FOVALD appreciation of Susan Lydia Challoner

Plaque commissioned by FOVALD’s Lending a Hand group to show appreciation to former resident who donated the ‘gap in the wall’

The Friends of the Valley, Little Dene and Little Dene Park’s (FOVALD) Lending a Hand Group has recently commissioned a new plaque to tell the story of the ‘hole in the wall’ at Little Dene Park.

On Friday 8 February Catherine McKinnell MP was invited to unveil the plaque commemorating the gift by Susan Lydia Challoner of the ‘gap in the wall’ that gives us all a short cut on to Moor Road South.

The plaque has been commissioned by FOVALD’s Lending a Hand Group that now looks after the Little Dene Park in addition to the Valley and Little Dene.

Members of FOVALD, the Lending a Hand Group and local High West Jesmond residents attended the ceremony to learn more about the generosity of Susan Lydia Challoner and the history of this part of High West Jesmond.

Who was Susan Lydia Challoner?

The plaque commemorates a lady called Susan Lydia Challoner who lived in Moor Road South between 1936 and 1953.

The park, which we now know as Little Dene Park, was constructed by the Newcastle City Council in 1952-53.

Mrs Challoner, who died in that year, bequeathed the money to pay for the entrance from Moor Road South.

The ‘hole in the wall’ has become a very well used route for residents in Gosforth and High West Jesmond.

The original plaque commemorating Mrs Challoners gift disappeared around 1990.

As part of FOVALD’s environmental improvement plan for the Little Dene Park they decided to reinstate the plaque.

FOVALD’s Lending a Hand Group tapped into resident’s memories to find the wording that best reflected the original and they commissioned the new plaque from Thorpes of Gosforth.

FOVALD caring for our green spaces

FOVALD (Friends of the Valley, the Little Dene and Little Dene Park) a small voluntary organisation based in High West Jesmond.

They have adopted the Valley from the City Council and the Little Dene Park from the City’s Freemen (it is part of the Town Moor).

FOVALD also look after the original Little Dene as a nature resource.

On Tuesday mornings, FOVALD organise’s a group called Lending a Hand that does the maintenance & improvement work on the green spaces in this part of High West Jesmond, as well as keeping all the other verges and paths in the area tidy.

Many thanks to FOVALD and to the Lending a Hand group for their ongoing work to enhance our community green spaces.

Chris Morgan also writes to share some history

When the High West Jesmond estate was first laid out Moorfield stopped at the now triangular junction with Lodore Road.

The main way into HWJ from the Great North Road was by the path that cut across the Little Moor.

However there must also have been a path leading from that corner to the bottom of Moor Road where the Little Bridge still crossed the Craghall Burn. My mother remembered playing in the stream at that point.

It must have been very soon after WW1 that Moorfield was extended through to the Great North Road and the stream went into a culvert to emerge in the grounds of the old house, Little Dene.

Boundary of Newcastle

At this time the stream formed the boundary between the City and County of Newcastle upon Tyne and the County of Northumberland. On the surface the stone wall was the boundary.

The Little Moor is part of the Town Moor owned by the Freemen, but this part of the Little Moor was now isolated.

Little Park

In 1952 the Freemen released the area north of Moorfield to form a Coronation Park (there must have been thousands of others across the nation, it was a time of great euphoria and celebration), although it wasn’t known as such. We all called it the Little Park.

The flower beds created were almost totally of clay and little grew for decades! I believe they may still be a challenge.

When the park was laid out there was a path extending around the perimeter with a dead end spur ending beside the stone wall. If memory serves correctly my friend Tony Devine’s bike/trike/scooter ran away down the gradient and he crashed into the wall, badly breaking his arm.

Hole in the wall

A clamour grew to have the wall opened up to allow free passage onto Moor Road South. It may not have happened for 2 or 3 years after 1953.

A simple plaque was positioned and the name Challoner was on it. There may have been another name as well.

Twice a day nuns from the convent just up Moor Road walked through the gap to and from La Sagesse school at the top of Matthew Bank.

1962 – The Valley and Little Dene, or Blackies Valley, Newcastle being filled in

Little Dene, aka Blackies Valley, or what was left of it before they finally filled it in, around 1962

A heritage post by Chris Morgan

This small stream flows east from high on the Newcastle Town Moor near Kenton Bar, and formed the boundary between the City and County of Newcastle upon Tyne and Gosforth, which was then in Northumberland. Ultimately it joins the Ouse Burn just beyond the foot of Matthew Bank where it is known as Craghall Dene.

It flowed below the Great North Road roughly where Moor Road now joins Moorfield, that point being known as Little Bridge. By the time the large house Little Dene was built on Lodore Road the stream was in a culvert, probably beside the south side of Moor Road. It emerged to the north-east side of the old house through an ornamental angelic water feature in the garden, then flowed at the north side of Lodore Road until the bottom of Newlands Road.

An open culvert (no gating of any kind to prevent entry) then took the stream to the bottom of Mathew Bank. Braver boys than I said they’d worked their way all the way through! The wooden structure at the base of this picture is immediately above that entry.

The Blyth and Tyne railway was built on an embankment across the dene, but that small culvert was extended when material from the clearance of the Forth goods depot was used to broaden the embankment, sufficiently for the building of houses on Ilford Road and Newlands Avenue – and possibly parts of Lodore road itself. The Craghall Dene side of the railway has also been filled at various dates almost up to Matthew Bank.

This picture was taken from the bottom of Newlands Avenue, looking towards Lodore Road and the bottom of Albemarle Avenue. By this time the trees, mostly willow, had been cleared off and the line of the new culvert had been excavated. I think the rubble subsequently used to fill this area came from demolished slum housing in Shieldfield, where tower blocks were built. This site is now a gently sloping grassy area.

Before this it had been a more natural dene, with willow trees, and some sloping allotments on the Gosforth northern side. The south side next to Lodore Road was steeper, comprising building rubble that must have been dumped to make the High West Jesmond site more level when Lodore Road was formed.

Note the line of wooden garages on Lodore Road. These could be hired, 2 or 3 storing small Ford vans for the delivery of milk by Jesmond Farm Dairies on Newlands Avenue (where the convenience store is now). Others were used by local residents. In 1962 very few cars were kept overnight on the roads.

North Jesmond Garge on Lodore Road, just to the left of this picture, was then Jones Garage with 3 petrol pumps – hand operated. At night it also stored residents cars. In 1968 I paid 10/- a week to keep my 1952 Morris Minor there.

Incidentally, North Jesmond originally referred to the part further to the east of the railway, towards Matthew Bank – the garage should really be called High West Jesmond Garage!

1964 – The original Little Dene house on Lodore Road

The original house known as Little Dene Lodore Road, High West Jesmond, Newcastle, 1964

A heritage post by Chris Morgan

The largest property in High West Jesmond by a very substantial margin was Little Dene. Named after the small dene that ran from the Little Bridge on the A1, also known as Craghall Dene nearer it’s confluence with the Ouseburn at the top of Jesmond Dene.

The stream, the Craghall Burn, formed the boundary between the city and county of Newcastle upon Tyne and the county of Northumberland. It joins the Ouse Burn at the bottom of Matthew Bank. The greater part was filled in by spoil from the construction of the railway yards in the Manors area, allowing the railway to run on the level between Jesmond Dene Road and South Gosforth. The High West Jesmond and North Jesmond estates were partially built on this land.

The stream used to run at the bottom of the Little park, beside Moor Road South, at the end of Moorfield until it was reclaimed from moorland in time for the Coronation in 1953. The stream by then had been culvetted from the west side of the Great North Road, emerging in the garden of Little Dene.

By 1964 Little Dene was badly run down, occupied by an old witch – or so we kids were led to believe! In 1950 it was still occupied by the son of it’s builder, bachelor Alexander Pringle, a brother and a spinster sister. In the 1920’s and 1930’s it had been a very smart house, painted white each year and known locally as the White House. Garden parties were held in aid of charities.

By the 1950’s the garden was badly overgrown, the covered stream emerging from beneath the house into an angelic fountain feature that was almost hidden from view – except to small boys trespassing!

Sadly, renovation seemed to be out of the question and demolition soon followed this picture being taken. By 1970 the site had been redeveloped into Little Dene flats.

This autumn picture illustates how well hidden such a large house was, even at that time of year.

Information from WorldInfoZone:

“Alexander Pringle of Cranmer Dykes, Gateshead built St George’s Church in Gateshead; the Rutherford Memorial College, Bath Lane; King Edward School of Art and the School of Bacteriology at Armstrong College; the Commercial Union Insurance Building in Pilgrim Street; Collingwood Buildings in Collingwood Street and Tilley’s Rooms and the YMCA in Blackett Street as well as the Gateshead Cenotaph in Shipcote. Alexander Pringle was also responsible for the reconstruction of The Palace Theatre and the Empire Palace Theatre (Empire Theatre) in Newgate Street.

Further information has confirmed that Alexander Pringle was the builder of the RVI (Royal Victoria Infirmary) which opened in 1901. His name is on the original entrance hall of the hospital. Other buildings included a police station, co-operative stores, breweries and schools. He also built Little Dene in Gosforth where he lived with his family.”

Not completely right. The house itself was in Newcastle, although the garden was partially in Gosforth.

The park in the foreground had been part of the Little Moor when my mother used to play in the rough ground beside it’s northern stone wall. At that time Moorfield did not run out onto the Great North Road, stopping at it’s junction with Lodore Road. I recall the park being laid out in time for the Coronation in 1953, when it was known as the Little Park.

2016 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2016 Committee Annual Report

Compared to 2015, which we celebrated as the centenary of the first use of the Valley by residents of High West Jesmond, we decided that 2016 should be a quieter year.

Council rejects our application for Village Green status

Our only event in the summer attracted more rain clouds than customers and in October we received an official letter from Newcastle City Council (who itself was the only objector against our application) informing us that following review by Newcastle City Council our application for Village Green status had been rejected – 2 years and 4 months after it was submitted!

Despite all the hard work of the High West Jesmond community we decided not to appeal.

The Landscape

Despite this, the Valley bloomed as usual.

Snowdrops – looking towards Lodore Road, High West Jesmond

Loads of snowdrops (2017 versions out now!), followed by all the daffodils in the spring and the wildflowers later in the summer.

The “field maples” continue to grow and extend the colour show every autumn; no obvious signs of “ash die-back” have been spotted; fruit trees, and a couple of “lime tree whips”, have been introduced along the northern edge (thanks to Frank S and Jon R).

In the Little Dene, the holly & hawthorn understory is growing very slowly but the fallen ash trees help to provide a protective environment for insects and small mammals.

In the summer months the Dene is almost impenetrable for us humans!


Our 4th bird survey was carried out on 9 May 2016 – and proved to be the most productive. 

A total of 22 separate species were recorded, including goldfinch, goldcrest, dunnock, blackcap, chiffchaff, coal tit, great tit and blue tit to name but a few!

The report suggested ways to further improve the Little Dene and the Valley surrounds for the bird population. Minimising disturbance is always beneficial.

Several bird boxes have been placed on trees on the edge of the Little Dene and there are 1/2 bird feeders  close to the Valley (thanks to Paul W for making them and Frank S for placing them!).  

Apart from finding a dead male fox inside a hollow tree trunk early in 2016, we had no reports of foxes having been seen on the Valley or in the Dene.

However, grey squirrels remain present, no doubt attracted by the abundance of hazel nuts! The other sad note to report was the finding of a deceased  hedgehog in the middle of the Valley. Let’s hope that some are still surviving in the Valley surrounds and gardens.

Works on the Valley

The “hollow” in the centre of the Valley showed signs of further deepening last summer. After fencing it off for a couple of months, the Council deemed it safe and filled it with topsoil – so, it’s a “hollow” no more!

Maintenance work on the culvert underneath the Valley also meant that a chunk of the Valley next to Newlands Road was used as a site compound  for several weeks in October. The work was successfully completed.  

Use of the Valley

The only event that was promoted, the Hog Roast, was sadly a wash-out. However, those that did attend received good value for money –“ plenty of pork in the butty”!

A big thank you to the usual band of helpers, plus the individuals and organisations that supplied equipment.

The Valley appears to be attracting more dog walkers – either because more people have dogs or because it’s just a popular venue for dog walking or perhaps both! In terms of community connections that’s probably a good thing, but, on the other hand, dogs and wildlife are not the best partners.

The honesty plants (lunnaria annua) that emerged after the daffodils along Newlands Road. A sprinkling from Mother Nature or a resident’s packet of seeds?

The Valley remains reasonably well used by students, young people and children during the warmer months. It would probably be helpful to quantify usage by carrying out a usage survey in 2017.  

The Valley remains a much used and valued community open green space that we all agree must remain available for use of the community.

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
December 2016

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