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.

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.

Highlights

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.

Wildlife

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!

2020-21?

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

Banqueting Hall in Jesmond Dene

Banqueting House in Jesmond Dene. Photo courtesy Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust

Members of the public are invited to comment on the Charity Commission’s proposed changes to Lord Armstrong’s Deed of Gift dated 1883 as it relates to the Banqueting Hall and Jesmond Dene Park.

The following announcement has been released by the JRA:

Urgent Update: The Banqueting Hall and the Charity Commission – The Armstrong and Hodgkin Charitable Trust

As the Jesmond Residents’ Association’s representative for matters relating to the Banqueting Hall and the Jesmond Dene Estate, I have responded to the charity Commission’s proposed changes to Lord Armstrong’s Deed of Gift dated 1883 as it relates to the Banqueting Hall and Jesmond Dene Park.

Banqueting House in Jesmond Dene. Photo courtesy Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust

JRA concerns expressed

The Jesmond Residents’ Association has raised a strong objection highlighting a number of significant issues which must be taken into consideration before any changes are made.

In brief:

1. The poor quality of the consultation regarding the proposed changes by Newcastle City Council. This demonstrates a lack of fairness and openness, and unseemly and unnecessary haste.

It does not demonstrate or reflect the opinions of Jesmond residents or indeed the citizens of Newcastle.

2. The lack of clarity regarding the fate of the four endowment properties held within the Jesmond Dene estate.

The income generated from these properties is ring fenced for the management, upkeep and restoration of the Banqueting Hall as stated in Lord Armstrong’s Deed of Gift.

3. The actual intentions behind the proposed changes have not been made clear by Newcastle City Council or the new Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust.

The use of Jesmond Dene and the function of the Banqueting Hall were clearly separated by Lord Armstrong’s Deed of Gift. This was for good reason and we do not know why this should be changed.

The Banqueting Hall as a “controlled ruin” is used by the Armstrong Studio Trust and it fulfils Lord Armstrong’s intentions with their outreach activities. Many activities take place within Jesmond Dene which again fulfil Lord Armstrong’s intentions within the Deed of Gift.

4. The current financial effectiveness of Lord Armstrong Deed of Gift is under review by Newcastle City Council which is appropriate. However, there are a number of ideas and proposals from interested parties regarding sourcing funds which should be discussed publicly and openly by Newcastle City Council and Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust.

Your opportunity to comment

Comments or representations on these proposals can be made to the Charity Commission within one month of 01 June 2019 by completing the form of notice on

www.charitycommission.gov.uk/our-regulatory-work/how-to-comment-on-a-scheme/schemes-and-orders

The scheme number is 494310

I would strongly recommend that you make your voices heard and respond to the Charity Commission proposal. Eileen Strouzer

The above news story was issued by Jesmond Residents’ Association. It has been included here for information and does not necessarily represent the views of High West Jesmond Residents’ Association. 

Walk the bounds 2019 – a tour of High West Jesmond

Join us for a fascinating tour of High West Jesmond and learn more about the history of our community

We are delighted to invite you to our 2019 walking tour of ‘the bounds’ of High West Jesmond.

This will once again be led by Chris Morgan who residents will remember led us on a facinating tour during 2018.  Chris has also kindly shared some of his photographs of High West Jesmond’s past that we have featured on this website.

Date: Sunday 2 June 2019

Time: 10.30am

Meeting place: outside Delicious Decadence, Newlands Road, NE2 3NT

The tour will take approximately 2 hours and will explain the last 200 years of this special area on the border of Jesmond and Gosforth.

It will be illustrated with many old photographs and tales from Chris Morgan’s personal memory and those of his mother who played here before many of the houses were built.

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday 3 June.

Download a copy of the Walking the Bounds of High West Jesmond event poster here. 

Blue House roundabout plans ‘on hold’

The Evening Chronicle has reported that the plans to overhaul Newcastle’s Blue House roundabout are ‘on hold’ because of the city’s pollution issues.

Newcastle City Council first unveiled its plans to make major changes to the Blue House Roundabout in 2016.

‘Mega roundabout’ on the Town Moor

The original plans were for a so-called ‘mega roundabout’ to be built on the Town Moor.

There was substantial concern from local residents and huge protests took place which saw the original proposals abandoned.

High West Jesmond Residents Assiciation (HWJRA) represented the views of local residents at the time and opposed the 2016 plans.

Subsequently HWJRA, together with Jesmond Residents Association, West Gosforth Residents Association and others were represented on the Blue House Working Group which was then set up to consider alternative suggestions.

You can read a background summary on the Blue House Roundabout here.

Blue House Working Group made proposals

It’s now more than a year since an the alternative proposal from the Blue House Working Group was unveiled and it was expected that a response from Newcastle City Council would be announced soon.

It was anticipated that final designs for Blue House roundabout were being developed and modelled based on recommendations from the working group set up following the backlash to original proposals in the summer of 2016.

And these final plans were anticipated to be publicised this summer.

Read more: Haddricks Mill roundabout improvements to start

Read more: Blue House Working Group recommendations slide deck available 

Read more: Meeting hears recommendations from Blue House Working Group

‘On hold’

The Evening Chronicle has reported that plans for the Blue House roundabout have been put ‘on hold’.

Read more on the Evening Chronicle website: Blue House roundabout on hold due to pollution crisis

We need to ‘take into account air quality’

The Evening Chronicle reported on 28 March 2019 that Graham Grant, Head of Transport Investment, told a Newcastle City Council Oversight and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday that:

“We need to take into account the consultation on air quality.

At the moment, both the Blue House roundabout and Haddricks Mill both feature as part of the Clean Air Zone – we have been clear that we are open to different ideas and interpretations and are consulting on an alternative.

“We need to understand where we are going with that piece of work before we can commit to the design of the Blue House roundabout.

We have said that we will deliver improvements there not all at the same time — we are doing Killingworth Road, then Haddricks Mill, then Blue House roundabout.

We feel that we have sufficient time to take into account the outcomes of the air quality work before we finalise proposals.”

You can read a background summary on the Blue House Roundabout here.