Growing Groups

Working for the Voluntary Sector in Hastings

Googlemaster of the Universe (ish)

How happy am I at work today? Very happy thank you.


In my life, there are little things that please my mildly obsessional mind in ways that more rounded individuals would probably find rather troubling. Today I am chuckling (though only inwardly, since I share my workspace with others) because by careful crafting of meta tags I have clawed our website up the greasy pole of Google UK, we now have top rating when you type in the letters HVA. So take that, Hackney Voluntary Action and the Herpes Virus Association, you are no longer top dogs, from now on Hastings Voluntary Action have top position on the prime interweb search engine – result!


Climbs Around London


















Yesterday evening my wanderings took me to Stone Farm, a long way from Hastings but a beautiful sunny and breezy evening on a sandstone outcrop not too far from Forest Row and Crawley. Playing on the rocks with other members of the Hastings Rock and Fell Club was really good fun. Stone Farm Rocks have some really good boldering and some extremely good bolderers (people who bolder), here is a youtube of someone called Danny Coleman making light work of a difficult Stone Farm bolder problem to give you an idea of the games climbers play.


Stone Farm bolder problem


And while we are in that neck of the woods, a reference is due to possibly the best ‘knock my town’ website I’ve yet to see on the web. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you This is Haywards Heath (don’t forget to turn the sound up).

Lunch time already, and  too much of this morning has been taken up dealing with information and potted history from the Hubs and Capacity Builders websites.  After much chasing of dead links and sifting through lots of ‘management speak’ this has all been boiled down to pritty much three lines of text and three links to go on the Group Support page of our own website. My view is that most voluntary organisations and community groups probably don’t give a monkeys about where everything came from, which organisation morphed into, collaborated with or partnered who ever else, so none of that gubbins gets on to our website.



This exercise has been of considerable benefit to me, in part because I now have a greater historical understanding of the restructuring of voluntary and community sector support services at a national level, but more practically because I have learned that if you keep the shift button pressed down when you click something in the ‘Other Places’ menu on the left hand side of an XP window it opens a new window




June 26, 2008 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, Uncategorized, voluntary | Leave a comment

Eridge is nice

Well Eridge Green turned out to be a brilliant place to climb. The site was pretty much deserted except for our Wednesday club meet.  The climbs were all in reasonable condition (that’s climbing talk for dry and not covered in green slime) and very few biting insects.

I’ve been adding some more stuff to our website at work today on the subject of Seedcorn Grants. This is a pot of money made available for voluntary and community groups by East Sussex County Council. Councils for Voluntary Service across East Sussex are becoming more involved in the applications process for small grants from a variety of statutory bodies – which makes good sense since CVS’s accumulate the most comprehensive information on the voluntary and community sector in each local area.  

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Something New

I’m off to Eridge Green this evening, tucked off the main A26 and quieter than Harrisons Rocks for some reason.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Future Charcoal Slump

I’ve been updating some more of our work website today, namely the pages advertising volunteer vacancies.


A few years ago, when I was a skint local government councillor and balancing my time between changing the world and low paid temp work – I started editing web pages by getting a book on HTML from the local charity shop. After this, I just played about by pinched the source code from interesting sites and tried adapting it for the types of pages I wanted – when people are being nice they call this ‘standing on the shoulders of others’. All this has been useful grounding for using web editing software, because no matter what package you use, you always have to go back and ‘unpick’ things that go wrong on pages by reading the code every now and again. In fact I’ve never actually bought any software for web editing and at the moment I use a freebee download called NVU for web editing


And upload pages to our hosting company server using another freebee FTP package from coreftp


The end result is that you can get a useful website on line for about £50 a year.


Cycling in to work today I noticed my ‘local’ Shell garage was deserted and the conversation at the office has started to touch on lack of petrol and how people are dealing with this. My own anxiety presently extends as far as the possibility of a run on 3 in 1 at Halfords, but I’m sure the whole thing will become far more real to me later in the week when I need to go back up to Reading again. And what happens to all the other things that petrol stations sell while this is going on, is there going to be a slump in the charcoal briquette market?

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A ballanced weekend


I don’t know where the title ‘ballanced weekend’ comes from – maybe its a  mixture of the song Funky Weekend and the Audit Commission methodology of a ballanced score card – who knows.


Anyway, I drove back to Hastings early on Sunday morning and grabbed an enjoyable enjoyable few hours on the allotment. The spuds needed earthing up, I used an old washing line to make some wires for the loganberries to grow on, staked a red current bush – which was listing badly with the weight of fruit – I harvested the seeds of the poached egg plant for next years green manure and removed all the field bind weed from the lavender.


Got back to work and realised that I was in grave danger of missing the date by which we have to reregister our domain name. So I quickly stumped up the cash on-line before someone else bought the name and tried to sell it back to us at a huge profit. Here is a top tip, over the years I’ve discovered that its best to get one company to hold your domain name and another one to provide hosting. That way, if the quality of the hosting gets worse you can quickly get someone else to do this for you and redirect the name towards a new company.


Also uploaded the pics from the Certificate in Community Volunteering Awards Ceremony to our flickr account. I always put pics on the Flickr account because its a presence elsewhere on the web which creates an extra route into  (in the same way that that did) and helps boost our google rating.




June 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back to work


Because I’m presently spending lots of time sorting things out for my widdowed mum in Reading, I took a day off yesterday and spend some quality time with my significant other. We went to right on Brighton, met a friend in the gardens by the pavillion, sat in the sun demolishing some Tesco Express sarnies  , bobbled round TK Max and I played with the precious things in climbing shops.

Today I’m adding stuff to the volunteering section of the website at work, which will augment the guidance notes for Volunteer Using Organisations which I uploaded on Tuesday. Once that is out of the way I will add some more pics of different sector events to our flickr account (I put the pics up here because lots more people in the local area will get to learn about HVA through Flickr than are likely to simply remember our name and type us into their browser).


June 12, 2008 Posted by | voluntary | | Leave a comment

A good weekend

All the June copies of Hastings Community News got collated, enveloped and posted out on Friday, which meant the week ended with the sense of physical satisfaction which comes from identifying a job finished.


In my past life as an elected councillor for Central St Leonards, I remember spending lots of time in the presence of social policy wonks and other politicos, but somehow I never quite gained the same satisfaction from a weeks encounters with people who chewed through ideas for a living that I got from physically doing something myself. Quite why this should be the case has always been a bit unclear – I never felt left behind by what was going on and felt quite able to punch my weight when discussing the heavy stuff – but after about an hour in a room with people who did that sort of thing full time every day, I always had this overwhelming urge to get silly, snooze or do something practical. For many years I worried that this urge was maybe a combination of low blood sugar or poor attention span and it clearly required more intellectual discipline on my part! Being slightly older now ( 47) , I  firstly realise that its perfectly normal and most sensible people would rather not to twitter on in closed rooms for days upon end  and secondly its just that little bit delusional to believe the magic formula for the best way of doing things  is inclined to gestate in that sort of environment.


In between feeding the washing machine, Saturday was spent planting rocket, radish , red mustard and lettuce, transplanting French beans and potting on the tomatoes.


Sunday I went out to play, spending the day climbing on the sandstone outcrops in Birchden Woods. This was with other members of my local climbing club, some of whom were discussing their bus passes and other were discussing the best way to get to the Old Man of Hoy (the things pensioners get up to these days!). A full winter season of indoor climbing practice and dropping a stone in weight has helped me to get up a few 5a / 5b climbs that I don’t think I would have clambered up last year, so with a full summer season ahead I hope to be as fit as the bus pass brigade by September.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

Places change

I spent last weekend in Reading, doing some probate stuff, clearing out rubbish that my late Father had accumulated and helping my Mum sort out the blackberry bushes in the garden. If you want to grow briar fruit you have to make sure the new runners are trained in one direction for next years crop, while the 2 year old flowering stems are left to do their thing for this years fruit. I’ve learned that this is a painful process if left too long into the summer.


I’ve had an allotment for years but I’m learning that suburban gardening is very different. It seems to involve a healthy amount of ‘over the garden fence’ conversation with neighbours. For me this generates a slightly hesitant edge, because I’m now catching up with people who I haven’t really seen for about thirty years.


I’m learning to respond to ‘Hello stranger, what have you been up to?’ by reducing the last thirty years to ‘oh this and that and how are you?’ Then, because of the age of most of Mums neighbours, the conventional thing is to exchange some anecdotes about the NHS.


Like most people on their estate Mum and Dad moved in during the 1960s, and together with the rest of the road they all grew old together. Over the years, the original open plan areas of grass between the houses were gradually converted into a forest of overgrown garden centre shrubs and lap larch alley ways. The architects’ were originally inspired by creating a housing scheme with all the roads on one side of the houses and all the paths on the other side. This helped to keep cars away from pedestrians and kept the profits of the construction company up, because they saved one pavement for every row of houses. But over the years the open paths and houses set on individual open plan lawns have given way to fenced off gardens and narrow alleys. So the alleys become abandoned and everyone walks down the roads because they feel safer for pedestrians.

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment