Bexley RSPB visit to Crossness nature reserve, 21st Feb 2017 – report and pictures

Ralph and Brenda Todd’s report on the latest birdwalk they have led, this time at Crossness on Erith Marshes. Good variety of birds seen including, for some, glimpses of a Bearded Tit.

Download the PDF file .

 

 

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Sidcup Community Garden February 2017

Download the PDF file .

Posted in Parks, Sidcup, Sidcup Place Garden, Volunteering | Leave a comment

Thames Road Wetland Mistletoe destroyed by (probable) firewood thieves?

Some time during the first week of February two of the horizontal Poplar trunks at Thames Road Wetland were sawn up and almost completely removed from the site. Unfortunately one of these had had our only remaining Mistletoe on it, a plant that is uncommon in Bexley and scarce enough in the capital to merit its own London Species Action Plan.

There had originally been three Mistletoe plants on the tree. The female specimen died shortly before a series of major storms a few winters ago blew down several of the large trunks. The landowner, which in this case was not Bexley Council, chopped up others for ‘health and safety’ reasons, taking out a small Mistletoe of indeterminate sex in the process. Despite remaining only just about still attached to the base of the tree, the male Mistletoe’s trunk survived, after we carefully pruned back a fair amount of the leaf area in order to cut down its rate of water loss. 

Fallen Poplar trunks at Thames Road Wetland had been cleanly cut and removed from the site, destroying the remaining Mistletoe plant. (Chris Rose)

When the landowner did their work they left the cut material on-site. Given that the removed trunks were those nearest the road and small lay-by, were those closest to the ground, and were no more of a safety hazard than those left in situ, this looks very much like a theft for firewood. 

Fragments of Mistletoe left on the ground. (Chris Rose)

Mistletoe is an obligate hemiparasite, partly dependent on the host plant to the extent that it cannot survive without it, so cannot be salvaged from cuttings.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has Mistletoe berries at home from a plant that got  there ‘naturally’ and wasn’t deliberately sown from Christmas material, so that I can try reintroducing it onto another trunk –  hoping that this won’t eventually be stolen as well.

Meanwhile, of the Mistletoe plants I have found in the Borough, the next nearest is high on a Poplar by the Maiden Lane railway bridge, with others – also high up in Poplars – in Bexley Park Woods and in Holly Oak Wood Park. ‘Bexley Wildlife’ was also sent a photograph of an excellent display of Mistletoe on a tree in Appledore Crescent, Sidcup. 

 

Chris Rose. Site Manager.

Posted in Mistletoe, Thames Road Wetland | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Crayford Marshes – crunch time for Bexley Conservatives over poll promise

At the 2016 Greater London Assembly elections, in a leaflet issued by Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for mayor – which prominently featured Gareth Bacon, now member for the Assembly’s Bexley and Bromley constituency – an ‘action plan’ was promised that was clearly intended to persuade voters that the party was committed to ‘Protecting the 8,850 hectares of Green Belt land across Bexley and Bromley’, an ambition that we have to assume was endorsed by the Conservative group in Bexley.

This 2016 Conservative party election leaflet said the party intended to protect ALL the Green belt land in Bexley.

Since that is the government’s official figure for the whole of the Green Belt resource across these two Boroughs (with the Bexley share being 1,120 ha), this clearly amounts in practice to a ‘no ifs, no buts’ caveat-free promise to protect all of it, no matter what the circumstance. This coming Thursday (Feb 16th), the Roxhill plan to concrete a large area of Green Belt and important wildlife habitat at Crayford Marshes for a railfreight interchange depot (that will have no impact on cutting net Heavy Good Vehicle traffic levels) , goes to Bexley’s Conservative-dominated planning committee for decision. On the basis of what that party said a mere nine and a half months ago,  we fully expect a majority vote against.

The leaflet implies that by protecting Danson Park, a part of the green Belt with be saved. For the avoidance of confusion, Danson Park is neither Green Belt nor Metropolitan Open Land. 

Posted in Bexley, Bexley Council, Crayford Marshes, Danson Park, development threat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Kent botany 2016’ published – interesting new Bexley records featured

Kent Botanical Recording Group’s 2016 edition of ‘Kent Botany’, compiled by Geoffrey Kitchener and detailing the most interesting and important finds during the year, includes a number of discoveries made in Bexley – which for botanical purposes falls within Vice-county 16, West Kent, and is therefore studied by both Kent and London botanists. Relevant extracts are reproduced below. The full document is available on our http://www.bexleywildlife.org/plants-bexley/   page.

Cotoneaster hjelmqvistii (Hjelmqvist’s Cotoneaster) was found in Blendon on a LNHS meeting led by Rodney Burton.   

Cyclamen repandum (Spring Sowbread). For a successive year, we have a West Kent record for this relatively seldom naturalised species, a patch 3 x 3m at the east edge of Bexley Park Wood, seen by an LNHS meeting on 30 April.

Erigeron glaucus (Seaside Daisy) was found by Chris Rose on 14 March in an unusual habitat, by the A2 crash barrier between Penn Lane and Bexleyheath Golf Course, TQ 48056 74312.

Euphorbia corallioides (Coral Spurge) is an introduced spurge. A small group of plants was seen by Rodney on 16 July across the road from 18 Longleigh Lane, cited as ‘Bexleyheath’, where there is the scrubby grassland of Bostall Heath. This appears to be a first record for vice county 16, West Kent. It is not clear whether this was in Bexley or just over the border.

Gnaphalium luteoalbum (Jersey Cudweed) continues its Kentish spread as an urban weed primarily in metropolitan West Kent, belying its rare plant register status derived from possibly non-anthropogenic spread to damp sandy/gravelly habitats. It was seen by Chris Rose on 3 September as a street weed at Silverdale Road, Bexleyheath, TQ 49719 77391; and on 25 October in front garden paving at Parkside Avenue, Barnehurst, TQ 50731 76099, and near the junction of that road and Old Manor Way, TQ 50651 76087. Rodney Burton recorded it on 16 July on brick paving at 133 Gipsy Road and on crazy paving at no.135, Bexleyheath, TQ 4759 7613; on 27 July in paving blocks in front of 180 Glenesk Road, Eltham, and on 18 August on the pavement at 25-31 Castlefields, Istead Rise. Mike Robinson also noted a handful of plants beside a residential road, Barry Avenue near its junction with Cumberland Drive, Bexley, TQ 48229 77391, on 17 May.

Gnaphalium luteoalbum (Jersey Cudweed), Silverdale Rd, Bexleyheath, 3/9/2016 (Photo: Chris Rose)

Moenchia erecta (Upright Chickweed)  is now treated as Vulnerable to the risk of extinction in England. The Kent position does not seem quite so alarming, and is improved by Rodney Burton discovering it on 14 May at a new site at Hall Place north, Bexley. At TQ 499 746 and TQ 499 747, there were six or more densely populated patches; and the species was also present at TQ 501 746 on the steepest part of hill and from TQ 5011 7470 to the west boundary of the hectad. That the species has escaped detection here for so long must be due to its inconspicuous nature.

Oxalis stricta (Upright Yellow-sorrel) has hardly any recent West Kent records and, whilst that position may be comforting to those concerned with its reputation as one of invasive species, it has now been reported from Sidcup station cycle park, TQ 4632 7263, seen by Rodney Burton on 28 May.

Persicaria capitata (Pink-headed Persicaria) is one of the less invasive garden Persicaria species, because not fully hardy in Britain, but it nonetheless occasionally escapes. It was seen by Chris Rose on 27 October around the Wellbeing Centre, Mill Road, Northumberland Heath, TQ 5021 577143, where it backs onto a car park, to which it had appeared to escape, under a fence, from a side passage of the adjoining house, 7 Mill Road. SP & DG also found it on a small piece of waste ground in a housing estate at south Strood, TQ7268. Otherwise, records in West Kent appear limited to three without comment on status (and so could have been in gardens) and (comm. Rodney Burton) a pavement weed record from Bexley Town in 1999.

Persicaria capitata (Pink-headed Persicaria), an escapee in North Heath, 2016.  (Photo: Chris Rose)

Polycarpon tetraphyllum (Four-leaved Allseed) is now beginning to appear as a metropolitan street weed, in similar habitats as with Sagina spp., which could transform its distribution. The nationally rare status which supports its inclusion in the rare plant register can only be maintained by excluding its recent expansion in south east England. It was seen by Rodney Burton in the course of an LNHS meeting on 13 March at Pagnell Street, New Cross, TQ3677 at the top of a kerb near a gate signed as not to be obstructed (this would appear to place it at TQ 3655 7732). This seems to be a first record for West Kent, vice county 16. On 16 July, Rodney also came across several plants on crazy paving at 173 Gipsy Road, Bexleyheath, TQ 4762 7630; and on 27 July between paving blocks of forecourts of 146 and 150 Glenesk Road, Eltham, TQ4375. 

Potentilla tabernaemontani (Spring Cinquefoil) is generally absent from south east England; there is a Hampshire population on chalk, but its native status has been doubted. There is no doubt that the four or so plants found in 24 the course of an LNHS meeting on 30 April (comm. Rodney Burton) were not native, these being on a grassy spot at a path edge nearest 61 Camden Road, Bexley, TQ 48506 73306, but not particularly near a garden. They were probably the cultivar ‘Nana’, generally commended for rock gardens.

Rumex maritimus (Golden Dock)  and Rumex palustris (Marsh Dock), det. GK, both appeared by the dried up margin of a water feature which was part of the former Thamesview Golf Course, Thamesmead, closed down in 2014 and left to run wild. These were discovered by Mike Robinson, seven R. maritimus plants being noted at TQ 48159 80995 over the period 29 July to 10 August, and ten R. palustris being seen at TQ 48112 80918. Either of these, especially R. maritimus, would have been unusual records for metropolitan vc16. For both of them to occur together is exceptional. It is likely that these species are spread by wildfowl, but may not have the opportunity of germinating without changes in water levels.

Salix x ehrhartiana (the cross between White Willow and Bay Willow) is regarded as almost always planted in Britain (an introduced-survivor, in Stace (2010) terminology), and then only as a male tree. At the LNHS meeting of 30 April, Rodney Burton recorded an old tree, some 20m tall, with male catkins and young leaves, formerly in parkland near the edge of Bexley Park Wood (hornbeam coppice woodland), now as a result of development, next to modern fenced-in building, TQ 4819 7372. There is obvious difficulty in evaluating its status, and the likelihood must be of a planted origin; indeed, the only clear evidence of an unplanted origin would require the observation of rooted twigs in the vicinity of a planted tree. The current find would be a first record for vice county 16, West Kent, if we were applying more relaxed status criteria for ‘first records’.

Urtica membranacea was recorded by Chris Rose (confirmed by Rodney Burton) on 3 September at Bexleyheath, where a single plant was present in a planter outside the Prince Albert public house at the end of Erith Road opposite the top of Gravel Hill, TQ49662 75140. This Mediterranean species has begun appearing in urban habitats in England, such as plant containers and street-sides and this sighting represents a first record for vice county 16, West Kent.

Urtica membranacea, outside the Prince Albert pub opposite the Council offices in Bexleyheath, 3/9/2016. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Chris Rose

Posted in Bexley, Bexley Woods, Hall Place North, Kent, Plants in Bexley, Recording | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now Bexley rips out mature shrub beds

Mature shrubs in Bexley parks and verges are not just being cut back to the ground to save having to do any more trimming for a few years, but are being dug up completely. Two of the latest cases involve important areas for House Sparrows, which have been in serious decline nationally.

An ostensibly rather dull monoculture ‘hedge’ of non-native evergreens by the Magistrate’s Court in Bexleyheath has been ripped out and replaced with two much smaller species. As one of these is Rosemary it will be better for pollinators, but as the previous planting was used as an alternate roost to the one next to the nearby multi-storey car park by good numbers of Sparrows, this looks to be a poor decision from a conservation perspective.

Bexleyheath family court – an important Sparrow roosting hedge has been removed and replaced by a scattering of small shrubs, which will be better for pollinators, but no good for this declining bird. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Now shrubs beds used by House Sparrows in Northumberland Heath recreation ground have been torn out. This park has recorded the highest number of Sparrows in the Borough – with counts of over 150 – and continues to host higher numbers of the species than elsewhere in the area. Whilst possibly planted, the Gorse bush, which at least presented a reminder of the former heathland nature of the area, was not spared either.

One of the ripped out shrub beds in Northumberland Heath recreation ground, 3/2/2017. Whilst nothing special, it was used by the park’s many House Sparrows and other small birds, and screened off the car park. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Given that Bexley Council has previously admitted to not taking biodiversity into account when the new grounds maintenance contract was let – despite Bexley Natural Environment Forum asking in advance to be consulted about what should have been a fundamental aspect of the arrangements – it is highly unlikely that this latest rash of heavy-handed vegetation ‘management’ will have been informed by any intelligence about the wildlife situation on the ground at all.

Whilst this may not be a priority issue when set against the recent spate of appalling planning decisions regarding several of Bexley’s top wildlife sites, it speaks yet again to the general disregard for nature in the Borough across the spectrum of Council operations. It is also the case that the Council has a formal policy of improving **at least** 15 parks and open spaces for biodiversity. We think this should mean a net improvement. It is not clear how these latest actions will help deliver on that objective when what is needed is more structural diversity in vegetation in most parks, not less. 

If you have a bed of shrubs in your local park that is important for wildlife, or simply attractive, and you do not want it replaced let us know. We also suggest that you try writing to Parks & Open Spaces Nature Conservation Officer Mark Taylor at mark.taylor@bexley.gov.uk , asking him to assure you that they will be left in situ, and that you copy in your three Ward Councillors –  if you go here and enter your postcode their details will come up:

http://democracy.bexley.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

We would be interested in seeing the responses. 

Death by a thousand cuts … Another culprit is Bursted Woods school, which sanitised away a Bramble patch next to its entrance that was frequented by a gang of House Sparrows, in favour of this ‘tidy’ mown grass
and car parking. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Chris Rose

Posted in Bexley Council, BNEF, Bursted Woods, Open spaces, Parks, vegetation management | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bringing Thamesmead’s canals back to life – new project off to flying start

The Thamesmead Canal Habitat Enhancement Project is a partnership between the waterways charity Thames21, Peabody and Bexley Borough focusing on enhancing the canal system – which has problems with littering and the invasive alien species Floating Pennywort – through offering professionally managed volunteering opportunities for local people. 

Community Events to Date

Thames21 has delivered 6 events since November at Harrow Canal (Arnott Close) and Crossway Canal (Tump 52 and Crossway Park). These events have included a series of habitat maintenance activities such as clearing litter and invasive species from the system. In summary these events have attracted 25 people removing 59 large bags of litter. The volunteers also helped remove 3 scooters, several large woody debris, a slab of concrete pavement; multiple car parts including a wheel clamp, hub caps, 2 tyres and an exhaust pipe; the volunteers also removed a mattress, and a fridge/freezer, lounge chair and bean bag from the canals!

Upcoming events

Thamesmead World Wetlands Day

(http://www.thames21.org.uk/event/world-wetlands-day-in-thamesmead/)

2nd February, 9:30 am-12:30 pm: We will be working in the Crossway Canal and on the banks to remove litter that would normally fall into the canal. A talk will be given to provide a background of the significance of World Wetlands Day, followed by a litter pick, and then ending with a bird watch identifying local bird species. All tools and equipment provided, along with wellies, waders and protective gloves. We will also be providing refreshments including tea and biscuits. Please wear appropriate clothing to the weather conditions and you may also bring a packed lunch.

Venue: Curlew Close (near the entrance of Tump52), London SE28 8HT.

Please register your interest by contacting jessica.becher@thames21.org.uk

 

Thamesmead Crossway Park Canal Clean-up

(http://www.thames21.org.uk/event/crossway-park-canal-clean-up/)

9th February, 9:30 am-12:30 pm: We will be working in the Crossway Park Lake and on the banks to remove any rubbish and invasive weeds along the stretch. All tools and equipment provided, along with wellies, waders and protective gloves. We will also be providing refreshments including tea and biscuits. Please wear appropriate clothing to the weather conditions and you may also bring a packed lunch.

Venue: Crossway Park (Access from 38 Glendale Way), London SE28 8HA.

Please register your interest by contacting jessica.becher@thames21.org.uk

 

Thamesmead Harrow Canal Clean-up

(http://www.thames21.org.uk/event/thamesmead-harrow-canal-clean-up-4/)

16th February, 9:30 am-12:30 pm: We will be working in the Harrow Canal to remove any rubbish and unwanted plants along this stretch of water. All tools and equipment provided, along with wellies, waders and protective gloves. We will also be providing refreshments including tea and biscuits. Please wear appropriate clothing to the weather conditions and you may also bring a packed lunch.

Venue: 11 Arnott Close (near Christian Life Centre), London SE28 8BG.

Please register your interest by contacting jessica.becher@thames21.org.uk

Friends of Tump 53 Clean-Up

(http://www.thames21.org.uk/event/friends-of-tump-53-clean-up/)

24th AND 25th February, 10 am-4 pm: We will be working in and around the Tump to help with litter removal, vegetation clearing and restoring water back to the canal. All tools and equipment provided, along with wellies, waders and protective gloves. We will also be providing refreshments including tea and biscuits. Please wear appropriate clothing to the weather conditions and a packed lunch for the event. There will be a few breaks throughout the day for adequate rest.

Venue: Bentham Road, London SE28 8AS

Please register your interest by contacting jessica.becher@thames21.org.uk

 

This project is a partnership between Thames21 and Peabody, being delivered to connect people to the Thamesmead Canals. The Thamesmead Canal Habitat Enhancement Project has received investment from Peabody, Bexley Borough and more than £55,000 in funding from Cory Environmental Trust in Britain (CETB).

For more information please contact me Jessica Becher on 07500840596 or by email at

jessica.becher@thames21.org.uk

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Free lecture series, Birkbeck, London – impacts of energy policy on nature

The Ecology and Conservation Studies Society presents a free spring lecture series during Spring 2017 that addresses the effects on nature of our production and use of energy. They will take place on six Friday evenings, 10th February to 17th March, 18:30 to 20:00 in lecture Theatre B34, Birkbeck, University of London, Torrington Street. Details are set out in the downloadable pdf file below.

The last lecture will be given by Prof Stephen Hawkins, who studied the Torry Canyon Oil spill. On the morning of Saturday 18 March 1967, the Torrey Canyon ran aground on Pollard’s Rock between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly and Stephen will be off down there the day after giving his lecture for the 50th anniversary event. At the other end of the scale, the effects of renewable energy production will be covered. Lucy Wright of the RSPB will look at wind farms and David Howard will consider energy crops. The lectures also look at the pervasive effects of road traffic air pollution on natural habitats, lichens as indicators of air pollution and, inevitably, fracking.

Download the PDF file .

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Thames21 seeks help with World Wetlands Day event at Thames Road Wetland, and Cray river bank restoration work, during February

The Thames21 waterways team for the River Cray has announced four February events.

There will be two sessions at Thames Road Wetland. The first, on Wednesday February 1st, is timed to tie in with World Wetlands day http://www.worldwetlandsday.org/  The second is on Wednesday February 15th. In both cases meet next to the river at Thames Road, Byway 105 (just past the Cray River bridge) , DA1 4RF.  Time: 10.00am-2pm. Vital vegetation management will be done to prevent silting up, and to maintain a variety of suitable habitats for various bird and dragonfly species.  

River Cray bank restoration work will be done on Weds 8th and Weds 22nd Feb to curb excessive erosion and help improve the marginal vegetation. Meet Foots Cray Meadows Leafield Lane DA14 5EB Time 10.30am-2pm.

Assistant River Cray Project Officer Joanna Barton is seeking help during February with conservation work on our important local river and wetland habitats. 

Assistant River Cray Project Officer Joanna Barton said ‘New volunteers are always welcome, all equipment is provided and refreshments are available afterwards. It’s a great opportunity to get a different perspective on our local water bodies and to contribute to keeping them in good condition for wildlife, and for people to enjoy looking at .’

Ffi contact Joanna at: Joanna.barton@thames21.org.uk

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Lesnes Woods ‘garden grab’ – will Bexley uphold existing policy or signal further shift towards Boris-inspired ‘densification’ agenda?

‘Bexley Wildlife’ has been contacted by local residents opposing a plan to demolish numbers ‘5 and 6 Friars Walk to create access to a new development of 8 detached 2/3 storey houses (2×3 bed, 3x4bed, 3x5bed) with rear gardens backing to Abbey Wood, and new street, parking and landscaping at front”. It is being claimed by the ‘developer’ that the gardens are ‘wasted’ and of ‘no benefit’ to anyone, that there will be no adverse effect on protected or priority species either on or adjacent to the site, and that there will be no loss of trees, which looks dubious given the density of them indicated by aerial photographs. Approval would certainly be another unwelcome move regarding the future look and feel of our (for now) suburban Borough. 

Friar's Walk (right) would have

Friar’s Walk (right) for which an application has been submitted to Bexley Council to demolish two existing dwellings and build 8 new ones on what are currently gardens. 

An opponent says ‘We are a tiny woodland close adjacent to Lesnes Woods. We are set to lose many old native trees, plus Bats, slow worms, Stag beetles and other species as a result of a proposed housing development in 3 large gardens. Tawny owls and other birds have already gone since clearance started …… (we) do our best to support the indigenous wildlife and love the tranquility of this natural woodland environment.’

Unfortunately none of these species enjoy sufficient legal protection to stop this sort of ‘development’ from going ahead on their own account. However, Bexley’s Core Strategy (the Council’s policy ‘bible’) says, at Policy CS17, 4.8.10 :

 ‘The natural environment, and particularly our open spaces and waterways are also rich sources of biodiversity and archaeology. Back land areas in the borough include gardens and incidental open space. They should normally be excluded from development where developments results in harm to amenity and biodiversity. Further details in this respect will be set out in future policy documents, such as a development plan document that deals with detailed sites and policies. 

So in theory the Council has a policy against garden-grabbing and can legitimately turn the application down. The problem is that the Core Strategy is still the policy but is effectively a dead duck because the Council has decided to tear it up in favour of its much trumpeted ‘Growth Strategy’, at the heart of which (though it doesn’t say so very explicitly) is a target for a 20% growth in population. It laughably calls this a ‘Vision’. The reality is that it is kow-towing to Boris Johnson’s grand plan from when he was London Mayor. This involves what is politely termed ‘densification’ across the east side of London, which is essentially what this planning application is proposing. Whilst the ‘Growth strategy’ isn’t official policy yet, it will probably be touted as some kind of ‘agreed direction of travel’ in the meantime. Which position will win out in this case will therefore be a strong indication of what the future of our Borough is going to look like, irrespective of whether the Tories or Labour are in control as they both think all this ‘growth’ is unquestionably a ‘good thing’.  

The ‘developer’ states that residents in the Walk have collaborated on this scheme (though the wording is ambiguous as to exactly how many of them), and that it is supported by the National Planning Policy Framework (but then that is skewed massively in favour of building everywhere). Very disturbingly, in terms of setting a future precedent if the application is approved, the proponents are advancing the argument that: ‘These gardens are evidently hugely disproportionate to the houses and must be so by historical accident and it is impossible for these houses to either fully utilise and enjoy on indeed maintain these gardens; an impossible and unreasonable task to ask from them. Clearly these gardens, therefore, represent a very ineffective use of private land in reality being wasted and of no benefit to anyone let alone the owners. In effect, and in accordance with the emphasis on the dire need for housing (especially in London) and on the most sustainable use of resources, and given they are of no public benefit they ought to be developed, admittedly by a development of special character given their wonderful location. They cannot be used or enjoyed in full by the occupiers who want to understandably develop them as they are enormous and a financial burden to them.’

The applicant further claims that ‘This proposal, by utilizing effectively currently huge neglected and underused private areas of no public benefit will not only make efficient use of this land – a key primary planning sustainability objective’. It is not obvious that this squares with providing an extra 21 parking spaces over what already exists. Nor does the size, location and likely sale price of the proposed dwellings suggest that the ‘development’ will do much to help those most in housing need.

We suggest that all ‘BW’ followers worried about the same thing happening on their patch start opening their gardens to the public with immediate effect ….. !

Posted in development threat, Environment, Lesnes Abbey Woods | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment