Harrow Nature Conservation Forum

October 2010

Chairman's message

The summer has seen some welcome developments. I am very pleased to welcome Claire McDermott as a warden of Newton Farm Ecology Park. This is a difficult site in a less affluent part of Harrow with constant problems of vandalism. Nevertheless it has attractive hedgerows and meadows. The thorny scrub provides a haven for birds while a healthy pond, located at the southern tip, has a dipping platform to let local children hunt for aquatic life. Claire, a professional artist, understands the difficulties of the site and has formed contacts with local children and young adults. An example of how Claire manages to combine realism and vision is her tree sculpture in the meadow (for a picture, see page two of Harrow Council’s “Talking Communities” newsletter). It is designed to be revealed and then hid as the height of the vegetation changes with the seasons, and will be a surprise discovery for smaller children exploring the meadow in summer; but being made of concrete, it is in fact much better at resisting vandalism than the standard issue play equipment found elsewhere on the site. One of Claire’s next projects is to open up the site of the overgrown Healing Garden, removing some of the bushes and returning much of the area to a low meadow of low grasses and wildflowers such as cowslip, yarrow, self heal and ladies bedstraw. Once again this has a double aim: to make the area more representative of a wild open space displaying native species, but also to reduce the real and perceived potential for harassment and violence that the area now represents.

A number of years ago Simon Braidman and John Dobson created Pynding Mersc, a wetland area at the lowest part of Stanmore Common, using a dam of sandbags. This is a different sort of environment from a sunny reed-edged pond such as that at Roxbourne Rough: Pynding Mersc is a bog in which waterlogged tree trunks slowly rot. Such a site may not be as attractive as a sunny pond, but is a valuable type of habitat that human drainage efforts have made rare and precious. In August 2010 a Council contractor, Willowbank Services, built a more permanent dam that has the additional benefit of improving the horse ride. The heavy rains we have seen in late summer and autumn have filled the Mersc nicely; some photos can be seen on our website.

Willowbank are now at work a few hundred metres to the south, in Stanmore Little Common. A number of years ago the lower western pond, called Spring Pond, was drained and dredged resulting in a great improvement in water quality. The upper, eastern pond, Caesar’s Pond, is now getting the same treatment: Mechanical diggers are scraping mud from the bed of the drained pond and spreading it along a strip of ground immediately south of the Rugby Club field. In parallel the overhanging trees will be cut back to allow sunlight in and reduce the number of leaves that fall in the water in the autumn. Once the work is finished this pond should be both more attractive and a better home for aquatic insects and other invertebrates.

In contrast to this large scale work most of the work of our wardens is the steady maintenance of grass cutting, litter clearance and so on which the public hardly notices but which would be sorely missed if not done. It is therefore especially welcome to be able to report that in June 2010 the churchyard of All Saint’s Church, Harrow Weald, maintained by Jill Lewis and described in our leaflet on Bentley Old Vicarage, won a “Sacred Spaces” award from the Conservation Foundation and English Heritage because of its biodiversity and tranquil atmosphere.

Our stall at the Harrow in Leaf show at the end of August 2010 attracted good notice from the public. Visitors carried away not only many leaflets but also the list of working parties; it would be lovely if at least one generated a volunteer! Next door Simon Braidman’s collection of nature objects and living bugs generated the usual interest from children.

Lastly thanks go to Michael Carmody of our parent body, the Harrow Heritage Trust, who has donated a number of tools that are now marked with red and white paint and added to the tool store. The most useful addition is a wheelbarrow (with a solid tyre, so no fear of punctures).

Steve Bolsover

Site reports


Betty Brown reported that the well-attended AGM took place on May 12th with a speaker from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Group talking about the Water Vole Project. The Open Day, specifically for the reserves, went well this year and took place on Sunday July 18th with walks taking place in the morning and afternoon. It provided good publicity for the reserves and the Forum.

Rev James Mercer had carried out the necessary strimming work this year. He is also pursuing the educational possibilities.

The issues of the path resurfacing and a sign were discussed. It was agreed that Dave Corby and Steve Bolsover would investigate the possibility of using some of the outstanding Section 106 money for this.


Peter Peretti reported that sitings of butterflies this summer had been good. In particular it had been pleasing to see the number of White-letter and Purple Hairstreaks butterflies

Bird species seen had included Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Garden Warblers and the White throats had returned. There were 2 pairs of Tawny owls and Buzzards were breeding in the areas. Large numbers of Harlequin ladybirds had been recorded.

Work was still to begin on the Boot Pond area, but has continued on the rotation management including the clearance of brambles and scrub to expose the grassland Two thirds of the machine work had been completed.


Rosemary Etheridge has made a list of the Bryophytes and with the help of specialists from the Natural History Museum. 41 mosses and 7 Liverworts had been recorded and the information was now on GIGL.

The mowing of the Scout field was still to be done. The Guide field was not to be cut as it was different in character.

The issue of the Bracken on the Dyke was discussed. Following discussion with English Heritage this year Claire had strimmed the Bracken twice but this was not something she could continue to do. Steve, Claire and Dave Corby would liaise on this issue. It was also important to protect the ants. Only one nest rather than the two planned had been moved from the hospital because of weather conditions. Both the ants and the hospital and the relocated ants were doing well despite the pheasants, rabbits and woodpeckers.

The rubbish left on the site following the completion of the work on the sewage problem still needed to be removed.

BTCV work would include cutting down tall gorse to encourage new growth.

Grass snakes had been seen and there had been a report of an Adder. Cuckoos had been heard 3 times and the Mandarins had bred. Lots of Burnet moths had been seen in the Scout field following the cut been carried out at the right time.


Dave Bolton reported that all of the 6 tonnes of stones had been used for the repair work on the paths. The grass on the path borders has been cut each month and some cutting back of scrub to keep paths clear has been carried out. Litter had been cleared each month. The pond had dried up by mid July so there was no chance of tadpoles maturing. The Ragwort appears to have increased this summer and is taking over the middle section and lots of hoverflies had been seen. Dave reported that he had carried out repairs to the fencing as the dry weather had caused the concrete to move. 6 volunteers from St Alban’s Church had helped with cuttings and raking off under trees where the tractor cannot access.

There had been complaints about the steps. Dave Corby reported that there were funds available for this work to be carried out. He would liaise with Dave Bolton to get this work carried out.


The regular orchid count had been carried out and numbers are up from 6 to 40. Heather has expanded in all clearings. The July butterfly walk had 6 people and we saw Large Skipper, Large White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Comma. The bat walk was rained off with torrential rain. 8 people turned up for the afternoon walk on June 12.

A detailed Phase I survey of the ecology of Stanmore Common had taken place and some nice rarities found. This was carried out over the last few months by John Dobson of Make Natural Ltd., and his report is due in at the end of September 2010.

Working Parties have been planned to take place once a month. The last one had only been attended by David Bailey and Simon so additional work had been carried out by Steve and Dave with the Brush Cutter.

A new dam had been installed at Pynding Mersc, the wetland area at the lowest part of Stanmore Common. This was completed in August 2010.

Two fences had been erected to make it more difficult for horse riders to enter the main part of the common from the horse ride. There is increased fly tipping around car park and there are also problems of unauthorized garden extensions onto the common


John Hollingdale reported that spring and summer walks had taken place. About fifteen people had attended the July Butterfly walk. The weather was good and several species of butterfly were seen. However the walk did not see Ringlet butterflies but in the following week they were seen in two areas of the country park.

An event for National Moth night took place on the 15th May.  Four people attended  but the conditions were not good and  only 7 moths of 3 species were seen. Another Moth evening took place on September 4th. The weather was excellent (cloudy and warm) and 36 species were recorded with assistance of the only other participant, a member of Barnet group of the London Wildlife Trust.

Routine management has taken place on a regular basis order to widen the ride from Ant city into 40 Acre field. Logs have also been cleared from a nearby camp fire site. More intensive management will be tried next year to control the bracken. Two BTCV visits are planned for the autumn and the work will include coppicing in the Upper Blue Pond area and path maintenance.

Dave Corby reported that, following a survey, progress should be made towards putting in the entrance from Brockley Hill to Stanmore Country Park.

It was noted that a meeting with the Golf Club was still needed to resolve some issues regarding disposal of waste into the Country Park and Pear Wood. It was agreed that Dave would liaise with Claire Abbott regarding this matter.

Kate Lewis was thanked for her ongoing work on litter collection over a number of sites.


The issue of antisocial behaviour was discussed. Dave Corby reported that he had liaised with the police and Kate Lewis regarding fire lighting and antisocial behaviour around the area. Signage would make the bylaws clear regarding matters such as camping. There was now no damage from horses.

The Mandarin ducks had bred with 4 young and there had been 2 House Martin nests nearby. There had been a colony of House Martins there years ago and with was agreed that Roger should liaise with residents over this. John Dobson pointed out that some of the bare earth in the area was important for biodiversity.

Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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