Stanmore Country Park and Wood Farm form a large continuous open space running between Stanmore town centre and Wood Lane on the ridge above. On warm summer weekends it is busy with walkers and visitors; on a frosty winter’s day it can be deserted of people but loud with passing birds and foraging muntjak deer. The reserve is open all year round and welcomes all visitors. All that we ask of visitors is that you treat the site with respect – that includes not dropping litter, not picking flowers or fungi, not lighting fires, not damaging trees or fences, and keeping dogs under control.
The open space is managed by voluntary wardens who work to record species and enhance the site’s biodiversity. Larger scale work, such as mechanical cutting of the open areas to prevent scrub growth, is performed by council workers and contractors.
Trail 2.3km long
winds through Stanmore Country Park and takes visitors past many interesting aspects of
the site. Leaflets are usually available in dispensers at the main
entrances. Alternatively use one of these sources:
Version suitable for smartphones can be accessed here - or by QR tags on the posts as you walk the trail. This is the most complete version of the guide.
Text version suitable for printing and taking along with you, but without maps or illustrations.
Full PDF copy of leaflet, with maps and illustrations - but note this is intended to be printed onn A3 paper; if printed on A4 text size will be very small.
The Old Dairy (Wood Farm Visitor Centre) is an excellent base for natural history study by small groups of children or adults. It can also be booked for other activities such as classes and exercise sessions. Click here for more details.
The lower parts of Stanmore Country Park lie on the heavy, impermeable London Clay. As the ground rises to the north, successively faster draining soils overlay the London Clay: first the Claygate Beds and then the rounded pebbles of the Stanmore Beds. As the Stanmore Beds and Claygate Beds drain freely, water washes nutrients out of the surface layers causing the soil to be acid. The Stanmore Beds continue on the upper parts of Stanmore Common to the northwest. However on Wood Farm the original surface has been obscured by landfill, mainly building rubble, capped by a thin layer of soil brought in from elsewhere.
Much of Wood Farm is now covered in bramble scrub. The intention is to maintain this scrub, since it forms excellent nesting sites for migrant warblers. The upper parts of Wood Farm will be maintained as rough meadow grassland (see image above). A small pond at the top attracts wildfowl.
Up to around 1950 Stanmore Country Park comprised grazed open fields. However secondary woodland has grown up over much of Stanmore Country Park, with only small sections remaining as open grassland.
The open areas with acidic, fast draining soil are dominated by common bent and Yorkshire fog. Damper areas are dominated by tussocks of tufted hair grass. Heath bedstraw, lesser stitchwort, red fescue, false oat-grass, tormentil and sheep's sorrel also occur here. Wild angelica and marsh thistle make up the taller elements of this community, whilst spikes of bugle and trailing stems of large birdsfoot trefoil bloom in a profusion of purple and yellow beneath. Remote, pendulous and wood sedges, marsh thistle and jointed rush can also be found. One of the more interesting plants to occur here is square stemmed St John's wort, an uncommon plant in London. Rough grassland is relatively rare in England, especially in the SouthEast, and the open areas in Stanmore Country Park are therefore the most valuable in terms of biodiversity.
A striking feature of the acid grassland are the many raised nests of the Yellow Hill Ant Lasius flavus. Some of the less competitive herbs such as heath bedstraw, common tormentil, sheep's sorrel and lesser stitchwort thrive on their summits. In a number of locations the ant nest mounds march on into the woodland like overgrown gravestones, an indication that these areas were open grassland relatively recently. In our management of the Park we are working to clear these areas of the newly developed woodland, since seeds of the grassland plants are likely to be still viable in the soil, allowing rapid regeneration of the species-rich grassland. Around the edge of the open areas, particularly Forty Acre field, dog rose is magnificent for a brief few weeks in June.
Most of the woodland is formed largely of relatively young oak, birch and sycamore, with sporadic occurrences of rowan, holly, english elm, hawthorn and elder in the shrub layer. The wild service tree, which is relatively rare in London, is also found. Other areas of woodland are more open and contain mature beech, hornbeam and oak, with an understorey of holly, birch, elder and hawthorn. Hornbeam, in particular, is more characteristic of ancient woodland, so these sections have probably been wooded for many centuries. Blackthorn with its savage thorns is common throughout the reserve, especially in wet areas along the streams. In April its white flowers on the bare stems are an early promise of Spring; later it bears small bitter plums called sloes that can be used to flavour gin.
The woodland supports a good fern and bryophyte flora. On the drier woodland floor are shade tolerant plants including bluebell (shown at left, image by Marian Sartin), enchanter's nightshade, pignut, slender false-brome, herb robert and wood poa, whilst wood anemones generate a splash of white along woodland margins in the spring. Wood sorrel is rare within the site but can be found in the ground flora of the older woodland.
The ponds at the southern corner of the site are balancing ponds dug in the 1980s to protect the nearby underground car park from flooding. Plants to be found there include water plantain, reed mace, false-fox sedge, great willow herb, floating sweetgrass, soft rush, broad-leaved pondweed, pendulous sedge, and celery leaved buttercup.
Forty Acres Pit
Forty Acres Pit in the northeast corner of Stanmore Country Park is a mysterious ancient pond or reservoir. No historical records concerning this structure are known, although we suspect that it dates from the eighteenth century and formed part of the system supplying water to Canons, the home of the Duke of Chandos. A second pit on the southern edge of the site, west of Kerry Avenue, is probably ancient gravel digging.
The birds spotted in Stanmore Country Park and Wood Farm include buzzard, red kite, kestrel, sparrowhawk, tawny owl, all three species of woodpecker, nuthatch and tree creeper. In summer several species of warbler are found including blackcap, whitethroat and lesser whitethroat. Also breeding are blackbird, song and mistle thrush, and many tit species including long tailed tit. Grey herons, moorhens and kingfishers can sometimes be seen feeding around the ponds.
Elm trees on Stanmore Country Park are home to the white letter hairstreak butterfly, a relatively rare insect that is a Harrow biodiversity flagship species. The brightly coloured burnet moth can be seen flying over the grassy open areas during the day. In fact there are two species: the narrow bordered five spot burnet, with five red spots on each wing, frequents Six Acre field, while the six spot burnet is found in Forty Acre Field. Over 240 species of “macro moth” have been recorded in the Park over the past few years.
Mammals recorded at the Country Park include fox, the occasional weasel as well as grey squirrels and rabbit. More unusually, badgers and roe deer have been recorded here from time to time and Muntjac deer can be spotted in the woodland shrubbery.
Entrance 1 on the map to right is opposite number 51, Dennis
Entrance 2 is most convenient for central Stanmore. Look for a small brown signpost on Dennis Lane indicating the park. A car park is available on the other side of the road, in Stanmore Recreation Ground.
Entrance 3 is at the north end of Kerry Avenue, an easy walk from Stanmore Jubilee Line station.
Entrance 4, connecting to Brockley Hill Open Space, accessed from Cleopatra Close, is not marked on the map because at the moment it is locked pending discussions with the golf range.
Entrance 5 is a pedestrian entrance to Wood Farm adjacent to the new Cloisters housing development.
Entrance 6 is the main entrance to Wood Farm, with a small public car park which is unlocked and locked daily by volunteers. The car park opens at 10:00 AM and is locked at 8:30 PM in summer, while British Summer Time is in operation (Last Sunday of March to last Sunday of October) and at 4:30 PM at other times.
Stanmore is served by the 142, 340 and H12 busses while bus 615 runs along Wood Lane by entrances 5 and 6.
The meeting point for guided walks is entrance 2. Working parties on this and our other sites in Stanmore meet at the Stanmore Common car park on Warren Lane, close to the Priory Drive stop on the 142 bus.
A pleasant and largely road-free route leads from Stanmore Jubilee Line station through Stanmore Country Park to Stanmore Common – click here for details.
Map above reproduced by permission of Geographers' A-Z Map Co. Ltd. (c)Crown Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Licence number 100017302.
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