Dartmouth Park NF Greening Group & Heath Hands Walkabout 09/04/21

Following a couple of useful online meetings with Karin and Colin of Heath Hands, we agreed to meet for a walk along the fringes of The Heath abutting the DPNF area and also to look at some of the existing green corridors within our area linking the Heath, Highgate Cemetery, Holly Village, Holly lodge Estate, the Nature Reserve and Dartmouth Park reservoir.

Both groups are looking at ways of supporting each other’s work and aims, as we know that wildlife moves across boundaries and needs help from all of us to survive and thrive.

DPNF engagement and consultations over the 7 years leading up to the Plan’s acceptance, indicated that residents, businesses and visitors especially appreciate the green and semi-rural nature of much of the area and asked for this to be preserved and enhanced. This is reflected in our Plan and our Greening Group objective of involving as many people as possible within our community in this shared initiative.

Heath Hands are keen to increase links with local groups on the fringes of The Heath, to share their specialist knowledge, help create new green corridors between The Heath and residential areas, and to get more support and understanding of the work they are doing from the wider community. see link: https://www.heath-hands.org.uk/wildlifearoundheath,

We met at the Swain’s lane entrance. Jo and Rory of Heath Hands (Colin called away for a First Aid emergency) and Eileen and Catharine of the Greening Group (Kathleen detained by a work deadline)

We walked along Highgate Rd just inside the hedging, while discussing the impact on The Heath of the extra footfall during Covid. From the pavement we noted the vertical planting on the new La Swap building and the young Holly & mosaic Hedging and wildflowers and shrubs along the boundary fencing- all very positive.

Catharine mentioned the project at Parliament Hill School for pupils to plant an Orchard circle of Apple Trees surrounded by a wildflower meadow. This was facilitated by Camden Think & Do and Kentish Town Transition supported by a grant from PUNL Community Energy Fund. See the H&H for article & photos. Heath Hands are also working with William Ellis school.

Turning into Lissenden Gardens, we saw the efforts by residents to nurture various “natural areas” (plenty of bumblebees and some nesting birds) and maximise possibilities for community growing. (Grow Lissenden are very active.Two further ideas were mentioned: A) small round holes in the base of the fencing separating Parliament Hill School green space and Lissenden Gardens could allow hedgehog circulation. B) large wooden pallet style planters on the flat areas on either side of the main entry door to mansion blocks for flowers. Kira of HH has Lissenden connections. This could be explored further, once refurbishment is completed and scaffolding removed.

Before turning into Glenhurst Av (with its mix of street trees and front gardens), near where the Heath meets Mansfield Rd, we mentioned the nature reserve by the railway (an ACV) and the Murphy’s Yard redevelopment.

We noted the importance of the “Highgate Enclosures” on both sides of the main road with mature trees before turning into Woodsome Rd with some well planted up and cared for tree pits. Eileen mentioned that some sorbus had reached the end of their life span and emphasized the importance of proper watering of newly planted trees.

Moving on into York Rise and then Croftdown, we considered the water courses running under some of these streets (visible and audible through gratings) and the green areas of LSU behind Brookfield Park.

We spent some time looking at the front gardens, trees and hedging of the “Homes for Heroes” group of streets including Kingswear, Croftdown and St Alban’s. One major issue is the different approach by Camden Council in terms of maintenance of trees and hedging between social and leaseholder tenants on this estate area. This has contributed to poor maintenance of some garden trees and replacement of hedging with ugly fencing.

 It would be helpful if Camden could encourage and support the reinstatement of the original hedging to improve biodiversity and restore the special nature of these streets.

In addition, we discussed the value of supporting tenants in the mansion blocks wanting to have window boxes-something suggested by a new member of the Greening Group who lives there.

We passed the Whittington Estate and noted the green corridors of planting along the tiered walkways and pointed out Ricky’s Wood That Works which now operates from the basement area looking onto the cemetery. There is also the “Secret Garden“, on the curve between Balmore & Doynton which may be used in future as an outdoor classroom for  Brookfield primary .

We continued along Chester Rd and mentioned the Highgate Cemetery’s 25-year plan for improving biodiversity and dealing with ash dieback. Passing the green oasis of Holly Village, we walked back towards the Heath while considering the importance of Waterlow Park and the Holly Lodge Estate in terms of the variety of planting and trees.

It was disappointing to see that a couple of the front gardens on Swain’s Lane were now wholly given over to paved or gravel car parking. We noted a couple of newish trees by the shops and agreed that more shrubs and green screening could improve this hub.

Camden planning could also encourage several large properties (including a housing association) across from Swain’s Lane shop hub to reinstated hedging

What did we learn from our walk?

We saw that greening and green corridors can develop and spread through lots of small additions and improvements as well as larger schemes.

We noted the value of various groups, large or small working together with residents, businesses and schools and sharing information and ideas.

We agreed that it was worth developing two or three simple ideas for engaging our local community:

  1. Asking our DPNF residents, schools and businesses via a newsletter and website to look out for and report sightings of hedgehogs to us and Heath Hands.
  2. Heath Hands will provide us with simple advice on how to encourage hedgehogs into gardens and estate & school green spaces (tunnels, hedging, small holes in fencing etc) We will publicise this on our website and encourage all who can, to find out more about volunteering and supporting Heath Hands.
  3. Trying to encourage hedge and house sparrows with advice on planting or improving hedging and providing nesting boxes in the right places, disseminated via our website and newsletters

Note: A link to Hampstead Heath 150 years biodiversity initiative is on the Greening project page of our website: https://www.heathandhampstead.org.uk/heath/biodiversity/

I would like to record our thanks to Heath Hands for giving us their time and expertise.

Catharine Wells 26/04/2021