Growing Groups

Working for the Voluntary Sector in Hastings

Websites n stuff

I went to soggy Brighton on Saturday to buy some bits of shiny anodised metal – now sold as part of the essential equipment to go with every outdoor hobby that features on the magazine rack in W H Smiths.

On Sunday I went for a clamber at Harrisons Rocks,  playing on Far Left, Elementary and Unclimbed Wall. These climbs are all graded around 5B and 5C which in truth makes them a good grade or two beyond me without quite a lot of tight rope. Mind you I suspect they are a good bit easier if you,ve done them before and you know where each of the holds are.

On Monday I uploaded some stuff to our work website on request from Rose ( Volunteer Centre Organiser at Hastings Voluntary Action ) who is gradually assembling a good practice guide for Volunteer Using Organisations.  Also, with a bit of help from SCIP I managed to rig up SyncMyCal with our work website. So we now use a Google Calendar to publicise events as the first stage towards shairing the same sort of process with the other Councils For Voluntary Service in East Sussex.


August 12, 2008 Posted by | climbing, voluntary | Leave a comment

What comes around, goes around

I’ve been uploading lots of interesting stuff to the Hastings Voluntary Action website recently.

My boss has done a paper – which I’ve just uploaded – on the implications for the voluntary sector of the shift towards service commissioning as opposed to grant aid. The paper speaks for itself and as a sensible employee I never pass comment on my bosses work on line.

That said, reading the report reminded me of some of the territory I visited in my earlier life as a Councillor on the good Borough of Hastigns. Following the Cabinet/Scrutiny reorganisation of Local Government – an event doubtless etched on everyone’s consciousness (not) – I ended up in a fairly full-time occupation as the trusty Cabinet Member for Neigbourhoods, Community and Housing.

But painfully aware that no local authority is an island – except of course for the Isle of White – I  felt it was important to have an involvment in some national organisations trying to grapple with bigger issues. For me this meant playing a an active part on the Executive of an organisation called the Local Government Information Unit.  If you’ve never heard of the LGIU (why should you), among other things,  it is an impressive powerhouse of policy wonks who have made some compelling arguments about the greater freedoms and flexibilities needed by local government to respond to local needs and stimulate innovation in local service delivery. At the time those arguments helped to shape much of the light touch settlement that has since been established between local and central government.

Now that I’ve left elected office and moved back to the voluntary sector (a  sort of poacher turned pheasant move) I prefer to stay away from all that high profile championing of the sector stuff. Since work life is infinitely better hold up in the attic (rather like the couple in Beetlejuice), where you can fiddle about with a good database / newsletter / website.

Anyway,  viewed from the attic, it looks to me,  like those who are charged with championing the sector are now going to have to convey similar arguments to local councils that councils once made to central government.

Its my birthday today, so Kate bought me some Friends. Yes yes, I know what your going to say, “you cant buy friendship John” , but you can buy these.

August 7, 2008 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, voluntary | 2 Comments

Types of Rock

I ‘ve just come back from a weekend with my local climbing club in the Peak District, climbing on  millstone grit. The picture below was taken at the weekend.




To most people rock is just rock, in the same way that snow is just snow unless you end up spending a lot of time dealing with it. But to people who climb, rock tends to be thought about by the type of faults it has in it, how abrasive it is and all kinds of other things which affect how easy it is to hang on. Millstone grit is not my favourite rock, because its mostly made up of big rounded lumps, with large flared cracks running between them. Gritstone climbing favours tall people with excellent balance skills who are happy hand jamming and smearing.


This is not a description of me, I come from a long line of stumpy Welsh trolls, for whom, anatomically it is far more difficult to achieve the long reaches and tai chi style balance moves needed on grit.  I like limestone, a rock where there are plenty of lovely pockets dotted about, small edges at varying angles, narrow chimneys to wedge your back against and overhangs with sharp angles to grab hold of. Here is a picture of a limestone climb – with lots of lovely sticky out and in bits.




July 31, 2008 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

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

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

Enjoying the exacting

Yesterday evening I got back to some indoor climbing again and started to exercise fingers and forearms on the bolted routes at the Bexhill College indoor wall. This is a bit of a broom cupboard but its got overhangs, its dry (unlike the rest of the South East yesterday) and you can do some bolted leading.


Over the past few weeks I’ve missed the escapism you get from concentrating on something as specific as climbing – which always imposes a sort of condition of needing to concentrate on getting a series of small moves absolutely right, while your mind wants to run riot on the consequences of getting any one of them just a little bit wrong.

May 29, 2008 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

Back to basics

I learned my dad came out of Hospital yesterday, since he didn’t need any further operations but just ‘flushing through’. Good news for us, but bloody painful for him.


Yesterday I went on a training course in Eastbourne for Information Workers from different CVS across East Sussex and today I’ve been putting some of what we learned into practice. One of the items was about exploring the potential of Google Calendar as a mechanism for creating shared information about training and events across the county. So today I’ve been setting up a google account, building a calendar, knocking up a second outlook calendar and trying out how much we can get for free.


End result:


This weekend I’m going to plant some more spuds on the lottie and maybe go back up to Harrisons Rocks to see if I can shin up the very evasive Niblick

May 9, 2008 Posted by | Allotment, climbing, voluntary | Leave a comment

Climbing – My Trip to K2

Yesterday was great fun. My first trip climbing at K2 , (I don’t mean the one in the Himalayas, I’m on about the one in Crawley). 

Its  perhaps not what everyone would describe as fun, because unless you have climbed a few times it must be difficult to see where the pleasure can be gained in putting yourself through all that trauma.   

At first,  learning to climb is really all about moving from one safe set of holds to another,  preoccupied with the consequences of what will happen if you fall. Not a rational fear, since on indoor climbing walls you are almost always suspended from a rope with enough stretch to act as a shock absorber. Then you discover the worst that happens is that you fall a couple of feet into the open space and swing about in your harness. As you loose some of that initial fear you begin to loosen up, stretch rather than cringe and start exploring how far your balance will go. You set yourself more difficult problems where the holds become smaller and harder to grip. At the same time, the mind has to deal with two sets of contradictory thoughts. The first thought is to stay exactly where you are (since trying to move risks the fall) The second thought is not to stay where you are, since your position is only temporary and eventually fatigue will force you to let go. Working this though, you finally realise that a swing into thin air is always a possibility when you move but only an inevitability when you don’t.As the routes you pick become more difficult, an increasing number of ‘holds’ are beyond the point of balance or reach and the static positions become ones you can only stay on for very short amounts of time. Increasingly you have to swing out beyond the point of balance or jump a bit (dynamic moves), just to reach the next marginal hold. Once there you can stay only long enough to push off to the next set of movements – so you stay on the wall by keeping on the move.This is the point where a climb ceases to be just a ladder of individual holds and gets more like a ‘routine’ of moves, where you stay in the air by a mixture of timed swinging, pushing and rocking in limited patterns determined by the shape and positions of holds and your own flexibilities. A little bit like dance or learning to walk, falling forwards and catching yourself from falling with the other foot. One exception to all this is Southern sandstone. This is a film of someone climbing ‘The Niblick’,
which is a Southern sandstone route in my area. Sandstone climbing is a lot like Tai Chi. No shuffling allowed, because you generate sand under the feet, which acts like marbles and then you just slide off. The same goes for hands, you won’t get away with a ‘clutch and yank’ technique developed on indoor climbing walls.  Sandstone climbing is nearly all about smooth delicate moves where you have to place yourself and apply the right pressure. You can see this guy wipe the sand from the bottom of his shoes before he makes his last few foot placements, it makes all the difference between staying on and falling off on sandstone.

March 26, 2007 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

Filling the website

Today will be dull in parts (sounds like a weather forcast) because I’ve got to start filling up the new website with some of the text content of the old site – I see a long day of ‘cut and paste’ ahead.

I caught up with some chums from Hastings Rock and Fell Club last night at The Grove School climbing wall. I seemed to have spent the whole evening chatting and doing very little actual climbing. We all swapped stories about our adventures on the way back from Glen Coe the week before.

February 13, 2007 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, voluntary, walking | Leave a comment