Meeting with Parks and Open Spaces 20.11.06

Date: 23rd November 2006


Sue and John met Robert Goring and Lee Beasley of the Greenwich Council Parks and Open Spaces Department to discuss the various issues the Friends had identified in their first few months.

Day to Day Issues

1. The Friends said that they would very much like to set up a regular structure for interacting with garden staff on day to day issues, for example garden maintenance and management. The Friends felt the garden staff and standards of maintenance were generally excellent; however, there were occasions when the Friends or members of the public had spotted things and wished to point them out or seek explanations (an example was some very blackened shrubs which it seemed unlikely would revive, or at least could be cut back in the meantime. They looked like they had been burned - although it was a disease attack - but the overall impression to park users was of neglect/vandalism).

As much as anything, the Friends were keen to take an interest in the gardening that was going on and wanted to further communicate this to the visiting public. Any issues which arose of a more ‘strategic’ nature involving gardeners in significant time and expense would, of course, be remitted to Shooters Hill. Parks said they would ask the garden staff whether they would be willing to meet on a monthly basis as discussed.

A list of day to day issues were aired including:

2. The need for non-slip coating on bridges; they were slippy in wet weather with obvious risks for all ages. Parks said they would look into this;
3. Gates only opened one side. The Friends felt this gave a less welcoming feel to the Pleasaunce than could be the case if they were opened fully (with the exception of the drive gates off Kidbrooke Lane, which might cause security problems). Parks said they would look into this, a trial period – to see if problems might be caused – could be considered;
4. Duckweed; the Friends felt this made the moat, particularly on the road side (which people were most likely to see first), look unsightly and give the appearance of neglect. Parks would reflect on how a netting regime might be accommodated in work patterns. The Friends felt they would rather not be involved in voluntary ‘work parties’ on this issue, as it was really one for routine maintenance and the Friends were keen to use their energies on other areas;
5. Benches in the moat. This was a very negative issue for park users, particularly when benches were left for weeks on end. It reinforced the many negative attitudes held among the people of Eltham about the Pleasaunce, about the kind of people who used it and the pub. The same went for graffiti left for any period of time and litter left around the pub overnight. The Friends offered to chair a meeting of gardeners, keepers and the pub staff to try to gain a working understanding of ‘who does what and when’ and try to overcome misunderstandings which had arisen between the groups. Parks department said they would reflect on this, but saw merit in the suggestion.
6. Signage. It was agreed that suitable and discreet signage explaining the various main wildlife features would be a good idea. Parks suggested to the Friends they might like to put forward some ideas of what signs would be useful and where. They would have to be compatible with the lottery agreement.
7. Duck food. It was better if ducks were fed proper duckfood rather than bread, which was less nutritious and could lead to stagnation problems if uneaten. The Friends suggested a solution might be to ask the local newsagents to stock bags of duckfood (perhaps 5p a bag) and put up polite signs advising members of the public of its availability. This was agreed as a good idea and the Friends would pursue.
8. Fish in the moat. Parks explained there were divided opinions about their desirability, in addition to which many had almost died the previous summer due to lack of oxygen in the heat; Parks had had to oxygenate the water to keep them alive. The Friends said that they felt the fish were a popular feature of the park, particularly for children, so would be reluctant to agree they should be dispensed with.

9. Parks felt the moat offered a good area for wildlife development and would consider commissioning an expert survey to see what might be done.

Longer-term issues

10. It was agreed that the Friends were not a sub-committee of the management committee, whose structure was not sufficiently flexible or focussed to take on board the many and varied, sometimes detailed, points. The management committee would need to be kept informed of significant developments being proposed that would impact on its remit. However, the Friends group would work best when it was able to advance issues at meetings such as this one and in regular dialogue with gardeners and by email. The Friends said they understood Parks were stretched in resources and couldn’t always progress issues straight away; it was enough to know that they would be pursued to a reasonable time-period.

11. The Friends were keen to try to gain a grant from the BBC Breathing Spaces scheme to pay for some wildlife development work identified in the Wildlife Trust’s survey. It was agreed that the Friends work up a draft which Parks could look at and help sought from the council’s grant application officers (also drawing on a similar successful application made by a Lewisham group to the Living Spaces scheme). This would be based on a possible woodland walk, a wildflower meadow on sections of the ‘putting green’ area, possibly some new hedging, bird boxes and some money to communicate these developments. The full details of what might be done could be discussed further once the application had gone in; the Friends thought this developmental work might be an area for community involvement with local groups and members.

Other ideas discussed

12. Toddler group use of the bowls pavilion (when not in use by the bowls groups). The Friends felt this would be desirable for use by the local community and would help to draw people into the park. However, they were reluctant to start canvassing local people until it was known if this was a runner. There may also be potential for a children’s wildlife club. Parks said they would advise.

13. Birdwatch in January. The Friends said this would mean positioning some feeders in the weeks beforehand, to make sure some birds were present, and use of the bowls pavilion. Parks said bird feeders would be fine and to seek advice on positioning from the rangers. The bowls pavilion could be used if not already booked.

14. Work experience. It was agreed this was a good way of engaging the public in gardening activities; Parks said there would be a limit to how many could be taken and it required the co-operation of the gardeners; it had, however, been done previously both from schools and also from referral schemes. There was no problems in principle and the Friends were advised to contact the relevant council staff to arrange, if possible.

15. Some parks locally had allowed local schoolchildren to design a flower bed; the Friends wondered if this might be possible in a part of the Pleasaunce. Parks said they would think whether this was possible and which bed might be suitable.

16. The Friends explained how they would like to use the Pleasaunce for events and build up community interest in the park. The calendar and website had been first attempts at this and it was hoped would form the basis for an active group.

17. The Friends thanked Parks staff for their time and engagement. It was agreed there should be a further meeting, possibly in late January, to check progress on the items raised.

Last Updated: 24th-Nov-2006 00:41 Print
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