HNCF logo
October 2014

Chairman's message

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.

Steve Bolsover

Site reports


BENTLEY OLD VICARAGE AND ALL SAINTS CHURCHYARD

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.

BENTLEY PRIORY

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 information board.

NEWTON FARM ECOLOGY PARK

Steve reported that the Green Grid items for 2014-2015 are now finalised and include these items for Newton Farm:
  1. Rayner's Lane entrance - reinstate the pedestrian gate to the left of the 5 bar gate.
  2. Alexandra Avenue entrance - reinstate a 5 bar gate and pedestrian gate. Do some planting to make the gate area more attractive.
  3. 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.
We now know the “project lead” for the Newton Park Ecology Park big lottery project - it is Paul Brogan, the Beacon Centre Manager.

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.

PEAR WOOD

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 Wood.

ROXBOURNE ROUGH

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 not damaged. 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 September.

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.

STANMORE COMMON

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 guided walks.

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 up.

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

WOOD FARM

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

Past newsletters ... Back to Harrow Nature Conservation Forum home

To contact us, email admin@harrowncf.org