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March 2014



Chairman's message

There have been many changes and developments since the last newsletter. A number of good changes are the result of the Council’s Green Grid project. One which visitors to Stanmore Common will notice is an extension southwards of the boardwalk over Pynding Mersc, the pond at the lowest point of the Common. The new boardwalk carries walkers over what was a notorious muddy patch. This is not very obvious now, since everywhere has been wet and muddy this winter, but once the rest of the paths have dried out it should be clearer.

Another site that has seen a great improvement thanks to the Green Grid project is Gilberts Orchard just northwest of Grims Dyke hotel. This group of elderly apple trees was planted while W S Gilbert, the librettist for the Savoy Operettas, lived at the house. They have now been pruned to reduce the risk of limbs breaking off, and a number of oak and ash trees that had grown up and were shading the smaller apple trees have been removed. Some new fruit trees will be planted in the gaps created, using traditional varieties in keeping with the site, and an information panel will be installed. This should turn what was a dark and rather unprepossessing corner of the open space into a star destination in its own right. A problem that does remain is the presence of one large stand and several other clumps of Japanese Knotweed - these will have to be attacked relentlessly if they are not to spread into more of the orchard and indeed elsewhere on Grimsdyke Open Space and Harrow Weald Common. On February 2nd 2014 a group of us helped more directly at Gilberts Orchard by cutting and digging up bramble and other weeds from around the trees.

Remaining with elderly trees, the Friends of Bentley Priory have succeeded in raising £5,750 to pay for protection for the Master oak. This ancient oak, at least 500 years old, stands at on the western side of Summerhouse Lake in Bentley Priory. The shade under its wide spreading branches is an inviting place to rest on a summer day - but some visitors have been lighting fires. One fire, lit right up against the bole, has left a prominent scar. Even those fires that don’t directly burn the tree above ground risk damaging its roots. Traditionally great oak trees take 300 years to die, but unless the Master is protected the insults it is getting will speed that death up precipitously. The Friends will follow the plan devised by tree expert Russell Ball (and approved by both Natural England and English Heritage): an inner metal tree guard will protect the great trunk while an outer post and rail fence will keep the public off the area occupied by the roots. A mulched pathway will allow access to the trunk, where adults will be able to reach up and touch the spreading boughs while children will be able to reach through the guard and touch the main trunk. An information panel will explain how special the tree is. The metal guard has now been ordered and should be with us in two weeks or so - then we’ll need some strong arms to get it erected! The £5,750 has been donated by two companies working on the redevelopment of Bentley Priory House, City and Country and Barratts. The Bentley Priory Nature Reserve Management Committee has also promised some money for the project.

In the previous newsletter I wrote about how the front page of our website at www.harrowncf.org contained a box with recent news. If you look now, you’ll see that the box takes the form of a Twitter feed - at the top is the most recent news, but scrolling down takes one back through three years of posts about our work and sites. We are now also on Facebook - there’s a link on our website. If you are au fait with social media, please do participate - if not, please send items for inclusion to Steve Bolsover at <admin@harrowncf.org> Twitter, particularly, is meant for breaking news, so if you see an interesting bird or flower please tell me at once and I’ll post it.

Lastly we are keeping our eyes on the land west of All Saints Church in Harrow Weald where the Bentley Day Centre has now been closed by the Council and the land either sold or up for sale. Bentley Old Vicarage Nature Reserve lies immediately to the north and could be badly damaged by demolition and building works next door, as well as by unscrupulous dumping of building waste. On the other hand all of the Day Centre site, other than the Day Centre building itself and its tarmac car park, is designated by the Council a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, so there is some hope that the development will be done sensitively. Indeed, the opportunity exists for creating a new entrance to Bentley Old Vicarage Nature Reserve directly on the Uxbridge Road, and therefore making more people aware of this little woodland gem.

Steve Bolsover

Site reports

BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE

Three information panels are to be installed around the site, paid for by the 2013-2014 Green Grid initiative.  The artwork was generated by Steve Bolsover and has now been passed to the signboard makers.  Thanks go to the many members of the Forum, the Harrow Natural History Society, and others who helped in its creation.  Steve is especially thanked for his work on the panels.  The height of panels was discussed and it was suggested that at least one should be placed at a height that was easy for children to look at.

A five bar gate has been installed in All Saints’ Mews which should reduce the potential for fly tipping. This was also paid for by the 2013-2014 Green Grid initiative.

As discussed at the last meeting, Harrow Council has closed Bentley Day Centre and is putting it up for sale. Betty raised the issue of access to the site which needs to be maintained and a letter needs to go to Harrow Council to this effect.

The Open Day took place on Sunday 22nd September.


ALL SAINTS CHURCHYARD

Jill Lewis reported that as it had been so wet, the lichens were looking good in the churchyard


BENTLEY PRIORY

Steve reported that in order to advertise the Heritage Lottery Funded Furze Heath restoration project, the Bentley Priory Management Committee paid for the printing of 500 leaflets. This was generated by Cllr. Camilla Bath, Denis Vickers and Steve Bolsover by making relatively minor changes to the Forum 2012 leaflet about Bentley Priory and a copy has been circulated.

A new management plan covering the period April 2014 through March 2019 has been written by Denis Vickers with help from many others. It’s a bit too big to circulate but it will be posted on the web site.

Denis Vickers has arranged Higher Level Stewardship for Bentley Priory: this brings in significantly more money that did the previous agricultural subsidy. He hoped that the money could go to the Bentley Priory Management Committee but at the moment it looks as if it will go to the Council and be administered by the Council officers, Dave Corby and Mick Wynne.

The Master Oak initiative by the Friends of Bentley Priory is progressing.

Peter Perretti reported that the contractor Alan Scott was in the final phase of completing the felling in compartment 7 in connection with the Furze Heath restoration project. Another meeting was needed to ascertain what finances are available for more TCV days.

Because of the current high level of the water table new springs have appeared. A further project would be to enlarge the pond at the top of the site near the Pill Box but this is dependent on finance.

30 years ago there were 54 species of birds breeding on the site and currently there 45 have been recorded; this follows the national trend.

Regarding working parties Steve reported that the regular Sunday working parties are continuing to take place.

Dragon Finder Project: Victoria Ogilvie has contacted the Forum with a view to taking the proposed project with SITA, for the amphibian area of Boot Pond, a stage further.Letters of support from the Council, the Forum and the Bentley Priory management committee were needed.


NEWTON FARM ECOLOGY PARK

The new warden, Simon Thomas was welcomed to the meeting and his contact details were circulated with the agenda.

Simon reported that on 2 occasions Simon and his family have carried out a mass blitz on the litter which is a big problem. The TCV in November had had a day working on the pond and the litter situation. Amongst other items the old bench and table were removed from the pond. A group from Alexandra School has worked on the pond and the Healing Garden; more work will be done with them in the spring.

Regular working parties will take place at weekends to tackle the litter. The Safer Neighbourhood team has been involved with dealing with a problem rough sleeper.Work is planned to raise the fence along Newton Close to deter fly tipping.

Steve reported that little progress appears to have been with regard to the outcome of the Home Group Big Lottery Grant application.


PEAR WOOD

Claire reported that the trees that came down across paths have been cleared with the help of the British legion water bailiff. The mowing was eventually carried out in a generally much better manner than last year and as requested the Guide field was left unmown.

A Fungus Foray on the 26th October was well attended and a huge Grifola frondosa was a highlight.

A good TCV day has been held to carry out regular clearance work on the Grimsdyke. Another TCV day will be held shortly to carry out some Hazel coppicing.

Regarding SSSI status: Considerable thanks to Denis Vickers who arranged for Emily Dresner of Natural England to visit the site on 30th October 2013. Emily’s feedback is that an argument for SSSI status based on the saproxylic invertebrates had the best chance of succeeding. These are invertebrates that are dependent on dead or decaying wood (or dependent on other organisms that are themselves dependent on dead wood). There are already plenty of woodland SSSI’s where the main argument is the trees themselves, and arguments based on birds are iffy because bird populations can change rapidly. However, invertebrate data needs to be gathered using a more standardised survey method, and we discussed what this could be. Our next step will be to generate a specification for this work, then get quotations from professional entomologists. Then we would have to think about how we could pay for it.

Rosemary will be giving a talk “An introduction to Grasses” for the Harrow Natural History Society at the Blackwell Hall, Stanmore on Monday 10th February at 8pm and all are welcome.


ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that he and Steve have made the covering to the open drain less noticeable by lowering the cover, reducing it in size and nailing it down .  It has been stained black so it does not show up.  Steve and Dave also cleared the tree that came down in the October storm.  Fallen wood has also been cleared from the paths; along with leaves, grass and litter as always.

Nettle clearance took place in early December.  The ditch was again cleared on the 26th December re-cutting the nettles and clearing litter and the drive-in cleared of leaves.

The hinges of the five -barred gate have finally been repaired after the loss of one padlock and one padlock being cut. Dave Corby and Mick Wynne were thanked for organising the repairs.  The fence has been repaired by the gate into the park.

The soil is getting walked away in wet conditions at the entrance form Roxbourne Park exposing tree roots and it is hoped to put in a proper path using the Green Grid project. Work has also started on the pollarding the Willows.


STANMORE COMMON

Simon reported that since the last meeting about 900 hours of work have been carried out: half on Bluebell Heath and half on the remainder of the site. Work carried out includes a huge amount of work on Oakmead (compartment 18), re-scalloping the edges of the clearing also work around Great Brewer’s Pond. Widespread spraying of Bracken (twice) has taken place and Bracken has been raked off.

John Winter has continued with the mapping project around Great Brewer’s Pond. John Winter and Neville Day are thanked for all their work on the site. Saplings have been removed from Bluebell Heath and in 90% of the cases this has involved digging them out.

Trees that were blown down across paths have all been cleared except for one where a chain saw is required.

Two guided walks have taken place: one at Stanmore Common and one at Stanmore Country Park.

70 teenagers from Ealing and Harrow carried out a variety of tasks as part of “The Challenge” on September 29th and they were thanked for this.

On 22nd October the London Biodiversity Action Plan Acid Grassland/Heathland group visited Stanmore Common. After a hiatus they hope to get the group operating again. Information on how to get onto their circulation list has been circulated.

On the 17th November a Mitzvah Day group carried out work including the collection and distribution of Heather seed.

A donation of £100 (used for tools) was received from John Lam and he is thanked for this.

The issue of fly tipping and the lay-by off The Common was discussed.

Regarding the Management plan, this is work in progress. John Dobson will aim to have a draft ready by the next Bluebell Heath meeting on Wednesday 12th March.

Board Walk at Stanmore Common Denis reported that the installation of the new board walk has begun. Simon will visit the site shortly.

Grove Ponds Denis has recently been to look at the ponds.  The upper pond has good marginal vegetation and looks good for wildlife. The other appears to be managed as a fishing pond. Denis is trying to find out more about the management arrangements.


STANMORE COUNTRY PARK

John reported that timber brought down by the Autumn gales blocked paths at many places and it took 4 work visits to clear them again

 Green Grid money has enabled the TCV to cut a wide access path into Cloisters Meadow and on the same day cleared the nearby gas line. They have also spent two visits clearing bramble etc. from the central path and also the ride from Ant City down to 40 acre field. This will enable us to do more management of the Blackthorn hedge in 40 acre field. All cuttings from these visits were removed from the open areas.

The 2013-2014 Green Grid initiative is paying for path and scrub clearance works by both TCV and A T Bone in Cloisters Field at the northwest tip of Stanmore Country Park. This will rescue a significant area of rough grassland. On January 29th Steve Bolsover and John Hollingdale will be meeting the contractor.

Several paths in Hilly Field have been widened to enable visitors to avoid the narrow muddy slot in the middle. This has been appreciated.  Also more of the stumps left when Upper Blue Pond Field was cleared last winter have removed and treated.

The Kissing gate from Brockley Hill has been locked again by the golf club and this problem is now in the hands of the Council.

 The structure in Hilly Field, reported last Autumn and inspected by the council, is still there, as is the reported dumped mattress and rubble behind 54 Dennis Lane.  There is also evidence of encroachment at this spot too.

Green Grid money has enabled steps to be installed up from the Dennis Lane car park, but more hardcore needs to be spread at the bottom of these steps and the nearby entrance.

Finally Marian and Norman Sartin are thanked for helping, when they can, at the monthly work parties.


STANMORE LITTLE COMMON AND BREWERY PONDS

A short report was received from Robert Stone. The Council is continuing the clearance of Parrot’s Feather and Broad-leaved Pondweed in Caesar’s Pond. Denis Vickers reports that at least two more visits will be needed in this financial year.


WOOD FARM

The management of the funding, when the area is handed over by the contractors to the Council, was discussed.  The matter has also been discussed with Matthew Patterson (planning department).  A proposal has been made that management arrangements are put in place similar to those for Bentley Priory.

Proposed Harrow Community Farm Russell Sutcliffe and Cllr Keith Ferry outlined the background to this project. It was agreed that they should be involved in the early stages of the arrangements for managing the Wood Farm/Stanmore Country Park extension


Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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