Harrow Nature Conservation Forum
June 2009

Chairman's message

There is quite a lot to report, most of it good. First, we are very pleased to welcome James Mercer as the new warden of Bentley Old Vicarage Nature Reserve. James is vicar of the adjoining All Saints’ Church. There has always been a close working relationship between the reserve and the church, whose churchyard is maintained by Jill Lewis as a natural oasis full of grassland flowers, and James’ acceptance of the wardenship of the woodland reserve deepens this.

In May three of us, Joyce Staines, Jill Lewis and David Bailey, attended a one day first aid course run by the Red Cross in Harrow. It is unlikely that their training will ever be called upon, but it is clearly a good idea to be ready for such accidents as might occur on our working parties.

In March 2009 Councillor Susan Hall agreed that we could use 2,268 pounds of the section 106 money given by B A Systems for maintenance and improvement of the Green Belt to build a fence in Heriot’s Wood in Bentley Priory. The fence will prevent free-running dogs from disturbing the finches and other birds that feed on the forest floor in winter months. We have ordered the materials and the first stage of the work will be carried out by corporate volunteers from G. E. Money on June 9th and 12th 2009.

Harrow Weald Common is outside our direct purlieu but we welcome the decision by the Dave Corby and the Conservators to go ahead with a nature trail. Betty Brown, Elizabeth Satinthorpe and Eve Crispe of the Harrow Natural History Society helped plan the route, which starts opposite the car park and follows a curving route through woodland and rhododendron to cross the hotel driveway at the gateway to the hotel gardens, then runs to the cottages, along the main path as far as Len's Avenue, up Len's Avenue to Common Road, then turns sharp right and heads back to the Case is Altered. Dave would welcome suggestions for text and artwork for the information boards: these would have a banner text of perhaps 30 words followed by about 50 to 70 words of explanatory text in a smaller font. He will pay 100 pounds for each noticeboard so generated, so contact him at dave.corby@harrow.gov.uk, tel 020 8424 1758, if you can help.

On May 4th 2009 Martin Verden and I manned a joint Harrow Heritage Trust and Harrow Nature Conservation Forum stall at the Mayday fair at Headstone Manor, which was a great success and showcased the now repaired bridge over the refilled moat. Thanks are due to all those who helped during the day. We handed out a lot of leaflets, so hopefully this will bring in more visitors to appreciate the sites.

The idea of visitors appreciating our sites brings me to the last and less happy topic. A number of our sites are being damaged by behaviours ranging from the thoughtless (allowing dogs off the leash, damaging the grass with disposable barbecues) to deliberate vandalism. All wardens will have their own ideas on what constitutes a problem, and how to deal with problems, but I suggest that in most cases the first act should be to talk to the people concerned – but have a mobile phone in your pocket to call 999 if things turn nasty. Many visitors will be unaware that their behaviour is illegal or damaging, and even if a desire not to lose face leads them to be rude to your face, they may well behave better on future visits. Nevertheless it is clear that some sites do have a problem with true antisocial behaviour, particularly the area around Brewers Ponds in Stanmore Common, the worst incident being the discovery of parts of a butchered deer. The Canons Safer Neghbourhoods Scheme have promised to look in on this area on their patrols, so we must hope that they have some impact on the problem.

Steve Bolsover


Site reports

ALL SAINT'S CHURCHYARD

Jill Lewis reported that the churchyard had looked lovely in spring. The Goldilocks and orchid were particularly exciting. A fawn had been seen hiding. Dave Corby reported that a fully grown deer and fawn have been seen and it was suspected that they have escaped from the deer park but it appeared that they were doing well.

BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE

Betty Brown reported that the Rev James Mercer has agreed to be the new warden of the Bentley Old Vicarage reserve and he was welcomed to the meeting. Joanne Coulltard, a field biologist was carrying out recording for both this site and the All Saints Churchyard.

A big hole had appeared on the path possibly because of an underground chamber. Dave Corby was thanked for filling this in. It had been filled with clay from the cemetery so there was an urgent need for the path to be resurfaced as it became very muddy in wet weathers. Dave Corby agreed to organise Community Payback to come in to do work on this. A drain has been capped off which should reduce the problems.

There have been recent problems with vandalism; in particular with fires. The Safer Neighbourhood Police had been informed but the advice was to ring 999 if flames were seen.

BENTLEY PRIORY

Elizabeth Stainthorpe reported that the fence had been removed from the Bitter Cress area and it was looking much better for being grazed. She and Joanne Coulltard had surveyed the Adder’s Tongue ferns. A Nuthatch was nesting and a pair of swans had been seen. There were also Grey Wagtails and Blackcaps. Ten Song Thrushes had been counted and a Buzzard seen.

The north side of the reserve has been enclosed and will have cattle on it.

One problem was that the dam was still leaking to the right of the sluice. The Environmental Agency was coming to look at it. There was also a problem with fisherman camping at Boot Pond. Additionally damage has been caused by two Hornbeams being sawn down as well as the sawing off of part of a stile and one side of a bridge. Dave Corby reported that the bridge has already been repaired twice and now needed to be repaired again. It was suggested that a metal strip be included this time.

PEAR WOOD

Bob Hopkins of the Herts and Middx Wildlife Trust (HMWT) returned to work on the Dyke in Feb and brought 3 workers instead of the promised 10. The weather was not very good, with some snow. The rubbish was not burnt or piled neatly where it could be burnt at a later stage.

There have been problems with fires at the reserve. Two weeks ago a massive tree trunk in the centre of the wood was set on fire. It could not be reached by a fire engine so 5 fire fighters came into the wood and put the fire out and axed down the remainder of the tree. There would have been a danger of the fire spreading.

There was a fifty percent take up of the bird boxes in their first year which was a good result. It was noticeable that the ones on the side of the lake where the lights from the driving range shone were not occupied. Three of these will be moved. The boxes were occupied by Great Tits and Blue Tits.

There was a fantastic number of toads again and some frogs. Claire reported that she has built a newt shelter near the scrape but on Pear Wood land however only Smooth Newts have been recorded. Since getting a license Claire has surveyed a number of sites in Harrow but has not found any Great Crested Newts. If anybody thinks they have newts they are asked to contact Claire.

The ruined cottages have been taped off.

The Scouts are coming at the end of the month and should be able to use their field to camp in now that it had been mown.

Regarding the Wood Ants the two nests that were moved have survived the winter and seem to be doing well. Other nests are all surviving but not thriving as they do in the hospital grounds.

The bluebells have been excellent and the Mandarins appear to be nesting again.

STANMORE LITTLE COMMON AND BREWERY PONDS

Roger Stone reported that the clear up seemed to have had a good effect as the numbers of waterfowl were increasing. As well as the usual Mandarins and Moorhens there were Tufted ducks and Canada Geese.

The police have been patrolling checking the fishing licenses at Brewery Pond. Roger and Kate Lewis collected litter twice a week which has had a noticeable effect of discouraging further littering. The mowing was also good.

The fishermen appeared to be clearing up their litter more.

The metal litterbin has a hole in the bottom and needs replacing (a fox pulls rubbish out). Barbecues have also caused some problems.

Steve Bolsover reported that he had written to PC Craig Foster and if local resident identify problems these areas can be induced into the regular patrols. It was noted that it was a good idea to develop a relationship with the Ward Sergeant.

Kate Lewis reports that a troop of scouts from Wealdstone have been clearing up litter next to the ponds.

STANMORE COMMON

Simon Braidman reported that lots of scrub has been taken out and compartments 18 and 19 were nearly joined. The little south facing alcoves that had been cut provided suntraps.

The litter problem has increased following the development of the new estate. A particular problem followed the dispersal of participants at a Rave leaving a mess in compartment 18. Dave Corby had already organised Community Payback to do some litter clearance and he will arrange for them to do some more.

The bins in the car park are in urgent need of replacement. Dave Corby reported that he currently has two pressed steel bins. It was suggested that one could be used for Stanmore Common and one for Brewery Pond.

The Heathland board, which was part of the Heathlands’ Heritage Project, has not appeared. Also the Ecological Survey of Brewery Pond, which was commissioned from consultants when the Biodiversity Officer was in place, has not been seen.

The rest of the Common was looking good. The population of Heath Spotted orchids was still causing concern. It was agreed to ask for advice from Michael Waite from the Greater London Authority. The area would be cut and cleared out this summer. Wood Anemones are spreading as are Wood Sorrel. After 10 months the heathland in compartment 21 is regenerating excellently. As well as Common Heather there is Bell Heather and Common and Dwarf Gorse.

The Bryophyte visit identified 35 species – the lack of unusual species was slightly disappointing. The records will be sent off. There are still scattered patches of Sphagnum Moss; in general the reserve is becoming drier.

STANMORE COUNTRY PARK

John Hollingdale reported that one BTCV working party carried out clearance work in Section 4. A working party of 5 people from Ladbrokes have carried out some valuable clearance word in Upper Blue Pond Field. A somewhat cold moth evening had been followed by a fine spring walk which was well attended. The bluebell glades were a fine sight and are spreading and spring butterflies were seen. Muntjac deer are becoming relatively common. Kate Lewis was thanked for her continuing work on litter on the reserves.

Steve Bolsover has produced a welcome leaflet for Stanmore Country Park and Marion Sartin was thanked for her bluebell photograph which was used for the leaflet. Dave Corby reported that the entrance from Brockley Hill should be open this year.

ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that coppicing and cutting back of the willows has taken place. The graffiti problem was being tackled by cleaning it off quickly which tended to discourage further graffiti. The reserve has been wet over the winter but it was now dry. London Transport has been working on the track which may have an effect on the drainage problems.

Because of the cold winter the blackberries had lost their leaves enabling a more thorough litter clearance to take place. Only a few tadpoles have been seen possibly because of the disturbance to the pond by dogs.

Work has also been carried out on four work days over the past four months and further working days were planned for the next six months. It was agreed that Dave Corby would deliver 5 tons of scalpings for the steps. The repair work to the steps was in a queue of work to be carried out.


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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