2020 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

Little Dene Park, High West Jesmond ready for visitors April 2020

2021 Committee Annual Report

Where do we start?

COVID-19, lockdown, local gatherings, police call-outs, fibre broadband rollout, graffiti, dumping – all have impacted on our local environment over the last 12 months, with the impact of COVID-19 likely to continue throughout 2021.

Despite the negatives, there are positives to take from 2020 – our trees, shrubs & bulbs all performed with their usual zest and spring and summer brought stunning backdrops on the Valley & in Little Dene Park, encouraging many residents to enjoy the local surroundings.

Although we don’t have user totals, there is little doubt that the number of residents making regular use of Little Dene Park and the Valley, as part of their regular exercise, has been, and remains, quite significant……therefore, we’ll start with the positives!

Splashes of colour in Little Dene Park, High West Jesmond – spring & summer 2020

Use of the Park & the Valley

The COVID-19 restrictions in early 2020 coincided with the regular appearance of a Coffee Van parked on Moorfield close to the junction with the Little Moor cycleway and opposite Little Dene Park.

As a consequence, the park, and its seats, became a place to meet not just for local residents but many people from other parts of Jesmond & Gosforth.

Throughout the spring and summer, all four seats were regularly occupied whilst families and other groups were frequently picnicking on the grass.

The popularity of the Park has continued into 2021.

It was noticeable that the seats in the Park were occupied by a wide range of people throughout the day, whereas the Valley, which is a much larger and less formal space, tends to attract dog walkers, early morning and mid afternoon, and, in general, young groups of people on summer lunchtimes and early evenings.

The numbers of young people relaxing on the Valley last year was considerable and good to see.

The rather “gloomy” nature of lockdown was relieved on a couple of occasions!

First of all by a group of Sandyford drummers using the Valley as an open-air practice venue and by a piper filling Little Dene Park with a few beautiful Scottish laments in late October.

The drumming may not be to everyone’s taste but the piper’s selection of tunes went down well with park users!

The piper was actually part of a celebration for a Little Dene resident! “Food for thought!”

With schools closed for long periods in 2020 and lockdown imposing restrictions on socialising, it was inevitable that some problems would occur when young people arranged to meet in outdoor locations.

The Little Moor, the edge of the Valley (next to the seat) and later the Little Dene, all became places where large numbers were frequently congregating.

Over a 3-4 month spell last summer the police received 47 complaints of anti-social behaviour in these locations in High West Jesmond. It became a hot-spot in the Northumbria Police area.

Over most of the summer the main implications for FOVALD of this activity were litter and disturbance to nearby residents.

With fairly regular intervention by the police, most of the daily litter was left next to litter bins.

However, with the seat on Lodore Road being so close to family houses, it became really difficult to prevent daily disturbance, from mid-afternoon to late evening.

Therefore, after consulting residents & Councillors it was decided to temporarily remove the seat, which we did in early August. Since its removal there has been no congregating & no disturbance to residents.

The attraction of the Valley, and its secluded spots, to the young people did result in some damage to one of the lime trees and eventually lead to them discovering the Little Dene.

There is an area in the middle of the Dene that is very secluded and this became another regular meeting place. Somehow a large sofa was manhandled in.

Whilst the vegetation was very badly trampled and the stream filled in at one spot to enable easy access to their meeting place, on the plus side, they did remove most of their litter. We unblocked the stream & removed the sofa in October.

It’s been very rare that, as a local organisation, we have had to report mis-use! There were two examples last year.

Graffiti was sprayed onto the main Little Dene Park path and onto one of the seats in November. Both were removed within 24 hours and, so far, no repeat has been experienced.

Also in autumn, a large volume of household items were dumped among the shrubbery in Little Dene Park. Thanks to David B for quickly sorting & disposing of the waste and to Cornelia for removing the paint from the seat.

Management & Maintenance

2020 was the third full year that the Lending a Hand Tuesday morning maintenance team has been operating.

In adjusting to the lockdown restrictions, members worked either individually or in pairs (whilst keeping socially distanced!). This practice is ongoing.

Although some new perennials & bi-annuals were introduced into Little Dene Park in spring (thanks to Rosalind H & Frank S for donating foxgloves & salvias!), much of the time during the summer was spent pruning, litter picking and responding to cases of misuse.

We did manage to obtain a commitment from the City Council’s Footpath Officer that finance to renew the park’s footpaths would be included as a priority in the 2020-21 budget. However, the impact of COVID 19 completely changed the City’s priorities.

We will need to pursue this as COVID-19 subsides, because the paths have deteriorated even further during this wet winter.

A bright spot last summer was the renovation of the Beecham seat, assisted by our group and paid for by the Beecham family. It means that all 4 park seats are now in excellent condition!

For several weeks in late summer, the Moorfield verges, including the entrance to the park, were hidden behind contractors’ temporary barriers as fibre cables were laid by City Fibre as part of the “super speed broadband” rollout!

Much to our surprise, when the barriers were removed, two green control boxes had been installed either side of the main path through the park. This had been done without any consultation.

After strong complaints from us and HWJRA, City Fibre agreed to relocate the boxes in more discreet locations.

That work has now been done but there remain several areas of the Moorfield verge, and the edges to the park, where the remedial work is completely unsatisfactory. We expect the company to carry out reinstatement work in the spring.

We suspect that we will have lost a good number of spring bulbs from the Moorfield verge where trenches were dug for the cables. The company has given a commitment to fund new bulbs before the autumn planting season.

The major piece of work carried each autumn by our team is, of course, leaf collection and composting. All the bagging last year was carried by a small squad of two, with David McG. shouldering the majority of the work!

120 large bags were filled and delivered to allotment customers, which generated £112 income. We receive excellent feedback regarding the quality of compost.

However, the work involved is time consuming and we think we need to find a more efficient delivery method for this year’s round.

Despite the limitations of lockdown, our Lending a Hand sessions managed to provide almost 50% more leaves than the previous autumn.

So, well done to those involved. Thanks to David B for creating an extra compost bay!


Our plan to put more focus on wildlife during 2020 was knocked of course! We feel that we have probably lost ground in our plans to strengthen the ecological value of the surrounds to the Valley & Little Dene Park and to the Little Dene itself.

Several of the wildlife refuges were disturbed or partially dismantled and, over the summer, large swathes of the Little Dene’s natural vegetation were regularly trampled over a 2-3 month period.

We received no reports of fox or hedgehog sightings last year and the only sighting of the “usual” sparrow hawk was early in the year.

Although bird boxes were not checked, it is assumed that the trees, shrubs & bushes, as well as the stream, continue to provide a good range of opportunities for feeding, nesting & roosting.

The last bird survey in 2016 indicated that there were at least 28 species present. Either 2021 or 2022 may be a good time to request another survey.

A range of butterflies were observed on the Valley but we made no progress with regard to identifying the types and number of bats.


Our priorities in 2020 were:

1) to improve the footpaths in Little Dene Park;

2) provide notice boards on the Valley & in the park;

3) strengthen the wildlife corridor;

4) create a hedgehog friendly zone between the Valley and Rectory Road.

What a year! Sadly, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic we made no progress on any of these objectives, indeed the footpaths are probably worse and the wildlife corridor may have regressed.

Therefore, it is suggested that these two objectives, i.e. improving the Little Dene footpaths and repairing & strengthening the wildlife corridor should be our primary objectives for the coming 12-24 months, with the notice board and hedgehog friendly zone more secondary objectives.

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
March 2021

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.

2019 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2019 Committee Annual Report

Well, believe it or not, this is our 10th Annual Report and it is 17 years since we produced our first attempt at an Action Plan for the Valley & the Little Dene!

Plans & actions can produce rewards.

I mention this because this year’s daffodil display on the Valley, referred to by several residents recently, is the direct result of the bulb planting schemes carried out in 2011, 2012 & 2013, that involved some 50 local residents, including students, who brought bulbs along.

Over 4,000 bulbs were planted and, of course, they will now have multiplied! That was a real community effort and the spring displays are the reward!

Some of the 4,000+ daffodils on the Valley, High West Jesmond planted by residents

What’s been happening in the last 12 months?

The year started on a really positive note with our MP, Catherine McKinnell unveiling the reinstated plaque in Little Dene Park but it finished with something of a damp squib, as our attempt to obtain funding for the resurfacing of the paths in the park came unstuck!

In between, there was still quite a lot going on.

Management & Maintenance                   

Our Tuesday morning group, Lending a Hand, has some 15 regulars, with the average weekly attendance being 7-8 residents.

Throughout 2019 there were 7 sessions when holidays or weather intervened, which meant that 45 sessions were held.

At an average of 2.5 hours per session per person, that means that the group contributed nearly 850 voluntary hours during 2019.

That was spent in Little Dene Park, in the Little Dene itself, on the surrounds to the Valley, looking after the verge on Moorfield, looking after the small open spaces where Moorfield meets the Great North Road & edging the paths on the Little Moor.

In effect, we look after all of the public open spaces surrounding High West Jesmond and we continue to recycle virtually 100% of material that we collect.


Some of the highlights of the year, in no particular order, were as follows:

  • Gill D prepared a yearly Maintenance Plan for the group, which, after discussion was adjusted & adopted. It catalogues the tasks by area or street and seasons, as well as setting out some of our longer term plans & ambitions. Thank you to Gill!
  • Pruning the vegetation in the north east corner of the Valley in March revealed the remains of a stone wall that probably marked the boundary between the original Craghall Dene and the land to the north. The boundary appears on the earliest 19C maps. At that time the land to the north was farmland owned by a Mr George Dunn, who lived in Berkshire, and was farmed by the Brewis family from South Gosforth farm. It was subsequently used as allotments before being sold for housing.
  • A spring clean in the Little Dene in early April involved removing any potentially contaminated material from the stream bed, so that as much stream life as possible is encouraged. The stream appears to be very healthy. In addition, a substantial wildlife shelter was reinforced. We were careful not to disturb a mallard duck that appeared to be looking for a nesting spot.
  • Little Dene Park was spruced up during May & June with some summer bedding, path edging and shrub pruning, all to ensure that the park looked it’s best for the July event.
  • The school holidays in August brought much reduced parking along Moorfield, which meant we were able to tackle the kerbstones next to the verge. They were completely grassed over in places, which was resulting in drivers damaging the verge when parking. Exposing the whole kerb appears to have reduced damage to the verge and improved the appearance of Moorfield.
  • September heralded spring bulb purchase & planting, particularly in, and adjacent to, Little Dene Park. In addition, the Committee started to investigate the provision of notice boards for the Valley and Little Dene Park. This project remains ongoing.
  • Autumn is always a very busy season. The compost enclosures have to be cleared before the current season’s leaves can be brought in. In October 2019, approx 130 bags of leaf mould were filled, sold & transported to the allotments by the Tuesday group. This was treble the volume of leaf compost produced in 2018. Leaf collection in October & November was hampered by the wet weather on occasions, which may reduce the volume of compost available later this year.
  • A serious issue in Little Dene Park is the condition of the footpaths. In our view, they are dangerous. Responsibility rests with the City Council but lack of finance is constraining the authority’s scope to upgrade the paths. Our attempt to raise funds on their behalf, through a Government Programme, stalled because the City was not able to extend our Open Spaces Adoption Agreement to include Little Dene Park. However, repairing the paths is a top priority.

Use of the Park & the Valley

Summer Happening on Little Dene Park, High West Jesmond – view from Gill’s plant & veg stall

Perhaps the highlight of the year was the “Summer Happening” on Little Dene Park in July.

A last minute decision to postpone for 24 hours by our chairperson proved to be a masterstroke – we avoided our customary rain!!

With a background of folksy music played by the Tom’s Saloon Ukulele Band, residents were invited to sample homemade baking, purchase home grown plants, have a drink & a chat, play games and talk to FOVALD & HWJRA reps about what each organisation does.

It was a very positive & successful afternoon. We had good feedback and must thank everybody who contributed, particularly Cath S & Cornelia M and all the scone & lemonade makers! The event was well attended and improved our bank balance!

Little Dene Park remains a very well used space.

It is, predominantly, a small green oasis that residents, families & schoolchildren pass through. However, the quality of the experience encourages many, on fine days, to stop and relax, absorbing the calmness that the environment exudes.

It is interesting that misuse is extremely rare! The pedestrian count planned for the summer 2019 is now scheduled for 2020 (or perhaps 2021!).

A relaxing time in Little Dene Park, High West Jesmond

The Valley remains a haven for dog walkers. It’s peaceful and relatively sheltered location is obviously popular with dog owners as well as the canines themselves, as that “community” seems to be growing! It does have the benefit of increasing social connections.

Whilst there are some concerns that the number of dogs can discourage other residents & families from using the Valley for a range of activities, last summer saw several groups/families playing with footballs and rugby balls and having picnics with young children.

The lack of a snowfall precluded sledging on the Valley in 2019.


We continued to use pruned branches and windfall from all trees/bushes in High West Jesmond to create wildlife shelters, in Little Dene Park, in Little Dene itself and on the Valley.

Some of these are now quite well established and, hopefully, will be providing a base for many insects and small mammals.

In addition, the natural vegetation on the north edge of the Valley is pushing further into the grassed area, creating a much better habitat for wildlife and helping to re-establish the wildlife corridor linking the Moor to the Ouseburn.

Squirrels (grey variety unfortunately) are frequently seen and hedgehogs have been reported in two gardens bordering the Valley.

We would like to make the north & western edges of the Valley, and the adjacent Rectory Road gardens, a “Hedgehog Friendly” area during 2020.

Initial discussions with residents proved positive. Bats have also been reported but an attempt to video one of them didn’t quite get the speed right. Watch this space!!

Foxes footprints have been seen in gardens next to the Little Dene but no sightings this winter.

Several residents have heard woodpeckers recently, a tree creeper has been spotted on the Valley and a sparrow hawk has put in an appearance in December. Let’s hope the latter may be nesting again.

A range of butterflies were spotted in 2019, including a Common Blue, Red Admiral & Painted Lady!


Our identified priorities are:

i) improving the Little Dene Park footpaths;

ii) providing noticeboards on the Valley & Little Dene Park;

iii) strengthening the wildlife corridor; and

iv) creating a “hedgehog friendly” area.

However, the spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19 has suddenly made the world much smaller and life more precarious!

Eliminating that problem may well mean that our plans for further improving our local environment will have to be put on hold for some time.

A piece of good news received recently is that we have been awarded £1,000 by the City Council’s Ward Committee to acquire and plant more bushes & trees on the Valley during 2020-21. Let’s hope we can spend it!

Gone but not forgotten

We end on a sad note.

Bob Curry, the former chairperson of HWJRA passed away last month after a long illness. Bob was a keen environmentalist and ornithologist.

During his spell as chair of HWJRA, he negotiated a significant grant to provide more under-storey planting, mainly hollies, but also including wildflower plugs, in the Little Dene. That was 10 years ago and was referred to in our first Annual Report.

The hollies are slowly making progress and some of the wildflowers, particularly primroses, are now well established and make their contribution each spring!

So, thank you for your contribution Bob, it will last for years to come.

Primroses in the Little Dene, High West Jesmond – first planted in 2010

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
March 2020

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.

Summer Happening on Little Dene Park


***Change of date – now Sunday 21 July from 1pm***

Friends of the Valley and High West Jesmond Residents’ Association are hosting a small event on Sunday 21 July 2019 on Little Dene Park (Moorfield) to celebrate the green environment that surrounds our community, High West Jesmond.

You may know that FOVALD, has adopted both the Valley & Little Dene Park and has also been managing the Little Dene as a nature resource for 19 years now.

Volunteers lending a hand

A lot of the maintenance work is carried out by the Tuesday gardening group, Lending a Hand (which is part of FOVALD), which also undertakes environmental tasks on many of the streets in our community, as well as the Little Moor.

Little Dene Park adopted

It is more than a year since Little Dene Park was adopted, so the motivation for the event is:

(i) to celebrate the Park’s 66’th birthday;

(ii) to try & raise some funds for one or two proposed improvements;

(iii) to let residents see the latest Streets for People proposals;

(iv) to provide an opportunity for a “get-together”.

Summer happening

There will be some cakes & soft drink tables, a tombola, a few games to try your hand at, some photos of the Valley & the area to look at and discuss, plus up-to-date info from the Residents Association about the Streets for People programme and other “big issues” on the horizon!

Last but not least, there will be a Ukulele Band playing some entertaining & soothing background music!

So please come along and join us for a chat and to listen to the music on Sunday 21 July 2019 from 1pm.

***The event will now take place on Sunday 21 July, rather than the previously advertised Saturday 20 July due to the weather forecast for Saturday***

We look forward to seeing you there!

Cath Snowden, Chair – FOVALD and Nick Moore, Chair – HWJRA

Parks and allotments trust on track for April handover

Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust is ‘on track’ to take over running of Newcastle upon Tyne’s parks and allotments in April 2019

The city council plans to transfer many parks and allotments to the new Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust. The new organisation will be responsible for developing and caring for future generations.

Read more about the future of Newcastle’s parks and allotments on the Newcastle City Council website.

Read Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust Chief Executive named.

Read Parks and green spaces make vital contribution to local communities

Valley and Little Dene not part of planned transfer

Not all green open spaces in Newcastle upon Tyne will transfer to the new Trust. 

Green open spaces that are NOT scheduled to transfer include the well-used community asset known as the Valley and Little Dene, High West Jesmond.

The Valley and Little Dene (along with Little Dene Park which is owned by the Freeman) form part of the urban wildlife corridor through the north of Newcastle and continue to be well used and highly valued by local residents.

Read about the work of the Friends of the Valley, Little Dene and Little Dene Park (FOVALD) in caring for these open spaces in High West Jesmond.

NAWG minutes report

The minutes of the 7 February 2019 meeting of the Newcastle Allotments Working Group noted that:

“The meeting commenced with a presentation by James Cross, the new CEO of the Parks and Allotments Trust, who was pleased to introduce himself to the group, and Tony Durcan, NCC [Newcastle City Council].

TD updated the meeting on the latest progress. The Trust was now fully constituted, the Board was up and running having had a meeting in January and the new CEO James Cross had taken up his post on 3rd December 2018.

Its Constitution now activated, March 2019 would see the Trading Company section of the Trust applying for charitable status.

Key issues of work still to be achieved, include the agreement that is currently  in place on the Duke of Northumberland’s land and a further meeting with the Freemen to discuss the ‘Wartime’ sites.

A Trust strategy meeting was being held on 21st March. NAWG [Newcastle Allotments Working Group] representatives would be invited. JC had begun visits to all allotments and asked for details of allotment waiting lists to assess the need throughout the City.

On track for 1 April 2019 handover

James Cross, the new Chief Executive of Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust

The Parks and Allotments Trust management was still on track for a 1st April handover.

Two NAWG representatives on the Community Representation Group were proposed: Paul Herbertson (west) and Donald Robinson (east) to be ratified during the normal business of this NAWG meeting. CRG findings would be reported to the Board each month. JC also confirmed NAWG as a constituted group which would continue to operate.

Budgets – there was a £2 million cost across parks and allotments per year. Any Council surplus has not been used elsewhere to date.  

Under the Trust, funds raised from rents would be reinvested into Parks and Allotments, with priority being given to allotments when/where necessary.

JC confirmed any local revenue raised on allotments e.g. open days, trading hut, would be retained by individual sites. JC also confirmed that better resourced Trust officers responsible for allotments would have a defined budget with continued monthly reporting. JC also confirmed that he had had conversations with all potential key funders already.”

The extract above from the minutes of the Newcastle Allotments Working Group (NAWG) 7 February 2019 meeting was issued by NAWG and included on the NAWG website. It has been included here for information and does not necessarily represent the views of High West Jesmond Residents’ Association. 

2018 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2018 Committee Annual Report

Little Dene Park, High West Jesmond – our “latest” maintenance acquisition

We continue to evolve! This is the first Annual Report since adding Little Dene Park into the FOVALD portfolio and our constitution!

It is rewarding to know that the City Council and the Freemen seem to be content with the quality of our maintenance work, not only on the Valley surrounds & Little Dene Park, but also on the Moorfield verges and the Little Moor paths.

In addition, it is stimulating that we receive many complements from local residents. A big “Thank You” to our band of volunteers.  So what have we been doing?

Management & Maintenance

Our Tuesday group “Lending a Hand” continues to thrive – there are 15 regulars and weekly attendance averages between 6-10.

As usual, the autumn leaf shedding generated an extended workload, with estimates of between 200-300 bags of leaves collected for composting.

Our new strimmer/cutter did a great job in shredding the leaves, so we have 2 substantial heaps of compost warmed up by millions of micro-organisms! Nature in action!

After our 2018 plan for Little Dene Park was approved by the Freemen & the Council, much effort was spent bringing the Park back up to scratch. Two or thee projects within the plan deserve mention.

The Moorfield shrub bed

The original shrubs had their feet in clay and were long past their best!

Thanks to David B for “adopting” this bed, adjusting the shape and donating and digging in lots of compost to give the new occupants a good start.

Thanks also to Kate B for the design & choice of shrub and to David for assisting with the purchasing – two actually came from RHS Wisley!!

The bed also contains 500 crocus bulbs donated via Rosemary M’s contacts at Gosforth Rotary.

Renovating the 3 public seats

The resident who took this project by the “scruff of the neck” was Cornelia M. This was no small task.

However, her perseverance and enthusiasm, coupled with Jeanette’s stamina, got the job done.

The finished product is excellent. The life of the timber seats has been doubled and the appearance vastly improved.

Well done Cornelia, Jeanette & all others who helped.

Thank You Susan Lydia

The project that most captured our imagination was replacing the lost plaque commemorating Susan Lydia Challoner’s bequest in 1953 that paid for the park entrance to & from Moor Road South.

Again this was a team effort, with Christine D finding the eloquent words for the replacement plaque and finding the stonemason to embed it, Cornelia sourcing the plaque and Rosalind Hall & her Mum providing the interesting background detail.

Our MP, Catherine McKinnell, a former local resident & user of the entrance, agreeing to unveil the plaque was the “icing on the cake”.

Catherine McKinnell MP at unveiling of plaque commemorating Susan Lydia Challoner

Although highlighting these 3 projects, a lot of work goes on, year round, in regaining control of the bushes & borders in the park that had been left unchecked for a long time. Rosemary M’s unstinting work needs to be mentioned!

We are conscious that the Little Dene has probably received less attention than it ought.  The Lodore Road slopes were twice cleared of debris & litter and the verge cut back.

A major piece of work was carried out by West Jesmond Tree Surgeons early in 2019, when three substantial tree limbs overhanging Lodore Road were removed. Thanks to all the residents who contributed to the costs.

As the Valley is a much larger space surrounded by mature trees, the impact of our work is less noticeable.

Creating grass paths onto the Valley from Lodore Road was well received by users, although the annual wildflower show on the bankside did not produce the expected splash of colour in 2018.

However, the variety of trees & shrubs on display continue to be augmented by residents contributions, with Frank S adding another magnolia and another supporter contributing young lime & hazel trees.


The Valley is a meeting place all year round – especially for dog-walkers.

The sheltered location and the almost rural surroundings help to create an environment which also attracts individuals and groups of students looking for relaxation, especially on sunny days.

Our hoped for survey of usage on the Valley did not transpire in 2018. It should be a priority for this year.

The Valley comes alive when it snows in winter.

It snowed twice in winter 2018.

On both occasions the Lodore Road slopes were packed with families sledging, making snowmen and just enjoying the snow & the surroundings.

Snowtime on the Valley, High West Jesmond

We did manage to survey the usage of the route through Little Dene Park in early January.

A total of 272 passed through the park between 8.00am & 5.00pm on Friday 11 January. Bearing in mind the time of year, this probably means that total usage may well be more than 120,000. It is a well used route.


Most of the bird boxes in the Little Dene were occupied last year and already this year the great spotted woodpecker has been heard and bullfinches have been seen. We are due another bird survey in 2020.

Several types of butterfly were seen on the Valley in 2018, notably red admiral, comma and small tortoiseshell.

In 2019, perhaps we should encourage users to keep a record of butterflies that are seen. There has only been one reported sighting of a fox in the vicinity of the Valley in the last 12 months and one hedgehog.

Winter in Little Dene, High West Jesmond

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
February 2019

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.

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.