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What a way to spend Saturday

What a Way to
9th May 2015

In time-honoured workman fashion HPCA volunteers Hugh Rout (left) and Rick Morrish take a breather during the long, arduous task of shifting over a tonne* of concrete, which now forms the plinth for the Roger Turff memorial seat.

The lorry bringing the concrete could not — dare not? — cross the Pits and so it was delivered to the main gate to be transported to the wild flower meadow on the far side of the green. The plan had been that Ulysses, our tractor, would then take on the burden, but he’s just a little too old. Willing though he was, his box once filled lifted his front wheels off the ground and he had no traction.

So the triumvirate Hugh, Rick and Mike Nobbs, HPCA secretary, had to unload the box to an acceptable — to Ulysses — weight. That meant no less than four journeys, and eight loadings and unloadings, and all by hand.

The concrete spread in the mould, one that Rick had prepared earlier, looked a bit vulnerable knowing the ways of the Lynn vandals. But reluctant to spend four hours keeping watching while the concrete hardened, the plinth was left to its fate. Happily, either it was too cold for the vandals or they decided they had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon, and the base remained pristine without a single mark nor moniker to sully its surface.

The seat is on its way and will be installed in a few weeks time.

* According to Rick’s reckoning that’s the equivalent of 11,500 loaves of bread or 27,400 hen’s eggs.

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HPCA Ltd Annual Report

26th May 2015

It is with sadness that this AGM must record the sad, and deeply felt, death of Roger Turff, without whose sterling & committed dedication Harding’s Pits wouldn’t be what it is today. His contribution has been thoroughly documented elsewhere, and so we record that as a contribution to his memory, trees have been planted and a new bench is in the process of being installed.

With the increasing age of our volunteers, for whom raking has shown to be, albeit a necessary task, an arduous one. A rake has been purchased, to be drawn by Ullysses, to reduce the effort and time it takes to collect the mown grass.

We want to thank Lauren Sutton, who was part of the Freebridge activity last year and she succeeded in sourcing a mass of equipment for us — litter-sticks, shears, loppers, secateurs and gloves. We were well-equipped for the students who joined us later in the year.

During May last year we were approached by the College who were involved with The National Citizen Service Volunteer Association — a government initiative to develop community minded young people of 16-18 — to provide a project for a group of 13. It was a success in that the groups cleared the bases of a number of trees of brambles and bindweed, which monthly work parties alone possibly wouldn’t achieve, but the supervisory rigour needed was such that we would be reluctant to engage with this project again.

The need for litter pickers has not abated and several people have moved away and left us, but we’ve picked up one or two more. We run, as you probably know, a rota and our individual responsibility comes around about every two months. The problem of litter on the Pits is an enduring one, and without our loyal and dedicated team, the Pits would resemble the dump which once it was.

There have been interesting finds amongst the chip wrappers, booze cans and burger cartons including trolleys, children’s ride-on toys, a charred school uniform, enough socks to stock a franchise and bicycle frames. Luckily, rough sleepers have been few.

We have made strong representations to the authorities regarding the proposal to open the bus lane to taxis. It still remains to be seen what the final outcome will be.

Our application to have the Pits declared Common Land has been refused, but our gratitude to Hayes & Storr for their Pro Bono work should be acknowledged.

Jane Dearling, Chairman, HPCA Ltd. 26th May, 2015

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Tree Planting in Memory of Roger

28th March 2015

Harding’s Fensibles, HPCA volunteers, spent the first hour of the first of the monthly workdays planting some trees in Roger’s memory. The saplings, walnuts and hazels, were gifted by supporter Sheila Caley from St Germans, in whose garden beds they had self-sown and become established. It had been Roger’s plan to transplant them to the pits. Now a few of his ashes have been scattered around their roots.

Picture shows (LtoR) Jane Dearling, HPCA chairman; Mike Nobbs, secretary; volunteers Vicky Fairweather, Jeremy Dearling, Sally Turff (with ladleful of ashes and mostly obscuring Carol Tupper) and Hugh Rout
Picture shows (LtoR) Jane Dearling, HPCA chairman; Mike Nobbs, secretary; volunteers Vicky Fairweather, Jeremy Dearling, Sally Turff (with ladleful of ashes and mostly obscuring Carol Tupper) and Hugh Rout

The HPCA committee plans to plant a few more trees as a number of people wish to donate them, this will probably now be in the autumn.

Also planned is a new seat in his memory, which will be placed on the edge of the wild flower meadow in a sheltered spot under the river bank. It was one of the areas Roger most loved especially when the cowslips were in bloom. He had made a particular point of pausing there on his last walk around before he went into hospital.

The committee has decided to provide the seat because a number of people have asked if there was to be a memorial to Roger and all that he did to turn the pits from a rubbish dump to the verdant wildlife site it is today. Anyone who would like to contribute please send to 39 Friars Street, PE30 1AW, cheque made out to HPCA.

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Happy 60th, Ulysses

September 2016
2016 marks the 60th year of our trusty friend Ulysses, a 1956 Massey Ferguson FE35. After its usual copious fix of Easystart, he was ready to celebrate the beginning of autumn with 2 days of hard work mowing the flower meadow and carting loads of grass and weeds to the tip. Despite his low oil pressure and smoking, he soldiered on, ably assisted by the band of rakers and loaders before earning a well deserved rest.
He was flattered also by his new admirer, Sharon.
The happy throng of volunteers, pictured, were so relieved after their hard work with superb cuisine provided by Sally, and were reinvigorated with the possibility of tackling the Common in October.
Any volunteers who would like to assist on our October workday would be most welcome.

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If you go down to the Pits today…

25th April 2015

Spring has sprung at Harding’s Pits. The summer birds are back — with Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiff Chaff singing loudly and Swallows swooping over the meadows.

We have a magnificant crop of Cowslips_26-04-2015
Cowslips

We have a particularly magnificent crop of Cowslips on the west meadow and some of our young trees are also in full flower — Cherry, Apple and even the Field Maples are quite a show.

 

 

Apple blossom
Apple blossom
Some of our cherry trees are now 10m tall
Some of our cherry trees are now 10m tall
The small green flowers of Field Maple
The small green flowers of Field Maple

 

 

On our work day last Saturday a couple of small ‘bees’ were noted. One is not a true bee but a fly that looks like a bee.

Bee-fly
Bee-fly

The ‘Bee Fly’ actually parasitizes bumble bees — sometimes placing an egg on the bee whilst it feeds on flowers — or even whilst in flight. The unwitting bee then takes the egg back to its nest where the Bee Fly grub then proceeds to eat the host bee’s eggs!

The Bee Fly uses its long ‘nose’ to extract nectar from flowers and it is an important pollinator insect.

Red mason bee
Red mason bee

Also at the site on Saturday was a small red-tailed bee we identified as Osmia rufa the Red Mason Bee. These bees find a small cavity (eg the hollow centre of an old plant stalk) and then fill it with pollen/nectar and lay an egg on top. They then cap off this ‘brood chamber’ and seal it off with a cap of mud (hence their name).

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Ben Platt Mills

November 2014

The committee of HPCA were saddened to recently learn of the sad passing of Ben Platt Mills. Ben and his colleagues were the chainsaw artists who created our totemic entry features at Harding’s Pits — including the whale shelter. Their fantastic work has now become a local landmark for South Lynn. Back in 2005 Ben came to Lynn and worked with pupils at Whitefriars, Greyfriars and St Michaels to develop ideas for the sculptures that now grace our site. He also carved features for all three schools to keep — including a Greyfriars Tower and a White Abbott. Ben was a talented sculptor and his work has great character and humour. In future we hope to work with other members of Ben’s sculpting collective to renew some elements of their work.

 

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Quercus rubra in its autumn dress

October 2014

Maple
Click for a larger image

The Doorstep Green has been looking particularly good this autumn, thanks to our faithful band of mowers, rakers, trimmers and carters, and nothing more so than the tree which welcomes visitors at the main gate. This, according to our in-house tree man (Rick) is a Quercus rubra, originally from north America (which explains why the fall in that part of the world is so spectacular). Ours looked wonderful until the south wind got to work which just goes to show how a tree can recover from attack by vandals. This happened soon after it was planted and the villains left nothing more than two stumps poking out of the ground. Our original thought was to dig them up and replant but now we’re glad we didn’t. We hope it will grow into quite a big tree to be admired by many generations to come.

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The Triumph of Youth

August 2014
Volunteers1

There are few radical changes to Hardings Pits over the course of a year. Litter is made by many who use the Pits and litter is picked up by those who care about the Pits. Grass grows, is cut down and raked up. Brambles are cut back. Paths cleared. Snow and frost comes. Snow and frost goes. The sun rises and sets and shadows move round. People walk dogs, runners run, walkers walk, cyclists cycle. Those who know what is good for them collect fruit. Frequently some young people may walk through on their way to somewhere else, and for the most part that is all we see of young people.

Volunteers2

Not for a few days in August 2014 however. In August 2014 a group of 13 young students and their team leader, funded by a government scheme (The National Citizen Service) and supported by Lauren, the South Lynn Community Organiser who worked closely with Harding’s Pits volunteers formed a work party. They worked hard. Damned hard, and trees emerged from within the undergrowth where trees had not been seen for years. Brambles and bindweed that had been thus far impossible to bring under the heel were cut down, well, like grass.

They came from a variety of backgrounds with an equal variety of skills. Many had never wielded anything sharper than a kitchen knife before, and croppers, shears and secateurs were a hitherto unknown mystery. As the days progressed enthusiasm grew as they could see that what they were doing was making a real and tangible difference. This evidence itself fed the enthusiasm and there is a real possibility that we will see some of them again.

It was hard work for everyone, not least those who were organising them from Harding’s Pits, but the rewards are tangible to see, and the young people deserve every thanks and have every reason to be pleased with their efforts.

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Registration rejected but the future looks secure

May 2014

The HPCA Ltd. bid to have Harding’s Pits Doorstep Green registered as a town or village green has been rejected. The final decision has been handed down by the head of law at Norfolk County Council, the registration authority.

The head of law was acting under delegated powers which meant that no debate on the application went beyond her desk at County Hall.

It may not even have got that far but for the intervention of the Hayes and Storr legal practice which came forward to present the HPCA case pro bono (in the public interest). That it was very much in the public interest of the many people who use the Green every day is self-evident but HPCA is grateful to the firm for freely providing a high level of professional assistance which, as a small voluntary organisation, it could not possibly have afforded.

In a letter to Carla Goodyear, a solicitor in the Fakenham office of Hayes and Storr who presented the HPCA case, the county council’s legal department quotes the detail of expert opinion that the application should fail because of the manner in which a 2004 agreement was drawn up. This delegated management of the site as a Doorstep Green to the Association acting on behalf of the land owner, the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. The borough council objected to the application.

The legal opinion passed responsibility for a decision back to the registration authority with a recommendation that the application be rejected.

From there it went to the council’s head of law who, predictably, decided in favour of the borough council.

The future of an open space already very important to the communities of the Friars and South Lynn — and which will be of increasing value as more and more housing is developed south of the town — has thus been decided by a bureaucrat who is unlikely even to know where Harding’s Pits is, let alone assess its importance to the local community.

The county council and its head of law took an interminable time to reach its decision. The application was lodged in October 2010 and its determination is dated 22nd May, 2014. It has to be remembered that over much of this period the county council was mainly concerned with its plan to inflict a rubbish burning incinerator on King’s Lynn.

While the rejection of the HPCA application is disappointing it is not without its upside.

The years that the county council sat upon the application provided a breathing space during which it finally dawned upon King’s Lynn’s borough councillors that their marina plan, which involved the destruction of the Doorstep Green, was a non-starter (see A Reprieve for Harding’s Pits).

There was also the matter of the various agreements between the council, the Association and the original funders of the Green. Among these is a covenant designed to protect the Green from any other form of development for a 25 year period dated from 2004. At the height of the debate over the future of the Green this covenant had been loftily consigned to the council’s waste bin.

But buried deep in the counsel’s opinion there is a paragraph which inspires some confidence in the future security of the Green as a public open space. In this the lawyer who wrote it speculates that the authority cannot remove the public use of such a site ‘on a whim’ and adds the sentence: ‘Moreover it seems to me that the objector [the borough council] probably cannot. during the period of any “Doorstep Green” agreements, lawfully appropriate [take over] the land for development or use for other purposes.’

The Harding’s Pits management agreement runs to September 2029.

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Treasure Indeed

Treasure Indeed
Treasure indeed — our thanks to Lauren Sutton, Community Organiser for South Lynn, who helped us in our hunt for new tools for our Harding’s Pits volunteers. Lauren is employed by Locality and hosted by Freebridge, who were also of such support.

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A reprieve for Harding’s Pits

Whisper it softly. The King’s Lynn marina is, at last, off the radar, far out in the long grass, a long way from the sea.

In early March the full council of the borough accepted a report from its regeneration and economic development task group that ‘…the delivery of the King’s Lynn marina master plan 2010 is commercially unviable in the short and medium term (to 2030) and therefore should cease to be a regeneration priority.’

And with that statement the greatest threat to the Doorstep Green has been lifted, at least until well after the date in 2025 when, by agreement, the site has to be handed back to its owner — the borough council. At one point it really did begin to look as though the marina plan must lead to the destruction of the Green and negation of all the work and effort which the local community had invested in it.

Money earmarked for the development of the marina will now be reallocated to other council projects.

The people who had the original idea for the Green, who followed it up, filled in the forms, raised the money, designed the features and who now pick up the beer cans and broken glass and mow the grass and fight the brambles, who sweat and, occasionally, bleed in the process, will be hoping that its life will go on well beyond 2025. As more and more houses are built around that area of Lynn the open space which the Green offers will be ever more necessary to civilised living.

But that fight, if and when it comes, is for another generation. For the foreseeable future, the Harding’s Pits Doorstep Green is here to stay.

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Preventing antisocial activity

Local police have given an undertaking to step up surveillance of Harding’s Pits to counter antisocial behaviour. This follows a routine meeting of SNAP (the South and West Lynn Safer Neighbourhood Action Panel) at which Jane Dearling, HPCA chairman, raised the matter with police officers who form part of the SNAP team.

Rick Morrish, HPCA vice-chairman, had earlier alerted the recently elected borough councillor for South Lynn, Gary McQuinness, who is also the SNAP panel chairman, and fellow councillors for the area, to the twin problems of excessive drinking and littering on areas of the Green. This followed a litter pick in the aftermath of a party which took place around the Whale on 26th April — a Friday night.

In an email Rick reported: ‘I have this morning spent a couple of hours cleaning up after an ‘event’ at Harding’s Pits. I learnt from a passer-by that it took place on Friday night.

‘She said it was a large group of males and females who were loud and boisterous and she felt sufficiently intimidated to beat a retreat.
paa1‘I picked up over 70 bottles and more than 250 cans and two sacks of other rubbish — mostly from around the Whale — and there is still a lot more up there under the willow trees near the whale. I also noted hypodermics under the willows and that people are using parts of the site as a latrine. There was a lot of broken glass.
‘This level of littering is unacceptable — and from the point of view of our volunteers coping with it, is unsustainable. This was about the first bit of warmer weather we have had this year — and if this sort of thing happens regularly throughout the summer we simply won’t be able to cope. It needs to be nipped in the bud now.
‘A few weeks ago several of us cleared up the remains of an encampment from last summer. We have had similar camps during summer periods over several years. These are not kids making a den but people sleeping rough for several weeks and then leaving a great deal of waste after they leave. A trend last year was also to cut down our young trees — either to build enclosures or to burn. Again — unacceptable in our view.
paa2‘We have no problem with people going out there to drink and socialise – in our view that’s what the area is for. Its just the littering and the petty vandalism that invariably seems related that is unwelcome. And clearly if other site users feel intimidated that is unacceptable as well.
‘Littering seems to be a pernicious problem — that seems petty for enforcement officers to have to address — but nevertheless undermines environmental quality and civic pride and ends up costing us all a lot of time/money to clear up. Personally I think we need a full on revival of the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign. I don’t see why we couldn’t do something along those lines in the local context anyway.’

Jane reinforced these views with PC Adam Thompson, beat commander for South Lynn and PCSO Michael Clarke at the SNAP meeting. Separately another borough councillor, Mark Back, one of the two representatives for the St Margaret’s and St Nicholas ward, had passed on Rick’s message to Chief Inspector Ady Porter in charge of the police in Lynn who promised to brief his teams to step up patrols in the Harding’s Pits area.

Chief Inspector Porter said that the ‘designated public place legislation’ allowing for alcohol seizures does not cover the Harding’s Pits area but added: ‘There is new legislation going through parliament to make all public areas designated otherwise the police have to prove to the council that there is an ongoing antisocial behaviour problem with calls from the public. The consultation to create a new DPP takes around six months so isn’t a speedy solution.

‘The legislation that we have left is underage alcohol seizures and a power to direct people to leave when they are acting in an anti social manner that is linked with alcohol.
‘The teams do use bikes and regularly patrol along this route. You can see that the teams are seizing alcohol and we continue to do so. Clearly we are keen to respond to concerns and I will brief the South Lynn team to see who we have down there.’

Increased police activity on the Green will be very welcome — from observation, the sight of a blue uniform does have a very useful deterrent effect not only on the drinkers and littering but also on other banes of the summer time, the arsonists and the riders with mini (and sometimes maxi) motorbikes using the paths as dirt tracks.

Having just spent a substantial sum of money on the renovation of the main paths, this destructive behaviour is something we can well do without. The police do have powers to impound and destroy machines used in this way, a strategy which has been used in other parts of Norfolk with some success in recent years.

The problem is that there are already not enough police officers to provide the needful cover at appropriate times and there are likely to be fewer still; that comes on no less an authority than that of the county’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett, who recently told the Eastern Daily Press that a further reduction in manpower was likely in an effort to meet a £15 million funding gap in the police budget being enforced by the government. The alternative, he said, was a further increase in the proportion of council tax devoted to the police service.

A further factor is that boozing parties on the Green which lead to littering and vandalism generally take place late on Friday and Saturday evenings and into the early hours of Sunday. This is precisely the time when Lynn policing is almost entirely and quite properly devoted to controlling revellers in Norfolk Street.

Helping ourselves

All of this means that we remain responsible for looking out for ourselves as far as we can. The point was made at the SNAP meeting that the police will only up the ante on Harding’s Pits if they get complaints, and a lots of complaints at that.

The Green’s best protection is the eyes of the people who love it and use it for entirely proper purposes. Most people now do have a mobile telephone; if you do see antisocial behaviour in progress it may be best to avoid contact although some brave hearts do take the risk.But it is just as important to use your phone to report it. If you have no phone with you and you can get to your keyboard, send in an email using the following contact information.

Either way you may need to provide a postcode. Harding’s Pits does not have one but the nearest is PE30 5LY which takes you to Winfarthing Avenue, one of the main entry points to the Green. For the police phone 01553-691211 or email email hidden; JavaScript is required; for SNAP phone 01553-616411 (office hours only). By the time the police arrive the troublemakers may have gone but at least the report must be logged by the police and the more they log the more likely they are to take action.

And if you have neither phone nor internet — and not everyone does – at least try to tell a neighbour who can make contact. In the last resort try HPCA on 01553-760513. This is a private number but there is an answer-phone. Any message which is left here will be passed on as soon as possible but there may be delay and it is much better to try to contact the police directly.

 

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Asian Hornet

The National Pest Advisory Panel at its last meeting received a presentation from the Non Native Species Secretariat on the threats posed by the possible introduction of the Asian Hornet into the UK.

The Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, is a large wasp native to parts of eastern Asia. It was accidentally introduced to south-west France in 2004 on ceramic pots containing bonsai trees. It has since spread rapidly in France and reached Spain in 2010 and Belgium in 2011. The species is a serious pest of honey bees but also pre-dates a wide range of other invertebrates. It builds large nests and is a potential threat to human health — causing two confirmed deaths in France. There are a number of ways the hornet could reach the UK including flying across the channel or hitching a lift on imported trees, goods, vehicles or on produce. It is only mated queen hornets that are a threat as workers cannot breed.

Because of its threat to honeybees and its other negative impacts the government is keen to prevent this pest becoming established in GB and therefore it is imperative that we find all individuals as soon as possible. Luckily the species is easily distinguished from our native hornet and other wasps. They make large, distinctive paper nests, often high up in trees and they are also likely to be found close to bee hives.

If you think you have seen an Asian hornet can you please report this immediately (including if possible a photograph and details of where you saw it) to: email hidden; JavaScript is required
or telephone: 01904-462510

Further information (including an ID sheet and alert poster).

See also Bee Craft Bulletin which has detailed information on the hornet and photographs.

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Bird Walk

A good turn-out of 12 for our first bird-walk of the year. 26 different birds were noted with a preponderance of Whitethroats freshly arrived from Africa. We finished the morning enjoying Sally’s excellent catering in the warmth of the sunshine.



Dunnock
Great Tit
Mallard
Starling
Black Headed Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gull
Whitethroat
Magpie
Cormorant
Pigeon
Collared Dove
Crow
Chaffinch


Blackcap
Goldfinch
Greenfinch
House Sparrow
Blue Tit
Willow Warbler
Herring Gull
Moorhen
Swallow Reed
Warbler
Linnet
Jackdaw
Wood Pigeon



Images taken from British Garden Birds

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ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER GREAT OUSE