We had a fabulous Easter event

These two were the first to answer all the questions correctly and get their eggs:

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The Punch and Judy show was packed out for all three performances:

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And here are the winners of the drawing competition, Gemma (aged 12) and Elena (aged 5), receiving their prizes:

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And finally a big, big thanks to our sponsors, Channel Glazing, Maslen Estate Agents, Sainsbury’s Local, NatWest and Sussex Electrics. Without their help we would not have been able to put on such a great event.

Click here to see a selection of this year’s entries to the drawing competition.

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It’s Easter Egg Hunt time again

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

It’s Preston Park’s Easter-Egg Hunt time again, courtesy of the Friends of Preston Park!

Yes, on Easter Sunday, 5 April, from 11am to around 2.30pm in Preston Park near the playground we’ll be handing out questions about the park to all accompanied children up to the age of 13. The answers will be found on special information boards around the park. Complete the answers about its history and wildlife to win a choccy Easter-egg!

And there’s a drawing competition to be entered. We’ll provide the drawing equipment; the best picture of something interesting in the park will win a special prize.

There’ll be face-painting and Brighton’s fabulous Punch and Judy show.

It’s only £1 to enter, it’s fun, and full of fascinating facts!

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History of the Park Walk

History Walk 2015

The history walk took place on Saturday 21st March and some 40 people joined us for a fascinating 90 minutes exploring the history of the park.

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Travellers: Caroline Lucas’s reply to our requests

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A few days ago a couple of committee members met with Caroline Lucas to discuss the problem of Travellers in the park. We agreed that it’s impractical to prevent incursions into the park but we asked for her help with a few things we felt may act as a deterrent:

  • Preston Park to be seen as a ‘special case’ because of its residential location and its heritage status
  • Resources are provided to enable daily parking tickets to be issued, and the fines collected on the spot
  • We are given priority when a court date is needed during the eviction process
  • Fly tipping is prosecuted where possible

Caroline was sympathetic during the meeting and here is her formal reply:


As discussed when we spoke, I am, and will be following up on a number of the concerns that you raised regarding the unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments in Preston Park – which appear to have become much more frequent over the last year or so.

I’m aware that since we spoke a further unauthorised encampment arrived at the park, and I have contacted Brighton and Hove City Council, as outlined in the email I sent you on Thursday, about events taking place at the park over the weekend and eviction plans.

Referring to the email you sent me on Sunday, in which you offer to be a conduit between park users and myself, I’m happy with whatever works best. Please do feel free to circulate this email to anybody that you think would be interested to know my position on this issue, but park users would also be very welcome to get in touch with me directly too – especially if there are specific concerns that they would like to raise.

As this email might be forwarded on to others, I think it’s important to make clear that in my role as MP I don’t have any direct say in decisions that fall within the remit of the local Council. However, I am very happy to make representations on behalf of my constituents, and would like offer assurances that whenever I am contacted with specific complaints, about eg antisocial behaviour or dangerous driving, I raise them with the relevant authority, be it the Council or the police, and urge swift action. I have had a number of meetings with the police and discussed ways to increase the number of prosecutions for things such as fly tipping and intimidating behaviour. As discussed when we spoke, I have now contacted Sussex Police to see whether it would be possible to arrange a meeting with them, and Friends of Preston Park, to discuss specific concerns. As soon as I hear further on that I will get in touch to let you know.

I have also asked the Council for more information about the way in which it issues, and pursues, parking fines in the park. I think it’s only fair that tickets issued to both the settled and traveller communities are handled in the same way – and I know that you have concerns that this is not the case. I hope to be able to get back to you with more information on this shortly.

As you might already be aware, under the current law, the police can apply for an order to move on Travellers and Gypsies if certain conditions are met, securing evictions can also be dependent on having an alternative site to which to direct travellers. This is required under a Section 62 eviction, one of the main options available to the police and your local council in Brighton and Hove. So one thing that would make a considerable difference to the ability to tackle unauthorised encampments is the provision of a temporary site for travellers to move to. By creating a permanent site, which the council is proposing, it will free up space on the temporary site at Horsdean, and then police can invoke the relevant section of the law ie Section 62. In short – the approach is very much about taking action and creating the conditions for a zero tolerance approach to unauthorised encampments. However, I believe that we also need a national strategy that requires local authorities to provide for traveller populations, otherwise places like Brighton and Hove have to bear more than their fair share of responsibility – and that is not fair on residents.

Brighton and Hove has been visited by Travellers and Gypsies year on year for a very long time – it is hoped that provision of the permanent site will improve the situation, not least because it creates more opportunities to move on unauthorised encampments from places like the city parks. It’s important to balance the rights of permanent residents and the Gypsy and Traveller community visiting our city. Due to the historical failure to prevent unauthorised encampments in the city I am persuaded that a permanent site, allowing the transit site to be freed up so that unauthorised encampments can be directed there using police powers, is the best way forward and will result in a marked improvement that no other strategies have delivered. I will also be making enquiries with the Council about enforcement/options whilst work takes place at Horsdean over the coming months.

I hope to be able to get back to you shortly with the responses I receive. I’m aware that you sent a further email on Sunday, asking for assurances from the Leader of the Council regarding the collection of parking fines. I will therefore flag your email on to Councillor Jason Kitcat, and let you know when I hear back from him.

Thank you for taking the time to come along to my surgery and discuss this issue. I take on board your concerns that Preston Park is a special park, and should be considered as such. It’s my local park too, and I’m happy to support the Friends of Preston Park where possible on this issue. You might also be interested to see my letter in the Argus on this issue:http://www.theargus.co.uk/opinion/letters/11280485.Using_issue_as_a____political_football___/.

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Wreath making event

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Wreath-making event – 21st December

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Nature notes

The first few days of December have carried the first winter chill, and the park reflects this change of season. Most trees have now lost their leaves, the roses in the Rose Garden have had a ‘hard prune’, and of course the wildflowers down by the Rotunda Cafe are just a distant memory. But the compensation for Preston Park birdwatchers is that many birds are now much easier to see. For example, at this time of the year, Jays are more conspicuous as they forage for acorns, which are then cached as winter food. Nationally there has been an influx of Jays from the continent in recent weeks, and Preston Park has benefited from this. In the last week, there has also been an increase in Pied Wagtails in the park – they are an attractive small black and white bird – and they wag their tails as their name suggests!

Talking of birds that are mostly black and white, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are much easier to see at this time of the year. You won’t hear their characteristic drumming for a couple of months yet, but their sharp ‘kick’ call is often a giveaway, and helps you to locate the birds climbing up the bough of a tree. A good place to look for these birds is around the clock tower. Finally, if there is hard weather up north, we should see some Redwings arriving into the park. Redwings are a small thrush, visiting us from Scandinavia. They find our winters mild and inviting, and although shy, are sometimes seen raking over the leaf litter, searching for tasty morsels to get them through a long and chilly night.

Here’s a photo of a Redwing:

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Tony Benton, Chair, Friends of Preston Park 

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Focus on . . . the Walled Garden volunteers

There are eight volunteer gardeners who meet on Tuesday mornings to help out in the garden. Here are some of them, with George, clearing one of the beds:

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You may remember that a couple of the beds in the garden have been cleared and sprayed off in an attempt to keep down the hated bindweed. The best of the plants have been preserved and will be ‘cleaned’ and replanted in the spring.

Volunteers have been a special part of the garden since 1995. Marguerite Wright is a founder and key member of the group, she answered our questions.

What’s special about the Walled Garden?
The garden contains an astonishing variety of plants, especially for a public garden. We are very lucky to have such a beautiful resource.

Tell us about the Heritage Lottery Grant refurb
This was a grant to refurbish the garden, it was agreed in 1996 and was the first successful HL bid by the council. The whole refurbishment took about 4 years and the garden was closed for a short while during this time. The garden was emptied and plants put into ‘holding’ in the kitchen garden. Paths were re-laid and things like the sundial replaced. When the infrastructure was finished the volunteers helped replant the garden. Only plant varieties cultivated before 1922 were used in order to respect to the heritage of the garden. It was part of the agreement for the grant that a gardener dedicated to the Walled Garden be appointed – hence George.

What are your hopes for the future of the garden?
That it continues to be maintained to a high standard and the huge variety of plants enjoyed for many generations to come. We want more people to visit and appreciate the garden. Thank you Marguerite. Sadly we have had some vandalism in the garden recently. People have been coming in at night, there has been damage to the beautiful wrought-iron gates which lead into the Manor lawn, benches have been moved and broken, plants damaged or destroyed and the pond affected too. It seems to have stopped now though, maybe because of the weather . . .

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Our annual report

As we draw to the close of another year, you may be interested to read this report of the activities of Friends of Preston Park over the past twelve months:

Annual report November 2013 to November 2014 (PDF, 276K)

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Our Annual General Meeting is this Saturday

The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Preston Park will be held this Saturday at 11am in the Men’s Bowls Pavilion (near the Rotunda Cafe).

Be re-assured, the formalities will be kept to an absolute minimum! Primarily this will be a chance to ask questions or make comments about any aspect of the park.

We will be particularly interested to hear from anyone who will be able to help us in any way next year, however little or infrequent that may be.

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