Harrow Nature Conservation Forum
February 2009

Chairman's message

The last few months of 2008 saw a lot of clearance work on Stanmore Common. This included Mitzvah day on November 16th, when a large party of children from Kol Chai Hatch End Jewish school worked hard in two of the clearings and seemed to enjoy themselves. All this work produced several enormous mounds of brushwood which David Bailey then returned on later weekdays to burn. The result has been the uncovering, and subsequent greening up, of several heather bushes that would not have survived much longer underthe shade of the encroaching brush.

In November 2008 we heard that the Secretary of State had “called in” the application for housing on Wood Farm for a local enquiry. This is a testament to the hard work that Carole Lis has put in in fighting the Council every step of the way. We now look to Carole to tell us what our next steps in this campaign should be.

Council staff have promised a number of actions that will improve our sites, but to my knowledge none has materialized as yet. These actions include installing wooden bollards along Warren Lane to prevent off-road parking, installing a stile to allow access to Stanmore Country Park from the Brockley Hill housing development and installing new rubbish bins at the Stanmore Common car park. We will have to nag until they become a reality.

Steve Bolsover


Site reports

ALL SAINT'S CHURCHYARD

Jill Lewis reported barking deer had been heard. Primroses and lesser celandines had been seen in November possibly brought on by the security lights. There was a difficulty about providing a grit bin because although members of the public used the path it was not a public highway.

BELMONT LINE

It was reported that a lot of clearing had been done and it looked much better. The litter situation has also improved.

A dog bin was urgently needed at the southern end and also a sign naming this path.

BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE

Betty Brown reported that a working party in January had carried out a lot of clearance work.

There have been no recent problems with vandalism probably because of the recent cold weather. Monitoring was arranged with Day Centre staff. Unfortunately the new assistant warden appeared to have gone.

BENTLEY PRIORY

Peter Peretti reported that the regular rotation work has been carried out over the six main areas. There was a tractor on site today cutting bramble. Five tractor sessions were needed every year to keep the bramble in the cleared woodland areas in check.

Coppicing has been carried out on the northwest shore of Summerhouse lake.

Peter reported that he had been approached by a number of people who wanted to keep bees and the possibility of an enclosed area on all sites that could be used for beehives or scientific research was discussed.

The issue of the high numbers of people using Bentley Priory was raised. The reserve was used by a wide range of species of birds and was particularly useful to northward migrating birds feeding on Hornbeam seeds. Because of the high use of the reserve by dog walkers it was felt that the only way to protect certain areas would be to cordon them off.

Carole Lis reported that the deadline for the Section 106 money (£250,000) to be spent on greenbelt was November of this year. Carole will try to get more information on this.

Tony Lovegrove was welcomed as an assistant voluntary warden for Bentley Priory. He and Elizabeth Stainthorpe had been looking at the fungi on the reserve. Amongst others yellow wax caps have been seen and reported to the National Trust.

PEAR WOOD

Claire Abbott thanked Dave Corby for organising the mowing of the Guide and Scout fields. In particular this encourages the woodpeckers. She would like it to be carried out each year.

Claire was pleased to report that the problem of sewage seepage has now been fixed.

At the beginning of December a good, well-attended BTCV day had reinstated neglected paths and cut back holly where it was shading bluebells.

Claire reported that she was in touch with a scout leader with a view to scouts carrying out coppicing as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Bob Hopkins of the Herts. and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) will be returning to work on the dyke on the 5th Feb and has promised to bring 10 volunteers.

Claire also reported that a kingfisher had stayed for about 3 weeks in late summer.

STANMORE LITTLE COMMON

Kate Lewis was again thanked for her help with the litter situation which she and Robert Stone are keeping under control by collecting 3 to 4 bags a week. The amount of litter increased with the start of the rugby season. The litter bins had been repaired and were being collected.

Robert reported that that some of the new residents to the area had volunteered to help. As there was not a great need for them at Little Common is was suggested they might like to help on Stanmore Common. A bird survey at Stanmore Common would be very useful as Simon Braidman does not have time to carry one out.

STANMORE COMMON

Simon Braidman reported that 12 working parties and 5 BTCV days have carried out a lot of work. The annual cut has been carried out.

Work has been carried out on every clearing and some are in a very satisfactory state. Clearing 18 is in very good condition as it has been cleared by hand. Simon was concerned about Clearing 20 as the machine cut has caused it to lose some of its structural complexity. There are only about 6 orchid spikes remaining (heath spotted orchids). The experts from Kew may be able to give advice on the situation. Orchid numbers can go in cycles and there were about 10 spikes in the middle 1980’s which increased to 100’s which have now gone. It may help to remove the dead hedge which may be adding nutrients through water runoff. Maybe more trampling is needed.

Simon reported that the heather regeneration in clearing 21 had been very successful within 8 months of reseeding. Because of the management sedges and rushes and large numbers of foxgloves have appeared. In all, every department shows improvement.

On the 16th Nov a Jewish school sent 20 volunteers who had a good day. Eastcote Scout group will also be having a working day on the site.

It was reported that a kingfisher had again been seen on Brewery pond.

STANMORE COUNTRY PARK

John Hollingdale reported that two BTCV working parties had taken place clearing gorse and birch and another one was planned for Sun 25th January. He was following up the work days by removing the stumps. Kate Lewis was thanked for her continuing work on litter. She had introduced a bin at the Kerry Ave entrance which was cleared regularly by the warden.

ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that the regular hay cut had taken place. A contractor with a tractor and cutter had worked for a day carrying out a hard, cutting back of scrub. More was achieved than could normally be done in a year and no clearing up was needed. On the same day the hay was raked and baled. This was successful and Dave Bolton requested that Dave Corby arrange for this to be carried out each year (i.e. for the Council to offer the tractor for one day every year with the hay cutting) The bales were collected a few days later by which time one had been broken which Dave Bolton had to clear up. He reported that the reserve had greened up nicely after the cut.

Work had also been carried out on four work days: grass cut to path edges, cutting back trees and clearing ditches. By December the pond had filled up for the first time. Five further monthly work days have been planned.

It was reported that nothing has happened about the repairs to the steps.

Dave was pleased to report that he had received a complement on the immaculate state of the reserve.


Open House 2009

We have been asked to advertise the 2009 Open House event, which will be on the weekend of 19th-20th September 2009. This is the Europe-wide event at which otherwise closed buildings are open to the public. Last year the opening of Bentley Priory house under this scheme was extremely popular and allowed us to advertise our reserves to a wide public.

The organizers are asking for suggestions of buildings that might open for visitors this year, and are also looking for volunteers to act as guides to the buildings that will open. If you can help, or have a suggestion, contact "Open House" at admin@openhouse.org.uk.


Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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