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