23 February 2016

Spelthorne Borough Council and Thames Water meeting: 11 February

Fellow naturalist Nick Orson and I met with Steve Price from Spelthorne Borough Council and Ian Crump from Thames Water at Stanwell Moor today to discuss the restoration of the field on Stanwell Moor, dubbed by local birders as the 'car field' after the burnt out car dumped in it.

This field (and the field to the west) is owned by Thames Water and forms part of the 'Staines Moor' unit of Staines Moor SSSI (unit 012). This unit was most recently assessed by Natural England on 21 June 2010 as in a Favourable condition. However, from reading the assessment comment I suspect that this field was actually ignored and not assessed at all at the time. If it was then I cannot see how the field could possibly be assessed as Favourable.

A decade ago this field comprised short grazed grass with two shallow muddy pools that were excellent for breeding Northern Lapwing (Red list), Redshank (Amber list) and Shelduck (Amber list), which with no public access were relatively undisturbed by people and dogs. Little Ringed Plover breeding nearby also used the pools for foraging, along with migrant waders and wildfowl.

Now much of the grassland here has been invaded by Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and Blackthorn Prunus spinosa, the pools are choked with willows and Common Reed Phragmites communis and the non-native Himalayan Balsam Impatiens glandulifera has spread rapidly along both sides of the Colne Valley Way footpath that runs along the western edge of the field. Furthermore, the field is heavily overgrazed from fly-grazing (we counted 12 horses in this small field today).

The southern pool in the 'car field' at Stanwell Moor. This pool has been invaded by Common Reed over the last decade or so.

The large pool in the 'car field' at Stanwell Moor. Formally an important habitat for waders and wildfowl, this pool is now choked with willows.

The 'car field' is so overgrazed that the horses have taken to eating bark, here from a Crack Willow

Despite the current state of the field, today's meeting was very positive, with both Ian and Steve optimistic that the habitat can be greatly improved. Ideas were put forward for restoring the pools and grassland and perhaps even creating some new habitat for Water Voles and retaining some areas of reeds for wintering Bittern. The idea is for Thames Water, Spelthorne Borough Council and volunteers to work together to help keep the cost to a minimum, and implement managed grazing. Lets hope Thames Water are open to the project.

After the meeting Nick and I walked the length of Bonehead Ditch looking for historical wetland features that could potentially also be restored. Thanks to Nick's excellent historical detective work using old Ordnance Survey maps, we managed to locate an old pond buried amongst the trees along Bonehead Ditch.

Dubbed Slips Pond by Nick, this historical wetland feature appears on OS maps dating back to 1865. Now almost completely
hidden amongst Crack Willows and covered by many fallen trees, this pond is an excellent candidate for restoration.

Nick has also identified a former meander of the Bonehead Ditch that was cut off when the ditch was straightened at its southern end during the construction of King George VI Reservoir between 1937 and 1939. Rejoining this remnant meander would not only restore part of the original course of the river but would also help with re-wetting the moor, as water would be able to flood out into the swamp easily from this point. The next stage is to write a proposal for restoring these features to present to Thames Water.

The south end of Bonehead Ditch looking north. This stretch was straightened during the construction of King George VI
Reservoir (current channel on right) but you can still see the part of the original course ('oxbow' on left)

Birds noted on Staines Moor today include 3-5 Water Pipit (Colne), 1 Jack Snipe, 1m Treecreeper (singing by Slips Pond), 1-2 Little Egret (Colne), 1 Kingfisher (Bonehead Ditch), 2 displaying Stock Dove (Slips Pond), 1 Goldcrest (Slips Pond), 5 (3m, 2f) Stonechat, 5+ Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipit, 1 Coot (Colne), 1 Red Kite S, several Redwing (old railway) and 1-2 Kestrel.

On Stanwell Moor 1m Siskin (feeding on alders), 1 Common Chaffchaff, c30 Fieldfare, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Buzzard and a Red Fox were logged.


  1. A minor correction here. My mistake I think. The earliest Ordnance Survey map to show the pond was a six-inch First Series map published in 1868, from a survey in 1865. In fact, production of the OS First Series didn't start until the 1840's. So the earliest date I presently have for the pond is 1865 - not 1835. Nonetheless the pond is at least 150 years old and a surviving feature of the original agricultural landscape of the area.

    1. Many thanks for pointing that out. I've amended the post.