1. TO PROTECT PEOPLE AND NATURE
Beddington Farmlands is being developed into a 400 acre urban nature reserve within the core land of the Wandle Valley Regional Park. The nature reserve has the potential to be an important educational and amenity resource for the 1.6 million people who live in the surrounding area and can provide long term sustainable employment opportunities through reserve management.
Addressing ‘nature deficiency disorder’ for both the under and over-privileged people of South London can be an immense contribution to the well being of the local society. Connecting with nature through bird and nature watching, walking, cycling, conservation work and educational activities can address so many social problems encountered in an overcrowded and stressed city and can contribute to staying physically healthy through outdoor activities and also helping city people to get outside, learn about nature and chill out.
2. TO PROTECT BIRDS
Beddington Farmlands hosts some nationally important populations of birds including the Tree Sparrow, Lapwing, Skylark, Song Thrush, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Water Pipit and Green Sandpiper. 256 species have been recorded on the site, over 150 species each year and over 500 breeding territories of 50 species are held each year. Breeding species include a colony of Sand Martin and up to 25 pairs of Lapwing.
Wintering birds include good numbers of waterfowl, wintering owls, Jack Snipe and the site is nationally important for Caspian Gull. The site is also an important migration stopover and has a history of a long list of national scarcities and rarities.
The habitat is being restored to protect these birds, which have been disturbed during waste management activities on site. One of the most important habitats being developed is Wet Grassland which serves the majority of target species within the Conservation Management Plan- critically the incinerator is planned to be built on this habitat type.
3. TO PROTECT OTHER WILDLIFE
Beddington Farmlands is also very important for other wildlife. There have been 476 species of moth recorded of which 60 are of conservation interest including probably the only resident population of the Dewick’s Plusia in the whole of the UK. Other locally important species include the Large Wainscot, Webb’s Wainscot, Small Elephant Hawkmoth and many others.
There are also 9 species of bat, a population of Common Lizards and hundreds of other insects have been documented including over 300 species of beetle and 350 species of fly including a species that was considered extinct for 100 years. Over 300 species of plant have also been recorded.
The restoration habitat includes wet grassland, reed bed, species rich grassland and also acid grassland. These habitats will provide replacement and also new and important opportunities for the rich ecological system that has been disturbed during the waste management activities on site.
4. TO SET AN EXAMPLE
Beddington Farmlands is a protected site and forms part of the protective network of habitats across not only London but the whole of the UK.
The State of Nature Report 2013 compiled by an alliance of the UK’s largest conservation organisations concludes that over 60% of the biodiversity of the UK has declined in the last few decades.
Biodiversity is a human quality of life indicator so not only is that a loss for nature but also a loss in the quality of life of the human population. What does remain of biodiversity in the UK has been concentrated in the protected network of reserves and green corridors which stretches across the country. Beddington Farmlands forms part of that protected network and like all the other areas of what remains needs to remain securely protected.
These posts have been written by local environmentalist and birder, Peter Alfrey. See below for more information on why Beddington Farmlands is such an important green space.
#1: THE SOUTH LONDON NATURE RESERVE (BEDDINGTON FARMLANDS)
Beddington Farmlands is being developed into a 400 acre nature reserve within the coreland (over 1000 acres) of the wider Wandle Valley Regional Park. The Nature Reserve and the Regional Park is the single most important part of the green infrastructure within South London and has the potential to enhance the lives of millions of Londoners by providing an opportunity to connect people to nature through bird and nature watching, photography, walking, running, fitness and cycling, education, other multi-functional ways and also for employment.
The South London Nature Reserve at Beddington Farmlands can address the serious issue of ‘nature deficiency disorder’ (which is probably even more serious in the challenging social environments of South London) and in doing so enhancing the lives of the 1.6 million children and people of the immediate surrounding area.
Educating city folk in the importance of nature being an essential part of a healthy human environment is so important anywhere and possibly even more so in London-a city whose people and ideas influences the whole world. Beddington Farmlands is set to become one of the largest urban nature reserves of any city- a flagship to people and nature coexisting.
The WWT London Wetland Centre at Barnes- Beddington Farmlands is 4 times the size of the London Wetland Centre and was the joint lead contender for the main London Wetland Centre. Barnes was chosen due to it’s more central location and also because Beddington Farmlands was already being developed as a reserve as part of planning conditions by Viridor.
# 2: FOR PEOPLE AND NATURE
There are so many ways that people can connect to nature in a modern urban nature reserve. The WWT London Wetland Centre is not only a major educational resource, a major resource for professional and amateur naturalists and a significant employer but is also used for weddings, conferences for city businesses. by mums groups, fitness groups, by families etc etc etc.
Public engagement at Beddington Farmlands has already started ahead of managed public access in the coming years ahead.
#3 OTHER WILDLIFE
Work is currently under way to complete a full species inventory of all biodiversity at Beddington Farmlands.
So far over 300 species of plant (not including the many fungi and lichens also present), 9 species of bats, 256 species of birds, 476 species of moth, 29 species of butterfly , 46 species of bugs, over 300 species of beetle, 358 species of flies, 99 species of bees, wasps and ants and many more grasshoppers, earwings, lacwings, caddis flies and spiders. Despite these numbers we have only scratched the surface and many many more species await discovery.
A Red Underwing Moth. 476 species of moth have been recorded including possibly the only breeding population of the Dewick’s Plusia. Over 60 species occurring are of national conservation concern/interest.
A hoverfly- Flies are an often un-appreciated important pollinators (much more important than bees). Over 350 species have been recorded at Beddington Farmlands including 41 species of conservation concern. One of those species, Litophasia hyalipennis was discovered which was previously considered extinct from the planet!
Beddington Farmlands is home to important and rare populations of birds. An incredible 256 species of bird have been recorded on the site with over 150 species recorded each year.
Over 40 Red Data List (of highest most conservation concern) have been recorded with several species actually breeding on site: Northern Lapwing, Common Cuckoo, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Song Thrush, House and Tree Sparrow and historically Marsh Warbler. Nationally scarce visitors have also bred on site including Bluethroat, Spotted Crake and Little Bittern.
The site is also a very important migration stop over and re-fuelling location and very rare birds are frequently recorded sometimes attracting twitchers from all over the country. Some of the most rare birds recorded include Glaucous-winged Gull from Alaska, Killdeer from North America, Pacific Golden Plover from Siberia and other vagrants from the Mediterranean, the Arctic and the Near East.
Northern Lapwing- over 20 pairs breed in good years. An exceptional number of pairs for this iconic farmlands bird thriving in the heart of an urban environment.
Curlew Sandpiper- one of many migrant wader species that re-fuel on their journey between the breeding grounds in the High Arctic and the wintering grounds further South (as far as Sub-Saharan Africa).
A traditional winter visitor to the site which has been lost due to over-intensive land use. As the nature reserve develops over the coming years it is hoped that this magnificent bird graces the grasslands of Beddington Farmlands once again. (photo by Roger Browne)
Northern Wheatear- one of many migrant passerine species which utilise Beddington Farmlands as part of their life cycle. Stop-over sites are so important for conservation as they provide the link between the breeding and wintering areas.
Kestrel- one of up to 50 breeding (territory holding) species on site. Common Kestrel is listed as Amber- which is of medium conservation concern.
Permission has been granted by the local authority and endorsed by the London Mayor and Central Government to build an incinerator on Beddington Farmlands despite the applicants breach of previous planning conditions (to deliver a BAP habitat specific nature reserve as part of a Regional Park by 2015 to 2023), inadequate mitigation measures, loss of important Wet Grassland habitat and loss of Metropolitan Open Land.
Judicial Review Proceedings have been commenced to bring the matter to court in order for the case to be reviewed and to question why the local authority, the Mayor and Central Government are allowing the damaging of the South London Nature Reserve and in doing so are compromising the opportunity for South London to host a premier urban nature reserve- a flagship for people and nature co-existing .
Other campaigners are also highlighting the health risks related to mass bulk incineration and favour a decentralised approach to dealing with waste with an emphasis on recycling and reuse- which sounds sensible too.