Friday, 30 September 2016

Local Rivers Day

Local Rivers Day was held at KEC on Saturday 24th September. Amongst the displays were The Environment Agency on local flood alleviation plans, the Hogmsill Community Garden, the Hogsmill river project, and the London Waterkeeper-Theo Thomas- who campaigns for clean and thriving rivers in parks, including swimming zones created along the our non-tidal stretch section of the Thames, as well as helping to monitor the Hogsmill. 

There was also a magnetic fishing pond complete with mini supermarket trolley created by Danielle O'Shaughnessy for the children.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The 'Nutrient Nickers' of Tolworth

Meet Greg and Chris of Red Kites, engaged in this Poldarkian  haycut at Tolworth Court Farm Moated Manor. 

The matrix is cut by tractor, whilst the delicate areas- around the  yellow meadow ant mounds- are carefully strimmed. 

Raking and removing the hay is an essential part of the process of sequestering the nutrients before they can enrich the grassland.

If the hay is left to rot down it will  fertilise and encourage rank grassland, nettles and hemlock which will outcompete next years delicate flowers. If anyone can lend us a cow, we can greatly assist in this process.

Last week young people participating in a Duke of Edingborough Award Scheme -under the direction of the Environment Trust- extended the dead hedging, which will eventually secure the site enabling us to have grazing animals at the site.

In addition to the two Homonids were seen:
  • Two buzzards and a kestrel with a marsh harrier on passage spotted before my arrival;
  • Reptile mats yielded their usual catch of short tailed vole, pygmy shrew, wood mouse and a less usual  bank vole;
  • Last Wednesday we set up the harp trap catching four Pipistrellus bats as well as a small Myotis bat. 
  • Badgers have also been caught- but eating peanuts - on the camera traps!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Portsmouth Road Improvements and the Filter Beds at Seething Wells

One unforseen benefit of the Go-Cycle and Portsmouth Road 'Improvements' is that walking alongside the Filter Beds is a more pleasant experience now that the site is slightly divorced from the roar of the traffic.The trees on the site are maturing becoming recognisable specimens of ash, oak and willows.

forty tufted ducks
Whilst this has resulted in the loss of chalk grassland, it also creates a structural habitat screening the air, noise and light pollution from the filter beds, making it even more dark and undisturbed. This summer the water levels are almost back to the brim; there have been more tufted ducks during the period of moult than ever before, although it is hard to count them amongst the dabchick bobbing around them like corks. The last of the house martins could be seen fly-catching today, along with small aerial flocks of starlings in the afternoon heat.

cormorant drying its wings
Although electro-fishing surveys found  no significant fish populations in 2010 - they have found a means of colonising - as they can be seen jumping almost clear of the water when chased by the cormorants.

Altogether the site is currently more reedier, more duckier and certainly more appleier!

Monday, 5 September 2016

More on Sewage and something on Bream

As a recap, there was a large spill of sewage onto Green Lane Recreation Ground and the Hogsmill river 8.2.16, when 2,500 bags of waste were removed (posted 21.2.16). Since then it has continued to be bad news for the Hogsmill river, with sewage entering the river every month (see: sewage spill into the Hogsmill River 19.4.16; spates and sewage 23.6.16).

Much of this has been via the 'channel of cess' on the north-east bank near California Road as well as other surcharging manholes. But a large release of sewage occured last Thursday, in the early hours of the morning from the final settlement tanks. Something of a puzzle is that an amount of rag was also noted, which should not be associated with the final stage of sewage treatment. 

As usual this has largly gone  uncommented upon. This silence is not commensurate with the large amount of sewage that has entered the water course.  On the tiday Thames there are regular announcements for rowers when there is a spill see Thames Water re: Hogsmill say......
How it will impact you/environment?
  • Based on our initial results from water testing we have been advised that any discharge has quickly dispersed and no further remedial action, such as aeration, is considered necessary.
  • There may be increased traffic on the local roads as we tanker out the liquid waste over the next 4 days.
rag hanging from trees
weed and rag hanging from trees
The inadvertent release caused a rise in the river level, which can be see here from the amount of weed and rag hanging from trees. 

This appears to be at least a metre above the current water levels (40cm at Villiers Road).

In order to validate the observation in the level of the rise, depth and flow date has been requested from the Environment Agency. This is provided from the gauging stations and can be seen in real time.


During sewage discharge events it is important not to use the water to water vegetables if you have a riparian allotment or garden and take care fishing (especially if you smoke)!

Bream netting, dehooked
and gently released
There has been no obvious affect on the chub at the Clattern Bridge or the shoal of bream that hang around the confluence with the Thames as a few days later these amazing bream  were caught by some  well informed young chaps!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Recent local sightings

Scything workshop TCFMM
Butterflies did not do so well in the wet early summer period, but the sunshine in the past week has bought them out. The highlight is the white-letter hairstreak seen across the Surrey boundary near Ewell Court Park; this species can be found in selected places along the Hogsmill by the keen-eyed. The change in grass-cutting regimes has assisted grassland species, although skippers have been hard to find. Tolworth Court Farm Moated Manor has been especially good for marbled whites :)

ornamental carp with chub
We have been undertaking a reptile survey at TCFMM, which so far has not priduced any reptiles, but short tailed voles, pygmy shrews and woodmice have enjoyed constructing their nests under these refuges. This ornamental carp was spotted underneath the bridge along the A240-along  with a chub with the dark tail-, which can just be seen in the photograph. At the next bridge - the one with the passing places that leads to Riverhill- we recorded Daubenton's bats during our Daubenton's waterway survey 2.8.16. This is the first time they have been recorded here during this annual survey in recent years.

Hogsmill Kingston

Along the Hogsmill there have been some interesting bird sightings, with regular kingfisher presence indicating breeding; including the town centre and Kingsmeadow. Unfortunately, of the five pairs of grey wagtails- from the town centre to cemetery- only one managed to escape the flooding, producing a brood that successfully fledged. At Middle-Mill island a pair were seen feeding a short tailed youngster. The pair at Hogsmill Lane seemed to have no purpose for the days immediately after the last heavy rainfall but soon started breeding again. Many bird species are still feeding young this August. A little egret was seen flying across Elmbridge Meadows recently. A peregrine was a good above-garden tick last week and I saw four at the newly-developed water tower in Epsom three weeks ago. Kestrels are regulars at TCFMM and Tolworth Court Farm. A reed bunting was seen at the reedbed in Jubilee Meadows and reed warblers at the pond in Alexander Recreation ground which unfortunately has a bad case of crassula.
Silver eel DoN

On a completely different river-the Dukes river in Isleworth - at the Mogden Sewage Works eel trap, they have been catching silver eels, or returning elvers. These are about c95mm long and would have been recorded in their hundreds if not thousands until a few years ago. Not such a healthy sign on the Hogsmill, with only adults eels being caught and in low numbers -only eleven so far this year-with as many animals found dead. More on fish: the common carp in one of the Home Park ponds are being replaced with Crucian, a much smaller species that will cause less impact. On the Wandle at Hackbridge, fishermen showed us pictures of the trout they had caught (rainbow as well as brown). Their favoured hiding place is a well-unkept secret!

Processing bats during trapping
On the bat front, I have had 13 casualties so far this year including  -a juvenile- from along the Hogsmill near Gately Green. This had a nasty burn along its forearm but the vet determined that this was superficial and the skin would eventually heal. This would delay flight and the flight muscles would need strengthening. One recent late night call out was to a couple who had a bat fly into their bedroom. After a hour with the bat detector- until after midnight- we determined that the initial advice of leaving the room in darkness, with the windows wide open, was the best way of it finding its way out.

The Brandts bat from Jubilee Wood found during our harp trapping session, was a revelation as there is only one record of the species being recorded in the borough.
Nathusius's pipistrelle playing dead
The trapping is licensed as part of  a national Nathusius's pipistrelle project to assess the status of this animal in this country- since it's recent arrival - often attributed to global climate change. Not only did we find a Nathuius's pip, but it was a pregnant female, indicating breeding status in the borough. One of the characteristics of the species, is that when caught they play dead. This gives us ample opportunity to take a good look at them!

We are trapping tonight after the parturition break, as we are not allowed to trap during mid-June under the conditions of our licence. Watch this space to see what we catch!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Hogsmill Sewage Clean-up

According to blogger stats, one of the most read items of 2016 to date, has been the Hogsmill Sewage Spill (8.2.16). So it follows that it will be the most written about - preferable to  answering  the many enquiries received - individually. It is a good method of retaining a chronological 'memory' as well as informing ward councillors, who are sufficiently exercised with other sewage related issues, such as the smell.

Rag at the outfall
Operatives from Adler and Allan
The previous post, detailed the  amount of 'rag' that appears downstream of the outfall, virtually every week. But a tremendous amount of this: nappy liners, sanitary towels, condoms and wrappers, cotton wool buds and - although we are told it doesn't survive the HSW outfall - toilet paper ended up on Public Open Space (POS) during a flood 25.6.16.

Outfall post clean-up

So here's what happened last Thursday and Friday 30.6.16.....A professional team from  Adler and Allan of Tunbridge Wells, came to clean-up the outfall as well as the 'rag and sewage environment' along the Hogsmill as far as Villiers Road.

According to their website: Adler and Allan,  began trading as a Coal Merchants in London and after aquisitions of related companies, have become  national, undertaking major spill responses and hazardous waste handling for companies and agencies such asThames Water and The Environment Agency.

Toilet paper (E. Newton)
Rag at Ewell Storm Tanks (P Harwood.)

So why are these spills occurring much more frequently? Data from overflows show that the 'emergency' mechanisms for retaining sewage during times of excess rainfall, are inadequate. 

These are known as the storm tanks and they exist further upstream at Ewell Court and at the HSW. The HSW storm tanks overflowed in the river twice during May; 5.5.16 and 30.5.16. What was previously a mechanism for protecting the Hogsmill during extreme events, now serves to deluge the river with a tide of cess, killing fish and creating a hazardous environment for those of us working along and in the river; particularly those engaged on constructing the in-channel river improvements and on the River Fly monitoring projects (see side tabs). The sewage has been overtopping the storm tanks and bypassing the screening processes normally in place to prevent rag entering the stream.

Cox lane, (M.M. Oates)

Misconnection Villiers Road
In addition, to the misconnections - evidence of sediments, sewage as well as chemical run-off - appearing at every outfall along the Hogsmill, there is also evidence of  sewage  weiring over the river bank into the Hogmill creating a toxic brew measurable on our basic equipment (and our noses). 

Channel of cess into the Hogsmill
Pumping out cess
On the north-east bank of the Hogsmill on TW land- perpendicular with California Road - there is an old stream, visible on old ordinance survey maps. This has been transformed in a 'channel of cess' with  ammonia levels of 3.5% and low levels of dissolved oxygen (5%).

Thames Water have been pumping out the sewage from the channel but it keeps filling up and presumably weiring over into the river.

So why has this situation arisen and what can be done to restore the river quality? The aspirations of the council to develop more and more of our open space see 'Direction of Travel' document will not help this situation. It is also not fair to be expecting our POS's to take more and more these operational impacts (see Fishponds). Kingston’s “Direction of Travel” (on local growth and development) consultation is available for comment till 29th August at