Here are a few of the more recent things that have been on our front page as news items:

The day that Santa came to town

This year the weather was a lot better and we had a lot of visitors. The event was split between our usual meeting with Santa in the Visitor centre and an event in the Herb Garden, where Annie Berrington held a camp fire with the children. This was part of the 'Get Out More' incentive.

Here are some of the many pictures taken by Kath Gabitas:- Santa day 2016

Here are some of the pictures that Annie took:- Santa day 2016 - Get out more

Why are they pulling up our rhododendrons?

Long a popular feature of St Ives are the rhododendrons. Not a native of the UK but a species imported from the Himalayas. They are none the less a colourful sight when they are in flower. So why are they using horses to pull them out? The answer is 'phytophthora ramorum' a contagious fungal disease that has been found in some of the countries rhododendrons (and a few other types of bush). The disease is called 'sudden oak death' in America and this is the name that explains the problem. In a manner that has parallels with the way in which the outbreak of foot and mouth was tackled some years ago; the rhododendrons are being sacrificed before they bring about the death of our oak trees. DEFRA (Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs) are very worried that without this action, we could loose many of the oaks; trees that have taken many decades to grow.

Even without this crisis, it would have been necessary to clear some of the rhododendrons as they are a fast growing species that inhibits the growth of other plant, bird and animal populations.

For those wondering - the horse is called Nathan

Car parking charges - a note from our chair, Mrs P Laking

The following is from Mrs Pam Laking's speech to Bradford Council. Unfortunately they did not answer any of the issues. They carried out no debate after the speeches and just voted the charges through.

Firstly, I’d like to ask you all if you could please really listen to what we have to say today. And then if someone is kind enough to reply, please could you actually respond to the issues and comments we have raised.

It’s very frustrating to try and have a dialogue with someone and they do not in any way respond to issues you raise.

We do know about the many, many financial restraints upon the council, which are growing year by year and the latest overspend report; and the very many difficult decisions that have had to be made. So please don’t just give us another statement simply stating this. We feel that the decision to possibly implement parking charges at St Ives has not been arrived at in a clear and procedural way and all the aspects, effects and resultant issues have not been considered. With the need to find money from anywhere perhaps rash scenarios are being created.

I’ll briefly go through all these aspects again as they were stated in our previous report to yourselves. The loss of a free amenity for the everyday users which are mostly older people (helps them in independent living through exercise and human contact), low income families (it’s now a staycation*), forest school users, mainstream schools, (mostly inner city) special needs schools; Groups supported by us to visit; Carer’s Resource, Alzheimer’s Society, Heart Foundation to name a few; other community groups and walking groups including NHS ones to name a few. Displaced parking in Harden village and its effects on businesses and residents and the taking up of its limited existing parking. Much more worryingly, recently a councillor has told me that he is concerned that some of you consider the Friends of St Ives to be “silly old ladies drinking tea” I really hope this is not the case. We are an intelligent group of people from mostly senior professional backgrounds, several with their own companies; involved with many other interests and groups as well. We care deeply about St Ives and also all the visitors, but are not obsessive. However, we do understand the estate better than anyone having been so very involved with it, the Parks and Woodlands team and the thousands of visitors for nearly 14 years now. The public talk to us, we communicate with all the businesses there; we all work together. My mobile phone number has for some time been on the internet as linked to St Ives and I get many phone calls from the public each week with an amazing variety of queries. My colleague runs our Facebook where posts are extensively shared. Another colleague maintains our vast website which has multitudes of hits each day. We have St Ives on many sites such as Trip Advisor and in tourist offices. The Friends have become “St Ives” in the public’s eyes. We have built St Ives up to be the wonderful asset to Bradford that it is and worked extremely hard to do so. St Ives is not just another ‘Park’. It is far more than that. An earlier Parks and Woodlands manger, sadly deceased, called ‘St Ives’ the ‘jewel in Bradford’s crown’. It is. You have a very strong, experienced group of people with on average 150 members who run the visitor centre, create and maintain the History Garden, organise led walks , talks and give presentations all around the area to many other organisations and groups. We have also been voted by the public as Superheroes. But we haven’t built St Ives up to be milked financially; something which could destroy and damage all that has been done over the last 14 years by ourselves and Parks and Landscape.

We have given the parking charges idea much thought and discussion and talked to the local businesses, residents and visitors. In other words, we have carried out a consultation process.

If you have only visited the estate you don’t know how it works. It’s a complex and very unusual place, like no other. With proper leases in place with the businesses, and regeneration of some empty buildings which could raise revenue in a positive way (which the public could appreciate and benefit from), St Ives could be paying for itself and more? But is the idea really that these parking charges will actually go to St Ives?

The Friends of St Ives have many ideas, ability and willingness to help with this by raising money from funders, holding large and small paying events, organising and funding the restoration of these buildings, gaining sponsors and more. We are considering recruiting and organising a ‘practical tasks team’ to start taking on many of the maintenance jobs on the estate. It may be that we all have to look in the future at new ways for St Ives to be managed; maybe as in a trust run by a body such as ours. But we need to work together. As the austerity cuts bite even deeper, you will need the public’s support. You will need voluntary groups and Parish Councils help, and their willingness to take on many tasks. You are not building a good relationship with us by just ignoring what we do, what we are warning you will happen, and ignoring our suggestions that there can be other more financially positive ways to move forward. After 14 years of working together with BMDC very well, if this proposal goes ahead, you are sadly creating a huge dent in the goodwill we have developed whilst working together and in fact possibly even the loss of this group. We feel so disillusioned and disappointed by your lack of communication with us over this issue. You need to understand that people care about the estate in an incredibly deep way. It is really, really, really important to the public and that they retain their ability to visit the place as often as they want and for as long as they want as they have always been able to do so. They have a feeling of ownership towards St Ives as if it’s a 2nd home almost and belongs to them.. The public have been talking to us nonstop since this started, both on the estate, in shops, by phoning us and by email and Facebook. Sadly their anger and hostility towards the council is massive. These are people from not only the immediate local area, but from Wyke, Wibsey, Great Horton and in fact from all over the Bradford area and beyond.)

We ask you to please look again at all the very serious points we have raised in an earlier document and agree to stop this proposal and start to work with us to look at the other ways forward.

And finally, incidentally, having done a lot of research about parking charges in other areas, (which was brought up in your last response to us), other neighbouring councils with similar sites and our local National Trust places do not charge for parking.

* Stay at home vacation - Ed