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Showing posts from 2011

Seething Wells: Surface Buildings and Structures

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see also subterranean features November, 2011. WHARF The Pump House: This is the largest structure on site and is designated a Building of Townscape Merit. It has a pyramidal slate roof, used by roosting bats from time to time. There is no roof void and the slates are backed by wooden planks and plasterboard. Internally there is one main room, partitioned into 6 small rooms and a larger operational area. There is a deep shaft containing 2 wells below the building and 4 wells between the building and the Portsmouth Road. In the literature they are known as’ deep wells’ and sometimes ‘deep chambers’ of which there are 24 on site. During 1998-2000, they were covered with cast iron plates, which had rotted and it was sometimes possible to watch bats emerging from the ground.Thames Water replaced the hatches with heavy duty, steel hatches during the end of 2001 (before the Inspector’s site visit at the last Pubic Inquiry). The wells are vertical brick built shafts, ranging between 2-3m in …

What they say about Seething Wells

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At the Core Strategy hearings September, 2011, the Planning Inspector heard various arguments about the the Filter beds and in his report to the council received last month Kingston Core Strategy Inspector's report to the Council November, 2011  he say's the following......

Representor's said that the Thames Water Filter Beds had not been correctly shown as being within Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) on Figure 9 and the Proposals Map; that the implication of the CS was that development would be permitted there; that the details of a proposed public footpath should be later resolved taking account of biodiversity and nature conservation interests; and that the environmental safeguarding of the Filter Beds had not been clearly stated. I agree with these concerns, as did the Council at the hearings, and because of them the CS would be unsound due to lack of clarity and effectiveness. The Council’s suggested changes (CC9) would correct these unsound matters in the CS. And provi…

Seething Wells from the Thames- Boat Trip

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An intrepid crew braved the 8 degree temperatures to record  heritage and other  features along the river wall of the Filter beds. There are many niches used by wildlife, which will be tidied away if the marina and moorings are developed. This includes the old barges, which provide multiple opportunities for nesting birds, as well as shelter, night roosts etc. The river wall is a solid mass of ivy berries, indicating the abundance of pollinating insects, which must have been busy during the autumn. In turn, this will provide food and shelter through the winter for thrushes, blackbirds, blackcaps and wood pigeons .  We saw wrens, robins and a foraging tit flock as we cruised along the wall.
It may look untidy to us, but this is what  ecology looks like, these are ecological niches. The structure, density and variety of vegetation is habitat for insect prey and pollinators and offers shelter during bad weather or from predators. Look closely and there is a shelf where moorhen can perch…

Seething Wells Walks 3.12.11

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8 participants turned out for our December walk in 10 degrees of winter sunshine. The rain had removed the silt from the substrates exposing the Harwich shells  used in the filtration process. Our research group found that these shells were instrumental in locking together to prevent the mixing of the coarse grit and fine sands.





 The  fallen leaves exposed the great balls of mistletoe within the trees at Home Park (on the opposite side of the river).
A crafty fox was seen creeping along the back wall in his lovely winter coat.
16 bird species were observed, including the little grebes, gadwall duck, grey wagtails and 2 passage green sandpipers (photographed below by one of our participants Susanna Ramsey). There was no sign of the lapwing coming into roost as it probably needs to be much colder before they begin to form their winter flocks


Seething Wells Wildlife Walk 25.11.11

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8 people, enjoying 12 sunny degrees, found 15 bird species during an hours stroll around the perimeter of the site. At this time of year we expect to see lapwings coming in to roost during the early evening (4pm). Unexpectedly, two birds were sitting on the dividing walls around lunchtime. In 1990-91, Surbiton and District Birdwatching Society undertook an annual survey of members local 'patches'within TQ16, the Winter Bird Count. Lapwings were present at 14% of sites which increased to 21% during the survey 1995-6. The population has decreased steadily so that they were present at only 6% of sites during the winter 2010-11. Flocks at Seething Wells can build up to 200 birds in winter. If you see a flock of birds skittishly flying over the Portsmouth Road at this location, check them out, don't assume they are starlings.

Herons are  a characteristic species of the site and Sim remembered seeing a total of 14 on the Filter beds in former years. They spend their time loafin…

Wildlife Walks November 2011

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Wildlife Walks 18th, 25th November at 11am and 3 December at 2pm
These walks involve a perimeter tour and short  talk about the key habitats and species found on this site of nature conservation importance. Booking is essential as only small groups can be accommodated along the busy Portsmouth Road. Bring your binoculars but more importantly wear warm clothing. Allow around forty five minutes. Book at Alison Fure or via the website seething wells water: Surbiton's hidden heritage

Seething Wells:Site Protection

PROTECTION Seething Wells Filter beds, including the land known as the wharf and the river wall are theoretically no longer under threat of housing development. According to the UDP inspector’s report March 2004 they are now protected as Metropolitan Open Land in their entirety. The filter beds are also an SNCI (Site of Nature conservation Importance) a designation conferred on the filter beds in 1992 by the former London Ecology Unit, irrespective of whether the local authority accepted the designation at the time. The river Thames is designated a Site of Metropolitan Importance throughout its metropolitan length. In addition there is a functioning SASC (Strategic Area of Special Character) to protect strategic views. Offsite and onsite land has SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Importance) and SMI (Site of Metropolitan Importance) designations make the Filter Beds the most designated section of our river (Inspector at the Core Strategy Hearings September, 2011). Taken together this …

Seething Wells Planning Application

The Filter Bed site at Seething Wells is facing a monster planning application Hydro Properties Planning Application. This is far more damaging than the Thames Water 2002 application, which sought only to develop the Wharf site, whilst leaving most of the heritage and wildlife areas  intact (and unaffected by water pollution, disturbance, lighting). Our council specnt £20,000 of our money at the Public Inquiry trying to defend its decision to reject the proposals.
This is probably the best site in the borough for 'specialized' wildlife communities, because of the lack of disturbance. It is also an important heritage site. The main features include:
The Industrial archaeology;
Standing Water habitat (a UK, Regional and local Biodiversity Priority Habitat);
Roost sites of European Protected Species;
Birds on the Red List of Conservation Concern;
5% of Surrey's Little Grebe breeding population;
Invertebrates of National, Regional and Local Importance;
Chalk grassland plants r…

Seething Wells: Ecological Evaluation

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Ecologists undertake what is called an evaluation of the habitats and species within a site. This means that they assess the rarity and fragility of it's ecological communities. This is often undertaken during an Environmental Impact Assessment. An EIA is performed when requested by a planning authority. During the EIA undertaken by Thames Water at Seething Wells, some of the ecological communities were assessed as of HIGH REGIONAL VALUE. This was part due to the invertebrate fauna in the standing water. 
Four water beetles were described as Nationally Notable B species, two of which were described as 'rare inland'. The bird community is complex to describe, due to many factors including: the cyclical nature of bird populations. But reed bunting, a rare breeding species once found at Filter Bed 7, is even rarer now (sadly no longer recorded in urban areas, only at the fringes of the borough). The calcareous grassy banks (see post below) once described as 'a loc…

Seething Wells and Protected Habitat

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Legislation to Halt Biodiversity Loss

This is a bit of a convoluted article but it is important  to demonstrate that our Local Planning Authority has a duty to protect Seething Wells under International Convention, (enshrined in our Planning Law). The first global agreement to protect wildlife was signed by over 150 world leaders in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It is often called the ‘Rio Convention’ and participating countries are required to draw up plans detailing how they intend to protect their biological diversity.

National Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPS) The European Union has now made the further commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2020 at Nagoya.  All signatories to the UN Convention on Biodiversity, are supposed to draw up national biodiversity plans. Together, their voluntary actions are supposed to halt over-fishing, control invasive species, reduce pollution minimise the pressure on coral reefs from ocean acidification, and halt the loss of genetic diversity in ecosystems.
L…

Seething Wells: Bats

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Bats of Seething Wells

additional articles regarding the Bats of Seething Wells
Kingston benefits from being encapsulated by RB Richmond and the river Thames. Kingston is 12% open space, whilst Richmond is 55% open space. The nature reserves in Kingston tend to be small linear parks along the rivers Hogsmill, Bonesgate and Tolworth brook. Woodland canopy cover is rare habitat in Kingston and tends to be restricted to Chessington and Kingston Vale. It is woodland that forms the primary habitat for many bat species all of which will usually spend some of their nights foraging near water. Bats require large areas of quality habitat, with strong linear features used for navigation and that are unaffected by light pollution. There are 17 bat species in the UK. Of these 10 are regularly recorded in the London Region, all of which are recorded in Richmond Borough (although two of these are only rarely found). Of the eight species recorded in Kingston: four are recorded regularly (emboldened in…

Seething Wells: Daubenton's bats

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Knowledge of a roost location is usually kept ‘secret’. However, the Daubenton's maternity colony at Seething Wells has become widely known and why not, it is something we should celebrate. What hasn't been publicised is the rarity of Daubenton's colonies in London. The distribution map indicates known Daubenton's roosts within the London Region, recorded within the last 5 years. These are marked by the grey dots of which there are only 4.The black dots are the numbers of Daubenton's roosts known in the last ten years swelling the total to nine. The red dots indicate all the roosts we have ever known since we began recording. The blue dots equate to all flying records and the open water habitats where this bat is found. Daubenton's bats require very specific habitat requirements.


Daubenton’s bats are closely associated with water and this species is known for its habit of foraging close to the surface of ponds and rivers. It’s favoured feeding method to pick pre…

Seething Wells: Drainage of the Filter Beds, 2011

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During 2011, the Filter Beds were drained for the purpose of 'inspecting the structure of the basins'. Whilst destroying  the breeding  habitat of 5% of the County little grebe population as well as Nationally Rare and County Notable invertebrates, it  allowed an interesting mosaic of habitats to be created. These included wet grassland, wet mud and reedbed. Reedbed is a national priority habitat.It is important for a host of rare species and it is very scarce in our borough. The reeds were a mixture of phragmites and lesser typha Typha angustifolia, the latter being less well known in the London Region. For example, we have reedbed in Chessington, which was found to be a roost site of c50 reed buntings.....at the time the largest known County roost site. At the time of writing the reedbed has been destroyed, cut reeds have been piled up in the platforms between the beds and dead reeds are floating in the water.

Of the  mosaic of habitats apparent during August wet grassland a…

Seething Wells Vegetation: Spanish Broom etc

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Spanish Broom
Any discussion about the vegetation on the Filter Beds must start with the Spanish Broom, which when in full yellow glory, forms a landmark in the area. For us it is characteristic of and special to Surbiton, something local residents can feel pride, when a visitor remarks on their surprise  glimpse of gold, whilst visiting the district. For small songbirds it provides the main structure for nesting, a refuge from predators; as well as loafing and foraging habitat. What does it matter that it is non-native, when providing such  useful functions and giving pleasure to those who view it? Generally there is no problem with most non-native species in urban areas providing they are not invasive. Our Local Nature Reserves are full of non-native species from sycamore and chestnut trees to the usual garden escapes such as asters, golden rod and Himalayan Balsam. They are favoured by pollen and nectaring insects and are better for wildlife than tarmac, gravel and concrete. Across…

Seething Wells: Riverside Walk

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A riverside walk would be destructive and disruptive of wildlife features for very little gain. The top level of the wall is quite narrow. When measured in 1996 it was a little over 2.1m (7 feet). It is insufficient for a footway including access for the disabled. Sandwiched between the river and the Filter beds 4m (13 feet) above the Thames, the walk would require guard rails on both sides. The top of the 150 year old wall would have to be cleared of over 50 years growth of broom (see article on Spanish Broom) and trees, which form the main bird breeding habitat on the site. Engineering problems associated with constructing a path would be considerable and for what? There is no linking paths at either end of the Filter Beds.There is no reason why a walk cannot go around the site as proposed by the Residents Planning Alliance (Refer to plan, 2003).Their suggested route around the filter beds is marked in red and retains the traquility of the site.

Barge Tunnel, River Thames at Seething Wells

Barge Tunnel The barge tunnel has almost no protection as it is not attached to a listed building and was not considered worthy of spot listing during the English Heritage Inspection (although it was never visited due to lack of access).  The barge tunnel can only be entered cautiously by boat as there are a number of submerged hazards of the puncturing kind. At one time it was possible to alight the several steps from a boat and enter the site. A crane hoist still exists with the tunnel recesses and evidence of the iron plates which formed the crane base see Fig 5. For a detailed discussion on the transferring of materials from the Barge Tunnel to the Coal Stores refer to the work of Ron Howes (possibly Hampton Waterworks and its Railway System, by Ron Howes and Ann Grant (from Kew Bridge Steam Museum).

Chelsea Tunnel, Seething Wells

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The Chelsea Tunnel was listed before the portal could be destroyed. Although now covered by thick vegetation it is possible to see through these pictures how the site would have looked (2002). Coal, sand, grit, shell would be loaded into hoppers on rails, to be man-propelled down the rake into the tunnels and under the road to the coalstores. Fig. 1 clearly shows the rake down to the Chelsea tunnel. There was consternation when the red pipe (Fig.2) was fitted without the appropriate permissions, across the listed tunnel although it is not known whether the Conservation Team ever carried out enforcement action. Although one brick has always been loosened to allow bat access Fig.3 , it is thought that the brick has been entirely removed in recent years, although the dense vegetation across the portal now creates a barrier into the tunnel. Fig.4. This is perceived as an unfortunate limitation on the accuracy of the eagerly awaited Archaeological Assessment, 2011, which will accompany the…

Listed Buildings and Lambeth Tunnel at Seething Wells

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Identification of subterranean features: featuring the Lambeth Tunnel Listed buildings, structures and tunnels. All the significant buildings at Seething Wells are ‘listed’: the Nuffield Pumping Station; and Chelsea and Lambeth coal stores;  the attached tunnels and conduits; and perhaps even the suction wells are listed by default, no matter what their architectural merit. Steps were taken to remediate ‘listing oversights’ and applications were made to English Heritage (March, 2002). This included the Lambeth uncovered coalstore, associated tunnel beneath the Portsmouth Road and its demolished portal. This was granted August, 2002. Once the ‘water was tested’, applications were made (Jan, 2003) for inclusion in the statutory list apropos: Lambeth District offices and stores building (which sits atop the Lambeth Tunnel); the Lambeth Muniments Building and the small pumping station on the wharf. Grade 11 listing was granted in October 2003 having been judged to be buildings of special h…

Seething Wells Procession, 2011

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Seething Wells meets Rose Theatre

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During this month we had the opportunity to spend the day in the Rose Theatre to play with ideas ahead of a community event  at Seething Wells in November. It was to bring together the tthree broad research groups on the history of the site  with a creative team of lighting designers, sound designers, puppeteers, directors etc.
 We are to bring the story of Seething Wells  to life through a Victorian style carnivalesque/circusesque (lovely words) processional interactive performance. The day at the Rose gave us a chance to come together and experiment with how we would like to take the event forwards.
The day was spent trying to weave the group's stories together to find a general narrative, each individual brought a  story, picture, colour, song or object that they have uncovered through research which appealed to them looking for  moments and stories that make this drama human, unique, touching, funny or fascinating.

 I decided my contribution (as a representative from the wi…

Development proposals at Seething Wells: Will they benefit Wildlife?

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Ecological communities take many years to evolve. Their structure is based on the habitat, which is virtually the only example of chalk grassland in the borough (reflecting the  flora of the north downs rather than the acid grassland of Kingston Hill). This gives rise to specific invertebrate fauna, which when investigated, was found to have elements of National and Regional interest. This interest is compounded by  the lack of disturbance, lack of domestic animals and  faeces, low levels of light pollution and other chemical pollutants etc.The proposed change does not recognise the species of local provenance, interrelations of species with the historic features, believing that habitat can be re-provided 'off the shelf'. Whilst current proposals will attract certain common species, which we will all recognise from our garden, it will not provide the specialised niches for less generalist birds, bats, plants etc. ...and so another area of our region becomes homogen…