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October 2013

Chairman's message

661 words This will be a short report because I am snowed under with paperwork.

The best news to report is that we have a new, keen warden of Newton Farm Ecology Park, Simon Thomas. He has already taken his family out on the site armed with litter pickers to make a start on the piles of litter that are present. His email is and his phone number is 0787 015 7688.

I have been busy with physical work on a number of sites. In particular I’ve spent quite a few days at the Ride to West Spring on Bentley Priory, moving brash piles and felling one tree to allow a tractor in to cut down the bramble. The tractor came on Wednesday October 23rd and did an excellent job, clearing all the area that was infested with himalayan balsam the last summer - so next year pulling up the plant should be a lot easier.

We hosted volunteer groups from The Challenge Network on September 29th and the Shree Swaminarayan Temple on October 6th. Thanks to those who helped me with this and who all did a better job of enthusing the volunteers than me - Zubair Aziz, Simon Braidman, Neville Day, David Green and Margaret Griffin on September 29th and Robert Stone on the 6th.

We are initiating a new feature on the website - a box for small news items. The intention is to update this once I week. Have a look at to see the news feed, and send possible items for inclusion to John Holingdale.

Now I must return to paperwork to clear the desks for the Small Grants application to Harrow Council, deadline November 18th!

Steve Bolsover

Site reports


Bentley Old Vicarage:
It was reported that Harrow Council has closed Bentley Day Centre and is putting it up for sale, but it is unclear yet whether it will be sold as an existing building, for offices, or as a potential development site (maybe in combination with other Council assets). Possible development is compromised by the fact that most of the land lies within the Harrow Weald Park and the Hermitage Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. Steve wrote to Stephen Kelly arguing that as part of any development of this site the areas of the Day Centre within the SINC should be added to Bentley Old Vicarage nature reserve. This would also mean that the reserve could be directly accessed from the Uxbridge Road, perhaps with an information board about the site beside the road where it would be visible to passersby. No reply received as yet.

Betty reported that the Forestry School was continuing to flourish. A useful working party took place at the beginning of the month clearing scrub and ash.

The Open Day would take place on Sunday 22nd September.

All Saints Churchyard: Jill reported that the orchids are flourishing again in the churchyard and it is hoped that they will multiply.

It was reported that a successful joint meeting focusing on the site was held with the Harrow Natural History Society on the 9th September. The grazing cattle have continued to feature in the management of the site and the ongoing rotational management has continued.

Thanks were expressed to Linda Robinson from the Friends of Bentley Priory for her work in obtaining £5,750 from City and Country Group to replace fencing around the Master Oak and to put up an Information board or plaque. Because of the grade 2 listing, Linda has written to English Heritage asking for permission to do this, and Steve has written to Emily Dresner at Natural England.

The nature trail was formally opened by the Mayor on 23rd July 2013. The leaflet was revised to remove some errors and reprinted in August 2013. Steve requested that members walk the trail and continue to give him feedback. The plan is to establish a Local volunteer group. At the moment two are taking place each month: one on a Saturday the other on a Wednesday. The Sunday work parties are proving more successful.

Regarding the Bat Survey: Huma Pearce of ‘Mostly Bats’ has agreed to do one for the cut price of £200 and Joyce Nickolay agreed to fund this from Bentley Priory Management Committee funds. Simon reported that this has not taken place due to other commitments.

A concerted effort is being made to finish the Management Plan and the team will be meeting again on Monday September 23rd.
Access to and from the Bentley Priory museum is being discussed with the new Education Officer for the museum so that children working on educational activities in the Nature Reserve can use the Museum facilities.

It was reported that as far as we know Groundwork, a third sector organisation, has submitted an ‘Awards for All’ funding bid to improve the site and to recruit volunteers and buy some tools and plants. Claire McDermott has indicated that she wishes to row back regarding her involvement with the site. She is happy to assist a new Warden. Interest has been expressed by a volunteer who is willing to act in this capacity and is keen to try to deal with the litter problem.

Rosemary led a successful Grass Identification walk and Hard Rush was identified at the site for the first time.

Edward Milner led a spider walk for the London Natural History Society. During survey work in May a row of twelve Mature Wild Service trees were discovered; there are also some seedlings.

Two TCV workdays, under the auspices of English Heritage, carried out clearance   work on the dyke. The two different Heathers are spreading. There has been a nest of the Tree Bumble Bee, Bombus hypnorum in one of the nest boxes. There is Bladderwort on Pear Lake. It is planned to continue with coppicing the Hazel and one TCV day is set aside for this.

The SSSI application for Pear Wood has been sent to Natural England and passed to the Ancient Woodland specialists; Steve will contact them again after a three month interval has elapsed.

A Fungus Foray will be held on Sat 26th October starting at 10.30 am.

Dave Bolton reported that the grass along the path edges has been cut each month keeping the paths clear. A lot of litter has been picked up this summer especially wine bottles. The fencing by the kissing gate has been replaced; Dave has carried out repair work on adjacent fencing.

The open drain has now been covered however Steve and Dave will make the covering less noticeable and nail down the sleepers to make the covering safer. The fence over the ditch in the far corner has been replaced. In the heat the paths have developed some deep cracks and efforts have been made to repair them to make them safe; more gravel will be provided. There were some problems following workers from Network Rail coming on site however they have now cleared up.

The hay cut has been carried out earlier than was indicated on the schedule but there had been no problems. Cutting will be carried out in areas where the machinery cannot reach in particular around one of the seats.  Red Bartsia has been established at the site for several years, Yellow Iris is established down by the railways. Overall it has been a good year with the pond holding water etc. Pollarding the Willows is also planned.

Simon reported that since the last meeting 20 visits for non-Bluebell Heath work and 25 for Bluebell Heath work have taken place. Three walks have been led including a Butterfly walk and a Fungus walk where a good list of fungi was produced with the help in particular of Elizabeth Stainthorpe; the fungi were doing well this year.

Bracken clearance   has been carried out and time has been spent clearing paths and litter. Work has also continued at Great Brewery pond including selective tree clearance.

At the Bluebell Heath area the Bracken has been sprayed once. During the second year of the photo survey lessons have been learnt.

As well as the Tool Shed being broken into the Farm gates have been stolen from the Bridle way by Pynding Mersc however Simon felt that these were not worth replacing.

Mitzvah Day this year will take place on November 17th. 

New finds for the common include Lister’s River Snail and Wood Small Reed. Black Bulgar fungus and an Assassin bug have been found and the heather has been good.

Steve reported that with respect to Grove Ponds: On 2nd August 2013 Philip Loveland-Cooper, Head of Service Corporate Estate at Harrow Council, wrote:  Grove Ponds are shown on O.S. plan TQ 1694 SW and are situated within Watling Farm, which is let by Harrow Council on an agricultural tenancy to the occupier of Grove Farm. The ponds are subject to a separate license to, and effectively controlled by, the Council’s tenant who manages the farm. Due to the location of the ponds there is merit in having this land within effectively the same family occupation. The terms of Grove Ponds fishing license are detailed but amount to requiring the licensee to maintain the stock and the area in good condition. The tenant has not been approached with regard to permitting a new public access. Denis Vickers has agreed to look at the ponds and report back to Philip Loveland-Cooper on their condition.

Robert Stone reported a complaint relating to possible illegal activities being carried out around the Common car park. After discussion it was agreed that any such concerns were a matter for the police.

Steve reported that he has contacted the London Acid Grassland/Heathland working group about members of the group possibly returning to the site to comment and advise on progress so far. Simon indicated that he would welcome their return this year if possible.

John reported that the mowing of all meadows has taken place and the arisings very promptly removed before the autumn rains arrived. The Council has also removed a large branch, roughly 2 feet in diameter, which was blocking the nature trail. Many thanks were due to all concerned.

The butterfly walk held at the end of April was well attended but too early for a lot of the butterflies!  The next week all the butterflies, John hoped to have seen, emerged and the whole it has been a good year for Lepidoptera.

National Moth Night was very successful. Ten people in all attended and quite a few with identifying skills. Over 50 species were seen. Margaret and John have managed monthly moth evenings which for just two people can be quite hectic; 160+ species identified so far.

Flora wise, finding Red Bartsia in two of the meadows was the interesting occurrence. This plant was not on the flora lists of either Moxey or Waite in the 1980s and 1990s. A concern is that one of the major Oaks has died and the one adjacent one is suffering.

Work wise with the help of Marion and Norman Sartin, most of our efforts have been spent improving and widening the nature trail. This will continue. It was agreed that the new Nature Trail looks very smart and Steve was again thanked for his work on this.

It was reported that Dave Corby has indicated that planning permission is needed to bring cattle on to the site according to existing covenants.

Sewa Day is on the 6th October 2013 and some posters were circulated and have been put up at the Country Park where conservation work will be carried out.


As reported earlier Harrow Council plans to clear Caesar’s Pond of all of the Parrot’s Feather and perhaps 50% of the Broad-leaved Pondweed. Following the previous clearance work the pond is generally thriving. Jason Leer is the new assistant warden. The litter has not been bad and the area is generally looking lovely.

Thanks to Yu Xuan for the photograph of the saw

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