FOPP Annual General Meeting – 23rd April 2024



Dave Skinner (Chair), Andy Stewart (Secretary), Trevor Day (Treasurer), Ewan Davies, Lesley Hall, Diane James, Richard Lewis, Jo Birkbeck, Johnathan Branson, Richard Bainbridge, Maureen Hooper, John Holland, Nic Ruch


None received.

Dave welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for attending.

2022 AGM

The minutes of the AGM held on the 14th March 2023 were accepted as a true record.

Chair’s Report

Dave initially talked about the wildflower meadow that was established in Priory Park in 2023. Although the meadow grew successfully in 2023 with 16 different species of wildflower having being recorded by August, the cut that the Warwick District Council (WDC) Green Spaces contractors were supposed to have completed in October 2023 did not occur. Also the cut of half of the long grass in the rest of the park did not occur either. The group had previously agreed to allow the meadow to grow again in 2024. Already a lot of cowslips, probably more than last year, are in flower and Lesley has also seen cow parsley, dandelions and speedwell and as in 2023 she will be keeping a monthly record of which species appear. She and Johnathan are waiting until more species appear before making a video of Lesley recording the species in the meadow.

Dave said that he hasn’t yet uploaded the 2023 entomology information and photos that a friend of Lesley’s produced in July 2023, but that he would try and progress this. Lesley said that a friend of hers had introduced some yellow rattle seedlings into the meadow area. Yellow rattle interacts semi-parasitically with the roots of grass which weakens the growth of the grass providing a better environment to allow other plant species to grow successfully.

Providing the WDC Green Spaces maintenance contract is adhered to, the area around the edge of the meadow area should be cut towards late spring with the actual meadow area being cut in the autumn. Ewan commented that apart from the yellow rattle, we should not be looking to introduce any further seeds this year so we can see what will grow without any intervention. Jo asked whether it would be worth writing to Jon Holmes (WDC Green Spaces) to attempt to prioritise the maintenance work in the park. Dave said he was aware that due to various issues (e.g. no-mow May 2023) that the maintenance team had been struggling and he didn’t think this was currently worth pursuing. Dave also mentioned the usage survey and that we were still getting some responses and that quite a few respondents had suggested further wildflower areas in the park.

Dave then focused on last year’s tree walk and thanked Lesley for organizing it. Ewan seconded these thanks. There were some new attendees at this event and some donations were collected. It was agreed that it would be good to organise another tree walk later this year and Lesley said that she was happy to organise this again and would suggest a date at our next meeting. There was then a brief discussion of the bat walk which had been proposed in our last meeting by Tricia Scott from the Warwickshire Bat Group. Some of the usage survey responses had indicated that a bat walk would be a good idea. It was agreed that we should proceed with this with a proposed date of 24th August 2024 which is International Bat Night and that this event would be discussed further in our next meeting with Dave to contact Tricia concerning the arrangements for this event. Tricia had previously said that as the event would be held after dusk it would not be suitable for children under the age of 8 and had advised that pets, e.g. dogs, should not attend either.

Dave then highlighted the County Record Office (CRO) Open Day event which was held in June 2023. FOPP had a stall at this event which was a great success on a very sunny day. Richard Lewis (CRO) thanked the group for their attendance at the CRO event and also said that the day had indeed been a great success. Richard also said that a similar event wouldn’t be held this year, but it was hoped that a similar event would be held in the future.

Dave then covered the grant application that he had submitted to Warwick Town Council (WTC). The application was to cover the FOPP web site charges for 3 years, insurance costs for 3 years and the purchase of ten Hi-Viz vests. Dave noted that for the insurance, he had requested funding for combined public liability and volunteer insurance rather than just public liability insurance as we have now. This grant application was successful although Dave said that he had forgotten to include VAT for the Hi-Viz vests so we will need to make up the difference. Trevor queried whether the new insurance would cover volunteers on a litter pick and Dave confirmed that it would cover up to 20 volunteers.

Dave then thanked Johnathan for organizing the Festive Elf Door Trail. This was a re-run of the Pixie Door Trail which Johnathan had organised over the Easter 2023 period. Again the trail was a great success and Johnathan said that although he didn’t have firm data for the number of visitors to the trail, lots of families had been seen trying to locate the cunningly hidden doors, with some people coming from as far away as Coventry to visit. He also commented that positive feedback had been seen in the local press and on social media. Unlike the Pixie Door Trail, this time there had been no damage to or theft of any of the doors although strangely there have been reports of one door remaining in the park even though Johnathan is certain that he collected all the doors that had been installed.

It was mentioned that the recently planted Oak sapling was sprouting and that some of the undercover has been cleared from around its stem. It is possible that this tree may require watering this year. Lesley said that the two Empress tree saplings growing near the fallen Empress tree were also sprouting. One of the saplings is quite a bit bigger than the other so it will be interesting to see whether they will both grow in the future.

Dave pointed out that currently The Environment Agency are in the park surveying near St. John’s brook. This work is in response to a flooding issue on the other side of the railway. The agency have cut into the brambles to try and examine the culverts that flow under the railway embankment. They also have an ecologist on their team who is looking at wildlife in the brook as well as ensuring the team aren’t disturbing any habitats such as bird’s nests. If protected species were identified in the brook then that may impact on The Environment Agencies ability to dredge the brook if it is decided that this is required.

Treasurer’s Report

Trevor said that a year ago there was just over £200 in FOPP’s bank account. Approximately £35 was received as donations during the CRO Open Day and the tree walk with approximately £30 also being received via. the ‘Donate’ button on FOPP’s web site. After last year’s outgoings there is currently approximately £188 in the group’s bank account. Some of this will be required to cover the VAT for the Hi-Viz vests. Ewan queried whether we should be charged VAT on these items as they could possibly be classified as safety items which are exempt of VAT, but Dave said that as FOPP are neither a business nor a charity that he didn’t think that exemption would apply. Although the costs associated with the FOPP web site are currently covered by WTC, Dave formally thanked Dianne Loftus for kindly hosting the FOPP web site for a nominal charge because without this assistance, the outgoings required for the website would be much greater than they currently are.

Election of Officers

Dave was re-elected as Chair. Andy was re-elected as Secretary. Trevor was re-elected as Treasurer.

Unfortunately our current Vice-Chair, John Garrett was not at the meeting and there were no volunteers for this position. It was agreed to defer election to this post until our next meeting which hopefully John will be present at and if so it can be seen if he wishes to be re-elected as Vice-Chair.

Q. & A. Session and A.O.B

Nic queried how the small leaved limes that we planted were doing. Lesley said that they appeared to be growing well and hopefully shouldn’t need watering this year. At some stage the ties will need removing and also possibly the cans covering the watering tubes. It is also likely that some clearing of the undergrowth around each tree will be required. Ewan suggested contacting Lucie Titchmarsh to see whether ARC would be able to assist with this sort of clearance work and if so, should we be looking at some clearance of the perimeter of the wildflower meadow as well.

Dave mentioned the willow at the Coventry Road entrance that had fallen. After the Green Spaces team had cleared most of the fallen tree, some more space has become available and it was pondered whether FOPP should consider adopting this space or whether it was better to leave it as it is to see what will grow in the area.

Dave also talked about the proposed new Packmores Community Centre. This project appears to be progressing well with plans of the proposed new building being available. It is proposed that the new centre will be located in the Priory Pools area. Lesley said that there used to be a wildflower meadow in the Priory Pools area but over the years it hasn’t been managed and she isn’t sure whether it is visible anymore.

Lesley also commented on the perennial problem with litter in the park. She highlighted litter that had been left at one of the Priory Road entrances to the park over a year ago and that is still there. It was hoped that the WTC street cleaner would have been able to clear this litter, but unfortunately the cleaner position is currently vacant. Johnathan asked whether we could organise a litter pick as has happened in the past. Mo commented that there are areas in the park where it would be difficult to litter pick due to the density of the undergrowth and the potential for volunteers to trip or otherwise injure themselves due to rabbit holes. Trevor asked if a litter pick were organised, whether we could start the new insurance in advance of the pick as that would provide us with volunteer insurance. Dave answered that it would be possible to upgrade the insurance. Trevor also queried what would happen to any litter that had been collected. It was explained that providing the litter pick was organised in conjunction with WDC, then they would provide litter grabbers and bags and if they were notified as to where the bags full of litter were to be deposited, then they would be able to collect these following the litter pick. Simon Pargeter (WTC) was mentioned as a useful person to liaise with concerning this. Johnathan said that WDC has an online form which should be completed for any community litter pick with details of how to request the litter grabbers and bags as well as where any picked litter should be collected from being specified on the form. He also commented that he may be able to obtain a cheaper quote for the Hi-Viz jackets than the one Dave has obtained. Dave said he had selected the company he was proposing as they are local to the area.

Nic then asked whether it is proposed to renovate the three paths that act as entrances to the park from Priory Road. Ewan said that improvements to these entrances as well as to other access routes in the park have been discussed previously. Dave said that the lack of any progress in any improvements was due to lack of funding. Previously King’s High school had also requested improvements to the Priory Road accesses as their pupils used these routes, but as the school has relocated, their request is no longer valid. It was noted that at the moment the priority for work in the park is standard maintenance jobs such as clearing brambles and cutting grass and even some of the tasks such as work on trees that was planned a couple of years ago have not yet been completed.

Diane said that she had been having conversations with Warwickshire Gardens Trust and the CRO about how, if at all the work with the archaeologist Stephen Wass could be progressed. Stephen provided a preliminary report of the type of archaeology he would propose in the park and his report is available to view on the FOPP website. However, currently lack of funding is preventing this work from progressing.

Johnathan said he had had a conversation with Sue Rigby. Sue is a member of the ‘Unlocking Warwick’ group and a committee member of Friends of the CRO. Sue attended our previous meeting and had said there was a possibility of funding being available to provide signage for historic trees in the park. At the previous meeting it was noted that WDC are adamant that they were not in favour of trees being labeled. Johnathan and Sue have been discussing the possibility of providing QR code based signs at the Coventry Road and Priory Pools Path entrances to the park. When scanned, the QR code would redirect to further sources of information about the park, such as the FOPP website. Similar signage has been installed in Christchurch Gardens in Leamington Spa. It is estimated that these signs would cost approximately £150 with Sue possibly being able to obtain the funding to cover this. Sue was hoping to be able to attend the meeting, but unfortunately she had to attend a prior booked meeting and was unable to leave that in time to attend our meeting. Sue had also said that she would be keen to assist in attempting to progress the archaeological research in the park, especially that around the Priory Pools area. She had commented that lots of people know the name of Priory Pools, but not where the name came from. Further interest was shown by both Sue and Diane concerning historical maps of the area in the CRO which could be layered to provide a ‘dig-down’ into the history of the area. Johnathan will liaise further with Sue and possibly Dave and this topic will discussed further at our next meeting.

Dave commented that if we were looking to improve informational signage in the park, then looking at providing information concerning the general and social history of the immediate area would be a good addition to the location proposed for the new Packmores Community centre.

Lesley highlighted the issue of the recent obstruction by large pools of water at the Coventry Road entrance to the park and asked whether The Environment Agency team will be looking at this. The route from the Coventry Road entrance towards the new medical centre is popular with people going into the centre of Warwick but due to the recent pools of water was unusable when wearing normal footwear. Dave thinks the team may be looking at this area but probably only near the brook. Trevor commented that it wasn’t flooding from St. John’s brook that caused the pools of water, but rather the amount of rain that had occurred. This has also been seen in the bogginess of the grassed area either side of the path.

Dave commented that he has previously queried whether the path that runs nearly parallel to St. John’s brook would be upgraded when the construction of the new Packmores Community Centre had been completed as that was likely to increase footfall to and from the park via. this route.

Dave also talked about the notification that he has received from Blythe Liggins solicitors that FOPP have been named as one of the beneficiaries of the estate of the late Andrew Philip Griffin. The amount of the bequest is currently unknown but Dave has previously suggested that whatever sum FOPP does receive that it would be good to use it for something that will be a lasting legacy in the park to Andrew.

Johnathan highlighted the Warwick Pursuits festival which is being held in St. Nicholas Park on June 22nd and 23rd 2024. Organised by Kate Livingstone who also organises ‘Art in the Park’ in Leamington, this festival will have themes covering History & Literature, Music & Dance, Theatre & Arts and Sports & Wellbeing. Although free for the public to attend, there will be a charge for any stall holders.

The time and date of the next Open Meeting was agreed set as 7pm on Tuesday 25th June with the location being as usual the Wild Boar, Lakin Road. Dave again thanked everyone for their attendance and then closed the meeting.

Addendum. Dave was unable to book the Wild Boar meeting room for the 25th June as it was already booked for another event. Instead, Dave has booked the room for Tuesday 2nd July and notified interested parties by email.