The Heritage Lottery Funded project at Bluebell Heath, Stanmore Common
is entering its last seven months and there are two major tasks
remaining: to create a nature trail and to put on an exhibition about
the project at the Harrow Museum. Simon Braidman and his team have
designed the nature trail and I have permission from the Heritage
Lottery Fund to buy the hardware. Once they arrive it will be a major
job to place the 28 posts around the site. The posts will be much wider
spaced than at Stanmore Country Park and Bentley Priory, so I hope will
not displease those visitors who prize the wildness of the site yet
please those many visitors who have told us that they are worried about
being lost. The exhibition opens on the 8th of January 2015 (assuming
that the museum is still open) and runs for four months.
On September 24th 2014 I, together with Claire Abbott and Rosemary
Etheridge from Pear Wood and John Hollingdale, Margaret Huitson and
Maya Dodwell from Stanmore Country Park, attended the startup meeting
for the Greater Stanmore Country Park management committee. We learned
that the £450,000 section 106 money to support management is to
be used only to maintain Wood Farm (including The Scrape immediately
adjacent to Pear Wood) and not for other areas, even 10 Acre Field
between Pear Wood and Brockley Hill, the other bit of leased land being
returned to Council control. This point is absolute, but we argued long
about our need to properly ring fence the money and prevent either the
Council using it without the OK of the committee, or payments being
made to contractors who don’t properly finish a job. Nevertheless
we felt that it was worth continuing to support the project, and will
all take part in the inaugural Annual General Meeting of the committee
in early November. At that meeting we hope to appoint a volunteer
warden and perhaps some assistant wardens - I have had eight applicants
for the position and Dave Corby, Denis Vickers and I will consider them
in the next few weeks.
The trigger for the formation of the
Greater Stanmore Country Park management committee is the return of
Wood Farm to Council Control, but that will not happen until the
developer, Jaysam, finishes the site to agreed standards. The latest
letter from Jaysam gives the end of November as the date for completing
the work - so a “Summer 2014” date for the handover was, as
Dave Corby always thought, overly optimistic.
We had earlier received one piece of good
news about the handover. On the 18th of July 2014 Philip Loveland
Cooper, Head of Service Corporate Estate at the Council, confirmed that
the derelict Pear Wood Cottages were part of the land being returned to
Council control. This means that this parcel of land within Pear Wood
can now be confidently managed by Claire Abbott and Rosemary Etheridge
without the worry - or at least the immediate worry - that it will be
sold for development.
There has been a worrying set of reports of sewage leaks, stream
contamination and a general decline in the quality of watercourses and
ponds in the borough. Up at the top of Bentley Priory a sewer
overflowed in June just inside the grounds of the new development and
continued to leak sewage over the Weald Path and onto the top of Spring
Meadow for about a month. This was patched up, but at the start of
September this or a different sewer began leaking lower down, near the
Masefield Avenue, running straight into the Stanburn stream. At the
time of writing the Environment Agency and Thames Water are reported to
be still working on the problem. Around the same time, a different
sewer began overflowing and creating a large puddle just inside the
gate into Pear Wood; this was fixed after two weeks or so. In June rats
appeared around Spring Pond in Stanmore Country Park and around Pear
Wood Lake; those at Spring Pond were dealt with by the Council while
those in Pear Wood seem to have moved on. Down in the south of the
borough the Yeading Brook East, which flows through Newton Farm and
Newton Park West has always smelt bad but in August Simon Braidman, who
is monitoring it as part of the Crane River scheme, reported
“Last month the invertebrate numbers at Newton Park West dropped
by 40% and the Gammerus shrimp numbers by 90%. Sewage fungus appeared
and the stream stank of sewage from 20 meters. The filamentous algae
covering the streambed stonework was wiped out.” The pond in
Newton Farm acts as a reservoir when the Roxbourne overflows but is
normally isolated; nevertheless Simon Thomas reports that pond dipping
this year found less life than in previous years. With the financial
cuts imposed on both the Environment Agency and local government it is
likely that water quality will continue to deteriorate - nevertheless
we should hope for better, and help the authorities by reporting
pollution incidents to the Environment Agency on their hotline number
0800 80 70 60. Denis Vickers writes “You will need to give the EA
details such as where (as accurately as possible), date and when you
first noticed the problem. Please note any other details e.g. smell,
appearance, dead fish etc. The EA are the enforcing authority and have
the power to fine polluters.”
On a happier note, the two Dragonfly
Ponds at the top of Bentley Priory, well above the sewage leak and fed
only by springs, are in good condition. Over the past two years Steve
Murray, a dragonfly expert, has recorded eleven species of dragonflies
and damselflies there.
As usual we attended the Harrow in Leaf show on August Bank holiday,
24th and 25th. The Natural History Society chose wisely and came on
Sunday only, a pleasant day with a good number of visitors. Children
were entranced by Simon Braidman’s pond beasties while we handed
out a good pile of literature. Monday was near continuous rain, so only
a few members of the public visited our stand, but thanks anyway to
Francesca Campagnoli of the Brent catchment project who braved the
weather to help out at the stall that day.
Some thanks more are in order: To Mick Wynne and Mark Richardson of
Public Realm at the Council for a very efficient organization of the
grass cut on our sites, with excellent notification to all the wardens
about when the cut would occur and prompt collection of the arisings.
And to the young people from The Challenge Network who came to Stanmore
Common on September 7th and 28th and worked cheerfully on various tasks
from pulling up tiny saplings to felling significant trees.
VICARAGE AND ALL
Regarding the Churchyard Betty reported that the grass is being cut;
there is also a beehive there now. On the 14th July a well attended
HNHC guided walk toured the churchyard, the BOV Nature reserve and part
of the cemetery. Common Pipistrelle bats were recorded at the Cemetery
Regarding BOV Nature reserve, Betty reported that half of the path has
been done, the other half still needs doing.
It was reported that the Harrow Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), which caters
for youngsters excluded or at threat of exclusion from school or who
cannot attend school for some other reason, is to be relocated from
Harrow Teachers’ Centre in Tudor Road, Wealdstone to the empty
former Bentley Day Centre. The Day Centre’s grounds have been
fenced off and the only access to the reserve is now through the church
grounds which is a concern.
Peter Peretti explained that it would be better to show members, on
site, the developments that have taken place this year. Peter offered
to give member a tour of the site and it was agreed that this would
take place on Saturday 4th October at 2 pm meeting at the entrance at
the top of Old Lodge Way.
A particular problem was the
deterioration of the original old RAF sewer and this issue is being
pursued by Dave Corby.
Steve reported that on 9th July 2014 Eddie Brede of Froglife emailed
Dennis Vickers to say that they now had SITA funding for the Bentley
Priory project to start this winter and the work was now out to tender
for a quote. It is not clear whether this just means Boot Pond or
whether it also includes the Common Lizard project. Denis has commented
that work cannot start until approved by Natural England.
Regarding the Master Oak - the outer, wooden fence with a metal mesh
was built by Trimlock in the week starting 23rd June 2014. On August
27th 2014 Steve fitted a barbed wire line above the metal mesh. The
next stage is the production of mulched pathway and Linda Robinson from
The Friends of Bentley Priory will be overseeing the design of the
FARM ECOLOGY PARK
Steve reported that the Green Grid items for 2014-2015 are now
finalised and include these items for Newton Farm:
We now know the “project lead” for the Newton Park Ecology
Park big lottery project - it is Paul Brogan, the Beacon Centre
- Rayner's Lane entrance - reinstate the pedestrian gate to the
left of the 5 bar gate.
- Alexandra Avenue entrance - reinstate a 5 bar gate and pedestrian
gate. Do some planting to make the gate area more attractive.
- Blocking the entrance from Priest Park Avenue to stop fly
tipping. However when Dave Corby, Sally Reeves and Sally's boss walked
around the site Dave Corby argued against immediately blocking the
entrance and said that rather one should first try a renewed effort to
stop fly tipping. A council officer in ‘Enforcement’ will
try and do this. If the entrance is to be blocked then it should be
done with a locked gate since Council employees would need to be able
to get in to remove stuff thrown over the fence.
Steve also reported that on August 8th Simon Thomas had emailed him
about another question: I was woken this morning by contractors from
GFL digging up something along the fence line opposite the house. I
have just spoken to them and found out that they are sorting out a root
barrier to stop the roots from affecting the fence line etc. Did you
know about this? Again I haven’t been told what works are going
on. On August 21st Steve spoke with Simon about this by phone, it
sounds to have been a major operation that took almost a week and for
which the contractors parked their vehicles in Newton Farm. Simon
thought they were working for the Council but I'm not even sure about
this, the work was apparently to stop subsidence of one of the houses
in Newton Close. Steve said that initially at least Simon should talk
to Mick Wynne, who could at least find out what was going on. It was
agreed that the matter would be raised with Council Officers at the
meeting on September 3rd.
At the HNCF meeting with Mick Wynne and Dave Corby on 4th June 2014
Mick agreed to add the paths at Newton Farm to the regular cutting
rota, so that they should be cut every three weeks. We do not know if
this has been carried out.
Claire reported that the mowing of the Scout Field was carried out on
28th August. A corner is going to be knocked of the Fishermen’s
track so the new mower can gain access more easily.
The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) spent a day cutting Bracken on the
Grimsdyke on the 5th August. There was initially a bit of a muddle due
to the change of Project Officer (PO) when Paul Colcutt left. The team
that came was from East London (Tom Nandi’s) team and there was a
very good turn out with 10 volunteers plus Claire and Rosemary.
Jack Newman, the new PO for the TCV is coming to Pear Wood soon to
familiarise himself with the site.
On June 7th Claire and Rosemary showed Andy Jukes of Conops Entomology
around Pear Wood and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital site. He
has about 40 Wood Ant sites to move for an environmental consultancy.
Sean Courtman from the Urban Orchard Project is coming to look at fruit
trees in Pear Wood.
There is a tree down across a path that needs someone with a chain saw
to deal with it. Steve agreed to coordinate action on this.
Claire reported that there is a raw sewage leak 15 yards inside the
gate on Wood Lane She has been reporting this since July 7th but it
still flowing. A contractor contacted Claire but the leak is still
there. A number of people including wardens and cars for cub scouts
park there. The matter will be raised with Council Officers at the
meeting on the 3rd September.
The problem with rats appears to have been resolved. Regarding SSSI
status, Steve reported that his approach to the Esmee Fairbairn
foundation for funds to carry out the saproxylic invertebrate survey
was turned down. When he has time he will try somewhere else.
Rosemary led a guided walk on “Grasses, Rushes and Sedges”
on the 14th June. There was a good turnout but then it rained heavily
so unfortunately it had to finish early.
Rosemary will be giving a talk on Fungi on Monday 13th October for the
Harrow Natural History Society, starting at 8 pm at the Blackwell Hall.
Claire and Rosemary will be leading a Guided Walk for Fungi on Saturday
18th October meeting at 10.30 am at the Wood Lane entrance to Pear
Dave Bolton reported work has continued on cutting back Bramble growth
and keeping path edges clear. Litter clearance has continued as always.
Some clearance took place of the drive prior to the mowing taking
place. There was an improvement this year with the mowing in that the
machinery used has increased width and lower height so that trees were
Dave again expressed concern about the safety of the exit at the top of
the steps and reported that a dog had been injured running out in to
the road. Dave recommended that a hinged, spring gate be installed.
This matter was raised with Council Officers on the 4th June following
the last meeting. And it will be raised again at the meeting on the 3rd
Problems were reported with the leaflet boxes particularly in wet
conditions. It was difficult to ensure that leaflets could be extracted
singly, if at all sometimes. Steve reported that the boxes were paid
for using Green Grid money. A similar application would be made to
replace them and if this was unsuccessful they should be removed.
An appropriate site for an additional pond was discussed. Steve and
Dave have identified a site at the southeast corner. Dave Bolton has
reported that if a bit of fence was removed machines could get in from
Cannon Lane, indeed, if all the work was done from here, one could
completely preserve the barrier between the new pond and the path
within Roxbourne Rough.
More work was needed by the Council on the Japanese Knotweed near the
reserve and this issue would be raised with Council Officers at the
meeting on the 3rd September.
Dave was thanked for helping with a Harrow Natural History Society
(HNHS) walk on 28th June. The next joint meeting between the Forum and
HNHS on the 8th September will feature Roxbourne Rough.
Simon reported that the Botany survey has been completed. John Winter
has made a terrapin trap however this has not been used as there is a
dilemma as to what to do with any trapped terrapins.
A lot of work has been done on the new Nature Trail which is nearing
completion. Two tool maintenance days have taken place as well as
At the last meeting on June 3rd Steve reported that he had written to
Grove Farm on 20th April 2014 (see HNCF notes for that date) and that
he had received no reply. Susan Anderson reported that she now has a
contact phone number and will pass it on to Steve.
The group from HaMakom Jewish school will come on Mitzvah Day, 16th
November 2014: hopefully they can collect and sow more heather seed.
Leslie reported that £982 remains in the “Training for
volunteers” budget of the Bluebell Heath project. Simon indicated
that the proposal was to send John Bugler on a Chain Saw Course.
The issue of the future of the Horse Ride was discussed. The general
feeling was that it should be kept open. In this case the following
policy has been proposed by Council Officers:
Simon Braidman could suggest to users of
the horse ride that they should arrange for, and pay, a consultant to
generate and cost a plan to refurbish the ride. The refurbishment would
have to take into account both the natural history of the site
(consulting the warden and the Council's biodiversity officer) and the
needs of horse riders. This plan could then be used as the basis for
raising funds to do the work. The plan would be presented to Council
officers for possible funding under the Green Grid scheme, although it
would have to complete with other projects that arguably benefit a
greater number of Harrow residents. The plan could also be used as the
basis for horse ride users to raise the funding themselves. Simon and
the team must avoid giving the impression that once the horse riders
have generated the plan there is any obligation on the council to help
pay for the work.
Simon agreed to again contact the users
of the ride.
STANMORE COUNTRY PARK
Maya reported that she has spent a considerable amount of effort
dealing with the two encroachments into the Country Park from the back
gardens of houses backing onto Dennis Lane. She had spent a lot of time
contacting various people in the Council and asked for a person that
she could contact as a primary link to the Council. The Councillors
indicated that they could be contacted and would take matters like this
forward; in particular Cllr Keith Ferry in matters like this.
A Tree House in an old Hornbeam by a path and on the Nature Trail has
been dismantled and Maya is working with the young people who put it
The grass cut has been well organised this year and all fields
including Cloisters Field were cut last week. John reported that a
small part of 40 Acre Field was left uncut to see what effect this
would have on the resident butterfly population.
Wardens have concentrated on keeping the paths open and widening them
and removing overhanging branches as necessary.
A moth evening was held on Friday 29th September. The evening produced
a good range of moths including some micro moths which were new records
for the site. Common Pipistrelle bats were calling the whole evening.
Trimlock inspected this year’s Green Grid projects. These are
Putting in two bridges connecting the Country Park to the Scout’s
Field and putting in a drain to divert water from Six Acre Field.
Kate Lewis has persuaded the Council to replace the missing rubbish bin
at the Kerry Avenue entrance.
The issue of the locked gate at the Brockley Hill entrance has not been
resolved with the Golf Club although efforts have been made to work
with the site manager. John will continue to pursue the matter.
Sewa Day this year is on October 5th 2014. There is the possibility of
two groups working on Stanmore Country Park. Final arrangements are
still to be made; Steve and John are both available to help.
STANMORE LITTLE COMMON
Robert Stone reported that although 90% of Caesar’s Pond was
covered with Broad-leaved Pondweed there were only minor traces of
Parrot’s Feather so it looks like no action is needed on that at
the moment. The problem of the Brown Rats on Spring Pond and nearby
gardens has now been dealt with. A Crayfish survey is planned.
Steve reported that the south bank of Caesar’s Pond needs
clearing. Robert will carry this out with his volunteer.
Robert also reported that a section of fence from the Rugby field is
now in Caesar’s Pond. It was agreed that this problem would be
referred to Council Officers at the meeting on the 3rd September
Cllr Keith Ferry reported that a meeting had taken place yesterday (in
the rain) of the site to assess the condition of the site and to ensure
that agreed works have been carried out prior to any handover.
On 7th August 2014 Land Use Consultants sent Abigail Heard at the
Council a revised management plan. Steve and Claire have already
submitted comments and it was looked at again at the site meeting on
the 1st September.
On the legal side a draft constitution for the Management Committee is
with the Council’s Legal team.
It was agreed that the first formal meeting of the Greater Stanmore
Country Park Management Committee will be held at 4 pm on Wednesday
September 24th, at the Civic Centre. The initial (though not
necessarily final) memberships is as follows: Cllr Keith Ferry, Cllr
Susan Anderson, Cllr Camilla Bath, Steve Bolsover, Claire Abbott,
Rosemary Etheridge, John Hollingdale, Margaret Huitson, Maya Dodwell,
Denis Vickers, Dave Corby and other appropriate Council staff.
Following an advertising campaign a pleasing number of people have
shown interest in the post of voluntary warden.
To date Steve has had eight applicants for the warden position and he
has shown most of them over the site.
Thanks to Yu Xuan for the
photograph of the saw
to Harrow Nature Conservation Forum home
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