Showing posts from 2019

Grassland water voles

Does the topic of fossorial or - subterranean living - grassland water voles (GWV's) have any bearing for us in south-west London, or is this just a phenomenon of north-east Glasgow?  I went there to seek out this nationally significant population, after finding my own fossorial animals in west London (as well as seeing the One Show segment).  It was thrilling to see such abundance and listen to the work of  Robyn Stewart on behalf of the Mammal Society at  a course in Easterhouse, Glasgow.

Useful facts: fossorial animals are deemed those living >500m from a watercourse. Animals more than 150m are considered a 'transitional' population, the rest are water voles. 80% of the grasslands containing Holcus lanata (Yorkshire fog) in the north east Glasgow, contain water voles; 56% of these areas will be lost to development or infrastructure projects over the next five years.

In the time outside the course, I went  exploring the M8 motorway corridor, local housing estates -…

Lost Rivers: The Fleet

Starting at the Hampstead ponds - a group, convened by David Fathers and the London National Park City - began to walk the course of the 'lost' Fleet river. There are at least two arms arising from the spring ponds in Hampstead and at Kenwood House; where the river arises from gravelly scars across the lawn,  especially in winter months. The Westbourne, Tyburn and river Brent also rise hereabouts.We left the Heath and followed Flask Road named after the bottled spring water industry, which was popular in the 19th century.
Following Fleet Road we walked into Kentish Town (Ken is the old English for Oak); at Talacre Gardens there is  signage detailing the industrial rise of the area at the expense of the river. Then to Chalk Farm and Camden. The etymology of Chalk Farm is an abridgement of Chalcot Farm, and has nothing  to do with geology).

Through Kings Cross -St. Pancras Old Church, where stands the Hardy tree - and to St. Chads, we were able to hear (and smell) the rive…

Citizens Tree Assembly

Citizens Assemblies are used worldwide as a mode of 'deliberative democracy' where a problem is debated without the outcome being predetermined beforehand. One organisation, 'Involve', brings people together, usually with facilitators and expert leads over 2 - 4 weekends, to understand and arrive at a consensus over complex issues such as road pricing.

The 'gold' standard would be an assembly at national level known as sortition; such a  formula was used in Ireland to decide  what should be the country's position on gay marriage and abortion. This is the type of deliberative forum preferred by Extinction Rebellion for discussing climate change; further information, including a podcast can be found on their website. Citizens Assemblies can also compliment representative democracy, especially at a time when our representatives spend more time resolving conflicts within their own parties, ignoring those who elected them.

If we are serious about the climate eme…

Deputation request that the council does all in its legal power to halt biodiversity loss forthwith


Londons House sparrows: Cambridge Road Estate

Correspondents Lyse Doucet and Martha Kearney covering the Israeli elections  on this morning's 'Today' programme,  were surprised as listeners 'Twittered in'  comments  regarding the house sparrows chirruping in the background. It lifted spirits to hear happy chattering, a sound once common in all our gardens.
We have lost 12 million house sparrows since the 1970's. Populations continue to be  fragile in some London boroughs, due to the fast pace of development and the amount of  Total Footprint developments council's have been prepared to accept, in order to achieve their housing targets.

Some councils have taken their legal obligations more seriously see February's post -house-sparrows in Ilford but as  kingston-enters-anthropocene on many environmental fronts we need some assurances that there won't be any more losses of colonies, such as at the former gasholder site opposite Sainsbury's, and the Cambridge Road development in Norbiton. Coup…

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…