Friends of Cwmdonkin Park – Chair’s Report July 2021

Friends of Cwmdonkin Park – Chair’s Report July 2021

Another year has passed, and I would start by reiterating the introduction to my report as acting chair in the 2020 AGM.   That introduction said “What a strange year it has been!” and  “We can only hope that we will be able to execute more definite plans over the next 12 months”.   Unfortunately, the pandemic has continued to disrupt businesses and organisations of all sorts – Friends of Cwmdonkin Park have continued to put activities and events on hold until it is safe to resume them.  We have been unable to run any of our usual community events since the 2020 AGM.  In particular, there have been no Family Fun Days;   no Halloween event; no mulled wine and mince pies with the Salvation Army at Christmas; no Easter Egg Hunt in 2021.

We have been able to keep in touch with each other and hold regular committee meetings through the magic of Google Meet (thanks to our secretary, Mike O’Carroll, for your efforts on that, and for your ability to keep us all organised!).   We have also stayed in touch through the use of our What’s App group, which has enabled us to share details of our new orchard, sightings of fauna and flora in the park, and good news (such as news about the coffee shop and the bird and bat boxes) and bad news (instances of vandalism or anti-social behaviour). And we have also stayed in touch right throughout lockdown by (socially distanced) chance meetings in the park.  As lockdown has eased, many people have used Cwmdonkin Park as a meeting place – and we managed to have our most recent committee meeting in Cwmdonkin Park last month (June). And now we are able to meet under controlled conditions indoors for the AGM.

Although Friends of Cwmdonkin Park have been unable to hold any of our usual activities, there have been other things going on.  

The pavilion/café reopened as “Dylan’s coffee shop” in April 2021 and the new tenants (Sara and Papi) have very quickly established the coffee shop as a destination in its own right.   More people are using Dylan’s coffee shop as a reason to visit the park.  Sara and Papi (who are themselves members of Friends of Cwmdonkin Park) and their dedicated band of helpers have been working incredibly hard and for long hours – they have recently extended their opening hours to  7 p.m on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  They are still only able to operate for take-away (selling a whole range of coffees/teas, as well as soft drinks, ice creams and lollies, and cakes)-  but they plan to open up the indoor seating area as soon as they are able to do so.  They also have some outdoor seating to complement the existing picnic tables.   The only frustration is that we tried to work with them to get Swansea Council to supply recycling bins to be located nearer the coffee shop. Unfortunately, this led nowhere because the council’s view is that people fail to separate rubbish appropriately. 

On the question of rubbish, in the early days of lockdown in 2020, there were problems with antisocial behaviour and littering – especially near the Dylan Thomas shelter.   With the help of Councillor Irene Mann, we were able to persuade the Swansea council to instal a new litter bin near the Dylan Thomas shelter, as well as a surveillance camera on a post in front of the shelter. Despite scepticism from some quarters this has been well used and seems to have encouraged responsible use.   Even when the bin is full, other rubbish is generally placed alongside the bin.

And Friends of Cwmdonkin Park have organised a litter collection rota in order to supplement (not replace) the litter collection by park staff.   On every day of the week, someone does a litter pick and places the litter in the blue bags kindly supplied to us by Irene.   This litter pick has had two beneficial results- both the obvious one of the park looking better and the less obvious one that it causes park users to stop and talk with our team – especially when they see our stylish badges.  But thanks to all who have participated in the litter pick.

Another major positive is the planting of 50 ornamental cherry trees on the bank above the Dylan Thomas shelter, as part of the Sakura Cherry Tree Project. That project aims to plant thousands of cherry trees across UK, including 1000 cherry trees throughout Wales; it marks the friendship between Wales (and the rest of the UK), and Japan. We are honoured to have 50 trees from the project planted in Cwmdonkin Park, and Friends of Cwmdonkin Park was represented at the planting ceremony last autumn.   It was great to see the first blossom in springtime this year.  It should be a spectacular sight in springtime for many years to come.

One slightly sour note was that a handful of the trees were vandalised  (the barks snapped off) – but regrowth of the stumps is still possible.  Let us hope so!

Apart from the odd incident like that, the park itself has been a boon for local residents during lockdown and subsequent restrictions. We are lucky to have such a beautiful open space in our community, for fresh air and exercise, for meeting friends, and for getting just a bit closer to nature. The vast majority of park visitors have used the park responsibly. And it is great to see the park used for informal and informal gatherings – from birthday parties to kickarounds, from WI meetings to karate classes,  from Park Lives events to yoga classes, from brownies to tennis coaching.

Another major positive was the orchard planted by Friends of Cwmdonkin Park with a great deal of help and support from The Orchard Project – many thanks to all who contributed.  Especially our designated Orchard Leaders – Alan Dobson, Rodney Bender and Douglas Alexander.  Special thanks to Rodney for his 3-D model of the orchard and for making and installing QR codes on all the trees, giving a link to information about the trees on our website.  

The orchard is to be formally named “ City of Sanctuary Orchard”.    City of Sanctuary is a national movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.   We in Cwmdonkin Park are pleased to support those aims –  especially as the park has been something of a sanctuary for many of us over the last difficult year.

Following on from the orchard planting, we had 3 bird boxes, 3 bat boxes and a sparrow terrace generously made and donated by Daffydd Richards – these were a bit late for this year’s nesting (although I have seen a blue tit trying out one of the boxes), but we hope to commission some more for this autumn.   And the bird box/batbox project has led us to meetings to discuss enhancing biodiversity in the park

Thanks to David Harwood continues to maintain our website (which has a functioning “Pay” button that can be used for donations, or for payment of membership subscriptions) and our Facebook site. And special thanks to Alan Dobson in his role as vice-chair; he has been brilliant in standing in when I am not available, in following up on matters which arose when he was chair, and in providing general support and friendship.

There are possible events to look forward to later this year, but we are waiting until it is safe to do so.  Meanwhile thanks to all who have helped or contributed to the activities of Friends over the past year.   

Hedley Austin

Chair – Friends of Cwmdonkin Park     20 July 2021