Open Day – Sunday 29th April 2018

Open Day – Sunday 29th April 2018

A week to the day after the hottest London Marathon Sunday on record, we held the Open Day in the Woodlands on one of the coldest days imaginable. No rain but a bitter wind and low temperatures.

So we were delighted and surprised by the number of people, and in particular families with young children, who visited the Woodlands.  Between 60 and 70 attended and a good time was had by all. Cakes and snacks were available from a stall in the glade under a tarpaulin which (erected without Rich’s assistance) it had taken other members of the committee a considerable time to erect in the morning. Luckily the wind was not that strong, or we might have lost it.

Kate setting up stall

The craft table







There was pond dipping with large amounts of mud, weed and the occasional tadpole being fished out by children and parents using our large nets.  The contents were transferred to dishes and microscopes enabled children to examine what they had found.

Pond water analysis

Pond water analysis







In addition, there was a stall where children were encouraged to colour cut outs of trees and make necklaces from things found in the woods.  Large numbers of worms were excavated and there were areas for children to dig (using the children’s tools acquired by the Friends last year) prior to being planted with a wild flower mix. Finally, there were the bees.  Posters set out the story of the Westcombe Bees and their hives, and Jeremy and Andrew (our two apiarists) were on hand to field the questions.

It would be over-stating things to say that there was a carpet of bluebells but clumps have now become established as have clumps of primroses. A pictorial quiz to find and identify flowers and leaves was prepared by Don and enthusiastically taken up by children with some 12 completed surveys.

Blue bell carpet

Clumps of Bluebells







What was particularly encouraging was the number of visitors who had not been to the Woodlands before and said that they would become Friends or volunteers.

Picnic in The Glade



Volunteer Day – Sunday 8th April 2018

Our 4th Woodland Volunteer morning this year got off to a bit of a soggy start, but somehow the wet weather brought out around 16 volunteers, most of whom stayed all the time. Although it feels still cool, and with the recent poor Easter Bank Holiday weekends weather in everybody’s minds, it was nice to see that trees were slowly starting to come in to leaf.

Hawthorn sapling coming in to leaf

View of The Glade’s fruit trees







One thing that hasn’t slowed down are the young sycamore seedlings, which are growing very well. The photo shows committee member Ruth Cracknell hard at work removing seedlings from our new “mini glade” area.  Other activities as well as weeding were the creation of more bird boxes. Volunteer Hazel can be seen sawing planks of wood to create the new bird boxes.  Other committee members include Donald Albrecht weeding one of the recently planted hedge areas.

Ruth Cracknell weeding sycamore saplings

Volunteer Hazel creating bird boxes

Don Albrecht weeding







Other projects started were the starting of installing steps to allow safer access to the beehives, as well as planting of more woodland plants at the main entrance with some small wood-garlic plants.

The longer days will hopefully allow more of our bluebells to flower in time for our Spring Open Day in 3 weeks’ time. Primroses were in full flower, and another woodland staple, Lords and Ladies, were all growing well.

Lords and Ladies

Primroses in flower

Young bluebells







Finally, the bees this morning were not active at all, and with cold and wet weather, who can blame them!

Volunteer Day – Sunday 4th March

We had our third 2018 volunteer day today – the first opportunity after the snow. Main activities were working on the new trench at the bottom of the mound, to develop a more varied habitat in that part of the wood, planting some native yews and building and putting up some new nesting boxes. Here are some photos of that, just to prove that it is not only a bunch of old folk doing this. Also a little video to show that our bees have woken up.
Thanks to all the volunteers for their hard work and, as always, to Frank for tea, coffee and biscuits.

Bird Box Installation

Bird Box Installation

Volunteer Day – Sunday 4th February 2018

Our second volunteer session of the year was very well attended with committee members, regular volunteers and new volunteers. This morning’s event started earlier than usual as the group undertook, under the leadership of local expert naturalist Joe Beale, an early morning bird survey. Full results will soon be available on the website, but the list included gold finches, robins and a sparrow hawk made their names to the list.

Regular tasks resumed later, including the general tidying up of the entrance area with further removal of fallen wood to be added to the existing dead-wood piles and removal of Ivy around the young hazel saplings that were planted last year in the entrance area. It’s a quiet time of the year in terms of planting, which allows the group to concentrate on more practical tasks. 

Clearing rubbish

Roofing felt being sized-up

Roofing felt being cut in to correct sizes

Roofing felt being put in to place






Roofing felt being put in to place









This included clearing the area at the entrance and covering with felt our outside store unit. Not all items need to be stored inside, some items can be happily left outside, this extra storage space will be a welcome addition.

The other project started today was to did a small trench or ditch at the bottom of the mound. This will allow for water to build up, creating another water feature for the woodland. It’s hoped that when the lining is added next month, rain water will keep this new feature topped-up and therefore providing another small, local wet area for water-liking fauna.

New water feature being dug

New water feature being dug







Although we are only half way through winter, there were plenty of signs of Spring’s arrival including primroses and snowdrops in flower. Bluebells are looking much bigger than last month, and the good quality woodlandplant Lords and Ladies was seen in very good numbers. Hazel catkins we’re still plentiful, but all the trees were still without leaves, although next month’s volunteer event will start to have the first leaves of Spring on display.

A primrose starting to flower

A single foxglove in the “mini- glade” area

Young bluebells in the “mini glade” area






Young bluebells in the “mini glade” area

Snowdrops starting to be in full flower

Lords-and-ladies starting to strongly grow


Retirement of Committee Member Frank Smith – November 2017

November 2017

November 2017 – Earlier this year it was announced by our former committee member and vice chairman, Frank Smith, that he has decided to step down from his post.  Frank has been without doubt one of the key participants in driving the Westcombe Woodlands project forward from the early days of 2011, to its current status as now being part of the Woodland Trust.  Frank’s valuable contributions to the smooth running of the Westcombe Woodlands can not be underestimated, from the organisation of newsletters, funding opportunities, liaison with Greenwich Council for grants, setting up a bank account, to hosting the committee’s regular meetings, to being ever present with refreshments on the volunteer mornings and to being a regular member at our open days, it would be hard to think that without his skills and diligence the project would never have got this far.

Although he is leaving his position, Frank will still be joining us on our monthly volunteer mornings and appearing on the twice yearly open days.

In honour of his achievements, in mid-November, past and present committee members had an enjoyable dinner in a local Greenwich pub, and as can be seen in the photos below, a good time was well and truly had by all!


Frank Smith – Celebratory Dinner

Frank Smith – Celebratory Dinner

Frank Smith – Celebratory Dinner


Volunteer Day – Saturday 6th January 2018

The first volunteer session of 2018 took place last Saturday morning. Despite the temperature of just 4 degrees, several committee members and volunteers arrived. Today’s theme was to assess potential projects for later in the year, taking advantage of the dry weather and trees that have lost leaves to consider new places for new trees to be situated, as well as thoughts on new areas that can be planted up.

Although winter has only just started, already in places there were signs of Spring flowering plants already starting to appear, including the bluebells and primroses we’ve previously planted. We also found a foxglove which looks like it has arrived without being planted, a good sign of the potential seed-bank in the “mini Glade” area.

Wild Flower Area

Emerging Bluebells

Emerging Primrose







In the main Glade area, our 3 beehives showed no sign of activity, not too surprising given that the temperature was just above zero. The pond looks in a healthy state, the water level is very high, it’s quite amazing to think it’s never been topped up with additional water.

Bee Hives

Just 4 Degrees

Full Pond







The 2 elms trees planted in the area are both doing very well, we’ll continue to monitor and report on their progress at regular intervals.

Elm Tree in the Glade

Elm Tree in the Glade

Elm Tree in the Glade







The lack of leaves on trees and bushes has allowed us to see other items which often get overlooked, including a magnificent looking variegated holly tree in the Glade area, and a bright orange fungus too.


Variegated Holly

Orange Fungus on Wood

Fungus on Wood







Potential projects considered were hedge maintenance, Ivy and bramble removal and new planting areas.

While on our mid-morning coffee break near the entrance, there were several hazel shrubs with their catkins in full flower, as well as a very inquisitive robin, looking for some crumbs!

Robin next to the Shed

Hazel Catkins






Another exciting year is in progress!

Volunteer Day – Saturday 4th November 2017

Normally we are blessed by having such good weather when we do our volunteer sessions and open days, but today looked definitely wet! But despite the greyness, a dozen volunteers and committee members turned up this morning.

The leaves are finally falling and turning yellows, browns with the odd red here and there. When you arrive in to The Glade, the large lime tree immediately as you enter looked magnificent, leaves falling to the ground but still with plenty of colour.

The below photos show leave covered footpaths, along with the autumnal atmosphere.

Fungi on rotting wood can be seen now, a good sign that the local ecosystem is at work, recycling nutrients that can be found.

The pond, despite a bit of pondweed on top continues to look healthy, there was the sound of something jumping in the water when the pond photo was taken. It’s a tribute to how well it was built in that it’s never needed to be topped up with water in the 18 months or so it’s been in place. And despite the cold and wet weather, there was a fair bit of bee activity around the hives too.

The usual weeding took place, with bramble behind the wildflower area in The Glade taking a pounding, but also bluebells and 10 Solomon’s Seal bulbs were added. The cold an wet weather didn’t slow down the progress here!

Volunteer Day – Saturday 2nd September 2017

Last Sunday saw another very well attended volunteer session with over a dozen committee members and volunteers tackling this month’s tasks.

It was disappointing to see that all the pears and apples had been taken by, we assume, local squirrels. Last month we saw around a dozen potential fruits which were looking good, but others got there first!

Pear tree, but without the pears!







One of the main tasks was the weeding of The Mound area, which had become very overgrown with bindweed, plants working their ways around the small tree saplings. You can see in the photos the impact of 2 hours’ work on the area.

Tim Barnes and Richard Sylvester taking on teh bindweed

Two hours of weeding, showing the results








At the entrance area, some of the branches from the immediate area were moved and, if required, cut in to smaller pieces to create a new dead-wood habitat, while making the area tidier too.

A new dead wood habitat creation







With all the work taking place, it’s often we forget to appreciate the inside of the woodland, even the footpath in the dappled shade offering a little quietness despite housing being no more than 30 feet away from the paths. And it’s always appreciated that a coffee break allows us to chat and discuss new ideas and projects, especially with next month’s open day.

An internal footpath looking towards The Glade

Volunteers enjoying a mid morning coffee break







Finally, just before leaving, in the pond area, we saw what we think is a Southern Hawker Dragonfly, one of the more common dragonflies in Southern England and commonly associated with small ponds.

Southern Hawker Dragonfly

Volunteer Day – Sunday 6th August 2017

Last Sunday morning saw another weekend volunteer morning session. Although volunteer numbers were low because of the Summer holidays, we welcomed new faces and undertook many tasks.

The pond was becoming a little overgrown with the grasses at the edges making most of the Summer warmth. As can be seen in the photos committee member Donald Albrecht and 2 other volunteers get to grips by removing grasses to create a more open water area.

Pond clearing by Donald Albrecht

Pond clearing in progress







Also involved with plant removal, non-native Locust Trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) have been removed from the woodland, with their hard timber making excellent seats in the glade. The species grows fast and is invasive. One was growing in the open area on the way to The Glade, but as can be seen in the photos, it was swiftly removed.

Acacia tree about to be removed

Acacia tree now gone!







The grass in The Glade area is also growing quickly, especially with the heavy rains of last week. We bought a scythe and this is extremely useful in such a small area. The photos show it being used to full effect!

Scythe cutting in The Glade

Scythe cutting in The Glade

Scythe cutting in The Glade







Finally, the fruit trees in The Glade show that the apples have been eaten by, no-doubt, squirrels and birds, but the pears don’t seem to be of interest and we may have a small harvest next month!

A Williams variety pear in good health

A Williams variety pear in good health

Half-eaten apple

Volunteer Day – Sunday 1st July 2017

The first volunteer session of Summer took place the 1st July.  Numbers of volunteers were a little below normal, but this didn’t reduce the enthusiasm of the people who were present.  We also welcomed 2 new people who had never been to the Woodland before.

Apple tree with small fruit

Apple tree with small fruit

Pear tree with small fruit







We concentrated on the usual weeding of the areas around The Glade in preparation for the up-coming revisit from the volunteers at Barclays Bank over in Canary Wharf.  It is a year since their help was used to dig the pond in The Glade area.  As can be seen by the accompanying photo of the pond, it is impossible to think that this is such a recent addition.  It’s also remarkable that the water has never been topped up, it’s just rainwater that’s in the pond.

A view of the pond with abundant grasses

One of the elms in The Glade, that may have stronger disease resistance

An annual geranium in full flower but also with seeds








The area to the east of the flower bed saw many ruderals starting to develop, mostly hogweeds.  Using the scythe, extra weeding was undertaken here.  Also the scythe was used to trim the grass around the pond area.  Other photos show how the fruit trees were really putting on a good display this year; it remains to be seen if any will make it to mature fruit before squirrels and birds start to eat them!