Community volunteers enhance paths

Noticed an improvement to the edging of some of the paths in High West Jesmond?

It’s all down to the voluntary work of some of our residents – read on and find out how they have been ‘Lending a Hand’.

Hi – a short note to say thanks a lot for helping out this morning. We ended up with 11 on the day – a few more than I expected!

A group of local residents have got together to enhance the condition of some of the paths that run across our community.  There were 11 volunteers in total on the first morning.

The work was quite physical and “clarty” and  an hour and a half’s work was probably enough for everybody for the first morning. We completed approximately half the length of the Moorfield footpath running alongside the allotments. The plan is to complete the rest of it next Tuesday.

The ground was very wet this morning which probably slowed things down a bit (plus we were all on a learning curve!). The consequence was that the footpath was difficult to clean and the edge could do with some more straightening. So, if it remains fine this week, we’ll spend some time on Friday morning cleaning up a bit.

Photo above is after the work, and the photo below is what it looked like before we started.

Thanks very much everyone for your hard work and volunteering your time and thanks to Sarah for the great coffee which was much appreciated by the Lending a Hand team (otherwise known as the HWJ Enviro Team).

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

All change for ward boundaries in Newcastle from 2018

East Gosforth is no more, now its Dene & South Gosforth

Earlier this year High West Jesmond Residents’ Association (HWJRA) and Friends of the Valley and Little Dene (FOVALD) both made representations to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England as their first draft of the proposed new wards for Newcastle City Council had split High West Jesmond in half by putting a boundary along Lodore Road.

The good news is that we were successful in our representation and we have heard back today with the final recommendations confirming that the area is being kept together in a newly formed Dene & South Gosforth Ward.

High West Jesmond representations considered

The final recommendations report notes on para 57 of page 19 that:

“Residents of High West Jesmond commenting on our draft recommendations stated that their community associations lie with Gosforth and Jesmond rather than with the area to the east of the Ousburn river.

We are unable to include High West Jesmond in either the wards for Gosforth or Jesmond without giving rise to high levels of electoral inequality.

However, we do acknowledge community identity in our final recommendations by naming the ward Dene & South Gosforth.

In doing so we include Rectory Road and Rectory Drive in this ward as proposed by the Council in its initial consultation.”

This is their email below together with links if you want to look at it in more detail.

“The Commission has now completed its review of Newcastle upon Tyne. A full copy and summary of the report is available on our website,

An interactive map of final recommendations is available at

The changes proposed for Newcastle City Council must now be implemented by order subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

A draft Order – the legal document which brings into force the recommendations – will be laid in Parliament. T

he draft Order will provide for new electoral arrangements for Newcastle upon Tyne to be implemented at the local elections in 2018“.

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