Harrow Nature Conservation Forum
October 2008

Chairman's message

Many new faces have been seen around our reserves and at our meeting recently, all very welcome. Kris Lajer has joined the warden team at Bentley Old Vicarage, while David Bailey has joined the team at Stanmore Common and was sent off to Edinburgh for a weekend of brush cutter training to LANTRO standard, which he passed – so well done to David. Kate Lewis is a Stanmore resident who has formed a litter picking group to help maintain particularly Stanmore Country Park, Stanmore Little Common and Stanmore Common, and who has done an enormous amount especially in the Brewer’s Ponds area. For more details of her group follow the “Green Gym” link on the links page of our website. We have also had support from three corporate groups. On a lovely day in June a group of seven volunteers from G.E. Money cut bracken at Stanmore Common, while in August eight volunteers from Abbey National worked in alternating sun and cold drizzle to clear scrub at Roxbourne Rough. Lastly in September five volunteers from the pharmaceutical compant Bristol Myers Squibb cleared footpaths at Stanmore Country Park. We hope that some of those who come as part of these corporate events can be tempted back in their own time, whether as visitors or volunteers.

We have participated in two public events. The first, the Pinner Village Show, was battered by rain and attracted few visitors but a week later the open days at Bentley Priory House, organized in part by our own John Williams, were a great success, attracting by some estimates 8,000 visitors over the four days. We gave away all our stocks of leaflets on Bentley Priory Nature Reserve, the Council’s circular walk, Bentley Old Vicarage and Stanmore Common. I have since had more reprinted so if you need some, contact me.

A number of points discussed at the Harrow Nature Conservation Forum meeting on September 16th 2008 are worth raising. First, the Council want us to always have to hand “Accident Books” to record any such events, and we agreed since it means no extra work in paractise as long as wardens are taking their first aid kits to all timetabled events, which they certainly should. I’ve distributed accident books to three wardens and will pass them out to the rest soon – please keep them in the first aid kit so they are there in the unlikely event that they are needed. Robin Youle suggests that an accident requiring entry in this book is an event which in the opinion of the person injured, or of the leader of the party, could result in the need for medical treatment at the time or in the future. Thus you do not need to record minor bruises or scrapes.

Second, Dave Corby told us that a number of long planned improvements to access to Stanmore Country Park should be implemented soon. The car park off Dennis Lane is all but complete. John Hollingdale has a key and so can use it for events, but as yet it is not open on a daily basis. Meanwhile a stile giving access to the Park from the Brockley Hill housing development should be installed within a month.

Third, Dave Corby asked wardens to prepare a list of known or suspected encroachments onto our open spaces so that the council can query them. Even if the coucil does not try very hard to win the space back, the mere act of trying resets the clock in the process whereby the owner can claim squatter’s rights.

Lastly I should mention the ongoing struggle to prevent the Council’s sale of part of Wood Farm to a developer for what we suspect is a large sum of money, and their parallel agreement to an application to build houses on this previously agricultural Green Belt site. Martin Verden and I have stated our arguments as to why we feel this scheme is so wrong in two letters in the local papers, and I will not rehearse them here. We must hope that the Secretary of State calls the application in for a public enquiry. We are all very grateful to Carole Lis for her neverending work in fighting our case.

Steve Bolsover


Site reports

STANMORE COUNTRY PARK

John Hollingdale reported that he had run two moth evenings, one in May and one in August, attended by 8 to 10 people. There had been one walk, run jointly with the Harrow Natural History Society, with the theme of summer butterflies which had been well attended. Generally however it had not been a good summer for butterflies. A successful work day had been organised involving volunteers from a pharmaceutical company carrying out clearance work on the footpaths.

It was reported that the damaged bridge and the dipping platform had been repaired. The new car park has been completed but is not yet open as it needs a sign indicating the time when it will be locked. Dave Corby reported that BAE Section 106 money would be used to make an entrance via a kissing gate into the Country Park from Brockley Hill. This work would take place during October/ November of this year.

John would also like to thank Kate Lewis for her litter picking activities and supplying a rubbish bin at the Kerry Ave entrance.

Finally John would like any of the Friends of the Country Park to e-mail him to be kept informed of the monthly progress of the ongoing conservation projects.

BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE

Betty Brown reported that the reserve was holding a number of events to celebrate its 21st year. At the AGM local historian Nancy Jenkins had given a talk on the history of the Parsonage. A reserve leaflet had been produced by Steve Bolsover.

Dave Corby reported that work on resurfacing the paths would be carried out by the Community Payback team during the autumn and he would let Betty know when they would be coming.

Two trees had been cleared and Dryad‘s Saddle fungi had been photographed.

Chris Lajer was welcomed as an assistant warden and he has been a great help.

An Open Day and Open House and Fete were held jointly with All Saints Church on Saturday 20th September. Generally things were progressing pretty steadily.

BELMONT LINE

John Williams reported that the access from the car park at Belmont Circle had been completed. Unfortunately he was too busy to do much on this reserve.

It was reported that there was a lot of litter along certain stretches including broken glass on the stretch by Belmont Circle. Dave Corby said that his team would be working on this. It was also noted that the signs needed installing/updating and a dog bin was required at the southern end.

ALL SAINT'S CHURCHYARD

Jill Lewis reported that there had been some difficulty getting the grass cut because of the rain, however this had led to some good late flowering including some Agrimony. Boletus had been seen in August. Dave Corby had organised the delivery and collection of a blue bin for recyclable waste which was good. The questions of a Grit bin and the bin inside the lych gates which had been stolen were raised. Dave Corby will look to see if he can do anything about these.

PEAR WOOD

The relocation of two nests of ants from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital earlier in the year had been successful despite the weather. All the other ant sites were surviving. The Bat Survey had been carried out and the results submitted to GIGL. The surveyor was very impressed by the numbers which may be due to the ancient woodland and the pond. 2 species of Pipistrelle, Daubentons and Noctules were recorded. The lighting at the Driving Range was out when the survey was conducted but the numbers of bats seem to indicate that it is not a problem. There may be some predation by owls.

The take up of bird boxes was very good and the final result will be known when they are cleared out. The Mandarin ducks have bred with 9 chicks being seen.

One BTCV session has been booked.

Bob Hopkins of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) had strimmed the path on the dyke. He promised to come back in January with 10 volunteers. He needs to let Claire know when he is planning to carry out the work so that the ants’ nests are not disturbed.

The problem of sewage seepage has not been fixed and remains a public health hazard. It is the responsibility of Drainage but Dave Corby will chase it.

Litter has been less of a problem possibly due to the weather.

Claire Abbott also reported that she now has a G.C. Newt Licence and 2 million watt power torches enabling her to carry out surveys and handle the newts. The licence also covers some other species. The license has to be renewed each year and surveys have to be carried out to keep the licence.

STANMORE LITTLE COMMON

Spring Pond is much improved since it was dug out last year. Mandarins, coots, moor hens and herons had been seen on the site. A number of terrapins had been spotted. Simon Braidman has the contact details for removing them to a more appropriate location. A note needs to be emailed to Dave Corby to be put on headed note paper which could then be circulated to the horse riding establishments. Kate Lewis was again thanked for helping with this reserve.

BENTLEY PRIORY

Six BTCV sessions had been arranged for this month together with the tractor cutting which would go over the same area as it had in the spring. The enclosure area on the Weald Path had been cleared and the fencing dismantled. The pond was now exposed and it was hoped to save some plants which had been swamped such as Bittercress. The rotation work of cutting and coppicing was ongoing. Representatives from the Royal Forestry Commission and the Natural History Museum had been involved with the site. A Ceremonial Planting of trees (disease resistant elms) had taken place at the entrance to Old Lodge Way. A visit from St. John’s school had been very successful. Peter Peretti and Elizabeth Stainthorpe had conducted a survey for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) throughout the year following a set route and they had recorded about 30 species. Carole Lis had organised notices to warn dog walkers about the possibility of ground nesting warblers in the West field during the nesting season. Unfortunately there was a national decline, particularly of Willow Warblers.

A map of the site showing the latest nomenclature had been included in the latest Friend’s newsletter. This should be circulated, particularly to the police, so that positions could be pinpointed. There had been problems involving swans and fishing lines and the RSPCA had been involved.

The issue of the stolen boat was discussed. Dave Corby has a small boat and it was agreed that it should be stored in the Scout Hut for use on Stanmore Little Common once the padlocks at the hut had been changed. The possibility of using the boat at Bentley Priory would be investigated later

ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that with all the showers of this summer, grass and shrub had grown so much, cutting back to keep the paths clear has taken all the time. Even with all the summer rain, the pond is still only a puddle. Six work days had taken place including one in August when a working party from the Abbey National opened up an abandoned area of trees and shrubs. Some graffiti problems had also been tackled. Five further monthly work days had been planned. The steps from Cannon Lane into the site need some attention as the treads had sunk and were started to rot.

STANMORE COMMON

An orchid count had been carried out and there was concern that although there had been an increase 20 years ago there had been a gradual decline in numbers over the past 5 years. There was a need to talk to an orchid expert regarding the best action to take.

The issue of the picnic tables and benches and their replacement was again discussed and the matter needs attention.

Claire Abbott reported that Kate Lewis had obtained some money for bins and it was a question of telling her where they should be sited. The Forum thanked Kate Lewis for her work with the Council for Protection for Rural England.

The BTCV were coming in on the 16th September (today), 17th September and the 21st September and carrying out clearance work including rescuing the heather.

Dave Corby reported that the annual cut had started.

The issues of the cat-proof fencing and the improvement to Warren Lane including bollards to stop parking and measures to prevent water run-off were discussed. It was agreed that Steve Bolsover would send another letter regarding this.

The Forum thanked David Bailey for his help with looking after the reserve.


Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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