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.