Involvement with Biodiversity Issues
HUG is very keen on supporting our area's biodiversity, please see the Left Hand Side Menue for past projects - note to view current projects, click on the green dot at the left of the "Supporting Wildlife" to show the sub menue.
Below are details of new and developing projects areas.
See Reshuffling the deckchairs (7): a verdict on the outcome of the triennial review of Natural England and Environment Agency - Martin Harper's blog - Our work - The RSPB Community: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2013/06/28/the-deckchairs-are-not-for-shuffling.aspx
Below is a report prepared in 2012 looking at wildlife issue in our area. Please send any comments and suggestions so that this can be updated and extended early in the new year (2017)
1 Brief Outline of Biodiversity in Ham
Ham's riverbank is a vital link between Inner London and the countryside. We also have many green open spaces, some of which are too heavily mown whilst others have become rather overgrown. As well as meeting peoples needs for open spaces, with care and thought the site management could respond better to both people and wildlife needs.
(To complete this section I need to include a brief description of the wildlife features and long term aims and issues for biodiversity in our area. Examples are set out below and I would welcome any other suggestions or ideas.)
2 Key Sites & Physical Features
2.1 Thames Riverside within Ham
This is part of a vital "wildlife corridor" that links inner London and Richmond Park (Designated as an NNR, SSSI & SAC) to the Surrey countryside.
2.2 Ham Lands & adjoining lands
This riverside area is largely dark at night but there are bound to be pressures to "improve" the cycle path and introduce lighting; thus destroying areas used by several species of foraging bats. The riverside area contains many special different wet and dryer combinations of habitat that support a wide range of invertebrates as each may need different condition duuring at least one of their four stage life cycle - from egg, larva, pupa and adult. The larval stage is when they grow through a variaty of sizes, where they shed their protective outer skin then inflate their bodies - so their new skin, as it hardens is bigger than the one before, and they can continue to grow in size, inside it, until the next development step is reached. Many people feel that the number of invertebrates has seriously declined over the last 20 years or so. It would be helpful to hear what your experiences have been and particularly if you have any photographs or similar evidence to confirm these.
Every year we witness the regular mashing of waterside vegetation by total bank-side clearance for various regattas. This destroys significant invertebrate communities along that stretch what could easily be alleviated by leaving sufficient intervening unmown areas of bankside, to enable recolonisation. Also see paras. 3.4 & 5.1 below for other threats.
There is a heavily wood area to the east of the Young Mariners Site which as it nears the tow path there is steep sided gouge which often contains water and could with some site clearance form a useful area for birds and amphibians. This would need to be shielded to discourage dogs. Closer to the river and near to Teddington Lock are similar wet areas. These form useful barriers restricting access to the Lands from the tow path.
A general problem for the rest of the area is the encroachment of scrub into the grassland hopefully by sensitive mowing this can be reversed and the areas opened up. Less regularly mowing provides late sources of food for birds and insects. The similarly timing of the annual mowing, to keep the grassland from becoming nutrient rich, needs to be sensitive to changes in climate and weather patterns. Clearly nutrients also come from dog-fouling, hence the need to enforce picking up after your dog which have recently become legal requirements.
2.2.1 Areas each side of the Polo Field
There are two area separated by the Polo Field,The Wet Meadow alongside the river, between Ham House and Petersham Lodge Wood. The meadow has many wild wetland plants, and particularly in the eastern half, where the meadow are drier, there are many small trees beginning to appear, this scrub will need to be cleared.
To the south of the Polo Field, runs the Eastern Arm of the Ham House Avenues construction work on a new and extensive building to reorganise Strathmore Special School, the Russell Infants School and the Russell Junior School. I have no particular problem with the concept but there are proposed plans to use part of the land for housing. We have already had one public meeting about this, mainly for Petersham residents. But the three Ward Councillors are completely opposed to house building on this site. Part of the site is Metropolitan Open Land and it abuts the Petersham Copse, see para 2.3 below.
2.2.2 Petersham Lodge Wood
This area is on the west side of the northern end of River Lane and is managed as a wet woodland.
2.3 Petersham Copse and Holly Hedge Field
These sites run south from the eastern arm of the Ham House Avenues, from the Schools sites mentioned in 2.2.1 to the north Avenue. They extend south to Meadlands Drive and in the west, to Sandy Lane.
2.4 The Metropolitan Open Land Corridor connecting Ham Common with The Copse and Holly Hedge Field
This provides wildlife access to other areas important to wildlife, including the riverside to the North and South and East, Ham Common, The Cassel Hospital as well to Richmond Park via Ham Common Woods. This corridor contains important wildlife breeding areas which are under threat due to various factors including, failure to replace protective fencing for badger setts. On Ham Common is Ham Pond where the massive quantities of bread thrown in by the public, in the mistaken view that they are helping to feed the ducks, is giving the waterfowl a poor diet and causing pollution problems for fish and invertebrates in the water.
2.5 The Cassels Hospital
It seems that this site is destined to be sold for development and there have been previous attempts to remove protected species from this site. It is vital that all planning applications are carefully monitored to avoid the problems faced by adjoining sites where, in at least one case, there was little regard for such protective legislation.
2.6 Ham Common Woods
This area until after the Second World War had very little tree cover but now cover is general and in some places very dense. Valiant efforts have been made for the last two years to protect toads from cars as they cross Church Road, where it runs between Latchmere Lane and Ham Gate Ave. The main problem is at night during their breeding migrations in the spring. Temporary fencing is used to hold them back so volunteers can net and carry them across the road. Toads used to be very common in Ham, including in Ham Pound until the 1990s but are now rarely seen. Therefore, proposals are being developed to improve the stagnant and overgrown pond, almost opposite the Church Road junction with Ham Gate Avenue. Areas to the East of a line between these two locations require detailed investigation, to devise plans for restricting horse riding to permitted paths, and open up some areas for visual amenity and encourage a wider range of plants and shrubs to develop. This area has some oak trees which are likely to be sprayed with broad spectrum pesticide against OPM infestation, see Section 3.1 below. So careful monitoring is necessary as discussed in that section.
All these sites (2.1 – 2.6) discussed above provide also important stepping stones, greatly augmenting those offered by many private gardens, to connect separated wildlife sites, thus allowing some species to move about over a wider area thus helping the health of their populations and recolonisation for the more mobile and abundant species.
2.7 Wildlife in Domestic Gardens (See http://www.richmond.gov.uk/home/environment/land_and_premises/conservation/biodiversity/wildlife_gardening.htm)
Your garden is your nearest nature reserve: a haven for London’s wildlife! Private gardens form a significant proportion of urban greenspace, playing a valuable role in forming wildlife corridors between larger areas of habitat, such as parks, commons and open spaces.
Here are things you can do in your garden to benefit wildlife. They will not take up much of your time, but have the potential to make a real difference. You can increase the wildlife value of your garden by trying some of the following tips or simply setting aside an area of your garden for wildlife:
* Don’t automatically tidy up!
* Build a pond or a bog area
* Let your grass grow
* Feed the birds
* Install a log pile or loggery
* Fit bird, bat and insect nesting boxes/places to trees or buildings
* Plant nectar rich flowers
* Save some money, don't use pesticides or fertilisers!
* Create your own compost from kitchen and garden waste
* Collect rainwater using a water butt
* Use sustainable materials
To find out more about wildlife gardening see website mentioned above for links to the London Wildlife Trust’s wildlife gardening pages and the Space for Nature wildlife gardening forum created by RHS and Wildlife Trusts.
3 Current Local Problems
3.1 Outbreak of Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) from Ealing
In an attempt to control this serious risk to the many ancient oak trees in this area - many oaks will be sprayed with bacillus thuringiensis, a lepidoptera specific pesticide, active against the early instars of this moth. Thus we need to monitor, and where possible protect other butterflies and moths in our area. Where these or other expensive and time limited window solutions cannot be used, more broad spectrum pesticide will be applied. These pose a very serious threat to invertebrates. Therefore groups of monitors for butterfly, moth and other inveterate numbers need to be established and surveys regularly repeated.
3.2 Increased Firework use at Public Events
There appears to be an increase in the use of fireworks close to wildlife areas. This is likely to be distressing to birds and animals. So we need to establish monitors for species in areas likely to be affected.
3.3 Increased use of green spaces for transport and exercise
We need to find ways that meet some of the increasing calls for access for bicycle and running routes across our open spaces but also improve wildlife biodiversity in those places.
3.4 Footbridge over the Thames
There is a community proposal to build a bridge connecting Radnor Gardens, Twickenham to Ham Lands, Ham. This is likely to increase the pressure for a more formalisation of the existing towpath on the Ham side and could result in further pressure to develop a path dissecting the Lands for ease of access between Ham and the footbridge. A further development could be the call for lighting along the towpath or the new path.
This is a worrying development, although I think it the cost means it is not likely to happen, however, it still needs fighting. I've already started on this but I think it now needs to be escalated. Whilst everyone sees the value of connecting the two communities, the disagreement is where the bridge should be. For me, the logical place is where it will have least impact on biodiversity and serve the most people in both directions. I conclude the best location in Ham is Ham Street Car Park to Orleans Gardens in Twickenham. A proposed bridge between Radnor Gardens and Ham Lands which will mainly serves the interests of the dog walkers and cycle commuters of Twickenham, as well as greatly increase the use of the lands for cycling on new routes and along the tow path.
4 LA Habitat & Species Action Plans significant in our village
Richmond's Biodiversity Group has Action Plans relevant to Ancient Parkland, Bats, Broad-leaved Woodland, Song Thrushes, Reedbeds and Tidal Thames Habitat, as well as information on Wildlife gardening and the benefits of dead and decaying wood.
5 Biodiversity Conflicts within other parts of the Village Plan
5.1 New Fruit Trees on Ham Lands
As part of a scheme to encourage the growing of fruits and vegetables in peoples' gardens, several orchards are to be established within the village. A proposal to plant lines of apple trees on the Lands has been dropped as it was considered detrimental to the site's role and function as a local nature reserve.
5.2 Other Conflicts
Conflicts may centre around many levels of competing interests. For example in our Transport Plan we want to see some increase in the quality of the Thames-side tow path on Ham Lands. However, excessive numbers of cycles and improved facilities such as night-time lighting would serious impact on the activities of other species.
6 Wider Issues
6.1 Global Markets affecting Wildlife and Environmental Conservation
There is broad agreement that the current global market economy hinders wildlife and environmental conservation. We need to identify such structural aspects of our Village Plan which will impact adversely upon biodiversity. As well as taking account of external influence likely to have a similar detrimental effects.
John Hatto Version 25/09/12
NB I hope to update this survey early in 2014.
Below is a discussion document presented at the Neighbourhod Forum premeeting on 10 September 2013
by John Hatto
H&PNF Topic Area - Open Spaces and Biodiversity
Ideas and issues might include:
• What do we want to happen / not happen in our open spaces?
• What trends can we foresee in the use of our spaces and what might then happen?
eg - more cycle routes = lighting / racing/Time Trial Websites?
• What have we lost from our open spaces?
Clouds of insects in the evenings over riverside trees
Many wild flowers due to poorly mangaged mowing
• What can we do to protect biodiversity?
- adapt our gardens making them more attractive to wildlife
make a pond, don't tidy up everywhere
• What can we do about climate change?
Here is a possible local data source https://support.lgfl.org.uk/public/docs/lgfl_services/SF_Weather.pdf
Subsequently I issued the following summary of the discussions at both the Neighbourhood Forum and at the HUG event some years earlier.
Ham and Petersham Neighbourhood Forum
Meeting on 10 September 2013
Group Discussions Report on Open Space and Diversity
Concerns about loss of wildlife especially wildflowers. Need for more planting around the area and for Management plans for specific woodlands and open spaces and also protection for the open spaces we have
Concerns about unkempt gardens. Suggest scheme whereby keen gardeners offer to help neighbours unable to care for their own gardens
Welcome for wildflower area on Ham Green and donation by Richmond Borough Council of bulbs and seeds. Request for more of this locally
Suggest page on community website where residents could identify areas which need development in terms of clearing and planting
Welcome for news that Grey Court Allotment likely to be re-settled in/near Walnut Tree Walk Allotments
Concerns about destructive aspect of mowing eg orchids on Ham Lands and clearing of long streches of river banks. Need for liaison with RBC or another contractor
Concerns about how plans for lighting may affect bats particularly in area around Ham Green and along the river
Concerns and questions about extent to which wildlife can be expected to adapt to consequences of change in the area – increases in building, lighting, tidying and gentrification etc
Request that HUG should explore ways of obtaining discounted wild bird seed/feed which could be sold locally. Could RBC be a source?
How can we protect badgers in this area?
Foxes – to what extent are they a threat to biodiversity in this area? Need for more information/understanding about maintaining balance between human and wildlife needs
Concerns about loss of skylarks on Ham Lands (and more recently in Richmond Park ) – both likely to be due to increase in dog walking in these areas
Concerns about loss of hedgehogs in the area – need for more understanding of possible causes
Concerns about loss of meadowland locally. Need to extend this and also 'green corridors' between open areas
Request for more signage on Ham Lands giving information about wildlife
Suggest that an app could be developed to provide such information electronically
Program of guided nature walks to educate public about local biodiversity
Suggest biodiversity group should be formed within the Forum to address all above. At least 3 volunteers keen to participate
Additional items previously raised by HUG members & relevant to Forum
Suggest Toad pond should be created in Ham Common Woods (in hand)
Propose Thames Young Mariners should be encouraged to stop mowing area by lake and let it grow wild
Suggest more tree planting around Ham Close
Suggest pond in Ham Lands to north of Thames Young Mariners site
Suggest more tree planting on Ham Lands
Suggest habitat enhancement including wetland at Ham Lands
Suggest all schools to have dedicated wildlife areas
Suggest old / diseased trees be replaced by new ones (but usually better for biodiversity not to take the old ones down or remove them prematurely - note by JH)
Suggest keep cows on Petersham meadows
Suggest oppose any garden-grabbing development
Propose development of local ecology centre
Suggest HUG produces householders leaflet/article in H&P magazine on making gardens wildlife-friendly
Propose information campaign to discourage people from concreting front gardens
Suggest bells on cats' collars awareness campaign
Suggest increased tree cover (to reduce surface water flooding, heating effects and encourage biodiversity)
Request more native tree planting along roadsides
Encourage (campaigns for) construction of green roofs /bee keeping
You can see the subsequent report on all topics on the Nieghbourhood Forum Website at http://www.hamandpetershamforum.org/2013/11/10-sept-topic-group-workshop-notes/