Friends of Priory Park Warwick (FOPP) Open Meeting 23rd May 2023




Dave Skinner (Chair), John Garrett (Vice-Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Trevor Day (Treasurer), Jo Birkbeck, Pam Leonard, Nic Ruch, Rob Eyre, Paul Balam, Diane James, Ewan Davies, Amanda Haselgrove, Richard Bainbridge, Margaret Davies, Barbara Brown, Lucie Cox


Lesley Hall, Dianne Loftus, Johnathan Branson, Matt Cox, Dennis Cripps


Welcome and Introduction

Dave welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for attending. Dave then mentioned the minutes of the March 2023 AGM and said that there wasn’t anything that needed to be followed up from that meeting and that the minutes of that meeting are available on the FOPP website.

Dave and Trevor confirmed that FOPP currently have £203 in their bank account. Of this approximately £100 was from donations received during the previous tree walk and £50 – £60 was from donations made using the ‘Donate’ button on the website. This shows that the ‘Donate’ button does work but it was suggested that maybe the button needs further publicity.

Wildflower meadow

Although it has taken a while to get to this point, idverde have been made aware by Jon Holmes (WDC Green Spaces team) that the recent contract change means that they should not be mowing the area allocated for the wildflower meadow, although they will be mowing the outskirts of the location so that people can walk around it. Dave gave a brief explanation of the location but also said that as WDC have adopted ‘No Mow May’, that it is currently a little difficult to see exactly where the meadow is growing as the area around it hasn’t been mowed during May either, but that the area that shouldn’t be mown at all was originally marked with orange paint. Pam asked whether we could have a barrier around the meadow location and Dave answered that he had queried this with Jon Holmes, but Jon didn’t want a barrier round the location. Nic queried why hadn’t we used the path that runs diagonally from the Coventry Road into the park as one of the borders of the meadow. Dave answered that the location was chosen so as to not encroach too much into the green area at the entrance to the park as people use the area for activities such as picnics and football, but that depending on how the meadow develops it may be possible to increase the size in the future. Lucie commented that it will be interesting to see what plants grow in the area that hasn’t been adopted as the meadow.

Although Lesley was unable to attend the meeting, she had previously sent a list of the plants that she had recently identified as growing in the meadow area. Dave read the list and the plants so far identified are cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), cowslip (Primula veris), dandelion (Taraxacum vulgaris), common sorrel (Rumex acetosa), germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), thyme leaved speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia), common daisy (Bellis perennis), creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris), common mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum), stinging nettle  (Urtica dioica), white dead-nettle (Lamium album) as well as lots of grasses which are more difficult to identify.

When May is over, mowing in the park will start again and it was queried how we could be sure that idverde would adhere to the amended maintenance contract and not mow the meadow area. Although a sign would be useful it is thought that it is unlikely that we would currently be able to persuade Jon Holmes to allow this and so some level of vigilance amongst group members may be required. Andy asked Dave whether an email to Jon Holmes asking him to remind idverde about the contact change would be useful and Dave agreed to progress this. Lucy commented that if for some reason idverde do mow the meadow area, then we may then be allowed to erect a sign near the area. Jo commented that she had previously engaged with the idverde maintenance team and they had been amenable to comments she had made.

Pixie doors

The Pixie Doors project was instigated and managed by Johnathan. It was agreed that this had been an excellent project which had been extremely well received by visitors to the park. Lucy mentioned how much she enjoyed the stories about the different types of pixies behind each door. Johnathan was unable to attend the meeting but had previously provided a summary of the project. This covered the successes such as 160 new visitors to the FOPP website, people travelling from the likes of Coventry, Leamington and Kenilworth specifically to try and discover the doors, good press and social media coverage and reports of families going on multiple hunts over the Easter holidays. However there were some challenges with running the project such as the lengthy process to get approval from WDC and doors regularly being destroyed or removed from their location. The latter meant that visitors were unable to find the missing doors so regular checking of the doors and updates to the website and social media were required. It was noted that some of the missing doors had been replaced by the local community. Diane commented that she had noticed tulips placed near the doors so that if a door had gone missing, the person looking for it would at least know they were in the correct location. Johnathan had also provided a breakdown of the time (29.5hrs) that the project had taken and also the cost (£35). Trevor queried whether Johnathan would need reimbursing and although the meeting was unsure about this, after the close of the meeting, Johnathan commented by email that he did not require and never intended to be reimbursed for the cost of the project and that he had only added the time and cost of the project to his notes so we could see the relatively low cost of these things should we want to repeat the project.  Dave said that he thought that repeating the project at some time in the future was a very good idea.

Usage survey

Dave apologised that due to lack of time, he had made no progress on the usage survey and queried whether anyone would like to be in charge of progressing the survey. This would involve moving to the face to face stage of the survey and also possibly promoting it in other ways such as posters at the entrances to the park. Trevor queried what would be involved and it was noted that permission would be required from WDC if we are going to do face to face surveys in the park.

John said that if he could be supplied with the link to the survey, then he would write some detail covering the aim of the survey and could get the Community and Voluntary Action (CAVA) group to promote it on their website. It was then queried where on the website the survey can be accessed from as there isn’t an obvious link to it (although the survey can be found by searching for ‘Survey’ on the website). Andy agreed to contact Dianne to see if a link to the survey can be added to the website.  When the survey is fully accessible on the website it should be publicized again on the group’s Facebook page.

Amanda and Lucy said they would be happy to be involved in face to face surveys but Lucy added that she didn’t have enough spare time to be the overall organizer for this project. It was also mentioned that the survey could be promoted at the next tree walk.

At this point in the meeting Dave commented that the small leaved limes that were planted early last year seem to have survived the winter but he hasn’t checked on the oak tree that was planted late last year. He also noted that the area where the empress tree sapling had been removed from has had a protective barrier reinstalled and that it has started sprouting again. Mention was made of the large branch that fell from one of the pine trees near the nursing home and also of the new bench that has been installed at the top of the park.

FOPP Instagram account

Prior to the meeting, Dianne had asked for this item to be added to the agenda. Although Dave regularly posts to the group’s Facebook page, the Instagram account has been a little bit neglected. If a photo is uploaded to the FOPP Instagram account, then it also becomes available on the group’s website – this is currently not possible with photos uploaded to the groups Facebook page. Dave commented on how easy it was to upload a photo to the #prioryparkwarwick Instagram account. Trevor said he would ask Angela (who set up the FOPP Instagram account) whether she wishes to continue to manage the account.

It was also mentioned that it would be good to be able to access the survey from the groups Instagram account and Andy  said he would query with Dianne whether this was possible.

The recent sightings of the roe deer was mentioned with photos of it being posted both on Instagram and Facebook with videos also being posted to Facebook. Rob mentioned he has seen a roe deer in the County Record Office grounds being chased by a dog.

County Record Office (CRO) open day / Event insurance

At the March 2023 AGM it was agreed that FOPP should have a stall at the CRO open day which is being held on the 25th June 2023 between 12:00 and 16:00. Rob had brought fliers publicizing the event. There will be 3 stalls at the event – one for FOPP, one for the Friends of the Record Office and one for Hill Close gardens. There will not be a charge for the stalls. Public liability insurance for this event isn’t mandatory, but the feeling of the meeting was that it would be a good idea for FOPP to have this cover anyway especially as if were an annual policy then it would cover us for other events in the future. It was discussed where we could obtain the insurance from and John said he would ask CAVA for any assistance they can give us concerning this. It was also mentioned that Zurich Insurance probably provided the sort of cover that the group were interested in obtaining. Trevor commented that one issue in obtaining a suitable policy is that we don’t know what any future events may entail and so won’t know what sort of cover we require. He also said that he thought that an annual policy would cost more than the figure of approximately £50 that had been mentioned in the AGM.

Dave, Jo, Nic and Trevor said they would be available on the 25th June and Amanda said she could be available by about 13:00. Diane said that she would be in attendance and was happy to conduct one or more history tours in the park. Lucy said that we could provide maps covering the tree sculpture trail to allow people to take a self guided stroll round the park. Lucy said she would print out and laminate information about trees in the park and Dave said he already had information sheets about the birds in the park. Andy said that he still had the print-outs providing information about mycorrhizal fungi and could provide some of these to go on the stall.

Mention was made of the FOPP information leaflets and Jo said she had a pile of these. Although slightly out of date, it was agreed to make these available on the stall. Dave said we are waiting for WDC to re-print the park information leaflets and that he would chase WDC (Dave Andersen) concerning these.

Diane asked whether anyone had any sort of display board that can be used vertically on the stall as a backdrop. Rob said that the CRO may have something suitable that they could loan to us.

Previously Johnathan had mentioned photos of trees in the park that Rob Shuttleworth has taken that he had said he was happy to be sold to generate funds for FOPP. Andy said that he would contact Rob to see if this was still the case. Johnathan had also said that he had some prints of the park that he was also happy to be sold in support of FOPP. Both of these would be excellent items to display on the stall

Dave confirmed with Rob that we would be able to ask for donations at the open day. Hard copy versions of the usage survey will also be made available on the stall.

Amanda wondered whether we could have FOPP badges for people who were manning the stall. A key point that was raised was that we should be using the CRO open day event to promote FOPP and explain what the priorities of the group are. It was also mentioned that it would be good if we could have a FOPP banner to decorate the stall with.

Dave mentioned that although Lesley was unable to attend either this meeting or the CRO open day, that she was happy to provide another tree walk as the last one had been so successful, especially in terms of the donations received to boost FOPP’s bank account. She had already suggested some dates and it was agreed that Saturday 1stJuly at 15:00 would be suitable. Dave said that he would check with Lesley that this was still a suitable date / time for her.

Q & A session

Nic asked whether there had been any progress on the access paths, especially those leading from Priory Road into the park. Dave answered that there hadn’t been any progress but that previously it had been hoped that some of the section 106 funding from the redevelopment of the King’s High school site could be used towards this. However the redevelopment of this site is currently on hold.

It was agreed that improved access both into and in the park is something that the group should keep raising as it has always been an issue in some areas. Dave mentioned that improving the lower path was something that was on WDC’s radar and that he had tried to progress this further in his previous role as a district councilor. It was suggested that it would be a good idea to invite one or more of the new district councilors to a future meeting.

A comment was made that it may be easier to get improvements to the access into the park from Priory Road if there was only a single entrance but it was noted that people coming to the park via Priory Road will be coming from different areas and so would have their preferred access point. It was also mentioned that some of the entrances to the park no longer had the regulatory bye-laws sign marking them as an official entrance into a WDC park area and although this issue had been raised with WDC quite a while ago, nothing has been done to resolve this issue.

There was then some discussion about Priory Pools Path covering removal of the cyclist speed trap railings and the fact that the path is becoming overgrown and not kept clear underfoot. It was also thought that the drains weren’t being cleared. It was suggested that it would be worth engaging with Councillor John Holland to see if he could progress resolution of this issue.

Nic then mentioned the large pool that has formed in the park near to St. John’s Brook by the railway embankment and that he recently had seen quite a few juvenile fish in it. Dave said that he had previously seen spawn, a muntjac, a kingfisher and bull rushes in the same area. It was agreed that if you knew where to look, that although small in size, that this was an excellent area of the park, especially in terms of increased biodiversity. While discussing this area of the park, Diane mentioned that quite a few years ago, a cow managed to get stuck in this area. She also said she would try and obtain photos of where the sluice gates for Priory Pool used to be as they were near this area and also that the location of the sluice gates was a potential starting point for her History tours.

There was then some excellent chat about birds in the park covering woodpeckers, various finches, thrushes, magpies, jays and the abundance of crows and jackdaws. Lucie then said that on her recent semi-nocturnal visits into the park she had noticed quite a bit of bat activity. Dave mentioned the bat walk in the park which was held quite a few years ago now and suggested that maybe we could hold a similar event in the future.

AOB / Date of next meeting

The date of the next open meeting was set for the 4th July 2023. Dave again thanked all attendees and then the meeting was closed.