Apologies: Cllr Maple, Liz Duckworth, Annmarie Behn, Natalie Poulton
- Welcome and Introduction
Introduction of Peter Garrett, recently appointed the Greenspace Access and Programme Manager. Peter has a huge wealth of experience and expertise in the management of greenspaces, volunteer groups, rights of way and countryside management. He takes on the key role in the future management of our greenspaces and will be working closely with the Friend’s Groups.
- Recorded presentation by Hayley of Birdwise
Birdwise covers North Kent marshes, 70 miles of coastline from Gravesham to Whitstable and is covered by local, European and international protections.
The marshes are of international importance as a habitat especially for birds which fly here for the winter. They need rest and recuperation, and good feeding, as they recover from their long journeys. As the winter comes to an end they feed up ready to fly back to their breeding grounds in norther Scandinavia. There are limitations to their feeding times due to short daylight hours and movements of tides. Therefore they need peaceful surroundings so that they suffer minimum disturbance. Any reduction in their energy levels can cause them to fail to return in a fit state to their breeding grounds, or even to die here.
Birdwise are part of a partnership or organisations responsible for managing the access to the important areas of the North Kent Marshes. They provide signage, showing which birds may be found here, and a code of conduct for visitors, such as keeping dogs on leads. In the spring and summer they run events and activities for visitors to promote the conservation of the marshes and their wildlife.
Developers of all properties in north Kent are required to pay contribution towards the work of Birdwise to help mitigate the impact of increasing visitor numbers on the marshes. This covers the cost of employing the Rangers and the work they do. For more information go to: www.birdwise.org.uk, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- I-Spy Calendar
A new addition to the MUGs Web Site is the I-Spy calendar. Here you can click on the months of the year to find out what wildlife to look out for in your gardens and greenspaces
Thanks to Cristina for all the work she has put into this exciting project, if you want to contribute information or any pictures to this just email the MUGs Forum.
- Urban Tree Challenge Fund
The Urban Tree Challenge Fund was set up by the Forestry Commission and Medway made a successful bid to pay for the planting of over 10,000 whips. The young trees are now being planted across Medway and new community woodlands are being created.
The trees were to have been planted by the Friends Groups but the Covid crisis has prevented this. However, Medway Norse have kindly offered to plant these trees for free.
Help will be needed to maintain the trees as they grow in the first couple of years. No herbicides will be used so some hand weeding around the base of the trees will be needed in the summer. It would also be great to monitor the growth of the new woods and the wildlife that moves in!
Watch this space for more information on the location of the trees and the help needed to care for them.
- Reports from Officers
Before the reports from the Council officers, Stuart Bourne was introduced to the Forum.
Stuart is a professional landscape gardener, having formerly worked in the rose garden at Buckingham Palace, now a full-time parent and chair of the newly formed Friends of Rainham Recreation Ground. He has been co-opted onto the Forum Committee as a Friends Group support. All volunteer groups go through peaks and troughs of interest and engagement and Stuart is here to offer support and advice and to act as an additional point of contact. This role has become important simply because of the number if new groups which are starting up and he is most welcome to the team!
Apologies from Annmarie Behn who is responsible for the Council Public Rights of Way. The Public Rights of Way improvement Plan is progressing well with surveys of all our PROWs in Medway now underway. Plans for a new Community Trail in Rochester are being drawn up and the Medway Local Access Forum has launched its new website: https://www.medway.gov.uk/info/200397/medway_local_access_forum
It is still uncertain which summer events will be allowed and in what form. Further information will be provided over the next few weeks. Large events such as Cherry Picnic are unlikely to be allowed in the usual way, and different scenarios must be considered if they are to be run at all in 2021.
Links have been made with Kent University Students Union and Careers Service regarding the possibility of student volunteers for the Forum and the Friends Groups. There will be news of a student volunteer to help with our Social Media platforms over the next few weeks.
Marion is also in touch with a student intern at the Kent University Careers Service offering Social Media training on Tuesday 23rd Feb 6.30-7.30 – How to create engaging social media content and grow more followers. Please contact Marion if you are interested.
Riverside Country Park Forum have held their first meeting to share ideas and concerns and this proved to be very popular. Further meetings will now be held quarterly, with the next on the 24th March. If you missed the first meeting there is a recorded power point presentation available so please contact Marion for more details.
At the moment a lot of their activities are restricted by the Covid regulations. However, there are some new initiatives planned for the coming year.
In particular, Medway Trails, which is a way of orienteering using pictures. Our greenspaces will be involved in this so if you want to help set up a route contact David through email@example.com
There are also a series of self-guided walks you can take.
For more information go to: https://www.medway.gov.uk/info/200221/a_better_medway/449/health_walks
Kent Wildlife Trust
Alison gave us a quick update on the work that KWT are doing at the moment.
There is no volunteer work on reserves at the moment.
3 wild ponies can now be seen on Darland Banks to help clear the scrub and open up more of the chalk grassland. They are especially good at clearing dogwood and are really popular with visitors. Livestock checkers are still going out to make sure the ponies are ok.
As with many of our own greenspaces there have been many more visitors on reserves. This has led to some increase in anti-social behaviour, paths become muddy and some increase in litter.
There have been some boundary issues at Darland Banks where a householder employed a contractor with JCB to cut through woodland to get work done to a swimming pool on his property. Police have been involved!
Rewilding policies are continuing, for example sheep have been moved into the woods at Nashenden. 30 Hebridean sheep have done a great job clearing Clematis from new growing trees and the possibility of using Water Buffalo on some of the wet reserves is being looked at.
- Really positive results from the work being done in the valley with possibility of pigs being used to help with the arable weed populations
- 4,500 whips are being planted to make a 1km hedge in next months
- Five new ponds have been creates
- Work to encourage the ground nesting birds is underway.
- KWT are also looking to plant Dutch-elm resistant trees – good to encourage White Letter Hairstreak butterfly
- Good News Stories from Friends’ Groups
Wainscott fields/Liberty Park
Planting of a new cobnut orchard and a foraging area (apples, pears and berries) to happen soon. The new Friends Group is now nearly in place.
Peter Garrett suggested the idea of scatter orchards whereby trees of heritage varieties can be planted in groups of 5 or 6 throughout a whole village or area, with wild flowers underneath.
The volunteers are now working with Stuart Bourne to promote the Group and bring in new members.
The Friends have had their first Zoom meeting. There are plans to try and run the Cherry Picnic this year in some form and the offer of new trees for the proposed hedgerow from Friends of Broomhill still stands.
The new constitution is being discussed and there are plans for new paths and signage along the valley.
The Lines have been very well used all through the lockdown periods. There have been a number of litter picks by Individuals. Improved clearing of waste bins has been really helpful and Kestrels are now regularly seen hovering over the grassland.
Continues to be well-used. A fallen tree cleared by contractor at a very reasonable price. Chippings by the lorry-load at the end of each day are on offer to any group that wants to use them. Litter picking needed, and there has been some graffiti
Any group wanting chippings should let Marion know.
All is well and they are planting up to 20 trees on the site.
Rochester Churchfields and Esplanade
The group is now one year old! They have some new recruits and are forming a Covid-dependent plan for 2021-02-05.
20 sacksful of rubbish cleared before Christmas. Discussing way-marking from Horsted Valley and new signs for the Green to be installed this Spring.
Borstal Recreation Ground
New signage now going in with information on history of the site paid for from the Rochester Riverside developments.
Some very exciting work is being done to improve the habitats for bats and the wildlife corridor to the Vines.
Rainham Recreation Ground
Created a living den in the play area from Willow saplings.
Creating a fairy walk at half term supported by local with it extending through the centre of Rainham. This includes little features such as fairy doors on tree stumps
Unitarian Church Garden
Church garden and burial ground at Unitarian church at junction of New Rd and Hammond Hill. Has been cleaned up and work done. Numerous tripping hazards e.g. old gravestones still need to be sorted and there are plans for some vegetable planting.
Other good news stories
The possibility of community allotments is under discussion to model the one at Street End Road allotments.
- Any other business
An online community platform for local residents to find out about their greenspaces and all matter relating to the environment. This is now up and running and is growing fast. It is also linked to local schools, businesses and local churches.
For more information about an Eco Hub in your area contact the Forum
The Forum is now producing a monthly newsletter using a new online platform called Mailerlite. If your Friends Group has any stories or information to share then please contact us through the web site.
Towards Plastic Free Medway
Towards Plastic Free Medway has applied to gain the status of Plastic-free-Community for the whole of Medway, which is seen as a boost for environmental awareness and appreciation.
This involves gathering pledges from as many businesses and organisations as possible. All that is required is a signature from any leading person in a Friends’ group or similar group and Towards Plastic Free Medway will see that this goes towards the whole area’s accreditation.
They are to signify intentions only, not to promise any guarantees! There is no requirement to do anything that you are not doing already, or at least, are very unlikely to object to. Much appreciation in advance from TPFM.
Pledges have been sent out to all the Friends Groups to sign up to become a plastic-free group. These pledges ask that Groups try to make 3 changes or decisions away from the use of single-use plastic at their activities and meetings.
Please sign and return these electronic forms to Simon. For further information go the MUGs website or the Council web site.
Green Flag Awards
Applications are going in at the moment so more information to follow.
- Date of next meeting
Next meeting will be the May 4th and it will be our AGM.
Election of the committee will take place and more information on this will be sent to everyone soon. Please note that we are seeking new members to the Committee and further information will be sent to everyone about this. If anyone is interested please contact Simon.