Home » Trustees


The Forest of Marston Vale Trust is an independent charity (Registered Charity No 1069229) and a Company Limited by Guarantee.

The Charity’s objects are to benefit the public by:

  • the improvement protection and preservation of Marston Vale in Bedfordshire and the surrounding area for the better development of the rural environment; and
  • the provision of public recreational and other facilities in Marston Vale and the surrounding area to members of the public at large in the interests of education or social welfare.

The Charity is realising its objects through the creation of the Forest of Marston Vale – one of twelve Community Forests in England.  The Forest of Marston Vale covers 61 square miles of Bedfordshire that has suffered from a hundred years of clay extraction, brick manufacture and landfill.

The Board of Trustees are legally responsible for the activities of the Trust which they monitor through regular Board meetings.

The interests of the stakeholders in the Trust are represented by the official Members of the Trust.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust is the meeting at which Members vote on whether to approve the accounts and the appointment of Trustees.  The AGM is open to everyone but only the Members that are present at the AGM may vote.

Members of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust are:

The following organisations and individuals are the current Members of the Trust:

  • The Trustees
  • Bedford Borough Council
  • Central Bedfordshire Council
  • The Association of Town and Parish Councils
  • Beds Rural Community Charity
  • The Marston Vale Volunteers Coordinating Group
  • The Forest Team
  • Hanson Building Products Ltd
  • The Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough Wildlife Trust

Miss Debra Hassall (Chairman)

Debra Hassell - Trustee of the Marston Vale Trust“I worked for Hanson Building Products for 21 years as their Estates Manager dealing with their many landholdings in the UK, and latterly as the Property Development Manager, the majority of which was based from Stewartby, until the closure of the Stewartby office in December 2009. I now work part time as a Care Support Worker for Leonard Cheshire Disability.   I am also a Trustee and Bursar for The Sir Malcolm Stewart Bart General Charitable Trust which provides accommodation for retired London Brick employees.
My family have a long association with the Marston Vale and I have always lived here, attending both Stewartby schools and Wootton Upper. I have been actively involved in the Forest of Marston Vale for many years and I currently chair The Forest of Marston Vale Trust, having taken over from Fiona Chapman in early 2012.”


Stewart Briggs

Stewart Briggs - Trustee of the Marston Vale Trust“I am a resident in Bedford and have, on and off, spent over 30 years in the area. I am happily married to Laura and have two ‘grown up’ children. I enjoy pottering in my garden, having a go at DIY, walking in the countryside and visiting historic buildings and gardens.
I am currently Executive Director Environment & Sustainable Communities at Bedford Borough Council.”


Nigel Davis

Nigel Davies - Trustee of the Marston Vale Trust“I am a native of Warwickshire (born 1947) but have lived in the Bedford area since 1992.
My career of 44 years has been spent in the fire safety engineering industry mainly working for public authorities. In 1988 I was appointed Fire Surveyor to the Royal Mail estate with responsibility for fire compliance in over 2500 properties UK wide.  During my career I have also served on specialist fire committees with various organisations including the British Retail Consortium and the Building Research Establishment.
On leaving Royal Mail in 2004 I was appointed as a fire engineering team leader working with WS Atkins (WSA) on the London Underground station upgrades and latterly Network Rail projects.  Whilst with WSA I led the development of a fire standards framework that could be applied to rail projects nationally.
I retired in 2009 and have been a forest volunteer for approximately 18 months where I have enjoyed learning new skills such as hedging, fence repair and various other practical activities connected with the work of the Forest of Marston Vale.  I have also contributed some articles for publication on volunteer activities, particularly for the ongoing development of the Grange Estate, Willington. I live at Renhold where my wife and I have a largish garden to manage and put my practical DIY skills to the test on a regular basis.”

Peter Faulkner

Peter Faulkner - Trustee of the Marston Vale Trust“I was born in Marston Moreteyne in 1951 and have lived here all my life. I have two grown up children (Vanessa and Stuart) and three grandchildren (two boys and a girl), with another one on the way. I started work for London Brick Company Ltd as a Despatch Clerk when I was fifteen. I gained a professional accountancy qualification (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) through day release and was promoted to Finance Director UK of Hanson Brick Ltd in 1999. I was subsequently appointed Financial Controller of Hanson Building Materials Europe. I left Hanson in January 2003 but continued to work for them as an Interim Financial Manager from time to time, until mid-2009.
I have been a Trustee since 1999. In my spare time I enjoy walking, reading, holidays and spending time with my grandchildren.”

Gordon Johnston

Gordon Johnston - Trustee of the Marston Vale Trust“I am married to Anne and we have two grown up sons, Stuart and Robert. I retired early from my post as Deputy Chief Executive with Bedford Borough Council in June 2009 and since then have concentrated my time and energies on my voluntary/community work. As well as my long standing commitment to the Forest of Marston Vale Trust, I am also the Chairman of a large Housing Association.
When I have time to myself, my other interests include reading, music, theatre, and television, DIY and watching most sports.”


Bob Wallace

Marston Vale Trustee, Bob Wallace“I retired from Cranfield University in 1998 after working there for 25years. I was the Chairman and Managing Director of Cranfield Data Systems, a University owned company specialising in vibration analysis.
Since 1998 I have been involved in voluntary roles in the environmental and community sectors. I have been a Parish Councillor in Wootton since 1999 and Chairman for four years. I am a member of the Executive committee (and past Vice Chairman) of the Bedfordshire Association of Town and Parish Councils. In 2004 I was invited to become a Community Governor of Wootton Upper School and, more recently, a Foundation Governor  and Member of Wootton Academy Trust.
I have always had a strong interest in the Rights of Way network and access to the countryside. In 2002 I was appointed the inaugural chairman of the Bedfordshire Local Access Forum, a statutory body dedicated to providing advice to the Local Authority and other organisations on access to the countryside. Currently I am the chairman of the Borough of Bedford LAF.
I have been a supporter and volunteer at the Forest of Marston Vale since the late 90′s. As a volunteer I was instrumental in the creation of the website www.letsgo.org.uk  which describes over 250 walks, rides and places to go in Bedfordshire .
I have been a trustee of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust since 2000. My hobbies are cycling, walking and travelling.”

John Thelwall

Until April 2015, John was a solicitor in practice in Bedford. He is now retired. John specialised in commercial property and company law for many years and was the lead solicitor for the Trust from the time it was established until his retirement. He therefore comes with a great deal of background knowledge about the property holdings of the trust and its legal framework.
John has considerable experience as a charity trustee, being the chair of two other trusts and a trustee of another. During his career he acted for a number of charities in regard to their property and other legal matters. A keen golfer, John also enjoys music, theatre and reading.


Gareth Ellis

Both a Chartered Engineer and a Chartered Environmentalist with 35 years’ experience of working on sustainability in the public, voluntary and private sectors. He graduated from Cranfield University with a degree in Agricultural Engineering in 1980 before joining the Ministry of Agriculture’s agricultural advisory service ADAS, becoming National Specialist on Renewable Energy in the early 1990’s. He went on to head up renewable energy projects for the National Energy Foundation setting up an advice centre for householders and developing a school engagement programme. He also developed services for renewable energy trade bodies covering biomass, solar and heat pumps and held the role of Chief Executive of the Solar Trade Association. In 2006 he left to join an energy and environmental consultancy before joining Cranfield University in 2008 as their energy manager with the challenging brief to reduce the University’s carbon footprint by 50% by 2020. In 2011 he took on the role of Energy & Environment Manager to lead the delivery of additional similarly challenging targets for waste, water, biodiversity, transport and other aspects of sustainability for the University estate. Gareth was a District Councillor in Mid Beds District Council before it was disbanded,  is currently a Parish Councillor and a Trustee for the local school academy where he lives.  He has lived in Bedfordshire for 30 years.

Norman Costin

Councillor Norman Costin was elected to South Bedfordshire District Council in 1976, when the combined Local Rural Councils were created and continued until the cessation of the Council on the creation of Central Bedfordshire Council and continues as Councillor for Toddington Ward. Norman was born into generations of Bedfordshire farmers’ on the family farm at Wingfield and still supports the family business. Norman is happily married to olive and they have three grown up sons who are successful in their chosen careers and sporting ventures. Norman and Olive have recently made their home in Marston Moretaine.  He has been involved in Health Support for forty years, having sat on the Board of Heartlands Primary Care Trust, Luton and Dunstable Hospital and Papworth Hospital. He has been a member Chairman of the Buckingham and Ouzel Drainage Board and Vice Chairman of Eastern Area Drainage Authority.


Rod Calvert OBE

Rod has lived in Bedford since 1968 with several periods of work abroad and worked in the Marston Vale from 1970 at Millbrook Proving Ground developing it into an independent company from 1988 as Managing Director. Now retired from this role but with over 40 years in senior global management roles in the motor industry, Rod’s work was nationally recognised in 2008 with the award of an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.  He was ordained at Buckingham Palace in 2009.  Rod has been involved with the Forest from its inception and has always been a keen supporter of the charity.   Currently non-exec director and chairman in the commercial world and President of the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, he brings his wide management experience to the board to help guide the trust in delivering on its objectives.


Honorary Life President – Fiona Chapman





Role and responsibilities of Trustees of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust
Trustees of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust commit themselves to upholding the values and objectives of the Trust.
Trustees are bound by an overriding duty, individually and as a Board, to act reasonably at all times in the interests of the Organisation and of its present and future beneficiaries and stakeholders.  Each and every Trustee must act personally, and not as the representative of any group or organisation; this applies regardless of how they were nominated, elected or selected to become a Trustee.
The responsibilities of Trustees include:

  • Ensuring that the Trust’s activities are in compliance with the Charity’s objects as defined in the Memorandum of Association.
  • Attending a significant majority of Board meeting and Annual General Meetings.
  • Participating in Board and Annual General meetings of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust in such a way as to ensure the efficient conduct of business.
  • Contributing their expertise and experience to the debate and discussion at Trustees’ meetings.
  • Supporting all majority decisions taken by all quorate Board meetings.
  • Ensuring that the Organisation’s vision, mission, values and activities remain true to the Trust’s Objects.
  • Ensuring that the Trust remains independent and does not come under the control of any external organization or individual.
  • Reviewing the effectiveness of the Board and its members at least every two year and working with fellow- Trustees and the Chairman to correct any areas where the Board is not complying sufficiently with the Code of Good Governance.
  • Declaring any material conflicts of interest and not participating in discussions or votes where they have a conflict of interest.
  • Ensuring that the Organisation has sufficient resources to cover its liabilities and planned activities, taking steps to fill any shortfalls.
  • Ensuring compliance with legislation regarding staff, volunteers and other stakeholders (For example Health and Safety and employment legislation) and ensuring that the Organisation is a good employer
  • Ensuring that money given to the Trust is used for the precise purpose for which it was given.

Role and responsibilities of the Chairman of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust
The role of the Chairman is to lead the Board of Trustees, ensuring that it fulfils its responsibilities for the governance of the organisation. The responsibilities of the chair include:

  • Ensuring that the Trust’s activities are in compliance with the Charity’s objects as defined in the Memorandum of Association.
  • Setting Board meeting and Annual General Meeting dates and agendas in consultation with other Board members.
  • Chairing all Board and Annual General meetings of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust in such a way as to ensure the efficient conduct of business.
  • Ensuring that meetings of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust are quorate (as defined in the Articles of Association of the Marston Vale Trust) where decisions are to be taken.
  • Ensuring that the organisation’s business is efficiently and accountably conducted between Board meetings.
  • Monitoring progress by the Organisation in implementing decisions taken at Board and Annual General meetings.
  • Ensuring that the employment of the Chief Executive complies with employment legislation and good practice and that the appraisal and remuneration of the Chief Executive is conducted in accordance with the Code of Good Governance.
  • Representing the organisation at functions and meetings, and acting as a spokesperson as appropriate.
  • Sitting on appointment, disciplinary and grievance panels where the Chairman considers it necessary or desirable or where policy so requires.

Marston Vale Services Ltd. trading as The Forest Centre
Marston Vale Services Ltd trading as the Forest Centre (hereafter referred to as the Forest Centre) is the wholly-owned trading subsidiary of the Forest of Marston Vale Trust.  All of the profits from The Forest Centre are donated to the parent charity and these cover approximately half of the Trust’s operating costs.  As a social enterprise, the Forest Centre in Marston Moretaine generates revenue from conferencing, catering, shop sales and other commercial activities.

The Directors of Marston Vale Services Ltd. are:

Miss Debra Hassall (Chairman)
Biography above

Nick Webb (Managing Director and the Trusts’ Company Secretary)

Nick graduated from Brighton University with a BA hons in International Management and after a short spell as a recruitment consultant, founded an adventure sports company in 1997. With a keen interest in adventure sports, he took groups paragliding, skiing, gorge walking, abseiling, motor cross riding and rallying cars; a great way to run a business and have fun at the same time!
Selling the business on, in a trade sale after ten years was a difficult decision, but a chance to move on to new challenges and allowed much needed time with his young family. Nick then took the position of Chief Executive at a newly created children and young people’s support charity and over the next three and a half years grew the organisation to be at the forefront of Childrens & Young People’s development and training in Hertfordshire.
Being an environmentally minded person who enjoys spending time outdoors, it was therefore a natural progression and a great opportunity to take over the role of CEO at the Trust in 2012, when the opportunity arose. Nick lives in the Hertfordshire, near the border with Bedfordshire, with his wife Kari and their three young children.

The Forest of Marston Vale Trust. Registered in England No 3462405, Registered Charity No 1069229. Marston Vale Services Ltd. trading as The Forest Centre Registered in England No 3538255.
Marston Vale Farms Ltd. Registered in England No 6537891. Registered Office for all: The Forest Centre, Station Road, Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, MK43 0PR
© The Forest of Marston Vale Trust. Web design and development by Bonfire Creative Intelligence