Wood Farm

Wood Farm was only opened to the public in 2015 and has rapidly become one of Harrow’s most popular open spaces. 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.

This site was a working farm until around the end of the 20th century. Almost all the farm buildings have disappeared, but the Old Dairy, which was used for storing milk for distribution, has been retained and converted to an attractive visitor centre which forms 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 site has been in public ownership from at least 1939 and was leased to agricultural tenants. From 1960 the tenant was Commonwealth heavyweight boxing champion (1956-1957) Joe Bygraves, who bred pigs on the site for about 20 years. During this time the site was also used to dispose of building rubble. This has raised the ground level considerably, especially in the lower half of the site. The rubble has been capped with a thin layer of earth but lumps of concrete do still poke through in places.

In 2009 negotiations began with the aim of creating a public open space on the site. Much legal wrangling followed, but in December 2015 the site you see now was transferred to Harrow Council control. It is now managed by a volunteer warden supported by a management committee comprising council officers, elected councillors and volunteers.

The London Viewpoint is a short distance along the all weather path that starts from the car park. On a clear day you can see a wide panoramic view from Alexandra Palace in the east to Heathrow in the southwest, and over London to Box Hill in the south.

The area to the left and right as you walk to the viewpoint was sown with a native wildflower mix in 2015 and many of the species can still be found: look out for white heath bedstraw (image below), yellow ladies bedstraw, white oxeye daisies and the impressive yellow dark mullein (image below).

Along the path to the viewpoint you pass a pond on the right. Human visitors are welcome to enter, but dogs should wait outside. Dogs that jump into ponds damage the waterside vegetation, stir up sediment that chokes underwater plants and poison aquatic invertebrates with the flea treatment in their coats. In summer, look for dragonflies and damselflies hawking over the pond or resting on the waterside plants. In late summer, large numbers of swallows and house martins swoop over the pond to drink as they mass in preparation for their migration south.

At the London viewpoint look out for birds of prey as well as admiring the view. Kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard and red kite all regularly hunt over Wood Farm.

Heath bedstraw

Dark mullein
Wood Farm Loop You can see all the different aspects of Wood Farm by following the Wood Farm Loop, which is clearly signposted on the wooden bollards. From the London Viewpoint take the left hand path. The first area you will pass through is maintained as tussocky grassland. Rather than being mown every year, it is mown on a two to three year rotation. This means that there is more dead vegetation over the winter for insects and small mammals to hide in and seeds for them to feed on, but it also means that there are fewer wild flowers.

At a fork, take the left hand path and follow the Wood Farm Loop as it leads around the southern edge of Wood Farm. You are now in an area dominated by bramble. This is wonderful for nesting birds. For example, in spring and summer listen for the fast, scratchy song of the whitethroat, a warbler that loves this scrubby, varied landscape. You will pass a number of fenced enclosures. These are planted with native trees including hazel, oak and hawthorn. The intention is that as these grow they will form copses that blur the boundary between the open land of Wood Farm and the mature woods of Stanmore Country Park.

On the left as you walk along are the trees of Stanmore Country Park. You will pass three junctions where paths lead south or west into the Park. Stanmore Country Park is well worth exploring for its mix of woods, grasslands and streams. A nature trail points out many of the points of interest and can be accessed using a smartphone with the QR tags on the bollards; alternatively download the text from the Stanmore Country Park web page.

In the lower parts of Wood Farm, look out for hemlock, a member of the carrot family with white flowers that grows over six feet tall. In winter, its dead stems stand tall above even the bramble. You will also see goats rue (image at right), a member of the pea family with pretty purple or white lupin-like flowers. Goats rue is pretty and is a good source of nectar for butterflies and insects. However it is very invasive. We are happy to let it romp away down here, but we don’t want it to invade the precious acid grassland of Stanmore Country Park to the south.

Eventually the Wood Farm Loop starts climbing steeply back up the hill. Half way up you will come to a bench and in good weather this is a good spot for a rest. Straight ahead of you is what remains of Cloisters Wood, another area of ancient woodland much of which is now buried under the rubble you are walking on. This is a good spot to look out for butterflies. One you may see here is the clouded yellow, whose caterpillar feeds on members of the pea family such as bird’s foot trefoil, clovers and goats rue. As you climb you pass back from the scrub zone through tussocky grassland to the flower-rich meadow grassland. At the top, a bollard guides you to the left through a small valley and back to the car park.

On the slope south of the car park there is another fenced area planted with trees including field maple, beech and hornbeam. These are small now but as they grow will give the car park a more secluded feel, and will provide seeds to attract finches in winter.

Click here for a report of birds seen at Wood Farm last calendar year, created by Tony Blake

Goats rue (purple flowers) and ragwort (yellow flowers)
How to find the reserve

Wood Farm is continuous with Stanmore Country Park to the south - see map to right.

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.The post code is HA7 4LG. The car park is locked at night. Locking is done by volunteers and so the times can vary: we will lock some time after 8:30 PM during the summer (April through October) and some time after 5:30 PM in winter (November through March). Please move your car before these times to avoid being locked in. The gate re-opens at around 10:30 AM the following morning.

Alternatively you can walk up from Stanmore Country Park. In particular, if you come by train to Stanmore Station (Jubilee line) simply walk up Kerry Avenue to entrance 3 and then keep going in a straight line -you will soon emerge on Wood Farm.

The meeting point for guided walks and working parties is the car park at entrance 6.

Work to improve Wood Farm has been funded by Harrow Council's Green Grid initiative - click here for more information.

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

Contact details

Miles Robertson, assistant warden of Wood Farm: milesrobertson@gmail.com

To enquire about use of the Old Dairy visitor centre
contact Leslie Bolsover at info@harrowheritagetrust.org.uk
or by phone at 020 8933 2823

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