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London Wildlife Trust

Protecting London’s wildlife for the future SPRING 2012 DAPPLE AND RIPPLE

Welcome to the spring issue of Wild London, which covers woodlands, rivers, the Olympic Games and the Mayoral Election. Find out how, with your support, London Wildlife Trust is striving to protect and improve the capital for wildlife and people.

SPRING 2012 Issue 97 Editor Helen Babbs Editorial team Ed Dean Mathew Frith Catherine Harris Aziz Kallala Leah McNally Kate Symonds Design Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, with vegetable based inks. Front cover photograph Spring bluebells © Jules Cox / London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital’s wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London’s diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and education. Registered charity number 283895 President Chris Packham Patrons Lord Peter Brooke Simon Hughes MP Lord Peter Melchett Bill Oddie Lord Chris Smith Contact us Skyline House, 200 Union Street, London, SE1 0LX 020 7261 0447

Above: Volunteers at Gunnersbury Triangle © Oliver Rakocevic


Opposite: Woodland wild garlic in bloom © Metal Language Design

Politics and pollution Our staff and local volunteers were devastated to learn of the pollution incident in the River Crane at the end of October. While the river is still functionally dead, we continue to work to ensure it recovers. It will be a long process. See pages 8–11 for more, including information about how you can help. The Olympics draw ever closer and we explore the pros and cons of this major development project on pages 12–13. The torch relay is expected to pass through Camley Street Natural Park. There’ll be more about this on soon. Last year’s stag beetle survey brought in a brilliant set of data and we will carry out a follow-up survey this summer. Thank you for sharing your sightings. If you spot any stag beetles in your garden, local parks or nature reserves this year don’t forget to let us know via our website.

As our 30th anniversary celebrations drew to a close, we held a conference at the Guardian offices in King’s Cross. It provided an opportunity for the wildlife conservation community to discuss the issues facing London’s nature over the next few years. The conference also provided us with the chance to question Mayoral Election campaign representatives on their plans for London’s biodiversity. The race to become Mayor culminates on the 6th of May – find out about the leading candidates’ green credentials on pages 14–15. The Wildlife Trust movement celebrates its centenary this year. We’ll be taking part in a series of national events to celebrate our collective achievements. Details will be released in the coming months – keep an eye on the website for details. Carlo Laurenzi OBE Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust

News in brief London’s dirty secret Did you know that 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage enters the River Thames every year? Although significant successes have been made since the 1950s to clean the river, allowing for over 120 species of fish to breed, sewage outfalls still regularly wipe out generations of fish such as flounder, smelt and trout. The inability of a Victorian drainage system to cope with a growing population, and even modest rainfall, prevents the Thames from becoming the cleanest urban river in the world. After more than ten years of research and development by Thames Water and the Environment Agency, the proposal is to build a Thames Tunnel. It’s the only viable solution to deal with ‘London’s dirty secret’ – when as little as 2mm of rain falls in the capital, the sewers overflow into the river. 15 environmental charities and amenity groups, representing over five million people, have come together in a coalition to support the tunnel. The coalition, which includes London Wildlife Trust, Thames21, Angling Trust, RSPB and WWF-UK, has called on MPs and local councils to support the tunnel too. “The Thames Tunnel is an important project for the long term health of the River Thames. A less polluted river would create greatly improved conditions for a wide range of wildlife” says Carlo Laurenzi, our Chief Executive. “We must all ensure the wider legacy of the Tunnel is one of ecological gain along its whole route. London Wildlife Trust calls for proper and creative mitigation in excess of any damage caused during the construction phase, for the benefit of both wildlife and local residents.”


Estuary airport We strongly oppose proposals for an airport at the eastern end of the Isle of Grain in north Kent. The Thames and Medway estuaries carry substantial international designations for wildlife, and the impacts on biodiversity would be huge should such an airport be built.

High Speed 2 We continue to be concerned that high speed rail from London to Birmingham will pose a serious threat to wildlife. In London over 18 wildlife sites are likely to be adversely affected, including Broadwater Lake SSSI in Hillingdon and Perivale Wood in Ealing.

Newts threatened at Cat Hill A great crested newt colony at Oak Hill Woods is under threat from proposals to develop the recently sold Middlesex University campus at Cat Hill, Cockfosters. Trust members have been campaigning against plans that could result in the loss of many mature trees, encroachment and re-grading of old ponds, and affect the hydrology of the woods. To date, campaigners have delayed Enfield Council’s permission to demolish the existing buildings so better quality wildlife surveys can take place.

Protection weakened? The Communities & Local Government Select Committee’s report in December on the draft National Planning Policy Framework echoes our concerns at the inconsistent definitions of sustainable development, and our worry that the Framework’s emphasis on economic growth potentially undermines protection for wildlife. Despite this, the assault is growing – the Chancellor has announced a review of Habitats Regulations, which transpose two very strong EU wildlife directives into British law. These have served nature well for 17 years and make damaging developments on prime nature sites virtually impossible. Long criticised by business, a review is now underway on how the regulations are implemented, with an aim to slacken their restriction on development. Please write to your MP to tell them that wildlife doesn’t need to be sacrificed for growth. See for more info.

On the right track A new London Assembly report ‘On the right lines?’ highlights the value of London’s railways for wildlife. Over 1,000 hectares are identified as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation, and support populations of species such as lizard, slowworm, woodpeckers, kestrel and wren. Critically the report recommends that Network Rail and Transport for London should communicate more specific detail about maintenance work to local residents, and work more closely with the London Biodiversity Partnership to improve the management of linesides for wildlife.

Forests vital for well-being The Independent Forestry Panel must shout about the value of woodlands and forests, and bust the Treasury myth about the Public Forest Estate. In London the majority of woodland is owned by Local Authorities. We have pressed the Panel to articulate the numerous and substantial benefits drawn from our woodlands – in our towns and cities, as well as the wider countryside. “If the Budget recognised the full range and scale of benefits our natural environment provided, there would be no question of the Treasury pressing for forest sales” says Carlo Laurenzi. “Woodlands are essential wildlife habitats and provide a natural means to counter flooding, as well as substantial physical and mental health benefits to people.”

Floating forest Camley Street Natural Park is awaiting the arrival of a floating forest garden. It’s being created on site from an old boat as part of our ‘Do You Dig It?’ project, which is funded through Big Lottery’s Local Food programme. The garden will be used for educational sessions and food grown on the boat will also go towards our charity box scheme, which provides free fruit and veg to low income families in the local area.

Water voles return Water voles appear to like their refurbished homes at Frays Farm Meadows in Hillingdon. We’ve been running a restoration project there since 2010, funded through SITA Trust’s Enriching Nature programme. By cutting back woody scrub like hawthorn and blackthorn, and re-digging silted up ditches, the Trust and its dedicated teams of volunteers have successfully restored the channels to create habitat for the nationally rare water vole. “The transformation from bare, freshly exposed ditch to green and thriving habitat has been incredibly fast. Our hard work has been rewarded by a water vole sighting – it was swimming home to a freshly dug burrow in a newly cleared channel” says Sam McCabe, Conservation Assistant.

Top: Spring woodland © Charlotte Franklin

Above: Stamford Hill cutting © Mathew Frith

Above: Frays Farm Meadows © Mathew Frith

Left: Great crested newt © Kevin Caster

Left: Great spotted woodpecker © Bob Coyle


Springing into life The vibrant vision of London’s woodland flora

If you go down to the woods today... • Try Gutteridge Wood and Ruislip Woods in Hillingdon, Claybury Woods in Redbridge, Queen’s Wood near Highgate or Sanderstead Plantation in Croydon for bluebells. • Take a wander into Lesnes Abbey Wood near Abbey Wood for London’s best display of native daffodils. • Visit Selsdon Wood in Selsdon or Jewels Wood near New Addington for stunning displays of wood anemone and yellow archangel. • Try Petts Wood near Chislehurst for wood spurge, Solomon’s-seal, foxgloves and ferns. • Visit Sydenham Hill Wood and Cox’s Walk for bluebells, wood anemones and ramsons. • Try Scratchwood and Moat Mount in Barnet for wood anemones and bluebells.

London’s woodlands are always a treat, but more so than ever as spring flowers start to win their fight against winter’s bite, says Melanie Clayton. Ancient woodland – which dates back to at least the 1600s and is therefore likely to be naturally wooded rather than planted – was once the original habitat of much of London. It includes trees like oak, hornbeam, wild service-tree, hazel, ash and field maple. Woodlands make up about 8% of Greater London today, but under 20% are ancient. Several herbaceous plants help to distinguish ancient woodland from recent. They are species that aren’t able to become established on new ground easily, and enjoy the dappled light and shady conditions that most ancient woodlands offer. They’re likely to have adapted to the consistent ways these woods were managed over the centuries. The bluebell is probably the most wellknown of these. The glorious hazy sight of them covering a woodland floor tells us spring has officially sprung. But look closely and you’ll find there’s much more to discover in an ancient woodland’s flora. From April, you may glimpse the white flowers of the wood anemone, perhaps with its petals closed to reveal a purple underside. Notice that the trefoil leaves of the wood sorrel, found in moister areas, are made up of three hearts, and, like the pretty white and purple flower, come directly from the soil rather than emerging from a visible plant above ground. Note that the flowers of the yellow archangel are covered in fine hair and the hooded petals hide a striped tongue. You might detect the vanilla scent of the sweet wood-ruff, whose windmill leaves are a backdrop to a spray of tiny white flowers. Or perhaps the familiar and pungent smell of ramson, also known as wild garlic, fills the air.

You could also spot the sanicle, which belongs to the same family as the carrot and parsnip. It flowers from May, displaying several tight clumps of white flowers on a long purplish stem. Woodland that has been established since the 1600s is known as recent, even though the trees could be mature. Their canopies tend to consist of a range of native and non-native trees, including whitebeam, ash, horse and sweet chestnuts, Turkey and holm oaks, sycamore and Norway maple. Typical woodland species such as bramble, ground-elder, common nettle and ivy can dominate on the ground. In late spring you may spot the deep pink flowers of the red campion. Get a little closer and you might see a bumblebee using a shortcut to get to the nectar – they bite through the base of the flower. A month or two later, you could hear the foxglove flower buzzing on its stem, as bees and other insects enjoy its nectar. And there are plenty more plants waiting to be spotted, including wood avens, wood melick (a grass) and woodrush (both indicators of ancient woodland). Many of these species are threatened by the loss of traditional management practices. If we want to conserve and enhance the

rich biodiversity of London’s woodland for generations to come, a degree of management is often essential. While London is rich in woodlands, most are small and fragmented. Much work has been carried out over the past 30 years to protect them and to encourage sympathetic management – not only to benefit their flora, but also their fungi and fauna. Through the London Biodiversity Action Plan there’s a commitment to protect over 4,900 hectares, with an additional 500ha to be enhanced and 20ha to be added to this total by 2020. Although protection of woodland from development is stronger than it used to be, the real challenge is to retain the diversity of their wildlife. ◆ Melanie Clayton is a writer and London Wildlife Trust volunteer.

Left: Lesser stitchwort © Mathew Frith Top: Wood spurge © Mathew Frith Right: Garden bumblebee on red campion © Metalanguage Design


The clean-up Restoring a river to rude health

Alex Robb describes the tragic aftermath of a serious pollution incident, and how we’re determined to bring the River Crane back from the brink. A major pollution incident occurred on the River Crane at the end of October 2011. Thames Water was undertaking routine maintenance on a sewer in the Bath Road (A4) area of Cranford in Hounslow, close to the river, when a valve being inspected became jammed. Attempts to move it were unsuccessful, resulting in several tonnes of raw sewage being released into the River Crane. The stretch of the Crane between Bath Road and the Thames, including the Duke of Northumberland’s River, was affected. It’s the most serious recorded pollution event the river has ever suffered. We first became aware of the incident by the tragic sight of huge numbers of dead fish floating on the water’s surface, followed by a sickening stench. Over the following few days, dead fish were observed floating on the river and in its margins, until a clean-up operation by Thames Water and the Environment Agency began. It’s estimated that approximately 10,000 fish died, including species such as chub, roach, barbel, bleak, perch, gudgeon, stickleback, minnow, stone loach, bullhead and a significant number of European eel. Many were mature, up to 15 years old. Generations were wiped out. A report commissioned by Thames Water has indicated a complete loss of all invertebrate life from the river, apart from one small operculate snail that is able to ‘shutter’ itself off in the event of pollution. Even midge larvae, which are normally resistant to pollution, were all found dead. The high death rate among the fish and invertebrates occurred because sewage has a very high biological oxygen demand as it breaks down, depriving species of essential oxygen. The report estimates that it may take up to a year for invertebrates to re-colonise the river. The Thames Water survey will be repeated around May 2012, when we hope some recovery will have begun. Invertebrates will hopefully return due

to a ‘drift’ effect from areas unaffected by pollution further up- and downstream. The reed bed on Crane Park Island also suffered severe sewage contamination, as did a number of other sites, including Huckerby’s Meadows further upstream. This contamination is being dealt with by Thames Water, who have worked closely with the Environment Agency to monitor the damage to the river and take a lead on its clean-up.

It’s estimated that ten thousand fish died Both London Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency will undertake our own monitoring of the Crane’s recovery. Eventually the river will need to be restocked with larger species of fish, but only when it is deemed sufficiently healthy. Andy Willmore, a fish expert, is keen to see this happen. “Once the river is ready, we want to see all the fish species return, but especially bullhead. The river was abundant with these fish prior to the pollution incident and they served as an indicator of the health of the river, as they are a highly oxygen dependent species. They are much loved by the many families and school children who have enjoyed river dipping at Crane Park Island over the years.” Trust staff and volunteers have worked closely with the agencies involved and will continue to help monitor the recovery of the river, as well as assisting with the ongoing clean-up. Habitat improvements along the length of the River Crane were already underway thanks to the Crane Valley Conservation Project. The project is currently delivered by Francesca Barker and Jane Clarke, with support from the Crane

Valley Community Project and help from volunteers. These works are doing a great deal to help the biodiversity of the Crane, with improvements to water vole habitat, inchannel planting regimes and tree work undertaken to improve light levels along the river banks and encourage marginal vegetation. This will all help make the river healthier and more robust in the future, though there is still a great deal of work to be done. Find out how you can help the river recover overleaf. The Crane Valley Conservation Project is funded by Biffaward, and the Crane Valley Community Project by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The two projects are linked and form part of a wider Living Landscape project in the Crane Valley area. ◆ Alex Robb is the Trust’s Richmond Area Manager

Top: Bullhead © Andy Willmore Above and opposite: Crane pollution © Andy Willmore


FIVE WAYS TO HELP THE RIVER’S RECOVERY 1. L  et us know if you spot any wildlife. We’re particularly interested to hear of heron or kingfisher sightings, which would indicate the presence of fish. Send us any photos you take between now and the summer. 2. J oin our River Crane Conservation Volunteering Days, on the last Sunday of each month at Crane Park Island. No experience necessary; tools and training provided!

Sad reflections

Cleaner waters running wild?

The River Crane is incredibly important to local people and the pollution incident has been met with dismay. “I was walking my dog when I smelled the river. It made me want to retch and then to cry, thinking of all the great work you have been doing here over the years, all gone to waste” – local dog walker “When I think of all the pleasure my children have had river dipping with you over the years, it really saddens me to see what has happened” – local parent “The sewage pollution in the River Crane has had a devastating impact on Crane Park Island Nature Reserve. It was horrible to see hundreds of dead fish floating in the pollution. The species I miss most is the kingfisher, which had made its home on the reserve since we created kingfisher nesting banks some years ago. It won’t return until the ecosystem is restored, which may take many, many months” – Ian McKinnon, local volunteer

While water quality has improved, there’s still a long way to go before our rivers, streams and lakes are thriving with life, and sustainably so. It’s for this reason that international efforts to address the impacts of direct and diffuse pollution have an important role to play. The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) became part of UK law in 2003, and provides a statutory framework to plan and deliver a better water environment. It aims to ensure Good Ecological Status for the water environment across Europe – effectively near-pristine waters – by 2027 at the latest, where this isn’t ‘disproportionately expensive’ or technically too difficult. The Directive can help protect and enhance the quality of surface freshwater, groundwaters and their dependant ecosystems, estuaries, and coastal waters out to one mile from low-water. It raises the bar in terms of the quality expected, requires no deterioration in environmental quality and, crucially, requires the active involvement of local people in planning and decision making. Pressures on the water environment in London and the south east are high due to

3. Join our River Crane Volunteer Group, which meets on the first Tuesday of each month, from 10.30am until 2pm. Again, no experience necessary; tools and training provided! 4. T  rust staff will be undertaking a programme of talks on the river and its recovery with schools and community groups – contact us if you would like to be included in the programme. 5. T  o receive regular updates about volunteering, and other events and activities, please let us know and we’ll add you to our mailing list. Get in touch with the Crane team 020 8755 2339 (24 hour answer phone) Alex Robb: Andy Willmore:

Above: Crane Park Island visitors © London Wildlife Trust


Opposite: Local people looking after the River Crane © London Wildlife Trust

the combination of relatively low rainfall, population density and high water use. Only 21% of the 968 river, lake, estuary and coastal water bodies here are currently at ‘good status’. The first generation of River Basin Management Plans set out future targets for the water environment. Relying heavily on improvements that can be secured through water company investment and specific agricultural initiatives, there was a feeling that they didn’t go far enough and questions arose. How can we secure biodiversity improvements on riparian habitats as well as within the water body? How can we effectively tackle invasive species, and encourage those of conservation concern, such as water vole and wildfowl? Importantly, what would make an ecologically functional catchment? In urban river systems heavily modified by culverts, dams and weirs, things become even more problematic. Achieving good status in London is almost impossible without radically changing the city and society in ways that many would not accept. Can we harness the push from the Directive to ensure future generations aren’t landed

with an even more challenging problem and an even bigger bill, and how can local people play a central role? The Environment Agency will carry out the Directive in the UK, in necessary partnership with NGOs, communities and the private sector. In 2011 they announced 10 WFD catchment pilots. One of these is the Lower Lee, which the Agency will oversee. In addition, a further 15 catchments were recently announced, to be led by NGOs and others. In London this includes the Tidal Thames. Work on the Lower Lee will not only capture a wide range of activities – such as weir removal – but will also start rolling out new projects to address diffuse pollution, for example on the Pymme’s Brook in Oak Hill Park (see pages 18–19). Further support is also likely to be given for our work on the River Crane, in recognition that there needs to be greater involvement of the wider community in improving water environments across the city. ◆ Article by James Farrell, the Environment Agency’s WFD Programme Manager, and Mathew Frith, our Deputy Chief Executive

For better or worse? How the 2012 Olympics have transformed east London

Love it or hate it, the new Olympic Park has offered a new generation access to nature, argues Girish Rambaran. Organisers of London 2012 claim the Olympic Park in the Lower Lee Valley was once an area of dereliction, contamination and anonymity. They claim the legacy of the Games will leave improvements for wildlife and open it up to thousands of new people. Like all large regeneration schemes built on significant aspirations, it’s not yet clear whether its ambition of inclusion and ‘convergence’ (raising the quality of life of east Londoners) will be achieved. What is certain is that this 250 hectare landscape will be unlike anything east London has ever seen, and that its opening in 2013 is keenly anticipated. I spent the first 18 years of my life in east London, born and raised within earshot of the Bow Bells. Like many of my childhood contemporaries, the only exposure I got to the natural world was the local park and our unkempt back garden. Sampling or identifying the many wonders of urban biodiversity was not a fixture of our school’s curriculum and my parents were far too busy making a living to have an interest in wildlife. I didn’t even know the Lower Lee Valley existed. Whether or not you love the fact the Olympic Games has made its indelible mark on east London, tens of thousands of children from all over this impoverished part of the UK will have the opportunity to learn more about their environment. 12

The Olympic Delivery Authority has successfully engaged with local schools and communities, and their public tours of the Olympic Park are fully booked for months in advance. The Trust’s education programme, based at the View Tube on the Olympic stretch of the Greenway, has delivered free and subsidised outdoor environmental education to over 30,000 primary and secondary school children from the six Host Boroughs since we opened in late 2009. For the first time for the vast majority of these children, they’re directly exposed to biodiversity, the principles of sustainability, urban geography and regeneration, local history and the Lower Lee Valley. Horizons are being broadened, but at what cost and is it worth it? Sustainability and destruction have been intertwined throughout the build of the Olympic Park. Around 43 hectares of wildlife-rich open space, Channelsea Gorge and Pudding Mill River were lost from the Lower Lee Valley as a result of the developments. This entailed the translocation of 4,000 smooth newts, 112 common toads, 331 common lizards and an untold number of fish. I’ve heard many fond memories of the old Bully Point Nature Reserve and Eastway Cycle Circuit, two Sites of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation

(SINC). The Manor Gardening Society lost their 100 year-old allotments in a protracted battle with the London Development Agency. Through this method of Compulsory Purchase Orders, the predominantly industrial infrastructure of the area was flattened and recycled, and the contaminated soil upon which it stood was painstakingly dug-out, cleaned and re-used. Even Greenwich Park and Woolwich Common will be affected with no discernible legacy apparent.

Sustainability and destruction have been intertwined In our role as a ‘stakeholder’, the Trust has been consulted by London 2012 on all of the major planning applications and design documents for Olympics developments. One in particular is the Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan (OP BAP), which should underpin the natural legacy of the Games. At least 102ha of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) are to be created in the Olympic Park, of which 45ha are to be SINC (Grade 1) habitats, comprising wet woodland, reedbed,

trees and scrub, brownfield, species-rich grassland and ponds. Close to 25ha of habitats have already been created for Games time and it is now the responsibility of the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) to fulfill the rest of the OP BAP and MOL commitments and to effectively manage the parklands for biodiversity for at least 10 years. We believe third sector organisations should be given the opportunity and the means to get involved, and that conservation volunteering and outdoor environmental education should be embedded in the legacy. It’s not been easy working with London 2012, or the large consultancies and landscape architects employed to deliver such an immense international project. We hope our working relationship with the OPLC will be more fruitful. The Park’s potential local importance for ecological connectivity (from the Thames to Hertfordshire via the Lee River) and the socio-economic prospects of its surrounding communities is plain to see and must not fail. We can see it even from our little hub on the Greenway. ◆G  irish Rambaran is the Trust’s Olympics Legacy Manager.

IMPORTANT FACTS • 675 bird and bat boxes will be installed in the Olympic Park for various species including serotine bats, house sparrow and black redstart. • Nesting banks have been created for kingfisher and sand martin. • There are Olympic Park Species Action Plans for a number of species including brown-banded carder bee, European eel, common frog, grass snake, water vole and otter. • View Tube Learn is an education project inspired by the 2012 Games led by London Wildlife Trust (for primary schools) and Field Studies Council (for secondary schools). For more information visit • For more on the Trust’s Olympics activities visit engaging-people

Top/right: Swift © Stefan Johansson Top/left: The Greenway looking north © Girish Rambaran Left/top: Dwarf elder © Mathew Frith Left/bottom: New habitat in the Olympic Park © John Hopkins


Mayoral Elections 2012 What will the next Mayor do for London’s nature?

In anticipation of the upcoming elections, we’ve developed a manifesto outlining our vision for London. The Trust’s work, and the newly elected Mayor’s support for it, has never been more important. We asked the four main mayoral candidates to sign the London Wildlife Trust Pledge and you can see their responses here.

The London Wildlife Trust Pledge On election as leader I will: • Actively ensure that children and young people gain improved access to the natural environment through supporting a range of opportunities such as natural play, outdoor learning, access to nature reserves and green spaces. • Take strategic leadership to safeguard biodiversity within the capital, through the identification and protection of over 1,500 wildlife sites, and by supporting their conservation and enhancement through the delivery of the London and local Biodiversity Action Plans. • Commit to the effective governance and delivery of the All London Green Grid, the strategic green infrastructure that can contribute to biodiversity conservation targets and bring people into contact with the natural world.


• Support the protection of the Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land and the Blue Ribbon river network in order to conserve London’s key landscape assets. • Encourage the protection, enhancement and sustainable use of private gardens, to support wildlife, help reduce surface water run-off and contribute towards climate change adaptation objectives. • Champion active local community groups who protect and manage the natural environment, and provide further support for voluntary action. • Commit to a genuinely sustainable and lasting legacy of the Olympic Games for both people and wildlife. • Encourage citizen science and the development of local, ‘on the doorstep’ wildlife monitoring, to enhance our knowledge about London’s wildlife.

Boris Johnson Conservative

Jenny Jones Green Party

Ken Livingstone Labour

Brian Paddick Liberal Democrats

In 2008 I pledged to protect our green, open spaces and encourage more recycling across the boroughs. I have delivered on those promises and worked hard to make this a greener and cleaner city, and even saved Londoners money in the process. I have:

The Green Party fully supports London Wildlife Trust’s manifesto. Since we were first elected in 2000, I have worked with Darren Johnson on the London Assembly to protect and enhance the city’s wildlife and biodiversity. We started the East London Green Grid, secured changes to planning policy to protect back gardens, and are currently investigating the loss of biodiversity expertise in London. We promise to:

I’m happy to give my wholehearted support to London Wildlife Trust’s manifesto. As a life-long nature and wildlife enthusiast, and a regular visitor to Camley Street, it is good to see the Trust continuing to do such great work. In elected office I’ve always championed the creation of open spaces and education opportunities for young people to learn about nature. As a former biologist and trustee of London Zoo, this is an issue that is close to my heart. That’s why as Leader of the GLC I ensured that we supported the London Wildlife Trust when it was established in 1981 and simultaneously set up the London Ecology Unit. If I’m elected as Mayor I promise that I will:

I want to see a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable London. We need to combat environmental crime and take action to reduce CO2 emissions. Air pollution causes over 4,000 premature deaths a year in London. We will:

• Got rid of the The Londoner, and used the money to plant 10,000 street trees. • Created over 800 new green spaces for Londoners to grow their own food. • Set up the London Waste and Recycling Board. • Secured a reduction of 71,813 tonnes of CO2. • Secured £5 million for the Clean Air Fund to improve air quality hotspots. • Rolled out the RE:NEW programme within every London borough, saving Londoners up to £180 per household through installation of energy and water efficiency measures in homes. • Invested over £24 million in 11 of London’s parks. I have strived to deliver on my green agenda, and I am proud of what we have achieved. However, there is still much that I want to do. By the start of the London Olympics 2012, through London’s Great Outdoors programme, I will have invested over £335 million in public space projects. I am also supporting the planting of an additional 100,000 trees per year through community action. I look forward to announcing these and other initiatives soon. By continuing to work with London Wildlife Trust, we will build on our successes.

• Work with conservationists to improve London’s environment for all its inhabitants, and to get more people visiting and appreciating London’s natural wealth. • Put in place plans to reduce carbon emissions and resource consumption to sustainable levels to prevent global biodiversity collapse. • Give green spaces on housing estates the same level of protection as back gardens, and encourage biodiversity. • Fully resource the All London Green Grid to enhance habitats and create complete corridors so wildlife can adapt to climate change. We will continue to work on solutions to our housing and jobs crises without building over the lungs and heart of London.

• Strongly enforce protection of green and open spaces through the Mayor’s planning powers. • Amend London’s planning regulations to stop borough authorities allowing new development on gardens. • Support school children with free travel and entrance to resources like the Barnes Wetland Centre. I will oppose Boris Johnson’s plans to destroy important wetlands by building a massive new airport in the Thames Estuary. Often people don’t realise what’s on their doorstep, which is why I set up the Wild Web website with London Wildlife Trust, when I was last in office. The more children learn about wildlife, the more they will cherish it as adults.

• Insist planning and development across the capital considers the effects on wildlife, ensuring that London’s beauty is enhanced, promoted and preserved for our children. • Oppose plans for a Thames Estuary Airport which will devastate the habitat of wild fowl. • London Liberal Democrats believe in supporting local communities to make the most of their natural environment and will support the work of the Olympic Park Legacy Company on this. • London Liberal Democrats have lobbied for a Clean Air Zone in London. • We will make all London buses and taxis run on sustainable electricity by 2020. • We will expand the Green Deal to support the switch to energy efficient homes. • We will introduce minimum standards to ensure London’s serious need for more housing meets sustainably targets. London goes into 2012 facing serious challenges on a wide range of issues. The next Mayor must take the lead in standing up for biodiversity, green spaces and a sustainable future.


Your wild London

Thank you! Massive thanks to all our members who donated to our winter appeal 2011. Through your generosity, we were able to raise £9,315 for our frontline conservation work and so help minimise the impact of the River Crane pollution incident. See pages 8–11 for more on this pollution event and what we’re doing to clean-up the river.

Competition Win a copy of A Brush With Nature, a collection of Richard Mabey’s columns for BBC Wildlife magazine. Tell us which species of owl does Richard like to track? Email your answer to by the 1st May.

Winner Congratulations to Helen Peavitt and June Cocksedge who won last issue’s competition – each has received a copy of Remembered Recipes by the Dulwich Informal Growers. 16

The intense observer A word about the wild with naturalist and nature writer Richard Mabey

Going Wild London Wildlife Trust runs a range of events each year, many of them free. We can only provide a taste of events in Wild London so make sure you check our website regularly – – to find out what’s on and where. ————————————————— Family bird and heritage walk 12 April, 9:30am –11am Stoke Newington East Reservoir. Guided bird walk with bird expert Jamie Partridge ————————————————— Wildlife gardening workshop 15 April, 10:30am–1pm Centre for Wildlife Gardening. Practical workshop with expert gardener Elaine Hughes ————————————————— Bees knees workshop 28 April, 10am–12pm Stoke Newington East Reservoir. Learn how to make your garden or window box bee friendly

Bluebell walk in Fishponds Wood 29 April, 9:30am. Meet at Beverley Meads car park, Barham Road In memory of Stephen Frank. Contact for more info ————————————————— Gutteridge and Ten Acre Woods Health Walk 23 May 10:45am–1:30pm. Meet at Charville Library, Bury Avenue, Hayes, UB4 8LF ————————————————— There are many events taking place across London and they’re all listed on our website. If you don’t have internet access please contact us on 020 7803 4289 for a printed events guide.

Top: Stoke Newington East Reservoir © Cairis Hickey

On London It’s changed a lot since I lived and worked there in the 1970s – a lot of places have vanished, most notably under the Olympic Park, which back then was an exciting and genuinely wild part of east London. The other place I meandered, and wrote The Unofficial Countryside about, was in west London, near Uxbridge and Heathrow. I still walk there about once a year. It’s a labyrinth that has escaped development, it’s pretty much untouched and still feels exciting. On urban wildlife I think that nature’s power is much stronger in the urban rather than the rural context because you get the sense of contrast so sharply. There’s a tremendous metaphorical power in the improbable ability of nature to come into the city. When you’re on Charlotte Street and you see a hobby streaking overhead, it feels miraculous. Urban wildlife is by definition more resilient to human settlement. It also has an astonishment value that’s much higher than elsewhere because the amount of wildlife per head is so much lower.

On nature’s cure To think of nature as a kind of Prozac is an injustice to the complex relationship humans have with nature. Our experiences with it have huge emotional power – we see the exhaustion of a migrating bird or the sacrifice an adult makes for its young, and it’s a lesson in what it means to be reduced down to the elemental level. Nature should shock you and make you feel pain. On science and romance I have scientific DNA. I think the emotional and the scientific are both about intense observation and both get their power from a sense of wonder. I obsessively track barn owls – I see them as my neighbours and I worry about them when it rains and go and check on them. That question, ‘where does a barn owl go in the rain’, is both emotional and scientific. On writing Once you’ve become a dyed in the wool writer it’s who you are. When I’m out I’m subconsciously making images and stories in my head. It’s about the precision of watching. The framework of observation gives you a framework for your writing. It’s also the discipline of finding the right words.

On green government I’m as outraged as everyone at the current government reneging on their promise to be the greenest one ever. The new planning documents no longer see biodiversity as essential. The fabric of biodiversity underpins all things, without it everything goes down the tube. NGOs need to stop being so polite, they’ve really sucked up to government and talked about nature like financiers. We need to launch a head on attack on these new measures. There also needs to be a propaganda campaign to show that the essential protection of the environment doesn’t undermine economic goals. The number of job opportunities created if we adopted a low carbon economy would be enormous. On the future The big opportunity now is landscapescale rebuilding – the joining up of nature reserves and the restoration of flood plains. I see this happening in my home of East Anglia, where reserves are being created that you can talk about in square miles rather than mere hectares. This is already having a significant effect on wildlife. ◆ Interview by Helen Babbs 17

Oak Hill Wood Spring flowers and birdsong in East Barnet

VISIT THE WOOD Always open, the main entrance to the wood is on Daneland, off Cat Hill, East Barnet, or from Oak Hill Park, with entrances off Church Hill Road. The closest stations are Oakleigh Park rail and Cockfosters tube; bus 184 along Church Hill Road and the 307 along Cat Hill. Find out more at

Kitt Jones gives us a guided tour of his local patch, and dares to stand up for the much maligned green parakeet. Standing on the north-eastern slopes of Oak Hill Park in East Barnet, straddling a tributary of the Pymmes Brook, Oak Hill Wood is surprisingly diverse for its size. With a canopy dominated by pedunculate oak, hornbeam and ash, this woodland once stood within the grounds of a country house. Its ancient heritage is hinted at by the presence of wild service-tree, abundant Midland hawthorn and field maple, and ground flora such as wood anemone and yellow archangel. Nevertheless, Victorian influences, such as the mature horse chestnuts and large amounts of cherry-laurel planted for game cover, still survive, and these require attention to ensure the wood’s biodiversity interest is enhanced. Local volunteers have recently been working to clear the cherrylaurel, which will allow dormant wildflower seeds to germinate and tree seedlings to establish. The cut brash is used for ‘dead hedging’ that is then padded out with rotting wood and leaf litter. This dead hedging is used to isolate sensitive areas and makes excellent refuges for many animals including hedgehog, wood mouse and amphibians. Nesting birds like robin, blackbird, wren, hedge sparrow and song thrush also use the hedges. Many wild flowers are now appearing in the woods, which is locally renowned for its spring show of wood anemone, wild garlic, periwinkle, bugle and bluebell. These plants will seed and colonise newly cleared areas now that the heavy shading has been removed. In January a flock of over 100 redwing were present in the woods, feeding on a bumper crop of holly berries. These birds seem to eat all the red berries first and leave the yellow ones until last. When carrying out management of scrub holly, we always leave the female plants intact to preserve this valuable winter food resource. Other birds were setting up breeding territories in January due to the mild weather. Great-spotted woodpeckers could

be heard drumming and sparrowhawks carried out their aerial display high above the tree canopy. The hawks have bred regularly for the past four years in the neighbourhood – their most common prey appears to be collared dove, blackbird, pigeons and house sparrow. In February the first record of a buzzard roosting in the canopy suggested these large raptors are becoming increasingly confident. When walking under the trees you will hear the ceaseless chatter of ring-necked parakeets, which in winter feed on the remaining beech and hornbeam mast. Contrary to popular belief, these birds do not seem to have any negative impact on the woods or native birds like nuthatch and treecreeper. In fact, the parakeets appear to have a positive effect by excavating nest holes in dead wood that are used by other birds at a later date. An average of three parakeet pairs have bred annually since 2003, raising two to three young – they favour ash and oak as nesting sites. They’re the only birds on the reserve that have been observed out-flying a sparrowhawk when they’ve been pursued through dense cover. The parakeets gather just before sunset each day before setting off for their communal roost at Wormwood Scrubs Common, over 12km away. The stream running through the woods affords habitat for moisture-loving plants such as male-fern, hart’s-tongue, wood-sedge, pendulous sedge, mosses and liverworts. Unfortunately it has recently been subject to pollution incidents – through drain misconnections – which have affected the Pymmes Brook that flows through Oak Hill Park and eventually into the Lee. The Environment Agency is currently targeting the brook for improvements under the Water Framework Directive (see page 11), and works are due to start on enhancements in the park later this year. In due course, the condition of the stream within the wood is to be improved, including the potential of de-culverting it.

Oak Hill Wood is designated a Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation. The Trust began practical conservation on the site in November 1985, although negotiations for a legal agreement to manage it weren’t completed until 1991. Together with the adjacent Donkey and Long Fields, the wood was declared a statutory Local Nature Reserve in 1997. The fact the woods continue to be haven for birds is testimony to the dedication of volunteers in protecting and enhancing this delightful reserve. ◆ Kitt Jones is the reserve’s warden

Above: Yellow archangel © Mathew Frith Top: Ring-necked parakeet © Cairis Hickey Opposite: Wood anemone © Mathew Frith


BEAUTIFUL BLUEBELLS “Walking one morning in ancient woodland, I came across this clearing carpeted with bluebells as far as the eye could see. I set up my camera on a tripod and took a number of wide angle shots of varying compositions. Nothing quite sings of English spring like bluebells” says photographer Jules Cox /

Wild london spring 2012