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5 years of achievements by the Friends of Newmillerdam Country Park

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A year ago Friends of Newmillerdam Country Park volunteers were toiling through wintry weather as they worked towards the completion of the £55,000 Lawns Dike Trail.

It culminated in a grand opening ceremony on a sunny summer’s day in June and was one of the highlights of the group’s 5th year of operation. But if anyone harboured thoughts that with the boardwalk and associated picnic area finished the Friends might rest on their laurels, they have been quickly dispelled.

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Completion of the project has kick- started a lengthy work programme of renovation, restoration, on- going maintenance and new initiatives. The unmistakable sound of the strimmer has become a regular feature of the park on Tuesdays, it often being the machine of choice for removing invasive Himalayan Balsam, clearing brambles, cutting grass at the picnic site and maintaining the arboretum.

The busy agenda has also included clearing culverts, maintaining paths, repair and replacement of way markers and signs, litter picking, tree trimming and the removal of branches and other debris from the lake, streams and becks.

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Among the new projects undertaken has been the clearance of trees and shrubs from the island between Bushcliffe Beck and the lake close to Lawns Dike Trail. The work has opened up the area and markedly improved views from the picnic area across the lake.

In another notable scheme, brambles and other unsightly vegetation have been cleared from a large triangle of land next to the main car park and the green waste neatly corralled in a way that should prove a haven for wildlife.

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If Tuesdays is cutting and corralling, Sunday is definitely about cakes and confectionary. The hard-working Sunday volunteers operating the Boat House cafe enjoyed a successful 2013 in both raising the Friends’ profile and providing funds that are the group’s financial lifeblood.FNCP chairman Jeff Stimpson said: “The reliance on and gratitude towards the Sunday volunteers cannot be over estimated.”

Other highlights have seen work carried out by the Friends contribute to Newmillerdam’s Village In Bloom double gold success, Roger Parkinson receive a BEM and four Friends members recognised by Wakefield Council as “community champions.”

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Supported by the Tree Wardens, the Friends have carried out a survey among tree donors and park visitors to determine the preferred maintenance regime for the arboretum. From 171 responses, 114 felt access to the trees would be best served by cutting paths through the arboretum while leaving other areas uncut. That’s the regime to be adopted by the foresters.

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FNCP have forged stronger relationships with other organisations, notably Wakefield District Cycle Forum, which in a recent project has significantly improved the track from the main car park to the arboretum as part of the Wonders of Wakefield Cycle Trail.

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Elsewhere, the council has carried out major repairs and redecoration to the Boat House and Newmillerdam Community and Conservation Association has contributed to the re- establishment of the external lighting. Wakefield Angling Club has led on the restoration of fishing pegs, applied chalk to improve the water quality and introduced £4,000 worth of bream to the lake.

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Jeff said the progress made on the work programme was a testament to “the hard work, expertise and dedication of our volunteers and to the support given us by both the officers and councillors of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council.”