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July 2014

Chairman's message

I have been busy since the last newsletter but it has been a nice balance of paperwork and physical work on the sites. At Bentley Priory I’ve been one of a group of workers creating the protection system around the Master Oak that has been paid for by the Friends of Bentley Priory Nature Reserve. An inner metal guard that an excellent band of volunteers erected on April 1st runs around the trunk, while an outer wooden fence, with metal mesh to keep out dogs but with holes large enough to allow hedgehogs through, protects the whole extent of the canopy but provides a walkway along which one can get to the inner guard and touch the tree through it. The next step is to hire a chipper and chop up some unwanted holly and other trees to create a mulch to lay on this access walkway, to prevent the ground being compacted and damaging the roots, and also, by making the substrate wet and soggy, make the lighting of fires less attractive. We’ll wait until September before doing this. Meanwhile Linda Robinson and the Friends will finalize the design of an information panel and then get it installed.

I’ve sat in on meetings of a seeming multitude of committees, but many are very useful in binding the work of volunteers, council officers and council workers more closely together. The Green Grid scheme continues to enhance the borough with work in our reserves, in many other parks and open spaces, and in the streets and paths connecting these spaces. The 2013-2014 program included an extension of the Pynding Mersc boardwalk at Stanmore Common and the installation of information panels and rubbish bins at Bentley Old Vicarage. Items for 2014-2015 include a new picnic table and work to inhibit fly tipping at Newton Farm, draining a boggy patch on the nature trail at Stanmore Country Park, providing a bridge over the stream on the path up to Scouts’ Field and Pear Wood, and improving the path through Roxbourne Park that connects the car park and the southwest gate of Roxbourne Rough.

Michael Bradshaw and his team at Drainage at the council have already done great work into rewilding some of Harrow’s streams, with the meanders of the Pinn south of the Harrow Arts Centre probably the most successful. He has now commissioned Hyder Consulting to look at our suggestion of diverting the Yeading Brook East through a reed bed in the wet meadow at Newton Farm. This would both create a welcome wetland environment and help clean up the water. However this stream is one of the most polluted in the borough (correspondents to local papers have spoken of its stink as it runs through Newton Park West) so such a project would have to go hand in hand with a concerted effort to replumb incorrect domestic foul water connections upstream, which in turn runs into the problem of “beds in sheds”. However it does look as if the Council is serious about attacking this problem.

The watercourses in the north of the borough are less troubled by such urban problems, so it was worrying to hear that brown rats had taken up residence at Spring Pond on Stanmore Little Common and at Pear Wood Lake. The council’s pest controller has set traps at Spring Pond, and I hope that the problem there has been dealt with.

We welcome Maya and Frazer Dodwell as assistant wardens at Stanmore Country Park. They will look after the western part of the reserve - up to and including post 13 on the nature trail. This gives them responsibility for areas with a lot of scope for modification and improvement, such as Cloisters Field at the north west tip, but they also inherit problems with homeowners on Dennis Lane. Their contact details are on the website. Meanwhile I’m very happy that John Hollingdale is back hale and hearty after a spell in hospital to look after the eastern part of Stanmore Country Park including the open grasslands of Upper Blue Pond Field, John Hall’s Field and 40 Acre Field. The legal problems that seemed likely to prevent us putting cattle on 40 Acre Field have now been resolved, so now we need to go ahead and find some cattle.

Wood Farm, north of Stanmore Country Park, should be returned to Council control soon. The hope is that we can set up a management committee similar to that at Bentley Priory which will keep a close eye on the £450,000 section 106 money provided to manage the area in its first ten years. On July 8th Dave Corby OK’ed the press release we had created so I immediately sent it to the Harrow Observer which had already posted a story about Wood Farm on their website; I was very pleased to see in the print edition that came out on July 10th that they had updated the web article with some of the information that we had given, including the fact that we were looking to recruit a voluntary warden and contact details so that potential volunteers could get in touch. On July 9th I put up a number of laminated posters around Stanmore Country Park and Wood Farm with the same information. Meanwhile Denis Vickers has been authorized to recruit a consultant to generate a management plan for the whole of Greater Stanmore Country Park, that is Stanmore Country Park as is, Pear Wood including Scouts’, Guides’ and 10 Acre Fields, Brockley Hill Field and Wood Farm. The present wardens will be major contributors to generating this plan which once created will mean that they are not working in a void but know what should, at least in a perfect world, be done to maintain and improve the sites.

Two grant proposals that we were waiting on have been funded. The Home Group has been awarded £9,900 to increase volunteering at Newton Farm. If we can persuade them to work with the voluntary warden, Simon Thomas, this will be great; if they ignore us, it will be money wasted. Meanwhile we have been awarded £4,250 from Harrow Council to support our work in the 2014-2015 financial year. One of the items funded by our small grant in the 2013-2014 financial year was a pull-up banner describing all our sites. This is at present doing the rounds of Harrow libraries; from 14th July through 26th July it should be at Rayner’s Lane library, and from then until August 9th it should be at Pinner library. Do please look out for it and tell me if the leaflet display needs topping up.

Steve Bolsover

Site reports


BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE AND ALL SAINTS CHURCHYARD

Rev James Mercer reported that the pond has now been in for a year and the pond life included Molluscs, Tadpoles and Pond Skaters. The regular monthly working parties have continued.

Through the Green Grid Project the following work has been carried out:
The Forest School was currently being used by 50 to 60 children per week and they were using the whole of the site (the wildflower meadow has now been lost in the sale of the Bentley Day Centre). Betty has again contacted the Council to ensure that the access from the old Day Centre site is retained in any development.

Betty also reported that there would be no Open Day this year and the Committee would concentrate on organising walks to firstly improve their own knowledge. Jane Skelly was welcomed to the meeting as she would be taking over as secretary after the next AGM.

Betty also reported that the Harrow Natural History Society would have a stall at the Harrow in Leaf Show on Sunday 24th August (a joint stall with the local group of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust). Betty regretted the increase in paper work needed.

Jill Lewis reaffirmed how pleased they were with the Notice Boards and passed on their thanks to all involved with them.

BENTLEY PRIORY

No report received

NEWTON FARM ECOLOGY PARK

It was reported that the Big Lottery Fund application from Home Group concerning Newton Farm was successful (£9900). The most recent, incomplete version of the application that we have seen was circulated. It was agreed that Steve will contact the Home Group to try to ensure a greater degree of cooperation. There is a constant problem with fly tipping. The following steps were proposed to reduce this problem using Green Grid financing
  1. Fencing along Newton Close. Newton Close, a residential street, runs immediately south of Newton Farm and is separated from it by a medium height fence. This is a favourite site for medium grade fly tipping: a vehicle can stop by the side of the road and material thrown over the fence. The whole length of this boundary, from the fences of the flats on Alexandra Avenue to the west to the fences of private houses in Newton Close on the east, needs to be secured with a metal meshwork fence high enough to prevent material being thrown over.
  2. Entrance from Alexandra Avenue. At present there is no barrier at all to prevent vehicles entering Newton Farm from Alexandra Avenue. This is a favourite route for more industrial fly tipping, for example of building rubble: vehicles drive in and tip well inside the park area. There used to be a five bar gate here, we suspect that it was removed by workmen upgrading the culverted stream (Yeading Brook East) and never replaced. So far we have failed to persuade Public Realm to reinstate this gate. If Green Grid funds were used, then a really secure barrier should be installed, perhaps a rising bollard.
  3. Entrance from Rayners Lane car park. At present the main 5 bar gate is intact, but the kissing gate has been removed to allow pushbikes to cycle through easily. If the entrance from Alexandra Avenue were made more secure then the 5 bar gate on this side would likely be broken through to allow vehicular fly tipping. The whole gate and fence system needs to be replaced with a metal structure of attractive and unobtrusive design. We do not want to make it difficult for pushbikes to use this route through to Alexandra Avenue, so perhaps a squeeze stile could be included that allows easy passage for pushbikes but blocks motor bikes.
  4. Pedestrian entrances from Priest Park Avenue and Newton Close. Bollards have been installed here to prevent wheelbarrows full of rubbish being pushed in. This is an improvement, but these entrances are still used for significant fly tipping (we have pictures of the piles of plastic bags full of rubbish found here if needed). For example at the Priest Park Avenue entrance the wooden gate has been taken off its hinges and moved to one side; presumably to facilitate relay-fashion handing in of bags to dump inside the park. Both entrances should have metal kissing gates large enough to allow strollers to enter but not large enough for wheelbarrows.
  5. New bench and table near the pond. The old one was vandalised and is unusable; a new one would have to be vandal-proof. The picnic table was popular with local residents and a new one would increase the park’s attraction for families and other local residents. We suggest using a concrete construction rather than the wooden stile used at Stanmore Common and Stanmore Country Park.
Matthew Patterson, Sally Reeves and Simon Thomas met on site on 28th May 2014 to look at these ideas. Simon reported that item 1 would not come under the Green Grid. It was agreed that a gate would be put in at the Alexandra Avenue entrance; the entrance from Newton Close will be closed and that the picnic table be replaced.

Involvement with local schools has continued and a group from Alexandra School had gone pond dipping (disappointingly not a lot of pond life was found compared to previous years). The school will be coming back in June for Volunteer week.

The Grass is growing quickly and the paths need to be mowed regularly. This will be raised at the meeting with Council Officers.

This year Simon will try to set up regular working parties and every other week at the weekend will be suggested to the Home Group.

PEAR WOOD

Claire reported that a TCV day has been held at the end of January to carry out some Hazel coppicing, next year this needs to be done earlier as the Bluebells were already showing. The coppicing each year is producing a varied habitat and the Bluebells are thriving. Another TCV day was held to tackle the Bracken on the Grimsdyke. The day was successful and another visit is booked for 6 weeks time.

A bat box inspection has been carried out. Claire and two people from Land Use Consultants (LUC) checked the boxes put up in mitigation of the work at Wood Farm; so far no boxes have been used.

A query has been received from an Entomology Consultancy about moving Wood ant nests. These are in Staffordshire and we will be advising them and they will be visiting Pear Wood this weekend.

Part of a Wood ants’ nest (part of the mother nest at the Royal National Orthopaedic site) was cleared by road cleaning contactors. It was agreed to raise the matter with Council Officers at the meeting tomorrow.

Rats have been reported at the lake by fishermen. This is the first time ever and may be due to the work at Wood Farm.

Regarding SSSI status, the proposal was to carry out a standardised survey relating to the saproxylic invertebrates. Two estimates gave a figure of about £4000. It was too late to start the wok this year as grants would need to be applied for. Another estimate will be obtained.

Rosemary has given two talks on Grasses, one to the Harrow Natural History Society and the other to the Friends of Bentley Priory and there will be walk on “ Grasses, Rushes and Sedges” at Pear Wood on June 14th meeting at 10.30 am at the Wood Lane entrance to Pear Wood.

ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that during January flooding of the path by the rail line was a problem. An old sleeper was placed on the back of the path for people to walk on. Drain and ditch clearing was carried out and the work on the path started. During February work on the path was halted due to the weather and more sleepers were put on the path as the water rose. A new path was dug out and 2 new pipes were put in under the path. Work continued on keeping the ditches cleared. In March the path work was resumed. Dave expressed concern about the safety of the exit at the top of the steps and this will be raised with Council Officers. In April the leaflet box was moved to a better site by the Information Board. Cutting back work also continued. In May the path edges were cut and also the areas around the seats. Cutting back work continued and more path stone was used to level up where the water has washed the soil away. Litter clearance continued as always.

The pollarded Willows are putting on fantastic growth. The pond was discussed; apparently someone has been fishing out tadpoles to feed their fish! The question of fencing the pond was raised but it was felt that this would be vandalised. John Dobson will be consulted about an appropriate the site for an additional pond.

STANMORE COMMON

It was reported that a Terrapin has been recorded in Great Brewers Pond, this is not good news and the matter was discussed and will be further researched. There is also a good old apple tree by the pond.

Regarding the Bats and lighting, it was reported that the lighting has been installed. It is LED lighting which according to Huma Pearce, the bat consultant has lower impact on bats. There are notices giving the lighting-up times which are as agreed after the meeting on the 3rd December 2012.

The issue of inappropriate behaviour around the car park area was again raised. Amongst other initiatives Simon has also left a message with Canons ward Safer Neighbourhood team. The mess that is left behind is a real problem.

Simon reported that he had had a series of email conversations with a horse owner from stables in Bushey regarding the state of the Horse Ride on Stanmore Common and Harrow Weald Common. This matter will be further discussed with Council Officers but is unlikely to qualify for Green Grid Funding.

Bluebell Heath Work

We completed the raking off of the northern belt and one of the bare earth banks adjacent to New Heath. We also removed Holly from Flushing Wood. We cleared dead Bracken and saplings off of parcel 4 – The Orchid field and Holly off New Heath and did the same to Parcels 8,9 and 10. We also layered branches from the old apple tree and seed has germinated from collected apples. We started pulling saplings from New Heath. New Bracken growth has come up and has been controlled from the bare earth banks behind New Heath, and the Orchid Field.

There were 3 guided walks covering Bluebell Heath. A moss walk took place on the 1st March with 9 people, a big thanks to Rosemary Etheridge and Agneta Burton for their identification skills. There was also a guided walk with St. Albans U3A on 11th April with 9 people attending and a third on the following day with 19 people. We started the Bluebell Heath Bat Survey and have done 2 visits so far. The data needs analysis. Total work hours are 175 since 14th Jan 2014. Work is needed on the nature trail and plant surveying must start with the orchid count.

Non Bluebell Heath Work

On 22nd Jan we cleared Holly and preserved wetland features in Holly Wood, returning there on the 2nd, 5th Feb, 30th March and 2nd April. We also cleared small trees west of Oakmead on 2nd Feb. We returned to Oakmead on 16th March and 2nd April, clearing dead Bracken and leaf litter. On 19th Feb we worked in Hollybrook Rise clearing dead Bracken and grass thatch and created potential Grass Snake habitat, we returned to Hollybrook Rise on the 28th May and brushcut and slashed and raked new Bracken and saplings. Holly was controlled north of Cerrisland. Rhododendron was controlled south of Oakmead. On 13th April a new project was started to create canopy holes and Holly clearance west of New Heath. This work was continued all the way through April and May. On the 18th April the Great Brewer’s Pond Bat survey started. There have been 3 visits so far. On 30th April we started the Pynding Mersc Bat survey but we had intense interference and poor quality recording. Is this from the new estate? On 16th April John Dobson was training one of our newest volunteers Ciara Segrue when they found a whole pink flowered carpet of the very rare ancient woodland indicator Coralroot Bittercress Cardamine bulbifera. On 25th May we had 18 scouts from Wembley and Mill Hill, they climbed trees and went hand over hand on a rope between trees and they also helped a bit with the footbridge repair over the Holly Brook plus they removed saplings from Witling Marsh. They had a really good time. Total hours since14th Jan: 350 hours approx. Jane Skelly and students from Harrow College are testing water quality at Stanmore Common and elsewhere. There are plenty of Stonefly larvae in a section of Tykes Water that Simon looked at.

Other news

Wildlife sightings

5 grass Snake sightings including 3 in 1 day. 3 were almost certainly of the same individual in the same location (Cerrisland)

Tawny Owl heard calling on bat survey nights

Bank Voles x 2 seen by Holly Brook

Frog tadpoles in Pynding Mersc

Yeading Brook

We have 2 sites along the Yeading Brook where testing for Riverfly larvae and water quality is being carried out. This is a citizen science project run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)/London Wildlife Trust (LWT) and Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE). The sites are Headstone Manor Recreation Ground and Newton Park West. The test team is Neville Day, Simon Braidman, Jane Skelly and John Dobson.

Grove Ponds

Steve Bolsover reported that he has contacted Grove Farm showing an interest in the the management of the western pond but no reply has been received. Cllr Sue Anderson agreed to try and identify people who use the stables and who might therefore be useful contacts.

STANMORE COUNTRY PARK

John reported that the regular working parties have cleared Ash saplings from the main path that leads up to Spring Field and clearing the circular path at the east end of 40 acre field. Steve Bolsover has also carried out some brush cutter training on the site.

The Spring Walk on 26th April went well, with the Bluebells at their best including on the path cleared by the TCV into the new meadow. National Moth Night will be celebrated on 4th July commencing at 9.30 for 10pm.

Finally Marian, Norman, and Assistant wardens Maya and Frazer were thanked for their help on the site. Maya Dodwell was welcomed to the meeting. She reported that she has been dealing with an issue of garden rubbish that had been deposited there by some Dennis Lane residents. She also has ideas for enhancing the Country Park.

The hard core added to the steps by the car park is a big improvement.

However the Kissing gate from Brockley Hill remains locked by the golf club and this problem will be further discussed with Council Officers. The Environment Agency has strimmed the bank by the car park for no known reason and this will also be pursued.

In late May on Wood Farm Whitethroats were heard calling and late singles of both Orange Tip and Peacock butterflies were seen. An attractive patch of Hoary Cress was noted, this has not been recorded in the existing Country Park. However the highlight was the large numbers of Burnet Companion moths seen everywhere: over 50; very unusual.

STANMORE LITTLE COMMON AND BREWERY PONDS

Robert Stone reported that following the dredging and the Council’s clearance of Parrot’s Feather and Broad-leaved Pondweed in Caesar’s Pond, the pond was looking good. The Broad-leaved Pondweed has come back but that is fine. Robert raised the problem of the Brown Rats on Spring Pond. The issue of who will pay for their clearance will be raised at the meeting with Council Officers on the 4th June. There are currently no Mallards on Spring Pond but there are Coots on eggs in the southwest corner.


Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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