We have moved into the 21st century and you can now follow us on Facebook at
Friends of Priory Fields
We have moved into the 21st century and you can now follow us on Facebook at
Friends of Priory Fields
The Friends of Priory Fields are very sorry to hear of the recent death of Brian Scowen.
Brian was a founder member of the Friends and for some years served as Treasurer and at the same time was an active member of our working parties – we particularly recall his contribution to the benches that were established around the Fields in the early years.
Although that was now some years ago, all those of us who were members at that time have fond memories of Brian and will always remember him.
If you venture up to the priory arch you will find a new information board within the bounds of the old Bicknacre Priory to show the results of archaeological tests carried out over several years. The Maldon Archaeological and Historical Group conducted surveys employing various methods, including ground penetrating radar, and using this information together with the dimensions of similar Augustinian priories around the country have come up with a plan of the probable dimensions and position of the priory. The corners of the main church building are marked on the ground by square paving slabs.
The board, erected by the Friends of Priory Fields, also shows a drawing of what the whole priory probably looked like in its prime.
The excellent artwork was created for us by Rod Brown who is a resident of Bicknacre.
Have you had trouble finding your way into Priory Fields? Well you wouldn’t be the first. The Friends have been aware of this problem for many years and have tried to get a brown sign erected by the main road opposite the car park entrance but have been refused by the Highways Department on the grounds that we do not get enough visitors.
Discussions have taken place between the Friends and the Bicknacre Village Hall Committee and we came up with a design for a couple of signs that suited both groups. These brown signs are situated by the main road but not on highways land. It is hoped that visitors to the Village Hall and Priory Fields, which also includes the remains of Bicknacre Priory, will find these signs a helpful in locating these facilities.
The Friends of Priory Fields are an energetic and ambitious group working to improve the wonderful open-air facility within the village of Bicknacre. In order to help us realise our ambitions we need more people to come forward and join our committee. If you would like to be involved in fundraising, chairing meetings or just lending a hand please come along to one of our committee meetings, held on the second Thursday of every month in the Bicknacre Village Hall, and you will find a very warm welcome.
At the AGM of the Essex Wildlife Trust on 3rd October 2015 the Friends of Priory Fields were announced as winners of the Living Landscape Award. This award is presented to parks, nature reserves, councils or landowners who have taken practical steps to protect and enhance the local landscape.
Paul Harden and Bob Law with Iolo Williams
Living Landscapes is a national initiative promoted by The Wildlife Trusts. In the context of Essex Living Landscapes, Danbury Ridge, our area, covers the area south of the River Chelmer and surrounding the villages of Great Baddow, Danbury, Little Baddow, Bicknacre and Woodham Walter. The Area has a diverse mix of habitat for wildlife and its history is apparent in many features within the landscape, including the Iron Age hill fort of Danbury Camp and the designed landscape at Danbury Palace. The Area has historic field boundaries, woodland banks and ditches, earthworks from prehistoric and Tudor times, medieval deer parks, a wealth of archaeological sites and historic buildings all of which contribute to the character of the Ridge.
All the winners
The objectives of Living Landscapes is to conserve and enlarge existing habitats and benefit the wildlife that depend on them, to develop wildlife corridors to enable wildlife species to move to new areas, to conserve the historic assets and to conserve and enhance the landscape character.
These objectives are exactly what The Friends of Priory Fields are aiming to achieve and it is very gratifying that our efforts have been acknowledged in this way. Bob Law and Paul Harden who have been two of our greatly valued volunteers for many years collected the award from TV presenter Iolo Williams on behalf of the Friends.
It might be a bit late for this summer but visitors to the fields will now see five new picnic benches installed in the picnic area just inside the East Meadow. They have been purchased by the Friends with a grant from Awards for All which is part of the National Lottery.
The benches are of robust construction so they should be serviceable and attractive for many years to come. To avoid the table legs sinking into the ground, as they did with the old wooden ones, the feet have been placed on levelled paving slabs.
Of the five units two have extended tops at one end to allow a wheelchair user to sit under the table.
The Friends continue to develop and improve the fields and we hope this will add to the enjoyment of your future visits.
In addition part of the Lottery Fund grant was used to purchase a new gazebo which will be used at future events so come and pay us a visit.
Liana speaks to chairman John Bishop.
The Essex Quest is a Sunday morning local radio programme where the two presenters, Liana and Al, have to solve clues, with help from listeners, to take them to places of interest around the county. On Sunday 5th July their first clue brought them to Priory Fields having negotiated a rather tortuous route through heavy rain.
They finally get to see the priory arch.
Once there, members of the Friends’ committee took them on a fleeting visit to see the priory arch. They were then given their second clue and off they went to the next mystery location.
Recent searches through records have established that our first committee meeting was held on March 3rd 2005 – so we are now, officially, Ten Years Old.
Comparative newcomers to the Parish may not be aware of how the Friends came into being, so the following paragraphs provide a potted history. This may also provide a convenient reminder for those who have lived through this time in the Parish, but may have forgotten some of these events.
In 2000, all the land comprising Priory Farm was sold to a local developer, as the farmer retired. In 2005, 7 acres of land including the Priory Arch, came into the ownership of the Parish Council, as a by-product of the planning permission granted for the building of the houses in what was formally the farmyard area of Priory Farm, now known as Priors Field.
The Parish Council, happy to own the land, but aware of the potential cost of maintaining it, held a public meeting at which it asked if any parishioners would like to get involved in looking after the area and the Arch. A number of volunteers stepped forward at that meeting and those people with representatives of the Parish Council met on March 3rd 2005 for the first time.
A number of names were suggested for the Group at different times but eventually the ‘Friends of Priory Fields’ became the accepted name.
The Friends soon decided to attempt to buy another 25 acres of the land that was formally Priory Farm. An application for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was submitted and eventually agreed and the additional land was purchased in 2007.
Over the years the Friends have ‘maintained’ the land, which covers all the mowing, weeding, bramble removal and clearance work following heavy winds, and many other minor tasks. But, perhaps the major achievement has been all the ‘enhancements’ to the area – which include:-
installation of bench seats and picnic benches
the building of 2 new bridges
the provision of 2 information boards
the establishment of a memorial tree area
creating a small orchard
the establishment of the outline of the whole Priory, and a view of what it looked like.
Various ‘events’ have been held – a Country Fayre, a Christmas Craft Fayre and children’s nature/treasure hunts.
The Friends committee, which meets on the second Thursday of every month, exists to plan and oversee all aspects of work and development on the fields, to ensure that our finances are in good order and that issues like Health & Safety are properly considered at all times.
All the physical work referred to above has been done, primarily, by working parties which convene on the second weekend of every month, although sometimes it is necessary to do specific jobs at other times.
The committee and the working parties are effectively two different groups, although a number of people are members of both groups.
The ultimate purpose of all this is to provide an amenity for the local and wider population and to encourage everybody to use the facility regularly – it is, after all, free to use!
As mentioned earlier, this group was started at the instigation of the Parish Council and The Friends still work with the Parish Council through the medium of the Priory Fields Management Committee which meets 3 times a year, and all work undertaken by the Friends is covered by the Parish Council’s insurance. The Council also assists at times with financial support.
We are pleased to note that some of the people at that first meeting in 2005 are still with us today, but we have also managed to get new recruits throughout the ten years, so, hopefully, we have the right blend of youth and experience!
Going forward the aim of the group is to continue this work indefinitely, which is why the occasional recruitment of new (and younger) people is vital. If you think you might be interested you would be welcome at any of our meetings or working parties if you want to see for yourself how things work. The group does have a constitution which states, among other things, that all parishioners are considered to be members of the Group – this allows you to attend our committee meetings, as of right, whether you want to simply observe or raise any issue.
Last year the local scouts made and put up a considerable number of nesting boxes around the fields for birds and bats. This year not wishing to be outdone by their male counterparts the guides spent a recent meeting putting together some rather larger nesting boxes in the hopes of attracting little owls or tawny owls to the area.
On Saturday 5th April several guides turned up with their leader to help put up their boxes, mainly around the West Meadow. An enjoyable morning was had by all and we all hope that the owls choose to make Priory Fields their new home.