Friends of Jesmond Dene Newsletter Autumn 2012
Reg Charity no: 702260 Web Site Address: http//www.jesmonddene.org.uk Postal address: ‘Friends of Jesmond Dene’, c/o Shillito, 47 Salisbury Gardens, Jesmond, NE2 1HP
Editorial The incredible news that two otter cubs were born in Jesmond Dene this spring and are thriving there, emphasizes the constant need for vigilance to protect and enhance the Ouseburn wildlife corridor. This has been threatened on all sides by the City Council’s One Core Strategy, with its draft planning proposals for house building in the corridor and green belt and also by Bellway Homes, with their plans for Whitehouse Farm on the North Tyneside side of the Gosforth Park nature reserve. The Committee has individually and collectively campaigned and submitted objections and we await the final outcomes. Earlier in the year the Committee supported the campaign to reduce the proposed council staffing cuts to the Ranger service. We have luckily retained our two Dene rangers, although they now have to cover Walker Riverside as well as the Ouseburn Parks. It would have been ironic to loose one as they had recently won the 2011 City Council Star Award for Teamwork for their work with the Dene Volunteers. The extra reorganisation and uncertainty affected the events programme, while the various “summer” deluges caused much damage. I strongly recommend watching the video of the Armstrong Bridge area, shot by Carlton Reid, our website manager, on the Friends’ website (news section). On the plus side it is good news that the Dene was awarded a Green Flag following judging in June. It now joins Heaton Park and Paddy Freeman’s which have again achieved the required standard. In fact 11 Newcastle parks now have this accolade. Congratulations all round! Anna Newson
Membership Subscriptions 2012 If a renewal slip is included in your newsletter, please respond to:Membership Secretary, Kathleen Shillito, 47 Salisbury Gardens, Jesmond, NE2 1HP. Cheques to be made out to the Friends of Jesmond Dene and bankers order forms are available from the Membership Secretary. Many thanks, as always, to all the Friends who pay promptly each year, with an especially big thank you to the many members who include a donation. It is all much appreciated and put to good use in the Dene.
Friends of Jesmond Dene Events 2012 - 2013
Christmas Social, Sunday 16 December, 1 - 3.30 pm, Family Festive Fun. Education Classroom Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre. A joint event with the Volunteers, Friends of Jesmond Dene and the Rangers. Come and try your hand at making some simple Christmas decorations from natural and recycled materials. There will be music, light refreshments, tombola and raffles. This is a drop in event. For more information contact the Rangers on 0191 281 2082. AGM, followed by a talk, on Sunday 12 May 2013, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene, 2.30 pm.
Ouseburn Parks’ Manager Update As I am writing the rain is pouring outside and there is travel chaos across the North East. The Ouseburn has reached its highest ever level and the waterfall looks like Niagara Falls. This has been a theme throughout the summer with the most dramatic event taking place on ‘Thunder Thursday’, June 28th 2012. That day will be etched in my memory for many years. I was sitting in my office on a warm, sunny and humid afternoon when suddenly the sky turned black, the streetlights came on and a deluge was unleashed from the heavens. The storm resulted in substantial damage across the Parks with large sections of wall collapsing, bridges damaged and debris strewn across paths. During the following days and weeks rangers, park keepers and volunteers got to work and cleared up all the mess. It was a magnificent effort. The aftermath of this storm was filmed by Carlton Reid and can be seen on the Friends of Jesmond Dene website; I recommend a viewing of it. You may have noticed a new flagpole and green flag on Coleman’s Field. This is to celebrate Jesmond Dene achieving Green Flag status. Green flags are awarded to parks with the highest levels of maintenance, cleanliness, safety, community involvement and management. The park was judged by an independent assessor back in June and we received the news in July. It’s a great achievement for everyone, including the staff, volunteers and Friends of Jesmond Dene. The Dene now joins Heaton Park and Paddy Freeman’s in having achieved this recognition. We’ve also acquired some other awards; Mumsnet have nominated Jesmond Dene and Paddy Freeman’s Park as one of the top free places to go in the region. Jesmond Dene received a gold award and Paddy Freeman’s a bronze. Mumsnet is one of the UK’s fastest growing parenting organisations, with over a million members. Jesmond Dene recently received a recommended-on-TripAdvisor award. This is only given to attractions that receive the highest reviews from members of the public. They have ranked us 10 out of 70 for attractions in Newcastle. We are currently conducting user surveys and user counts throughout all of the Ouseburn Parks. The results of these will tell us what visitors think of the improvements and whether there has been an increase in visitors since the lottery restoration. I would like to thank all the volunteers who helped us to conduct the counts, sometimes in pouring rain, as we could not have done it without them. Finally I would like to thank all the volunteers who have given up their time to make Jesmond Dene a better place for everyone. Over the past three years we have recorded all the time that volunteers have spent working in the Ouseburn Parks. We have translated these figures and estimate that the monetary value of volunteers equates to a financial input of £150,000. That is quite an amazing achievement and is probably an under estimate of the financial value of volunteers within the Parks. Seamus Tollitt Ouseburn Parks’ Manager
Otter cubs born in Jesmond Dene Otter cubs have been born in Jesmond Dene for the first time in living memory. (No these are not the latest exotic arrivals to Pets’ Corner but real live wild otters!) The two cubs were born on one of the few secluded banks of the Dene at the beginning of the year, but news has been kept under wraps until now to avoid disturbing them. It's great to finally be able to let people know as
it's been hard to keep quiet about such great news, especially when a few lucky dog walkers were reporting seeing three otters swimming around in broad daylight. The cubs look to be growing really well and although they will stay with their mother for another few months, they’re old enough now to avoid human disturbance.
This breeding success is the culmination of a population revival which has seen increasing otter activity along the Ouseburn over the last ten years. Kevin O’Hara, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Wetland Officer, who has been helping to analyse the otter activity in Jesmond Dene said "This is the third record of otters breeding on the Ouseburn in the last five years, they only returned to the river in around 2000 after many, many decades of absence and you’d have to go back a long way to find such regular breeding occurrences." The otter population in the Dene is monitored by special cameras funded by the Volunteer Rangers' Nature Area Project . These first spotted a male and female together in October last year , followed in February with footage of a female which had apparently recently given birth . The cubs, which remain in the den for the first three months of their lives, were first spotted on film in May . Quite a bit of footage of the female otter and her cubs has been captured since then, including glimpses of them swimming in broad daylight . Volunteer Ranger Yvonne Shannon said “We are delighted to have otters returning to breed again in Jesmond Dene and to be able to share with the public the footage of the lively otter family. We do a lot of work to try and improve the biodiversity in the Dene, creating and managing suitable habitats. As well as regularly clearing rubbish and debris from the river and removing invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, we have helped in building several otter holts so that they have safe places to rest. The new ponds, developed as part of the Nature Area Project, will also increase the amount of food available to otters as well as benefiting other wildlife.” Many people are surprised that this urban stretch of the Ouseburn can support otters, let alone a breeding population, but a lot of work has been done in recent years by rangers and volunteers to improve the habitat. Otters also have a very varied diet and analysis of their droppings shows that as well as eating the many small fish found in the burn, frogs, rats and young birds have also been important in feeding the young cubs. The birth of these otter cubs is a great example of the value of the Parks and the Ouseburn wildlife corridor to biodiversity within the city. The improving cleanliness of the Ouseburn in recent years is also demonstrated by increasing numbers of dippers and kingfishers. There is still work to be done to improve the
habitat but the breeding of a top predator such as the otter is a great sign that we're moving in the right direction. Footage captured of the otter cubs over the last few months can be seen on the Ranger’s YouTube site www.youtube.com/user/ouseburnparksranger Notes  http://www.jesmonddenenaturearea.org.uk/  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLuCVQ9jmK0  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSbrzgAzftM  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4oMIkIbxEY  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQH6sdDxlOU & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zrKrG5GEI0 Original footage available on request Michael Hancock Ouseburn Parks’ Ranger
Tel. 0191 2812082 mob. 07887717907 email firstname.lastname@example.org
Donkey Field A Public Inquiry was held over two days at Newcastle Civic Centre in early August 2012, which included a site visit on the second day. An inspector appointed by the Secretary of State presided. The format was similar to, although not so formal as, a court case; evidence was presented by Counsel on behalf of the Objectors (the owners of the Donkey Field), by the Friends of Jesmond Dene and their supporters and also by representatives from Newcastle City Council. The inspector's decision is not as yet known (as of 16.10.12 – it’s now nine weeks since the Inquiry) but it must be borne in mind that he has a very difficult and complicated case to work through, not helped by two very recent cases (made public immediately before the Inquiry) which may or may not form precedents relevant to our case. I shall inform you of the result of the Inquiry once it’s announced. Donald McEwan Chairman, Friends of Jesmond Dene
Bee news We continue to keep bees on the roof of the visitor centre and it’s been a very busy summer for us. It’s been a difficult summer for bees and lots of strange thing have been happening, we think due to the terrible weather! However, we have learnt a lot – such as how to catch a swarm; how to spot a new queen; what to do if there is more than one queen and how to remove stings! We started with one hive last year but wanted to have two for the second year, so we decided we would split our colony. We were forced to split the hive earlier than we had intended, as the colony looked as if they were going to swarm. (One of our main jobs is to watch if the bees are making new queen cells, which signifies some will leave the hive in a swarm.) So we had to carry out a ‘false swarm’ and split them at the same time. A false swarm makes the bees think they have already swarmed by moving them to a slightly different location. This was not as easy as we thought (nothing ever is with beekeeping!) but finally we have ended up with two hives, two separate colonies of bees and two healthy queens – success!
It has been a steep learning curve, but truly fascinating. We often have an audience from the courtyard below, where visitors are keen to find out what’s going on. We plan to produce some film footage of the beekeeping so that people can learn more about these interesting insects. Amazing honey bee fact – a group of bees will hang down the frame in a chain, making a plumb line to help them build their comb vertically. Becca Smith Education Officer
Volunteer Nature Area Project The Nature Area Project, undertaken by the Volunteer Rangers with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is almost finished and we are proud to say that all of our aims have been achieved, namely to: • • • • •
provide a new, larger Nature Area with security protection provide a new large pond and wetland habitat with good access provide a sheltered outdoor teaching/assembly area improve information and resources improve both plant species and wildlife species diversity
In July 2008 when the City Ecologist, Derek Hilton-Brown, and the Jesmond Dene Rangers helped us to make an initial survey of the area, we discovered that 90% of the plants were bramble, nettles and ground elder. Now we can see that those three species are much less prevalent and our plantings (including daffodil, snowdrop, celandine, wood anemone and ramsons) have had a major effect and have contributed to a wider variety of insects and higher numbers of frogs and newts. The latter two species have also been advantaged by the larger pond and the hibernaculum, enabling them to hibernate safely through the winter months.
The Nature Area was officially opened by John Grundy in May this year, but in fact it has been used by various educational groups, led by the Rangers, throughout our project. We have managed to work around educational visits so that from the very start visitors have been able to see for themselves the myriad of creatures living in the natural habitat and take part in activities such as pond dipping. We hope that as the Nature Area matures it will continue to be the focus of many such visits over the years to come. Yvonne Shannon Volunteer Nature Area Project Manager
Volunteer Rangers As ever the Volunteer Rangers have been very busy over the past year. At the end of last summer seven volunteers were trained in the safe use of pesticides and with their help we have started to tackle our Japanese knotweed problem. This will take time, maybe years, but it’s great to see the effects of the treatment so far. In May, as described above, we had the opening of the Nature Area. A huge amount of hard work has gone into this project - over £60,000 worth of volunteer labour since 2009. Although the project itself is almost complete, the Nature Area will never be finished, but I say that in a good way - nature doesn't stop! This year the new pond looked lovely as the plants started to grow along the margins and we saw many southern hawker dragonflies, hopefully looking for places to lay their eggs. In summer we had the task of finding out how many people use the Ouseburn Parks. Having done this prior to the lottery investment it was also a requirement to repeat the exercise after the completion of the major capital spending. We did this by undertaking 12 days of people counting, throughout the Parks; Paddy Freeman's saw an increase of 50% while Heaton and Armstong Park showed an increase of 45% on the summer of 2007 figures. The increase for the Dene was lower, but the weather played a major part as for one of the days it rained non stop for the full 12 hours of counting. However, even on this day we counted nearly 800 people using the Dene! The people counting would not have been possible without support from our volunteers; they contributed over 470 hours to the project.
If you have been down to Jesmond Vale recently and walked along the Ouseburn, you may have noticed some willow fencing on the bank sides. This technique is called willow spiling, a traditional form of riverbank revetment, which reduces erosion and provides additional habitat. Willow stakes are placed in the bank side at about half meter intervals then live willow rods are woven in between them. The willow should sprout next spring. The Volunteer Rangers were guided by Emma Pearson from Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Living Waterways Project. Since January we have also had over 14 volunteer groups helping out. Many of these were corporate groups but we’ve also had scout, school and student groups helping too. Tasks included cutting back areas of over grown laurel, tidying Millfield House garden, laying woodchip paths, building benches and doing drainage work. All the staff at the Parks would like to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers. These and many other tasks would not be possible without their continued commitment and support. Sarah Capes Ranger
Bats and Moths We ran three bat walks this year and although we do these every year, this year the bats put on their best display so far. Over Paddy Freeman’s pond in May, we were delighted to see and hear the four species that you would expect to find in Newcastle – noctule, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and Daubenton’s. The noctules were high in the sky at a height that you expect to see swifts, the Daubenton’s were flying low across the pond, picking up the insects as they emerged from the water and the pipistrelles were somewhere in between – it really was a beautiful sight. Along side some of these bat walks we ran a couple of moth trapping evenings. The moth trap was bought with funds from the Volunteer Nature Area Project and has enabled us to start recording moth species in the Dene. Last year we found several species of moth on the back of the new Visitor Centre, which started our interest and records. Our moth trapping sessions on 21st August and 7th September found a total of 78 moths of 22 different species. Generally July
and August are good months to find moths. In July you will tend to find the greatest variety whilst in August you find the most in terms of numbers.
Northumberland, so we believe the Dene is an important site for them.
Perhaps the most noticeable species we encountered was the Old Lady – Mormo maura. We first found this moth last year in the Nature Area shelter and we also found it on both of our moth trapping evenings - one even turned up in the Visitor Centre a couple of weeks ago! Although this species is not rare, there are not many records – only 56 have been recorded in
For more information on moths in the local area see http://www.northumberlandmoths.org.uk If you would like a list of the species that we found in the Dene or would like to come along to our next bat and/or moth event please get in touch at email@example.com or call (0191) 2812082. Sarah Capes Ranger
Guided walks The guided walk volunteers have been working hard this year developing a new walk for Heaton Park. Following the success of the Jesmond Dene walk, John Grundy led some more training sessions which were attended by current and new volunteers. They did a great job researching and collating information about King John’s Palace, the old bear pit, the temple and much more. Working in groups, the volunteers came up with a suitable route which includes all the highlights and fascinating stories
of the Park. The first walk was delivered as part of the Heritage Open Days and proved so popular, that we filled another walk the following week. Two of our volunteers have created a great presentation and talk about the history of Jesmond Dene for groups who can’t visit the Dene but may be interested. Alongside this, volunteers have spent hours scanning and documenting all the slides from the Friends of Jesmond Dene archive. This has proved really useful for providing images for the presentation and also means it’s a lot easier to find a variety of images such as old postcards, photos, sketches and maps. We have talked about developing further walks for more areas of Ouseburn Parks, so watch this space for new walks soon. Becca Smith Education Officer
Access Guide A new leaflet has been produced especially for people with mobility North and Neil Swinney (Newcastle Officer) have helped us to grade throughout the Parks and make sure for everyone to use.
for Ouseburn Parks, disabilities. Disability City Council, Access some of the paths the new map is easy
A map is included, which shows the flat routes that are easier for wheelchairs to make use of, locations of disabled parking, accessible toilets, steps and some great viewpoints that are easy to reach. It also highlights new features such as wheelchair friendly picnic benches and the brilliant accessible playground in Paddy Freeman’s Park. Due to the geography of the Dene, with so many steep paths, it was quite a challenge to mark out all the suitable routes. Working alongside volunteers and staff from Disability North, we managed to get all the information needed for the map and ideas for design. After much debate about what should and shouldn’t be included, what colour the paths should be and what symbols to use on the key; we finally arrived at a clear design that works well. It is hoped that alongside the new wayfinding signs throughout the Parks, this additional leaflet will enable everyone to explore and enjoy as much of Jesmond Dene and the other Parks as possible. Becca Smith Education Officer
Ouseburn Parks’ Events October 2012 to January 2013 (Contact the Rangers for more information on 0191 281 2082)
Sunday 14 October, 1.30 - 3.30pm, Bulb Planting and Autumn Nature Trail. Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene (next to Millfield House Café). Come and plant some bulbs to take home with you and nurture. You can also take part in our Autumn Nature Trail
around the Dene and an Autumn Scavenger Hunt. There will be a £1.50 charge for the bulb planting. Sunday 14 October, 1.30-3.30pm, 'Minor Discoveries' presents Autumnal Artistry Led by Hive Arts Company. Coleman’s Field, Jesmond Dene (in front of Pets’ Corner) Visit our mobile workshop to create your own leaf prints and autumnal designs using some scavenged inspiration. There will be a £1 charge to cover the cost of materials. (If wet - will be moved inside Visitor Centre). Saturday 27 October, 1–3pm, Halloween Family Treasure Hunt, Free event run by Sustrans. Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. Come along for an adventure to find the treasure and dodge the ghouls. Everyone who comes in fancy dress will get a special prize. There will also be pumpkin soup for participants, if you arrive early enough! Saturday 27 October, 5.30-8pm, Halloween Pumpkins and Walk. Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. Come along and carve a pumpkin lantern. We will then go for an evening walk through the Dene to see what we can find. There may be eyes watching us from all sorts of places!! We’ll return to the Visitor Centre for a hot chocolate and pumpkin soup. There will be a charge of £4 per child and £1 per adult. Minimum age 5 years. Booking essential, call the Rangers to book your place and for more information 0191 281 2082. Monday 29 October, 1–3 pm, Bulb Planting and Autumn Nature Trail, Heaton Park – The Pavilion. Come and plant some bulbs to take home with you and nurture. You can also take part in our Autumn Nature Trail around the Dene and an Autumn Scavenger Hunt. There will be a £1.50 charge for the bulb planting. Contact the Rangers for more information on 0191 281 2082. Tuesday 30 October, 1–3pm, Halloween Crafts, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene, Come and join the Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) to make a scary pumpkin, nature mask, and a tree spirit! Also follow the spooky wildlife trail. Booking essential. Free for all members. Suggested donation of £2.50 per child for non-members or free if join membership today. Recommended minimum age 5 years. Phone NWT on 0191 284 6884 for more information and to book your place. Wednesday 31 October, 1-3pm, Animals are Afraid! Pets’ Corner, Jesmond Dene. Pets’ Corner has been invaded by Halloween ghosts, bats and spiders. Come along to hunt for the unwanted guests and make a Halloween hat, but please don’t scare the animals! This is a drop in event. Contact the Visitor Centre for more information on 0191 281 2082. Thursday 1 November, 1–3pm, Dream Catchers. Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. Come and join the NWT to make a native American Dream Catcher. Free for all members. Suggested donation of £2.50 per child for non-members or free if join membership today. Recommended minimum age 5 years. Phone NWT on 0191 284 6884 for more information and to book your place. Saturday 10 November, 1pm and 2.15pm, Stabiliser free and smoothie bike, free event, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. Would your child like to learn to cycle? Then book onto this hour long session which has fantastic success rates. Please take off stabilisers and pedals beforehand, but bring the pedals with you in a bag. Children (under 16 years) must be accompanied by an adult. Booking essential., contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book this.
Saturday 24 November, 1.30–3.30pm, Bird Feeders, Heaton Park - The Pavilion. The colder weather is here and the birds need all the help they can get. Why not come and make a bird feeder, and get some tips on easy ways to feed the birds over the winter. There is a £2 charge to cover the cost of materials. Contact the Rangers for more information on 0191 281 2082. Sunday 25 November, 1.30–3.30pm, Bird Feeders, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. The colder weather is here and the birds need all the help they can get. Why not come and make a bird feeder, and get some tips on easy ways to feed the birds over the winter. There is a £2 charge to cover the cost of materials. Contact the Rangers for more information on 0191 281 2082. Sunday 25 November, 4pm, Be safe be seen cycle ride, free event. Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. Come along to brighten up your bike for the dark winter nights. We will be giving away reflective gear and selling lights just before the short ride and games through the Dene. Children (under 16 years) must be accompanied by an adult. Contact email@example.com to book this. Saturday 8 December, 2pm, Jingle Bell ride and storytelling with mince pies, free event, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. Come along for a Christmas story and family cycle through the Dene. The ride will include an opportunity to decorate a tree, so please bring any old Christmas decoration that you can contribute. Children (under 16 years) must be accompanied by an adult. Booking essential. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book this. . Saturday 15 December, 10am–12pm, Christmas Wreaths, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. Come and have a go at making your own Christmas Wreath. All materials will be provided but if you have a pair of secateurs, please bring them with you. Places are limited; book early to ensure your place, 0191 281 2082, and for more information. There will be a charge of £7.50 (includes refreshments). This is an event for adults, so no under 16s. Sunday 16 December, 1–3.30 pm, Family Festive Fun, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene. A joint event with the Volunteers, Friends of Jesmond Dene and the Rangers. Come and try your hand at making some simple Christmas decorations from natural and recycled materials. There will be a charge of £2/£1 for the decorations. There will also be Christmas Carols, light refreshments, tombolas and raffles. This is a drop in event. For more information contact the Rangers on 0191 281 2082. Tuesday 18 December, 10am–12pm, Christmas Wreaths, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre. Come and have a go at making your own Christmas Wreath. All materials provided but if you have a pair of secateurs please bring them with you. Places are limited, book early to ensure your place, 0191 281 2082, and for more information. There will be a charge of £7.50 (includes refreshments). This is an event for adults, so no under 16s. Saturday 26 January, 1pm, New year, new bike, new you! (including Dr Bike cycle repairs), free event, Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre, Jesmond Dene . An opportunity for the whole family to learn how to safety check a bike and start the New Year with a short ride through the Dene. Children (under 16 years) must be accompanied by an adult. Booking essential., contact email@example.com to book this. M Steel Cycles will be servicing bikes for free from 1-3pm.
Sunday 27 January, 1–3.30pm, Past Present and Future Walk, Jesmond Dene. Explore the history of Jesmond Dene, on this guided walk in the company of volunteers who are passionate about the Parks. Booking essential. For booking, meeting place and more information phone 0191 281 2082.
Committee list: Chairman Donald McEwan (0191 265 9271) Treasurer Lilian Lovelock (0191 281 1128) Membership Sec. Kathleen Shillito (0191 281 7189) (47 Salisbury Gardens, NE2 1HP) Newsletter Editor* Anna Newson (0191 284 9737) Sarah Capes (Ranger, Jesmond Dene, 0191 281 2082) firstname.lastname@example.org Michael Frankis (0191 281 3667) Robert Wooster (0191 281 2178) * Spring Newsletter contributions by 31 January 2013, c/o Rangers, Millfield House, Red Walk, Jesmond Dene, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE7 7BQ or email as above As several committee members wish to move on, new volunteers to serve on the committee would be much appreciated.
Newsletter for the Friends of Jesmond Dene.