Saint's church and yard
Old Vicarage Nature Reserve is a small site lying north of All Saints'
Church on the Uxbridge Road in Harrow Weald. Together with the
churchyard of All Saints’ Church to its immediate south it
forms a quiet oasis off this busy road. The post code is HA3 6DH.
Where the reserve is now was the vicarage of All Saints’
Church, built along with the church itself in 1848. The vicarage fell
out of use in 1924 and was finally demolished in 1955. A few of the
trees on the site now are relicts of the vicarage garden while most
have grown up since that time. In 1987 a group of volunteers took over
the site and were soon sponsored by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife
Trust. The site is now managed by volunteers from the Harrow Nature
All Saint's churchyard is maintained for wildlife by Jill Lewis, the
Lay Reader at the church. In spring look for flowers of primroses
(Primula vulgaris) lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) and wood
anemone (Anemone nemorosa). In summer among many other wildflowers you
may notice the reddish flowers of Great hairy and Rose-bay willow-herbs
(Epilobium hirsutum, E. angustifolium), the yellow creeping cinquefoil
(Potentilla reptans), meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) and ragwort
(Senecio jacobaea) and the blue common vetch (Vicia sativa). White is
also represented, by meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and the
ten-rayed flowers of lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).
Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is also in bloom, although its
familiar dry brown seeds are more prominent.
The chuch itself is the work of the prolific and controversial
Victorian architect William Butterfield, most famous now for Keble
College, Oxford. He was responsible for both the original building,
dedicated in 1849, and the 1890 enlargements which included the elegant
side steeple. The interior has interesting items including a stained
glass window by the great preRaphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones.
Access to the church is possible by prior arrangement with the Parish
Office tel 020 8954 8865 (Monday-Friday 9 - 12) or by email to Jill
Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org
To the right of the church porch lie the burial plots of the Crosse
family and the Blackwell family. Crosse and Blackwell, now best known
for foodstuffs, made their money making bricks and tiles. The house
called “The Kiln” and the adjacent plant nursery on
Common Road in Stanmore was the site of one of their enterprises. The
Blackwell family in particular were great benefactors to the local
community. Passing these plots and continuing straight ahead one finds
the entrance to the woodland nature reserve.
The nature reserve itself is a quiet area of woodland dominated by oak
and ash. The reserve is rich in woodland bird species. In winter mixed
parties of tits, including tiny and lovely long-tailed tits, forage in
the trees, constantly calling to each other. In summer listen for the
drumming of great spotted woodpeckers. Kestrels have nested in the
church tower most years, and can be seen trying, unsuccessfully, to
drive away crows, magpies and jays.
to look out for
Ivy (Hedera helix) romps over most of the ground and most of the trees.
Notice how the leaves on the ground have the familiar five-lobed shape,
while above the ground the leaves on free branches have a completely
different, simple rhombic shape. The white flowers (October-November,
see image at left) and black fruits form only on these high branches.
In the butterfly meadow note the large clumps of pendulous sedge (Carex
Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is blooming in the wood. Where the rough
path to the butterfly meadow leads off from the main loop look for
flowers of the winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans).
In the wood snowdrops are still flowering, and are joined by the blue
Chionodoxa, a garden flower that may be a relict of the vicarage. All
through the wood the wide, triangular leaves of Lords-and-Ladies (Arum
maculatum) are pushing up and for a month or so form the dominant
A number of gean (wild cherry, Prunus avium) are also in bloom. Cow
parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is growing through the leaves of
Lords-and-Ladies and now becomes the dominant ground cover in the wood
as the trees begin to leaf.
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is in bloom and hawthorn
(Crataegus) is lovely at the edge of the butterfly meadow. From the
butterfly meadow one can also see two apple trees in bloom, probably
relicts of the vicarage garden. Under the trees the cow parsley is in
bloom, together with bluebells (Endymion non-scriptus), violets (Viola
riviniana) and Lords-and-Ladies.
The butterfly meadow is glorious with elder (Sambucus nigra) and dog
rose (Rosa canina) in bloom along the edges and red clover (Trifolium
pratense) crowfoot (Ranunculus repens) and tormentil (Potentilla
anglica) in the grass.
summer under the trees
Most of the flowering at ground level is now over as the trees come
into full leaf and shade out the lower plants. Herb Robert (Geranium
robertianum) and Wood avens (Geum urbanum, like tormentil, a member of
rose family that looks like a buttercup) continue to flower from June
onward, and are joined in July by the tiny white flowers of Enchanters
Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana). Bright red fruits of Lords-and-Ladies
stand on stalks that are now isolated, all the leaves having died back.
Even the cow parsley dies back, leaving the ivy once more as the
dominant ground cover. Clumps of Male Fern (Dryopteris felix-mas) can
be seen in many spots.
Map above reproduced by permission of Geographers' A-Z Map Co. Ltd.
(c)Crown Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Licence number 100017302.
of note in the area
The frontage of this fine Grade 2 listed house can be seen well from
the Uxbridge Road. Built to serve traffic on both the Pinner-Uxbridge
and Harrow-Bushey roads, this was built in the early 18th century and
had the traditional if prosaic name of the Nag's Head. In the early
19th century it was converted to a private house, called Harrow Weald
Lodge, and later to offices.
of William Leefe Robinson
At the southern tip of the churchyard extension is the grave of William
Leefe Robinson, awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in shooting
down a Zeppelin over Enfield during the first world war. He died in the
great influenza epidemic of 1918.
to find the reserve
The reserve is at the back of the Bentley Day Centre in Uxbridge Road,
Harrow Weald and is reached through the churchyard of All
Saints’ Church - see the access route on the map at the top
of the page. The 340 and H12 busses run along the Uxbridge Road, while
the 258 and 182 pass very close. There is no dedicated car park but
parking is possible on local streets. There's no specific meeting point; the site is so small that you will be able to find the team by wandering in.