Balancing needs of the public with ecology and wildlife of the Heath
William Upton QC, Hampstead Heath Management Committee
- Credit: PA
I hope you get the chance to enjoy the Heath this summer – whether it be to immerse yourself in the landscape, enjoy the open air or socialise with friends and family.
Our events programme is also in full swing with a very successful kite flying festival at the end of June and the return of the Heath’s health and wellbeing event ‘Give it a Go’, taking place last weekend.
There are also free concerts on the bandstands every Sunday in July and August to look forward to.
As you can imagine, balancing the needs of our many visitors with the Heath’s ecology and wildlife can be challenging. All the habitats on the Heath are carefully managed by the trees and conservation team and the Heath’s ecologist, and by volunteers.
Whilst in many respects the Heath has changed very little over the past few decades, some different techniques are now being used to help benefit wildlife and ecology. We have all become much more aware of the need for this in recent years. Thirty years ago, much of the grassland was kept short but staff now leave large areas with long grass and wildflowers. Not only does this look attractive, these areas increase biodiversity, and help absorb carbon emissions and excess rainfall.
One of the good indicators of a healthy ecosystem are the number of insects such as dragonflies, bees, moths and butterflies enjoying these meadows. On the Heath we have certainly seen an increase in the number of dragonflies in recent years. Part of the reason for that is also due to an increase in wetland habitat around the ponds.
Over the past 10 years, the extent of reedbed and wetland planting has increased. A large part of this was achieved through the Ponds Project, but smaller-scale plantings and natural expansion have continued to add to these important wetland habitats.
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The shy reed warbler has also been tempted by this additional habitat and we now have them breeding on four of the Heath’s ponds. I am told that you might be able to hear them sing from the reeds.
Find out about volunteering with Heath Hands: heath-hands.org.uk We are raising money to turn the island on the Model Boating into a wildlife sanctuary. To donate: cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/donate-to-hampstead-heath
Meanwhile, I hope you have a good summer.
William Upton QC is chair of the City of London Corporation's Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Management Committee.