Golf course second haven for Heather in Bexley

Bexleyheath Golf Course, running downhill from Mount Road to the A2, is a Borough Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, almost certainly on account of harbouring the only Heather (Calluna vulgaris) in Bexley outside of Lesnes Abbey Woods, along with some other uncommon acid grassland plants. A private site, I was fortunate to strike up an online conversation with club member Martin Cunningham, which resulted in an escorted visit on October  2nd, since it transpired that he was interested in discussing ways of increasing the amount of Heather growing here. Donna Zimmer joined us to look at the bird potential.

Part of the Heather stand at Bexleyheath Golf Course (Photo: Chris Rose)

There was a good number of healthy Heather plants, apparently resulting from occasional light trims, but they were all in a relatively modest area on a west-facing slope, with a few young Broom, plus Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Sorrel, Sheep’s Sorrel and Wood Sage.

Young Broom plants amongst the Heather. (Photo: Chris Rose)

There is a strong stand of Broom elsewhere on the eastern margin.

Stand of Broom on Iris Avenue side of the site, looking towards the clubhouse. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Of the other SINC-cited species, a small amount of Harebell was flowering in a wall at the north end of the site, where there was also some Ladies Bedstraw. Climbing Corydalis is said to have occurred, but without a precise location it will need a proper search on a future visit. 

London rarity Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) flowering on a retaining wall. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The fairways, their margins and around the bunkers were strangely lacking in flowering plants, being (superficially at least) almost pure grass. It wasn’t clear how that has come to be the case, but at any rate there are really only a few small ‘islands’ of acid grassland at present.

It was quiet on the bird front, despite several areas of good mature tree cover, though Jay and Green Woodpecker were seen.

Central copse of mature trees. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Jay at Bexleyheath Golf Club. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Green Woodpecker by one of the greens. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

A large patch of flowering Ivy had attracted a Red Admiral, but rather surprisingly there was no sign of any Ivy Bees. 

Red Admiral near an Ivy patch on the golf course. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Quite a few fungi were in evidence following recent wetter weather.

(Photo: Donna Zimmer)

(Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Chris Rose photographing a fungus. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

(Photo: Chris Rose)

 

We hope to be able to take another look around the site in future. In particular, Climbing Corydalis is found at only two sites in the Borough at present, so it would be good if it could be re-found here.

The club has a (non-playing) social membership for £57 pa + VAT

http://bexleyheath-golf.com/membership/

Chris Rose and Donna Zimmer

Posted in Bexleyheath, Heathland, Open spaces, Recording, SINC | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bexley RSPB’s 19th September Crayford Marshes bird walk report

Avocet, Wheatear and Marsh Harrier were amongst the species seen on this well-attended Crayford Marshes bird walk organised by Bexley RSPB, a report of which appears below, thanks to leader Ralph Todd. 

Download the PDF file .

 

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‘Birds and us’ – free lecture series, Birkbeck, University of London

The following free lectures, organised by the Ecology and Conservation Studies Society, covering bird conservation, research on birds and birds in human culture, may be of interest to ‘Bexley Wildlife’ followers. They are being held at Birkbeck, University of London, across Friday evenings in October and November.

Download the PDF file .

 

 

 

 

 

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Some more alien, and less common native street and alleyway ‘weeds’ in Bexley

The hitherto rare Jersey Cudweed (Gnaphalium luteoalbum) continues to be found as a street ‘weed’ at new sites in Bexley, principally by Mike Robinson, who has recently found it in some roads near to Bexleyheath railway station. Elsewhere it has persisted and increased in Silverdale Rd, and is still present in Parkside Avenue, Barnehurst.

Jersey Cudweed, 15th Aug 2017, Bexleyheath. (Photo: Mike Robinson)

This rather fine-looking garden wall/pavement crack Poppy, pictured at Barnehurst Av. on 9/5/17, was clobbered by the Council’s weed-killing operations just as it was about to flower, and has yet to be identified. Nothing similar has been seen in surrounding gardens.

Unidentified Poppy, Barnehurst Av. May 2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Fennel, in this case the purple-leaved form, in a North Heath alleyway, was in flower on 24/8/2017.

Fennel, North Heath alleyway. 24/8/2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

A less often seen self-seeded herb, at least outside of gardens and allotment sites, is Borage (Borago officinalis), a Mediterranean region plant that has naturalized elsewhere. Mike Robinson found this specimen on rough ground by some  garages in Bexleyheath on 15th August 2017.

Borage flowers by garages in Bexleyheath, 15th Aug 2017 (Photo: Mike Robinson) 

Hollyhock is sometimes seen as a garden escape seedling. This one is in a Barnehurst verge. Another at the foot of a tree outside North Heath Post Office has been dealt with by the tidiness brigade.

Hollyhock seedling, Barnehurst, August 2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

This annual Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) has got into a grass verge on Merewood Rd.

Sweet Alyssum, Merewood Road, 31/8/17. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Musk Stork’s-bill (Erodium moschatum) is of long-standing non-native presence in the UK, with a handful of sites found in Bexley in the last couple of years. This specimen, by a phone box outside the shops at the junction of Northend Road and Parkside Avenue, will have come from the population on the nearby roundabout verges. 

Musk Stork’s-bill, Northend Rd, 31/8/2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Variants of the normally white-flowered native Yarrow have been crossed with two other  species, producing plants with a wide palette of colour and shades. There is no knowing what the parentage of this self-sown red-purple plant in the verge of Thirlmere Rd, Barnehurst is, but it appears close to Achillea millefolium.

Red-purple-flowered Yarrow cultivar or hybrid. Barnehurst 1st September 2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

This green-flowered Amaranth and Oilseed rape plants are pictured at the foot of a postbox on Northend Rd near the Perry Street roundabout. They probably got carried there as ‘bird seed aliens’ in the digestive systems of Pigeons.

Green-flowered Amaranth and Oilseed Rape, Northend Rd, 31/8/2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

A fine red-flowered Amaranth, not native, was found in a North Heath alleyway.

A red-flowered Amaranth, North Heath alley, 4/9/2017 (Photo: Chris Rose)

Closer view of a flower spike. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The seed and leaves of various Amaranth species, which come from South America, are eaten. 

This Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is a garden escape into a North Heath alley and originates from the Carpathians and Caucasus.

Lady’s mantle, North Heath alley, 4/9/2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

This stand of Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), an unusual back-alley denizen, is by a school field in North Heath on land probably never built on, and is a relict of the area’s heathland past.

Bracken in a North Heath alley. 4/9/2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Perennial Sow-thistle (Sonchus arvensis) is a reasonably frequent but thinly-scattered plant in Bexley, sometimes seen in gardens. It spreads underground to form patches which can be linear when it comes up against a wall, as here. It carries quite large, very bright yellow flowers that have golden glandular hairs on the buds and stalks below. This plant was blooming in a North Heath alleyway on 4/9/17.

Perennial Sow-thistle. North Heath. 4/9/17. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Close up of flowerhead showing coverings of golden glandular hairs. (Photo: Chris Rose)

 This Shaggy Soldier (Galinsoga quadriradiata) comes all the way from South America, supposedly originating in central Mexico, but now has a large global range and is a competitive and troublesome weed of agriculture in other countries. It has persisted in pavement cracks by the shops on Bexley Road in North Heath for a few years at least. The Galinsoga by the Fire Station in Bexleyheath are probably this species. Galinsoga were also present on Grasmere allotment site for a couple of years before being  weeded right out. There is a similar, but less hairy species, called Gallant Soldier. Galinsoga species are said to have been introduced from Peru into Kew Gardens in 1796 and by 1863 Gallant Soldier was described as ‘quite as common as groundsel’ in the area between Kew and East Sheen.

Shaggy Soldier, Bexley Road, North Heath. 4/9/2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Mexican Feather Grass/Argentinian Needle Grass (Stipa tenuissima) is likely to become more widespread ‘in the wild’ as a street ‘weed’ as it will produce limited numbers of seedlings in the garden environment, and seeds will stick to clothing and no doubt animal fur, as well as being carried on the wind. It seems able to secrete itself into cracks in paving and is drought tolerant. This plant by a garage on Watling Street will have come from seed originating in the ornamental planting outside the nearby Bexley Council house.

Stipa tenuissima, Watling St. 11/8/17. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Another, larger specimen was growing in a crack outside the pub further down the road.

The fact that this grass and lots of other species which are unlikely to cause any serious problems of invasiveness, are not more widespread in Bexley already, is probably down to the ‘efficiency’ of the Council’s weed-killing operatives, which is rather boring and frustrating for us urban botanists …… ! 

Compiled by Chris Rose

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Criminals perpetrate Thames Road Wetland fly-tipping outrage

Around 37 sacks of rubble, thick-sheet foam insulation board fragments and other rubbish have been fly-tipped very close to a patch of rare plant on Bexley Council-owned land at the far east end of Thames Road Wetland, some time between 11th and 29th August.

The wetland is within the River Cray Site of Metropolitan Interest for Nature Conservation, an area volunteers spend hundreds of hours a year maintaining for its high wildlife value,  and a mere 166 metres from the official Council waste disposal and recycling centre on Thames Road.

A mix of material in black sacks has been fly-tipped on Thames Road Wetland in the latter half of August. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The matter has been reported to both Bexley Council and the Crayford Safer Neighbourhood Police Team. At the same time I am asking what progress has been made chasing down the culprits for two previous incidents earlier this year involving  the adjacent Pallet Yard and River Wansunt, for both of which evidence, in the form of paperwork with a name and address was found. As Bexley’s website makes clear ‘Householders’ duty of care: Waste that is not correctly disposed of and is deposited on land is classed as fly-tipping and anyone found guilty can face fines of up to £50,000 or up to 12 months imprisonment through the Magistrates’ court. Anyone who takes waste away for you must hold a Waste Carriers Licence and as a resident you are responsible for making sure that you only employ someone that has a licence. Licences can be checked on the Environment Agency’s waste carriers register.’

The culprits on this occasion are likely to be the same people responsible for at least one of the other two crimes. With the Council having (belatedly) locked down the access gate, those responsible – no longer able to drive up over the sewer bank and dump the material out of sight on the privately-owned Pallet Yard in time-honoured fashion – have instead got the stuff over the fence, carted it up the track far enough to be hidden from the road behind some bushes and left it at that.

The rubbish was deposited within a couple of yards of the main patch of the rare Brookweed plant. (Photo: Chris Rose)

We have been continuing to remove historic fly-tipping from around the Wetland in the winter when the vegetation has died back, and it is dispiriting to have this work undone by low-lives with no respect for the places other creatures live or other people’s work to protect them.

Chris Rose. Thames Road Wetland Site Manager. 

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Hairy-legged Mining Bee (Dasypoda hirtipes) – Bursted decline but second colony found

A nest count for the Hairy-legged Mining Bee (Dasypoda hirtipes), uncommon in London, made by Bursted Woods this year, suggests a decline in numbers. The colony, which has been the only one known in Bexley, appears from an old photograph to have been present on the Erith Road verge here since around 1965. Some 995 nests were counted on 6/8/15, 610 on 8/8/16 and only around 457 (though a very rough and ready assessment) on 1/8/17. The grass in the nesting area was far more rank this year due to the interplay between the Council mowing regime and the damper conditions of late, which won’t have helped and cool conditions earlier in the year may have had an impact. 

However, on 8/8/17 I found a series of raised, south-facing, groups of adjoining front gardens on Eversley Avenue, Barnehurst to be occupied by the Bee, and one on the other side of the road, covering 10 properties in all. I didn’t have time for a proper count, only tallying some 256, but there were a lot more in reality. This is another illustration of the value of front gardens for wildlife, and why they shouldn’t be paved over for car parking!   

As a matter of interest, the two colonies are 790 metres apart as the Crow flies.

Hairy-legged Mining Bee pokes its head out of its nest by Bursted Woods, 11/8/17. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Female ‘paddling’ backwards to push more sand out of and away from the nest hole. (Photo: Chris Rose)

 

Chris Rose

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Braeburn Park LNHS meeting 17th June finds over 134 invertebrate species. (Belated report….)

The London Natural History Society’s Ecology and Entomology section visit to London Wildlife Trust’s Braeburn Park site, on a hot 17th June 2017, recorded 134 species of invertebrate, with a few more yet to be formally identified, mainly comprising less frequently studied taxa. Though there were only 5 members present, and one friend, experts Tristan Bantock, Mick Massie and Sarah Barnes had turned out to make the session a success with their identification skills.

For a while we ‘stalled’ at the entrance trackway near the station at the northeast corner of the site, before moving on to our target site by heading up the impressive ravine to the top of the Cray scarp and then turning right into the sandpit.

LNHS members studying invertebrates in the sandpit at Braeburn Park (Photo: Chris Rose)

Most of the rest of the meeting was spent here studying burrowing Hymenoptera, for which the pit provides essential nesting micro-habitats. The most eye-catching of these was Odynerus spinipes, the Spiny-legged Mason Wasp. This is a species of potter wasp from western Europe, which builds tubular entrances to its nest.

Odynerus spinipes approaching nest in Braeburn Park sandpit. (Photo: Mick Massie)

Odynerus spinipes building chimney entrance to nest at Braeburn. (Photo: Mick Massie)

What was thought to be Gasteruption assectator, the Wild Carrot Wasp, was also present here. 

Possible Gasteruption sp assectator by a vertical sand face at the site. (Photo: Mick Massie)

Mick Massie waits patiently to try and capture an image of an insect entering or leaving its burrow. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Notable (rarer) species found were:

Red  Data Book 3:

Ceratina cyanea. Hymenopteran. Various warm habitats, including chalk downland, heathland edge and post-industrial sites, nesting in dead hollow twigs and stems; typically brambles close to the ground. Visits a very wide variety of flowers. Formerly considered a great rarity but now widespread in southeast England.

Nationally scarce. Notable a):

Sphecodes rubicundus. Hymenopteran. Cuckoo bee of Andrena labialis. Very local; primarily south-east England.

Tychius tibialis. A local weevil of southern England, occurring on clovers in grassland and coastal habitats.

Zacladus exiguus. Weevil. On smaller flowered Geranium species. Local in southern England

Dasycera oliviella. A small moth whose larvae live on the decayed wood of oak, plum, cherry and other trees.

Nationally scarce. Notable b):

Andrena bimaculata. Hymenopteran. Widespread but local across southern and central England on lowland heathland and in other habitats with sparsely vegetated sandy soils.

Sphecodes crassus. Hymenopteran. Cuckoo bee of various Lasioglossum species. Locally common in southern England.

Larinus planus. On thistles. Local in southern England and Wales. 

Protapion dissimile. Small weevil associated with Trifolium arvense, with the larvae occurring in the flowers. Recorded from the south of England to north Wales.

Thanks to Tristan Bantock for producing a detailed spreadsheet of the species recorded.

Chris Rose (event leader and LNHS member)

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Willow Emerald damselfly colonisation of Bexley takes a leap forward

The Willow Emerald damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis), a recent natural colonist of the UK, was first found in Bexley in September 2016. Now into its second known flight season here, it has been found at three more sites in the Borough over the last month, cementing its status as a resident species.  

In the second half of July this year it was found in the Bexley part of Thamesmead, on the canal between Crossway and the north end of Wilsham Close, by David Courtneidge, Project Officer (South) for LWT’s Water for Wildlife project, who is leading Odonata surveys in our area.

On August 16th former Bexley Council Biodiversity Officer John Archer found two Willow Emerald Damselflies by the first pond along the Ridgeway from the Thames path towards the former golf course. 

Female Willow Emerald damselfly, near the Ridgeway in Bexley. 16/8/17. (Photo: John Archer)

Ian Stewart then found at least 8 of the insects at Lamorbey on August 22nd, another new site record.

Male Willow Emerald at Lamorbey, 22/8/17. (Photo: Ian Stewart)

Another shot of a Male Willow Emerald at Lamorbey. (Photo: Ian Stewart)

Ian was the first to discover the species in Bexley when he came across it at Foots Cray Meadows on 24th September 2016, shortly after he had seen it over the border at Ruxley on the the 6th.

The rapid spread of this species in Bexley mirrors the situation in  southern and eastern England more generally. 

Is it now at Crossness LNR, or at Danson Park, between our southern and northern locations? It could be on Crayford Marshes, though the ditch system is largely inaccessible. We are continuing to watch for it at Thames Road Wetland, but no joy up to the last visit on 11th August.

Chris Rose

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Some plants around Perry Street Farm surprisingly include Sea Campion

Perry Street Farm, largely used for horse grazing, is now a Borough Grade 2 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). It is private, but viewable from the north and west sides from public roadways and from the east side from Stoneham Park.

The most interesting find recently was of a single plant of Sea Campion (Silene uniflora) on the Gascoyne Drive ‘triangle’ of land by the A206/Perry Street roundabout. It was spotted at early dusk on August 8th. This is a native, but here is almost certainly a garden escape or from imported soil. It may have been overlooked before due to an unfavourable timing of mowings. Another escapee was the double form of Sneezewort, which was found here a few years ago.

Sea Campion between the A206 and Gascoyne Drive/Perry Street Farm, where it is almost certainly of garden origin or from imported soil.

Closer view of the Sea Campion flowers. 

Sea Campion. View from above. Close to dusk, but narrowish, glaucous leaves can be made out.

Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) also grows on the triangle and the farm itself.

Somewhat ghostly-looking Common Toadflax at dusk, Perry Street Farm in the background.

The Scotch or Burnet Rose (Rosa spinosissima – syn pimpinellifolia) is a native, but not in Bexley, and has a number of selected horticultural forms. One such, which larger hips, is picture in Stoneham Park by the farm fence. 

Scotch or Burnet Rose, selected form, planted by the farm fence.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), a member of the Carrot family, is a thinly scattered plant in the Borough, usually found where the sward is not too thick and there was some bare ground, at least to start with. 

Fennel in Stoneham Park by the farm boundary.

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) itself grows on the northern margin of the farm. 

Wild Carrot pokes through the farm fence by Gascoyne Drive.

Despite the scientific name, Common Mallow (Malva sylvatica) is way more often seen out of woods than in them. Its leaves can be cooked and eaten.

Common Mallow by the Perry Street farm fenceline. Wild Carrot behind it.

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is a plant long ago introduced the Britain from continental Europe, and it has been and can be used to make soap. It grows on and at the margin of the farm.

A white-flowered Soapwort by Gascoyne Drive. There are garden forms with other colours, and also double flowers.

Lucerne/Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) shows a considerable range of flower colour in the Borough, mainly from pinkish through shades of violet purple, and sometimes near-black, but also beautiful green/yellow/gold/bronze colours where there is an influence of hybridisation with the closely related, yellow-flowered Sickle Medick.

Lucerne (though possibly part of a hybrid swarm), provides nectar and colour by Perry Street roundabout.

Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a reasonably frequent member of the Pea family in Bexley, whose attractiveness is best appreciated close up, so is probably overlooked by most people. 

Bird’s-foot Trefoil brightens the scene as late afternoon traffic builds up.

The farm was proposed for survey as a potential SINC by Bexley Natural Environment Forum, with London Wildlife Trust agreeing it merited that status in their draft report of December 2013 . Woefully it took Bexley Council’s relevant Cabinet member another 2 years and 10 months after the close of the public consultation in February 2014 to sign off on the draft SINC review, finally doing so in December 2016. Yet more evidence that it sees wildlife as subservient to everything else.

The citation is as follows:

A large area of grazed horse paddocks surrounding farm buildings. The ruderal and grassland habitats support a wide variety of typical plants but also includes a small population of the London notable hare’s-foot clover (Trifolium arvense). It is likely to be important for invertebrates and probably also supports reptiles such as the common lizard and slow-worm. The large expanse of undisturbed open grasslands offer important feeding opportunities for starling, house sparrow, kestrel, lapwing, house martins and finches in winter.‘ 

Text and all photos by Chris Rose.

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Thames21 team tackles two fly-tipping incidents by Thames Road Wetland

Local Thames21 staff and volunteers have recently been tackling two ugly fly-tipping incidents adjacent to Thames Road Wetland, with a third yet to be sorted out. The second, and largest, of these might have been avoided had Bexley Council acted on appeals to sort out the insecure gate onto the wetland in the wake of a previous dumping event three and a half years ago.

In April a considerable quantity of household waste was dumped in the River Wansunt by the pipe bridge, just before it enters the wetland. This could easily have been taken to the official Council dump just over the road. Most sickeningly the material included pots of paint with the lids off, some of which had spilt into the water. There were a number of children’s toys in good condition, plus a large number of romantic fiction paperbacks, which could have found another home or been recycled. A piece of paper with a Maiden Lane, Crayford, address on it, was found in one of the  bags of rubbish. All the material was removed to our usual collection point at the end of By-way 105 for the Council to take away. 

Household waste dumped in the River Wansunt in April 2017 (Photo: Chris Rose)

In June a very large quantity of material was driven through the gate by the railway bridge, and along a track at the east end of the wetland – with the gate and first part of the track sitting on Bexley Council-owned land – and was then driven up and over the sewer pipe bank and dumped in the old pallet yard on unmanaged private land.

The large amount of fly-tipping on the pallet yard next to Thames Road Wetland, June 2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Rubble, brick s and plastics dumped in the
pallet yard. (Photo: Chris Rose)

This included toys, plastic beads, hundreds of polystyrene fragments, good quality paving bricks, rubble and plastic bags. T21 has emptied some of the rubble onto existing piles as it is inert and can be used by reptiles. Some of the smaller items have been removed from the site but most still remains due to lack of time so far. It is not clear whether Bexley Council or the landowner are going to sort it out. The horrendous amount of plastic and polystyrene bits will require something like a car vacuum to remove.

Small plastic beads and polystyrene fragments will be very difficult to remove and could in the meantime be a hazard for grazing Rabbits and Horses. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Again an address was found in one of the bagged portions of rubbish, this time on a customer despatch note. The address is on Murchison Avenue, Bexley. 

It should be noted that as TRW site manager I had asked Council fly-tipping officials (in writing) to sort out the gate security three and a half years ago, after a fly-tipping incident up on the sewer bank where a vehicle had again been used. There had clearly been several other fly-tipping events on the pallet yard prior to this. This the Council did not do, despite the vehicle having crossed its land and despite plastics blowing back onto the wetland land it owns. In the absence of any help from the Council, the whole pile of sewer bank material was removed in two sessions by a Thames21-led  team of schoolchildren and a group of corporate volunteers. 

Both the recent incidents have been reported to Bexley Council and the police, who have been given the addresses found. We have yet to hear that the individuals at those addresses have been contacted, or that any other progress has been made in tracking down the culprits. As of 27th July only Thames21 had removed any of the dumped material. However, on that morning someone had bolted up the gate so it couldn’t be opened, and had festooned it with ‘Police – do not cross’ tape, which is a start. 

The gate access problem has been sorted out at last – at least temporarily. (Photo: Chris Rose)

In other developments, some new pallets that had been dumped with the other rubbish have been cut up and turned into bug hotels but, unfortunately, some mindless individuals have dumped two shopping trolleys in the Wansunt where we removed the previous fly-tipping, and we have not yet got them out due to other commitments.

Dumped pallets have been turned into (as yet incomplete) ‘bug hotels’. (Photo: Chris Rose)

We would far rather be spending our time on habitat improvements and tackling invasive species, rather than being sidetracked by people who go out of their way to dump rubbish rather than dispose of it responsibly. 

Chris Rose. Thames Road Site Manager, Thames21.    

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