Friends of Priory Park, Warwick (FOPP) Open Meeting
18th November 2021
Dave Skinner (Deputy Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Lesley Hall, Becca Woodbine, Patricia Gannon, Pam Leonard, Johnathan Branson, Nick Ruch, Richard Phillips, Veronica Phillips, Lucie Titchmarsh, Matt Cox, Linda Bromley.
Jerry Birkbeck, Jo Birkbeck, Dianne Loftus, Gayle Harris, Diane James, Martin Rouse, Maureen Hooper.
Welcome and introductions
Dave welcomed everyone and brief introductions were made. Dave noted that as per the March 2021 AGM elections, as Deputy Chair he was standing in for Jerry as Chair of this meeting.
Dave covered the minutes of the March 2021 AGM and the October 2021 committee meeting. Both these sets of minutes are available on the FOPP website (foppwarwick.org or prioryparkwarwick.org) under the ‘News’ section.
One of the topics from the committee meeting minutes that inspired further discussion was what being a ‘Friend’ of Priory Park actually meant and whether there should be a membership fee. The consensus of the committee meeting was that we should only ask for donations to cover specific events or work where people would see where their money was going. However in this meeting there was support for a membership subscription with Becca suggesting what people would gain in exchange would be the ability to walk in the park and know that there was a group of ‘Friends’ who were willing to ensure that the park was being maintained appropriately. It would also be possible to allow only paid-up members to vote at the AGMs.
Suggestions for what funds could be used for included information boards (Dave) or improvements to the path near St. John’s Brook (Johnathan) although it was noted that the cost for improvements to this path would be in excess of what we could hope to raise in donations. Becca suggested that if we had some funding then this could be offered to WDC as part funding for any improvements.
If we did introduce a membership subscription, then the feeling from the floor was that this would be better as a monthly rather than annual charge. It was agreed that the topic of a membership fee would be discussed again at the next committee meeting.
Updates on current projects
- Tree planting
In May 2021, Jerry applied for a grant of £1436 from the Warwickshire County Council Greenshoots fund. The purpose of this application was to allow us to source and plant seven small leaf limes in Priory Park, with the aims of:
– Replacing trees lost due to the construction of Priory Medical centre.
– Mitigating the visual impact on the park of the Medical Centre.
– Providing an opportunity for the local community, schools and users of Priory Park to work together in developing a project that they can have ownership of.
– Raising awareness of the issues around climate change.
In August 2021, Jerry was notified that the grant application had been successful. Jerry has emailed six local schools and nurseries and the Packmores Community Centre to enquire whether they would be interested in being involved in the planting and aftercare of the trees, but so far he hasn’t received any responses. In the emails it was mentioned that they may like to produce and plant a time capsule under the trees. Lucie commented that it would also be possible for individual items (decorated leaves or other found objects) made by the children who attended the schools to be included directly under the planted trees. Lucie also offered assistance in information sharing about community tree planting as she is actively engaged in similar projects.
Patricia asked why the seven trees were all the same type and although a definitive answer was not available, it was thought that with his previous experience, Jerry thought that all the same type was most appropriate so that was what he included in the proposal and since the awarding of the grant has placed an order with Hintons Nursery for these. Also, WDC would require that that the trees being planted were of a native type. At the last committee meeting we agreed that we should look to consider planting the trees in March 2022, but we have since been advised by Hintons (Sarah Ridgeway) that bare root trees should be planted by February at the latest while they are still in the dormant state. Lucie confirmed this. At the next open meeting we will be looking for volunteers to assist with the planting.
- Wood carving
Lucie provided a summary of this project which is being promoted by ARCCIC (Achieving Results in Communities Community Interest Group). Although Warwickshire County Council did not grant all the requested funding, enough of a grant was made to allow two pilot events to go ahead. Jon Holmes (WDC Green Spaces) is aware of and has agreed to this project. These events which are happening on Thursday 25th and Saturday 27th November 2021 will run from 10:00 – 15:00 and will see expert wood carver Graham Jones using a chainsaw and chisels to make creative pieces out of some of the dead / felled wood in the park. Although suggestions of carvings of plants, animals, bugs, leaves and a dinosaur have already been made, people (especially children) who attend on either or both of the two days will be able to make their own suggestions.
If people are attending at the start of either day then they should meet at 10:00 by the railway tunnel. If people attend throughout the day, then the work on the Thursday will be down by St. John’s Brook while the work on Saturday will be further up the hill on the ridge which extends towards the top Priory Road entrance / exit to the left of the Medical Centre.
After the meeting Dave agreed to add a further post to the groups Facebook page with the dates / times and locations. This has been done.
If further funding does become available, then the intention is to develop a nature trail through the park with the possibility of further carvings or similar works being included on the trail.
- Railway tunnel mural
Johnathan provided an update on this project which is to install four new pieces of public art (murals) on the tunnel buttresses (brick walls) leading into the pedestrian tunnel under the railway, with the intention being to enhance the sense of place in a currently unloved but strategically important location. This project is a joint one between FOPP and The Gap Community Centre / Packmores Community Centre. The initial proposal that Johnathan has produced has received support from The Heart of England Rail Partnership (Julia Singleton-Tasker). Johnathan has produced a second proposal to be sent to North West & Central (Network Rail) with the hope that they will provide approval for the project. If approval is granted then a project plan will need to be prepared and funding will need to be sought.
The art work for the project will be chosen in consultation with local people, especially children and young adults. Without prejudging the result of the consultation, initial ideas include themes relating to the nature in the park, the history of the park and Warwick and wayfaring details. With some of the events of the Commonwealth Games 2022 coming to the area it is though that this project will make a good contribution the associated cultural programme.
- Priory Pools Path
In April 2021, Warwickshire County Council should have been installing movable / lockable bollards part way down Priory Pool Path in order to prevent speeding by cyclists. An extra bollard should also have been installed at the bottom of the path. John Holland was not present at the meeting so no details of progress on this work were available.
- New small group
As was discussed at the last committee meeting, Dave asked if anyone would be interested in joining a small group, the aim of which would be to develop activities in the park. Ideas already suggested include a bird trail, a bugs and insects trail, storytelling and bushcraft.
Matt and Johnathan said that they would be interested in joining such a group and Dave noted that Dianne has already said she would be interested.
Matt suggested a volunteer group to perform maintenance in the park. However Lesley commented that in the past WDC had not been at all keen for anyone apart from their own contractors and team to perform maintenance work in the park.
Johnathan said he thought a useful contact for the group would be Helen Hancox who works for WDC Green Spaces team and would check with her as to her full remit.
The path near St. John’s brook was discussed again both in terms of accessibility in the winter months and also as to how cyclists could be persuaded not to use it and whether the small group could get involved with this. Again the cost of improving this path was highlighted and that FOPP have asked WDC for improvements on numerous occasions. Dave said that the only work that has been done on it was the tarmac soak-away area towards the railway tunnel.
- Question and answer session
It was mentioned that there is a Facebook group about exploring Warwick with your dog and Dave said he would look at adding some details about Priory Park to this.
Comments were made that the triangle of land on the left as you come down Priory Pools Path from the County Record Office was becoming somewhat of a waste dump and also about the unsightly plastic barrier being used to replace part of the railing. No-one at the meeting was aware of who actually owns this piece of land but it is not thought to be part of the park. It was suggested that either the County or District councils could request the owner of this area to do something about the rubbish although it was agreed it would be good to leave it in its re-wilded state. Dave agreed to follow this up.
Lucie gave a brief overview about the improvements that were hoping to be made to the overgrown area in Priory Pools just before the lane leading to the Packmores Community Garden and the allotments – where the large fallen tree is. It is hoped that the town council will grant permission for this work to go ahead. Lucie also mentioned the Warwick University volunteer group who are sometimes available to work on a specific project.
Linda queried why the WDC contractors aren’t cutting the brambles back as they should have been and Dave said he thought that they still had work to do on this. The contractors should also have been doing reseeding with a meadow mix alongside Priory Road but there is no indication that this has occurred. Matt asked whether a copy of the management plan for the park was available. Andy said that he may have a document that covers this but would have to check and report back. Matt also queried whether the park had ever been designated as a local wildlife site as that would impact on its management with more emphasis on a biodiversity action plan. It is not thought that this is the case nor has the park been recognised as a green flag park.
Nick mentioned the wild area over St. John’s Brook and abutting Station Road. Dave said that he thought this may not be part of the park but instead Network Rail owned it but that he would check. Becca suggested that if Network Rail did own it but they had no use for it then it could possibly be added to Priory Park.
Lesley asked who would actually been planting the lime trees next year. We had previously mentioned that we would be looking for volunteers at the next open meeting. Lesley said that the Warwick Tree Wardens (of which she is one) may also be able to help. Sarah Ridgeway of Hinton’s nursery is also the chair of Warwick Tree Wardens so would be the contact for any such request.
The date and time of the next open meeting was agreed as Thursday 13th January 2022 at 19:00.