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Minutes of Meeting held on Tuesday, 20th October 2015 at the Mitre Inn

Present:

Christopher Wake (Chair), Lynsey Gallant (Treasurer), Mike Pyle (co-opted committee member), Jo Smalley (Secretary), Elsa Wiehe (Secretary), Cllr Anne Jones (Harrogate Borough Council, Scriven Ward) Ann Pearson, Tony Webber, Elsa Jackson, Kate Dawson (Harrogate Borough Council), Stuart Bell, Miranda Simpson, Jan Welsh, Sam Walker (Harrogate Borough Council) , Cath and Phil Oldfield, Ivor Fox, Mark Hunter, Peter Jackson, Bill Rigby (Knaresborough Town Council) Rachel Simpson, Tim O’Flaherty (Scriven Parish Council), Sarah Cannon (Scriven Parish Council) Shelley Jones, Barry and Maxine Blake, Sue Langley

Apologies

Cllr Bill Hoult, Kellie Reed, Nikki Mitchell, Stephen Root (Harrogate Naturalists' Society)

Richard Owen-Hughes, Sam Frankland, Jacqui Cardani, Rachel Porter, Lizzie Medwell

Scriven Residents' Association committee.

1.   Chairperson’s welcome

Chris Wake (Chair) introduced himself and the other committee members.

  • Many thanks to Mike Pyle who has kindly offered to continue to assist the Friends Group, and has been co-opted on to the committee. His experience and help to the group are much appreciated.
  • Lynsey Gallant (Treasurer). Lynsey will also head up developing and maintaining the Friends’ website
  • Jo Smalley (Secretary). Jo also runs the Friends’ Facebook page.
  • Elsa Wiehe (Secretary).
  • Sam Walker (Countryside Ranger for HBC). He will be liaising closely with The Friends to maintain and enhance the park.
  • Kate Dawson (Strategic Development Manager for HBC). Kate will, along with Sam, offer a key link between the Friends and HBC.
  • Cllr Tim O’Flaherty and Cllr Sarah Cannon from Scriven Parish Council.

2.   THANKS TO

The hard work and dedication of the previous committee was praised by the new committee. Chris Wake also highlighted how fortunate The Friends Group is to have the support of such proactive HBC officials, and also councillors.

Park Grove Methodist Church was thanked for its support over the years, including the generous use of premises for meetings. The Friends hope to continue running events with the church in the future - for example, Christmas carols in the park.

Thanks also to the Mitre Inn for the use of their function room.

3.   TREASURER’S REPORT

Mike Pyle (former Treasurer) stated there was £800 in the Friends’ fund. He explained this combines various grants, donations and annual standing orders which supporters have contributed in the past. The payment of a £200 Insurance Premium is still pending, as are website hosting fees.

Park Grove Methodist Church has not charged the Friends’ group for the use of its hall, but the committee feels it appropriate to make a donation.

A formal meeting will be arranged to sort out new cheque signees.

Mike added that Public Liability insurance is very expensive, and is hoping to find a more reasonable quote. Sam Walker said he could help him with some suggestions.

4.   HAY CUTTING ACTION PLAN/MAINTENANCE PLAN

Concerns have been raised over the width of the paths due to encroaching vegetation.

The grass had been cut previously in a way which prevented paths being overused and kept the vegetation alongside it in check. Now that the same routes are being mown the once wider paths are becoming compacted and the grass worn away and slippery patches developing underfoot. Sam Walker and The Friends are to work together to see how best to address.

The farmer has not made the hay cut this year, so the meadow areas are rank and scrubby and riddled with docks. He has also not cut the hay at some other HBC managed sites, despite being offered the hay for free. HBC has tried to contact the farmer to no avail. As a result, unfortunately there will be no hay cutting in the park this year.

Sam Walker mentioned that the farmer had previously complained of access issues (the gates being closed by the public when he was mowing, lack of space to move due to walls, and the proliferation of docks which harmed the quality of his hay). He also disliked the three year rotation cut which had been agreed upon, because of it being beneficial to wildlife and flowers  He felt this system encouraged the spread of the docks.

Sam said it might be worth acceding to the farmer’s wishes on this point (i.e. not observing the three year rotation cut system) if it encourages the farmer to resume hay cutting. Not having the hay cut long-term would be disastrous for the park as its ecological balance would be tipped from wildflower filled grassland to bramble filled scrubland. The committee, Sam Walker and Kate Dawson will meet to put together an action plan as soon as possible.

Spraying the docks is expensive and the use of weed killers meant that the park will have to be closed to the public for a short time.

Ivor Fox added that the docks in the park had been last sprayed four years ago, and that for parkland maintenance, this should be done every two or three years. This has resulted in the visible deterioration of the quality of the grass, which was now unsaleable (only fit for feeding to goats!).

Anne Pearson expressed her worries at the vigorous growth of the nettles bordering some paths and felt they were very unsafe for young children who could fall into them.

Mark Hunter explained that thistles and nettles were highly beneficial for wildlife, and if the paths were cut and kept wider than they are at present, these plants would not present any hazard. Jo Smalley seconded his views.

It was also said that Jacob Smith Park was never meant to be a manicured park. Its charm is that it is natural and, one had to take the rough with the smooth when dealing with nature. Being natural it was very weather dependent.

The committee and HBC will work together on a five year management plan to set out clearly park maintenance needs.

Mike Pyle said that the same old issues were being raised again, and he hoped that all maintenance issues would be addressed. The new committee will strive to work with HBC, which manages the park, to take on board all the suggestions voiced.

5.   WALL MAINTENANCE

Kate Dawson (HBC) said that only urgent work had been done on the wall this year.

Photographs of the state of the wall are being reviewed. A survey of the wall and work required is planned for early 2016. After a site visit, the budget will need to be sourced. Cllr Anne Jones added that a committee member should be present during the site evaluation

It was mentioned that the mason who repaired the wall a while ago was inordinately slow. However, this might be explained by the fact that this is a craftsman’s job and due to nature of the work, a slow drying period is required.

6.   SIGNAGE

Kate Dawson (HBC) showed some black and white printouts in PDF version which related to draft designs for the sign, agreed by the previous committee.

Jo Smalley will liaise with Kate re future signage.

Chris Wake suggested that the existing notice board, just beyond the entrance into the park, be reversed, so the notice board (glass fronted case) would face the entrance gate. This could be used to display various events (maybe even a section for new notices to attract people’s attention and keep their interest). It was agreed that this would be a good idea.

It was suggested the sign could include details of the wildlife and heritage of the park (as researched by Claro Archaeology Group).

The nettles and weeds at the foot of the board need to be cleared away.

7.   DOG WASTE

Lynsey Gallant (Treasurer) introduced herself in her other capacity as professional dog walker. She is very proactive in the fight against fouling in the park. She noted that in one week, she had collected 76 piles of dog waste on the cut paths alone! She is awaiting contact from the dog warden.

Cllr Anne Jones said that there is only one dog warden for the whole district.

Ivor Fox said it was a great shame that the park appears to be suffering from increased dog fouling, as up to very recently it ranked as one of the district’s cleanest parks. He added that, even at the beginning of this year, it was designated “fit for young children” as it was renowned for its lack of dog waste.

Over the years, the park has become more popular with dog walkers from a wider area, not just local people.

It was suggested that the park was perhaps perceived as neglected with its rank grass, which could lead to a general lack of pride and lack of respect and care.

Jo Smalley added that it was only a minority of irresponsible dog owners who were causing the problem, as the overflowing dog poo bins by entrance gates testified to the diligence of most dog walkers.

It was suggested that one of the dog poo bins be moved to the top end of the park to encourage the lazier dog walkers to clear up. However, Cllr Anne Jones explained that HBC would likely refuse the funding of a bin far from the entrance and the road on grounds of logistics and finance. Because a full bin is very heavy. Lifting and carrying the full bag quite a distance to the gates would be very difficult and time consuming.

A “Bag and Flag” initiative was discussed. Sam Walker related how in Bilton Fields, 380 bags were counted at the beginning of the campaign, but by the end of the Bag and Flag initiative this had gone down to 40 bags! A remarkably successful campaign.

Suggestions of glow in the dark signs, poo fairy stickers, free poo bags, and a “Bag and Flag” campaign to be photographed and reported in the local press.

Also a signpost needed at the front of the park with signs, to explain to people why clearing up dog waste is so important. Chris Wake (chair) to ask the parks department for help.

Children could front the anti-dog waste campaign, maybe handing out poo bags at entrance to park.

The park’s sign should say “FAMILY PARK”.

The people attending were asked to email any ideas they had about solving this problem.

The committee will explore a variety of avenues and look at putting together a plan, with input from the local community.

8.   PARK ETIQUETTE

The Park was bequeathed to the WHOLE community, and anything to encourage people to enjoy it is a positive move.

The introduction of a large no dog zone or on the lead zone was discussed so people (adults and children) who do not want to be surrounded by dogs can feel confident being in the park. The park is a generous enough space for everyone to share. A picnic area in this zone would also ensure that dogs would not be able to storm through and spoil enjoyment. Dog owners must also be asked to display etiquette at all times, not just in the zone, but also by keeping their dogs under control and not letting them jump up. This will show consideration for the feelings of other people (children and adults) who do not like dogs or are scared of them.

Ivor Fox agreed that a large children’s area should remain high on the agenda as it had been raised by the previous committee. However, staff changes at HBC and a new Friends committee had understandably slowed things down but, Ivor Fox said, plans must start to be put in place to ensure it is taken forward.

9.   ADDITIONAL BENCHES IN THE PARK:

Ivor Fox (from a survey four months ago), explained that older residents needed a seat within reasonable walking distance from the entrance.   The park should be accessible to and enjoyed by all age groups and people. The committee and HBC will look at options for further seating.

10.        BIRD FEEDING STATIONS

Mark Hunter wondered about installing bird feeders to help the birds over the winter. The thistle seeds they had been feeding on in the park would be exhausted soon.

From an earlier conversation with an ecologist, it seemed that caution should be taken regarding feeders in the park. She suggested it might be better initially to encourage local residents near the park to feed the birds.

There was the cost and trouble of installing feeders, and more importantly of seeing that they were cleaned and kept filled regularly. It was agreed that this is a plan worth returning to and considering in the future.

11.        ANY OTHER BUSINESS

a.     Wildflower turves

Treeves, a company in Farnham, through the good offices of ecologist Bernadette Lobo, has offered to donate grass turves with wildflowers in them to the park. Volunteers will carry the turves to a suitable site near the top of the park to transplant in the hope they will grow.

Sam Walker (HBC) will help and bring tools and maybe a few volunteers of his own.

Lynsey Gallant would like any pictures of the park that people may have to put on the website.

b.    Cricket match

Jo Smalley showed a photograph of Scriven Cricket Club who played in the park from the 1920s/1930s. Margaret Stacey, the granddaughter of Herbert Titley, who was Head Gardener at Scriven Hall and Umpire, had been in touch with Jo after reading a newspaper article about park history. Margaret’s mother Dora was the cricket scorer. Margaret has very kindly offered to donate a cup or trophy in memory of her grandfather and mother, if a community cricket match is ever taken forward.

12.        Next Meeting Location

Holding the Friends’ meeting in a local pub was considered a good idea, but the shape of the room and the background noise in the Mitre Inn made it a less than ideal meeting room.

Chris Wake to approach the Borough Bailiff to see if it would be more suitable.

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