London

East Wickham Open Space, Bexley

Project: Pond Restoration

Start date: November 2015

Volunteer opportunities: surveying, site maintenance

Funding – HLF, Cory Environmental Trust & London Borough of Bexley

About the site: East Wickham Open Space (EWOS) covers 28 hectares on the north-western border of the London Borough of Bexley. It supports a variety of habitats and wildlife and the Green Chain Walk dissects the Open Space from east to west. The land is owned by Bexley Council and has been transformed through the efforts of the East Wickham Conservation Volunteers, who have worked with the Council for many years to enhance it for the benefit of the community.

The name “East Wickham” or “Estwycham” dates back to 1284, and the term Wickham means a dwelling place or settlement. EWOS is made up of land previously forming part of East Wickham Farm and East Wickham House. The farm’s present facade dates back to 1843 and the original timber structure is much older.

In 1902, the area was transferred from the Manor of Plumstead into the Borough of Bexley, and during the late 1950s, Bexley Borough Council used part of the area as a landfill site, consisting of green waste and bomb damage rubble. After some years, the area was levelled, grassed over and became a mown public open space. The streams flowing west to east across the site were culverted.

1977 saw the establishment of the Green Chain Walk network and part of this crosses the Open Space from Highbanks Close in the north-east to Glenmore Road in the west. During part of 1988 the East Wickham Conservation project was born and approximately half the site was left unmown, with some 400 native trees and shrubs planted. East Wickham has been identified by the London Ecology Unit as a site of local importance for nature conservation.

 

About the project: When Froglife first visited the site they came across the ten year old pond made from puddled clay. They were informed by the local conservation group and the council that the pond does fill up and overflow during the winter, but quickly after that the water levels fall again. It was thought that the puddled clay liner had failed. The old pond was around 10m in diameter and only around 450mm deep at the centre. Frogspawn appeared each spring, but has never thrived due to water loss.

EWOS BEFORE Collage

Figure 1: Pond Area before work commenced

It was decided that the pond area would be restored with the creation of two inter-linked ponds which will allow overflow between ponds. They would have varying maximum depths (500mm – 900mm) to allow for a more diverse water habitat. All of the excavated soil was recycled on site to form mounds as habitats for basking invertebrates and reptiles, and the existing fencing was replaced and used to create hibernacula.

EWOS During 1 Collage

Figure 2: Pond Area during work; excavation of soil on site

By February 2016, all pond work was complete, and a cleared area near to the pond was created to be a sheltered sunny area for reptiles and butterflies. During this period, the ecologist from the London Dragon Finder Project laid out mats around the site, for the East Wickham Conservation Volunteers to monitor and survey reptiles for the rest of the season.

EWOS DD Species Present Collage

Figure 3: Common Frog and Common Lizard spotted on site by volunteer, Katie Garrett

The project was completed at the beginning of May 2016, where around 60 people (inc. a few kids from the local scouts group, families, councillors and the MP for Bexley!) came along and planted up the pond. Everyone got muddy and stuck in (literally!) to the planting, and overall we planted around 750 plants in and around the pond!

EWOS VOL Pond Planting Collage

Figure 4: Pond planted commenced (L-R; A selection of plants that were planted into the pond. Everyone comes to help local Cllr Jeremy Hunt who was stuck in the mud! Our team in deep conversation about the importance of plants for amphibians and aquatic invertebrates. A member of the East Wickham Conservation Volunteers helping organise the plant plugs)

To celebrate the completion of the project, we also held a Dragon Day on the day, with lots of craft activities and information for families and residents about amphibians and reptiles! This gave the younger kids a chance to get mucky (like everyone else!) with our paints, as they were decorating their frogs!

EWOS DD Craft Activities Collage

Figure 5: The London Dragon Finder team’s Dragon Day craft activities!