint on the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which we deem to be too onerous and work against communication with some of our Branch Members.

Branch members have completed 100 pub surveys in 2019 to assist in keeping WhatPub and our pub database up to date and relevant – a task well-managed by Barry James. We also need to update many of the photographs that sit alongside the pub entries. So, “Volunteers please!” for 2020 – the list is available at the AGM.

Our award-winning Branch website, managed by Tom Blakemore, remains interesting and informative but if we are going to keep it vibrant we will need input from a wider range of contributors. I urge all Branch members to submit articles for inclusion. Our Branch activities feature on the Website and, of course, in Pints of View which continues to be organised and steered by South Herts Branch on behalf of other Hertfordshire Branches. The work of Steve Bury and John Kemp, and the broader production team of John Bishop and John Lightfoot, together with proof reader, John Green, must not be underestimated – Pints of View is not only a great mouthpiece for the Hertfordshire branches but also a great read – but again, we need your articles! Liaison meetings with the other Hertfordshire branches continue on a thrice yearly basis.

Our Pub of the Year judging teams found new winners for 2019. The Gold award was presented to the ever-popular Woodman at Wildhill. The White Hart Tap, St Albans picked up a worthy silver and the trusty Old Cross Tavern, Hertford, a well-earnt Bronze. Our Cider Pub of the Year was again the Mermaid in St Albans and our Club of the Year award was scooped by the Hertford Club in Hertford – both are now multi-times winners of these awards. A Highly Commended award was made to the Royston Club in St Albans and a special award was made to the outgoing landlords of the Crooked Billet, Ware for 25 years’ sterling service providing excellent quality beer at an excellent pub.

As I said in my report last year, the quality of real ale in our best pubs remains consistently high. On the other hand, in some pubs the keeping of a good pint of real ale seems to be a challenge. It takes time and effort to keep a great pint – we need to encourage our less prominent real ale pubs and that means frequenting them. We would like to see a much stronger lead on this coming from CAMRA centrally. Our aim was to visit more of our rural pubs via mini-bus trips in 2019, something that unfortunately fell away during the year – I would like to see renewed efforts and more branch mini-bus trips to our pubs in 2020. We must show that South Herts CAMRA is “out there” supporting our pubs.

Our St Albans Beer & Cider Festival was once again very popular and made a significant profit for the Campaign. The Festival continues to donate to local charities – the sum this year, similar to last, is likely to be in excess of £2,000. Our Festival keeps performing well with fresh innovations and ever surprising ways in how to use every inch of the Arena. This year we introduced cooling for the ciders, operated a key keg bar and featured beers from Worms in Germany. The Hertfordshire Beer of the Year Competition was again hosted by the Festival with New River’s 5″ Drop taking the title. The Festival Beer of the Year Award went to Tring’s White IPA. Congratulations to John Bishop, in his third year as Festival Organiser, and to his senior Organising Committee of John Tubridy, Dave Wright, Tom Blakemore and John Lightfoot, and of course, to all of you Branch Members who freely give up so many hours of your time. We hold one of England’s major provincial CAMRA events, not lost on the people of St Albans and its environs, who look forward to it every year and voice their pride in the event. This year we hosted the Golden Beers category in the East Anglian leg of the Champion Beer of Britain competition. A volunteer’s party was held at the White Lion, St Albans. The 2020 Festival will be the 25th – there will be some special initiatives, events and beers to mark our quarter century at the Arena.

As always, we continue to support our local South Herts based brewers. McMullen’s have continued with their range of seasonal beers under their Authentic Heritage and Rivertown banners. 3 Brewers have brewed new beers of consistent and excellent quality. Farrbrew have expanded their range with new seasonal beers. A nascent brewery – Gold Bear – is Hertford based. Sadly our micro-brewers have dwindled to some extent – Foragers at the Verulam Arms closed along with the pub due to financial difficulties. The White Hart Tap in St Albans and the Old Cross Tavern in Hertford now rarely brew. Richards Cider from Essendon has continued to enhance its reputation for quality cider.

Social Secretary, Ian Boyd, has organised a range of well-attended socials in 2019 – from beer festival trips to brewery visits. Breweries visited included Fullers, McMullens, Paradigm, Mad Squirrel, Crouch Vale and Harveys. This trend is set to continue in 2020. The annual Hertford Autumn Ale Trail attracted over 65 members and friends and the Ware Summer Saunter over thirty. The 14th Hertford Mild Night drew over 40 members – it’s new equivalent in St Albans grew to around 20.

The Branch is in good financial order due to the diligent work of John Lightfoot, our Treasurer. I thank John and our Auditors, Jamie Day and Andrew Stovell.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you who have volunteered for “CAMRA duty” during 2019. A very special thank you to Tom Blakemore who has decided to stand down from the Committee and the Beer Festival Committee after many years of deep involvement. Fortunately for us Tom will continue to be strongly involved – it’s just that it will be away from Committee duty. Andrew Howat was co-opted during the year but other competing voluntary work has meant he has had to quickly stand down. Andrew Wallace has been appointed as the Branch Transport Officer. I thank John Crowhurst for his many years in the role. And another departure – we thank Adrian Saunders for the important technical work he has carried out over many years at SABCF. If you feel tempted to play a bigger part in Branch activity please stand forward – 2020 will be full of opportunity, campaigning and fresh challenges.

Branch Meeting Agenda

  1. Welcome
  2. Apologies for Absence
  3. Minutes of the last branch meeting
  4. Review of the year’s key activities
  5. Branch activity and business issues
  6. Beer break and lunch
  7. Guest speakers
  8. Questions and answers

AGM Agenda

  1. Minutes of AGM 2019
  2. Financial report
  3. Chairman’s report
  4. Amendments to Branch constitution
  5. Election of Branch committee
  6. Election of auditors

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