FRIENDS OF PRIORY PARK, WARWICK
OPEN MEETING – TUESDAY 12th SEPTEMBER 2023
Dave Skinner (Chair), John Garrett (Vice-Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Nic Ruch, Paul Gerrard, Margaret Gerrard, Ewan Davies, Richard Lewis, Amanda Hazelgrove, Johnathan Branson, Diane James, Lesley Hall.
Trevor Day, Lucie Cox, Matt Cox, Jo Birkbeck, Peter Clemons, Richard Bainbridge
Dave welcomed everyone and thanked them for their attendance.
Although Trevor was unable to attend the meeting he had notified Dave that there is £137 in FOPP’s bank account.
Wildflower meadow update
Lesley provided an update on the wildflower meadow. Firstly she said that she hoped that people had been to look at the meadow during its first year of development. She then mentioned the monthly surveys of wildflowers in the meadow that she has completed, with the latest survey in August showing a total of 16 different types of plant in flower. The meadow will be mown later in the autumn by Warwick District Council (WDC) Green Spaces team when they mow the rest of the long grass in the park and they will remove all the results of mowing. Jon Holmes (WDC) has advised not to rake the meadow area after it has been cleared as this may disturb insect life. Lesley has discussed the future of the meadow with Lucie and they are keen not to overdevelop the meadow with lots of new plants. However, it is thought that it would be a good idea to introduce yellow rattle into the meadow area. Ewan queried what yellow rattle is and Lesley explained that it is a plant species that forms a semi-parasitic relationship with the roots of grasses. This weakens the growth of the grasses allowing other plant species such as wildflowers to grow more strongly than they otherwise would. Lesley said that she may be able to obtain some yellow rattle seed.
Lesley then mentioned the survey of animal life in the meadow area that a friend had completed at the end of July. 39 invertebrate species were identified which included the likes of beetles, flies, moths, butterflies and woodlice. Lesley provided Dave with a memory stick that contained photos from this survey and the intention is to get these uploaded to the group’s website.
Nic asked whether we could sprinkle our own seeds, for example from personal gardens, on the meadow area. Lesley queried whether this would be a good idea as the meadow should only contain species that would grow naturally in the meadow area and we wouldn’t want things like poppies which wouldn’t grow naturally in undisturbed soil. Dave suggested that apart from introducing yellow rattle that we leave the meadow as it is for another year of development. Lesley mentioned the attempt to introduce wild flowers when the area near St. John’s Brook was maintained a while ago but also noted that the flowers did not appear to have established successfully.
It was mentioned that in our previous meeting that Paul had said that he would try to produce a list of the grasses growing in the meadow area. Paul said that he was unable to complete this while the grasses were in their vegetative state but would try to provide such a list in the future.
Lesley said that if we did end up needing to rake the mowed meadow area, then she would be looking for volunteers to help with this work. If required this would be once the meadow had been cut and the mowings dried and bailed and that would probably be towards the end of September / beginning of October. Amanda asked why the meadow was going to be cut and Lesley said that this was required to control the growth of the grasses which historically would have been grazed by animals.
Johnathan asked if it was known whether there are any tics in the park and Lesley said she thought that this was unlikely as they need a suitable animal host.
Lesley then mentioned the watering of the small leaved lime trees and said that she didn’t think WDC had watered the trees recently. Just prior to this meeting she had sent out an email explaining that due to the recent spell of very hot water the trees are suffering a little and a watering party should be organised. She noted that this was still required even though it was raining when she sent the email, as unless there was an absolute deluge, the rain would only penetrate slightly into the soil. Lesley has arranged access to the water tap in the garden of Rock House for 6pm on Wednesday 13th September at 18:00 and anyone who is able to assist should arrive with watering cans and / or buckets, unless it was pouring with rain. Amanda queried the location to meet and Lesley advised it may not be suitable for Amada due to the overgrown nature of the area. Dave and Johnathan said they were unable to assist with watering on Wednesday.
Gardens Trust Community Grant scheme
Dave and Diane have been liaising with Paul Baker about the possibility of FOPP applying for a Gardens Trust Community Grant. Amanda said that she hadn’t previously heard of the Gardens Trust and the work they support was briefly explained. If awarded, such a grant is for up to £3,500 and is intended to seed-fund volunteer projects that will support historic designed landscapes. If a proposal for a grant is submitted, it is intended that the grant would be used to fund some geophysical archaeological research on the banked and ditched area towards the top of Priory Park with emphasis on the ridges. It is intended that the grant funding would be used to engage with experienced historical archaeologist Dr. Stephen Wass to pursue research into this area. There was some interest in this area in 1841 and it is thought that an investigative trench was dug but nothing further is known about this work. Further investigation of the area occurred around 1972 / 73 with further digging occurring at that time. It had previously been thought that this area was the site of an iron age hill fort but current understanding is that this is not the case. Stephen has investigated the area slightly using LIDAR scanning which produces 3D digital representations of areas and there will likely be another site visit in the near future. At the moment all Diane requires from FOPP is agreement to proceed with this project and is was agreed by the meeting that the grant for this interesting work should be pursued. Richard commented that it was likely that the Record Office would waive any reproduction fees for images that related to this project. There is a further meeting between Dave, Diane and Stephen on Sunday 17th September to discuss this further.
Other future grant applications
Dave mentioned that previously FOPP had received a grant from Warwick Town Council to cover the FOPP web site and domain name hosting charges for a 3 year period. Due to Dianne Loftus kindly hosting the group’s website free of charge with only a small annual charge of approximately £30 for the domain name hosting, not all of this grant was used but now the 3 year period is drawing to a close the grant will no longer be available for us to draw on. It was discussed whether we should be applying to the town council for a further grant and if so what should be asking for money for. Items mentioned included the domain name hosting, insurance, including the possibility of obtaining a policy that covers volunteers as well as public liability, Hi-Viz jackets for volunteers and litter grabbers. Dave said that due to his role as a Town Councillor it is unlikely that he would be able to personally submit the grant application and if this is the case and FOPP do decide to submit a grant application, then he would be looking for a volunteer to complete and submit the paperwork required to support the application. He would however be able to support the application once it had been submitted. Ewan queried why the group’s current insurance only covers public liability and Dave answered that cover for volunteers would have cost extra and that the only recent event that we needed volunteer insurance cover for was the tree planting event and on that occasion we had been covered by WDC insurance.
Lesley asked that if we did manage to obtain Hi-Viz jackets and litter grabbers where they could be stored safely. Ewan said that it was possible that the Packmores Community Centre shed which is currently unused and would need securing before use might be suitable but it was also suggested that people could keep the items in their homes. Amanda suggested that if we did obtain Hi-Viz jackets then they could be FOPP branded. She also queried how often previous litter picks had occurred and it was mentioned that these had generally been organised by the Golden Monkey Tea Company in Smith Street on an irregular basis.
Johnathan mentioned information boards, the provision of which have been discussed by the group a few times in the past. He noted that it would be easier to get permission to introduce extra information boards into the park if the boards were to be attached to poles that already exist but are not currently being used. Mention was made of the hand drawn entrance sign on Priory Road and how it is somewhat of an eye sore.
Possible future use of our Insurance policy
Due to time constraints, this agenda item was not discussed but deferred until the next meeting.
Usage survey update
Dave has received a collated update from Dianne Loftus of 55 surveys submitted via. the website and there are also 19 written surveys. Johnathan asked whether the survey has closed but it was noted that the survey form is still available via. the website. Dave agreed to publicise the survey again on the group’s Facebook page and it was mentioned that we still need to engage with local groups to try and get completed surveys from any interested groups. Dave will bring the current survey results to the group’s next meeting. Johnathan suggested obtaining top-level statistics and quotes from the completed surveys that we have and that these could be added to the website. Amanda queried whether the link to the survey could be added to the web site home page.
Dave then said that Dave Andersen (WDC) has organised having the Priory Park information leaflet reprinted. Dave had brought some of the leaflets to the meeting for attendees and has already taken a batch of them to the Visitor Information Centre.
Q&A / AOB / Date of next meeting
Amanda asked Lesley whether she would be able to organise an autumn tree walk. Lesley said that she would be happy to do this and suggested that although it would be good to hold this when the autumn crocus are in flower, when the tree leaves change to their full autumn colour is dependent on the weather. It was agreed that a weekend afternoon sometime in late October would probably be suitable. Ewan commented that although the previous walk was scheduled to be an hour long, this wasn’t really long enough and an hour and a half would be better. A tentative time / date of 14:00 on Saturday the 21st of October was agreed for the walk and Lesley will confirm that this date is suitable for her. It was also suggested that maybe Diane could contribute historical details of the park during the walk. Diane also mentioned an archaeological report from when the medical centre was built which included details of the seeds that were found at this location as well as details of pottery, flowers and grasses and she agreed to send a link to this report to Dave. Johnathan suggested that maybe some of these seeds could be included as candidates for reintroduction to the park. It was also noted that a lot of archaeological information concerning this area would have been lost when the police station was originally constructed.
It was mentioned that the Empress Tree seemed to be growing back healthily and Dave said that he had been notified by Jon Holmes that Jon was happy that this was growing back. Lesley commented that there was a possible that the current growth may die back this winter but that hopefully it will regrow the next spring. This die back should only occur when the tree is a sapling, not as it grows to maturity.
Amanda queried whether any more tree carving was going to occur but it is not looking likely for this year due to lack of suitable wood being available.
Johnathan said that he had been asked whether he had considered re-establishing the Pixie Doors trail as a Christmas event. It was suggested that if this did occur, then maybe they should be Christmas Elf doors. The individual doors would be made by local families. Johnathan noted that doors would need to be hidden a little better than for the last trail as some of the more obvious ones had been vandalized or removed. It was agreed that this would be a good event to proceed with.
The time and date of the next meeting was set as 7pm on the 21st of November 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.