Friends Of Priory Park Warwick (FOPP) Open Meeting
24th January 2023
Dave Skinner (Chair), John Garrett (Vice-Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Mary-Ann Baynes, Pam Leonard, Robert Shuttleworth, Hilary Budd, Ellie Campbell, Lucie Cox, Matt Cox, Amanda Haselgrove, Nic Ruch, Lesley Hall, Jo Birkbeck, Ewan Davies, Mo Hooper, Annette Lynes, John Holland (Cllr)
Gill Cousins, Dianne Loftus, Diane James, Richard Lewis, Trevor Day
Introduction and Welcome
Dave welcomed everyone to the meeting and asked for people to add their names and contact details to the attendance sheet. He then pointed out that historically FOPP have had an open meeting followed by a committee meeting and so on, with an AGM also being held. He said that his view is that in the future we should focus mainly on open meetings, as unless a face to face committee meeting is absolutely essential, any FOPP committee matters can be dealt with via. electronic communications. An AGM would still be held. The view of the meeting, including the committee members present, was that this was a good idea.
Dave confirmed that we now have formal agreement from Warwick District Council (WDC) for the establishment of a wild flower meadow on part of the open ground at the Coventry Road entrance to Priory Park. The maintenance agreement with idverde (WDC Green Spaces maintenance team) will be amended so that grass in the selected area won’t be cut for the first year and this will allow us to see what plants grow naturally. It was mentioned that cowslips already grow in the proposed area. Idverde have already cut back some brambles at the selected area. Dave had asked Jon Holmes (WDC Green Spaces) whether it was possible to have a notification sign near the area, but Jon’s answer was that it wasn’t. Jo queried whether the maintenance around the area would be at the same time each month so it could be monitored that the maintenance team weren’t encroaching into it, but Dave answered that this wasn’t the case.
Dave then mentioned the shoot of the Empress / Foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa). This shoot, which had grown to a reasonable size, had appeared close to the fallen trunk of the Empress tree and it was thought that it had sprouted from the root stock of the fallen tree. However the shoot has disappeared. Dave had queried with WDC whether idverde had removed the shoot, but idverde said it wasn’t their doing so the disappearance will remain a mystery. Jon Holmes said to Dave that there was a possibility that one or more shoots may appear as we move towards summer and if that is the case, then protection will be provided.
Despite the extremes of weather that they have had to endure, the small leaved limes that were planted in February 2022 appear to be healthy. Dave had been supplied with a small oak tree and in November 2022, this was planted by the section of brambles near Park View Care Home.
Dave has had notification from Jon Holmes about the next phase of maintenance work which is in zone 6, towards the top of the park. The trees to be dealt with as part of this work have already been marked. This includes dead branches on a couple of oak trees. Dave had queries with Jon why an apparently healthy Acer is marked as to be coppiced with Jon’s answer being that the work needs to go ahead. Part of the work will also involve some ‘knock back’ of the brambles. This will not involve the use of chemical sprays. Dave circulated a plan of the work which will be started soon so as to avoid the start of the nesting season.
Dave highlighted the recent sightings in the park of a roe deer and directed people to the group’s Facebook page to see the photos and videos of this. These sightings were in the rough area close to where St. John’s Brook creates a small pool before disappearing under the railway. It was noted that it’s a pleasure to see this deer in the park and also that from the photos and videos it appears to be relatively content. Lucie queried whether more than one roe deer have been seen together in the park, but no-one was aware of this having been observed. Nic asked how the roe differed from the muntjac deer with the answer being that the muntjac are much smaller. It was also asked where the deer would have come from, with a possible answer being that they use the railway as a travel corridor. John Garrett wondered whether the deer may at be risk from the trains. Johnathan suggested that it may be possible to determine whether there is more than one deer by comparing different sightings to see if the deer in each sighting had noticeable different markings. Roe deer have also been seen in the grounds of the County Record Office and St. John’s Museum and it was queried whether anything could be done to further encourage them into the park. Dave mentioned that he had also had sightings of deer in the park 15 – 18 years ago.
Dave then talked about the agreement that WDC have to raise a biodiversity emergency plan which will lead to action plans to increase biodiversity being created and that these should focus on specific open areas such as Priory Park.
The next item described was the ‘Donation’ button that has been added by Dianne to the FOPP website. Dave said that he would highlight this again on the group’s Facebook page. Donations can be viewed as an alternative to a membership fee / subscription. We will likely require funds for any forthcoming activities. Johnathan suggested that we could request donations via the website to allow us to privately commission a biodiversity plan for the park. It was suggested that the ‘Donation’ button page could be modified to highlight this and any future activities that would require funding. Johnathan also noted that people could also donate their time as well as or instead of money for any activities that may follow on from the survey (covered later).
As of January 2023 the group’s bank balance was £222.27 but this doesn’t take into account the small sum owed to Dianne for the website domain names hosting charges.
A meeting of the five members of the small working party was held in November 2022 to discuss the production of a survey of users of the park and other possibly interested parties. A lot of good ideas came out of this meeting and these have been collated into the survey. The main aims of the survey are to determine what types of people use the park, their profile and what future activities they would like to see in the park. Some suggestions of future activities are included in the survey. Dianne has created a Google Online Survey Form which is now available for testing and this has already been performed by various people. John Garrett said that the on-line version of the survey was accessible to blind people. A link to the survey will need to be added to the website and information concerning it added to our Facebook page. It was also suggested that the survey, which is also available as a paper copy, could also be promoted in the local press and to other local groups. Dave expressed the group’s gratitude to Dianne for her work on the online version of the survey.
It is intended that the paper version of the survey will used to survey people face to face in the park. Dave asked for potential volunteers for this activity with Hilary, Lesley, Lucie and Jo volunteering. He also asked when we should be initiating this, but a date wasn’t agreed although it was tentatively agreed that a meeting could be setup in February to progress this. Lesley commented that she thought it would be better if this activity was spread over more than one day and it was agreed that it would be a good idea to wait until the weather has warmed up a bit before starting this the survey activity. Robert suggested that the survey could possibly include the surrounding areas such as the market square. WDC may need to give permission for this survey activity. Johnathan mentioned that a small stall in the market can be hired for approximately £30 and this could used as a location from which we could try and get passers-by to complete the survey if appropriate. There would need to be enough volunteers to make this worthwhile. Johnathan also suggested that the survey could be an ongoing activity with it being repeated after the first phase as this would increase the amount of data that we could collect. Johnathan agreed to produce a press release publicising the survey. It was queried whether FOPP were GDPR compliant for any responses supplied via. the website and Andy agreed to check whether this is currently the case.
John Garrett requested a copy of the survey to be sent to him so he could target local community groups such as schools, nurseries and churches. Matt said that he would like to suggest amendments to a small amount of the wording of the survey and asked how could he progress this. Dave said that it Matt sent him the amendments he would arrange with Dianne to make the changes.
Once the survey activity has started, volunteers will be required to collate the results, both from survey responses obtained face to face as well as those submitted from the website.
Although not directly related to the survey, at this point in the meeting, Dave mentioned an email that he had received from Richard Lewis from the County Record Office. On the 25th June 2023, the Record Office are intending holding a family fun day including covering the past, present and future of the Park. Richard was querying whether FOPP would be interested having a stall at the event or possibly offering guided walks of the park.
Jo then commented that some of the wayfinding ‘finger’ posts around Warwick were no longer relevant (e.g. The County Court) and wondered whether it was possible to have a post showing the direction to Priory Park added. It was mentioned that leaflet produced by Susan Clarke had not yet been re-issued. Dave mentioned that Warwick Town Council is intending initiating a wayfaring project for Warwick and that Priory Park will be included in this.
Amanda said that she thought that the tunnel under the railway isn’t an attractive way to enter the park. Johnathan mentioned the work he has already done in connection with creating murals on the buttresses either side of the tunnel, but one of the main issues with progressing this is obtaining funding although this may be available from The King Henry VIII Endowed Trust which makes charitable donations to projects in the CV34 postcode area. John Holland discussed the issues with the lighting inside the tunnel which is managed by Network Rail. Although John had previously managed to get an improvement to the lighting in the tunnel, Network Rail have since changed the lighting type to low energy LEDs which are not as bright as the previous lighting. The Friends of Warwick Station were mentioned as a potential partner to progress any improvements to the tunnel although it is unknown how active this group is. It was also mentioned that it was thought that the Solihull and Leamington Rail Users Association were looking for a representative for Warwick Station.
Activities for the year (based on survey responses), including next steps
As the aim of the survey is to be able to determine what activities users of the park would like to see, no activities are currently planned. Hopefully some data from the survey will have been obtained by the time of the group’s next meeting and activities can be discussed and planned during that meeting. Lucie wondered whether we should be looking at planning something for the Easter weekend as we don’t necessarily have to wait for the survey results. Dave said that we could possibly launch the wood carving trail (see later) over this period.
Priory Park Pixies
Johnathan mentioned an idea that he has for the temporary installation into the Park of a trail of a series of hidden Pixie Doors for park users, both young and old to follow. This is something that he and his young son have been working on together over Christmas. The small (approximately 20cm – 15cm) wooden doors are easily and cheaply obtainable from local Arts and Crafts shops (e.g. ‘The Works’. Note that that these are actually advertised as Fairy Doors but Priory Park Fairies doesn’t have the same alliterative appeal as Priory Park Pixies). When initially obtained, the doors are undecorated but Johnathan and his son have already decorated a number of these with non-toxic paints. Johnathan has already produced a website explaining about this idea and handed out labels with QR codes that linked to the site. Lesley queried how we would cater for people who didn’t have the ability to scan QR codes and it was suggested that supporting posters could be located at strategic points in the park. Information about the trail could also be provided on the group’s website and Facebook page. Any other doors that people wished to create could also be included in the trail and it was noted that non-toxic paint would need to be used in their decoration. It was suggested that if other doors are created, then someone other than the creators should hide them so that any such creators have the fun of trying to find all the doors. It was also suggested that people could vote for their favourite door with a token donation (10 pence was a suggestion) to register a vote. Permission for the Pixie Doors trail would probably be needed to be obtained from WDC.
The consensus from the meeting was that a hidden Pixie Door trail sounded like an excellent, fun activity for the group to proceed with and that maybe we should aim for this to occur over the Easter holidays for a period of 2 – 4 weeks. Johnathan has agreed to progress this.
On the labels with the QR codes, Johnathan had also included the URL for the WDC ‘Spark:Ignite 2023’ event (https://warwick.gov.uk) that he is directly involved with organising. This free event is a one-day symposium, which aims to turn creative talk into creative action, and galvanise Warwick District’s creative business community around a common purpose of promotion and growth of the sector. Delegates will be introduced to exciting organisations, projects, and initiatives in the area and invited to share information about their own work and plans for the future. Although not directly related to Priory Park, Johnathan thought that the event may be of interest to attendees of this meeting.
Q & A session
Lucie showed us the map that links the individual wood carvings that Graham Jones created in the park into a wood carving trail. Lucie commented that although the map appears slightly small when presented on an A4 flyer, it will appear larger when viewed in a digital format. She also mentioned that it would also be possible to add different layers to the digital version covering topics such as important trees, historical locations etc. She deliberately hadn’t added any extra layers to the paper version of the map as it would clutter it. Dave said that we should think about launching the map to a wider audience at the same time as notifications about the Pixie Door trail. The map is the final delivery of the tree carving project that ARC-CIC initiated and ran and as the funding has been used, this project is now complete. However this doesn’t mean that further tree carving can’t be organised in the park, only that a future source of funding would have to be located. Dave said that funding may be available from the Councillor’s fund. John Garrett asked how much more dead wood was available in the park and although it was thought that there are some suitable locations for future carvings, a comment was made that not all types of wood are suitable for carving. It was mentioned that the fallen oak tree near the Packmores Community Centre may be a suitable location. Also, a note was made that WDC will not allow activities involving groups of people and chainsaws in areas that they consider might be dangerous due to, for example uneven gradients. Lucie wondered whether we should think about adding a QR code to each of the carvings. When scanned, the QR code would give more information about the animals involved in the carvings. Jo wondered whether we should be encouraging people, especially children, to engage with digital technology in our beautiful park. Lucie also added that it is shame that one of the carvings isn’t of a pixie. On behalf of FOPP, Dave thanked ARC-CIC for the successful delivery of this project.
Amanda queried how, as spring comes along how we can get people to further engage with the park. Suggestions made involved things such as details of butterflies in the park or birdsong that can be heard in the park. Johnathan mentioned that he has already recorded bird song in the park and mention was also made of the video of a blackbird that Dave had previously uploaded to our Facebook page as well as a video of a woodpecker and a photo of a buzzard that have also been uploaded to the page. The meeting then had a a brief discussion of the RSPB Big Bird Watch which in 2023 is happening 27th – 29th January. Dave agreed to provide a link to this on our Facebook page.
Date of next meeting
The date / time of the next meeting was set for 14th March 2023 at 7pm in The Wild Boar. It was agreed that the initial part of this meeting would cover the actions required in our AGM with the rest of the meeting being treated as open.