Discovering Warren Farm Nature Reserve

Warren Farm is a location I came across from Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG), a really active group on Facebook, set up by Sean McCormack back in 2016.

I would always see so many wonderful member posts of Little Owls, Kestrels and Skylarks as well as a vast array of insects and plants. I love exploring the various green spaces in London but rarely see the things that are so often posted.

As a result, in May 2022, I posted on the group asking if anyone would mind me joining them when they go out so that they could point out things to me that they spot. This simple post resulted in me not only getting the opportunity to discover things through the kindness of strangers but has led to expanding this knowledge sharing to a much wider group of people.

It was a wonderfully talented macro photographer and amateur entomologist, Julian Oliver who invited me to join him on one of his walks to Warren Farm, a local Nature Reserve in Southall, West London.  On the day, we managed to gather a group of people to join in and see what we could find around the 61 acre site

It was a beautiful sunny day in June and we were all surprised by what we saw in the undergrowth, uncovering another world right under our noses.

Being a neutral and acid grassland, the land here acts as a very special and unique habitat, resulting in a distinctive community of insects, spiders, birds and plants, some of which areWarren Farm Nature Reserve map nationally scarce. Across London, this community is known as the ‘Thames Terrace Invertebrates’.

WFNR has been awarded Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) status. Due to its history of previously being a farm, and since then being virtually untouched, it has been left to rewild which is very rare for anywhere, let alone London.

Since my fortuitous post to the EWG, I have since met an array of naturalists who have very kindly offered to guide walks around the land. There have been insect, tree, migratory bird, plant and general bird walks. We have held its first fungi foray, led by Mike Green a fellow LNPC Ranger, and held a moth trapping and ID evening.

Some events have resulted in more than 45 people turning up which was a surprise to us all. This not only shows the critical importance of spaces such as this, but also the interest by a wide range of people of all different ages and demographics to learn about what we share London with.

From my initial interest in learning a little about what I can find when walking in London, what I have now learnt far exceeds my desires beyond my wildest imagination and I am now able to identify several birds from their song, know where to look for different  insects and have learnt about the most glorious bird, the Skylark – like way too many of our species,it  is on the endangered species list. It appears that this stunning, tuneful, ground nesting bird can only be found in Richmond and Bushy Parks, south of Warren Farm.

They are simply stunning to watch and it is no wonder that they have captured the hearts of so many poets and writers. They fly almost vertically upwards to such a height in the sky that they are difficult to make out, before rapidly descending back down to the ground. 

Not only have I learnt so much, but I have also met some wonderful people along the way. Not just the naturalists, but also those who have attended the various walks. I so often see the same faces turn up which includes some very young participants. 

After getting to know them a little more, I realised how much knowledge they had. A few of them, Rowen and Daniel, are local to the area and visit often so can easily identify what is found there at different times of the year.

Not only that, but they have started up an Eco club at their local school and as a result of the walks, have now started to lead a few of their own. It has been amazing to see how their interest has become so much wider where they have got friends interested and brought them along on the journey.

For me, this is exactly the kind of interaction we should see in our special, critical and much needed green spaces. The UK is one of the least biodiverse countries in the world, so we need to not only protect these habitats, but help people to realise how wonderful these rich, diverse and stunning areas are. Increasing our knowledge is not only good for personal development, but also creates a greater connection to the natural world around us.

Make sure you check out the Warren Farm Nature Reserve website and you can find a great video showing Warren Farm from dusk to dawn.

Written by Chantal Woodun, London National Park City Ranger in Brent.

 

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