FRIENDS OF PRIORY PARK, WARWICK
OPEN MEETING – TUESDAY 4th JULY 2023
Dave Skinner (Chair), John Garrett (Vice-Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Trevor Day (Treasurer), Ewan Davies, Peter Clemons, Paul Gerrard, Amanda Hazelgrove, Diane James, Lesley Hall, Rob Shuttleworth, Mary-Ann Baynes, Richard Lewis, Richard Bainbridge, Robin Christophersson, Judith Christophersson.
Jo Birkbeck, Nic Ruch, Pam Leonard, John Holland
Welcome and Introduction
Dave welcomed everyone and commented that it was good to see new attendees at the meeting. He then explained that although there is an agenda, this is an open meeting and people should feel free to raise any issues or topics in the AOB section of the meeting.
A report on the County Record Office (CRO) Open Day event
Dave said that this had been a very successful event and he was very pleased with the day and thought that CRO probably thought the same. There had been a lot of interest in the FOPP stall and the new attendees at this meeting had found out about the meeting on the day. Diane had provided lots of information relating to Priory Park to display on the stall. Various other items were also used to decorate the stall and Rob and Johnathan Branson had supplied photographs and prints of the park which were available for purchase.
Richard Lewis (CRO) thanked the group for their attendance at the CRO event and said that the day had indeed been a great success. Approximately 550 people attended and there was lots of positive feedback. Although funding was required to organize the event, this was provided by The Friends of the CRO. It is possible that a similar event would be organized in the future, but because of the costs involved, this would not necessarily be an annual event.
Our insurance and the possibility of using it to have a stall in the Market
Dave had organized public liability insurance of £5 million for FOPP for our attendance at the CRO event. The cost for this was £78. CJ Events had previously said that they would provide FOPP with a stall in Warwick market. This would be free of cost but CJ Events require public liability insurance cover of £5 million. As we now have this level of cover in place, we would be able to take advantage of the offer.
John said that he had finally managed to make contact with the Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action (CAVA) group. They have an information sheet about affordable insurance for voluntary groups and it would be sensible to engage further with CAVA to explore the various options before our current insurance expires.
Wildflower meadow update
Lesley gave a quick update on the wildflower meadow and noted that there are now 18 species of flowering plants in the meadow and that this is without any intervention in terms of FOPP adding extra plants to the meadow. It was queried whether the ragwort should be deadheaded. Now that no-mow May is over, the idverde maintenance team have mowed the area around the meadow allowing it to be seen much clearer. It was confirmed that the maintenance team are now fully aware of the change to the contract meaning that the meadow will only be mown annually. Dave said that the maintenance team manager had attended to ensure that his team didn’t mow the meadow. The meadow will be mown in the autumn and once the meadow has been mown the grass will need raking off the meadow area which will require volunteers from the group. Amanda and Diane volunteered to help with this work. It was queried what would be done with the raked grass and Lesley said it could be dumped onto the brambles where it would rot down although it may need to be checked that this wouldn’t count as fly tipping. It was also queried what happened with grass that was mown in other areas of the park especially as it may contain litter and / or dog waste. This grass is bailed up and it was thought that it may be used to produce wild habitats in other areas of the district such as Newbold Comyn. It was noted that crickets and butterflies can often be seen / heard in the areas of grass in the park that have been allowed to grow tall.
It was then discussed whether in the second year of the meadow extra native wildflowers should be introduced to the meadow and if so what species these should be. Lesley commented that poppies shouldn’t be considered as although these are native plants, the seeds only germinate when the land the seeds are in is cultivated. One candidate plant to consider is yellow rattle as this is semi-parasitic, feeding off the nutrients in the roots of nearby grasses. This weakens the growth of the grass allowing wildflowers to flourish. Lesley also said that although she had previously helped in establishing a wildflower meadow, she hadn’t been the person who was the overall organiser of the meadow. Lesley also said that she knew that Lucie Cox has expertise in creating wildflower meadows and that we should ask her for her recommendations for what extra species we should consider introducing. There was also some discussion about whether we should consider plug plants or seeds, with plug plants being quicker to establish and seeds being the cheaper option. It was agreed that whether extra species should be introduced to the meadow and when should be discussed further at our next meeting.
Mary-Ann asked whether it had been considered to make the meadow area larger as it currently only occupies part of the area at the Coventry Road entrance to the park. Dave said that the area was selected as it is where cowslips grow naturally and also that the results of the consultation exercise that was held last year suggested the current area. It was also noted that the area that the meadow is located in is a shared area. It is possible that the current area may be extended in the future or that another area in the park could be used to create a second wildflower meadow.
There was then some discussion about the pros and cons of no-mow May. Although mowing was resumed on the 5th June, the cold weather in the early spring combined with a warm May has meant that the volume and scale of the workload has been far greater than anticipated, with the maintenance crews also facing a number of mechanical issues. Whilst progress has been much slower than the Green Spaces team would have wished, their aim is to prioritise areas where there are safety concerns, such as road junctions and communal areas.
Lesley organized another tree walk in the park on the 1st July. A small group attended the walk which lasted for approximately two hours, with approximately half the group staying until the end of the walk. Trevor attended the walk and said how good and informative he found it, especially in learning the names of the various trees. Dave thanked Lesley for organizing this walk and also said that it was good to see some new faces attend the walk.
It was queried what had happened to the empress / foxglove tree. Although the original tree had fallen a while ago, a sapling had started growing, probably from the root stock of the fallen tree. However this sapling disappeared earlier in the year with no-one knowing what happened to it. However a new sapling has started growing and a protective guard has been erected around this. Lesley commented that when an empress tree is grown as a shrub it will produce large leaves whereas when it grows into a tree, the leaves tend to be smaller. She also said that it was possible that the new sapling may die back in the winter but that if this does happen then hopefully it will grow back the following spring. Dave mentioned the carvings that Graham Jones had created in the fallen stump of the original empress tree and noted that this was the first time that Graham had worked with this type of wood.
It was suggested that as people always seemed to enjoy the tree walks that another one could be organized in the Autumn as there would be good leaf colour and fruits at that time of year and also the Autumn crocus would probably be in flower.
Trevor reported that there was approximately £200 in the group’s account but that he needed to give Dave a cheque for £78 as Dave had paid for the insurance policy. There is also £35.15 that needs paying into the groups bank account. This sum is made up from donations received at both the CRO event and the tree walk. Trevor commented that the only other outgoings from the account would be the annual charge of approximately £30 for hosting the domain names for the group’s web site. Dave mentioned the three year grant that we have been receiving from Warwick Town Council to fund the hosting of the domain names and that we should re-apply for this. The donation button on the web site was mentioned and Trevor said that a donation had been received via this route just after the tree walk. Dave said that the donation button had recently been promoted on the group’s Facebook page, the CRO event and the tree walk.
The usage survey is now available on the web site. Amanda and John managed to get 19 people to complete the survey at the CRO event. At some stage in the future we will need start collating the results of the survey and then tailor future park related activities according to the overall results of the survey. Rob said that the greater the number of completed surveys that we obtain the greater the effort required for the collation work but the more representative the results will be of park users opinions and requirements.
John said he would contact CAVA to try to obtain us access to engage with other local groups in order to try and obtain survey results from them.
Amanda said that she was happy to perform face to face surveys in the park, but it was thought that for safety reasons any surveys completed in the park should be performed by a team of people rather than an individual. Lesley commented that we would probably need permission from WDC to survey people in the park.
John suggested that a QR code linking to the survey could be placed in the St. Mary Immaculate school notice board. Richard Lewis said that if we did go down this route the CRO have the ability to produce QR codes. Rob said that he could produce QR codes and these could be laminated and attached to the outside of the park although it was noted that in the past quite a few posters attached to the perimeter of the park had subsequently disappeared. Amanda said she hasn’t had this happen to posters that she has put up in the park. Trevor suggested sending a survey to the nursery although Dave said the nursery would probably be included in any groups that we request to complete the survey. Richard said that his wife is a teacher at the nursery and he would mention the survey to her. There is also a possibility of advertising the survey on the nursery’s notice board. If any schools were going to complete the survey then this needs to be progressed fairly soon due to the school’s summer holidays. Robin suggested mentioning the survey on the Packmores section of the Nextdoor neighborhood social app although it was mentioned that this app is often populated with the usual non-relevant information that is prevalent on social media. Dave said he would promote the survey again on the group’s Facebook page. Amanda said that surveys have already been provided to the Packmores Centre.
Dave said that he thought that we should have a meeting focusing solely on the survey and subsequent collation work but that he doesn’t currently have the time to be the organiser for this and currently no-one else has volunteered for this role. John suggested that maybe we should wait to start the collation work until any interested groups have responded and then have a meeting in September to progress this.
FOPP Instagram account
Trevor said that Angela (his wife) was happy to manage to group’s Instagram account and she was going to contact Dave about this. Trevor said that he would get Angela to liaise with Dianne Loftus concerning this.
AOB / Date of next meeting
Amanda said that she has been approached by quite a few people about uncontrolled dogs running free in the park and it was queried whether this was due to an increase in the number of dog walkers using the park. This issue has previously been mentioned during this year’s AGM. Amanda also said that one of the people who talked with her had then completed the survey.
It was asked whether in the future an event concerning dog walking etiquette could be organized and also whether WDC could put up posters concerning dog control as there are in other parks. Dave said he would attempt to progress this with WDC. Mention was made of the dog warden and Dave said that he would investigate whether we could engage with the warden to see if they could provide us with advice or other suggestions concerning this issue and also whether they could attend the park. John asked whether the dog warden would attend the park at specific times but Dave said he didn’t think the dog warden attended specific locations at specific times. It is possible that if the dog warden is attending the park and this is publicized then that may go some way to resolving this issue. Mention was made of the park rangers but Dave said that they also have to look after parking issues in the parks so he was unaware how much spare resource the ranger team had. Trevor commented that most dog walkers are responsible and that it is only a minority that are not controlling their dogs. Dave added that we shouldn’t be looking to exclude anyone from using the park and noted that FOPP was originally founded by dog walkers. Trevor added a further comment about this issue saying that not only did there seem to be more dogs running uncontrolled but that often dogs were joining up into packs which then run wild as a group and this could cause issues for children and other dogs that are being walked responsibly. It was noted that the police will not get involved where one dog attacks another but they will get involved if a dog attacks or bites a human. There was a recently reported incident of a runner in St. Nicholas park being bitten by a dog. John wondered whether we could take photographs or videos of uncontrolled dog walking but Dave wondered whether we really wanted to go down the ‘name and shame’ route’ and said that he couldn’t think of a full solution for what seems to be a frequent issue.
It was queried whether it was possible to get any bins that are located next to a bench moved. As the bins are correctly used to deposit dog waste, this means the bins can become very smelly meaning that sitting on a bench next to such a bin can be very unpleasant. Dave said that his experience was that it was quite difficult and took a long time to either get a new bin installed or an existing bin moved and this would be even trickier as a large proportion of Priory Park is a heritage site. Also if a bin was moved then there would also need to be a change to the maintenance schedule to ensure that when a bin is in a new location it is still emptied. It was noted that it is however possible to get a bin moved as there used to be a bin located close to the entrance of the Wild Boar public house. This had been requested by a previous landlady of the Wild Boar as people waiting at the bus stop were leaving litter. However the bin often started to smell affecting customers of the pub so it was organized for the bin to be located at the other side of Lakin Road.
Lesley mentioned that there used to be a bin near one of the Priory Road entrances to the park but this bin had been removed a while ago leading to litter being deposited at this entrance. Dave said that Warwick Town Council have recently employed a barrow man and he would try and get the Priory Road entrances to the park included in the barrow mans schedule.
Paul then gave a short presentation about grasses in the park as he has a long standing interest in grasses. This covered all the park, not just the new meadow area and Paul has identified perennial ryegrass, cocksfoot, Yorkshire fog, timothy grass, sweet vernal grass, poa annua and meadow foxtail. Interesting facts included that a pound of timothy grass seed contains 1.25 million seeds, the distinctive hay smell of sweet vernal grass and how when the seeds are stripped from a stalk of meadow foxtail the stalk can be trapped into people’s hair. Paul thanked Lesley for her assistance with the demonstration of the properties of meadow foxtail and Lesley said Paul could repay the favour by listing the grasses present in the wildflower meadow as she isn’t an expert in different types of grasses. Paul agreed to do this.
Dave mentioned the possibility of him organizing a bird walk in the park but also noted the issue that unlike the trees in a tree walk, there is no guarantee that there will be any interesting birds in the park when a bird walk is occurring. It was suggested that a walk themed around identifying different bird songs could be organised. Mention was made of the free Merlin bird ID app (available for both Apple and Google devices) which allows a user to use their phone to identify different bird songs. Lesley mentioned that are similar apps for tree identification but that some of these apps will provide the American name for a tree or in some cases will provide an incorrect identification.
The time and date of the next meeting was set as 7pm on September 5th 2023 with the location being as usual the back room of the Wild Boar, Lakin Road. Dave again thanked everyone for their attendance and then closed the meeting.