Harrow Nature Conservation Forum
October 2009

Chairman's message

There is a varied mixture to report in this newsletter.

The planning enquiry for the Wood Farm housing development was held at the Civic Centre on June 23 to 25 and July 21 - 22. The proposal, which is supported by Harrow Council, is that ten houses be built at the northeastern tip of the site, in the angle of Wood Lane and Pear Wood, with the remainder of the site being added to Stanmore Country Park. All participants in the enquiry agree that housing is an inappropriate use of green belt land; the disagreement between us on one hand and the council on the other is over their argument that only by agreeing to the housing can public access to the remainder of Wood Farm be achieved. Carole Lis organized our campaign with myself, Claire Abbott, Ian Scheer, Hugh Courts and Louis Ditz all making representations opposing development, as did Cedric Hoptroff, chairman of the London Green Belt Council. Without our presence a number of facts might well have remained unknown to the inspector, perhaps the most telling being that a very significant fraction of the land (the lower 40% or so of Wood Farm itself, plus the land between Pear Wood and Brockley Hill) is rented by the developer from Harrow Council on a rolling one year lease and therefore – or so we argued – could be recovered by the council now.

In the previous newsletter I discussed vandalism on our sites. We have had two small victories. At Bentley Old Vicarage visitors who repeatedly lit fires and left rubbish were moved on by a Safer Neighbourhood policeman, and to date have not returned, while at Bentley Priory constable John Bishop, one of Harrows wildlife police officers, seized four bull terriers that he believes were being set on swans and cygnets. Unfortunately there was insufficient evidence to charge or mount a prosecution under the Dangerous Dogs Act, Animal Welfare Act or Wildlife and Countryside Act and therefore the dogs have been returned to their owners. John is still investigating possibilities for further action.

We welcome Denis Vickers who is the Council’s new biodiversity officer, replacing Anna Cohen. Denis has been busy visiting our sites and many others in the borough, and will be liasing with site wardens to update the management plans. He is also pushing forward the idea of a nature trail at Harrow Weald Common.

In late August David Summers of Agenda 21 and Greener Harrow forwarded a message from a council officer, Trina Taylor, about £200,000 available for bids from charities and other organizations addressing seven targets of which two, “Increase the number of people who regularly volunteer” and “Increase the number of local sites in Harrow that are actively managed to improve local biodiversity” were directly relevant to us. I could not think of a proposal that addressed the biodiversity issue, since the limit on our management of land is the availability of volunteer wardens (but see below). I could however think of a number of proposals that would really help us recruit volunteers. I won’t discuss them all but one was both direct and cheap – that on perhaps 20 days a year we hire a portable toilet to be on site when school parties, scout groups and corporate working parties are present. I recently had one large proposed corporate working party – 20 to 30 people from Glaxo Smith Kline – fall through because of the absence of toilets on our reserves, so I know that such provision would increase the number of people who volunteer. However on September 8th the volunteering target was replaced with the corporate speak of “Improve the environment for a thriving third sector” which means, I think, providing council officers to support charities – not a bad idea, but not one we can directly take advantage of.

However Denis Vickers has put together an excellent package of proposals for managing new sites for biodiversity and improved visitor experience, which Martin Verden and I then submitted (since the bids must come from charities, not from the Council). These are:

Harrow Weald Common (i.e. Grim's Dyke Open Space, Weald and Levels Woods £
Footpath work (clearance/levelling etc) 2,000
Clearance of invasive species (Cherry laurel & Rhododendron) 1,500
Replanting area with applicable native species 1,000
Staggered clearance of invasive scrub on Gilbert's Lake 1,000
Fencing repair/replacement Weald Wood and Levels Wood 2,500
Interpretive signage 1,500
Subtotal 9,500
. .
Grim's Ditch and Pinner Green .
Footpath work (clearance/levelling/rustic safety rails and steps etc) 2,500
Clearance of invasive species (Cherry laurel & Sycamore) 1,500
Replanting area with applicable native species 1,000
Interpretive signage 1,000
Subtotal 6,000
. .
Stanmore Marsh .
Footpath work (clearance/levelling/safety rails etc) 1,500
Clearance of invasive species (Cherry laurel & Sycamore) 1,500
Replanting area with applicable native species 1,000
Clearance of invasive scrub and deepening of ponds 2,000
Interpretive signage 1,000
Subtotal 7,000
. .
Old Tennis Courts in West Harrow Recreation Ground and Ridgeway Embankment .
Fencing area including gates 2,500
Dog waste bins 600
Interpretation 1,000
Subtotal 4,100
. .
Total 26,600

In July Councillor Ann Fine contacted us to report that the council had got funding to create a cycle trail along the Belmont Line and carry out other works, and to check that we did not have plans for the site. My personal view was that this would be an excellent use of the old line, but that she should check with John Williams. If anyone would like more details or would like to comment they should contact her on ann.fine@harrow.gov.uk.

The Roxbourne Rough leaflet has now been printed. Thanks to all who helped create it, especially to Elizabeth Stainthorpe for her suggestion of Grass Vetchling as a plant to look out for, and to Patricia Clarke of Harrow Heritage Trust for historical research.

Finally, thanks to a small but hardworking team from Land Securities who on October 2nd 2009 not only cleared an area of bramble in Stanmore Common that John Hollingdale hopes to return to rough grassland, but donated £50 for us to buy some new tools. Land Securities is a developer whose interest in Harrow is in the Kodak site in Wealdstone; chatting to the team on the day their ideas sounded imaginative, “green”, and worthwhile.

Steve Bolsover


Site reports

ALL SAINT'S CHURCHYARD

Jill Lewis reported that the Harrow Natural History had had an evening walk around the Churchyard and bats had been recorded twice. There were also currently Art exhibits.

BELMONT LINE

Steve Bolsover reported that the money had been agreed to put a cycle route along the route from the Leisure Centre to Belmont and onto the Synagogue. Dave Corby reported that work was beginning by opening up the track bed. Work was also continuing on attempting to control the knotweed. Litter continued to be a problem.

BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE

Joanne Coultard, a field botanist, was carrying out recording the flora for both this site and the All Saints Churchyard. A detailed list of had been produced which would be sent to Denis Vickers and then on to Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL). Denis Vickers will be putting together an updated management plan for this site. The next project planned is to label the trees.

John Hollingdale has carried out the annual cutting with the Brushcutter.

There is an urgent need for the path to be resurfaced. Dave Corby will organise the delivery of 5 tonnes of material and organise Community Payback to come in to carry out the work.

The regular Working Party days will be taken up by keeping areas clear.

BENTLEY PRIORY

Peter Peretti reported that he and Elizabeth Stainthorpe had completed the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) rolling records list for the site and had recorded 44 or 45 species depending whether the Green Parakeet was included. The records were sent to the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. Over the past 20 years there had been a loss of 20% of breeding birds.

Steve Bolsover and David Bailey had been involved in the fencing of Herriots Wood to minimise the disturbance to spring migrating finches by dogs and people. Steve Bolsover reported that 1% of the BAE Section 106 money had been used for this (agreed by Councillor Susan Hall). Following work by the BTCV, observation and netting of birds could take place. The Council had also undertaken work on cutting bramble and controlling secondary woodland.

The reserve was now suitable for the control of the cattle grazing and the bull went off last week. The cattle would probably remain until late October; the grass was poor because of lack of rain.

Boot Pond needed attention. The issue of using some of the BAE Section 106 money for fencing and improving the banking to protect the banks and allow the cattle to get to the water without doing damage was discussed.

The Council had cut the Laurel along side the entrance in Common Road as the vegetation was over dense and sterile. In the winter it was planned to open up the dell where drainage comes down from the Deer Park. Peter was leading a walk on the 19th September.

It was reported that Lower Priory Farm had been sold but it was quite possible that the present arrangement for storing the tools would continue. Steve Bolsover reported that a portable battery powered masonry drill had been bought for the Forum, he would store it but it was available for use.

PEAR WOOD

Claire Abbott reported that a new Cub group were getting involved at the site and that the cubs were very keen and busy. The mowing would also take place soon.

The issue of the payment for Herts and Middx Wildlife Trust (HMWT) for clearing the dyke in August and September had been a problem.

Claire has also liaised with the wildlife Officer, John Bishop. There had been the usual problems with fires and litter. Claire would contact the British Legion about the fisherman putting up some signs.

There has been a good take up of the bird boxes and a large number of toads in the reserve. The Wood Ants are doing well and more might be moved from the Orthopaedic Hospital next year.

Outside Pear Wood Claire has been surveying ponds in Harrow for Great Crested Newts as she has a license, but she has not found any.

ROXBOURNE ROUGH

Dave Bolton reported that the graffiti problem had not been too bad. It was noted that graffiti could be reported to the Call Centre at the Civic Centre or reported on-line

The pond had dried out by July so cutting back the willow was being considered. The railway line had been closed on two occasions for work and it was not clear yet as to the effect this would have on the reserve. Dave Corby assured that the wardens would be contacted before the annual cut was done. (Ed. He didn’t). Dave B has reported that this year’s cut was not up to it’s usual standard.

The promised material for the cracks in the paths had not been delivered and it was agreed that Dave Corby would organise this (Still to happen. Ed). He would also put out the replacement of the steps to contractors for a quote as they had deteriorated further.

STANMORE COMMON

Simon Braidman reported that 16 people had joined a walk in June.

Tony Lovegrove had been monitoring the orchids and about 7 remained. There were plans to take out the dead hedge which could be affecting them adversely. Otherwise the site was botanically rich and varied and there are patches of Sphagnum Moss. The light scrub and bramble encroachment needs dealing with and the Bracken needs to be controlled. The cutting map has been drawn up leaving the Heather and Scabious etc. The area around the big Oak had been controlled by hand cutting. In the south-east section bracken needs controlling so that flora such as Betony, Wood Sage and Marsh Thistle was not overwhelmed. The heathland in compartment 21 is continuing to regenerate. Where a Pine tree came down lots of Foxgloves appeared showing the value of keeping some areas clear. Wetland plants were thriving even thought here was no standing water.

The bench needs replacing as it is rotting. The gate at the entrance is damaged and will need repairing before the cut can take place.

Simon also reported that 2 new volunteers had attended the last 2 Working Parties.

It was also reported that Hobbies had bred at Stanmore.

Steve Bolsover reported that tree trunks were being placed along Warren Lane to prevent off-road parking.

STANMORE COUNTRY PARK

John Hollingdale reported that walks had taken place on a Saturday and Sunday in late June. The highlight of the Saturday walk was the sight of 2 Marbled White butterflies in Lower Forty Acres. Ringlet butterflies had already been seen in another part of the reserve.

The removing of a small area of bracken by pulling is continuing and is taking less time each year. Two oak trees have had their branches lifted to enable mower access in areas 12 and 13. The coppicing of blackthorn on the north side of Lower 40 Acre field has continued.

Following the removal of a large bonfire site by the Parks department the work of removing logs from the site was completed by John.

A request was made to Dave Corby for signs at the entrances. As well as signing the entrances these would indicate to people the activities that are not allowed such as camping, lighting fires, dumping rubbish and horse riding etc.

Portable barbeques are being used on the dipping platform which is now showing signs of scorching.

A moth evening took place for National Moth Night on the 18th September and a BTCV working party came and did some good work on Sunday 27th September. The BTCV will be returning on the last two Sundays in January. The annual cut has taken place with mixed results; one meadow missed completely.

Dave Corby reported that the entrance from Brockley Hill would be completed after the clarification of the ownership of a narrow strip of land.

STANMORE LITTLE COMMON AND BREWERY PONDS

Roger Stone reported that over the summer he and Kate Lewis had become overwhelmed by the quantity of litter. However things were now getting back under control and Kate had found another volunteer. David Bailey had also been reminding people to clear up.

The metal litterbin with a hole in the bottom still needs replacing and an additional one is needed there. Also a bin is needed on Caesar’s Pond by the picnic table. It was agreed that Dave Corby would arrange for a handyman to go out with Roger to arrange where the new bins should go. A ‘No Fishing’ sign was needed at Spring Pond so that the public were clear about the restrictions.

The biodiversity of the ponds was discussed. As they are not under active management the site might qualify for Local Area Agreement partnership funds.

It was also reported that a kingfisher was regularly seen in the area.

Work has been carried out on four days over the past four months and further working days were planned for the next six months.

Generally the site was looking good and lots of Painted Lady butterflies had been seen. The site was very well used particularly by dog walkers who picked up their rubbish after them.


Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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