March for the Moor – say NO to motorway on the Moor

Local community objects strongly to road building plans that threaten green open space

High West Jesmond Residents’ Association strongly objects to the plans in consultation put forward by Newcastle City Council for the Blue House Roundabout and Jesmond Dene Road junctions.

In conjunction with other affected residents groups and other local organisations we invite you to let your voice be heard by coming along to the March on the Moor on 21 August 2016 with banners/placards or anything else to make your views known.

 

2015 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2015 Committee Annual Report

Community events in 2015

1915-2015 Celebrations of centenary of residents use of The Valley – High West Jesmond Newcastle

2015 was celebrated as our “Centenary Year” – marking 100 years continuous use of the Valley by residents of High West Jesmond!

The main event, the Centenary Festival in early June, was not blessed with the best weather.

Our pitching of tents and gazebos invariably encourages the usual rain clouds to pay us a visit! However, a good crowd attended, the stalls sold out, our “Town Crier” was in good voice and lots of new residents took an interest in the history of the Valley and signed up as supporters.

A bonus was that in the run-up to the festival we found former resident Bev Bagnall, whose family lived on Lodore Road in the 1950’s & 60’s. His family photos gave us a glimpse of what the original Valley looked like before the City Council filled it in 1962.

A big “thank you” to all who helped make it a successful day, including the promotions company NE1 for 3 excellent gazebos, to our local café “Deliciously Decadent” for a lovely cake, to Chris & his Dad at our “Simply Local” shop for a bottle of whisky for the tombola, Andy at North Jesmond Garage for the energy supply and to St George’s Church and St Hilda’s Church for the tables and chairs.

The festival was complemented by a Family Picnic arranged in August by David & Sarah Dargue. The weather was much kinder and, as can be seen below, between 15-20 families enjoyed the afternoon and early evening.

Thanks to David, Sarah and everyone who contributed. It’s hoped that the picnic will become a regular event.

Preceding both of these events was the Easter Egg Hunt – adults(!) as well as children searching for goodies among the undergrowth and nooks & crannies. Fun was had by all!

Environment and Wildlife

Hedgehogs were spotted on the Valley in 2015, hopefully a spin-off from the wildlife shelters that we’ve created. Hedgehogs are becoming endangered, so if you spot one please let us know!

The vegetation in the Little Dene is now very dense in places, a consequence of falling trees, which is perhaps one of the reasons why so many foxes have been sighted during the year.

The spring flowers and wildflowers continue to please – not just us, but also the insect population! Lots of bees & butterflies seen and heard over the summer. A target for 2016 will be to identify the types of butterflies, as well as carrying out bird and bat surveys.

In terms of the arboriculture: the two chestnut trees next to Newlands Road were quite spectacular last spring; the hazel trees next to the culvert are thriving & provide an excellent food source for the squirrels and field mice; the rhododendrons in the NE corner of the Valley are now making a significant contribution.

Village Green Application

Our application, which was submitted in June 2014, has still not been finally resolved by the City Council.

The only objection to our application was from the City Council itself, as “landlord”. In dealing with the objection and our comments, the Council sought advice from two barristers.

The legal advice that they received indicated that we may not have satisfied one of the criteria in the 2006 Commons Act. We do not intend to employ a barrister to contest this. Therefore, we continue to wait to hear from the City Council.

Gone but not forgotten

Several of our members & supporters passed on during 2015:

Charles Hall, Rectory Road. Aged 92, Charles was one of our founding members.

Chris Craig, Lodore Road. Aged 63, Chris was a regular at our events.

Sybil Durno, Newlands Road. Aged 96, Sybil had used the Valley since 1935 and gave an excellent statement in support of our Village Green application.

Barry Parmley, Lodore Road. Barry was a long-time supporter & a regular at events.

John Parker, Rectory Rd. Aged 85, John was also a long time supporter and a volunteer at most of our events.

All will be sorely missed. However, we are sure that they would appreciate the number of young families and children using the Valley in 2015.

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
December 2014

2014 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2014 Committee Annual Report

This has been our most difficult year so far!

The application for Village Green status under the Commons Act 2006 proved to be a much more complex project than first envisaged.

However, we soldiered on and, with great support from many residents and from the High West Jesmond Residents Association, we managed to submit the application on 10th June. It was verified in early July.

Since then we have had virtually no communication, although, as most residents will have seen, notices were placed on the Valley in early November informing people of our application and requesting people who wish to object to do so before 31st December.

Emails to the City’s contact solicitor, asking about the process for dealing with the application in the new year have failed to attract a response (at time of going to print!). All a bit frustrating after the community effort involved.

Whilst High West Jesmond residents have accessed the Valley for a long time, for the land to be registered as a Village Green a range of criteria have to be met.

In particular, it has to be shown that the land was not meant to be provided for public use. In that case, public use would become “as of right”. On the other hand, if the land was provided for public use, then such use is “by right”.

For a Village Green to be registered, 20 years “as of right” use has to be proved.

Of course, High West Jesmond residents have been using the Valley from around 1915.

Until the 1950’s it was in private ownership and during that period “as of right” use would have become established. However, for the purposes of current legislation that is too long ago!

The land was bought by Newcastle and Gosforth Councils in the 1950’s, mainly as a site for depositing spoil from housing clearance.

The tipping took place in 1962 and the material was covered with a thin layer of top soil. It was subsequently managed as “general purpose” land not as public open space.

Yet, despite this, use by local residents continued. Our case is that between 1975 and 1995 the residents of High West Jesmond used the Valley “as of right”. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that grass cutting became regular, the surrounds were improved and waste-bins provided.

This is the core of our case. We hope to learn how the Council is to process our application in the early months of 2015!

The time taken up by the application, meant that our planned habitat and wildlife surveys did not take place!

Annual Tidy Up – Maintenance Days: January 2014 and 23 November 2014

The annual maintenance day is getting earlier each year. Because of the milder winters the daffs, snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells tend to be breaking through well before Christmas.

To ensure that we don’t damage the emerging bulbs, the Tidy Up day was held in early Jan last winter and late Nov this winter! Thanks to all who helped.

The late Nov session meant that there was still time to plant a few more bulbs and to adjust the location of a tree donated by Dave & Frank Snowden. Special thanks to Ann Potts and Cath Snowden who provided hot broth and home baked bread for the “workers”.

Wildflower Day – Sunday 27 April 2014

The seeds were sown a bit earlier than last year. Despite the inclement weather, a collection of “hardy residents” scattered seeds over a slightly larger area of the bank-side than in 2013.

Unfortunately, the first batch of seeds did not take. The area was successfully reseeded in late May/early June. By all accounts, the display in August, Sept and part of October was worth the wait!

Use of the Valley 2014

Another year without a large-scale formal community fun event! However, the Valley remains well used – for the occasional parties, BBQ’s or just as a place for children & young people to meet up & relax.

The dog owners and dog walking fraternity seems to be increasing in numbers every year! That creates a lot of positive social connections. However, we do need to be vigilant to ensure that waste is removed and that the scale of use by dogs does not inhibit use of the Valley by families, children and young people.

The Natural Landscape 2014

Not too much change this year. The ash trees are still with us! Die-back has not materialised yet.

However, the gales did some damage in the Little Dene. Part of a large willow fell across the culvert entrance and had to be removed and a very large ash fell across the Little Dene, threatening traffic on Lodore Road.

This was dealt with by the Council but their action was limited to eliminating any threat to the highway. The safety of the trunk spanning the Little Dene needs to be assessed this winter.

Wildlife 2014

You’ve got to be lucky to spot wild mammals on the Valley or in the Little Dene!

However, grey squirrels keep popping up here and there and foxes and wood mice have been seen. No hedgehogs have been spotted for quite a while, although we have recently used the tree prunings to construct some “shelters” that they could nestle into!

Lots of wren, thrush and blackbird nests, plus the sparrow hawks still have their home in the area and woodpeckers can occasionally be heard in the Little Dene.

2015 is probably time for another bird survey (last survey in 2010). Plus, there are bats on the Valley & in the Dene. This year might be a good time to carry out a bat survey.

The wildflower display attracted quite an array of butterflies – meadow browns; red admirals; peacocks; large whites.

Plus, a “small blue” was spotted – a variety believed to be migrating up from the south east as our climate is becoming less harsh.

Priorities for 2015

Much will depend on what happens with our Village Green application. If an inquiry is held, it will mean quite a lot of preparation work in the next few months.

Of course, it can be argued that 2015 is the Valley’s “centenary year” – an excuse for a celebration, perhaps in early summer! As the VG application drags-on, we do have the option of submitting the Valley as a “Community Asset”! It certainly is such an asset.

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
December 2014

2013 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2013 Committee Annual Report

A year of mixed emotions! Spring and summer were relative highs created by the wildflower germination and displays, but this was doused rather by the news that the City Council harbours ambitions to build housing on the eastern half of the Valley.

Community events on The Valley

Annual Tidy Up – January 2013

Because of the need to avoid damage to the emerging spring bulbs, the spring-clean of the Valley & Little Dene was moved forward to early January.

A shortage of time prevented flyers but there were enough pairs of hands to fill 10 large bin bags.

Grass cutting programme – April to October 2013

The proposal by Newcastle City Council to reduce the area of cut grass and extend the natural fringe got off to a bad start – the machines trimmed 1m more off rather than 1m less!

However, this hiccup was sorted and culminated in the City placing 12 x 2m poles around the edge of the Valley to guide the grass-cutters.
This provoked public consternation & conjecture! Were the poles for projected flood levels or future building lines? True words spoken in jest??

Wildflower planting and insect hotels – May 2013

A kilo of “annual cornfield mixture” donated by the City’s Ecology Officer was scattered on the north facing bank of the Valley next to the Dene.

Prior to seed sowing, the land had been cleared of perennial weeds.
The seed sowing and insect hotel building was publicised as part of the Jesmond Festival.

Although “take up” by parents & children was a bit disappointing, those that did attend, 13 in all, did a great job. The wildflowers took 5-6 weeks to grow & bloom but were worth the wait!

 

Bulb Planting – October 2013

Some 300-400 more daffodils planted in the north east (Newlands Road end) and north west corners, increasing the total bulbs planted over the last 5 years to around 4,000!

The Use of the Valley 2013

Although there were no formal organised events on the Valley in 2013, casual use by individuals, families & groups was, as always, extensive.

The most popular times are in summer, particularly warm dry spells, when residents are seen sunbathing, snoozing, relaxing or reading; groups of young people will be playing various games or chatting; families may be having a BBQ.

Throughout the year, there is a constant flow of dog walkers. In fact, the dog walking fraternity are suggesting that the Valley is now more popular than the Little Moor!

The Natural Landscape 2013

There is no doubt that the trees & shrubs surrounding the Valley, a mixture of ash, grey poplar, willow, conifers, horse chestnuts, mountain ash, field maple, sycamore, and hazel with buddleia, hawthorn, blackthorn, elderflower, lilac, wild rose and other shrubs included, now make a very attractive backdrop to the open space.

There has been no evidence during 2013 of “ash-dieback”. There are a significant number of mature ash trees and if these trees do become diseased, a plan for replacements will be needed. We did lose one mature ash in the north west corner – it was removed in order to improve sunlight reaching the adjoining Rectory Road garden.

The environment within the Little Dene continues to improve in terms of its wildlife habitat. The holly and hawthorn whips that were planted 4 years ago are now substantial plants, which, with the help of nettles, render access to the Dene by humans very difficult during the May- November period. However, much better for wildlife!

The Wildlife 2013

Not too much to report! The wildflowers attracted a lot of bees – perhaps from the colonies on Rectory Road allotments.

A vixen was spotted carrying 4 cubs (one at a time!) along the northern edge of the Valley and after discussing the grey squirrels in a Rectory Road garden, that may be taking advantage of the hazel trees in the Little Dene, we decided not to recommend a cull.

We have resisted suggestions to reduce or remove the ivy from the trees at the western end of Little Dene, on the grounds that the ivy provides an excellent habitat for birds and insects.

The City Council’s Development Proposals – December 2013

Unknown to residents, during 2013 the City Council had prepared lists of “potential” housing sites to support the need for more land for housing that is identified in the draft Joint Newcastle-Gateshead 10-15 year One Core Strategy. The Newlands Road half of the Valley was included as a potential site in the 2018-23 period.

This was a “bit of a bombshell”!

An open meeting arranged for residents by the High West Jesmond Residents’ Association, unanimously concluded that the Valley as a whole was integral to our community.

As a consequence, it was agreed to investigate, and if possible, proceed with an application for Village Green status.

Priorities for 2014

Village Green Status
We will pursue this with some vigour. If legal difficulties prevent such an application, then applying for “local green space” status will be the next option.

More wildflowers
We plan to extend the wildflower area along Lodore Road and try and introduce an area on Newlands Road frontage. To commemorate WW1, the seed mixes will include poppies.

Habitat and Wildlife surveys
We need to carry out a plant survey in the Little Dene and bird surveys in both the Dene and the surrounds to the Valley.

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
December 2013

2012 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2012 Committee Annual Report

The Queen’s Jubilee Year (!) and one of the wettest years on record! Plus we held an event as part of Jesfest – again a first for us. So how did it all pan out?

Community events on The Valley

15 Jan 2012 – Maintenance Day

A bit earlier than usual. As well as loads of cans, bottles and refuse blown into the Dene, the big job was the removal of a very large and unsafe branch from the ash tree in the north west corner of the Valley. Thanks to Luke & Frank!

March/April 2012– Bulb display

Certainly better than the previous year!

People starting to comment on the daffodil display, plus the snowdrops & bluebells in the “wood” behind the garage.

6 May 2012 – Little Dene stream sampling – part of the Jesmond Festival

This was a repeat of an event we held in 2002 with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust. This time we borrowed equipment from Jesmond Dene Rangers and managed the event ourselves, with a small financial contribution from Jesfest.

More families turned up than we expected but we coped –  24 children plus adults.

The range of invertebrates found in the stream was similar to the previous occasion – therefore, good news! The event was a success – thanks to all who helped.

3 June 2012 Queen’s Jubilee – Big Picnic

Our main event of the year!

Despite the weather being cool and windy, between 150-250 people congregated in groups all over the Valley, in what was a really good turn-out of residents. Big range in the quality of the picnics, with Rectory Road residents winning accolades for top notch grub!

Other Items

  • Unwanted Bluebells. It was suggested to High West Jesmond residents that any unwanted bluebell bulbs could be replanted in the wood behind the garage. April-May 2013 will give an indication of how many residents took up the offer!
  • Daffodil planting. 200-300 daffodils were planted under the chestnut trees on the Newlands Road frontage in December. It may be 2014 before these are seen at their best.
  • Magnolia  planting. Two magnolias have been transplanted in the last year – both appear to have taken. So try & spot the flowers in spring!

One consequence of the very wet 2012 has been the transfer of more dog walking from the Little Moor (pond land!) to the Valley. This has extended social networks and resulted in more people enjoying the Valley’s environment.

The natural environment seems to be developing each year as the newer shrubs, trees & indigenous plants continue to thrive. Bird nesting activity in 2012 appeared to be up to usual levels. The field maples autumn display in 2012 was quite spectacular!

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
December 2012

2011 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and the Little Dene Annual Report

2011 Committee Annual Report

The Valley continues to be well used. 2011 has seen it all (!) – sledging; snowmen making; sunbathing; young people chatting; individuals relaxing; students chilling out before & after exams; football, cricket & rugby games; frisby throwing; plus BBQs – large & small.

Of course, the daily users are the dog walkers and I think that we can reasonably confidently report that the great majority now use the bins!

The trees and shrubs continue to thrive. The surrounds to the Valley are really thickening up in places, which gives the smaller birds a safer nesting environment – blackbirds, thrushes, wrens and dunnocks have all been regularly spotted.

The sparrow hawks were nesting again this year, bats have been spotted and woodpeckers have been seen and heard in the Little Dene. There are several shrubs on the Valley that attract butterflies – perhaps in 2012 we can record the different types.

Community events on The Valley

In chronological order, the “events” were as follows:

30 Jan 2011: The Valley and the Little Dene – annual clean up.

The amount of rubbish collected each year seems to be diminishing. Not only is there less rubbish left on the valley but the volume blown down the backlanes and into the Little Dene appears to be waning. However, we still filled a dozen or more large black bags! Thanks to all those who took part.

Feb – March – April 2011: Spring Bulb Display

Perhaps a little disappointing considering the number of bulbs planted and the communal effort that was involved. However, bulbs get stronger and multiply – and we can add more to continually improve the display.

19 March 2011: Jesmond Festival Parade

Several Committee members acted as voluntary traffic stewards.

Late Spring 2011: Shrub & Tree Planting

Six variegated and plain hollies were donated by residents as well as a magnolia and a maple. The hollies and maple found convenient spots in the Little Dene where they should complement last year’s “whip” planting scheme.

The magnolia found a sheltered location on the Valley. We should start to see the distinctive flowers in 2012 or 2013.

11 June 2011: Community & Family Fun Day!

What a day! One of the wettest days of 2011 failed to dampen the enthusiasm of all those who participated – stallholders, games organizers, musicians and, of course, all those residents and families who turned out and supported the event.

Despite the weather everybody seemed to enjoy it. The bonus was that income exceeded expenditure. A big thank you to all!

September 2011: A request to map all trees & shrubs

We received a request from Newcastle University’s Landscape Department to consider mapping and evaluating all the planting on the Valley & the Little Dene as a student project.

23 October 2011: Bulb Planting

Another 600+ “larger” bulbs were planted in easily visible locations that should complement those planted last year. Despite relatively short notice, the promotional flyer enticed quite a few residents and families to bring bulbs along and join in.

Prospects for 2012

For discussion. Initial priorities may be:

• Annual maintenance day/clean up – mid January
• Ownership of the south side of the Little Dene
• Jesmond Community Festival – April/May. We have been asked whether we could organize an event as part of the Festival.

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
December 2011