Showing posts from 2016

Wassailing or Wasseling

Peri-urban habitats in the south of the borough are radically altered; but orchards can maintain a wonderful wildlife habitat. The longer grass between trees can be a haven for wildflowers and insects; surplus fruit is appreciated by  winter  Scandanavian thrushes (redwings and fieldfares). There are some excellent blogs on orchards and their wildlife.
See also with excellent posts from K. Leibreich on the situation in south-west London fruit growing stronghold in Chiswick and Isleworth. is an account of wassailing in an Oxfordshire village.

The tradition of wassailing (also wasselling) into two distinct categories: The house-visiting wassail and the orchard-visiting wassail. The house-visiting wassail is the practice of people going door-to-door, singing and offering a drink from the punch bowl (as at Pensford Fields). This …

Green Lane Stream, tributary of the Hogsmill

This is the spring of one of the Hogsmill tributaries aka Green Lanes stream. It rises near West Hill in Epsom on the southern tip of Court Park. Despite some initial gurgling - no water was apparent throughout the park.

The route is along a stand of spectacular oak trees, many >300 years old. Great spotted woodpeckers were enjoying the grubs activated by the warmth of the winter sun. The stream is again lost along Pound Lane and the Primary School until it reaches Longmead Road where it emerges via several outfalls, a mixture of stormwater, road run-off and some misconnected pipework.
A strong ammonia odour becomes apparent once reaching the Thames Water storm tanks opposite Blenheim School, where the pong penetrates the winter air for the remainder of the  Longmead Road stretch. The rag-coated grillage attests to  recent sewage overflow  into the stream- despite the low rainfall- and is indicative of the lack of capacity in the system. 

After crossing the Chessington Road B220 …

Unnamed tributary of the Hogsmill river

This little wildlife corridor, marked here by the black arrow, rises close-to (and feeds) the lakes at Horton CP Golf Course. It flows towards the Hogsmill at Scott's Farm Close where it can be viewed at three places; this is after snaking through  back gardens into the playing fields at Epsom and Ewell High School. Here it is heavily engineered with double and triple weirs.

Evidence of the stream's existence above ground is marked by the straighter - than - natural  line of trees  along  rear boundaries of properties along  Gadesden  Road. As Scott's Farm Close meets Gadesden Road there is a public right of way across school playing fields to Ruxley Lane where the stream can just about be seen (below left). There are additional views at Chessington Close as the stream emerges from under the busy B284 road, traversing a more natural course through gardens - initially along their boundaries - but thereafter via a cherished seat in the centre of a tiny reserve. A slight kink…

More urban rivers: The Ravensborne

River restoration has been a topic of recent posts, the Ravenborne was amongst the first river in the region undergo this treatment. European LIFE funding as part of a massive urban renewal project has regenerated the centre of Lewisham.

At low tide, it is possible to walk along Deptford Creek, where the Ravensborne ends its journey to the Thames. Here riparian developments have led to some interesting planning gain (on the Lewisham rather than the Greenwich side).
Sheet piling may be the cheapest way of protecting the bank or freeboard but this is useless for wildlife. The  best option is some form of terracing but this is expensive and often tricky to match to the vagaries of tidal water. When properly undertaken and well managed to remove invasive species, the terraces give rise to excellent habitat for plants and fauna of brackish water, where some unusual species have been recorded including a hybrid between Japanese knotweed and Russian vine (pictured). So far only one addition…

Kingston Cemetery Fungi

Its rather late in the year to be looking for fungi; the dry autumn and the long grass have meant there has not been much to see. Whilst some species benefit from infrequent mowing - others  do not - wax caps and the corals definitely prefer the shorter, warmer grass. 
Some birds prefer shorter grass as they find ants on shorter turf, which is exactly where we found the droppings of the green woodpecker, which resembles a burnt out cigarette (see photo).   Most of the fungi therefore was located on the boles or stumps of old trees such as the honey fungus on the tree outside the Dawson Road gate- no sign of the orange peel fungus that was present last year. The Inonotus hispidus on the ash with the many woodpecker holes (walk in the main gate and turn left).
These are all important contributors to the web of life and it was possible to see the fungus gnats flying in the warmer temperatures- as well as spiderlings - that had set up some opportunistic webs around the upturned gills …

Rainscapes in LB Enfield


DEFRA and Natural England come to Tolworth Court Farm Moated Manor

On Friday team members from Natural England and DEFRA,  from  the south-east and London regions, descended on Tolworth Court Farm Moated Manor on an awayday; to assist us with the ongoing management of the site. Elliot gave a tool talk, prior to participants extending the dead hedge along the boundary with the Hogsmill footpath. Materials were procured from a local woodsman who delivered to us before the day began.

Hazel faggots  and stakes were unloaded and taken to an area under where the previous group - a Duke of Edingburgh award scheme- had finished. By the end of the day our compost toilet had a coat of protective paint and the hedge had increased substantially in length.
Participants were surprised at the amount of bird life present as we watched jays,  woodpeckers and kestrels; as well as a number of small birds such as goldfinches.