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Wonders Of Warren Farm

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Walk 24 June 2023


On 24 June 2023, we walked around Warren Farm and the surrounding areas using a map created by the super talented Wilde and Sinclair to discuss the huge diversity of species which can be found there.


Around 30 people attended and along the way we had some lovely rich discussions. We spotted a great many things including a wide range of butterflies, swifts, red kite, bee orchids and much more. Below is an account of some of the key species I spoke about.


The main aim was to help people learn about the importance of a range of different habitats, how they can support a rich range of species and how the loss of a few species can have a huge impact.


Farming History

Warren Farm had been a working for many centuries. More recently, in the Victorian period, it was owned by George Trumper and his family. Subsequently, it was run by the local St Bernard’s Psychiatric Hospital until 1961.


Wildlife Corridors

Brent River Society in conjunction with the Warren Farm campaign are working on obtaining Local Nature Reserve (LNR) status for the following areas: Jubilee Meadow, Blackberry Corner, Trumper’s Field, Fox Meadow and potentially adding Imperial College London and the Earl of Jersey’s Field.


A large expanse of land is of great importance to species as it means that they can have different areas for mating, nesting and hunting.


"A wildlife corridor has been defined as a linear landscape element which serves as a linkage between historically connected habitat/natural areas, and is meant to facilitate movement between these natural areas.” - McEuen, 1993

An example of this are bats:

At least 8 species of bat live in London. Some of the common ones are:

  • Common Pipistrelle, the most common bat species in Britain

  • Daubenton’s Bat known as the water bats due to their hunting habits

  • Noctule Bat are the biggest in Britain. Typically they eat prey while flying but will occasionally go to the ground to eat larger prey.

Some bats roost in the old oaks, however, they will come to the fields and open areas, under trees and over water to hunt meaning that they would use many if not all of the conected spaced.


Meadows

Walking into Jubilee meadows we discussed the importance of meadows.

  • Habitat for Pollinators, including flowers for bees and host plants for butterfly caterpillars.

  • Food for Songbirds and Wildlife. They encourage insects which act as seeds for songbirds and wildlife.

  • Increased Water Infiltration due to the deeper root system (compared to just grass).

  • Native plants can better withstand drought as they are adapted to the environment. Of course with climate change, this is more important.

  • Carbon Sequestration, the deep root systems are better able to store carbon in the soil.

Nature group walking through Jubilee Meadows
Jubilee Meadows, WFNR, Laurence Murray

The difference between Butterflies and Moths

  • Both are from the group Lepidoptera

  • It’s not about colour, hairiness or time of day.

  • There are brightly coloured moths as there are dull, brown butterflies.

  • More commonly, butterflies usually have ‘club-shaped’ antennae while most moths have feathery or tapering ones.

  • Butterflies normally fold their wings vertically over their backs while most moths hold their wings horizontally when at rest.

Whilst out, we saw a range of butterflies including Red Admiral, Marble White and Meadow Brown.

Red Admiral butterfly resting on someone on a hot summer's day
Red Admiral, Katie Boyle, WFNR


Acid Grassland

Lowland Acid Grassland is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan habitat and as such is a top priority for wildlife conservation nationally.


The history of Warren Farm has helped this type of habitat to be established.

· Low-nutrient acid soil

· pH 4-5.5

· Commonly gravel and sandy soils

· Can occur as an integral part of lowland heath landscapes

· Height and thickness of the plants can vary

· Shallow topsoil

These sites are home to many rare species and need our protection.


Grasslands store approximately one third of the global terrestrial carbon stocks and can act as an important soil carbon sink.


To find out more about these special habitats, click here.


Skylarks

These infamous ground nesting birds were once common across the UK but due to the change to intensive farming practices, use of pesticides and loss of land, it is now a Red List Species.


London has only a few locations where Skylarks can be found and these include Richmond and also at least 12 pairs at Warren Farm.

Skylark on ground, Warren Farm Nature Reserve
Skylark, John Ashburner

Oak trees

Oaks are known to live for a very long time, with many getting to over 100 years and some across the UK nearing 1000 years old.


They are tremendously important, supporting an estimated 2,300 species, more than any other native tree species in the UK, even its fallen leaves support biodiversity.

In the UK we have two native sp. The English/Pedunculate Oak and the Sessile Oak (acorns don’t have stalks).


Little Owls

This small owl was introduced to the UK in the 19th century. It can be seen in the daylight, usually perching on a tree.


They eat small mammals and birds, beetles, and worms.

Little Owl in Oak Tree, Warren Farm Nature Reserve
Little Owl, John Ashburner

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrines started to move into our cities during the 1990s. They search for high perches such as pylons and high buildings.


They hunt by searching for prey either from a very high perch or from a great height in the air, and then stoop down at high-speed to hit their prey.


They easily adapt to city life as the lights give them good visibility.

Peregrine Falcon flying over Warren Farm
Peregrine Falcon, John Ashburner

A pair of peregrines have been nesting on Ealing Hospital for the past few years. The male is called Freddie, slightly smaller than the female, Dusty. They laid 4 eggs, two of which hatched and during June, they both fledged.


The hospital is not far from Warren Farm so this creates a vital habitat for them to hunt in.


Green Woodpecker

The green woodpecker is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in Britain. The others are Great Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Spotted.


They rarely drum. Instead, they communicate with a loud call that sounds like a crazy laugh and is known as a ‘yaffle’.


Areas of bare ground are excellent sites for burrowing invertebrates such as solitary bees & wasps. In addition, grassland can be habitat for ants including yellow meadow ants. These are perfect food for the green woodpecker.


Yellow meadow ants spend most of their life underground where they feed on honeydew produced by aphids which they 'farm' on the roots of grass.


Slow Worm

This legless lizard, can be found basking in the sun on heathlands and grasslands, or the heat of a garden compost heap.


The slow worm is much smaller than a snake and has smooth, golden-grey skin. Males are paler in colour and sometimes sport blue spots, while females are larger, with dark sides and a dark stripe down the back.


They eat slugs, snails, spiders, insects and earthworms. In the summer months, they can be found in meadows, woodland areas, or hiding under rocks or logs.


Cucumber Spiders

Cucumber spiders are a common across the UK, found at woodland edges, in hedgerows and many other tree and bush habitats. They spin small webs amongst the foliage to catch flying insects.

Cucumber Spider on web, taken at Warren Farm Nature Reserve
Cucumber Spider, Julian Oiver

Bee Orchid


This bee orchid was found at Warren Farm this year and we were able to see it during this walk.


Bee orchids are protected, as are all wild flowers. This section prohibits unauthorised and intentional uprooting of any wild plant...Orchids are particularly slow growing and may only flower once in their lifetime, it is important to never pick the flowers...The destruction of grassland habitat through development and agricultural intensification can quickly restrict and isolate colonies of species such as bee orchid.
Bee Orchid
Bee Orchid, John Ashburner

 

Photo credits - Thanks to:

  • Katie Boyle, WFNR, Red Admiral (Twitter and Insta @WarrenFarmNR)

  • John Ashburner for the Skylark, Peregrine Falcon, Little Owl and Bee Orchid. (Twitter: @_JohnAshburner)

  • Julian Oliver for the Cucumber Spider (Insta: @julian_with_a_camera)

  • Laurence Murray for the image of our group in Jubilee Meadows

References:




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2 Comments


I wasn’t able to attend your walk but reading this blog was lovely, informative and most importantly sums up why Warren Farm is so precious. Thank you x

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Chantal Anita
Chantal Anita
Jun 27, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Debbie. Yes, I wanted to make sure I wrote up something for those who couldn't attend...as well as perhaps encourage people from other parts of London to go and visit.

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