Saturday 4 November 2017

The Saturday List #153 - 10 places in the London Borough of Barnet where you can see interesting wildlife for free!

I've been meaning to do this list for a while. Now I've bent the rules everso slightly, so these are all within reasonable walking distance of a tube/rail station in the Borough! There are two rules for this blog. The places all have to be free to access and all have to be worth a visit! And if you are looking for a list of pet shops etc, they won't be appearing. Enjoy!

1. Golders Hill Park Zoo

Golders Hill Park is home to a free zoo, with a growing collection of rare and exotic birds and mammals such as laughing kookaburras, ring-tailed lemurs and ring-tailed coatis. The zoo plays an important role in the interpretation and education of the habitats and wildlife of Hampstead Heath. It is one of only two free zoos in London registered with BIAZA, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This really is a great place to visit, a short walk from Golders Green tube station. It is in the London Borough of Camden, but I always think of it as in our neck of the wood, so I hope you can forgive this bending of the rules and definitions.

 Totteridge Long Pond
2. Totteridge Ponds

Starting from the east, they are Burnham's Pond, Warren Pond, Long Pond, Ellern Mede Pond and Pink Cottage Pond. They vary in character, but all have interesting wetland flora, and most are valuable for dragonflies, other invertebrates and amphibians. They are also well known as the home of various birds, most notably geese and ducks. The spot is also popular with local anglers, so if you are lucky you may even spot a nice big carp basking in the sun.

The Orange Tree is a short walk away, which makes a great way to end the trip.

3. Darlands Lake Nature reserve

The lake is very shallow, with extensive reed beds, and the reserve also includes woodland. It has a diverse range of breeding birds and eighteen species of mammal have been recorded, including stoat and weasel. It is also of value for grass snakes, amphibians and insects such as dragonflies. It is part of the Totteridge valley and is handily placed between the Adam and Eve pub and The Orange Tree, if you are planning a nice walk.

Sheepwash pond
4. Sheepwash pond

This beautiful old pondis a popular spot for Mums and Dads to show their toddlers the ducks and geese. It is a beautiful old pond. If you are lucky you can spot an Alpaca at the adjacent Belmont Childrens Zoo, although you have to pay to get in there. 

If you are Doctor Who, and you can go back to 2004, you could see a family of terrapins that took up residence in the pond.

One little word, please don't feed the ducks as this is very bad for the ponds ecosystem.

5. The Welsh Harp

This is the largest bit of water in the Borough. It is home to various sailing clubs and is also a nature reserve. It is a great place to go for a walk on a sunny autumn afternoon. The reservoir is an important site for breeding waterbirds such as great crested grebe, gadwall, shoveler, common pochard, tufted duck and common tern. At one stage, the reservoir was second only to Rutland Water for the most breeding pairs of great crested grebe in the UK. Other breeding birds include eight species of warbler. In 2008, the first nesting attempt by great cormorant took place as well as the first nesting attempt by grey heron for several years, neither attempt was successful.

The reservoir is also notable for bats, with three species of pipistrelle, noctule, Leisler's bat, serotine and Daubenton's bat all recorded on a single day in September 2007.

6. Monken Hadley Common

This lies within the Monken Hadley Conservation Area, it has a diverse array of interesting wildlife, Butterflies include white-letter and purple hairstreaks, and there are breeding birds such as sparrowhawk and tawny owl. Beech Hill Lake (or Jack's Lake) was formed by damming Pymme's Brook. It is managed for angling and supports common waterfowl and Daubenton's bats use it for feeding, foraging low over the water. Two smaller ponds have a much richer flora and abundant amphibians, which attract grass snakes.

7. Glebelands Nature Reserve

It is the largest surviving fragment of the habitat of the old Finchley Common. The site is mostly wooded with areas of tall scrub and grassland, and there are numerous streams and seasonal small ponds.. There are a large number of breeding birds that visit the site as well as amphibians and small mammals.  Glebelands is located at the corner of the North Circular Road and High Road, with access from a path between the High Road and Legion Way, off Summers Lane.

8. Brent Park, Hendon

The park is a narrow wooded strip of land west of the North Circular Road between Brent Street and Bell Lane. It is almost wholly managed for nature conservation apart from a small area of mown grass at the northern end. The River Brent runs along the western edge, and there are three ponds next to the river. These are the remains of a lake built possibly as long as a thousand years ago by the abbots of Westminster as a duck decoy. Tufted ducks, mallards, coots and moorhens still nest on a wooded island on one of the ponds.

9. Big Wood and Little Wood, Hampstead

The wooded area is a great refuge for local birds. Pedunculate oak is the main canopy tree, together with sessile oak, hornbeam and wild cherry. It also contains an unusually large population of wild service trees, while the undergrowth is dominated by bramble and ivy, with many bluebells. Breeding birds include tawny owl, nuthatch and treecreeper. When researching this blog, I was also fascinated to learn that prior to the construction of the Denman Drive North and South in 1912 on the field between Little and Big Woods, the land was used for grazing elephants. Sadly, unless you're Dr Who, that's long gone.

10. My Back Garden!

My pond
Our oak and copper beach tree
Well sadly you won't get to see this, unless you're a friend of mine! Then, not only will you get to see it for free, but you'll even get a cup of tea! I've had a lifelong love of nature and wildlife. This started in my back garden. I've seen all manner of wildlife over the years, I've encountered hedgehogs, squirrells, mice, rats, slow worms, dragonflies, frogs, newts, toads (I've got a wildlife pond) mooching around. We get regular visits from a big heron, and other regular visitors are magpies, wood pigeons, blue tits, sparrows, blackbirds, and starlings. As our house backs on to the M1, there is a strip between the road and our garden that runs wild and acts as a refuge for all manner of birds and animals. Sadly I don't have the time to properly investigate these days. Back gardens should be a magnificent resource in Barnet, but we are so obsessed with neatness that we don't have cover for birds, and cash so we build on them.

We are blessed with space and have a mature Copper beech tree and an Oak tree. Both produce a supply of nuts for the squirrels. I like to think of it as organised chaos.

One of my biggest bugbears with planning in Barnet is there is so little access for children to nature in the new plans. To me this is criminal.

For me putting together the Saturday List is always my most joyful blog of the week. I often find places on the web and then visit them. This week has been an exceptionally fruitful week. There is a brilliant wikipedia page that lists all of the local nature reserves. It is great to find out about such places, but I was saddened that given the communal nature of Wikipedia, we haven't put more info on about many of these great places. Anyone can register as an author on Wikipedia, so why not get out to your local site with your camera, take a few pictures and make the page better!

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

Golders Hill Park is wholly within Barnet. The boundary with Camden runs along its southern fence (Sandy Lane). The Hill Garden and Pergola (well worth visiting if you are in the vicinity) are however in Camden