Hainault Forest and Barbastelle bats

If I had been keeping my blog in 2004-08, I might have written about Hainault Forest, one of my favourite open spaces in the LB of Redbridge. But I wasn't, so I didn't, but will make up for it now that I am revisiting the sites that I surveyed >ten years ago, to see how they have changed. Hainault Forest is one of the remaining sections of the former Forest of Essex.  In a survey made for Henry V111 in 1544 its extent was some 3,000 acres. The forest land was condemned as a waste in 1851, and deforested; the deer were removed, and 92% of the old growth forest cut down. Hornbeam and beech are it's characteristic tree species including pollards of the former.

The land became marginal agricultural land and subsequently a significant proportion has been built on. Redbridge manage the country park and the Essex side is managed by the Woodland Trust who are in the business of reforesting.

This link to the website - written by local naturalist Brian Ecott - is the most compre…

Kingston enters the Anthropocene

Last year I sent a Christmas letter to 48 councillors - asking them to attend to the environmental destruction occurring in the borough - which you can see here biodiversity-air-and-water-letter-to-48. But unauthorised tree felling continued during January, captured so well by several witnesses attending Kingsmeadow in an attempt not only to halt the felling of a row of healthy Monterrey Pines - and other mature trees- but also the tipping of several cubic metres of contaminated soil down the riverbank in order to construct a new discus throwing area, without the necessary planning permission or ecological impact assessment reptiles-in-borough

One of the 28 policies in the Kingston Tree Strategy is that 'permission will not be given for healthy trees to be felled'. So I thought it prudent to remind councillors of their biodiversity duty under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, 2006 at the Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee meeting on 12.2.19 webcas…

On the subject of Mulberries

Since October Dr. Peter Coles - at times in conjunction with the Museum of Walking- has been  showing us London's mulberry trees. As we were standing looking at the pictures of the former site of the Lewisham silk mills, a by- passer remarked that her mother knew the mills in the 1930's - and they had coincidentally just planted a mulberry with Lewis from the  Orchard Project, just a 100m from where we were standing.

The history of silk goes back some 5,000 years. Discovered in China the closely guarded secret of its manufacture found its way to this country via the Silk Road and the trade routes of the world.

From the Inns of Court to Keats House Museum, to Victoria, St. James' and Green Park we have seen-on Peter's walks- white and black mulberry trees hailing from the time of King James when he tried to kick start a silk industry; or the remnants of a former silk industry brought over by the Huguenots; or the specimen trees, which were a must have for every stately …

Longford River walk

The 111 bus will go as far as Park Road at Hanworth Park where you can comfortably walk back to Kingston in four hours along the Longford river, which is owned and managed by the Royal Park's Authority. The River was created to divert water 12 miles from the river Colne  to Bushy Park and Hampton Court Palace, where it reaches the Thames  near Teddington Lock. It supplies all the water features in Bushy Park including the Water gardens.

Although the river is mostly culverted in Hanworth park it is possible to obtain views at the north west and north east extremities -as well as around Hanworth Park House- where we spotted a high flying buzzard. Hanworth Park House dates back to 1802, wings and a clock tower were added in the early Victorian period. This mansion replaced a Tudor building, burnt down several years earlier, that had been used a hunting lodge by Henry VIII to access Hounslow Heath.

The House became a military Hospital during the First World War. It was  bought by …

London's House Sparrow populations: Ilford town centre

Thirteen years ago - at the behest of LB Redbridge - I walked around with a sign on my back asking people to tell me about their house sparrows. Ilford had an impressive population of house sparrows that appeared to be thriving in the town centre. The aim was to identify features that the birds depended on, so that they could be retained in the regeneration. This year I decided to revisit some of these sites.

The decline in house sparrow numbers has already been well documented in Britain where sparrow numbers are believed to have fallen by 70-90 per cent in the past 15 years. House sparrows are  declining all over the country, but primarily the decreases have been in the south-east of England, with the worst hit area London itself. Indeed, 7 out of 10 of London’s sparrows have been lost since 1995, and we know that the decline started long before then. Although it is still a relatively common bird in the UK we have lost almost 12 million house sparrows countrywide since the…