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!

Wildlife

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.

2021-22

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.

Christmas tree – recycle it, don’t leave it in the back lane

Do not dispose of your Christmas tree in the back lane. Please remember to do your bit and recycle it by taking it to one of the council’s household recycling centres

It’s always a sad day when the Christmas tree has to come down.  But the good news is that any real trees can be recycled!

If you bought a real Christmas tree this year, you need to make the effort to dispose of it responsibly – don’t leave it in the back lane as Newcastle City Council will not collect it as part of household rubbish collections – you need to take it yourself to a household waste and recycling centre.

“Please don’t dump trees in lanes, car parks or on green spaces! Fly tipping is an offense. The only council-ran Christmas tree sites are at the recycling centres.”

‘Real’ trees are recyclable and can be shredded into chippings which are then used locally in parks or woodland areas.

Remember to remove all tinsel and decorations and any pots or stands.

Find out more about recycling at Christmas on the Newcastle City Council website.

Council will not collect Christmas trees from back lanes

Newcastle City Council’s website says that Christmas trees should be taken to one of the city’s household waste recycling points.

Christmas trees will not be accepted by Newcastle City Council as part of your wheelie bin household rubbish – so please do not leave them in your back lane.

If you have an artificial or fake Christmas tree, you can still take this to one of the Newcastle City Council sites for disposal.

Newcastle City Council’s website says that: ‘Please don’t dump trees in lanes, car parks or on green spaces! Fly tipping is an offense. The only council-ran Christmas tree sites are at the recycling centres.’

Local Christmas tree recycling points are located at the Newcastle City Council household waste recycling centres (listed below).

Do not dispose of your Christmas tree in the back lane. Please remember to do your bit and recycle it by taking it to one of the council’s household recycling centres

Household waste and recycling centres in Newcastle

Brunswick

Brunswick Industrial Estate
Sandy Lane
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE13 7BA

Byker

Glasshouse Street off Walker Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE6 1AH

Walbottle

​Walbottle Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE15 8HY

More details and opening hours of Newcastle City Council household recycling centres

If you enjoyed your Christmas with a real Christmas tree then please dispose of it responsibly – recyle it by following Newcastle City Council guidance and taking it yourself to a household waste recycling centre.

For opening hours and more details about Newcastle City Council household waste and recycling centres please see the following web page maintained by Newcastle City Council https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/environment-and-waste/rubbish-waste-and-recycling/find-recycling-centre-or-rubbish-tip

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.

Lending a hand path tidying along Lodore Road

The Lending a Hand group of volunteers have been busy tidying up the path along Lodore Road, High West Jesmond.

Here is a photograph taken by Chris Morgan who was visiting High West Jesmond at the time and spotted the work party busy with their work.

Chris commented on our Facebook page:

“What a team spirited group. Think they may have persuaded me to do another history walk first Sunday in June 2019. Will have to check diary to confirm in the New Year.”

That’s certainly something to look forward to – last year’s Walking the Bounds of High West Jesmond was a well attended and interesting event.

UPDATE: The Walking the Bounds 2019 will take place on Sunday 2 June 2019. Details will be posted to this website nearer the time.

FOVALD caring for our green spaces

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

They have adopted the Valley from the City Council and  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.

Creating a Wildflower Meadow on the Valley

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Park invite you to help with work for the wildflower meadow.

Like to help create a wildflower meadow?

Well come along and join us in sowing wild flower seeds along the banks of the Valley on Sunday 6 May 2018.

All welcome – families, children, students – anyone interested in nature.

Equipment provided but strong shoes will be required.

Meet at 10am on the Valley, Lodore Road.

The Friends of the Valley and Little Dene (FOVALD) was established to manage, maintain and protect the open spaces in High West Jesmond known as The Valley and Little Dene.

Read more about Friends of the Valley and Little Dene (FOVALD).

Parks and green spaces make vital contribution to local communities

Research published today from the charity Fields in Trust shows that living close to and visiting parks and green spaces can increase people’s wellbeing and improve their health.

With The Valley and Little Dene at the heart of High West Jesmond many in our community will agree with this statement.

The green open space of The Valley and Little Dene is widely used and valued by the local community (and you can read about the work of the Friends of the Valley and Little Dene (FOVALD) and FOVALD’s Lending a Hand group elsewhere on this website).

The following article has been written by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG):

New Parks Action Group

New Parks Action Group launched to help England’s public parks and green spaces meet the needs of communities now and in the future.

The research also highlights the importance of parks as spaces for neighbours to socialise away, helping to reduce the risk of loneliness.

Fields in Trust’s report, among others, will be fundamental to the new Parks Action Group’s work moving forward.

Parks Research

Helen Griffiths, chief executive Fields in Trust said:

“I welcome the ministers response to the CLG Parliamentary Committee and Fields in Trust’s appointment to the newly established Parks Action Group at this pivotal moment for the future of parks and green spaces.

Our ongoing research recognises how these spaces help to address significant public policy issues including health and wellbeing and community integration.

We are looking forward to furthering our work with colleagues across the sector to ensure that we value parks and green spaces and take account of the vital contribution they make to local communities.”

Graham Duxbury, chief executive of Groundwork said:

“Making sure that all communities and all sections of society are able to enjoy the benefits of good green spaces is vital. Joining a local group can help young people develop their skills and older people overcome loneliness.

Well managed green spaces can also help whole neighbourhoods cope with the costly impacts of climate change. We look forward to helping the action group unlock more practical support so that local communities and local authorities can maximise these social and economic benefits.”

Matthew Bradbury, Parks Alliance’s chief executive said:

“Having been involved in lobbying for an inquiry, The Parks Alliance wholeheartedly welcomes the publication of the minister’s response to the Local Government Select Committee inquiry into the Future of Public Parks and particularly the creation of a cross governmental and sector supported, Parks Action Group.

The Parks Alliance is very much looking forward to working with the minister, government and the wider sector to secure the future of public parks for the communities that they serve.”

Government pledge £500,000

Parks and Green Spaces Minister Marcus Jones on 19 September 2017 launched a new Parks Action Group to help England’s public parks and green spaces meet the needs of communities now and in the future.

The new Parks Action Group will include experts from the world of horticulture, leisure, heritage and tourism, and will be tasked with bringing forward proposals to address some of the issues faced by public parks and other green spaces across England. To support them, government is providing £500,000 funding to kick start their work.

The action group will propose what steps can be taken in line with the government response to the recent House of Common’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee report into the future of parks and green spaces.

Parks and Green Spaces Minister Marcus Jones said:

“We recognise the value of parks and green spaces to local communities – including reducing loneliness, increasing wellbeing, and revitalising town and city centres.

But we need to do more to make sure future generations are continuing to enjoy their benefits. That is why we have announced a new expert-led Parks Action Group to work closely with the sector to find the right solutions.

This latest development builds on action the government has taken to date to encourage more people to make better use of parks including:

In December 2015, the government published the “Sporting future: a new strategy for an active nation” which set out the importance of sport and physical activity. The first annual report on the implementation of “sporting future” was published with a specific focus on the themes of central government, local government and outdoor recreation.

In February 2016 the government awarded over £1 million to improve 87 small pockets of unloved, undeveloped or derelict land to transform them into 87 green spaces that the whole community can enjoy.

The government has announced that is to continue the Green Flag Awards license for making sure that Britain’s best parks and green spaces will continue to be recognised for another 5 years. For 20 years, the Green Flag Awards have been recognising the best of green outdoor spaces in the UK, for people to enjoy and setting standards for park managers across the country to try to emulate. Many parks have won the award, but winners also include more unusual spaces such as social housing developments, cemeteries, canals, and shopping centres.”

 

Further information

The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee report: “the future of public parks” published in February 2017, made 17 recommendations that are addressed in full in the government’s response published today (19 September 2017).

The direction of the Parks Action Group will be determined by park sector experts in co-operation with officials from a number of government departments. The Action Group will consider the recommendations from the government’s response to the report and propose new projects and actions that will help our parks and green spaces thrive.
Members of the Parks Action Group

Parks and Green Spaces Minister Marcus Jones will chair the inaugural meeting.

The members of the Parks Action Group are:

  • Drew Bennellick, Head of Landscape & Natural Heritage UK, Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Matthew Bradbury, CEO, Parks Alliance
  • Graham Duxbury, CEO, Groundwork
  • Helen Griffiths, CEO, Fields In Trust
  • Ian Leete, Senior Advisor on Culture, Tourism and Sport, Local Government Association
  • Dave Morris, Chair, National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces
  • Paul O’Brien, CEO, Association of Public Service Excellence
  • Ellie Robinson, Assistant Director, National Trust
  • Dave Solly, Natural England