Harrow Nature Conservation Forum

June 2010

Chairman's message

In March we were able to put our tools into the store at Stanmore Common. This is very convenient for Stanmore Common working parties; for our other sites it is not quite as convenient as Lower Priory Farm but does give us more space to lay the tools out and see what is available. However the “bubblegum cap” wrenches, necessary to gain access, that I distributed to wardens have proved not to be up to the job. I will make new ones as soon as I have time.

The Forum has joined “Volunteering England”, a body that supports volunteer organizations, and this has proved useful: they provide advice on accepting 16 and 17 year old on working parties that is refreshingly sensible. There are more details in our risk assessment (see pages 6 and 7 at <http://www.harrowncf.org/HNCF_Risk_assessments.pdf>), which anyone supervising working parties should read. However the basic message is that as long as we bear in mind that they are teenagers and need monitoring to make sure that they are using the tools safely, there is no problem in accepting 16-17 year olds on our working parties.

Another item to be seen on the web site is a historical species record for our sites. I have been working through records sent to me by John Dobson, Tony Lovegrove and Elizabeth Stainthorpe and combining them with the published bird records of the Natural History Society and the records of Roxbourne Rough from the London Ecology Unit. To date there are 1,800 records on the web site. For those with Microsoft Office 2007 or equivalent, the best format to download is the Excel spreadsheet, which can then be sorted by species, site or date. For others, there is a PDF; both are available as links at <http://www.harrowncf.org/Links.html>.

On May 3rd 2010 the Forum shared a pitch with the Natural History Society at the MayDay fair at Headstone Manor. The weather was hardly kind, but attendance was good and many showed interest in our leaflets. The weather was much better on Saturday May 22nd 2010 when Bentley Priory house was open for a “1940s day”. What makes the occasional opening of the house, that we and many others have enjoyed, possible is the fact that the proposed development of the house and surrounding site remains on hold. Recently the developer applied for planning permission to demolish the cold war bunker in the grounds of the house (reference P/0243/10). The Bentley Priory reserve management committee feels that the effects of such demolition on ground water movement into the nature reserve should be assessed, and Councillor Bill Stephenson, as chair of the committee, has written to the planning department to that effect. Bill, the leader of the Labour group on the Council, has been a great supporter of our conservation efforts in Harrow so we will watch with interest the changes that the May 6th election will bring at the Council.

Steve Bolsover

Site reports

BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE AND ALL SAINTS CHURCHYARD

Betty Brown reported that the resurfacing of the path is still outstanding and the fallen tree that is blocking the path needs to be dealt with. The site survey has been completed thanks to Jill Lewis and Joanne Colthup and Denis Vickers will put the results on GIGL. Temporary tree labels have been put in place and also  tree sapling clearance is taking place. The Open Day will take place on Sunday July 18th with walks in the morning and afternoon.

It is hoped that the Reserve and the Churchyard will be used by school groups in the future.

It was reported that an email had been received from Rev James Mercer regarding the erection of a gate to prevent fly tipping.

BENTLEY PRIORY

Peter Peretti reported that work had continued clearing the canopy around the oak tree on the west side of the lake. A big area had been coppiced on the north-west side of the lake. He felt that it was important to try to keep the lake margins clear for fish such as Tench. The fencing around Herriots Wood meant that it did provide a refuge for nesting birds; the top of the fence was felt to be rather flimsy. Of the spring birds the Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were plentiful and also the Swallows had returned to Lower Priory Farm.

Peter also reported that the cattle would be late coming in this year following the cold weather.

PEAR WOOD

Claire Abbott requested that metal detritus, following the completion of the work on the sewage problem, be removed from the site.

The bird boxes had been cleaned out: 8 had been used by birds, 1 by a mouse and another had fallen down, unfortunately containing eggs.

Work had begun on moving wood ant nests from the hospital. Ants that had been moved previously were doing well this year.

Claire, Tony Lovegrove and John Hollingdale had felled a Holly tree shading out a Wild Service tree.

The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust had worked on the Dyke in February and the rubbish had been burnt. It was reported that Rosemary Etheridge had made a list of the Bryophytes and there would be a meeting with specialists in May. There were Mandarins on Pear Lake and lots of frogs and toads had been seen.

ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that 6 tonnes of Scalpings were delivered in the January for the repair work on the paths. The weather was bad in January and work began on the path repairs in February together with the usual clearing of litter. Work had continued on the path repairs and general cutting back in March and the frogs had appeared in t he pond of March 6th. By April approximately 5 tonnes of the stones had been used. Dave Corby agreed to provide some less coarse stones for finishing the paths. Some additional volunteers had helped on some of the regular monthly work days. Dave Corby agreed to move the dog bin further into the park near to the Nature Reserve.

The reserve had been wet but was now drying out. A Heron and a Muntjac deer had been seen.

STANMORE COMMON

Simon Braidman reported that Working Parties had continued to take place once a month. Work was being carried out on the dead hedge on the southern side of Bluebell Heath. Volunteers had started to clear old scrub to improve the condition of the orchid field. A guided walk has taken place on Sunday April 11th, too early for the bluebells this year, but the Wood Sorrel was in bloom.

It was hoped to involve community groups such as Wiseworks on the site. It was noted that wardens should contact Dave Corby if they wished to involve Community Payback teams.

STANMORE COUNTRY PARK

John Hollingdale reported that two BTCV working parties had taken place in January. A Girl Guide group had also carried out work clearing bramble encroachment along a footpath. Buzzards and lots of Muntjac deer had been sighted. Four people turned up for the recent spring walk.  Because of the gloomy weather, the party concentrated on identifying lichens instead of butterflies.  A summer walk is planned and hopefully the sun will be out. National Moth night was on the 15th May and another Moth evening was planned for September 4th.

The signs for the entrances were now in place. Dave Corby reported that efforts were being made to resolve the problems regarding the entrance from Brockley Hill to Stanmore Country Park. Encroachments of back gardens onto the Country Park were also being dealt with. 

John reported that there was a problem regarding the golf club. Waste material from there had been thrown over the boundaries of Stanmore Country Park and Pear Wood. Dave Corby reported that a meeting with the Golf Club was needed to resolve some issues.

Kate Lewis was thanked for her ongoing work on litter collection over a number of sites.

STANMORE LITTLE COMMON AND BREWERY PONDS

Roger Stone reported that the 3 litter bins had made a difference to the litter situation. Another one would be useful at the picnic table but this is unlikely to be forthcoming at the moment. Dave Corby also reported that there had incidents regarding fire lighting and antisocial behaviour around the area and the police had been involved. Spring Pond needed a No Fishing sign and Dave Corby agreed to arrange this.


Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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