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February 2013


Chairman's message

661 words Many works and schemes funded through Harrow Council’s Green Grid initiative are coming to fruition now so as to be in place by the end of the financial year at the end of March. New rubbish bins are being installed at Newton Farm Ecology Park, Stanmore Country Park and Stanmore Common. At the last two sites these are being accompanied by picnic tables; these will go in 6 Acre Field at Stanmore Country Park and in the newly widened Witling Ride at Stanmore Common.

Also funded by the Green Grid is work to create a link between Brockley Hill Field and the main part of Stanmore Country Park. If one takes the gravel path running west from the pond in Brockley Hill Field one reaches a nice kissing gate, very short gravel path, and bridge over a ditch, all installed by Trimlock Fencing. From here one could bushwack northwest without too much difficulty to reach 40 Acre Pit, but the plan is to create a path running due west to the northeast corner of 40 Acre Field. This still requires both tree clearance and installation of a second kissing gate.

Two nature trails, at Stanmore Country Park and Bentley Priory, are funded by the Green Grid initiative but we are leading on the design and artwork. Most of this has been done but we still need to design the leaflets. Once all is done and the posts and information panels actually emplaced, we should try and arrange a formal opening with a Council dignitary and the press.

Two of our sites are being improved in projects paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The major clearance work at Bluebell Heath in Stanmore Common is now complete. The focus of the work now switches to the more subtle shaping of the site as it develops into what we hope will be a mix of heathland and acid grassland. Meanwhile clearance work at Furze Heath in Bentley Priory has begun, with significant amounts of scrub being cut out and burned. Clearance of bigger trees will occur in the winter of 2013-2014.

A larger Heritage Lottery Fund grant, to The Froglife Trust, is funding programmes to improve sites across the UK for reptiles and amphibians. Called “Dragon Finder” (see http://www1.froglife.org/dragonfinder.aspx) it is funding three projects on our sites: clearance to create an open ride joining 6 Acre Field and Upper Blue Pond Field in Stanmore Country Park; surveying Bentley Priory for Common Lizard, the only site in Harrow where this species has been recorded (that was in 2003); and isolating the toe of Boot Pond in Bentley Priory with a raised reed bed barrier to create a safe area for newts. These works should be done in 2015.

Meanwhile help may be at hand for Newton Farm Ecology Park. The Home Group, a social enterprise involved in the large housing development east of Newton Farm, has brought in an organization called Groundwork who in turn might bid for funds to improve the Park. Initially this initiative proceeded without much interaction with Claire McDermott and the other volunteers at Newton Farm, but Groundwork have rescheduled their next meeting to 6:30 PM on Wednesday 17 April (at The Beacon, Scott Crescent, HA2 0TY) in order that Claire can attend, so we keep our fingers crossed that a fruitful collaboration can occur.

Meanwhile, wardens and volunteers are continuing to work in all weathers maintaining and improving the sites. While our activities are usually focussed on our own sites, once a year we go to Gilbert’s Orchard at Grimsdyke to cut back bramble from the ancient fruit trees. This year only John Hollingdale, Margaret Huitson and myself turned up on January 27th, as it turned out the one nice day in a long period of snow and rain. For next year we need to advertise the event better via Hoi Polloi, a local organization supporting community orchards (see http://www.hoipolloi.btck.co.uk/) and at “Apple Day” at Grimsdyke hotel in October.

Steve Bolsover

Site reports

BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE AND ALL SAINTS CHURCHYARD

Jill Lewis reported that all was quiet florally as Spring has not yet started although the Hazel catkins are looking nice. However the Rev. James Mercer’s Forest School was going well and the children were enjoying it.

Betty reported that the joint Open Day, held on Sunday September 23rd, was very wet, so the planned outdoor programme had to be modified.

The wardens have asked that a new surface, for the path/s on this site, be part of next year’s Green Grid bid.

BENTLEY PRIORY

Work has started on the reopening of Furze Heath in the northeast of the site, which is good news for the flowers. This is being funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and will be spread over two years. 

A great job has been done of opening up the Spring area using Green Grid funds and there is only a small amount of work left to do.

Steve has produced an outline for the nature trail and some feedback has been received.

Peter was concerned about the type of fencing that would be used between the nature reserve and the new development at the former RAF Bentley Priory site.

Pochard and Goosander have included species seen and it was noted that Mistletoe was a plant that should be recorded.

Projects to be financed via the Dragon Finder Project and Froglife, include the improvement of Boot Pond for Amphibians, are planned to start in 2015.

An article from City and Country Group, who are restoring the Mansion, has appeared in the Friends Four Seasons Magazine and the Group will donate funds for survey and remedial work on the Master Oak.

NEWTON FARM ECOLOGY PARK

On the 9th of November 2012 Tom Mabey, Community Regeneration Officer with the Home Group (a local housing association), organised a meeting about Newton Farm.. Since neither Claire McDermott nor Steve could attend this meeting they met with Tom on November 8th to talk about the site. Tom is keen to involve “Groundwork”,  a 3rd sector organisation, in the site. This group has been involved in conservation work at Canons Park for several years. Ed.  He has scheduled another meeting for the afternoon of February 15th 2013; a time that he was fully aware made it impossible for Claire to attend again.

PEAR WOOD

Barn Owl and Bat boxes have successfully been put in place; the sites were decided after meetings between the wardens (Claire Abbott and Rosemary Etheridge) and ‘Land Use Consultants’.

At the end of September, one TCV day was used to repair the fence along Wood Lane. This had been postponed since spring and went well. The materials cost under £100.Another TCV day was used cutting back Holly at the east end of the Grimsdyke.

A Fungus Foray (the first in Pear Wood) was held for the Harrow Natural History Society on the 20th October. The attendance was good and it went well.

The annual cut was the worst job of mowing by far that has been done since the wardens took-on this site. Offers by the wardens to be present were regarded as unnecessary. The Guide Field was not supposed to be mowed as it is low nutrient acid grassland. In the event it was mown, and worse, it does not look like arisings were taken away. Efforts to rake and remove them by the wardens have proved largely impossible, due to the wet weather. The Scout field is also in a terrible state, badly cut-up and big chunks of mowing missed altogether. The Wardens are trying hard to encourage insects in these fields but these attempts have been hampered by the late cut.

John H. helped to clear the fallen tree that was blocking the entrance to the Scout Field and the wardens were grateful for his assistance..

Later this year, another area is going to be tried to site beehives.

A fence has now been put around the ruin (cottages). This had been requested when the wardens first took over so this is satisfactory.

The pitfall taps in the reserve for beetles and spiders have come up for the winter but will their use will resume in the spring. (It will be interesting to see the results. Ed.)

The video documentary about Pear Wood and the fight for the cottages and land around them is online on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2FHXWdQeU4&feature=plcp.

There has been the first sighting for many years of a Grasshopper Warbler.  Also fresh Barn Owl pellets have been found recently on Wood Farm and so it is really hoped that they will take up residence in the new boxes,

However the pile of rubbish, which had been inside the gate on Wood Lane since September, has still not been removed by Harrow Council.

In early November 2012 the wardens had a scare when a council press release stated that the Pear Wood Cottages enclave had been sold to the Wood Farm developer; however this appears to have been a council error.


ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that a TCV working party was planned for Sunday 20th January, but this was uncertain because of lack of TCV volunteers on that date.

Dave has been continuing with the regular cutting back of path borders. Additionally the mowing of missed edges following the annual cut has also been carried out. Regular litter-picking has continued too (14 wine bottles were collected on Sunday 13th January).

There were Mallards on the pond but these have now moved on.

The ditch and under path pipes have been cleared so paths have stayed clear of water. Water is standing in the large grass areas. The outfall pipe in the park is not flowing (blocked) and Dave Corby has been asked to look at this.

There are two outstanding issues from 2011. Firstly the fence over the ditch in the far corner needs repairing. Secondly the open drain has still not been covered with new railway sleepers.

An additional dog-free pond has been suggested and John Dobson agreed to work with Dave to determine a suitable site.


STANMORE COMMON

Simon reported that the work at Bluebell Heath was progressing well. The extra work on Flushing Wood should be finished by the end of January and the opening up of the area is looking good. The next stage will be to carry out a photo survey as soon as work is finished and then again when trees are in leaf using 18 photo points and 360degree photos. Botanical survey work will also take place.

The initial survey for the Nature Trail is planned for May with marking work starting in October.

A fish survey of Grove Ponds with a specialist aquatics centre is planned for winter/spring.

Simon is very happy with the work carried out through the Green Grid on opening Witling ride. Witling Marsh has been closed off to protect the mini habitat created by the vehicular damage.

On 12th December 2012, Simon Braidman, Peter Peretti and Steve Bolsover attended a meeting about street and walkway lighting at Warren Lane and Stanmore Common. Huma Pearce was present and discussed the bat survey she had done. The decision was that the remaining section of Wood Lane, that at present has no lights, would not be lit. The path from just east of the car park to Bentley Grove, which has a set of non-functional lamps already, would have new lights installed to make walking to the bus stop on the A4140 safer; these would be operated only during winter, defined as the period between the last Sunday in October and the last Sunday in March (this corresponds at present to the period outside British Summer Time.

Simon reported that following further discussion, (which the Forum was not party to)   there would be lighting of the entrance to West Lodge Drive to the entrance with Common Road from dusk to midnight all year round.

Simon reported that he has had two enquiries from people wanting to harvest wood and possibly Stanmore Country Park was a more suitable site for this. Dave Corby indicated that there was no objection provided that it was done properly with a risk assessment and written agreement etc.

The Annual Cut was very late on this reserve too and only compartment 17 was cut.   To compensate Steve Bolsover and David Bailey brushcut compartments 18 & 19 and the TCV raked the cut material up. The Bracken in compartment 17 has been sprayed once.

A Fungus Foray took place in September and a Bluebell Heath walk in November.

On the 31st October we started a new project the opening up a new clearing around Fox Earth Mound. English Heritage required that the mound be cleared of trees and most of the trees on the mound and in the surrounding ditch were felled, excepting 2 enormous Silver Birch and a magnificent older Hawthorn. The Aspen clump, near to the mound’s eastern edge, was likewise spared.  On completion of the work, a new clearing had been created adjoining an existing one which lies in the south west area of Mound Grove Compartment 8. A light path has been created surrounded by thick shelter belts.  Now, when the sun shines, the whole clearing glows like a bright torch.

A waterproof mammal shelter was created from brash just west of the work area.  The huge oak which skirts the south west edge of the new clearing was partially cleared of Holly all around it bringing it into more light and making it more of a feature but keeping the ivy, bramble and bracken complex extending from its eastern base.

Following on the TCV started a another new project to reopen overgrown miniclearings along what was called Furze path now renamed in its north to south straight section as The Hawthorn’s Walk. On compartment 22, Holly and Yew were targeted as they are very invasive. This work was continued by our volunteers.  An area was scraped just off the ride to the east; brash was stacked high to create a windshield around the scrape. It is hoped grassland may invade the scrape. At the same time a very large Turkey Oak was felled to produce a hole in the canopy just to the east of the southern entrance to the Hawthorns walk creating a narrow corridor into Stonefly Wood.

Steve Bolsover has surveyed the proposed link path along the pond system east of Stanmore Common, connecting with the London Loop. Opening of this loop is part of the Green Grid plan, however to date it has not been possible to discover who legally occupies the land and on what basis.

Species seen on the site included a Treecreeper in Witling Glade, Hare’s Ear fungus  Otidea onotica and the Western Polypody Fern; also two grass snakes.


STANMORE COUNTRY PARK


Mark Davis has expressed an interest in helping manage the site and John showed him around the reserve. Marion and Norman Sartin have been regulars at the monthly Wednesday morning work parties.

In Lower Forty Acre Field the grass cut in October, which was too late in the year, resulted in very deep ruts made by the vehicle collecting the arisings. Also the gate post was removed by same operators and has not been replaced; this is the 3rd time over the years that this has occurred. 

John has completed the annual brushcut in John Hall’s Field.

In Upper Blue Pond Field parties of The Conservation Volunteers are removing Birch in order to connect this field with John Hall’s Field. The work should be completed by the time you read this.

In Hilly Field more Birch is being removed to recreate the open area with the help of Marian and Norman Sartin, Mark and Simon’s volunteers. On the plus side, the wet weather has made the pulling up of bramble, gorse, holly etc a lot easier.

In Six Acre Field, the working parties have removed suckers and overhanging branches from the Aspen grove; also path edges have been cut back.

Following the annual cut by Harrow Council, the arisings were not collected in Spinney and Spring Fields due to the wet state of the ground.

In Spring Field the pile of rubbish has finally been collected by the Council after threats were made to involve the local Councilors. Also the vegetation around a London Loop signpost has been cleared so that it can be seen again.

A path has been cleared into Butterfly Field too. One green corrugated roofing panel has been purchased (from Wickes) which will be divided into four and used as refugia here.

The route of the new Nature Trail has been planned and a draft document circulated by Steve and it has been proof read by a small party walking the route.

Howard Matthews came and showed us where 7 species of fern are to be found; one unique to Harrow. It is intended to try to expand biological recording in the country park this year.

Dave Corby and John have mapped out the route of the path from the Brockley Hill field extension into Lower Forty Acre field. Two TCV days will be booked together with a contractor for the tree work to create this path. Following the completion of this work, the car park adjoining the extension would be opened by the Council on a regular basis and the situation will be monitored.

Steve and John will explore the newly acquired areas, recording the boundary using GPS and it is hoped that access to these fields could qualify for Green Grid funding.

There have been no developments regarding management of the Country Park extension.

Regarding grazing John is to contact a grazier and when plans are agreed, Dave Corby will ensure the field was stock proof and that the water trough was in place.


STANMORE LITTLE COMMON AND BREWERY PONDS


It was reported that the work on the overhanging branches and clearance work at Caesar’s pond has been carried out, the pond has been cleared and wind is now coming through.

There have been no problems this year on the ponds during the Autumn religious festival season.


Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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