Thursday, 24 February 2011

Bark and Bite

It's a shame that dog damage like this is something we see a lot on Millfields. In the photo left, a Norway maple has had the bark stripped vertically. On the right, a cherry has evidently had a dog swinging from a branch.

If you see dog damage, please contact the parks tree officers , and (please cc so we know about it). I let them know about the maple, and they had a guard on it the next day (left). Or and I'll pass it on. Whether they'll be there after the cuts remains to be seen.

Stripping bark can kill the tree because the nutrients pass up and down in the layer just underneath, the cambium. Ring-barking, stripping the bark all the way round, is a foresters' technique to kill a tree while leaving it standing. A forester uses an axe, but a dog's teeth will do the job.

Any thoughts about how to educate people who allow & even encourage dogs to do this? Posters? 'Is your dog ring-barking mad?'

Monday, 21 February 2011

A successful transplant

On Sunday we had a fine muddy time moving some fruit trees from the Beecholme Estate allotments. Beecholme TRA have posted a picture show here, which we won't try to top. A pear and almond went into the west end of north Millfields, and an apple into Jim's guerilla'd garden which is shoehorned into some overlooked ground on the estate.

Thanks to Christine Williamson of the TRA for offering the trees, and to the squad who turned out: Tom, Flora, Annie, Chris, Karen, Colin, Christine K, Marta & her daughter, plus Ruth who dropped by. Four more people and we could've moved the cherry too: that's for next Sunday, 27 Feb, 11 am.

Thanks also to the council tree officer Ian Graham who had tree stakes and guards delivered to the park, and council chargehand gardener Andy Day who trucked in a pile of wood-chip mulch, as well as our ever-helpful park manager Paul Foinette. Will this kind of support continue after the cuts?

The stakes and guards were bought by Hackney’s famous Tree Musketeers, so trees for all and all for trees, we say. And the Community Tree Nursery on Hackney Marsh lent us the heavy tools for digging and staking. An all-round community operation.

We can't be sure it worked yet: much depends on keeping them well watered this year and maybe next. (See Beecholme photo of Marta filling the trusty watering trolley.) If you'd like to help let us know. 

Parks Events Policy proposals: what MUG submitted

Here is what MUG submitted. Members emailed a number of comments which I will post here after I've asked the senders' permission. There was also a question about the short timescale, and I'll post an answer here as soon as I can (I need to do some housework now and cook supper). Thanks to everyone who commented.

Page 1

1. What do you think about the proposals in the draft policy document about the ‘park usage recommendations’?

Maximum of 2 corporate / brand events per year
Maximum of 5 private/family celebration* events per year
There is strong opposition to corporate / brand events. There is opposition to religious/evangelical events and in general to any events not open (and appearing open) to all the community. It may be worth revisiting the ‘family celebration’ question which members may see as different from other kinds of private event.

1 fenced (ticketed) event per year 10,000 maximum capacity (South Millfields):
There is strong concern at this proposal because of the size of event set against the area of space actually suitable for it on Millfields. Although Millfields’ total area is large (25.9 Hectares or 259,000 Square meters), it is broken up into smaller areas with a large amount of edge, and smaller distances to dwellings than the total area would suggest. In south Millfields, the areas with young planted trees (i.e. everything north and east of the substation) would be unsuitable because of the root damage & ground compaction that crowds would cause.

This leaves the rectangle between the substation and Chatsworth Road. The area of this part of south Millfields is, by my rough calculation measured from a map, around 4 Ha.  It is bordered closely on 3 sides by dwellings in Chatsworth Road, Millfields Road and the Millfields estate. 10,000  people is TWICE the 5,000 maximum event size proposed for London Fields (12.65 Ha), where the distance from the event area to the nearest residences is greater than at Millfields.

I interpret user opinion as being strongly opposed to this size of fenced event.

Opinion is divided about fenced+ticketed events in themselves, so it seems advisable to set a size appropriate to the realities of the space and take these on a case-by-case basis. Some people feel that Millfields has suffered too much ‘enclosure’ in recent years; others are happy with fenced events of a suitable kind. (A play was suggested.)

Community events of a suitable size are welcomed and the hugely successful family fun day looks set to become an institution.

2. What do you think about the proposals in the draft policy document to reinvest a percentage of the income generated by events back into parks (issue 4, p16 of policy draft document)?

There is strong opposition to this because it is felt that the council’s claims are misleading and it seems likely to return little or nothing to the parks.

The current year would yield £3,300 divided between all the parks. A particular park might see nothing of this if its share was used 'to run free community events in other parks'.

Moreover we note that the council has adjusted the target upwards when it seemed likely to be exceeded in the succeeding year. We assume this will be done every year so that only when the council underestimates the target will there be any surplus for parks.

If the council wishes to claim that events income is returning to individual parks, the formula should be either
- an annual target for the park or parks, then the rest to LBH, or
- a percentage to the park applying to every event, and the rest to the council

Particularly misleading under the proposed formula is this:
"A condition of hire for commercial events would be that marketing and promotional material for the event must state that a percentage of the hire fee from the event is being re-invested into free events for the community or reinvested into park improvements."
It will be impossible to claim this truthfully unless the annual target has already been exceeded.

3. What do you think about the proposal for all commercial event organisers to make a minimum amount of tickets available free of charge to Hackney residents (p15 of draft policy document)?

no comment

page 2

1. What do you think about the proposals in the draft policy document about the ‘recommended approval processes’?

We would be happy with these if they did not say:
"Consultation with all stakeholders takes place (nature and scale of event dictates who receives information) this can include park user groups, parks staff, ward councillors, safer neighbourhoods, safer communities, police and lead member for community services"

Users feel very strongly that this must be amended to: 'will always include the relevant park user group(s)',  Will include, not can include.

Otherwise the proposals seem to be a sensible set of reforms.

2. What do you think about the proposed event application timescales:

no objections

page 3

1. What do you think about the proposals in the policy draft document for:
Mabley Green
Hoxton Square

no comment

2. Please tell us anything else you would like to say about the proposed policy here.

There is strong opposition to charging user groups an administration fee for events over 250 people. Any user group strong enough to organise such an event will be creating massive added value for the park, on the basis of no funding at all from the council. The value comprises among other things voluntary labour and expertise, community cohesion around the park, and in some cases the bringing in of grant funding.

We feel that while parks such as Clissold and Springfield are talked up (‘much loved’, ‘historic’), Millfields’ qualities are ignored. Among other things, it has
-     an extent of  river bank surpassed only by the Marshes
-     some of Hackney’s finest old avenues of plane, lime and wych elm
-          extensive tree plantings cared for by local volunteers
-          LBH parks’ largest community orchard
-          biodiversity habitat of SINC status
-          the historic Black Path and Middlesex/Essex boundary
-          users deeply fed up with the way the park has been treated over the years
-          a very active user group

Tim Evans
Secretary, Millfields User Group

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Parks Events Policy proposals

On Monday we'll be submitting MUG's comments on LBH's proposed new Parks Events Policy. If you have thoughts please let me have them by the end of Sunday, either by email or here. The draft policy can be downloaded here.

The policy would allow more and bigger events in the park. Income from events will go to LBH funds up to an annual target; any surplus goes to the park.The user group will be charged £50 for an event with more than 250 attending.

Currently we have the fun fair, the fun day and little events such as sponsored walks & doctor bikes. This would allow:
  • 1 fenced (ticketed) event per year 10,000 maximum capacity (South Millfields)
  • 2 large scale (>1000 attendance) Community events per year numbers to be set by LBH on basis of application
  • 1 fun fair per year
  • 1 circus per year
  • 2 corporate / brand events per year
  • 5 private/family celebration events per year

The application and consultation process is rationalised: whether to the detriment of the user group is something we're trying to work out.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Project priorities and National Grid rent

From our LBH Parks Development Officer, Bruce Irving
"Millfields Masterplan
The Millfields Park User group identified a number of projects from the masterplan as their priority for the park, the improvement of play facilities in the park was one of these.   It is the intention to use £100k of funding sourced from  Section 106 agreements derived from developments around Millfields to deliver improvements to the existing play area.   We are currently awaiting internal approvals to progress with this project.  The redevelopment of the play area will be undertaken in association with the local community and consultation will take place enabling individuals to feed their views in to the improvements. 
Project 9 of the Millfields masterplan is also being explored.  A new path is being designed which will connect the central path running through South Millfields with the existing path running alongside the River Lea and the waste transfer station.  Once a path line has been drafted, it will be passed to the user group and other interested parties for their comment.  At this point in time there is no confirmation on whether the external funding proposed for this development is available.   
A licence exists between National Grid and LBH enabling an area of the park to be used to aid the construction of the substation upgrade at Millfields.  This licence agreement will provide an income £34k to LBH annually for the duration of the 7 year agreement.  The agreement commenced on 1st October 2007.  The monies paid to date are currently residing in a ring fenced account within the parks budget for the delivery of priority projects from the Millfields Masterplan as agreed by the Millfields User Group and Hackney Councils Parks Department.  This fund currently totals approximately £120k."

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Daffodil defender

Please don't cut my daffodils this year
I planted them - and this tree - 10 years ago, but every spring they are cut before I see them

... says the carefully made sign tied to the guard of a young lime tree on south Millfields. You can see why the daffodil defender is upset: the tree is encircled by what should shortly be a blaze of daffodils.

A quick word to Paul the park manager, who promptly contacted the gardeners, we hope has forestalled any damage from that quarter this year. If it's a freelance operator -- well, please keep your eyes open.

And if you know -- or are -- the Daffodil Defender (we've fuzzed her photo, as we haven't permission to publish it), please do get in touch. We'd love to hear about how you came to plant your tree and flowers.

Lea Valley Park local user group

There's a public meeting of the local Lea Valley Park Users' Group this evening, Tuesday, 6.30 at the Waterworks centre. Bob and Harry are going but this is in case anyone else would like to plug in.  Sorry for short notice, only just heard about it.

Off we go ...

People have been saying for a while that MUG should raise its virtual game, so here's the MUGblog, written (so far) by the secretary. The look, links, bells & whistles need work, but let's crack on & polish all that up when time permits.

I suppose I should start by giving the new committee which was elected by the AGM on Thursday (10 Feb):

Barry Buitekant
Bob Benge (chair)
Claire Kelly (treasurer)
Diane Bernhardt
Emma Jack
Harry Hewat
Jon Aldenton (vice chair)
Michael Row
Ruth Smyth
Tim Evans (secretary)
Vivienne Foxley

We are still Millfields Users Group, as the motion to change the name was lost.

We have 5 new members and a new chair, sec & vicechair, so we are getting on with some basic arrangements & familiarisation. You can reach the committee at .

Anyway, this is the place to come & discuss MUGmatters. Don't let it just be the sec holding forth (though I'm always ready to do that). We've been lacking an online forum and the committee hopes this will start to fill the gap.