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Bentley Old Vicarage Nature Reserve



Bentley Old Vicarage Nature Reserve is a small site lying north of All Saints' Church on the Uxbridge Road in Harrow Weald. Together with the churchyard of All Saints’ Church to its immediate south it forms a quiet oasis off this busy road. The post code is HA3 6DH.

Where the reserve is now was the vicarage of All Saints’ Church, built along with the church itself in 1848. The vicarage fell out of use in 1924 and was finally demolished in 1955. A few of the trees on the site now are relicts of the vicarage garden while most have grown up since that time. In 1987 a group of volunteers took over the site and were soon sponsored by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. The site is now managed by volunteers from the Harrow Nature Conservation Forum.


All Saint's church and yard
All Saint's churchyard is maintained for wildlife by Jill Lewis, the Lay Reader at the church. In spring look for flowers of primroses (Primula vulgaris) lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) and wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa). In summer among many other wildflowers you may notice the reddish flowers of Great hairy and Rose-bay willow-herbs (Epilobium hirsutum, E. angustifolium), the yellow creeping cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans), meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) and ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and the blue common vetch (Vicia sativa). White is also represented, by meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and the ten-rayed flowers of lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea). Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is also in bloom, although its familiar dry brown seeds are more prominent.

The chuch itself is the work of the prolific and controversial Victorian architect William Butterfield, most famous now for Keble College, Oxford. He was responsible for both the original building, dedicated in 1849, and the 1890 enlargements which included the elegant side steeple. The interior has interesting items including a stained glass window by the great preRaphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones. Access to the church is possible by prior arrangement with the Parish Office tel 020 8954 8865 (Monday-Friday 9 - 12) or by email to Jill Lewis at jill@lewis19.plus.com.

To the right of the church porch lie the burial plots of the Crosse family and the Blackwell family. Crosse and Blackwell, now best known for foodstuffs, made their money making bricks and tiles. The house called “The Kiln” and the adjacent plant nursery on Common Road in Stanmore was the site of one of their enterprises. The Blackwell family in particular were great benefactors to the local community. Passing these plots and continuing straight ahead one finds the entrance to the woodland nature reserve.

Nature Reserve
The nature reserve itself is a quiet area of woodland dominated by oak and ash. The reserve is rich in woodland bird species. In winter mixed parties of tits, including tiny and lovely long-tailed tits, forage in the trees, constantly calling to each other. In summer listen for the drumming of great spotted woodpeckers. Kestrels have nested in the church tower most years, and can be seen trying, unsuccessfully, to drive away crows, magpies and jays.

Plants to look out for
All year
Ivy (Hedera helix) romps over most of the ground and most of the trees. Notice how the leaves on the ground have the familiar five-lobed shape, while above the ground the leaves on free branches have a completely different, simple rhombic shape. The white flowers (October-November, see image at left) and black fruits form only on these high branches. In the butterfly meadow note the large clumps of pendulous sedge (Carex pendula).

February
Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is blooming in the wood. Where the rough path to the butterfly meadow leads off from the main loop look for flowers of the winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans).

March
In the wood snowdrops are still flowering, and are joined by the blue Chionodoxa, a garden flower that may be a relict of the vicarage. All through the wood the wide, triangular leaves of Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum) are pushing up and for a month or so form the dominant ground cover.

April
A number of gean (wild cherry, Prunus avium) are also in bloom. Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is growing through the leaves of Lords-and-Ladies and now becomes the dominant ground cover in the wood as the trees begin to leaf.

May
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is in bloom and hawthorn (Crataegus) is lovely at the edge of the butterfly meadow. From the butterfly meadow one can also see two apple trees in bloom, probably relicts of the vicarage garden. Under the trees the cow parsley is in bloom, together with bluebells (Endymion non-scriptus), violets (Viola riviniana) and Lords-and-Ladies.

June
The butterfly meadow is glorious with elder (Sambucus nigra) and dog rose (Rosa canina) in bloom along the edges and red clover (Trifolium pratense) crowfoot (Ranunculus repens) and tormentil (Potentilla anglica) in the grass.

High summer under the trees
Most of the flowering at ground level is now over as the trees come into full leaf and shade out the lower plants. Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) and Wood avens (Geum urbanum, like tormentil, a member of rose family that looks like a buttercup) continue to flower from June onward, and are joined in July by the tiny white flowers of Enchanters Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana). Bright red fruits of Lords-and-Ladies stand on stalks that are now isolated, all the leaves having died back. Even the cow parsley dies back, leaving the ivy once more as the dominant ground cover. Clumps of Male Fern (Dryopteris felix-mas) can be seen in many spots.


Map above reproduced by permission of Geographers' A-Z Map Co. Ltd. (c)Crown Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Licence number 100017302.
Also of note in the area

Old Inn The frontage of this fine Grade 2 listed house can be seen well from the Uxbridge Road. Built to serve traffic on both the Pinner-Uxbridge and Harrow-Bushey roads, this was built in the early 18th century and had the traditional if prosaic name of the Nag's Head. In the early 19th century it was converted to a private house, called Harrow Weald Lodge, and later to offices.

Grave of William Leefe Robinson At the southern tip of the churchyard extension is the grave of William Leefe Robinson, awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in shooting down a Zeppelin over Enfield during the first world war. He died in the great influenza epidemic of 1918.

How to find the reserve
The reserve is at the back of the Bentley Day Centre in Uxbridge Road, Harrow Weald and is reached through the churchyard of All Saints’ Church - see the access route on the map at the top of the page. The 340 and H12 busses run along the Uxbridge Road, while the 258 and 182 pass very close. There is no dedicated car park but parking is possible on local streets. The meeting point for all walks and working parties is the entrance to the Day Centre.

Contact details
Warden: James Mercer
Phone: 020 8954 0247
jamesjmercer@mac.com
Chairman: Betty Brown
Phone: 020 8954 3180

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