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.

2017 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2017 Committee Annual Report

Although 2017 was a dormant year in terms of organised events on the Valley, it did prove to be significant for two contrasting reasons.

Thank you Warwick

The first was, sadly, losing Warwick Ogden. From his family home he had overlooked the Valley since the early 1970’s and soon became the “guardian” of what was a rather neglected open space.

The Valley, High West Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne – mid 1960’s

He witnessed and contributed to the renaissance of the Valley from being a sparsely surrounded field in the years following the Council’s 1960’s tipping contract, to the beautiful open space that it now is.

He was one of our founder members. So we owe a big thank you to Warwick for all his efforts over 45 years.

The Valley, High West Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne in 2016

Lending a Hand

The second is that FOVALD members spread their wings during 2017.

As well as looking after the Valley surrounds and the Little Dene, a sub-group was formed, Lending a Hand, to do the landscape maintenance work in HWJ that the City Council has stopped doing, mainly on Moorfield, Little Moor and  Freeman’s Park (which we now know as Litle Dene Park)).

The group meets once a week and started in early March.

By December, over 1 km of footpaths had been edged; approx 140 barrow/bag loads of leaves collected; and lots of trees & shrubs pruned.

One of the aims is to recycle all compostable material.

FOVALD adopts further park

Freeman’s Park is Town Moor land and the quality of our work persuaded the City’s Freemen to agree to FOVALD adopting the park on a similar basis to the adoption agreement that we have with the City Council for the Valley.

This means that we have responsibility for looking after all of the open spaces that abut HWJ to the north and west, i.e. the Valley, Little Dene and Freeman Park.

All lie within the City’s defined “wildlife corridor”, so we have the opportunity to introduce changes that will not only benefit and enhance the landscape but also wildlife.

So a big thank you to all residents who have contributed.

Little Moor path – the start of work by FOVALD’s Lending a Hand group, High West Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne
Little Moor path – nearly finished! Work undertaken by FOVALD’s Lending a Hand group, High West Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Landscape     

There was little change to report  regarding the Valley’s trees & shrubs.

The ash trees have not succumbed to “die-back” and even the old lilac on the north side, which predated the 1962 “levelling contract”, continued to bloom.

It was good to see “Joanna’s” cherry tree, on Lodore Road next to the garage, starting to make a significant contribution!

Two pear trees and another apple were planted close to an existing apple tree in the north-east corner, close to the blackberry patch – perhaps the start of a “community orchard”?

There are  2-3 trees in Little Dene that are overhanging Lodore Road that will probably need intervention during 2018.

More work was undertaken keeping weeds at bay and it is good to see that the hollies & hazels planted 5 years ago are gradually starting to form an understorey.

A lot of shrub pruning and tree “crown lifting” was carried out on Freeman’s Park, to improve visibility both within and alongside the space and to improve the structure of the plants.

A landscape action plan was produced for 2018 which received approval from the Freemen. This includes the further pruning of trees & shrubs bordering Little Dene flats, which will be the subject of consultation.

A disappointment was the loss of a substantial part of a beautiful “choisya” bush through vandalism. We are hopeful it can be nurtured back to prime condition.

Wildlife

During last winter, bird feeders were placed on the Valley close to the Little Dene.

They have attracted a variety of birds. The most notable seen on the Valley being a woodcock, a bullfinch and a lesser spotted woodpecker.

A recent bird survey in Jesmond Dene also recorded sightings of bullfinches and the lesser spotted woodpecker, plus many species that were recorded in the 2016 FOVALD survey.

This is good news in that it is evidence of the wildlife link between Jesmond Dene and the Valley & the Little Dene.

Grey squirrels continue to occupy the trees in our area.

However, it is also interesting to note that otters have recently been seen in the Dene beside Fisherman’s Lodge.

Several years ago, footprints were seen in the mud beside the culvert entrance in Little Dene and it was suspected, at that time, that the prints may have been an otter’s. Another possible wildlife  corridor link!

Use of the Valley and Freeman’s Park

Without doubt, the most popular use of the Valley in 2017 was dog walking and adult socialising!

People walk around the Valley at all times of the day, with early mornings and lunchtimes being times when people tend to congregate, chat and network.

It has been described as an “outdoor community centre”!

The dryer summer months saw the usual ball games, picnics and “congregations” – large numbers of young people meeting on the Valley on some summer evenings.

Freeman’s Park is different. It is a place to pass through rather than a destination.

However, it is an attractive space and the 4 seats available are frequently used by residents wishing to sit and relax before continuing their journey.

It may be useful to undertake a user count during 2018.

Freeman Park (now also known as Little Dene Park) after maintenance work carried out by FOVALD, High West Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne
Joanna’s cherry tree, the Valley, High West Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
February 2018

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.

1962 – The Valley and Little Dene, or Blackies Valley, Newcastle being filled in

Little Dene, aka Blackies Valley, or what was left of it before they finally filled it in, around 1962

A heritage post by Chris Morgan

This small stream flows east from high on the Newcastle Town Moor near Kenton Bar, and formed the boundary between the City and County of Newcastle upon Tyne and Gosforth, which was then in Northumberland. Ultimately it joins the Ouse Burn just beyond the foot of Matthew Bank where it is known as Craghall Dene.

It flowed below the Great North Road roughly where Moor Road now joins Moorfield, that point being known as Little Bridge. By the time the large house Little Dene was built on Lodore Road the stream was in a culvert, probably beside the south side of Moor Road. It emerged to the north-east side of the old house through an ornamental angelic water feature in the garden, then flowed at the north side of Lodore Road until the bottom of Newlands Road.

An open culvert (no gating of any kind to prevent entry) then took the stream to the bottom of Mathew Bank. Braver boys than I said they’d worked their way all the way through! The wooden structure at the base of this picture is immediately above that entry.

The Blyth and Tyne railway was built on an embankment across the dene, but that small culvert was extended when material from the clearance of the Forth goods depot was used to broaden the embankment, sufficiently for the building of houses on Ilford Road and Newlands Avenue – and possibly parts of Lodore road itself. The Craghall Dene side of the railway has also been filled at various dates almost up to Matthew Bank.

This picture was taken from the bottom of Newlands Avenue, looking towards Lodore Road and the bottom of Albemarle Avenue. By this time the trees, mostly willow, had been cleared off and the line of the new culvert had been excavated. I think the rubble subsequently used to fill this area came from demolished slum housing in Shieldfield, where tower blocks were built. This site is now a gently sloping grassy area.

Before this it had been a more natural dene, with willow trees, and some sloping allotments on the Gosforth northern side. The south side next to Lodore Road was steeper, comprising building rubble that must have been dumped to make the High West Jesmond site more level when Lodore Road was formed.

Note the line of wooden garages on Lodore Road. These could be hired, 2 or 3 storing small Ford vans for the delivery of milk by Jesmond Farm Dairies on Newlands Avenue (where the convenience store is now). Others were used by local residents. In 1962 very few cars were kept overnight on the roads.

North Jesmond Garge on Lodore Road, just to the left of this picture, was then Jones Garage with 3 petrol pumps – hand operated. At night it also stored residents cars. In 1968 I paid 10/- a week to keep my 1952 Morris Minor there.

Incidentally, North Jesmond originally referred to the part further to the east of the railway, towards Matthew Bank – the garage should really be called High West Jesmond Garage!

1964 – The original Little Dene house on Lodore Road

The original house known as Little Dene Lodore Road, High West Jesmond, Newcastle, 1964

A heritage post by Chris Morgan

The largest property in High West Jesmond by a very substantial margin was Little Dene. Named after the small dene that ran from the Little Bridge on the A1, also known as Craghall Dene nearer it’s confluence with the Ouseburn at the top of Jesmond Dene.

The stream, the Craghall Burn, formed the boundary between the city and county of Newcastle upon Tyne and the county of Northumberland. It joins the Ouse Burn at the bottom of Matthew Bank. The greater part was filled in by spoil from the construction of the railway yards in the Manors area, allowing the railway to run on the level between Jesmond Dene Road and South Gosforth. The High West Jesmond and North Jesmond estates were partially built on this land.

The stream used to run at the bottom of the Little park, beside Moor Road South, at the end of Moorfield until it was reclaimed from moorland in time for the Coronation in 1953. The stream by then had been culvetted from the west side of the Great North Road, emerging in the garden of Little Dene.

By 1964 Little Dene was badly run down, occupied by an old witch – or so we kids were led to believe! In 1950 it was still occupied by the son of it’s builder, bachelor Alexander Pringle, a brother and a spinster sister. In the 1920’s and 1930’s it had been a very smart house, painted white each year and known locally as the White House. Garden parties were held in aid of charities.

By the 1950’s the garden was badly overgrown, the covered stream emerging from beneath the house into an angelic fountain feature that was almost hidden from view – except to small boys trespassing!

Sadly, renovation seemed to be out of the question and demolition soon followed this picture being taken. By 1970 the site had been redeveloped into Little Dene flats.

This autumn picture illustates how well hidden such a large house was, even at that time of year.

Information from WorldInfoZone:

“Alexander Pringle of Cranmer Dykes, Gateshead built St George’s Church in Gateshead; the Rutherford Memorial College, Bath Lane; King Edward School of Art and the School of Bacteriology at Armstrong College; the Commercial Union Insurance Building in Pilgrim Street; Collingwood Buildings in Collingwood Street and Tilley’s Rooms and the YMCA in Blackett Street as well as the Gateshead Cenotaph in Shipcote. Alexander Pringle was also responsible for the reconstruction of The Palace Theatre and the Empire Palace Theatre (Empire Theatre) in Newgate Street.

Further information has confirmed that Alexander Pringle was the builder of the RVI (Royal Victoria Infirmary) which opened in 1901. His name is on the original entrance hall of the hospital. Other buildings included a police station, co-operative stores, breweries and schools. He also built Little Dene in Gosforth where he lived with his family.”

Not completely right. The house itself was in Newcastle, although the garden was partially in Gosforth.

The park in the foreground had been part of the Little Moor when my mother used to play in the rough ground beside it’s northern stone wall. At that time Moorfield did not run out onto the Great North Road, stopping at it’s junction with Lodore Road. I recall the park being laid out in time for the Coronation in 1953, when it was known as the Little Park.

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!

Wildlife

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

2015 FOVALD Annual Report

Friends of the Valley and Little Dene Annual Report

2015 Committee Annual Report

Community events in 2015

1915-2015 Celebrations of centenary of residents use of The Valley – High West Jesmond Newcastle

2015 was celebrated as our “Centenary Year” – marking 100 years continuous use of the Valley by residents of High West Jesmond!

The main event, the Centenary Festival in early June, was not blessed with the best weather.

Our pitching of tents and gazebos invariably encourages the usual rain clouds to pay us a visit! However, a good crowd attended, the stalls sold out, our “Town Crier” was in good voice and lots of new residents took an interest in the history of the Valley and signed up as supporters.

A bonus was that in the run-up to the festival we found former resident Bev Bagnall, whose family lived on Lodore Road in the 1950’s & 60’s. His family photos gave us a glimpse of what the original Valley looked like before the City Council filled it in 1962.

A big “thank you” to all who helped make it a successful day, including the promotions company NE1 for 3 excellent gazebos, to our local café “Deliciously Decadent” for a lovely cake, to Chris & his Dad at our “Simply Local” shop for a bottle of whisky for the tombola, Andy at North Jesmond Garage for the energy supply and to St George’s Church and St Hilda’s Church for the tables and chairs.

The festival was complemented by a Family Picnic arranged in August by David & Sarah Dargue. The weather was much kinder and, as can be seen below, between 15-20 families enjoyed the afternoon and early evening.

Thanks to David, Sarah and everyone who contributed. It’s hoped that the picnic will become a regular event.

Preceding both of these events was the Easter Egg Hunt – adults(!) as well as children searching for goodies among the undergrowth and nooks & crannies. Fun was had by all!

Environment and Wildlife

Hedgehogs were spotted on the Valley in 2015, hopefully a spin-off from the wildlife shelters that we’ve created. Hedgehogs are becoming endangered, so if you spot one please let us know!

The vegetation in the Little Dene is now very dense in places, a consequence of falling trees, which is perhaps one of the reasons why so many foxes have been sighted during the year.

The spring flowers and wildflowers continue to please – not just us, but also the insect population! Lots of bees & butterflies seen and heard over the summer. A target for 2016 will be to identify the types of butterflies, as well as carrying out bird and bat surveys.

In terms of the arboriculture: the two chestnut trees next to Newlands Road were quite spectacular last spring; the hazel trees next to the culvert are thriving & provide an excellent food source for the squirrels and field mice; the rhododendrons in the NE corner of the Valley are now making a significant contribution.

Village Green Application

Our application, which was submitted in June 2014, has still not been finally resolved by the City Council.

The only objection to our application was from the City Council itself, as “landlord”. In dealing with the objection and our comments, the Council sought advice from two barristers.

The legal advice that they received indicated that we may not have satisfied one of the criteria in the 2006 Commons Act. We do not intend to employ a barrister to contest this. Therefore, we continue to wait to hear from the City Council.

Gone but not forgotten

Several of our members & supporters passed on during 2015:

Charles Hall, Rectory Road. Aged 92, Charles was one of our founding members.

Chris Craig, Lodore Road. Aged 63, Chris was a regular at our events.

Sybil Durno, Newlands Road. Aged 96, Sybil had used the Valley since 1935 and gave an excellent statement in support of our Village Green application.

Barry Parmley, Lodore Road. Barry was a long-time supporter & a regular at events.

John Parker, Rectory Rd. Aged 85, John was also a long time supporter and a volunteer at most of our events.

All will be sorely missed. However, we are sure that they would appreciate the number of young families and children using the Valley in 2015.

Committee of Friends of the Valley and Little Dene
December 2014