Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Friends of Hilly Fields - record turnout for meeting

There was a record turnout of around 40 people for last night's meeting of Friends of Hilly Fields, with standing room only in the park keeper's office. Normally between 5 and 10 people show up. The reason that so many people came last night was due to concern over the wording of an article on the Friends of Hilly Fields' website, which was rather anti-dog and threatening to try and ban dogs from Hilly Fields.

The post wasn't written by the chair, or the other active members of the group, didn't represent their views, and has since been removed, but had clearly caused distress to a number of responsible dog owners who had read it. Once this was clarified, a very productive meeting ensued, with lots of dog walkers hopefully leaving with an appreciation of the hard work that a relatively small number of committed friends of Hilly Fields have been carrying out on a voluntary basis for a number of years.

Among the items discussed, some of which Rachel, the chair of the group will be following up on directly, and others which I will follow up on, were:
  • The failure of Glendale to clear away the Autumn leaves in a timely fashion. The park keeper Keith had done his bit, and collected all the leaves in one area, but they were only removed in January/February, by which time, the Spring bulbs were already coming up and the eventual removal of the leaves from the shaded garden area caused damage to the usually impressive display of crocuses and snowdrops in that part of the park. Glendale have apologised, but the Friends are keen to make sure we don't see a similar occurence next year. This has something that had already been flagged up to me and I have followed up on via the casework system.
  • The spraying of fungicide on the tennis courts - a gentleman present wanted to know what was sprayed, whether this was within guidelines and whether there was any risk to children on the adjacent play area. (Mike knows a lot more about this kind of thing than I do, and chatted to the resident concerned afterwards).
  • The poor state of the steps to the park from Vicar's Hill, and the fact that the corpse of a dead fox had been near the Vicar's Hill entrance since the beginning of February and not removed despite being reported.
  • The perceived increase in vehicle usage in the park, on paths rather than just on the roads around, and the damage this was doing both to paths and the grass alongside them, with muddy ruts appearing. This is something I've noticed more of recently too, and think Glendale need to make clear to their staff that they should only be driving their trucks on the park when they need to move equipment, not everytime they want to get from A to B rather than walking.
  • The proposals for a mini-orchard of 8 apple trees between the stone circle and the nature reserve.
  • The fact that Friends of Hilly Fields have affiliated to the Octavia Hill society and are looking to commemorate the centenary of her birth with a project in the shaded garden area in her honour. Octavia Hill was a leading social reformer and one of the founders of the National Trust. She lived locally (on Elswick Road I believe) and was instrumental in raising subscriptions to save Hilly Fields from being built over. More info on the history section of the Friends of Hilly Fields website.
  • Keith, the Hilly Fields bird champion, (who has a blog too), reported that 18 species were spotted during the Hilly Fields Big Bird Watch at the end of January.
  • The state of the footpaths in the park and concern over safety at the Tyrwhitt Road/Hilly Fields Crescent junction (I'll blog about this separately as I asked questions at the recent Council meeting on this subject).
  • The gate to the shaded garden area still not having been fixed, which means that dogs off leads wander in, when it is supposed to be a dog free area (I've reported this twice now via the casework system, and been told it's on the list, but why it takes so long to repair a gate I don't know).
  • The possibility of organising another Dawn Chorus (for those who like to get up and listen to birdsong at 6am). Apparently the beginning of April is the best time to do this.
  • Josh from Lewisham Community Sports was there to answer questions about his organisation's work in the park. Some concern was expressed that the grass by the stone circle has still not recovered from the lengthy period the marquee was up last year, and there was some discussion as to whether Glendale should have done remedial work out of the license fees paid by Lewisham Community Sports and Brockley Max to hold their events in the park.
  • Peter Rankin from Envirowork Lewisham spoke about their proposals for the cricket pitch (see previous post), which were broadly welcomed.
  • The gates on Eastern Road - discussion over the fact that there are lovely gates, a previous successful Friends of Hilly Fields project, but that they are rarely locked by Glendale due to issues over who has keys, Prendergast needing access etc. In addition the 'no unauthorised vehicles' sign is too small and too far up the road, so people don't notice it or ignore it. As a consequence, lots of vehicles that ought not to are getting on to the park and it also leads to other problems such as fly-tippping.
  • Dog-fouling: those present at the meeting suggested it was time for some concerted action on this, not just by Council officers, but more of a community effort, and maybe to have another day of putting flags next to all the dog muck, so dog owners (the irresponsible minority of them, that is) could appreciate the cumulatie effect of not clearing up after their mutt.
All in all, a very useful meeting, with lots of things to follow up on.

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