The Friends Group have initiated and overseen a lot of work in recent years to improve the park. In this section we highlight projects that are in progress and planned for the future. We welcome suggestions and comments from anyone and we especially welcome offers of help by getting involved with any of the work projects or by donating towards the cost of new trees and other plants. This year (2021) will see a reduction in our funding as we did not hold the Parkfest event in the summer of 2020 because of COVID restrictions and other sources of funding have not been repeated this year.
Many of the projects below recognise the natural heritage of the park and the history of the area. We are passoinate about protecting that heriatge for future generations. That intention is reflected in our management techniques and the work we are doing in conjunction with the Royal Borough of Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces with advice from Greenwich Wildlife Advisory Group. Some reference documents are listed below.
This is a favourite part of the park for many people and has a very rural feel. It is surrounded by trees and overlooks one of the three streams that feeds into the River Shuttle. With the stream on one side, old iron railings and an overgrown hedge on the other, a triangle of woodland at one end and a recently restored hedge in the middle there are a wide variety of habitats that we want to preserve.
1. Removal of saplings
2. Replanting the hedge
3. Restoration of acid grassland
4. The Pheonix tree
Changes to the Parks and Open Spaces mowing regime meant that the field wasn't mown for a few years. This allowed the natural regeneration of mostly oak trees across the field. There was some debate whether we should welcome this natural re-forestation and allow the trees to grow or whether we should maintain it as one of the few acidic grassland areas in this part of London. We decided that as part of the larger plan for Henley's Meadow we should maintain and enhance the area as grassland. We replanted as many of the saplings as possible in the new woodland area and hawthorns were re-planted in the new hedge. We cut down those trees that had tap roots that were too deep to remove. A regular job will be to cut the trees again as new shoots grow from the remaining roots.
Since the 1830s there was a hedge dividing the field into two parts. This can be seen in the 1839 map of field boundaries. In the winter of 2020/21, we are removing brambles and cutting the overgrown elder and hawthorn shrubs to enable them to re-generate. We have planted more than 200 native species of hedge plants to restore the existing hedge line and have extended the planting along the original line of the hedge. Species include hawthorn; blackthorn; field maple, hornbeam; dog rose; guelder rose; spindle; hazel.
Previous studies identified the area as a rare example in this locality of acidic grassland. We carried out a soil sample pH test around the area to check the acidity/alkalinity of the soil. Much of the field has become neutral probably because of falling leaves from the surrounding trees and mowed grass not being collected. The remaining area of acidic grassland is on the slope towards the gravel path. The grass will be mown annually in the late summer and the clippings removed. We have also planted test strips of Yellow Rattle which will help to reduce the vigorous grass species and encourage wild flower species to grow. We will probably plant more Yellow Rattle each year until it is established.
In 1992 a Poplar Tree blew over in a storm and has been there ever since. Despite lying horizontally, it seems to be remarkably well with plenty of new growth each year. We will leave the tree to grow, remove any dead branches and clear the thick brambles growing around it.
There are two main areas of woodland in the park although each is small. The first is on the west edge of Pippenhall Meadow - the field that borders with Bexley Road and Pippenhall Allotments. This strip of woodland is very overgrown and will be a project for the winter of 2021/22.
1. Bramble control
2. Willow Tree Maintenance
3. Path restoration
Older photographs show that this woodland was accessible from the meadow - removal of brambles, some dead wood and litter will restore access to this interesting habitat.
Being a wet area, willow trees grow well. They have been pollarded in the past but then allowed to grow to the point the branches have snapped. They need to be pollarded again if they are to survive. This will be a job for the Borough's Parks maintenance team using chain saws. We hope they will do this in the winter of 2021/22.
We will establish a path through the woods by removing fallen trees and other vegetation then marking out a route though the woods.
The second piece of woodland is a traingular section on the north side of Henley's Meadow and to the south of Pippenhall Farm. This year we established access into the woods and are removing brambles. A large patch of rose bay willow herb grows there together with other interesting plants including salsify. Trees include poplar, yew, oak, elm.
1. Establish access
2. Plant trees
3. Plant wildflowers
4. Maintain watercourses
5. Nature survey
We have made gaps in the undergrowth and marked out a circular path to allow access to the woods while leaving as much as possible to grow undisturbed. Cutting brambles will be an annual maintanance job as they had been allowed to dominate much of the wood floor. We are in the process of acquiring some willow hurdles to make a hide for bird-watching.
We have planted a short run of hazel plants and will coppice them in years to come. We will plant more and introduce other trees if we don't see enough natural regenration.
This winter (2020/21) we have planted about 500 bluebells in and around the wood. We will plant more and introduce carefully selected woodland wild species to add diversity.
The area to the north of the wood is Pippenhall Farm and is an important site for a number of reasons such that it has been designated a Site of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC). The watercourses start on the edge of the wood and have running water in them throughout much of the autumn and winter. We will start to manage these to protect the natural heritage of this landscape feature.
Before we introduce any new species we would like to make a survey of all the trees, shrubs and other wild plants in the woods. The survey can also collect data on other wild life but depends of the level of expertise of our volunteers. We hope our friends will alert us to any new or interesting sightings.
We have planted hundreds of new trees in the park in the last few years from specimen trees at the Avery Hill Road side of the park - the east side of the park - to hundreds of whips in the south of the park where we are creating a new woodland habitat. However in the last two summers in particular we have lost several trees due to the extremely hot and dry periods where any amount of watering was not enough to keep them alive and get established.
1. Specimen trees
2. New woodland
3. Propagation and seeds
4. Restoring ancient hedgelines
This year, 2021, we will be planting more cautiously and spending more resources on protecting the new trees from the extremes in the weather. We will probably need help with watering the trees during the hottest days when the soil gets very dry.
This is an ongoing project to establish a woodland eventually in the whole of the south field of the park. We expect to be planting more trees in early March and will welcome any help.
This is a project that a few of the gardening friends of the park have started and anyone can join in. We are propogating new trees from hardwood cuttings and sowing seeds collected from the local area in autumn.
When deciding where to plant trees and esatblish new hedgerows we refer to the old maps to see what heritage we should maintain and even restore what we have lost. We have been looking at the south east side of the park in particular.
New Wildflower Meadow
Our soil pH survey last year identified another area of grassland that we would like to establish as a wild flower meadow. We will use a combination of management techniques and new planting to create this area over the next few years.
1. Mark out the area
2. Mowing regime
3. Establishing more flowering species
The Parks maintenance team will be placing a row of logs to mark out the area which is along side the stream just on the north side of the circular gravel path. The logs will be placed along an ancient field boundary and track. We will eventually plant a new hedge to restore what was lost.
The area will be cut late in the season to allow the flowering species to shed their seed. The clippings will be collected to keep the fertility of the soil low thus encouraging a wider variety of flowering species.
We have started to sow Yellow Rattle which helps to control grass species thus encouraging other plants. This will have to be repeated until they are established. We are looking at other methods of meadow creation and our final strategy will depend to a large degree on how much funding we can acquire.
Streams and Ponds
Most people will know the stream that starts in Pippenhall Farm, runs south and exits the park into the Unilever sports ground. It has running water in the winter months but is dry for much of the year and is in need of maintenance. There is also another, underground stream running through the park. It starts in Eltham Warren Golf Couse and can be found under man-hole covers to the south of the cafe and playground area. We have some exciting plans for this!
1. Shuttle Stream Maintenance
2. Shuttle stream bank maintenance
3. New pond
Several parts of the stream need digging out especially in the southern part of the park. Our hope is that we may see flowing water and increase biodiversity as a result. We will be digging test pits this winter to see how far down the stream has seeped into the soil.
In the lower section of the stream we will start clearing one side of the bank removing saplings and shrubs to expose the stream to the light. This work will start this winter and will continue into the winter of 2021/22.
Depending on the results of a consultation, we would like to open the underground stream to the surface and allow it to flood creating a new pond and wetland area. We have not yet commissioned the consultation so if you know someone who would be able to advise us please get in touch.
This was a rose garden but the roses were removed some years ago because of disease and not replaced. Sowing of a commercial "wildflower mix" which contained a variety of annual species looked good for a while but without further sowings a very few species start to dominate. In recent years the friends group have started planting more cottage garden style perennials and a new mixed shrub border which is now looking good and well established.
1. New plants
2. Disabled access
We have been planting cottage garden plants - annuals and perenials in the borders and around the edges. This will continue especially planting plants that will attract bees, butterflies and moths.
With the help of the Avery Hill Mansion building contractors Wilmot Dixon we are hoping to create a ramp from the garden into the park to give better access for wheelchair users.
Surveys and Publications
Greenwich Council commissioned a Conservation Survey in 2010 and this informed their 2013 Avery Hill Park Management Plan and subsequently many of our ideas and ambitions for the park. These plans are constantly being revised and added to - much depending on manpower through out volunteers and available funding. Updated and further surveys will help us to prioritise our efforts and use our resources wisely.
1. Natural heritage surveys
2. Guided Walks
3. Bird and bat boxes
We would like to complete a tree survey in the park and other surveys of wild plants in the most valuable areas - our acidic meadows, woodland and hedgerows.
We will publish leaflets for people to download and take with them into the park. The leaflets will be guided walks highlighting the physical and natural heritage of the park.
If you look carefully you will find a number of bird and bat boxes around the park. However, many are poorly sited, or in need of repair or replacement. A survey will determine what we have already that can be used again and identify sites for more boxes. The work of installing the boxes will need to be done with the assistance of the Parks maintainence team due to health and safety concerns over the use of ladders.