January – December 2020
There are many of us who would rather forget 2020, with all the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic brought us. However, we are lucky enough to have Northcliffe on our doorstep, and this beautiful space became a haven during lockdown. There were times of the year when the park has never been busier, and yet still gave a sense of openness and normality. That’s not to say there was no friction between park users, but this was entirely understandable given the heightened sense of anxiety many were feeling in the early stages of the pandemic. Thankfully, this lessened as the year progressed.
2020 marked 100 years since Northcliffe was passed into trusteeship for the benefit of the public by Sir Norman Rae. A programme of events was planned to celebrate, which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. A great shame indeed, but the gift of Northcliffe was most welcome during lockdown, when once a day outdoor exercise was all that was permitted. The centenary year saw more walkers in Northcliffe than in living memory, as people were prevented from travelling and had to stay local.
We held our AGM as usual on 10th February, followed by what was to be our last planning meeting for over a year on 9th March. When we met in early March, the pandemic was clearly emerging in the UK, but I don’t think any of us anticipated just how quickly things would change. By the end of March, we were in lockdown, and that meeting was the last time we met for six months. At the AGM, we welcomed a new committee member, Neil Harrison. We also welcomed Val Harris back into the Conservation Officer role, Lucy Llewellyn took the long-vacant Promotions role, and Peter Shuttleworth was voted into the new position of Deputy Treasurer.
Although events became difficult to arrange due to covid restrictions, and then because of the uncertainty around what would be permitted, a programme of conservation activities continued under Val Harris’s guidance. Val also managed to pull together a consultation on what people would like to see in Northcliffe, as well as maintaining contact with Bradford Council and the newly formed Shipley Town Council. Alongside this, Joan Newman kept things ticking along nicely on the money and membership front.
So as a result, we have a much shorter annual report for 2020, and a simple thank you. We’re thankful that Northcliffe was there at a time of need for everyone, and thanks to all who used it, volunteered in it, led activities in it and generally kept things going. You make Northcliffe what it is.
Whilst for large parts of lockdown the conservation group was unable to meet, there were some activities that were able to continue if members were able to carry them out individually as part of their permitted daily exercise and when 1-1 working was allowed. There was regular contact with the Parks Manager to discuss mowing, herbicide regimes and planting. Contact was maintained with the Woodlands Manager to report problems such as broken handrails, steps, fallen trees etc. As outdoor activities were allowed after the first lockdown the Council put up no fire signs to discourage the use of disposable barbecues and woodland fires, which had started to become a problem as people came out again in groups.
Through June to August of 2020 groups took on responsibility for pulling Himalayan Balsam from allocated areas of the woods, within the guidelines in force at the time. This approach allowed the essential work to continue without needing to hold Friends of Northcliffe sessions (which wasn't possible). It proved a successful approach and some volunteers wanted to continue in this way in the future. As an example, the Mountain Goat group took on the steep slope between the railway and the pond. They organised 8 sessions, 11 people were involved (not at once) and a total of 45 hours of balsam pulling were undertaken.
Group conservation sessions restarted in July, taking account of covid rules, and we picked up some new members. In July and August we worked around the bird feeding area rebuilding the dead hedges; this area has taken quite a lot of hits over the past few months, we have now had to lock the feeding bins because of people throwing the food all around and filling the bins with water. The young squirrels created havoc by chewing up all our feeders, and we replaced one of the open feeding tables. Thanks to Ken for all his work on the repairs and keeping the food supplies rolling in, and to those on the feeding rota who kept going throughout.
In September we made a start on clearing the silt traps, started to thin beech saplings in Northcliffe woods, and cleared the steps at the golf course end. We also managed to get the stakes and stay tape up protect a couple of areas where we had planted trees at Moorhead end and an area where we noticed some natural regeneration. We kept the council informed, and removed the stakes the day after the cutting and baling was completed; we hung notices from the tape to explain to people what we were doing, and sent out a note to all members and put it on Facebook.
The tractor driver left these areas alone when they cut the meadow, so that was good, in fact they left a bigger area than we had staked. We checked all the young trees, removed tubes on the hedging, and replaced stakes and tubes where they had been removed.
A community litter pick took place in Northcliffe on the final weekend in September. A number of people participated, including some families who did it as a family activity, which was nice to see. We also successfully applied for a Cleaner Street grant, courtesy of Bradford Council, which was earmarked for new litter bins, tools for the conservation group and planting a butterfly meadow by the bowling greens. This work was carried out over the winter and a lovely flower bed was created.
In October/November we managed to get in 2 working parties before lockdown 2.0. Both sessions focused on paths; the council provided wood chip so we redid the paths through the woods by the bird feeding area and cleared the steps at the Cliffe Garden entrance, then we cleared the mud off the path through Northcliffe Woods. The final part of the hedge by the lay-by near the allotment clubhouse was also planted. BEES did some work on the pond and this has led to an improved flow and even a small waterfall.
In late winter/early spring as Covid restrictions were eased we ran many 1-1 sessions to finish planting and other outstanding winter jobs – more on this in the 2021 Annual Report.
Thanks once again to the Northcliffe Allotment Society who let us use their clubhouse as our base and to all the volunteers who turn out at each session to make all of this happen.
Whilst there are woodland management plans in place for Northcliffe Woods and Old Springs Wood, there is nothing equivalent for the rest of the park. We had some tentative discussions with the council and local Councillors about the idea of creating a partnership body to lead on developing and improving the park; a body that could possibly apply for funding as the council has so few resources available.
Last year when Friends of Northcliffe ran Tai Chi sessions and guided walks in the Park, we asked people what they would like to see in the park which generated a lot of ideas. We had planned to consult with people at the Rae Gala, using big maps and asking people to draw what they would like to see in Northcliffe, and then hold an open meeting to discuss the suggestions and start to make a plan. The pandemic obviously affected our ability to do this, so we used a different approach.
Possible techniques to attract responses from different groups of people were explored. We then set some broad questions to help focus people's thoughts without being restrictive. The aim was to spend a few months collecting ideas and grouping them, and then to go back out for further consultation with the most popular ideas. An online survey was used to get responses, and walks to explore ideas around biodiversity were led by Madeleine Holloway, a local ecologist. The online survey closed in November.
A draft summary was completed by Val and circulated to key stakeholders in December, including ward Councillors, Shipley Town Council and various Bradford Council Officers. An initial meeting was held with some strategic managers in December with a view to looking at how this work might be taken forward. Meanwhile the priorities have informed the work of FoN and funding bids have been made with people’s ideas in mind. They have also been used as the basis of discussions at the regular walking meetings with Shipley Town Council and our Ward Officer as we have explored how Northcliffe can be improved and developed in the future.
As with most other things, the pandemic also impacted the ability of the heritage project to complete its final report, although many other achievements were made during the year. The heritage website developed with the addition of postcards courtesy of Ann Marie Troy, some of which were already housed on the main FoN website. Val started writing short pieces on the history of the park for our Facebook page, which were sent to all members. Finally, work recommenced on the actual report with the help of Derek Barker, as well as a series of heritage walks being developed for the website. The work on creating the final report was completed by the end of lockdown 2.
2020 was a very difficult year for events, for obvious reasons. We took the decision to cancel what was going to be a large programme of events to celebrate Northcliffe’s 100 years. The Big Garden Birdwatch ran in January, and was the only event to take place this year. Bradford’s continued lockdown restrictions made planning any gathering all but impossible.
Lucy Llewellyn took responsibility for Friends of Northcliffe’s Facebook page, which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/FriendsNorthcliffe Throughout the year, Lucy built a following, and engaged with users on a variety of themes, often posting photos from her daily walks around Northcliffe. We also used Facebook to harvest answers to our community consultation. Jonathan Young created a Friends of Northcliffe Instagram profile in March, which can be found at https://www.instagram.com/friendsncliffe/ It’s a great way to celebrate and share the pictures people take in Northcliffe and increase peoples engagement with the park, and serves as a nice record of how beautiful Northcliffe Park is.
Membership and Finance
We closed the year on 204 memberships, although not all of these remembered to pay subscriptions, probably due to the pandemic. Finances continue to be well managed by Joan Newman and healthy as evidenced by our Annual Accounts.
One of our members, Colin Parkin, passed away early in the year. On behalf of all our members, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends, particularly to Sheila his wife, who was our Secretary at the time, and to Steve their son, who is also a long-standing member.
Report prepared by Steve Bruzzese on behalf of, and with input from, the Committee:
Steve Bruzzese (Chair), Guy Barford (Deputy Chair & Heritage), Julia Pearson/Sheila Parkin (Secretary), Joan Newman (Treasurer and Membership), Peter Shuttleworth (Deputy Treasurer), Val Harris (Conservation), Keith Scott (Website), Neil Harrison (General Committee Member)