Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report
2017 Committee Annual Report
Although 2017 was a dormant year in terms of organised events on the Valley, it did prove to be significant for two contrasting reasons.
Thank you Warwick
The first was, sadly, losing Warwick Ogden. From his family home he had overlooked the Valley since the early 1970’s and soon became the “guardian” of what was a rather neglected open space.
He witnessed and contributed to the renaissance of the Valley from being a sparsely surrounded field in the years following the Council’s 1960’s tipping contract, to the beautiful open space that it now is.
He was one of our founder members. So we owe a big thank you to Warwick for all his efforts over 45 years.
Lending a Hand
The second is that FOVALD members spread their wings during 2017.
As well as looking after the Valley surrounds and the Little Dene, a sub-group was formed, Lending a Hand, to do the landscape maintenance work in HWJ that the City Council has stopped doing, mainly on Moorfield, Little Moor and Freeman’s Park (which we now know as Litle Dene Park)).
The group meets once a week and started in early March.
By December, over 1 km of footpaths had been edged; approx 140 barrow/bag loads of leaves collected; and lots of trees & shrubs pruned.
One of the aims is to recycle all compostable material.
FOVALD adopts further park
Freeman’s Park is Town Moor land and the quality of our work persuaded the City’s Freemen to agree to FOVALD adopting the park on a similar basis to the adoption agreement that we have with the City Council for the Valley.
This means that we have responsibility for looking after all of the open spaces that abut HWJ to the north and west, i.e. the Valley, Little Dene and Freeman Park.
All lie within the City’s defined “wildlife corridor”, so we have the opportunity to introduce changes that will not only benefit and enhance the landscape but also wildlife.
So a big thank you to all residents who have contributed.
There was little change to report regarding the Valley’s trees & shrubs.
The ash trees have not succumbed to “die-back” and even the old lilac on the north side, which predated the 1962 “levelling contract”, continued to bloom.
It was good to see “Joanna’s” cherry tree, on Lodore Road next to the garage, starting to make a significant contribution!
Two pear trees and another apple were planted close to an existing apple tree in the north-east corner, close to the blackberry patch – perhaps the start of a “community orchard”?
There are 2-3 trees in Little Dene that are overhanging Lodore Road that will probably need intervention during 2018.
More work was undertaken keeping weeds at bay and it is good to see that the hollies & hazels planted 5 years ago are gradually starting to form an understorey.
A lot of shrub pruning and tree “crown lifting” was carried out on Freeman’s Park, to improve visibility both within and alongside the space and to improve the structure of the plants.
A landscape action plan was produced for 2018 which received approval from the Freemen. This includes the further pruning of trees & shrubs bordering Little Dene flats, which will be the subject of consultation.
A disappointment was the loss of a substantial part of a beautiful “choisya” bush through vandalism. We are hopeful it can be nurtured back to prime condition.
During last winter, bird feeders were placed on the Valley close to the Little Dene.
They have attracted a variety of birds. The most notable seen on the Valley being a woodcock, a bullfinch and a lesser spotted woodpecker.
A recent bird survey in Jesmond Dene also recorded sightings of bullfinches and the lesser spotted woodpecker, plus many species that were recorded in the 2016 FOVALD survey.
This is good news in that it is evidence of the wildlife link between Jesmond Dene and the Valley & the Little Dene.
Grey squirrels continue to occupy the trees in our area.
However, it is also interesting to note that otters have recently been seen in the Dene beside Fisherman’s Lodge.
Several years ago, footprints were seen in the mud beside the culvert entrance in Little Dene and it was suspected, at that time, that the prints may have been an otter’s. Another possible wildlife corridor link!
Use of the Valley and Freeman’s Park
Without doubt, the most popular use of the Valley in 2017 was dog walking and adult socialising!
People walk around the Valley at all times of the day, with early mornings and lunchtimes being times when people tend to congregate, chat and network.
It has been described as an “outdoor community centre”!
The dryer summer months saw the usual ball games, picnics and “congregations” – large numbers of young people meeting on the Valley on some summer evenings.
Freeman’s Park is different. It is a place to pass through rather than a destination.
However, it is an attractive space and the 4 seats available are frequently used by residents wishing to sit and relax before continuing their journey.
It may be useful to undertake a user count during 2018.
Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
Read more: You can read more about the work of FOVALD and see a plan of the Valley, Little Dene and Little Dene Park on the FOVALD page.