New Hampstead Heath boss unfazed about diving headlong into heated ponds battle

15:00 15 July 2014

Bob Warnock, the new superintendent of Hampstead Heath, on Parliament Hill. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Bob Warnock, the new superintendent of Hampstead Heath, on Parliament Hill. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email

The new boss of Hampstead Heath speaks exclusively to reporter Tom Marshall about his demanding ‘step up’

If he was at all daunted about taking control of north London’s most beloved piece of land in the middle of an almighty row over its future, new Hampstead Heath boss Bob Warnock doesn’t show it.

Mr Warnock officially started in March as superintendent of the Heath following the departure of Simon Lee after 12 years.

Mr Lee, whose stewardship has been widely praised, chose to move on before work begins on the controversial ponds project, which is currently facing a legal challenge amid a significant uproar.

Perhaps Mr Lee didn’t want to be forever known as the man in charge when the Heath was “permanently disfigured” – in the words of the scheme’s 
vocal opponents – by diggers and dams.

But in his first interview since taking on the job, Mr Warnock seemed entirely unflustered by the situation.

“It’s a very challenging time to join the Heath, but it’s also an exciting time as well,” he told the Ham&High. “It’s a very vibrant community and part of my role is making sure we’re listening to the community, and working alongside the designers to incorporate, where we can, as much as possible to naturalise the scheme.”

The 48-year-old, who is also superintendent of Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park, has worked for the City of London Corporation for more than 20 years. He says natural opens spaces are his “passion” and his track record reflects this.

After studying rural resource management at university, he worked in similar roles for Surrey County Council and then the City.

He became superintendent of more than 1,000 acres belonging to the City south of the capital – Ashtead Common and West Wickham and Coulsdon Commons – but describes the Heath as a step up.

“They’re not as busy, with nothing like the seven million visits that the Heath receives, but are equally valued by their local communities and managed under similar acts of parliament,” he said.

His former job gave him experience of flood defence works.

A “river restoration project” at the Rye Brook in Ashtead involved building a natural-looking dam – and was met with near-universal approval.

His first few months as superintendent have involved “getting to know the patch”, producing 15 reports covering various aspects of Hampstead Heath’s management, and meeting the community groups who will no doubt scrutinise his every move.

He wants to continue the work of his predecessor in maintaining and improving the “rural feel” of the Heath, with the area surrounding Parliament Hill Lido one that is earmarked for a “softening of the edges”.

Other items on the to-do list include the launch of outdoor weddings in Golders Hill Park, plans to increase volunteering opportunities, and joining opposition to major developments on the edge of the Heath including Athlone House.

He added: “We’re managing the countryside four kilometres from Trafalgar Square – that’s an incredible responsibility and it’s a real honour to be given that opportunity.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 15:35
Kato Harris will appear at Isleworth Crown Court next Tuesday

This is the first picture of teacher Kato Harris who has appeared in court accused of repeatedly raping an underage girl.

Yesterday, 17:10
Actresses Juliet Stevenson and Michelle Collins with volunteers and Alexandra's mum Lindsey Wylie from the Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation (AWTF) launch the Christmas food parcel appeal. Picture: Polly Hancock

A charity is marking the fifth anniversary of a Highgate schoolgirl’s death from cancer with the launch of a Christmas appeal to help children left without support following the closure of Kids Company.

Yesterday, 12:53
Victims of the contaminated blood scandal: (left) Nick Hirsch, (right, from top) Clair Walton and her late husband, Colette Wintle and Mark Ward

Timetable for settlement on NHS scandal has slipped yet again say campaigners - as they wait to see if cash is allocated in chancellor’s autumn spending review

Yesterday, 08:46
The London Fire Brigade has put forward proposals to axe 13 fire engines to save £11million

‘While a new website would be welcome, this should not be done at the cost of frontline cuts’ says fire resources committee chief

Tue, 18:01
Khayerul Miah, pictured, and his brother have joined IS in Syria

The two young men from Kentish Town who left the UK to fight for Islamic State (IS) in Syria are former pupils of Acland Burghley School.

Tue, 16:46
The government says the HPV vaccine is safe and will protect against deaths from cervical cancer

East Finchley mother accuses pharmaceutical industry and government of ‘ignoring generation of sick girls’ as European Medicines Agency finds no link between illnesses and cervical cancer jab

Tue, 15:58
Carl Ryan, who is charged with misconduct in a public office, outside court (Picture: Central News)

A detective who faked records - including witness statements by Whittington Hospital staff - thwarted three investigations into serious sex assaults, a court heard.

Tue, 12:18
Firefighters from West Hampstead were called to tackle the large blaze in Finchley Road - which burned for 72 hours

West Hampstead and Hornsey fire stations could both lose an engine under controversial cost-cutting proposals

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


Tesco - Every little helps

Would you like to have the opportunity to win a huge £2,500 to spend at Tesco? Well with this amazing prize you can do exactly that! MyOffers are giving you the chance to get your hands on £2,500 to spend on anything you desire may it be free weekly groceries for the foreseeable future, a new TV, home decoration or even a new sofa!

You could get your hands on the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge!

Here’s your chance to win one of the most feature-packed smartphones on the planet, from tech giants Samsung, The Samsung S6 Edge!

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder