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Showing posts from 2012

Lazy Lapwings

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There were 38 lapwings loafing at the Filter Beds today, so their winter numbers are building up. If you cannot find them here, they will be foraging amongst the paddocks in Home Park. Many more come into roost at night, but its doubtful we'll see the numbers of five years ago, as this bird is becoming increasingly rare.


I used to lay in bed and hear the birds calling through the night, as small numbers used to breed at the nearby sewage works and California Road Depot. Now these sites have been developed, Surbiton F.B.'s  is the last remaining area in the borough where there is any refuge for these winter flocks.


The recent rain is beginning to make a difference to the water levels in the Filter Beds. It is a year since they were first drained although the basins still held water until October, 2011, when machinery was used to remove the substrates and allow the water to drain freely. Its possible that these channels have again become blocked and hopefully the basins will fi…

Councillor's Views, Surbiton Neighbourhood Meeting 12. 12 .12

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Summary of Points by Councillors who were unanimous in finding that the 'Special Circumstances' to develop MOL had not been met 
Cllr Shard  I do not find the necessary ‘special circumstances’ required to build on Metropolitan Open Land 
Could not see how the bats would find a dark corridor to their foraging area across the site 
The report does not state that Natural England support the development or that they want it to happen 
This is a development where Hydro want to showcase their technology and to mitigate the loss of MOL it has come up with the nature reserve 
Cllr Heathcote 
I have not heard anything that overrides the primary importance of MOL 
We must retain as much open space in Surbiton as we can 
Hydro has not acted as a true guardian of this site either of its historic significance or its ecology 
How can they claim to be for the ecology when there is an overprovision of parking and an under-provision of cycle spaces. The cars will create extra light which will af…

Hydro and EDP Statements Surbiton Neighbourhood Meeting 12.12.12

Philip Wallis Director Hydro Properties

Matthew Simpson of WWT has agreed to work with us if planning permission is granted. This has always been their position but they were lobbied hard and wavered but as Natural England have withdrawn their objection they are very excited about working with us as a demo of their new manifesto,  as to how man and the environment work together in harmony as a showcase project.

The objectors would have you believe that Natural England is wrong, the borough’s ecologist is wrong, Middlemarch is wrong
The percentage of the nature reserve is as marked. The debate is just semantics. If you look at the plans all is fit for wildlife and anything different is misleading and improper

Additional point answering to the 'bogus' letters of support which have been given to the council (only 25)

Summary of Eco Points Dr R. Rowlands EDP

Nature doesn’t respect boundaries and the site has been designed to accommodate wildlife throughout

The Borough hasn’t ra…

Today's letter to the Comet

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Dear Surrey Comet,
I was disappointed with the lacklustre Comet article regarding the Seething Wells Filter Beds, Public Meeting that was held last Thursday. It didn’t capture the buzz or the passion in the audience, nor expound some of the very exciting news that has arisen from more thorough surveys undertaken by the company employed by the developers (who surveyed a larger area, for a longer period, during 2012). 
An entirely new bat species has been recorded for Kingston and one which is extremely rare nationally. This has been named as a Brandt’s bat by the surveyors, although technically it is very difficult to identify unless in the hand and more properly termed a bat of the Myotis genus, most likely a Brandt’s bat. This indicates that suitable foraging is found along this, the most darkest and most undisturbed stretch of the non-tidal river Thames in London. It raises the possibility of the species hibernating within the barge tunnel (along with two additional Myotis species…

Public Meeting 8.11.12

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Ø200 people attended the Public Meeting at St. Andrew's and St. Mark's Junior School Hall, 8.11.12. Unfortunately I arrived for the Q & A session and missed the preceding discussion. Several well considered questions are worth sharing. 
An audience member enquired if the site could be worthy of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on account of the ten bat species recorded (see previous post). The features at Seething Wells are of borough (plants) or regional (bats) importance but not of National Importance. 
A site can only be notified as a SSSI if it contains elements deemed to be of National Importance. A SSSI is usually notified on account of a recognisable plant community, forming a specialised suite of habitats and this would not usually be one based on artificial substrate. This was one of the reasons that Ham Lands were never considered suitable, in spite of its diverse range of plants including orchids. Most of the site was infill from bomb rubble and latt…

Seething Wells: the best site in the borough for bats with a new bat species for Kingston

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10 species of bat are now recorded at the the Filter Beds site and the adjacent river side. This is more than any site in the borough, with 5 the greatest number for a Kingston site (with the exception of Canbury Gardens and riverside). A Myotis bat with the call characteristics of a Brandt's bat, was recorded along the river wall during the developers surveys. This is the first ever record of this species for the borough.
The ten bat species now recorded at the site are as follows:
Pipistrelle bats: all 3 of the following pipistrelle species were recorded during the surveys by EDP (acting for Hydro Properties):
Pipistrelle bats are found wherever there is connecting local green space and there are  some large soprano pipistrelle roosts in Surbiton. Early registrations of this species are  associated with the northernmost  Filter Bed, and  includes occasional use of the small pumping station at Seething Wells, which the consultants do not  accept as a roost location. The London B…

No Sanctuary for Surbiton

The updated planning application for Seething Wells/Surbiton Filter Beds available to view and deadline for comments is 9 November, 2012

see here Kingston Planning Authority


Join the Friends of Seething Wells on Thursday 8th November, for the first of in a series of public meetings and discussions about securing a fitting future for the filter beds. The headline speaker will be Edward Davey MP, long-time opponent to inappropriate development on the site, and there will be a chance to hear the arguments about the special nature of the filter beds and why the Friends of Seething Wells are campaigning to protect and conserve this valuable site.
It will be held at St Andrew’s and St Mark’s Junior School, on Maple Road, Surbiton, KT6 4AL – starting at 8.00pm (but refreshments available from 7.30pm).

www.friendsofseethingwells.org
Public meeting:why-hydros-planning-application-should-be-refused-public-meeting-on-8th-november/441455909245356

"Too special" Surbiton's filter beds are a "blue lung for our riverside", says Surbiton MP, Edward Davey.

Statements issued to Surrey Comet, 10 October 2012 
Surbiton's MP, Edward Davey, has this week confirmed he will be opposing the proposed development of the filter beds site by the Portsmouth Road in Surbiton. He has urged local people to back the campaign being organised by the Friends of Seething Wells, a community group with alternative ideas of how this enviromentally and historically special site can be conserved. 
Edward Davey successfully campaigned against the previous five planning applications to develop this site but argues he considered the case afresh given Hydro's new scheme before concluding there were no special circumstances in the proposal to warrant past planning decisions and policy on the site to be disregarded. Commenting, he said: 
"Surbiton's filter beds are simply too special to sacrifice to flats, car parking, a marina and restaurant. It is a "blue lung" for our riverside, with precious birds and bats and a unique and world importa…

September Surprises

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If you walk past Seething Wells on a Tuesday evening, you might be surprised to see  tall masts appearing over the broom. These boats are from the Thames Sailing Club famous for two reasons: its the oldest river sailing club in Britain, having been formed in 1870; and also as the home of the amazing Thames A-Raters which date from the 19th century. As the clubs main fleet, the veteran Thames A-Raters are a remarkable sailing boat developed early last century specifically for river racing. Some are nearly a hundred years old, but the 27 ft long Raters, with their 45 ft masts and large sail areas are still the fastest boats on the river.

Dear George

I hope you won’t mind my replying to your letter of today regarding the Seething Wells Filter Beds via my blog. It gives the advantage that you can respond via the comments box should you wish. Having read with interest your recent correspondence to the press, including todays more measured letter, I would like to respond as one of those accused of ‘hysterical tirade’ and as a fellow member of the Kingston Society. I was also one of those that spent a few of the many volunteer hours working at the London Wetland Centre when the original planting failed and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) had to put right.

I know that we have corresponded previously about the ecology of the Filter Beds site, which is why I was disappointed that your letter did not give weight to any of this information. All of our local and regional organisations with an ecological remit, oppose the Hydro scheme on the grounds that it will damage its inherent features and contribute towards the d…

Today's Surrey Comet

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WWT and the 'Sanctuary' Tale

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Early this morning 10,000 homes in the Surbiton area received a leaflet through their door, which stated that WWT Consulting had been enlisted by Hydro to support its application. In addition, The developers claimed in today's Surrey Comet, that WWT will be running the wildlife site at the Filter Beds, which is to be known as the Sanctuary. WWT were unaware of the Hydro leaflet or the Comet article and have issued the following statement. WWT would like to make it clear that it is not involved with any planning application for the Seething Wells filter beds in Surbiton. 
WWT does work with developers, through its consulting arm WWT Consulting, to provide solutions in the design and construction of future wetland landscapes, solutions which enhance wetland habitats for wildlife and people. 
As such, it has spoken with Hydro Properties Ltd, the developers behind the Seething Wells planning application, about possible involvement in a range of future projects. 
WWT Consulting is not …

Wiggins Way

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Kingston University Batty Boat Trip 25.7.12

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During the July Batty Boat Trip  twenty people watched Daubenton's bats emerging from their roost at the Filter Bed site. There doesn't seem to be so many bats this year and they are not in their usual hurry to emerge. Maybe the colony hasn't found the weather conditions so favourable or perhaps they have suffered due to the drainage of their foraging grounds. Studies carried out during the late 1990's and early 2000's found large numbers of Daubenton's bat spent a substantial amount of time foraging over the Filter Beds. For more on Daubenton's bat ecology see: benton the bat Six species of bat were recorded  in all during the trip: common and soprano pipistrelle, Daubenton's and natterer's bat, noctule and Leisler's bat.

Late Summer on the Filter Beds

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As the vegetation matures, the colours are spectacular in sunshine. The swans eventually manage to bring on one cygnet. The coots and moorhen have faired better and the former are on their third broods. There is no competition for them this year (no little grebes) as the lowered water levels are unsuitable for this species. 




Look out for good  numbers of flocking birds such as finches, starlings and sparrows along the Spanish broom and ash scrub.  As well as juvenile blackbirds and robins foraging along the wharf.


Much of the water surface is covered with algae or emergent vegetation and reed beds are increasing in size due to last October's draining of the water. Purple loosestrife does make a stunning display surrounding many of the basins. Grey wagtails usually enjoy the muddy patches as the filter beds continue to dry out.



Filter Bed 7 has a lot of kingfisher activity. Maybe this is a youngster that has to find out for itself that there are no fish in the basins.

July Flowers

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Tufted vetch can be seen from the Portsmouth Road as it begins to cling and climb over adjacent vegetation using the tendrils on the ends of it's leaves. This plant was not recorded in the 2011 botanical surveys of the FB's. It is recorded at our flagship grassland site in the borough,-Tolworth Court Farm TCF,  as well as Hogsmill O.S. and Dinton's Fields.

This stonecrop grows along the walls and slope from the wharf down to the FB's, where there are large yellow stands of flowers.  It's frequency was described as 'rare' in the botanical surveys, 2011 but this year it is evident throughout, perhaps due to the influence of the weather. Often used on green roofs. Whilst not rare, there are only 3 sites now remaining in the borough where this plant is recorded including the cemetery and Ravens Ait.


Broad leaved everlasting pea gives a colourful show at this time of year. Will grow anywhere on open ground and is often found on the soft estate of motorways or ra…

The Friends of Seething Wells website launch

The Friends of Seething Wells have produced a newsletter with an overview of the current status of the planning application v. the value of the site along with the group aspirations: see the new website www.friendsofseethingwells.org


A community-led vision for access, enjoyment, leisure and learning – now and for the future. or join the Facebook page www.facebook.com/friendsofseethingwells

Daubenton's Bat Maternity Colony

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Over the past 8 years, the London Bat Group Batty Boat Trip has provided time series data, of the bat activity along stretches of the river at Hampton Wick, Kingston, Surbiton and Thames Ditton (see Bat Pages for a species list, right hand tabs). It is one of the annual monitoring visits studying the bats at the Seething Wells Filter Beds. This year there has been concern at the change in activity at the site. We failed to see any Daubenton's bats during their emergence period. A subsequent visit in perfect weather conditions ( 8/8 cloud cover, 16 degrees, no wind,17.6.12) noted that animal numbers and the pattern of activity has changed significantly. Animal numbers are reduced and the bats had no urgency to emerge as per adults with young to feed. The light sampling behaviour normally observed, was not apparent to the same degree as in previous years.
When bats have young, the adults need to forage close-by, as they must return to feed their pups (milk). When the weather is b…

Plants of Seething Wells

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3 species of scabious are known to grow here. Field scabious was a common perennial of (usually calcareous) waysides, meadows and downland. It is widely distributed over the whole of the F.B's and can be seen from the south western part of the wharf , to the boundary fence at Hart's Boatyard. It is the only site in the borough where this plant is found and this group is rare in London.
Common knapweed is found at several sites in the borough such as Tolworth Court Farm, Chessington, New Malden along with a small patch at Kingston Cemetery (where its spread  has been encouraged by a relaxed mowing regime). It is a plant prevalent in neighbouring Richmond, which has preserved its unimproved grassland sites.

This month the F.B's exploded into colour and the mass of yellow is a mixture of bird's-foot trefoil and hop trefoil. These are essential for butterflies and other insects. They also grow along the  grass bank at Thames Ditton Marina and take a quick look at the rais…

Seething Wells: Current Water Levels

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Yesterday Thames Water lifted the hosepipe ban after unprecedented rainfall in our region. Despite the notice on the fence, it doesn't appear to have rained at Seething Wells since last October, when the Filter Beds were pumped out (the second  time in a year) to  'inspect  the structures'. Despite the rain, water levels have not increased an inch.


These inspections, led to large piles of substrate being piled at the foot of each slope (many now vegetated)  and have served to keep the F.B.'s permanently drained, preventing the breeding of any little grebes this year. This will surely invalidate the 2012 bat surveys as the habitat will be sub-optimal and not support foraging Daubenton's bats who need uncluttered open water over which to trawl for insect prey.

Seething Wells: Spanish Broom

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The Spanish broom Spartium junceum is a common Mediterranean shrub widely planted on roadside banks and naturalised in the south of England. This bank of broom was planted by Thames Water over 50 years ago and since then has provided this stunning show every June. Last week the tops were starting to flower and this week it is in full, brilliant glory.  In its native Spain it is uses as a source of fibre for making paper and cloth. In France it is the constituent of an essential oil known as Genet Absolute where it has been grown in the south France (and Spain) since the 16th Century as a perfume ingredient. The Plantagenets named themselves after this plant (planta genet).
The leaves are of little importance to the plant, with much of the photosynthesis occurring in the green shoots (a water-conserving strategy in a dry climate). The leaves fall away in late spring and summer shoots are covered in profuse fragrant yellow flowers 1 to 2 centimetres across. In late summer, the seed pod…

Flowering now: Hoary Cress

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The white flowered umbels of this pepperwort at the entrance to the wharf at Seething Wells are that of hoary cress, Lepidium draba (aka Cardaria draba) and also known as Thanet cress, which is a deep-rooted, perennial mustard. This plant is becoming increasingly common on waste ground, roadsides and field borders in England and Wales. It arrived in this country from Europe at Thanet in Kent and was first recorded after the Napoleonic Wars. Sick soldiers were bought to Ramsgate on mattresses stuffed with hay, later given to a Thanet Farmer, who ploughed them into his fields as manure. The cress appeared in great quantity spreading over the south coast and via wharf sites. It is prevalent in East London wherever ‘sailors shook out their mattresses’. Plants are a frequent link to our trading past and this is a fine example. In our borough the plant is recorded at Elmbridge Meadows, Holy Cross School, Hogsmill Sewage Works and along the wall of Kingston Cemetery. I used to feel  sad whe…

Ants of Seething Wells

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My neighbour is a myrmecologist and has noted a specific lack of myrmex in these pages, which this post seeks to address. Myrmecology is the scientific study of ants, a branch of entomology. Some early myrmecologists considered ant society as an ideal and sought to find solutions to human problems by studying them. Their diversity and prominence in ecosystems has also made them important components in the study of biodiversity and conservation.
Compared with much of the rest of Europe, Great Britain has a smaller number of ants. The size and diversity of ant species in any area is largely determined by the highest summer soil temperature, and this being so, it is not surprising that the greatest concentration of different species is centred in the warmer parts of the country – Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, the Isle of Wight and Kent being the 5 richest counties, with 33, 31, 29, 27 and 26 different species present respectively.
Four species are recorded at Seething Wells including: a s…

Seething Wells Water Levels and Water Quality

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It is understood that newly appointed consultants will resume their surveys next month. The water levels and water quality are very different from when the Filter Beds were sold (2009). The draining of the FB's (Jan, Oct, 2011) changed the site (from left) to the swan photograph below. The  pair of swans breeding at Filter Bed 7 are able to stand in the water, demonstrating the current  low water levels. Draining led to the growth of vegetation, including reeds and other plants, which have died back over the winter. As these plants have become submerged through rainfall, the increased nutrient levels in the water have led to the algal growth, which now forms dense mats over the water surface.






Daubenton’s bats are capable of gaffing or trawling insects directly from the water surface using their feet or interfemoral membrane.  It has been shown using fecal analysis that a quarter of the total prey caught by Daubenton’s bats are directly from the water surface and the remaining 75%…

Seething Wells Facebook Page

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Seething Wells now has its own Facebook page FriendsofSeethingWells
The Group is for us to discuss plans and share ideas. It's an open group, so all can see discussion, with prospective members able to request to join 

The Friends of Seething Wells are working towards a future where everyone can enjoy the benefits of access to the disused Victorian waterworks alongside the Thames in Surbiton. Seething Wells is a natural, historical and archeological asset - not just for the local communities of Surbiton and Kingston, but also for the nation.

Seething Wells and The London Plan: Thames Policy Area

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This is what the Mayors London plan says about the Thames Policy Area: 


Development proposals within the Thames Policy Area identified in LDFs should be consistent with the published Thames Strategy for the particular stretch of river concerned. 

The policies are currently: 




Policy 3.5. Conserve and enhance the nature conservation interest of the River and its corridor with particular attention to Seething Wells and Hampton Court Park. 
Policy 3.6. Conserve the feeling of open space created by the Water Works, particularly between the Portsmouth Road and the River. 
Policy 3. 7. Retain a clear separation between the Dittons and Surbiton at present provided by the Water Works site by only allowing lowrise development incorporating open spaces as appropriate south of the Portsmouth Road  and keeping land north of Portsmouth Road (the area now under consideration) free of built development.

It is therefore surprising that Hydro (the site owners) are being given a platform to  expound the…

Kingston Green Radio 87.9 FM

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Yesterday there was an opportunity to broadcast local biodiversity issues on Kingston Green Radio, on air until the end of May. We chatted about the Kingston Handbook No. 18, published by the  London Ecology Unit, now unfortunately out of print. You can still refer to this book in the reference library, or the London Natural History Society Library ( based at the Natural History Museum).  It has a wealth of information about the wildlife sites in the borough. We looked at the entry for Seething Wells, which includes several paragraphs about the chalk grassland plants discussing the 'mauve drifts of small scabious, alive with bees and butterflies'. The latter is a plant rarely found in London.

Prizewinning Photo: Seething River Wall

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Remember the boat trip we took (December, 2011) along the river wall at Seething? Well, this is one of the photo's taken entitled 'Junk Forest' and it was judged runner-up in a recent wildlife photography competition at the Ecology and Conservation Studies Society (ECSS) based at Birkbeck, University of London
see: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/environment/ecss/  In the submission it was described  as  providing important niches for urban wildlife and the only dark stretch of the Thames in Greater London, see earlier post on Urban Ecology. Marigold and rose petals were floating around these boats and our boat, at a Hindu scattering of ashes, which took place simultaneously and made this photo extra powerful. You can see the petals if you look closely. 
This collection of 'Junk' on the commercial moorings at Seething contains protected niches for every coot, moorhen or other animal requiring shelter, far more secure than any bird or bat box could ever be. Even in December w…

Seething Wells Proposed Lighting Plan: some facts

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see post bats-and-lighting.
The lights in London are getting brighter, bucking the trend across counties such as Norfolk and Leicestershire, which have moved to part-night lighting (mainly as a costcutter). This picture clearly shows the darkest areas in London and it is no coincidence that these are the  most productive when it comes to bat foraging activity: London By night André Kuipers ESA/NASA The darker areas are particularly important for bats of the genus Myotis such as the Daubenton's bats roosting at the Filter Beds, a declining species in the London Region (Briggs et al LNHS no. 86 2007).
Although the Filter Beds suffer some light pollution from sources such as streetlights and accent lighting from nearby buildings, this is insufficient to prevent foraging by Daubenton's bats. However the planned lighting programme for the Filter Beds will be excessive with ten different types of lighting shown in this key.
Some of these luminaires are so-called 'accent' lig…

The Power of Seething

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Ask yourself how many local people would  stand along a river and watch twists of silver foil being unloaded from a boat in the pouring rain. Could you imagine there would be sufficient number for such a group to then process their 'catch' to a nearby Square (dressed as sardines) and create a divine sardine barbeque feast for us all .
Well such is the Power of Seething. The sardine festival held last Sunday can be seen here http://www.surbitonpeople.co.uk/

For me, these were the best sardines.

Seething Wells-one of London's Top 10 Peaceful Places

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Gemma Seltzer spent a year exploring the most peaceful places in London for her online project, Look up at the Sky, charting the quieter side of the city. Here are her 10 favourites http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/ This is what she says....
Barge Walk, Hampton Court Following the curve of the river from Hampton Court Bridge to Kingston is a tree-lined stroll, with clusters of swans, vine-covered walls and rowers aplenty. Halfway along, the land lifts to reveal Seething Wells, the marvellously named former water treatment works with pipes wide-mouthed over the river. Anglers here pitch their tents in a close huddle, so you might have to squeeze around the group to carry on your journey. The route does get busy, particularly near the palace, but is worth it for the pockets of peace you'll encounter further along the way.

Why not have your say: either comment below or write a Guest Blog on any   related local topic. Send no more than 600 words to me at alison.fure@blueyonder.co.uk