FRIENDS OF PRIORY PARK, WARWICK
2022 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – TUESDAY 26th APRIL
Dave Skinner (Deputy Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Mo Hooper, Johnathan Branson, Di James, Pam Leonard, Lesley Hall, Dianne Loftus, Becca Woodbine, Patricia Gannon, Mary-Ann Baynes, Hilary Budd, Nic Ruch, Lucie Titchmarsh, Linda Bromley, John Holland.
Trevor Day (Treasurer), Angela Day, Matt Cox, James Mackay, Katrina Stewart, Susan Clarke, Dennis Crips, Jean Fletcher, Richard Lewis.
Dave welcomed everyone and thanked them for attending the meeting.
2021 AGM Minutes
The minutes of the AGM held on the 31st March 2021 were accepted as a true record.
Dave explained that the reason he was presenting a Deputy-Chairs report was because of the sad loss of the group’s chair, Jerry Birkbeck earlier this year. Dave paid tribute to Jerry, highlighting his great experience of landscaping and the benefits that had brought to the group in his role of Chair. Jerry was an excellent Chair for the group and will be greatly missed.
Although Jerry was the instigator of the recent tree planting project, preparing and submitting the successful WCC Green Shoots fund application, sadly he didn’t get to see the actual planting of the trees. The tree planting day was a great success with lots of volunteers attending. Dave thanked the committee members and the volunteers for their work and also Lesley for organizing the follow-up watering.
Dave also thanked ARC members Kristie and Lucie for organizing the wood carving by Graham Jones in the park. There is still funding for further carvings which will be on an old oak and up on the ridge path, but as we are now into the nesting season, this further carving is scheduled for October.
Dave thanked Dianne for her work on the FOPP website, highlighting how good the design is. Dave noted that our Facebook group now had over 500 members and was very busy and a good way of communicating.
Due to prior holiday commitments, Trevor was unable to attend the meeting but had supplied Dave with a report and also confirmed that unless anyone else wanted the position, he was happy to be re-elected as treasurer. The balance of the FOPP bank account is currently £75.78 but Dianne is still owed £28.80 for the 2021 – 2022 domain name hosting. A similar amount will become due in May 2022. A cheque will be sorted for Dianne.
Election of Officers
Dave was elected as chair.
Andy was re-elected as secretary.
Trevor was re-elected as treasurer.
Membership options including on-going funding
Dave noted that Dianne had previously supplied suggestions about adding a payment button to the website. FOPP have an ongoing need for funding, partially to cover the website costs but also to fund any future projects. There is always the possibility of obtaining grants. Dave stated that his personal opinion would be voluntary membership rather a formal membership subscription. If we were to adopt the latter, we would need to be able to show what benefits membership would provide to the members and a formal membership structure would introduce a time consuming and difficult administrative overhead. Dave opened up this topic for discussion. Lucie suggested that if a funding button is added to the web-site it could be a ‘Donation’ button and could be promoted as such. It was queried whether FOPP has charitable status but we don’t. Di said that if we did have a formal membership structure, then the number of members could be used to support any future grant applications. It was noted that there are currently 45 contacts on the email distribution list. Lesley suggested the term supporter rather than member and Lucie commented that the exclusivity of the term member may exclude non-members so supporter is a better term.
Johnathan said that we would need to explain what we needed the money for so that people would be able to see the impact of their donation. He also suggested that supporters could donate their skills instead of money.
Hilary said that if we promote future planned activities on the website, then that would be a good point to ask for donations and also that there was a possibility of giving people who donate a choice of which activity their donation supports.
Johnathan queried the status of the group and Andy replied that it is a constituted organisation. Johnathan then commented that it is a good idea for a group to be a charity especially when seeking funding but Dave highlighted the large amount of work required to obtain and maintain charitable status and this was confirmed by Linda. Johnathan said that if we were a charity then there was a possibility of applying for funding to administer the charitable status.
Lucie said that we should be looking to grow the email distribution list and Johnathan added that supplying informative leaflets in the park could support this. Mo said that leaflets in the Visitor Information Centre would be useful. Dave said he thought that the WDC supplied leaflet (written with local resident Susan Clark in 2015) was available in the Visitor Information Centre. Di said that she had been in the centre a week ago and couldn’t see any. Dave said he would check whether the Visitor Information Centre still has a stock of leaflets. Hilary suggested a door step delivery of leaflets.
Linda commented that WDC have introduced new regulations that need to be abided with before they will engage with community groups.
Di queried whether there was a possibility of obtaining any funding related to the recently introduced Natural History GCSE and whether that could lead to any links to secondary schools.
Johnathan suggested FOPP engaging with ‘Make Good Grow’. This Leamington Spa based organisation are able to supply volunteer specialists free of charge and it is possible they may be able to provide a membership development specialist (or similar) to assist in development of our membership. Johnathan agreed to engage with this organisation.
Discussion returned to the donation button with the two candidates to provide the back-end processing technology being PayPal and Square. Both of these companies take a small percentage of any donations as a processing fee. Dianne agreed to progress this and commented that Square is the cheaper option. There is also the possibility of providing a map which could be downloadable from the web site for a small fee. Another fund raising suggestion was the production of greeting cards for sale.
If cards were to be produced then images would be required. Johnathan said that he knows that Robert Shuttleworth (a FOPP supporter) has taken a lot of photos of the park so could be a possible source of images. Hilary suggested that we could make it a condition that if people uploaded their photos to the FOPP website then by doing so they are giving FOPP permission to use them. Lesley mentioned that someone she knows called Peter had various videos going back a number of years of Priory Park and this lead to a brief discussion of whether we should be looking into collating historical images and videos of the park. Johnathan suggested that we could apply for Heritage Lottery funding to support such a project.
Update on the successful 2022 tree planting and discussion of possible further development of areas of the park e.g. Orchard / Flower Meadow
Dave had already mentioned the tree planting day in his report and also the watering team that Lesley organised on the 27th March. It was noted that the small watering tubes are now in place and all tubes are capped with a can. It was agreed that a further watering team would meet on Thursday 28th April with Lesley, Patricia, Johnathan and Lucie volunteering to meet at 4pm. Dave will advertise this on Facebook with volunteers needing to bring a watering can or suitable container. Dave will check with Jon Holmes whether his team has been watering the trees as had been previously agreed.
Nic queried whether we would be allowed to plant flowers and bulbs in the park. Discussion then moved to the area at the Coventry Road entrance. It had previously been suggested that this might be a good area for a community orchard. However because of its proximity to the rail line and congested traffic with the potential for this to introduce toxins into the yield and also the possibility of the area becoming water logged, this idea was not progressed. However it was thought that it would be an ideal area for the development of a wild flower area. Lesley noted that the area is already home to some native species including the cowslips which despite having been notified not to, the WDC team keep mowing the area where these are located.
Becca said that she was concerned what was sprayed to treat the nettles. Dave said that he didn’t think that WDC Green Spaces team sprayed nettles.
Hilary suggested that digging up encroaching brambles could be a future project for the group. Lucie said that she had prior experience of this activity known as ‘bramble bashing’. Linda commented that due to health and safety concerns she thought that it would be unlikely that we would be given permission for this.
The discussion then returned to the area of the park at the Coventry Road entrance and whether FOPP would be able to adopt it to develop as a wildflower meadow. Dave asked Lesley whether the initial approach would be to scrape the topsoil or rake the area. Lucie commented that a good approach would be to use plug plants of wildflowers as this would establish the meadow quicker than using a wildflower seed mix. An alternative approach would be to get WDC to cordon off the area with protective netting and wait until the autumn before the area is mowed as this would allow us to discover what plants are already established in the area. Dave agreed to approach WDC to see the feasibility of FOPP adopting this area. If FOPP did adopt this area we would need to ensure that we had enough volunteers to manage the area successfully as well as some means to mow the area when required
Linda queried whether there was a management plan for the park. WDC have produced a single sheet PDF showing the areas that the park has been zoned into but no further detail of planned work is given. Dave stated that WDC had a plan to cut half of the long grass every other year and there had been some planned work on the ridge as well as clearing of some brambles. It was also mentioned that WDC didn’t have a structured approach to replace fallen trees. Lesley commented that they have planted several redwoods which are unsuitable as they are non-native. Andy mentioned the draft Landscape Maintenance & Management Plan document that Jerry had produced in 2017. Di commented that there didn’t seem to be any coherence in WDCs approach to maintenance in the park. She also mentioned that she thought that the Record Office was more visible from within the park than it had been in the past. It was thought this may be related to the Record Office starting to take action to make a new entry although no-one was completely sure about this.
Lesley has a cutting from the historic Cubbington pear which when it has grown to a suitable size and permission has been finalized could be planted in the park although not in the area designated as a scheduled monument. Dave is aware of a donated Oak tree and has obtained agreement from Jon Holmes to plant this in the park in November.
Although it was agreed that the area by the Coventry Road entrance was unsuitable for an orchard, this didn’t mean that we couldn’t think about establishing an orchard of native fruit trees elsewhere in the park, as long as it wasn’t in the scheduled monument area. The area by the stream was thought to too dark and a bit wet but higher up the park in the long grass may be suitable. Dave agreed to also discuss the possibility of an orchard with WDC. If we did progress this project, we could ask people to donate directly for the fruit trees that would be planted.
Lucie mentioned that at the end of the tree planting day she had said that maybe a future project could be a hedge planting day but she hadn’t thought of where in the park a new hedge could go. Di said that there used to be a hedge up the hill from the nursery.
Johnathan introduced the topic of an overall vision for the future of the park and it was agreed to discuss this under the next agenda topic.
A comment was made about cycling in the park and especially on Priory Pools Path. Dave asked John as a WCC councillor if he could cover this and any other updates that he had for the group. John explained that although cycling in the park forbidden by byelaw, Priory Pools Path is an adopted public highway and as such WCC allow pedestrians and cyclists to use it. Cycling calming areas have been agreed for Priory Pools Lane, but the project manager for this currently doesn’t have time to progress it nor funding to recruit someone else to manage the work.
John also mentioned that the Record Office had been thinking about expanding but that this was not currently being progressed.
John explained that the previously planned merger of Warwick and Stratford district councils was now not going ahead as SDC has withdrawn from the agreement. Possibilities for the future include a single unitary council, two unitary councils (North and South) or no change.
John then covered the recently announced County Councillor’s grant fund with each Councillor having £8,000 to award with applications needing to be submitted by 5pm on Sunday 29th May John explained that there were various criteria that applications would be judged against but also said that there was a possibility that any application concerning Priory Park may be rejected as the park is owned by WDC and the guidance notes for application mention that it is unlikely that statutory organisations (apart from town and parish councils) would be successful in applying. John mentioned the Warwick Men’s Shed as one organisation that had previously benefitted from this source of funding.
Moving on, Johnathan asked if we had a detailed map of the park as that would be beneficial when discussing activities in various areas of the park. Lucie said she would look into downloading something suitable from Magic Maps. Dave suggested that as well as Priory Park, Priory Pools (including the Packmores Community Garden) should be included in the map
Suggestions of other ideas and projects for 2022 – 2023, including discussion of the possibility of establishing a dedicated Activities Group
It was agreed to establish a small group to discuss the future vision of the park and Johnathan agreed to facilitate this, with possible members including Dianne, Lucie and Angela. The output from this group would establish which future projects should be focused on with separate groups being established to manage such projects.
- & A. Session and A.O.B
Lesley mentioned a pile of bottles that had been left at one of the Priory Road entrances. Dave had a recollection of someone previously mentioning this. It was noted that the bin that used to be at this location is no longer there. Dave will mention this to the council and report back.
Nic queried whether a committee position of deputy chair should be formally established and it was agreed that this would be discussed further at the next committee meeting.
Nic mentioned he had seen a woman with a young child using a scrambler bike in the quarry area. Dave said that the police should be continuing their enhanced patrols in the park and the rangers may also be able to intervene. However this does require them to be in place when any anti-social behaviour is occurring.
It was mentioned that some of the drains in the park block. John said that could be reported on 01926 410410 (WCC) and an Inspector will investigate the issue and hopefully remediate the issue.
Dave has spoken to the chief executive of WDC (Chris Elliott) about the requirement for a proper path at the bottom of the park. Chris agreed that a path was required but the process to progress this is long winded, especially because of areas of the park being a scheduled monument and also that the work would cost in the region of £50,000.
Again Dave thanked people for their attendance and then closed the meeting.