FRIENDS OF PRIORY PARK, WARWICK
2023 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – TUESDAY 14TH MARCH
Dave Skinner (Chair), John Garrett (Vice-Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Jo Birkbeck, Pam Leonard, Lucie Cox, Matt Cox, Becca Woodbine, Rob Eyre, Johnathan Branson, Amanda Haselgrove, Richard Bainbridge, Diane James, Lesley Hall, Ewan Davies
John Holland, Susan Roy, Linda Bromley
Dave welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for attending.
2022 AGM Minutes
The minutes of the AGM held on the 26th April 2022 were accepted as a true record.
Dave initially talked about the wood carvings that have been created in the park and thanked Lucie and ARC-CIC for organizing the carving events that led to these excellent and enjoyable additions to the park. He also said that if funding was available that maybe further carvings could be added.
Dave then mentioned about the disappearance of the healthy sapling of the fallen empress tree, but noted that the park had gained an oak sapling which was planted in November 2022. Although the WDC Green Spaces team had constructed a protective barrier where the empress tree sapling had been growing, this barrier has been dismantled by persons unknown and two of the poles that formed part of the barrier were nowhere to be found. Dave agreed to report this to the Green Spaces team. Lesley commented that there isn’t currently any growth where the empress tree had previously been growing. Although Jo has a small empress tree, we have been previously notified that the Green Spaces team are reluctant to allow any more seedlings to be planted in the park.
The Green Spaces team have removed some bramble cover from the edges of where the wildflower meadow is to be established (by the Coventry Road entrance). Dave confirmed the change to the maintenance contract which means that the area allocated for the wildflower meadow wouldn’t be mown this year. Lesley said that we would need to check that future bramble growth didn’t encroach on the wildflower meadow. She also said that she intended to keep a monthly list of which wildflowers do grow in the meadow area and that if in the future anyone has any comments about the meadow to let her know.
The addition of the ‘Donation’ button to the website was then mentioned and although it was known that some donations had been made via. this route, as our treasurer was not present at the meeting, the exact amount wasn’t known.
Dave then discussed the park usage survey which has been initiated in the form of a Google Docs form. This has been promoted on the groups’ Facebook page. It is intended that a meeting will be held to discuss the approach to surveying people face to face but it was thought that it would be a good idea to delay this survey activity until the weather is slightly warmer. It is also intended that copies of the survey will be sent to local groups.
Dave then highlighted the sightings of the roe deer in the park and commented that it appeared to have stayed in the park quite a long time.
Dave concluded his report by mentioning the sad news that Sally Flood, a previous FOPP committee member, had passed away during the second half of 2022.
As our treasurer (Trevor Day) was not present at the meeting, a treasurer’s report was not given. In the previous meeting (24/01/2023), it had been noted that the group’s bank balance was £222.27 but since then, a payment of approximately £28 has been made to Dianne Loftus for the annual charge for the domain name hosting required for the group’s website.
Election of Officers
Dave was re-elected as Chair. John was re-elected as Vice-Chair. Andy was re-elected as Secretary.
No nomination for the position of treasurer was forthcoming. Dave agreed to contact Trevor to see whether he would be happy to continue in this post.
Two minor changes to the FOPP constitution
In the previous meeting it had been agreed that it would be beneficial to have more open meetings compared to committee meetings. Andy explained that he had amended the group’s constitution such that under section 7 it now states that ‘The committee shall meet at least once a year’ (rather than a minimum of twice a year) and under section 8 it now states ‘Once the formal business of the AGM has been completed, the rest of that meeting will be considered an open meeting’. John queried what was meant by ‘open meeting’ and Andy explained that what was intended by this was that once the formal business of the AGM had been completed, then attendees at the AGM would be able to discuss any park related topics that they wished to. The meeting accepted these changes to the constitution.
Insurance for FOPP activities
In the previous meeting it had been discussed whether having a stall at Warwick market to promote FOPP, meet members of the public and hopefully get some people to complete the usage survey was a good idea. Robert Shuttleworth has since contacted CJ Events concerning this and they have said that they could provide FOPP with a stall in the market free of charge but that FOPP would need to have a minimum of £5 million public liability insurance. It was mentioned that it was thought that annual insurance of this level would cost the group between £38 and £40. It was noted that if we did obtain annual public liability insurance to allow the group to have a market stall, then the insurance could cover us for other events.
It was queried whether WDC could provide a market stall to be shared by FOPP and other similar organisations such as Hill Close Gardens and the Mill Garden. Diane commented that if this was progressed then it would be a good idea to limit those that shared the stall to those that have a common link such as gardens / parks. Lesley said that a similar event had been held in the past. Dave suggested that as the group has over £200 in our account that we should look at progressing the insurance and the meeting agreed with this. Johnathan suggested that maybe the ‘Donation’ page on the website could be amended to state that donations at the moment would be going towards the funding of the insurance.
John mentioned about funding that is available for Coronation events but that it was probably too late to take advantage of this for any FOPP events. It was mentioned that as Priory Park was first fully opened to the public in 1953 (the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II), that the park will be seventy this year and that maybe this anniversary could be used as a focus for future events. Diane said it was likely that she had information in her archive relating to the opening and she will provide this if she has.
Amanda then mentioned a group she had recently come across, members of which are residents of properties near to Priory Park. Amada thought that this group were intending having a Coronation party somewhere in park, possibly in the Priory Pools area. It was suggested that we could possibly liaise with this group with the possibility of having a stall at their event. A contact name of Mandy Burford was given. It was commented that if there is another group with similar aims to our own, then if both groups are pursuing the same types of events then obtaining funding for any such events may be more difficult for one of the groups. It was queried if anyone knew whether the nursery were intending holding a Coronation related event in the park, but no-one had an answer to this. Jo mentioned that she thought that there were events in the market square over the long Coronation weekend but that there didn’t seem to be much publicity from WDC about these. Dave explained that WDC are working through all applications for Coronation events as it is them that have to provide permission for events but that it would be Warwick Town Council who would be organizing events in the market square. Johnathan agreed that it was probably too late for FOPP to engage with any Coronation events but that maybe we should be looking at planning to become involved with any future events that are planned in Warwick.
Lesley asked whether we needed to prepare for the County Record Office (CRO) open day on the 25th June. Rob (CRO) explained that various organisations such as Friends of the Record Office and Hill Close Gardens would be attending this event which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Record Office being located at their current site. During the day there would also be displays of various documents and conservation work. Similar previous events have seen attendances of up to 600 people. If FOPP are going to attend, then a stall, including a cover and back sheet could be hired from CJ Events for £31 ex. VAT. Johnathan mentioned photos of trees in the park that Robert Shuttleworth has taken that he had previously said he was happy to be sold to generate funds for FOPP and Johnathan said that he had some prints of the park that he was also happy to be sold in support of FOPP. Lesley agreed to do one or more tree tours on the open day and it was also noted that we could promote the wood carving trail, especially now that we have the map of this for people to follow. Diane said that she could probably do a historical trail, including things like where the mills used to be, letters about Priory Pools etc. Diane also queried whether we could share our stall with other organisations such as the Warwickshire Gardens Trust and Rob said that the stalls were quite large. He also said that if FOPP were to attend the open day then we would need public liability insurance.
The consensus of the meeting was that FOPP should attend this event.
John queried whether at this event we could ask people to send in videos of their memories from fifty years ago of the park and surrounding area. He also suggested that if we obtained some historical photos / pictures of the park, it may be an engaging activity for children to draw their own version of these. Johnathan said that he has portable pod cast recording equipment so it would be possible to obtain oral histories from people when in the park and at events such as this.
Rob then gave a quick update on the future location of the CRO. Although they have been given extra storage space in County Hall, further storage will be required in the future. Although nothing has yet been decided concerning this, the options being looked at include obtaining extra off-site storage, developing the current site, moving to a completely different site or doing nothing.
Suggestions of other ideas and projects for 2023 – 2024
Johnathan gave a quick update on the Priory Park Pixies Door project which was discussed in some detail at our last meeting. He already has 10 – 12 doors which can be installed. A request for permission had been sent to WDC who queried what approach we would take to avoid disturbance to nesting birds. The original request to WDC has been amended to cover this, the request has been resubmitted and we are waiting for a response. It was noted that there is no cost for this event and that it would help to engage with young people. Dianne Loftus has said that information about each of the doors can be hosted on the website. Lucie queried whether the materials for the doors are non-toxic and Johnathan confirmed that this was the case. Sometime around the Easter period was suggested for the installation of the doors but we will need to wait for confirmation of permission from WDC before a time period can be agreed.
Dave said that Dianne would need to be asked to add the map of the tree carving trail to the website. Lucie said that it would be a good idea to try and launch this over the Easter period.
It was mentioned that maybe we should be looking at having any future park related events in the WDC Green Spaces newsletter but it was noted that it seemed to be quite a long time since this newsletter had been issued.
Dave said that he had chased Dave Anderson (WDC) about the re-issue of the guide to the park that was produced by Susan Clark. Andy mentioned that the guide was a little out of date as for example it still references the empress tree which fell a while ago. Johnathan said that if we could find the source files that the guide was produced from it could be amended before printing. However it was thought that the simplest approach was to go with printing the original version.
Dave also said that we should look to booking a committee meeting, possibly at the beginning of May. One of the topics that could be covered in this meeting could be the analysis of the survey results although this would require the face to face surveys and engagement with local groups to have been completed before the date of this meeting.
Johnathan wondered whether we should be obtaining Hi-Viz vests with the costs for these possibly being covered by sponsorship, with the option of adding to the website a specific ‘Donate’ button for this cost. John said we would need to provide information to any potential sponsors explaining what would be the benefits to them. Hi-Viz vests are available online for approximately £3.50 although there would be an extra cost per item for any printing of logos etc. Lesley mentioned the vests that FOPP used to have a while ago that were stored at the Wild Boar, but no-one knows what happened to these. Diane asked whether anyone had any links to the Priory Medical Centre as they could be potential sponsors but no-one did.
Lesley mentioned that near the newly planted Small Leafed Lime trees some blue cillas had just come into flower and that they were worth going to have a look at. It is not known how they came to be established at that location but that they have been there for quite a few years.
Comments from members
Andy explained that he had added this section to the agenda to capture comments that people had made to him, either in email exchanges or in person, about the park.
Out of control dogs
This comment originated from the dead muntjac deer found in the park. Dave had forwarded the photo of this to the Green Spaces team and Lucie and Matt had also seen the photo. The dog warden has also been made aware of the incident. Although it is not possible to be certain of the cause of death of the deer, it is possibly due to attack by one or more dogs. Several members had also highlighted that quite a few dogs appear to be running freely in the park with no control from their owners. This has at times lead to distress for other users of the park as well as the inconvenience of muddied clothes when an out of control dog decides to ‘greet’ someone.
Dave had previously added on our Facebook page about the importance of people to be responsible dog owners in the park and to be wary of its wonderful wildlife. It was pondered whether this apparent increase in uncontrolled loose running was due to an increase in dog ownership due to the pandemic. Johnathan mentioned the posters concerning controlling dogs that been installed at locations in various parks, but he also noted that weren’t any such posters in Priory Park anymore.
Johnathan said that on several occasions when a loose running dog had jumped up to him that the owners had said that their dog was just being ‘friendly’. Although the park is a shared space and the benefits of dog ownership and walking are well known, what dog owners need to understand is that it is a shared space and not all users of the park will welcome interactions with their dogs. It was suggested that the dog warden may have some suggestions of how to encourage responsible dog ownership in shared open spaces.
Lucie queried whether the sentence on the website about dogs chasing rabbits had been removed and it was confirmed that it had. Jo commented that she has occasionally had to tell off children who were breaking branches of trees in the park. Lucie asked if people see unacceptable behavior in the park how can they contact us if they aren’t on Facebook.
Amanda suggested that we could have role play sessions to show what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior in the park and that any such sessions could influence the behavior of the future generation. It is possible that we could engage with the local scouts to see if they could produce a presentation of how to behave in the park. Either or both of these suggestions could be considered for the CRO open day event. John suggested engaging with the dog warden to improve dog owners understanding of etiquette and behavior in the park. He also said that he would find out if Guide Dogs have any guidance of how to deal with such human / canine interactions in open spaces. Lucie said that we may get further information from the survey about how people feel about loose running of dogs in the park. John commented that progress may be made concerning this issue if we ‘flipped’ the issue providing praise for those owners who do fully control their dogs. Rob queried whether the community police officers still patrol the park, with the answer being yes but infrequently.
It was suggested that more posters emphasizing the importance of keeping dogs under control in the park could be provided on railings around the park. At this point, it was noted that the fencing that had been erected across Priory Pools path to slow down cyclists has been removed as it was erected in the wrong location. It will be installed in the correct location at a later date. The meeting then discussed dedicated notice boards for the park. This idea has been discussed previously, but the design of any such notice boards has to be agreed with WDC and their requirements are such that previously it was deemed that the boards would be too expensive for FOPP to fund. It is possible that the Town Council may be able to provide funding towards any notice boards and Dave will ask them about this.
Shredded litter (inc. glass) after park maintenance
It has been noticed that after removal of brambles in the park, shredded litter and broken glass has been seen where the brambles were removed from. It is unknown if these were a direct result of the maintenance work, but it is possible that the tools used to remove the brambles are the cause of this issue. Dave will mention this to Jon Holmes to see whether the maintenance team should be leaving cleared areas in a safe and usable condition.
Lower path accessibility
Difficulties in accessing the park via. the lower path, especially in autumn and winter has been discussed many times previously. Although improving the path has been on WDC’s ‘To-Do-‘ list for a while, progressing this has been hampered by a lack of funding. However Dave (as a District Councillor) has queried progress on this with the WDC chief executive and was told that Dave Andersen (Green Spaces team) will be asked to progress this. Lucie asked if there was a timescale for progressing this work and Dave said he would ask and report back.
Lesley asked whether it was intended that anything would be done to resolved the large puddles that form at the bottom of the tarmac path after rain. It was suggested that this issue could be resolved by the creation of a covered drainage system (a ‘French drain’) to drain the excess water into St. John’s brook. Dave said he would query with WDC whether this approach would be acceptable.
Amanda commented about the very steep path that provides an exit from the park by the CRO. It was agreed that this path can be considered a health and safety issue which could potentially be resolved by the installation of a rail down one side of the path. It was discussed whether remodeling the landscape could resolve this issue but it was said that this would a considerable and expensive project. Johnathan said that he had previously raised the idea of an accessibility audit which would cover issues such as this. Dave said he didn’t know the best way to raise this issue but including it in the work to improve the lower path may be the way forward. Lucie suggested a petition to provide some weight behind our requests for improvement to this and the lower path area.
Due to time constraints, discussion of the following two comments was deferred until the next meeting
How to engage more with members via. FaceBook and the mailing list.
There isn’t often formal voting – how are things actually decided?
- & A. Session and A.O.B
Lesley mentioned about a Monterey pine tree that is located near the top of the park near the large pear tree. This pine is dying back a bit due to a fungal disease, probably red needle blight. This does not yet seem to be affecting the Scotch pines.
The date and time of the next Open Meeting was agreed as 7pm on 23rd May 2023.
After the meeting, Dave received confirmation from Trevor that he was happy to continue in the role of treasurer.