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The Friends of Dagnam Park response to the L B H public consultation on priorities for spending
on the new Local Nature Reserve
Friends of Dagnam Park. February 2005
The Manor Local Nature Reserve (LNR)
Priorities for funding
Progress has been made in combating the motor cycle nuisance, with the cooperation of Inspector Phil Walby we have mainly eliminated the problem of bikes brought in by vans, but the bikers that simply ride in are much more difficult to deal with. The wooden ranch style fencing is ineffective against motorcycles because the riders simply saw through it; it can be done in seconds. For this reason we believe the first priority is the fencing on all of the minor entry points starting with Whitchurch Rd and progressing to the others at Tring Close, Tring Gardens and Sedgefield Cres (2) in no particular order. Concrete blocks similar to those in use on motorways are worth investigating, as they may be a cheaper option than heavy steel fencing. They could be suitably placed end to end inside the edge of the wood. In time the vegetation would disguise their appearance. They could be removed or moved as necessary. We are aware that Council officers are conscious of the visual appearance of the park's fencing and while this will always be a consideration we believe that what is more important is what goes on inside the fencing. The island of trees is severely damaged by bikers and their fires, It may already be too late, it would be very very sad if we ended up with a pretty fence and an ugly park. That may be what happens if we delay any longer in securing the access points, Concrete blocks may not be attractive but if that is all we can afford it will be worth it. After all, they can be removed at any time.
There is no point in creating disabled access at any of these entry points because the terrain in Hatters Wood is impossible for wheel chairs or those who have difficulty walking. Deep ditches cross the area and the ground is extremely uneven with steep dips and inclines. There are boggy areas as well as impenetrable bramble thickets. Hatters Wood rises 30 metres from Whitchurch Rd to the Green Pond. That is not to say that with considerable engineering a path could not be driven through the wood but the costs would be prohibitive at the moment. Even at the Moat entrance considerable work would need to be done to get much further than the gate and then it would simply take you in the direction of the main car park. To add to these problems there is no available car parking on any of the narrow residential roads at these access points.
It is our view that improvements could and should be made to facilitate disabled access but money and effort should be concentrated to gaining access to Hatters Wood via the main car park. Use could be made of the existing degraded tarmac path that leads to the site of the old cricket pavilion. From there it would not be too difficult to access Hatters wood in a level dry area. It would also be possible at a later stage to gain access down towards the Lily Pond and the walled garden, once these areas had been cleared and levelled. It goes without saying that it is crucial that all disabled access points would need to be designed to prevent motor cycle access, unlike the new wooden fence at the moat entrance!
The entrance in Lower Noak Close should be sealed permanently and the gate removed allowing only pedestrian access.
The Settle Rd Car Park should be moved nearer to the entrance and secured with tank proof fencing the gates should be protected by chicanes.
The footprint of the Dagnams mansion should be levelled, all shrubs and trees other than those over 50 years old should be removed from that area and the area between the mansion and the Lily Pond, This should be grassed over and kept mown. At some stage it may be possible to have some display boards detailing the sites history.
Likewise, the area within the walled garden should be completely cleared of coarse vegetation and grassed over. With appropriate guidance it may be possible to expose the footings of the wall, stables and other buildings. If maintained as mown grass it would be possible to get a feel for how it used to be.
The scrub encroachment of the meadows is still a major problem and work is urgently required to descrub the meadows back to the position of the 1946 aerial photographs.
Manor Farm. The land associated with this farm should be included within the LNR.
At the very least the first field to the west of the cow pond should be returned to the park. This field, which was part of the park ever since its formation some four hundred years ago, was inexplicably left out of the park when the boundary was redrawn by the LCC in about 1950.
Consideration should be given to changing the cutting regime to the main playing fields. Historically these fields were football and cricket pitches and we have inherited the short mow regime. While some short turf is desirable for picnics ball games etc some of this area can be cut less frequently to allow a gradient of grass lengths broken up by short mown paths across the whole area. Consideration should be given to the potential fire hazards. Hopefully we will eliminate the bikers but we need to consider how the biker's behaviour would change when faced with a new grass cutting regime, would our paths become racetracks for example.
The main park entrance needs to be tidied with the addition of an interpretation board.
The “folly” that is the wooden structure placed across the track near the Lily pond should be removed, it was never clear to us what its intention was. All it has achieved is the diversion of the track around it. It has recently been partially destroyed by a car. It should not be repaired. We think this was put in place using New Horizon funding and is a prime example of poor consultation.
An officially designated public footpath should be introduced from Noak Hill Rd into the western end of Hatters Wood and linked to the public footpath originating in Lower Noak Close.
Duck wood, currently has a track it should be upgraded to allow wheel chair access.
A designated public footpath should be created at the rear of King's wood School to link Duck Wood and Dagnam Park, the design should preclude its use by bikers.
Summary of priorities
1st. Secure the five minor entry points, Whitchurch Rd first.
2nd. Create disabled access from main car park to Hatters Wood.
3rd. In no particular order
Clear coarse vegetation from footprint of Dagnams
Clear coarse vegetation from within walled garden.
Move main car park closer to Settle Rd entrance.
Descrub the ancient meadows.
Tidy main entrance include notice board
Disabled access to Dagnams and Walled Garden. (to follow the clearance of these two areas)
The entrance in Lower Noak Close should be sealed permanently.
Duck wood, track upgrade.
Duck wood and Dagnam Park linking footpath.
Designation of new public footpath from Noak Hill Rd.
Manor Farm to be included within the LNR.
Review of grass cutting regime on main playing fields.